Chapter 25: Into Londerland
"Don't struggle, Alice!"
A heavy grunt, a violent swing, and the Hobby Horse shattered the first doll head, left unprotected after the Dollmaker had tried to crush her under his fist.
"The past must be paid for!"
The Vorpal Blade took care of the second in a flurry of snicker-snacks, slicing it into shreds after a failed attempt to knock her over with a biting blast of fingernail-scraping wind.
His tongue wasn't silver as she'd believed, but rather a dripping collection of Ruin sporting yet more of those horrible china faces. Well, perhaps that was more appropriate. Alice assaulted them with Pepper Grinder and Teapot Cannon, exploding into butterflies every so often to avoid another attack from the pinching, mocking hands or the Drifting Ruin floating around the battlefield. The Dollmaker cried fury whenever a head broke, spitting gobs of boiling oil at her and demanding that she lay down and die. "The cost of forgetting is high!"
But Alice refused to yield, no matter how many times she was squeezed or slammed or scorched. She hissed under her breath as she accidentally ran into one of the spiky bits of crystallized Ruin dotting the arena (damn those Drifting slimebags!), then swung her Cannon around and sent a fresh volley of tea bombs at the bastard's fanged mouth. She was so close, so very very close. . . .
The last gaping porcelain face finally succumbed to her attack, shattering into a million pieces. The Dollmaker reared his head back, wailing in pain. "No! Nooooo!" he screamed as his body writhed and twisted, sliding out from under him without the stabilizing influence of the dolls. "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
And then he was gone, dissolved away into nothing as the Train screeched to a stop. Alice pumped her fist triumphantly, bruised and bleeding but beyond proud of herself. She'd done it. She'd stopped him. Wonderland would live.
Except. . .she turned back to the pillars to see Victor still hanging from his Ruined web. Oh dear. Her work was not yet done, it seemed. . . .
London reasserted itself on Alice's senses, the dull grimy walls of Moorgate pushing past the crumbling remains of the Infernal Train. Bumby stood before her, dabbing at his lip with his handkerchief and grumbling to himself. Alice stepped forward, head held high. She'd been frightened of him once – terrified of what he could do to her with his influence and power. But now. . .now the Dollmaker was dead. He had no hold on her anymore. And he never would again. "I'll see you charged," she said, causing him to look up. "In prison, some halfwit bruiser will make you his sweetheart. And then you'll hang." And it still won't be even half of what you deserve, you abhorrent beast.
To her shock and fury, Bumby smirked. "Indeed? A hysterical woman, former lunatic, roaring outrageous accusations against a respectable social architect and scientist?" He chuckled. "My God, Alice, who would believe you? I scarcely believe it myself."
"They may not listen to me, but they'll listen to Victor," Alice snapped.
"The necrophiliac who claims to have seen the afterlife? I doubt it." Bumby waved a hand toward a shivering ball tucked into a nearby corner. "Besides, do you think he's really in any position to corroborate your story? He's lost in the darkest corners of his mind, and only I can bring him back out." His eyes narrowed as a cold smile crossed his lips. "Do you know how easy it would be for me to tell him to just kill himself?"
How was it that every time she thought she'd reached the absolute limits of her rage, Bumby managed to push her on? "You monstrous creature," she spat, her vision red around the edges, heartbeat pounding in her ears. "Such evil will be punished."
"By whom? By what?" Bumby demanded, straightening his hat and putting his bloodied handkerchief away. "Psychotic, silly bitch – it's your madness that will be punished! If you want Victor to see tomorrow, I recommend you leave. Besides," he added, pulling out his pocket watch again to check the time, "I'm expecting your replacement."
Alice's eyes locked again on the key swinging gently at the end of the fob chain. Sick, twisted crow, how dare he keep a trophy – On a sudden impulse, she marched up to Bumby, grabbed the key, and pulled.
To her satisfaction, it ripped free right away, the aged metal links snapping like they weren't even there. Squeezing it in her hand, she spun on her heel and made for the stairs, preparing to go and – and –
And damn him, he was right, wasn't he? No one would listen to her. She was that broken lunatic from Rutledge, only good for providing The Illustrated London News with the occasional headline; he was a well-regarded doctor, a philanthropist and pioneer in the field of psychology. They'd all just laugh at her – or worse, force her back into his clutches. And Victor was trapped in a nightmare, unable to help her at all, and everyone else who'd seen the depths of Bumby's evil was either mindless or dead –
But he couldn't get away with this. The world was a horrible, cruel place, but there had to be some justice. She would not let him get away with this. She was more than just sad little Alice Liddell who'd lost everything, even her mind. She was a fighter, a survivor, the savior of Wonderland twice over. And now, she was going to be the savior of Houndsditch.
She whirled around, meeting Bumby's eyes as she felt her form shift. Buckled shoes stretched into high boots, black and white cloth faded into vivid blue, ragged hair lengthened into flowing tresses. . . . She saw Bumby's mouth drop open with shock, and wondered if, somehow, he could see the transformation. She certainly hoped so – she wanted him to see, just once, the real her.
She advanced on him slowly, resisting the urge to smile as he moved away from her. His shield of bravado was gone now, leaving a genuinely frightened man – as well he should be. She backed him up right to the edge of the platform, where he teetered for a moment, off-balance. "Could you kill a fly?" echoed in her head, the Dollmaker trying to get in one last shot from beyond the grave.
I can kill a lot more than that, she replied, and used her free hand to give Bumby one good, hard shove.
The startled doctor never had a chance. One moment he was suspended in midair, pinwheeling his arms in a desperate attempt to find his lost footing – the next, he was gone, splatted against the front of an oncoming train. Alice watched the cars whisk by, then looked down at the key resting along her palm's heart line. A bittersweet smile curled her lips. "If nothing else," she whispered, "you've gotten your vengeance."
Of course, there was someone else here who needed a lot more than just the sweet taste of revenge. Slipping the key into her apron pocket, Alice hurried over to Victor. Her friend was still curled into a ball, eyes tightly closed and trembling so hard Alice feared he'd shake himself apart. She grabbed his shoulder. "Victor. Victor!"
Victor's only response was to curl up tighter. Alice dropped down beside him, peering into what little she could see of his face. "Please, Victor, it's me! Alice!"
Victor mumbled something she couldn't make out against his knees. "Victor, please. . .you knew me before. . . ."
"Maybe he'd respond if you called him Thirteen?"
Alice shot Hatter a death glare over her shoulder. The automaton-man held up his hands, looking hurt. "It was only a suggestion!" She huffed and rolled her eyes – trust Hatter to –
Wait. Hatter? In Moorgate?
She turned around, making a scan of her surroundings as she did. She was still clearly in the London Underground station. But there was Hatter, standing behind her on the platform like he belonged, along with Caterpillar and the Queen. All right, it's not like seeing Wonderlanders in London is all that peculiar, but it's usually Cheshire or some random monster who comes to bother me – and the latter generally brings some scenery with it, Alice thought, squinting at the trio. It's not inconceivable they left the Train the same time I did, but why –
A pained whimper cut through her thoughts, reminding her why she was lingering in the station in the first place. Figure it out later – Victor needs you, she scolded herself, turning back to her friend. He was still muttering to himself, and she leaned in closer to see if she could make it out. "Bad boy bad boy know I'm bad know I'm worthless please stop please stop. . . ."
Alice's fingers tightened on her apron. If only Bumby would come back to life just so she could kill him again. To prey on Victor's worst fears like this. . . . She had to snap him out of it. But how? Bumby had been the one to put him under – was Bumby truly the only one who could bring him back out? Had she just condemned Victor to a never-ending nightmare?
No, that can't be right. He woke up not ten minutes ago when we were staring at each other! Right after he called me – She squeezed his shoulder. "Victor, it's – Mistress," she tried, the word sour on her tongue but still the only thing she could think of.
The trembling stopped. Victor lifted his head, blinking open his eyes. "M-Mistress?"
Alice took his chin and turned him round so his gaze met hers. "I'm here," she whispered, stroking his cheek.
Victor stared for a moment. Then he wriggled around to face her, bringing his hand up to touch hers. "I – it's so d-dark," he croaked. "I c-can't. . .help. . . ."
Alice twisted her hand to interlock their fingers. "No, Victor. The dark's going away. You're not trapped there."
He blinked again. "It's – where. . . ."
"You're in Moorgate Station. With me." She gently tilted his head up. "See the lights? You're safe. No more darkness. No more nightmares."
Victor looked left and right, confusion written all over his features. "But – Master – where's–"
"He's dead," Alice spat, then got a hold of herself. "He's dead and he has no more hold on you. You don't have to obey his commands anymore."
Victor's face twisted up in baffled fright. "I – d-don't – but I – I have to I must obey otherwise I'm a bad boy stupid and worthless and I don't deserve a name–" he babbled.
"No!" Alice seized his hair, pressing their foreheads together. "You do! He's dead, Victor! He can't hurt you! You can wake up! Throw off his control!"
"I – I–"
Her eyes burned into his. "Do it, Victor. Tell me your name."
". . .V-Victor?"
"All of it."
"Victor. . .Victor. . . ." His eyes squeezed shut. "V-Victor. . . ."
"Yes?" she prompted, hoping she didn't sound as desperate as she felt.
They opened again, broken and afraid. "I don't know," he said in a small voice. "He took it away. . . ."
Alice's shoulders slumped. Damn it. . . . "Do you know my name?" she asked, voice catching just slightly.
He probed her face. "Alice," he said eventually. "Alice – I-I know it starts with an L. . . ."
Well, at least he knew her as someone other than "Mistress." "Do you remember anything else?"
"I. . . ." His gaze dropped to the floor. "T-there's a wall. . . ."
"Try. Please," she begged. God, if only she could travel into his head, and fix his pain the way she'd fixed hers. That, after all this, she should be whole and he shattered – it was supremely unfair. "Is this part of my punishment, Caterpillar?" she added over her shoulder.
"I would say part of your atonement," Caterpillar replied, wings beating slowly. "You can't be a savior without someone to save."
Victor screwed up his face, concentrating. "I – my parents – I can't remember their faces, but I do remember their names. . .William and Nell," he said. "And – Victoria – just Victoria. Kind and gentle, with – winter jasmine? Something about vows, a rehearsal of some kind. . . . And. . . ."
He trailed off. "And?" she encouraged.
His face turned heavenward. "Emily," he whispered. "The corpse bride. Bursting into butterflies against the moon. I – I set her free."
"Hmph," the Queen huffed. "Not only was that accursed Dollmaker a monster and a throne-stealer, he was also incompetent. Wasn't this memory the one he was supposed to erase?" She rolled her eyes, tapping a tentacle against the ground. "Perhaps he thought he could put it off until next week. Had it on his calendar, most likely: Tuesday – finish wiping the mind of the rich fishmonger's son."
If you make me laugh, I swear I'll kill you again, Alice thought, biting back the giggles that threatened to escape. She ran her thumb along Victor's cheek. "Seems his control was never absolute."
Victor shook his head. "He hurt me," he mumbled. "I d-don't remember what he did, but it h-hurt, and I just wanted the pain to s-stop. . . ." Wetness dripped down onto her hand. "Then he told me to h-hurt you, and I–" He pressed his lips tightly together, as if trying to hold in a sudden flood of emotion. "I'm sorry. . . ."
How anyone could look at that face and not want to just wrap him in a blanket and feed him soup for the next year was beyond her. Lacking either of those components, though, she settled for pulling him into a hug. "Sorry for what?"
"For g-giving in, for b-becoming Thirteen. . . ."
"I don't blame you for that," she assured him, rocking to and fro to soothe him. "You didn't let him have everything. And you fought back when you knew it was important. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for." She bit her lip. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you needed me."
"But you were. If you h-hadn't come when you did. . . ." His grip tightened, a lost soul clinging to the one certainty in his life. "You might be the only reason I remember anything at all."
Alice sighed and squeezed back. She was far out of her depth here. She'd barely managed to stop her own mind from being lost to the darkness forever. To be tasked with defending someone else's now too. . . . "I wish I could help you more," she murmured, rubbing circles through his jacket. What was she going to do?
"What you always do," a familiar voice said. She glanced up to see a wide grin hanging in the air, glinting in the light of the lamps. "Look life straight in its metaphorical face and tell it to get out of your way. Of course, gaining an ally in this situation would be beneficial – but for now, perhaps it's best if you return to where people say the heart is."
She smiled faintly. "Good advice as always, Cat." She pulled away from Victor and helped him to his feet. "Come on. Let's go home."
The first hint she had that things were still not quite right with her was the moss growing around the edge of the exit from the Underground.
Granted, moss was not exactly an uncommon sight in London, especially in places where you got a lot of rain running off and soaking between the cobbles. But this lot looked too – green, honestly. Most plants in the city – certainly the ones in the East End – had a fairly grayish cast to them, courtesy of the ever-present smog. And it's certainly too cold even for moss to thrive, she thought as she led Victor up the steps and out onto the street. For God's sake, it was snowing when I – I. . . .
Alice stopped dead just outside the arch, one arm loosely wrapped around Victor's middle, jaw close to hitting the pavement. London had – changed. The snow and the black clouds that had birthed it were gone, with no hint that they had ever been. Instead, a blanket of purest summer blue – the exact shade as that found in Cardbridge, in fact – was draped over the city, the sun shining brighter and more cheerily than she'd ever seen. The city itself gleamed in the warm light, every building having gotten a good top-to-bottom scrub and polish –
That is, where they weren't overtaken with greenery. It seemed that, in the wake of the Infernal Train's destruction, the Vale of Tears had not only returned to glorious life, it had also managed to invade England's capital city in its enthusiasm. Broad mushrooms hung over the cobbles right outside the station entrance, sporting caps of white and red and yellow and blue. Multicolored trees burst through the walls of the buildings on either side, reaching their branches toward the sun and heedless of where the brick pierced their trunks. Clear glass marbles nestled in corners, supported by a thin carpet of grass, and large metal jacks twined with the roots of the trees and the spikes of the fences. No matter where she looked, plants and color and sheer unbridled life greeted her. But – but how? she thought, finally managing to close her mouth. This is – don't I normally – why on earth would Wonderland ever deign to mix with London? Have I finally lost my mind for good?
Alice swallowed and stood up a little taller. "I'm fine," she reassured her worried friend. She was not going to pile more troubles on his already overburdened head. Whatever the hell this – this Londerland was, she could figure it out later, on her own time. The important thing right now was getting Victor to safety. So long as the real world didn't disappear completely from her senses, she could manage. She smiled encouragingly and pulled him along. "This way."
The walk to the gates of Houndsditch was a short one, easily managed even by an unsteady amnesiac and his hallucinating friend. It is convenient, having an entrance to the Underground right by your front door, Alice had to admit, glancing backward. I wish they'd finished it earlier – maybe the sound and stink of all those passing trains would have hurried me on my journey. Well, water under the – damn it.
A die stood right between the open gates, bold as brass. Alice glared at it. Some of us have places to be! Ugh. . .I don't think I can climb it, not without letting go of Victor – and I don't want to do that anytime soon. I guess we could edge around –
Wait a minute. This thing is a part of Wonderland, isn't it? Which means it's not really there and has no business getting in my way. With a stern frown, she strode right through it, arm still firmly around Victor's waist.
She'd expected to feel some sort of resistance – her brain was, after all, a master at making her life difficult – but nothing. The die let them through without a single complaint, turning semi-transparent as they crossed and fading back into "reality" once they were through. Hmmm. Interesting. Warrants further investigation – later.
The inside of the Home was largely unchanged to her senses, much to Alice's relief. She'd been half-expecting more doll parts everywhere, but her imagination had stopped at simply turning the wallpaper a brighter green. Charlie, Abigail, Reggie, and Elsie were sitting in the middle of the foyer floor, a deck of cards in their midst. "I told you, Aces are better than Kings!" Elsie snapped as the adults entered. "That means I go first!"
"Bull!" Reggie replied, waving his monarch of Spades in her face. "Aces come before Twos! That means I won and I get to go first!"
"That's only in stupid boy games!"
"It's girls who can't count!"
Alice watched the four as they argued, Abigail taking Elsie's side while Charlie tried to convince them to draw again and forget the first round. Well, they certainly seemed themselves. But she had no idea how long Bumby had been picking at their minds, twisting and corrupting. If she interrupted, would they go blank and silent? "Children?"
Four heads popped up like jack-in-the-boxes, eyes round. "Alice? You're back?" Abigail said, tone disbelieving. She got up and prodded the young woman's skirt. "But – but Dr. Bumby said you wasn't ever coming back!"
"Dr. Bumby says a lot of things that aren't true," Alice told her, relaxing at last.
"Did the thickies find you?" Elsie asked, squinting at the doorway behind her. "Dr. Bumby told them to go back to Rutledge, but they probably didn't listen 'cause they're so stupid."
"Thickies?" Alice parroted, tilting her head.
"Those big fat orderlies that smelled of wee."
"Oh, God, the Monroes?" She'd actually had David and Lum after her? My escape was even narrower than I suspected!
"Nah – you think he'd be with her if they'd got her?" was Reggie's opinion, pointing at Victor. "They would have kicked his head in and left him on the pavement."
"Yeah," Charlie agreed. "Hello Vi– Thirteen," he hastily corrected himself, wincing as if he expected a blow.
"Victor," Alice said firmly as the young man beside her shuddered. "You had it right the first time."
Charlie fidgeted, picking at a thread on his sleeve. "But Dr. Bumby says–"
"I don't care what Bumby says. He has a name, not a number." Her gaze dropped to the paper placards hanging around their necks. "And it's the same with you lot! Take those awful things off right now!"
The children scooted away, pale with fright. "But – but Dr. Bumby always gets mad when we do!" Elsie protested, clutching hers like a lifeline.
"Not this time he won't. He's dead."
The group froze. "Dead?" Reggie repeated, staring wonderingly at her.
"He fell in front of a train," Alice confirmed. "I was there when it happened. Stumbled right off the platform. He's not coming back." Face softening, she let go of Victor and knelt down in front of them. "And he'll never hurt you again."
Silence descended, so thick you could cut it with a knife. Then Abigail whispered, "N-no more trips? No more meeting those men?"
"Never," Alice promised, reaching out to tuck one of her pigtails behind her ear. "Never ever." She grasped the number resting on the front of the little girl's dress and tore it off. "You're officially Abigail again – not Eleven."
"Eleven. . . ."
Alice's head jerked up. Victor was staring at the placard in her hand, face contorted and hands opening and closing at his sides. "Victor?" She stood up quickly, dropping the paper on the floor. "Something wrong?" Oh no, what if Bumby had left something in his mind, something bad (as if anything Bumby put into one's mind was good)–
"I – he – there was–" Victor pressed long fingers against his temple, gritting his teeth. "It's t-there, I know it is, I just – ah!"
Out of nowhere, he exploded into motion, nearly tripping over his own feet as he ran out of the room. The others stared. "What's with him?" Elsie asked.
"I don't know," Alice said, jogging after him. "Victor? What is it?" Damn, she was not in the mood for another fight. . . .
She found him in Bumby's office, yanking open the drawers of the former doctor's desk and tossing papers and pens every which way. "It's here, I know it is!" he said as Alice entered. "He t-tried to make me forget, but I know what he did, I – I–" For a moment, that terrifying blankness passed over his face, but then he shook it off and resumed his search. "He can't have gotten rid of it, he c-can't. . . ."
Alice watched him dump a pile of forms on the desktop, baffled. "Gotten rid of what? What on earth are you looking for?"
"I – ooow. . . ." Victor braced himself against the desk, face screwed up in pain. "K-know I'm being bad, be still. . . ." He wrenched open another drawer. "I d-don't know where – oh!" He disappeared for a moment as he bent down, then reappeared holding a simple black box safe. "Might be in here. . .do you have a key?"
"Why would I–" And then Alice took a better look at the lock. It was a thick one, and the shape of the hole. . .but he wouldn't be as – as stupid and horrid to actually design a lock to fit – She drew Lizzie's key out of her apron and studied it. Then, slowly, she walked over and slipped it in.
It was a perfect fit. With a quick twist, the safe clicked open. Alice yanked the key free of the lock, utterly disgusted. Bastard couldn't be satisfied with perverting her sister's belongings in just one way, oh no. . . .
That train of thought was derailed by Victor practically ripping the safe's lid off its hinges. He let out a cry of triumph and grabbed a thin black journal from inside. "Here," he said, handing it to her. "Proof."
Now what did he mean by that? Alice flipped the book open, hoping there wasn't some secret code phrase to rip her will away from her inside. But no, what greeted her eyes were instead long columns and rows of figures. A business ledger? She'd never seen one before in her life, but she guessed it looked right. . . . She turned to the headings along the top: "Children," "Production Costs," "Market Value," "Amount Paid," "Profit–" And I'm going to be sick all over again.
She turned the pages, marveling in quiet horror at just how many of them he'd managed to fill – and with what high figures. She'd heard Whitechapel called "London's seedy underbelly" before, but this proved it was more akin to the pox-riddled nether regions. And then the table of sin was interrupted by a paragraph of plain text: "One would not think the adjectives 'best' and 'most terrifying' could be applied to the same day, but that is the position I find myself in now with the arrival of Alice Liddell to my Home. On the one hand, she remains the single witness to my – losing my temper so long ago. (Has it really been a decade? How time flies.) Taking her on as a patient is a terrible risk, and I know it. So far, she seems willing to accept the story about her cat and the lamp, but if my therapy fails, and she ever remembers. . .well, a lunatic's word isn't worth much, but I would prefer not to have my personal life scrutinized.
"On the other. . .she looks so bloody much like Elizabeth. . . ."
Alice shuddered. As if she hadn't figured out already that she'd been in danger from day one. . .she forced herself to read on, figuring it appropriate punishment for her blindness. The ledger portion of the book dominated its pages, but there were plenty of diary entries to make her glad she hadn't had food in a while. Numerous remarks about the training of the children, comments on those who came to buy (Jack Splatter, to her surprise, was not one of them), complaints about how she wasn't ready for defilement and destruction just yet, twisted romantic musings about her body, and – "The Van Dorts could have warned me their son was handsome! I'm glad to have controlled myself while they were here, but those eyes, that skin, those lips. . .he must be mine. I'll wipe not only Emily's memory from his head, but all the rest as well. His parents can be dealt with later. If I must do as they ask, at least I don't think they'd object to their newly socialite son keeping a close relationship with his doctor. Why, they might even be grateful! We can't have any slips, after all."
It took all of Alice's self-control not to fling the book against the wall as hard as she could. As it was, she ended up crumpling a few of the pages under her thumb. You – you monstrous, cruel, self-important, absolutely deluded – idiot!
She couldn't help it – she laughed. Anger and horror were in her aplenty, but through them, there was also a bittersweet joy. Yes, the journal was the foul record of a man with no conscience – but it was also concrete evidence of Bumby's wrongdoing. Proof, just as Victor had said. Now the bastard would not even have the satisfaction of knowing his reputation Upstairs was untarnished. Perhaps no one would believe her when she said he'd set the fire – but at the very least, she could get justice for the children. "The moron wrote it all down," she giggled. "Did he really think no one would ever find it?" Though that brought up a new question. "How did you know this was here?" she asked, looking back up at Victor.
"I – I saw it before," Victor said, sporting an unsure little grin. "I don't remember exactly – I was up here for s-some reason, and I saw it on the desk and started reading. And then. . ." The smile faded. "Then he caught me and – and I – I don't deserve a name, I'm a worthless toy, I–"
Alice dropped the book and grabbed Victor's arms, her eyes boring into his. "No," she repeated. "You are not. You are a human being. You're Victor Van Dort – and you deserve every syllable of that."
The mask of blankness fled under the force of her assertions. Victor blinked, then dropped his head, face red with shame. "S-sorry," he mumbled, voice watery. "I – it's t-too easy for me to–"
"Shhh." Alice wrapped her arms tight around his fragile frame. "It's all right. I know what it's like to have that – that thing's claws in your mind." She patted his back. "But he's dead now. And you're free. We're free." She pulled back and smiled at him. "We beat him."
"You beat him," Victor corrected, not looking her in the eye. "I s-succumbed to the pain, to his w-words. . .and I remember so l-little still. . . ."
"You made it hard on him – he himself admitted that," Alice replied. "And you didn't forget everything, did you? You remembered Victoria, and Emily. . . ." She brushed a bit of hair out of his face. "And when it was most important. . .you remembered me."
Victor nodded slowly. "Still. . .when – when I punched him – for just a moment I remembered everything," he said, scowling in frustration. "If he h-hadn't kept standing, hadn't spoken, hadn't. . . ." His face crumpled. "Hadn't called me a b-bad boy. . . ."
Alice rubbed his back, guilt twisting her innards. "I wish I'd thought to say something. Actually, I wish I'd been here when he first got you. I wish I'd seen him as some horrible monster and killed him right there and then." She did, too. So what if such an act would have sent her to a Rutledge cell or a hangman's noose? Either would have been worth knowing Victor was safe. "I'm here now, though." She tilted his head so his gaze met hers again. "And I promise I will do everything I can to help restore your mind."
One of those soft little smiles she'd come to love so much finally graced Victor's face. "Thank you."
Alice smiled back. "You're very welcome." She reached around him and picked up the journal. "Now – I think we have a police station to visit." Brimming with confidence, she took Victor's hand and headed for the door. Sure, she had a whole barrelful of problems to deal with – restoring Victor's memories, making sure the remaining children were safe, figuring out just why London was now Londerland and what to do about it. But for the first time in forever, she could honestly believe that everything was going to turn out all right in the end.
After all – if she could defeat both the Queen of Hearts and the Dollmaker – she could defeat anything.