All of us watch the news in awe.

The children clap their hands, most enthusiastic about it, although I am against them watching it. It is Fabiola who insists they do. I can’t understand what the deal is with the children yet.

“Why did he go back to do this?” I ask Fabiola.

“You never know what’s on the Pillar’s mind.” She looks away. She is lying. She knows why. I’m starting to lose my patience.

“In spite of all his bad doings, he rid the world of those bad people.”

“Did he?” She looks back. “Or did he just promote more violence in the world?”

I am confused. She has a point, but the Pillar may also have a point.

“Do you know of a reason why he would go back to do this while we’re in the middle of stopping Carolus?” I ask her.

“I have no idea, Alice. You said it yourself. He went back when you needed him. Trust me. He just wants to evoke chaos. And even if he doesn’t, you’ll figure out he has an agenda of his own. I hope he returns and gives you back his key.”

“You’re right,” I say, trying to keep my focus on what matters. “I suppose I will let the chauffeur fly back to London.”

“We’ll have to delay that a bit,” the chauffeur says. “The chopper needs some maintenance. But not for long. Don’t worry.”

“Besides, you won’t find Carolus in London,” Fabiola says.

“What do you mean?”

“My sources have told me the Queen of Hearts captured him and is taking him with her to the UN’s meeting in Geneva.”

“Geneva? The Queen and Carolus? Something isn’t right here.”

“I know. That’s is why you have to kill him sooner. Who knows what the Queen has planned for us all.”

Chapter 85

Radcliffe asylum, Oxford

Since the Cheshire couldn’t find another rat to possess, he resorted to a fly in the end.

Now this was risky business.

For one, he had to leave his phone behind for good now. Second, he was prone to getting killed any moment. Humans loved to kill flies.

To tell the truth, it was tempting, like killing ants. Just a calculated slap and the fly was history.

But soon he found himself another host. One of the asylum’s wardens.

The Cheshire strolled through the ward like had before when he possessed Ogier’s body and scared this Alice girl a few weeks ago. Oh, boy, was that fun. That look on her face would have made one hell of a selfie.

But enough with that poor girl thinking she was the Real Alice. It was Tom’s kids he was looking for.

He gestured at a few other wardens on his way. Everyone seems concerned with something called Plan-X. This loon Dr. Truckle thought he’d survive apocalypse in this asylum.

But frankly, what did the Cheshire care? All these humans, dumb as a bum.

And here he was, staring at Tom’s children, Todd and Tania, with that famous Cheshire grin on his lips.

The two obnoxious kids stared back. There weren’t scared of him. Not at all. They grinned back.

Although he’d heard the news about the Pillar and Alice leaving Columbia by now, and the Queen’s disinterest in sending someone after the Pillar by now, the Cheshire felt excited, staring at Todd and Tania.

I bet I found you after all Tweedledee and Tweedledum. This will be fun.

Chapter 86

St Peter’s, The Vatican

The March Hare, still hiding in the confession booth, watched the few uninfected people sitting outside. They were waiting for Fabiola’s return. She had taken Alice and the children and went to check on that plane they were talking about with that mousy man who called himself the chauffeur.

During their wait, a priest entered the room.

The March could only see him from behind. He was watching him stand behind the podium, about to talk to the people, who were dead silent. The March wondered if it was out of respect or fear of the man at the podium.

One thing was definitely odd about this priest. He smoked a cigar.

“Hallelujah!” the man said. “All you lazy obnoxious sin washers.”

The March’s eyes widened. The uninfected people stiffened in their places.

“Seriously,” said the priest. “Is this all you can do when the shit hits the wall?”

The March was confused. Was that Carolus in the priest’s outfit?

“All you whining, crying, wailing wusses of the world.” The priest raised both arms. “Going to church, your arches bent over, your heads lowered, and your whole existence just a mess.”

The uninfected looked extremely offended.

“Is that all you can do? No wonder each villain in this world is treading on your sorry existence, making money out of you, poisoning your food, and just toying with you left and right.”

The March thought this couldn’t be Carolus now. This man was shorter, and he thought he recognized the voice.

“Forgive me father for I have sinned,” the priest mocked them, dangling out his tongue. “Sinned? Really? You? Have you ever really been introduced to sin? What did you do? Lie to your spouse? Seen a crime and not told about it? Were late for work? Tell me. What was your worst sin ever?”

The March recognized the voice now.

“Have you ever killed someone with your bare hands and hated it?” The priest walked sideways. The March saw he was all soaked in blood, still smoking his cigar. “Have you ever stared evil in the face and grinned at it? Have you ever met a villain? A real one who kills for grins and giggles? Have you ever been kidnapped as a child and sent to work for drug lords on the other side of the world? Have you ever met the darker side of yourself like Lewis Carroll did? Have you ever had to deal with it over and over again, and swear you’d never pass it on to the world, but write the all-time best children’s book instead?”

The uninfected looked rather embarrassed, that March could see.

“If I were you, I would feel ashamed for the rest of your life,” The priest looked around. “If I were you, I wouldn’t hide in here and cry and pray for someone to save my sorry butt because I think I’m a good person. If I were you, I’d turn and face the villain.”

The March’s ears stood erect, seeing how some of them had been influenced by the priest’s talk, about to push the church’s gates open and deal with the plague.

“Go out now! Stare darkness in the face and kick its ass!”

Just before they did, the March Hare saw Fabiola enter the church, yelling at the priest. “How dare you come in here with that blood on your hands and talk to them like that?” she roared like he’d never seen her for a long time. “Get out of here, Pillar!”

Chapter 87

St Peter’s, The Vatican

When I get back to the basilica, I see Fabiola scream at the Pillar.

I don’t actually hear most of what she says. I am looking at the Pillar. He takes off the fake priest’s outfit, showing the blood-stained blue suit underneath. His face is slashed with bruises and cuts, and he needs medical attention.

More than anything, he looks like someone who needs a hug to me. You can’t kill so many people and feel okay, not even if you are the Pillar.

“I want you gone.” I hear Fabiola now. “I don’t want to see you ever again.”

“Why would you say something like that to me?” He sounds sincere.

“You’re a terrible man.” The veins on her neck stick out. “A terrible, terrible man. Get out.”

“I just killed everyone who worked for the Executioner, Fabiola. Does that not count as an act of righteousness to you?”

“You don’t want justice, Pillar. All you want is blood.”

“How can you have justice without blood?”

Wow. The conversation is taking a heavy turn.

“Ask the kids,” he approached them. “Are you happy the Executioner and his friends are all dead now?”

The kids hurray.

“Stay away from them.” Fabiola stands in the way. “They don’t need a role model like you in their lives.”