“You procured a hired conveyance at my establishment.”
“We call them taxis where I come from. And bookstores.” God, he was stuffy.
“We call them manners where I come from, Ms. Lane. Have you any?”
“You should talk. It’s not my fault. Being threatened seems to bring out the worst in me.” I opened the door a crack and glared up at him through the space afforded by the latch-chain. I couldn’t imagine Jericho Barrons as a child, going to school, face freshly scrubbed, hair neatly combed, lunch box in hand. He’d surely been spawned by some cataclysmic event of nature, not born.
He cocked his head and studied me through the narrow opening, spending several seconds on each part of me: disheveled hair, sleep-swollen mouth and eyes, lacy sleep shirt, jeans, toes. I felt as if I’d been burned to CD by the time he was done. “May I come in?” he said.
“I wouldn’t have let you up this far.” I was furious the desk clerk had let him up. I’d thought the place had better security. I was going to have a word with the manager tomorrow.
“I told them I was your brother.” He gleaned my thoughts from my face.
“Right. Because we look so much alike.” If he was winter, I was summer. If I was sunshine, he was night. A dark and stormy one.
Not an ounce of amusement flickered in those dark eyes. “Well, Ms. Lane?”
“I’m thinking.” Now that he knew where I was staying, if he wanted to harm me, he could do it anytime. No need to rush into it tonight. He could lie in wait for me and jump me somewhere tomorrow in the streets. I would be no safer in the future than I was from him now, unless I was willing to move about from inn to inn, trying to lose him, and I wasn’t. I needed to be in this part of town. Besides, he just didn’t look like the kind of creep that would messily murder a woman in her hotel room; he looked like the kind of creep that would line her up in the sights of an assassin’s rifle without a shred of emotion. That I would use that as an argument in his favor should have worried me. Later I would realize I’d been walking around still more than a little numb from Alina’s death during those first weeks in Ireland, and more than a little reckless from it as well. I sighed. “Sure. Come in.”
I closed the door, unhooked the chain, opened it again, then stepped back, allowing him to enter. I pushed the door open all the way and left it flush to the wall, so anyone walking past could see in and, if I needed to, I could shout down the third floor with my cries for help. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, making me feel shaky. He was still wearing his impeccable Italian suit, his shirt just as crisp and white as it had been hours ago. The cramped room was suddenly stuffed to overflowing with Jericho Barrons. If a normal person filled one hundred percent of the molecules they occupied, he somehow managed to cram his to two hundred percent capacity.
He cast a brief yet thorough glance around and I had no doubt, if questioned later, he would be able to accurately recount every detail, from the rust-colored water spots high up on the ceiling, down to my pretty flowered bra lying on the rug. I nudged the rug with my toe, pushing it and its cargo beneath the bed.
“So what is it?” I said. “No, wait—how do you spell it?” I’d tried everything today, and assuming he told me and I lived, I wanted to be able to research it on my own.
He began pacing a small circle around me. I turned with him, not willing to give him my back. “S-i-n-s-a-r,” he spelled.
“Sinsar?” I said it phonetically.
He shook his head. “Shi-sa. Shi-sa-du.”
“Oh, that makes great sense. And the ‘du’?” He stopped circling, so I stopped too, his back to the wall, mine to the open door. In time, when I began to see patterns, I would see that he always positioned himself in such a fashion, never with his back to an open window or door. It wasn’t about fear. It was about control.
“Dubh is do?” I was incredulous. It was no wonder I hadn’t been able to find the stupid word. “Should I be calling pubs poos?”
“Dubh is Gaelic, Ms. Lane. Pub is not.”
“Don’t bust a gut laughing.” I’d thought I was being funny. Stuffy, like I said.
“Nothing about the Sinsar Dubh is a laughing matter.”
“I stand corrected. So what is this gravest of graves?”
His gaze dropped from my face to my toes and back again. Apparently he was unimpressed by what he saw. “Go home, Ms. Lane. Be young. Be pretty. Get married. Have babies. Grow old with your pretty husband.”