I dismissed the unpleasant neighborhood. My business was with Barrons. The open sign in the window was dark—the hours advertised on the door were noon to eight P.M.—and there were only dim lights on inside, but the expensive motorcycle was parked out front in the same place as yesterday. I couldn’t imagine Fiona straddling the macho black-and-chrome hog any more than I could picture Barrons driving the sedate upper-middle-class gray sedan. Which meant he was here, somewhere.
I made a fist and pounded on the door. I was in a foul mood, feeling put-upon and wronged by everyone I’d encountered in Dublin. Since my arrival, few had been passably civil, none had been nice, and several had been unapologetically rude. And people said Americans were bad. I pounded again. Waited twenty seconds, pounded again. Mom says I have a redhead’s temper, but I’ve known a few redheads and I don’t think I’m nearly that bad. It’s just that when I’ve got something stuck in my craw I have to do something about it. Like coming to Dublin in the first place to get Alina’s investigation reopened.
“Barrons, I know you’re in there. Open up,” I shouted. I repeated the pounding and shouting for several minutes. Just when I was beginning to think maybe he wasn’t there after all, a deep voice came out of the darkness on my left, marked by that untraceable accent that hinted of time spent in exotic climes. Like places with harems and opium dens.
“Woman, you are a thousand kinds of fool.”
I peered into the gloom. Halfway down the block was a denser spot in the darkness that I took to be him. It was impossible to make out his shape, but that patch of darkness seemed to hold more substance, more potency than the shadows around it. It also made me shiver a little. Yes, that would be him.
“Not so much of a fool as you think, Barrons. Not so much of a fool that I fell for your stupid story.”
“A lamb in a city of wolves. Which one will take you down, I wonder?”
“Lamb, my petu—ass. You don’t scare me.”
“Ah yes, a thousand kinds of fool.”
“I know you lied to me. So what is it really, Barrons—this shi-sadu?” Though I’d not intended to emphasize the unfamiliar word, it seemed to ricochet off the surrounding buildings with the sharp retort of a gunshot. Either that or, for a weirdly suspended moment, a total hush fell over the night, like one of those untimely lulls in conversation that always happen just when you’re saying something like, Can you believe what a witch that Jane Doe is? and Jane Doe’s standing right across the suddenly silent room, and you just want to sink into the floor. “You may as well tell me, because I’m not going away until you do.”
He was there before I could blink. The man had lightning reflexes. It made a difference that he wasn’t where I thought he was to begin with. He detached from the shadows no more than ten feet from me and crushed me back against the door. “You bloody fool, do not speak of such things in the open night!” Crowding me back to the door, he reached past me for the lock.
“I’ll speak of anything I—” I broke off, staring beyond him. The patch of darkness I’d mistaken for him had begun to move. And now there was a second spot slithering along the side of one of the buildings, a little farther down; an impossibly tall one. I glanced over to the other side of the street, to see what idiot was walking through that terrible neighborhood at night, casting the shadow.
There was no one.
I glanced back at the two darknesses. They were moving toward us. Quickly.
I looked up at Barrons. He was motionless, staring down at me. He turned and looked over his shoulder where I had been staring, then back at me.
Then he pushed open the door, shoved me inside, shut the door, and slid three dead bolts behind us.
You will explain,” he said roughly, shoving me deeper into the room, away from the door. He turned his back to me and began flipping light switches on the wall, one after another. Set after set of recessed lights and wall sconces came on inside the store. Outside, floodlights washed the night cold-white.
“Explain? Explain what? You explain. Why did you lie to me? God, I just don’t get this place! Alina made it sound like Dublin was some kind of great city where everybody was so nice and everything was so pretty, but nothing is pretty and nobody is nice and I swear I’m going to do serious bodily harm to the next idiot that tells me to go home!”
“As if you could. You might break a nail.” The gaze he shot me over his shoulder was contemptuous.
“You don’t know a thing about me, Barrons.” The look I shot back was equally contemptuous. He finished with the last of the lights and turned around. I jerked a little at the sight of him beneath the blaze of illumination. I must not have looked at him very closely yesterday because he wasn’t just masculine and sexual, he was carnal in a set-your-teeth-on-edge kind of way; he was almost frightening. He looked different tonight. He seemed taller, leaner, meaner, skin tighter on his body, features more starkly chiseled—and his cheekbones had been blades yesterday in that cold, arrogant face that was such an unlikely blend of genes. “What’s your heritage, anyway?” I said irritably, backing away, putting more space between us.