I clenched my jaw and turned away. After a moment I said, “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s none of your business.”
“Was it abnormal? Horrific, Ms. Lane? Tell me, did her body look as if animals had gone at her? Hard?”
I whirled back around. “ShutupIhateyou,” I hissed.
Impatience blazed in his eyes. “Do you want to die like that too?”
I glared at him. I would not cry in front of him. I would not think about what I’d seen the day I’d had to identify Alina’s body. Not in my worst nightmares did I want to die like that.
He peeled my answer from my face and half his mouth drew back in a smirk. “I didn’t think so, Ms. Lane. Listen to me and learn, and I will help you.”
“Why would you do that?” I scoffed. “You’re hardly the Good Samaritan type. In fact, I think the word ‘mercenary’ has a little picture of you beside it in the dictionary. I don’t have any money.”
Both sides of his mouth drew back this time—in a snarl—before he quickly recomposed his face into a mask of smooth European urbanity. Wow, I’d sure struck a nerve. Something I’d said had pierced his thick hide and it seemed to have been the word “mercenary.”
“I can hardly leave you to die. It wouldn’t sit well with my conscience.”
“You don’t have a conscience, Barrons.”
“You know nothing about me, Ms. Lane.”
“And I’m not going to. I’m going to talk to the police and they’re going to reopen my sister’s case. I’m not going to see you again or any stupid shadows. I’m not even going to ask you what the shi-sadu really is, because you are beyond delusional. Stay away from me, or I’ll tell the police all about you and your crazy ideas and threats.” I snatched up my purse and drugstore bag and walked to the door.
“You’re making a huge mistake, Ms. Lane.”
I yanked it open. “The only mistake I made was yesterday, believing anything you said. It’s a mistake I won’t repeat.”
“Don’t cross that threshold. If you walk out that door you’ll die. I give you three-day odds, at best.”
I didn’t dignify it with a response. I let the slam of the door behind me do that.
I think he might have yelled something through the door, something weird like, Stay to the lights, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t care.
Jericho Barrons and I were done with each other.
Or so I thought. It would turn out to be just one more of those things I was wrong about. Soon, we would be living inside each other’s hip pockets, whether we liked it or not.
And believe you me, we didn’t.
Later I would look back on the next few days as the last normal ones of my life, though at the time they seemed anything but. Normal was peach pie and green beans, bartending and coaxing my car to the garage for the latest two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar Band-Aid, not investigating my sister’s murder in Dublin.
I spent all day Wednesday on campus at Trinity College. I spoke with the last professor on my list, but she had nothing new to add. I talked with dozens of Alina’s classmates when their sessions let out. The story they told was so identical from one to the next that they were all either part of a vast X-Files conspiracy—I always hated that show, it was too vague and open-ended and I like my tidy denouements—or this was really who my sister had been while she was here.
They said for the first two or three months she was friendly, outgoing, smart, someone others wanted to hang out with. That was the Alina I knew.
Then suddenly she changed. She began missing classes. When she did show up, if someone asked her where she’d been, she behaved strangely, secretively. She seemed excited and deeply preoccupied, as if she’d discovered something far more interesting to immerse herself in than her studies. Then, during her last months there, she lost weight and looked exhausted all the time, like she was going out drinking and partying all night, every night, and it was taking its toll. “Edgy” and “nervous” were two words I’d never associated with my sister, but her classmates used them liberally in describing her.
Did she have a boyfriend? I asked. Two of the people I spoke with said yes, two girls who seemed to have known Alina better than the others. She definitely had a boyfriend, they said. They thought he was older. Rich. Sophisticated and handsome, but no, they’d never seen him. No one had. She never brought him around.
Toward the end, on those rare days she showed up for class at all, it seemed she was making a last-ditch effort to try to get her life back, but she looked weary and defeated, as if she knew it was a battle she’d already lost.