Later that night I stopped in an Internet café and downloaded new tunes for my iPod. ITunes loves my Visa. I should be more frugal, but my weaknesses are books and music and I figure there are worse ones to have. I’d been hankering for the Green Day Greatest Hits CD (the song that goes “sometimes I give myself the creeps, sometimes my mind plays tricks on me” had been majorly on my mind lately) and got it for the bargain price of $9.99, which was less than I would have paid in the store. Now you know how I justify my addictions—if I can pay less for it than I would at Wal-Mart, I get to have it.
I sent a long, determinedly upbeat e-mail to my folks and a few shorter ones to several of my friends back home. Georgia had never seemed so far away.
It was dark by the time I headed back to the inn. I didn’t like to spend much time in my room. There was nothing comfortable or homey about it, so I tried to keep myself busy until I was ready to sleep. Twice, while walking home, I got the weirdest feeling I was being followed, but both times I turned around the scene behind me was a perfectly normal Dublin evening in the Temple Bar District. Brilliantly lit, warm and inviting, thick with throngs of pub-goers and tourists. Not a thing back there that should have sent a chill of foreboding up my spine.
Around three o’clock in the morning, I woke up strangely on edge. I pulled the drape aside and looked out. Jericho Barrons was on the sidewalk in front of The Clarin House, leaning back against a lamppost, his arms folded over his chest, staring up at the inn. He wore a long dark coat that went nearly to his ankles, a shirt of shimmering blood-red, and dark pants. He dripped casual European elegance and arrogance. His hair fell forward to just below his jaw. I hadn’t realized it was so long because he usually wore it slicked back from his face. He had the kind of face you could do that with; chiseled, symmetrical bone structure. In the morning, I decided I’d dreamt it.
Thursday I met with Inspector O’Duffy, who was overweight, balding, and red-faced, with pants belted low beneath a stomach that strained his shirt buttons. He was British, not Irish, for which I was grateful because it meant I didn’t have to struggle with his accent.
Unfortunately, the interview turned out to be more depressing than quizzing Alina’s classmates had been. At first, things seemed to go well. Though he told me personal notes on the case were not a matter of public record, he made me (yet another) copy of the official report, and patiently recounted everything he’d told my father. Yes, they’d interviewed her professors and classmates. No, no one had any idea what had happened to her. Yes, a few had mentioned a boyfriend, but they’d never been able to find out anything about him. Rich, older, sophisticated, not Irish, was all they’d been able to find out.
I played him her frantic phone message. He listened to it twice, then sat back and knitted his fingers together beneath his chin. “Had your sister been using drugs long, Ms. Lane?”
I blinked. “Drugs? No, sir, Alina didn’t use drugs.”
He gave me that look adults get when they think they’re telling you something for you own good and trying to be gentle about it. That look pisses me off to no end when the adult is so obviously wrong. But you can’t tell grown-ups a thing when they’ve got their minds made up. “The decline her classmates described follows the classic downward spiral of drug use.” He picked up his file and read from it. “Subject became increasingly agitated, edgy, nervous, almost paranoid. Subject lost weight, looked exhausted all the time.” He gave me that irritating brow-raised, expectant can’t-you-see-what’s-right-in-front-of-you look some people use, like they think they can cue the right response from you with it.
I stared at him stonily, resenting the word “subject” clear to my toes. “That doesn’t mean she was doing drugs. That means she was in danger.”
“Yet she never told you or your parents a thing about this danger? For months? You said yourself what a close family you have. Wouldn’t your sister have told you if her life was in jeopardy? I’m sorry, Ms. Lane, but it’s far more likely she was concealing drug use than her life was in danger and she never said a word to anyone. We see this kind of behavior in inner-city youth all the time.”
“She said she was trying to protect me,” I reminded him stiffly. “That’s why she couldn’t say anything.”
“Protect you from what?”
“I don’t know! That’s what we need to find out. Can’t you just reopen her case and try to find out who this boyfriend was? Surely someone somewhere saw the man! In her message, it sounded like she was hiding from someone. She said he was coming. She said she didn’t think he’d let her out of the country. Obviously someone was threatening her!”