He smiled faintly. “I don’t think you understand, Ms. Lane. I won’t let it kill you. No matter what.” He stood and walked across the room. As he opened the door, he shot over his shoulder, “And one day you will thank me for it.”
Was he kidding? I was supposed to thank him for staining my hands with blood? “I don’t think so, Barrons,” I told him, but the door had already swung closed and he’d disappeared into the rainy Dublin night.
Shades: perhaps my greatest enemy among the Fae, I wrote in my journal.
Dropping my pen between the pages, I checked my watch again; still ten more minutes to go until the museum opened. I’d had bad dreams last night, and I’d been so eager to get out of the bookstore and into the sunny morning, to go do something touristy and refreshingly normal, that I hadn’t thought to check what time the museum opened. After stopping for coffee and a scone, I’d still arrived a half an hour early and was one of many people milling outside, standing in groups or waiting on benches near the domed entrance of the Museum of Archaeology and History on Kildare Street.
I’d managed to snag a bench for myself and was making good use of my extra time by updating recent events in my notebook and summarizing what I’d learned. My obsession with finding Alina’s journal was shaping what and how I chose to write in my own: about everything, and in great detail. Hindsight was twenty-twenty and you never knew what clues someone else might be able to pick up on in your life that you were blinded to by living it. If anything happened to me, I wanted to leave behind the best possible record I could, in case someone else would take up my cause—although frankly, I couldn’t imagine anyone who would—and I hoped Alina had done the same.
I picked up my pen.
According to Barrons, I wrote, the Shades lack substance, which means I can neither freeze nor stab them. It appears I have no defense against this low-level caste of Unseelie.
The irony was not lost on me. The Shades were the most base of their kind, barely sentient, yet—despite the spearhead in my purse (tip securely cased in a wad of foil) allegedly capable of killing even the most powerful shark in the Fae sea—I was still helpless against the bottom-feeders.
Well, I was just going to have to stay off the bottom, then, and arm myself tooth and nail with what did work against them. I jotted a quick addition to a shopping list I’d been compiling: several dozen flashlights in varying sizes. I would begin carrying two or more on me at all times and scatter the rest around the bookstore, in every corner of every room, bracing for the horrifying possibility that the power might, one night, go out. Despite the bright morning sun, I shivered, just thinking about it. I’d not been able to get the Shades off my mind ever since yesterday when I’d discovered those piles of clothing collapsed around their papery remains.
Why do they leave clothing behind? I’d asked Barrons when I’d passed him in the rear hall, late last night on my way to bed. The man was a serious night owl. At my tender age—in my defense, I’d like to point out that I’ve had a very stressful life lately—I’d been bleary-eyed and exhausted by one in the morning, yet he’d looked disgustingly energized and awake, and in high spirits again. I knew my question was hardly important in the overall scheme of things, but sometimes it’s the tiniest, insignificant details that nag at my curiosity the most.
In the same way the Gray Man hungers for beauty that will never be his, Ms. Lane, Barrons had said, the Shades are drawn to steal that which they can never possess as well: A physical manifestation of life. So they take ours and leave behind what has no animation. Clothing is inert.
Well, what are those papery things? I’d asked, gripped by a revolting fascination. I’m assuming they’re parts of us, but which ones?
Morbid tonight, are we, Ms. Lane? How would I know? Barrons’ shrug was a Gallic ripple of muscle beneath crimson silk. Perhaps condensed skin, bones, teeth, toenails and such, sucked dry of life. Or perhaps our brains are unpalatable to them. Maybe they taste like frog, Ms. Lane, and Shades hate frog.
“Ugh,” I muttered, as I scribbled the gist of our nocturnal conversation on a new page.
While I was finishing up, there was a sudden mass exodus around me, and I glanced up at the now-open doors of the museum. Tucking my journal carefully into my purse so it didn’t hamper easy access to my spearhead, I slung my bag over my shoulder and rose, pleased to realize I was barely registering the nausea caused by such close contact with the OOP. I was determined to carry the thing with me everywhere, so I’d forced myself to sleep with it last night, hoping the more contact I had with it, the less disturbing I would find it over time. It seemed to be working.