Such worries weren’t just on my waking mind; they were invading my dreams. Last night I’d had a nightmare in which I’d been floating over a Dublin that was pitch-black except for a single, blazing four-story stronghold in the middle of it. In the surreal manner of dreams, I’d been both above the city and down inside the store, looking out the front door. So much of Dublin had fallen to darkness that I’d known, even if I’d begun walking the instant the morning sun crested the horizon, I wouldn’t be able to make it to another lighted sanctuary before nightfall, and that I was stuck at Barrons Books and Baubles for the rest of my life.
I’d woken up thinking about things like prophetic dreams and apocalypses instead of entertaining my usual blissful early-morning thoughts of what I was going to eat that day and what pretty outfits I might wear.
Oh yes, I knew this was about worse things than death. Like being expected to go on living after your sister was killed. Like watching everything you believed about yourself and the world in general get unveiled as one great, big, fat lie. But the big picture going on out there wasn’t my problem. I’d come to Dublin to find Alina’s killer, get whatever justice I could, then go home, and that’s what I still planned to do. O’Bannion was no longer a threat, and maybe out of sight was out of mind for Mallucé. Maybe Barrons could save the city from the Fae. Maybe the Queen—if anything V’lane had said was true—would find the Dark Book without my help just fine, send the Unseelie back to prison, and our world would go back to normal. Maybe after I left, all the evil things hunting the Sinsar Dubh would fight themselves to death over it. There were a great many possibilities and none of them had to involve me. I was sick of this place. I wanted out before one more strand of reality unraveled around my ears.
“Then what’s with the attitude,” Barrons demanded, “and why didn’t you finish at the museum?”
“I had a bad day today, okay?” I said coolly, though inside I felt like a volcano about to blow at any moment. “Isn’t everybody entitled to one, now and then?”
He searched my face for a long moment, then shrugged. “Fine. Finish up tomorrow.”
I rolled my eyes. “So what are we doing tonight?”
He gave me a faint smile. “Tonight, Ms. Lane, you learn how to kill.”
I know what you’re wondering; I’d be wondering it, too: Did I call my mom?
I’m neither that stupid nor that insensitive. She was still reeling from the shock of Alina’s death and I wasn’t about to upset her more.
Still, I had to prove the old biddy wrong, so after I left the museum and stopped at a hardware store for a cache of flashlights, I’d made a beeline back to Barrons Books and Baubles so I could call the hospital where I’d been born and lay the old woman’s ridiculous claim to rest.
One great thing about small towns is that the people are so much more helpful than they are in big cities. I think it’s because they know the person on the other end of the line is somebody they might run into at their kid’s softball practice on Tuesday, or at Wednesday night bowling league, or one of the town’s many church picnics and festivals.
After being transferred a half a dozen times and put on hold a few more, I finally got through to the woman in charge of the Records Department, Eugenia Patsy Bell, and she was just as nice as could be. We chatted for a few moments during which I learned I’d gone to high school with her niece, Chandra Bell.
I told her what I was looking for, and she told me yes, they kept both paper and electronic files on every birth in the hospital. I asked if she could find mine and read it to me over the phone. She said she was terribly sorry, she wasn’t allowed to do that, but if I could confirm some personal information, she could pull it up right now on her computer, print it off, and get it out to me in the afternoon mail.
I gave her Barrons’ address and was just about to hang up, when she asked me to hold on a moment. I sat on the other end of the line, listening to her tap away at her keyboard. She asked me to reconfirm my information twice, and I did so, each time with a growing sense of dread. Then she asked if she could put me on hold one more time while she went and checked the physical files. It was a long hold, and I was glad I’d made the call on the bookstore’s phone.
Then Eugenia came back and said—wasn’t it just the darnedest thing?—she couldn’t explain it, because she knew for certain their records were complete. Their database went all the way back to the early nineteen hundreds and was painstakingly maintained by none other than herself.