1247 LaRuhe, Jr. was all it said.
Inspector O’Duffy, please,” I said briskly. I’d snatched up the phone as soon as I’d let myself into Barrons Books and Baubles and rung up the Pearse Street Garda Station. “Yes, yes, I can hold.” I drummed my fingers impatiently on the cashier’s counter at Fiona’s station while I waited for the duty officer on the other end of the line to transfer my call to the detective who’d handled Alina’s case.
I had another clue for him and this one was etched in stone: 1247 LaRuhe. I was going with him when he went to check it out, and if he wouldn’t let me, then I’d just have to tail him. Surely with all the slinking around in the shadows I’d been doing lately, I’d acquired a measure of stealth.
“Yes, Ms. Lane?” The detective sounded harried when he picked up, so I explained quickly where I’d been and what I’d found. “We’ve been over this,” he said when I was done.
“Who’s been over what?” I asked.
“The address,” he said. “First, there’s nothing to prove she wrote that. Anyone might have—”
“Inspector, Alina called me Junior,” I interrupted. “And her fingernail file was right there at the scene, dented and scarred from gouging at the stone. Even without knowing the significance of ‘Jr.,’ I’m surprised one of your people didn’t find it and put two and two together.” Not to mention the cosmetic pack. Hadn’t they examined the scene at all?
“We saw the address, Ms. Lane, but by the time we were notified of the body, the scene had been contaminated by onlookers. If you were just there yourself, you saw how much trash is in that alley. We could hardly catalogue everything on the pavement. We had no way of knowing if anything in the area originated inside her purse.”
“Well, didn’t you think it a little odd there was an address gouged in stone right next to her body?” I demanded.
“Of course we did.”
“So? Did you track it down? Did you go there?” I asked impatiently.
“Couldn’t, Ms. Lane. It doesn’t exist. There is no 1247 LaRuhe in Dublin. Not an avenue, street, boulevard, or lane. Not even an alley named that.”
I bit the inside of my lip, thinking. “Well, maybe it’s outside of Dublin. Maybe it’s in another city nearby.”
“We tried that, too. We were unable to find any such address, anywhere in Ireland. We even tried variations of the spelling from Laroux to something as simple as La Rue. No 1247 anywhere.”
“Well, maybe it’s in . . . London or something,” I persisted. “Did you check out other cities?”
Inspector O’Duffy sighed deeply and I could picture him on the other end of the line, shaking his head. “Just how many countries do you think we should search, Ms. Lane?” he asked.
I took a breath and let it out slowly, biting my tongue on: However many you need to in order to find my sister’s killer. I don’t care if it’s a thousand.
When I didn’t reply, he said, “We sent her file to Interpol. If they’d found anything, they’d have notified us by now. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else we can do.”
Armed with spear and flashlights, I hurried down the darkening streets to a gift shop/café in the Temple Bar District that offered a wide selection of maps, ranging from beautifully laminated close-ups of Dublin to detailed spreads of Ireland, to the equivalent of Rand McNally road map books. I bought one of each, tossed in England and Scotland for good measure, then went back to my borrowed bedroom and, as full night fell, sat cross-legged on the bed and began searching. A foreign country’s Gardai couldn’t be half as motivated as a vengeance-hungry sister.
It was nearly midnight before I stopped, and then only because five hours of squinting at tiny print had turned the pounding of my earlier headache into an all-out attack on my skull with small jackhammers. I’d found many variations of LaRuhe, but none at 1247, or 1347, or even 1427, or any other number that seemed close enough that Alina might have made a mistake, not that I believed she had. She’d carved out a message with her dying breath and I just couldn’t see her getting it wrong. There was something here, something I was missing.
I massaged my temples gently. Headaches aren’t a common thing for me, but when I do get one, it’s usually a killer and leaves me drained the next day. I folded the maps and stacked them on the floor next to my bed. Barrons might know, I decided. Barrons seemed to know everything. I would ask him tomorrow. Right now I needed to uncramp my legs and try to get some sleep.