I stood, stretched gingerly, then padded over to the window, pushed the drape aside, and stared out into the night.
There was Dublin, a sea of rooftops. Down in those streets was a world I’d never imagined.
There was the darkness of the abandoned neighborhood. I wondered if I’d still be looking out this window in a month—God, I hoped not!—and if so, would the darkness have spread?
There sat three of the four cars of the O’Bannion entourage. Someone had taken the Maybach and closed the doors of the others. All sixteen piles of clothing were still there. I was really going to have to do something about them. To someone in the know, it was the same thing as staring out the window at sixteen corpses.
There were the Shades, those lethal little bastards, moving around down in the alley at the edge of the Dark Zone, pulsing at the perimeter as if angry at Barrons for keeping them at bay with his toxic barrier of light.
And there was the man himself: stepping into the abandoned neighborhood, moving from the safety of his floodlights into complete darkness.
And he didn’t have a flashlight!
I raised my hand to knock on the windowpane. I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess to get his attention and call him back before he did something stupid.
Then I paused, my knuckles half an inch from the glass. Barrons was anything but stupid. He did nothing without a reason.
Tall, dark, and graceful as a midnight panther, he wore unrelieved black beneath his long black coat, and as he walked, I caught the glint of steel on his boots. Then even that was gone, absent the light to reflect it, and he was just a lighter shadow in the shadows.
You must never, Ms. Lane, ever enter the abandoned neighborhood at night, he’d said not so long ago.
Okay, then why was he? What was going on? I shook my head and paid for it instantly, as tiny jackhammers fell over, then righted themselves and renewed their attack with vigor: rat-a-tat-tat-TAT-TAT! I clutched my skull and stared down uncomprehendingly.
The Shades weren’t paying Barrons the slightest bit of attention. In fact, if I were a woman given to fancy, I would have said the oily darknesses actually peeled back with distaste as Jericho Barrons passed by.
I’d seen the husks the Shades left. I’d seen the evidence of their voracious appetite. The only thing they feared was light. They kill with vampiric swiftness, Barrons had told me. I’d written that in my journal, appreciating the phrase.
I watched him move deeper into the abandoned neighborhood, black on black, until he and the night became one. I stared blankly down the alley after him for a long time after he’d gone, trying to make sense of what I’d just seen.
There were really only two possibilities I could think of: either Barrons was lying to me about the Shades, or he’d struck some kind of dark bargain with the life-sucking Fae.
Whichever it was, I finally had my answer to whether or not I could trust him.
That would be a great, big NOT.
When I finally turned away, brushed my teeth, flossed, washed my face, moisturized, ran a brush through my hair, slipped on my favorite sleep shirt and matching panties, and crawled beneath the covers, I wasn’t sure of much, but I did know this: I wasn’t going to be asking Barrons any questions about addresses tomorrow.
I woke up the next morning with the answer burning in my brain.
Years ago, in some book I’d read, the author had postulated that the human mind was little different from a computer, and that one of the primary functions of sleep was downtime to integrate new program files, run backup subroutines, defrag, and dump minutiae so we could start fresh the next day.
While I’d slept, my subconscious had attended to my consciousness’ dreck, determining data or detritus, dispatching it accordingly, allowing me to see what I would have seen much sooner if I had not been blinded by inner chaos. I would have slapped myself in the forehead if I hadn’t been in that delicate just-recovered-from-a-headache state.
I scrambled from bed—I didn’t need to turn on a light, I slept with every one of them lit, and would for years to come—and picked up map after map, examining the copyright date. Each was current, as any good tourist map would be, compiled from information collected over the past year.
But Barrons had told me the city had “forgotten” one entire section existed—the abandoned neighborhood. That no district of the Garda would claim it, that city utilities would contend no such addresses existed. Did that mean there were streets in Dublin nobody remembered anymore? And if so, had they “fallen off the map,” so to speak?
If I were to examine another map—say, one from five years ago—would the Dublin preserved in shamrock-embossed laminate look identical to the one I had now? Or would parts of it be missing?