Could it be the answer I was looking for had been staring me in the face all the while from just the other side of my windowpane?
“Bingo!” I stabbed the map with the fuchsia tip of my favorite pen. “There you are!”
I’d just found LaRuhe Street, and—as I’d suspected—it was deep in the abandoned neighborhood.
Last night, when I’d needed a map, I’d gone automatonlike to the first place I remembered seeing a prominent display. It hadn’t occurred to me that Barrons would have some in the bookstore. Up on the third floor I’d found a large collection of atlases and maps, gathered up a dozen or so, and toted them down to my favorite sofa to begin my search all over again.
What I’d discovered shocked and horrified me. The Dark Zone abutting Barrons wasn’t the only part of Dublin that was missing. There were two other areas, which had existed on maps in previous years, that did not exist on any of them now. They were considerably smaller, and on the outskirts, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were areas that had become Shade-infested, too.
Like a cancer, the life-sucking Unseelie were spreading. I couldn’t begin to guess how they’d gotten all the way out in those nearly rural areas, but then I couldn’t begin to guess how they’d gotten here in the city, either. Perhaps someone had transported them from one place to the next, unknowing, like roaches in a cardboard box. Or perhaps . . . I had a terrible thought . . . was that the basis for Barrons’ truce with the parasites? Did he take them to new feeding grounds in exchange for safe passage? Were they sentient enough to make and keep bargains? Where did the Shades go during the day? What dark places did they find? How small could they be in repose if they had no real substance? Could a hundred of them travel in a matchbox? I shook my head. I couldn’t ponder the horrors of Shades spreading right now. Alina had left me a clue. I’d finally managed to stumble upon it, and all I could think about was finding whatever it was she’d wanted me to find.
I lay the laminated maps of the city on the table in front of me, side by side, and looked at them a long moment. The map on the right was current; the one on my left had been distributed seven years ago.
On the current map, Collins Street was one block over and ran directly parallel to Larkspur Lane. On the map from seven years ago, there were eighteen city blocks between those two streets.
I shook my head, shrugged, and snorted, all at the same time, an explosive expression of how completely freaked-out I was. This was awful. Did anyone know? Were Barrons and I—and God only knew what Barrons really was; I sure didn’t—the only two with any clue that such things were happening?
The truth is, your world is going to hell in a handbasket, Barrons had said. Recalling his words, I caught something in them I’d missed before. He’d said “your” world. Not “our” world. Mine. Was it not his world also?
As usual, I had a million questions, no one to trust, and nowhere to go but forward. Backward was a path forever barred me now.
I tore a page out of my journal—there were only four blank pages left—laid it over the laminated map and traced out my path, block by block, scribbling in street names. The map itself was too bulky to carry. I needed my hands free. LaRuhe was at the end of a zigzagging path, roughly fourteen blocks into the Dark Zone; the street itself was only two blocks long, one of those short jogs that connect two main roads near multiple five-point intersections.
In retrospect, I’m still stunned that I went into the abandoned neighborhood alone that day. It’s a wonder I survived. I don’t know quite what I was thinking. Most of the time, as I look back on things and tell you my tale, I’ll be able to give you a good idea what was in my head at the time. But this is one of those days that—although the middle hours bear the permanent and highly stamped details of a fiery brand in my mind—began in a bit of a fog and ended in a worse one.
Maybe I was thinking it was still early in the day, the Shades were only a threat at night, and I had my spear, so I’d be safe. Maybe I was numb from so many shocks that I wasn’t feeling the fear I should have been.
Maybe, after everything I’d lost so recently, I just didn’t care. Barrons had called me Ms. Rainbow the night we’d robbed Mallucé. Despite his disparaging tone, I’d liked the nickname. But rainbows needed sunshine to exist, and there hadn’t been a lot of that in my world lately.
Whatever the reason, I got up, showered, chose my outfit with care, gathered my spearhead and flashlights, and went to find 1247 LaRuhe, by myself.
It was nearly noon and I heard the quiet purr of Fiona’s luxury sedan pulling up behind me as I walked into what all sidhe-seers would one day be calling what I’d christened it, what would one day, and not too far off, begin showing up in cities scattered around the entire globe: a Dark Zone.