I noticed another thing that had eluded me on my first time through: There were no animals here. Not a single hissing alley cat, no beady-eyed rats, not one pooping pigeon. It was truly a dead zone. And those very small husks now made sense to me, too.
Shades ate everything.
“Except Barrons,” I muttered, more deeply aggrieved by that than I cared to admit. The other night when we’d taken on the Gray Man, I’d felt a kinship with my enigmatic mentor. We’d been a team. We’d rid the city of a monster. Maybe I’d fumbled my first try, but the end result had been good, and I’d do better next time. I’d frozen it—he’d stabbed it. No more women would be robbed of their beauty and youth. No more would die horrific deaths. It had been a good feeling. And I guess in the back of my mind I’d been thinking that when I finally found out who or what had killed Alina, Barrons would help me go after it.
I suffered no delusions that the police or a court of law would be able to help me in my quest for justice. I had no doubt her murderer(s?) would be something only Barrons, I, and other sidhe-seers could see, and I only knew of one other sidhe-seer. Not only didn’t I think the old woman would be much help taking down an Unseelie or ten, I didn’t want her help. I never wanted to see her again. I know the old “kill the messenger” adage is hardly fair, but adages become adages because they resonate. I resented that woman every bit as much as her message.
I shook my head and turned my thoughts back to my sister. 1247 LaRuhe, Jr., Alina had written with her dying breath. She’d wanted me to come here to find something. I hoped it was her journal, though I couldn’t imagine why she would have hidden it in the abandoned neighborhood. I doubted it was the mysterious, deadly Sinsar Dubh, because—although I was feeling the typical Fae-induced queasiness, which, by the way, I was finding easier to deal with—I wasn’t suffering anything close to the killer nausea mere photocopies of the book had induced. All I was picking up from whatever was push-pulling me in a southeasterly direction was a sense of supernatural danger, but it was muted, as if whatever awaited me was . . . well . . . dormant.
I wasn’t able to derive much comfort from that because dormant is just another word for “liable to explode at any moment,” and from the way my life had been going lately, if there was a volcano in the vicinity, it was going to spew lava in my face sooner rather than later.
Sighing, I pressed on through the fog.
1247 LaRuhe was not what I’d expected at all.
I’d expected a warehouse or one of those dilapidated tenement buildings that had sprung up, replacing residences in the area when industry had moved in and taken over.
What I got was a tall, fancy brick house dressed up with an ornate limestone facade, smack in the middle of blocks upon blocks of commercial factories and warehouses.
The owner had obviously refused to sell, holding his or her bitter stand against the transition and decay of the neighborhood until the very end. The residence looked as out of place here as a Bloomingdale’s would in the center of a low-income housing project.
There were three skeletal trees in the large, foggy, wrought-iron-fenced front yard with no leaves, no birds in the branches, and I was willing to bet, if I dug at their bases, not one worm in the ground. The terraced gardens were barren and the stone fountain at the grand, arched entrance had long ago run dry.
This was Wasteland.
I looked up at the elegant residence warily. Its veneer of civility and wealth was sharply undermined by what had been done to the many tall mullioned windows.
They’d all been painted black.
And I had the creepiest feeling that something was pressed up against those big dark eyes, watching me.
“What now, Alina?” I whispered. “Am I really supposed to go in there?” I so didn’t want to.
I didn’t expect an answer and I didn’t get one. If angels really watch over us like some people believe, mine are deaf-mutes. It had been a purely rhetorical question, anyhow. There was no way I could turn my back on this place. Alina had sent me here and I was going in, if it was the last thing I did. It occurred to me that it might just be.
I didn’t bother with stealth. If someone or something was watching me, it was too late for that now. Squaring my shoulders, I took a deep breath, marched up the curved walkway of pale pavers, climbed the front stairs, and banged the heavy knocker against the door.
No one answered. I did it again a few moments later, then tried the door. Its owner suffered no security concerns; it was unlocked and opened on an opulent foyer. Black-and-white marble floors gleamed beneath a glittering chandelier. Beyond an ornate round table topped with a huge vase of showy silk flowers, an elegant spiral staircase curved up the wall, adorned by a handsome balustrade.