I plastered myself against the stack of pallets as every single one of the new arrivals passed within a dozen feet of me, accompanied by its “trainer.” They were some of the most harrowing few minutes of my life. I got an up close and personal look at things we’ve never even come close to creating in our scariest horror flicks.
After the last of them had marched, slithered, flapped, or crawled down the long aisle and exited the building, I slumped back against the pallets, closed my eyes, and kept them closed.
So this was what Alina had wanted me to know: That behind 1247 LaRuhe was a gate to hell, and here the Lord Master was bringing his dark servants through from their previously inescapable Unseelie prison and turning them loose on our world.
Okay, now I knew.
Just what was I supposed to do about it? Alina had seriously overestimated me if she thought I could, or would, do anything about this problem. It wasn’t my problem. My problem was finding the bastard who’d betrayed her and bringing him to whatever justice I could. If he was human, I might let the courts have him. If he was an Unseelie masquerading as human, he’d die at the end of my spear. That was all I cared about.
We’ve got to find the Sinsar Dubh, Alina had said. Everything depends on it.
What depended on it? I had a sinking feeling the answer to that question was one of those Fate-of-the-World things. I didn’t do Fate-of-the-World things. That wasn’t in my job description. I poured drafts and mixed drinks, wiped counters and washed glasses. After work I swept up.
Had Alina wanted me to find the Dark Book because somewhere within its dangerous, encrypted pages was the way to defeat the Lord Master and destroy his Unseelie portal? Why should I care? It was in Dublin, not Georgia! It was Ireland’s problem. They could handle their own troubles. Besides, even if I managed to accomplish the impossible and find the stupid Dark Book, how was I supposed to translate it? Barrons had two of the stones necessary, but I had no clue which team he was playing for. Nor did I have any idea where the other two stones were, how to find them, or how to use them—assuming I ever actually managed to get my hands on them.
What had Alina expected me to do? Commit to staying in Dublin indefinitely, searching for all this woo-woo stuff and living in constant fear? Devote my life to this cause? Be willing to die for it?
It was one heck of a tall order for a short-order bartender. I would have snorted if I hadn’t been on the uncomfortable verge of peeing my pants with fear for the past half hour.
She’d died for it.
I clenched my jaw and squeezed my eyes shut even harder.
I’d never measured up to Alina, and I never would. I had no desire to open my eyes. I might see something else she thought I should be responsible for, I thought resentfully. I was getting out of here. I was going to put as much distance as possible between me and the prison-portal and the red-robed Lord Master and the whole Dark Zone.
I really was. Just as soon as I took just one last small look around the corner to see if there was anything else I should know. Not that I planned to do anything with the information. I just figured since I was already here, I might as well gather all of it I could. Maybe I could pass it on to that interfering old woman, or V’lane, and one of them could do something about it. If V’lane really was one of the good guys, then he and his queen should take immediate, decisive action to plug this unacceptable hole between our worlds. Hadn’t Barrons mentioned something about a Compact? Wasn’t there some kind of agreement this violated?
I opened my eyes.
And failed miserably at both my attempt to climb out of my own skin, and my efforts to sink into the floor.
Barrons and I had wondered where Mallucé was. Now I knew.
Less than a dozen feet away from me, fangs bared, flanked by six beady-eyed Rhino-boys.
Trying to disappear hadn’t worked, so I exploded up, hissing and kicking and slamming my hands into everything I could, well, lay my hands on.
Unlike the other night, when I’d tried to kill the Gray Man, I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing, I just acted on instinct.
It turned out my instincts were amazing.
I left the spearhead tucked into my waistband, so I could use both hands. There was something inside me that worked like the missile-targeting system of a stealth bomber, locating and locking onto anything Fae once it was within a few feet of me.
As Mallucé dropped back and let the six Rhino-boys close in, I slammed my palms out in opposite directions, hitting two of them smack in their barrel chests. I spun, slammed out again, catching another two in the ribs, then dropped to the floor and slammed out a third time.