Iced - Page 92/120

“We still got three scenes we don’t have samples from. The two that R’jan said got iced in Faery and the one under Chester’s.”

“Can you ask Ryodan to help us get samples? From what I hear, pretty much everybody owes that dude something.”

All my mental pictures shatter when Dancer says his name, and suddenly I’m seeing two images at the same time: Ryodan on level four laughing, having sex, more alive than anybody I ever met ’cept of course me, and Ryodan, bled out in the alley, guts draping down the side of the building, cracking a joke while he dies, and I’m thinking the most fecked-up thought—I hardly even got to know him! “Yes, I did,” I mutter, pushing myself up because if I’m going to puke my candy bar, I’m not going to be on my back while I do it.

“Did what?” Dancer says.

I always fought with him and kept saying I hated him. “He deserved it. He was the most arrogant, irritating fecker I’ve ever known!”

“Deserved what? Who was?”

Looks like I’ll have to start calling Ryodan TP, too. ’Cause he’s making my stomach cramp. I don’t like him not being in the world. “Does this mean my contract expired, or can one of the other dudes call it in?” You just never know with dudes like them. I don’t ever want to go into Chester’s again, and I don’t want to go into BB&B again, assuming I could, because it’s just B&B now and the critical ingredients that made both places so exciting and larger than life had nothing to do with the places themselves.

“What contract?”

Now that those critical ingredients are gone forever I got a bad feeling about Dublin, about the whole world. Like I might have tilted the planet on its axis into some strange, new, and not nearly as safe a position by eliminating them.

“Mega.” Dancer’s standing in front of me. “Talk to me.”

“We can’t ask Ryodan nothing,” I tell him.

“Why not?”

I rub my eyes and sigh. “I killed him.”

I wake up with my neck all crinked and a ziplock bag stuck to my cheek by drool. I lift my head an inch or two and peek out from under my hair, hoping Dancer isn’t looking at me, and when I find him staring at the mystery board, I swallow a sigh of embarrassed relief.

I peel the bag from my face, wipe the drool off with my shirt, and rub at the grooves in my cheek. I can feel part of a ring indent in it plus a couple of those zipper lines. I don’t even remember falling asleep. But somewhere along the way I just dropped my head on the stuff I was examining and passed out. A few hours? More? “What time is it?”

“What day, you mean.”

“Dude, tell me I didn’t sleep that long!”

“You needed it. I’m not sure you’re going to be able to move, though. I’ve never seen anyone sit on a stool, drop her head on a slab and not move for fifteen hours. I thought about getting you to stretch out somewhere more comfortable. You changed my mind.” He turns around and grins at me. He’s got a busted lip. “You had no intention of being moved. You decked me in your sleep.”

“Aw, dude, sorry!” I have no memory of it.

“No worries, Mega.”

My stomach growls loud enough to wake the dead, and he says, “I got something I been saving for you.” He rummages around in one of his bags on the floor, pulls out a box and tosses it to me.

I light up like a Christmas tree. “Fecking-A! Pop-Tarts! Where did you find Pop-Tarts? I haven’t seen any for months!” Even before the walls fell, they could be tough to find. “And they’re my favorites—chocolate with frosting!” I rip open a pack and munch happily away. I polish off the first two in a quick inhale then slow down to savor every delicious, preservative-packed, sugar-crammed crumb of the remaining six. When the walls fell, all the good stuff—which is the bad-for-you stuff—got taken off the shelves first. Soda and liquor went real fast. Candy, cake, cookies, pies, things like that were next. Pop-Tarts, all the sugary cereal, flew off the shelves, too. I’m as guilty as the next person. Funny thing is, nowadays I’d just about give my right arm for a hot meal of fresh slow-cooked pot roast, carrots, peas, bread, and gravy.

Still, Pop-Tarts are close to heaven and Dancer got them for me, which makes them taste twice as good. I eat, and he tells me everything he considered and discarded while I was sleeping so I can poke holes in his theories if there are any. When he’s done talking, we’re no closer to conclusions than we were before I fell asleep.

“So, all we’ve still got is that every scene has dirt, some kind of plastic, and metal at it.”

“Actually it’s dirt, plastic, and iron. The metal in every one of the ziplocks is largely iron.”

“Iron is what we use to imprison the Fae.”

“I know. Remember how much worse the Unseelie at Dublin Castle got iced?”

I nod. “I thought it was because there were so many of them.”

“It also happens to be the location with the most iron. Tons of the stuff was used to build those cages.”

“Where was the iron at the other scenes?”

“Old railroad tracks run right next to where they were washing clothes out in the country. I checked maps, and discovered railroad tracks run past four other scenes. I found iron bullets in two of the bags. The church steeple had enormous cast-iron bells. The fitness center had part of a cast-iron teapot and iron chime fragments. At another scene there were several older cars that had frames of iron. They don’t make them like that anymore. At Dublin Castle there are all those iron cages. The racking in one of the old warehouses was made of iron.” He goes on, detailing location after location.

“Why iron? Why not say … steel. Isn’t steel iron?”

“Iron gets turned into steel. What I’m seeing is a preponderance of unworked iron, like the railroad tracks, bells, and bars. Old stuff. You don’t see a lot of iron anymore. You see composites. Steel is stronger and iron rusts. You know how old railroad tracks are almost always red with it?”

“You think we need to go back to the scenes and see if it took the iron?”

“No. I’m wondering if iron is in the salt water. If that’s what draws it.”

“But what is it after?”

He shrugs. “Who knows? Who cares? I only want to know two things: how to lure it to us and how to get rid of it. Its goals are irrelevant.”