I felt my hair, wet from the rain but not dripping. Same with my clothes.
I bit back a sigh of relief and assessed the room. There were Guardians between me and both front and rear exits. Even if I managed to somehow silently descend the bookcase—which seem highly improbable, given that I’d shoved the ladder away—I’d still have to dodge a cluster of rampaging men. The odds of crashing into one of them or being struck by a flying piece of furniture were high.
“She couldn’t have gone far. She’s still in the room. There’d be a trail of blood if she’d left,” Brody said.
Apparently they didn’t know about my Fae-bequeathed healing ability. That was an advantage. A little Unseelie flesh might make me capable of kicking their asses, or at least outrunning them.
Too bad they ate it, too, and all my stock was spilling out of the overturned fridge one of them had ripped out of the wall. Again, not carrying. Not afraid of Fae.
That was the dangerous thing about thinking you understood your parameters. The “impossible” was nothing more than all those nasty things at the outer limit of your imagination, and unfortunately the universe has a much more creative imagination than I do.
At least my invisibility was still working, casting that same mysterious cloak over me that had prevented even Barrons and Ryodan with their atavistic senses from being able to sniff me out. The moment I thought that, I wondered if the Sinsar Dubh would seize this golden opportunity to uncloak me, try to force me to open it or die.
I extended my hand in front of me, watching it anxiously. Still invisible. What was my inner demon doing? This protracted silence between us was frazzling my nerves. At least when it was talking, I felt like I was keeping some kind of tabs on it. Probably not true but that’s how it felt.
I narrowed my eyes. Right. And now the Guardians were just being mean, kicking and slashing things.
Not the chesterfield!
The bastard, Brody turned his automatic on my cozy sitting area. Tufts of leather and down flew, books imploded, and my favorite teacup shattered.
I gritted my teeth to keep from screaming. Demanding they stop, leave. With absolutely nothing to back it up.
One of the men abruptly shouldered off his backpack, ripped it open and began tossing cans to the men. A second and third man ripped open their packs and soon all were holding multiple identical cans.
Of what? What were they up to? Were they going to gas me? I didn’t see any gas masks being yanked from packs. Would gas work on me?
“Fall in!” Brody roared, and the Garda moved into sleek formation, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a line that spanned the room from side to side. Then he barked, “Don’t leave a thing untouched. I want that bitch visible!”
I watched in horror as they began storming my beloved bookstore.
Methodically spraying everything in sight with garish red spray paint.
Twenty minutes later there wasn’t a square inch of the first-floor, patron-accessible part of BB&B that wasn’t dripping red.
My counter was a slippery crimson mess.
Every chair and sofa drenched. Barrons’s rugs—his exquisite treasured rugs—had been soaked with red paint that could never be removed without destroying the fragile weave.
My bookcases, books, and magazines were all graffitied. My lovely lamps were broken and bleeding. My pillows and throws were a soggy mess. They’d even spray-painted my enamel fireplaces, the mantels, and gas logs.
My inner Sinsar Dubh had remained silent throughout the assault. It hadn’t taunted me once with the temptation to stop them. I wouldn’t have used it anyway. I hadn’t used it to save myself. I certainly wouldn’t use it to save my store, no matter how much I loved it.
The massive bookcase on which I sprawled was fourteen feet tall. Once they’d begun spraying, I retreated to the center of the large flat top, squeezing in on myself as small as I could be, praying their spray wouldn’t reach that high. I peered down at my side.
Shit! There was a fine mist of red paint all down my right leg! Had my head gotten glossed, too? Did I dare poke it up to sneak a look below?
I lay motionless. Maybe they would just leave now. Stranger things had happened.
“Second floor, Brody?” one of the Garda asked eagerly. Pricks. They were getting off on the destruction, just like so many people had on Halloween, before they’d become prey. Rioting begets violence begets rioting. I sometimes think the entire human race is comprised of barely restrained animals, avid for any excuse to tear off their masks of civility. And here I am, always trying desperately to keep mine on.
If they went upstairs, one of them would certainly glance over the balustrade and spy the vaguely outlined red-misted form of my body stretched on top of the bookcase.
But wait—this was an opportunity to escape!
I tensed, preparing to take a bone-jarring leap from the bookcase and make a mad dash for the door the moment they topped the stairs. I’d strip as I went so they couldn’t follow my spray-paint-misted clothes and hope the rain would take care of whatever was anywhere else.
Brody jerked his head toward the front. “Three of you block that door. Three more at the back. Nothing gets in or out.”
“Then start climbing the ladders. I want every inch of this place covered. She’s got to be here. Check everywhere, she may be hanging off a railing, hiding beneath something. There’s no way she got out.”
As the Guardians moved toward both exits, a voice bellowed from the alcove, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”
I knew that voice. I dared a peek over the edge.
Inspector Jayne exploded into the room, shaking off rain. A big, burly Liam Neeson look-alike, the ex-Garda dripped no-nonsense authority and command. I’d never been so glad to see him in my life. If he hadn’t authorized this maybe he’d stop it.
He took a long look around and snarled, “Fall in!”
No one moved.
“I said fall the fuck in! Or are you answering to Brody now?”
“The bitch killed our Mickey,” Brody growled.
“You aren’t in charge of our force. I am,” Jayne said flatly.
“Maybe some of us don’t like the shots you’ve been calling.”
“Maybe some of you are just bored and looking for a little action. Felt like letting off steam. Tired of Fae you can’t kill so you turn on a human. A human woman. Who taught us to eat Unseelie? Who showed us what was going on in our city? She’s been out there killing Fae.”