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“Is that what you two are, then? Trouble?”

“No,” Trix said, shaking her head.

“No,” Jim confirmed. He placed the envelope on the table, keeping one finger on it. “We’re partly messengers, but mainly …” He felt tears threatening, as the weight of events pressed down on him. Sitting here in this ordinary bar with this extraordinary man, he felt control slipping away. By coming through and beginning his search for Jenny and Holly, he had been taking positive action. But now he was about to place himself in the hands of another once again, and he wasn’t sure quite what he thought about that.

The only person he knew he could trust for sure was Trix.

“We’re looking for Jim’s wife and daughter,” Trix said. “They’ve been pulled through from our own Boston into another. Maybe this one.”

“Yeah,” O’Brien said. He looked back and forth between Jim and Trix, his expression unreadable, eyes twinkling with humor or, perhaps, disbelief. He crossed his arms and sighed heavily, but it was merely the action of a tired man. “And you’re Uniques. The both of you. Friends.”

He knows, Jim thought.

O’Brien looked at Trix, seeming to see deeper than mere flesh and skin. “Good friends. And that”—he nodded down at the envelope, which Jim had placed facedown on the tabletop—“that’ll be for me.”

“From your counterpart in our Boston,” Jim said.

O’Brien nodded thoughtfully, drinking the rest of his pint and putting down the glass so gently that it made no sound. He stretched and looked around the bar, glanced at his watch, then focused his attention back on Jim and Trix. “It’s been a long day,” he said. “You look tired, both of you. And it’s been a long day for me, too, what with …” He waved one hand, and Jim wondered what wonders O’Brien had performed today, what problems he had solved and lost things he had found. “A couple of hours’ sleep will do wonders for us all, and come sunrise I’ll be better able to help you.”

“You can’t help us now?” Jim asked.

“I could,” O’Brien said. “I could start. But I can’t just”—he clicked his fingers—“out of thin air. I need to talk to you about them. In depth, personally, and a lot of it will be about you as much as them. I need to understand your link to them in order to grab hold of it and pull them in. I need to know them so that I can find them. A name’s nothing to me without knowledge of who that name belongs to, and it might not be so easy for you, tired as you are. Maybe your Oracle’s better at this sort of thing. You understand?”

“Not really,” Jim said.

“I do,” Trix said, smiling, and Jim thought of her story about her grandfather.


“A few hours,” O’Brien said. “There’s a room made up on the second floor, bathroom attached. It’s a double, but …” He raised one eyebrow.

“That’s fine,” Trix said, smiling.

“I thought it would be.” O’Brien leaned forward and used one finger to pull the envelope from beneath Jim’s hand. For a second Jim wanted to press down, hold it back, but he was not sure why. Insurance? Fear? Or maybe there was no reason at all. O’Brien dragged the envelope across the table to him—it whispered, like a voice in the dark—turned it over, and looked at the writing on the front without expression.

“You’ll wake us?” Jim asked.

“Sure. You’ll hear me.” O’Brien looked up from the envelope. “And Jim … Don’t worry. We’ll find your family, for sure.”

Jim nodded, unable to talk because the tears were a pressure behind his eyes once again. He and Trix stood, and he realized how right O’Brien had been. He was exhausted. A couple of hours’ sleep would take the edge off his exhaustion, and then tomorrow … tomorrow, he would find his wife and daughter.

“Come on,” Trix said, grabbing Jim’s arm and steering him toward the door O’Brien had pointed out behind the bar.

“Sleep well!” the Oracle called.

As they walked up the curving stairway, Jim heard the sound of paper tearing. And then he heard O’Brien speak again, cursing under his breath. “Oh, you bitch,” Peter O’Brien said, anger and resignation in his voice.

What could Veronica have written? Jim wondered. But silence followed, and Jim continued up toward what he hoped would be a moment’s peace.

Chapter 8 - The Worst Day Since Yesterday

TRIX PADDED down the corridor of Peter O’Brien’s apartment in her bare feet, exhausted but still alert. Her skin prickled with awareness of her dislocation. In college it had not been that unusual for her and Jenny to end up sleeping on sofas and in guest rooms after parties off-campus or even across town. But she was an adult now, and she could not relax in a stranger’s home. Knowing that the city around her was foreign to her, that she was an intruder here, only made it worse.

She opened the door to the guest bedroom, the hinges creaking, and stepped inside. Jim glanced up as she closed the door behind her. He sat in a captain’s chair by the window, sketching with a pencil he had found in a small drawer in the girl’s vanity in the corner. O’Brien might call this a guest room, but it had obviously once been occupied by a young female, and he hadn’t changed the décor enough to make it suitably neutral for a guest room.

“Jim,” Trix said.

His only answer was the scritch-scratch of his pencil on the notepad he’d found in the same drawer.

Trix sighed and unzipped her pants, wriggling out of them and letting them puddle at her feet. She moved to the big queen bed, pushed a bunch of throw pillows onto the floor, and drew back the slightly dusty floral spread before sliding in, clad just in her T-shirt and panties.

Jim hadn’t even looked up.

“Mr. Banks,” she said. “Earth to Jim.”

That got him. He glanced at her, then looked out the window at the cityscape he had been sketching. “Don’t you mean parallel Earth to Jim?”

Trix shivered. “This is fucked, right?”

Jim nodded. “Entirely.” He put the pad down without even glancing at the art he had been trying to create, then stood up and started to wander the room, not quite pacing. He sighed in frustration. “I mean, what are we doing here?” he said, more to the beamed ceiling than to Trix, or so it seemed to her.

“Taking the most direct approach,” Trix replied.

Jim had his fingers pushed into his hair, like he might at any moment attempt to tear his own scalp off. Now he stopped his roaming to turn to her, looking foolish with his hands planted on his head.

“You think?” he asked hopefully.

Trix lay her head back on the pillow and stared at him. “I’m lying in a stranger’s bed in a parallel freaking dimension. Yes, I’m totally burned out and I need a rest. Half an hour of shut-eye might be enough to save my sanity. But do you really think I’d be lying here in my undies if I thought for a second that Peter O’Brien wasn’t our best bet, our fastest road to Jenny and Holly?”

Jim exhaled loudly and dropped his hands. He came to sit on the side of the bed and took her hand. “If I didn’t have you with me, I’d already have totally lost it. I mean … if we hadn’t caught up with each other—”

“—we’d both still be thinking we were going crazy, and that maybe there had never been a Jenny to begin with.”

Jim nodded. “I keep thinking we should have looked longer. I know they had hours on us, and they could be anywhere, but she would’ve tried the familiar places first, and we didn’t cover all of them. We should’ve gone to her parents’ restaurant.”

“She’d have figured out something was badly amiss,” Trix said. “Felt something wrong. Maybe she saw something that scared her away from familiar places.”

“But your place? She would have gone looking for you.”

“And she wouldn’t have found me. The odds of us finding her and Holly standing on the sidewalk in front of my building when we got there are about a kabillion to one.” Trix tugged his hand a little, forcing him to meet her gaze. “You heard what Mr. O’Brien said. He’s going to find them. But there are preparations to be made, and one of those is for us to rest a little so we can focus.”

“You think I can sleep?”

Trix cocked her head. “You think I can? Listen, we’ll go crazy if we just pace the room while we’re waiting for our Irish Oracle friend to get his shit together. It’s not doing Jenny and Holly any good. Just lie down with me for a little while. Rest your eyes. Seriously. It’s dusty, but it feels good to lie down.”

Still, Jim seemed reluctant.

“Show me what you were sketching,” Trix said, pointing at the notepad he’d left on his chair.

Finally, given a task to perform, Jim seemed to step back from the frantic edge he had been teetering on. He snatched up the pad and brought it to her, sitting on the edge of the mattress.

Trix stared at the shaded pencil drawing of the view from that window, the row houses across the street from O’Brien’s Bar and the taller buildings in the distance, the church steeples, the old stone contrasting strangely with the sleekly modern buildings that the Irish-influenced Boston must have built only in the past decade or two.

Jim kicked off his shoes and slid into bed beside her, sighing as he propped himself up on his elbow to study the drawing with her. “Look familiar?” he asked.

Trix tried to ignore the cold knot forming in her stomach. “You know it does.”

She had dreamed this city dozens of times. In her disturbed dreams, she had walked its dark streets. If she went out right now, she thought she might be able to find her way almost anywhere without a map or directions. Those strange journeys had always felt like more to her, as though she had actually traveled, truly explored the intimidating city and learned its secret ways and corners.

“To me, too,” Jim said.

Though his dreams were never as clear or memorable as hers, Jim had done his own sleepwalking, taken journeys to this Irish-hued Boston, as well as another. Now, though, he didn’t need to paint from the memories of dreams.

Trix stared at the sketch. “Crazy.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed.

Trix set the pad on the nightstand and slid farther under the bedclothes, nestling her head on the soft pillow. “Rest,” she said.

“What do we have, an hour or so before O’Brien said he’d come get us?”

“About that.”

Relenting at last, Jim put his head on the pillow, but he lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. Trix scooted closer to him and put a hand on his chest, closing her eyes, exhaustion a blanket wrapped warmly around her. Fear and hope chased each other’s tails in the back of her mind, but she tried to block them out.

“Do you think—” Jim began.

“Hush,” Trix said. “Rest. We’ll find them. I promise.”

That seemed to mollify him, if only for the moment. She felt him take a deep breath, and when he exhaled he seemed to relax somewhat. The window was open and a cool breeze drifted through, rustling the curtains and carrying the sounds of distant engines. The Banks clan were like a family to her. Holly might as well have been her niece. Trix and Jim were in this together. Lying there with him, she felt closer to him than she ever had before. She could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he tried to calm himself.

“Not exactly the member of the family I would’ve thought I’d end up sleeping with,” Trix mumbled into her pillow.

Jim laughed softly, then a little louder, and then he leaned over to kiss her forehead and pulled her closer. Sharing their warmth—and their hope and fear—they lay together and began to surrender to weariness.

Trix glanced over at the night-darkened window. Somewhere out there, in this foreign Boston, Jenny and Holly were scared and alone. Or were they? The one thing she and Jim had not yet discussed was the possibility that his girls weren’t in this Boston at all, but in the other—the third, Brahmin Boston. Trix couldn’t even consider it. They were here. They had to be, because though Veronica had shown them the trick to seeing the thin places between cities, she wasn’t sure they would really be able to cross over when the need arose.

We’re coming, Trix thought, her cheek resting on Jim’s chest. Help is on the way.

As sleep claimed her, she smiled sadly at the irony.

Jim woke to the sound of shattering glass. The room seemed to tilt for a moment as he battled the dislocation of waking in a strange place. He looked around wildly, saw that the windows were intact, the door still closed, nothing at all out of the ordinary except that he was in a strange bed in a strange room with a half-naked lesbian who happened to be one of his dearest friends.

“What just happened?” Trix murmured sleepily, propping herself up.

Jim shook his head, wondering the same thing. If it had woken her as well, then it hadn’t been a dream, which meant the sound had come from nearby. Outside? Maybe. Downstairs? Also maybe.

He crawled out of bed, gesturing for her to remain, and to be quiet.

“Fuck that,” Trix whispered. Of course she did. It was Trix. Jim should have known better.

As he slipped his shoes on and Trix dragged on her pants, they heard a muffled shout coming from the bar downstairs. O’Brien’s voice, raised in fury. A pounding noise began, like the fist of God knocking on the front door, and the whole building shook in time to that awful rhythm. A crack appeared in the wall, running from the upper edge of the door frame to the corner of the room.

“What the hell is that?” Jim whispered, not sure if Trix would hear him over the noise—not really sure if he was even talking to her.