“You can’t have years. Liam and I are going to Louisiana in five days.”
“You’re going to help her. I can get on board with that.” Nate nodded thoughtfully. “But if Teague’s her mom, how are you going to get to her?”
“Teague isn’t involved in her life. She lives with her dad, and he has a badass reputation. Sort of a … mobster.”
“A mobster who’s the true head of Chronos,” Michael added.
“So you’re going to New Orleans to meet a gangster and his … legendary daughter, and this requires short hair and a beefcake, hipster vibe?” Nate didn’t sound convinced.
“It requires that I look responsible. This guy has to take me seriously, and his daughter needs all the help she can get. And I’m not a hipster.”
“Hipstercrite, maybe. Hold on a second.” Nate held up a hand. “Why was Teague looking for the Infinityglass if the Infinityglass is her daughter? Surely she knows?”
“Teague wasn’t looking for the Infinityglass. She was looking for Jack, who was looking for the Infinityglass,” Michael explained. “Teague was either trying to keep Jack away from the truth, or there was something else she wanted on the Skroll.”
“It sounds like Teague is protecting her daughter.” Nate leaned back on two chair legs again. “Why are you going to New Orleans? Why not just make a phone call?”
“Because every source tells us that Teague isn’t to be trusted, including her husband. Liam talked to him. He wants us to come to NOLA as much as we want to go. I might be staying.” I ran my hand over my head. “Hence the hairdo.”
A sudden blast of music made us all jump, and the bass thumped hard enough to bounce a couple of pencils off my desk.
Grateful for the interruption, I asked, “Is that …?”
“New Kids on the Block,” Nate said, already dancing in his chair.
I looked at Michael. “Em’s going to make me spin around, isn’t she?”
“Oh no, my man.” Michael clapped me on the shoulder. “She’s going to make you twirl.”
Five days later, Liam and I were in his truck, heading for the Nashville airport.
The blasting heat inside the cab made the skin on my face tighten. An early winter had settled into middle Tennessee with a passion. Seventy-five degrees on Halloween, twenty-nine the next day, and it hadn’t warmed up much since.
“Not to mess with your creaky old-man bones,” I said, “but I’m already a sweat puddle.”
Liam smiled and turned the heat down. “You don’t need to worry.”
“I’m not worried, just hot.” I might have believed it myself if my voice hadn’t cracked in the middle of the sentence. “Are you sure about this?”
As he merged onto I-65 north, I fidgeted with the seat belt, pulling it above and below my shoulder to find a comfortable position. Finally, I just sat on my hands to keep them still. I was too broad in the shoulders to get truly comfortable, anyway.
Liam checked his rearview mirror. “I know switching the Infinityglass paradigm from object to human has been difficult.”
“What hasn’t been difficult this year?”
The dead had come back to life. Time had been rewritten.
The space time continuum had been damaged. Anyone with the basic time gene could see ripples; imprints of people from the past, which had turned into entire scenes, streets full of people, even buildings. These rips were getting worse. Their latest evolution had trapped Michael and Em inside one, and they’d barely escaped.
Liam’s answering smile was more of a grimace. “Too true. There is one thing we haven’t discussed, and it should’ve had priority. Is it going to be difficult for you to be near so much water?”
I stared out the window and thought about the question. Frost covered fields like powdered sugar as we passed everything from mansions to tiny farmhouses. Livestock stood in huddles to keep warm, their breaths rising into the air. Half-frozen ponds waited for spring.
Harmless, still water.
Besides the Harpeth, I hadn’t been near a river in months, and now I was heading for New Orleans and its neighbors, the Mississippi, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico.
“I think it’s going to be okay.” I hoped it was. “But don’t expect me to spend a lot of time by the water.”
Liam stared straight ahead, his eyebrows puckered in concentration. “I won’t leave you in a circumstance you aren’t comfortable with. That’s a promise.”
“I know that.” I adjusted the seat belt again, and tried to change the subject. “What I’m not comfortable with is you leaving Ivy Springs. Grace needs you.”
Liam’s wife had just come out of a nine-month-long coma.
“Hallie Girard needs us, too. I’ll only be away for a day. Two, max.”
All I knew about Hallie was that she was seventeen, and for some reason, really isolated. I’d done more than one Internet search on her. She didn’t have any social media profiles. I wondered if being the Infinityglass had affected her life in some horrible way.
“What’s her dad going to think when you offer up a tech geek to him?”
“Luckily, he and I have a history, even if it’s only because we met through Teague. Her betrayal didn’t surprise him. She abandoned her family long ago. It’s heartbreaking, honestly, especially for the daughter.” Liam switched lanes. “As far as the Infinityglass, he knew about it, but believed the same thing we did. That it was an object.”
“How did he take it when you told him it was his daughter?” I asked.
“Hard. But he believed me.”
I wondered what being an all-powerful, mythical “thing” could do to a girl. I wondered if she had symptoms.
Liam exited for the airport, heading for short-term parking. After he picked a spot and killed the engine, I got out and removed our suitcases from the back of the truck.
“If it doesn’t work, if you have any qualms, you come back home with me,” Liam said. “Deal?”
I looked up at the Nashville International Airport and answered the only way I could.
Dune, Mid-November, New Orleans
There were already Christmas decorations up in the airport.
We left baggage claim and waited on the sidewalk for a taxi. Tourists were everywhere. Groups of tipsy college kids who’d gotten an early start on Bourbon Street, married couples ready for a getaway weekend, and us.
I tried to take in as much of the city as I could on the cab ride, but nerves and the smell of the water kept my gut twisted. Ivy Springs had its share of history spread out over a lot of mileage, but the Garden District’s history was dense and compact.
Dormers and gables, porches and columns, all layered with intricate detail. Everything was white or pastel, except for the bark of the massive oaks and the leaves on their branches. The tree roots grew so large that the sidewalk broke into pieces above them.
Among all that beauty, the Girard house was best described as nouveau riche penitentiary.
A big guy with a holstered firearm buzzed us through the gate and inside the front door. The air smelled like money. After a few seconds, we were led to Paul Girard’s “library.”