Shadow Days Page 13

Turning in a slow circle, I tried to detect anything sinister about the place. Nothing.

The library held books, simple furniture, and in one corner a tall cabinet and a grandfather clock. When I tried to open the cabinet, I found it locked and decided to leave it that way. Strange as it was, I was tired of picking locks.

Maybe leaving it alone would get me sent to a slightly less horrible circle of hell.

My adrenaline from working to get inside the library had been spent. And there was nothing here. My life in Vail suddenly felt like one sick practical joke. And I was pissed.


Here’s A good rule: Don’t make and post web videos when you’re paranoid, sleep deprived, and angry.

I broke that rule big time. I still can’t believe I did it.

Fortunately the people that had been hanging out with me online were the forgiving sort. Lucky me. Seriously.

I had to make it up to them. Some of the comments were so sweet I thought I should write personal thank-you notes.

Dear Emily, Roses are red, violets are blue, I would go crazy if not for you.

On second thought, that was just creepy. I’d stick with the videos.

I’d considered fessing up about the weird phone calls as part of my mea culpa, but I was already walking on the edge of crazy cliff and I needed to keep my friends. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to share anything that might scare my helpers away.

With my sketchbook in hand I went back to the library, deter-mined to find out what about it made it off-limits. Ignoring the painting, fireplace, and cabinet, I headed for the bookshelves. Though it was unlikely I’d see a book with forbidden written on the spine, maybe I’d find something.

Glancing at the titles gave me no clues other than that a sometime owner of this place liked turn-of-the-century books. I pulled Westward Ho! off the shelf, leafing through its pages.

Someone hadn’t taken very good care of this book. A few of the pages were covered in ink.

Wait a sec.

I laid the book open on the floor so I could get a better look at the defaced pages. The pen marks on the page were deliberate—and exquisite. A pattern, but a pattern that made what?

I grabbed another book, Songs of a Wanderer. It took less than a minute to find the ink designs scattered through the pages of the text.

Again the drawings were linked as if they connected random phrases and letters on the pages. But if they were linked, it couldn’t be random. Could it?

Wondering if my discovery might be a fluke, I left the books and went to the opposite wall of bookshelves. I ran up the spiral staircase and took three books from various locations on the wall. All three had the same markings hidden inside.

Who could have done this? And why?

I needed to think about what my next step was. Besides, I’d already come up with my homework assignment for the day. What’s better than thank-you notes?

Thank-you sketches.

Posting the library sketch garnered some flattering remarks about my artistic abilities, probably more than I deserved, but not much in the way of problem solving. I took the suggestion to look under the Persian rug in front of the fireplace seriously. Rowan Estate is the sort of place to have trapdoors, but this rug wasn’t hiding one. I didn’t blame people for their interest in the portrait, but nothing about it seemed off. That’s not completely true. Though I’d seen the portrait a few times, it still left me feeling like someone was trying to drill a hole in my chest. Stranger still, if I looked at it for very long, I started to hear a sound, like someone very far away was crying.

To me that was steering back toward crazytown, which I didn’t want to do, so I decided against any focus on the portrait. Besides, I was getting kind of obsessed with the marked-up books. I spent the afternoon pulling books from shelves and searching for marked pages. It didn’t take long to discover that not all the books had been altered, but a hell of a lot of them were. When I had a stack of a hundred books, I took a break, looking at my tiny towers of clues.

I had no doubt there were more patterns hidden in the stacks, but there was no way I’d get through all of them. I’d never make it through the books I’d already stacked up.

It was time for a little help from my friends.


I’d never been more glAd that I had my own bank account because otherwise I would have had to do some serious explaining about the gigantic postage bill I ran up sending packages all over the country.

Waiting to hear back from friends about the books was hard. I did some more hiking, sent out personal thank-you sketches to Liz and Victoria since they’d been taking such good care of me, and hunted down some more patterns from books I hadn’t sent out.

I was excited and frustrated. I hoped that the books would enlighten me as to what was hidden in the library—and I was more and more convinced that what I saw, a beautiful room full of books, was not why Bosque wanted to keep me out of the room—but I also knew that given the number of books left to go through, I’d never get the whole story. I just hoped I could get enough of it to find some answers.

fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. The clues poured in so fast I could barely keep up. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in school. Also a good thing: everyone helping me seemed to be avoiding work and school themselves.

My bare walls were no longer bare; instead they were covered with pages from the texts, clues, and notes being sent from too many places to count.

But it still didn’t make sense.

First there were names: Alistair, Nightshade, Cameron, Rowan, Marise, Lumine. The more information about these people we gathered, the stranger the clues got. At first I thought it was a family chronicle, but the dates didn’t work out. People don’t live to be 283.

They just don’t.

With that set of clues leading to a dead end, I focused on the others. These phrases appeared to be part of a history. Alistair’s name came up again, but in the context of his participation in a war. The factions in conflict were unlike anything I’d come across in my history classes: Conatus, Searchers, Keepers, Guardians. I didn’t know what to make of them. And the war centered around a woman (I assumed she was a woman) named Eira. Again, this was no part of the wars in medieval Europe I’d heard of. I even went back to my Western Civ texts to try to find some connection, but there was nothing.

The final group of clues I didn’t even want to deal with. It put me right back in creepy, hellish territory. Witches. Lots of stuff about witches. And elements. Not the periodic table of elements you mem-orize for chem class. These were old-school elements: earth, air, water, and fire.

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