Browsing Asanti’s library by herself was Sal’s new favorite hobby. She had never seen a place like this, though it reminded her most of a moldy old library relatives had shown her in Savannah, Georgia, with humidity-damaged first editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Gone With the Wind and A Christmas Carol.
Her team kept suggesting she should relax between missions. She really didn’t need to be at headquarters sitting around, they said, why didn’t she enjoy Rome when she had the chance? But in a city where she didn’t speak the language and had few—all right, the number was closer to zero—friends, Sal had nothing to do. There was only so long she could read, listen to music, and lie over Skype to friends in America about her life in Rome. At least here in the library she could learn something, or maybe run into a team member and have a real conversation.
Sal used to think stakeouts were bad. Lots of sitting in cars that reeked of cigarettes, lots of shitty coffee, lots of fattening foods. Five minutes of action. Then more sitting.
This job thankfully didn’t involve sitting around in cars, but waiting for demon attacks made stakeouts feel like bird-watching—which, to be fair, Sal also hated.
And the waiting. The waiting made her as tense as a guitar string—Sal would definitely be an E string—her spine taut and tingly, ready to spring into action. But when there was no action, the tension became exhausting.
Griping about boredom did, however, allow her to pointedly not think about Liam.
Her stormy emotions after their night together had nearly been overwhelming. Liam left quietly in the night, much to Sal’s relief. The sex had been phenomenal, no doubt about that. Both times. But had she been with him just because he was the only person on the team she could relate to? And had he been drawn to her for the same reason? He clearly had some issues with Grace, the only other member of the team close to his age that he could maybe have something in common with.
Then there was the question of his faith. Liam was no priest, and they’d never talked much about faith beyond his jokes and the job’s requirements, but in the dark bedroom she’d seen his body covered with ecclesiastical tattoos, saints and knots and thorns and blood. What did that mean? Could the man who’d marked himself like that walk away from casual sex with healthy feelings? Sal did not look forward to that conversation. Or any conversation, really. Perhaps if she pretended nothing had happened, he would too.
Sal browsed Asanti’s books, careful to keep to the open area of the library and not edge into the locked rooms where the seriously dangerous books were kept. She couldn’t help but think it would be fascinating to go into the forbidden rooms, but she had enough to keep her busy in the allowed section.
She thought of them as Asanti’s books, which seemed odd. They definitely didn’t belong to the archivist; if anything they were closer to her prisoners than her children. But Asanti seemed to have a different view of the books than the others. As far as Sal was concerned, there was only one way to look at these horror movie props that had complicated, ruined, and taken so many lives.
Wandering the library, Sal tried to determine what ancient language the books were written in. Then she would try to figure out Asanti’s cataloging system. Sometimes books with the same languages were shelved together. One section consisted entirely of green books of the same shape, like an ancient encyclopedia set. Another had one shelf holding books, and then the shelf underneath was empty, and then the third shelf had books again, and the next shelf was empty.
Not all the books were shelved, either. Stacks of books, some of them eight feet high, created labyrinthine walkways, making Sal feel very young as she lost herself among the strange books. She wished Asanti would give her some hints as to what these books were, but as much as the team encouraged her to relax in the off hours, they each seemed pretty busy with their own things, all the time.
Asanti seemed to be in the library whenever Sal was in there. Despite telling anecdotes of her large family, she didn’t appear to see them much. Surely she had her own place, but Sal had never heard about it. Menchú was always bustling about looking very busy on his way to or from something. Grace was simply Not There; Sal only saw her when they had a mission or a meeting. Liam constantly seemed to be searching for one thing or another online. Busy people. And then there was Sal.
As if she heard Sal’s lonely thinking, Asanti entered the library, swearing loudly in French. Sal assumed it was swearing, based on the vehemence and the stomping. She began to rummage through her desk drawers, fishing out a dull pencil and making notes on a scrap of paper.
“I can’t understand French, but I have the feeling I should be offended,” Sal said mildly as she emerged from the stacks. “Is everything...