Sydney did try to confront Darcy once. It was right before she left Prague. As rationally as she could, she asked why; Jacob had broken up with her when they were both just out of high school. Darcy was institutionalized for years after that, and it was ten years after the break-up that Jacob died. Another five years had come and gone since then. There was no reason for this. For Sydney’s attempt at inquiry Darcy nearly smiled a condescending smile, the whole time swaying back and forth like a snake about to strike.
“This is obviously beyond your simple comprehension, jackrabbit,” she hissed. “Don’t worry; it’ll all be over soon. For both of us.”
When she first got to Levant County, because of Desdemona’s mom, she was able to get a post office box in Leeds. Another effort to throw her tormentor off the trail, should she ever be tracked to Colorado. In the months she since lived in the High Country, she had began to feel safe, that her attempts at misdirection might have worked. She began to wonder if with leaving Prague, leaving New Mexico altogether, Darcy had decided to give up the hunt, perhaps feeling victorious.
Seeing her standing across the street in the downtown shopping district of Leeds, smiling that condescending smile shattered the delusion Sydney had allowed herself since the end of February. Although Darcy still sometimes appeared in her dreams, this was the first time in months she had been so tactile. A nightmare made flesh, staring at her from across the street in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
Sydney’s phone buzzed, which got her to jump involuntarily. It was Dessy. There was a small amount of comfort in that. There was at least one person in the world who was willing to help, although Sydney was starting to worry about what might happen when and if Darcy found out who her friends were.
“Help is on the way,” the message on the screen read. “Go toward the library.”
“And what? Throw a book at her?” Sydney responded.
“Trust me,” came Dessy’s response.
Darcy was still watching her from across the street. With a resigned sigh, Sydney put her phone away and began the walk toward the library. Looking over her shoulder, she wasn’t surprised to see she was being followed. Part of her wanted to collapse on the sidewalk and just start sobbing. She felt quite defeated, after all. No matter where she went or what she did, Darcy was there, the very incarnation of nightmare, passed on unintentionally from Jacob, slowly coming for her.
Sydney took her time going to the library, stopping in a few shops. Perhaps it was one last attempt at misdirection. Darcy was never far behind, which added to the feeling of a nightmare in the middle of the day. Back in New Mexico, before Bear was killed, she’d not been so predatory. There was a look Sydney caught in her amber eyes that told her things had changed; Darcy was through with her games. The pain she meant to inflict now was more immediate.
A rush of cool air greeted her as she walked into the library, almost slamming the door behind her. Darcy was not far behind, but Sydney was hoping for somewhere within the labyrinth of bookshelves she could hide, if just for a moment, so she could catch her breath. There was sweat trickling down her neck and beading up upon her brow. She had just ducked down a corridor of musty tomes from the mid-nineteenth century when she heard the bell over the door jingle, announcing a new visitor. This time, she didn’t look behind her. She knew exactly who it was.
Passing by some ancient editions of Shakespeare she felt someone grab her, pulling her into another aisle of shelves. She wanted to cry out, but something stopped her. The grip on her right arm, strong and sure, pulled her deliberately, yet somehow gently, through several aisles. She found herself disoriented, not even sure if she was still on the ground level of the library or if it was still the same Tuesday afternoon that her daytime nightmare had began anew.
A door opened, the basement side one, and she was outside again. It was a deliciously warm late-June afternoon. The sky was the tint of blue she had seen on Colorado postcards Desdemona used to send for birthdays and Christmas. For a moment, Sydney felt like she had just woken from a dream; her reason for being so rattled, soaked in a thin sheen of sweat, and being pulled through a maze of library bookshelves could not have been real. Just another of her nightmares she’d had since leaving Prague.
“She’ll be wandering around in there for hours,” Lankin’s voice seemed to come from a great distance. “Enough time for us to be back in Marrakech and have had dinner.”
“Lazarus…?” Sydney was shaking, trying to get her bearings still. He offered her a quick, sphinx-like smile.
“Come along, Just Sydney,” he said. “Desdemona said you still need to pick up dessert.”
“You bastard!” She screamed, lashing out to slap him. He caught her hand effortlessly. His head cocked to the side inquisitively.
“This is the second time in as many weeks I’ve pulled you from a rather awkward situation, Just Sydney,” he remarked. “And I must say, you have a peculiar way of showing your gratitude. Will you be buying my breakfast at Ira Milligan’s place again in the next few days to make up for it?”
“You don’t understand! You said it yourself; you can’t save me from this! You’ve never had to deal with her!”
“It would seem I just did, after a fashion,” he said calmly, releasing her hand. “How did you think you got out here instead of having a face to face?”
“Lazarus…” tears were forming in Sydney’s dark eyes. “You really don’t understand! If she finds out that you know me…”
“This is not New Mexico, Just Sydney,” he said. “You seem to keep forgetting that.”
“Goddamn you, Lazarus Lankin…” she was beginning to cry. He wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t want her to find out about you.”
“Stop it now,” he whispered. “Hush…”
“Goddamn you,” Sydney sobbed, burying her head in his chest. In that moment, she was both comforted and troubled by the strength of his embrace. “Goddamn you…”