Shadow was dreaming about woodpeckers. At least, he thought it was a dream, but when his eyes opened in the dimly lit room, the tap, tap, tapping was still audible. He raised his head. A motel room, from the looks of it, he thought, vaguely recalling Dean checking them into a seaside getaway.
At the room's desk, Dean sat pecking away at a laptop. What the hell? "Hey," Shadow said, and his friend turned around, smiling. "Where'd that come from?"
"I went shopping while you were napping."
Shadow glanced at his watch. "Four hours? Feels like more."
Dean laughed. "Try sixteen hours, Sleeping Beauty. It's two in the morning. Feeling any better?"
There was a bruise beginning where the axe had struck his chest. His shoulder was stiff, and his eyes still wanted to droop closed. There was also the matter of incipient kidney failure. "Not really," he said, getting out of bed and padding into the bathroom.
When he emerged, Dean handed him a cold can of soda and two pills. "What's this?"
"A muscle relaxer and something for pain."
The hell with it. Shadow downed the meds with a swallow of soda, and fell back into bed. Pretty soon, the woodpeckers were back. He was going to bake them into a pie, and share it with the beautiful Dakini sisters, but only if Bast said it was okay...
It was ten a.m. when Shadow woke again, feeling rested this time. No wonder he'd been out of it, it had been several eventful days and more than a thousand miles since he'd had more than snatched hours of sleep. He realized he was starving. Where was Dean, anyway? The sound of running water and a baritone voice murdering "The House of the Rising Sun" gave him a clue.
Shadow yawned and stretched. Yeah, a shower sounded like a pretty good idea to him, too. Getting up, he noticed the desk and the top of the bureau, where an assortment of objects and papers werestrewn about. A rock bristling with quartz spires weighed down a wrinkled paper with the name Kerri D. Owen, and an address. A postcard of Tides' Turn Inn with, "Greetings from Sunny Florida" was addressed to "The Dakini Sisters Sid". Shadow grinned. Well, why not? Dean had promised them a postcard. A typewritten list of book titles had handwritten amendments next to the prices, and an attached letter to Ms. Jennifer DeMagestris informed her that in his professional opinion, the books he had requested she hold for him were of considerably greater value than she had placed on them-
Looking at it all, Shadow had the feeling that something was missing. Something he was accustomed to seeing, but didn't. On the desk, the laptop was hooked to a printer, there was an assortment of office supplies, but not?
No cigarettes. No ashtray full of butts, no lighter or book of matches. No odor of tobacco at all in the room that he could tell. Thinking back, the last day or so, out of the carton he'd picked up for the trip, Dean hadn't had more than two or three cigarettes, and that was just a quick puff or two, then snubbed out. That's the second miracle this week...
At the sound of the bathroom door opening, Shadow turned as Dean exited in a billow of steam, wrapped in a towel, and smiling. "Good morning, Shadow! I hope my singing didn't wake you."
"Dean, you sing the same way you play the organ."
"With feeling?" the other man said mock-innocently, and they both laughed.
"I can't get over it," Shadow said. "You look great, like you've never been sick a day in your life."
"I've got a second chance," said Dean, more solemn now. "Things are going to be different."
"I can see that." He looked meaningfully at the items on the desktop. "Looks like you're taking care of business."
"I haven't made any phone calls yet. I didn't want to disturb you yesterday, you were dead tired."
"Hope you left some hot water," Shadow said, heading for the shower. When he returned, Dean was sitting on one of the beds, talking on the phone, and wearing one of the loudest tropical print shirts Shadow had ever seen.
"...I know, Mom. I will. Have a good time at bingo with Aunt Betty. Bye."
"Wow, you don't half do things, do you?" asked Shadow as Dean hung up the phone. "I didn't think you'd talked to your family in twenty years."
"Longer. You know what, it's still the same phone number-the only thing that's changed is the area code."
"How are they? Glad to hear from you?"
Dean half-smiled. "Mom was...Dad died more than ten years ago." He shrugged. "Nothing I can do about that."
"Kevin-he's the oldest-he had a massive heart attack and now he's on a disability pension. Stevie-he's a couple years younger than Kevin-Mom says he's been living in New York for years, in the Village." Shadow wasn't sure why that was significant. "He's gay," Dean explained, smiling again as he shook his head. "Who knew? I'll have to give him a call when I get back to town."
"Have you called that lawyer yet?"
"I was just going to do that now. Hey, there's half a bacon, mushroom and onion pizza in the fridge, help yourself."
Cold pizza wasn't Shadow's idea of the breakfast of champions, but he was hungry enough to dig in anyway, while Dean placed his call to Stewart Rodenbaugh's office. At first, it sounded like someone was stonewalling him, but the book dealer wasn't about to be stalled.
"Listen, Amber, I don't care if he's in a meeting. Tell him it's Dean Corso-" He held the phone away from his ear, and Shadow could hear the woman's voice from ten feet away.
"-absolutely! Right away, Mr. Corso!"
"I don't know if that's a good sign or not," Dean remarked, cradling the phone back against his shoulder. "Stewart! Hello!"
Shadow sat at the desk, munching the pizza and listening to Dean's side of the conversation with undisguised curiosity. "Europe. Since last April. That's right, just before I left-I...uh-huh. Really? No, he didn't...no, I had no idea..."
Whatever it was, Shadow could hear Dean's voice cracking with emotion. "My god-Stewart, I didn't think-I know, but-okay. Okay. I'll be there as soon as I can. By the end of the week. No problem. Thanks. Yes, you too. Bye." There were tears on Dean's cheeks as he hung up the phone. "I don't believe it," he said, his voice breaking.
Abandoning the pizza, Shadow sat on the side of the bed beside his friend. "What's wrong?"
"Bernie...he left me the store. I got him killed, and he left me the store, Shadow."
"Second chances, Dean," he said to the book dealer.
Dean nodded slowly. "It'll remind me, every day." He blinked, recovered himself. "Come on, Shadow. Get dressed, I'll take you out for some real food."
The tropical print shirt waiting in Shadow's size was every bit as ghastly as his friend's. "You've got to be kidding," he muttered. Hibiscus flowers and grimacing tiki gods? he thought, wincing at the busy pattern. He didn't look any sillier than Dean did, though, sporting a print with parrots and palm trees.
"You look sharp," said Dean with a grin, standing beside him and admiring his own reflection. Or was he?
"How's your aura?"
"When I see it, I know how much I've learned from you. Thanks, Shadow."
That street runs both ways, thought Wednesday's son. "Don't mention it, brother."