New Winslow S6E4
Iris had never considered herself an expert researcher, but she knew her way around resources. She was only a decade out of college, where she’d done plenty of research papers. And she had to study for each of her cases, usually with a lot of success. But absolutely nothing could tell her about the missing pages from Harbinger’s third volume.
There couldn’t be that many of them. The books were all small and, while the volume was thinner than the others, it wasn’t tiny. There couldn’t be more than ten pages missing altogether.
But there was no guarantee that the papers were all together still. Not after this long. Hell, she didn’t like to think about it, but there was a strong possibility that they didn’t even exist anymore. But they had to. Because if there was any chance of solving this mystery without having to rely entirely on the spirit world, those papers were it. If they had to rely on more magical means, then they could. But even Iris had to admit that her power on that plane was going to be extremely limited. And she’d likely be the only human both capable and willing to do the work required to reach the spirits that could help.
If she hadn’t known what a nightmare it could be, she might have been tempted to contact Baxter’s grandfather directly as she came home from yet another lost session. Judith and Alicia Perez were willing to help, something that shocked and relieved Iris, but they weren’t exactly friendly about it. She’d been staring at microfiche and buried in boxes of old receipts in the basement of the New Winslow Public Library for three days now with no results. It hadn’t been full days, of course. She had a business to run. A business that would be completely ruined if they didn’t succeed, but she didn’t want to ruin it any further than she already had before then. Having Andrew to watch the store freed up a lot of time for her to do this research, but she knew that his patience had a breaking point.
Though he had requested extra hours while they got the Limerick building up and working again, so she didn’t have to feel too bad about that. And he was possibly even more invested in finding those papers than she was, since they were the most likely key to breaking the curse that kept him trapped within the New Winslow town lines.
Regardless, she’d looked through every crevice of the small town library and was no closer to finding a solution. As though to remind her of her only other option here, there had been a few wispy spirits in the basement today. Most had been so filmy that they were almost invisible, but Iris had managed to talk to one of them. She was a former librarian who was just happy to be back at work and had no knowledge of any of the things Iris asked about. Then she asked Iris to please leave her alone and let her get back to shelving books.
So that was the library off the list. What next? Judith wasn’t going to let her into the archives on her own. Honestly, Iris was astonished that Alicia had done so much at the library. She could maybe get into the cellar in Town Hall though. She didn’t know why her mind was caught on cellars and dark spaces, but something was telling her that wherever those papers ended up, they were in the dark. And while her gut frequently led her wrong, her psychic intuition rarely did. So her next target would be New Winslow Town Hall.
She sensed the presence beside her almost immediately as she left the library and started for home. It was cold, but the shop was only about ten minutes away, so she’d enjoyed the walk here. Unfortunately, it seemed like the walk home would be much worse. And Andrew had closed up an hour earlier, so she’d be alone when she got back.
“Who are you?” Iris said out loud as she zipped her coat.
Was it whoever had kept watching her and Andrew last fall? The eyes had felt so fierce, but so distant. Like it knew she was there, but didn’t care about her in any way, good or bad. Its anger was impersonal, smoldering rather than raging. If this was the same presence, she’d just move carefully until she got home and be glad it wasn’t a human who meant her harm.
Then a patch of dirty snow caught her in the back of the head. Iris yelled in shock as cold snow dripped down her coat. “Roland!”
Of course it was him. He spent half his time trying to get back into her shop and the other half dreaming up new ways to piss her off. She couldn’t see him – she’d never actually seen or heard the spirit she’d accidentally summoned and now couldn’t get rid of – but his presence was as familiar as the leaky ceiling in her apartment. Another clod of snow caught her in the chest, hitting her before she even saw it rise up from the ground.
On impulse, Iris grabbed a handful of snow and tossed it in the direction the hit had come from before realizing how ridiculous her actions were. The spray of snow arced harmlessly down to the ground, either passing through or missing him entirely. But it seemed to encourage him because there was a lump of snow falling apart down the back of her shirt seconds later.
“Roland, stop it!”
Iris ran now, full speed down the sidewalk as snowballs flew around her. Some caught her, making her shriek as they exploded on impact with her body while others flew cheerfully past. None hurt, but it was cold and irritating after an already frustrating few days. Though, Roland seemed almost playful. There were rocks and ice everywhere around them, just waiting to kill her. But instead, she was covered in snow. Dirty, but harmless snow.
Iris scooped up the snow off a flower pot as she passed, tossing it over her shoulder and shocking herself with a laugh. This was Roland, she couldn’t fall for it. He was dangerous. But she hadn’t been in a snowball fight since she was a kid and it was kind of exhilarating. A soft explosion of snow against her blonde hair was his only response.
Finally, Iris got to the shop, unlocking the door and hurrying inside. Once it was locked up and she’d checked the wards with melting snow dripping down her back, she stood in the window for a moment, catching her breath as she watched the empty street. Then a snowball splattered on the window in front of her.