“What is that noise?” Saiman said.
“Are you planning to visit the Temple today?”
“If the magic complies.”
“I would be interested in learning what you find out.”
“Your interest has been noted.”
I hung up. Curran dropped a chunk of nearly solid metal that used to be a plate onto the counter.
I looked into his gray eyes. “Curran, if you attack him, I’ll have to defend him. There is no competition there. If I had wanted to be with him, I could have.” Crap. That didn’t come out right.
He took a deep breath.
“What I meant to say was, he offered and I declined.”
“Come with me.”
A shadow passed over his face. “Then we’re done.”
“So it’s all or nothing?”
“That’s the only way I can do it.” He turned his back to me and walked out.
THE MAGIC HIT TEN MINUTES AFTER CURRAN LEFT. I grit my teeth, got dressed, saddled Marigold, and headed to the Temple.
All or nothing. Hello, Your Fuzzy Majesty. My name is Kate Daniels, daughter of Roland, Builder of Towers, the living legend, and coincidentally, the man who is trying to eradicate you and your people. If you take me in, he will move heaven and earth to kill you and me, when he finds out who I am. Even now, I’m being hunted. And if you keep sleeping with me, you’ll never be the same.
That was what all or nothing really meant. And I wanted so badly to ignore it and go with him to the Keep. When had I become so attached to that arrogant bastard? It wasn’t last night. Was it all the times he’d saved me from myself? At least, I knew when it started—when he tried to trade the lid wanted by a horde of sea demons for Julie’s life.
I would kill to stay with him. Now there was a scary thought.
The temperature continued its suicidal plunge. Despite all the layers of fabric, I could barely feel my arms, and my thighs were frozen solid. Grendel and Marigold seemed no worse for wear, but then they’d run the whole way.
Bordered on three sides by a low brick building and by a brick fence on the fourth, the Temple looked almost cheerful against the stark landscape of ruined buildings: bright red walls, snow-white colonnade, and equally white stairs perched upon a snowy lawn. Just a few yards to the left, Unicorn Lane lay in wait. An area of deep violent magic, Unicorn Lane cut across the battered Midtown like a scar. Things that shunned the light and fed on monsters hid there, and when desperate fugitives fled there, neither PAD nor the Order bothered to follow them. There was no need.
Unicorn Lane ran straight as an arrow, except when it reached the Temple grounds, where it carefully veered around the synagogue. Mezuzot, verses from the Torah, written by a qualified scribe and protected by pewter cases, hung along the perimeter of the Temple wall. The wall itself supported so many angelic names, magic squares, and holy names, it looked as if a talismanic encyclopedia had thrown up on it.
Four golems patrolled the grounds: six feet tall and red like Georgia clay. The shapeless monstrosities of the early days, just after the Shift, were gone; these guys had been made by a master sculptor and animated by a magic adept. Each had the muscled torso of a humanoid male, crowned with a large bearded head. At the waist the torso seamlessly merged into a stocky animal body, reminiscent of a ram and equipped with four powerful legs with hoofed feet. The golems stalked back and forth, carrying long steel spears and peering at the world with eyes glowing a weak watery pink. They paid me no mind. If they had, they wouldn’t be difficult to kill. Each was animated by a single word— emet, truth—cut into their foreheads. Destroy the first letter and emet became met. Death. An end to the golem. Judging by their slow gait, I could waltz in, take the letter off, and skedaddle before they could bring those big-ass spears around.
Everyone had their own method of manipulating the magic. Witches brewed herbal potions, the People piloted vampires, and rabbis wrote. The surest way to disarm a Jewish magician was to take his pen away from him.
As I approached, a woman stepped out of the Temple and came down to the bottom of the stairs. I tied Marigold’s reins to a rail welded to the fence and jogged up the stairs.
The woman was short and happily plump. “I’m Rabbi Melissa Snowdoll.”
“Kate Daniels. This is my poodle.”
“I understand you have an appointment with Rabbi Kranz. I’ll take you to him, but I’m afraid the poodle will have to wait outside.”
The attack poodle expressed doubts about waiting, and he liked the chain even less, but after I growled at him, he decided it was in his best interest to play it cool.
The rabbi raised her hand and stepped forward. A pale glow clamped her fingers and drained down in a waterfall of light, as the protective ward on the Temple opened to let me pass.
“Follow me, please.”
She led me inside. We passed by the open doors of the sanctuary. Enormous arched windows spilled daylight onto rows of cream pews, equipped with dark red cushions. Soothing cream walls climbed high to a vaulted ceiling, gilded with gold designs. On the east wall, in front of the pews, a pale feylantern illuminated a raised platform and on it the holy arc, a gold case containing the scrolls from the Torah.
The contrast to the bleak outside was so startling, I wanted to sit down on the nearest cushion, close my eyes, and just sit for a long moment. Instead I followed Rabbi Melissa down the hall to a small staircase into a narrow room. A square bath occupied the far end of the room. A mikvah, a place where Orthodox Jews came to purify themselves.
The rabbi approached the right wall, placed her hand on it, and murmured something. A section of the wall slid aside, revealing a passage stretching into the distance. Pale blue tubes of feylanterns lit stone walls. “There we go,” she said. “Just keep on straight, you can’t miss it.” I stepped inside. The wall closed behind me. No way to go but forward.
THE PASSAGEWAY BROUGHT ME TO AN EMPTY round office. I passed through it and kept walking. Another office waited ahead, this one with a heavy stone desk and two men standing behind it. The first was in his forties, tall, thin, with a long face, made longer by a short beard and a receding hairline, and smart eyes behind wire glasses. The second was older by ten years, heavier by seventy-five pounds or so, and had the square-jawed face and the eyes of a cop, skeptical and world-weary.
The taller man came out from behind the desk to greet me. “Hello, I’m Rabbi Peter Kranz. This is Rabbi John Weiss.”