The next morning was gray and much more typical of early autumn. Al I wanted to do was cocoon myself in layers of sweaters and stay in my rooms.
One glance at the heavy weather convinced me not to return to the river. I set out for a run instead, waving at the night porter in the lodge, who gave me an incredulous look fol owed by an encouraging thumbs-up.
With each slap of my feet on the sidewalk, some stiffness left my body. By the time they reached the gravel paths of the University Parks, I was breathing deeply and felt relaxed and ready for a long day in the library-no matter how many creatures were gathered there.
When I got back, the porter stopped me. "Dr. Bishop?"
"I'm sorry about turning your friend away last night, but it's col ege policy. Next time you're having guests, let us know and we'l send them straight up."
The clearheadedness from my run evaporated.
"Was it a man or a woman?" I asked sharply.
My shoulders floated down from around my ears.
"She seemed perfectly nice, and I always like Australians. They're friendly without being, you know . . . "
The porter trailed off, but his meaning was clear.
Australians were like Americans-but not so pushy. "We did cal up to your rooms."
I frowned. I'd switched off the phone's ringer, because Sarah never calculated the time difference between Madison and Oxford correctly and was always cal ing in the middle of the night. That explained it.
"Thank you for letting me know. I'l be sure to tel you about any future visitors," I promised.
Back in my rooms, I flipped on the bathroom light and saw that the past two days had taken a tol . The circles that had appeared under my eyes yesterday had now blossomed into something resembling bruises. I checked my arm for bruises, too, and was surprised not to find any.
The vampire's grip had been so strong that I was sure Clairmont had broken the blood vessels under the skin.
I showered and dressed in loose trousers and a turtleneck. Their unal eviated black accentuated my height and minimized my athletic build, but it also made me resemble a corpse, so I tied a soft periwinkle sweater around my shoulders. That made the circles under my eyes look bluer, but at least I no longer looked dead. My hair threatened to stand straight up from my head and crackled every time I moved. The only solution for it was to scrape it back into a messy knot at the nape of my neck.
Clairmont's trol ey had been stuffed with manuscripts, and I was resigned to seeing him in Duke Humfrey's Reading Room. I approached the cal desk with shoulders squared.
Once again the supervisor and both attendants were flapping around like nervous birds. This time their activity was focused on the triangle between the cal desk, the manuscript card catalogs, and the supervisor's office. They carried stacks of boxes and pushed carts loaded with manuscripts under the watchful eyes of the gargoyles and into the first three bays of ancient desks.
"Thank you, Sean." Clairmont's deep, courteous voice floated from their depths.
The good news was that I would no longer have to share a desk with a vampire.
The bad news was that I couldn't enter or leave the library -or cal a book or manuscript-without Clairmont's tracking my every move. And today he had backup.
A diminutive girl was stacking up papers and file folders in the second alcove. She was dressed in a long, baggy brown sweater that reached almost to her knees. When she turned, I was startled to see a ful -grown adult. Her eyes were amber and black, and as cold as frostbite.
Even without their touch, her luminous, pale skin and unnatural y thick, glossy hair gave her away as a vampire.
Snaky waves of it undulated around her face and over her shoulders. She took a step toward me, making no effort to disguise the swift, sure movements, and gave me a withering glance. This was clearly not where she wanted to be, and she blamed me.
"Miriam," Clairmont cal ed softly, walking out into the center aisle. He stopped short, and a polite smile shaped his lips. "Dr. Bishop. Good morning." He raked his fingers through his hair, which only made it look more artful y tousled. I patted my own hair self-consciously and tucked a stray strand behind my ear.
"Good morning, Professor Clairmont. Back again, I see."
"Yes. But today I won't be joining you in the Selden End.
They've been able to accommodate us here, where we won't disturb anyone."
The female vampire rapped a stack of papers sharply against the top of the desk.
Clairmont smiled. "May I introduce my research col eague, Dr. Miriam Shephard. Miriam, this is Dr. Diana Bishop."
"Dr. Bishop," Miriam said cool y, extending her hand in my direction. I took it and felt a shock at the contrast between her tiny, cold hand and my own larger, warmer one. I began to draw back, but her grip grew firmer, crushing the bones together. When she final y let go, I had to resist the urge to shake out my hand.
"Dr. Shephard." The three of us stood awkwardly. What were you supposed to ask a vampire first thing in the morning? I fel back on human platitudes. "I should real y get to work."
"Have a productive day," Clairmont said, his nod as cool as Miriam's greeting.
Mr. Johnson appeared at my elbow, my smal stack of gray boxes waiting in his arms.
"We've got you in A4 today, Dr. Bishop," he said with a pleased puff of his cheeks. "I'l just carry these back for you." Clairmont's shoulders were so broad that I couldn't see around him to tel if there were bound manuscripts on his desk. I stifled my curiosity and fol owed the reading- room supervisor to my familiar seat in the Selden End.
Even without Clairmont sitting across from me, I was acutely aware of him as I took out my pencils and turned on my computer. My back to the empty room, I picked up the first box, pul ed out the leather-bound manuscript, and placed it in the cradle.
The familiar task of reading and taking notes soon absorbed my attention, and I finished with the first manuscript in less than two hours. My watch revealed that it was not yet eleven. There was stil time for another before lunch.
The manuscript inside the next box was smal er than the last, but it contained interesting sketches of alchemical apparatus and snippets of chemical procedures that read like some unholy combination of Joy of Cooking and a poisoner's notebook. "Take your pot of mercury and seethe it over a flame for three hours," began one set of instructions, "and when it has joined with the Philosophical Child take it and let it putrefy until the Black Crow carries it away to its death." My fingers flew over the keyboard, picking up momentum as the minutes ticked by.
I had prepared myself to be stared at today by every creature imaginable. But when the clocks chimed one, I was stil virtual y alone in the Selden End. The only other reader was a graduate student wearing a red-, white-, and blue-striped Keble Col ege scarf. He stared morosely at a stack of rare books without reading them and bit his nails with occasional loud clicks.
After fil ing out two new request slips and packing up my manuscripts, I left my seat for lunch, satisfied with the morning's accomplishments. Gil ian Chamberlain stared at me malevolently from an uncomfortable-looking seat near the ancient clock as I passed by, the two female vampires from yesterday drove icicles into my skin, and the daemon from the music reference room had picked up two other daemons. The three of them were dismantling a microfilm reader, the parts scattered al around them and a rol of film unspooling, unnoticed, on the floor at their feet.
Clairmont and his vampire assistant were stil stationed near the reading room's cal desk. The vampire claimed that the creatures were flocking to me, not to him. But their behavior today suggested otherwise, I thought with triumph.
While I was returning my manuscripts, Matthew Clairmont eyed me coldly. It took a considerable effort, but I refrained from acknowledging him.
"Al done with these?" Sean asked.
"Yes. There are stil two more at my desk. If I could have these as wel , that would be great." I handed over the slips.
"Do you want to join me for lunch?"
"Valerie just stepped out. I'm stuck here for a while, I'm afraid," he said with regret.
"Next time." Gripping my wal et, I turned to leave.
Clairmont's low voice stopped me in my tracks. "Miriam, it's lunchtime."
"I'm not hungry," she said in a clear, melodic soprano that contained a rumble of anger.
"The fresh air wil improve your concentration." The note of command in Clairmont's voice was indisputable. Miriam sighed loudly, snapped her pencil onto her desk, and emerged from the shadows to fol ow me.
My usual meal consisted of a twenty-minute break in the nearby bookstore's second-floor cafe. I smiled at the thought of Miriam occupying herself during that time, trapped in Blackwel 's where the tourists congregated to look at postcards, smack between the Oxford guidebooks and the true-crime section.
I secured a sandwich and some tea and squeezed into the farthest corner of the crowded room between a vaguely familiar member of the history faculty who was reading the paper and an undergraduate dividing his attention between a music player, a mobile phone, and a computer.
After finishing my sandwich, I cupped the tea in my hands and glanced out the windows. I frowned. One of the unfamiliar daemons from Duke Humfrey's was lounging against the library gates and looking up at Black-wel 's windows.
Two nudges pressed against my cheekbones, as gentle and fleeting as a kiss. I looked up into the face of another daemon. She was beautiful, with arresting, contradictory features-her mouth too wide for her delicate face, her chocolate brown eyes too close together given their enormous size, her hair too fair for skin the color of honey.
"Dr. Bishop?" The woman's Australian accent sent cold fingers moving around the base of my spine.
"Yes," I whispered, glancing at the stairs. Miriam's dark head failed to emerge from below. "I'm Diana Bishop."
She smiled. "I'm Agatha Wilson. And your friend downstairs doesn't know I'm here."
It was an incongruously old-fashioned name for someone who was only about ten years older than I was, and far more stylish. Her name was familiar, though, and I dimly remembered seeing it in a fashion magazine.
"May I sit down?" she asked, gesturing at the seat just vacated by the historian.
"Of course," I murmured.
On Monday I'd met a vampire. On Tuesday a witch tried to worm his way into my head. Wednesday, it would appear, was daemon day.
Even though they'd fol owed me around col ege, I knew even less about daemons than I did about vampires. Few seemed to understand the creatures, and Sarah had never been able to answer my questions about them. Based on her accounts, daemons constituted a criminal underclass.
Their superabundance of cleverness and creativity led them to lie, steal, cheat, and even kil , because they felt they could get away with it. Even more troublesome, as far as Sarah was concerned, were the conditions of their birth.
There was no tel ing where or when a daemon would crop up, since they were typical y born to human parents. To my aunt this only compounded their already marginal position in the hierarchy of beings. She valued a witch's family traditions and bloodlines, and she didn't approve of daemonic unpredictability.