The Five of Cups. Spilled chalices. Lost hopes and dreams. Dante affirmed as much.
"Disappointment's ahead, the loss of something you had. It can be a failure or inability to resolve a recurring problem. Pretty typical reading for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Doom and gloom always surround you. I didn't make up that palm reading for you." That had been even worse than this. "It's probably just verifying that Jerome's gone for good-if you even want to believe in this. And, hey, look." He tapped the card. "One cup stayed upright. Not all hope is lost."
I wondered about that as I thought about losing Seth and the man in the dream. I wondered also if Roman was right, if it was true that I wouldn't know what to do if I ever was actually happy.
As I suspected, Dante did make sexual moves on me, but I demurred as I had all week. I knew it didn't matter at this point. My cups had emptied, and the ride with Seth was over. Yet, our time on the balcony had been so sweet and so powerful that once again, I couldn't be with someone else after an encounter like that. Soon enough my sex life with Dante would return to normal-but not tonight. He didn't seem angry at being turned down, so much as hurt. I felt a little bad about that but realized I'd rather feel guilty about betraying him than Seth.
Dante was up and gone before me the next morning, but Roman was sitting in my living room eating cereal and generally making himself at home. He had to know I was standing there, but he kept his eyes on the morning news. When he finished the cereal, he clicked for Aubrey and set the bowl down for her.
"Hey," I said, scooping it up. "Milk's bad for cats."
"You need to let her live a little," he protested, still watching the news. "So what's the plan today?"
"I don't know. I'm still in stasis, so I guess that gives us time. Want to throw a dart at the map and go somewhere?" I gestured to the atlas of the Pacific Northwest lying on my coffee table.
"Might be the most productive method we've tried," he mused.
He had that light tone he often used, but I could hear the disappointment too. It was still a mystery to me as to why he'd be so into helping find Jerome. It was a mystery best solved with coffee, I decided, and while the pot brewed, I rummaged for my own breakfast. I unearthed Pop-Tarts and again wondered about weight gain.
"If you're asking if you can feed her anything else, the answer is no."
"You need to come see this." His voice was deadly earnest. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I hurried back into the living room. Roman pointed at the TV.
"You have got to be kidding me," I groaned.
The Army of Darkness had struck again. We were watching a Seattle station, but apparently, this north-of-the-border escapade had been deemed newsworthy. The prank had actually taken place over in Victoria, a city on an island just west of Vancouver but still in British Columbia. There were some very famous and very beautiful gardens there, and the Army had apparently broken in at night and done their best to clip a pentagram into a huge expanse of bushes. They'd enhanced it with spray paint.
"Jesus Christ," I muttered. The pentagram job was bad, but the group had been savvy enough to get out of there without being caught. One shot of a courtyard there showed where they'd spray-painted: ALL HAIL THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS .
"Glad to see they haven't lost their touch," Roman said wryly.
I sank down onto the couch beside him, my mind spinning. Why? Why now? I'd toyed with the theory that the Army's activities had been an absurdly elaborate distraction to take everyone's attention away from Seattle. By that reasoning, their shenanigans should have stopped once Jerome was summoned. Yet here they were again. Had they acted on their own, just for the fun of it? Had Blake discovered a spray-paint sale? Or had Grace directed them again-and if so, why?
Most of their other activities had lined up with some other significant part of the seal's creation or Jerome's summoning. Without wasting another moment, I picked up my cell and called Cedric. I actually got through to him rather than Kristin.
"What?" he demanded when he answered.
"This is Georgina. I just saw the news."
"Look, I do not have the time for you. In fact, you're the last person I want to talk to right now, seeing as how none of this would have happened if you'd done your job in the first place."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but listen...was anything important going on today?"
His voice was incredulous. "What, you mean aside from those idiots embarrassing me again ?"
"No, I mean...any events or, I don't know...just anything important, um, demonically..."
"Well, if you consider my evaluation with Ephraim important, then yes." The sarcasm dripped through the phone.
I froze. "Thank you. That's all I needed to know."
He actually seemed surprised by that. "Really?"
"Yeah, no, wait-when I talked to Kristin the other day, she said that you came to Seattle the day Jerome was summoned, but then Ephraim said when you got here, he was already gone. Is that true?"
"Yes, of course. Do you doubt him?"
"No, no...just making sure I heard right. And you were in Seattle for a while?"
"Yeah, was with Grace and Mei dealing with the aftermath. Look, if you want to track my activities, wait until Kristin's back in the office." He sighed in frustration. "Fuck. I wish she was here now."
I hesitated, then figured I couldn't make things worse. "Hey, just some friendly advice...but the next time you're looking at Match. com or asking out succubi, why don't you look a little closer to home?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Kristin. If you're looking for someone who 'gets' you, you've already got her. See you later." I hung up before I could hear his response. Roman gave me a bemused look.
"Are you matchmaking in the middle of this crisis?"
"Just doing a good deed." I tossed my cell phone from hand to hand, thinking. "Okay, so. The Army did a prank today-while Ephraim was interviewing Cedric. Not good for Cedric."
"Which is going to ruin his candidacy for Seattle."
"Likely, even though he claims he doesn't want it. Still, it makes sense that Grace would have them do it today... if she had them do it and they didn't act randomly..."
He shrugged. "Makes sense, but what's it matter? You already know she's got a role in this. All this does is clear him."
I frowned. I had the same sense I had the other day while analyzing the cult's activities, like I was so close but couldn't grasp all the threads. Against my better judgment, I dialed Evan. He flipped out when he realized it was me.
"Georgina! We've been wondering what happened to you. Man, you will not believe what we did today, it was this-"
"I already know," I interrupted. "It was on the news down here."
"What? Holy shit. Hey! You guys!" I pulled the phone away as he yelled at whoever was with him. "We made the Seattle news!" A moment later he returned to me. "Wow, that's awesome. International recognition!"
"Look, Evan. I need to know something. Did the Angel actually tell you to do this? And when I say that, I mean, did she actually appear in one of those visions or did you presume she wanted this?"
"She was here. Told us to leave our mark at Butchart Gardens, so the world would know her glory. Cool too, since you know, it's a powerful place and all. No wonder it's having such far-reaching effects."
"Powerful place..." My fist closed around all the threads. "Evan, listen to me. Are you familiar with other places of power around you?" I'd always dismissed this group's arcane knowledge, never considering they might know a few things about the unseen world.
Roman's eyes were fixed on me so hard, I thought they'd shoot lasers right through me. He could tell I was on to something. I took a deep breath. "Do you know of any place up there that's by a beach-on the ocean-that has white rocks or gravel or sand or anything like that? That's infused with power?"
"White rocks?" he asked. There was a few second's silence. "Well...there's White Rock."
"It's this town that has, well, a giant white rock. Some kind of glacial thing, but the Indians thought it came from the gods or something. Always been a holy place."