"Men, all men, have secrets, girl. But to have those secrets come to light, to see all that haunts you appear before your eyes, that is true hell."
She'd made a career of knowing secrets.
Years ago, she had dodged bullets between worn plaster and ancient cobblestones
, running the city's back byways like another hide-and-seek game with friends, only instead of Ricco and Marja there were angry curses and heavy boots, and papers stamped with a two-headed eagle
grew damp with sweat and snow
inside her shirt, while far behind a flannel
-suited man slumped to the wall and breathed, once.
Seven years later - there is a painting of Artemis
on the south wall of the upstairs room at Mme. Dominique's, and behind that are three holes - shoulder, ear, forehead - and the bed today is still the same wrought iron and white lace on which she had dropped the gun and sat, dazed, in borrowed ill-fitting lingerie, holding more stamped (and now) red-spattered papers, watching sunrise over the seven bridges and the river turning to gold.
When her grandmother died, she found left to her a heavy morocco
-covered book, and the knowledge that other truths exist. She read and decided she'd had enough of histories and intrigues and traditions; she took a train oceanward and tried not to look back.
Running the laundry is quiet and stable. There are no rough-cobbled pavements, no knockings at night, no weeks of living off ever-more watered soup
. Alvarez drops off a spare uniform, smiling thanks, and she sees faint greasy red traces on the collar.
The door opens, and a young woman with mouse-brown hair walks in and straight to the counter, eyes angry.
This is no longer the age of her grandmother's superstitions
, but so long as words exist to name them the old kobolds
may still wreak Jungian
havoc on the human mind. Belief is a stronger power than most people acknowledge.
Her price is not money, but the sacrifice one is willing to make. Down the street two days later Dorothy stumbles out from Olsen's clutching a stack of bills in one hand and wiping at her eyes with the other, and Sonia Kortchek hurries away from the display window and adds a final ingredient to the beaker in the back room.
Secrets to be kept. Secrets to be sold. The truth is now a weapon, no longer an end in itself.
She sits in the back room of the Suds and Spin watching Dorothy's back disappear through the rectangle of light in the doorway, knowing what she has unleashed. This is my legacy, she thinks, and the year's last blizzard
begins to fall.