In the nineteenth century, a girl was born in a man’s world. When she told the men she’d like to write books, they laughed because books were not a woman’s business. But the girl had no trouble imagining things other people couldn’t fathom: time travel and laser guns, moon landings and invisibility, so she conceived a world where literature wasn’t under the dominion of men. It turned out she was right about things like gene engineering and interplanetary communication, but wrong about the commerce of books. So she published stories under her brother’s name and went to work for a warehouse where all the mysteries of time and space were contained inside mystical artifacts.
In the twentieth century, a girl was born in a man’s world. When she told her father she’d like to sell books, he laughed because books were not a woman’s business. He named his bookstore “Bering & Sons,” though he had no sons, and the girl learned that though the commerce of books fell under the dominion men, they could claim no sovereignty over the province of knowledge. So she taught herself four languages, fencing, martial arts and went to work for a warehouse where the universe’s full enlightenment was contained inside mystical artifacts.
The girl from the nineteenth century lost her daughter to senseless murder.
The girl from the twentieth century lost her partner the same way.
One was bronzed, the other was born, and they stumbled into each other on equal footing inside the man’s world. Helena G. Wells and Myka Bering.
One wanted to destroy the world to heal her pain, the other wanted to save the world for exactly the same reason. Helena spared the world her vengeance to save Myka. Myka withheld from the world her grace to save Helena. For if the world died, so would Myka, and Helena couldn’t bear it. And if Helena died, the world would be saved, but Myka couldn’t bear it. Time twisted in on itself to make their introduction, and space stretched out to pull them together. One said, “It seems we are forever destined to meet at gunpoint,” but she only had it half right. It wasn’t gunpoint that was their destiny; it was meeting. And so they met, again and again, without colliding, suspended in perpetuity like the white, trembling promise of a first kiss. An unspoken oath as old as night.
Boone, Wisconsin. 2012. A couple of curious things are happening in the badlands of cheese country. For starters, a petty criminal runs into a police precinct and confesses to killing a guy, even though his lawyer already got the DA to drop the case against him. His eyes are wild and his hands are hairy and it’s all very frantic neanderthal. More bizarre than that, however, is the fact that heaven has apparently opened up over the Great Lakes and gifted the land with a forensic scientist whose accent is English and whose face was crafted by God on his most enthusiastic and generous day, yet the townspeople have not prostrated themselves before her in humble supplication.
Emily Lake is the forensic scientist’s name and in her professional opinion, this petty criminal is acting real weird.
In Nowhere, South Dakota, Myka’s phone rings. She’s happy to step away from the breakfast table squabble taking place at the B&B, a squabble that comes to a close in an instant when every participant whips around to face her as she breathes “Helena?” into her phone. Breathing, by the way, is something she will only be doing at half-capacity for the foreseeable future, as the presence of Helena always causes Myka’s lungs — and other none-of-your-business organs — to whiz out of whack like the navigational instruments on a freefalling propeller plane.
When Pete and Myka arrive in Boone, WI, Myka is almost too bamboozled to speak. Helena thinks she’s shocked by her ability to masquerade as a forensic scientist, so she explains that most of it is her superior intellect and extraordinary grasp of gadgetry, and also she watched a lot of CSI. But Myka’s not surprised about that part at all. She knows Helena could be a lawyer or a neurosurgeon or a intergalactic space pilot if she wanted to. No, what Myka wants to know is why? As in, “Why, when you are perfectly free to be where you want to be, are you not sharing my pajamas with me?” Helena weaves a yarn about she wanted to get far away from Warehouse artifacts after she finally returned the astrolabe to the Brotherhood of the Black Diamond even though her whole life deal is and always has been: her love of literature, her compulsion to try to rescue her dead daughter, and her borderline obsession with Warehouse artifacts.
Helena just wants to tell them about the case at hand, and Myka’s like, “Sure, one second, let me just rip my heart from my chest with my bare hands and stitch it right here on my sleeve. OK, done. Go.” But as Helena shifts gears to crime-solving, Myka just zones right out. She’s listening with her face, but her ears are still ringing with the thunderous sound of Helena’s complete silence on the unspoken question about the shared pajamas.