Table of Contents
BOOKS BY SHARON SHINN
The Samaria Novels
The Alleluia Files
The Shape-Changer’s Wife
Heart of Gold
Summers at Castle Auburn
The Safe-Keeper’s Secret
The Truth-Teller’s Tale
The Dream-Maker’s Magic
The Twelve Houses Novels
Mystic and Rider
The Thirteenth House
Dark Moon Defender
Reader and Raelynx
Fortune and Fate
General Winston’s Daughter
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First published in 2009 by Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Text copyright © Sharon Shinn, 2009
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Gateway/ Sharon Shinn.
Summary: While passing through the Arch in St.Louis, a Chinese American teenager
is transported to a parallel world where she is given a dangerous assignment.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14883-9
[1.Space and time—Fiction.2.Chinese Americans—Fiction.] I.Title.
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For Sydney Xiang Prow and Molly Yang Prow,
who came to St. Louis from a far land.
I hope your lives hold many adventures.
DAIYU LOOKED OVER
the assortment of jewelry at the old woman’s booth and didn’t see anything she liked. She’d spent nearly an hour wandering outdoors around the Arch grounds, investigating the stalls being set up for Fair Saint Louis, and she’d been so surprised to see a jewelry vendor among the food booths that she’d stopped to look over the merchandise. But now she wished she hadn’t. The necklaces were cheap, the summer heat was overwhelming, and in a minute she was going to be late getting back from lunch.
“I’m sorry,” she said to the old woman standing on the other side of the rickety table. “I don’t think I’ll be buying anything today.”
The vendor was so tiny, she had to look up at Daiyu, and Daiyu was the shortest girl in her class.The old woman was so old, even her wrinkles had wrinkles. But her black eyes were shrewd and calculating. “You like rings?” she asked, reaching for something under the table.
Daiyu shrugged. “I usually don’t wear one.” In fact, she rarely wore anything except a watch, hoop earrings, and the necklace her parents had given her—a gold chain hung with a gold charm that spelled out her name in Chinese characters.
“You’ll like this ring,” the old woman promised, bringing out a small box wrapped in red silk.
She flipped open the lid to reveal a jet-black ring nestled in a snug slot of red velvet. The old woman teased it loose and held it out in her narrow palm, and Daiyu bent closer to see. It was a single piece of stone carved in the shape of a dragon, head thrown back, talons extended, tail whipping around to touch its nose. Daiyu had a sudden, intense, and most uncharacteristic impulse to snatch it up and then go running from the fairgrounds.
“Try it on,” the old woman urged.
Why not? Daiyu picked it up and slid it onto the ring finger of her right hand. Smooth and cool as glass against her skin,the ring was a perfect fit.
“Do you like it?” the vendor asked.
“I do,” Daiyu said, holding her hand up to get a better look. Her spread fingers seemed perfectly framed in the elegant chrome curve of the looming Arch. “It’s beautiful.”
“Very reasonable,” the old woman said. “Twenty dollars.”
Daiyu had expected to hear that it was a hundred dollars, so that was reasonable indeed. Maybe the ring was glass after all, though the material looked so dense that she’d just assumed it was carved out of some semiprecious stone. “I’m saving all my money for college,” Daiyu said, feeling a surprising sense of reluctance as she pulled off the ring, “so I really can’t.”
“Fifteen dollars,” the old woman said.
Daiyu smiled. “I don’t even have five on me.”
“I could wait,” the woman offered. “Will you come back tomorrow?”
Daiyu hesitated. “Maybe,” she said. “But—you shouldn’t hold it for me. I don’t think I can buy it.”
The woman’s bright eyes looked pleading; her voice took on a tone of urgency. “But it’s black jade,” she said. “It’s meant for you.”
Daiyu felt a little chill go down her back, despite the relentless heat. “Why do you think it’s meant for me?”
The woman pointed at her. “Daiyu. That’s your name,” she said. “It means black jade.”
Daiyu put her finger up to the boatneck collar of her sleeveless shirt, but the gold pendant with the Chinese characters was still tucked safely inside, against her skin. Maybe it had slipped free while she was leaning over the booth. Otherwise, how could the old woman know her name? “It’s beautiful,” she repeated, “but I really can’t buy it.”
“Come back tomorrow. I’ll be here waiting.”
A car sounded an irritable horn as traffic on Memorial Drive snarled up, and Daiyu quickly glanced at her watch. She was officially late. “I’ve got to go,” she said by way of apology and farewell. Taking off at a half run across the fairgrounds, she left behind the Arch standing guard over the Mississippi River and the mayhem of the merchants setting up their booths. She looked back once to find the vendor was watching her. The old woman’s face was fierce, and even from a distance her eyes seemed to burn. Her fingers were balled into fists. Daiyu couldn’t tell from this far away whether the ring was still lying on the rough counter or if the old woman was clutching it in her hand as if protecting it from the sight of any other curious visitors who might wander past.
The rest of the afternoon dragged by. Until this week, Daiyu had been kept pretty busy during her summer internship at the Executive Edge Employment Agency, but there wasn’t much to do on this Friday before the Fourth of July holiday.
“Are you as bored as I am?” Isabel demanded at around four in the afternoon as she came stalking out of her office. Isabel, who owned the agency, was at all, thin, intense woman of uncertain age and immense energy. When Isabel got worked up over some cause or another, Daiyu sometimes thought her soul might vibrate right out of her body. “You’re always so calm that it’s hard to tell.”
Daiyu laughed. “There isn’t much for me to do right now,” she admitted.
“Then let’s just beat the traffic and go on home,” Isabel said. “Are you coming down for the fair over the weekend?”
“I’ll be at the voter-registration booth, if you want to drop by and say hello.” Isabel was passionate about politics and always trying to interest Daiyu in attending some rally or debate. She’d already made Daiyu swear that she would register to vote the minute she turned eighteen.
“I don’t know,” Daiyu said vaguely as she gathered up her purse. “Maybe.”
They rode together down the elevator of the Metropolitan Square Building, into the grand foyer with its huge murals of St. Louis history, then Isabel waved good-bye and headed for the garage. Daiyu made her way back out into the stifling heat to await the Soulard bus. Traffic was already clogging the roads, and horns were sounding up and down Olive Street. Naturally, the bus that arrived ten minutes later was not air-conditioned.
Daiyu sighed and slipped into an empty seat, feeling the vinyl stick to the bare skin on the back of her arms. She pried open a window, hoping for a little fresh air, and watched the crowds filing in for the night’s baseball game at Busch Stadium. Everyone was dressed in red in honor of the Cardinals; red birds adorned everything at the stadium from flags to awnings to electronic signs. Fredbird, the Cardinals’ mascot, capered on the sidewalk and posed for pictures with kids. The bus inched on by.
Traffic cleared once they were in the historic district of Soulard, and Daiyu got off the bus to walk the last few blocks home. This particular street was a little more rundown than the one in Lafayette Square where Daiyu and her parents had lived last year. A few of the old redbrick buildings had been lovingly restored, and some of the tiny front lawns had been carefully reseeded, but more often than not the townhouses looked bedraggled, unkempt, like an old homeless woman with an interesting history but a perilous future.
Daiyu pushed open the door to their new place and instantly inhaled the scents of paint and turpentine. She heard the whine of a saw coming from upstairs and then the thump that meant someone had dropped a tool.
“Dad! I’m home!” she called from the foot of the steps. “Do you want me to make dinner?”
“That would be great!” he called back. “Make enough for three.”
The kitchen was cramped and falling into disrepair, and it was always a challenge trying to maneuver around the piles of lumber and stacks of paint cans that her father seemed to think were best stored right inside the back door. Still, Daiyu was rarely bothered by turmoil or disorder; her father said her ability to function even in the midst of chaos was her single most valuable personal skill. Within forty-five minutes she had cooked the meal, set the table, and stored some of the paint cans in a more convenient spot.
“Dinner’s ready,” she announced, and two men tramped down the stairs to join her in the dining room.
Her father had to bend way down to kiss her on the cheek. He was a good six feet three inches, lanky and loose limbed, with hair as black as hers but eyes so blue people always remarked on the color the first time they met him.“Honey, this is Edward,” he said, introducing his companion.