Phoenix and the others pressed themselves against the wall of a building, which happened to be a bakery, and watched the crush of people on the sidewalk, all of them trying to get somewhere quickly and not succeeding.
“Oh my, look at that cobbler!” exclaimed Selene, peering into the window.
“A cobbler, where? Does he sell shoes or just mend them?” asked Beith, looking around frantically.
Crow looked at the ditzy redhead and shook his head. The girl had a one-track mind.
Recovering herself from a momentary lapse, Selene took charge. Even without her pumpkin medallion, the others still looked to her for leadership. “No, Beith dear, I was referring to the cherry cobbler in the window of the bakery here, but it’s no matter, because we have more important things to do right now than eat cobbler or shop for shoes.”
“Eat the cobbler?” said Beith, blushing. “Don’t they accept Euros here?”
“Never mind,” said Crow. “Selene’s right, this place may look like New York City, but there’s something different about it. I was here once before, and I never heard of anyone trying to steal shadows. What’s that all about?”
“If only I had my laptop, maybe I could figure some of this out,” said Selene. “But for now, we seem to have eluded those shadow-stealing leprechauns, though obviously too late for me and Beith. I wish I could understand how we finally managed to throw them off our track.”
It was Phoenix who figured it out.
“That’s easy,” she said. “I may be blind, but I can tell that we’re standing in the shade. Obviously there could be no shadow in the shade, and so the leprechauns can’t tell who has a shadow and who doesn’t. So as long as we stay in the shade, Crow and I will be safe. Beith and Selene, of course, have already lost their shadows, so it shouldn't matter to them anymore until we recover their shadows, if they even can be recovered.”
Everyone congratulated Phoenix on her deduction, and to test the theory, Selene and Beith stepped away from the wall and into the sunlight. No shadows could be seen, and no leprechauns appeared.
Just then there was a commotion down the street. Crow looked in that direction and saw a cowboy hat moving quickly above the sea of faces that moved endlessly toward him. Then he heard a voice.
“’Scuse me folks, comin’ through, outa the way, please. Whoops, sorry about yer foot there, mister …” It was Billy Joe Bob from Texas, and on his arm was a ravishing brunette. And looking farther up the street, Crow spied a platoon of leprechauns that was evidently pursuing the fast-moving Texan and his lady friend.
“Billy Joe Bob, quick, stand over here,” said Crow, pulling the Texan and his companion into the shade of the awning, which stretched over the bakery shop window. As soon as the shadows melted into the shade, the leprechauns, who apparently were incredibly stupid, lost interest in the chase, turned left at the corner and stalked dejectedly away.
“Crow, you old buzzard, glad you was here to save me. Them little midgets been chasin’ me all the way from the financial district, shoutin’ sumpin’ about shadows. Well at first I figgered they was just yer typical New York weirdo, you know, so I just reckoned I’d ignore ‘em, but then one of ‘em reached out and touched me and I got a spooky sorta cold feelin’, and, well, you gotta get up purdy early in the mornin’ to pull one over on a Texas boy; my mama dint raise no fools, and I knowed that I had to get away from that ornery critter. So I started hoofin’ it down the street as fast as I could go, until I seen one of them yaller taxicab thangs. Well just as I was gettin’ in the door, this here little lady,” he said, pointing to the stunning brunette, “was gettin’ in the other door. Well, she said she’d just got here from Colorady, and them green midgets was chasin’ her, too, so we decided we’d share the taxi and try to get away. So we done it, and we was headed up this big street, I seen a sign that said Broadway, and we was just a couple blocks south of here when the cab driver seen in his rearview mirror that one of the midgets was chasin’ us. Well, he throwed on the brakes and ordered us out, said he dint even want no money. So the little lady and I been runnin’ for two blocks, and if ye hadn’t seen us, I reckon we’d be runnin’ still.”
“Did you see any shoe stores down that way?” asked Beith.
“Billy Joe Bob,” asked Selene, “What were you, of all people, doing in the New York financial district?”
“Well,” answered the Texan, “I’m livin’ back in the Great State, now, and as you know, I got that pooka down on the range. He’s doin’ fine down there, grazin’ and fattenin’ up, but he tolt me one day that he’s powerful lonely for a lady pooka. Well, I went up to Fort Worth and down to San Antonio, and I just couldn’t find no more pookas, female or otherwise, so then I heard about this place called the New York Stock Exchange, so I loaded up my pickup truck and trailer and started drivin’, but derned if I could find any livestock when I got here.
“And oh mercy, but I’m fergettin’ my manners. This little lady here introduced herself in the cab awhile ago, and now I’d like you all to make her acquaintance. Crow, Selene, Beith, Phoenix, this little lady must be as smart as she is purdy. She’s in town for some kinda physics convention. Please say how d’ya do to Laurel. ..."