Badge, Book & Candle Episode 1 of 13

Bookburners

1.1

Badge, Book & Candle Episode 1 of 13

1.1

female, exhausted, borderline breakdown hands, haunted delete “nine,” continue the details of incident. case: analysis of theft yielded Astoria address. scene with in hand, Detective were fired upon window by a late After exchange Detective door. the

set on thumb the fingers her Her stomach ran even judge full
seen before, bodies. severed the ashtray the table Astoria that afternoon, worse.

They’d yield Which didn’t help her now.

Perry. voicemail, the ringing stopped soon, him.
“Perry, good time,” what started say, but didn’t halfway through brother’s name shore.

“Sal, thank thank you, for picking it’s to hear voice, I missed how’re it can over, now?”

“It’s been month.” a in her blinds. window street almost empty. Red Toyota pickup, Civic, garbage, guys home drinking off Thursday night. God. last she’d Perry talk like on scenester drama and for permission from sidewalk in rain, dripping with John look knew in mirror. “Since the last you trouble.”

nothing big, Sal, nothing you should worry about, you internet stuff, then arguing with you know people can crazy It’s the as month, I a be, know. a if money a hotel.

checked her corner window just be wasn’t either. “I’ve day, Perry.”

know, know, every for I’m so sorry, a place to for while, last I flowers.”

returning calls.”

better than a that, understand importance family.”

has a guy. He doesn’t being of bed because himself his apartment. That was good emphasis was. And fake.”

that right? it wasn’t that myself out. I’m improving, I don’t anyone
eyes narrowed. She window “Where

“What you
she hear once through phone, and from hall.

bedroom past kitchen and to door. She the bolt, and pulled the open.

less than last him, least. One pressed oversized phone trench over black t-shirt with three pixelated on front half-full, jeans torn the nervous habit clawing them worked computer, wear. held a rectangular parcel wrapped t-shirts duct tape, he under his and waved again.

Cusack One point
clicked phone.

started Cusack Seven.
sighed, and and him. “Come in,

up the room, and water the kettle. “If anything borderline, want to know.”

much.” parcel on living room table tape. dangerous, mean, if but fight with project we’re working together, sort want to right go need some time this myself. Bunch posers. Don’t know from Aramaic.” The t-shirts by silkscreened game reference last.

said. “It’s what, game with dysentery. the

idea this is?” He Mario shirt back thick tome leather, with wire on the spine. ragged edges blood-red. in ashtray, and stomach took second pass at routine.
“No?”

I shouldn’t gloves.”

cried, and followed the “You get roommates. fight those an Even Jeremy.” returned with

professional differences, mean, hard problems, intractable, things heated. then there strategies how approach the Aiden, roommate with wants thing do frequency analysis which just seems patently form factor to read, like by people, anyway protocols are hella lax, matters when under “Is this

“Wait. Surveillance?”

it’s Bookburners, that’s wanted out house, which so dumb—if the Bookburners after I it
book cover. Sal hadn’t noticed how the leather discolored: matched Perry’s skin, crimson bloom beneath fingers. a she couldn’t very Goosebumps chased

back think someone’s following you?”

“I thought want know.”

She over shoulder, the blinds. still Toyota pickup. Honda. Carpet van.

Sal. nabbed the They not.

“What is going on?”

knocked her door.

Perry said.

Christ, phone living room table, thumbed it open, her thumb the emergency dial. that?”

Probably.”

“Mister Brooks?” other of unquestionably not Aiden—too An Sal couldn’t place twined through his words. Brooks, we’re to talk.”

repeated, emphasis.

ran to her bedroom, and returned with her “Who is this?”

“I’m looking he’s in there.”

he want see you.”

must talk him.”

I’m police officer, I’m armed. Please step away door.”

She looked into room. Perry now, holding book, fingers clenched the she’d men bay the of leave. calling 911 pressed autodial. clicked.

him opening the book,” “Please. he means you, him.”

This Detective Brooks,” badge address. have a apartment, refusing leave—“

Something heavy door hard. Doorjamb timbers splintered. Sally dropped on pistol. She

door of the jamb struck the blew through.

remembered stinging wrist, gun hand thrust against woman’s face—Chinese, Bob haircut. Her knee solar and fell, to splinter-strewn turned, slow-motion almost, to the living where

held

wept blood, his bared sharp teeth.
a word that too for mind. and break. around like mouth.

her skin. fourteen years on the out grandparents’ Carolina homestead, while read aloud into the water was but raft rocked her head back forth, her body wasn’t more, and she she?
she strained, she other

“You him.” man’s voice, different voice from “How that happen?”

how.” woman’s you picture?”

“I have crayons in like one.”

to hit she replied. “Got instead. out, he made window before could

boy’s his city eight Wonderful, think we’ll A-double-plus

Sirens.

“they answer fast here.

“Are sure?”

Don’t lying your for see too of the

forced them over was red-haired beautiful. Have run.
better the morning.”

away, shadows to crush again.

1.2

the read start soon. glared doctor's her leaned against the wall, crossed, notepad ballpoint in looking rather be anywhere carrying anything the news he carried. swam. "I've told you times," she said. brother came apartment. Two people him. gave descriptions. broke door. and officers arrived. that complicated

"You're you brother?"

I'm sure. Perry. kind with roommates."

"Breathe," doctor

breathed. stethoscope chilled skin. problem?"

Collins the wall, but if trying to get expression failed. "Who there's problem?"

"Come

passed her phone. play."

camera rendered her apartment hallway ghoulish greens whites. door and peer the hall, back, swing close "This wrong footage."

"It's not, timestamp."

"Perry's here."

lowered chin toward didn't touch due "Scratch

"You thought was seeing things."

knows? We testimony, living broken two cups instant coffee, a doesn't line up, apart

"Stare the ceiling," doctor said. "just with please."

The doctor's flashlight world. Sal forced not blink. you intruders, either."

"Tape falls apart, said."

"Your description's Sal, on. woman, white with hair, unnamed third accented doesn't give lot go on."

"The guy Irish

Sal. York, sure down."

"Someone must tapes."

"First pulled them. someone messed with they

doctor eyelid, she blinked pink bloodwebbed her "The other the world was light.

planned they couldn't have been random. Perry. hacked into security."

"Which make it'd possible, paranoid—except cameras the They're even There's actual, honest-to-god building basement, like was installed when Playboys mattress."

"Gross,

rat top of the cabinet. had to hunt the find VCR. Nobody that our me. And should find That building's a

brother's there. him."

doctor with flashlight and stepped "She's good wrong, can't see it." Sal both eyes tight pink

doc. you give minute?"

door closed them alone, Collins sank the doctor's chair with as he steam He looked the of knuckles than her.

of sense," said.

saw."

"And you say weirder sounds. cameras. No blood."

"What, people think snapped, imagined brother kidnapped, broke my damn living room

were pretty when left yesterday."

was upset. found an but doesn't mean nuts."

went your apartment. His say they this morning."

"Did you she Collins head. "Then escaped. he's into something big. He

boys when shows now, says take or rest."

"And don't?"
shifted his weight the creaked. Lieutenant me tell you it doesn't have to formal."

"I have to

"Sal—"

pushed herself table and her hook door. it,

"I'll pretend didn't that," he "Stay trouble,
laughed, and fast she hit street.

Theories were with more patience Brooks, Brooklyn-bound Q train over Manhattan bridge, so "I'm nuclear option, didn't compel. The doctor said physically. snapped zero seconds, this didn't up with experience. she crazy, story more or less, on very train with overwhelming conviction were genetic United government alien DNA, and they'd a prototype take them which they'd her visited in Jersey shared lovers chosen classical Chinese elements. As she'd trust someone asked Jersey.

about conspiracies screaming obscenities Count out, for though people probably you're anything no matter must Keep going in direction and one from the with chopped-off index in his

They river.

Perry didn't to you an argument with roommates; by say hello. He afraid. Maybe they wouldn't into else's apartment. somehow, just time

book. made

She rose subway onto long wide street with three-story both blank dark Italian bakery, convenience opened coffee shops blocks hair's breadth from neighborhood over, Perry move. Providing, course, mudhole they'd stumbled didn't swallow first.

something. they seen him morning, they could how he looked, he when not, had lied her leverage.

with Aiden

a quick turn around the block. for ten the morning, the somewhere air Sun down the sidewalk, and shouldered into her jacket. She walked which was the on decorated for Halloween. rain-soaked felt-and-wire spider clung crooked outside Perry's window.

lined One pink finned belonged Mary brochure museum both. an Cleaner

instinct her screamed, walking. Only idiots martyrs themselves situations they understand without cavalry waiting.

didn't was the (Hadn't thought to license last True, ground the office, higher-ups was close cracking. True, the broken into seemed have personal about she conversation she'd overheard correctly, they they saved from—something.

though.

If want rule chance she shouldn't have straight the gun, thrown the and told two monitor-lit inside, where see

Chinese raised her hands the level of her shoulders. "I told switched

redhead away the keyboard swiveled in chair. "She was cold. was supposed

hell is brother?"

interesting philosophical question, said. was the concussion talking. Focus..
shifted forward in chair.

"Don't Sal shouted.

Brooks," from sidewalk behind deep, and studiously voice from door. from van turned her of vision. think misunderstanding."

Hispanic, a priest’s He held tray three coffees hand, palm between blessing surrender.

“Who are What the here?”

Arturo Menchú,” the second syllable, “and question: can explain, you’ll me.”

sidewalk had talk inside, gave what-kind-of-idiot-do-you-take-me-for ended that fast. Red looked uncomfortable open—he shifting from foot over shoulder, deep pockets. The just watched, crossed. knuckles of right and there of muscle slimline jacket. Sal liked confusing hostility refreshing.

“You’re Sal said, skeptical.

woman laughed, once.

“I’m a “Grace, course, is a lay

Sal pointed Grace, “broke last considered how, everything: the broken door, book, corrupted Decided against a

set tray atop the “Your brother’s possessed manuscript does belong belong work was stolen years Turns the spent the last the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. weeks broke collection made off number of this

“You’re saying part heist.” remembered Astoria, yesterday: and an of blood. mid-forties. Shots fired. Hope recovering, fingerprints. way.”

directly. Your brother friends, one to the stolen texts.” kept voice eye presented himself her at seeming non-threatening; of job, attention drifted Grace, who grinned, teeth. “There willing more. brother stole book from thief, a copy place. We out your brother, the then you. The valuable, a collector, the people don’t him he with us.”

into the little the ashtray meant hold Their pointed out: and bone.

the police.”

“We are the

“Bullshit.”

special consultants Department this you’ll permit reached, slowly, breast nodded. From within a card, number recognized. “This Chief Gallagher’s She’ll were overzealous night, which offer my apologies. Perry great danger.”

And was, professional polish, professional assurance had heard many times from priests lawyers—Menchú cared.

“I’m continued. this been I know you’re worried your brother. We

said, a city Paying problem. else you’d like to while Elvis? Amelia Earhart?”

Menchú ignored him. his friends know scared. They talk anyone they don’t

“We’re time,” Grace said. should just knock door.”

Worked night.”
were procedural reasons Sal should leave. danger, and Commissioner’s blessing, could breaking Technically. help.”

“No,” said. sorry. We can’t

“I’m already. is my brother about. second counts. in there, the did this morning.”

we’re doing.”

deep,

Liam cleared throat. We’re shorthanded anyway.”

“Very well.”

“One question,” as anything else. you’re consultants.
The man raised finger his it

1.3

against tape. against the slightest metal.
"This gear."

"My And one." Liam offered a cross chain.

"What's

"Stuff," "Just put on,

don't believe God."

believes you." laughed if he'd made "Think of it temporary deputization."

checked could twenty minutes ago."

normally," we'll trouble, the

"Panic button?"

mood only If something strange, touching cross. are," wiggled fingers, and stuff."

"You're joking."

ye little faith."

said, and the van.

stared out Sal the front of center. covered duct tape pocked to side—they'd tried to knocker in times measuring door's actual midpoint, and the third attempt success.

The mailman given on overstuffed mailbox, congealed into block of wood and ink. formed newsprint the step, sporting impressive greenish molds.

Sal chip own closed, opened them again, and reached the jaw.

could the jerked to Aiden, tall gangly, pajama bottoms unwashed the his foot, too skinny to quite a really bad time."

She shoved He stumbled upsetting pile mud-caked pushed through into the narrow musty door her. "Where's hell have gotten him into?"

"Perry's Sal. Come This illegal search know my rights."

"I give you your Aiden. Perry's True false?"

"Perry's, Aiden spread arms block her path, rack never-washed coats and cross-stitch Perry'd Darth mask. fine. We're fine. had, you know, disagreement night, but we've everything. Maybe we go coffee,

"Let's Unless there's something hide."

No, course What would we from

jerked if under left arm; grab jagged and into while swept room, pizza USB cables. rust-dotted hung bubbled beaker a clawfoot table she'd rescued them street-side recycling. Stairs rose the second boys when they slept black, than though he the flanked monitors, with a leather-bound open in table. looked from the blinked at through goggles. Aiden's cursing the hall with upstairs, like music: stream of bleeps and blips remembered sitting eight playing

"Sally! to see Didn't to by. anything." Prescription goggles Todd's eyes. They huge, "But is

"Aiden wouldn't to anything to brother's disappearance, it?

let go the book, fast. gloves of powder the brown which embossed with pattern. vines, all? really know you're talking we the Perry came morning. He fine. He scared, it." swallowed hard. think in something—"

haven't here

"Look." fingers "Perry's gets books. translate. Upload. It's above-board, know. got himself deep wrong people, but who why."

"You them."

"That's said.

came back warrant, I

want that, really."

where brother is."

doesn't see

came to last Nothing's changed between now and
Behind her, in the recovered.

down Todd's temple to his cheek. go talk this somewhere left.

turned. bedroom doors upstairs, one Aiden, one Perry. Perry's, Japanese was slightly sounds like good idea," she said, ran stairs burst the Perry's

illuminated unmade bed, bookshelves, clothing. have but the hung Perry's blocked out the sun.

Perry himself sat and bloodstained t-shirt, like over unblinking inches monitor. tousled. One-day growth beard. muscles snaked, relaxed, he rocked

"Perry!"

Except.

Detective Brooks, someday, did know person sitting chair

mouth before courtroom words An would stare her. Judge would her lawyer lean forward. Any time, Brooks.

were the

when said "Perry?" the time, voice was

uncurled himself vertebra by vertebra keyboard, His focused the "Sal. sorry you

"Perry." She'd imagined hugging him saw again, imagined too. Neither seemed you're here." if would make

"I should go, Sal." reasonable "Todd Aiden They want help. You walk should. work to finish, don't
She didn't. not-minding strange. happened night?"

"Nothing," said. was pushed, see. The Bookburners and help find I'm perfectly than in a… police just the up in large and fine-print table. words didn't match movements focused fear—and He brother.

But he wasn't, right now.

mouth not moving time words he not though that was language she heard. "It like this when solve case. the whole world sense puzzle for long needed the push."

reached for

seemed great space them of sudden, arm the A of against skin heart, cold burned. As the approached longer like hand like of anyway. corrugated twisted woven bones. oil dripped joints. arm was a length with trashbags shredded cloth. Bottleglass eyes reflected Thin reveal teeth, with oil.

impulse still insisted this brother, there to back him, there to she should this touch oil metal skin in fact whisper, might help if got

The cold fire Her skin seared, froze, cracked. She followed the pain and her belonged someone She staggered out reach, against doorjamb, into the toward impossibly

the bedroom shut on

The seem to It open the door. fingers into place. split widened. more. Just

the bedroom heard shatter.

Bottleglass eyes widened. black knocked the her brother into and blur resolved into glinted her boots. raised overhead, and slammed into fallen creature's

thought—help. Her hand shoulder holster, Grace and creature moving It Grace back, wriggled to its feet concern principles anatomy, and her. jumped bed, out claw, onto creature before recover, the ground, in face her forehead. A ceramic plate clawed something inside Sal

it That's brother!"

not," Grace "It never was." creature desk. roared, dodged the creature's burst through She grabbed broken flat-panel arm, which funny.
"Grace, back! a

this. worry about the downstairs."

"Go!"

Behind her screaming, more Downstairs, sat front blue-gloved cover. up

"Todd, Jesus Christ, there's something there."

his goggle-swollen from pupil to turned his book.

sword the was

in the hall beside her. into sword off wall beside her—no that blade, made it marginally dangerous, four-foot-long would bones The gouge wallpaper drywall, and Aiden's he recover, kicked his him few times the and

Todd still of his book, watched turned pages.

Perry last with his open staring at her if bottom well.

front door, the latch A swore—Liam's Aiden's move, more like marionette structure by contracting individual

"Todd, the book."

blinked, slowly.

for cover, better the with her hands, and the sword instead. When touched leather, electric apartment the cold flared against breastbone. her eyes—she'd fallen back Aiden her. him the face, Unclenched hand the sword.

Crashing sounds cry pain, frustrated

trouble. in reverse.

Dammit. None But, connections: had burned Perry-thing's influence. her, she that back mind. protect her from

She top lay against her breastbone, if stuck She red on skin. about that later. about all later. The closer brought book, heavier Her shook. hell were those hours for, if this?

She hooked cover and swung

Sometimes in the winter, twenty minutes’ down wind, shelter a stop and without anything to fight against. felt Silence unfurled. The closed vibrated string. The in silver sheen—tarnish save where her had

Aiden still, breathing Todd collapsed, trembling,

by Pinched Struck across face, lightly. Tried the cross. yielded touched the part that shiny heard eyes snapped he screamed higher than she’d capable.

Dammit, Todd, you okay?”

“Sally. Sally.”

hell’s What was that thing?”

“Came this into heads. dummy the pages talked us. Told

done. the

He touched his chest. “Still

The Perry?”

“Storage.” coughed. “Took told stay here, distract people.

tendrils wormed across Todd’s eyes, and toward Cords muscle throat.

“Shit.” She cross but in tarnish. looked Maybe something house except for chemistry bench, burner, and heard smelled—

door burst open. She halfway the pulling the shirt. weighed like a mention Aiden, least too cold fight. back were jelly, really tired. stood the door, blinking “Gas,” shouted, and him wince—earpiece, linked mic. “Help

He up the grabbed pulled left trail pulped newspapers and Sal and out Perry’s window to fire escape. made the neighboring building came, hammer air struck chest fell.

painted face orange and wailed, too close dropped stood; Aiden Todd sprawled, unconscious breathing, feet. get said.

Understatement the millennium, candidate number But.

the hell shouting, care.

“Any single piece anything just happened sense.”

“Unless be arson,” Grace said, about this later? The department care

“Why am anything? try my brother friends. house is fire, don’t know

“Unconscious,” supplied.

“Hypnotized, or

“That were close, a bathrobe the street, gathered in front a coffee watch this else?”

“I’m not an answer.”

stuffed his pockets. no—it’s fucking complicated,

it!”

An cuff around only wasn’t all, Grace’s There was woman’s face, but no open wounds which, scabbing already. Grace’s pinned pavement. were stars which

“Magic,” Grace said.

“Magic?”

“Magic.”

“Grace,” Liam said, “she’s civilian. are really sure should be

waste her loop, waste own.” Grace turned deal Okay?”

“Okay,” she “Magic.

tell more.

1.4

van "What dead?

"Homunculus," said. upended in back the working his like "He's dead, homunculus do anything with driving from distance."

"Homunculus?"

not bad once know them," He was a records half attention, whole situation normal, even scratch that. They're Just understandable bad. get

"You the time."

wouldn't say swore the

coffee. "Grace didn't hers."

glared at over withdrew it. "Tell

"Get out of here," said. "You've
tell me then you to kick out?"

were place talk. leave now.

didn't," said, "obviously."
Grace's eyes were as broken
her discomfort. was controlling thing. Whatever it brother. before. I answers."

Menchú as

brother in trouble stole book. You didn't homunculuses

said your brother possessed a stolen book."

"Oh."

easy anyone to first time, only gets harder. The are…" Menchú searching word.

hunters?"

"Archivists."

"Okay," Sal

three us are part a Society for stocking the Vatican's Black

frowned. saw Discovery Channel thing that. books. Heresies.”

people know,” said.

stood, past priest passenger dog-eared of Pride Prejudice compartment, kicked up dash, started in middle.

world’s bigger any said. “Imagine an in ocean full monsters. time from monsters. sometimes tide rises. Sometimes the big Sometimes out into the deep ocean, hungry Sometimes more it’s accident. take form of—artifacts. Books, often. Anything connects another. the couple thousand years, and Americas wound Vatican’s Black Archive. to apartment Liber Manum, the the we assume monster the contains, world-eater with taste human It surfaced first in the century, London, America the Titanic, arrived of half-drowned it could the local killed bearer and locked volume away. for generations, the became department gossip. Precautions Liber Manum’s reached internet, brother them.”

“So Perry’s, what, he’s taken monster?”
seat, loudly. opened the book,” called back. jumped his
clicked mouse, swore, clicked

“Demons,” Sal said. “You’re talking demons.”

“It’s theologically speaking,” Menchú “Some present themselves fallen angels, they lying. Some can’t. “

“Demons,” Grace the

did Perry even this

“There communities,”

“Idiots,”

“—communities, associations scholars and that believe information be Your brother and belong one. He friends, enough I’ve just outlined to believe literal. harmless, brother real stole merchandise initial thieves, who then turned one another.”

Fingers Sal

the book home. kicked out. he your apartment. followed there, book escape. it. ah, control brother limited its hours. underestimated the study. necessary right frame mind, and no resist possession. jumped into him. left the homunculus at his apartment watch, to needed materials controlled the in townhouse.”

“Was the, Liber Manum? Did close

said. chump text.”

poor copy,” Menchú explained. “The recorded piece its name and its power book have burned fire—unlike an has properties him, find Manum.”

“Which is out terrifically for the Liam said. “Perry’s phone’s dead. property records file. him nine morning, but him tunnel.”

“And the demon riding your in York. It will cement control, done, will gather acolytes.”

“Cement,” “So
can book hurting demon’s control. Though it’s inside his for

“And not lucky?”

Menchú’s together. returned to bells. “When close book, be far gone back. friends, in the house—they were, let’s wading surf. swimming rip tide.”

do out hand.”

I’ve never seen attack news.”

“People disappear time. All over world.”

Shit happens.”

“And the world swallows people, left behind forget. island into How can ever there? bones remain. can cracks where land be. legions. Have you of York?”

“Exactly.”

impossible. A whole can’t just disappear.”

“Information fast. but people good evidence. Those around notice at all. mind to cover the largest wound. When was time place born?”

saying might eat New York.”

“The time we spend here, longer demon your control. know you could save lives. Including his.”

anything, tell you, go there, out, him.”

want save these

“Go the so dangerous.”

you tell could explain situation they would knowing

“The Chief—“

“Knows calls your out their depth.”

could them evidence.”

“Perry’s townhouse burning we The homunculus will melted garbage traces forensics.”

guys just of you rented

“Hey,” Liam like this

“This a job government. Black. know, some librarian society.

“The problem,” said, “is government. are too.”

leaned chair looked her upside
“Besides, think low-budget, team a library would

what These calls make.”

“Not after myself.”
Before Menchú could respond, burst into ran hedge into park.

Morning soaked through her sneakers the ankles mulch pulping clawed sky. Hands forced pockets, head marched through park. she was the she cab south, Perry’s unit before they were truth.

course they thought were. She’d that garbage wearing her had she after

But—

mind closes cover

walking, brother? this just post-traumatic memory chopped meat There had been weird house.

Either way, had to fast.

Brooks!”
voice.

he repeated, desperate.

walking, told herself. never been herself, made
arms out, down, wide. He than usual.

tell me said. “That guys know what talking about brother’s life.”

feels,” said. there.”
a good sentences tirade left, but

walked road. a I the was there. it inside head.” a retreat. shifted a of clouds. “I years baby of your One February eleven, just a three-year-old management a sealed manuscript at Trinity, and then it’s two thirteen, I’ve missed the Grace Father wake a basement There’s blood all have wires out of pushed windbreaker and the flannel beneath. scars his muscle and textured tattoos. know what for years. But Father found me, and back.”

for for scars. pushed before could touch him.

care. know doing. brother in danger. know is—dealing with yourself Give us information. We’ll help him. him. me, it’s world alone.”
His were and bright.

brother,” “I’ll him. You can But he’s

can with that.”

We drive ahead us.”

1.5

Bridge.

friends storage. of equipment, the foot sales, on didn’t why,” Sal “until now.”

never why brother laying in lifetime of dead

“He’s done shit like this my this it was five collecting and selling at conventions, was, you way use his degree. I he guess.” She counted she left, her hadn’t in the house. plan the shed, then, went to If you have to.

“See, Grace? We found without

shrugged, and turned page.

Menchú passed envelope silver

have one of already.”

less effective. out. Drop one envelope.”

She pulled over her head. felt heavier “It’s cross matters?”

guides us in said.

the pertinent bit,” Liam added. be the better. soaks up magic, which tarnish comes from. We’re Stings stings, but that’s better than letting some bastard your the a lot silver crosses around, turns Seal envelope when you’re

The and hooves. coffee left?” was good, least it tasted like new cross hurt touched seared skin but lighter than the old

for us,” Menchú said. highly your courage.”

she?

Grace didn’t look “Just killed.”

“Not plan,” Sal exit.”


storage complex sprawled asphalt acres, they past the first away,” Menchú said.

least know he’s here.” pulled

Sal’s burned. saw, eye as much with physical ones, sign, remembered driving first time, before he boys not feeling around the edges gaps “Now. yanked the wheel, slid into empty parking lot.
parked row vacant spaces, they pavement. Easier say what space what character of light changed. colors weren’t There much their footsteps, but could hear trucks roll highway in the middle distance. there spatial oddness remembered house. The storage rows, all closed doors.

felt… somehow. She’d heard and dogs earthquakes and tidal waves, before opened swallow houses beneath when ground to Maybe people same less keen—maybe only felt way when collapse fundamental. Menchú an island eaten an from
Maybe wrong.

feel way.

This bigger felt, standing the EZ Cleaner the three barely knew. was than any it damn sure bigger Detective Something that could the world couldn’t couldn’t arrest Liam, Menchú, they seemed some Call by She’d them She could stay them the number, take from Stay safe.
laughed.

looked uncertain. “Detective want wait—“

“Can’t you
shook

or whatever’s It’s Putting Trying scare particular.”

“The Hand dangerous,” he will eat give it chance.”

now, more than wants to leave.” her teeth. “Third fifth the Let’s

Menchú, on approach, optimism. “Its brother book’s open. it—“

“With the know.”

anything silver. it’s tarnished, don’t touch book your bare try first. Grace will with guards.”

“It’s been our world for day.

have people, the boys townhouse. There must others when arrived.”

back Grace’s had into pocket; pulled fingerless glove left hand, and at wrist. Grace sound, the glove, general.

said. the else?”

get closer, bargains. Don’t trust them.”

figured. I mean,

Perry’s storage locker rolled its locked. She on back

struck the with cinderblock, hard, and broke. She

Liam closed glove.

Then someone tackled from

hard. “Shit!” large lay of him, fingers could react was there—grabbed the We-Stor-It uniform and threw him a twist hips. uniformed puppet pushed himself upright—eyes black edge—a taller in knee, punched him plexus, struck temple elbow, he went down. tears left down cheeks.

Sal a different

Other emerged the storage—men and uniform, three, daughter pigtails. should have them course, should have driveway before time Grace in place, all at pushed feet.

Menchú turned her.
could answered. Instead, opened door.

Candlelight flickered behind of chemical glassware, disused and piles of books—leather bindings and journals diaries lesbian detective at end junky cast-off behind semicircle of open books, stood Perry.

Well. stood. Floated.

he said, inside smiled, were and there was tongue the of his mouth. “An unexpected pleasure.”

Menchú. this this her brother. So into the

turned out be the because a puppet from there to pull it corrected herself, things could up, off her course, puppet grabbed chair struck the more staggered than

marched her bet,” said. “That’s why tried keep Perry, you’re still I’m help

That didn’t books’ accord. raised one she walk. shadowy headwind blasted soles her black streaks the concrete “What Sal? me? that they

“My wouldn’t do this.”

you sure? had the power

she

“Oh, fine. How you tell difference, anyway?”

brother tongue.”

tongue, you’d rather.” his teeth.

“This brother’s body, and have to say not just with the power he always wanted? through thought, desire, terror suppressed impulse. Delicious and nutritious. you like wanted to you? you?” turned pages book forward, flipped three back, unpracticed chef unfamiliar recipe.

She forced forward, step by step. her skin. flashed through memory: charcoaled flesh and white showing. didn’t do thoughts matter.”

You feared an world, cop. That’s feared being powerless, led to me. your lovely little weakness, blissfully succeptable destiny.”

The shadow-wind reached force. behind Liam Father fought their for

“What you want with

“What does said. grand. people have built of yourselves, horrible ice hundred like more the forever, god his favorites to Heaven. Tasteless. But capes and apocalypses, goo futuristic crisis pandemic collapse, floods robots monsters, oh fear. Your brother’s by could Suffer through few hells me I’ll a paradise the guy

“Perry,” said. close but with wind twice strong. And whispers colors, voices claws cross wormed her, pierced the wriggled her wake This thing afraid. to me. sister, it’s Sal, fucking door and you up me

Perry’s eyes The ones, brown matched them. John One Seven. Real down Then he clutching voice that wasn’t screamed words hear. shadow-wind stopped. knelt before the Liber with clouds its cover. maybe, more. pulled from around her She’d lifted that weighed Her trembled.

was smooth tarnish even the chain. scraped frantically with couldn’t matte.

silver silver. paperbacks, that all.

recovering. No. She recognized that body straighter deeper that Hand reasserting control.

her, Menchú fell.

Choices. took the time learn her into Perry—would critical to close And jumped into her, it go.

the said. fine. She’d

else were for?

Hand-in-Perry and smiled sharp-toothed tongue flame tackled the Manum, slammed flung from her, poisonous

sinkhole feeling, brink catastrophe, incipient collapse—stopped.

blinked.

Sal. shocked didn’t when Perry began to fall.

She before “Perry. on, wake

No answer. He breathed deep, teeth to normal, there his mouth again, were She him. No answer. Shook him. “Perry!” Nothing.

kneeling over Menchú her shoulder. blurred. She blinked, grew edges.

okay,”

1.6

Wotanite Xenuphile incessantly over shape feelings Parallax crushes impressions of ceilings and pointed arches more than itself. chambers cozy emotions, stifling ones. accommodate sweaty and mushroom-assisted voyage the outer don’t whisper your lover cathedral. look closet.

feel way but hospital

stood listened heartbeat through cruddy

“This the seen anything but t-shirt,” she first we kids.”

sorry,” said the door.

turned from bedside. hadn’t heard him approach. from reflections footfalls. “He could

“Yes.”

might have dragged him along with Back

“Maybe.”

open book.”

“And would come out Now the Liber Manum custody, can safe. That storage locker was a trove—Perry and collected copies dangerous texts. We those, world’s the That’s winning like.”

these things at all?”

Menchú are more all the time. this year than More than before.”

all of bad?”

that… hungry. found wings that would fly well answers questions.”

“Have found one

yet,” said. “Before you ask—“

know what say, yet.”

looked rims his glasses.

“Fine,” said. ahead.”

worse. You wanted brother safe. what happened.”

him. These monsters want to And you need Liam has the Grace fight, know secrets. of cops.”

“You be, either,” said. women up like have friends world forgot, if never was age could get the bottom all But bottom. keeps going

that.”

He laughed. have no

out and took

the team.”

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