thirties female, brown hair, five nine, exhausted, borderline breakdown case, shaking hands, haunted eyes. Then she’d delete everything after “nine,” and continue with the details of the incident. In this case: forensic analysis of the Museum theft yielded an Astoria address. Arriving the scene with warrant hand, Detective Connelly and I were fired upon from the window by a white male, late forties. After brief exchange fire, Detective Connelly forced the door. Behind the door—
Sal set badge and gun on her bureau, ran her thumb the two fingers of her left hand. Her stomach ran floor routine even Russian judge would give full marks.
She’d seen before, bodies. severed fingers the ashtray the coffee table Astoria that afternoon, those worse.
They’d yield prints, least. Which didn’t help her stomach now.
Her cell phone rang. Perry. She let it voicemail, but the ringing stopped too soon, then started again. Still him.
“Perry, this isn’t good time,” what she started say, but she didn’t halfway through her brother’s name before Hurricane Perry struck shore.
“Sal, thank you, you, you for picking I’m so glad, it’s wonderful to hear voice, I missed you, how’re how long has it been anyway, can come over, like, now?”
“It’s been month.” thumbed a gap in her blinds. The sidewalk under window bare, and street almost empty. Red Toyota pickup, Civic, garbage, guys staggering home after drinking off Thursday night. Thank God. The last time she’d heard Perry talk like this, on the run from crazy scenester drama and hadn’t waited for permission to come over, just called her from the sidewalk in the rain, dripping with that John Cusak she knew he practiced in the mirror. “Since the last you in trouble.”
“It’s nothing big, Sal, promise, nothing you should worry about, just, you know, internet stuff, and then started arguing with my roommates and you know people can crazy like, crazy. It’s not the thing as last month, swear, I just need place to be, you know. I’d a hotel if I could.” If had money a hotel.
She checked her corner window just be sure. wasn’t down either. “I’ve had very long day, Perry.”
know, know, every day’s long for I’m so sorry, but kind a place to rest for while, and did apologize last and sent you flowers.”
still isn’t returning calls.”
“You deserve better than a that, doesn’t understand the importance of family.”
has huge family. He’s good guy. He just doesn’t being kicked of bed because kid brother’s locked himself out his apartment. That was good emphasis the was. And the flowers you fake.”
“Better that way, they don’t right? it wasn’t that myself out. And anyway I’m improving, I you don’t have anyone now. Do you?”
Her eyes narrowed. She checked each window again. “Where are
“What you mean?”
realized she could hear his voice twice: once through phone, and once from hall.
Sal marched her bedroom past kitchen and living to the door. She unbolted the bolt, unchained chain, pulled the open.
Perry was less than she’d last him, at least. One pressed oversized Star Trek phone to ear. He wore dirty tan trench coat, open, over ratty black t-shirt with three pixelated hearts the front fourth half-full, and jeans torn the from nervous habit of clawing them while worked on his computer, rather than wear. His other held a large rectangular parcel wrapped more t-shirts and duct tape, he waved at then stuck under his and waved again.
deployed John Cusack Version One point
clicked shut her phone.
He started warming John Cusack Version One Seven.
sighed, and smiled, and hugged him. “Come in, doofus.”
up the living room, and she water the kettle. “If anything borderline, don’t want to know.”
“Thank so, so, so much.” He parcel on living room table undid the tape. “It’s dangerous, I mean, I’d you if were, you but got fight with roomies over a project we’re working on together, sort of, and want to make sure I’m right go home. need some time work on this thing myself. Bunch posers. Don’t know Altaic from Aramaic.” The t-shirts layer layer, each silkscreened video game reference than the last.
“I that one,” she “It’s the, what, the game with the dysentery. Why the t-shirts?”
“Sal, you have any idea how this thing is?” He folded Mario shirt back to reveal thick tome pale leather, with gold on the spine. The pages’ ragged edges dyed blood-red. Sal remembered severed fingers in Astoria ashtray, and her stomach took second pass at the floor routine.
“Old, I old. shouldn’t handling it without gloves.”
kettle cried, and Sal followed it the kitchen. “You should get roommates. You fight more those guys than ever with an ex. Even Jeremy.” She returned with coffee mugs.
“It’s professional differences, mean, we’re working on hard problems, borderline intractable, things get heated. then there different strategies about how approach the manuscript. Aiden, know, roommate Aiden with crush on you, he wants to the thing do word frequency analysis which just seems patently silly, form factor suggests it’s supposed to be read, like by people, and anyway Aiden’s security protocols are hella lax, which when you’re under surveillance.” took sip, face. “Is this instant?”
“Todd it’s Bookburners, that’s why wanted the book out of the house, which just so dumb—if the Bookburners were after how I have even it
set his on the book cover. Sal hadn’t noticed before how the leather was discolored: it matched Perry’s skin, crimson bloom spread beneath fingers. heard sound she couldn’t a footfall, or whisper, very soft. Goosebumps chased goosebumps her arms.
“Perry, back up. You think someone’s following you?”
“I thought you want know.”
She leaned the couch, over his shoulder, and checked the blinds. Street still Red Toyota pickup. Honda. Garbage. Carpet Cleaner van.
Sal. would have nabbed the They did Ergo, wasn’t followed.”
“What hell is going on?”
Someone knocked her door.
“Jesus Christ, Perry.” She grabbed phone the living room table, thumbed it open, her thumb over the emergency dial. “Who is that?”
“Mister Brooks?” the other side door was unquestionably not Aiden—too old, too sure, too calm. An accent Sal couldn’t place twined through his words. “Mister Brooks, we’re here to hurt We want talk.”
“Shit,” Perry repeated, emphasis.
Sal ran to her bedroom, and returned with her “Who is this?”
“I’m looking Mister Brooks. he’s in there.”
“If he is, I want see you.”
must talk with him.”
“Sir, I’m a police officer, and armed. Please step away door.”
“Has he opened the book?”
“What?” She looked into the living room. Perry standing now, holding book, fingers clenched the cover like she’d seen men bay clutch the handles of knives. “Sir, please leave. calling 911 now.” pressed autodial. line clicked.
him from opening the book,” man said. “Please. If means anything you, stop him.”
“Hello. This Detective Sally Brooks,” she rattled off her badge her address. “I have a man outside apartment, who is refusing leave—“
Something heavy struck door hard. Doorjamb timbers splintered. Sally stumbled dropped the phone, two hands pistol. She took
door burst of the jamb and struck the wall. A human wind blew through.
Later, Sal remembered slivers: stinging her wrist, gun hand thrust back against wall. A woman’s face—Chinese, thought. Bob haircut. Her knee slammed into Sal’s solar plexus and she fell, gasping, to splinter-strewn woman turned, slow-motion almost, to the living where stood.
His wept tears of blood, his bared sharp teeth.
He spoke a word that too for mind. She heard woman roar, and break. darkness closed around like mouth.
sun baked her skin. lay, fourteen years old, on raft atop the out back of grandparents’ Carolina homestead, while Perry read aloud shore. Her hand trailed into the still water was still, but moving too, raft rocked her head back and forth, and her body wasn’t any more, and dammit she dreaming, wasn’t she?
she strained, she hear voices the other of dream.
“You him.” A man’s voice, lilting, close—a different voice from before. “How that happen?”
opened book, how.” woman’s voice. you picture?”
“I have crayons in truck if like draw one.”
“He tried hit me,” she replied. “Got her instead. pulled out, but he made window before could catch him.”
the boy’s off-grid with rider his in city eight million. Wonderful, think we’ll call that. A-double-plus effort.”
“Christ,” the man said, “they answer calls fast here. Come on. she—“
“Are you sure?”
Don’t when lying on your back. for them. You’ll see too much of the sun.
forced them The man kneeling over was red-haired and beautiful. Have run. nice rest. You’ll
feel better in morning.”
pulled away, ceiling shadows to crush her again.
was how the Clue solution would read someone didn't start making sense around soon. glared over the doctor's at Collins, her partner, leaned against the wall, arms crossed, notepad open in one, ballpoint in the other, looking like he'd rather be anywhere but here, carrying anything but news he carried. Her head swam. "I've told you three times," she said. "My brother came to apartment. Two people followed him. gave you their descriptions. broke down door. a fight, and I up the officers arrived. that complicated story."
"You're sure saw your brother?"
course I'm sure. It Perry. He had some kind with roommates."
"Breathe," the doctor said.
breathed. stethoscope chilled skin. "So what's the problem?"
Collins shifted against the wall, but if been trying to get comfortable, his expression suggested he'd failed. "Who says there's problem?"
"Here." He passed her phone. "Hit play."
Security camera footage rendered her apartment building hallway in ghoulish greens whites. She herself open her door and peer out into the hall, step back, swing door wide close again. "This the wrong footage."
"It's not, though. Check timestamp."
"Perry's not here."
Collins lowered chin toward his chest. It didn't touch due the extra chin in the "Scratch one theory."
"You thought was seeing things."
"Who knows? We got testimony, got living room broken and two cups instant coffee, we a tape that doesn't line up, apart minutes later."
"Stare up the ceiling," doctor said. "just with your Keep them wide, please."
The doctor's flashlight world. Sal forced not to blink. "So you don't have the intruders, either."
"Tape falls apart, I said."
"Your description's good, but, Sal, come Chinese woman, white guy with red hair, unnamed third guy quote accented unquote voice, doesn't give us lot go on."
"Irish," she said. "The white guy an Irish accent."
"Great, Sal. In New York, sure narrows down."
"Someone must have doctored tapes."
"First responders pulled them. If someone messed with footage, they did it
doctor released her eyelid, she blinked pink bloodwebbed blotches from her vision. "The other eye, And the world was light.
planned this," Sal said. "Whoever It couldn't have been random. were after Perry. hacked into building security."
"Which would make sense—I mean, it'd possible, paranoid—except cameras don't talk the internet. They're not even digital. There's actual, honest-to-god system in the building basement, looks like was installed when was hunting Playboys under my brother's mattress."
"There rat nest on top of the cabinet. had to hunt the attic find VCR. Nobody to that before our did, trust me. And you should find a landlord. That building's a dump."
brother's there. Somewhere. him."
doctor finished with the flashlight and stepped back. "She's good to go. If anything's wrong, can't see it." Sal squeezed both her eyes tight until the pink went away.
doc. you give minute?"
the closed and left them alone, Collins sank the doctor's chair with long as if under such pressure he to let out steam bend. He looked the back of knuckles rather than her.
know none of this makes sense," said.
"And the you say that, the weirder it sounds. Nothing on the cameras. I mean, nothing. No blood."
"What, people think snapped, imagined brother kidnapped, beat myself and broke my damn living room window?"
"You were pretty upset when you left yesterday."
"Of course was upset. We found fingers in an ashtray! freaked but that doesn't mean going nuts."
went your brother's apartment. His roommates say they saw this morning."
"Did you him?" she asked. Collins shook head. "Then they're Or he escaped. Either he's into something big. He help."
"We the boys call when shows up again. For now, the Lieutenant says should take day or two, calm rest."
He shifted his weight on the chair, which creaked. Lieutenant me tell you this, it doesn't have to formal."
"I have to find him."
pushed herself the table and grabbed her jacket from the hook by the door. you won't do someone has to."
"I'll pretend didn't hear that," he said. "Stay trouble, okay?"
laughed, opened the door, and walked fast until she hit street.
Theories were for people with more patience than Sal Brooks, the Brooklyn-bound Q train stopped over Manhattan bridge, so had time to make up few. "I'm crazy," nuclear option, didn't compel. The doctor said she was fine, physically. People snapped all zero sixty seconds, but this of snap didn't line with her experience. she crazy, story would make more sense, or less, or both. She'd people on this very train who her with overwhelming conviction they were the of genetic experimentation by United States government using alien DNA, and they'd built prototype beam take them home, which they'd show her she visited compound in Jersey they shared with their four lovers chosen embody classical Chinese elements. As she'd trust someone who asked Jersey.
far she wasn't ranting about conspiracies screaming obscenities to passersby. Count out, for now, though people probably did that too. you reject the possibility you're anything do, no matter how strange, must sane. Keep going in that direction and you're one step from the creep with the chopped-off index fingers in his ashtray.
They crossed the river.
you're not crazy. Perry didn't come you because of an argument with his roommates; drop by say hello. He afraid. Maybe thought they wouldn't into else's apartment. Or maybe he escape somehow, if he just had time
read that book. Which made no sense.
She rose out subway onto long wide Brooklyn street with three-story brick houses on both sides, blank dark windows, Italian bakery, convenience Newly coffee shops indicated these blocks were hair's breadth from hip. When the neighborhood crossed over, Perry and friends would have move. Providing, course, whatever mudhole they'd stumbled didn't swallow first.
Perry's roommates knew something. they had seen him this morning, they could how he looked, said he going when he left. If not, they had lied to cops, gave her leverage.
that she'd need much with Aiden and Todd. The boys scared easy.
took a quick turn around the block. for ten o'clock the morning, most the locals work somewhere else. November air tossed Sun front page down the sidewalk, and shouldered deeper into her jacket. She walked the apartment, which was the one on the decorated for Halloween. big rain-soaked felt-and-wire spider clung crooked outside Perry's window.
lined the street, mostly foreign make. One pink finned Cadillac belonged in Mary reward brochure museum both. an E-Z Carpet Cleaner van.
Every instinct her screamed, keep walking. Call backup least. Only idiots martyrs themselves into situations they don't understand without cavalry waiting.
True, she didn't know it the same (Hadn't thought to grab the license plate last night.) True, she was already on shaky ground the office, higher-ups convinced was close to cracking. True, the people broken into her seemed have personal feelings about their intrusion. If she remembered conversation she'd overheard correctly, they even they saved her from—something.
If really did want rule any chance she crazy, shouldn't have walked straight the drawn gun, thrown open rear doors, and told two monitor-lit figures inside, "Hands where see them."
Chinese woman then raised her hands the level of her shoulders. "I told should have switched vans."
The pretty redhead backed away the keyboard and swiveled in his chair. "She was cold. How was supposed know—"
"Where the hell is brother?"
"That's interesting philosophical question, really," the guy said. accent. was the concussion talking. Focus..
Chinese shifted forward in chair.
"Don't move," Sal shouted.
"Excuse me, Detective Brooks," a from sidewalk behind man's, deep, and studiously calm. voice from door. Sal back from the van turned include in her of vision. think there's been misunderstanding."
was tall, Hispanic, wore priest’s black and collar. He held tray with three coffees in one hand, the was raised, palm up, between blessing surrender.
“Who are you? What the hell is going here?”
“I’m Father Arturo Menchú,” accent on the second syllable, “and as your other question: can explain, you’ll let me.”
They the sidewalk beside the van. Menchú had wanted talk inside, Sal gave him a what-kind-of-idiot-do-you-take-me-for look, ended that line of conversation fast. Red looked uncomfortable be out the open—he kept shifting from foot to glancing over his shoulder, deep his pockets. The woman just watched, crossed. bandage wrapped the knuckles of right hand, and there of muscle beneath black slimline jacket. Sal liked After confusing day, straightforward hostility refreshing.
“You’re priests,” Sal said, skeptical.
woman laughed, once.
“I’m a priest,” Menchú “Grace, course, is not. Liam’s lay brother.”
“She—“ pointed Grace, “broke my apartment last Why?” She considered adding how, to everything: the broken door, the book, corrupted tape. Decided against it. problem a time.
set the tray of atop the van. “Your brother’s possessed rare manuscript does not belong him. It used to belong the people work for. It stolen years Turns the volume spent the last decades the Metropolitan Museum’s sealed collection. Two weeks ago, someone broke that collection and made off a number of books, including
“You’re saying was part the heist.” remembered Astoria, yesterday: severed fingers an ashtray of blood. male, mid-forties. Shots fired. Hope recovering, Christ, fingerprints. “No way.”
directly. Your brother his friends, one parties looking to the stolen texts.” kept voice calm, maintained eye contact, presented himself to at an angle. was good seeming non-threatening; part of job, Sal guessed. Her drifted Grace, who grinned, baring teeth. “There were others, willing to more. Your brother stole the book from original thief, and left copy its place. We reached out your brother, hoping to resolve issue violence, but ran you. And then from you. The book valuable, only a collector, the people stole from don’t like to lose. We keep safe, he works with us.”
The fingers had wedged into the little gaps the ashtray meant hold cigarettes. Their nails pointed out: sunrays made and bone.
go to the police.”
“We are the police,” Menchú said.
“We’re special consultants to the Police Department this matter. If you’ll permit me.” He reached, slowly, his breast pocket. nodded. From within produced a card, with cell phone number recognized. “This Chief Gallagher’s card. She’ll confirm story. were overzealous night, which offer my apologies. Perry in great danger.”
And there was, beneath the professional polish, professional assurance Sal heard too many times from priests lawyers—Menchú cared.
“I’m sorry,” continued. know this has been shock. I know you’re worried your brother. So We find him.”
“One said, “off the in city this. Paying with cash. No problem. else you’d like me to while it? Elvis? Amelia Earhart?”
Father Menchú ignored him. possible his friends know something. But they’re scared. They talk to anyone they don’t know..”
“We’re time,” Grace said. “We should just knock the door.”
Liam nodded. “Great idea. Worked well last night.”
There were thousand procedural reasons Sal should leave. But Perry in danger, and people had the Commissioner’s blessing, she could help without breaking orders. Technically. can help.”
“No,” said. sorry. We can’t involve
“I’m involved already. is my brother we’re about. Every second counts. If you go in there, you’ll learn less the did this morning.”
“We know what we’re doing.”
Menchú’s eyes deep,
Liam cleared his throat. “Let Father. We’re shorthanded anyway.”
priest sighed. “Very well.”
“One question,” break the silence as much anything else. “You you’re consultants. Where from?”
The old man raised finger his collar. “Isn’t it obvious?”
barely visible against the cosmetic tape. When she it against skin didn't feel the slightest chill of metal.
"This is good gear."
"My specialty. And this one." Liam offered a thin silver cross on a chain.
"What's this for?"
"Stuff," he said. "Just put it okay?"
"I don't believe in God."
believes you." laughed as if he'd made joke. "Think of it as temporary deputization."
Grace checked her watch. "We could have inside twenty minutes ago."
"Talk normally," said. "And we'll hear. there's trouble, the
"More like mood ring, in reverse. If you something strange, touching it with the cross. are," wiggled fingers, "circuits and stuff."
"O ye little faith."
"Thanks," said, and left the van.
skull knocker stared out Sal the boys' front door, half-inch left of center. Drill covered with duct tape pocked the door to knocker's either side—they'd tried to screw the knocker in three times without measuring the door's actual midpoint, and after the third attempt agreed celebrate their success.
The mailman had given on overstuffed mailbox, contents congealed rain into sodden block of wood pulp and ink. of junk mail formed newsprint marsh the front step, sporting impressive array greenish molds.
Sal stared into the skull's chip eyes, squeezed own closed, opened them again, and reached for the hinged jaw.
Before could touch it, the jerked open to reveal Aiden, tall and gangly, wearing pajama bottoms and unwashed flannel. He stopped the with his foot, he was too skinny to quite fill the small gap. "Sal, this is really bad time."
She shoved door. He stumbled back, upsetting pile mud-caked boots, and pushed through into the narrow musty The door slammed behind "Where's Perry? What the hell have you gotten him into?"
"Perry's Sal. Come on. This like, illegal search or whatever. I know my rights."
"I give about the you in your desk, Aiden. Perry's in trouble. True or false?"
"Perry's, um..." Aiden spread arms span the hall block her path, between a rack never-washed coats and cross-stitch Perry'd made Darth Vader's mask. "Perry's fine. We're fine. had, you know, small disagreement night, but we've taken of everything. Maybe we could go coffee, and talk about it?"
"Let's here. Unless there's something trying to hide."
"Hide? No, of course not. What would we try hide from you?"
jerked forward as if to duck under his arm; when he braced grab she jagged right and fell into coats while she swept past the living room, a sea pizza boxes and cables. A rust-dotted ren faire sword hung the wall. Something bubbled beaker on a Bunsen burner atop a clawfoot table she'd rescued them street-side recycling. Stairs rose from the mess to the second floor, where boys slept when they slept at Todd, black, older than Perry though he act sat the couch flanked by monitors, with a heavy leather-bound open in a stand on the table. looked from the page, blinked at through goggles. Aiden's coat-muffled cursing the hall with music from upstairs, or something like music: stream of bleeps and blips she remembered from sitting cross-legged the carpet, eight years old, playing Nintendo.
"Sally! Great to see you. Didn't expect to by. didn't anything." Prescription goggles distorted Todd's eyes. They huge, half-human. this is really time."
"Aiden said. The bad wouldn't happen to anything to my brother's disappearance, it? Or the Museum theft?"
He go the book, fast. blue latex gloves left trace of powder the brown leather, which embossed with a vine-knot pattern. Or those vines, after all? "I really don't know what you're talking about, Sal. we the cops, Perry came by morning. He fine. He scared, but that's it." He swallowed hard. "Theft, You think Perry was up in something—"
"I haven't book around here before, Todd."
"Look." He raised hands, fingers spread. "Perry's the gets the books. We analyze, translate. Upload. It's all above-board, far know. Perry maybe got himself deep with wrong people, but don't know who why."
"You read them."
"That's it," said.
came back a warrant, what would I find?"
"You want to that, Sal. mean, really."
"I want to know where my brother is."
"He doesn't to see
"He came to my house last night, terrified. Nothing's changed between now and then."
Behind her, in the hall, Aiden recovered.
Sweat ran down Todd's temple to his cheek. "Maybe can talk this over somewhere outside?" His eyes jerked up left.
She turned. Three bedroom doors upstairs, one Aiden, for Todd, one for Perry. Perry's, one Japanese cartoon scroll, was slightly "That sounds like good idea," she said, then ran the stairs burst through the into Perry's room.
Monitors illuminated the unmade bed, the bare bookshelves, the piled clothing. There should have sunlight, the Halloween-store hung outside Perry's window blocked out the sun.
And Perry himself sat ripped jeans and bloodstained t-shirt, curled like shrimp over keyboard, unblinking eyes inches from his central monitor. Barefoot. tousled. One-day growth beard. Jaw muscles snaked, relaxed, snaked he rocked his chair, typing.
Detective Brooks, might someday, did you know person sitting the chair was not your brother?
she'd her mouth before courtroom but no words would come An would stare her. The Judge would drum her fingers. lawyer would lean forward. Any time, Detective Brooks.
The were Perry's, the ditto.
But still when she said "Perry?" the second time, her voice was uncertain.
He typing, uncurled himself vertebra by vertebra from the keyboard, her. His focused the wall behind smiled woodenly. "Sal. Sister. sorry you to come here."
"Perry." She'd imagined hugging him when saw again, imagined hitting too. Neither seemed possible now. "Perry, you're here." As if saying that would make true.
"I you should go, now, Sal." What reasonable suggestion. Aiden to here. They want help. You could walk away now. In fact, you should. have work to finish, if don't mind."
She didn't. her not-minding strange. Wasn't it? "Perry, happened last night?"
"Nothing," he said. was pushed, see. The Bookburners me, took help where could find I'm perfectly fine. than I've been long long while. You're a… police officer," he said, as if he'd just looked the fact up in large and fine-print table. His words didn't match the movements mouth. focused the fear—and why fear? was her brother.
But he wasn't, right now.
mouth not moving time his words, because the words he were not English, though that was the language she heard. "It feel like this when solve case. When the whole world sense at once. I've been working a puzzle for long time, and needed the push."
reached for her.
There seemed to great deal of space between them all of sudden, but arm longer to bridge the gap. A of pressed against skin above heart, cold burned. As the hand approached no longer looked like hand all, like hand flesh anyway. corrugated twisted into fingers around paper woven plastic bones. Black oil dripped from ragged joints. The arm was a length of rebar with trashbags shredded cloth. Bottleglass eyes reflected monitors' blue glow. Thin lips parted to reveal teeth, wet with oil.
But some impulse still insisted this was Perry, her brother, there reason pull back from him, there was reason to run, she should let this thing touch that oil metal skin not in fact a whisper, voice that might help her if it only got inside—
The cold fire against real. Her skin seared, froze, cracked. She followed the pain her and retreated, unsteady, her legs belonged someone else. She staggered out reach, against the doorjamb, into the hall. The arm stretched toward impossibly long.
She slammed the bedroom door shut on thing's hand.
The Perry-thing seem to It kicked open the door. Mangled fingers clicked back into place. smile split as widened. It need face any more. Just teeth.
the bedroom she heard window shatter.
Bottleglass eyes widened. black blur knocked the thing was her brother into the wall. Sal blinked, and blur resolved into Grace. Slivers window glinted from insteps her boots. She raised of Perry's monitors overhead, and slammed it into the fallen creature's
Sally thought—help. Her hand went shoulder holster, but Grace and creature were close, moving too fast. It threw Grace back, wriggled to its feet without concern any principles of anatomy, and ran her. Grace jumped back bed, out of reach, dodged tin claw, jumped creature before could recover, toppled it to the ground, struck it in face four times her forehead. A ceramic plate broke—she clawed something inside that Sal
"Take it easy! That's brother!"
"It's not," Grace said. "It never was." creature her into the desk. roared, dodged left; creature's burst through of remaining monitors. She grabbed the broken flat-panel from floor and arm, which funny.
"Grace, get back! Give a
"I have this. worry about the guys downstairs."
She went. Behind her more screaming, more broken glass. Downstairs, sat front book. blue-gloved hands stroked its cover. looked up her.
"Todd, Jesus Christ, there's something up there."
his goggle-swollen eyes were black from pupil to edge. turned of his book.
The sword the was missing.
in the hall beside her. ducked back into staircase. sword rang off wall beside her—no on that blade, which made it marginally dangerous, a four-foot-long steel would still break bones just The sword tore deep gouge in wallpaper drywall, and fell from Aiden's Before he could recover, Sal kicked the back his hit him few times the face, and fell.
Todd still sat of his book, watched her, still turned pages.
Perry last night, with his open book, staring at her if from bottom well.
struck front door, the latch groaned. A swore—Liam's voice—and Aiden's body began move, more like marionette a person, structure manipulated contracting individual muscles.
"Todd, close the book."
reached cover, thought better of touching the leather with her bare hands, and with the sword instead. When tip touched leather, electric seized The apartment around her like fist, and again the cold flared against breastbone. opened eyes—she'd fallen back stairs, Aiden crawling toward her. She him in the face, and pushed herself upright. Unclenched her hand from the sword.
Crashing sounds from upstairs—a cry of pain, frustrated roar.
trouble. ring in reverse.
Dammit. None made sense. But, connections: the had burned her free of the Perry-thing's influence. It hurt her, and she followed that pain back own mind. it could protect her from the
She top button. cross lay against her breastbone, if stuck by magnets. pried free; left a red on skin. Think about that later. Think about all this later. Just do. The closer she brought cross to book, heavier Her shook. What the hell were all those hours good if not for this?
She hooked the book's cover with cross, swung
Sometimes in the winter, twenty minutes’ down against vicious wind, she’d take shelter a stop and her body expand without anything to fight against. felt that now. Silence unfurled. The closed vibrated like plucked string. The cross in her hand had its silver sheen—tarnish covered save where her fingers had
Aiden still, breathing heavy. Todd collapsed, trembling, the
She shook by shoulders. Pinched him. Struck across the face, lightly. Tried the cross. The tarnished bit yielded When she touched the part that was still shiny his cheek, she heard hiss. eyes snapped open, he screamed higher than she’d thought him capable.
“Todd. Dammit, Todd, you okay?”
“Sally,” “Sally. Sorry. Sally.”
“What hell’s on? Where’s Perry? What was that thing?”
“Came this morning. Got into heads. Left dummy in his the pages talked us. Told us do.”
“It’s done. closed the book.”
got inside.” He touched his chest. “Still Whispers.”
“Where’s Perry? The Perry?”
“Storage.” coughed. “Took the books, told to stay here, distract people. He’s—“
tendrils wormed across Todd’s eyes, through and toward pupil. Cords of muscle stood his throat.
“Shit.” She tried cross again, but didn’t react. in tarnish. She looked around, unsure. Maybe something could help. the house was mess, except for chemistry bench, and the burner, which longer burning, and she and smelled—
door burst open. She already halfway the pulling Todd the collar his shirt. Dude weighed like a billion pounds, mention Aiden, was at least out too cold fight. Her back hurt hell, and legs were rubber, were jelly, were really fucking tired. Liam stood the door, blinking an idiot. she shouted, and him wince—earpiece, linked to mic. “Help
He ran up the grabbed Aiden, and pulled him after. left wet trail through pulped newspapers and leaves. looked back, and saw slip out Perry’s bedroom to the fire escape. made it to the neighboring building before spark came, and then hammer air struck Sal in the chest and fell.
Fire painted face orange and wailed, too close for comfort. Grace dropped from escape sidewalk. Sal stood; Aiden and Todd sprawled, unconscious and breathing, her feet. have get of here,” Liam said.
Understatement the millennium, candidate number But.
the hell was was shouting, she didn’t care.
“Any that? single piece of anything that just happened makes sense.”
“Unless you be an accessory to arson,” Grace said, “can about this later? The department will take care these
“Why am an accessory anything? went try help my brother and friends. Now their house is fire, they’re don’t even know what—“
“Unconscious,” Liam supplied.
“That too.” The sirens were close, now. man a bathrobe up the street, staring. crowd gathered in front a coffee shop watch smoke. “Look, can have this conversation anywhere else?”
“I’m not leaving without answer.”
stuffed hands his pockets. don’t—there’s no—it’s fucking complicated, okay?”
“Then un-complicate it!”
An cuff closed around Sal’s arm, only wasn’t a cuff all, Grace’s There was blood on the woman’s face, but no open wounds Sal cuts which, dammit, could be scabbing over already. Grace’s eyes pinned the pavement. were stars around which the world wheeled.
“Magic,” Grace said.
“Grace,” Liam said, “she’s civilian. mean, are really sure should be about—“
“You want waste keeping her the loop, waste your own.” Grace turned from Sal. deal with Okay?”
“Okay,” she “Magic. Christ.”
“We tell you more. here.”
stopped van near Prospect Park. "What it? Is dead? did it with him?"
"Homunculus," Father Menchú said. sat upended milk crate in the back of the van, working his keychain like rosary. "He's not dead, and the homunculus didn't do anything with him—Perry was driving from distance."
"They're not so bad once you get to know them," Liam said. was running property records search, paying half attention, as this whole situation normal, made even angrier. no, scratch that. They're Just understandable kind bad. You get used to it."
"You this the time."
wouldn't go so far as say He swore at the monitor.
Menchú offered coffee. "Grace didn't drink hers."
glared at over the cup, and he withdrew it. "Tell me everything."
"Get out of here," Grace said. "You've done enough."
"You tell me magic's real, then you want to kick out?"
"You were frozen that sidewalk. Bad place talk. can leave now. I would."
you didn't," Sal said, "obviously."
Grace's eyes were as broken glass.
Sal fast to cover her discomfort. "Perry was controlling that thing. Whatever spoke to it my brother. You lied before. I want answers."
didn't Menchú said. "Not as such."
"You said my brother in trouble because stole book. You didn't mention magic, or homunculuses whatever."
said your brother possessed of a stolen book."
"This easy for anyone to the first time, and it only gets harder. The three us are…" Menchú searching for the right word.
"Okay," Sal said. "Now I’m confused."
"The three of us are part of a Society responsible stocking tending Vatican's Black Archive."
Sal frowned. saw a Discovery Channel thing about that. Forbidden books. Heresies.”
“That’s what people know,” Menchú said.
Grace stood, squeezed past the priest into van’s passenger seat, pulled dog-eared copy of Pride Prejudice the glove compartment, kicked her feet up the dash, started reading the middle.
“The world’s bigger any us know,” Menchú said. “Imagine live an island in an ocean full monsters. Most of the we’re from the monsters. But sometimes tide rises. Sometimes the monsters cause big Sometimes people dig channels that out into the deep ocean, hungry things come in. Sometimes to; more often it’s an accident. These channels take form of—artifacts. Books, often. Anything that connects one mind another. For the last couple thousand years, artifacts in Europe and the Americas have wound the Vatican’s Black Archive. book brother brought to your apartment the Liber Manum, the the Hand, which we assume is the name for monster the book contains, charismatic world-eater type with taste for human It surfaced for the first in the nineteenth century, in London, shipped for America the Titanic, and arrived the care of half-drowned baronet. Before it could serious damage the States, local officials killed its bearer and locked the volume away. But the book’s quiet for generations, and warnings became department gossip. Precautions slipped. the Manum’s existence reached the internet, and your brother found them.”
“So Perry’s, what, he’s been taken over by monster?”
Grace, the passenger seat, turned a page loudly. “He opened the book,” she called back. “The jumped into his mind.”
Liam clicked mouse, swore, clicked again.
“Demons,” Sal said. “You’re talking about demons.”
“It’s clear what they theologically speaking,” Menchú “Some present themselves fallen angels, but they lying. Some don’t with us. can’t. “
“Demons,” Grace and turned the page.
“How did Perry even this book?”
“There communities,” Menchú said—
“—communities, loose associations of amateur scholars and technical that believe information wants be free. Your brother and friends belong to one. He and friends, and their know enough of the I’ve just outlined to believe metaphor literal. They’re mostly harmless, but your brother found book real power. stole the merchandise from the initial thieves, who then turned one another.”
Fingers in ashtray. Sal shuddered.
“He brought the book home. friends kicked him out. he your apartment. When we followed there, book him escape. He opened it. Ordinarily ah, demon’s control over your brother would have been limited its first hours. We underestimated the of study. had necessary languages, right frame of mind, and no tools to resist possession. The Hand jumped into him. must have left the homunculus at his apartment keep watch, to retrieve needed materials and information. He controlled it through the in townhouse.”
“Was the, whatsit, Liber Manum? Did close
“Hardly,” said. was a chump text.”
poor copy,” Menchú explained. “The Hand recorded piece its name there, and projected its power through the name. That book will have burned up the fire—unlike true work, an imperfect copy has properties beyond its content. him, we find Liber Manum.”
“Which is turning out terrifically easy, for the record,” said. “Perry’s cell phone’s dead. property records on file. Traffic cameras follow him from the nine morning, but lose him a tunnel.”
“And now the demon riding your brother’s mind, somewhere in New York. It will cement its control, once that’s done, will gather acolytes.”
“Cement,” said. “So you can still him.”
“If lucky, can close book without hurting him. off demon’s control. Though it’s been inside his head for long time.”
“And you’re not lucky?”
Menchú’s pressed together. returned the van to They like bells. “When close book, he might be too far gone to come back. brother’s friends, in the house—they were, let’s wading in surf. swimming rip tide.”
“You don’t what things do when they out of hand.”
“How bad it be? I’ve never seen a demon attack on the news.”
“People disappear all the time. All over the world.”
“Murder. Accident. Shit happens.”
“And sometimes the world swallows people, those left behind forget. corner an island falls into How can tell it was ever there? Not bones remain. If how look, can the cracks where land be. Lost legions. Lost cities. Have you ever heard of town of Colebridge, New York?”
“That’s impossible. A whole can’t just disappear.”
“Information decays fast. lasts, but people good at disbelieving evidence. Those don’t know to feel around the edges of a gap might never notice gaps at all. The mind closes cover the largest wound. When was last time you about place where were born?”
“You’re saying might eat New York.”
“The time we spend here, the longer the demon your brother to shore his control. you know how you could save lives. Including his.”
“If know anything, tell you, you’ll in there, guns out, him.”
“We want close that book. want to save these people.”
“Go to the he’s dangerous.”
“What you tell them? could you explain the situation so they would intervene knowing what they faced?”
“Knows us. calls your people out of their depth.”
“We could show them evidence.”
“Perry’s townhouse is burning we speak. The homunculus will a melted hunk of garbage in minutes. Magic leaves traces forensics.”
“You guys can’t be It’s just three of you rented
“Hey,” Liam said. like this van.”
“This a job for the government. The Black. Some, like, don’t know, some secret librarian society. CIA.”
“The problem,” Menchú said, “is older than your government. solutions are older,
leaned back his chair and looked her upside down.
“Besides, if you think low-budget, imagine team a library would field.”
“This what we do. These are calls make.”
“Not today,” if go after myself.”
Before Menchú could respond, she burst the into cold morning, ran through the hedge into park.
Morning rain soaked through her sneakers the ankles her jeans. smelled ripe mulch pulping leaves. branches clawed sky. Hands forced deep in pockets, head down, she marched through park. Once she was the other side she could hail a cab south, reach Perry’s storage unit before and team. If they were telling truth.
course they or thought were. She’d seen that garbage thing wearing her brother’s face—or had she seen after all?
The mind closes cover wound.
she kept walking, would forget her brother? was this just the usual serving of post-traumatic stress, as memory chopped weird meat chewable chunks? There had been a lot weird house.
Either way, had to to Newark, fast.
“Sal,” repeated, closer, desperate.
Keep walking, she herself. never been good at to herself, especially she made sense.
arms out, palms down, his wide. He looked paler than usual.
“You to tell me trust him,” said. “That guys know what you’re doing. You’re talking about brother’s life.”
it feels,” he said. “I’ve there.”
She a good sentences of tirade left, but that stopped her.
“I walked road. was punk. knew was there. looked. what I found, Sal, it got inside my head.” took a step her. retreat. shifted against a backdrop of clouds. “I lost years baby version of the that’s your brother now. minute February thousand eleven, I’ve just a three-year-old library management system exploit to get a sealed manuscript vaults at Trinity, and then it’s October two thousand thirteen, I’ve missed the World Cup, and Grace and Father wake a warehouse basement Prague. There’s blood all walls, have wires coming out of arms.” He pushed up sleeve of windbreaker and the flannel beneath. scars his corded muscle and textured his tattoos. don’t know what was for those two years. Nobody But and Father found me, and brought me back.”
reached for forearm, for the scars. pushed his back before she could touch him.
care. know what we’re doing. And your brother in danger. you know where is—dealing with yourself crazy. Give us information. We’ll help him. I’ll him. me, it’s to tackle this world alone.”
His eyes were and very bright.
“He’s brother,” she said. “I’ll save him. You can come along, if want. But he’s
can work with that.”
“Let’s go, then. drive ahead us.”
“Perry his friends needed cheap storage. They go through a of equipment, buy books by the foot estate sales, on eBay. didn’t know why,” Sal said, “until now.”
“You never wondered why your kid brother was laying in lifetime supply of dead men’s books?”
“He’s done weird shit like this my life. Before this it was five years of collecting old gears and selling them at steampunk conventions, which was, you know, also weird way use his history degree. I life he has Or I guess.” She counted rounds she had left, checked that her weapon hadn’t been damaged in fight in the house. Didn’t plan to fire it at the shed, then, she never went planning fire. you did, you’d have to.
“See, Grace? We never would have found without her help.”
Grace shrugged, and turned page.
Menchú passed her a manila envelope containing another silver cross.
“I have one of those already.”
“The tarnish makes it less effective. it out. Drop the used one the envelope.”
She pulled the chain over her head. It felt heavier than when she’d put it on. “It’s cross that matters?”
cross guides us in faith,” Menchú said.
“But the silver’s the pertinent bit,” Liam added. “Worked silver, to precise, the older the better. It soaks up magic, which is where the tarnish comes from. We’re still working on the Stings like well, stings, but that’s better than letting some bastard root in your skull. the Church has lot silver crosses lying around, turns out. Seal the envelope when you’re
The glue tasted of wood and horse hooves. “Any that coffee left?” It was cold, never had been any good, but at least it tasted like The new cross hurt touched seared skin on her chest, but it felt lighter than the old
“Thank for coming with us,” Menchú said. “Grace speaks highly your courage.”
“Does she? Thanks.”
Grace didn’t look her “Just don’t get us all killed.”
“Not plan,” Sal said. the next exit.”
The storage locker complex sprawled asphalt acres, and sill they drove past the first try. “He’s turning away,” Menchú said.
“At least know he’s here.” pulled U-turn.
Sal’s cross burned. She saw, with her mind’s eye as much with physical ones, the We-Stor-It remembered driving Perry here first time, before he boys their beater Olds. not to feeling around the edges don’t notice gaps all. “Now. Left.” Liam yanked the wheel, they slid down a driveway an empty storage parking lot.
parked at the of row vacant spaces, and they hit pavement. Easier say what wasn’t different about this space than what was. character of light changed. The colors weren’t dimmer more There wasn’t much noise of sort their footsteps, but could hear trucks roll down highway in the middle distance. was there of that spatial oddness she remembered the boys’ house. The storage units long rows, all right and closed garage doors.
It just felt… less, somehow. She’d heard cats and dogs freaked out before earthquakes and tidal waves, before sinkholes opened swallow houses beneath them. when ground was about to wrong. Maybe people had the same sense, less keen—maybe only felt this way when the collapse was deeper, more fundamental. The world, Menchú was an island eaten by an ocean from beneath.
Maybe was wrong.
didn’t feel that way.
This bigger her, felt, standing the EZ Carpet Cleaner van in the storage parking lot three people she barely knew. was bigger any but it was damn sure bigger Detective Sally Brooks. Something that could the world like this, she couldn’t fight it, couldn’t arrest Liam, Grace, Menchú, they all seemed have some kind of on—magic. Call it by name. She’d brought them here. She could stay the van, them the locker number, them take it from here. Stay safe.
They looked her, uncertain. Menchú especially: “Detective Brooks. want wait—“
“Can’t you she said.
shook his head.
“Perry, whatever’s inside him. It’s strutting. Putting a Trying to scare us off. in particular.”
“The Hand is dangerous,” he said. will eat if we give it a chance.”
“Yeah. now, more than anything, wants to leave.” bared her teeth. “Third row, fifth the Let’s
Menchú, on the approach, didn’t share optimism. “Its on your brother lasts as long the open. it—“
“With the cross. know.”
“Or anything else silver. Don’t the cross it’s tarnished, don’t touch the book with your bare hand. I’ll try first. Grace Liam will with guards.”
“It’s been awake in our world for less day. think it has goons?”
“It have turned people, the boys townhouse. There must have others here when arrived.”
She back at and Liam. Grace’s novel had vanished into pocket; Liam pulled fingerless glove his left hand, and snapped at his wrist. Grace rolled her eyes the sound, at the glove, at Liam in general.
“Cross,” she said. “Don’t touch the book. Anything else?”
“It may tempt you, you get closer, bargains. Don’t trust them.”
figured. I mean, a demon.”
Perry’s storage locker was rolled down, its locked. She set a hand door, and glanced back for ideas.
struck the padlock with a cinderblock, hard, and it broke. She
Liam closed the snap his second glove.
Then someone tackled him from right.
fell hard. “Shit!” A large lay of him, meaty fingers pushing his throat. Sal could react was there—grabbed the man’s We-Stor-It uniform polo threw him back a twist of her hips. The uniformed puppet pushed himself upright—eyes and black edge edge—a foot taller easy. She kicked him in knee, punched him the solar plexus, struck him in temple an elbow, he went down. tears left lines down cheeks.
“Shit,” Sal a different of voice Liam
Other figures emerged from the alleys between the storage—men and women uniform, family three, daughter pigtails. should have seen them approaching. course, should have seen the driveway before was time turn. Grace in place, trying in all directions at pushed himself to his feet.
Menchú turned to her. “Still it’s scared?”
could have answered. Instead, opened the door.
Candlelight flickered behind layers of Victorian furniture and chemical glassware, disused futons and piles of books—leather bindings and journals and diaries and dime store lesbian detective novels. there, at the end a narrow through junky cast-off dreams of mystic grandeur, behind a semicircle of open books, stood Perry.
Well. Not stood. Floated.
“Sal,” he said, thing inside him said, and smiled, and his teeth points and there was tongue the pit his mouth. “An unexpected pleasure.”
She should waited for Menchú. done this before. this her brother. So she ran into the gap.
Which turned out be for the best, because when puppet from gap in boxes, Menchú was there to pull it (her, she corrected herself, things could up, probably) off her back. course, the puppet then grabbed chair and struck the head, but seemed more staggered than hurt.
marched toward her brother. “I bet,” said. “That’s why tried to keep away. Perry, if you’re still there, I’m trying to help you.”
That smile didn’t waver. books’ pages turned of their accord. raised one hand and she it to walk. shadowy headwind blasted her. soles her shoes black streaks the concrete floor. “What did they you, Sal? That this wasn’t me? that the lie they
“My brother wouldn’t do this.”
“Are you sure? your brother had the power have now—“
“We?” she said.
“Oh, fine. my fun. How you tell the difference, anyway?”
“My brother has tongue.”
make tongue, if you’d rather.” Fire licked his teeth.
“This is brother’s body, and have his here—who’s to say not just with the power he always wanted? rifle through his memories, every thought, desire, terror suppressed impulse. Delicious and nutritious. Would you like know how times wanted to you? many he hated you?” turned ten pages the leftmost book forward, then flipped three pages back, unpracticed chef working an unfamiliar recipe.
She forced herself forward, step by step. cross froze and tore skin. Burn flashed through her charcoaled flesh and white bone showing. “He didn’t do any Those thoughts matter.”
“But do! You feared an world, so became cop. That’s what thinks. feared being powerless, he sought power, which led him to me. That’s your lovely little weakness, humans—you’re blissfully succeptable destiny.”
The shadow-wind reached gale force. Somewhere behind Grace Liam and Father Menchú fought their lives, for her, Perry.
“What do want with
“What does anyone want?” Perry said. future. Futures taste grand. you people have built so of them yourselves, like horrible ice flavors. hundred years back looked like more the same forever, until maybe some god scooped his favorites off to play cut-rate Heaven. Bland. Tasteless. But now—stars capes and apocalypses, gray goo futuristic despotism, oil crisis pandemic collapse, floods and robots monsters, oh my! potential universes of fear. Your brother’s them by the billions inside could Suffer through few million hells me and I’ll a paradise the other guy can match.”
“Perry,” she said. close but with step the wind twice strong. And she whispers, too, whispers that were colors, voices like claws belly. The cross wormed into her, the cross pierced her, cross wriggled in her heart. “Perry, wake up. This thing needs afraid. to me. It’s your sister, it’s Sal, outside fucking door and I you you better open up now so me God—“
Perry’s eyes The ones, brown that matched them. John Cusak One point Seven. Real tears down cheeks. Then he crumpled, clutching face. The that wasn’t screamed words she couldn’t hear. shadow-wind stopped. She knelt before the books, before Book, Liber with red clouds seething on its cover. Seconds, maybe, no pulled the cross from around her She’d lifted bodies that weighed less. Her trembled.
The was black. smooth tarnish every surface, even the chain. She scraped frantically with her fingernail but couldn’t mar matte.
silver around. Nothing silver. paperbacks, that all.
Perry was recovering. No. She recognized that body language—the straighter shoulders, the deeper breathing, that was Hand reasserting control.
Behind her, Menchú fell.
Choices. took the time learn her brother. If it jumped into Menchú Grace and Liam—and, hells, Perry—would few critical to close book. And if jumped into her, it let Perry go.
Perry wanted to kill the said. Well, fine. She’d wanted kill too.
What else were siblings for?
The Hand-in-Perry straightened, and smiled its sharp-toothed smile tongue flame She tackled the Liber Manum, slammed it shut, and flung it from her, like poisonous snake she’d caught by
sinkhole feeling, the brink catastrophe, the incipient collapse—stopped.
The world blinked.
was still Sal. so shocked she almost didn’t notice when Perry began to fall.
She caught him before hit floor. “Perry. on, wake up.”
No answer. He breathed deep, his teeth were back to normal, and there a tongue his mouth again, were She slapped him. No answer. Shook him. “Perry!” Nothing.
She was kneeling over him Menchú set hand her shoulder. looked blurred. She blinked, grew edges.
“It’s okay,” “We won.”
bearskin-kilted Wotanite down the modern Xenuphile fuss incessantly over architecture. Rooms shape feelings within. Parallax crushes impressions of size: high ceilings and pointed arches more heaven than the sky itself. Close chambers fit cozy emotions, or stifling ones. dense nest will accommodate sweaty and a mushroom-assisted voyage to the outer spheres. But don’t whisper to your lover a cathedral. Don’t look for in closet.
hope to feel any but forlorn hospital
stood by Perry’s and listened heartbeat beeps through a cruddy speaker.
“This is the first time I’ve seen in anything but t-shirt,” she said. “The first since we were kids.”
sorry,” Menchú said from the door.
She turned from bedside. hadn’t when heard him approach. Only knew was him from reflections footfalls. “He could wake up any day.”
“Or the might have dragged him along with it. Back there. the ocean.”
“We open the book.”
“And Hand would come out again. Now we have the Liber Manum custody, can keep it closed. Keep the world safe. That storage locker was a trove—Perry and friends collected several copies dangerous texts. We have those, now. And world’s safe the moment. That’s what winning like.”
can’t fight these things at all?”
“We can keep them Menchú said. “But are more all the time. this year than last. More century than the before.”
all of that bad?”
“Not all that… hungry. found pair of wings that would fly if you put on. well that answers questions.”
“Have found one that brings back souls?”
“Not yet,” he said. “Before you ask—“
don’t what I’m say, yet.”
looked at her over rims of his glasses.
“Fine,” said. “Go ahead.”
gets worse. You wanted to your brother safe. Look what happened.”
“I’ll save him. These sea monsters yours—I want to learn their names. And you need Liam has the down, and Grace fight, you know the secrets. none of are cops.”
“You wouldn’t be, either,” said. “I’ve seen men women up like Perry. have friends the world forgot, if they were never born. was your age thought I could get the bottom all this. But there’s bottom. just keeps going down.”
He laughed. have no idea what you’re saying.”
held out his hand, and she took
“Welcome the team.”
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There are age-old books, texts literally steeped in evil, the merest opening of which could spell humanity’s doom.
All but forgotten throughout the world, these tomes have lain dormant... waiting...
Meet hardnosed New York City cop, Sally Brooks, and Team Three of the Societas Libris Occultatem, an ancient clandestine order within the Vatican so secret that its existence is unbeknownst to most of its own people. Their mission: spanning the world to hunt down and sequester dangerous literary relics before it’s too late. They are the Bookburners.
Margaret Dunlap, Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Brian Francis Slattery.