Father Menchú paced the ill-lit shadows of Team Three’s hideout.
Sal watched him. The strain of the last few days was showing: Menchú had never expected to shelter here from his own. Yes, no one in Team Three ever, exactly, disclosed the hideout’s existence to the Vatican, but that had been more tradition than treason. Menchú maintained the bolt-hole, but Sal doubted he ever planned to use it.
“We don’t have time for this,” Menchú said.
“Make time,” Asanti shot back, as she chalked a silver circle on the stone floor. “The rest of us are working as fast as we can.”
“Team One is waiting upstairs. The Vatican wants us to give ourselves up. We have to run. Back through the tunnels, maybe—there must be some other exit between here and Rome.”
“They’ll follow us,” Asanti said. “Even if we make it out of the country, where would we hide? And we have the evidence we need: Liam’s pulling the Cardinal's confession off the bug, and processing the Team Two database—”
“—but it’ll take a while,” Liam said from his workbench. “Devilish little bastard, no mistake. At least I've stopped it transmitting. Give me—” Sparks fountained when he placed a lead. “Fuck!”
Asanti continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Sal won’t last long. We need her to testify, but the Hand’s regaining power. If we don’t banish it first, we might as well give her back to the exorcists.”
Sal crouched beside the circle. When she brushed the silver chalk, her fingers tingled, and a coiled thing in her chest shifted in uneasy sleep. The demon inside her did not like silver. She’d worked with Team Three for months, and the whole time she thought she’d felt irritated by the touch of silver because the metal was protecting her from evil. If she’d realized earlier that the silver was trying to protect her from herself, she would have spared them all a lot of trouble. “What’s the play?”
“You lie down in the circle with the book,” Asanti said. “We light the candles. Liam starts the pendulum. I chant. The words and cadence set up a harmonic resonance in your mind. That builds—if our world’s on a beach, and magic’s the ocean, we’re digging down until we reach water. The pendulum keeps time. When it stops, the ritual’s over. Ordinarily we could never do this with so few people, since the pendulum would stop before we got anywhere but—” She adjusted a coil of wire on the table. “Magnets really are useful, you know.”
Sal drew back from the circle. “That works? We can just . . . cheat?”
“We have no idea what we can do,” the Archivist replied. “Or what we can’t. If we had ever studied this formally, I’d know. But for the moment I have to rely on inside information.” She nodded toward the shadows beyond the circle of lamplight, to a figure Sal wished she did not have to see.
Aaron did not quite fit in her brother’s body. Sal did not know what she expected an angel (Spirit? Monster?) to look like, occupying a comatose man’s flesh, but Aaron still got it wrong. Not in any obvious way—her brother’s eyes did not glow, there were no wings over his shoulders—but she knew Perry and this was not him. She watched her brother’s hands chalk diagrams on the chamber floor, but they didn’t move in the jagged motions she remembered. She’d made the deal, she’d let Aaron into Perry’s body, but she didn’t have to like it. “We get through,” Aaron said with a voice that was not Perry’s, but sounded so close, a voice lightly shaded with Sal’s brother, “and then we close the book.”
“It’s closed already.”
“That’s what we thought.” Asanti paged forward in her notes. “When we met the Hand in New York, Sal closed its book, which should have cut off its influence on Earth. Yet it remained. Sal saw Perry’s soul imprisoned when she visited the demon world. Perry’s a sort of spiritual doorstop—the bond between his soul and his body holds the Book of the Hand open.”
“So we free my brother,” Sal said, “and suck the Hand back into the demon world. Free me before Team One bursts in.”
Father Menchú’s frown deepened. “Since Sal joined us, we’ve used magic three times, and each time we’ve failed, or something horrible has happened. We can’t risk that. We have to run.”
Asanti waved him off, and turned a page. “Rhodes was under pressure, and that turned out well enough.”
“Only because the Hand wanted the Codex Umbra as much as we did.”
“What about the Oracle, then?”
“It tried to kill Sal.”
“Because she had a demon inside her.”
“She still does!”
“Father,” Sal said. Menchú stopped pacing. The words Sal wanted to say were too hot to hold in her mouth. “The Hand won’t go back to the Vatican without a fight. That gives you two options.”
Liam reached for her, but she pulled away. If she stopped now, there’d be no starting again.
She took a knife from Asanti’s bag and held it toward Menchú, hilt first. “You kill me now, and maybe the demon goes with me. If we’re lucky. Or you buy me enough time to go through that portal and bring my...