The Initiate – Snippet 29
“I will. When can we start?”
Lucas smiled ruefully. “Now I know what being a parent is like. You are far too inexperienced to cope with calling up an anzu on your own. We shall have to negotiate with it. Bring me something you know it touched, and we will let that lead us to it. Can you wait until the equinox?”
“I guess I have to.”
“That’s the spirit. Bring something the anzu touched, and on the night of September twenty-second we shall enter the Otherworld together.”
The meeting with Lucas meant Sam was running late as he recovered his other identity from the bank box in the Bronx. He took a cab to the grubby diner on 149th Street where he was supposed to meet Moreno, and as the car went down the Grand Concourse he looked idly at the faded buildings passing by and thought about Lucas.
Lucas was not his friend. He needed to keep that in mind. They were allies, nothing more. Sam needed Lucas’s knowledge of magic and the Apkallu, Lucas needed Sam as . . . a weapon. A tool.
When tools break, or you don’t need them anymore, they can get discarded. Until Sam could find the Apkal responsible for destroying his family, Lucas was his best chance. Sam had to stay useful.
For now he’d keep sending Mr. Kim snippets of Moby Dick, but he needed to reduce his dependence on Lucas. Become more than a tool. He needed more allies, maybe a power base of his own. When Moreno pulled up in front of the diner and honked the Citroen’s horn, it was already past two in the afternoon. He drove east, passing under the expressway and over the rail yards into Hunt’s Point.
“The cops in Lido Beach found the Count’s boys at the missile base. They’re calling it a drug deal gone bad. The dead guys were all connected so the cops will probably just let the Mob handle it.”
“Will they do anything?”
“You kidding me? The local capos are probably having a party to celebrate. The Count wasn’t a made man, he was a creepy outsider who pushed his way into their rackets and demanded a cut. They don’t have to avenge him.” Moreno grinned. “That would be my job if I hadn’t killed him myself.”
It was the hottest part of the afternoon by the time Moreno parked his car — legally, for once — on Viele Avenue, right by Barretto Point Park. The park was an incongruous patch of greenery squeezed between a wastewater treatment plant and the razor-wire fortified grounds of a huge concrete warehouse.
The two of them walked toward the little amphitheater facing the East River at the southern tip of the park. Sam slipped a hand into his pocket and took out his phone, pressed Send on the message to Lucas, then turned it off. “Just making sure we’re not interrupted again,” he whispered to Moreno.
A naked man was sitting in the center of the first row of seats, looking out over the oily water of the East River at the Riker’s Island prison complex. His hair was wet and his skin streaked with mud and oil. Sam figured the man was just another street crazy, but then Moreno called out to him.
“Good afternoon, Mr. White!”
The man didn’t turn around. “Hello, James. Who’s your friend?”
Before Moreno could say anything Sam spoke up. “They call me Ace.”
White stood — he was indeed quite naked except for a sopping waist-length beard, and didn’t seem concerned about it. His torso was decorated with tattoos that Sam recognized as planetary sigils. “Should’ve brought your dildo, Jimmy. I’m not going down like the Count did.” He turned to face the water again and extended his arms.
“Whoa, whoa!” Moreno shouted. “We just want to talk about Feng.”
White lowered his arms and turned to face them again. “So talk.”
Behind him, dead people were coming out of the water. At least a dozen of them, some just skeletons, others that looked almost alive except for their grayish pallor and the filthy water streaming from their mouths.
Moreno stood calmly, though Sam could see the tense set of his jaw. “Was the Count working with anyone?”
“You’re wasting your time. I didn’t have anything to do with Feng or the Count.” Behind White the dead people reached level ground and began walking forward, fanning out as they did so, so that the line grew wider as it moved.
“I don’t know that. Convince me.”
“Killing customers is bad business.” The dead in the center of the line halted next to White, but those on the ends continued to advance, curling around to flank Sam and Moreno.
“I need a little more than that.”
“Like what? An alibi? I was busy buying puppies for orphans with cancer the night he died. Good enough?”
“Someone sent a div after him. You’ve used them before.”
“I’m not the only one. You’re grabbing straws here, Jimmy.”
Sam and Moreno were now in the center of a circle of standing corpses, perfectly spaced about five yards apart. White stood between two of the dead. Sam wondered for a moment whether any outsiders could see what was going on, but decided that this scene was a lot less weird than some of the things he’d seen in New York. Of course, the thought that nobody would call the cops wasn’t very reassuring at the moment. He glanced at Moreno, who was still ignoring the corpses.
Just then a pigeon — which Sam could see was a spirit in bird form — circled them and landed on White’s shoulder. It whispered to him, and for a second he looked startled. Then his eyes narrowed and he smiled. “Hey, Moreno! Guess what? Taika Feng and Stone are mixing it up in broad daylight over at Trinity Cemetery! Maybe someone ought to check it out before the subur cops and media show up?”
Moreno pulled out his own phone, looked at it, and grimaced.
“I’m going now, Mr. White. Thank you for your help. I’ll be in touch.”
He turned and led Sam out of the park. The circle of animated corpses parted to let them through, but behind them White laughed and laughed.
Moreno had a gremlin bound into a laser pointer, which changed traffic lights to green as the Citroen approached. They made the trip from the Bronx to Trinity Cemetery on upper Broadway in fifteen minutes, which had to be some kind of record for daytime driving in New York.
The gate was open, which was a good thing as Sam suspected Moreno would have simply driven through it anyway if it had been shut. Once inside it wasn’t hard to spot the magical fight going on. Up at the Broadway side of the cemetery, a big black-winged bull stood atop a granite outcrop, holding off a swarm of long-haired women with the bodies of snakes. Stone, looking terrified, cowered behind the bull, while down among the graves at the base of the outcrop, Taika Feng stood holding a big plastic bucket. As the bull gored or trampled the snake-women, she called forth new ones from the bucket.