Raphael hesitated. Was this possession or madness? “Can I talk to Mike?”
“You wouldn’t want to. He’s chickenshit, and an idiot. Besides, you don’t need him. If you’re looking for Eddie Marlowe, I can tell you where he is.”
Chuy pointed out the door into the park. “He’s the guy with the tambourine.”
He saw now that he’d been distracted by the boat, by the crowd, and by the presence of Kokhabel, and he’d missed the other occupants of the bark. Four men, two in front of Kokhabel and two behind, stood at the corners of the bark with hooked knives in their hands. Their heads were shaved and their robes, once white, were darkened with blood. From unseen sources at their feet, behind the bark’s rowers, the men with knives pulled a steady succession of sheep, chicken, cats, dogs, and other creatures, holding each up in turn before dispatching it with a single slice of the knife and tossing its carcass to the crowd. As the cultists around the boat snatched at the dismembered animals, they in turn were dismembered by the relentless bladed oars of the bark.
Kokhabel’s hands rested on his knees, and Raphael now saw that the Fallen’s hands weren’t empty. The further hand held a person—the darkness and the various things obscuring his view left Raphael uncertain, but from the curly black hair on the captive’s head, it could be the Marked Woman. The near hand held the silver-haired fairy Twitch, who lay flopped like a fish on the river’s bank, twitching and spineless.
In the front of the bark stood Eddie Marlowe. He glared over his shoulder at Kokhabel with a fierceness that would cut stone, but he stood still. Raphael couldn’t tell whether the guitar player’s ankles were shackled or tied to something, but in each hand the man held a tambourine.
Doom, doom, da-doom.
The bark rumbled towards the front steps of the Institute and the wooden tower resting on the jumble of artifacts. Raphael pressed himself closer into the doorway to see better, and realized there was another element of the scene he had missed. He saw it first as streaks of shadow, zipping through the air between him and the torches, but when he heard hissing sounds from the sidewalk he realized what it was.
Snakes. Snakes in the grass and the street, snakes whipping through the air on Infernal wings.
To a signal Raphael hadn’t heard, three enormous bonfires sprang into life, two in the park and the third in the street that had once separated the park from the Institute, back when there had been automobile traffic. Kokhabel and his bark, including the rock and roll band prisoners, instantly became silhouettes.
“Play,” Raphael heard Kokhabel rasp.
Eddie Marlowe raised the tambourines.