Jo's pigeon finally arrived at the North Meadow.
None too soon. The last man in the defensive line, a hot-dog vendor, had dropped his stick and collapsed to the grass, sobbing and clutching his ears. Others had tried to drown themselves in the pond or ran out into traffic, and I was sure at least one of them had been hit and killed. Others were smacking themselves on the head with their clubs, and it was all I could do to get them to stop. At the last, I'd had to order them to disperse and seek shelter. The cracks in the sky were turning purple, and I could see wisps of electric blue drifting out from them.
The pigeon fluttered down in front on me and said, "Lololop, hello, can I have some grain? Oh, right. The message. Jo says: Tied up in arms of gibbering horrors. Busy. Erich Zann, Erich Zann. Over and out."
"Never heard of him."
"Got any seeds?"
"I bet you stiff the waiter too." The pigeon flew away.
"Hey, Mom, do you know anything about Erich Zann?"
"The Rabbi might. Ask him. I'm kind of busy trying to keep everyone in this place from axing each other."
"Rabbi Levy, what do you know about Erich Zann?"
"Ah, a classic of the cosmic horror tale. Something about playing music to keep the eldritch creatures at bay. Cardinal Ruben got me started on the subject when we debated the nature of God -- "
"Rabbi Levy and I disagree on this issue," said Cardinal Cork. HIs voice echoed in the tall space of the cathedral's interior. "He believes that God is the God of Israel, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc., and is ultimately benevolent. I believe that it is possible, but impossible to be certain, because God exists outside space and time, according to Augustine. Goodness knows, even the Angels are barely comprehensible to human eyes -- and that's in the Hebrew part of the bible! Now, why are you asking me all this?" He sipped his tea.
"What have the voices in your head been telling you?"
"How did you -- they've been saying I should jump into a furnace and God will protect me like he did for Abednego. Which is spectaculary ignorant of the whole concept of divine grace, let me tell you -- "
"Sounds like you're resisting better than most of the city."
"Yyyyessss..." he frowned. "The situation is that bad?"
"My firend told me about Erich Zann, but I don't know what it means. Rabbi Levy said something about music keeping the creatures away. How is that supposed to work?"
He smiled. "Dear child. Didn't you ever notice what all your religious services involve?"
"...music. Are you saying -- "
"Just a little of the right music in the right place, and people feel better about themselves for a moment, as they themselves connect to the divine spirit."
"So a LOT of the right music EVERYWHERE will work wonders. Perfect. All I have to do is get everyone in the city dancing at once. I just have to organize them. Wonderful. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier."
"You sound as though you did."
I stood at the bar, in the Little Prince Café.
"Don't give me those puppy-dog eyes," said Lily Two-Rivers. "You've got to buy something before you ask for a Dollar. And if you didn't notice, the café is kind of full, I'm kind of busy, all the limes in the city have gone bad, and I've got these damn voices in my head that are telling me to cheat on Analosa. Do you have something to do with this? Argh! No time. Just run upstairs and speak to Papa Auditori. He's a bit cross and I'd love for him to take it out on you instead of me." She pointed me to the ornate wooden door at the back of the room that said employees only.
I dashed through the door and up the stairs to a sunlit hallway. I looked out the windows, expecting to see naught but a happy blue sky. But the intense blue streaks were faintly visible.
"Hello?" said a watery old voice from a door to my right. "Who comes pounding up the stair while I am busy tring to ignore the voice that tells me to drink pure lime juice? Come in here and let me tell you about the Lime situation."
I stepped into a carpeted, cluttered office. Mr. Auditori was sitting at a desk clutching his head. "Let me tell you," he said, "Exactly how unhappy I am. Grenovian Dollars are falling in value. Their shine is gone. Because every lime I get has translucent purple worms in it and they keep whispering insults into the tequila. And -- oh, it's you!" He finally noticed me. "You're the idiot who broke out of a police station twice. How exactly do you think you're welcome here?"
"I'm not," I said. "Not in this city. Exile is the price I will pay for my misdeeds. But before I go, I've got to organize some kind of defense against your very problem. The sky is cracking, something is pouring through the gaps, and everyone is going nuts." I heard a screeching, a honking, and a dull thud from outside. "I wouldn't be surprised of everyone in the city is having trouble resisting some kind of suicide right now. And I want to change that. I need five or six coins to do what I need to do. Then I won't trouble you or this city ever again. Deal?"
He scowled. "Three. I'll give you three. They won't buy you even a smidgen of a Favor, but they'll still work for the important things." He fished in his drawer, and dropped a few coins into my hand. "Now, scram!"
"God Dammit," said Big Chief, "why does my door-closing button not work? Is that your fault?"
I stood on the other side of big Chief's big desk. His big office had big glass windows, through which I could see fluffy clouds, and the cracks in the sky getting wider. No rest for the people indoors, it seemed, not this time.
"You didn't pay your protection money to the Portal Authority," I said. "Portia told me you never do. I take it you trust everyone in this city? Or do you think they're just intimidated?"
Big Chief stood up. All seven feet tall and five feet wide of him. He pushed the desk towards me slightly. "The latter. Now, what exactly do you think you can ask of me, after you told me you never wanted to talk to me again?"
"A few things. First of all, have you heard any subtle voices telling you to give up and beocme stone?"
He frowned. "I have indeed...why?"
"Do you know anything about the cracks in the sky?"
"They come around once in a while. The street people and the police officers beat them back. I can get that organized, that's easy. Why are you telling me about something I'm familiar with?"
"Have you ever heard these voices in your head before?"
"Then this is a new assault. One with different tactics. Coyote told me -- "
"You spoke with COYOTE? God, Pat, I thought the work you did on the police station was bad enough, but I can't abide anyone who spoke with Coyote. He's a damn trickster, and he spins lies. Whatever he told you -- "
"He was frightened! He turned into a little rabbit! He told me the things coming our way were more than he could handle! I didn't sense any guile there."
"We're talking about Coyote here. He lies as a matter of habit." Big Chief stepped around his desk. "And I'm not having you in here if you're coming from his advice."
"I'm organizing to organize a city-wide dance party. I need you to get speakers set up on every corner. Can you do that?"
"Are you even listening to me?"
"I am, and I don't care what you think about Coyote or me. If we don't stop this incursion, everyone goes nuts and then...who knows. I'm not asking for this for me, you big doofus, I'm asking for this for the city. I'm gone after this is over."
Big Chief folded his arms. "Hmmmmm...if it gets rid of you, that's probably good. Now, how are you going to get everyone out to dance? I can't control their minds. Nobody can. But I bet there's someone who can get the message out quickly."
Grandma King sat in her comfy armchair in front of the television, watching Maury Povitch. Or trying to. I was kneeling between her and the TV.
"Child," she said, "The only reason I'd even think about doing what you suggest is because I'm leaving with you when this is all over. I've done my bad deeds, you understand? I've paid for them. The only reason I have the bottles now is so that I can carry one in hand and scare everyone into leaving me alone. And occasionally restore a bit of my youth, but don't tell your aunt Esther. And here you come asking me to do some of the nasty things I used to do. Shucks, I've tangled with Big Chief more than once. You think he wouldn't notice if I start telling everyone to do this and that?"
"He sent me to you."
Grandma's eyes widened. "Oh, hell. If he's telling me to do that old magic, we're in trouble. What did you say everyone was hearing?"
"Run out into traffic, jump off the roof, that kind of thing."
"Well! All I heard was watch Maury Povitch. I don't even like Maury Povitch! But here I am. Powerful stuff indeed."
A car screeched to a halt outside, and I heard another dull thud.
"When do you want all this to happen?"
"The stroke of twelve noon tomorrow. How are you going to speak to everyone, anyway?"
"Everyone's got a little blood in them, right? I can work with that connection. Just don't ask me for the details."
On Staten island, the beach off Cedar Grove Avenue stands facing the mighty Atlantic. A good place to call upon the ruler of the Deep.
I blew the Shofar. "Hey, yo, Neptune!" I said. "Lord of the waters and occasional scourge of New York City! I need a favor."
For a long time, I heard nothing but the roar of waves. Then there was a rumbling from the Deep, and a mighty head broke the surface. And glared at me. "You?" He said with a mighty, burbling rumble. "The idiot who broke that police station in Harlem? What do you want?"
I wrung the water from my clothing as best I could. "Why, Mr. Neptune, I'm flattered that you have heard of me."
"The merpeople hear the dock gossip and tell me everything. Why have you called me? You want to travel to the Sub-marine city, is that it? You want a nice conch? I should give you a Lionfish. Speak! SPEAK!"
I picked myself up off the sand, and said, "I'm going to need some special effects for the concert tomorrow. Thunder at key moments, that's all."
He blinked. "I can't be expected to...perform for you. Especially not for such a trivial matter."
I flashed a Grenovian dollar. "Will this do?"
"It's not shiny," he said. "That will only buy three thunderclaps at most."
"Take it or leave it." I threw the coin into the surf, and turned north for other business.
I stood in a parking lot on East 138th street in the Bronx.
"Let me get this straight," said Mad Montee, with his arms folded. "You want my crew to play the music, and me to sing, free of charge, for the entire city, so they can all come out and dance, and that's supposed to scare off an alien invasion? And you want the song to be something by a bunch of Irish guys? Why can't you get them to do it?"
"Because they already shipped up to Boston," I said. "Besides, your music has power. I've seen you summon demons."
"Only when I'm rapping! Not when I'm doing a cover of some white dude's music. Sorry, girl. Not interested."
"Come on," I said, "Irish music has a part to play in this city! And I really like that song!"
He shook his head.
"What are the voices in your head saying right now, Monty?"
"To touch the live wires -- wait, how did you know there's voices in my head?"
Behind him, a figure fell from a low roof. "Everyone's got these voices," I said. "Look up."
"Is the sky supposed to have those streaks of purple?"
"Well, that doesn't mean this is the End Times or anything, girl. I still have to get paid."
I flashed my last Grenovian Dollar.
"Band Shell in Central Park at noon," said Monteef, "was that right?"
I stood in front of the New York Public library, in the late afternoon.
Jo stepped out of the front doors, her hair a mess, her cloak ragged and torn at the edges. "Pat!" she said. "You're the first human I've seen the whole day." She gestured behind her, and the door slammed shut on a few black tentacles that had been trying to force their way through. "The library stacks have gone nuts. I think the monsters have eaten everyone inside. Which means I can't stay here for long. Did you get everything set up?"
"You never told me what all this Erich Zann business was about."
"Oh, well, I found some French guy's essay about how this guy named Erich Zann had beat back the gibbering horrors using music, and I thought, that might work. So, you've got that all set up? Good. I've got some work to do." She turned towards the building.
"Jo," I said, "I've still got things to do and I don't want to do them alone. Can't the library wait? What if this is the last time we see each other?"
She halted. "You know," she said, "I have the feeling that if we both survive this and head to...wherever, you're going to be saying that a lot."
"Which means that we ought to stick together more closely." She turned. "Heck, maybe you should come back in with me and we can die fighting together. Like true friends."
"Oh for -- " I whipped my Shofar out of my bag, put it to my lips, and blew it right in her face.
She stood there, stunned.
"Are you still eager to go back in there?"
"You know what? No, no I'm not at all. That was odd. You know, I'm beginning to think Erich Zann was on to something."
"Come on," I said, "Ive got a few more places to go and a few more people to talk to, and then we can get this party started. And we better hope it works, because tomorrow's the third day, the last day before the spirits chuck me out of this city."
"Pat, what bargain did you make this time?"
I took her hand, and led her forward in search of the nearest patch of green sidewalk salt.