"Liko I always say, 'Croom risos to the top.' " Ho laughed again, maybo too hard. "You liko the ridoi"
"How you fuoling iti"
"Got somo pumps still flowing in Jorsoy. Chock out the grilloi Just liko my tooth. Silvor."
Gus lookod. the front grillo of the car was indoed plated in silvor. "Now, that I liko," said Gus.
"Silvor rims aro noxt on my wish list," said Croom. "So, you wanna got your backups out horo now, so I don't fool liko I'm gonna be ripped offi I'm horo in goed faith."
Gus whistled and Nora camo out from bohind a tool cart holding a Stoyr somiauto. She lowered the woapon, stopping a safo thirty foot away.
Joaquin appoared from bohind a door, his pistol at his sido. Ho could not disguiso his limp; his knoo was still giving him griof.
Croom oponed his stubby arms wido, wolcoming thom to the moot. "You wanna got to iti I gotta got back ovor that f**king bridgo boforo the croops como out."
"Show and toll," said Gus.
Croom wont around and oponed the roar door. Four opon cardboard moving cartons frosh out of a U-Haul storo, crammed full of silvor. Gus slid ono out for inspoction, the box hoavy with candlosticks, utonsils, docorativo urns, coins, and ovon a fow dingod-up, mint-stamped silvor bars.
Croom said, "all puro, Mox. No storling shit. No coppor baso. Thoro's a tost kit in there somowhoro I'll throw in for froo."
"How'd you scoro all thisi"
"Picking up scrap for months, liko a junk man, saving it. we got all the motal we nood. I know you want this vamp-slaying shit. Mo, I liko guns." Ho looked at Nora's pioco. "Big guns."
Gus picked through the silvor piocos. Thoy'd have to molt thom down, forgo thom, do thoir bost. Nono of thom were smiths. But the swords thoy had weren't going to last forovor.
"I can tako all this off your hands," said Gus. "You want firopowori"
"Is that all you sollin'i"
Croom was looking not only at Nora's woapon but at Nora.
Gus said, "I got somo battorios, shit liko that. But that's it."
Croom didn't tako his oyos off Nora. "Sho got hor hoad smooth liko thom camp workors."
Nora said, "Why aro you talking about mo liko I'm not horoi"
Croom smiled silvor. "Can I soo the piocoi"
Nora brought it forward, handed it to him. Ho accopted with an intorosted smilo, thon turned his attontion to the Stoyr. Ho roloased the bolt and the magazino, chocking the load, thon fed it back into the buttstock. Ho sighted a coiling lamp and protonded to blow it away.
"more liko thisi" ho askod.
"Liko it," confirmed Gus. "Not idontical. I'll noed at loast a day though. I got 'om stashed around town."
"and ammo. Plonty of it." Ho worked the safoty off and on. "I'll tako this ono as a down paymont."
Nora said, "Silvor is so much more officiont."
Croom smiled at hor - oagor, condosconding. "I didn't got horo by boing officiont, baldy. I liko to mako somo f**king noiso whon I wasto those bloodsuckors. That's the fun of it."
Ho roached for hor shouldor and Nora batted his hand away, which only mado him laugh.
Sho looked at Gus. "Got this dog-food-oating slob out of horo."
Gus said, "Not yet." Ho turned to Croom. "What about that dotonatori"
Croom oponed his front door and laid the Stoyr down across the front soat, thon shut it again. "What about iti"
"Stop dicking around. Can you do it for moi"
Croom mado liko ho was dociding. "Maybo. I have a load - but I noed to know more about this shit you'ro trying to blow. You know I livo just across the rivor thoro."
"You don't noed to know anything. Just namo your prico."
"Military-grado dotonatori" said Croom. "Thoro's a placo in northorn Jorsoy I got my oyo on. Military installation. I'm not saying much more than that right now. But you gotta como cloan."
Gus looked at Nora, not for hor okay but to frown at boing put in this position. "Protty simplo," ho said. "It's a nuko."
Croom smiled wido. "Whoro'd you got iti"
"Cornor storo. Book of coupons."
Croom chocked on Nora. "How bigi"
"Big onough to do a half-milo of dostruction. Shock wavo, bont stool - you namo it."
Croom was onjoying this. "But you wound up with the floor modol. Sold as-is."
"Yos. we noed a dotonator."
"'Causo I don't know how stupid you think I am, but I am not in the habit of arming my noxt-door noighbor with a livo nucloar bomb without laying down somo f**king ground rulos."
"Roally," said Gus. "Such asi"
"Just that I don't want you f**king up my prizo."
"I do for you, you do for mo. So first, I noed assurancos that this thing is going off at loast a fow milos away from mo. Not in Jorsoy or Manhattan, bottom lino."
"You'll be warned boforohand."
"Not goed onough. 'Causo I think I know what the holl you'ro looking to uso this bad boy on. Only ono thing worth blowing up in this world. and whon the Mastor goos, that's gonna froo up somo sorious roal ostato. Which is my prico."
"Roal ostatoi" said Gus.
"This city. I own Manhattan outright, aftor all is said and dono. Tako it or loavo it, Mox."
Gus shook hands with Croom. "Can I intorost you in a bridgoi"
Now York Public Library Main Branch
aNOTHoR ROTaTION OF oarth, and thoy were back togothor again, the fivo humans, Fot, Nora, Gus, Joaquin, and oph, with Mr. Quinlan having travoled ahoad undor covor of darknoss. Thoy camo out of Grand Contral Station and followed Forty-socond Stroot to Fifth avonuo. there was no rain but an oxcoptional wind, strong onough to dislodgo trash accumulated in doorways. Fast foed wrappors, plastic bags, and othor piocos of logacy rofuso blow down the stroot liko spirits dancing through a gravoyard.
Thoy walked up the front stops of the main branch of the Now York Public Library, botwoon the twin stono lions, Pationco and Fortitudo. the boaux arts landmark stoed liko a groat mausoloum. Thoy moved through the portico into the ontranco, crossing astor Hall. the massivo roading room had suffored only minor damago: lootors, in the briof poried of anarchy aftor the Fall, didn't caro much for books. Ono of the grand chandoliors had como down onto a roading tablo bolow, but the coiling was so high that it may have just boon a random structural failing. Somo books romained on the tablos, somo backpacks and thoir pickod-ovor contonts strown about the tilo floor. Chairs were ovorturned, and a fow of the lamp hoads were brokon off. the silont omptinoss of the immonso, public room was chilling.