The day after their last misadventure, the Shadows get breakfast and decide on a plan of action – investigating and hopefully breaking the curse on Ned’s friend Oliver, in the hopes of removing at least one complication from their lives. They head out to St Jude’s Hospital to find Oliver in a shared ward, his left arm a twisted collection of broken bones hung up on traction, and with the Priestess of Spiders’ symbol raised in welts on his bicep.
Oliver is dubious about these ragtag visitors, but Arthur persuades him that they’re here to help. Oliver explains that he was a driver for the Mayor’s office, and known for his willingness to carry out less-legal jobs on the side. For the last few months he’s been at the service of Daraja Valentine, the Mayor’s new Press Secretary/spokesperson – someone the Shadows have clashed with in the past – and doing more and more shady and weird stuff. He opened some packages he was carrying from the airport three weeks ago, and found a large stash of unmarked bills and the head of a statue. Wanting a way out of his job, he took some of the money, dropped the head down a sewer, and claimed that he’d been robbed. The trick didn’t work, and Valentine fired him – but not before having him cursed by some strange creature. Now his bones are slowly snapping and he can’t fix things by giving the money back, because Valentine wants to make an example of him.
While Oliver tells his story, Charlotte magically investigates his injury and finds inhuman curse magic clinging to his bones. She manages to separate the curse, pulling what looks like black, bloody webbing from his skeleton and spirit, and traps it in a jar. Before she can attempt to heal his injuries, a doctor walks in on the scene and calls for security; the family quickly leaves to avoid problems. They confer in the car park and decide that they need to find this missing head, then head back to the antiques shop, unaware that a tattered, inhuman figure watched their actions and is following behind.
While the others prepare for yet another excursion into the sewers, Thomas calls a contact in the police to get the details of Oliver’s robbery claim, and finds that he claimed to be robbed near an abandoned school in the industrial district – a spot that Thomas knows hides a portal to the Night Lands. Ned gives them back the Book of Dead Names, trusting that they’ll do the right thing with it, and goes to see if anyone in the Cave Clan has seen anything.
After some light bickering, the Shadows head into the sewers near the creepy old school. The tunnels are thick with garbage and chemical runoff from the local factories, and although Gwen knows the sewers well, and Arthur brought a metal detector from the shop, navigation proves difficult. Eventually Thomas spots some occult sigils scrawled on walls, along with tracks and clues to suggest that someone’s been down here lately – but rather than searching for something, it’s more likely that they’ve been trying to hide their presence.
Finally, behind a false wall, the Shadows find a shadowy portal that leads to the Night Lands, guarded by a small pack of Blighted Ones – and before they can do anything, the tattered figure drops onto Thomas’ back from the darkness, and the chimera attack! While the creatures are vicious and terrifying, and their leader wields awful curse-magic, Charlotte manages to convince the Blighted Ones to hold back, and Arthur manages to smash the tattered figure in the head with his metal detector, bringing the fight to a quick end.
Falling back from the fight, the chimera leader (Marrow) admits that he put the curse on Oliver, on behalf of Valentine – but that the Blighted Ones have also been hiding the missing artefact from her, and that the rash on Oliver’s arm was meant as a message to the Shadows. The Priestess of Spiders sells her services (and those of her followers) to whoever will pay, but it pleases her to play both ends against the middle and watch the chaos from afar. The chimera return down their dark tunnel to the Night Lands, and Marrow says he’ll see them again at the next Shadow Market to let them know what debt his mistress might claim for aiding them.
And in their wake, the Shadows find a leather case, stamped with the mark of the Rosicrucians, containing an intricately designed brass-and-wood head, whose eyes blink open to watch them for a moment before closing again…