Following Act of Darkness , this fourth adventure of former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian takes place in two tense days at Independence College, a small but prestigious school situated in rural Pennsylvania. It is nearly Halloween: the students are preparing a traditional bonfire by heaping wood around a scaffold where an effigy of King George sits56 ; Dr. Katherine Branch, a witch, is conducting mystical rites with her coven102 ; a sociable raven named Lenore circles the faculty apartments; and the lecherous, tenured and thoroughly despised Dr. Donegal Steele7 is missing, if not missed. Demarkian, on campus to lecture about FBI investigations of serial killers, is shocked when Miss Maryanne Veer7 , Steele's secretary, is poisoned with lye in the dining hall—he takes it as a given that Steele has been murdered and that Veer suspected foul play. With the help of his high-strung preppy sidekick Bennis Hannaford43 and longtime Philadelphia friend, Father Tibor Kasparian3 , he seeks a perpetrator among the costumed students and quirky faculty.