WARNING:  This fanfiction story falls into the genre of 'slash' and
implies a sexual relationship between two men of legal age.  If you are uncomfortable with this, please don't read this story and please don't write and flame me afterwards. That's just silly.                       
DISCLAIMER:  The characters of Ezekiel Stone, Maxine the desk clerk, and the Devil (as portrayed by John Glover on *Brimstone*) do not belong to me in the least.  All main characters are copyrighted to Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, who own the rights to the television show *Brimstone*. No profit is being made from this piece of fan fiction. 
Credit must be given in any and all reproductions. This story may not be distributed publically without expressed permission of the author. Events, places, and incidents mentioned are ficitious and any resemblances to any  persons (living or dead), is purely coincidental.  Please send anycomments to PollyHammer@yahoo.com; any input is appreciated!


Stone, Solitaire
by Polly Hammer


Man, I can't believe it's been two days already.

It's Sunday night and I haven't heard word one from him.  No unexpected
(and usually inconvenient) little surprise visits.  No nosing around in
whatever I'm doing.  No scolding, no chiding, no malicious teasing.  It's
almost like a vacation.


Ever since I woke up on Saturday morning, I've just been doing my own
thing.  I caught the game on TV.  I bought some milk and instant coffee.
I went for a walk last night and watched the sun set over the beach,
totally oblivious to the brisk wind that was driving everyone else home.
And this morning I slept in and even thought about borrowing Max's library
card on Monday to go and maybe check out a couple of books.  He'd kill me
if he knew I was thinking of slacking off like that.

It's not like I've been deliberately slacking off.  Before ... before what
happened on Friday night, I'd knocked one of his lost sheep back home.
Usually it's just a short while until he shows up with some oh-so-helpful
hint for the next one.  But the trick he'd had up his sleeve failed
miserably, and now he's off brooding somewhere and I've been cut loose
without any direction.  At least I hope he's brooding.  God help me if
he's actually off plotting out Vicious Zeke-Breaking Plan number two.

So I've been on my toes for the past two days.  Relaxing, kind of, but not
really relaxing at all at the same time.  I went downstairs on Saturday
morning and just like I thought she would, Max asked how my Friday night
was.  I tried not to blush but she must've seen the effort in my face
because she gave me this wicked vixen grin and held up her hand saying "No
need to explain, Stone.  I'm a woman of the world."  That made me blush
harder and it popped into my head that right then would be the perfect
moment for him to just saunter downstairs and give me a peck on the cheek
or something.  God.  I even glanced over at the stairs quick in case he
was reading my mind or something, but nope, he never showed.  Max just
shook her head and laughed.

All Saturday I kept expecting him to show up.  I thought that the guy
behind the counter at the 7-11 was him, but it wasn't.  Same for the
announcer for the ball game, just for a split-second.  And a couple of
guys on the beach.  When I went to bed on Saturday night, I just sat there
for a moment, waiting for him to appear out of nowhere when the lights
went out.  He didn't appear.

I can't believe I thought this.  But I did.

Somewhere, way in the back of my mind with all the other weird little
voices and everything, I was ... disappointed.  Very, very, very secretly

I don't think either of us planned on this.  It was -- it was that look in
his eye, just before I blacked out.  He just looked so - so grateful, and
vulnerable, and I can't believe I'm saying this!  He's the Devil!  He's
the fucking Devil!

I can't believe it, but I think I actually miss him.


Gotta take the initiative.  This wouldn't go on forever, and I wouldn't
have him show up and deliver fifty demerits or whatever for all this
wasted time. So I went out and I bought the paper, and I had a cup
of coffee while I scanned it for anything out of the ordinary.  Hey, it
was a start.  It wasn't like I had access to the files at the LAPD or

And just my luck, there was a tiny little article on page 20 about several
mysterious deaths just a couple of blocks from where I lived.  The third
death in as many weeks - random man, seemingly unrelated to the other
victims.  All three found in an alleyway just down the street, though the
M.E.'s report gave a cryptic statement that seemed to indicate that all
three men had died of drowning.

Okay, that was sufficiently weird.  Weird enough to warrant my
going over there to take a look around.  So I tore the article out of the
paper, tucked it into my pocket, and grabbed my jacket and headed out the

It looked like an ordinary crime scene.  Apparently all of the
investigation was through because I couldn't see any police tape or beat
cops on the lookout.  That wasn't bad for me - it meant that I could just
walk on in and take a look around.  Any important clues probably would've
been snapped up by the investigating detectives, though.  I crossed my
fingers that I wouldn't bump into anyone from the LAPD.  Ever since Ash, I
tried to avoid them in case they somehow tried to pin her disappearance on
me and start running background checks.  They didn't seem to be around at
the moment, though.  Knock on wood.

I didn't know what I was looking for.  Anything suspicious, I guess.
Nothing jumped out at me - nothing that would indicate anything strange,
anyway.  Any chalk outline or remnants of fingerprint dust had been
cleared away by the crime scene team.  No bloodstains - but then, the M.E.
had ruled that they had died of drowning.  That could mean being drowned
somewhere else and then dragged out here.  But something in my gut told me
that this wasn't the case.  I've trusted those hunches before and they've
panned out, so I didn't give up just yet.

Okay.  Think it out.  This person - damned soul or whoever - obviously
wasn't in the alley anymore.  So he had to get out somehow.  If you'd just
killed someone, would you leave the alley out the front way?  Not likely,
but unfortunately the back end of the alley was blocked off by a warped
old rusty chainlink fence, stretched between the walls of the two
buildings like a curtain.  Shoot.

The fence was still intact.  I was thinking of the first one, Father
Selinas - how he'd burned right through that fence to get away.  No gaping
holes or anything strange here.  But it wasn't too high for climbing.
Definitely possible.

I was eyeballing the fence one last time when I spotted something caught
on one of the chain ends along the top.  A quick check to make sure no one
was looking - I didn't know if I could still get done for screwing around
at a known crime scene - and I hoisted myself up on the fence until I was
nose level with the jagged edge.  Yep - definitely something caught.  It
was a tiny little scrap of fabric, faded and well-worn.  Some kind of
rough brown wool or cotton, I couldn't tell which.  But it was at least
some sort of lead, which was more than I could say for the rest of the
alley.  The crime scene team had completely swabbed that thing wall to
wall for clues and more than likely had anything of interest.  Oh well.
It was a start.  And that approach had worked in the past - the buttons
from the Nazi winter coat, for one.  That had been a decent lead.  I
didn't know what this cloth scrap would have to do with drowning, or with
anything for that matter.  Maybe I'd find out after getting it analyzed.

So that was my afternoon - poring over the Yellow Pages until I managed to
find a place that was happy to analyze the fabric scrap.  My
theory was that if it was from something worn by one of the hundred and
thirteen, it'd be really old.  I mean, that had been the case with Martin
Benedict's coat buttons.  It might pan out again.  So if I could get it
analyzed, it might reveal something about how and when it was made and
that might shed light on who was wearing it.  But who could I get to
analyze it?

Man, this is the part of the job that really sucks sometimes. It's
probably happened more times than I can remember - find some weird old
doo-dad that the escapee has left behind but then spending a day or more
just managing to get it to some kind of analysis.  I really wish I could
get into some of the crime labs that the LAPD uses, but is that going to
happen?  The odds are better that I'd be eating a Sno-Cone back below.
The only place I could find to even take a look at this little stitch of
cloth was a history museum that had a department for old textiles.  It was
all the way on the other side of town, too, so I had to take the bus and
hope that it wouldn't take too long. When I finally made it into the
museum, they were on the verge of closing up but they offered to take a
look at the stitch of fabric if I wanted to drop it off for the night.  It
was better than nothing, I guess.

And then I went home.  I didn't know if I was off on some wild goose chase
or if this really was one of the hundred and thirteen, but it was better
than just sitting at home ... waiting.  Waiting.  Jesus, I sound like some
thirteen year old girl lingering by the phone hoping someone will ask her
to the prom.  Why was I so anxious to see him again?  Was it just some
wish to return to the normal way of things - he shows up with a hint, I
run out and shoot someone, and over and over again?  He hadn't come back
yet.  Why wasn't I running for the hills?  Well, I mean aside from the
fact that he'd have my ass for firewood when he finally did catch up with
me.  But it wasn't fear that was keeping me here.

I genuinely wanted to see him again.

It was something I'd seen on Friday - there was more to him than just
snide remarks and evil posturing.  Something that just brought out
this awful feeling of sympathy in me.  Didn't know exactly what it was,
but I could sense it.  And I wanted to find out.

Yeah, so curiousity killed the cat.  Good thing I was past that stage

Max wasn't on shift when I got home, so I ended up just heading upstairs.
When I opened the door and stepped inside, I found something on the
kitchen counter that I knew hadn't been there before.  It was a
plain drinking glass that had been overfilled so that it sat in its own
little puddle of tap water on the countertop.  I thought about this for a
moment before picking the thing up, tipping all the water into the sink,
and then mopping up all the spilled liquid with an old dishrag I found in
one of the cabinets.

Well, he obviously wasn't planning on making any special appearances in
person.  But at least he was being so good as to offer a tiny bit of help
on this one.

And if I read this right, it looked like the drowning idea was the
right track after all.



Tuesday morning.  No wakeup call, no sign at all.  Still.  For a minute I
was actually worried.  Worried *for* him, not worried about what he might
be planning to do to me.  Shit!  What was I thinking?  It's not like he
needs help crossing the street or anything.  It's not like he could
possibly be in *any* danger at all!  But there I was, just for a second,
worried that something might have happened to him.  What was *wrong* with

I called up the museum and they told me that things were busy at the
moment but that they'd probably be able to give me some answers later on
in the afternoon.  That left the morning free, and after a bit of thought
I decided to hit the library and take a look at the articles about the
previous murders.  It was worth a shot.  There might be a common thread to
the victims.  I could get the names, too, in case I had to check up with
their relatives.

I got dressed and was heading downstairs when it hit me that if I was
going to the library, it might be a good idea to borrow Max's library card
in case anything needed to be checked out.  It wasn't like she used it
very much anyway - all her reading seemed to be done on a screen.

Like she was doing right now.  I had to wave my hand a couple times to get
her attention.  She gave me this sheepish smile and clicked to black out
the screen.

"Sorry 'bout that.  What's the word, Stone?"

"Nothing much.  Hey, listen, I need to go to the library but I don't have
a card there - would it be all right if I borrowed yours for a little

She looked up at the ceiling for a minute and scrunched up her nose like
it was the most complex thought she ever had.  "You just ask for the whole
world in a gift bag, you know that, Stone?"  She reached under the
counter and heaved up this giant backpack with clothes and pencils and
all sorts of weird stuff sticking out of it.  "Gimme a second - it's in
here somewhere."  She glanced up again and smirked.  "Hope you weren't
planning on going there real soon."

Great.  I leaned one elbow on the countertop and stared over at the front
door, waiting while Max tugged sweaters and sunglasses out of her bag.  I
could wait.  I wasn't in any big hurry.  I didn't even know if I was doing
the right thing exactly - I mean, the overfilled glass of water, yeah,
thanks a lot, but that seemed to be the only tip I was getting for this
one. He just wasn't talking to me and it was driving me absolutely nuts.
Something awful in the pit of my stomach was itching for a replay of
Friday night.  ... I did *not* just think that.  Oh God, I did.  Forget
being off somewhere sulking - he was probably laughing his head off about
this whole thing.  Shit, I really didn't need this right now.

"Hey!  Hey!  Hey, Stone!  Ground control to Major Stone!"

"Huh?"  It was Max, looking at me funny with eyes kind of scared, holding
a battered plastic card between painted black fingernails.  She didn't say
anything but just handed me the card very carefully like I was going to
take it from her and gouge out her eyes with it or something.  "Oh.  Um,

"... Stone.  Hey.  Are you okay?"  She actually sounded a bit worried, and
I realized that I must've been spacing out for a while there.  How long
had she been trying to get my attention?

I gave her a weak smile.  "Yeah, I'm fine.  Just lost in space for a
minute there."

She smiled back and seemed to calm down a bit.  "Anything you wanna talk
about?  Talking's good, y'know."

No way.  This was like something out of the Twilight Zone.  How could I
possibly tell her anything about what was going on without getting into
all of the details - either the sordid ones or the ones that were
completely beyond fucked-up metaphysically?  But if I didn't say anything
she'd get on my case - Max was one of those people who liked to think they
were helping someone out, as far as shoulders-to-cry-on go.  So I took in
a deep breath and gave it a shot.

"Okay.  There's this friend of mine, right?"  She nodded, eyes wide.  "We
had this ... really strange ... conversation last week."  Oh, that's good,
Zeke.  Very convincing.  Max frowned a bit and I swear I could hear the
gears working in her head from where I was standing.  "Anyway, he ended up
... telling me more about himself than I think he wanted me to know.  Real
personal details."


"So that was last week, and I'm supposed to have heard from him since
then, but I haven't.  And I think he's avoiding me because of some issue
with personal pride or something.  I'm not sure what I should do."

"Uh-huh."  She was nodding now, biting her lip and smudging the dark
lipstick on it a little.  "That's a tough one.  I mean, I can totally
understand where this guy's coming from.  My parents, right?  When I was
in school they went through the pockets in my jacket and found these
notes, these little notes that I'd written to a friend of mine with all
kinds of crazy personal shit in them.  I mean, *really* personal stuff
about guys at school and everything.  It wasn't so much the stuff that
they found out but just the fact that they found out at all, you know?
And I didn't talk to them for a week, and even then it was only after I
made them sign this contract thing that said that they wouldn't pull that
kinda shit on me again."

"No kidding?"  That was just *so* Maxine.  Probably not something I could
pull on my boss, though.

"Yeah, really.  Hey, wait a minute.  Whyn't you call him?  You know,
extend the olive branch and everything?"

"... um.  I can't."  It was the truth.  What was I supposed to do, take
out a classified ad?  Maxine just blinked a couple of times, though, and
then she just flipped.

"What?  You know, that is just so typical!  That is just so fucking
typical *man* of you!  Every guy I know, they come moping up to me sayin'
'Max Max Max they won't talk to me and I don't know why, whine whine
whine' and I say 'Didya give 'em a call?' and they say 'No.' 'No!' I mean,
how're you gonna find out *why* they're pissed at you if you're too
goddamned stubborn just to go and talk to 'em?  But no, gotta be a big
strong man, gotta just act like you don't know what's goin' on 'cause it's
less effort to do it and then when everything goes to *shit* they all come
whining to me!  Jesus!"

She stopped to catch her breath, so I took the opportunity to back away
very slowly.  Man, did I hit a nerve there or what?  I think she noticed
me trying to escape because she shook her head a bit and shrugged.

"Sorry, Stone, it's just - man, I swear, if someone gave me a dollar
everytime one of my guy friends started bitching that their girlfriend
wasn't speaking to them but they won't call her to find out why, God, I
wouldn't be working *here* anymore, you know?"

"Sure thing, Max.  Um, thanks for the card."

"Yeah, sure."  I turned and left the lobby as fast as I could without
looking like I was trying to get away.  I could still hear her yelling
behind me.

"Hey Stone!  You gotta call that guy!  Do it!"

It was a relief to get to the library after that.  Nice and quiet - no one
but me, and the elderly, and some moms with their kids, all the people
who could afford to be at the library on a Tuesday morning.  It was just
as well, because after I found the articles I was looking for I needed the
peace of the library to calm me down.  There was barely anything useful in
the articles.  The first victim was a John Doe who *still* hadn't been
identified.  The second guy was a single father of two who had left the
kids in the car while he went looking for an auto shop to fix a flat tire.
He'd just moved here from out East somewhere, so that wasn't helpful.  And
the third guy was a vagrant junkie who'd been doped up at the time of
death.  No common threads.  All of the wallets had been left intact.  Only
on the third death did the M.E. state his conclusion about drowning, and
even that was in the last paragraph.  It was all I could do not to chuck
the stack of newspapers back onto the reference desk counter in disgust.

Was I just missing something?  Was everything that had happened between me
and my boss messing with my mind somehow, making me skip over some vital
clue or connection?  I left the library without checking anything out and
decided to give the museum another call and see if they'd come up with
anything on the piece of cloth. It was my last possible clue, so I crossed
my fingers and tossed a couple of coins into the slot.

No luck.  The research intern on the other end of the line dug out the
analysis reports and read them over the phone to me.  A lot of it was
specific textile-related jargon, but I did manage to catch the important
parts - "machine woven," "fifty percent nylon", and my personal favorite,
"you can get blankets like this at K-Mart."

"So it's not old at all?  I mean, I wasn't sure if it could be dated back
very far or not."

"Not at all.  I can tell you flat out, Detective, this fabric is not more
than two years old max.  Like I said, it's a type they use for blankets.
My mom got one at K-Mart like this."

"Great.  Thanks."

Back to square one.  The fabric wasn't old.  There went that line of
possible investigation.  It didn't mean that one of the hundred
and thirteen hadn't been wearing it, hadn't caught it on
the fence trying to get away. I'd seen plenty of other escapees wearing
modern clothes.  It was possible.  It did mean that I couldn't use it to
trace back whoever the person might be, though.  So that was me fresh out
of clues.  I stepped out of the telephone booth and headed back towards
the bus stop, staring glumly down at the ground as I went.

The only other thing I could think to do was to actually sit there and
stake out the alleyway.  All my other ideas had been exhausted, and I sure
as hell wasn't going to go calling up the LAPD to see what *their* leads
were.  Man.  I hate stakeouts.  And this alley was pretty disgusting.  But
what else could I do?


It was eleven o'clock, according my watch.  I'd been there for three
hours, hunched over trying hide myself on the roof of one of the buildings
but still watching down in the alley for anyone who might come along.  I
had a crick in my neck.  It'd started to rain at about nine o'clock.

Did I mention I hate stakeouts?

"This is just fucking ridiculous," I muttered.  I was having one of
those mid-stakeout depressions - you know, the part when your feet are
going numb and you wonder what the hell you're even doing there and
wouldn't it be more productive to be back at your desk going over the
evidence one more time?  If I had any more evidence, it might be.  If I
even had a desk, well, that wouldn't hurt either.  But the fact was I had
nothing else to go on, nothing else to do.  If I went home I faced a
serious risk of getting my ass kicked for slacking off whenever he decided
to quit avoiding me.  I might not be getting much done up here, but at
least I was doing *something*.

Something that gave me way too much time to think, though.  Sitting
there for three hours left me plenty of time to mull stuff over in my
head, over and over again.  What had happened on Friday.  How long he'd
been gone now.  What I'd say to him when he finally did decide to show up
again.  I kept trying to think of a witty one-liner, some pun about Hell
or something, but I was drawing a total blank.  Damn.  Maybe it was better
that he hadn't shown up yet.  I'd probably just end up looking stupid with
my jaw hanging down saying "Hey, where were you?" or "Long time no see!"
God almighty.

Then just out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of some kind of
movement down in the alley.  I scooted over a little so that I could get a
better view.  It turned out to be a bag lady, shuffling into the alley and
huddling behind the dumpster by the far wall.  She kept darting her head
back and forth, like she expected someone to be coming after her.  I
squinted to get a better look - harder than it should've been, thanks to
the damn rain - and watched as she pulled a sheet from one of her bags and
yanked it over her head to protect her from the rain.  But when I looked
again, I could make out more of the detail of the sheet.  It was a
blanket, made of the same ratty plaid material that I'd pulled from the

That did it.  I didn't know if she was the one or not, but at least I
could link her to the crime scene and could ask her questions if I needed
to.  I really didn't want to let her out of my sight in case anything
happened, but being on top of the roof that meant that the only way I
could get down *and* watch her would be to use the fire escape.  That'd be
a sure-fire way of scaring her off, and anyway it was raining out and I
didn't want to slip and fall.  So after counting to three, I made a run
for it.  Slammed through the fire escape door that led to the roof, jogged
quickly down the stairs (but carefully - no point attracting too much
attention, even if this building had nothing but apartments in it),
skidded around the corner and then halted for a second so I wouldn't come
running at her out of nowhere.  I took my gun out of the holster and very
slowly began taking baby steps into the alleyway.  That was when I
accidentally stepped on a broken bottleneck lying on the ground.  Shit.
That figures.

"Who's there?"  The breaking glass had gotten her attention.  She poked
her head around the corner and stared at me like a hawk.  Her eyes were
wild and unblinking, and she had little strands of rat-brown hair
straggling out from underneath the blanket that was over her head.  Her
accent sounded unfamiliar - English, maybe?  Kind of proper.  I tried
taking another step forward, hiding my gun behind my back.

"... hi.  I'm not gonna hurt you, I just wanna ask you some questions --"

"DON'T come any closer."  The woman started to twitch a little, and I
froze where I was standing.

"It's okay," I started murmuring, like talking to a scared kid.  I reached
into my pocket with my free hand and pulled out my badge.  "It's okay -
I'm a policeman - I just wanna ask you some questions, I'm not gonna take
you in."  Yeah, it was pushing it.  Just flashing my badge carried the
risk of making her clam up completely.  At the same time, I was hoping to
appeal to her sense of authority and make her calm down enough for me to
approach her a little more.

I took another step forward.  She cringed and pulled back behind the
dumpster.  That meant that she wasn't watching me, so I quickly crept over
to where she sat huddled next to the brick wall.  I don't think she saw me
do this - her head was down and she was mumbling something, maybe prayers.

"Ma'am -" I managed to say before she jerked her head up and gaped at me.

"DON'T TOUCH ME!"  I blinked and suddenly she'd thrown herself at me.
I'd pegged her at 130 pounds max when I saw her, but in spite of this she
had me on the ground all the way on the other side of the alley.  Shit.  I
banged my head against the wall when she knocked me down, too, so all I
could do was just lie there for a second like a twitching fish, rainwater
splashing in my eyes.

She had her knee on my chest and was clawing at my throat with her raggedy
fingernails when all of a sudden I could feel my throat filling up with
water, like the rain hitting my face was suddenly coming down way harder.
Oh God - it *was* her.  She was one of them.

*C'mon, Zeke!*  I was stronger than her, but she was *crazed* - we're
talking rabid animal crazy here.  Could she actually make me drown like
the other guys?  It felt like she could.  I sure as hell wasn't about to
find out.

I managed to kick her off and then rolled over on the gritty alley ground,
spitting up salt water by the pint.  My gun was still in my hand, thank
God, so I somehow lurched to my feet and pointed it at her where she'd
fallen on the ground.  She was scared now, pressed up against the opposite
wall and shaking.  Even her teeth were trembling - I could hear it.

"Please don't."  Her voice was quiet now, not the grating shriek it'd been
before.  She wasn't moving.

"I don't have a choice."  *Don't talk, Zeke, just shoot.*  Damn.  I tried
to tell myself that every time this happened, but I always ended up
ignoring my own advice and listening to them for a second. *Stalling won't
make you feel any better - just shoot!*

"Don't make me go back."  Her knees buckled and she sank to the ground.
She was begging.  Oh, God, she was begging.  "This isn't me.  I'm not like
this.  She was supposed to help me - she left me and I can - I can *smell*
her on you -- you know where she is, don't you?"

*Quit stalling!*  Goddamnit, it was happening again.  I couldn't let her
start telling me her life story now - I'd never send her back if that
happened.  Who was she talking about, though?  Another of the hundred and
thirteen?  Don't let her trick you, Zeke --

I held the gun level.  "I'm really, really sorry."  And then I shot her.
Two shots, right in the face.  She went quietly,  crying just a little.
It was still echoing in the alley even after she was gone.  There was a
burning, just a little, when her tattoo melted away - it was one way down
on the small of my back.  I didn't even get a chance to see what it looked

There wasn't any point in staying.  Somebody had probably heard the shots,
so the best bet would be to get the hell out of there fast.  *Memo to
Zeke: One of these days, it probably wouldn't hurt to invest in a
silencer.*  Maybe I could count it as a corporate expense.  That
thought almost brought a smile to my face.  Not wanting to get anyone's
attention, I took a hint from my own investigation and hiked the fence to
get away, checking for a second to make sure that my jacket hadn't gotten
caught on the chain edge at the top (that would just be too freaking
ironic, believe me).  The rain was finally beginning to let up, and I
managed to walk the rest of the way home without getting too soaked.

That was it.  It just wasn't sinking in very quickly.  I'd pulled off my
own investigation with only one small hint.  I'd taken in one of the
hundred and thirteen all by myself, for the most part.  One step closer to
being finished.  Then why didn't I feel like I'd accomplished very much?

I hit the elevator button and stared blankly at the panel.  Maybe it was
because I didn't know anything about the woman I'd just ... sent back.
Who was she?  What had she done to deserve being sent to Hell?  What was
she talking about back there, when she'd tried to stall me from carrying
out my job?  I had no idea, and at this rate it wasn't likely that I'd
find out.

When I opened my door, it was cold and very dark inside.  It was almost
midnight, though, so I wasn't really surprised.  I didn't even bother
turning the lights on.  I just tossed my jacket over one of the chairs and
wandered into the bedroom, finally just collapsing on the bed.  There
wasn't really any reason to stay awake, so I just curled up on my side and
tried to will myself to go to sleep.

So.  That was it.  Another one down.  Was this how things were going to be
from now on?  I hadn't seen even a trace of him for four days now, except
that damned drinking glass.  I'd managed to track down and send back
another of his charges and he hadn't shown up to pester me once.  It was
eerie.  A few months ago I would have cheered if this had happened.  Hell,
last Thursday I think I might have been kind of happy, if only for the
short vacation.

Shit.  It was like heroin, getting totally addicted after just one hit.
It was this nasty fixation, like an obsession that I couldn't get out of
my head.  I didn't realize how much I actually appreciated his company
until he quit visiting.  I felt ... rejected.  More alone than I'd been in
all the months back in the world.

I gave up.  It wasn't worth thinking about it any more than I already had.
I'd just make myself miserable.  Feeling pretty silly about that last
thought, even if it *was* true, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

Just then I felt something weird in the room.  Something different.  You
know how some people go on about that creepy feeling like somebody's
watching you, like there's someone else in the room?  I could feel that,
right then.  Creepy doesn't even begin to describe it.  All the hairs on
the back of my neck were standing right up.

I didn't move.  I just stayed where I was and waited.  It was him - I knew
it, somehow.  It *had* to be him.  Who else would it be?  And he was just
*watching* me.  Did he think I was asleep?

A couple of minutes passed by.  Shallow, even breathing, to make it seem
like I was asleep.  Ah, who was I kidding.  "Don't kid the Prince of
Kidders," wasn't that the line?  He'd know if I was asleep.  He sees you
when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake ... *that* was a crazy
image.  He'd sure as hell know I was awake if I started laughing.  Oh,
fuck it, he could probably read my mind right then and he'd know I was
thinking of him as some demented Satan Claus or something.  Well, I hope
he got a kick out of it.

He put his hand on my arm.  Just barely touching it - I'd almost think it
wasn't there.  Big spooky shiver right up my spine, believe me.  I kept
deathly still and didn't flinch a bit.

And that was it.  He just held his hand there, just touching my arm, not
doing a thing more.  I relaxed and very gently moved my hand up so that it
lightly covered his, resting just on top of it.  For some reason I
expected his skin to be cool, but when I laid my hand down I felt that it
was warm and welcoming.  Welcoming.  Christ, I'm pathetic.  I
didn't turn over to look at him - it would've felt wrong, would've ruined
that one weird moment right there.  So I just laid there on the bed,
holding his hand and not saying a word, until I fell asleep about ten
minutes later.


Just like Saturday morning, I woke up alone.  I didn't feel nearly as bad
about it this time, though, as corny as that sounds.  And then I
remembered that last night I'd checked off another of the hundred and
thirteen, so I decided to treat myself to breakfast.  What the heck.

The morning office crowd had already come and gone, so the diner was
pretty deserted except for the odd customer here and there.  I found a
seat at the counter and drummed my fingers underneath the formica
countertop until the waitress came over.

"Cup of coffee and ... eggs and hash browns, please."

"Could you make it two cups of coffee, please?"

I glanced over.  There he was, smiling over at the waitress, sitting there
with his hands neatly folded on the table like nothing had ever happened.
It was an entrance I'd expect of him, I can tell you that.  And I never
did think of anything really witty to say when he finally decided to show
up, so I ended up just staring at him for a second and then shaking my

The waitress came back with two empty cups and a full coffee pot.  As she
was pouring the coffee, he spoke up.  "You seem to be making quick work of
them, Ezekiel.  That's two in less than a week.  Impressive."  He flashed
another winning smile at the waitress, who blushed and grinned back before
heading off to pick up another order.

The coffee was fresh, for a change.  "Yeah, right," I commented before
taking a sip of it.  Okay, it was a weak reply.  I just still felt a bit
strange about the whole situation.

He picked up on that, apparently.  "You're perturbed about it.  Wondering
who she was, what she did to deserve that sort of punishment."

Shoot.  There he was, reading my mind as always.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I am."  I
knew that I shouldn't care, that it was just the job, but it felt weird.
It made her just, I don't know, a little guy in an arcade game that you
shoot down without asking questions.  That made me feel almost heartless -
gunning down people without even knowing why, really.  It was a stupid
position, when I think about it, but that was how I felt.

"Why?  Does it matter?  What's done is done, Ezekiel.  ... Or are you
wondering if she might have been innocent, perhaps?  Would it have changed
things if she'd been coherent enough to be able to weep out her life story
before you had a chance to send her back?"

"... maybe."

"You're soft, Ezekiel.  A pushover.  It's them or you, remember that.  She
would have sent you back in a heartbeat if she'd had the chance."

I said nothing and just sipped at the hot coffee.  He was trying to rile
me up, as usual.  Nothing had changed there.  We were both quiet for about
five minutes - he toyed with the coffee cup as I just sat there waiting
for the waitress to come back.

"If it's any consolation," he said as though the conversation hadn't
stopped at all, "she earned her place.  She was a young woman during the
Revolutionary War who had sided with the rebels - at least, that's what
she told them.  She was meant to light a bonfire on the shore one night to
guide a ship full of rebel colonists past the rocky coastline.  Needless
to say she didn't, and a whole ship full of men drowned as she made off
with the supply of gold and armaments that they'd buried inland.  Sold
them to the enemy, I might add.  Married a British officer and never once
regretted what she'd done."  He raised his eyebrows and nodded to make his

I thought back on the mad woman in the alley.  Her voice had sounded a bit
British.  It was hard to reconcile the image of some proper English wife
with the crazed animal I went up against, though.

Again, he clued in on this.  Damn it, sometimes that was kind of annoying.
"Being in Hell doesn't always ... agree with everyone, Detective.  I
suppose you've been lucky not to have met up with many of the ones who
really suffered there."

"Great."  The waitress showed up carrying two small plates with scrambled
eggs and hash browns neatly arranged on them.  I dug in and carried on the
conversation.  "So should I look forward to meeting a lot of crazies,

This made him smile again.  "Probably not.  You'd need your wits to be in
an escape plan of that magnitude.  Abigail Greene was lucky - she managed
to latch on to one of the stronger ones, like a shadow.  Like a trained

I paused for a moment.  I thought I knew where this was going.  "So what
happened when she got out?"

"Oh, well, she wasn't really useful back in the world.  More of a
hindrance.  Discarded like a used tissue, the poor woman.  She couldn't
fend for herself in this world, so she ended up wandering the streets.  A
very *severe* example of the disenfranchised lower echelon, don't you

"Mm-hmm."  I finished up the coffee and waved to the waitress for another
cup.  "So, who was it she'd hooked up with?" I asked him, trying to be
casual about it.  I had a nasty suspicion about this.

"Abigail set her sights high, you can grant her that.  And I think you
know who it was that Abigail latched onto."

I swallowed a mouthful of hash browns and rolled my eyes.  "Ash," I
muttered, half to myself.  He nodded sagely.

"Ashur Badaktu was powerful.  She kept her head, even in Hell.  The weak
gravitate toward the strong, no matter the location. It's a matter of

"Yeah, well, thanks for the proverb, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Man."  He chuckled
and turned his attention back to his coffee.  So the woman had been Ash's
pet in Hell ... that was one more grievance to add to the list for
whenever I met up with Ash again.  She was definitely taking the fall this
time.  You could bet on it.

I didn't say anything after that, and neither did he.  He just took little
sips of his coffee while I finished my breakfast.  It looked as though
neither of us was about to bring up the subject that was probably in both
our minds at that moment.  *C'mon, do it.*  Damn it.  Damn reckless side
of me.  It's gonna get me killed someday, mark my words.

"I didn't get a chance to say thanks for dinner on Friday night."

He'd had the coffee cup in his hand, and now he just held it there in
mid-air, eyebrows raised as if to say, Are you kidding me?  So I smiled
back, this wiseguy grin that was half serious and half totally yanking his
chain.  He shot back this vicious smirk.  Shit!  I can never read those
damn things.  I think it was along the lines of I Can't Believe You Just
Said That, but I wasn't sure if that meant that he was enjoying this or
that he was gonna kick my ass when we got outside.  Heck, I didn't know if
I even meant it seriously or if I just said it to see what he'd do.

So I turned back to my breakfast nonchalantly and reached for the fork.
"We should do that again sometime."  And I glanced at him out of the
corner of my eye.  That smirk was still there and he shook his head
at me, unbelieving.  Damn it!  Was that a You're Too Much, Zeke head-shake
or a You Are So Very Dead head-shake?  But he just laughed for a second
and nodded at my breakfast.

"Your coffee's getting cold, Ezekiel."  I turned my head for a moment to
look at it and when I turned back, he wasn't there anymore.  I'd fallen
for that trick again, but I didn't let it get to me.

"Miss?  Could I get another cup of coffee, please?"  I waved to the
waitress and she grabbed the coffeepot and headed over my way.  The pot
was down to just the last cup.

"You're lucky - I was just about to brew some more."  She pointed to the
second coffee cup to my left.  "Does your friend want a refill?"

He's not my friend - I'd said that once, a while back, when someone had
mentioned talking to him.  Now I just smiled and shook my head.  "No

"Did he take off?"

"Yep."  I nodded and took a gulp of the hot drink.

"Oh."  She held the empty pot in one hand and ran the other hand down her
apron, cleaning off some grease.  "Is he coming back again?"

I grinned a little and held the cup to my lips.  "Definitely," I murmured
to myself.


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