"Did somebody teach you how to lie?
And take what you're feeling from your eyes?
It's a sad disguise...."
- from "When I Get Over You", Mike Rutherford.
At the time, Stone didn't know exactly what
they had done to their
victim, how he had... ceased to exist. He knew now. He wished
sometimes that he did not, wished sometimes for blissful ignorance of
the torment and agony the other suffered before the final terrible
release of death. More final for him than for any.
Ezekiel had called him 'Myriad'. He
was sure there was another name, a
true name, but Myriad was something that had stuck in his mind after
reading Milton's 'Paradise Lost' a few months back, and it seemed to
suit his new friend. If Myriad preferred another name, he never
After the angel had helped Zeke save Ros's
life, had stood with him and
talked to him while he was forced to watch the only woman he had ever
loved fretting, shaken and scared outside the bank, they had become ...
friends. As close a friend as he had. Myriad had asked him much and
listened attentively. To speak to someone with no hidden agenda was
refreshing, and although *He* hated his co-called servant spending time
with his 'brother', Myriad neither feared him nor heeded his warnings.
He told Stone not to either.
One night Myriad had asked, in the easy,
gentle way he had of asking
questions that had no right or wrong answer, whether Ezekiel had killed
Gilbert Jacks for Ros, or for himself. The question had actually made
Zeke smile, for it was one he had been asking himself for sixteen
years. He guessed that at the time he had justified murdering the man
because of what he had done to his wife, because he had loved her with
everything that he was. He had told himself that all women would be
safer if Jacks were not to live. That was what he had told himself that
fateful night, and for a very long time afterward. And yet, he didn't
believe now that it was the truth. Stone had killed Jacks for revenge,
for himself. The bastard had wrecked his marriage, his life, his love,
had shattered everything he had, taken from him all he ever wanted.
Gilbert Jacks deserved to die. Stone had wanted him to die. That was
why he had killed him. Selfish to the end, he had told Myriad
ruefully. And then he had got himself killed. Selfish, to leave Ros
without anything, to take from her all that remained after Jacks' brutal
attack. Myriad had scolded him for thinking like that, told him off for
thinking the worst of himself. The angel saw someone in Zeke that Zeke
didn't believe anyone had ever seen in him before. Or would again.
Ezekiel had not experienced a sheltered
life. When he had lived, he
had believed that he'd seen everything. He knew the absurd cruelty that
humans visit on other living creatures, had seen the results of
brutality such as most people never life to witness. And yet when he
died and went to hell, he discovered more. Hell was not, Stone
discovered, as the living imagine it; a place of brimstone and fire, of
burning heat and sleeping on coals. Hell was not a state of being, so
much as a state of grace. Or lack of it. When the devil visits in
hell, it was not a case of him striding into your room, it was
knowledge, terrible knowledge shown to you so that you cannot turn away
nor cover your eyes and ears.
He saw much in hell. Yet when he returned
to earth he realized that
the living were capable of far more cruelty than the dead. The thought
of eternity in Satan's embrace began to scare him less than it would
scare those who did not know yet lived in terror every day of their
lives. The best way he could describe his hell to Myriad was to like it
to a fresh memory. To standing on a street corner in New York and
having the devil inform him that the man he allowed go free because his
girlfriend was a snitch, was the very one who would live to rape his
wife and finally seal his fate. The rage that had filled him then, at
Lucifer's words, at the smug sureness, was his hell - the certainty that
the devil was telling the truth, the anger that made him draw his gun
and shoot out the devil's eyes.
Stone had never shown nor felt any remorse
at killing Gilbert Jacks.
The second time, after the bastard had escaped from hell and he had sent
him back to that eternal jail cell, he had actually enjoyed it, felt
pleasure in his enemy's fall. It was what the devil had wanted, of
course, but he didn't usually give in to his boss's whims. He did then,
and had done since. Stone had felt himself becoming more sinful with
every moment spent in the devil's service. Instead of cleansing himself
of the wrong-doings that had sent him to hell in the first place, he
felt he was collecting sins and starting to feel good about it. Until
Myriad. Until the angel had shown him that his work for the devil was
doing good up on earth. He was saving people, stopping more lives from
being wrecked as his own had been. Preventing tragedies that never
should have been a threat.
Zeke had always wondered what made angels
angelic. Myriad showed him
that it wasn't a matter of harps, wings and good deeds. It was simply
the truth. He was a balm for Ezekiel, such peace in a world of insanity
and an afterlife spent hunting down the dregs society believed long
gone. He was a friend, simple and easy. And then he was wiped out,
spirit scattered far away over the stars of the night sky. And Stone
swore that he would find those responsible and make them pay, not for
revenge. For Myriad.
And maybe for his brother.
The call came from Detective Carl Bruen,
a friend Stone had managed to
make in the NYPD just after Ash's disappearance. He thought Carl
sounded a little odd, but he caught the gist of what the detective was
saying, and at least managed to get an address. He turned from the
breakfast bar and regarded the devil, sitting in his chair watching his
television. His evilness had been unusually quiet for the last few
hours and Stone had been starting to become concerned.
Zeke remembered, as he often did, the words
of Lucifer's note, scrawled
temporarily on his wall the night they'd... made out. 'How can nothing
change when everything's changed?'. Nothing had changed, not
outwardly. He had taken out another seven demons in the month since,
helped by the fact that four of them had formed some weird sort of
vigilante group and had been deeply involved in a heated debate when
Zeke shot all four during a group meeting. The devil had been pleased.
He'd even bought dinner. Still, that night had not been mentioned.
And then there had been the awkward time
when Myriad had shown up.
Just as Lucifer was trying to talk Zeke into believing that he'd
deserved to go to hell, the devil's angel of a brother had turned up to
counteract the arguments. Luckily. Without him, Zeke would probably
have been back in Hell right now, and Lucifer would have another pet to
frustrate and annoy. But Myriad had shown up, and was still showing up
for drinks, vanilla sundaes and long chats about everything from the
meaning of life to the more complex body language used by players during
Off-hand comments had shown Zeke that the
devil was jealous. But the
ruler of Hell wasn't about to admit that in a hurry, and so the
friendship had grown unabated.
Ezekiel was still at a loss to explain why
something had happened
between himself and his employer in the first place. Except for the
occasional drunken fuck with a stranger picked up in a bar, Zeke had
never had much attraction to men. He appreciated the fairer sex far too
much. Yet... there was something about the human form the devil had
chosen. That one night he had found himself wanting to touch the jet
black, silky hair. He remembered seeing the golden flecks in the dark
eyes, if he looked closely enough.
The devil looked up, regarding him with suspicion. "What?"
"Oh, nothing. Just... a possible lead
on one of your escaped
"Excellent." Zeke wondered if the
smile that split his boss's face was
genuine. "Can I come?"
The address was downtown, in one of the
rougher areas of New York. A
run down block in the projects. A single police car had made it to the
scene before them, although Zeke knew Bruen was around too. It was the
follow-me line of yellow police tape that led them to the basement of
the building. From there, the stink was easy enough to follow. Pushing
open the outer door, what was beyond reminded Ezekiel of the pervert's
place in "Silence of the Lambs" - a film he'd rented not to long ago and
watched with Max and three buckets of chicken. The air felt slick,
hot. The walls had a terrible sheen to them which made his skin crawl
just looking at it.
As he entered the basement rooms, Stone
found himself wondering what
other people saw when they saw the devil. They must see something, he'd
guessed, because no one had ever tried to walk through him, or
questioned him when he'd ordered ice-cream. He was never ignored, just
always... welcomed. Stone frowned to himself; that was the wrong word.
Or maybe not. This was a crime scene and no one was asking him to
leave. Whatever that was, it was what happened everywhere.
Stone continued through the dingy basement
until he stepped into the
room in which Bruen stood. The detective looked up with a grimace.
"This is a bad one, Stone."
He didn't need to point that out. Just beyond the door, the room
opened out to something that would not have been out of place in a
brewery. A huge vat stood to the left, wide with low sides. Three
circular rails were attached to the ceiling, the outer one the radius of
the vat itself. From this rail hung meathooks. Five large hooks strong
enough to hold a man. And at least two of them had done. For the hands
still remained, pierced by the sharp hooks through the palms, torn off
at the wrists, the fingers locked in macabre grips around the tops.
Zeke swallowed the bile in his throat and
stepped further into the
room, joining Bruen to get the rundown on whatever they knew. They knew
nothing. A woman upstairs had reported terrible screams, and for
someone living out here to report something like that, it had to have
been bad. For someone out here to call the police was almost unheard
of. Bruen had been the first on the scene and had called Stone. Two
officers had arrived next, they were outside throwing up. They had
looked into the vat. As if reacting to some pre-determined cue, Stone
did the exact same thing. He stepped up and peered over the low edges
into the darkness. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. And then
he was looking away, again fighting the urge to vomit. The vat
contained more remains. But it was liquid. The skin, muscle, blood,
insides of a body but no bones. Nothing to be identified. Nothing that
wouldn't have to be siphoned out. Stone felt nothing in that second but
a soul deep urge to run, to get out of the basement and into the
sunlight where nothing like this could ever happen. Or where he could
make himself believe that.
In an effort to look anywhere but at the
vat, he turned to the tiny
blacked-out window and the filthy narrow ledge. A small, leather bound
book looked out of place there and he picked it up. In the same moment
a strangled noise turned his attention back in the direction of the
horror. Zeke frowned. The devil was standing side-on to the vat, one
hand locked over the edge, fingers digging into the rusted metal. The
other was fisted at his side, he was looking forward with unfocused
eyes. And the expression on his face was one of pain. Pain and loss.
Glancing at Bruen and wondering at the blank
look on his face, Stone
stepped up to his boss. Satan surely had seen worse - had inflicted
worse - than this.
"Hey...." Ezekiel touched Lucifer's
shoulder and the devil flinched,
looking up and taking a moment to focus. His sharp features were set in
terrible grief, something Zeke had never expected to see. As he
watched, the dark eyes changed, glazing over before tears began to
form. Zeke's own eyes widened. This was unexpected. This was creepy.
Once again he tried to touch the other's shoulder, and this time the
contact wasn't shrugged off. "What?"
When the devil still remained silent, eyes blinking
away tears as more
formed, Ezekiel decided it was time to get them both out of here.
Slipping the small book into a deep pocket, he forcefully turned Lucifer
toward the door and directed him out, walking him through the corridor
and up the stairs until they were outside. He stopped them by a low
wall and released his hold. Lucifer remained standing, staring off
passed the dilapidated kids’ play-area into nowhere. Zeke stood a
little to his side, watching and becoming more concerned as each long
And then, in a tiny voice, he heard the
devil speak the impossible.
"It was Quisander." Eyes flicked up to meet Zeke's. "Myriad."
The breath caught in Ezekiel's throat before he was shaking his head.
"It... can't have been. That's not possible! Myriad's an angel.
Whoever that was... he or she... there were human remains."
Lucifer did not seem to hear him.
"It was my brother. I could feel...
his spirit. It was everywhere, trapped in that room, shattered." Tears
cascaded over the human face of the devil, astounding Zeke with their
emotion. "Someone... bound him to the flesh. And then... slayed him."
More tears, and now sobs were beginning, deep moans of pain.
Without thinking, unable to form a coherent
thought, Zeke stepped
forward, putting one hand behind Lucifer's shoulder, the other going to
his arm to pull him gently but firmly into an enfolding embrace. He
held onto the body in his arms, feeling the deep tremors running through
it, sensing the devil's desperate, slipping hold on his own control.
Resting his chin in the black hair, he murmured, "Let go."
The devil cried out in sudden, excruciating
pain and drew back, away
from Zeke, staring at him with wild eyes. "You've no idea!" He cried,
voice pitched hysterically high. "I can't let go. Everyone here would
pay." He took three steps back, and disappeared in a heated swirl of
red-tinged light. Zeke wiped his own eyes. Despite the enormity of it,
it had to be true. Myriad... Quisander... had died in that hell on
earth. The gentle, unassuming angel had only taken human form to help
him - worthless Ezekiel Stone. And now he was gone because of it. He
had so many questions that only the devil could answer. They would
Pulling the small book from his pocket,
he turned it in his hands to
read the gold scribe on the binding. The words looked Latin. Zeke
headed back into the city, heading for the university.
The professor was looking at him with a
very definite mix of suspicion
and envy. "This, my young friend, is the Book of Black. And a very
rare copy of it." The older man pulled his glasses half way down his
nose and regarded Zeke over them. "May I ask where you found it?"
"A crime scene."
Professor Cranberry's bright blue eyes widened. "Really? A theft?"
"Murder." Zeke watched the other's
expression change to something akin
to fear. "What's the book about?"
"It... it's not really about anything."
The professor sat down hard
behind his desk, his mind - imagination perhaps - working overtime. "It
is said that there are passages in here, spells to summon the devil, to
ensnare demons in human forms, to subject victims to terrible horrors."
Cranberry had dropped the book to his desk but his hands rested on
either side of the black leather, as if he feared opening it. Zeke had
no such reservations. He reached down and flicked open the cover.
Cranberry read the words there as if entranced.
"'Kneel and learn all you who embrace good and reject the demons of
Hell. Herein are the incantations of the Kereb. With these weapons of
words you may rid this world of the devil and his demons.'" He looked
up at Zeke worriedly. "It is not right to read from the Book of Black."
"Yeah, yeah. Is there anything in
there that might... cause... death
The professor frowned. "This is only...
superstition." But he did not
look or sound convinced at his own conviction. He turned the first few
pages and stopped at a short passage under which an illustration caught
Zeke's eye. A pentagon, roughly drawn, and in the centre a horned
creature, maybe meant to be the devil.
Ezekiel placed his finger on the page. "What about that one?"
Had Cranberry chosen only to skip-read,
or had his language skills not
been so honed, it might not have worked. But Professor Cranberry was
leader in his field, translated for historians and archaeologists.
"'Into this your own given sign we call you, devil of all, Satan cast
down from the godly skies to the burning pits of netherworlds. Cast off
this summoning you may not for it is right. We your servants are also
your master. We who you desire call you. Summoned you are therefore it
is your duty to...'"
It was the devastating cry of surprise, pain and fury that rocked
Ezekiel. At the very worst he had imagined that the devil would be
standing there before them, tapping his foot on the floor and demanding
an explanation. It was not even close. The floor before the desk was
on fire. In the midst of the flames knelt something... black and
charred. Yet still moving. Trying to stand.... Zeke realized
belatedly that the professor was still reading. He lashed out, knocking
the book from his hands, ending the flow of words, stopping the
incantation. The devil let loose a cry of... despair?
And then it was gone, as quickly as Zeke
had seen it. He approached
the front of the desk shakily, but there was no sign that anything had
happened, not a mark on the expensive carpet. Cranberry was looking at
him as if he'd grown horns and a forked tail. "Why did you do that?"
Zeke stared at him, open-mouthed. "You didn't... see that?!"
Ezekiel shook his head and moved around
the desk to retrieve the book
from the floor. For a moment he thought the professor would ask for it
back, but he didn't.
"Thanks for your help." And Zeke was gone.
Pushing open the door of his apartment,
he looked inside cautiously.
"Hey.... Are you here?" Nothing answer him but the eerie silence
within. He swore softly. He didn't really believe they had done
anything from which Satan himself couldn't heal, but he was aware of
having hurt the devil, and somehow that was wrong. Especially at a time
Zeke banged the door closed just for the
noise and chuckled at
himself. 'At a time like this'?! It was Satan for God's sake! He'd
shot his eyes out not so ago, sending him straight back to hell. No
remorse there. That had been personal, done in the heat of the moment
in revenge for his boss being a smug righteous bastard. This was
How long had that fire been eating away
at him? How long had it taken
for the blackening, the charring to strip away his flesh?
Suddenly he was on the verge of panic.
He caught himself, taking a
deep breath simply to calm. It was the devil, after all. Bringer of
pain, tormentor of souls. Anyway, since when did he care so damn
much? //since that night, as well you know, Zeke// He smiled
ruefully to himself. Myr... Quisander's murder had really shaken him
up, worse than he'd realized obviously.
Pulling the leather-bound book from his
pocket he dropped it onto the
table. As he did, the cover fell open. He stared at the words written
there, seeing the translation of the ancient dialect, almost hearing it
in his mind. Quickly he reached down and closed the cover. //you have
to relax// he told himself. This whole situation was affecting him far
too much for his own good. It wasn't like he lead a easy life, wasn't
like he didn't deal with evil everyday, sometimes even ate with it. It
was just something.... What kind of person would murder an angel?
He needed normality for an hour or two before
he went back to the crime
scene. The necessity of doing so made him shudder. But he knew he had
Locking his door behind him, he went for a walk in the park.
It was early evening when Ezekiel made it back
to the tower block. He
knew for certain that he didn't want to be there when it got dark. This
time he took longer to investigate the best of the basement area before
returning to the vat room. But there was nothing. The place seemed
like it hadn't been lived in for years. The damp was ingrained into the
walls, causing the sheen he had seen earlier in the day, on his last
visit here. There was nothing supernatural about it, just stale water.
Had he then, imagined more of what he believed he had seen today, was
his mind simply playing tricks?
It the vat room itself, the hands, and most
of the remains had already
been removed by the police forensics team. Zeke wondered what they'd
find in the remains of a flesh-bound angel. They'd never identify him,
that was for sure. Without a family or loved ones to placate, the NYPD
would soon move on to other cases. He was the only one who would ever
care enough to find out who killed Quisander, and why. Maybe even how.
For a long time he stood still within the
confines of the
blood-splattered walls and waited, hoping some spark of inspiration
would come to him. He listened, waiting for the dead cries of his
friend to ring in his ears. Did angels have souls? Surely Quisander
would return to heaven, wouldn't he? What was it Lucifer had said?
Something about his spirit being shattered?
Zeke forced himself to lean into the vat
and touch his finger to the
macabre goo that remained in the bottom. Bringing his hand up, he saw
the blood stain on the tip of that finger and watched it. Before his
eyes, it welled up into a single coherent drop, crystallising while he
watched before suddenly shattering into hundreds of tiny shards and
dropping to the floor. He swallowed and made to back out of the room
before stopping himself with a silent chastisement. "How old are you?"
he muttered to himself. Even as a kid he hadn't spooked easily, hadn't
been allowed to with his father around. How would that have seemed?
Ezekiel derailed that train of thought swiftly.
Not now. There was no
time for old wounds. Too many new ones to deal with. Yet nothing was
coming of hanging around here. There were no clues as to who or how or
why. The only thing he had was the book. The professor had said it was
very rare, so where would someone get a copy of something like that?
Turning his back on the vat room, he stepped once more into the simple
maze of corridors that lead away from the horrors behind him.
He stood there in silence for a long minute
before something on the
floor caught his eye. He leaned down to grasp the corner of white
showing up in the grime that seemed to cover everything. He recognised
the feel of the thick paper he held. A Polaroid photograph. Smiling to
himself, hoping this was the breakthrough he needed, he spat on the
dirty-covered front and wiped it on his coat sleeve.
Long seconds later he breathed again, having
forgotten to. The photo
was of the devil - his devil - the same wide-brimmed hat and black hair,
black shirt and mischievous grin. It had been taken outside Zeke's own
apartment building. Finally the mental block cleared from his mind and
he saw everything; the plan, the motives. And the mistake. They had
wanted the devil. They had killed an angel. Did they realise? Ezekiel
guessed they were demons such as himself; some of the escapees looking
to rid themselves once and for all from the threat of their jailer.
What would happen if there were no devil,
no Satan to reign in the evil
of Hell? Would the prisoners truly go free? Would he? Could he step
back and wait? Could he leave the devil to the same fate as his
brother? If they had realised that they had murdered the wrong one,
would they now go after the right one? A flash of the charred image in
the professor's study flooded his mind. They could call the devil to
them... if they still had the book. Which they didn't.
Fleeing the horrors of the basement, he headed out and home once more.
Max looked up from the paper as he wondered
in to his apartment block.
"Hey yourself." Zeke leaned on the
desk in front of her. "Would you
do me a favour?"
She gave him one of her best smiles. "For you, Stone. Anything."
"If anyone looks like they're waiting around
here for someone, would
you call me. And if my friend - the strange guy with the black hair -"
she nodded, “- comes in, send him straight up and tell him it's
urgent." He knew Lucifer sometimes liked to enter via the front door,
just to fuel rumours
She nodded. "No problems."
Again his apartment was eerily quiet.
And empty. He kept expecting -
or rather hoping - that an enraged devil would turn up and give him hell
(metaphorically speaking) for what had occurred at the university.
Sighing to himself he grabbed a beer from the fridge and crossed to the
table where he knew he'd left it. It wasn't there.
There was always heat. It was comforting
in a way, when he needed
that. Some claimed they could hear the screams of tormented souls,
crying out for mercy in their thousands. Because that was what they
expected to hear. He heard nothing just now. Down here, in his own
realm, he just was. Throughout the ages of man there had been drawings,
representations, false idols. None had been accurate. Where the horns,
and the forked tail had come from he would never know. He was an angel,
albeit a fallen one. He had the wings, the light. But only when he
wanted them, only when he needed a form.
He had chosen the human form carefully for
his time with Ezekiel Stone,
and was uncertain why his brother had been possessed to mimic it. The
knowledge that he would never know stung him more deeply than he would
ever have imagined it could have done.
He dropped his head back into the molten
bed on which he lay. Tendrils
that might have been fingers snaked into the hot mattress beneath him
and stretched apart. The summoning had hurt. The incantation read in
English had warped the effect somewhat. He remembered it being used in
ancient times, read in Latin and he had appeared strong and powerful,
enveloped in flames. He had always faced them in a rage, even if he had
been stuck for something to engage his time. He hadn't heard the words
used in a millennia. He had been more than a little surprised to find
himself being forcefully pulled from his grief into the arms of hellfire
itself, to be twisted and charred in the soaring heat and finally to
appear before Ezekiel Stone and mad professor friend. That trick had
earned Cranberry in place in hell if nothing else had.
He was rather pleased that Ezekiel had stopped
the chant. His
appearance must have been startling. Or frightening. He smiled to
himself. That would pay the snivelling demon back for shooting him in
the eyeballs some weeks ago.
He allowed his thoughts to linger on his
servant. Despite himself -
literally - he knew he felt deeply for the human, knew he was attached
to Ezekiel now. He had managed to admit it in the heat of the passion,
and the words he had left his lover with had been the naked truth. And
Ezekiel cared for him! That was perhaps the most amazing thing. This
morning, at Quisander's murder scene, the embrace, the murmurs of
comfort, the care Ezekiel had shown him from the outset. Throughout
their relationship, despite everything he tried to wind Ezekiel up, it
was only the final blow concerning Gilbert Jacks that had turned his
detective against him. And even after that, after his anger, his
claiming Zeke was his and his alone, the man had still returned to
joking with him over breakfast.
He found himself constantly amazed by the
human spirit. Especially by
Ezekiel's. Maybe he should go up and just let Zeke know he was okay.
Instead of simply appearing in the apartment
as was his wont when he
was in a hurry, tonight the devil decided to go in through the
building. Zeke's cute little landlady always regarded him with such a
feral expression, and he wondered if he could push her suspicions
further with a few selected words. He stepped into the dingy hallway.
Max was at her usual spot, reading some trash novel. Lucifer
straightened his deep blue shirt and stepped up to her. And stopped at
the sound of voices.
Max turned as Zeke's odd friend pushed the
door open and came inside.
"Hey," she called to him. He did look up. He even smiled at her - a
smile that sent shivers down her spine. But whatever she might have
said to him was lost as two other men followed him inside. They were
speaking in a language she did not recognise, chanting almost, and if it
annoyed her, it was having a more intense impact on Zeke's friend.
He froze in place. The words were
stinging him, as if they were
physical darts cast in his direction. He flinched and tried to move,
but the two simply moved closer and continued the barrage of words. At
her desk, Max cautiously picked up the phone and called Zeke's
Ezekiel half ran half flew down the stairs.
He was too late. He saw
his erstwhile boss kneeling on the floor of the hallway, face tilted
upwards, eyes screwed shut in agony. His arms were stretched out, hands
up, as trying to shield himself from the power of the incantation that
was calling his ancient soul, binding him to the human flesh. Zeke
screamed, trying for 'no' but probably not getting too close for as he
opened his mouth the vision of terror simply vanished. The men, the
devil, the chanting. All gone. He looked to Max, whose life-tinted
eyes had gone wide, her face white. He had been about to ask her if
he'd really seen that. But her expression told him it had been real,
and he knew deep within him that he'd witnessed the summoning and the
binding as it was supposed to have been done.
So where were they now?
Taking a wild guess, he set out for that
building and that basement at
a running pace.
He struggled, gave them as much to fight
off as he could. But in the
end there were five of them and one of him, and he felt so weak....
He screamed too. The pain of the thick
metal forced through sensitive
flesh almost blinded him, and when the second hand was subjected to the
same abuse, the white-hot agony simply merged into one flame that began
at the base of his neck and seemed to spread like wildfire along his
Only when the torturing hands left him,
did he dare to open his eyes.
He recognised the vat room where his brother had met his own final
death. He could still feel the tormented, scattered spirit fighting
against the physical walls that held him here. To free him, the place
would have to be destroyed. Would he also become trapped here? Him?
Satan? The ruler of the netherworlds? He raged against the bonds that
held him; the spiritual binding to this putrid flesh, and physical grip
of the cold metal hooks through his hands.
It hurt. More than he could have imagined.
Physical pain was
something he doled out, something he enjoyed when he was in his own
realm, his own form could stand so much more. The pitiful limits of the
flesh were nothing new to him. Except that he had never experienced
them from within before. His entire weight was held up through the torn
muscle and skin of his palm. The hooks had sliced up as he had been
released to drop, and were now scraping against the small bones in his
hands. He could feel the blood running in steady streams over his
wrists, down his arms under his shirt. If he turned his head he knew he
would see the blood pooling in the material at his elbow and slowly
starting to leak through the delicate fabric to join his brother's
remains in the vat just below.
Opening his eyes had also brought another
fact into clear view. He
recognised his attackers. Five demons that Ash had assisted in escaping
from his hellish embrace. All were ancient souls, cast into Hell for
playing with black magic. He believed, if his mind was still
functioning correctly, that one of them was the author of the damned
book - The Book of Black. The one Ezekiel had had in that room to which
he'd been summoned. The one now held in the loving grasp of one of his
tormentors. Should that be executioners?
He almost laughed at the stray thought that
if he were really human, if
he had truly belonged in the fleshy prison to which he had been
condemned, he would have been going straight to Hell. The one place,
ironically, that he wished he were at this very moment. He tried to
laugh. But it came out as a horrible mix, half way between a sob and a
scream. Two of the demons standing in a semi-circle around the vat
looked up at him and smiled.
And then the words began. A different
chant, different sounds that
would not bind, but would undo. He could feel their terrible effect
almost immediately. The damnable skin covering this body began to heat
up, started to feel that it was melting beneath his clothes. Deeper
inside, he had the impression of important body parts failing in their
duties. He had never had need of them before; this physical state had
been nothing more than an illusion, a trick of the light so as not to
scare his Ezekiel.... Ezekiel.... Had he known? He had worked out
what the book was for and returned it to these demons so that they might
end his torture and finally free him?
Somehow that thought cut deeper than the words being flung at him.
He closed his eyes, squeezing burning tears
of pain through his lids to
send them cascading over his cheeks. As they ran, he swore he could
feel them tearing the skin in their path.
The agony clouded his mind, centring his
focus on nothing but the
nerves aflame within him. He tried to struggle against everything that
was being done to him, but the movements simply pulled the hooks further
through his hands, snapping at least one bone in each. If he pulled too
hard they would slice up and through, and he would fall into his
bother's decaying flesh that awaited him at the base of the vat.
Tipping his head back, he screamed.
Zeke heard that. He jumped the final
steps and flung himself at the
basement door, running, gun in hand, straight into the vat room that was
scene to the horrors he was hearing. That scream had at least told him
he was in the right place. But was he in time? As he barrelled into
the vat room, his subconscious picked up the sound of police sirens
getting closer. For some reason he felt relieved. A feeling that
deserted him when he saw the awful scene in front of him.
Before any demon could react he had fired two bullets.
One took out the left eye of the demon holding
the book. He dropped
the leather bound copy and cried out as his soul dragged itself back to
The second ripped through the face of the
demon next to the fallen
one. It was enough.
The chanting had stopped and the three remaining
were almost on top of
him when he fired again, straight into the right eye of the one closest
to him. The bullet excited by some miracle and plunged with equal
vigour into the fourth demon.
One left. Zeke took a moment to glance
at the now struggling form of
the devil and wanted to use his fingers to dig out the eyes of this last
unfortunate one. Instead, he aimed carefully and found no resistance.
A moment before he pulled the trigger, he heard the words, 'you could
have been free' echo around him. And he fired. And the words - and
their speaker - were gone.
Dropping his gun, Zeke dragged a table from
the back of the room to the
edge of the vat and leapt up onto it. Hushing his frantic boss, he
hooked one arm around the sweat-soaked waist body and pulled it forward
with care until the devil's feet touched the table on which he was
Not thinking of anything passed this sudden offered escape, Lucifer
pulled hard against the hooks stilled searing his flesh. Zeke stilled
him. "Easy. Let me." Reaching up, he apologised under his breath
before sliding first one then the other hook from the bloodied palms.
Bitten back yells of pain, and then arms dropped before coming up around
him to cling desperately. Steadying them both, Zeke took a moment to
simply hold on. Harsh sobs of pain and terror were torn from the
unwilling soul in his arms. He held tighter, murmuring softly,
reassuring where he wasn't sure what reassurance would be. Lucifer felt
so small at that moment, so powerless. He unreasonably remembered the
last time they'd embraced.
Easing them both down, he finally slipped
off the table and helped the
devil down too. With one arm around the shaking shoulders, and the
other hand holding him close to his side, Zeke led his temporary ward
out of the room and up into the night as the police arrived.
Max was waiting for them. Zeke saw
her and asked her to fetch a first
aid kit of some kind, hoping this nightmare of an apartment building
actually had such a thing. Luckily, by the time Zeke had the devil
sitting on the edge of the couch, she had found one. Without asking
anything, she knelt in front of 'Zeke's friend' and began to dress and
bandage the deep wounds. Zeke watched her, sitting one the arm of the
couch in silence, hands folded in his lap.
Finally she finished and sat back on her
heels, not taking her eyes
from the man in front of her who was turning his bandaged hands over and
back, staring at them, obviously in shock. "He really needs a hospital,
Stone. He's lost a lot of blood and those wounds won't heal on their
Ezekiel shook his head. "He'll be all right, trust me." He did look
at her then. "Please?"
She hesitated, but nodded. "Call if you need me?"
Once she'd gone, Zeke slipped off the arm
to sit in the corner of the
couch. Lucifer was still staring at the bandages. Reaching forward,
Zeke touched his shoulder, ignored the flinch, and carded his fingers
through the damp black hair. There was no sign of any more wounds. If
he was right in his thinking then the spell had been stopped. With any
luck, the binding had a time limit, as the summoning did.
"I think this'll wear off soon." Lucifer
nodded vaguely. "These are
just physical wounds...." Zeke wished he sounded more sure of himself.
But the devil looked up at him then, and nodded, letting out a deep
"Yes. Soon... my... spirit will be
released from this hell and I
return to mine." He smiled a little uncertainly. "It won't be
pleasant. To be trapped in this form for too long is uncommon."
Ezekiel moved closer, one arm around the devil's shoulders. "You’ll be
all right." Another nod. Zeke tugged persuasively, and Lucifer allowed
himself to fall against the strength beside him. Ezekiel simply held
"Would Quisander have gone to heaven?"
The question, asked some time
later, stirred the devil from an uneasy slumber. He had moved his legs
up onto the couch, and was leaning back against Zeke, the man's arms
encircling him almost possessively. He moved his head from the pillow
of the crook of Ezekiel's shoulder, but dropped it back when the spike
of pain shot down his spine.
With much regret, he told Ezekiel the only
truth. "Quisander... all of
us angels are souls. If we are destroyed, there is nothing more. His
spirit is trapped inside the walls that witnessed his death. When I am
able, I shall release him."
Zeke wanted to ask what that meant, but
he thought he already knew.
And he had not the desire to stop it. Quisander - Myriad - had been his
friend. And Lucifer.... "They stole the book back, I didn't give it to
The devil actually smiled. "I... did wonder."
"I know. That's why I told you.
You're a pain in the ass sometimes...
but I wouldn't want... that."
Zeke expected some witty comeback. Instead, he just heard, "thank
you." He hugged the weary form in his arms closer to him, offering
comfort for them both.
The devil tensed in his arms when the binding
started to wear off.
Ezekiel held him, and softly whispered, "Close your eyes." The devil,
for once, did as he was instructed. First spirit, released from the
terrible prison, escaped. Eyes covered so as to stop the crashing,
hurried exit from the physical form, it left via the holes in the hands,
slowly and with aching relief. As the last fled back to Hell, the body
in Zeke's arms simply vanished.
He dropped his head back to the cushions
and closed his eyes. "Get
well soon." He murmured.
//soon...// came the unexpected reply.