"Brimstone" characters beloved creations of Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris.
Story copyright Madeleine Jane Hughes, 1999

With thanks, as always, to Kath, my encouragement and constant support.  To Boyd
for putting up with a complete stranger, and to Simon, my inspiration.

by elfin

        "It's better to be on my right hand, than in my path.  Remember that, Ezekiel."
        He thought about it for a while as he stirred his coffee.  It made sense, he
guessed.  "What can I call you?"
        The Devil frowned under his wide-brimmed hat.  "Call me?"
        "Yeah.  You must have a name.  Thinking about it, you've probably got lots.
Give me one."
        Ezekiel gazed at the human form sitting opposite him.  'Satan' conjured up
memories of fire and pain, screams of the dead, horns and a pointed tail, and a
laugh that could set heaven aflame.  Somehow the white cotton shirt, black jeans
and fedora didn't fit.  He shook his head.  "It doesn't suit you."
        The devil stared back at him.  "What?"
        Zeke picked up his coffee mug, turning it in his hands so that the handle
pointed outwards and his warm fingers could wrap around the cheap ceramic.
"It's not you, you're not a 'Satan'."
        "I'm the ruler of hell, the evil one.  I am the Devil!"
        "I know.  But up here... it's just not you.  Give me another."
        'Satan' looked confused for a moment, before he caught on.  He sighed.
        Ezekiel smiled.  "Now, you see, that's definitely more you.  Lucifer.  Luce.
Luci?"  Eyes flashed red across the table and he laughed, almost choking on his
mouthful of coffee.  "Okay.  Lucifer it is."

        Frustrated by his servant's laid-back attitude, the devil sat forward.  "Are we
taking the day off?"
        The ex-detective graced his boss with a dirty look as he continued to drink.
"Don't you have better things to do with your mornings than to watch me eat
        Lucifer seemed to think that over.  "There are other things I could be doing, I
suppose.  That's the great thing about eternity, you have all the time in the
        Zeke gave the other a 'whatcha gonna do' look.  "Not a lot of use when you're

        "Um."  The devil picked up the salt shaker and turned it in his fingers.
Holding it up, he watched as the sunshine through the window splintered in the
cheap glass and threw sharp beams of brightness over his face and neck.  Ezekiel
stared at him.  In these few months he had been on earth, he could have sworn
that the immortal evil of the ruler of hell was becoming tempered.  In the
bowels of the fiery underworld he commanded, Lucifer caused more suffering than
was imaginable.  He cast souls into molten pits filled with their own mortal
nightmares, performed unspeakable acts on unwilling subjects, brought forth
screams of agony for the enjoyment of his own brand of music.  Yet recently his
acts had been subdued.  Half-opening condiment jars in the cafes in which Zeke
ate and the devil watched.  Tying together the shoe-laces of the homeless who
slept in the streets.  Dropping bugs into bags of sweets as he passed children
playing, blissfully unaware of the malevolence near by.

        Lucifer put down the salt shaker and folded his arms on the table as he looked
up at his unwilling servant.  "May I tell you a story?"
        Ezekiel shook his head in disbelief and picked up his fork.  "All I ask is that
I am allowed to finish my breakfast."
        "Please, go ahead.  I'll talk, you listen."
        Zeke took up his knife and sliced through the cold toast under the fried yellow
and white splatter than had once been an egg.
        "There are those who I cannot touch.  Immortals not bound to heaven or hell,
but to earth.  They have eternal life, without fear of death or decease or
judgement.  Their curse is to live an unspeakable existence, unable to walk in
the sunlight, living only on the life blood of the mortals whose dying world
they share."
        Ezekiel looked up.  This wasn't the devil's usual tone.  "You sound like a
story teller trying to frighten children."
        "Are you going to listen or mock me?"
        Zeke waved an uncaring hand.  "No, go on.  Please."
        Lucifer rolled his borrowed eyes heavenward.  Stone had been like this ever
since that annoying individual had found him a near-constant supply of 'Reggie'
bars.  Idly, the devil wondered if it could be considered a valid reason for
sending the mortal straight to hell when his time came.  He decided probably
not.  He tried to remember where he'd been in his tale.  "Two such creatures
once roamed this earth.  One was a tall, proud man, once a general in the Roman
armies, he was made immortal by an unknown soldier on a battlefield.  Yet this
soldier was a loner.  He had made this one child of darkness to live, for the
thousands who lay dying around them.  He gave his new son of blood a few terse
instructions and then left him."
        Zeke was watching him now, having stilled in his eating he actually looked
        "For a thousand years he walked over the earth, initially seeking out others of
his kind, and later actively avoiding them as he found they bored him for the
most part.  Finally, he found a son.  One thirteenth century evening in London
he happened on a young man, beaten so badly he would surely die, lying in a dank
alley where his attacker had left him."

        There was a moment's silence.  "Don't stop."  To the devil's surprise, the
demon actually sounded sincere.  "This isn't like you."  He answered in response
to the unmasked suspicions on his boss' face.
        Lucifer smiled and continued.  "He could almost taste the young one's need for
revenge.  And so he brought him across, holding him as the blood healed all his
wounds, and his blond beauty shone through the dirt.  They soon became lovers,
dancing through the endless dark hours they shared, feeding on the mortals that
crossed their paths, living in high society, running with the night.  For seven
hundred years they travelled the globe, watching the world as it changed, never
leaving one another for fear the separation would break their cold hearts."

        Zeke stared at him, and when it became clear that Lucifer was not going to
continue, he urged him on.  "What happened?"
        Pleased with his demon servant's attentiveness, he went on.  "One night, only a
few years ago, a hunter of their kind happened upon them in a darkened alley.
As they fed from one another in the throes of desperate love making, the hunter
staked them both, killing them as they tried to comfort one another in their
final moments."

        The two sat staring at one another for a few seconds; Lucifer amazed at the
continued interest being shown, and Ezekiel wondering where this little aside
was going.  Finally the devil sat back.  "They were brought to me, of course.  I
was... taken with them, with their story.  Two such as I, who killed for
pleasure, who lived in the darkness that mortals cannot face.  They fascinated
me.  They... showed me things, taught even the devil himself some new tricks.
And in return, I allowed them to remain together in hell as they had done for
almost a century on earth."
        Zeke watched his boss, saw the odd look in his eyes.  "Why are you telling me
this?"  Yet his voice remained low, gentle somehow.  He wasn't sure why.
        "They both escaped.  But...."
        It was the first time - Zeke thought curiously - that he had actually seen the
devil look guilty.  "Higher powers knew the numbers.  You had to bring home 113.
I had to draw 113 runes on your body in my blood."
        Ezekiel nodded with the patient of a parent.  "I know all this, boss, we've
been through it about a thousand times already."
        "I allowed two more to escape, while no one was looking."

        Zeke just stared.  And then he smiled.  And then he opened his mouth and
laughed.  "You broke your own rules!  Why?"
        The demon in human form wiped his tearing eyes.  As his laughter faded, he
could have sworn he saw the devil blush.  "You let the two vampires go.  You're
going to allow them to stay free."
        An excited light lit the blue eyes of the Devil's chosen body.  "No one can
ever touch them again.  They're immortal, eternally.  You should have seen them,
Ezekiel.  They knew everything about exquisite pleasure and soul-searing pain.
Together they could light sparks in the soul and keep the embers burning for
hours, days, holding to the top of a precipice none have known before."
        Zeke shook his head, bemused.  "Look at you!  You're acting like a love-stuck
teenager."  In hell, the comment would surely have earned him fifty lashes.  Up
here it merely resulted in a sharp kick to the shin.  All he could do was grin.
All the devil could do, by the look of him, was scowl.  Finally, Ezekiel
relented.  "Okay, okay.  So why bother telling me.  This isn't the confessional,
Lucifer, and I doubt they'd allow you in if it was, you'd be there for years."

        The devil sighed inwardly, annoyed by his own seeming lack of judgement and the
casual regard his detective showed him now.  Yet he found himself unwilling to
punish severely.  He wondered what that meant.  "I'm telling you this because I
believe one of the two that I released has finally turned up."  From nowhere,
the morning paper materialised before Zeke's eyes, dropping to the table in an
instant.  Ezekiel was glad he'd finished eating.  He scanned the headline.
        'Two Die In Occult Worship.'
        "You couldn't have released two people sent to hell for trampling flowers or
standing on insects?"
        "I thought they were both lawyers.  The other one was, you can leave him until
last if you want, he won't be doing anyone any physical harm.  This one took
advantage of the situation."
        "Will there ever be a time you don't surprise me?  Someone took advantage of
the Devil?  The ruler of hell, the personification of evil, the great...."
        Lucifer kicked him again.  "Thank you.  Yes.  I was in a hurry."

        Ezekiel chuckled, picking up his coffee mug and reading the rest of the article
as he tried to drink the rapidly cooling liquid.  When his expression soured at
the first mouthful, he felt the Devil lean forward.  Lifting his head, he
watched as his boss took the mug from him and wrapped his own, slim hands around
it.  A moment later, he handed the drink back to his detective.  The coffee was
hot again, as if it had just been poured.  Zeke smiled in surprise.  "Thank
        The Devil shrugged and stood.  "Be careful with this one.  He will know you.
He will know how to rid himself of you."

        Zeke watched his boss leave using the door of the café, and then vanish into
thin air.  He'd been bemused by the Devil's behaviour while they had been up
here.  His powers were limited in his human form and he seemed... different.
Tempered had fitted quite well as a description.  Now and again his anger would
flare in those fiery eyes, for all the right reasons, and Zeke would suffer
momentarily.  But he'd known pain.  He'd been in hell fifteen years after all.
Had Lucifer been watching him all that time?  Why had he chosen him?  He chased
the disturbing thoughts from his mind and turned his attention back to the
paper.  Maybe good deeds between demons were just evil helping out evil.  Maybe
that was why he now held a mug of steaming hot coffee.  Freshly brewed.  Nothing
like the black tar they served in this place.


        Talking to people.  Detective work was all about talking to the right people
and asking the right questions.  Today he didn't feel like talking to people.
It was one of his strengths, he decided, being polite, attentive and kind when
he needed to be, even when he wasn't in the mood.  But he couldn't shake the
Devil's words from his head.  Why had he told him all that he had?  And why had
he warned him about this particular wayward demon?  It truly wasn't in the
Devil's nature to offer information without there being a price.

        By lunch-time Ezekiel had found five witnesses, all of whom had been at the
meeting of occultists last night, all of whom swore that the two men died of
heart attacks; one after watching the other die in his arms.  They were both
elderly men - the paper confirmed - and for some reason Zeke expected the
post-mortem to come to the same conclusion; natural causes.  Officially, the
case would be dead in the water by this time tomorrow.

        Yet the Devil hadn't seemed to be kidding around.  He had sounded serious,
possibly more serious than Ezekiel had ever known him.  So what was he missing?
Was it just coincidence that two men died of heart attacks so close together?
He sat down on the bottom step of the house belonging to his last witness.  He
realised he felt hungry again.  This demon chasing was hard work, but when had
he developed mealtimes?

        "It's a puzzle, isn't it?"
        The Devil's sudden and usually unwelcome visits had ceased to disturb or
surprise him.  Now and again it was even good to talk with someone who knew what
he was.  At least he could be himself.  And there was some kind of warmth
between them.  He had unwittingly begun to settle in Lucifer's company,
playfully mocking him when he banged on about this and that, laughing sometimes
at his jokes, listening to his stories....  "The newspaper headline was wrong.
Those two men died of natural causes - old age."
        The Devil's eyes widened in question.  "But did the natural causes occur
        Another clue.  Ezekiel couldn't understand it.  He looked across at his
companion and it struck him.  "This one's your responsibility, isn't it?  Ash
didn't instigate this one's escape; you did, to allow your precious vampires
freedom.  You showed mercy on them, and you released this monster on to earth.
And if He ever found out...."
        "Don't."  Zeke stopped dead at the startling desperation underlying the single
word.  For a moment, he really looked at the devil, and he saw there a sadness
he had not expected to see in a thousand years, had not seen before and knew he
probably wouldn't see again.  A second later it was gone, the sly, malicious
creature he was used to returned.  "Yes, this one is my responsibility.  Your
responsibility now, Ezekiel, because that's your job.  That's what I'm paying
you for."
        "Does this job come with a life insurance and health care package?"
        It was strange, the things that could send the ruler of hell into a rage.  He
leapt from the step, turning to spit his next words into Ezekiel's face.  "Very
funny."  He crouched down, his face inches from the other demon's, his hot
breath touching the other's lips.  "This isn't a joke.  This isn't some idiot
mortal playing god.  This one is ancient, he knows all the old ways of black
magic and he knows how to use them.  This isn't tarot cards and scented candles.
This one.  Is.  Real."

        One moment Ezekiel was staring into the burning embers of hell.  The next, he
was looking over the street, alone.  He shook his head and sighed.  Maybe if
Lucifer actually told him things that were useful, instead of flying off into a
rage at the smallest comment, they would rid the earth of this real monster just
that little bit faster.  The smell of a Chinese restaurant caught his senses,
and he decided it was time for some food.


        Kanundra lifted the knife from the bloodied form slumped across the table
before him.  "You will worship," he murmured, a smile in his voice.  It
surprised him how easily the mortals of this age followed his word, his
instruction.  As if life in these modern times had sucked the soul from them
already, and they were just searching for a way in which to die.

        He did not know to where his victims - his sacrifices - went.  Heaven or hell.
It had not been a surprise to him when he had found himself standing before the
Devil so many hundreds of years before.  It had been an honour.  After
worshipping the darkness for most of his life, he had expected to go to hell...
and to spend his own eternity worshipped in his turn, as he had worshipped in
life.  Only the devil is worshipped in hell.  The once beloved angel of heaven,
fallen from that glory to become the ruler of the heated pit had toyed with him,
seeking to torment him in reward for a life's servitude.

        But now he was free.  Others would be killed, and some would take his place as
the jokers in Satan's court.  It could not be helped.  Before he could enjoy
this simple life, with its ancient pleasures wrapped in modern ease and a
wide-spread, open-minded attitude, he had to destroy the one Satan had sent to
return them all to his own dominion.  Ezekiel Stone.

        There had been rumours, of course - around the time of the break-out -
concerning the devil and his 'favourites'.  Ash herself had eluded to it on many
occasions as they lay together, the flames lapping at them like tamed pets.
Satan had no morals, obviously, and his stranglehold on those he craved was
something all tenants of hell feared.  Yet just after the initial 113 escaped,
and the devil had released he and the other snivelling soul, the name Ezekiel
Stone had been on lips of all.  He had never been touched by the Devil.  It
seemed that Morning Starr had at last truly found his favourite.  And could not
bear to keep him.


        Zeke fell back hard onto the bug-ridden mattress, flinching involuntarily as
the bed's rusted springs gave under his weight.  What he wouldn't do for a
pay-raise.  He'd tried, but attempting to appeal to the Devil's generous side
was as useless as trying to get ice-cream in hell.  Well, in the mouth anyway.
Sighing, he opened his eyes and found himself staring up at an ornately scribed
verse painted in black on to the ceiling above where he lay.

        'for great indeed
        His name, and high was his degree in Heav'n;
        His count'nance, as the Morning Starr that guides
        The starrie flock, allur'd them,'

        Ezekiel read the partial stanza over again.  It wasn't like the Devil to write,
usually he just dropped in to chat.  As his eyes swept over the lines, written
in an ancient hand, he kept expecting that perfectly tuned voice to start
talking before its speaker had even appeared.  But the room remained quiet, save
for the passing cars in the road outside, and the shouts of children playing on
the sidewalks.

        The afternoon sun dipped down to stream its rays in through the grimy window of
his cheap apartment.  He had to go back out, to collect a copy of the
post-mortem report from the morgue.  Sometimes the little tricks he'd learnt in
hell came in useful, despite his determination not to use them too much while he
was up on earth.  He wanted to feel human, mortal and alive.  That was why he
ate, slept, took on the routines that people tied themselves to and called life.

        He glanced out of the window.  The verse on the ceiling could wait, although he
doubted Max would look kindly on the defacing of the property.


        Manila envelope in hand, Ezekiel wondered home.  It was a gorgeous afternoon,
and he had already decided to eat out, even if that meant a pizza in the park.
As he walked, he noticed a bookstore across the road from him, a single window
stacked with battered copies of all the classics.  And a black wooden door with
a grubby sign declaring the shop, 'Open'.  Zeke crossed the road and pushed on
the door.

        It was similar to many bookstores, he guessed.  In life he hadn't been much of
a reader if the material did not have at least a tenuous connection to the case.
He comforted himself with the thought that the only one who could have written
the quotation on his ceiling was his boss.  So it must be a clue.  When the old
man behind the rapidly crumbling counter asked if he could help, Ezekiel
requested a copy of John Milton's "Paradise Lost."

        He excited the small doorway with the book in a brown paper bag, and feeling
somewhat like a dirty old man coming out of a sex shop.  He decided he would
prefer the inhabitants of this part of the city to believe it was porn in the
bag, and not poetry.

        Back in his room, Ezekiel dropped the morgue report onto the dresser and lay
down once again on his bed, re-reading the lines sketched above and then opening
the book.  Inside the front cover, there was an inscription, written in the same
hand as the verse on the ceiling.

        'Whose wanton passions in the sacred Porch
        Ezekiel saw'

        He smiled wanly.  He was becoming far too predictable, obviously.  He had done
just what was expected of him.  The line at the front, he discovered, was taken
out of context.  Ezekiel had seen visions, of Idols and of God.  What was the
Devil trying to tell him this time?  As he had asked his boss once, if Lucifer
wanted Zeke to catch these freaks, why wasn't he being more helpful?!

        Leaning back and raising the book so he could see it, Ezekiel started to read.

        Four hours later, having read the poem and the notes that the book's previous
owner had scrawled in the margins and between the lines, Ezekiel was no closer
to knowing why the Devil had left that particular message for him.  He had
discovered the lines within the poem, and had made a mental note of what the
pencil scribbles read at that section.

        'Morning Starr = Lucifer (light-bringer) the name of Satan before his fall from
        name in heaven changed to Satan = enemy.'

        Zeke rubbed his eyes.  He needed a break, and the study of Milton at his most
prolific wasn't getting him any closer to finding his next tortured soul.  He
dumped the book on the rumpled sheets and picked up the morgue report.  Yet
something made him reach back for the volume.  Grabbing his jacket, sliding the
copy of Milton into one of the inner pockets, he headed out for pizza in the


        The sunset kissed the horizon while Ezekiel munched a slice of Garlic &
Mushroom pizza.  He lay sprawled on his front in the grass, supported on his
elbows, trying not to drop cheese and tomato topping on to the pages of the
report.  The medical examiner had indeed found that the two old men had died of
natural causes.  But there had also been unusual signs of extreme stress around
the heart.  As if, perhaps, the heart attack had been induced somehow.  It would
have happened without the extra pressure, but maybe later, rather than sooner.

        The Devil had been trying to tell him something earlier on in the day, when
they had met on the last witness' doorstep.  But his manner had been so erratic,
so explosive, that it had been difficult to gauge any sense of how serious he
was being.  Or how helpful.  He thought back to that lunch-time.  Lucifer had
gone nuts when Zeke had made that playful quip about life insurance.  And maybe
that had been pushing it a little, after the odd reaction he had seen when he
had mentioned Him finding out about the escapees....  It suddenly occurred to
Ezekiel that he wasn't the only one with a past.

        Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out his newly purchased poetry and opened
it to the place he'd marked by turning over the page corner.  He re-read the
lines that had been written on his ceiling, and the notes beside them.  Why
would the Devil point him to a passage that gave away more about His Evilness
than about the demon he was hunting?

        "I didn't."
        Zeke congratulated himself on not even flinching.  Yet the tone of the usually
honeyed voice was low, sad.  He looked across at his companion.  Lucifer was
lying beside him, mirroring his position, picking at the grass before him.  He
didn't look at Zeke, even when he felt the other's intensely curious regard.
"Then who?"
        There was a hot sigh, and a pause, and then, "His name is Kanundra."

        Ezekiel waited.  But the Devil seemed to be in a contemplative mood, and for
some reason, maybe the lovely evening or the calming birdsong, he did not want
to push at this moment.  He closed the book and left it on the grass between
them.  Once again he reached for the morgue report and continued to put together
the clues he hoped would eventually reveal the cause of the two men's deaths.

        It was sometime later that Lucifer opened the cover of the book and read the
inscription.  "He's baiting you."  The words were spoken quietly.  Zeke did not
lift his head from the papers in front of him, but he did shift his attention
completely to what the Devil had to say.  "He wants you to go to him."
        "He must know what I'll do."
        "He believes he can beat you.  And I."
        Zeke gathered up the report and closed the file, pushing it to one side.  He
folded his arms before him and lay his head down, facing his subdued boss.  "Who
is he?"
        The devil flipped the book closed with one finger and returned to picking at
the grass.  "We all have our crosses to bare, Ezekiel, even me."
        Leaving a pause, in case anything more was forthcoming (which it wasn't), Zeke
murmured, "You do want him returned, don't you?"
        "Yes."  Finally, Lucifer looked up at his companion and sighed.  "He was a
Devil worshipper, many hundreds of years ago.  He was a high priest in one of
the first of my churches.  I thought it a novel idea.  I went to a few of the
rituals, unseen of course.  He was deadly serious in his praise of me.  He
scarified virgins to me, wrote incantations meant to summon me, all of which I
ignored.  One night, I took form in his room and slipped into his dreams.  I
sodomized him."  Zeke hid his reaction well.  "I wanted to see what would
        "What did?"  His voice was harder than he would have liked, but the Devil did
not seem to notice.
        "He worshipped me more enthusiastically than before.  I took him many times,
and after each time he grew more obsessed.  When he died he of course came to
me, and he did so with pride.  He expected to stay at my side.  As I had used
his body for my own pleasures in his life, he expected me to in death."  Lucifer
caught Zeke's knowing grimace.  "I'd had my fun.  He was dead and could do
nothing more for me.  So I sent him deep into hell and did not see him again."
        "Until you released him."
        "Yes.  He got out before I could stop him.  He tricked me."

        Silence descended between them.  Zeke wanted to ask how any damned souls could
trick the Devil into allowing them their freedom.  But he didn't.  It wasn't
important now.  He was out here somewhere, killing people.  Zeke was sure that
the two men were only the beginning.  There may have been more in the past,
there would be more in the future.
        "Any idea why two old men?  If he used to kill virgins...."
        Lucifer pursed his lips and shook his head.  "I have no idea.  He's a Satanist,
an occultist, a very old and knowledgeable one.  And no doubt he picked up some
tricks.  It's the age-old problem, isn't it?  Lock a group of thieves in a small
area together for long enough, and they could work out a way to steal anything.
Prisoners learn from one another.  But they're not supposed to get the chance to
put it all into practice up here."

        Again, the devil fell silent, returning his attention to the unfortunate blades
of grass in front of him.  Zeke lifted his head and gazed down at the runes
visible on his arms where he had pushed his shirt-sleeves up.  "Which one is
        The devil glanced at him, and for a moment Zeke thought he was not going to
answer.  And then Lucifer pushed himself up, sitting with his legs to one side.
"He is on your left shoulder."  With gentle hands he pulled Zeke's loose, dark
shirt collar back, revealing the curve of his shoulder.  Tenderly, he ran a
single, teasing finger pads over the rune inscribed on Ezekiel's skin.

        As the fingertip touched his flesh Zeke felt a stirring of passions deep with
him, a flash of warmth overwhelm him.  He shivered slightly, his eyes flickering
closed for a moment as an involuntary groan escaped him.  He thought he felt the
Devil smile.
        The apology surprised Ezekiel.  He glanced back, over his shoulder, as his
shirt was replaced and his companion hesitated, hand on the human shoulder, for
a moment before lying back down.

        Despite being unsure if he really wanted to know, Zeke asked quietly, "What was
        "Contact.  The tattoos are scribed in my blood - such as it is.  My essence is
probably a better description.  You just felt the spark."  Zeke nodded, not
really in understanding or acceptance.  He just wasn't sure if he wanted to know
more.  Unconsciously, he pulled his shirt forward.  "I don't know how you're
going to deal with this one," Lucifer finally admitted.  "Just be careful."

        He stood up, turning his head before turning the rest of him away from his
detective and strolling off.  Zeke watched as, a couple of seconds later, he
vanished from view.


        It was a hot, sticky night.  Ezekiel had found himself although feeling the
heat, actually liking it since his return.  Yet this night, he couldn't rest.
Not that he needed to.  He lay naked under the blanket as the small hours of the
morning ticked passed.  There had been no word of Kanundra since the two old
men.  The local police had closed the case, ignoring the coroner's report.
Witchcraft never was one of the NYPD's strengths.

        He did not know how to find this soul.  The Devil had said that he was being
baited, but how did sex lines of old verse lead him anywhere?  Something made
him sit up, turn on the light and pick up the battered copy of Milton from the
bedside table.  He started to read.

        As dawn approached, Zeke dressed quickly and left his apartment.


        Ezekiel stood in the park, close to where he had lain the evening before.  As
the sunlight hit the trees behind him, he knew he was no longer alone.
        "Has he told you... his past, his pain, that which he hides from all the rest
yet which will consume him for all eternity?"
        Zeke turned his head a fraction to look at the tall, cloaked figure that
approached him.  "Kanundra."
        A smile lit the ancient face.  "So he told you about me!  That pleases me
greatly.  I was important to him once, as you are now."
        Ezekiel allowed the ghost of a smile to dance across his features.  "I'm just
doing a job."
        "Of course."

        Kanundra moved to stand a few feet in front of Ezekiel and slowly he lowered
the hood of his cape.  The tall man's shadow fell over Zeke.  He was bald, his
brilliant jade eyes set deep into his skull, thin lips curved into an
understanding smile, although Zeke wasn't sure what of.  "That which he
surveys... is not all that he desires, nor deserves.  He merely questioned.
Curiosity, individuality, the ability to think for yourself... these things were
not allowed in the hallowed kingdom."
        "If you're trying to convince me that the Devil deserves our sympathy, you're
wasting your time.  All I'm concerned with is returning you all to where you
belong and getting out of here."
        "And you truly believe that the master of lies would not deceive you when the
final soul is caught?"

        Ezekiel did not want to answer that; he did not want to think about it.  This
was his only chance.  When the time came... he could only hope that he would be
released as their deal had agreed.

        Kanundra turned slightly, staring up at the new dawn.  "'Morning Starr' - it's
a beautiful name, is it not?  'Lucifer', 'Luciel', 'Lucien' - all his names mean
'bringer of light'.  Ironic, isn't it, that all he has ever received is darkness
and hatred?"
        "If you feel so much... adoration for him, why is it that you left?  Why didn't
you stay in hell, stay close to him?"
        "Because he did not understand the depth of my love for him.  Only on earth can
I show him how deeply I worship him.  Only here can I kill for him, shed the
blood of the innocent and the pure in his name.  Only up here will he take me."
        Zeke felt a chill drive through him.  "Has he... taken you while you've been
        "Alas, no."  He turned then, and the expression on his features made Ezekiel
step away, his hands dipping inside his coat, reaching for the two loaded guns.
"He has... other things on his mind."

        It had been too easy, and maybe that should have given him a clue as to there
being something wrong.  But he had ridded the earth of many demons now, and he
was confident of his own abilities in these situations, despite the terrible
grin on the other's face, and the malevolence in his tone.

        Zeke held the two guns at arm's length and aimed directly into the eyes of the
occultist who stood before him.  Yet the other demon was not showing any fear,
not attempting to escape the finality of what would happen when the Devil's
collector of souls pulled the triggers.

        Instead, he stood, almost smiling, his arms folded in the creases of his
flowing robes, his eyes sparkling with the fires of hell.  "Is it the same for
us both?  Or will he allow you to return, to continue your hunt?"
        Zeke looked at the tall form standing before him.  He knew exactly what he
meant, but chose not to answer.  He had never found it in his best interests to
talk to the demons he exorcised back to their rightful place.  There was only
one truth for him, nothing was going to change that.  His fingers tightened on
the triggers.

        Kanundra spoke three words in an ancient dialect.  The weapons were torn from
Ezekiel's grip to turn in mid-air and aim themselves back at his own blue eyes.
He stopped breathing.  "This won't help."
        "Maybe I can send you back in my place.  You had it easy, Ezekiel Stone.  I
should try to show you the real hell."
        In a moment, the shots were fired, and the occultist gone.

        Ezekiel screamed as he felt the bullets enter his head through the burning
crevices of his eyes.  Instantly, his soul erupted in white-hot pain as it was
ripped from him.  A fire started at the base of his spine, an agony so intense
it stole his breath, burnt through his lungs, started to burst forth from his
eyes.  A second scream peeled forth as the first tendrils of himself left his
body and the ground opened up below him to admit him into the hell fire.

        A hand was forced over his eyes, covering the deep, bloodless wounds.  Through
his terror, Zeke felt that the flesh from that palm was running into his brain,
sealing his soul inside, stopping the ground from consuming him by its simple
presence.  Instinct took his own hands to his face, but they were forced down,
held firmly in front of him by an immovable force.  Hot breath caressed his ear.
        "Don't fight me.  I can keep you here but you have to let me."  The honey voice
was soft but insistent.  Zeke nodded once, slowly, thankfully accepting his
boss' help, however unexpected it was.  "I have to take you with me, to repair
your human form.  You'll know you're not on earth.  But don't be tempted; when
your eyes heal, keep them closed.  It won't be for long."  Zeke nodded once
again, just slightly, not in any hurry for the hand to leave his face.  "Are you
        "Yes," he choked out the whispered word somehow.  And then he heard, whispered
so quietly he almost wasn't sure,
        "I won't let you fall."

        Continued in part 2

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