"Plays, Novels, and Poems"
by Morai Woodrum
"And all my days are trances/ And all my nightly dreams/
Are where thy grey eye glances/ And
where thy footstep gleams-/ In what ethereal dances,/ By what eternal streams." -E. A. Poe
"Well, well, Mr. Stone, I see you've taken up literacy."
Glancing up, Ezekiel Stone
inwardly groaned. Carefully setting his book down next to his
plate, the detective folded his arms across his chest and arched an eyebrow. "Well, you've been
getting a little lazy recently-" He ignored the irritated look that crossed the Devil's face-"
-So I had to find a hobby." He signaled the waitress for his check.
"So that's what you've
been doing with your time, then? It seems to me it would be a lot
more useful if you would, oh, look for some escaped souls, perhaps?" Lucifer smirked, reaching
over and lifting the book up. "Oo! A mystery. How lovely. Crime detection does seems to suit
you, Ezekiel. Hmm. 'Fer-de-Lance' by Rex Stout. Funny you should be reading this..." His smirk
widened into a full-fledged wicked grin.
Sighing, Ezekiel plucked
the book from the Devil's fingers and pocketed it. "Are you
saying you compelled me to read this? You've got to be joking." The detective was careful to
ignore the salacious wink the waitress gave him as she took his money, getting to his feet
unhurriedly. "It's too early in the morning for you, you know that?"
Following Ezekiel like
a lost puppy, the Devil pouted slightly. "I'm hurt, really, Mr.
Stone. I'm simply saying that the book your reading is immediately relevant to the next soul
you'll be hunting down." As they passed a record store that advertised "Old-Fashioned Oldies"
rather redundantly, Lucifer grabbed Ezekiel's arm, saying, "Well, how's that for luck!
Coincidences abounds, wouldn't you say, Mr. Stone?", referring to the song blasting out of the
doors, namely, "In the Mood".
"I wouldn't know, would I? You haven't told me anything about this soul."
The Devil shrugged, then
gestured at the store window's ledge. "Have a seat and I'll tell
you, if you're so eager to get down to it." As they sat, Lucifer smiled once more, muttering,
"Initiative. I like that in a man." Once settled, the Devil began his tale.
"The soul you'll be hunting
next is named Ezra Godwin. I can tell you find the name
familiar; look to the book you're carrying, Ezekiel, and you'll find the name 'Archie Goodwin'
to be the source of your deja vu.
"Godwin was originally alive around Shakespeare's time, about 1594, I think. He was a
struggling actor who, honestly, wasn't very good. I've seen him act; trust me, he should have
found another line of work. However, he did make a rather passionate go of it, but he was
passionate about everything. Then one day he met the writer of a rather ingenious play who was
not getting the recognition he deserved because he was following in the wake of Shakespeare and
Marlowe. I can't remember the writer's name, but that's unimportant. They fell in love. The
writer thought that Ezra was his 'muse', and spent most of his days staring at Ezra while
writing page after page of enormously brilliant plays extolling the virtues of love and the
happiness found therein.
"Then, one day, the writer started to bleed from the mouth. He had tuberculosis, and it
was progressing rapidly. Ezra, heart-broken, began to also waste away, taking care of the writer
and being forced to watch his one true love die. Then the day came, and Ezra was too poor to pay
for a coffin, so he simply left the body there in their little rented room. He then proceeded to
the house of the writer's parents, who had disowned their son because they thought his writing
of plays to be immoral and disgusting. Once there, admitted inside by one of the servants, Ezra
unsheathed his dagger, killed the writer's mother, and then killed the father. Then, still
enraged and grief-stricken, Ezra plunged the dagger into his own chest and died. That is when he
came to Hell."
"Wait," Ezekiel held up
his hand, his eyebrows creased. "Then how does all this early-20th
century stuff like the book and the music relate?"
Lucifer frowned at the
detective and said, "I was just about to get to that. You are
certainly impatient, Ezekiel." Clearing his throat, he resumed the story. "It was a few
centuries before I actually came into contact with Ezra Godwin. I won't relate the turn of
events that led to our meeting, as they are as unimportant as the playwright's name, but I found
his company to be rather . . . delightful. We became friends after a fashion." Ezekiel sat back,
startled; The Devil found someone "delightful", and actually had made a friend, especially out
of someone who he was supposed to be torturing? "Ezra begged me to let him spend a little time
on Earth, not long, just a few days. I was helpless, I had to agree. It was the early thirties,
Paris. There he met Rex Stout, the author of your crime novel there. Ezra fell into love once
more, only this time is was not mutual. Mr. Stout, however, enjoyed Ezra's company, and ever
wrote him into his books under the name of 'Archie Goodwin'!
. When I came to retrieve him, he was horribly upset. I . . . I had to tear his eyes out with my
bare hands to finally send him back." The Devil paused, closing his eyes and tilting his head
back, his long hair spilling in a brown waterfall around his shoulders, the sun glinting off of
it. "Ezra has hated me ever since. No suprise he took the opportunity to escape when it arose."
Ezekiel, brooding over
the wealth of information, asked softly: "I haven't heard of any
suspicious deaths recently. Who's he been killing?"
and poets. Six total, so far. He becomes obsessed with them for a
few days, thinking it's love, and when they won't return his affection he kills them by sucking
their life right out of their bodies." Taking a deep breath, the Devil opened his eyes to look
at the detective. "I trust you'll find him quickly, Ezekiel. The fact that he's roaming about
has a tendency to irk me."
"Can you tell me where the latest murder took place?" Ezekiel asked.
Laughing, the Devil shook
his head. "I've already made it too easy for you, Detective. I
don't think so." With that, he was gone.
Ezekiel resumed his walk
down the road towards his apartment, thinking over the newest
soul he was to track down. He wondered about anyone who could befriend the Devil enough to
solicit a few days on Earth from him. The detective paused at a newsstand, one of the few left
over from better times, to pick up a paper to check the obits. Digging around his pockets, he
realized that he had spent the last of his money on the breakfast.
"Here," a soft voice said
from behind him. Glancing back, Ezekiel met a pair of
inquisitive gray eyes. The eyes glanced down at their owner's hand in which enough money for the
paper lay. The young man smiled and gave the vendor the money, plus enough money to pay for his
Ezekiel was speechless for a moment, since such small kindnesses were rare nowadays.
"Thanks," he managed.
"You're welcome." Those
gray eyes met his again, their gazed locking together in a not
all-together unpleasant way. The young man- younger than the detective but not by much- was
handsome in a clean-cut but slight seedy way, with sharp foxy features and a nose that was just
a little odd. He was muscular but stooped, and his reddish-brown hair was slicked back and yet
still managed to stick up insistently. "My name's Nero."
"Ezekiel Stone." He couldn't
stop the strange, silly smile that crossed his face. "I'd
like to pay you back."
The young man Nero chuckled
under his breath. "It was only seventy-five cents, Mr. Stone.
Can I call you Zeke?"
Nodding, Ezekiel mentally
yelled at himself for acting like a nervous schoolboy. Why did
he have the urge to run away very fast? Of course, he secretly knew the answer but didn't want
to admit it. "I'd still like to pay you back . . . Nero." There came that idiotic grin again.
"How about lunch? Or dinner?"
Nero smiled, running a
hand through his hair, and said breathlessly, "I'd, um, like that."
Producing a pen, he tore a page out of his magazine hastily and quickly wrote down his number.
"This is where I'm staying. I work until about eight, but after that I should be home." They
said good-bye and parted ways.
"What am I doing?" Ezekiel muttered aloud.
"Well," the vendor said
around his fat cigar, "looks like you just invited that man out to
Sarcastically, the detective
snapped "Thank you," and opened his paper to the obituaries,
remembering he still had a job to do (plus preferring to forget the strange feelings that arose
whenever he thought of his new dining companion). The currently dead: a few lawyers, two
accountants (heart attacks: what did you expect?, it's tax season), some random people of
announced occupations (might have to look into those further), a teacher, a homemaker, and-
hallelujah!- a writer of a volume of poetry that had not exactly reached the status of
notoriety. Calling hours were today from noon to three at the Angels' Wings Funeral Home. "Have
The vendor smiled lewdly. "Thinkin' 'bout that date already, Cinderella?"
"Just give me the time, for crying out loud."
"Ten 'til one." The vendor
leaned out of his little stall, shouting after the quickly
departing detective, "You be a gentleman, now, you hear me?" and laughing hoarsely around the
cigar that Ezekiel wanted very badly to ram down the man's throat.
The funeral home was filled
with very few people. In fact, the writer's brother who was at
the door to welcome guests seemed suprised to see anyone else come.
"We haven't had many visitors, Detective Stone. George wasn't exactly . . . famous. He was
working on something really brilliant, though, after just recently meeting someone." The brother
sighed dismally, making Ezekiel sympathize. "He was a good poet, though; some of the things he
wrote were very moving. But still, just his agent, mom, me, and some stray fans."
Startled out of his reverie,
the brother blinked back his tears rapidly. "Oh, well, yes,
actually. A few Goth people, you know, the ones who wear all black and mourn over everything.
And a very nice young man who really didn't seem the type to read George's poetry."
A young man! "Can you tell me about the young man?"
"Well," the brother sighed
again. "He doesn't really stick out in your mind, you know? A
gray suit, I think. He just kind of stood over George's coffin for a minute before thanking me
and leaving. Very polite."
Finally, a lead, even if
it was a tiny one. "I need to visit Mr. Snow's- George's-
apartment. Can you give me the address?"
The apartment was small
and rather bare, obviously the place a "starving artist" would
live on his meager royalties. There was a rather worn-looking, ancient typewriter on one table,
and next to it a tiny stack of papers. The first page read "Death's Lover", the title of
George's most recent work.
"'After meeting someone',
eh?" Ezekiel muttered to himself. He pulled the chair out and,
listing up the stack of papers, began to read. The first one shocked him when it struck a
"Evil comes in many shapes
And all of them are lovely
But when the Devil's at your door
You should deny him entry
Or else beware the wrath of God
The cost of a few moments' passion."
After a few pages, the poetry began to grow a bit repetitive, which made old George's lack
of a reputation not suprising. Sighing, Ezekiel stood up, glancing around the room one final
time, when something caught his attention: a felt fedora. It was an expensive brand, not the
type George would have been able to afford. Peaking inside, he didn't find any hairs that would
at least give him the killer's hair color. The detective knew that it was there to mock anyone
who would be stupid enough to look for the killer. Placing the hat snugly on his head, he exited
the apartment, knowing he wouldn't find anything else.
At exactly five after eight,
a very nervous Ezekiel dialed Nero's number with sweaty hands
and hammering heart. The phone rang exactly seven times before the young man picked it up.
"Hello?" he asked softly, panting for breath.
"Nero?" Ezekiel asked, struggling to hide his excitement.
"Oh! Zeke! I ran for the phone, I- . . . I figured it would be you."
The Detective wondered
what Nero's running to answer his phone call and the young man's
sudden shyness implied. "Should we meet at the restaurant, or do you need a ride?"
"Let's meet there. Give me an hour, though, I want to get ready."
"Okay. The restaurant is on Seventh Street; it's called The Italian."
"Clever name. I'll see you in about an hour then."
"Yeah. See you soon."
He felt so incredibly light-headed
and woozy, he thought for a moment he was going to
faint. Struggling to breath, he sat down quickly on his bed, tossing the fedora still stubbornly
clinging to him onto the table. For a moment blackness filled his vision before it all passed.
Still lying prone on the bed, sweating and barely breathing, the detective didn't even bother
lifting his head when the Devil spoke up.
"Well, that was rather pointless. I really don't understand why you people insist on
passing out; it's so useless."
Smiling despite himself,
Ezekiel muttered, "We can't help it. It's called 'involuntary'.
Hey, can you give me some money? Say, a hundred dollars?"
The Devil sat down next
to the dead detective, his stern visage looming over Ezekiel's. "I
cannot believe you are shirking your duties to go out on a date. I thought you were more the . .
. persistent type, Mr. Stone."
"Well, you were wrong, weren't you?"
"Humph." Lucifer shook
his head in dismay. "You really are misguided, aren't you? All he
did was pay for your newspaper, Ezekiel."
That caught the detective's
attention; he sat up abruptly and practically shouted, "You're
spying on me?!"
"I like to call it 'keeping tibs on my employees'."
Ezekiel forced his anger
back down, recalling something that was prodding his
subconscious. "That poem by George Snow, have you read it?"
"The one you found to be
rather fascinating?" the Devil smirked. "Of course. I inspired
it. It was actually written previously by an alchemist in the Middle Ages, but we'll keep that
between the two of us, eh?"
Now it's was Ezekiel's
turn to shake his head in dismay. "Plagiarism? I thought that would
have been below the Evil Father of All Lies."
"Well, if it isn't below
me to steal the last page from all your books, then it isn't
below me to do anything, really, is it?"
"I figured it was you."
The Devil simply smiled.
"Have fun on your 'date', Ezekiel. I expect you to start working
again immediately." Pausing, he added, "Nice hat," before vanishing.
When Ezekiel finally sat up, he found a crisp one hundred dollar bill sitting on the bed
next to him where the Devil had been a minute ago.
The Italian, like George
Snow, wasn't very famous, but it was very good. Unfortunately,
the sky had chosen tonight to rain. Ezekiel Stone huddled under the overhang in front of the
building, nervously shifting his weight as he wondered if this really was a date and what his
feelings towards this person- this man- that he had just met were.
"Zeke!" Nero shouted, racing
under the overhang, his shoulders hunched against the rain.
"Sorry I'm so late, I had an errand to run. A friend of mine just recently passed away."
"Oh," Ezekiel said as he opened the door for the young man. "I'm so sorry."
Nero cocked his head to
one side, a wry smile playing across his face. "Don't be. He
wasn't really a friend."
The waiter went to check
on a table for them, giving the two more time to talk, not
exactly what the nervous and increasingly-shy detective had in mind.
Nero really hadn't been kidding about getting ready. Not only had he taken a shower by the
looks of his flushed skin, but he had also exchanged his brown suit for a gray silk one.
"Um . . . You look . .
. nice." Ezekiel said before he could stop himself. He sounded like
an idiot by increasing degrees with every passing minute.
Nero, however, simply took
the comment in stride. "Thanks. Actually, I wish I had dressed
like you; this suit is incredibly uncomfortable."
Feeling a little better
about being a moron, Ezekiel looked down at his own ragged but
clean clothes- he had changed into a dressier pair of clothes before leaving- not really to look
at them but to hide the fact that he was blushing. He wanted to die . . . again, actually.
They were seated next to a window. After they ordered their drinks- Coke for Nero, coffee
for Stone- a brief but oddly comfortable silence lapsed. As Nero gazed outside at the dark wet
streets, Ezekiel spent his time either staring down into the depths of the black coffee or
stealing glances at the young man across the table.
"So what line of work are you in?" Ezekiel finally summoned the courage to ask.
Nero pursed his lips. "Well,
actually, I'm an actor. Currently out of work." He smiled
brilliantly and asked, "What do you do?"
"I'm a detective," Ezekiel responded automatically.
"Oh, really?" Nero leaned forward a little, fascinated. "LAPD, or what?"
Flushing again, not wanting
to outright lie but not exactly willing to come right out and
say Oh, I work for the Devil, he stumbled, "Well . . . Kind of . . . Um . . ." A sudden crash
luckily saved him from having to answer. Both he and Nero looked at the waiter who had tripped
and fallen with a tray full of food, but only Ezekiel- when Nero had returned his gaze out the
windows- saw the Devil withdraw his foot and grin mischievously at the detective.
They ordered their food, and a salad was thrust onto them. They both ate with a certain
lack of interest. Next the food came, and it was tasteless. Nero and Ezekiel would, throughout
the meal, look up at each other, their eyes sometimes meeting with a certain amount of shock and
delight. They skipped desert, opting to leave early and walk (the rain had stopped about midway
through their meal).
Everything glistened as they walked down the soaked sidewalks. The streetlights glowed
yellow, making the world look pale and washed-out; the occasional neon light would unreservedly
shine out of a window, blinding them. It smelled clean and warm out, the smell that always
followed summer storms. After a moment, the two stopped at exactly the same moment, and Ezekiel
turned to the young man and, looking into foxy features, breathlessly asked, "Can I kiss you?"
His own breath quickening,
Nero took a step closer to the detective and whispered, "Please
Their lips met almost of
their own volition. Ezekiel's one arm wrapped around Nero's
waist, drawing him closer, pulling them together, as his free hand ran through the young man's
slicked-back reddish hair, playing with the still-wet strands, enjoying their slick feel between
his fingertips. Nero simply wrapped his arms around Stone's neck, pressing his hips against
Ezekiel's with blatant sensuality.
"Take me home," Nero whispered, running his tongue over the edge of the detective's ear.
"Take me to your home."
Uncertain but unable to stop himself, never having known this side of him existed, Ezekiel
gasp helplessly, "Okay."
Nero stretched out on Ezekiel's
bed, writhing slightly, seductively, as the detective
undressed as quickly as possible. "You're slow," the young man hissed almost painfully,
clenching fistfuls of the bedding in his fists. "Please, hurry, Zeke." He licked his lips,
driving Ezekiel even crazier. "I really, really need you to hurry."
"You're making me anxious;
my fingers keep slipping," Ezekiel admonished gently as he
struggled with his shirt buttons.
"Here," Nero whispered,
sitting up, his brazen nakedness making Stone's fingers go
completely numb with arousal. "Let me do it." With nimble fingers he undid the detective's dress
shirt, pushing it down over Ezekiel's shoulders; then he noticed the tattoos. Sitting back on
his heels, the young man simply stared, his mouth hanging open. "Oh my god."
Ezekiel looked down and
realized why Nero was in shock. "Shit," he growled, pulling his
shirt back up and turning his back as he buttoned it up. Why hadn't he thought about this?! Of
course, now Nero would leave and never want to see him again, damnit-
"Zeke," Nero whispered
into the detective's ear from behind, leaning up against him, his
erection pressing against his thighs. "Come back to bed." He drew the detective back, pushing
him onto the bed and straddling his waist; opening the shirt again, Nero studied each tattoo
carefully, his gray eyes sweeping over them almost lovingly. "They're very beautiful." With a
hesitant hand Nero ran his fingers over the dark patterns, making Ezekiel's skin goosebump.
Bending down, Nero kissed Stone against, opening his mouth for the detective's probing tongue.
Suddenly the arousal swept over the two of them again, and, heaving for breath, Nero began to
grind against Stone's stomach, throwing his head back slightly.
Beginning to rock slightly in time with Nero, Stone barely managed to hiss, "Wait . . .
not yet . . ." Pushing the aching, agonizing young man onto his back on the bed, Ezekiel planted
a wet kiss on his hairless chest, letting his teeth graze the skin; he then proceeded to kiss a
trail down Nero's chest and stomach, making him cry out. Wetting a finger in his mouth, he
slipped his hand underneath Nero and slowly eased him finger into the young man, making him
shout. Then he eased his other finger in the warm small space, pushing them in and out
rhythmically, making Nero hold perfectly still with one hand resting heavily on his stomach.
Withdrawing his fingers, glancing up, he smiled to see Nero's handsome face pinched up in
painful arousal. He moved back up, saying, "I want to look in your face."
Nero wrapped his legs around
Stone's waist, kissing the other man's neck passionately.
Ezekiel took a moment to position himself before thrusting in; they both screamed with the pain,
and Ezekiel stopped, looking down at Nero. "Should I stop?" he whispered anxiously, not wanting
to hurt him.
"No," Nero cried out, tears
running down his face, sliding gracefully along his
cheekbones, down his neck, mingling between them. "Don't stop. Don't stop for God's sake!" He
kissed Ezekiel's neck again, then, as the detective slowly began to thrust, he bit into it to
stop his screams. They rocked together on the bed in a tight embrace, Ezekiel's hand pressed
against the headboard to hold them steady. Nero enveloped Stone's mouth with his, and Ezekiel
grabbed his wrists and forced them down on the bed, holding him down possessively. Slowly and
with increasing volume Nero screamed, coming forcefully, followed immediately by Ezekiel.
Withdrawing, separating themselves stickily to lay back on the bed, Ezekiel wrapped one
arm around Nero, holding him close. "What's this mean, then?" he whispered, looking down into
those curious gray eyes that he now realized he loved.
"Now . . . I don't know."
Nero licked his lips and kissed one of the detective's tattoos,
their eyes locked. "You can move in with me, but I sleep on the couch."
Drawing the young man closer,
Ezekiel shook his head. "Stay here." he whispered. "Don't
ever leave my side. We'll just stay in this bed forever, never moving."
This elicited a smile from
Nero. "Right," he laughed softly, pressing his cheek against
his lover's chest. "I don't think that would quite work. I have a job, you have a job, plus we
both have rent to pay." He sat up suddenly, his eyes wide. "Oh, dear. That reminds me, I have
work tomorrow. I have to go home." Leaning down, Nero kissed Ezekiel deeply before getting up
off of the bed to gather his clothes. When he was halfway out the door, Nero paused, turning to
look back at the detective, and whispered, "I love you," before leaving.
Ezekiel fell asleep not too late after that.
"You really disappoint me, detective."
Groaning loudly, Ezekiel
rolled over, pulled his pillow over his head. "Go away!" he
shouted at the Devil, trying to fall back asleep. "Not now!"
The bed creaked and moved
as the Devil sat down on it. "Ezekiel, you might be polite
enough to sit up."
"Polite, right," the detective
snorted even as he pushed the pillow away and struggled to
sit up, glad he had remembered to pull the sheets up over himself. "What do you want?"
"My escaped soul, Mr. Stone."
The Devil paused, eyeing the sweaty, rumpled-looking
detective. "I can see what you've been up to," he added, arching his eyebrow.
Genuinely irritated, Ezekiel
snapped, "Just shut up. I don't need any smart remarks about
The Devil's eyes widened; if Ezekiel's irritation was genuine, the Devil's fury was even
truer. Grabbing the detective's shoulder, his fingers digging very painfully into the flesh and
muscle there, the Devil hissed, "I think you need a reminder of who I am, Mr. Stone! You seem to
have forgotten." He threw Ezekiel back onto the bed and thrust his sharp fingers into one of the
detective's eyes, grabbing the slippery orb and wrenching it from his head.
Screaming, Ezekiel's hands flew up to his hollow socket, the blood pouring out between his
fingers and down his face, staining both the sheets and his skin.
"How's that, Stone?!" the Devil howled. "Starting to remember?! Need a little more help?!"
With both the Devil and his own screams echoing meaninglessly in his ears, a sudden
intense heat filling the room, Ezekiel passed out.
When Ezekiel awoke, he
was covered in pleasantly cool water, supported by two arms wrapped
around his chest. His vision was a bit hazy, but he knew it was his bathroom. To be honest, he
didn't care who was holding him upright- his skin was painfully hot and the water soothed the
burn. Settling back against the arms, Ezekiel sighed relaxedly as the person with him took a
wash-rag and squeezed cold water over his paining sore shoulders and chest. Wet fingers combed
through his hair, sending a spray of droplets over his aching face. He let his head fall against
the chest he was propped against, inhaling the person's pleasant rain-like smell.
The person took a deep breath, rocking the detective's head a little, then spoke. "What
have I told you about fainting, Ezekiel?" the person- no, not a person- whispered, concern
coloring his voice.
"You-" the detective whispered,
finding his mouth to be almost as painful as the rest of
him. "What happened?"
"I'm afraid I was rather
. . . extreme in my punishment," the Devil murmured gently,
squeezing more water over Ezekiel's shoulders. "I . . . I wish to apologize, Ezekiel. I didn't
mean to harm you. Not this much."
Struggling to comprehend
despite the fact that he wanted to pass out again from all the
exertion, he repeated his question. "What happened?"
"I tore one of your eyes
out and . . . and summoned Hell's fires. I was so angry, I wasn't
thinking. I'm afraid you were burned rather badly. I . . . I gave you your eye back." His voice
quavered ever-so-slightly with the last sentence.
Starting to drift back into the blackness, Ezekiel managed to whisper, "Don't worry . . ."
Conscious again. Just barely,
though. The bed was soft and the pillow felt like down
feathers. The entire room looked strange, as far as he could tell with his bleary-eyed vision.
"You're awake," the Devil
said, his voice musical with relief. Strong hands helped the
detective to sit up, and a supportive chest slipped behind him, keeping his upright. "Are you
hungry? Thirsty?" Ezekiel simply shook his head. The Devil's arms slid around his chest in what
could be called an embrace, and yet wasn't. "Are you feeling better?" Ezekiel nodded; he didn't
want to speak, his throat felt like a tiny dried-up hole the size of thread. A hand ran through
the detective's hair absentmindedly. "Do you need anything at all?"
Ezekiel passed out as he was shaking his head.
... -end part one-