"Tell me, officer, what is that first thing you remember having been told through the dispatcher?"
Officer Raines shrugs. "Well, truth to be told, I didn't think much of it at first, sir. It was a call for a simple domestic disturbance."
Raines is one of those "been there done that" kids who managed to make it on the force when need for policemen became desperate. Manhattan and the whole of New York was riddled with crime, and he'd only been on the beat since the beginning of Giuliani's term as mayor. He was a pale, haunted white kid at the moment, not a Karate black belt with an attitude. He'd just witnessed a carpeted slaughterhouse. Chances were it would stay with him all his life.
"So me and Jeffers just came, expecting, you know, another Jewish wife beater who doesn't like his corner of the Diaspora, or some kid angry at the world, or..."
"I get it, officer. Please, go on." The federal agent seemed unimpressed.
"Sorry. So, yeah... We got here and came in, we'd been told it was in appartment 21, so we went up, and all was calm and quiet. Typical 3 am Jewish-owned building, you know?"
The agent let out a sigh. "How did you come to get in here and discover this?"
Officer Raines scratched his crotch in an unelegant way, visibly bored, rubbed his night-shift stubble and went on. "Well, When there was no response, procedures ask that we report before investigating, so I did, and Jeffers noticed the stained carpeting under the door. 'Twas blood, of course, so we just reported in and did the routine before kicking down the door. So then..." The officer grows pale, remembers the details. The federal agent cuts his train of thought with another question before he throws up again.
"I suppose you do not have a clear idea of what transpired here exactly, Officer Raines?"
The policeman raises an eyebrow, runs his hand through his ruffled blond hair, and shrugs.
"Beats me. I've never even imagined something like that. And I've only been on the force all of four years, so..."
"Yes," replied the federal agent, eyeing intensively the young policeman. "Makes a lot of sense to me."
In his dreams, Akriel could scry the skies for the fate of eternity.
But right now, Eric Lawson, his host, needed to eat in order to go on. Such a waste of time, and yet... yet the feeling, the first time around, had not been all that disgusting. But Akriel knew back then how fragile the human body was, and right now, he does the best he can to keep it healthy. So, sitting down in a café near the Flatiron building, he decides on an entrée of various breads and cheese, followed by a simple chicken breast sauté, and to top it all off, a simple fruit salad for dessert. He accompanies the whole with a glass of juice and a glass of milk.
As he is eating, Akriel lets Eric's reflexes make him go through his politics' course notes. Term paper is due on the first week of December, and afterwards, term exam. Somehow, though, the prospect of studies is not all that enjoyable to Akriel, but he knows that if his host is to prosper in Man's society, he need to acquire certification of its capabilities. Diplomas, as they call them. There must be a way to forge those, or to manipulate Man into providing him with one.
His host lost in abstract thought, Akriel looks back iside and ponders about his current situation. He had met Valariel some month ago while running after a Fallen that was infringing on his territory, if such a thing could be said of Manhattan, and they stumbled across each other by pure chance, but Akriel suspects it was by design. After all, if the loss of a Fallen foe is replaced by the emergence of a Fallen Ally, surely there was some sort of meaning behind such an event.
Then there had been the combined apearance of the Slayer Lyriel and the Malefactor Naho Seqil, both of whom were wondering at the cryptic code that Creation seems to be. The father Welesley telling them, over the corpse of a faith-reaped mortal, about the movement of Fallen thirsting for mortals' belief. Then the planning, the tracking down, the delegation of tasks...
Then it struck him.
Akriel had never seen Naho Seqil at the Compound, in the New York City Library where he met other celebrated Fallen who thought like him. And Naho Seqil had never revealed his political affiliation before showing up at the morgue unexpectedly. He is, for lack of a better term, apolitical. Or is he?
"Naho Seqil", says Akriel out loud in his lonely corner of the café, "I wish to talk to you."
He waited. Could an invocation fail? Never in a million years. He tries again.
"Naho Seqil, Akriel invokes your name. Hear my words."
Akriel left his eyes to the sky through the bay window and focused his thoughts on the Fell Knight. He half-blurred his eyeight and saw through windows to the future of the Malefactor.
Flash - Naho Seqil appearing before him at Grand Central Station.
Flash - His meeting him at the hospital morgue, waiting for Valariel.
Flash - Reporting to mortals.
Flash - A weapon of sorts, graced by Naho Seqil's lore of machinery, with harmful intent towards a Fallen.
Flash - A sacrifice of some sort, with a wounded body and a twin soul.
And then nothing. He could not see further, but he knows it was close by. He glances at his watch.
11h16 pm. Somehow, he had the feeling he had time still. But he had to be quick.
"Valariel, where are you?"
Did you really needed to invoke me while I am emptying my host of his refuse?
"No time for that now. I have to warn you."
Go ahead. I'm not going anywhere right now.
"Naho Seqil is not being straight with us. I think he plans on deceiving us."
Silence. Then an answer.
Are you out of your mind, Akriel? Or maybe back in Hell? But then again you wouldn't be able to invoke me; you haven't the strength for that... Have you any idea of what you are saying right now, being suspicious of a Malefactor Fell Knight such as Naho Seqil?
"Where are you? Can we meet? People are looking at my host funny through the glass, I'm talking to empty air for your sake..."
I have to meet Naho Seqil in a little more than thirty minutes. It's important. We can discuss this afterwards.
"Cancel it. Listen to me. I believe you're in danger."
No, you listen to me, Akriel. I've not known you at all during the War, as you were a pampered seer at the city-fortress of Lucifer scrying the skies. Mind you, on my part, I was scouting them to save people. Humans, Fallen, anything. Naho Seqil is the one I saved back then, not you, and he gave me my title for it. I was a simple gust of air, and he made me greater than the very winds. I think I owe him more than I do you. And he has people of his that he wants me to meet, for he has a proposition. I owe him as much, I think, so if you don't mind, I'll finish expulsing my host's fecal matter from his bowels, I'll see what he has for me, and then I'll be yours to talk to.
"Just be wary, Valariel." But the advice falls on deaf ears. Akriel feels the connection being broken.
"Shit!" he says out loud, stamping his fist on the table. He looks at the clock. 11h19 am. 11h20 am. 11h21 am.
At 11h22 am, Eric Lawson stands up in a jolt. He packs his books quickly in his school bag and leaves them at Renalda, the cute counter cashier.
"Take care of them, please. I'll be right back." She graces his plea with an honest smile and a wink of her right eye. He recalls the omen.
He strides out quickly outside and looks at the sun. Then at the three dogs and their masters crossing the street. The walking sign just begins flashing red.
Three yellow cabs are lined up being a police car. No, not police... Hired security. And a minuscule and cold raindrop hits his cheek. He wipes it off, and sees dirt under his forefinger. He looks at his forefinger's position. It points north.
It points out along Fifth Avenue.
He then knows what to do.
The morgue employee was keeping track of every gesture of the coroner. Every sticker put in place, every mark of his pencil, every detail pointed at. He heard his every comment, each minute mumbling, and archived them all in his photographic memory.
He was not the least bit intimidated by blood and spilled organs and the stench of death and rot. He was more busy trying to make every little piece fit. A split liver here. Fragments of a skull embedded in the living room's wall. Fluid that could only be from an eye. Entrails. The blood is still wet, but not fresh. These people have not been dead for several hours yet, so it being recent means that the trail is still hot, even if the blood is not.
His visual analysis of the pelvic bones confirm that no women were present. If that is a clue, he'll know later.
"Assistant", calls the coroner, "can you help me with this?"
He turns around and automatically gravitates toward his 'superior'. The man needs help moving a low table in the living room. Seems there is something underneath that needs his attention.
"So," says the coroner, "we have a number of deceased, I'd estimate three by the sheer amount of blood present, that were, I'd say quite unpolitically, 'blown to smithereens', but no sign of an explosion, or of weapons of any kind, in fact. No women present, and it seems, from witnesses' account, in this case, neighbors hearing through the walls, that it was very sudden, loud, with screams, and not too long, 'but long enough to wake us and be very disturbing.' " He puts on a disgusted face as he mimicks the neighbors. "You getting all that info?"
The assistant just nods.
"Good. Then while I check this out under the table, I want you to take those notes and process them. But right before that, go down to the unit and ask for more bags and sampling material. Oh, and if you could bring me a coffee too, I'd like that." He gives him a wink and proceeds to continue his examinations.
The assistant gets down the stairs and exits in the morning of the Jewish quarter. Once outside, he removes his gown, throws it in a nearby garbage container, and starts at a jog down a corner. Turning it, he proceeds to unlock a beige Volkswagen Golf parked on the other street. He gets in the driver's seat, starts the ignition and let's out a little bit of pent-up anger.
"Maudite saloperie de putain de police de merde!
Journeyman Lemouelic is not used to swearing, but whenever he'd encountered resistance or trouble at the very beginning of his assignments, he allowed himself to let out the frustration. This particular assignment seemed no different.
Calming down, he gives a quick look at the stolen notes and lets a short smirk draw itself across his lips. Then he drives off.
He feels a long day ahead of him, and deciphering notes was not planned for. Or his forté, for that matter.
I'm walking towards the rendez-vous point nonchalantly. Waves and waves of humanity pass me by and strangely, I feel the pull of their unbelief gnawing at me. Somehow, the angel that I was didn't leave its feelings for mankind at the door of my soul when it left. I'm still biased and torn. I have fought long and hard for humanity's soul to be free of choosing its own path, but I also cannot willingly accept how... low it has degraded them. No faith in anything but fickle and ephemereal things, bound and directed by more humans on top of them, and all of them running around like over-conscious lemmings.
Only now, demons walk amongst them, and seek to bind them, enslave them, reap them. And I'd be thrice-damned if I fell to being one of them. Which brings me back to my -Francis'- dear friend, Alexander Robertson... Which should be coming back into town soon, back from a hunting trip. I wonder how I will handle this.
A familiar voice, chanting my name in Enochian. Naho Seqil.
"I am approaching. In a hurry much?"
Let us just claim that we have pressing matters to discuss and very litle time to do it.
Which is somehow out of place. I've been sensing his presence for a quarter mile now walking towards it. And he never fidgeted. But there he is on the corner, in that woman's body, waiting for me peacefully. My watch tells me it is 11h58. I made good time getting there, and Naho Seqil honors me by being there and waiting patiently for me to cross Fifth Avenue. I'm much enclined to oblige myself.
A woman's voice greets me. Smooth, professional, direct. I'm gonna have to get used to this fast...
"Welcome, Francis. As you can see, I have been expecting you."
Someone comes up from behind me and jams a pistol barrel down my coat's left side pocket. I feel more than hear the words of the man telling me to stay quiet or lose my leg. My mind races, but doesn't panick. Francis knows what that is, and I can plunder it from him.
He came from behind toward the left side, which means he's a left-handed man - unusual and disconcerting. Impossible to grab the gun fast enough with the bulky coat when he's on my six. Now he grabs my right shoulder, meaning he's taking me casually to a car parked on the street, probably that greenish-brown Mercury I saw waiting with the engine running. Carmelia is there with a man, another in the car... Must be a three-man team, plus her as the leader, and the other unseen one on the backseat or watching from afar...
"Let us go for a ride quietly, my dear", Naho Seqil tells me, all smile. I smile back.
What can I do? I've been had. But I may yet find a way through this. So I give in and walk to the car. As expected, Naho Seqil, in the woman's body, sits in the front passenger seat, and I am squeezed between two men with pistols. I've had worst calls in my days.
"What can I do for you" I ask as the engine makes the car lurch forward into the Manhattan traffic.
"You surprise me, my old friend. I thought you would have deduced this already. And besides, maybe I should be the one doing the questioning..."
I tone out Naho Seqil's words and reach out to the men with us. I feel the pulse of their heartbeats in the air, their scent of humanity wafting near me, their eyes... They are obviously not demon-touched. They must be hired crooks or other unsavory professionnals. Unworthy to live, staining the pure herd o humanity, yet... yet can they be unsalvageable?
"Are you listening to me, Francis?" Seems the Knight of old is intent on me, having turned around to face me.
"How long have you been snooping around?"
"I have no idea of what you are talking about."
A pistol butt hits me square across the jaw. I never saw that one coming. The demon turns his head back toward the road.
"Of course you don't. You wouldn't know it if it hit you right in the eye, huh?" The demonic male voice behind the human female one unnerves me. "Someone wants to see you. Someone who thinks you know far more than what you should. Now, I highly doubt that you forget such things, so just in case, I'll keep quiet about it. I'll just say this: there are lords in this city who need followers. Some need power, and others need answers. Mine needs all of them. And you will serve, one way or the other. Who knows? Maybe if you really don't know anything, or don't remember, he'll just eat you up."
Eat you up. He's talking consuming my very essence. Absorbing me into another one. My real, final destruction. I think I'm starting to panick. But it also gives me an edge.
Valariel! Akriel tunes in.
Valariel, I know what's happening. I'm right behind you. I think they are taking you beyond the Brooklyn Bridge. Whatever you do, do it before you get there or I won't be able to follow. I'll give you time.
Now I have two edges. I might as well act upon it.
"Who's your demon Lord now, Naho Seqil?"
Right on cue, the two muscleheads beside me look confused. My kidnapper-in-chief turns around glaring. Fine brown eyebrows plucked into perfection furrow and betray the demon's anger. I think I see the fires of the earth burns in those womanly hazel eyes.
Faster than what anyone would expect of a simple psychologist, I yank out the left guy's pistol with my right hand from underneath my left arm, and as I pull the gun out, I bring my elbow up into the left guy's jaw. I manage to hit him across the ear, but he's surprised enough. I jab my left hand forward and make an invisible grab into empty air.
Naho Seqil starts screaming to the brutes to stop me, but it's already too late. The air around the steering wheel gets immeasurably heavy and the steering armature gets crushed by it in a few seconds.
"How the..." 'Carmelia' starts to say, but it's already too late. The car is steering out of control, and as if it couldn't get worse, the change in the air pressure in the car makes the driver seat window burst in, showering Carmelia and the driver with glass shards.
"Shoot the fucker!" I hear up front, but as the tough on my right tries to turn around to jab-shot me, I and everyone else in the car lose momentum as the car flips on a fire hydrant. A shot is fired, and I know it's not mine. I see the road ahead turning its horizon and now, I think Francis would panick.
Maybe I should, too, but I still have an ace in my pocket. With the last amount to consciousness I have before my human host blacks out from the shock, I summon a sudden gust of wind right under the car to make it flip back on its wheels. I feel the burn of the air against the underside and see the wind rush like a tornado in the passengers' hair. he momentum changes.
Then we crash to the ground. I'd like to know on which side, but I'm in a visual blackout right now.
I hope Akriel knows his stuff, because I ain't moving now that we're all trapped in here.
"Agent Gries", says the coroner, "I should be just about finished. I'm sorry it took so long, sir, but you have to understand, in those circumstances..."
The federal agent shrugs. "You do your best. I can understand this massacre slowed you down... You don't get to see this everyday."
"You do?" asks the coroner, waving around the blood-covered appartment.
"I've seen things like that before. And worse. But I admit, it rates pretty high."
The coroner just turns around and picks up his instruments. A sterile box filled with samples and tubes and swabs sits nearby, waiting for the coroner to pick it up, while Agent Gries opens an almost-untouched curtain for sunlight to come in.
It's as expected, he thinks. They are really onto human souls. But how...? And what, or who, is this, so that it could wreck such devastation in such a small instant, with no ttrace of violence whatsoever?
Turning around in his reflection, Gries' eyes catche the glint of silvery metal in the coroner's carry-case. An object he's sure wasn't there two hours ago.
"Dr. Wilkins", the agent asks, "may I know what is that object at the bottom of your case?"
The coroner freezes for a second, turning his head to face Gries. "N... nothing."
What a poor liar.
With a very swift move, Agent Gries takes out his service handgun from his shoulder holster, but the doctor is already moving, and fast. "What the hell is this", wonders Gries.
As the FBI officer turns right, around the wooden kitchen counter, to enter the bloodied hallway, the doctor is already turning the left corner towards the exit of the crime scene.
"Stevens", says Gries in empty air, "the coroner is leaving through the front door. Stop him before he exits. We must not confront him in the open."
Some instants later, in the stairway, Gries hears a satisfactory 'Freeze!' and smiles. He turns down in the stairs and faces the coroner.
"So, Dr. Wilkins, I take it you are leaving the crime scene with evidence? Tampering with this is..."
"You don't know!" answers immediately the frightened old man. "You have no idea what this could be..."
Gries lets the rest of his sentence fall short and is replaced by a booming, otherworldly sound far beyond the possibility of a mere human's throat. The sound takes form and speaks in a commanding tone, "I THINK I KNOW, DOCTOR."
The doctor's features calm down and the man looks up, entranced. "Yes... I do believe you know..."
"I DO NOT THINK YOU NEED THIS OBJECT IN YOUR CASE. YOU SHOULD GIVE IT TO ME."
"Yes... Yes I should." The doctor puts down the carry-case, opens it, takes out a silvery sliver of metal and brings it up for Agent Gries to take. As he reaches out and grabs it, an incredible wind picks up in the staircase and throws the doctor and Gries' partner to the floor, tumbling down. Later, the doctor would be found to have his neck broken, and Agent Stevens would only have minor bruises out of this. Agent Gries, him, remains unharmed, surrounded by the tunnel of wind fading around him fast.
"So... 'This' is part of the mystery. It starts to make some sense now." Then he lifts his chin and speaks again in empty air.
"I am the Nemesis Prince of Justice Unforgiving."
My liege! Forgive me, Minister, I had not recognized you.
"I seek audience with the Lord Minister of Lions. I wish for some remembrance of the War."
I shall arrange this for you, my Prince. On what matter should I announce you?
"The death of an angel past."