The street lights continuously broke the shadow over Baal’s face. The black van was speeding down a deserted main street. He was grunting and huffing, the adrenaline still raging in him. He embraced the rush, taking possession of every part of his body. He hadn’t felt so alive since the night his life changed.
The Lord recently made him the number two. The other thirty-three members of The Thirty-Six Legions of Demons were jealous of Baal’s special standing in the group. Especially because he hadn’t been a member through family lineage, as tradition demanded. He entered the group as a teenager without any ties to The Thirty-Six Legions of Demons.
As a teenager, he was known as Charlie. Charlie was a normal kid with normal wishes. An action figure for Christmas and candy instead of greens. His father, however, was a professional gambler. On that one specific night his addiction would change everything and turn Charlie’s beliefs upside down to make him what he was today.
Charlie’s father was hit by a losing streak. He bet everything he had and lost everything—the house, the car, the savings, everything. Not willing to give up and hoping for a lucky shot, he placed one final bet.
“If I lose, you can have my wife for one night.”
He knew it was a stupid offer. An offer no one would ever accept. No decent man, that is.
However, the men he gambled with were the opposite. They were well known criminals and always welcomed a special bet to make things more interesting.
“Your wife?” one man said calmly.
“Is she hot?” the other intervened.
They were more than happy to accept that special bet Charlie’s father proposed to them that night.
The game was roulette. His father chose black.
“I’m sorry, my friend. Tonight is not your night. But it’s only a game,” the man said, pointing his finger on the little white ball—it landed on thirty-six red.
He tried everything to talk the men out of his bet, offering them his free labor for life.
“Now, now. A man should honor his bets. A bet is a bet,” the man said, tapping Charlie’s father on his shoulder.
* * *
That same night, seven-year-old Charlie was woken up by quiet moans. He slowly walked toward his parents’ bedroom. The door was closed, but light shone through from underneath the door. Charlie’s little hands twisted the door knob. Upon opening the door, Charlie saw his father sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. His eyes were swollen. Blood was running down his nose. A man was standing next to him and holding a gun to his head. Both were looking over to the bed where the other man, naked, was lying on top of his mother. Her empty eyes looked over to the door at Charlie.
Charlie did not comprehend what was happening.
“What’s the boy doing here?” the man next to his father yelled and started to walk toward Charlie.
“No, don’t,” his father screamed in agony.
Charlie looked up at the man. Suddenly everything went black.
* * *
Charlie woke up on his parents’ bedroom floor. His head was hurting and blood was running down his face. He had been pistol-whipped, slashing his face severely. Fainting saved Charlie’s life. The man assumed he had killed him.
Charlie saw his mother lying on the bed. Her wrists were slit. the sheets drenched in blood. The bloody knife still held by her cold hands.
His father sat motionless in the corner chair. He had a phone lying in his lap. His eyes were frantic.
Two police officers charged into the room.
“Your door was open, we got your…what the hell?” one officer said, seeing Charlie’s mother.
“I’m sorry, Charlie,” his father cried.
He stood up, approached the police officer next to him, and with a quick hand movement, retrieved the gun from the officer’s holster.
“No, put the gun down,” the officers yelled at him.
The other officer drew his gun and was pointing it at him.
“I’m so sorry, Charlie,” he cried again, raising the gun in the direction of the officers.
His body was trembling.
“Put the damn gun down, man,” the officer with the gun shouted.
Charlie heard two shots and saw his father fall to the ground. His lifeless eyes looked at Charlie.
Later, Charlie would learn that his father committed suicide by cop. Charlie, however, saw it as suicide by guilt for what he had done to his mother.
The next few years, Charlie was in and out of foster care homes. At the age of twelve, he ran away.
Better to live on the streets than one more day in a home.
Stealing groceries and wallets from clueless tourists financed his new life on the streets.
The sun was shining stronger than usual on this Sunday afternoon. Charlie was walking along the streets, looking for a new victim. He hadn’t eaten in two days. An older man caught his attention. He walked down a lonely alley, easy, unhurried. This will be an easy one. Charlie saw the man’s wallet peeking out from his back pocket. Charlie collected his last energy and charged at the man from behind. He grabbed the wallet when suddenly the man’s massive hand grabbed Charlie’s fragile wrist. He was pulled back by the strength of the man. Too weak to fight the pull, he stood still, looking down at the wrist of the man. The tattoo on his wrist looked peculiar — two parallel vertical lines in a triangle.
“Young man, I believe you’re holding something that belongs to me?” he said in a friendly tone, still holding onto Charlie’s wrist.
Charlie’s eyes wandered away from the tattoo up to his face. The man was stunned by the multitude of deep scars covering Charlie’s face.
“Why would ya care? You ain’t lookin like ya need it anyway,” Charlie said.
“Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Why don’t we do a deal? You give me my wallet back, and I’ll give you all of the money that’s in it.” He smiled at Charlie.
“You ain’t foolin’ me.”
“Oh no, how could I possibly fool such a smart, young gentleman?” The man’s nose wrinkled.
He kneeled, looking Charlie straight in the eyes.
“I used to be like you. What’s your name?”
“Lemme go,” Charlie said, narrowing his eyes.
“Mhh, let me go? That’s a most unusual name, I must say. My name’s rather simple. George Hokfield. Nice to meet you.” The man smiled at Charlie. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t I call you Baal? Do you know who Baal was?”
“Why should I care? Can I have the money now?” Charlie said, looking up and sighing heavily.
“Be patient,” the man said, and continued, “Baal is a prince, a leader, and a guardian.”
“Who cares. Money, please?”
“Look at you. You’ve suddenly developed manners,” he said and chuckled. “You seem to be a rebel. Therefore, you should appreciate Baal. He is one of the seven princes of Hell, and he was also the commander in chief of Hell’s armies. Exciting, huh? And it doesn’t stop there. He’s a guardian demon protecting those who seek his protection. Powerful character, don’t you think?”
Charlie shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Come on, boy. Let me buy you something to eat, and then I will give you my money and much more, if you like,” He said.
Over time, they developed a friendly relationship and met daily in the same narrow street where they first met. Hokfield would give Charlie money and buy him lunch, and in return Charlie would sit with him for hours listening to his stories about the history of the Devil and Hell.
Despite the dark topic, Charlie never felt in danger. Hokfield struck him more as a professor of history than a creep.
Hokfield eventually became Charlie’s mentor and a father figure to him.
He received from Hokfield what he had never received before: attention and love.
Eventually, Hokfield took him off the streets and gave him a place in his home.
Charlie had been living now for more than four years in his house. Hokfield had one child of his own.
One cold winter night, he approached Charlie in the living room and said, “I think you’re ready.”
“Ready? For what?”
“You’ll see. Get your jacket.”
Hokfield’s voice was calm.
“Where is Lilith?” Charlie said, getting into the car.
“Your sister won’t be joining us.”
They drove for several miles though the snowy, dark landscape, arriving at the airport.
“Who we picking up?” Charlie said, looking out the window of the car.
“No one, Charlie. We’re flying away for a little while.” His voice was soft.
Charlie had never been at an airport before. The thought of boarding a plane excited but frightened him at the same. He could barely hide his smile as he walked through the busy terminal.
“Where are we flying to tonight, sir?” the friendly stewardess at the check-in counter asked Hokfield.
“London,” Hokfield replied, smiling down at Charlie.
“You’re welcome to relax in out Senator Lounge until we are ready for boarding.”
Hokfield always flew first class.
“Always treat yourself as a king,” he said to Charlie.