Harris positioned his car right across from the entrance to Michael’s building in SoHo.
No wonder he cheated. Life doesn’t come cheap here.
Harris believed in a simple lifestyle. A bagel and coffee in the morning and a roof to live under was all he strived for in life. He arrived that same morning in New York City and went straight to Michael’s house. He didn’t want to be in this cold weather any longer than he needed to be.
“Let the show begin,” he mumbled, gripping his camera and pointing it at Michael, who was emerging from the building.
“Where you going?” Harris muttered and started the engine.
Michael’s taxi drove up Sixth Avenue and turned on 42nd Street and then down the iconic Fifth Avenue. Michael watched the long rows of open umbrellas moving along the sidewalks.
New Yorkers are out in any weather.
The taxi stopped in front of the famous New York Public Library.
Michael went straight to the information desk and asked for Amanda. He was directed to the Rose Main Reading Room. He was told to look for an Asian woman in her mid-thirties with long hair, wearing a black sweater and a pair of blue jeans.
He entered the Reading Room. He wasn’t in a state of mind to appreciate its majestic, high ceilings or the grand hall that was lined with thousands of books on open shelves along the floor level and along the balcony, lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers, and furnished with sturdy wood tables, comfortable chairs, and brass lamps.
Harris was only a few steps behind Michael.
Michael walked down the main corridor, looking to each side.
A few aisles further down, he could see a woman matching the description. But the description did her true beauty no justice. Her piercing, green eyes looked up at Michael.
Helen of Troy was once called the most beautiful woman who walked this planet. This woman was walking right beside Helen, Michael was thinking.
Amanda was sitting in front of a pile of open books.
“I’m so glad you came. Please take a seat,” Amanda whispered, pulling out a chair.
“Let’s not waste time. Tell me how you know?” Michael said, feeling a tingling at the base of his neck.
“Mr. Adams, I understand your confusion about what I told you last night.” Her tone of voice was soothing.
She pulled one of the books toward her.
“You recognize this image, Mr. Adams?”
She pointed to a painting of a nude man and a nude woman covering their genitals with a fig leaf. They were standing under an apple tree. A snake was leaping from the branch of the tree toward the woman.
With a slight head shake he said, “Sure, Adam and Eve. But…”
“Yes. What do you know about Adam and Eve?”
“What’s that gotta do with me?” His eyebrows squished together.
“Please just answer the question. I will explain everything, but I need you to understand some things first. So, what you know about them?” Her eyes widened.
“Uhm, I know the Bible says they were the first humans created by God.”
“Great. What else?”
“This is stupid. I don’t have time for this.” He pushed the book away.
“Mr. Adams, please, just trust me. I will tell you, but I need you to understand some things first. Otherwise nothing will make sense to you.”
Her warm smile eased Michael.
“Okay, okay. God told them they could eat fruit, but not from this one particular tree,” he said, gazing around the room.
“Yes, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Continue please.”
“If I remember Sunday school correctly, I think if they ate fruit from that tree, they would know what was good and what was bad, and they would’ve had to leave the Garden of Eden or something like that. But if they didn’t eat from it, they could stay in the Garden of Eden forever. Then the Devil came disguised as a snake and tricked Eve into eating the apple. Then Adam took a bite as well, and God got annoyed and kicked them out. Something like that. So now tell me.” He folded his arms.
“You remember Sunday school quite accurately Mr. Adams. You’re a man of faith?” She put her hand on his folded forearm.
The touch of her skin on his skin made him unfold his arms. A slow smile was building.
“I don’t believe in God. I’ve seen too much evil.”
“So, do you then believe there is a Hell?” she asked with a glint in her eye.
“Kids believe in it. I saw many documentaries about it, and it’s all made up BS.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“If I recall correctly, the Greeks created a vision of Hell, and then Christianity just made it theirs.”
“True, but why do you think that that rules out the possibility that Hell exists?”
“How can something be claimed by one religion if another one had it already? Makes no sense.”
“Couldn’t it be that it has always been there, just every religion interpreted it differently?”
Michael stared into the room.
“Think about it. Hell has always been there, just man’s perception changed over the centuries. In one-time period, it’s seen as a place filled with pain, violence, and torment. In another, it’s seen as a place where all man’s nasty fantasies come true,” she said and added, “Do you know anything else about Adam and Eve?”
“Mr. Adams, please focus.”
“Enough of this. Tell me what you know about my family?” His face reddened.
“Soon. Please just stay focused, and we will get to it. I promise,” she said and again laid her hand on his.
He took another deep breath and said, “Okay, I believe they had children. Cain and Abel. One being the nice guy, the other being the jerk who eventually killed the nice guy.”
“Your description of their characters is funny. Yes, Abel was the strong, righteous person, and Cain was the misled and evil person who, as you said correctly, killed Abel out of envy for the love of God. Abel seemed to be more loved by God than Cain, and Cain didn’t like it,” Amanda said and looked back down into the book.
“Yeah, I remember that part.”
“Well, but did you know that Cain was seen as the first Antichrist?” Amanda said, flipping the page, revealing a painting of two men.
One man was lying on the ground raising his hands in an attempt to protect himself as the other was holding a rock in a threatening gesture above him.
“Wait, wait. The Antichrist? So you’re saying the Devil had sex with Eve, and Cain was their child?” He sat up straight in his chair.
“I am not saying that they had sex, but yes, some believe that although Cain was the elder of the twins, he was not of Adam. Cain was a so called Beast-man, the seed of the Serpent. However, Abel was the firstborn of Adam. That’s the reason God chose Abel over Cain, and Cain became jealous and eventually murdered Abel,” Amanda said and added, “The first known murder in humanity, by the way.”
“Okay. Whatever. What does all of this have to do with me?” Michael said, tapping his fingers against the table.
“I am getting to it, Mr. Adams, I am getting to it. Another question: what’s the Devil’s goal?”
“Deceive and test humanity?” Michael said jutting his chin.
“Yes, true, but what he really wants is to enter our world and rule over us. Cain can therefore be seen as his first ambassador,” she said, pulling another book from the pile in front of her.
“This book is called the Codex Gigas—the giant book. At first glance, this book seems to be a beautiful, handwritten Bible, right?” She smiled and nodded at Michael.
“Yep.” He pressed his lips together and glanced at the beautiful crafted letters.
“Please flip to page 577,” Amanda said with a mischievous smile.
He took a breath, rolled his eyes and leaned forward.
“534, 556, 577,” Michael read the page numbers as he flipped through the book. He narrowed his eyes seeing the page before him. “I thought this was a Bible? Why is this in here?”
“This, Mr. Adams, is the reason the creation of the book is shrouded in mystery. This book is also known as ‘The Devil’s Bible.’” She made eye contact with Michael.
Before Michael’s eyes was a full page drawing of the Devil. The drawing had two red horns and a green face. Sharp teeth coming out of each side of the mouth. The hands and feet had long, red, pointy claws. The Devil was squatting, wearing nothing but a cloth around his loins.
“Looks like a typical medieval interpretation of the Devil,” Michael said still studying the picture.
“Yes, true. Only in later centuries did the Devil become the elegant betrayer depicted in many Hollywood movies. But back then, the Devil was seen more as a savage animal. Do you know anything about the history of this drawing and this book?” She tilted her head to the side.
“Nope, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.”
“This book was created in the early 12th century in a monastery in the Czech Republic. According to the legend, the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. Gruesome death.”
“Yes, it is,” he said.
“To escape this cruel death sentence, he promised to create a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge.”
“So what’s so mysterious about that?”
“Well, he promised to do this in only one single night.”
“You’re holding the proof in your hands,” she said with a smile and continued, “As midnight approached, the monk knew he wasn’t able to keep his promise. So he prayed. But it wasn’t a regular prayer. He didn’t address God. He addressed the fallen angel Lucifer, asking him to help finish the book in exchange for his soul. And the result of that is what you see in front of you. The Devil completed the manuscript, and the monk added the Devil’s picture out of gratitude.”
“Nice story. But clearly a marketing stunt to make this book more valuable,” Michael said calmly.
“Yes, indeed, a nice story, but no marketing stunt. Scientific analyses have shown that the book was written by one sole scribe starting at the first letter of the first page and ending at the last letter on the last page. The letters throughout the book are flawless. Art historians are baffled how this could be. In tests to recreate the work, it is estimated that reproducing only the calligraphy, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken five years of nonstop writing, twenty-four seven,” she said and then became suddenly still.
Michael looked at her, took a breath and said, “Okay, I admit that’s mysterious. But maybe he worked his entire life on it.”
“That’s what the scientists thought, but apparently everyone’s handwriting style changes over the years. Also with age, the monk would’ve lost his steady hand. It would’ve shivered more than the one of a young person. So perhaps, Mr. Adams, perhaps this book was truly written by the Devil himself.”
Michael pushed his body slightly away from the book and talked over her, “Enough of all of this. How do you know my father, and who was that guy that attacked me last night?”
“You were attacked?” Amanda said, tilting her head and making strong eye contact.
“Last night after I left the bar, a tall, muscular man attacked me on the streets. He said he knew of my gift.”
“Did you notice something particular about him? Anything unusual?”
“Yes, his face was covered in deep scars, and he had a tattoo on his arm. Two parallel vertical lines in a triangle.”
“Oh my God, they really did find you!” Her eyebrows drew together.
“Who found me, and why would anyone want to?” He shifted in his chair.
Amanda quickly pulled another book from the pile.
“This is the Ars Gotia. It contains descriptions of the demons that work for the Devil. The most powerful of them is Baal, followed by many others. I believe you were attacked by one of these demons.”
“Demons? He looked very human to me.” He shook his head slightly.
“I don’t mean literally. Yes, they are humans but see themselves as demons working in the name of the Devil. These demons…men…whatever you want to call them, are members of a sect called The Thirty-Six Legions of Demons.” She spoke faster. “The sect’s main purpose is to open the gates to Hell and have the Devil enter earth and reign over us.”
“Okay, but what does that have to do with me?” He drew the mouth into a straight line and bit his lip.
“Everything, Mr. Adams, just everything. Your gift can open the doors to Hell. That’s the reason you were attacked by one of them last night.”
She paused, looking at him.
Michael avoided eye contact.
Amanda pulled another book from the pile and opened it.
Michael’s knees locked when he saw the picture - it was a depiction of a roulette wheel.
“I can see you are familiar with this image,” Amanda said, laying her hand on Michael’s shoulder. “This, Mr. Adams, is your gift.”
“I don’t fully understand,” His hands laid still on his lap.
“You can foresee the roulette numbers, correct?”
“What?” Michael’s eyes shot open.
“How do you kn…?”
“…I know, and I want to help you,” she said, rubbing the side of his arm affectionately again. “I also know about your loss after you played roulette.”
“Wait a minute,” he said, standing up.
“Please sit down. We don’t want attention.”
Michael sat back down, “Are you trying to tell me there’s a connection between me playing roulette and her death?”
“Yes, there is. But let me start at the beginning, and you’ll understand better.”
Her finger pointed at the roulette game, “The traditional roulette game has thirty-six numbers listed in three rows and three columns starting with one, two, and three in the first row, followed by four, five, and six in the second, and so on. You see?” Amanda’s finger’s moved along the picture.
“Now, please do me a favor and add one plus two plus three.”
“Six,” Michael said quickly.
“Correct. And now four plus five plus six.”
“And one plus five?”
“Six?” Michael said again.
“Now let’s do the next line. Seven plus eight plus nine is?”
“Seven plus eight is fifteen, plus nine is twenty-four. And I assume now I do two plus four and that is again six.” Michael paused for an instant, reconsidering what he had just learned.
“Mr. Adams, you can do this with every single line, and you will always have six as a result. Now I want you to add the numbers in each column with each other.”
Michael pulled out his cellphone and inputted the numbers from the first column into the phone’s calculator. His hands shivered.
“One, four, seven, ten, thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-five, twenty-eight, thirty-one, thirty-four. Two hundred and ten. That has nothing to do with six,” Michael said, slightly relieved.
“Now please do the same with the middle column,” Amanda said politely.
Two, five, eight, eleven, fourteen, seventeen, twenty, twenty-three, twenty-six, twenty-nine, thirty-two, thirty-five. Michael hit the enter button.
“Two hundred and twenty-two,” he said.
“And now the third and last column please.”
Three, six, nine, twelve, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-four, twenty-seven, thirty, thirty-three, thirty-six.
“Two hundred and thirty-four,” Michael said, expecting something to follow.
“Now please add two hundred and ten, two hundred and twenty-two, and two hundred and thirty-four, and let me know what your phone shows.”
“Wait, let’s see,” Michael said and then paused.
“Six, six, six?” Michael dropped the phone on the table. The banging sound made the other people look up in annoyance toward them.
“Okay. The numbers all add up to six, six, six, the number of the beast. But what does that have to do with my gift of foreseeing numbers and especially with the death of Emily?” His index finger was hitting the roulette page rapidly and forcefully.
“Not only with the death of your girlfriend, Mr. Adams. Also with the death of your mother,” she said calmly.
“My mother? How you know about my mother?” Michael’s upper body moved away from Amanda.
“I know more about you than you think, Mr. Adams. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you understand. What do you know about the origins of roulette?”
Michael was now twitching his hands. “Nothing.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you then.” She took a breath. “Officially it was invented by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century. That’s the official version. The unofficial and, in my eyes, the true story is far from that.” Amanda locked eyes with Michael.
“In thirteenth century France, a priest had money issues. He was about to lose the church. As he realized he’d lose everything, he started to pray. Nothing unusual for a priest. But, he didn’t pray to God. He prayed to the Devil for help.”
“Just like the guy that wrote the Devil’s Bible you just showed me.”
“Exactly. But in this case, the Devil struck a different deal. The deal was, I’ll give you a game that’ll make you wealthy.”
“Roulette?” Michael added.
“Yes, roulette. But here’s the twist. Whenever the priest would play, he would be able to foresee the winning numbers.”
Michael’s eyes opened wide.
“The number six, six, six here in the game is something like the Devil’s watermark or copyright symbol.”
“Okay, okay. But what did the Devil get out of this?” He sat up straight.
“What does gambling generally do to someone who constantly loses?” Amanda asked.
“It ruins their lives,” he responded instantly.
“Exactly.” She pointed her index finger at him. “The Devil likes to ruin people’s lives. But he wanted more.”
“His soul?” He narrowed his eyes.
“Kind of. Actually, he wanted the souls of his loved ones.”
Michael fell backwards into his chair’s back. His forehead furrowed.
“Whenever the priest played and won, the Devil would take the soul of one of his loved ones. In other words, take their lives,” Amanda said calmly and then paused.
Michael stopped breathing and gazed into the room without focusing on anything particular. He then let out a gasp and said, “Wait, I didn’t play. Emily played. She was the one placing the chips.”
“But you were telling her where to place them?” Her head moved slightly in.
He nodded hesitantly.
“The Devil doesn’t care who places the bet, but he does care who provides the information for it.” She said without blinking.
“How can this be?” Michael mumbled.
He took a deep breath and gathered himself again.
“Okay. But what I don’t understand is why was the priest okay with this deal? After all, he was a man of God,” Michael said.
“He wasn’t okay with it. He thought he could trick the Devil. But perhaps you’ve heard the saying, if you dance with the Devil, you won’t change the Devil, the Devil will change you.” She smirked. “After the priest realized what he’d done, he couldn’t live with it anymore and committed suicide.”
“But what do I have to do with a thirteenth century priest from France?” He rubbed his cheek.
“I believe this thirteenth century priest from France, Mr. Adams, is your remote ancestor,” she said leaning in.
Michael’s heart raced. Cold sweat covered the palms of his hands.
“The gift is passed on from one generation to the next,” Amanda added.
Michael tried to regain his focus again. He straitened up in his chair. “Let’s assume all of what you’ve just told me is true. What does this have to do with The Thirty-Six Demons sect?”
“They believe with the help of the gifted person they can open the gates to Hell. Help the
Devil to enter our world. The legend goes that the Devil needs thirty-six souls to enter our realm.”
“That’s the reason roulette has thirty-six numbers?” Michel added, scratching his forehead.
He swallowed several times and said, “So you’re saying the death of my mother, Emily’s death, they’re my fault?”
“Nothing is your fault. It’s your ancestor’s fault for making the pact in the first place.” Her voice softened.
He leaned forward, his hand on his knee, “What can I do to stop it?”
“We need to find the original roulette that the Devil gave the priest. We need to find it before they do. Otherwise humanity is lost.”
“The Codex Gigas. We need to find it. That’ll have the answers.”
Michael stopped for a second.
He drew parallels between his mother’s and Emily’s death. Both were young and very healthy. Both died after the winning of a lot of money.
Is there really a connection?
Michael knew his father would have had the answers he was seeking. His father never wanted to talk about what happened that night. Always when Michael tried to talk about it, his father left the room without saying a word.
Michael’s eyes refocused. He straightened his posture and looked down at the books before him.
He looked at the library index card of the Codex Gigas “It states that the original is located at the National Library in Stockholm, Sweden.” His pulse raced.
“I know that, but we need the original. Sweden only has a copy. The original is in private hands,” Amanda said. “Sweden lets people believe it’s real and doesn’t want to admit it’s fake. Believe me, Mr. Adams, I know everything there is to know about this book.”
“Do you know who has the original?” Michael said with a new-won sparkle in his eyes.
“It’s with a collector of occult things in Germany. In Frankfurt, to be precise. The man we need to talk to has a shop there called Occulta.”
“Germany? I’ve got money. Let’s go right now. No reason to waste time.” He jumped to his feet.
“I agree,” Amanda said.
Michael again pulled out his phone to book tickets.
“There is a flight leaving at three p.m. Let’s meet at the airport at around 1:30 p.m.,” he said.
“One more thing before you leave,” she said.
He tilted his head slightly looking at her.
“I don’t think it’s a consistence that your name is Michael.”
“In the Bible, the Archangel Michael led the battle against the army of the devil.” She stopped and smiled.
Harris was eavesdropping on their entire conversation from the table behind them. His eyes followed Amanda and Michael leaving the room. Harris moved to their table and looked at the open books.
A load of demonic BS.