Elias’s apartment above the shop was mostly bare-bones: a space heater, a tattered couch, a stained mattress on a rusty frame; a footlocker, stacked washer and dryer, a battered old wardrobe… certainly sparse as far as furniture was concerned. But one thing existed in abundance: clocks.
Cuckoo clocks, antique wall clocks, novelty clocks… and one gorgeous grandfather clock. Sam was reminded of the fancy clock on the wall of his garage downstairs. She wondered where the fascination came from.
Elias emerged from the bathroom carrying something wrapped in a towel, which he placed on the bed. He opened his footlocker and pulled out a shirt and pants. “These… won’t exactly fit you but they’ll work for now, until I can get your clothes dry,” he said, handing them over. “You can change in the bathroom but the facilities don’t work. If you need to go, there’s a working bathroom downstairs.”
Sam took the clothes, went into the small bathroom and changed. When she came out (pant legs cuffed, sleeves on the button-up rolled), Elias had already put on a different pair of jeans and was stuffing their wet clothes in the dryer. He was shirtless, and as Sam went and took a seat on the couch, she admired Elias’s amazing full-back tattoo…
It was of a massive pocket watch, the hands set at 6:15. Its face and cover were missing; behind the hands lay a spiral galaxy, and out of that galaxy planets and moons were flung out of the watch, spread across Elias’ back. These were joined by gears and wheels and springs... as well as numbers from the clock face. It was breathtaking, and Sam sensed that there was a story behind it, but before she enquired about the tattoo, she had more pressing questions.
“How many of them are there?” She began.
“We don’t know,” Elias answered. He closed the dryer and turned it on. “We do know that their numbers have grown alarmingly in the last few years.”
“What are they?” Sam worked to keep the tremor out of her voice.
Elias turned and walked to the side of the bed opposite her. He had another tattoo, on his stomach, of Jesus standing with his arms at his sides, palms out. “Some call them werewolves. We call them Infernum Cane. Hell Hounds. We believe that they’re servants of the Dark One, and their presence is a sign of Armageddon.”
The mechanic reached to the towel wrapped bundle on the bed and unfolded the towel to reveal a pistol—a baby Desert Eagle, which he tossed to Sam.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Your new back up gun. It’s untraceable. The ammo’s silver.”
Sam turned the weapon over in her hands and then placed it next to her on the couch. She put her elbows on her knees, lowering her face into her palms. For a moment the only sound was the tumbling of the clothes. Finally Sam lifted her head and said “You keep saying ‘we.’ Who’s ‘we’?
“The order I belong to is called the Angeli Bellum. Angels of War. We track the hounds and we kill them.”
Sam stood up and started pacing in front of the couch. “So it was you at the hotel… the cross-engraved bullets.”
“How do you know… when they’re in human form how do you what they are?”
“If there’s any doubt, there’s one way you can always tell…” Elias held up his right hand, palm out. “They all have a scar on their right palm. The mark of the beast.”
Sam tried to remember the words of the man in the Smiley Face sweater, the night she had chased Raggedy Man at the camp… something about “all, small and great, rich and poor, free and bond” having a mark in their right hand or foreheads.
The room seemed suddenly colder. Sam hugged her arms tight to her body and crossed until she was standing on the other side of the bed from Elias. “What do you know of the one who killed the guy in the church? The gray hoodie?”
“He’s their leader. Their alpha. Our brethren tracked him all the way from Turkey. We know that he’s… preoccupied with you but we don’t know why. His name is Kronin.”
“Kronin…” At last, she had a name… though she might always think of him as Raggedy Man.
“Nina was Turkish as well,” Elias continued. “Though she came from Germany. We’ve been following her ever since she arrived in the states. I’ve been trying to track down Kronin but the closest I got was the hotel. Tonight…”
Elias lowered his head. “Tonight I was working on finding him again. I’ve made friends with some of the homeless, pretending to be one of them. I caught wind that Kronin had argued with Nina. Once I found that out I thought she might try something. I went to her apartment, the shop… and then I remembered that when I was following her just yesterday she had driven out on that old road but I had lost her… I didn’t know which house. Took me a while to spot your vehicle.”
Images flashed through Sam’s mind; images of Nina… changing.
I’ll eat the soft parts first.
Sam had fallen silent. Elias said “the bed’s all yours” and headed around to the couch. He picked up the gun, walked back and placed it under the pillow. “You don’t have anything to be afraid of as long as you’re with me. Still, that might make you feel safer.”
She had to admit, it did.
“Is Mama Kaiser one of them?” she asked.
“No,” Elias said. He walked around Sam and dug in the locker until he found a blanket. “There’s nothing to suggest that she knew anything about what Nina was. As far as we know she was just trying to help her.”
“There was a word, written in the blood of the man killed at the church. The word was ‘eclipse.’ Do you know what it means?”
Sam was beside the bed, Elias at the foot. He thought for a moment and then shook his head. “No.”
“What about an old man named Tom Brewin? Do you know him? Did he send you?”
Elias took a step closer, holding Sam’s eyes steadily. “The order sent me. I don’t know anyone named Brewin.”
“How many of you are there, in the order?” Sam resisted the urge to back away from him.
“Not many. Jacob and I were the only ones sent here. I mourn his loss greatly, but his soul is with God now.”
Sam decided that now wasn’t the time to share with Elias that she wasn’t a big believer in God. For a moment the two of them just stood there. Finally Elias said “you should try to rest. I wake up with the sun.”
He walked over near the couch and stood by the wall switch, waiting for Sam to get into bed. When she did, he flicked off the light. She heard him settle into the couch and when her eyes adjusted to the moonlight coming through the single window, she saw that he had spread the blanket over himself.
She lay there, her mind still spinning. Tonight her entire world view had been turned upside down. The thing in the basement, the thing that was/was not Nina flashed repeatedly through her thoughts. Her imagination put it there in the room with her, waiting to complete its transformation so it could shred the meat from her bones.
Sam stayed awake all through the night and into the first light of dawn. All the while her hand held tight to the pistol beneath the pillow.