My restless dreams was haunted by Michael Malak. By his amber eyes, the way his lips curved when he smiled, by the vision of him naked in the throws of passion…
As the dawn colored the sky pink, I gave up even the pretense of sleep, rolled out of bed and headed into the kitchen to make some coffee. Islington was nowhere to be seen. No doubt the cat would show up again sooner or later. He always did.
After a fruitless search through the cupboards that yielded nothing but an empty can that had contained ground up coffee beans but no longer did, I was forced to watch the dawn through my dirty kitchen-window sipping stale tea brewed on a single Lipton tea-bag that had most likely belonged to a previous tenant. Clouds the color of dust blanketed the sky, signaling yet another day of stifling heat and humidity.
Having dressed in a tank top, an oversized T-shirt and a pair of old denim shorts, I wiggled on my pink flip flops and headed out. It was still early enough that there was a pleasant coolness in the air and I breathed it in as I made may way to the All American House of Coffee on the corner of the building, seriously jonesing for a hit of hot caffeine.
The smell of coffee and fresh bagels met me as I stepped through the open doors, and so did the tabloids promising to give me all the gory details about the ‘Angel’s’ latest murder. Disgusted by the newspapers morbid fascination that to me seemed to speak to the worst parts of humans, I got my over-prized mocca latte and cream cheese and chives bagel to go.
FOUNDED IN 1754, MARSH’S LIBRARY was the oldest in the city. Over the years it had become neutral ground for those who rose and those who fell. As I strolled among the dark bookshelves sipping my mocca, I was very aware that behind the sweet-looking grandmotherly librarian’s pink-cheeked face there hid the visage of something dark and demonic. And that the young man with his nose buried in a dusty tome was of angelic descent. I had seen the firefly flicker of divine light in his hazel-colored irises as our eyes casually met while I walked past his table.
As usual, I found Lou sitting in an armchair in one of the small studies, a cigarette perched between his fingers.
“You know, that sign says no smoking, right?” I pointed at the framed sign on the wall.
Lou made a gesture and the letters and the picture of a crossed out cigarette just melted away, leaving an empty white background in a gilded frame. “He’s killed another one.”
“Who?” I flopped down in the other armchair, watching as the fallen angel brought the cigarette to his lips, taking a drag, holding the smoke in before exhaling.
“The Angel of Death. They haven’t found the body yet, but they will.” Lou turned to me, his face showing a sorrow that was as old as time. “They got it wrong… these reporters and journalists. The Angel of Death was never cruel. Never brutal. Not even in the depths of Hell do they suffer as this killer's victims suffered. You must find him, Mary.”
My eyebrows rose. “Why?”
Lou regarded me with those strange eyes of his, one ebony dark and the other one sapphire blue. “Because he is crying out to me. I think he is looking for something. Perhaps the same thing we all are looking for… God.” Of all the archangels, Lucifer was the one who had kept his faith. It was almost like some cosmic joke. The fallen angel gazed at me through tendrils of blue smoke. “You’d think He would act, that He would intervene and save His mortal children.”
“Lou, don’t do this to yourself”, I said softly but he ignored me. He usually did when he was in one of his moods. His intense eyes bore into mine without seeing me for a moment. Then he blinked and came back to the here and now.
“I can’t interfere directly. But you can, Mary.”
I eyebrows rose and my jaw dropped. “I’m not a cop.”
“You gave yourself to vengeance-”
“I gave myself to Hecate!” I interrupted him. “To the goddess of witches and dark magic!”
His eyes flared with an iridescent shimmer as he suddenly towered over me. “But I was the one who caught you!” His voice had taken on a multifaceted quality that echoed through the library. “I was the one who plucked your soul like a ripe apple, Mary! You belong to me!” Dark wings the color of storm clouds arched from his shoulders, filling my field of vision as the fallen angel yanked me out of the armchair. “You belong to me! Never forget that!” He pressed his lips against my forehead and his kiss burned like ice.
When he released me, I fell to my knees on the antique carpet, my chest heaving in something close to sobs. I struggled against the dark spots dancing before my eyes when a yellow Post-it cam floating down to land on the floral pattern in front of me. Written in neat black, the name and address of a mark stared up at me. Then I felt Lou place his hand on the top of my head, transferring the essence of the poor bastard that would soon find him, or her, self not looking into the familiar reflection of his, or her, face but my spectral image the next time he, or she, came in front of a mirror.
“Take care of it. Oh, and he’s a warlock so expect a struggle.”
That cleared up the question of gender. “I always do”, I muttered.
I stared at my Post-it. The address was on the other side of the city. Lou’s touch had told me everything I needed to know about the warlock. He had made a deal with a demon for success, for sex and money, and now seven years later he had tried to run. Stupid bastard. The Devil always get what he is owed. Always.