• Seeking Dusk: Part 15

    The wait is unbearable. I can hear their voices in the building, but force myself to not listen. It would be wrong of me to ignore an order from Lord Zadkiel. I can still speculate, though.

    What would The Dominion want from a human? I mean, a soldier or messenger might talk to Dr. Matthews for information, but the combined sight of these angels encompasses almost all of creation. And for things they can’t see, they can speak with the archangels, or in extreme cases, The Creator!

    Why manifest here themselves? And now that I think of it, where did Kushiel and Ariel take Rand? The human is talented, but the power of The Dominion would crush him.

    The door starts to click open. I straighten up from the reclined position I had taken in the air as I played with my thoughts. As much as I’m questioning in my mind, I still feel the need to obey and assist these powerful beings anyway I can. …And, maybe follow the protocols a little more closely while they’re around.  Don’t judge me! I’ve seen enough mortals to know I am not alone in this reaction. I’m not used to them following me around all the time.

    Dr. Matthews leads them back here, his face scrunched in thought. What did they talk with him about? What could perplex the good doctor so thoroughly?

    “Thank you for your help, Alexander.” Lord Zadkiel came after the doctor. He’s taken to calling the human by his first name, which seems more than a little disrespectful. But then, he’s been like that since he landed…

    “Of course, my lord.” Despite responding quickly, the doctor’s voice sounds far away. This is going to drive me crazy.

    “If you learn anything else, please, pray to us. We will hear you.” Lady Puriel spoke reassuringly, which was strange to me. In my defense, it’s the first time she’s spoken like that since she landed.

    The hosts piled out of the building, while I stood at attention. I thanked the good doctor for his help as they left. He finally looked me in the eye, and I could see more to his expression. He was scared. Terrified. I wish I could help, but all I could do is give him my own frightened look back.

    The matters of hosts are rarely simple, but the Dominion are something else entirely. As Zadkiel put it, all of creation must be at risk for all five of them to land. But the secrecy is different. Last time they were here, they fought the threat of the Nephilim. An open war. Glorified in their actions and majestic in their terrible might. So to see them being so… subtle, is jarring.

    But it makes me think of the kind of cloak and dagger missions Rand had been engaging. Have I really been the only one to still see this war as it was? To be left behind as my leaders and allies fight a new battle? I never did apologize to Rand. I suppose I now really should when I see him.

    “Aluma, thank you for your assistance.” Puriel spoke to me with the same assurance she used with Dr. Matthews. I was still not used to it.

    “Of course, my lady. What will we do now?”

    Lord Zadkiel looked to his comrades and then to me. “If I remember correctly, you still have your own assignment to complete. You may resume your hunt. If we need you again, we will call upon you.”

    I was stunned. But Zadkiel said I would be needed. That they needed someone to help guide them on earth. Did I do something wrong?

    “Of course. I wish you well, my lord and ladies.” I took off into the air, too ashamed of the tears I felt. I did not want them to see. Dammit, Aluma! Get yourself together!

    I soared over the rooftops of the city, not really looking for anything. Instead I fought with my emotions and questions. It would be wrong of me to disobey a direct order, but…

    Was it an order? Zadkiel had said I ‘may’ go back to my mission.

    “Piecing it together are you?”

    I whip around, shocked at the voice I heard. Lord Zadkiel was right behind me. I didn’t even realize I had stopped flying forward.

    “Well, Aluma, you are a loyal soldier. I was right to think I could trust you.”

    “My Lord,” I exclaim, bowing as I do, “Where are the Ladies Muriel and Puriel?”

    “Busy.” His calm demeanor was actually starting to worry me. “But you need not worry. I am here because I need your help.”

    I would like to say I was humble, and not at all proud of his trust in me, but that would be an absolute lie.

    “You’ve been a busy host, Aluma.” Zadkiel and I were floating around the city. While I’ve been torn between my feelings, I do my best to piece together what exactly is going on. Lord Zadkiel seems to be betraying the trust of the rest of The Dominion, but at the same time, I have to think that he has a reason for doing so. The whole of creation is in jeopardy, right?

    “I suppose so, my lord.” The pride I had felt was gone, and instead replaced with my confusion.

    “How many demons have you sent to The Pit in just these last seven missions?”

    Was he genuinely curious? Potentially getting me buttered up?

    “I am unsure. A few dozen?”

    He smiles, “In such a short amount of time. A mere blink of an eye and so many of our enemies fade into the void. It is not just your strength, Firebrand. You can find where these creatures hide. Your tenacity in the face of demonic entities is nothing short of spectacular. This is why I need your help.”

    “Of course. I am at your service, Lord Zadkiel.”

    We slow to a stop, his eyes still searching over the city.

    “Come, we shouldn’t talk in the open.” He floats straight down, almost losing me. I go after quickly, keeping my eye on him. He descends into an alleyway, taking care to examine the area around us. What is he hiding?

    “My lord,” I speak calmly, “why are we taking such pains to not be seen or heard?”

    When he appeared satisfied that we were alone, he spoke.

    “Aluma, were you not listening when we spoke of The Box?”

    “All of reality was at risk. I heard you, my lord.”

    He sighs.

    “It goes deeper than that. The Presence, The Creator himself might be in danger.”

    …Excuse me?

    “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not possible. He is-”

    “Missing.”

    EXCUSE ME?!

  • Neon Noir: The Twelfth Beat
    https://open.spotify.com/track/5227IstIJBckEgNWdWiqZU?si=fbb6364bf78f4764
    Rupert was a close friend with Alessandro Gaudio, the head of the crime family. He’s a fixer, a fighter, and has his own long history making things happen in the city.

    Ryan Shane

    Lady Vash had taken Mr. Shane’s drink rather than wait for a new one. She shooed one of the men off the stool and took the seat herself. If anyone would recognize Rupert, it’d be her.

    And yet, she also didn’t offer up Bella.

    “Rupert, you lost your charge and made a mess trying to get her back. Why should I think she’d be safe with you?”

    He looked around at his men, a little uncomfortable. Likely didn’t appreciate being talked down to in front of his men.

    “You know it’s more complicated than that. She was with the Belrose boy.”

    “I assume that’s been taken care of.” Vash sips her drink, never taking her eyes off the man.

    He sighs, but his shoulders still look tense.

    “Yes, but if they haven’t started looking for her yet, they will soon.”

    “Because you told them?”

    “I would never!”

    The two in charge glared into each other’s eyes. Mr. Shane looked away, and saw the other men in the room all looking sheepish in their own ways.

    “Leave us,” Rupert orders, then turns to Ryan. “That goes for you too, boy.”

    Vash takes a sip, seemingly ignoring the tension she caused.

    “No, he stays.” Rupert scoffs at Vash’s statement.

    “We’re talking about this in private!”

    “And so we shall. I trust Mr. Shane, especially more than I trust you right now. And I’m just a little lady. What would I do if you turned violent?” Vash smirks.

    Rupert turns to the rest of his men, who seem confused as to whether they should leave or not.

    “Well? Get out!”

    The men quickly shuffle outside. Left in the room are Rupert, Vash, and Mr. Shane awkwardly looking between them.

    Rupert collapses onto the couch and buries his face in his hands.

    “Thanks for the excuse. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, Vash.”

    “I figured as much. Who found the body?”

    He sighs before answering.

    “Carlota. I don’t know how she got here before me. I talked to the neighbors and it doesn’t sound like she knew who lived here, but there’s a chance she knows. And that’s assuming the shooter didn’t leak it to the family already.”

    Vash sets her glass down on the counter.

    “About that: What have you heard?”

    Rupert leans forward and looks up toward Mr. Shane. The bodyguard shifts his shoulders around at the eyes boring into him.

    Vash speaks again.

    “That wasn’t just for show, I trust him. Beyond the fact he owes me, he’s like a damn puppy in his loyalty.”

    Mr. Shane’s eyebrows narrow as he looks at his boss. Not exactly the most dignified description.

    “You can’t be too careful. Things are going to hell.” Rupert leans back in his seat again. “I’m not sure what the family knows, but I did learn more about the would-be lovers.”

    “Lady Gaudio didn’t tell me what went down, but I carefully put out some feelers. What I heard shook me.”

    “You can skip the part about their relationship. I’m already caught up on that.” Vash grabs and downs the rest of her drink.

    “No, you aren’t. Raphael wasn’t just involved with Bella. He had three more women on a damn near rotation.”

    “Which paints an even bigger target on Bella. Goddamnit.” Vash slams her glass back down.

    “I could tell from her voice she didn’t shoot the boy, but it’s not likely the Belroses will see it that way. They hear Raphael was screwing around on her, and they’ll think she killed him out of jealousy.”

    Vash stands up and paces around the room. She crosses her hands behind her back taking glances out the window every so often.

    Then she walks over to one side of the room and pulls up the carpet. She presses on a few planks of the wood flooring and lifts a loose one, pulling a small bag out, before replacing the flooring.

    “What is that?” Rupert questions.

    “Bella borrowed money from Kegs to run away. If the Belroses are going to be after her, might as well not have someone else too.”

    “Hand it to me and I’ll take care of it. And I just need you to tell me where Bella is and I can get her out. After that, the families can go to war for all I care.”

    Vash pauses, looking between the bag and Rupert. She hands it to him.

    “I’ll send you a message when we can get her somewhere safe for the transfer. Keep your ear out, or you might miss it.”

    He takes the bag and gives a nod to her.

    “Thank you, Lady Vash. I’ll get this right to Kegs.”

    Ryan continues looking between the two, nervous as anything and fighting the urge to say anything.

    Rupert stands and heads to the door.

    “I’ll be waiting for the word, Vash.”

    “You’ll get it soon enough.”

    With that, Rupert takes his leave.

    As soon as the man was out of earshot, Ryan urgently whispers to his boss.

    “What was that all about?! Bella owes the money to Lenny, not Kegs!”

    Vash walks into the kitchen, digging through the cupboards.

    “Yes. That’s right.”

    “So you knew you were wrong?”

    “Mr. Shane, why did we send you here first?”

    Ryan hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, and the day has been long and complicated.

    “I was supposed to draw the men away from the apartment for you to get the money?”

    “Specifically, you were supposed to draw away the Belrose men. The ones who we thought discovered the body.”

    Ryan thinks about this, and shakes his head.

    “You can’t be saying Rupert is in on it? Yeah, he’s kind of a crumb, but after the Belroses got rid of the body, why wouldn’t Rupert look around here?”

    Vash continues digging around the kitchen. She seemed very intent on finding something.

    “Because he’s not that dumb. He claims the family don’t know who owned this apartment. But if the cleaner for the Gaudios is hanging around here when no one else knows what happened? Why risk it?”

    “Then what was he doing here?”

    Vash feels a false back to a drawer and quickly works to remove it.

    “Trying to find something to track her down.”

    She pulls out an envelope, looks inside and gives a smile to Mr. Shane.

    Ryan was sure this night was far from over.

  • The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 25

    I’d love to spend more time lying here, but there’s work to do.

    “No time to rest just yet, Con.” I struggle to my feet, my chest aching in such pain. “We have to find out more. This demon is down, but not dead.”

    Con looks annoyed as he sits up.

    “So what? We tie him up with that special rope of yours? Torture him to make him talk? Not sure how well that’ll work.”

    “Now that’s just silly.” I shuffle back towards my bag, hoping I remembered the healing powder. “We clearly don’t need rope. It’s incapacitated from its injuries.”

    Con shakes his head. “Okay, but what about talking with it? These things only speak that weird stuff. Unless they’re pulling from people’s memories, they don’t speak no human language.”

    “They speak Enochian, similar to the angels, but there are ways to translate that, if necessary. However, I don’t think we need it since you have a rather useful skill.”

    I make it to my bag. Rifling through it, I find what I had hoped. A small vial of a glittering dark powder. It can mend my wounds, and heal my bruises, but it costs something most aren’t willing to give.

    Luckily, I am not most. I pull a small pinch of dust out and throw it at my chest. The effect is immediate. Bones literally snap back into place. Blood starts flowing again through mended veins.

    The pain increases to unbelievable levels for an instant, but becomes non-existent soon after. I groan and then stretch, making sure everything is as it should be. My chest feels almost like new. Well, except my clothes. But I can mourn my coat later.

    “Hey, Branner. What is that stuff? I could use some after that fight.”

    “You do not want this, Con. It’s dried blood of the fae. It can heal wounds and extend your life, but it costs a bit of your humanity each time. The more severe your wound, the more it takes. And with you being half demon, you have very little to give. Your demon abilities will have you healed soon enough.”

    I replace the vial in my bag. “It’s time to get to work. Let us see what this beast knows.”

    I cross back to the mayhem the battle with the demon left. Not much could be done about it, but I’m sure the Doctor’s staff will clean it all the same. The creature that had been tormenting us was lying sprawled on the floor, pieces of his arms and torso missing from his body. So much was more visible now.

    Between the dust, blood, and outlines of wounds, I could see his entire form. The serpent tail fused to the humanoid torso was as strange as last time, but there was a stranger sense to it. Like it didn’t belong, even to such a foul beast as this.

    “I’ll need one more item.” I run to the pile of destroyed bookshelves and start sifting through the wreckage. The statue I was initially trying to get should be in here. After a short search, I find it.

    “Con! I’ll need you to hold on to this. It should help you acquire a connection with the beast,” I call back to the boy.

    As he walks over to get the figure, the doors to the study burst open. Several servants enter the room, followed by the undercook, and finally Doctor Maladar himself. They gasp at the destruction in the room.

    I look around from the destroyed bookcases, to large holes in the walls, to the beast itself, sprawled upon the ground.

    “I’d tell you this isn’t what it looks like, but I can’t imagine what you believe this to be.”

    I was not very gifted with humor, but I had been told it helps to disarm a bad situation.