Archangel Gabriel leaned back with a sigh of contentment. The garden pavilion at the back of the house belonging to the rulers of the Fae - Arthur and Rowan - was comfortable in the early November morning in California, almost as pleasant as if they were in the realm of the Fair Folk. An assortment of comfortable chairs and cushions were thrown around a large, metal table that was usually used for drinks or snacks. Ivy climbed up and over the pavilion posts, wafting a clean, fresh fragrance through the air. For once, things were as they had been in that magical place before the Almighty had seen fit to change things. Gabriel’s brother Rafael was also in attendance up at the main house, sleeping off what had turned out to be very pleasant, relaxing evening. Everything was as it should be. He grimaced thinking of how this joyful moment had started. Gabriel sat quietly, admiring the view as this new iteration of his child snored beside him. So different from just a few weeks previous.
Two weeks ago
Amenadiel raced up to the Silver City, searching desperately for Seraphiel or Michael. “Now is not the time to be invisible to me” he muttered to himself, going from one heavenly sphere to the next in his search.
“What’s the rush, brother?” Archangel Rafael dropped in front of the dark-skinned angel, a puzzled look on his face. “Aren’t you supposed to be…?”
“Lucifer isn’t my problem right now” Amenadiel replied. “The Triad maybe in trouble.”
“MAYBE?” Rafael said, glowering down at his sibling. “What do you mean – MAYBE?” Either they are or they are not – which is it?”
“I don’t have time…”
“Make time” Rafael growled, planting himself in the angel’s path.
Amenadiel sighed in frustration. Of all the archangels, Rafael was usually the mellowest but he had a stubborn streak a mile wide. If he didn’t want to be moved, then he wouldn’t be. “You know that portal into the depths of Hell located in the human realm? The one that appears in different places because it is supposed to be guarded by a human Sentinel? Its location now is in Brooklyn Heights – where it opened a little over forty years ago.”
Rafael frowned. He had heard of this “floating” gate into the bowels of Hell and its human guard. The Sentinel – a person who had lost his faith but regained it in the face of overwhelming temptation from the denizens of Hell – was a soldier of their Father’s that the archangel had never understood or approved of. For one – the being guarding a doorway into Hell was not angelic or Fae but a helpless mortal who could easily be eliminated by those who followed the darkness. And while a new Sentinel was always named before the old one died sometimes getting the new one to cooperate took more than the representatives of the Church could handle. Technically – they weren’t supposed to interfere, just advice and guide until the moment the initiate made their own choice to take up the cross. There had been a few times when the gate had almost been opened due to the human chosen to sit before the gate’s decision to cling to their mortal existence. “Last I heard, the Sentinel was a Father Michael, a priest who had fallen from grace after being confronted some twenty some odd years ago by Daesidarius, or The Unholy in his own church. Faced with surviving the confrontation but losing his eyesight he had spiraled down in addiction and near suicide until his name was chosen as the new Sentinel to watch the Hell Gate.”
“Yes – but it’s his time to be replaced and the new guard selected isn’t cooperating. The demons are rattling their gate so forcefully that they attracted the notice of the Triad – who have offered the Church their assistance in keeping the creatures off the potential Sentinel until the priest monitoring the situation can convince the wretch to take up their burden.”
Rafael went cold at the thought of their young ones facing down the horrors that collected in front of THAT gate. “The Church has handled this situation for centuries – why did the Phoenix think they needed his and his siblings help now?”
“Because Rowan believes that the priest selected to see this thing through has lost his faith as much as the person chosen to guard the gate. She believes he’s going through the motions of bringing this new guardian to replace the old one just so that he can prove to his superiors that all of this is nothing more than superstition and hysteria. And she just might be right.”
“Lovely” Rafael muttered, turning to trot back towards the Throne. “Why would Father put them in this position and not send us to be at their sides? And how did you find out about this, anyway?”
“Lucifer” Amenadiel sighed. “He had talked to Rowan and she let slip where they were going. He recognized the address in Brooklyn where the old brownstone over the Gate was and put two and two together. Then he called me.”
Rafael stopped, puzzled. “Why would he care? I would think opening a door to his kingdom would please him.”
“I want to think he’s changing” Amenadiel responded cautiously. “But truth be told – I think he’s concerned he won’t be able to control anything that slithers its was up from those old pits. And strange as this may sound – I think he’s rather fond of the kids.”
Rafael snorted in disbelief, turning back to his original destination. “You had me until that. Come on then – let’s find Michael.”
In New York
Khan slammed his fist into the face of a particularly disgusting sloth demon trying to climb out of the wall in front of him. “That priest better get with the program soon – I’m not sure how many more of these we’re going to be able to keep from entering this reality.”
Arthur nodded in agreement, ramming his fist into another disfigured creature and sending it flying back into one of the vacant apartments. “Ro says the guy’s convinced himself this is all some sort of meth-induced hallucination. Which makes me wonder how a priest would know what kind of visions meth creates in your head.”
“Is she sure about who the next Sentinel is?” Khan snarled, grabbing a crawling nightmare out of his path and tossing it back down the stairs.
“She says she is – and I’ve never know her to be wrong about this sort of thing.”
There was sudden flash of light and both men were swept back by a pair of steel grey wings. “What the bloody hell do you two think you are doing letting your sister get ahead of you with those two spineless sods?”
“And hello to you too, Seraphiel” Arthur replied grimly. “She’s trying to show that idiot of a priest that this is all real and someone needs to take Father Michael’s place before he kicks the bucket and all hell literally breaks lose. YOU want to tell her she can’t do that – be my guest.”
The angel glared back at the young king. ‘You could at least be closer in case she needs you.”
“The only thing she needs right now is a club to beat that idiot of a novice priest over the head with.” Khan snarled.
“Have either of you tried showing him your spirit animals?” Seraphiel replied in annoyance, using his razor-sharp wings to keep a particularly disgusting lust demon at bay. “A dragon and a phoenix seem pretty good indicators that something is definitely wrong around here.” He slashed at another crawling horror, sending its severed limbs in different directions.
“The dude thinks we roofied him!” Khan said in exasperation. “He honestly thinks this is all some bad acid trip.”
“Well, I can fix that.” Seraphiel slammed the next demon out of his way, breaking bones and showering the creature in its own blood. He charged into the apartment in front of him, wings folded back for easier movement and slammed the door behind him. From inside the two young fighters could hear high pitched screams as the angel engaged the inhabitants – both human and demonic.
“I’m not sure whether to feel sorry for the stupid sod of a priest or relieved” Khan muttered, kicking a writhing piece of demonic flesh out of his way.
“Neither” Arthur replied grimly. “It won’t do us any good for the new initiate to agree to take that chair out of fear of getting his head handed to him by a Seraphim. The whole point is…”
Silence filled the corridor, causing both me to look around them with concern. The demons, who had been just moments earlier been oozing out of the walls and trying to get out of the empty spaces around them suddenly disappeared, screams of pain and disappointment echoing in their place. “That’s good – right?” Khan asked, looking around him.
Arthur turned and bolted for the apartment he had last seen his sister enter, his brother at his back. “Sissy?” he called out, coming to a sudden halt over the threshold.
“I’m fine” she replied, wearily. “And we have a new Sentinel – though not done as I expected it to be.” She pointed towards the chair where a white-haired figure sat stiffly, staring with sightless eyes out of the window, gripping a large crucifix to his chest. Beside the chair was the prone figure of the former guard, Father Michael, painfully gasping out his last breath. And beside him…
“So – finally got to that sod of a holy man after all” Arthur commented, looking at the man wearing white priest’s collar who was curled in a fetal position under the window.
“Yeah – about that. Seems our initiate was actually a reporter for some tabloid looking for the “truth” about why the Church has retained possession of this house for as long as it has – and why there is always a member of the clergy always in residence. His pen name was Mark Daniels but his real name was Mario Cervantes, which was the second name on the list of potential new Sentinels, right after the guy that offed himself. This idiot” she waved a hand over the prone figure in disgust “agreed to attempting this little bit of gonzo journalism because he had no good excuse for how the original candidate – some poor slob from Long Island – managed to cut his own throat before he ever made it to his post.” She sighed in exasperation. “Seems Father Thomas didn’t get with the program fast enough and let the first guy out of his sight for too long and wasn’t able to reel him in before…”
“Wait – so instead of this dumb-ass man of the cloth telling his superiors that he fucked up he decides to help some yellow-journalist blow the roof off of this story? And despite all that the idiot still ends up with a Sentinel in the chair even though he didn’t have the smarts to check and see that the yellow-journalist he was siding with was next on the list? Either this guy has the biggest dose of dumb luck ever or the Old Man was just in the mood to fuck with someone and this numb-nut’s number had just come up.” Khan looked down in amazement and disgust at the figure in the chair. “Dude, for screwing up and letting someone die because you didn’t believe, you deserve to be next on the list as a potential to guard that gate.” He jerked a thumb at the figure lying beside the window. “So – what do we do with him?”
“I have a friend…” Rowan began.
“You have friends EVERYWHERE” Arthur snorted, lifting the now quiet form of the previous Sentinel in his arms. “Someone needs to call 911. He’s pretty much gone but…”
“On it” Khan replied, pulling his cell from his pocket.
Seraphiel frowned at the young King and Queen. “When we’re away from this mess you three and I are going to have a little talk.”
“He’s going to yell at us” Rowan sighed. “I can tell – he’s got the same tone to his voice as father does when we screw up. He’s going to yell at us – or make us run bleachers.”
Arthur nodded, wrapping his sister up in his arms. “Yeah, I know. But he’s right. We should have put a call in to the Boss for backup.”
“I DID put a call in” Rowan protested, nestling against her brother’s chest. “I told Luci to tell Amenadiel.”
“And why didn’t you just tell that wanker yourself?” Seraphiel snarled.
Rowan shrugged. “Couldn’t find him. Not like the boy carries a cell with him – figured Lucifer would be able to reach him faster than I could.”
Seraphiel snatched the still shaking figure of the priest up from the floor and tossed him in a fireman’s carry over his shoulder. “Just WAIT till I get you three home.”
Arthur sighed. “We’re screwed.”
Gabriel could still remember the coopery taste of fear in his mouth when Amenadiel and Rafael had found him and told him the danger the Triad had put themselves in. He too remembered that moving gate into the nether regions from when it had been guarded by a nun who had taken up the name Sister Theresa, a woman who had once been a beautiful fashion model who had nearly killed herself in response to the horrors of her personal life. Gabriel had always felt a bit sorry for the woman and when she had died only a few years after taking up her vigil he had wondered who had taken her place. Now, to his horror, he knew that a new Sentinel was being installed and his own Chosen was fighting off the fiends of Hell to give that mortal a chance to make the right choice. He had thrown himself from the walls of the Silver City, racing back to the human realm, unconcerned with whether the young King Phoenix would be angry at his presence or not. Gabriel skid to a stop in front of the brownstone that covered that weak spot leading into the depths of Hell with his brothers beside him, desperately scanning the entrance for his child.
“What the bloody hell!” Gabriel sputtered. In front of him, Arthur was exiting the building, the slender body of a man in his arms, covered in the King’s leather jacket. Behind him, to Gabriel’s relief, was the young Master of Dragons and the boy’s sister Rowan, both talking quietly. And taking up the rear…
“Seraphiel?” Rafael looked on in shock as the warrior angel dropped the body of a priest on the sidewalk. “How did he…?”
“I don’t care how he’s here – I’m just glad he is” Gabriel replied tiredly. “At least with the old soldier here the kids had someone to watch their backs.” He moved forward, his middle brother close behind. “What happened here?” he asked, looking at the young king for an explanation.
“Crud if I know” Arthur replied, gently putting the man he was carrying down. “For whatever reason, the Church picked the most useless newly minted priest to deal with the literal doorway to Hell without checking that the idiot actually believed the story they were telling him. If it weren’t for the Clippings Book in the Great Library having a nervous breakdown we wouldn’t have known anything was happening at all because we were busing trying to keep John Constantine from screwing up something else in his little corner of this fucked up world.” Arthur sat down, cross-legged beside the dying former Sentinel and sighed. “Been a day I could live without repeating – at least for a while. And on top of that Seraphiel’s mad at us. So - how’s it been with you?”
Khan dropped to the ground beside his brother, a crooked smile on his face. “Don’t mind him” he drawled, punching his sibling in the arm. “He hasn’t had his coffee today. Gets really bitchy without his caffeine.” He absently brushed off a piece of rotting flesh from his shirt, lighting it on fire as it floated off him.
Gabriel tried not to laugh at the woebegone look on the Phoenix’s face. “Threatening to send you on a ten mile trek with full backpack, is he?”
Rowan snickered. “That’s probably the kindest thing he’s going to do to us.” She wrapped her arms around the older angel’s neck with a smile.
“Oh, don’t you think girl that you’re going to get around me with that look” Seraphiel growled, standing with arms crossed. “You three should have known better than to go into a battle without backup.”
“I know” she replied, relaxing against his strong back. “I’m sorry. We really should have thought this through more carefully.”
“Do you KNOW what filthy, sinful horrors live beside that gate?” Seraphiel continued, trying to keep his sharp, drill-sergeant’s tone to his voice as the fear for his “kids” melted out of him.
“Kind of looked like refugees from one of those old freak show carny tents” Khan replied, yawing.
All the angels cast a quick look at the Triad. “Did one of you…?”
“Cast a glamour?” Arthur replied, fighting to keep from yawning as well. “Yeah – Sissy did. We figured it might be better for us to see them not quite as they actually are so that we could keep our minds on the fight and not on the Hell in front of us.”
Gabriel looked up at the sky, both thanking his Heavenly Father and cursing him for what had occurred. “The three of you are almost asleep on your feet. Let’s get you home.”
“Have to wait for the ambulance” Arthur murmured, trying to keep his eyes open.
A long, dark limo picked that moment to pull up to the brownstone, several young priests leaping from its interior. “No we don’t” Rowan whispered, barely awake. “Like I said – I have a friend.”
“Who you called to pick up the trash after you three destroyed the apartment” Seraphiel said with a chuckle. “Alright then, brothers. Since poor Father Michael and this idiot churchman will both be taken care of – let’s put these three into their own beds.”
“Great” Khan said, grabbing Gabriel’s arm to stand up. “Get some shuteye so you can start beating on us when we wake up.” Rafael smothered a laugh as he helped Arthur up, letting the young King lean on his shoulder as he shuffled towards the gate into the ether the angels created.
“Exactly.” Seraphiel replied smugly, sweeping Rowan up in his arms as she fell asleep on her feet.
Mentioning old horror movies "The Sentinel" and "The Unholy".
Chapter 2: In the Garden
After that, the Triad had seemed to forget they were ever annoyed with their angelic counterparts. With the blessings of the boy’s siblings, Gabriel had found that middle ground between being parent and child and being friends with the young dragon – allowing him to still shower the boy with all the love he felt for him by coloring it with words of mentoring and support. He and Rafael, who had taken a liking to Arthur, had spent many hours talking to the Triad, learning about their lives as they were now and admiring how well-adjusted they had become even without the angels as their mentors. Seraphiel acted part bodyguard, trainer and mentor to all three though anyone with eyes could tell his heart belonged to the young Queen, his “girl”.
And who would have guessed that the human proclivity for computer games could be so addictive – even to the angels? Arthur and his brother had spent most evenings try to beat each other senseless playing some online First Person Shooter with their sister egging them on from the couch. Rafael, their gentle healer, had taken to spending those evenings cheering on the young Firebird King while Gabriel had loyally supported Khan (even though he had admitted to Rowan the boy was outmatched by his brother). It had been just like before - the family united as always.
A muffled snort distracted the archangel from his musings. Looking down, he smiled at the sight of his tall, broad-shouldered young former charge trying to fit himself into the little space remaining on the settee his father was using, the young man’s head on a pillow on his friend’s lap. “You know, it’s quite possible this is the quietest I’ve EVER heard you sleep” Gabriel said, tangling his fingers in the boy’s wavy hair.
Khan sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Wasn’t asleep” he protested, squirming so that he could lie back down on his back and look up at his new, self-professed godfather. “I was just resting my eyes.”
“Oh – is that what you call it?” Gabriel teased. “Looked like you were dead asleep to me. And snoring – loudly.”
“Who was asleep?” Rafael’s booming voice echoed down the path, making both Gabriel and Khan winced at its volume. The middle of the Archangel brothers moved carefully down the garden steps holding a tray of something that smelled like breakfast before him like an offering. “Far as I can tell – no one slept at all last night.”
“I did” Khan said, starting to reach up for what ever was on the tray. Gabriel yanked him back, slapping at his hands.
“Manners, boy. Wait until everyone is down here before you start grazing.”
Khan made a face at his godparent, unable to squirm free without falling off the cushions. “Yeah – by that time all the good stuff will be gone.”
“Not to worry, Master Khan” Draco’s cultured voice floated into the garden as the old Dragon appeared, holding another tray. “I’ve made enough for everyone.”
“He’s made enough for a bleeding army” Rafael snickered. “Seems like he always does.” He looked up the path with a frown. “Didn’t see Rowan this morning? Did any of you?”
“That new guardian of hers” Draco grumbled, sounding more dragon than human. “He woke her at some horrid hour of the morning to run some obstacle course with him. I suspect they are not back yet.”
Khan’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t like Seraphiel, do you?”
“It’s not a matter of liking the angel” Draco protested. “It’s not my place to cast judgment. The All-Father has decreed him to be my Queen’s guardian and she has agreed that it must be so. I just…”
‘You just don’t have a good feel for what goes on in his head” Rafael said quietly, taking up the one chair in the pavilion that would accommodate him. “I wouldn’t worry about it, my friend. That old soldier has fallen hard for our girl. No one will hurt her so long as he’s there to prevent it.”
“She calls him Grandfather in Gaelic” Khan said thoughtfully. “Kind of fits. He may run her ass into the ground during training – but then turns right around and lets her do whatever she wants to him even if it makes no sense. Like befriending Det. Decker, Lucifer’s friend.”
“Yes – that did confuse me” Draco admitted. “Why her? I understand her affection for the humans of the Great Library but what is it about this one young Detective that so interests our Queen?”
Khan straightened up, wrapping one arm around Gabriel’s shoulders as he thought about Rowan’s plans. “I guess she just feels bad for her after everything Lucifer has put her through. You know your elder brother – that boy plows through people’s feelings like they're not there and then acts surprised when people react badly. Plus – I think she just wanted to knock some of the sharp edges off Irish, make him more amenable to saving the human population if it came to that again.” He shrugged, unconcerned. “Chloe Decker is not so bad when you get her away from Luci.”
“Who isn’t so bad?” Arthur’s rough voice floated out of the early morning mist, the raspy tone an effect of last night’s escapades. The Firebird trotted down the path with a large pitcher of orange juice and planted it on the table with the trays. His eyes were still red rimmed from lack of sleep and long hours peering into a computer screen. He looked as though he could use another few hours of shut-eye and some extra strong Vizine. His dark blond hair was spiky from his shower and his usual immaculate clothing left something to be desired. They had spent the last week living out of their suitcases and Arthur was now having to fall back on whatever was in his gym bag after his bath, something he rarely did.
Behind him Drogo – the Black Dragon and Draco’s oldest son – appeared holding a bag of plastic cups he placed on the table beside the pitcher. He looked considerably better than his companion, looking more relaxed than he had the previous night. “Plastic cups?” the dragon asked, dubiously. “Isn’t that … not a good thing?”
“Too many of us here to use the good stemware. We aren’t in Sidhe, after all, and our lady was not set up to receive a large company in her house.” Draco fussed over the table, laying out the paper plates (which had had brought along with his tray), napkins and other items for the meal. He stopped, and looked around with a frown. “Did I not see Archangel Michael appear late last night? Do you think he might be hungry?”
Khan raised an eyebrow. “Probably tracking Irish and Rowan – still doesn’t trust that guy around my… our sister.” He looked sheepishly over at his elder brother who shrugged, a tired smile on his face.
“Probably didn’t help when she parceled out room assignments last night.” Rafael mused. “Drao and I in his room – by the way old friend you snore like a freight train. “ Rafael smirked at his new friend’s protests and continued. “Arthur and Drogo in the master bedroom, Gabriel and Khan in his room…”
“And Seraphiel and Rowan in the media room so that Michael could have the Seraph’s bed. I’m almost certain he didn’t like that at all.” Gabriel absently took his child’s free hand and started to examine the boy’s fingers, keeping his own feelings about last night’s events to himself.
“Yeah – I think Rowan and her guard dog ended up watching some old horror movie called Nomads. I cued it up for them before I went to bed.” Khan shrugged. “Not my cup of tea but they seem to like it, better than they liked watching us play Overwatch. That and they were both very interested in that HUGE tub of buttered popcorn she had between them. He really, really spoils her.”
“I refuse to believe running my ass off at that bloody ROTC obstacle course at the crack of dawn is spoiling me.” Rowan’s voice was both tired and amused at the same time. She limped down the stairs, holding her angelic mentor’s arm as she navigated the stairs.
“What happened?” Rafael asked, jumping up to offer her his chair with the others staring at the pair in various shades of concern and suspicion.
She waved them all off with a laugh, dropping into her favorite lawn chair. “My own stupid fault. Used their facilities to shower and as I was coming out of the bathroom I missed the step down and twisted my ankle. Móraí had to carry me back to the car.”
The older Seraphim shook his head, pulling a chair from beside the stairs and planting himself beside her. “How many times do I have to tell you to be aware of your surroundings girl? Always know what is going on around you!”
“I know, I know!” she laughed. “But really – it was worth the pain to watch you try to figure out how to drive my jeep! I mean – I know you can handle a motorcycle just fine but it never occurred to me you’ve never driven a car!”
Seraphiel huffed in annoyance. “Wasn’t any worse than your dragon. At least I didn’t go up over the curb.”
Khan and his father laughed, settling back down in their cushions. “Don’t let her rag you about it, Irish” the young fighter chuckled. “You should see her behind the wheel when she’s in traffic.”
“I have” the Seraph replied, shuddering. “Never again. I’ll learn to control that vehicle myself before I let her …”
“Hey! I’m not THAT bad!” Rowan protested, wincing as Rafael took that moment to lift her foot into his lap and flow healing energies down into it. She sighed as the pain receded. “Thanks Raffi. That helps. So… breakfast?”
“I’ll go wake my brother” Gabriel said, twisting around to look back towards the house.
“No need. I’m here – as is our guest.” Michael’s somber voice preceded him into the pavilion, followed by Chloe Decker. The human detective looked around at the assorted “beings” gathered in the garden and wondered for the thousandth time how she had managed to insert herself into possibly the most unusual family grouping in all of time.
“Hey, girl! Just in time – Breakfast!” Khan crowed, pulling his hand free from his Gabriel’s grip to wave at the table. “So now that everyone’s here – can we start? I’m starving!”
Rowan laughed. “You’re always starving. I swear you can put down more food than any two people I know – and still have almost zero percent body fat with almost no effort. Don’t know how you do it.”
“He’s on overdrive all the time” Arthur growled, a slight smile on his face. He sank into the nearest lounge chair with an overflowing plate in his hand, Drogo dropping into the seat beside him. “I think his throttle is stuck on go all the time.”
Gabriel sighed in mock distress. “You should have seen him when he was a little boy. I swear – not even Father could have kept up with him. I suspect having his past re-written didn’t change that little feature at all.”
“You guys know I CAN hear you” Khan muttered, taking the plate that Draco had prepared for him with a nod. He offered to share with his angelic godparent who waved the plate away with a smile.
“I think, Master Khan, that is the point they are making” the old dragon whispered, passing along a glass of cold juice. “Det. Decker? What would you like?”
Chloe eyed the mounds of food with appreciation. “I really shouldn’t” she murmured.
“Of Course you should” Rowan said, taking a glass from her retainer with a smile. “He’ll be insulted if you don’t. Besides, he always makes too much anyway – you wouldn’t want us to waste it.”
“The way our little brother eats – trust me there won’t be anything left Detective if you don’t dig in right now.” Arthur lay the plate on the arm of the chair between himself and his man-at-arms so that they could both look over its contents. Neither Arthur nor his shield brother Drogo could be considered picky eaters but each did have certain foods that they would not touch but the other would. Piling everything on one plate made it easier to graze without having to move around.
Rowan, who preferred black coffee for breakfast, sighed as her dragon presented her with a plate of fruit. “You’re determined to make me eat something, aren’t you?”
“You’re dehydrated after the run. And, unlike your brother, you’re not on a constant sugar rush.” Seraphiel lectured, spearing a piece of watermelon and waving it under her nose. “On top of that on a good day you don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive, much less a soldier. Now stop complaining and eat – that’s an order.”
Michael stopped on the steps behind Chloe, frowning at the old Seraph’s tone then looking quizzically at his younger brother, still seated in front of the young Queen. “Rafael? Is there a problem?” he asked quietly.
Rafael looked down, realizing he was still kneeling in front of Rowan. “No – girl just twisted her ankle. I was trying to ease it.” He scrambled to his feet and re-took his seat, allowing Michael to take his place.
The Archangel glanced coldly at the Fae queen’s new guardian then kneeling, gently ran his fingers over her now healed ankle. “How?” he asked.
Rowan sighed. “I’m telling this story one more time and then never again. I missed a step coming out of the showers while at the ROTC obstacle course. My bad – should have watched where I was going.” She pulled her foot out of Michael’s hands and tucked her legs under her, reaching out to hold Seraphiel’s hand.
The angel’s jaw tightening as he stared down at the Seraph in the group, silently trying to quell the anger he still felt that their Father had not seen fit to rectify his “mistake” of assigning his beloved away from him. It was almost beyond bearing that this being could have what he, his Father’s Sword, the Flood, could not. The older man looked back at him, his face carefully neutral, knowing the Sword was hurt by the girl's studied indifference - and knowing how much it was costing the girl to not let the Archangel get any closer.
Chloe watched Michael stiffen at the other angel’s affectionate hectoring of his young companion and her equally loving reaction. “So…” the detective began, hoping to avoid what looked like an old quarrel “guess you’re wondering why I’m here today. Been working a nasty case and… well Lucifer thought you might be able to help with it.”
Khan, one arm still wrapped around his godfather’s shoulders, looked at the human with interest. “Anything to do with that body found in the abandoned cemetery yesterday? Read something about it on-line.”
“Yeah – that’s the one. Body of a ten-year old girl, dressed in what looked like an old-style Catholic school uniform, was found in a freshly dug grave in an abandoned cemetery outside the city. Not our jurisdiction.”
“News have labeled this guy the Schoolgirl Ripper” Khan said, distaste dripping from his tone. “Just another reason NOT to like the press.”
Chloe silently agreed. “I’m going to hate to hear what they call LAPD when they learn that the last victim was the fifth such body found…”
“Fifth?” Khan replied, eyes wide. “What the Hell? Why hasn’t there been more about this in the news?”
“Different jurisdictions, different sensibilities, no one to put the cases side by side and see they were pretty much the same perp… Two of the bodies weren’t found till they had decomposed too far to find any useful information. Didn’t help that it took forever to identify the victims.”
Gabriel stiffened, laying his hand back back over his son’s. “Why? In this day and age, or so my child tells me, with all the ways people can be identified - Why did it take so long?”
Chloe shrugged, uncomfortable with the answer she would have to give. “Couple of the kids – their parents hadn’t reported them missing. Said they thought the kid had just run off.”
“How exactly does a parent not know where their child is at all times?” Gabriel’s voice was strained, his eyes flashing. “I was told that you have a girl child, do you not detective? If she disappeared would you not move heaven or hell to find her?”
Chloe sighed. “Yeah – and this case is making me that much more paranoid. Trixie was twenty minutes late coming home from school yesterday and I was about to put on APB out on her. Lucky thing Maze found her on the corner coming towards the apartment or I would have had half of LAPD out looking.”
“MY point exactly” Gabriel growled. “What type of parent lets their child wander away without thought, without care…”
“Gabe, not everyone is a helicopter parent like you were.” Khan replied, trying unsuccessfully to pull his hand out from his angel’s grip. “By the way – you’re breaking my hand.”
Gabriel looked down and loosened his grip slightly. “This has nothing to do with my over protectiveness of you.”
“Actually – it probably does” Rafael mused, filling a glass of juice for himself. “You were always paranoid about losing the boy. I’m betting this case reminds you of that one time you thought you had, when he got lost and it took both of us hours to find him.”
“When was that?” Rowan asked with a frown.
“Not important now” Gabriel replied, looking off towards the horizon.
“Gabriel’s right – what he remembers isn’t relevant. But I think I might have something that is.” Arthur whispered something in Drogo’s ear, sending the young man running for the house. “Tell me, if you can Detective, you say the body was in an old style school uniform but wasn't there evidence of some sort of sackcloth on the body? And was the child found with a cross drawn in ashes on her forehead and her hands bound with a rosary?”
Chloe blinked in shock. “How did you know that? It wasn’t in any of the information we gave out to the press.”
“A friend of mine called early this morning, having seen something about your case in her daily perusal of news sites. It seems your Ripper is not only a bastard murderer of children – he’s also a copycat.”
Chloe sat on the stairs, staring at the man in front of her with a frown. “We didn’t find anything in the system about other crimes like these.”
“Probably because you didn’t look far enough back” Arthur looked up at the house for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “The crimes your boy is mimicking happened almost thirty years ago. And depending on who you ask, they were never really solved.”
Chapter 3: Introducing Alice
Chloe looked between the various beings lounging around the table, her mind racing. "Who was it that called you about this?"
Arthur motioned towards the house. "Soon as Drogo gets back from arranging the conference call, you can talk to her yourself. Name is Dr. Alice Morgan. She use to be a pathologist for Scotland Yard and her family has a long history of working for MI5. Alice retired to Hawaii a few years ago and started writing books about old cold cases and how their outcomes could be revisited if modern scientific methods were applied to whatever physical evidence might still remain."
"I think I know those books" Chloe replied. "Our forensic tech Ella has one in her office. I've seen her flipping through it off and on when there's a lull in an investigation."
"Good for her" Arthur said approvingly. "Alice is an expert consultant used by many different law enforcement agencies when it comes to new DNA tests and other methods to re-evaluate a case gone so cold it's an iceberg."
Drogo appeared at the top of the stairs and waved down to the group. "Feed is up and Alice is on-line and ready to talk." He turned and disappeared back into the house.
"Detective?" Arthur rose and held out his hand, helping Chloe to her feet. "Someone bring breakfast. Best not to leave it out here. Little brother might take it into his head to eat us out of house and home."
"Funny man" Khan grumbled, snatching up his plate.
Inside, the group gathered in Arthur's study where a large screen had been setup. Drogo set up chairs around the desk, placing Chloe beside Arthur and his master's siblings just behind him. The angels stood in the background with Drago, watching the proceedings with interest. Chloe smiled as the image of a delicate, white-haired old lady appeared, sitting primly in her chair with a bone-china cup in her hand. "Hello Alice" Arthur called out jovially. "Did we wake you?"
"Nonsense boy" Alice replied, laying her cup on the table beside her. "At my age, sleep is not a priority - it's an occasional necessity." With her dazzling smile and peaches and cream complexion, Dr. Morgan resembled an elderly British actress Chloe had once met while visiting her mother on a movie set. The detective wondered, briefly, if this little old lady had as much of a potty mouth as that old actress.
"I think you know most of the family" Arthur continued, waving to the group behind him.
"Most" Alice replied, peering out at the group. "I recognize your siblings as well as Dogo and Draco and your godfather Seraphiel but not the two other gentlemen or the pretty lady seated beside you."
Arthur glanced back and smiled. "The two in the back are Gabriel and Rafael - old friends of the family who are here for a visit. This lady beside me is Det. Chloe Decker who is working on the Schoolgirl Ripper case."
Alice made a face at the name attached to the murderer. "Let me guess - the news media decided to name him. No matter how many times we warned them not to give a serial killer the satisfaction of tagging him with a catchy phrase they always insisted on doing so. It was quite annoying in my day and I suspect it still is."
Chloe smiled. "Yes - very. The FBI made the same recommendation but the press had already started running with that name so..."
Alice waved a hand in surrender. "It's what THEY do, my dear. Luckily for you, I suspect your copycat won't feed off this attention like others have done. If he's sticking to the script set down by the originator of this horror he'll just ignore the media's attentions and continue with his work."
"Arthur said that our killer might be mimicking a previous spate of deaths from some years back?"
Alice nodded, her piercing blue eyes glancing down at her hands on her lap. "The case I was talking to Arthur about occurred almost thirty years ago in the city of San Francisco. The media there labeled the unsub "The Angel Killer", based on unsubstantiated reports from less than reliable eye witnesses." She shifted slightly in her seat, whispering to a figure just off camera before settling back down. "Forgive me, at my age sitting in these dreadfully ornamental chairs can be quite painful. But back to the case. A little background maybe in order."
Chloe nodded. "How did you come to take an interest in the old case?"
Alice shrugged. "I received a call about a week ago from the Honolulu airport from a Mr. Thomas Dane, informing me he would be at my door within the hour with a box he was sure I would want to see. Took me quite by surprise as I didn't know anyone by that name and had no appointments for that morning. My bodyguard took it upon himself to meet the young man and his traveling companion at the door, prepared to send him on his way."
"Your bodyguard?" Chloe asked, concerned.
"Oh, it's not as terrible as it sounds" Alice replied lightly. "My last case, before my retirement, involved the Russian Mafia and so my family and old friends decided it would be wise to make sure I had someone to watch out for me once I was away from the Yard. Poor lad, he's spent the last fifteen years playing nursemaid to an old lady." She smiled at the person of screen who murmured something unintelligible.
Arthur laughed. "Never mind the fact that the first cold-case book you wrote essentially saved him from the electric chair. "
"Well - there is that" Alice replied with a smile. "Lucky for him - I don't really require much." She reached out and was handed a manila file which she laid carefully in her lap. "At any rate - Mr. Dane was quite insistent that he meet with me, even to the point of being willing to take a swing at my guard. Since he was so desperate for the audience I decided to give him a few moments. He had arrived with a young friend, Daphne Santiago, and they were carrying not one but two large cardboard boxes with them that they had unloaded from their car. In the boxes were copies of police reports, crime scene photos and forensic reports - all from the Angel Killer case."
"How did they get those?" Chloe asked, perplexed. "They wouldn't have been made public release even if the case was old."
"As it turns out Mr. Dane and Ms. Santiago were the children of the original investigators - Detectives Randolph Dane and Carlos Santiago. Their fathers had never been convinced that the case was truly solved - even though they had been there when the last victim's body was found along with the body of the supposed perpetrator."
"Okay - now I'm getting lost in this" Khan replied, leaning forward in his seat. "They had the perps body - so who killed him? And why did they not believe the case was solved?"
Alice stared off for a moment then shrugged. "There were ... issues that came up after the finding of the last body that convinced the two men that the nightmare might not be over. "
"Why call him the "angel killer". It's an odd tag to use" Chloe said, confused.
"Oh that part is actually quite easy to explain. In at least two of the six body dumps" the elderly lady continued, "several rather inebriated witnesses claimed to have seen an "angel" fluttering away from the cemetery before the body was discovered."
Arthur glanced back at the Archangels behind him, both of whom stared blankly at the screen. "An angel? Really?"
"Well, as I said, the witnesses were less than reliable. But, as it turns out, this "angel" figure did leave behind some forensic evidence which strangely enough was never processed."
Chloe leaned forward in her chair, ignoring the rest of the group. "Would that evidence have been a long, white feather?"
Alice stopped, staring at the pretty blonde on the screen in front of her, and smiled. "Why yes, my dear. That is exactly what they found."
"Fuck me" Khan muttered, shifting his feet.
"You're not my type" Drogo replied absently. He glanced at his master briefly then leaned forward. "Detective - have you also found such feathers in your crime scenes?"
"And more importantly, has your CSI been able to analyze the feather for a clue what species of bird it might have come from?" Arthur dared not look at Seraphiel, whose frown was deepening as the conversation progressed.
"She's working on that right now" Chloe admitte4d. "We also had some reports of an 'angelic" figure leaving the area where the last body was found. I'm afraid our witness wasn't any more reliable then it sounds like those originals ones were."
Alice sat back for a moment, deep in thought. "May I ask a question concerning your case, Detective?"
"Call me Chloe, please. Yes - ask anything you want. This conversation is turning out to be very informative."
Alice smiled, seeing a little bit of herself reflected in the young woman on the screen. So eager to solve the case, so determined to find the perpetrator no mater what the cost. She hoped that the men in Chloe Decker's world were more accepting of her than those she had struggled against all those years ago. "The child victims - were they all from troubled families? Did they have, even at their young ages, considerable documentation with law enforcement and social services?"
Chloe straightened in her chair, eyes wide with surprise. "Yes - as a matter of fact all of them had extensive records with Child Protective Services. And it's not a detail we've released to the public either."
"Neither did the San Francisco police" Alice replied somberly. "Which makes me wonder..."
"It's a thirty year gap" Arthur rumbled. "The Angel Killer would be in late fifties or early sixties by now."
"But his sons or grandsons would only be in the middle to late thirties" Alice replied, closing the file in her lap. "I'm afraid, Arthur, that this maybe more complicated than I first believed. And some things that have happened recently lead me to agree with the original detectives that this madness has not ended yet. If you have time, Chloe, let us start the story over from the beginning - from the start of the original case and what has occurred in present day which has lead me to believe..."
"That someone who was part of the original case has taken up the Angel Killer's agenda" Rowan replied quietly.
Chapter 4: Talking the old case
Chloe thought for a moment then looked up at the elderly woman. “There must be something else that has sparked your interest in the similarities between the current case and the old one. Something you haven’t mentioned yet. I mean, technically, the San Francisco case is listed as solved.”
Alice sighed. “Yes – and knowing that I would not have been willing to take on the research required to look into it despite what Mr. Dane and his companion believed. But some very curious events have happened since their arrival on my doorstep that make me wonder if their fathers weren’t right to be unconvinced about the guilt of the person that was named as the Angel Killer.”
“Okay, wait! Can we start from the beginning on this?” Khan asked with a frown. “Some of us don’t have an app on our tablets to watch every true crime procedural on television. Let’s rundown the original case first then compare and contrast between it and Chloe’s current case.”
“Good idea” Rowan replied approvingly. “The Angel Killer took how many lives in total?”
“Six that the police were sure of” Alice replied briskly, taking a set of notes from her off-screen companion. “There was always the suspicion that there might have been more but since no other bodies were found…”
“And so many kids went missing on the street of San Francisco that the police weren’t willing to try to run down anyone else unless a body turned up.” Arthur leaned back in his chair, a scowl on his face.
“Probably true” Alice replied calmly. “First victim found was Maisy O’Hara who was found in an old cemetery outside the city limits. But she was not the monster’s first victim – just the first found.”
“Less decomposition on her body then on ones found after her?” Rowan asked thoughtfully.
“Yes” Alice replied. “According to the coroner, Maisy had only been dead a few days when her body was discovered which made identifying her easier. Other victims had been dead weeks, perhaps even months before.”
“Who found her?” Rowan asked, reaching around her brother for the tablet on the desk to take notes.
“A city official and a representative of a commercial builder who was looking to acquire the land to re-purpose it by building homes. I suspect they were there to determine how much trouble it would be to move the bodies in the cemetery.”
“Shades of Poltergeist” Drogo whispered in his shield-brother’s ear.
Arthur shuddered. “Don’t go there – I HATED that movie.” He glanced over at Chloe with an apologetic smile. “Sorry – had to go there. Alice – when did the SFPD determine they had a serial killer on their hands?”
“When victims two and three were found within a day or so of one another. The Coroner’s office was quick to point out that all three girls had suffered the same fate though obviously at different times.” Alice glanced down at her notes for a moment then sighed. “It would seem the girls suffered abuse at the hands of their captor before being strangled, re-dressed and then placed in the graves they were found in.”
“When you say abuse – do the files say just what type?” Chloe asked, remembering the reports from the Coroner’s office on her last victim.
“Nothing sexual, thank heavens, but it does appear that all three girls were beaten with some sort of leather implement. Bits of leather were left in the wounds and, in Maisy’s case, the welts were still visible on the skin.”
“Did the welts have a consistent pattern?” Arthur asked harshly.
“Yes – though at the time they didn’t identify the weapon. It was only later, when they thought they had found the perpetrator that they realized he’d used a cat-o-nine tails on them.”
“Of course it would be the “traditional” weapon of choice for zealots” Khan muttered.
Chloe tucked that information away for later then shifted in her seat to better see the screen. “So – once they had three victims they knew it wasn’t just a random psycho. What about the other three?”
“Well, appears that once they knew what this creature’s preferences were the two lead detectives – Dane and Santiago – decided to track down other old and rarely used church burial grounds and started looking for other victims. The last three were found pretty quickly after that.”
“Any suspects?” Rowan asked.
“The usual lot” Alice replied, glancing again at her notes. “Homeless in the area, drug addicts, known sexual predators – all of which were a total waste of time. That is, until a reasonably sober witness gave the police a partial license number for a van seen cruising the area where the last known victim – Annie Chapman – was taken from.”
“Annie Chapman? Like the Ripper victim in merry old England. Rather unfortunate name for a kid – especially considering what happened to her.” Drogo glanced up at his father who frowned and motioned for him to be silent.
“So Ms. Chapman is victim six – and someone might have seen the van that was used to grab her” Chloe mused. “then what?”
“Actually – Annie was victim seven, the one whose body was found with the perpetrator. One of the other victims has always been a bone of contention for the investigators – but we’ll discuss that later. The police were able to identify a white van belonging to the Church of the Last Days, one of those cult-like religious groups who believed that the world was in its final iteration and that the Messiah was coming to specifically take them – and only them – to Heaven. When the police approached the leader of the group, Reverend James he at first denied the van was ever out of the garage. When the police pressed, he admitted a parishioner “might” have the keys and be using it to move items from his family’s farm. It was at that farm that they found Annie and the person they were later to claim had abducted her and the other girls – a John Parrish.”
“Why do I feel like this isn’t the end of the story?” Chloe asked quietly.
“Because it isn’t” Alice admitted. “I’m going to send you the items that were given to me by Mr. Dane and Ms. Santiago. I suspect Khan is already looking up old newspaper articles on the case that can tell you how it “official” ended. The detective’s notes will explain to you why they didn’t believe they had their man – and why they let it drop.”
“Alice” Arthur asked softly. “Why are you so sure that this new case is related to the old one?”
“Because, dear boy, not twenty-four hours after that charming young couple dropped these files in my lap – someone broke into my home. And the only thing they took were these boxes.”
Chapter 5: Complications
Wait – what?” Chloe stuttered, looking from the screen to Arthur. “Someone took the evidence you were given?”
Alice smiled peacefully. “No, dear, just the boxes. Sadly for them, they really weren’t very GOOD burglars. They thought they had cut the security system but really all they manage to do is trip the silent alarm which alerted my Security Company that something was wrong. HPD was here in a flash.”
“So – they took the boxes but no the evidence?” Khan said slowly, looking at his siblings in confusion. “How does that work?”
“I had Toby, my guard, remove the items from the box so that we could scan them. While the archivist in me loves the feel of original manuscripts in my hands – and decries taking items out of their original folders and out of context - crime scene photos are just as useful in electronic format. Especially since all we had were prints and not negatives. And by scanning the documents using Optical Character Recognition or OCR we could also make better use of the various reports and notes that came with those photos. Toby and I piled all of what was in the boxes in the Panic Room for safe keeping while we were scanning.”
“Panic Room?” Chloe mouthed, looking at Arthur.
“Russian mafia – remember?” Arthur waved her question off and straightened in his chair. “So – all the things that young couple brought you were out of the boxes. And then...?”
“Then I had a dinner engagement with an old friend from the Yard. Toby set the alarm and accompanied me to the restaurant, then took the opportunity to run some errands. When we returned, HPD was in front of my house, searching the shrubbery for whoever had tripped the alarm.” Alice shrugged, a knowing smile on her face. “I have some very nice things in my house, collected over the years of my life. The police, of course, assumed someone had tried to enter to steal some of those objects. For a moment, so did I – until I saw the boxes were gone from the study.”
“Didn’t they notice those boxes were kind of …light?” Khan asked, hesitantly.
“Well, they probably would have” Alice admitted happily. “If we hadn’t filled them with trash I had been meaning to recycle. There were enough old newspapers and rags in those boxes to more than make-up for what we took out of them.”
Arthur grinned. "Nice one. Bet there were a few un-Christian words said when they realized they had gone to all that trouble for a couple of boxes of trash."
Chloe smiled for a moment then another thought hit her. "So - did you get the documents scanned and how soon can we get copies?"
"All business - I like that in a young person" Alice replied approvingly. "I've had Toby drop the files to Arthur's secure server. Would you like me to ship the originals to you as well?"
"No" Arthur interrupted quickly. "I'll have one of my people come by and pick them up. Tell Toby Gerald will be stopping by in the next hour for them. And I'd feel better if you and he took a quick vacation out to your niece's in New Zealand - at least until we can figure out who didn't want anyone looking at those documents."
"Already arranged" Alice replied briskly. "And I've also arranged for Mr. Dane and Ms. Santiago to also "disappear off the radar" for a few days as well. Seems breaking into my home wasn't our opponents first try at getting the evidence back. According to Mr. Dane someone broke into his car shortly after he retrieved his box from his father's storage locker."
"Someone doesn't want us comparing these two cases" Rowan murmured, staring down at her notepad. "What about the original investigators? I'm assuming they are no longer available since their kids have all their notes and copies of evidence gathered during the case?"
"Yes. Sadly both men have died in the last month."
Arthur digested the information then sighed. “Alright, we’ll take it from here, Alice, we’ll contact you if we find out anything new. Until then – let’s maintain radio silence. No point in broadcasting anything the killer can use to hide from us.”
“You think he will be monitoring our communication?” Alice asked with a frown.
“I’m a paranoid son of a bitch – remember? You called me that the last time we worked on something together. But just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there looking to off me.” Arthur smiled reassuringly. “I don’t think our killer is all that sophisticated but I’m betting that won’t stop him or whoever is trying to make sure we don’t find him from trying.”
Alice sighed. “Probably true. Take care, luv. Hope to hear from you soon.” The screen went black as the call was terminated, leaving the group silently contemplating what they had just learned.
Chloe frowned, picking up on Alice’s last tidbit of information. "The SFPD detectives both died in the last month? Strange - that's just when this spate of new murders started to occur."
"Maybe not so strange" Drogo said, thoughtfully. "If our current killer was involved in the past murders maybe they didn't want those old detectives to notice the monster was back to his old tricks."
A cell phone rang out in the crowded room, causing all but the angels to search their pockets for their phones. Chloe was the winner, with a call coming in from Ella Lopez, the CSI tech working the case. "Hey Ella, you're on speaker. What do you have for me?"
Ella's bubbly voice rang out. "So I finished my exam on that feather. It's gorgeous, by the way, but it's not real. High quality stuff but no bird I know has a plastic quill. And the down is made up of multiple avian species. Probably special order from a high-end special effects house though it did show some signs of degradation."
"Makes sense" Arthur said quietly. "Remember Alice said SFPD had witnesses who saw an angel figure leaving the cemetery. If your perp is related to the original case, he might have access to that costume."
"Hey, where are you anyway?" Ella asked suddenly. "Dan's been looking all over for you. He even called Lucifer, which was not a good scene by the way."
Chloe sighed. "I'm at the home of a civilian consultant Lucifer recommended and we've been able to come up with what just might be a lead. I'll be in shortly." She cut her friend off quickly, jamming her phone into her pocket.
"Dan?" Khan asked,
"My ex. He's... well he doesn't know about Lucifer which is a good thing since he's never liked him before. And since the death of Dan's girlfriend Charlotte Richards..."
"The prosecutor who was murdered by the Sinner Man?" Rowan asked, shaking her head. "A friend of mine told me about that."
"Just how many friends DO you have?" Arthur said quizzically. "Sometimes I swear you know someone everywhere we go."
"I probably do" his sister replied smugly. "Which in this case is going to be a bonus for us since the last thing we need is some cop snooping around our business because we're related to Luci."
"You're not..." all three angels began.
"You know what I mean" Rowan said with a shrug. "So, rather than have to deal with that I'm going to make a few phone calls and smooth the way for us to continue to help you with this case. And I apologize in advance if it feels like we're pushing our way into your business - because we are. But we've done this sort of thing before and for the sake of efficiency - and because Luci needs to stay out of your hair for a while - I'm going to make sure we can come and go without too much fuss."
"Lucifer told you I'm still having some issues with who and what he is?" Chloe asked sadly.
"Sort of. With Lucifer it's usually what he doesn't say that stands out. And he's not talking about you and police work much so..." Rowan reached across her brother and patted Chloe's hand. "Don't worry. You get use to the madness after a while. Lucifer doesn't lie so whatever he's presented himself to you as is pretty much what he is. Have to watch to make sure he doesn't stretch the truth to get what he wants - and make sure whatever you say to him is really what you mean. Other than that, it's all good."
"All good and Lucifer do not belong in the same sentence." Rafael muttered. He glanced back at the garden. "Why didn't Michael join us?"
Gabriel shrugged. "I'll go check on him. Keep an eye on the kids."
Arthur watched out of the corner of his eye as Gabriel darted out of the house then dismissed the angel without another thought. “Chloe, with your permission I will accompany you back to your precinct and present myself as your consultant. Little brother and Ro can start doing what they do best from here. Khan – search for any available media reports from the original case. Sometimes reporters reveal things they don’t mean to – things that should have been given to the police instead of the public. Ro, let’s leverage your “friends” network. Find anyone who might still be alive who remembers the investigation. Police forces tend to be like small towns – gossip runs rampant, especially on a high profile case like this. If there were any extenuating circumstances to why the case went the way it did, we need to know. Also, both of you see if you can find out what happened to that Church of the Last Days. Those type of apocalypse centered cults tend to hang on for dear life even when their leader’s prophecies are proven to be false. I have a feeling the hierarchy of that church may have known more about the Angel Killer than they were willing to reveal.”
“And that they may be behind trying to make sure no one links these two cases together” Rowan mused thoughtfully.
“Exactly” Arthur replied. He glanced down at himself with a frown. “I probably should change – don’t think anyone will take me seriously as a “consultant” in a t-shirt and sweats. Only be gone a minute.” He turned and started for his bedroom, grabbing Rafael and Drogo as he did so. A quick, quiet conversation and the burly archangel hurtled out of the house, headed down to the garden, while the young dragon disappeared out the front door.
“What was that about?” Chloe asked, her mind unsettled by the speed in which Lucifer’s family took over his role of working with her.
Rowan shrugged. “Probably wants something from the angels. Best guess – he needs our family lawyer to accompany him to the precinct. Makes things easier when you have someone with you that can quote chapter and verse out of a legal tome to get you into and out of a situation. Rafael can send a message to Heaven and Drogo can check with our father to see if he's seen him recently.”
“It’s not the LAPD I’m so concerned about. My precinct has gotten used to having Lucifer around during an investigation. It’s the FBI that worries me.” Chloe fished her keys out of her pocket. “How do we explain your brother to them?”
“Don’t worry – they won’t give you any grief.” Rowan smiled her most enigmatic smile. “I have a friend who can take care of that.”
“Your brother is right – you do have friends everywhere” Chloe said with a smile.
“Better that then having enemies under every rock.”
In the Garden
Gabriel slid out of the office and jogged back down to the garden where the Sword of God was still sitting, staring off into space.
"Problem?" Gabriel asked, dropping to the seat beside his twin.
"This case disturbs you even though it shows no sign of supernatural elements." Michael's voice was calm, unemotional - unlike the look in his eyes. "Rafael said it reminded you of when your son had gone missing as a child. You never mentioned that time to me. Why?"
"Because you barely knew the boy existed" Gabriel said quietly. "Rafael had helped mind him when I was about our Father's work so it made sense to call him when it happened."
"But not me." Michael shrugged, standing and stretching. "You thought I wouldn't be as alarmed by the boy's disappearance as Raffi. You were wrong. Anything that hurt you, hurt me."
"The child was my responsibility, Michael, not yours. And you have always had a problem dealing with your empathy. How could I ask you to deal with me as well as all the other burdens Father placed on you?"
Michael looked down at his brother with a sigh. "Will you tell me now? Please. I'd like to know."
Gabriel rose and linked arms with his brother. "Arthur is right - what happened all those years ago has no bearing on today's murders. But if it will ease your mind - I will tell you the tale when this case is done."
Michael shrugged. “You must know that the Triad will NOT ask for our help with this.”
Gabriel sighed. “I know – but at least we can be here if they need someone to talk to. I suspect dealing with the death of children will not be easy for any of them.”
“Rowan will talk to Seraphiel” Michael replied softly. “Not to me.”
“He’s her guardian” Gabriel said, absently patting his twin on the arm. “We talk to Father- she talks to Seraphiel. And to Vlad.”
“And to Arthur and Khan and just about everyone but me.” Michael huffed in annoyance.
“Give it time” Gabriel insisted. “She has her ways of coping. Eventually she’ll add you to her complicated mix.”
“Michael!” Rafael’s voice boomed down the path. “Gabriel!”
“Does he have a volume switch that we just haven’t found yet?” Gabriel muttered.
Michael smiled slightly. “Probably but I’m not going to ask about it.”
Rafael leaped into view, wings extended. “We need to find Zaphiel.”
“Why?” the twin archangels asked in unison.
“The Firebird is asking for him.” Rafael snorted. “Says he needs someone at his back that isn’t as young looking as Drogo.”
“Why not ask for Uriel?” Gabriel replied.
“I don’t know. All I know is he’s asking us to track down the eldest Throne and…”
The world slowed to a crawl for a moment, temperatures dropping as a denizen of Heaven made his appearance. Zaphiel – eldest of the choir of angels known as Thrones and master of the Law – appeared in the garden, an aggrieved look on his narrow face. “This better be important” he grumbled, pushing past the archangels and heading up the path.
Chapter 6: At the precinct
Hour later – at the precinct
Arthur and Zaphiel pulled to a halt in the parking garage beside the precinct. “And we had to take a car why exactly?” the angel grumbled, unfolding his long legs out of the low sports car.
Arthur grinned. “It would be a tad hard to explain how we got from my house here without a car especially since most people don’t believe in angels and don’t understand about walking the Great Empty. And besides, I like listening to you bitch about my choice of autos. If I close my eyes I’d swear my Father was traveling with me. He doesn’t like my Aston Martin any better than you do.”
Zaphiel stretched his lean frame for a moment then sighed. “You would think, considering how tall you are, you would have selected a conveyance that doesn’t require you to fold yourself in half just to sit in it.” He gave himself a shake then looked back at his companion. “So – what do I need to know before we go in?”
“First off – you’re the family attorney” Arthur replied, locking up the car then leaning on it, running through his list of things to tell his angelic Mentor. “Second off – hopefully Sissy will have gotten through to some of her “friends” in LAPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigations – we’ll need their buy in to allow us to work this case with the locals. Especially one particular local.”
“Which would be?”
Arthur sighed. “Det. Decker’s ex-husband, Dan Espinoza. He’s got a bug up his ass about your brother Lucifer and some woman in the District Attorney’s office named Charlotte Richards.”
Zaphiel looked at his young friend in surprise. “I know that name. Her soul has only recently been brought home by Amenadiel. From what I understand she had been on a one-way trip to Hell because of her association and assistance to the human criminal element but made a major change after… well, after the Goddess of All Creation used her as a meat suit.”
Arthur’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “I’m not sure which stuns me more – you talking about the Goddess or using her title and the term “meat suit” in the same sentence.”
“Don’t be provocative, boy” Zaphiel snarled. “I’m just trying to let you know more about what may be motivating this Detective Espinoza. I was told this Ms. Richards had become bonded to another human right before her death – perhaps it was this detective?”
“Maybe” Arthur admitted. “Either way, Sissy was going to try to call in some favors and get him moved off this case so we wouldn’t have to deal with both him and Luci.”
Zaphiel sniffed. “Calling in “favors”. If I didn’t know better I’d swear the girl learned that trick from Lucifer.”
Arthur smiled. “Actually she learned it from father. I’ve never had the nerve to ask him where he learned it from.”
“Knowing that old leach…” the angel muttered under his breath.
Arthur grinned. “Yeah – I know. But you like him anyway.” He squared his shoulders back and ran a hand through his longish hair. “So – let’s go meet the locals.”
In the Precinct
Chloe glanced over the reports coming in from Ella and others working the Schoolgirl Ripper case, including the few witness statements they had managed to come up with after the first few bodies were found. The perp was smart in one respect – he had chosen his dumping grounds carefully, selecting old graveyards that had next to no traffic. But there was one statement, taken by a uniformed officer, she had dismissed until now. “Where is it?” she grumbled, searching carefully through the paperwork and computer files gathered on the case.
“Where is what?” a voice asked from her door. Dan Espinoza, Chloe’s ex and a fellow detective on the force loomed in the entrance, a frown on his face.
“That witness statement from the drunk at the second crime scene” she replied, not looking up. “The one where he said he…here it is!” She leaned into the computer screen, reading the report carefully. “Our one witness to a body dump and he had to be on a bender. But what he said still fits with the other statements.”
“What other statements?” Dan said with a frown.
“Just something I learned this morning” she replied, carefully reading what the patrol officer had managed to drag out of the drunk.
“So – where were you this morning?” Dan asked, annoyed at being ignored.
“Talking to a civilian consultant that will be working this case with us” she murmured, making notes of else had been found at that particular dump site.
“A consultant? For what! It’s not bad enough we’re stuck with Lucifer hanging around all the time – now you’ve taken on another civilian!” Dan’s face darkened at the thought of some non-police type poking their nose into this case – just like Lucifer did on a regular basis.
“Lucifer recommended I talk to this person” Chloe said with a sigh, finally looking up. “He and his family have a LOT of experience in dealing with unusual cases”
“Yeah like Lucifer would know an expert in unusual crimes” Dan growled.”
“In this case he does. The consultant is his nephew.”
“This guy is Lucifer’s NEPHEW!” Dan replied in astonishment. “Have you lost your mind? It’s not bad enough that Lucifer is responsible for putting Charlotte in danger – now you want to take on working with his family!”
Before Chloe could protest, a gravelly voiced called out across the room. “Espinoza! My office – NOW!”
Dan rolled his eyes at his ex before stomping off towards the new lieutenant, a veteran named Miguel Sanchez. Sanchez had been transferred from running the gang unit in another precinct to homicide to deal with the mess that Pierce’s death (and the revelation that he had, in fact, been the crime boss known as the Sinner Man) had left them with. The new lieutenant was prickly on a good day and cold as ice on a bad one – which seemed to be every day since he had arrived. The transfer had NOT been his choice and what he had learned about the detectives who would now be under his command had not made the transition any easier. Especially what he had learned about Espinoza and his previous connections with a dirty cop in their office. The door closed loudly behind the two men as they retreated into what had been Pierce’s office.
“Espinoza – I’m reassigning you to another case.” LT. Sanchez began, sitting on the edge of his desk. He waved the agitated detective towards a chair, dark eyes coldly watching his subordinate’s reaction.
“Reassigning? Why?” Dan replied, confused.
“It’s an order from up the food chain. Seems Det. Decker has a new civilian consultant who has expressed doubts about the wisdom of their assisting with this investigation while you are assigned to it. Something about your personal dislike of their relative possibly clouding your judgement when it comes to what they have to offer.”
“Lucifer’s nephew” Dan fumed. “Not bad enough that guy is always hanging around…”
“From what I’ve been able to dig up, Mr. Morningstar’s assistance has proven invaluable on several cases. And his nephew’s family is equally good at getting things solved. While the situation with Morningstar is unusual, since no one else, including the D.A.’s office had a problem with it, I was inclined to let it continue. Now, having talked to not only my boss and a rep from the F.B.I. – well, let’s just say if I have a choice between keeping you around or benching you and having another civilian onboard – you won’t be my first choice to save.”
Dan stared at the lieutenant in shock. “What’s this guy got over everyone? How does he rate just pushing his way…?”
“He rates a recommendation from upper management of LAPD and FBI. And from what my friend in the Bureau says I could probably get glowing commendations from Homeland Security and CIA if I wanted it. Seems Mr. Dragón and his family are well known around the major intelligence agencies for being the “go-to” group when something needs doing that they can’t technically touch. You, on the other hand, have a less than pristine jacket. I have had members of Internal Affairs certain you were more tied to Malcolm Graham before his untimely demise than your previous supervisors were willing to admit. And then there is the small matter of the disappearance of Perry Smith. You remember him – the man who was NOT convicted of murdering your ex-wife’s father? According to I.A., his disappearance has been a thorn in the side of the FBI for a while. Seems they have confidential informants who swear that Smith was pulled off the streets by the Russian mob and “dealt with” because he had betrayed one of their own. Those same informants say the Russians were able to find Smith because of an inside man in the department.”
Sanchez eyed Dan for a moment, making note of his startled reaction when the topic of Smith was brought up. “Now, since the Bureau doesn’t even have a body much less any other concrete proof that this “inside man” exists, Internal Affairs is willing to let their suspicion sleep and see if anything pops up later. But I am not so laid-back. If it were me, my suspicions would be resting on the two people who most wanted Smith dead – you and your ex-wife Decker. And I need Decker on this serial murderer case more than I need I.A. nosing their way into our business. You, on the other hand, I don’t need that much. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to take this civilian up on his offer to help so we can make the most of his extensive connections. That way, I always know where Decker is, just in case there is a repeat of what happened to Smith. And you will remain where I can keep an eye on you – for the same reasons. After that – we’ll see. And this offer is non-negotiable. We do this my way – or I contact I.A. and give them the go-ahead to start running an investigation on both of you. Simple as that.” Lt. Sanchez rose and opened his door. “That will be all, Detective. Let me know when Mr. Dragón arrives.” He dismissed his subordinate with a wave through the door.
Dan charged out of the office, nearly running into two visitors just come into the precinct. Looking up, he found himself staring up at two very different men. One was young, tall and muscled with spikey blond hair, and the coldest blue eyes the detective had ever seen. The other was gaunt, high cheekbones, short black hair and dark eyes that burned into whoever or whatever the man was looking at. Both were dressed in expensive Italian suits with the blond wearing a jeweled stickpin in the shape of a sword on his lapel. Both men were eyeing Espinoza like he was a new and not terribly exciting variety of bug.
Chloe moved quickly out of her office, hoping to head off a confrontation. “Dan, may I introduce Arthur Dragón and…” She stopped, unsure of how to introduce the older angel she had only met once, at Lucifer’s Halloween party.
“Zaphiel Richter” the man responded, his hand behind his back. “I am the Dragón family attorney.”
Chloe nodded. “This is Detective Dan Espinoza who has been working the case along with me.”
Dan ignored the introductions, glaring balefully at the two men. “I don’t know who you had to bribe to get on this case” he started.< /p>
Arthur’s smile turned to a frown. “I’d mind that poison tongue of yours Detective Espinoza. It might just get you in more trouble than you’re already in.”
The sound of a door being violently thrown open sounded across the open space. Dan looked back at their new lieutenant standing cross-armed in his office doorway, a warning look on his face. Sanchez strolled across to Chloe’s door and nodded. “I’m assuming you’re Mr. Dragón?”
Arthur nodded and introduced his companion as well. “You would be…?”
“Lt. Sanchez. Special Agent Morrison says to say hello.”
Arthur’s face lit up with a mega-watt smile. “It’s been an age since I carried his ass out of that bar in Cancun. That was quite a trip.”
Sanchez smiled thinly. “I’ll bet. So… what help can you offer on this case?”
Arthur motioned to Chloe’s office. “My brother Khan should have sent you the files Alice sent to my server. I think once you see the files side by side with your case you’ll see what Det. Decker and I realized this morning. You have a killer either mimicking or continuing the work of a killer from thirty years ago.”
“You expect us to believe some guy from thirty years ago is killing kids in L.A. today?” Dan scoffed.
Sanchez stared at the detective, his eyes cold. “You are no longer associated with this case, detective. I suggest you go back to your desk and see if anyone else needs your assistance.”
Dan glared at the group then turned and marched off, muttering under his breath.
“That might not have been the best idea” Chloe said, watching him leave. “He’s not going to be willing to cooperate with you now.”
“He wasn’t planning on being cooperative anyway” Arthur said with a shrug. “Now, he’ll have no choice. Your ex will either play along – or find himself chained to his desk. Or worse.”
Sanchez stared at the young man. “Or worse?”
Arthur smiled. “My sister has a way of finding out all sorts of things that people like to keep hidden. Det. Espinoza has a few skeletons in his closet that he should be careful to keep in the dark lest Rowan find a way to drag them out into the sunlight.”
Sanchez nodded. “So, back to the case…”
“Yes, by all means, can we start talking about something useful, like tracking down the animal responsible for murdering children” Zaphiel replied.
Arthur winked at Chloe. “I think my father must have beat him at cards again. He always gets grumpy when he loses.”
“Your father cheats. I just can’t quite figure out how.” Zaphiel sniffed.
Arthur laughed and ushered the group, including Lt. Sanchez into Chloe’s office.
Chapter 7: Suspect list - from thirty years ago
An hour later the veteran police officer had to admit – working with this consultant might actually be a good idea. He had not admitted to Espinoza but when he had first heard about this other "civilian consultant" Decker had decided to use, he had been prepared to put a stop to it immediately. But talking to his friends in the F.B. I - and finding out that the man had a higher security clearance than his own - had given him food for thought. Now, seeing what the man and his family were bringing to the table, Sanchez decided it might be best to roll with the punches until he had reason not to.
Dragón set up a teleconference between his siblings back at their home office and Chloe’s computer. Using the webcam and desktop phone he had linked all participants together as they discussed the information Dr. Morgan had given them and compared it to the new case. While they waited, he decided to see what boundaries he could set for this civilian to ensure that whatever happened at the end of the case the Distract Attorney's office would still be able to make their case and his department would not be held liable for anything that might happen. “So” Sanchez said with a frown “how do we want to present this to the public? And to the D.A.'s office? Decker may have gotten away with using a "consultant" on her cases before but considering the news play this one is getting..."
"Technically" Arthur replied smoothly, "my family and I are not investigating your current case. We're just doing research for an old friend on the Angel Killer case of thirty years ago. That both cases seem to have something in common is nothing more than a happy coincidence and we, as good citizens, are more than happy to share our information if it helps your investigation." The young king smiled, all teeth and no warmth, willing the police official to accept his statement without question.
Sanchez shrugged, his previous misgivings melting away. "I can work with that. So - looks same perp or at least one related to the original case has a hand in this one. Who’s still in play from thirty years ago?”
“Too many bloody people” Khan’s voice rolled loudly out of the receiver. The younger man, his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, almost filled the screen with his larger-than-life presence. Behind him, their sister Rowan was barely visible, smiling at her brother's tone.
Arthur grinned. “Little brother has a mouth on him” he said with a chuckle. “But he’s right. We’ve barely got started checking out who might still be alive and kicking from thirty years ago.” He pointed to a message sent to Chloe from his sister. “This is kind of the short list of who is still around.” He leaned over her shoulder to read his sister’s note, the clean scent of his aftershave sending shivers up the detective’s spine. “Okay – first off, the Church of the Last Days is still in existence though it’s not as in the public eye as it was during the case in San Francisco. Seems interest in their Book of Revelations take on the future petered off after it was discovered that the killer was one of their most loyal laypersons. Reverend Titus James, who was in charge of the church during the Angel Killer case, died a few years ago but his son Jonas James is still around and now in charge of what is left of the church’s followers. He was around eight years old at the time of the original case.”
“Second” Chloe chimed in, pointing to the screen. “are the two sons of the perp originally believed to be the killer. John Parrish’s sons, Abraham and Moses, were five and eight respectively when the police found them with their father and the body of the last victim.”
“Tell me about John Parrish” Sanchez asked, thoughtfully. “He was tagged with the crime but the original investigators had doubts – right?”
“Right” Rowan’s clear voice echoed from the phone. “Khan has sent you some clippings from newspapers of the time, talking about how the police finally tracked him down.”
“The articles said they traced a van seen at the site of one of the abductions to the church – who pointed the finger at Parrish.” Sanchez looked at the articles that Chloe opened on her screen, reading quickly through them. “So – he was dead when they found him?”
“Yeah – and I think it’s the manner of his death that clued the original detectives to something not being right.” Khan’s voice had taken a deeper, more measured tone as he talked about the event. “Check out the third file I sent you – should be a photo of Parrish’s wife Marylyn, taken by some tabloid trash publication.”
Chloe opened the file to find herself staring into the sad face of a woman not much older than she was, surrounded by police. The woman’s features were delicate almost gaunt and her eyes were deep set and haunted. Her long, light-colored hair was hanging limply in a messy braid and her clothes and face were stained with a dark substance Chloe suspected was blood. “Poor woman” she mused. “It must have been terrible to see her husband with that child’s body and realize what he had been doing.”
"I get the feeling she had some suspicions for a while that something wasn't right but Church doctrine dictated that a wife was subject to her husband in all things so she probably didn't feel like she could question." The distaste in Rowan's voice made Arthur smile even wider, knowing his sister's views on the equality of the sexes.
"Yeah but..."Khan replied. "This chick was barely over five feet tall, ninety pounds sopping wet yet the SFPD tried to float the story that she picked up a pickaxe that weighed almost as much as she did and drove it into her husband's head. I'm not buying that story. Even if you factor in adrenaline rush it's way too out there to believe she had the strength or emotional energy to do it."
"Her children were in the barn with their father when the SFPD found them" Chloe mused. "A mother will find the strength to do a lot of things if she thinks her children are at risk."
"Yes, but..." Rowan replied, switching out the still with a grainy video clip taken by another news agency. "Look at the way she's holding her arm. The way she's cradling it I'm thinking she went into that barn injured - which would be another strike at the story she killed her husband."
"Anything to back that up?" Sanchez asked, peering at the clip in interest.
"Not yet" Khan admitted. "Marylyn was admitted to the county psych ward after the event. Seems she went pretty much catatonic and never gave a statement about what happened. The investigator's never did determine how she got there in the first place. much less what led her to do what she did. The only ones in the barn at the time that were able to give a statement were the two kids - Abraham and Moses. They claimed their father took them to the barn to be part of the "great sacrifice" and that their mother appeared shortly afterwards and killed him. But again - they were five and eight years old. And they had just seen their father die. Not sure how accurate their statements were - and one of the investigators thought that the kids sounded like they had been coached."
"Coached by who?" Sanchez asked, perplexed.
"Possibly by one of the other two names on our list - Parrish's father Matthias and brother Jonah. Both showed up shortly after the police CSI started to work the crime scene and insisted on taking the two boys back home. Since their mother was in no shape, the officer's on the scene allowed it."
"What happened to their mother?" Chloe asked.
"She never made it out of the psych ward. Went from hospital to private sanitarium without ever giving a statement." Khan looked down at his tablet and typed a few moments. "I'm trying to locate where she was dumped and see if any of the staff might have heard her say ANYTHING about what happened that night. No joy so far."
"And we can't get access to her medical records due to HIPAA so we can't verify that she went into this already injured and therefore unable to strike her husband down." Arthur looked over at Zaphiel for confirmation.
"Yes - the regulations are quite clear. If we could get permission to review them only if a law enforecment agency had a subpoena but after all this time I'm not sure a judge would see the point" Zaphiel replied.
"Agreed" Sanchez said, nodding at the older man. "So... you will be looking out for the people on this list who are related to the old case ..."
"And if we will keep Det. Decker in the loop in case we find one of the usual suspects from that time who have a link to your case" Arthur replied smoothly.
"See Detective? I told you my nephew would be an asset to your investigation." Lucifer's cheerful voice sounded from the doorway, as the Prince of Hell in all his satirical splendor move to join the group.
"Lovely" Arthur whispered to the angel behind him. "Just fucking lovely."
Chapter 8: Things heat up
Chloe shot a quick look at the civilians behind her, just in time to see a frown spread across Zaphiel's face. "Lucifer what are you doing here?"
"I thought I would check in and see if you had made contact with my handsome nephew" Lucifer said with a brittle smile. "And where are your equally good-looking brother and sister, dear boy? Hiding in the shadows somewhere?"
A shrill whistle coming from Chloe's computer caused most in the group to jump. "Hey, uncle! In here!" Khan's boisterous voice sang out.
Lucifer moved cautiously into the office and peered at the computer screen. "Oh THERE you are, dear boy. Still at home?"
"Khan and Rowan are doing what they do best - scouring the Web and calling in favors" Arthur replied with a sigh. "We aren't joined at the hip, uncle. Every so often we do have to separate to get a job done."
“Hey Chloe” Ella sang out, stepping into her friend’s office and stopping abruptly. “Oops! Sorry – I’ll come back.”
“No, it’s fine” Chloe replied with a smile. “Mr. Dragón, Mr. Richter – this is Ella Lopez, our Forensic Tech. Ella, this is Arthur Dragón. He’s brought us some new information that might help us solve our Schoolgirl Ripper case. Mr. Richter is Arthur’s family attorney.”
“And sometime babysitter” Arthur said with a smile. “He keeps an eye on me for my father – just in case I get the urge to do something massively silly.”
“So you can imagine the amount of work I’m constantly having to do” Zaphiel said dryly.
“And, just so you know” Lucifer piped up from beside the desk. “He’s my nephew.”
Ella smiled. “Well, any family of Lucifer’s is friend of mine”
"What's he doing here?" Dan's angry voice called out from the center of the precinct. "It isn't bad enough we're stuck with some bored rich guy and his family playing detective - now he's back?" The irate detective moved closer to the office door, glaring at the civilians inside.
Arthur frowned and made a motion across his throat to his brother, who was still on the display. He reached over Chloe’s shoulder and ended the telecom, hanging up the landline in the process. Arthur nodded stiffly to Chloe and the lieutenant. “I’m afraid we’ve taken up too much of your time with our project. Lt. Sanchez, it was good to meet you. I will let my friends at the Bureau know how cooperative you've been. It was also good to meet you officially, Detective Decker. I had hoped we might get to know one another better as Lucifer has told us much good about you. Now that you know where to find us, please feel free to drop in anytime.” He turned on his heel and stalked out, his angelic companion following silently behind him
“Dan” Chloe’s voice was deadly quiet as she glared at her ex. “There was no need for that ugliness. Arthur and his lawyer had just brought us the first real lead we’ve had on this case since the first body was found. That man you so cavalierly dismiss was trying to use his contacts to help link this case to another identical set of murders from thirty years ago – cases we might not have heard about until another six bodies turned up. And frankly, you have no room to talk about his motivations considering the only reason you still have a badge is that the LAPD didn’t want to have to deal with the bad publicity linking you to Malcolm Graham and his activities, which would have brought down unwanted publicity on their heads.” Chloe turned away, clenching her hands in anger, then stopped. “I liked Charlotte – she was my friend. I’m glad she’s not here to see what a judgmental, close-minded dick you’ve become because of her death.” She grabbed up a file and stalked past him towards the elevator, ignoring the look of shock on her former husband’s face.
“Look Chloe, I’m trying to…” Dan stopped, finally registering the anger in his former wife’s eyes. “What? He’s just some rich guy with more time than money! We don’t need him!” His voice, rising with irritation, attracted the attention of the department, many of whom frowned at the disturbance.
"Daniel" Lucifer's silky, cold voice echoed across the room. "Whatever your issues with me - that man has done more to keep evil off the streets than you will EVER do even if you live a miserly hundred years. He’s done nothing to deserve to be insulted or dismissed. So, you will either find a way to apologize for your attitude..." the Prince of Hell stopped and stared down at the detective, an air of menace replacing his usual charm "or I will have to deal with you myself. And you won't like that, Daniel. I promise you - you won't like what I do to protect my own." He shoved past the now unnerved detective and raced after Chloe, throwing himself in the elevator with her before the doors close.
“Sorry Dan” Ella’s voice rang out from beside the door. The usually chipper petite brunette stared at her friend in disappointment. “But Chloe’s right. You were a prick to that guy just because he was Lucifer’s nephew. You didn’t even give them a chance to tell you about what he found that’s got Chloe so excited. That’s NOT the Dan I thought I knew. Chloe is right - Charlotte would be so disappointed.” The CSI returned to her lab with a sad sigh, leaving Dan to stare around him in confusion.
"Espinoza" Lt. Sanchez's normally cold voice was now so frigid there was ice hanging off his every word. "My office - NOW!" The older man pushed past the now rattled detective and stalked back to his own office, not bothering to see if his subordinate was following.
Dan stared around himself in shock. “What did I do?” he mumbled, slowly making his way back to the lieutenant’s office. “What did I say that was so bad?”
Outside, Zaphiel stopped the young king before he reached his car. “Alright, young phoenix, tell me what your game is. I know, for a fact, that you’ve been insulted and assaulted under much worse circumstances than that and not walked away. So what are you plotting at?”
Arthur shrugged, a slight grin on his face. “I need to get that stupid sod out of the picture, at least for a while. His issues with Luci would make him difficult to work with at the best of times – and this isn’t those times. So…”
“I suspect his lieutenant will have a few harsh words for him. Not that I think that will help. So what's your plan - having your sister and brother do a background check to find something to hold over the man’s head” Zaphiel said with a sigh.
“Not exactly” Arthur admitted. “I’m thinking we need something quicker – so you and I are going to talk to Mazikeen, Lucifer’s demon. If anyone knows Det. Espinoza’s deepest, darkest secret it would probably be her.”
“And you’re going to take a Throne into the presence of a demon with the expectations she’ll actually talk to me?”
“Nope” Arthur replied happily. “I’ve got something much more interesting in mind.”
In the elevator
Chloe looked sideways at the strangely silent Lucifer for a moment, then hit the emergency stop button. “We need to talk.”
Lucifer’s eyes stayed fixed on the door. “You know they will eventually come looking to see why this elevator isn’t working.”
“We won’t be here that long” Chloe responded firmly. “First off – I’m sorry for Dan being such a dick to your nephew. Arthur and his family have been nothing but kind and helpful and they didn’t deserve him spouting off like that about them. Dan’s still grieving so he’s not exactly in his right mind. I don’t want either you or your nephew to feel that your help isn’t appreciated”
“Detective” Lucifer responded quietly. “You do not need to apologize. You have done nothing wrong.”
“I know – but in a way I feel like I do need to. I’ve been avoiding talking to you since… well since Pierce’s death and my finding out about who and what you are. And that was wrong of me. I should have just sat down with you and hashed out how this was all going to affect our partnership and I was too cowardly to do it. So, I’m saying I’m sorry not only to your nephew but to you. I’m sorry, Lucifer, sorry I got stuck behind a label and forgot the person behind it. The person who got hurt numerous times trying to protect me and expected nothing in return. I know this is asking a lot – as we still need to sit down and really talk about how things will be in the future – but for now, can we start over again? Like the partners that we were?”
Lucifer looked down into her bright eyes and relaxed. “I think that would be a smashing idea, Detective.”
Back at the house
“What the bloody hell was that?” Khan snarled, as the computer went blank.
“I think that might have been Chloe’s ex-husband” Rowan commented, dropping her cellphone on the desk. “Ignore him – I suspect Arthur has something planned to deal with that idiot.”
Khan motioned towards her phone. “Any luck finding the physical evidence from the Angel Killer case?”
Rowan dropped into a chair with a sigh. “Not yet. My contact in SFPD says as far as he knows all the evidence collected would have either been destroyed by now since the case was officially labeled as “solved” but he’s checking to make sure.”
Khan frowned, stretching his long legs up on the desk. “I’m betting those principal investigators might have figured a way to hide the evidence in the system if they thought that the wrong guy was being labeled as the killer.”
“Yes – but so much of those boxes have NOT been entered into the automated system because of their age it would an almost impossible search.”
Khan smiled thinly. “Maybe not. What about getting one of the Librarians to check it out? They are still working with a bloody card catalog in the Great Library – how much worse can paper file be?”
Rowan grinned. “You so don’t want me to answer that. As it happens, though, I did send a message to Baird and she’s going to see if one of her group can break away for a moment and run through the police warehouse.” Rowan sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “I suggested that they look for anything with the names of the participants in the case rather than the case name itself. Maybe even search for the names of the detective’s kids in place of the victim. It’s a long-shot but at this point it’s all we have.”
“How about background checks?” Seraphiel’s voice was clipped, no sign of his usual Irish accent as he sauntered into the office. “What have you found out about the people involved?”
“Not much” Khan admitted. “The two boys - Abraham and Moses Parrish – appear to have disappeared off the face of the planet right after their grandfather and uncle came to claim them. Nothing available online – not drivers licenses, not home addresses, nothing.”
Rowan looked at her brother for a moment, thinking about other such situations she had seen. “Their grandfather didn’t keep them with him?”
“Not that I can find” Khan admitted. “Looks like the old man died shortly after the Angel Killer hype died down and their uncle disappeared right afterwards.”
“Strange” Rowan mused. “I’m betting the boys were put in the care of either other family members or another church family. But why would there be no record of them after all this time?”
“I’m thinking whoever took them in probably changed at least their last names so that the “scandal” associated with their father wouldn’t follow them.” Khan absently played with the computer mouse as he talked, trying to think of a search strategy he hadn’t tried yet to find the boys.
“If you’re right then they did it unofficially, which could make things even more difficult for us.” Rowan absently scanned the information her brother had dug up on John Parrish. Her eyes narrowed as she read one paragraph. “Khan, where did you get this generic information on Parrish?”
“From the investigator’s notes – why?”
“Because according to this Parrish had three children – not two. John and his wife had a daughter Betty who would have been around ten years old around the time of the Angel Killer case.” Rowan straightened in her chair and started to leaf through the files on her tablet. “Nowhere does it say what happened to the girl – just that when the detectives went to Parrish’s home after finding him dead they found a little girl’s belongings, a birth certificate for Betty Ann Parrish but no child.”
Khan frowned. “I didn’t see anything in the old files about a death certificate for a little girl. Could she have been farmed out to some other relative when the boys came along? This church was not real big on girls as anything other than the whole housewife/mother vibe.”
“All the death certificates for the state should be online – see if you can locate anything. Do the files say anything about when people had last seen her?”
Khan scanned the witness statements quickly. “One of the neighbors said he used to see her playing in front of the Parrish house but hadn’t seen her for around six months.” He peered at the statement with a frown. “Said he felt for the kid because mom and dad didn’t seem to pay any attention to her at all. The neighbor said he thought it might be because of the birthmark on her face – big strawberry mark covering most of her right cheek. He heard the mother telling the kid that it was the devil’s brand put on her to remind her mother of her sins.”
Rowan’s eyes lit up with anger. “Suddenly I’m not feeling so sorry for poor Marilyn. So she hadn’t been seen for over six months? I have a horrible feeling I might know where she went. I hope I’m wrong but…”
“But what, girl?” Seraphiel asked, his on-again / off-again accent returning with a vengeance.
“There was one victim who was never identified. By the amount of decomp the coroner at the time determined she must have been the first killed even though she was the last found. Time of death was estimated to be around six months previous.”
Khan looked over at his sister, confused. “You think he STARTED with his own kid? But why?”
“If I knew that, brother, we’d know the whole story.” Rowan closed down her tablet in frustration. “There is literally NOTHING in this man’s background that would explain him going from a plain, non-descript family man to a Book of Revelations inspired serial killer.”
“Maybe we should just ask Azrael who killed those children?” Seraphiel posed, watching the two young Fae sit back in frustration. “After all, as the Angel of Death she would have been there to escort their souls to Heaven.”
“And can you just imagine the reaction we would get from the District Attorney’s office when we present him with that information?” Khan drawled, sarcastically. “Yes we know exactly who killed those kids thirty years ago and who is killing them now. We asked the Angel of Death and she told us all about it. The little men in the white coats would be trying to haul us away to the funny farm before we even finished the story.”
Rowan shrugged. “It’s L.A. – I suspect they’ve heard worse stories. After all, Lucifer keeps telling EVERYONE he’s the Devil. They haven’t tried to institutionalize him yet.”
“Mores the pity” Seraphiel responded. “So – we do this the hard way. You look for what might have sent him over the edge. Or you look for who might have used him as an unwitting accomplice.”
“I can believe the accomplice idea” Khan responded. “And I’m betting it’s either the good Reverend James or Parrish’s brother or father. They would be the ones who would know his “secrets” and be able to push all the right buttons to get him to cooperate.”
“But then why kill him?” Rowan mused. “If he’s been doing what they wanted all that time, even to sacrificing his own daughter, why suddenly decide to get rid of him?”
“Maybe it had something to do with the boys” Seraphiel said quietly. “Having them dragged into this bloody business might have been a step too far.”
“I think I hate this case” both Rowan and Khan muttered, with the older Seraphim in silent agreement.
Chapter 9: Gathering at home
Hours later Arthur was willing to admit Maze was better at staying out of his line of sight then most. “Fine, we’re almost home so might as well check in with the rest of the family. I can leave a message with Lucifer to have her contact us if he sees her. In the meantime we can hope that Lt. Sanchez can keep Espinoza out of our hair until we find an answer to this puzzle.”
Zaphiel sighed, trying to find a way to stretch his long legs in the tiny sports car without pulling a muscle. “I think that would be an excellent plan of attack. The house is just ahead. And the sooner you let me out of this death trap the happier I will be.”
Arthur laughed. “Your brother rides a bad-ass motorcycle, without a helmet, and you’re complaining about my car?”
“You don’t see me riding with him do you?” the Throne grumbled. “That boy has had a death wish since…” his voice petered out, leaving behind an awkward silence.
“Since when?” Arthur asked, curiously.
“Since the First War in Heaven” Zaphiel admitted. “He was, and is, eldest of his line and Michael’s first and best student. He led his fellow Seraphim in wave after suicidal wave against the traitors who surged up to support Lucifer in his mad attack against our Father’s throne. We all lost brothers and sisters of our line but he…he took it all to heart. More so than Michael did. To Seraphiel, those young angels were his children. He’s seen them created by our Holy Father, had them placed in his hands to train and prepare for service to God and when they fell in battle…”
“He felt it was his fault” Arthur sighed. “That he hadn’t done as well by them as Michael had with him. Bloody hell – that explains a few things, doesn’t it?
“Yes – and No. His attachment to your sister is another layer of the pain he carries from that time before time even existed. There was a young Seraph, Eliana, the youngest of their line, who was created during this time of unrest. She was strong, smart, and very opinionated. Queen Rowan reminds me of her – and I know she reminds Seraphiel of her as well. Eliana was the best of her line, ready to take on anyone. She even got into an argument with Michael on tactics, disturbed by his not breaking off at least a few of his army to help protect the Fae Black gates. The poor child died towards the end of the war because she dropped her guard and one of the Fallen, a Seraphim she had trained with, gutted her. My shield brother was devastated. I truly feared for his sanity. Not even Rafael, who was healer and council to all, could talk to him. After a while, he just walled off that pain and rage and kept on fighting. But he never really dealt with it. Angels are not designed for overwhelming emotions – none of us, not even the Archangels. So we all pretended it was over when it really never was and things moved on. Lucifer was in Hell along with those animals who had followed him. New Seraphim were created to replace those who had been destroyed. And my brother angel folded in on himself and presented a façade of cold normality to all.” Zaphiel laughed softly. “I remember at the time thinking it was so funny watching this tiny little Seraph shaking her finger in the face of the General of Heaven, Michael looking down at her like she had lost her mind and Seraphiel on the sidelines looking so proud. Heaven seemed so cold after her death. And then – Father’s plans continued.”
“Sounds a LOT like the person Rowan was before your Father’s remake of us.” Arthur pulled into his long driveway and stopped, allowing the elder Throne to exit the car and stretch his legs. “Ro wouldn’t bother with arguing – better to get forgiveness later than ask for permission before hand is her moto.”
“Which I’m sure still frustrates Michael no end” Zaphiel said with a snort. “But you are right in one respect. The person Rowan was before Father remade you lot was more like Eliana then your sister is now. Seraphiel was given the job as that girl’s guardian and he took it as a chance to correct a wrong step he took with Eliana. Then the Almighty decided to change the players and the playing field and everything was turned upside down.”
“He seems fine with her as she is.”
“He’s comfortable with her as she is” Zaphiel corrected. “Just as he is comfortable with me as his shield brother, even though we’re of different stations and different areas of interest. She doesn’t NEED him but she’s happy to have him at her back. There is less pressure on him to protect her but he does anyway because it eases his mind and soul to do so. And I think he truly likes the girl – in some ways she’s very much like him.”
“I so won’t tell my father you said that” Arthur replied with a laugh. “While he enjoys your brother’s company I sincerely doubt he’d be happy to hear his “little princess” reminds someone of a battle-hardened old soldier.”
“She reminds me” Zaphiel said slowly “of the angel Seraphiel was before the war, before the deaths, before everything changed. A generous heart who cared for his family and for our Holy Father to the exclusion of all else. A peaceful soul hardened by war. She brings out that peace in him – so for that alone, young phoenix, I am grateful to you all.”
Arthur smiled, sliding his arm around the older being’s shoulders. “I’m happy to have you all here too, old man.”
Inside, Drogo took his master’s coat and nodded towards the study. “You’d better go in there. It got really quiet in there a while ago.”
Arthur and Zaphiel exchanged glances then quietly entered the room. Inside, Khan, Rowan and Seraphiel were all seated on the large couch Rowan had insisted on putting in the room even though it didn’t fit the décor of the office. Khan had one arm around his sister’s shoulders, his shaggy head leaned on hers. Seraphiel also had his arm around her, quietly whispering in her ear. Rowan was sandwiched between the two men, eyes staring off into the distance, an unhappy look on her face.
“Okay” Arthur asked quietly. “Who died?”
Rowan smiled. “No one – at least not yet. We were just discussing a theory that frankly has depressed me no end. If I didn’t think the world of Alice and Luci right now I’d be more than willing to return to the realm and not come out for at least a century.” She turned to the angel beside her with a sigh. “Can you explain to him what we’ve been discussing? I need to check with Draco on lunch.” She slid quietly out of the sofa and headed out the door, patting her older brother’s arm as she did.
Arthur looked at his younger brother, now stretched back in the sofa with his hand tangled in his wavy hair. “Someone have something to tell me?”
“I’ve got it, Irish” Khan rumbled, waving off the man beside him. He filled in his elder brother and the Throne on what they had found – and what they had come to speculate about the first of the Angel Killer’s victims. He waved a dismissive hand at the computer as he spoke. “Problem is, it all happened thirty years ago. Even IF we could find the biological evidence gathered during the case there is no guarantee any of it would be in good enough shape to test. And, on top of that, we don’t have a sample from our supposed killer so again – nothing to prove our hypothesis.”
“Ask Azrael” Zaphiel commented, pulling up a chair.
“We’ve already discussed that, brother” Seraphiel said. “And the young ones make a good point. The word of the Angel of Death might be all we would need but humans, who have a hard enough time believing in what they actually see, would not be as accepting of a story told by what they consider nothing more than a character out of a tale told to children to make them behave.”
“So – what’s our alternative?” Arthur asked, stymied.
Zaphiel thought for a moment then looked up at his charge. “Churches like this shed disenfranchised members like you shed skin cells. Can Khan and his “Internet” find some of those members who left the church during that time period? Perhaps one of them could make this all clear.”
Khan’s smile returned in full force. “Damn! Why didn’t we think of that? You’re right – if we can find former members – preferably ones who might have left around the time of the killings – we might just get some more background on the people involved.”
“Why didn’t the original investigators try that?” Arthur asked, reasonably. “I would think that would be standard practice for a police investigation.”
“Remember, young King, that the case was closed as soon as they found that human, Parrish, with the body of the latest victim. Perhaps the detectives were told by their superiors that any further investigation was unnecessary.”
“City planner probably didn’t want to draw out the bad publicity any more than they needed to” Arthur admitted grimly. He took his seat behind his desk and stared glumly at the door. “Alright – so how do we find out who might have been in the church at the time?”
“Start with former neighbors” Khan said enthusiastically. “If they weren’t part of the church they might remember names of anyone who was at the Parrish home that was.” He jumped up to the computer desk, adjusting the multiple screens again as he frantically typed. “Also, looking for former employees of the hospital Marilyn was put into. We might not be able to get a look at her official medical records…”
“But it doesn’t hurt to ask the nurses and orderlies who dealt with her what their opinions of her condition” Zaphiel replied approvingly.
Rowan poked her head back into the study. “Lucifer is here with Chloe. She wants to talk to us.”
“Probably about that douche of an ex of hers” Arthur grumbled. “Invite them for lunch – we can catch up on what little progress either side has made over whatever Draco is cooking.”
Rowan grinned. “You’re hungry – aren’t you? You always get a little testy when you’re hungry.”
“Says the woman who took a bite out of my arm when I forgot to feed her” Arthur rumbled, pleased to see the sadness had left her face.
Seraphiel and his brother shared a look. “Bit you, did she?” the old soldier murmured, trying not to laugh.
“It wasn’t HARD” Rowan protested with a giggle. “But it got my point across.”
“I’m sure it did” Zaphiel replied, keeping a straight face. “I would LOVE to see her do that to Lucifer.”
“Please!” she sniffed. “As if...” She disappeared back out the door, her voice echoing back in greeting to their visitors.
“Let’s take this outside” Arthur suggested, rising and wrapping his fingers around his brother’s hair.
“I’ll be there is a second” Khan muttered, peering intently at the screen. “I think I may have a lead on someone we can talk to.”
“Little brother, if you’re not out on the patio in ten minutes I’m not saving you anything on the lunch menu.” Arthur tugged his brother’s hair playfully then shooed the two angels out the door ahead of him.
Outside, Lucifer stood on the edge of the patio and stared off into space. “Lovey place you have here, Rowan.”
“It’s defensible from intruders” she replied with a shrug. “That’s really all we cared about.” Rowan stretched herself, catlike, into a lounge chair as the other members of the family joined them. “Where’s Khan?”
“He’ll be down as soon as it registers with him that there may be no food left if he doesn’t hurry with his computer search.” Arthur laughed as he took his spot beside his sister. “Lucifer, have you spoken to your demon Maze today? I have something I would speak to her about.”
Lucifer raised an eyebrow at the question. “No. Have you asked Dr. Linda? They seem to be thick as thieves again. Perhaps she can help you.”
Arthur smiled. “My thanks, uncle. I’ll try her next.” He looked around for a moment. “Anyone seen the Archangels?”
Zaphiel shrugged, dropping into a nearby chair with Seraphiel at his side. “There were all three of them out here when I arrived. I’m assuming they’ve gone home. It’s not like their presence is needed.”
“Someone is finally seeing things my way when it comes to those sods!” Lucifer exclaimed happily.
“No, Samael, I just meant I have enough to deal with between my shield brother and our kids that I don’t need the added problems of those three hanging around.” Zaphiel shrugged. “Their strengths do not lend themselves well to this investigation.”
“Probably true” Rowan admitted. “So – what brings you two all the way out here?”
“I just wanted to apologize to Arthur for Dan’s attitude” Chloe began, hesitantly.
“I keep TRYING to tell her she doesn’t have to since she’s done nothing wrong but as usual she’s not listing to me.” Lucifer’s aggravated voice caused the others to chuckle. He frowned at the group for a moment. “And my name isn’t Samael anymore. You bloody well know that, Zaphiel.”
The elder Throne shrugged, unrepentantly. “I enjoy watching your reaction when you hear it.”
Rowan sighed. “Enough! Tease your brother on your own time. Chloe, have you had any success locating where that feather you found at your crime scene was made?”
Chloe picked a chair near Rowan to claim and laid out the folder’s she had grabbed on the way out the door. “Ella believes that she’s traced it to a small, family owned costume shop here in the L.A. area. They do specialty masks for Independent movie houses and some Hollywood productions. I called them as we were driving up here. The owner says, based on the description, he thinks the feather might have come from a set of wings he made nearly thirty years ago for a small church for use in their Christmas pageant.”
“Seems a pricy costume for a small church” Rowan mused. “Did he remember the name of the church?”
“No, but he was going to try to go through his records and call me back. Interesting thing is – someone else had called him just recently about those same wings, wanting to see if he could re-create them.”
Rowan and Arthur exchanged glances. “Maybe your killer doesn’t have access to the original set?”
“Most likely the originals are no longer in any condition to be used” Seraphiel replied thoughtfully. “They weren’t found in that barn where their last victim was located, were they?”
“No, they were not” Khan’s voice boomed out into the patio area. He emerged, his tablet in hand with Draco and Drogo behind him, carrying platters of assorted fruits, sandwiches and other finger foods for lunch. “That was the first thing I checked on when we realized your new perp was wearing wings like the old one did. Nothing listed about faux wings found at the crime scene. Which makes our theory of an accomplice much more credible.”
“Accomplice?” Chloe asked, taking a plate from the older manservant.
“We were considering a theory before Arthur returned. Our perp, John Parrish, had no rap sheet, nothing to indicate he would one day suddenly snap and become a serial killer. And, if you look at some of the timelines the detectives drew for themselves, it becomes difficult to believe he could have pulled all of this off without help.” Khan snagged a sandwich from the pile and dropped into the chair on the other side of Arthur. “Plus, if you discount the idea that his 90 pound wife could heave a pickaxe over her head and nail him through the cranium…”
“Then someone else had to be there to do it for her” Rowan finished, taking a bite of her cucumber sandwich. “Which would also explain where the original wings went. Someone cleaned up the crime scene and coached the little boys on what to say before the police pulled into the drive.”
“And who were the first people, other than the cops to arrive?” Khan said, a gleam in his eyes. “Daddy Parrish and his younger son.”
“Family” Lucifer said with a sigh. “Can’t live with them, can’t kill them.”
“Or maybe you can” Rowan replied quietly.
Chapter 10: Splitting up and new crime scene
Lunch was a quiet affair, with the group passing photos, records and anecdotes between themselves as Draco brought out more finger food for them to nibble on. Lucifer, in his typical fashion, spent most of the time talking about any subject that crossed his mind. Chloe wondered how long it would be before the other angels in the group would not be able to resist taking a swing at her partner, just to shut him up. The buzzing of her cell-phone cut short her reverie. “Dan? What is it now?”
Rowan glanced up to see a pained look pass over Chloe’s face. “I’m betting this is not a good message” she whispered to Seraphiel.
The old soldier watched intently as Chloe made some notes while talking quietly. “I’m afraid, girl, that there has been another murder.”
Arthur looked up at that, looking across at Chloe. “Problem?” he asked, concerned.
“They have found another body in an abandoned cemetery about an hour drive from here” she replied with a sigh. “I need to go walk the crime scene.”
“We need to go” Lucifer corrected, rising up quickly.
“Dan’s at the scene – this could be awkward” she murmured. “He’s already wound up about Arthur’s being involved…”
“Then by all means, let’s wind him up even more” Rowan replied, icily. “Do you have the address of that costume shop the wings were made by?”
“Yes?” Chloe replied, hesitantly, digging it out of her notes and passing it along to Rowan.
“Good – then Khan, Drogo and Draco can go talk to the owner about not only the old set of wings but the inquiry the owner had about a new set. Khan has a way with people, especially artistic sorts. You’ll get more information letting him “chat” with the owner than you would bringing him in for questioning.” Rowan looked over at her middle brother expectantly. “You were flipping through your tablet all through lunch. Did you find anyone we need to talk to that might have known the Parrish family back in the day?”
Khan held out his tablet to his brother with a frown. “Yeah – looks like one of their neighbors was also a former member of the church. Andrew and Beatrice Tomes – they live not far from here in some little retirement village. In the 1980’s the Tomes lived right next to the Parrish’s. They were neighbors from the day the couple first moved in till just after the Angel Killer case was closed. Kind of think that they MIGHT be a good starting point for finding out more about the family.’
Arthur made a note of the address and tossed the tablet back at his brother. “Zaphiel and I will talk to them. They will probably be more likely to talk to us than you.”
“Because you’re dressed up snazzy and he’s good at legalese?” Khan snarked with a grin.
“Precisely that” Arthur replied with a smile. “People tend to judge you by how you’re dressed and you, little brother, dress like a cross between a gang member and a gypsy. Trust me, we’ll get more from these middle-class sorts if I talk to them then if you do.”
“And I will accompany Chloe and Lucifer to the new crime scene and see how much it matches up to the photos we have from the old one.” Rowan swiped through the set of scanned images on her own tablet, selecting a random few and placing them in a new folder.
“Not without me you won’t” Seraphiel snarled, snatching the tablet away from her.
“Don’t trust me, brother?” Lucifer said with a brittle smile.
“Not as far as I can throw you, brother” Seraphiel replied calmly. “But this time it’s not you I’m concerned about. I could hear the bitterness in Det. Decker’s former partner’s voice when he faced Arthur. I can only imagine what his reaction is going to be to my girl.”
“I can take care of myself” Rowan huffed.
“That’s what I’m afraid of” Seraphiel replied with a sly grin. “Not that I give a rat’s ass about this git’s issues but it’s not going to help anyone if you beat the boy in to ground just because he annoys you. I’m of the opinion that the authorities around here might not see it your way if you do.”
“I wouldn’t count on that” Arthur laughed. “The girl has friends EVERYWHERE. I’m betting she could find someone to see things her way if she tried. Of course – it wouldn’t be all that pleasant for Chloe’s ex. Or for Chloe, for that matter.”
“Oh, never mind about Det. Douche” Lucifer quipped happily. “I’m sure once his words are known that everyone will agree he deserves it.”
Zaphiel and Arthur sighed in unison. “Brother Seraphiel – I think you’re going to have your hands full with this one” the elder Throne replied. The old Seraphim shrugged, tucking Rowan’s tablet into his jacket.
Chloe bit back a smile. “We’re in Lucifer’s car so no back seat.”
Seraphiel waved her off. “No problem, The girl can ride behind me.”
Chloe had a sudden flashback to the powerful motorcycle that had made its spectacular entrance into Lucifer’s club the night of the Halloween party. “Okay- this should be really interesting.”
At the Crime Scene
Dan watched impatiently as Ella chatted with one of the uniformed officers. “Can we move the body anytime in this century?” he called out.
Ella looked back at him with a sniff. “Not until Chloe arrives. She’ll want to see the site as it was found. Don’t like it – take it up with her.” The usually friendly CSI turned her back on the detective and continued her conversation, ignoring the aggrieved look she was given.
“Great – everyone’s out for my hide” Dan gripped to himself, the words of his new lieutenant still ringing in his ears.
Previously at the station
“I warned you, Espinoza, not to mess with Decker’s new consultant. But no – you had to go and open your big mouth and insult the man during a teleconference with his group. Remind me again why I shouldn’t bust you back down to riding a desk? And don’t bother to bring up you being on this case from the start. A five minute conversation with Mr. Dragón and we had new avenues to explore to solve this case. So far, all you’ve brought is attitude.”
“Look, I’ll apologize if I’ve hurt his little feelings…”Dan began.
“What you will do, Espinoza is keep your bloody mouth shut around the man and his team. Or I will file with Internal Affairs to have you investigated much more stringently than they did before. And we all know that IA, given the proper incentive, will find SOMETHING to pin on you, even if it’s nothing more than a bunch of old parking tickets. Now get out of my office and do something useful like FINDING THAT KILLER!”
Back at the crime scene
Dan groaned at the sight of Lucifer’s car pulling up to the crime scene tape. Behind him a very large motorcycle with two riders stopped, parking the bike just off the side of the road. “Great – now who are we entertaining?” Dan thought bitterly. He watched as a young woman slid off the back of the bike, accompanied by an older man. The man handed her a tablet from out of his jacket and pointed towards off towards the less overgrown section of the graveyard. She nodded then turned to follow Chloe as he strolled off to inspect the tombstones.
Chloe breezed past her ex-husband, unwilling to start another argument. Lucifer stayed close to her side, giving Dan an odd, inscrutable look as he passed him. “Hey Ella, what do we have?”
Ella looked up happily. “Hey! That was quick. So, a group of old ladies making rubbings of old gravestones for a family history database found the body. She hasn’t been here long. I’d estimate time of death to be around twelve hours ago. And considering how “clean” the area is I’m going to say this, like the others, is a body dump and not the main crime scene. Should be more… everything. Blood, broken branches, etc… The way she’s laid out is just like the others – peaceful and posed.’ The tech looked up as a tall, brunette stopped behind Lucifer, patting him absently on the arm to move him to one side. “So… who’s your friend?”
“Oh – sorry. Ella, this is Rowan Dragón. She’s consulting along with her brother on this investigation. Rowan, this is Ella Lopez our CSI tech.”
Rowan smiled. “Hello Ella Lopez. Nice to meet you. Sorry it has to be under these circumstances.”
“And I’m Det. Daniel Espinoza, in case anyone’s interested.” Dan grumbled from behind Lucifer.
Rowan ignored the disgruntled man completely. “This makes what – victim seven?”
Chloe stared down at the posed body in sorrow. “Yes – but this is the first time we’ve found a body this close to time of death.” She looked down at the tablet in her friend’s hand. “Can we do a comparison?”
“Comparison of what?” Ella asked, looking from one woman to the other with interest.
“Comparison of crime scene photos from a few years ago” Rowan said softly, kneeling beside the open grave. She flicked open her tablet and scrolled through the photos she had set aside during lunch. “Yes – see here. The body is laid out exactly as the others were, with beads wrapped around the hands to keep them in the attitude of prayer, hair shaved as a penitent’s would be, old fashion uniform with skirt almost to her ankles to cover the flesh. Whoever did this to your current victim probably was there when the older ones were laid out. You don’t get this kind of detail only from studying photos.” She ran her fingers through the dirt at the top of the grave, taking a quick sniff before tossing the clod of earth away. “I’m also betting this is a fresh grave, just like the others were. Old, abandoned cemeteries wouldn’t have a conveniently open grave just laying around for a serial killer to use to display his latest victim. Question that comes to mind is – how is he finding these old plots of land to use for his body dumps.”
“Wait – WHAT others?” Dan growled, trying to move around Lucifer.
“Same killer? Probably not” Rowan continued, unconcerned. “But definitely someone with intimate knowledge of the Angel Killer case.” She looked up and squinted at the tangled branches above her. “Is that… another feather?” She pointed up to a white object tangled in vines just slightly beside the grave.
Chloe looked up too with a frown. “Probably. How did it get up there? The others were found on the ground beside the victim.”
Rowan looked at the branches for a second. “I should have asked Khan if he had the dimensions for those wings the costume shop had a record of. They were probably large so your unsub would not have been wearing them when he dug this grave. Or, for that matter, when he transported the body here for display. But those wings must have significance to him related to some ritual he has to perform.”
Chloe caught on fast. “So he puts our vic into the grave then goes to don his wings. But maybe they are too bulky or too tall for this small space and they get caught in the branches above him.”
Ella chimed in as well. “So he jerks them down and a feather and maybe more gets torn off!”
“Very well thought out, ladies” Lucifer purred. “One thing. How are you planning on getting that piece down from there?”
Rowan looked at the well-dressed Prince of Hell and sighed. “No ladder available, so that’s out. Two options – you can either pick me up over your head so I can reach up and grab it out of the vines or I climb the tree and shimmy out on to the branch and try to get it to drop down to Ella.”
“Why not just poke at it and hope it falls into your hands?” He replied, staring at her meaningfully.
“We could do that” Rowan conceded, ignoring the Devil’s hint about using her “gifts” to move the feather. “Either way – we need to get that item out of the tree so it can be processed.”
“Oh, bloody hell” a rough, accented voice called out from behind a set of aging tombstones. “Just step aside.” A figure glided out of the shadows and started quickly up the tree.
“Who is THAT?” Dan asked, determined someone was going to answer him.
“Oh that” Lucifer drawled. ‘That’s Rowan’s godfather Seraphiel. He also, Daniel, happens to be my brother so do try to keep a civil tongue in your head when you speak to him. He’s not as forgiving as I am.”
Chapter 11: Updates and something more
Dan looked at Lucifer in shock. “Your brother?” he stuttered.
“Yes, Daniel, my male sibling. One of many, actually. He is also Rowan’s godfather and quite attached to the little hellcat so if I were you – and trust me I would NEVER want to be you – I’d be very, very careful around the girl. He doesn’t take well to strangers annoying his child.” Lucifer looked up languidly as the Seraphim reached out and slapped the limb carefully, dislodging the bit of feather caught in the vines. It floated languidly to the ground, finally resting in front of Lucifer.
Rowan knelt and examined the bit of fluff critically. “Looks like there is a piece of muslin still attached to it. He really must have ripped the frame badly.”
Ella also knelt and gathered the evidence into a clear, plastic bag. “I can’t wait to see these faux wings. They must be just awesome!”
Rowan shrugged. “I have friends in the cosplay community who have built similar items for conventions. Depending on the materials used – and the skill of the fabricator – you either end up with an amazing set or something so amateur you’d only see it in a church Christmas parade.” She rose, stretching and gave the Prince of Hell a “look”. “And I do recall telling you NOT to call me a hellcat. Really, uncle, what will it take to get you to remember what NOT to do around me?”
Lucifer smiled broadly. “Well, we could find a quiet spot to discuss the issue…”
“Back off, brother” Seraphiel’s accented voice called out from the base of the tree. “You wouldn’t survive the encounter and you know it. If I didn’t gut you then the girl would. And frankly, boyo, I think you’d be happier with me taking you down than her. She tends to be less than merciful when she wields a blade.”
Rowan rolled her eyes at both men. “You know, Chloe, sometimes I really wonder why I bother to say anything at all. They all are going to ignore me no matter what.” She took one last look at the body in the grave and frowned. “I feel like I’m missing something, something important. But I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“Something about the old case?” Chloe replied, signaling the coroner’s office to begin removal of the victim. “Or about this one?”
“Both” Rowan said quietly. “It’s like there is something just on the edge of my conscious mind, trying to get my attention. Something about the way these victims were posed – or where they were posed.” She sighed in frustration. “I don’t know. Maybe if I plot it out on a map…”
The ringing of a phone – or more specifically a ringtone made up of Dr. Demento’s “Their coming to take me away” – rang out in the overgrown space. Rowan made a face as she fished her cell out of her pocket. “Knew I should never have let those boys pick their own identifying tones” she muttered as she picked on the screen. “Hey bro – what did you find?”
Khan’s voice boomed out of the small phone. “Hey Ro – I’ve got big brother on conference with us. Who’s with you?”
“Chloe, Lucifer, a CSI tech named Ella Lopez. Who’s on your end?”
“I’m here in case anyone’s interested” Dan muttered fretfully. Both Ella and Chloe motioned him to remain silent, sending him sulking off towards his car.
“Draco, Drogo and I are at the Myers costume emporium – the shop Det. Decker found. Seems like the previous owner was the one who made the wings. Mr. Myers has retired but his nephew Calvin is running the shop now. According to him, shortly after they received that call about remaking the faux wings someone tried to break into the shop.”
“They take anything?” Arthur’s voice rumbled on the other line.
“No. Seems the old owner was something of a pack rat and kept all his old paperwork in stacks around the shop. New owner Calvin decided to put all that information into the Cloud and had moved everything to another facility for scanning. That included his uncle’s drawings for the masks and other paraphernalia he made as well as old receipts and tax forms. So whoever broke in drew a blank - nothing left for them to find. He was able to provide me with a good schematic of the wings and the original receipt for the merchandise. Which is pretty detailed. Seems Mr. Meyers insisted on having precise measurements for whoever was going to wear the contraption so he could build it for maximum comfort.”
“Who paid for the wings?” Rowan asked.
“The check was embossed with the logo of the Church of the Last Days – but it was Matthias Parrish who came into the shop to order them and brother Jonah Parrish who brought the check and retrieved them when they were done.”
“So – the Church knew more about what was going on with the Angel Killer than they ever admitted to.” Arthur’s voice had taken a hard edge. “Explains a lot.”
“Explains what, Arthur?” Rowan asked.
“The older couple Zaphiel and I came to interview - Andrew and Beatrice Tomes –they are quite the talkers. Mrs. Tomes is insisting on our having tea with them so she and her husband have gone inside.”
"Which is a good thing” Zaphiel’s aggrieved voice called out. “There is only much petty gossip I can absorb in one sitting.”
Arthur’s chuckle flowed from the phone. “They are probably going to be in there for a while so now is good a time as any for an update. The Tomes had quite the story to tell. First off – the little girl who went missing was Marilyn’s daughter – not Parrish’s. Seems Marilyn’s family, along with the Parrish’s had been members of the Church of the Last Days since its inception. Marilyn was raised very strictly but when she turned sixteen she managed one small act of defiance – which turned out not so small. She started seeing a boy who lived near her aunt’s home – one who was NOT a member of the church. One thing led to another and…”
“And she got pregnant” Rowan sighed.
“Yes. You can imagine the hell storm that raised. Abortion was a mortal sin, but so was fornication so something had to be done and quickly before the rest of the congregation found out. That SOMETHING was an arranged marriage – to John Parrish.”
“Crap! So not only was she knocked up but now she had to marry some guy she probably didn’t know well? Lovely family.” Khan’s voice dripped with disdain.
“It didn’t help that the child was a girl and was born with that strawberry birthmark – a sign to her already rigid new family that she was touched by evil.” Arthur’s voice was gentle, sad for the child who never had a chance to be a normal, well-loved child. “Mrs. Tomes says she remembers the little girl getting the brunt of everyone’s temper while the boys could do no wrong. That’s why when she disappeared she and her husband grew concerned.”
“Concerned enough to call the cops?” Ella asked angrily.
“As a matter of fact, yes. They did report the girl’s disappearance to the authorities. But John and Marilyn insisted the little girl had been sent to her mother’s aunt to live and it seems that’s where the investigation was ended. No one check up on whether that story was true or not.”
Rowan shifted in place, impatient to get back to their study where she could think without all these other people around. “So – someone at least had suspicions about the little girl. What about the rest of the events?”
“Mr. Tomes says he noticed during those months that the Angel Killer case was front page news that John Parrish or his family often took the boys out at night and didn’t return with them until very late. The boys attended the church school and when he asked Marilyn if she wasn’t worried the boys would be too tired to pay attention in class after their trips she just waved it off saying the “men” were off with Reverend James on some important church matter.”
“Point of fact” Zaphiel’s dry voice was heard in the background. “After the Church’s possible complicity in covering up the murders, many members left the fold. Others, like the Tomes, were essentially threatened by those who remained. They were told that their disloyalty, as evidenced by their cooperation with the police, would be held against them when they stood before the Almighty’s throne.”
Both Lucifer and Seraphiel snorted at that comment.
“Don’t be so amused, brothers” Zaphiel continued, his voice taking on a darker, slightly disturbed tone. “I suspect that they were threatened for something more than cooperation though neither of these people will speak of anything other than the sins of the Church minister and the Parrish family.”
“I agree” Arthur’s voice also had an annoyed tone to it. “I think there maybe something more to their involvement in all of this than they are willing to speak about. Either way…” The three way conversation dimmed for a moment. Rowan could hear her brother politely accepting a cup of tea (which she knew he would not drink) from someone while Zaphiel made some unintelligible comment in the background.
“Down! Get them down!” Arthur’s voice rang urgently out of Rowan’s phone, gunfire almost drowning out his words. Zaphiel’s voice, cursing in a language only Lucifer and Seraphiel could understand, also poured from the phone, as well as the screams of an elderly woman. Then… silence.
“Arthur!” Rowan called out urgently. “Arthur! Answer me!”
Chapter 12: Gathering our wounded
Khan stared in shock at his phone, the sound of gunfire still echoing in his ears. “What the…?” With a roar he tossed the phone across the room, narrowly missing his companion Drogo, and bolted for the door.
“What’s happened?” Drogo’s father, Draco called out, following the younger man and his son from the costume shop. His keen dragon’s ears had caught the sound of his young master’s voice crying out a warning – and gunfire echoing behind the words. The look on Khan’s face did nothing to reassure him.
“I don’t know” Drogo huffed, running to try to tackle the young Master of the Temple before he did something they would all regret. “He was talking to Arthur…”
“My brother’s been attacked!” Khan called out behind him, fishing the keys to his jeep out of his pocket and flinging them at the men following him. “Take the jeep, I’m headed through the Between.” He waved his hand in front of him, calling up the fog which hid the entrance to the Great Empty – that space between worlds that the Fae used to travel from point to point. He hurled himself into the fog, not bothering to see if his companions would follow and disappeared into its murky depths.
Drogo jumped into the driver’s seat of the battered old jeep and revved the engine. “Come on Father!” he called out, pulling the car around and heading towards the fog. “We can use this motorized box to follow him.”
Draco clambered aboard just as his son hit the accelerator. “A mechanical device in the Great Empty?” he murmured, watching the fog close around them. “Never been done before. All mechanical devices die inside the Between.”
“It only has to live long enough for us to follow him to my master” Drogo replied grimly, flooring the gas pedal.
At the crime scene
Rowan felt as though she had stopped breathing, as though someone had punched her in the gut. All around her the wind was picking up, leaves flying around the crime scene techs like whips. The ambient temperature, which had been cool, was now turning almost frigid as shadows started to creep across the scene, at the mercy of the Fae Queen's anger. She could barely feel Seraphiel’s hands on her shoulders, shaking her as he talked in her ear. His words made no sense, just noise tumbling in her head like dice. “Someone has attacked Arthur” she whispered, letting her cellphone fall from her numb hand. “Someone has attacked my King.”
“Listen to me girl” Seraphiel growled, pulling her around so he could look into her eyes. “Get yourself together and come with me. I’ll take you to him.”
“He was at the home of Andrew Tomes” Chloe said urgently to one of the uniforms. “Find me an address, NOW!” She turned and shivered as a glint of fire appeared in Lucifer’s eyes.
“No one takes my family from me” Lucifer snarled. “No one.”
Seraphiel looked back at Lucifer, face expressionless but eyes as cold as ice. “We can’t wait for you and yours, brother. The girl can find her sibling – bring your companion when you are able.”
Rowan could feel the rage building around her, settling over her like a cloak. “My brother is in danger. I should never have allowed us to be separated."
The older Seraphim gripped her chin, forcing her to look up at him. "We are leaving - now. Get yourself together and follow me."
Rowan's eyes turned black for a moment, all the power of nature surging through her, then back to their normal hazel as she looked into her guardian's vividly cold blue eyes. "Yes, Móraí. I hear you."
"Close off your emotions and reach out with your senses - find your Firebird brother so that we can join him" the angel said quietly, hands moving to her hair.
Rowan blinked, then closed her eyes, letting herself be transported for a moment to where her brother's fire spirit was lighting up the sky. "I see him."
"Good" Seraphiel whispered. "Now - come. Let us be on our way."
Lucifer glared warningly at Dan, who was frantically trying to get Chloe's attention. "We'll be right behind you" the Devil hissed. "Don't start the war without me."
Seraphiel's smile was as cold as Lucifer's. "Wouldn't think of it, brother."
At the home of Andrew and Beatrice Tomes
Arthur rolled off the elderly woman he’s thrown to the ground with a groan. “Well, that was unexpected.” He glanced down to see the spreading circle of blood over his ribcage where a stray round had caught him as he dove for cover.
The woman, Beatrice Tomes, lay still, face down on her porch and whimpering in fear. “Are they gone?” she asked, crying. “Where is Andrew?”
“Right here” Zaphiel’s voice was dry with a touch of annoyance. He pushed the elderly man away with a grunt. “In better shape than I am.”
Arthur tried not to laugh at the angel’s put-upon tone. “Mrs. Tomes, would you and your husband please go inside and call 911. I have a feeling we’re going to need them.” He listened as the woman scurried back through her door, followed more sedately by her husband.
Zaphiel pulled himself up to the chair he had been occupying before the attack with a snarl. “There is a reason I prefer my battles in a courtroom and not in the field.” He gently fingered his shoulder where the bullet had penetrated and shattered bone. “Only good thing to say is at least it was not Empyrean steel.” He grimaced as he moved his damaged arm into a more comfortable position. “Though frankly, I’m not sure this isn’t any different. Despite what the archangels say, human form really has its disadvantages.”
“What’s Empyrean steel?” Arthur asked, wearily propping himself up on the porch railing. The blood from his wound had stopped its rapid flow as his own healing powers got ahead of the damage done to his body. But the blood loss was still a problem, making him more lethargic than he normally would be.
“The material our angelic blades are made from” Zaphiel replied absently, watching as his own shoulder started to heal. “Probably the only thing that could permanently damage or kill us.”
“Yeah – good thing those bullets weren’t made of THAT” Arthur replied with a laugh. “In my case however doesn’t matter if they are made of special metal or hand-poured musket pellets. They still hurt like hell.”
“You have no idea what Hell is like, young phoenix” Zaphiel chided mildly. “And you might remember, next time we are faced with an armed opponent, that while you are immortal you are not invulnerable. It’s still going to hurt if they hit you.”
“Now he tells me” Arthur murmured, sleepily.
“WAKE UP, BOY” Zaphiel’s voice echoed in his companion’s head painfully. “You’re going into shock. Stay awake until…”
An angry roaring, a guttural sound so loud it shook the very foundations of the house the two wounded beings were sitting in front of, swept through the quiet little gated community. A sudden fog bank rose up, cutting the dwelling off from prying eyes as Khan charged through, headed for the porch with his jeep (and his companions) racing to keep up with him.
“Bloody hell” Arthur whispered as his brother dropped to his knees in front of him. “Is there ANYONE in this neighborhood? First a drive thru shooting now you bellowing like a mad bull and still no one comes out to check what’s going on?”
“Screw that” Khan snarled, batting his brother’s hands away from his wounded ribs. “How bad is it?”
Arthur shrugged, a weary smile on his face. “Not that bad. Could be worse. Think it cracked a rib going in. And this could be so much worse – it could be my father I have to explain this to and not you. He gets testy when I do something he thinks is stupid – like get myself hurt.”
“Get us BOTH hurt” Zaphiel complained. “And he has every reason to. That was incredibly stupid on both our parts. Should have been prepared for something like this. Seraphiel will NEVER let me live this down.”
“What else was I supposed to do – let them kill those old folks?” Arthur leaned his head back against the railing for a moment, trying not to wince as his brother’s hands tended to his wound. “Not too much, little brother. We’re in the human world – they don’t understand instantaneous healing.”
“Who’s the medic here – me or you?” Khan growled, gently pealing his brother’s shirt back from the wound. He examined the area critically, noticing it was no longer bleeding as profusely as it had before. “Through and through?” he asked.
“Yeah – probably lodged in the siding behind me.”
Drogo and Draco skidded to a halt, holding a knapsack which Drogo threw to Khan. “Sire – what is your command?”
“You two – perimeter sweeps. See if anything else is likely to jump out at us. And check on the old ones who are in the house. They’ve been entirely too quiet.” The two dragons bowed and shot off in different directions, Draco into the house and Drogo around the outside corner.
“I suspect they’ve snuck out” Zaphiel replied, dryly. “You did say to your sister that you thought they were holding something back.”
“Oh crap!” Arthur moaned. “Sissy! She’s going to have my head for getting into a firefight without her.”
The roaring sound of a powerful motorcycle streamed from the fogbank as Seraphiel and Rowan came to a sudden halt in front of the home. Rowan slid off and ran for her brother’s side, her guardian heading towards his own sibling. “Arthur!” she kneeling beside him and taking his hand. “What happened?”
“We got shot – damned if I know why” Arthur grumbled, intertwining his and his sister’s fingers. “But I’m betting Mr. and Mrs. Tomes could tell us.”
“We need to get him home” Khan said quietly, fishing out bandages and healing salves from the knapsack. He quickly bound his brother’s wound, cleaning off the excess blood as he did so. “He’s going to need to rest to replenish the blood he’s lost.” Khan looked up at Zaphiel in time to see Seraphiel yank his brother’s shirt off his shoulder to examine the angel’s wound. “Dude, we so have to work on your bedside manner.”
“Says the dragon who announced his coming with a battle cry they probably heard all the way down to the harbor” Zaphiel replied testily. He batted at his brother’s hands, trying to keep him from poking at the wound. “Will you PLEASE leave it alone? I know I’m shot – I’ll be better soon enough if you’ll just stop POKING at it!”
Seraphiel grinned. “Ah, now that’s what I wanted to hear. If he’s able to be testy with me then he can’t be all that badly hurt.”
Zaphiel sighed. “I knew I should have just cold-cocked you with that shield when I had the chance. Might have taught you a little respect.”
“Doubt it” his brother angel replied, gently pulling the injured Throne’s collar back up to cover his wound. “So, what happened here young phoenix?”
“Blind-sided” Arthur began, patting his sister on the hand. “The Tomes were serving us tea when a white, older model panel van came roaring around the corner. Two people, one driver, one shooter. Both, from what I could tell, wearing ski mask. They opened fire as soon as they got within range of the porch. I just had time to get the two old folks on the ground before those sods opened up on us.”
“No license plate?” Rowan asked quietly.
“No identifying marks at all” Arthur whispered, leaning his head on his sister’s shoulder. “So that’s a bust. Damn it! I should have known something was wrong. Saw that same van going down the street when we first pulled in. Didn’t make a connection until now. Bloody animals are in the wind now – we’ll never be able to identify them.”
“Maybe we will” Rowan mused, smoothing her brother’s hair out of his eyes. “We’ll talk about it after you’ve had time to rest.” She glanced across at the sea of dark grey fog covering the neighborhood with a frown. Around them, the fog has begun to creep up to the porch, wisps moving languidly towards the inside of the house. The sun was no longer visible, cut off by dark clouds that had followed Drogo was barely visible as he rounded the other corner, shaking his head to indicate a negative search. Behind her, Draco had exited the house, staring down at the creeping fog with concern. “Maybe one of us should turn that off.”
Khan glanced up and grimace. “Yeah – that’s probably me. Sorry – looks like I left the door to the Great Empty open when I came through. No worries.”
“Big worry” Rowan corrected. “Lucifer, Chloe and the police are probably trying to figure out how an entire neighborhood disappeared. So we need to act fast. Luci is a smooth talker but even he’s going to run out of “truthful” ways to explain this.”
Khan shrugged, unconcerned. “Okay – we pile Arthur and Zaphiel in the back of my jeep and Drogo and Draco take them both back to the house. You and I take Arthur’s car and Seraphiel follows on his hog. We go through the door, the fog lifts and the cops find their way here.”
“I thought you couldn’t drive a car through the Between” Arthur said, yawning as exhaustion started to overcome him.
“You can if you floor the accelerator and don’t have far to go” Drogo replied, looking back at the jeep. “But we need to go now before this gets any deeper.”
“I know I’m going to regret this” Rowan sighed, running fingers through Arthur’s hair. “But what the hell – let’s get everyone moving.”
Chapter 13: Lucifer and Chloe on their way
In Lucifer’s car
“The address should be right here” Chloe said, waving at the suddenly fog-bound streets. “How does an entire neighborhood disappear?”
“It doesn’t” Lucifer replied grimly. “The place is here – we just can’t access it as long as the door is open.”
“Door?” Chloe hazarded a quick peek at her partner, taking note of the grim set to his handsome features. His eyes had gone back to their normal dark color but she had a feeling that wouldn’t last long. He hadn’t said more than two words to her while waiting for an address for the Tomes residence, and Dan’s insistence on knowing what was going on had not helped.
Back at the crime scene
“Where are they going?” Dan asked in exasperation. “That was gunfire coming from her phone, wasn’t it? What’s going on, Chloe?”
“Daniel, you best return with Ms. Lopez to the precinct.” Lucifer had replied coldly. “You’re attitude is not wanted or needed here.”
“Now LOOK…” Dan had begun, moving to insert himself into Lucifer’s personal space. That had proved to be a very bad idea as the Prince of Hell had picked him up with one hand and launched him nearly four feet away.
“I Said – go back to the precinct, Daniel” Lucifer’s voice had ceased to be anything but icy cold. “For all our sakes – don’t try my patience anymore.”
“Dan – go with Ella” Chloe said forcefully. “If there was a problem at the Tome’s house the last thing I need is you making it worse.”
“You’re siding with HIM?” Dan exclaimed, stunned. “He just assaulted a police officer!”
“No – he just refused to put up with your attitude” Chloe replied in exasperation. “I don’t have time to placate your hurt feelings. Somewhere out there my friend’s brother maybe injured, maybe even dying, because he graciously offered to help me with a nightmare case. All you’ve done from the start is whine about their cooperation – well no more. You go back and tell the lieutenant that Lucifer and I are running down a possible lead and we’ll brief him when we get back.” She turned to Ella with a sigh. "Make sure he goes back to the precinct. And when you get there - let the lieutenant know we need a background check on Mr. and Mrs. Tomes. I'm not sure what happened at their house but I have a feeling it's connected to this case and the other one."
Back in Lucifer’s car
“I wonder what the lieutenant will say when Dan tries to explain what’s going on” Chloe mused, trying to take her mind of the growing darkness.
“I doubt he’ll even listen” Lucifer replied coldly. “This Lt. Sanchez seems an intelligent sort. I’m sure he’ll…” His voice died away as the fog started to retreat, burning off to show them the street signs at the entrance to the retirement community. “Well – that’s helpful.”
“What just happened?” Chloe asked.
“Someone finally shut the door. Now we can find that address you were given.”
Chloe thought for a moment, then settled back in her seat while making a note to herself to call Eve Baird in the library and ask for a few clarifications. She suspected the tall blond would be more forthcoming with information than her partner. “There” she said, pointing towards a neat little cottage at the end of the cull-de-sac. “That’s the place.”
“Looks like we just missed the party” Lucifer replied somberly, motioning to tire tracks on the pristine lawn.
Chloe eyed them cautiously. “One set of motorcycle tracks and two cars. Looks like they peeled out of here in a hurry.”
“And that’s why” Lucifer said grimly, pointing to the blood on the porch. “Someone was hurt here.”
Chloe unclipped her gun and carefully made her way to the front door. “LAPD!” she called out. “Anyone here?”
“I doubt it” Lucifer replied, looking in over her shoulder. “Maybe my brothers have already dealt with the miscreants.”
“I doubt Rowan would have allowed that.”
“My dear detective, did you not see the hellcat’s eyes when she realized her brother was in trouble? Not only would she have allowed violence she probably reveled in it herself.” Lucifer idly glanced over the few personal items the former occupants of the house had left behind, making a face at the old-fashioned crochet doilies and assorted framed religious phrases on the walls. “What lovely, boring people they must have been.”
Chloe looked out the door as Ella’s van pulled into view. “I thought I sent her back to the precinct." She glanced over at the porch then shrugged. "As long as she's here...Ella! Looks like we have a crime scene – but no victims. I need you to do a full workup, blood stains, fingerprints, check to see if any traffic cams might have caught anything happening when we first heard the shots. And where did you leave Dan? I thought he was going to follow you to the precinct."
"He was" Ella admitted. "But then we got the call about shots fired at this address so I thought you might need my help."
"And Daniel?" Lucifer asked, coldly.
"He said he was headed back to talk to the lieutenant. I told him you needed that background check on the couple Mr. Dragón had come to talk to and he said he'd do that himself."
"He'd best be working on that, Detective" The Prince of Hell said with a decidedly angry tone to his voice. "I would really like to know about the people responsible for allowing my nephew to be shot at." Lucifer’s phone began to vibrated, drawing his attention away from a set of dust catching figurines on the mantelpiece. “Hello?”
“Uncle” Khan’s voice sounded from the phone. “Are you at the Tomes residence?”
Yes – where are you? And more importantly where is your brother?”
Khan’s sigh sounded equal parts tired and amused. “He’s fine – sleeping like a log by the time we got him home. Ro’s got him tucked into his bed right now. Zaphiel healed quicker so he’s up and snipping at Seraphiel. Those two are the quintessential old married couple. I swear they enjoy picking at each other for no other reason than they can. And Uncle Vlad is NOT helping matters. Anyway, Rowan says bring Chloe back to the house. She’ll need to hear what Zaphiel has to say about what just happened.”
“On our way.” Lucifer looked around the drab little house with a frown. “By the way – what happened to the people your brother was going to question?”
“That’s part of what you and Chloe need to hear” Khan replied mysteriously, hanging up without another word.
Lucifer stared down at his phone for a moment then up at his partner, who was still talking to Ella. “Detective, we need to return to my family’s house. My brother has something he wishes you to know.”
"Back to their house?" Chloe asked, confused. "Someone was hurt here - I just assumed..."
"My family has an aversion to hospitals" Lucifer replied grimly. "Besides - I suspect they have more than enough medical assistance than they need, especially if my brother Rafael is there."
Chloe remembered the burly, dark-haired angel from the morning this had all started. "He's a doctor?"
"His specialty is healing" Lucifer replied, dismissively. "We can talk about this on the way to the house."
Ella looked between Chloe and Lucifer with interest. "I'll process the scene here but what do you want me to tell the lieutenant when he asks where you two went?"
"Tell him" Chloe said quietly, "that we are following another lead. And tell Dan I need that background check quickly. Whatever happened here, the shooters are still at large, the couple they MAY have been shooting have disappeared, and we don't have a clue in hell why any of this is happening now. Knowing more about the Tomes maybe our key to figuring out what's going on."
Ella nodded. "I'm on it." She returned to the porch, taking samples of the blood spattered near the door.
Chloe watched her in concern. "Lucifer" she asked cautiously. "Is there anything "special" about your nephew's blood I should be worried will come out when Ella runs tests?"
"Probably not" Lucifer said with a shrug. "But we can ask them when we get to the house." He ushered her quickly back to his car and with a roar was off again.
Back at the precinct
Dan grumbled under his breath at being relegated to doing background checks. "I should be out there with Chloe, not stuck in here behind a computer screen" he mumbled, "Nothing on these old couple so far warrants anyone shooting at them, so it must be someone after the rich guy or his lawyer." He flipped through another set of files, making notes about the Tomes previous residence in San Francisco.
"Espinoza, what the bloody hell happened out there?" Lt. Sanchez growled in his ear, having silently walked up on him. "I'm getting reports of a drive-by at the home of a couple Mr. Dragón was interviewing about the Angel Killer case."
Dan frowned. "That would be the "lead" they were chasing that was supposed to help us close our current case, right? I'm still not sure how some old case from years ago..."
"And that, Espinoza, is why you will never get as far in Homicide as your ex-wife. What are you looking for?"
Dan shifted angrily in his seat. "Background check on the couple Dragón was interviewing. Seems they were neighbors of the man identified as the killer in that old case. Still not sure how he rates all this cooperation, especially for a case no one knew anything about."
"He, and more specifically, the woman who handed him the information on that afore mentioned case, rate our cooperation because their information has allowed us to make sense of a senseless set of killings. And because their reputations - Dragón's as a go-to person for problems even federal investigators have a problem with and Dr. Morgan's reputation for helping jurisdictions around the country close-out cold cases and bring justice to families makes them worth the work."
Dan shrugged and started to close a file when Sanchez grabbed the mouse and highlighted a part of the report. "Lieutenant?'
"I'll be damned. Dragón said the SFPD never figured out how the killer chose his victims. The answer was right there, in front of their noses, all along." He stared down at Dan with a frown. "Where is Decker?"
"Went with Lucifer to the Tomes house" Dan explained, perplexed. "Ella was going to join her to process the scene."
Sanchez fished his cell out of his pocket and made a quick call. "Decker? Where are you? the Dragón house - why? Never mind - listen carefully. Tell Arthur Dragón that the couple he was meeting with were more than just possible leads to the Angel Killer case. They were both employed by Child Protective Services during the time the kidnappings took place. They had access to investigator reports which could have been used to pinpoint children fitting the unsub's specific preferences. They may have been the missing part of the puzzle for how the Angel Killer decided who he was going to snatch. And if that is how he did it then - chances are we're going to find the same type of link to our current killer."
Chapter 14: Trying to make sense of the insane
In front of Dragón family compound
Chloe stared at her phone for a moment, speculating on what her lieutenant had just told her. “Interesting.”
“Yes, I know I’m quite fascinating detective but shouldn’t we be concerned with the case?” Lucifer’s voice had taken on that teasing tone she had grown accustom to from the first moment they had started working together. Knowing she knew what (or who) he really was had driven that lightness out of his voice when they were alone. Now, it seemed, he was trying to reach for that comforting feeling of friendship again.
“Actually” she said, rolling her eyes “I was talking about what Sanchez just told me. Seems the couple your nephew was interviewing might have been more involved in the Angel Killer case than anyone knew.”
“Pity the Firebird didn’t torch them when he had the chance” Lucifer replied.
“I seriously doubt he would have just murdered someone on suspicion” Chloe protested.
“Phoenix’s are notoriously prickly” Lucifer lectured, putting the car in park. “All the old folks had to do was annoy him and…”
“Are we still talking about your nephew?” Chloe asked, with a frown. “The same man I met at the precinct who chose to step away from Dan’s attitude rather than confront it? Because I'm not seeing that in him.”
“Zaphiel was with him” Lucifer said dismissively. “That legalistic vulture was probably holding something over his head to keep him in line.”
Chloe sighed and walked back up to the front door. “We’ll have to agree to disagree. Let’s see what Arthur and his lawyer can tell us about what happened at the house – and where the Tomes disappeared to.”
Inside the compound.
Rowan watched her brother sleep with a smile, gently brushing his dark blond hair back from his forehead. She constantly teased him about being so "pretty" but in her heart she had to admit - he really was a looker. Blond hair, blue eyes and a well muscled body that had set many a woman's heart fluttering. At the moment, though, he reminded her of a little boy taking a well-deserved nap. Arthur had literally been snoring by the time they had returned to the house, so sleepy he had not protested when Seraphiel and Khan had manhandled him into his bedroom and out of his clothes. Khan had given him a drink of water (with something “extra” in it) and taken one more quick pass at cleaning out the now almost completely healed bullet wound before Rowan tucked her elder brother into his bed and dimmed the lights. “Now” she thought wearily. “If I can only keep Father from going off the deep end until we get this case solved.” Her conversation with their father (via the flames in her brother's bedroom) had been brief - just long enough to reassure him that his only son was fine (and snoring) and that they would tell him all about it later. He hadn't sounded terribly convinced but had conceded that someone needed to remain in the realm to keep their court from trying join them as a defense against the mortal world.
Rowan had sighed as her father had given her yet another instruction on how to deal with her brother's injuries. “Arthur’s asleep. He’ll stay asleep until whatever the heck was in that glass of water Khan gave him wears off. And until them I’ll ask that you keep an eye on our people to make sure no one gets any funny ideas about showing up here to “protect the crown”. Arthur would not be happy with that and I will most decidedly be NOT AMUSED.”
Vlad threw his hands in the air in defeat. “Fine – I’ll stay home. But when this is done your brother and I will have to have a little discussion…”
“About what, father?” Rowan replied quietly. “We are the soldiers you taught us to be. It is not in our natures to hide when darkness presents itself. This case is about children, little girls, tortured and murdered for some faux religious reasons that no sane person can explain. We have to help stop this and if we get hurt then so be it. At least we can recover. Lucifer’s friend is mortal and therefore more fragile. She might not survive what we can. Let us be her shield, at least this one time.”
Vlad sighed. “You both forget – you are soldiers to all but to me you are my children and I will always worry.” The flames died and the image of their father, seated in his favorite chair before the fireplace, faded with them.
Drogo’s light tapping on the bedroom door interrupted her reminiscences. “Det. Decker and Lucifer are here.”
Rowan looked back with a weary smile. "Show them into the Great Room. And if the archangels decided to make an appearance - send them down to the garden. The last thing I need is for Lucifer and his brothers to start sniping at each other and wake Arthur."
Drogo nodded. "As you command, my queen."
Chloe shivered as she followed Lucifer back to the Great Room. “A/C unit seems to be up on high today” she commented.
Lucifer frowned. “No – I'd say they are trying to compensate for too much heat elsewhere.” He calmly strolled into room, giving everyone a piercing stare. “So… where is Arthur?”
“My brother he’s asleep and healing. Zaphiel will tell you what happened.” Rowan strode into the room with a somber expression and seated herself primly on the least comfortable chair in the room. She stared around her with the gravitas of a Queen about to pass down some very unwelcome rulings. “If you will begin, eldest Throne…”
Zaphiel made quick work of retelling the tale. “No license, no marking on the van and neither Arthur nor I could see the faces of the people in the vehicle. The Tomes were instructed, by the Phoenix, to go into their house and call emergency services and then wait until police had arrived before they came back out. I suspect they did neither.”
Chloe shrugged. “Someone called in shots fired but your right about the Tomes not staying in their house. No one was there when Lucifer and I arrived.”
“Curious” Zaphiel replied, tapping one long finger on his folded arms. “Both Arthur and I suspected they were hiding something. I wonder what it was they didn't want us to ask about.”
“I can answer that” Chloe said, holding up her phone. “My lieutenant just called with the preliminary results of the background check on the couple. Seems both worked for Child Protective Services in the San Francisco area during the time of the Angel Killer case. Mrs. Tomes was a department secretary and Mr. Tomes was a CPS investigator. Which put them in the perfect position to be able to pinpoint at-risk children for our killer.”
“A good theory – but one we can’t prove unless we find the Tomes.” Khan shifted from his position on the sofa, stretching his long legs in front of him. “I'm surprised the original investigator's didn't catch that little detail - or perhaps they did but couldn't prove that their professions had anything to do with the case. And how does that help with the current case?”
“I suspect” Chloe began “and so does the lieutenant that the same situation is happening now as did then. Someone in CPS or with access to CPS’s records is winnowing down the names of at-risk children coming into the system and making a selection based on their criteria.”
“Which would be what exactly?” Lucifer asked, dropping onto the sofa beside Khan. “Other than age I’m not quite sure what any of those girls had in common.”
Chloe looked over at the group for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “It’s not a particular look – other than the child victims have all been small.”
“Probably more to make it easier to take them off the streets without much effort” Zaphiel replied somberly.
“And I suspect if we could find anyone willing to talk to us – the best description they would give of the girls is quiet, meek, almost timid” Rowan mused, looking at the human detective speculatively. “Which meant they were easy to control.”
“Not a particular look?” Lucifer asked, intrigued.
“No” Chloe replied. “The victims hair is shaved off and they are re-dressed in some sort of sack at first and then in an unflattering school uniform. How the child looks when she’s grabbed doesn’t seem to be as important as what she looks like after she’s dead. Why that would be important is something we still don't know.”
"Where exactly were your victims snatched from?" Khan asked with a frown. "Should have asked that before but I got so caught up in the old case..."
"Understandable" Chloe replied. "They seemed to come from all over the city. Even a few from the suburbs."
"Which is strange" Rowan mused. "Because serial killers are very territorial. They hunt in specific areas where they are comfortable and rarely stray. Or at least, that is my understanding."
"I wondered about that too" Chloe admitted. "If they are using a list of at-risk kids taken from CPS's files - why such a wide spread? And how are they finding these dump sites for the bodies? Are they connected to the children or to the killers in some personal way?"
"Probably not" Rowan said, staring up at the ceiling. "Finding old graveyards, church burial sites or old family plots isn't as hard as you might think. Genealogists often put together lists of such sites for use in tracing family ancestor. Spend some time in the Genealogy section of the Los Angeles Public Library and you can pretty much find mention of something that will pass for a graveyard - then just go to the city planning and see if it still exists."
"So we're looking for a fanatical believer in the book of Revelations who also does family history. Smashing - should have this case solved by the morning." Lucifer's acid tone was not helping, as made obvious by the glares he received when he spoke. "What? You know I'm right. We have literally nothing but possibilities and nothing concrete. Where would you suggest we take this in order to find our killer or killers?"
Rowan's phone buzzing saved her from making a caustic remark she was sure she'd have regretted later. "Yes? Eve! I was wondering if you and your Librarian had found anything in San Francisco. Let me put you on speaker so the group can hear you." She tossed her phone to Khan who shook his head in amusement and activated the speaker.
"Okay" Eve Baird's voice rang out true, the silence of the Great Library amplifying her words. "Our resident hacker and master thief has found out the box containing the biological samples taken during the Angel Killer case. You were right - one of the lead detectives had it filed under his son's name in place of case name. Problem is - it wasn't stored properly. Your chances of getting anything viable, like DNA, from what we found in box is slim to none. And I don't think SFPD is going to be willing to spend money on a case they are pretty sure was closed thirty years ago."
"Bloody hell" Rowan muttered. "Another dead end."
"Maybe not" Baird replied. "Jones said that it looked like someone else was looking through the computer system for that box of evidence. He was able to trace the i.p. address back to L.A. - to of all places the Legal Aid office. Guy's name is Marcus Tomes. From what Jones was able to find out he works with parents whose kids have been removed by CPS."
"Tomes?" Chloe repeated quietly. "I don't believe in coincidences." She pulled out her own phone and called the precinct, asking for a background check on the name given.
"I'm betting this comes back to the people you talked to today" Khan growled. "So this time - their inside man is Legal Aid."
"Who specializes in working on cases with at risk kids" Rowan said quietly.
As Chloe talked to Dan about initiating a background check on Marcus Tomes the rest of the group discussed other suspects.
“So we have Parrish’s father and brother Matthias and Jonah” Rowan began.
“Matthias died shortly after the case was closed and Jonah in the wind” Khan replied, pulling is tablet close to flip through files.
“Reverend Titus James and his son Jonas” Zaphiel continued, his eyes fixed on Lucifer.
“Reverend James died a few years ago and his son got stuck trying to keep their little apocalyptic cult going with out much success.” Khan flicked at an app on his screen and sent the file he’d been reading to the large TV screen over the fireplace. “Bank took the church and Mr. James was out on his ass. He is also now in the wind.”
“And the two spawn of that Angel Killer creature - Abraham and Moses Parrish” Lucifer said thoughtfully. “I do wonder where they ended up.”
“Totally disappeared off the face of the planet’ Khan replied, calling up the original investigator’s notes. “Even the detectives on the case thirty years ago had no idea where they went.”
“So we have four possible suspects for the current case and at least three of them were witnesses to the original murders. Four, if you count the preacher’s son.” Zaphiel mused.
“We actually have NO concrete evidence that any of them are related to the current case” Rowan pointed out. “This is all circumstantial at best.”
“Maybe” Chloe replied, tucking her phone back in her pocket. “And maybe not. I’m having Dan go back and do a search to see if any of my victims families had help from that particular Legal Aid office in their dealings with CPS. And having a background check run on Marcus Tomes. We’ve also got a BOLO out on Mr. and Mrs. Tomes.”
“BOLO?” Seraphiel asked, with a frown.
“Be On the Look Out” his angelic brother replied. “A message sent out to law enforcement when someone or something needs to be found.”
Seraphiel shrugged. “Whatever you say, brother. Personally, I’d just go run the bastards down and drag them back myself but …”
“But we’re going to let the mortal world authorities take care of this” Rowan said with a smile. “It’s their responsibility. We’re just kibitzing.”
“I find it strange that the Tomes just up and ran away after you the Firebird sent them into the relative safety of their home” Lucifer commented, tapping a finger on the arm of the chair he had appropriated.
“Strange indeed, brother” Zaphiel said. “If they were innocent victims then why run? Why not wait until the police they were supposed to have summoned arrived?”
“On the other hand” Khan said, stretching his long legs out on the coffee table in front of him. “Why talk to you at all if they were guilty of something? Why not just slam the door in your faces and refuse to drag out old memories?”
“Indeed – they did seem quite determined that we should hear what a perfect suspect John Parrish turned out to be. As though…”
“As though they didn’t want you to look beyond what was already known” Chloe said, coming back into the group. “I need to get back to the precinct. Dan says uniforms have found Mr. and Mrs. Tomes and are bringing them in for questioning. I need Lucifer to do his “thing” and get them to give up whatever it is they are hiding.”
Rowan rose gracefully from her seat. “With your permission, Chloe, I’d like for Khan to accompany you as well. While I’m a reasonably good interrogator, he’s much better at telling when people are lying or just stretching the truth. And he's truly amazing at getting people to give up their deepest, darkest secrets."
"In that respect, young dragon" Zaphiel said with a smile, "you remind me of Gabriel. He too has the "gift" of being able to talk to anyone about anything."
"Anyone except his twin" Seraphiel muttered, ignoring the sour look from his brother.
Rowan continued, ignoring both angels. "And with Arthur down…”
“In other words” Khan said with a grin. “She doesn’t want to leave him alone. Dude’s so asleep the earth could open up and swallow him and he’d never wake up but…”
Rowan swatted him playfully. “I’m not THAT protective of him.”
Khan laughed. “Hell you aren't! Of Him and Irish both. Remember when we dragged Seraphiel's ass back from Vega? I had splints on top of splints trying to keep his wings together while they healed and so many bandages around him the dude looked like a mummy. My potions put him out like a light so he was definitely not feeling any pain and yet we still couldn’t budge you from his bedside until he woke up.”
“Don't tease your sister, little dragon” Seraphiel admitted with a shrug. “She'd be the same way for you if needs be.”
Rowan blushed furiously. "I am NOT over protective. You lot are family and family sticks together – no matter what Luci says.” She shoved her taller brother towards Chloe hurriedly. “Now go, see what these people have to say for themselves. And see if it’s worth my while to make them pay for what they did to our uncle and brother.”
Khan smiled. "Let's hope it's not."
Back at the precinct
Dan watched as the Tomes sat in interrogation, waiting on Chloe to come from wherever she and Lucifer had disappeared to. Uniforms had found the elderly couple almost an hour ago and brought them to the precinct after the BOLO had been released. It had been an easy find - their car had developed a flat tire and the Tomes had just pulled over to change it when a black and white patrol car had spotted them. Neither had protested being brought in - but neither had they spoken about what had occurred at their home. The lieutenant had forbidden him from talking to the elderly couple. "Not a word, Espinoza. Not a sound, not a syllable. Not till Decker and her consultant return."
"Sir, it's not like we're going to accuse them of anything. We just need to know if they saw anything when rich boy and his lawyer got hurt."
Lt. Sanchez turned, gritting his teeth. "The man's name is Dragón. You will kindly refer to him by that name when you speak of him to anyone - especially me. And from what Ms. Lopez has told me, the amount of blood on that porch means they were more than just HURT. Someone wanted the people in that house dead and I want to know why. So you will stay out of the way until Decker returns - do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir" Dan muttered. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Chloe and Lucifer exiting the elevator, followed by a tall, dark-haired stranger. The figure was taller even than Lucifer and well muscled. He was casually dressed, wearing a dark red cotton shirt under a suede coat and dark-washed jeans. His long hair was pulled back in a ponytail, his mustache and beard neatly trimmed. The scar over his eyebrow did nothing to distract from his attractiveness, a fact that was made obvious by the amounts of stares (mostly lustful) being directed his way. "Great - now who is this?"
"Don't know" Ella's voice cooed from behind him. "But I'd like to find out. That's one FINE looking man."
Lt. Sanchez scowled as he turned to his returning detective. "Decker! Over here." He nodded a greeting at Lucifer and gestured to the man with them. "Who do we have here?"
"This is Khan Dragón - Arthur's brother" Lucifer replied with a smile.
Sanchez held out a hand, receiving a firm handshake in return. "Good to meet you. I hear your brother and his lawyer were injured today? Anything you want to tell me about that. I know they weren't taken to a hospital so I'm assuming they weren't badly hurt."
Khan shrugged. "Arthur took one to the ribs - it was a through and through so no major damage. He's resting at home with our sister watching over him. Zaphiel took a glancing blow to the shoulder. He's more annoyed than injured."
"Sounds like your brother got the worst of it" Ella said quietly.
Khan smiled. "Not his first rodeo. Dudes been shot, stabbed, beat on and poisoned so many times I don't think he even notices it anymore. Happens when you hire yourself out as "security". He was more worried about his sister being annoyed with him than the injury. Can't say I blame him - Sissy even scares me sometimes. And I love her to pieces." He looked down at the petite woman in the lab coat with interest. "Sorry - didn't catch your name?
"Ella - Ella Lopez. CSI. " Elle responded in a rush.
Chloe bit back a smile. "Khan is here to help while Arthur and Rowan are otherwise occupied."
"My younger nephew's talents are ... well quite extraordinary." Lucifer responded enthusiastically.
Khan rolled his eyes. "My uncle likes to make everything sound like something it's not. I'm the family tech guru. Figured I'd come in with Chloe and see about organizing the Angel Killer files and what she's got on this new case and see if we can make some connections." He glanced over at the elderly couple barely visible from where they were standing. "And, according to my sister, I'm a damned good interrogator."
"Takes after me" Lucifer purred.
Khan laughed. "Nope - not this time uncle. This time - I take after Gabe."
"Gabe?" Sanchez asked.
"Luci's brother - my "dad". It's a long story. Let's just say I have a way with people and it can be quite useful, especially at times like these."
Sanchez shrugged. "I'll take your word for it. Decker, how do you want to proceed?"
"Split the couple up first" Chloe said urgently. "Question them one at a time. Lucifer and I will start with Mr. Tomes and Dan can talk to Mrs. Tomes."
Sanchez shook his head. "That won't work for me. I'll take Mrs. Tomes. Espinoza can watch from behind the glass." He glanced up at the young man behind Lucifer, noticing his hands moving in his pocked. "Got a mouse in there?" he asked, pointing.
Khan laughed and pulled out a string of ebony worry beads. "Sorry - old habit. I was raised in a monastery so whenever I start to get fidgety I start playing with these. My masters figured replacing the beads was less trouble the repairing whatever I broke when I got too wound up." He glanced over at the elderly woman speculatively. "Tell you what, sir, can I join you in your interrogation room? I have a couple of questions I'd like to float by her if your amenable."
Sanchez shrugged. "Why not?"
Slow going but hopefully laying groundwork for what is to come.
Chapter 16: Interviews
Interview Room 1
Chloe stopped her partner at the door, looking back at her lieutenant as he and Khan entered the other interrogation room. “I think we need to be a little more cautious with this interview.”
“Cautious?” Lucifer asked, surprised. “In what respect?”
“For one thing – I can’t introduce you as Lucifer Morningstar. If this man really is part of an apocalyptic cult he’ll freak out at the name – much less when you do your mojo thing on him. I’d like to keep things as calm as possible.”
“Detective, I don’t lie so telling this person my name is something other than Lucifer will be near to impossible.”
“For you – not for me. Just roll with this, okay?” Chloe took a deep breath and prepared to enter the room.
Lucifer touched her arm, turning her back towards him. “If you MUST introduce me with another name – call me Sam. It’s diminutive of Samael, which was one of my original names.
“Your original names?”
Lucifer shrugged his shoulders. “I chose the name Lucifer from among all the other names available to me rather than keep the name my Father had labeled me with – Samael, the “poison of God”. Loving sod, wasn’t he? To name his most beautiful child as a venom or poison. And you wonder why I have Daddy issues.”
Chloe shook her head in disbelief. “When this sis over you and I are going to have a very long talk about your family.” She turned and entered the interview room with her partner at her back.
Interview Room 2
Lt. Sanchez prepared to enter the room, holding a folder containing photos related to both the serial killer's victims and the attack at the retirement community. He looked up at the young man at his side with a frown. “You ready for this?”
Khan nodded. “Yeah – let’s do this.”
Dan stood, arms crossed as he prepared to watch the interrogation. “Still think I should be the one…”
“Well I don’t” snapped Sanchez. He jerked his head towards the door. “Let’s start this up.”
Inside Mrs. Tomes was sitting stiffly in her chair, her grey hair coming loose from its prim bun. To Khan she bore an unfortunate resemblance to Atropos, the oldest and the most cold blooded of the Fates – supernatural representations of the stages of life who just happened to reside just down the road from his Temple. She was the most conniving of the three – and the one he was most wary around. Mrs. Tomes, while having none of Atropos supernatural abilities, did share her calculating aura. Khan had a nasty feeling this was not going to be a profitable interview.
Lt. Sanchez strode in, pulling back a chair across from the elderly woman. “Mrs. Tomes? I’m Lt. Henry Sanchez. My apologies if our uniformed officers were a bit heavy handed with you and your husband but under the circumstances…”
“What circumstances?” she asked briskly , staring over Sanchez shoulder at Khan.
The lieutenant smiled thinly. “You are aware there was a drive-by shooting at your home today and that two people were injured. You were, I believe, present when this occurred. According to the two victims, you were instructed to go back into your home and call 911. I'm curious, Madame, why you did not. And why, knowing there were two men bleeding on your porch, you and your spouse chose to sneak out and leave them to possibly bleed out." He glanced back at the imposing figure standing in the corner of the room with a frown. "My apologies – may a present Mr. Khan Dragón. He is the brother to the man who was shot at your house.” Lt. Sanchez watched closely as the woman’s eyes twitched at any mention of the shooting, wondering at her lack of questions about the fates of the men who had saved their lives meant she already knew there fates - or simply didn't care.
“Khan Dragón? Silly sort of name. Sounds like a character out to that horrible series my neighbor Jane is always going on about. Something called Game of … something.”
“Game of Thrones” Khan rumbled. “And the character name you’re thinking of is Khal Drogo. Close but no cigar.” He smiled, showing sharp white teeth in a tanned face, with no emotion other than amusement visible. "I'm not the barbarian type."
Mrs. Tomes sniffed, unimpressed. “A pagan character – not worth spending the time learning about.”
Khan shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. Never seen it. My big brother says I resemble the actor playing him but my sister says not. You remember my brother – right? The guy that took a slug in the gut pushing you out of the way of someone doing a spray and pray.”
Her eyes hardened as she looked at the young man. "Yes, I remember him and his attorney coming to my door. Said someone was trying to get the old murder case re-opened so that they could write a book about it. They were asking all manner of useless questions about an event that occurred thirty years ago. An event, which if memory serves me, was already been solved and buried long ago."
"Not according to the original investigators" Lt. Sanchez replied, laying the folder he had been carrying on the table. "They seemed to think there were some questions that were never answered to anyone's satisfaction. And as that case is now being mirrored by a case in our own town..."
"You can NOT be inferring that the unfortunate business of my former neighbor's decent into madness has any bearing on anything going on now" she huffed.
Sanchez opened the folder and laid two crime scene photos side by side. He pointed to the first "This one was taken thirty years ago - during the Angel Killer case." He gestured towards the second "And this one was taken today. All the details are the same - so you tell me, Mrs. Tomes. I think the conclusion is obvious - the same person or persons was involved in both."
Khan quietly slid into the seat beside Sanchez and fixed his dark brown eyes on the woman in front of him. "You told my brother quite a bit about what happened back in the day - but I think you still have more to tell. But you're reluctant and I'm wondering why. What is it you fear?" His voice reverberated in the room, blanketing the woman in front of him in its power. Khan stared, unblinking at her, in the same way his golden eagles would stare at their prey before they pounced. "What do you fear?"
Beatrice Tomes looked up for a moment, caught in the web of the power of that voice...
Interview Room 1
Chloe laid a stack of photos on the table between herself and Mr. Tomes as she prepared to begin her questions. Lucifer hovered in the background, carefully watching the old man for any signs of something off in his mannerism.
From where Lucifer was standing, this creature seemed the least likely being he had ever seen to be related to a serial killer. Watery brown eyes, balding head and stooped back all went to prove that the years since he and his wife had lived in the Bay Area had not been good to Tomes. His gnarled hands were clasped in front of him, trembling as he peered first at Chloe and then at Lucifer, flinching from the latter's angry stare.
"Mr. Tomes" Chloe began, laying out the photos Ella had taken of his house after the drive by. "I'm Det. Decker and this is my partner, Sam. We need to ask you about the incident which occurred at your house today."
"The "incident" Lucifer snarled, "where my brother and nephew were gunned down on your front porch by someone obviously aiming at you. The "incident" where you conveniently forgot to call the police to get help for them and, in fact, left them to bleed out on your front steps. I'm sure you have a reasonable explanation for all that occurred, don't you?"
Tomes slumped lower in his seat, his eyes dropping to the table. "My missus said we needed to get out quickly before the shooters came back. I didn't think..."
"Didn't think what?" Lucifer asked, coldly. "Didn't think to make sure help was on its way for them? Didn't think to stay and see if you could be of any assistance? What didn't you think?"
"Sam" Chloe said quietly, holding out a hand to stop her partner's angry words. "Mr. Tomes, do you know who might have wanted you and your wife dead?"
"Beatrice said it had nothing to do with us, that we shouldn't get involved." Tomes shrugged, unable to lift his eyes. "She said it was probably someone after them two what were asking all those questions about things that should have stayed buried."
"You mean the Angel Killer case? But it hasn't stayed buried, has it Andrew?" Chloe's voice was low and sympathetic as she laid out the photos of the body dumps from both cases. "Is this why someone wanted you dead? Was it just a warning not to talk to Mr. Dragón about the Angel killer or a message to you and your wife to remain quiet about what links that case and the current murders together:?"
"Yes" Lucifer purred suddenly, sliding into a chair beside Chloe. "Do tell us what it was those miscreants wanted from you. Or better yet - why don't you tell me what you REALLY want? What, in the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, you most desire right at this moment?" The thrumming of power from Lucifer's voice seemed to pierce straight through the cloud of angst and depression that surrounded the old man. He raised his eyes up...
In two interview rooms, two separate voices screamed.
Chapter 17: The shit has well and truly hit the fan
At the Dragón family home
Rowan stretched out on the sofa, trying to relax. She wasn’t quite sure how long it had been since they had arrived in the family compound, half-carrying her sleeping brother. Time had a tendency to be fluid in the realm and, from what Rowan could tell, be equally fluid in a time of stress in the mortal realm. Seraphiel and his brother Zaphiel had bickered quietly with each other for a while, trying to distract her from her concerns but in the end had decided to find Amenadiel and bring him up to speed on what was happening. “Not sure if I should be happy or sad that they are gone” she murmured, tucking another small pillow under her back. “At least it wasn’t so quiet when they were here.”
“Hey, where is everyone?” a sleepy voice called out from the door. Arthur appeared, running his hand through his messy hair.
Rowan smiled. As near as she could tell, from the stories their father had told, her elder brother was nearing his five hundredth birthday (older if you counted the years he had spent in the 4th century passing as Arthur of Britain). He had fought dozens of wars, both in the mortal realm and in the immortal realm, and had amassed a bone-chilling reputation as a strategic general and cold-blood warrior. None of which was in evidence as she looked across the room. Arthur was nearly naked, his well-muscled form clothed only in a pair of sweats too big and too long for him. The drawstring pants were trying valiantly to slide off his ass, stopped only by the death grip he had on the waistband. He had a charming case of bed-head and a sleepy smile that his sister knew he’d used successfully in any number of seductions – except today it only served to make him look like a little boy just waking up from a nap. “I thought you were still sleeping” she said, patting the sofa beside her.
Arthur glided over to his sister, one hand firmly holding on to his sweats as he stretched out beside her with his head in her lap. “Too quiet. Besides, I’ve slept enough.”
“Let Khan or Rafael be the judge of that” she said sternly, hiding the grin that had formed at his entrance. She cast a look down his lean form. “Whose pants are those?”
Arthur looked down at himself then grinned. “Baby brother must have left them in my bathroom. Kid leaves his clothes EVERYWHERE.”
“He takes after you” she replied, dryly, running her fingers through his tangled hair. “Feel better?”
“Sort of” Arthur admitted, squirming to find a better position. “Still sort of sore but I’m pretty sure I’ve overcome the blood loss.”
“Yes, well don’t say that too loud around the mortals we’re interacting with” she warned, tapping his forehead with one finger. “Most of the crap they will see around us is hard enough to explain without…” The sound of her cellphone, sitting on the table in front of them, interrupted her lecture.
Arthur snatched up the offending instrument and checked the screen. “Baby brother’s calling” he said, flicking the screen. “Hey Kid! What’s happening?” His face darkened as his brother’s worried voice poured from the phone, filling him in. “Come home” Arthur ordered harshly, jerking upright as he spoke. “Come home NOW! We’ll discuss what our options are when you get here. And bring Lucifer with you if you can. I doubt he’ll come but give him the option.” He listened for a moment then cursed. “Well hell – fine. We’ll have to catch up with him later.” Arthur clicked off and tossed the phone back on the table with a growl. “Bloody hell – things have just gotten worse.”
“What’s happened?” Rowan asked. “Didn’t they find the Tomes?”
“Worse” Arthur snarled. “They did.”
At the precinct
Dan watched in horror as the woman seated across from his lieutenant and Lucifer’s nephew started screaming. Across the way, in Interview room 1 he could hear a mixture of sobs and incoherent screams come from the male suspect that Chloe and Lucifer had been questioning. As far as he could tell, neither Lt. Sanchez nor his companion had made any kind of threatening move towards Mrs. Tomes yet she was yelling her head off about “the devil” coming to take her soul away. He watched as Khan glanced over at the police officer and they both exited the interview room with the lieutenant signaling a female uniformed officer to stand guard at the door. “What the bloody hell just happened?” Dan groused as the two men passed him.
“Fuck if I know, dude” Khan replied with a shrug. “All I asked was what was she afraid of and she turned all scream queen on us.” He shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. The lie sounded believable to Khan, who knew that the human detective in front of him wouldn’t understand, or believe, what might have really just happened. Khan had been staring into the woman’s eyes when she started screaming and had seen the reflection of his dragon spirit’s fire eyes looking back at him.
Sanchez glared at the sounds coming from the other room. “What’s happening over there?”
Dan huffed. “Don’t know – maybe Lucifer got too aggressive with the suspect.”
“Doubtful” Khan replied, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Aggressive isn’t his shtick. He’s usually more into subtlety than force.” He watched as Lucifer and Chloe hurriedly exited the room, signaling for another officer to watch their prisoner. “Hey uncle, what gives?”
“I have no idea” Lucifer replied in frustration. “All I asked is what he truly desired and all of a sudden…”
“Yeah, me too” Khan admitted, glancing back at the interrogation room. “What now? It’s not like you all have anything you can hold them on. Last I checked it’s not illegal to run away from a drive-by.”
“We can hold them for a while as material witnesses and see if they calm down enough to try again but until then…”
“GUN!” the cry rang out as Mr. Tomes staggered out of the interview room, wrestling the gun away from the office who had been assigned to watch him. Instantly, guns were drawn and aimed at the distraught man, with commands being barked in various voices. “Put it down! On your knees, put the gun down!”
Tomes aimed the gun at his own head with a sob. “Shoot Me! It doesn’t matter anymore! Nothing matters! The Devil has come for my soul!”
Khan shot a quelling look at Lucifer then stepped out in front of the armed officers, hands out in front of him. “Stay calm” he rumbled, putting as much reassurance as he could into his deep voice. “Stay calm. The Devil isn’t here for you. Why would he come for an innocent man?”
“You know I’m not innocent!” the man screeched, pressing the gun barrel firmly to his head. “He promised if we did these things that when the Lord came Beatrice and I would be reunited with our boy. But we performed the rituals, said the prayers, offered the lambs for sacrifice and STILL we’re in this living hell!”
Khan frowned, an ugly thought forming in his mind. “They told you to bring the lambs to slaughter – like Abraham did with Isaac?”
“Yes – but each sacrifice must have been flawed. Each spirit was supposed to take our petition to the Throne and guard our homes against dark forces but the devil’s minions still came, still destroyed our lives!” Andrew Tomes’ voice rose higher and higher as he spoke, his whole body trembling with emotion.
Khan stood calmly in the path of the armed forces behind him. “You committed grievous sins against the most innocent of God’s children and it was done for your own benefit – is that what you are saying? This is truly a wickedness that must be dealt with but you still have a chance to make things right. You still can prevent another innocent from being led to the slaughter as those that came before were. You can help these minions of the All-Father find the truly evil ones who led you into this iniquity and stop them before they spread their darkness any further. Only YOU can do this, Andrew Tomes. Only YOU can change what the Darkness has planned for another child, another family.” Khan pushed as much persuasion and encouragement into his voice as was possible, lifting his hands out to his sides like a blessing.
Lucifer stared at his nephew in amazement. “Dear old Dad is really playing with us all today” he whispered to Chloe, who was standing with her service revolver pointed at the armed madman in front of them. “The boy sounds just like Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” Chloe whispered back, trying to keep both her partner and his nephew in her sights.
“My brother – God’s messenger. He has the gift of Influence in his Voice. How else do you think Dad gets people to agree to the crazy ass things they do for him?” He watched as Khan slowly started moving towards the trembling form in front of him. “Kid’s got the gift – just like his dad.”
Khan slowly moved forward, eyes fixed on the old man in front of him. “You want to repent of your sins, don’t you Andrew Tomes? You want to start back up the path back to God’s light. Then do this thing – help these people to stop the truly wicked who have lured you away from the Lord’s light. Help them to stop the next sacrifice before it happens.”
“Too late” the old man muttered. “A new lamb has already been culled. Another sacrifice will begin soon. Soon…” he slowly lowered the gun from his temple, his eyes filled with tears. “And it will all be for nothing – just like the others.”
“Not if we get there first” Khan assured him, reaching out and plucking the gun from Tomes now limp hand. “Not if we get there first.” He stepped aside as the police swarmed in, taking the old man back into the interview room.
“Good work, Mr. Dragón” Sanchez called out, re-holstering his weapon. “Crazy ass stunt and if you were on my team I’d bust you for trying it but at least it worked.’
“Yeah – it worked” Khan said heavily. “But now you have a bigger problem. If what he said was true – they already have another victim for the slaughter. And we have no idea where they will take her for the sacrifice.”
“We still haven’t found Marcus Tomes” Chloe said briskly. “Find him, maybe we find where they have taken this latest victim.”
“If there is one” Dan said solemnly. “There hasn’t been a report of a little girl disappearing in the last day or so.”
“How long did it take for the others to be reported missing?” Chloe asked. “A day? Two days? In one case the only reason we were able to identify one child was because her teacher reported her as truant. Her own parents didn’t know, or care, she hadn’t come home in days until we asked them to identify her from a photo. Just because we haven’t received a report doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.”
“Agreed.” Sanchez turned and started barking orders at the other detectives and uniformed officers milling around. “Did someone put out a BOLO on Marcus Tomes? Someone get on the horn to the Legal Aid office he worked at and get someone down here to talk to us about this guy!” The lieutenant turned and looked back at the interview room he had just exited and cursed. “Where is Mrs. Tomes?”
Khan whirled around and saw the female officer who had been watching the elderly woman staring into the room in distress. “She must have slipped out when her husband grabbed the gun. Chances are she’ll head straight for your unsub’s with the news that hubby has spilled the beans.”
“Do we have an address for this Marcus Tomes character?” Sanchez growled.
“Yes – he has an apartment just down the street from the retirement community Andrew and Beatrice live at.” Chloe called out, grabbing a note from one of the other officers. “We’re on our way there. Coming Lucifer?”
“Of course, detective. Wouldn’t miss this for the world. Nephew?”
Khan shook his head. “Need to check in at home. Chloe, can I borrow your office phone?”
Chloe nodded, and started for the elevator with Lucifer at her heels. “Call me after you’ve talked with Rowan.”
“Will do” Khan called out, slipping into the detective’s office and dialing the home phone. A sleepy voice answered ““Hey Kid! What’s happening?”
“The shit has hit the fan, big brother. This nightmare has just gotten worse.”
Chapter 18: Searching for clues
Later – at the Dragón compound
“The shit has hit the fan, big brother. This nightmare has just gotten worse.” Khan could still hear his own words echoing in his head as he raced through the city streets, cursing himself for not using the Between to get home sooner. Arthur’s words rang in his ears. “Come home – NOW!” He slid to a stop in front of the house, leaving his bike in the driveway and charged through the door, sliding between Draco and Drogo as he made his way to the Great Room. Arthur, dressed in jeans and t-shirt with his hair still damp from his shower, intercepted his younger brother as he entered. “Are you alright?” he asked, grabbing the bigger man by the arms.
Khan shrugged free from his sibling's grasp. “Yes. No. Hell – I should have known better to go into that room still angry about you getting hurt.” He looked around the room with a frown. “Where’s Irish and his brother?”
“Seraphiel and Zaphiel are out looking for Amenadiel to make sure he’s aware of all the nonsense that has gone on surrounding these two cases. Gabriel and his brothers have disappeared off the face of the planet so no need to worry about them.” Arthur grabbed his little brother by the back of the neck and gave him a little shake. “Hey kid, everything is okay. Look at me, everything is going to be okay.”
“What happened?” Rowan asked from her perch on the sofa.
“Sanchez and I were talking to Mrs. Tomes. Woman really reminded me of my least favorite Fate so guess I was already primed to take a swing at her. I asked her what did she fear – figured it would give me an edge into getting past her defenses. And she just cratered – started screaming the Devil has come to take her soul.”
“The Devil?” Arthur asked, confused. “But Lucifer wasn’t in the room with you, was he?”
“No – he was in the other interrogation room with Chloe. I was facing Mrs. Tomes when it happened so best I can figure – my dragon spirit decided to pick that moment to make itself visible in my eyes. Lt. Sanchez didn’t react so it probably wasn’t visible to him – just her.”
“Lovely” Arthur said with a sigh. “Then what happened?”
“She was so freaked out that there was no talking to her so Sanchez and I walked out. Heard screaming from the other room – figured Lucifer had flashed his reds at the guy and Mr. Tomes was having the same reaction to Uncle as his missus did to me. Sanchez, Chloe, Lucifer and I were outside the interrogation rooms trying to figure out what our next move was when Mr. Tomes made a grab at a uniformed officer’s gun and was threatening to off himself. I was able to talk him down but in the confusion Mrs. Tomes disappeared. Problem is – he told us they already have their next sacrifice so if she gets to their co-conspirators before we get to her this could all go very bad.”
“That is probably what she’s off to do, to warn this Marcus Tomes guy that the police are closing in.” Rowan frowned as she considered their options. “Did you get any information from either of them before this all went off the rails?”
Arthur held out a hand to his sister. “Ease up – little brother isn’t to blame for this.”
“I’m not saying he is” Rowan protested. “But we now have two possible suspects in the wind and several more from the previous case that are not accounted for. With another child selected for slaughter we have to move a hell of a lot quicker than we have been.”
“That brings up something interesting Tomes said while I was talking him down” Khan replied somberly. “He told me that the reason he and his wife had allowed themselves to be talked into this nightmare was because someone convinced them they would be reunited with their son when the End of Days occurred. So – that would mean Marcus ISN’T their son – right?”
“Maybe – maybe not.” Rowan jumped up and ran for the office, the boys behind her. She slid to a stop at her desk and fired up her laptop, running quickly through an assortment of links until she found the one she was looking for. A few key strokes later…”Here it is. Birth record for a Marcus Tomes, parents Andrew and Beatrice Tomes, born in San Francisco General Hospital, 1980.”
“Would make him about eight years old when the Angel Killer case occurred” Arthur replied, looking over her shoulder. “About the same age as the oldest Parrish kid Moses and the Reverend James’ son Jonas.”
“Yes, but…” she said, flipping to another page. “Now this is interesting. There is a death certificate for a Marcus Tomes, same parents, with a date of death only five days after the date of birth listed on the other page.”
“Wait – their son is dead?” Khan said, nonplussed. “Now I am confused.”
“I’m not” Arthur rumbled. “Someone took advantage of their grief and their fundamentalist beliefs and convinced them that if they made these sacrifices to God and if they were accepted, that when the soon to occur End of Days arrived they would be with their dead child again.”
“People are so cruel” Rowan murmured.
“Yeah – more I know of humans, the better I like my dragons” Khan replied angrily.
“Same here, little brother. Same here. But this does make me wonder… Sissy, do you have a friend who can check and see if a Social Security card was requested for this Marcus Tomes character?”
Rowan looked up at her brother with approval. “Of course. First rule of creating a new identify – find a birth/death certificate for someone your own age and make their information your own.” She opened a new window and sent a message to a federal address, quickly laying out what she was looking for. “If your right – Tony should find a trace of that number currently in use.”
“We should probably let Chloe know about this” Khan said. “Though I suspect by now she’s probably already thought of it. Pretty smart – for a mortal. Not sure at all what she sees in Uncle.”
“I won’t tell him you said that” Arthur snorted, wincing slightly at the pain in his ribs. “But you’re right – we need to stay in touch with Chloe. Technically – all of this is a mortal realm problem, not one of ours. And however this shakes out, she will be the one who has to deal with it when we get to the end.”
At the apartment of Marcus Tomes
Chloe jumped out of Lucifer’s car, happy they made it to their destination in one piece. Her partner’s driving on a good day was reckless. Today it was almost suicidal. “Can the Devil commit suicide?” she thought to herself, then shook off the thought as a subject for another day. “Lucifer, should we bring Linda, your therapist, into this investigation? She helped out that last time we needed a profiler – maybe she can help this time as well.”
Lucifer shrugged. “What can she tell us that we don’t already know? There are a group of little monsters who need to be fitted with their collars and sent to their cages in my former realm as soon as possible. All I need to know is where to find them.”
“Lucifer” Chloe replied, a warning tone to her voice. “I know you’re pissed off about Arthur and your brother being hurt…”
“Piss on that legal vulture of a Throne being hurt” Lucifer snarled. “Neither he nor that jar-head Seraphim that’s following Rowan around gave a rat's ass about me when Michael kicked me out of the Silver City. But Arthur, Rowan and Khan are different. They are MY family, they belong to me no matter what their air-head angelic minders say. And NO ONE takes what is mine, detective. NO ONE!” He turned, eyes red from fury, and stalked towards the apartment complex.
Chloe’s cellphone buzzed in her pocket, shaking her out of her stunned paralysis. “Decker here” she replied.
“What’s wrong?” Rowan’s voice called back. “Something’s happened. I can tell by the tone of your voice.”
“Lucifer’s on a tear” Chloe admitted, starting after her partner. “I’m nervous about what he’ll do if we actually find someone here.”
“Where is here?” Arthur’s voice echoed in the background.
“We’re at the apartment complex where Marcus Tomes supposedly is staying” she said, staying slightly back from her partner. “Just waiting for an okay from a judge to enter…” A smashing sound alerted her to what she had feared – Lucifer had found the right door.
“Did he just…? Rowan asked, sounding more exasperated than concerned.
“Yeah – he did” Chloe said softly.
“Bloody HELL!!!” Khan’s voice was sounding as angry as his erstwhile uncle’s. “We’re on our way.”
“Heads up – our method of arrival might be a little unique” Rowan warned. The line went suddenly dead.
Chloe shivered as the temperature dropped suddenly. At her feet she could see tendrils of wispy fog curling around her. “Oh, this again” she thought – just as the three Dragón siblings strolled out of the mists.
“Where is he?” Khan rumbled, eyes quickly scanning the area.
“The apartment is just down here” Chloe replied, turning to lead the group. It wasn’t long before they found the source of the crashing sound. The apartment supposedly occupied by Marcus Tomes was now minus a door, the remnants of which were hanging from broken hinges. “This is going to be hard to explain.”
Arthur waved a hand in front of the entrance, inscribing mystical markings into the air. Pieces of the door suddenly levitated, merging with one another. Soon, the structure was whole again. “Explain what?” he asked, innocently.
“I’m not going to ask how you did that” Chloe muttered. “Lucifer!” she called out. “Anything?”
“Not a bloody thing” Lucifer’s tense voice answered as he stepped out of the bedroom door. He blinked at the sight of the Trio standing there, all looking disapprovingly in his direction. “What! I’m the Devil! I do things like this!”
“No you don’t” Rowan sighed, looking around the sparse dwelling. “You usually are a little more subtle.” She started to walk around the living area, hands behind her back as she examined the few personal items in the room. “Rather a blank canvas, isn’t it? Nothing really screams what its occupant is really like.”
Arthur walked in the other direction, also keeping his hands to himself. “More like a crash pad than a home.” He looked over a Chloe with a lop-sided grin. “I have a few of those around the world. Makes walking away from them easier when you don’t invest much of yourself in them.”
“Got that right” Khan said, gently moving Chloe out of his way as he made his way to the bedroom area Lucifer had just exited. “Excuse me, Uncle. Mind if I take a look?”
Lucifer shrugged, finding it hard to hold on to his anger in the face of the “kids” ethereal calm. “Go ahead. Quite boring scene. Nothing exciting.”
Khan walked the perimeter of the room, looking in the closet and under the bed before stopping to stare at the bed itself. Something about the pillows interested him. “Chloe, a moment please?” he called out, motioning to the cushions. “This is your investigation so… could you see if there is anything behind those pillows or between the bed and the wall?”
Chloe eyed the bed critically, first pulling the pillow off then moving the mattress. She soon caught sight of something that was definitely not part of the frame. Gingerly she reached between the mattress and wall and pulled out an old, worn bible. “Now this is interesting” she said, flipping it open.
Lucifer sniffed. “What’s so interesting about some wanker making up fairy tales to explain dear old Dad’s unexplainable behavior?”
“Not the bible itself, Lucifer” she replied, holding out the book to the group. “But the name on the cover.”
Rowan peered over the Devil’s shoulder and sighed. “That’s kind of what I thought.”
The name on the front cover of the book, written in a childish hand, was Moses Parrish.
Chapter 19: Needing to find the next clue - and telling the angels what's going on
On the Ethereal plane
Seraphiel eyed his brother Throne with exasperation. “Well – where is he? You said one of your younger brothers had seen him up here so where the bloody hell has he gotten to?”
Zaphiel shrugged nonchalantly, his robes rustling with movement. “They said he was headed in this direction. Heaven is an infinite place, brother. He could be almost anywhere by now.”
“The sod’s too big to hide even in the Silver City” Seraphiel grumbled. “And I still don’t know why we need to tell him what’s going on. He’s a big boy – why can’t he find out what’s going on by himself?”
“What’s going on where?” Gabriel’s smooth, lightly accented voice called out as he landed beside the two bickering angels.
Zaphiel smiled thinly. “Oh, there you are brother! We were wondering where you Archangels had gotten to. Not nice to abandon us like that without a word.”
Gabriel stiffened. “I did not ABANDON anyone” he said quietly. “Michael and I need to have some private conversation about Vega and about our young ones.”
“Not YOUR young ones” Zaphiel responded in a brittle tone. “Ours. Seraphiel and mine. He to mind the girl and me to mind the boys.”
“My son does not need YOU to “mind” him” Gabriel growled. “He’s perfectly capable of…”
“Were you looking for me?” Amenadiel’s deep voice called out as he made his way to the now tense members of the angelic host. “Sorry. I was headed back when I got caught up on some other issues.”
“Not a problem, brother” Zaphiel purred. “Just thought you should know what Lucifer was up to just in case you’re presence was needed.”
“What is that Fallen up to now?” Gabriel said, warily. “And does it have anything to do with our young ones?”
“You could say that” Seraphiel replied, keeping arms distance from both his shield brother Zaphiel and Gabriel. “They have been helping Lucifer’s friend Det. Decker with that murder case she’s been fretting over. And things came to roost with it when someone involved tried to murder King Phoenix and our brother Throne.”
Gabriel went preternaturally still, eyes fixed on the elder Seraphim. “Tried to … what?”
“Someone tried to shoot us” Zaphiel replied calmly. “Not Empyrean steel bullets so naturally didn’t have any lasting effect on me and the only issue with the boy was a loss of blood. Luckily his brother is quite a good healer and the Phoenix’s natural ability to recover from anything saved him the trouble of explaining too much damage to his physique. But I suspect that there may be more issues soon and knowing Lucifer – he might just take it a tad personally that his “family” was injured.”
“They are NOT his family – they are OUR family” Gabriel snarled between gritted teeth. “Was my son injured as well?”
Zaphiel sighed. “No – just the young King and I. His sister and brother were elsewhere when we were attacked. I suspect they won’t let him out of their sight again, though. Which is a good thing – they are much stronger together than apart.”
“Why didn’t anyone in the Silver City know about the attack?” Amenadiel asked, wondering how he was going to save the lanky Throne from Gabriel’s wrath. The Archangel's temper was mercurial at the best of times but threats to his "child" could turn the normally sarcastic Messenger into a madman aimed at whoever he blamed for that threat. And right now - he was looking right at Zaphiel.
Seraphiel shrugged. “Not anyone’s business but our own” he guessed, watching over the towering dark-skinned angel’s shoulder. “Lovely, here comes the rest of the pack” he hissed, nodding towards the figures headed their way.
Michael and Rafael dropped into the mix behind Gabriel, their wings folding back as soon as they landed. Uriel, the tallest of the brotherhood, landed behind Michael, his huge wingspan gently fluttering in the breeze. “Why are you two here and not with the Triad?” Michael asked, quietly.
“Just looking for brother Amenadiel” Zaphiel replied, smiling thinly. “Now we’ve found him and told him what he needs to know – we’ll be back to our business as usual.”
“Michael, someone attacked the young Phoenix” Gabriel said, hands clenching at his side.
“Is he alright?” Uriel asked, worriedly.
“He’s fine – the boy is made of much sterner stuff than you give him credit for” Seraphiel replied, stepping in front of his shield brother. “Nothing is going to take that boyo down except Father’s wrath. And he’s too loyal a soldier to worry about that.”
“Why was he attacked?” Michael asked, ignoring the Seraphim’s lecture.
“He and Zaphiel were helping with a murder investigation. Someone didn’t like it. Which, of course, only means the boy and his siblings are going to try that much harder to find out who is responsible and stop them. And you lot – or us – hanging on them and trying to smother them with layers of protection is only going to make them angrier than they already are.” Seraphiel stood toe to toe with his former teacher, looking up into Michael’s blue eyes. “You need to step back and let the Triad do what they have been trained to do – fight the darkness and save innocent souls.”
“Michael” Gabriel began, turning to his twin.
Michael held out a hand to his brothers. “The Seraphim is correct. The Triad have a job to do – we must let them do it without interference.” He coldly looked at the remaining higher angels with a frown. “But if we are needed…”
“Trust me, brother” Seraphiel said, stepping back and shooing both Amenadiel and Zaphiel towards the gates. “If we are needed, any of us, the kids will let us know.” He spread his wings and launched himself towards the gates, with Zaphiel and Amenadiel in close pursuit.
“Michael you can’t seriously be agreeing that we shouldn’t be down there with them?” Uriel protested, wings quivering in outrage.
“Yes, that is EXACTLY what I am agreeing to” Michael replied calmly. “I have faith in our young Fae cousins. Don’t you?”
Gabriel stared at his brother, outraged. “Of COURSE I trust my child!” he sputtered.
“We knew this would happen once Father changed their fates and made them independent of us” Rafael sighed. “Now, all we can do is hope our other brothers can help keep Lucifer in line enough that he doesn’t make things worse for all of them.”
“I didn’t agree to this” Uriel replied mutinously.
“But Arthur did” Michael said coolly. “Remember – he’s all but banished you from his presence because of your attitude. Do you really want to put him in more danger than he is obviously in by interfering in his hunt?” The Sword of God looked at his twin, the Messenger, with a sigh. “Do you, brother? Do you want that boy you’re just now getting re-acquainted with believe you don’t trust him, don’t trust his talents?”
Gabriel’s shoulders sagged. “No, of course not.”
“Then be patient” Michael replied, turning back from the gates. “If they need us, they will call.” He unfurled his wings and launched himself back towards their Father’s throne, followed closely by a still upset Uriel.
Rafael looked down at his older brother somberly. “Do you think he’s really as alright with this as he’s trying to pretend he is?”
“No – he’s worried about the girl even as I am worried about my child and Uriel about his former love. But Michael is right about one thing. We much give them their freedom to choose to look for our help or not. And that, brother mine, is the hardest task our Father has ever set before any of us.”
In the Earthly realm – in the apartment of Marcus Tomes
“So – why would Marcus Tomes have a bible belonging to Moses Parrish?” Chloe asked, watching as the CSI techs she had called in processed the scene. Arthur and Khan had retreated to the family compound, leaving their sister to explain what they believed had happened.
“Three boys – all under age – all with family involved with the Angel Killer case” Rowan began, “One little boy – Jonas James – had a living parent up until recently who, despite the suspicions of the authorities, couldn’t be tied to the Angel Killer case. So Jonas continued on as he always had, learning to take up the burden of the Church from his father. When his father died, he becomes the leader of a very limited flock. So – we can guess at least partially what has become of him.”
“And then there were two” Lucifer said quietly.
“Yes – Moses and Abraham Parrish. Their father was dead, labeled a serial killer struck down by his horrified wife. Their mother was catatonic in a mental institution, unable to assist herself much less these boys. They could have and probably were turned over to their grand-father – but then he died shortly after the case was closed out. So, where do two little, orphaned boys who have been raised in a cult go to when there is no one left to watch over them?”
“Other family members?” Chloe guessed. “Didn’t Parrish also have a brother?”
“Yes – Jonah Parrish. He disappeared shortly after his father’s demise.” Rowan replied, rolling her shoulders to ease the tension in her back. “A single man with two young children in tow would have had a hard time of it.”
“Not if he parked one child with someone he believed could be trusted to continue their education in the way their father and grand-father would have approved.” Chloe mused, staring at the bible now laid out on a table in the living room. “The Tomes were a part of this crazy church. They had lost a child and would have been glad to take one in to fill that hole in their lives. On top of that, Beatrice and her husband obviously had a hand in selecting the little girls used in the sacrifices. They could be trusted to keep the boy silent about what had actually happened that fateful night. Still not sure why no one caught on to their involvement at the time.”
“They weren’t looking for a middle-class, church-going couple for that case” Rowan said with a shrug. “They were looking for a monster. There were a LOT of holes in that case that were never closed, and that’s the reason this has come up again. The church’s minister wasn’t held accountable for what he knew about these “ceremonies”, the most loyal church members weren’t questioned closely enough to see where their stories didn’t add up, and so on.”
“Why separate the boys?” Chloe asked, watching the techs start to pack up their equipment. “Why not just keep them together? Surely their mother had family that could take them in?”
“Evidently not” Rowan responded, leaning back in her chair. “I suspect, however, it was more a matter of their being horrified at being associated with what Parrish was accused of doing and taking it out on the boys. As to what separate them – any number of reasons. Easier to look after one boy than two, maybe one boy needed more attention than the other. We won’t know until we talk to them.”
“Another issue – why wait thirty years to start killing again?” Chloe frowned as she thought of all the victims so many years apart. “I thought serial killers only stopped when they were in prison or dead.”
“Usually true” Rowan admitted, a worried tone to her voice. “There were no other similar cases that turned up after we gave you Alice’s information?”
“No – none. Which is probably why we didn’t notice the similarities between the San Francisco cases and ours. So much time had elapsed…”
“And so much information about the original murders had just been pushed under the rug” Rowan said grimly. “As though those children’s lives didn’t matter enough to remember them.”
“Sad part of this is all we really have it Andrew Tomes word for their involvement in any of this. Everything else is circumstantial” Chloe said with a sigh. “Testimony of an accomplice won’t get us a conviction on the perps unless we catch them in the act.”
“Or unless they confess” Lucifer purred, suddenly in a good mood. “I’m sure I could help with that.”
“I’m sure you could, uncle” Rowan replied wearily. “But it won’t help to have people obviously in the throes of a nervous breakdown testifying to all manner of things and having the entire case thrown out because of unreliable testimony. No – Chloe and the police must find out if Moses Parrish is actually Marcus Tomes and see if he can lead us to their next victim before she is killed. And even then – a good lawyer might be able to throw enough dust in the wind to obscure his or his “parents “involvement in the actual murders.”
“Which means – we have to catch them, all of them, in the act.” Chloe looked up as Ella approached. “Anything?”
“Nothing to tell us where this guy might have gone” Ella admitted. “It’s almost like he never actually existed. No clothes, no food in the refrigerator, no pictures on the walls. Nothing.”
“What about at his faux parents’ house?” Lucifer asked. “You processed that scene as well – anything there?”
Ella shook her head. “Nothing that I could see. That house was pretty tidy – not a grain of sand, not a speck of dirt, that might lead us to the original crime scene.”
“What about the photos on the mantelpiece?” Lucifer asked, suddenly. “Or those dreadful bible verses on the walls. Are we sure there isn’t something in them that might be useful?”
Chloe and Rowan stared at him thoughtfully. “You know” Chloe began slowly. “That’s actually not a bad idea. Is that scene still taped off?”
“As far as I know” Ella responded. “Do you want me to come with? Maybe I missed something the first time through.”
“I’m afraid that unless you plan on my riding on the hood of Lucifer’s car your friend here will have to come with us. My brother’s took the car when they left.” She smiled, knowing Lucifer would see the “little white lie” she had used to keep Ella from asking questions.
“Well then, while I’d LOVE to see you stretched out on my car” Lucifer said with a lascivious grin. “I’d say that adding Ms. Lopez to our merry band of adventurers is the next best option. Shall we go?”
“Why do I worry when he gets all happy like that?” Rowan whispered to Chloe as they left the apartment.
“Probably the same reason I do.”
Chapter 20: Why?
At the Dragón family compound
Arthur and Khan took seats around the patio table, each holding a tablet and a drink. “What other things have we not gone over on the Angel Killer case?” Arthur asked, taking a sip of his iced tea.
Khan swiped through a number of files as he considered is brother’s question. “Still don’t know how Marilyn got to the final crime scene. According to everything the original investigators could find, she couldn’t drive. And they only had one car which was parked in front of the barn when the police arrived.”
“If her husband had the van then maybe she had the car. Just because she didn’t have a license doesn’t mean she couldn’t drive.”
Khan shook his head. “No, witnesses put her running down the street just an hour before the police found her in that barn. If she had the car in her possession – why run?”
“So someone took her there – but who?”
Drogo sat between the two brothers, a tall glass of iced tomato juice in his hand. “You said once that there might have been an accomplice. Maybe that’s who took her to the crime scene?”
“But why?” Arthur asked, thoughtfully. “Unless… unless the whole point was she had to be there to take the blame for her husband’s death. Maybe someone knew the cops were closing in and that Parrish would spill the beans about what had been going on. Maybe having his sons involved in this bloody work was the straw that finally broke the camel's back with him. They needed to silence him but they also needed to make sure no one went looking for who killed him. So they bring Marilyn to the staging area, kill her husband in front of her and put the bloody pickaxe in her hands to make sure everyone thought she’d gone mad with fear and killed him to stop him from hurting their kids.”
“Okay – I’ll bite” Khan replied, shifting in his seat. “Why would she agree to going with this person and why didn't she try to warn her husband when she saw the accomplice reaching for the pickaxe. And also, if they needed Parrish dead why not stage it to look like a suicide? That would have shut off any further investigations, right?”
“Maybe she was in shock or too terrified to speak. The police report does say she was catatonic when they found her and she never recovered. As for why they didn't stage it as a suicide - maybe they didn’t have enough time to stage it properly?” Drogo surmised.
Khan shook his head. “Nah – all they had to do was haul his ass up and make it look like he hung himself. Done properly, the coroner would have had to be super observant to notice that he didn’t do it to himself. I'll buy your argument about Marilyn but suicide would have been a better cover-up than having to stage a self-defense scenario.”
Arthur grinned. “I’m not going to ask how you know to hang someone so it passes as a suicide. But you’re right – that scenario would have been easier to stage than finding Marilyn and dragging her all the way to the barn to make it look like she had killed her husband.”
“The poor woman disappeared into her own mind” Drago commented, coming out of the house to join the group. The older dragon sat beside his son and passed a plate of freshly baked cookies to him. “Perhaps it was not just a matter of eliminating the one man but punishing the woman as well.”
Arthur frowned. “That sounds more plausible. What if whoever was behind these murders had a heads-up that the police were closing in, that they had information leading to the van used to transport the girls and would soon find it. The gig is up – they can’t continue with whatever twisted ceremony they have been performing. Why take the time to bring this woman to the last crime scene and put her squarely in the center of things?"
Khan shrugged. "At this point, I'd just like to find her. From Alice's notes no one has seen the woman in thirty years."
"Here's hoping Sissy's network of friends can come through for us." Arthur snatched the last cookie off the plate and smiled. "Nice work with these Drago. Why can't the house elves bake like this?"
"I suspect" Drago rumbled, pleased with the compliment "that they probably could if your father would just stop sneaking up on them. They are nervous sorts and his light step doesn't help."
"You're an optimist, father" Drogo laughed. "Those little Fae can not cook, can barely clean and are always hiding things. If this keeps up, Queen Rowan will start nailing their sparkly little asses to walls just to get rid of them."
"Pity we can't do the same with the monsters behind this case" Khan replied somberly.
"Give Sissy time" Arthur said confidently. "She's find a way."
At the Tomes house
"So strange" Rowan said, looking up and down the street. "A drive-by occurs in what is essentially a retirement community and no one comes out to look."
"Welcome to L.A." Ella replied, hoping out of the van to stand on the sidewalk beside her. "Kind of like New York only better weather. No one gets involved if they can help it."
Chloe and Lucifer led the way back into the small bungalow, carefully walking past the now dried blood stains on the porch. "So - what did we miss?" Chloe asked, looking around the tidy room.
"This place is almost as barren as the apartment we just left" Lucifer replied, walking around the sitting room with a frown on his face. "And why is it they always pick "beware the wrath of God" sayings to embroider and put on their walls? Don't you think they could find something more cheerful? After all, they are going to be staring at it for hours."
The ringing of a cell phone cut off any answer to the Devil's rhetorical question. Rowan fished her cell out and flicked a finger across the frame. "Hey, Delphine! How's it hanging sweetie!"
A throaty laugh flowed from the phone. "Oh, you know, same as always. Work all day, party all night, getting down with life. So how's that handsome brother of yours doing? And how come we don't see much of him up here anymore?"
Rowan laughed. "You know Arthur - he's always on the move. Listen - I have you on speaker. Det. Chloe Decker is here with me and she's interested in hearing what you might have found out from your old newsroom buddies."
"Most of those old dinosaurs have moved on from being "journalists" but I did find one old soul who remembers the Church of the Last Days and specifically its minister and his buddies."
Rowan raised an eyebrow at that information. "Why did it make such an impression on him? From what I was able to see, the newspapers of the day didn't start really laying it on about a possible murder spree until almost the last victim."
"Sweetie, this was almost ten years after Jonestown and my friend was still sensitive to cults and their effects on their believers. He had a friend who died in Guiana so meeting Reverend James and Deacon Parrish was kind of scary reminder of what those types are capable of."
"Wait - did you say Deacon Parrish" Chloe asked, looking at Lucifer in shock. "We knew the Parrish's had been long time members of the church but not that they were that closely tied to its hierarchy."
"Closer than you might think" Delphine's voice grew grave as she continued. "Parrish and Reverend James were cousins, raised in the same tight-ass, fundamentalist cult as children. Only reason they weren't still there was one night their little commune went up in flames. Seems someone in the group wasn't as happy with their regimented lifestyle as everyone else and decided to off the whole group."
Rowan sighed. "So - they grew up with this controlled atmosphere and when they were released from it..."
"THey just recreated it in their new lives" Chloe finished. "What else did your friend find out during the Angel Killer case."
"Nothing he could prove" Delphine admitted. "But he suspected that the men at the top of the food chain in that church knew exactly what was going on and were covering for the ones who were actually performing the murders. He searched for proof of that for years but never came up with anything concrete. I think it maybe the reason he turned to the bottle - frustration and disappointment was too much."
"Did he ever find out what happened to Marilyn Parrish?" Chloe asked.
"Not until just recently. He told me she died in a private hospital just six months ago. Killer herself, poor thing."
"Six months?" Ella's voice dropped to a whisper. "That's when we found our first body down here!"
"Did your friend mange to find out if she had any visitors during this time in the hospital?" Chloe asked, holding her breath for the answer.
"Well - now that you mention it, he did talk to one of Mrs. Parrish's nurses. She said that Marilyn never had visitors until the day she died. Then it was like they were just flooding into the hospital to see her."
"Who?" Rowan asked.
A sound like paper's being shuffled let Chloe and company know the woman on the other end of the phone was checking notes. "Let's see - the nurse told him that on that day a whole group of people showed up at the hospital to see her. Her doctor wasn't pleased but since one of the men was the person who signed the checks to pay for her care he didn't have much choice but to allow them in. There were three younger men in their thirties, an middle-age man of about fifty and an elderly couple of around mid-sixties to early seventies."
"Elderly couple could have been the Tomes" Chloe murmured. "Age would be about right. Who was it that signed off on her medical bills? Did your friend get a name?"
"Yes - said the man's name was Jonah Parrish."
"The missing brother-in-law" Lucifer commented, looking down at the women with him. "Interesting. So who were the other men with him?"
"My friend said one of them was some sort of preacher type - thinks from the description the nurse gave him it might be Jonas James, son of the original Church of the Last Days minister, Titus James. The church, by the way, is still alive in name only. The bank reposed the structure years ago and most of the congregation took a hike once they realized the police were targeting anyone involved with Reverend James and his Deacons as possible suspects in the murder investigation. I've heard, however, that young Reverend Jonas has started up a small group in the L.A. area, ministering to the poor and homeless, trying to help those marginalized by society." Delphine's voice took on a slightly acidic tone as she spoke.
"You're not buying the act?" Lucifer asked with a smile. "Bright woman."
"Yes I am, sugar, bright enough to smell a con job. That boy is mimicking what he saw his father do to drum up supporters he can use to build up another cult following. I hear, however, that he doesn't have the ability to hold a crowd his father did."
"Maybe one of the others does that for him" Rowan murmured. "Did you friend find out who the younger men were?"
"The nurse wasn't sure - only that one arrived with the elderly couple, and one arrived with Mr. Parrish. I think she said the older of the three might have also been a minister - he was carrying a bible with him and kept referring to it the entire time they were there. All three seemed pretty uptight, nervous and watchful."
"Betting that was our elusive Mr. Tomes. Either way - it's strange they all showed up to see Marilyn after thirty years." Chloe looked around the room for a moment then looked back at the phone. "Delphine - when did Marilyn wake up? I thought she had been catatonic when they took her from the crime scene all those years ago. And how did she die?"
"Answer to one question leads to the other" Delphine replied, somberly. "Nurse who took care of her said she'd never moved, never spoke, never seemed aware of anything around her for all those years that she had been in the hospital. Didn't seem too aware when those folks were visiting with her either - but when they left, her attendant went to fetch her lunch. He hadn't gone more than a few feet when he heard something like glass breaking and ran back. Found the woman with a shard of glass in her hand and blood streaming from her neck. She's shattered a old window looking into the sunroom and had slit her own throat."
"Are they sure she did it to herself?" Rowan asked.
"Very sure" Delphine said. "One of the doctors was in the sunroom with his patient when she did it. Couldn't get to her in time to stop her and the damage she did to her throat was so severe that she bled out before they could get her to a treatment room."
"What did they say to her that evoked this kind of response?" Chloe asked, shocked.
"Maybe - that the time for another sacrifice" Lucifer responded grimly.
Chapter 21: More clues - little time
Back at the Precinct
Lucifer, Chloe and Rowan returned to the precinct, a cloud of gloom preceding them into the building. "I need to call my baby-sitter and check on Trixie" Chloe said quietly.
"Yeah - I need to check in with Arthur as well" Rowan replied, pulling out her cellphone. "Shall we gather in your office once we're done and review?"
Chloe nodded. "Works for me."
Ella watched the two women separate with worried eyes. "That was so horrible" she murmured to Lucifer, who stayed by the stairs where he could watch.
"Yes - and very strange" he replied with a frown.
"What's strange?" Lt. Sanchez asked, walking out of his office. "And who is this young lady with you?"
"She's my niece Rowan - Arthur's sister. With him injured, she's up at bat to help with the Angel Killer investigation along with her brother Khan. And things are becoming quite strange in that old case indeed. Turns out the wife of the original Angel Killer suspect committed suicide about six months ago - right about the time your murders started." Lucifer watched his niece quietly report back to her brother. "And it appears the trigger for her actions was a visit from the couple we were talking to, the Tomes, as well as a number of other people on our original suspect list."
"Why would the Tomes visit this woman?" Sanchez asked, confused. "Was she involved in the original case?"
"You could say that" Lucifer replied. "She is supposed to have buried a pickaxe in the head of her husband who was later tagged as the killer. But I think I agree with my nephew - she may have only been a distraction used to keep police from realizing who the REAL killer was."
Chloe returned to her partner's side with a sigh. "I'm having Trixie's babysitter pick her up from school and stay with her until either Dan or I can be with her. With everything that's been happening - I'm not comfortable with her being alone."
"You could always have Maze watch over her" Lucifer offered.
"She and Maze had a bit of a tiff around the time Pierce entered my life" Chloe explained, a sadness in her voice. "Neither of them seems ready to try to repair it."
Repair what?" Rowan asked, tucking her phone in her pocket.
"Maze and the detective's spawn are on the outs" Lucifer replied helpfully.
"I'm not even going to ask about that" Rowan said with a sigh.
"How's your brother feeling?" Sanchez asked, watching as Dan hovered on the outskirts of the conversation.
"He's tough but I can tell he's still hurting. Khan and Zaphiel will keep an eye on him." She fingered the crucifix around her neck absently, feeling for the slight trigger that would turn the religious object into a sharp dagger for her defense.
"That's pretty" Ella said, trying to get a better look at the token. "An odd style for a crucifix but still pretty."
"It's called a Celtic Cross. Father says he thinks it belonged to my mother but no one is really sure. I had it modified to fit my needs quite a while ago." She looked down at the ornate cross with a smile. "Funny thing - it's an Irish design. So I guess having something from the Emerald Isles in my life was always going to be my fate - first this cross then my godfather Seraphiel." She smiled at the older man standing beside Lucifer. "You must be Lt. Sanchez. My brothers have spoken quite highly of you."
Sanchez smiled, a feeling of warmth from her words flowing through him. "Pleased to meet you Ms. Dragón. Glad to hear your brother is doing better."
"Arthur asked me to find out what happened to Mr. Tomes. Were you able to put him somewhere he isn't likely to hurt himself?"
Sanchez nodded. "He's under suicide watch at the hospital. From what I could tell they have pumped him so full of anti-psychotic drugs he can't formulate a plan to sit up much less hurt himself."
"Well, I guess that's a better alternative then death though not by much." Rowan sighed. "This case is such a massive labyrinth of emotions and pain. I'll be glad to get to the end of it."
"Same here" Chloe admitted. "It isn't bad enough that these little girls had their lives cut short by some nutcase with a religious agenda but to know that their parents, in some cases, didn't know or even care that they had gone missing is almost too much to bear. I have this overwhelming urge to arrest them as well, as accomplices to their daughters deaths."
"I'm there with you on that" Rowan agreed. " I wish these little girls could have known the love of a family like mine. I keep thinking that if Arthur and my father hadn't been such overprotective creatures when I came into their house, a similar fate might have been mine."
"You are adopted?" Ella asked softly. "Because you look so much like your brother Khan."
"Yes" Rowan replied. "I was born in New Orleans to a very young couple both of whom were related to Arthur's father. They died within days of one another. I don't remember much of that time being as I was only around four but I do remember sitting on the step of our row house when father arrived and swept me up like a rag doll. Funny thing - even though he was a stranger to me I felt safe in his arms. He and Arthur arranged for a typical New Orleans funeral for my parents with Jazz music being played as we walked them to their tomb and a very festive Second Line forming on the way back from the cemetery. Father carried me to the grave site and Arthur carried me back afterwards. And I've been in their house ever since."
"So sad!" Ella said emotionally.
"Not really" Rowan replied with a small smile. "It turned out for the best. After all, I ended up with a loving parent and a brother who would do anything for me."
"You know, something about your story brings a question to mind" Chloe looked a Lucifer with a frown. "We still don't know how these people managed to just make off with these girls and not have anyone notice. I know they were small and timid but if Trixie were approached on the road to school by a stranger she'd scream her head off. These kids seemed to have lived unhappy lives - surely they would have sensed danger when they were approached?"
"Not if it was a man of the cloth who approached them" Lucifer replied somberly. "You lot put so much emphasis on trusting your clergy even when it's not the best idea."
"Lucifer has a point - but that's not going to help us find your new victim is it?" Rowan looked up to see Dan standing at his desk, watching the group. "Does he want to say something to us?" she asked, pointing in the detective's direction.
Sanchez turned and frowned. "What is it Espinoza? Find anything to lead us to a possible new victim?"
Dan walked over, avoiding Lucifer's gaze completely. "Finished the background checks on the Tomes couple and Marcus Tomes. Seems they only arrived in L.A. about a year ago. Also found something on Reverend Jonas James. He had a soup kitchen type ministry in Skid row for years, one of those barely visible charity things that come and go all the time. About a year ago his ten year old daughter, who was helping with the ministry, was killed by a tweeker who went on a rampage through the kitchen trying to get money for more meth. The ministry shut down right after her funeral and the good Reverend disappeared shortly afterwards."
"What about the girl's mother?" Rowan asked.
"Died when the kid was born. His daughter was the only family James had" Dan replied somberly.
"Well - that would be our trigger if Reverend James is our killer" Rowan said quietly.
"I can see it being a major pain point for him" Sanchez said. "But why turn into this serial child killer? He was old enough when the first case was active to know what was going on and to see that the actions his father took to protect the murderers only made things worse."
"Reverend James was part of the group that visited Marilyn Parrish. Maybe he was approached in his darkest hour by Jonah Parrish and the Tomes. Maybe they convinced him to begin this "ceremony" of sacrificing innocents again in the hopes of being reunited with his child when the End Times came." Chloe looked at the people standing around her with a frown. "It doesn't make any sense to us but the man had lost the only person who was holding him to this world, the only living soul he had to love. He must have been mad with grief when they came to him - and in that state he might have agreed to anything to ease the pain."
"We HAVE to find where your primary crime scene is" Rowan replied urgently. "If this new child is to have any chance of survival, we must speak again to Andrew Tomes."
Back at the Dragón family compound
Arthur laid his cell phone on the desk with a sigh. "As if things couldn't get any worse" he said, filling in Khan and Drogo on Rowan's information.
Khan whistled in disbelief. "Wow! These guys are either trying to clean up an link to the San Fran case or..."
"Or they needed Marilyn for something." Arthur stared off into the distance for a moment then sat up. "There were three younger men in the group along with what must have been Jonah Parrish. One was Jonas James so the other two of them must have been her sons Moses and Abraham. What if their going to see her wasn't about her but about them?"
"Maybe one of them wasn't sure about starting up the whole sacrifice thing again and seeing their mom was meant to push them towards agreeing to what the group wanted?" Drogo made a face at the thought. "That's just sick."
"But effective" Arthur pointed out. "Khan said that Tomes was led to believe the first time around that sacrificing these innocents would allow he and his wife to be reunited with their deceased son. What if that's what binds the whole group together - this mad belief that when the Horsemen come to start the End of Days, God will look down on their piety, their single-minded faithful sacrifices and give them back the loved-ones they lost to start a new life in a resurrected world?"
"You know that the whole story of Abraham and Isaac is still debated among the People of the Book, right?" Khan leaned back in his chair and pulled out his worry beads. "Some scholars think that Isaac was a grown man and agreed to act as sacrifice to the Lord. Some believe that Abraham actually DID sacrifice his son but that God brought him back as a way to seal the pact with his people."
"Either way - I can't imagine that father / son relationship being unchanged after the event." Drogo replied with a shudder.
"Bible doesn't say - though other texts say that Abraham and his son never spoke to each other again after that day. Of course - there isn't anything in ANY of those texts that says they spoke before so it could be just literary laziness." Khan shrugged, wrapping the string of beads around his hand.
"Interesting factoid but how does that factor into our current investigation?" Arthur asked.
"What if these guys believe that God will accept their sacrifices - like he did the ram in the Bible story - as proof of their faith? Tomes called the girls lambs for sacrifice, said there had to be something wrong with the offerings because God never reciprocated. What if that's what they are trying to do? Find a "lamb" that God will accept as a token from these true believers?"
"Then they are all completely off their collective rockers" Drogo snarled.
"Why haven't there been more such killings?" Arthur asked suddenly. He waved a hand at his tablet and the various files on his desk. "You searched, Detective Decker searched but there is no evidence of other similar killings in the last thirty years. Why stop? If you are Jonah Parrish and you - along with your brother, father and family minister - have been sacrificing little girls to prove your love to God why stop?"
"Because his brother died?" Drogo guessed.
"I suspect Jonah might have had more to do with THAT little event than Marilyn - but that's beside the point. Say you are Jonah - you and your father don't need John to help anymore. He may have become more of a hindrance than a help."
Khan looked over at his brother, a gleam of speculation in his eyes. "You think John Parrish really was starting to have doubts? Starting to question having his sons involved in this "ceremony" he was a part of?"
"Maybe so - so you off your brother to protect the group. But then, what? Why stop the sacrifices?" Arthur stared at the top of his desk for a moment. "What changed?"
"Matthias died" Khan responded, sitting up. "His father died shortly after the case was closed and the Reverend Titus James suddenly has no time or interest in him anymore. He's too busy trying to save what's left of his church."
"So he takes one nephew and parks the other with the only people from the church who still believe in their madness - the Tomes. But he can't perform the rituals alone - though I'm betting he tried. We need to have Chloe do a search for a single assault on a child - one that occurred sometime after the Angel Killer case was put to bed. Serial killers don't stop unless their dead or in prison."
"And you think that Jonah was in prison - at least for a while - because he tried to perform the ceremony on his own." Khan grabbed his tablet and started a search for news articles. "Let me look for something first before you try to get a message to Chloe. I'm betting..." his voice trailed off as a series of articles popped up. Reading through them, one all but leapt off the screen at him. "Got it."
"Got what?" Arthur asked.
"An article in a small town newspaper just between L.A. and Frisco talking about the abduction of a young girl. Suspect was identified by a passerby and arrested. No body was found and the girl had something of a criminal record for prostitution so the guy wasn't charged as highly as he probably should have. Was given a sentence of twenty years of which he served about ten."
"I don't understand - the child was a prostitute?" Drogo asked.
"Turns out the girl wasn't ten but fifteen but she was very small for her age so she could pass for a child. Had been turned out on the street by her step-father when she turned twelve so she had a record with the local P.D. All very slimy but not as important as the name of the man police pulled in for her death."
"Which was?" Arthur asked solemnly.
Chapter 22: New development - and not a good one.
Arthur squinted at his brother for a moment. "Matthias Parrish? Isn't he dead?"
"Very much so. Have a death certificate and coroners report on him and everything. But his name pops for this murder just ten years, give or take, after the original Angel Killer murders." Khan looked across at his brother, tapping the tablet thoughtfully. "Any bets his kid used his i.d. when he got nailed by the local cops? Kind of a strange choice though. Wouldn't he be afraid he'd get nailed when the police checked to see if he had a record?"
"I'm betting there wasn't the ability or incentive to check. With the original killing almost ten years old that name wouldn't necessarily register with some rural cop looking to solve their own case." Arthur stared up at the ceiling. "Small town force, maybe not as well equipped as their urban brothers, case isn't all that important to them because of who or more precisely what the victim was. They probably didn't even run his name - just swept him up off the streets and locked him for however long they could." He frowned at something his brother had ticked off. "Why is there a coroner's report on Matthias?"
"He died just days after his son was labeled a serial killer of children. There was some speculation that he either took his own life or someone did it for him out of revenge."
"Which was it?" Arthur asked.
Khan looked at the medical examiner's report for a second. "Heart attack. Seems the guy had damage to a ventricle due to some illness he contracted as a kid. I'm not even going to try to pronounce all this medical jargon. His doctor had him on blood pressure meds - which he refused to take - and had warned that if he didn't take care of himself he just might just drop dead. Which he did. Pity not soon enough to save those kids."
Arthur shrugged "What happened to the kid, John Parrish's son, after Jonah got nailed for that killing? Any record?"
Drogo straightened in his chair. "Whichever brother he had with him would have been middle to late teens by then. Either got put in foster care or just disappeared into the shadows to wait for his uncle to come out."
"Don't think the kid would have made a run for it?" Khan asked somberly.
"Probably not" Arthur admitted. "This was the only lifestyle he knew - between how he was raised in San Francisco and living with this uncle, he probably would have thought he was being disloyal to both his family and God if he tried to run towards another way of living." He absently moved a few items on his desk as he thought. "Or maybe he did try for a different path but when Jonah came out of the slammer he didn't have the strength to refuse to go back. Either way - we can at least explain some of the gap between the Angel Killer and this case. Too hard to kill when you have a young child with you but once the kid was older..."
"Then uncle Jonah could go hunting again. Nice family. Remind me to not invite them to Christmas dinner."
Arthur chuckled. "I will do that, little brother. But for right now - let's get on the horn to Sissy and tell her what you've found."
At the hospital
Chloe, with Lucifer at her side, looked up at the hospital with a frown. "The last time I was here I was looking in on Jimmy Barnes. Remember him - the guy who killed Delilah, and nearly ended my life as well. It was our first case together."
"I remember" Lucifer replied quietly. "Poor Jimmy - wonder if he's still screaming at shadows."
Chloe shuddered. "I guess I need to get use to you not being as empathetic towards others as you are towards family and friends."
"I'm not empathetic at all" Lucifer protested. "I'm working on it but really Detective, why should I care what happened to Jimmy Barnes? He certainly didn't care what he did to Delilah or to you. His suffering here in life is only a taste of what he'll experience when he dies. I have a cage all ready for him."
"Which you're not going to get to see him in unless you go home" Rowan's voice took on a sarcastic tone. "Chloe's lieutenant is trying to find a parking space. Unlike you Luci, he actually doesn't expect to be allowed to leave his car in a tow-away zone."
Lucifer huffed. "Not my fault they insist on putting these silly zones in the most inconvenient spots."
"But it will be your fault if your car gets towed" Chloe said, shooing him away. "Go - find someplace else to put it." The two women watched as the disgruntled Devil slouched off towards his car. "So - what's our game plan for this?"
"Getting Uncle out of the way was step one" Rowan said calmly. "After that fiasco at the precinct I'm not sure we can risk him setting Tomes off again." The melodic tones of the revised version of "Come Together" rang out as they stepped into the hospital atrium. "Hey Arthur - are you all right?"
"I'm fine" Arthur's slightly aggrieved voice called out. "Stop fussing. Little brother and I have something to share with you and Chloe if she's nearby."
"I'm right here - what do you have?" Chloe waved her lieutenant over as Rowan put the call on speaker.
Arthur updated the group on what he and Khan had found and on their speculations. "I suspect the one case Jonah got pulled in on wasn't the only one he was responsible for but since their movements from San Fran to where he got arrested is pretty much a mystery..."
"It's possible there are more bodies out there" Sanchez rumbled. "But the case you mentioned - it doesn't sound like the ritual they are using with these little girls."
"Probably couldn't pull it off without help" Khan replied. "So he kept his hand in until the church could be rebuilt by taking out victims of opportunity that no one would miss, girls on the fringe of society."
"And hiding the bodies very well" Lucifer commented, finally rejoining the group.
"We're going to try to talk to Mr. Tomes again and see if we can get something out of him as to where the church maybe hiding this latest victim" Rowan said quietly. "I'll let you know what we find out."
"Be easy with him" Khan warned. "He maybe feeling some unease about what they've done but that doesn't mean he's ready to totally unburden himself of his sins. He's going to fight thinking about this horror as much as he can."
"I'll keep that in mind" Lucifer snarled.
"No you won't" Arthur said quietly. "Sissy and Chloe need to go in and talk to him. You'll only make things worse. Remember what happened the last time you talked to him?"
"Mr. Dragón is right" Lt. Sanchez replied firmly. "You and I can watch from outside but Decker and Ms. Dragón will go in and ask our questions. This guy is on suicide watch - the last thing we need is..."
The sound of an alarm cut off any further conversation. Rowan hurriedly ended her conversation as nurses, orderlies and other hospital employees suddenly started to swarm for the exit, carefully leading ambulatory patients and others on gurneys to the doors. "What's going on?" Chloe asked a doctor as he scurried for the door.
"Active shooter on the psych ward" he replied, waving his fellow employees towards the exits. "Someone got a gun up to a patient on lockdown and he's threatening everyone he sees."
"Which patient?" Rowan asked.
"Some guy named Jimmy Barnes."
Chloe turned to Lucifer, grabbing his arm to prevent him from bolting for the stairs. "No - you're not going up there, not without me."
"Whose Barnes?" Rowan asked, confused.
"Barnes was a murderer the detective and I brought to justice on our first case together. Unfortunately he went quite mad after he tried to kill us both and has been incarcerated in the ward here ever since." Lucifer tried to shake loose of his human partner without injuring her, only to find himself face to face with his faux niece. "Step aside, little hell cat. Jimmy and I have a conversation to finish - one I should have finished three years ago."
"Has it occurred to you, Uncle" Rowan said through gritted teeth "that this is too coincidental? A murderer you and Chloe caught escapes with a weapon on the same floor as Mr. Tomes just as we are abut to re-interview him?"
"We need to get up there" Sanchez replied, pulling his service revolver. Chloe fell in behind him with Rowan and Lucifer taking up the rear. "Stairs - I'm not getting trapped in an elevator by some fruitcake with a gun. Decker, we get up there you are with me. You two..."
Rowan waved him off. "We'll stay at the nurses station in case someone tries to sneak past us. Don't worry - I can keep an eye on Lucifer."
"I don't need..." Lucifer began, wincing as Rowan drove the heel of her boot into his instep. "Ouch - that hurts! Oh, very well, lead on. I'll behave - for now."
On the psych ward
Chloe and Sanchez moved swiftly out of the stairwell, covering each other as they made their way down the hall. Lucifer and Rowan followed closely behind, watching to make sure nothing jumped out that the other two had missed. "Here's the nurse's station" Sanchez said quietly. "You two stay here until we can finish our sweep."
"Will do" Rowan replied, digging her fingers into Lucifer's arm. He glared at her for a moment, eyes turning red then sighed.
"Fine - we'll wait here" he muttered, leaning against the desk. He watched as his partner and the other officer disappeared around a corner then turned to find a Mauser, held by his niece, in his face. "Where did you hide that?" he asked, making the question sound licentious.
"Not now" she sighed. "We need to find where they were holding Mr. Tomes. I have a very nasty suspicion about what is going on and I'd like to confirm it before your first victim tries to pick us off." Her keen hearing could make out someone nearby, breathing heavily. "He's close by. I can hear him."
"Well then, by all means let me introduce you. I'm sure Jimmy would enjoy seeing a pretty face before he makes his final journey to his abode in hell."
Rowan counted to ten in her head before she answered. "We're not here to deal with one of your victims, uncle. Let Chloe and Sanchez take care of this."
"If you insist but trust me, little hell cat, Jimmy Barnes was no victim." Lucifer fell in behind his niece, admiring her lithe figure from behind. The sound of harsh breathing grew less and less as they moved away from the desk.
"You know I can feel you leering at me back there" Rowan said in exasperation, hoping Chloe and Sanchez would find the armed madman before she would have to deal with him.
"I know - but how can I resist such a beautiful view?"
"You are impossible" Rowan replied, hiding a smile. "I don't know how Chloe puts up with..." She stopped suddenly and flattened against the wall, Lucifer matching her every move. "Look just there" she said, motioning with one hand. "At that doorway."
Lucifer peered down the hall. "A uniformed officer's shoe" he guessed.
"Which means the officer is probably still attached. My horrible feeling is getting stronger." She glided carefully down to the door, carefully opening it and with help from Lucifer, tugged the body of the officer out into the hall. She checked for a pulse and sighed in relief. "Still alive - just out cold. Let's see what else we can..." The words had barely left her lips when Lucifer pushed past her into the room, and was gone. "Would serve you right if you got shot" she grumbled, following him in.
Inside, Lucifer stood in front of a glass wall looking into an empty padded cell. A clipboard lay just under the viewing windows with the name "Tomes" written on it. "Seems our only witness has disappeared into the ether" he said coldly.
"Damn it!" Rowan swore. "I was afraid this would happen when the police didn't find his wife. She and the rest of that murderous little cult have retrieve him - probably to use as their "scapegoat" for this next sacrifice." She looked up at the corners of the room with a frown. "This place has more CCTV camera's than most - maybe we can get something from them."
"Maybe" Lucifer replied, eyes blazing. "But I have a better idea." He reached into his pocket for his phone. A few swipes later..."Maze - I have a job for you."
Chapter 23: New images - but not much new information
At the other end of the psych ward.
Chloe and Sanchez carefully crept around the halls, quickly clearing room after room until they had reached the end of the corridor and were forced to circle back. “No sign of our shooter’ Sanchez whispered. “Not good – he might have gotten behind us.”
“And be headed right for Rowan and Lucifer” Chloe replied quietly, remembering the last time she had seen Barnes. The sight of the once arrogant promoter trying to bash his brains in on the glass observation window, screaming that Lucifer was the devil. “Probably should have listened to him” she thought.
‘Decker – where are they?” Sanchez hissed, pointing in the direction of the now disserted nurse’s station.
Chloe shrugged. “They may have heard something and decided to find Tomes before Jimmy found them.” She laid a hand on the older man’s arm suddenly. “Listen – what do you hear?”
Sanchez stared down the corridor. “Footsteps – headed towards that holding area.” He took point again, letting Chloe fall in behind him as they followed the sound carefully back down another hall. A sudden scream changed their plans instantly – as did the body of Jimmy Barnes flying out of a room and sliding down a wall in front of them. A 35mm handgun slid out of his hand and down the floor towards Chloe, who grabbed it up.
“Well, remind me not to make you mad” Lucifer’s chipper voice sounded from the doorway. The Devil stood with a smile on his face as he looked down at the human he had once terrified out of his mind. “Poor Jimmy – still a loser. Can’t even take on one little girl.”
Barnes whimpered in fear, curling up into a fetal position with his eyes fixed on Lucifer, shivering like an addict desperate for a fix. “Get away from me!” he howled. “You can’t have it – you can’t have my soul!”
“Oh good grief, why would he want it in the first place?” Rowan’s exasperated voice called out from behind her taller companion. She moved to look down at the wreck of a human being with a sigh. “It's not like it's worth much. Guess we’re not going to get anything out of him for a while – at least not until we get some good drugs into him.”
Lucifer beamed at his niece. “I KNEW there was a reason I liked you better than your brothers. You’re such a cold blooded…” he stopped, seeing the Chloe's disapproving glare.
“Bitch. The word you are looking for is bitch. And yes, I am. Been in too many war zones to be anything else.” She jerked a thumb behind her. “I’m afraid we’re too late, Lt. Sanchez. Mr. Tomes is gone – though I suspect he might have had a little helping in leaving. With any luck the CCTV camera’s on this floor will give us a better look at who that someone might be.”
“What do we do with him?” Sanchez said, eyeing Lucifer dubiously.
“Well, for one thing, we get my uncle out of his line of sight. Seems Mr. Barnes here has fixated on some absurd notion that his is as his name says he is – the Prince of Hell. I mean really – can you think of anything more absurd?” Rowan’s voice sounded partially annoyed and partially soothing, pushing the foolishness of the notion into the human’s mind.
Sanchez blinked then shrugged. “Works for me. Mr. Morningstar, if you’ll accompany Det. Decker back downstairs? And Decker, see if you can scare up hospital security and get that camera footage. Ms. Dragón and I will stay here until you can send orderlies up to deal with this patient.”
Chloe nodded and grabbed her partner by the arm. “Let’s go, Lucifer.”
Lucifer, however, was not yet ready to be moved. “But… I’m almost sure I promised someone I’d watch over you, little niece.”
“You’re making excuses, uncle” Rowan replied firmly. “Neither my father, my brothers nor your brothers would think to ask you to keep an eye on me – not if they wanted to keep both their eyes in their heads. So go, make yourself useful and find that camera footage.” She shoved him gently in Chloe’s direction and sank to the floor, seated across from the still terrified Jimmy Barnes.
Lucifer frowned, but allowed himself to be led away. “That girl will go too far one day” he fumed.
“And you’ll do what? She’s not afraid of you, she’s not even mildly scared, even though I'm pretty sure she's seen your "devil face" at some point. And we both know your brothers will pile in on you if you touch her so really, Lucifer, what’s the problem here? Rowan can take care of herself. She doesn’t need you to hover.”
Lucifer pouted for a moment. “But it would have been such FUN to pull things from Jimmy. He did ruin my good suit – on top of killing Delilah and shooting you.”
Chloe sighed. “Let’s find security.”
Rowan watched Jimmy rock back and forth on the floor of the ward, babbling incoherently. "Wow - I've seen some wacked out types before but this one is really far out there. What could have done this to him?" She turned an inquisitive stare on the human beside her, glad Lucifer wasn't there. She had heard the story of what had happened to Jimmy Barnes from Lucifer himself and had dismissed it as part of Lucifer's past. Now, she wondered if Seraphiel's words of caution concerning his Fallen brother might not have been correct after all.
Sanchez shrugged, staying out of reach of the hysterical man at his feet. "Heard Barnes was a real hot head - rumors he and the girlfriend he had killed were heavy into drugs. Maybe they just caught up with him."
"Maybe" Rowan conceded. "But while we have the time - can I try something? I'd like to see if he can hear my voice in that nightmare world he's inhabiting right now and tell us who brought him that gun."
"We should just wait for the camera footage" Sanchez replied.
Rowan nodded. "Your right - but I had to at least..."
Suddenly Jimmy stared up at her, eyes glazed in fear. "They said if I killed him the angels would take me away from this place. But only the Devil is still around. All the angels have gone back to Heaven." His curled up into a tighter ball and continued to rock, ignoring the people standing above him.
"Angels and Demons" Sanchez murmured. "Sounds like a Dan Brown novel."
"Doesn't it just" she agreed, watching as the elevators opened and orderlies poured out to take their prisoner from them. "Let's see what Chloe and Lucifer have found."
Downstairs, Chloe had located a member of hospital security and was watching him pull up video from the moments before Barnes had broken free. "There - stop it there" she ordered, pointing to a clip of three people - two in hospital garb - walking up the hall to Barnes's room. One was recognizable as Beatrice Tomes. "Do you know either of the other two men?" she asked.
The security officer stared at the frame for a moment. "Not the guy on the end, holding the ladies arm. But the other guy is Tommy Marsh. He's new here. Just started working as a nurse's aid just this month."
"Perhaps he is one of the brother's my nephews have been looking for from the original case" Lucifer said, a bored tone to his voice. "If only we had photos of them to compare this to."
"Maybe we do" Chloe replied, an idea springing to mind. "There were photos in Alice Morgan's data from newspapers on the day the police found the last victim. I'm pretty sure one of them included both boys. Maybe we can get our police forensic artist to do an age progression of those faces and match them to this."
"Sounds like a plan" Rowan said, walking in on the last part of the conversation. "Do we have access to whatever paperwork this young man put in for the nursing job? Surely they would have some background on his, maybe even fingerprints."
"I'll get with Human Resources and have them send you all they have" the Security officer offered.
Rowan started the video clip running again and watched as the trio split up with Tommy heading for the area Barnes was being held and the other two going towards the detention cell that had contained Andrew Tomes. "I'm betting that the man with Mrs. Tomes is our elusive Legal Aid employee, Marcus Tomes. See how he's holding her arm as they walk? Solicitous of her - like a son would be."
"The Parrish boy - the one they took in when Matthias died?" Sanchez asked, watching the clip.
"Probably." Rowan leaned back against the wall, suddenly tired. "They had to get Andrew out of the hospital for some reason. Best guess - the sacrifice is happening soon and they need a scapegoat just like they did the last time. We HAVE to find where they are setting up!"
"If anyone can find these creatures - Maze can" Lucifer assured.
"It's not a matter of if she can find them, uncle" Rowan whispered. "But if she can find them in time."
Chapter 24: Late nights
“It’s getting late” Lt. Sanchez said, leading the group out of the hospital. “The hospital’s HR department isn’t going to be able to get us what we need until morning. Decker, first thing tomorrow go over whatever info the hospital sends over. Let’s see if we can find something in his paperwork that will lead us to the group. In the meantime, let’s see if anything has come in from Missing Persons to identify who are next victim might be.”
“I need to check in with Arthur and Khan” Rowan relied. “And get something to eat. It’s usually not a good thing for me to go this long without a meal.”
“Low blood-sugar?” Dan asked, coming up on the group, file in hand.
“I bite” Rowan said with a snarl. “So don’t push it.”
Sanchez chuckled. “You and my wife both. Go on – go home and get some rest. And tell your brothers I appreciate what they’ve done for us. If they or their contacts hear anything else we might find useful…”
“I’ll call Chloe or you the minute I hear anything” Rowan replied with a smile.
“I’ll take you home” Lucifer offered, fishing his keys out of his pocket.
“No need – Seraphiel is here to get me.” Rowan pointed as her god-father’s motorcycle roared into view.
“How did he know you were here?” Dan asked, suspiciously.
“He always knows where I am” Rowan said with a sigh. She hopped on the back of the bike and waved as they roared out of sight.
Sanchez laughed. “Guess her dad’s got her on a short leash” he snorted.
“That’s not her dad” Lucifer said with a scowl. “Just her god-father. And really, how rude that he didn’t even say hello.”
“Lucifer – not now.” Chloe turned to Dan and looked pointedly at the folder he was carrying. “Something you wanted to share with us?”
“Just a list of what was found at the Tomes house – no legal papers, no photo albums, nothing personal. The realtor said they had owned that house for almost thirty years but to look at this you’d think they just moved in.” Dan stared in frustration at both his ex-wife and Lucifer. “What happened here?”
“Espinoza – get on the horn to Legal Aid and tell them I don’t give a crap about what their concerns are. I need their employment records for Marcus Tomes and a list of all the cases he was working – and I needed it yesterday.” Sanchez pulled out his own car keys and motioned to Chloe. “You and Mr. Morningstar might as well call it a day too. We’re not going to get anymore information out of anyone until morning.” He walked off towards the parking lot, leaving the group behind.
“Smashing!” Lucifer crowed. “So Detective – care to have a drink with me?”
Chloe closed her eyes and counted to ten. “No – I think I’m going to go home and make sure my child had a meal that consisted of more than a slice of chocolate cake. See you tomorrow.”
“Fine” Lucifer replied, grumpily. “I’ll take you home then.”
“Or I could and you can scurry off to your little nightclub like a good boy and leave the police work to us” Dan replied sarcastically.
Chloe stared at her ex for a moment then turned back to her partner. “Come on Lucifer. Trixie hasn’t seen you in ages and we could both do with a meal.” She linked her arm through her partner’s and all but dragged him away, leaving Dan to stare at her in frustration.
Back at the Dragón compound
Rowan slid off the Seraphim’s bike with a sigh. “So – what are YOU so grumpy about?”
“You going into a dangerous situation with that Fallen at your back” Seraphiel replied coolly.
“Trust me – that boy was the least of my worries.” She stretched for a moment then entered the house, nodding to Draco as she did. “Where are my brothers?”
“In the Great Room, my queen. I believe the King was stretched out on that mound of pillows in the corner and the young abbot was listening to music.”
Draco shrugged. "I sent him back to the temple to update the young Abbot's priests. They tend to worry when he stays out too long."
“No new information on the old case then?” She sighed in frustration. “Seems like we going no where fast on that one.”
"Nothing as yet, my lady. Have you dined? I can make you something before you retire." Draco's Scottish accent deepened as he stared down at his master's youngest child, the Queen of his realm.
"No - she hasn't eaten and yes she needs something in her stomach before she sleeps" Seraphiel replied, shoving her towards the kitchen. "Something light."
"No buts about this girl. I'll not have you wake up famished and try to take a bite out either your boys or me. Especially not me. You eat something, get ready for bed and we'll gather up your boys and put this night - and them - to bed as well." Seraphiel sat her firmly down on a chair and motioned to the elder dragon, who quietly dragged out a pot and began to heat her favorite tomato soup for her.
Rowan sighed and surrendered, knowing this fight was not one she was going to win. A hot bowl of soup later she had to admit - the old Seraphim had been right. Sleep was now probably within reach. Ducking into their shared room, she stripped off her daytime attire and pulled Arthur's t-shirt over her head along with a pair of shorts. "Okay - so now for the boys" she thought, walking out to the Great Room.
Seraphiel looked back at her from the sofa with a shrug. "I'm thinking they aren't going to be moving anytime soon" he said, pointing at the two young men now sprawled in the nest of pillows in one corner of the room. Either Seraphiel or Draco had thrown a light blanket over the pair to keep them warm - which in her mind was a waste as they were both fire spirits. Both were shirtless, shoeless and curled up together like sleepy puppies. And both were snoring loudly.
Rowan laughed. "Yeah - I don't think it's worth it to wake them" she agreed, stretching out on the sofa, her head in her guardian's lap. "Wake me in a few hours so I can get things moving again."
"You sleep" Seraphiel rumbled quietly. "Wake when you can - the case will do what it does with or without you. Remember, little girl, all of this is meant to be the responsibility of the human authorities, not yours."
"I know" she whispered. "But..."
Sleep" he commanded, laying his hand over her eyes. He felt her squirm around till she was comfortable then relax as sleep overcame her. He looked over at the boys snoring loudly in the corner with a sigh. "It's going to be a long night."
In the city
Maze watched from the shadows, debating whether it would be worth the hassle to go back and set up in to the legal office of her target, Marcus Tomes, so that she could rough someone up for the information or continue to wait in this alley. "Trust Lucifer NOT to have a picture or something to tell me who I was supposed to find for him" she grumbled. She had been waiting in this alleyway for hours, ever since Lucifer had called her from the hospital psych ward. He'd given her almost no information to go on in knowing who it was she was supposed to track down, no physical description, no place to start - nothing. All he had told her was that one target was a lawyer who worked with Legal Aid. It hadn't taken her long to find this street-front office that passed as the man's workplace and even less time to break in and case the joint. Nothing had jumped out at her in her cursory examination of the space - mostly paperwork on cases that were being handled out of the office and photos of family and friends. She thought she had heard some hollow sounding areas in the floor near the desk but there were too many people in the streets to allow her the time to leisurely tear the place apart. "Typical Lucifer" she grumbled. "It will be an adventure he says. It will be a challenge for your tracking skills. Yeah - right. He just didn't want to..." she stopped her internal monologue as a girl walked up to the storefront office and quickly slid in. Maze blinked and stared again - recognizing the girl from one of the photos on the office desk she had just searched. The woman was walking past the office then scurrying away, as though she was debating whether it was safe to go in. "Bet it's his girlfriend" she muttered, leaning back into the shadows.
A few minutes later, the young girl came back out, struggling to force an overstuffed envelope into a backpack as she re-locked the door. She glanced quickly up and down the street then started quickly off towards metered parking around tbe corner, with Maze in silent pursuit. The girl's eyes darted around her, looking in windows and up at doorways - any place a security camera might be concealed. "Amateur" Maze sneered, having already determined there were no such devices on this street. The demon watched as the girl walked up to one of those tiny, Smart cars and threw the backpack on the seat. "Oh no you don't" Maze said, gliding up behind her and grabbing her arm.
The woman squealed, trying vainly to yank herself free from the Maze's grip. "Let me go!" she screamed.
Maze made a face - and bounced the girl's head off her car, knocking her out. Stuffing the stranger into the passenger seat, she grabbed the keys and poured herself into the drivers side, starting the car and heading out towards Lux. "I HATE these damn tiny cars" the demon muttered, watching the unconscious woman beside her. "Lucifer owes me big time for this."
Chapter 25: Thanks Lucifer - as if we didn't have enough trouble
Lucifer stared into the depths of his shot of whisky, ignoring the sounds coming from the club below. It was almost two - hours after he had last seen the detective. He had dropped Chloe at her house and beat a hasty retreat soon afterwards, not ready to deal with the detective’s spawn greeting him as she usually did – with a hug. “Or maybe I wondered if she wouldn’t” he mused, unsure why the thought of the child’s indifference might upset him. He tossed the drink back and was reaching for the bottle when Maze marched through the elevator door, preceded by the semi-conscious form of a young woman.
“So – your target didn’t show up any of the places you suggested but this little bitch did. Found her sneaking around Tomes's office. And I’m betting she if she doesn't knows where he is, she can make a pretty good guess at it. Her photo was on his desk and she was walking out of his office with an envelope stuffed with money.” The demon gave the limp form a kick to rouse her as she dropped the padded envelope on Lucifer’s lap and reached for the bottle. “Money, passports and plane tickets to Brazil. Someone was making a break for it." Maze looked around the apartment for a moment then back at her former employer. "Hey - Where are the kids? You said they were working this with you.”
“Probably asleep in their beds at their compound” Lucifer purred, looking down at the prey his former chief torturer had presented him with. He poked at the girl with his toe, waiting for her to open her eyes. “I thought I’d see what we could scare up while they were resting.”
“We?” Maze snorted. “You mean me. And, by the way, I expect to get paid for this little job. She’s been whining and crying ever since I dumped her in her car. And what is it with these match-book sized cars people drive. I could barely get her into it much less me and my blades.”
Lucifer shrugged, no longer listening. He leaned over and rolled the girl over on her back, noticing she had regained consciousness while he and Maze had been speaking. “So, my dear, what do we call you?”
“Misty” she whimpered. “Who are you? Where have you taken me? What to do you want from me?”
“So many questions! How very annoying of you. But let's start with the first one. What do I want? From you – not much” Lucifer said calmly. “But from Mr. Marcus Tomes – quite a bit actually. That is who you were taking this little pile of goodies to, wasn’t it? Dear Marcus – child killer and son of a child killer. Lovely things run in that family, don’t they?”
“Marcus isn’t…” Misty whimpered, sitting up and pulling her knees up to her chest.
“Oh please – I’m not in the mood for a debate on the ethics of following daddy’s example of sacrificing little lost lambs to the big man in the sky for your own personal enrichment. Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? What do you desire? What to you truly, in the depths of that vapid little heart, desire?”
His hypnotic voice echoed in her head, blocking out all the screams warning her to run, to hide, to get away from this darkness sitting in front of her. She stared in to Lucifer's eyes, mouth moving as she tried to formulate an answer. "I want... to save Marcus."
Lucifer smiled cruelly. "Save him from what?"
"From Reverend James and the Tomes. They think they are doing God's work but they aren't. They think an angel comes down from Heaven every time they call but..."
"Wait - an angel?" Maze's disbelieving voice interrupted. "What angel?"
Misty looked back at the woman who had literally swept her up of the street. "He wouldn't say. Just that an angel would posses his uncle when they performed the ritual. I'm not sure what the ritual was but he said that they weren't doing it right because what they prayed for never happened. So they had to keep doing it, over and over again, until the angel said their sacrifice was accepted. He said Mrs. Tomes believed that God no longer approved of his uncle and wanted HIM to take his place, to put on the wings and let the angel posses him but he was scared. He and Mr. Tomes - they were both scared." She started to sniffle, shaking as she knelt in front of Lucifer. "I didn't know what he was talking about until today - but I can't believe he was involved in those horrible murders! Marcus is such a gentle, sweet man just like his foster father, Mr. Tomes. They were just so scared of the others..."
"They should have been scared of me" Lucifer snarled. "I have some lovely cages in Hell all set up for this cult - now all we need to do is find them. And that, dear Misty, is where you come in. Where exactly were you going to meet Marcus?
"I..." she hesitated, looking desperately around her. "I... can't say."
"Can't - or won't?" Maze asked, pulling one of her curved blades from her belt.
"I CAN'T" Misty cried, folding herself into an almost fetal position to get away from the danger she could feel all around her. "He was supposed to leave me a note with the money to tell me where to find him but all that was there was that envelope."
"Where was that package anyway?" Maze said, playing with her dagger. "I looked all over the office - there was no safe, nothing in the desk, no place to hide anything bigger than a business card."
"There was a floorboard that was loose in the ladies room" Misty whispered. "He used to hide things from his mother there. Things he didn't want her to see - like that picture of us on his desk. I should have known something was wrong when I saw it out in the open. He was terrified of her finding it."
"Guess she did find it" Maze replied. "I'm betting that's where your note went - right into someone's pocket. Picture left on the desk was a message to whoever came looking that they knew. Probably aimed at him - but in a pinch scaring you would work too."
Lucifer leaned back, accessing the situation. "So - it was Mama Tomes that was the driving force here. Interesting." He reached across to his phone and selected a number. "Hello, Chloe. Sorry to call you so late - but I have some information you might want to hear."
Back at the Dragón compound
Arthur opened one blood-shot blue eye as his phone vibrated on the floor beside him. Reaching over he made note that it was almost two a.m. - and that the caller was Chloe Decker. "Hello?" he muttered, trying to extract himself from his younger brother's arm. Somehow they had fallen asleep together and his much larger sibling had rolled over on him, pinning him to the pillows.
"Mr. Dragón? Arthur - Where are you?" Chloe's voice sounded worried, as though she had just received distressing news.
"At the moment, I'm on top of a pile of pillows on the floor of my home trying to get some sleep. Where are you?"
She sighed. "I'm on my way to Lux. Lucifer has found someone connected to Marcus Tomes and... well, he had Maze kidnapper the woman and bring her to his place."
Arthur sat upright, rolling his brother off the pillows and onto the tile floor. "HE WHAT!"
"He says it's Marcus Tomes girlfriend and that she has information about what's been going on. I'm on my way over there right now to see if this situation is as bad as I think it is."
"It's probably worse. Damn that brat - can't leave him alone for a second. Look - we'll be meet you there. Don't let him start anything else until we get there. My siblings and I will figure something out." Arthur's voice went cold, trying to control his temper while he untangle himself from the blanket that had been covering him. He hung up and looked around. Beside him, Khan was sitting up, staring quizzically at him. Across from them both, Rowan had bolted upright as well, reacting to the anger in her brother's voice, with Seraphiel seated beside her watching him with hooded eyes. "You lot are not going to believe this."
"Let me guess" Seraphiel rumbled. "Lucifer has made a mess of things. Again."
"That's one way of putting it" Arthur agreed with a snarl. "He's kidnapped someone with ties to Marcus Tomes and wants Chloe to interrogate this person at his club."
"Oh bloody hell!" Rowan replied, jumping off the sofa and heading for the bedroom. "I KNEW I shouldn't leave that boy to his own devices. Come on, the pair of you. Get dressed. If we cut through the Between we might arrive just right behind Chloe."
"I'm going to run down Zaphiel and we'll meet you at Lux" Seraphiel said, unfurling his wings as he rose. "I have a feeling you're going to need his expertise." A moment later the older angel was gone and the Triad was scrambling to change.
Chapter 26: At Lux
Chloe’s car slid to a stop in the alley beside Lux. Lucifer’s call, which had woken her out of a fitful sleep had sent her scrambling to find a babysitter in the early morning hours. Trixie wasn’t yet old enough to be left on her own, and Chloe wasn’t willing to have to deal with Dan’s attitude (and questions) just to have him watch their daughter for a few hours. Fortunately Linda has been awake (sort of) and been willing to take Trixie into her home until she needed to be in school. “Be careful” Linda has whispered as they watched the young girl fall back to sleep. “Lucifer’s unpredictable at the best of times and with this case…”
“I’ve got it handled” Chloe had responded, hoping she wasn’t deceiving herself. Hopping back into her car, she raced back to the club, praying her devilish partner had not done something she couldn’t fix. “Damn it” she thought, hopping out of her car. “I should have known he’d get Maze involved. He always tries to cut corners when he thinks things are taking too long to solve.” She watched as a strange fog bank rolled into the alley, a light emanating from its depths. Suddenly, Rowan and her two brothers hurtled out of the fog, sliding to a stop in front of her.
“I should have known he would take this too far” Rowan muttered, pulling her jacket closer. “He called Maze when we were in the hospital but it NEVER occurred to me he’d have her bring whoever she found straight to him.”
“No time to worry with it now” Arthur replied, gravely, pulling open the club’s back door. “We need to see what we can salvage from this mess.”
Khan hesitated for a moment. “I’ll catch up” he growled, pulling his tablet out of his jacket. “I need to check on some message I sent before we go into this.” He gave his siblings a rueful grin. “Besides – I hate the sight of blood.”
“Since when?” both Arthur and Rowan responded.
“Guys!” Chloe said, pointing to the open doorway. “Can we take this up later?” She jerked the back door open and charged in, followed by the two fae royals.
Left behind by his siblings, Khan read quickly through his messages until he got to the one from a friend at U.C. Berkley. A file was attached to the message along with a brief explanation of what the young researcher had found. Khan read through the information, his frown deepening, then opened the file. A picture from old newspaper filled his screen, showing a crowd of people in front of a burned out building. Khan peered intently at the group, his eyes widening at one particular figure. “Well, damn!” he thought, tucking the tablet back into his jacket. “This makes for an interesting twist.” He charged through the back door after his siblings, closing the door into the Between as he ran.
Inside, the brother and sister team hurried through the door with their human friend. The elevator door was waiting for them as they reached the back of the club. “Should I be worried he’s expecting us?” Rowan asked.
“He’s expecting me” Chloe said sternly.
“Which means he’s expecting us” Arthur replied with a sigh. “He has to know you’d have called us after talking to him. So…Let’s hope for the best…”
“And expect the worst” Rowan muttered, standing with her arms crossed over her chest as the doors closed.
In the apartment
Lucifer took another sip of his whiskey, watching as the human Maze had brought to his apartment sat shivering on the sofa. “You know, this would be so much more pleasurable if you’d just tell us where your boyfriend is” he said, smiling back at Maze.
Maze snorted in disbelief. “It didn’t work the first three times you told her that.”
The elevator doors opened and Chloe, Arthur and Rowan stepped out. “Alright, uncle” Arthur said, tiredly. “What have you done now?”
Maze waved a hand in the Devil’s face. “I’ve got this” she said, proceeding to regal the trio with the story of how she had meant to track down Marcus Tomes and had, instead, found his girlfriend. “She was walking away with a padded envelope she didn’t have when she first walked into that storefront office so figured I’d see what she was up to.”
“So… you bounced her head off her car, stuffed her in the passenger seat and brought her to Lucifer?” Rowan said, her annoyance slightly mollified.
“Sounds like something you would do” Arthur teased.
Rowan smiled. “Probably. So – did she tell you where to find her runaway boyfriend?”
“No – that’s the annoying part” Lucifer interjected, frustrated at being left out of the conversation. “She actually doesn’t know where he is. Dimwit was supposed to leave her a note under the floorboard in the ladies room – but someone beat her to it.”
“Lovely” Arthur grumbled. “Dragged my ass out of bed for nothing.”
Chloe stared between Lucifer and Arthur, wondering if either of them was serious. “Maze kidnapped this woman!”
“Oh please – she’s perfectly free to leave anytime she wants” Lucifer sniffed. “Not our fault she didn’t. Just a pity she didn’t have more information for us to make this all worth the fuss.”
“Maybe I can help with that” Khan said, coming in from the stairwell. “Buddy of mine did a search of some paper copies of newspapers from the day that hadn’t been scanned and put on line. He found something really interesting.”
“I thought we had already seen what the papers had printed about the Angel Killer case” Arthur replied quizzically.
“Not that case. Remember what Sissy said her friend Delphine told her about Reverend James and Matthias Parrish being related and having lived in some fundy cult? Well – guess who else lived there?” He pulled out his tablet, opened up the photo file he had been sent and passed it to his brother.
Arthur frowned as he studied the image, eyes focusing on one person in particular. “Is this who I think it is?” he asked, pointing to a young girl watching fire fighters work. Beside her were two boys her own age, both angrily watching their world burn.
“Image that little girl sixty-plus years old and looking like the stereotypical shrewish little old lady – and you have Mrs. Beatrice James Tomes.”
“James?” Chloe said, looking at the tablet in Arthur’s hands. “Any relation to Titus James, the original minister from the Angel Killer case?”
“His cousin” Khan replied. “My buddy was able to access the stories that had been printed about the cult right before the fire. Seems the James and Parrish families were upper level, true believers in this weird ass Apocalypse cult. Beatrice was the daughter of the original minister Lenard James, who was Titus brother. Lenard was the prime suspect in the arson that destroyed the cult’s church and rendered most of its believer’s homeless. Authorities believed there had been a rift between the brothers and Lenard was at on the losing end of it. He had been exiled from the commune, minus his family, and in retaliation he had set fire to the barn the group used as a church. Fire spread to the nearby cabins used by the “believers” as their homes and damn near set the whole twenty acres of woodland the commune was located in on fire.”
“You say suspected – he escaped before authorities could question him?” Chloe asked cautiously.
“Nope. They found his body, or what was left of it, in the barn. Too charred to make much of it and since he’d made some pretty drastic threats in front of witnesses the police at the time figured he’d either committed suicide or had accidently been killed while setting the fire.” Khan looked over his brother’s shoulder for a moment then looked up at his sister. “Me – I’m the suspicious type. I think there was a third option.”
“Same here” Rowan said calmly. “Why were the newspapers doing any kind of stories on this group? This is California, after all. You can’t turn over a stone without finding these types of “unusual” churches.”
“Yeah – my buddy was curious about that too. Seems there had been complaints to the authorities about the people in charge beating on young kids, specifically young girls, to the point where some of them were seriously injured. One girl’s mother snuck her out of the commune and took her to the nearest Emergency room for treatment but the kid freaked out and ran out, straight into her father and the reverend who had come looking for them. Again – guess which little girl it was?”
“Beatrice” Chloe said angrily. “Why? Why would she run away from people trying to help her?”
“Probably programmed to believe her soul was forfeit if she allowed un-believers to get too close. Whatever the reason, the mother was not allowed to retrieve her child so she went to the local authorities – which started the whole investigative ball of wax rolling.”
“Interesting” Chloe mused. “But what has that got to do with our missing Legal Aid worker and the child that is probably going to be sacrificed soon?”
“They have to have a place to perform the ritual – a place that has some meaning for them. What about the birthplace of their twisted belief system? The original site of the commune?” Arthur looked over at Misty with a frown. “Was the location of the cult in the newspaper?”
“Probably, but things have changed since this event occurred” Khan admitted, reluctantly. “Maybe not the same names on the map as they were when the fire occurred.”
Chloe looked over at the shivering girl, a gleam in her eyes. “What about her? Maybe Marcus told her about that place?”
Misty looked up at the group, her pallor growing ever more sickly. “I can’t…”she whispered.
“Oh yes you can” Arthur replied coldly. “Or whatever they threatened would happen to you will seem like a picnic in the park compared to what I will do to you.”
Both Chloe and Lucifer looked up at the young man in surprise. “Arthur” Chloe began, a warning tone to her voice. “She’s a witness. You can’t…”
“You wake me at two in the morning – after I’ve been shot – and expect me to be in a good mood? Really? It’s not bad enough I can’t ABIDE people like this who hem and haw and sniffle their way out of tough situations – but now I’m supposed to just kick back and let her whine her way out of telling us where her boyfriend and his Texas Chainsaw Massacre family are holding a little girl before they murder her? Not happening. Not on my watch. You want to hold her hand and tell her everything will be alright then arrest her. Otherwise, let me do what I’m good at doing – getting information from a reluctant suspect.”
“Well, well” Lucifer replied gleefully, overriding his partner. “Someone’s sounding like he’s had enough of this nonsense.” He smiled happily up at Arthur while Maze stood to one side, reassessing her interest in getting to know this young Fae king. he was starting to look really good to the demon torturer of Hell, something she suspected would not set well with a certain archangel.
Rowan signaled quickly to Khan. “Work your tech magic, brother, before our Firebird does something we’re all going to regret.”
Khan sighed. “Let me see what I can find out from this old news article” he muttered, pulling up his friend’s original note. After a moment he stopped. “Okay – there’s a small town named Lordsville not far from San Fran. It appears the story about the arson that took out the commune’s barn / church comes from their newspaper. Odds are – the cult probably owned property near the town.”
“Narrows it down some” Rowan replied, trying to keep her elder brother and the cringing woman on the sofa separated. “Pity we can’t access land records.”
“Well…”Khan said, cutting a look at Chloe. “We could – if Det. Decker doesn’t mind a little cyber breaking and entering. I’m good – but my buddy Tyler is better – and he’s an insomniac so probably up and surfing the web even as we speak. Let me see what he says.” Khan sent a message down the line, then looked back at the article again. “Problem will be – whose name is the property under – the Tomes, the Parrish family or someone else?”
Arthur glanced over at his brother with a frown. “Hell - why didn’t you say you could find a way to access those records before? I don’t care if she does have a problem with the legality of that search – if your buddy can do it then he needs to just jump in and do it. Can he get you those records?” He looked over at his sister with a shrug. “So – how should little brother’s friend be searching for on that land deed anyway?”
“My guess – none of the above” Chloe replied, reassured that Arthur had been distracted from whatever he had planned to do to shake information loose from Misty. “This was a cult like Jonestown with a religious leader in charge. In order to get tax advantages as a house of worship wouldn’t the property have to be in the name of the Church?”
“Wait a sec” Khan replied, sending another hurried message downstream to his hacker friend. “Land records are good but tax records are better. The cult broke up once the church burned down and people were starting to look too closely at how they were living their lives. But just because the people aren’t there anymore doesn’t mean taxes aren’t due on the land – especially if the church didn’t put in paperwork to get an exemption. So… maybe look for land in that area on the tax rolls that is either in default or just had the tax debit paid?”
“Good thought, little brother” Arthur replied approvingly. “But while we’re waiting for your friend…” he turned back to the now totally terrified Misty. “Now then, where were we? Ah, yes – you were going to tell me about where your boyfriend might have gone with that little girl.”
“Oh, let me” Lucifer purred, turning in his seat to face the frightened woman. “Now then, my dear – let’s play this game again.” His eyes turned fiery red as he stared her down, causing the woman to scream.
“She said the Devil would take our souls if we didn’t agree to this” Misty blubbered. “She said you were out there, just waiting for us to fall. Marcus said he wasn’t so sure anymore but his mother told him the end times were coming and they had to try again. I DON'T know where he is – but wherever it is, he’s with true believers who are safe from the Devil’s power! Safe from you!” The girl rolled into a fetal position in hysterics, crying uncontrollably.
Rowan sighed in annoyance then pulled the girl up roughly from the sofa and slapped her soundly till she stopped crying. “Get a grip, you twat. Uncle is the least of your concerns, no matter how pretty his eyes look to you now. As for your boyfriend’s family, they’ve pretty much built themselves an escalator right into Hell with their activities. Just WAIT till Heaven’s sons gets their shot at them. I know Reapers who will make Hell will look like a picnic in comparison.”
Chloe shot a look at Arthur who shrugged. “Girl has friends everywhere – even among the angels who collect dead people’s souls.”
Lucifer leaned back on the sofa with a grin. “Bloody maudlin lot of wankers Azrael has working with her. Not a party goer in the bunch.”
“I wouldn’t make book on that uncle” Rowan replied, cutting an amused look in the Devil’s direction. “Couple of those boys make you look like a monk.”
“Got it!” Khan’s exuberant yelp startling the group. “Knew Tyler wouldn’t let me down. He’s the one that sent me the article in the first place and he had already figured I’d want to know where this all took place. He’d already hacked the tax rolls and come up with a list of properties that were close enough to the city for the local firemen to respond to the blaze but far enough out that the compound wouldn’t have any regular contact with city folks. Two properties fit the bill – and one of them just had a massive tax lien paid off by none other than … Andrew Tomes.”
“Elderly, retired couple pays off that big of a lien – I’m betting they had help.” Chloe muttered, scanning through the information Khan’s friend had sent along. “Where did the money come from?”
“Any bets the good Reverend James the elder still had access to the funds his father and the elders of their community had pried loose from the fools who joined that cult?” Arthur snarled. “Put it in a bank under his son’s name, leave it untouched for nearly forty – fifty years and now you’ve got a pot of cash to buy back the family farm.”
“Or the family sacrificial altar” Rowan remarked, staring down at the girl in disgust. “You can stop sniveling now and tell us just how much of what they were doing out at that property you knew about.”
“No time” Chloe said, pulling her keys out of her jacket. “If we’re right about this being where they have taken our latest possible victim we need to move now if we’re going to get there before they do what they did at the end of the Angel Killer case – kill their last victim and frame one of their less-entranced believers for the crimes.”
“Lordsville is about half-way between here and Frisco” Khan calculated, snatching his tablet back from Chloe. ‘Four hours as the crow flies. Maybe less if you let me drive.”
“We need to contact your lieutenant as well as the local P.D. and tell them what we think is going on” Arthur said, pulling his siblings along towards the door. “And you’ll need to find a babysitter for that useless piece of flesh – preferably one that can keep her from warning her boy toy that we’re coming.”
“The lieutenant is not going to be happy about how she got swept up off the streets” Chloe said, watching Misty try to melt into the sofa.
“Please” Rowan replied dismissively. “Lt. Sanchez, if my informants are correct, use to run a gang unit. Trust me – half his confidential informants probably got picked up under far less “legal” situations than this. He’ll figure out how to cope – especially if we find that little girl.”
“I’ll stay with her” Maze offered, ramming the point of her blade into the top of Lucifer’s bar. “I even promise to let her keep breathing until you can get someone here to pick her up.”
“Works for me” Arthur replied, motioning to Lucifer. “Let’s get on the road before things get any worse.”
“Where do you lot think you’re going?” Seraphiel’s Irish accented voice called up from the stairs. He and the elder Throne Zaphiel stepped through, looking somber.
Arthur ran through the situation quickly then turned to his sister. “Sissy, get everyone in their cars downstairs. We’re on the road in five. Lucifer, you’re with me, Chloe you ride with Khan and Rowan. Zaphiel…”
“Seraphiel and I will meet you there. We have one other stop to make.” The elder Throne gave his shield brother a quick glance then all but shoved him back down the stairs and out of sight.
“Why did that make me nervous?” Chloe muttered as Lucifer bundled her into the elevator.
“Don’t know, detective” the Devil admitted somberly. “But it did me as well.”
Short chapter - just trying to get everyone where they need to be to wrap this up.
Chloe clutched at the aircraft seat, wondering when exactly she had gone crazy. When the group had left Lux the plan had been to make a speed trip to the small town of Lordsville where the original apocalyptic church had been located. Khan had estimated four hours, his sister had said two (based on their location in L.A.). But Arthur wasn’t happy with either answer.
“Screw that” he had snarled, flooring the gas pedal in Chloe’s car. Arthur had taken possession of Chloe's keys the minute they tumbled out into the alleyway, waving aside her objections. “I have a small plane in a private hanger not far from LAX. We can be on the ground in less than an hour.”
“If we survive your driving” Chloe has called out from her back seat. She and Rowan had chosen to ride with Arthur while Khan and Lucifer were in the club owner’s sports car, racing along behind them. It probably had not been the best idea as the young King was treating speed zones as "suggestions", creating "short-cuts" up back alleys where none had existed before and generally turning the streets of L.A. into his own personal speedway.
“He’s never hit anything yet” Rowan reassured, casting a worried eye back. “But we might lose Uncle if you’re not careful.”
“Little brother probably has figured out where I’m going so losing Luci isn’t going to be a problem” Arthur said grimly, taking a corner at break-neck speed.
“How about getting pulled over?” Chloe called out, watching side streets carefully. "That might be a BIG problem."
“No one can see us but Khan and Lucifer” Arthur replied. “I’ve glamoured both yours and Luci’s cars.”
“Do I want to know what that means?” the detective asked.
“Not really” Rowan replied, sinking back into her seat with a sigh. “Did you contact your boss and tell him where we were going?”
“Yes. He’s going to get the ball rolling with the FBI and local authorities.”
Arthur shook his head. “Call him back – tell him to tell the agent in charge we’ll be on the ground long before they drive up there. Tell them to book a jet or hijack a commercial aircraft so they get there quicker. And tell him to be very careful what he tells the locals.”
“You think someone up there is involved?” Chloe asked, dubiously.
“I’m a paranoid SOB, detective, but that doesn’t mean someone might not be out to get me.” He glanced up at her rear-view mirror with a frown. “We don’t know that they haven’t been using that place for other sacrifices, ones that have not been reported.”
“That makes sense if you think about it” Rowan mused. “It’s a long way to drive just to dump a body. They had to have another, closer site for these killings and just chose to go to the old church because of its significance to Mrs. Tomes.”
“Or they might not be up there at all” Chloe said quietly. "Maybe they are at the site closer to home right now."
“We are throwing the dice on this one” Rowan admitted. “But in a strange sort of way this makes perfect sense. They are in the wind because of what you and LAPD have found out about them and their connection to the Frisco case. They don’t want to be stopped so why not do what they did the last time – one last sacrifice and set up one of their undeserving members as a diversion while they disappear and re-group elsewhere.”
“I hope your right” Chloe sighed, watching the city fly by.
Now she was crowded into in a Cessna 206 Stationair with Arthur and Rowan at the controls, about to make a landing at a small airfield not far from the town of Lordsville. The trip had seemed almost instantaneous, mostly since both she and Khan, both jammed into the back of the plane with Lucifer, had been on their cellphones the entire time, trying to coordinate the other law enforcement agencies that would be arriving shortly. “Someone tell me we have a plan when and if we get to that property” she asked.
“I have one” Arthur said darkly. “But you won’t like it.”
“We can’t go in guns blazing” Chloe protested. “Someone, probably the little girl, is going to get hurt.”
“Trust me, detective, guns blazing is my position of last resort. I have something infinitely more horrifying in mind for those animals.”
Lucifer cocked his head and stared at the back of his handsome “nephew’s” head. “Would this plan have something to do with why neither Seraphiel nor Zaphiel joined us in this mad dash across the state?”
“You could say that” Arthur admitted with a grim smile.
Lucifer’s smile was equally cold. “This will be quite a revelation – won’t it King Phoenix?”
Very short chapter - but once the setup is in place it will be obvious why.
Chapter 29: Touchdown and contact
Chloe looked around the small, private airfield just outside of town. It was used mostly by crop dusters and small commuter planes re-fueling before heading further north, a lonely little airstrip with almost nothing to justify it. Almost. She watched as a young man in overalls and cap came running up to the plane, eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses. He tossed Arthur a set of keys with a smile. "Mr. D? I've got everything set up for you. Everything you requested is in the back of the van."
"Good work Tommy. You got here fast." Arthur slapped the young man on the shoulder then headed in the direction of a large van. "You're clear on what you need to do next?"
"Get the hell out of Dodge before the sheriff comes looking for answers" the man replied, a grim smile on his face. "No worries boss. I'm out of here right now. Good hunting." With that he turned and mounted a motorcycle parked beside the van and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
"Who was that?" Chloe asked, curiously.
"Tommy" Rowan replied, rolling her shoulders as she made for the van. "He works for Arthur."
"I kind of figured that much" Chloe said. "But who is he?"
"Tommy used to be Special Forces" Arthur began, opening the back end of the van. "Ran across him when I was "hunting" for a... well, let's just say I was looking for something that didn't need to be where it was. Tommy had the bad luck of running into it first. I got him out of a bad situation and put him on the payroll. Khan called him and told him what we would need while we were on the way to the airport."
"We needed transportation on the ground - and weapons" Khan said, pulling a guitar case out of the van. Opening it, he started passing out semi-automatic pistols to his siblings.
"I thought we weren't going in hot" Chloe protested.
"We aren't. But I'm not going in unarmed either." Arthur tucked his weapon behind his back and motioned everyone to get aboard. "We don't know how desperate these people are and with you being the only one to have a gun... let's just say I didn't like our odds."
"Nor do I" Lucifer said, staring pointedly at the gun in Khan's hands. "So, is there one of those things in your bag for me?"
Arthur and Khan looked at each other for a moment. "I think, Uncle, that I'm more comfortable with Chloe covering your ass than your trying to cover ours. No offense - but we have enough anger issues between the three of us that we don't need to add yours to the mix."
Chloe nodded. "He's right about that Lucifer. Besides, I've never actually seen you use a gun." She slid into the back of the van, patting the floor as an invitation to Lucifer to join her.
"Crude things - don't much care for them. But as the Phoenix said - we don't know how desperate our quarry is." The Devil hopped in, making a face as he slid across the dusty floorboards.
"Less talk, more movement" Rowan called out from the front of the van. "Let's get on the road before the local yokels come looking to see who's landed in their little back-water paradise."
Arthur slid into the driver's seat with Khan on his knees behind him. "You have the map, little brother?"
"In my head. I'll call out turns as we get on the road." Khan motioned to his sister. "Trade places with me - it's easier for me to see where we're going if I sit beside him."
Rowan sighed. "Fine - just don't get us lost."
"He won't" Lucifer purred. "That's my job - remember?"
All three members of the Triad rolled their eyes and ignored the Devil for the next twenty minutes as they snaked their way through back country roads to the spot where the old commune once existed. There wasn't much to identify the place as a homestead for a religious (or any other) group - except for the fresh tracks from other cars leading to the front gate.
"We're here" Khan whispered, pointing to the remains of several small structures.. The group piled out of the van and looked out at the remnants of what had been a small community. "The church would have been in the center of the believer's houses. I'm betting that's where we'll find our quarry."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Lucifer growled, staring intently with red eyes at the gate. "Let's get this hunt underway."
Arthur took the center with Khan to his left and Rowan to his right. "Chloe - you're our anchor. You and Luci keep watch behind us."
"But..." Chloe began, angrily.
"No, Detective Decker" Arthur said quietly. "This is what my siblings and I do best - we hunt. If your SWAT team or others like them were here we would gladly give up the front to their experience but they are not. We are. We have walked battlefields like this and come out alive. And that is what the objective today is. Get to the prey and come out of it alive. So you will take the rear and make sure nothing sneaks up on us - won't you Uncle?" Arthur stared at the Devil, his own eyes reflecting the red flames in Lucifer's orbs.
"Yes - we will nephew" Lucifer agreed somberly. "At least until we find your prey. Then...
"We can argue over it then" Rowan hissed. "Right now - I can hear voices about a hundred yards behind that last house."
Chloe strained her ears but heard noting but the wind. "Are you sure?" she asked, hesitantly.
"Trust me, detective" Lucifer said quietly. "My niece can hear your heart beating at twice that distance." He laid a hand on her back and gently moved her forwarded. "Let's see what we find."
At the remnants of the old church
Beatrice Tomes let the last taper, mumbling some form of prayer as she did so. "There - now we're ready for the sacrifice." She looked around at the pitifully small congregation, remembering when the church had been filled with believers waiting for the End Days to come. Now - there were only the remnants of the old faith. Her husband Andrew sat on the ground in front of the altar, swaying drowsily from the drugs she had given him to keep him from bolting when they took him from the hospital. Jonas James, decked out in his father's cassock, was reading his copy of Revelations again, preparing for the service. The Parrish boys - Moses and Abraham - were seated side by side with Moses nervously fingering the dagger that would be used to send the sacrificial lamb to God. It would Moses first such sacrifice, a token of his loyalty to the church and his fellow believers. Abraham was stoically watching his older brother, eyes as cold as a snake, making sure the young man didn't try to run away from his reponsibilities to the church as he had tried to do last night. She looked up at their make-shift altar, at Jonah Parrish, his wings extended and head leaned back in prayer, waiting for the angel to come and direct his actions. And on the altar was their sacrificial lamb - a little girl who had slipped between the cracks of Social Services, one that no one would miss, properly prepared to meet their maker. Everything was ready.
"Marcus" Beatrice called out. "It's time."
Moses Parrish - or Marcus Tomes as he had been known for the last thirty years - looked up at his foster mother in despair. "Must we? Again? It's never accepted!"
Beatrice quickly slapped her adopted son, just as her father had done her the one time she had shown any hesitation during a service. "Do not blaspheme, boy. The Lord knows we are here and approves our actions. Why else would he send a angel to become one with our dear Jonah and direct his actions?"
"Yeah - about that" a sarcastic voice called out from one side of the clearing. Khan strolled into view, his Ruger pointed straight at Jonas. "Last time I looked, people who heard voices were off their nut."
"So true, little brother" Arthur's cold baritone voice echoed across the space as he step up, his Desert Eagle pointed straight at the older woman. "Sadly for you lot, the All-Father has no inclination to speak to psychotics who have chosen to murder his innocents. He's sent us to deal with you instead."
"I really wouldn't move if I were you" Rowan called out, stepping out with her Browning aimed at Abraham. "I have no problem dropping you where you stand."
"You heathens!" Beatrice snarled. "God will strike you down for your acts. You can not stop the End of Days. We, our church, will survive despite you. The angel will come and ..."
"Yes - about that" Lucifer's silky voice called out as he stepped to Arthur's side. "You think your actions have garnered the notice of angels? Well - you really should be careful what you wish for. You just might get it." He smiled, his flame red eyes fixed on the woman in front of him. His brilliant white wings flaired out behind him, framing his now burnt "devil's face".
Chloe, standing beside Rowan, watched as her suspects shrank back in fear from her partner and his nephew. "Rowan?" she whispered.
"Wait for it" Rowan replied, a grim smile on her face.
A moment later, the air grew cold and thin and sound of wings filled the air. Wings - and the screams of mortals coming face to face with a being they had spoken of but never really believed in. The angels had arrived.
Chapter 30: Angry angels
In the realm of Heaven
Zaphiel and Seraphiel rushed through the gates of the Silver City, looking for a particular tall, dark figure. “Tell me AGAIN why we’re looking for Amenadiel instead of acting as backup to our kids?” Seraphiel growled at his shield brother.
“Because if I know that young Phoenix he’s going to want a major dose of shock and awe to hit those sods. They have committed blasphemy, ascribing their own murderous intents to our Holy Father. Their profane and sadistic acts are a blight in HIS eyes – made all the more so as they justified it to themselves by saying God had demanded this sacrifice of them in order to prove their loyalty.”
“And you know this how, exactly?” Seraphiel asked, dubiously.
“There is something of the old sacred rituals of sacrifice in their blood crimes” Zaphiel said with authority. “Something of horrors meant to portray piety. The eldest of the trio knows it. King Phoenix will want them to see the error of their ways - before he packs them away into a box delivered to Hell. I suspect the younger two do as well. And there is that little matter of fake wings…”
“Do you think it is possible one of the lower angels is possessing one of the humans like they did in Vega?”
Zaphiel shook his head. “No – this is too well hidden from the sight of man. Our lower angel brethren are not bright enough to use guile to hide themselves away. They would be much more visible if they were using a human as a host. Also – once in a host most of those fools can’t work their way out of the shell short its host falling over dead. No – this is a human activity, with these retched creatures using our existence to justify their sins.”
“Brothers!” Amenadiel called out, coming to a halt beside the other angels. “What are you two doing here? Why aren’t you with the Triad?”
“A good question” Gabriel’s quietly intense voice called out, the Messenger suddenly appearing at the Gates along with his Archangel brothers. The four Archangels stared at the two higher angels expectantly, waiting for a good excuse for their presence back in Heaven.
Seraphiel sighed. “The kids have tracked down the murders killing the most innocent of our Father’s creations. Zaphiel believes the Phoenix may have a plan – which my brother hasn’t shared with me – to use our appearance to put the fear of God into these animals.”
“And you were looking for Amenadiel to make your entrance more impressive?” Rafael asked with a frown.
“Something like that.” Zaphiel admitted.
"Amenadiel - but not us" Michael commented.
"Yes" Zaphiel replied calmly. "Lucifer is with them on this hunt and there is just too much baggage between you and our Fallen brother to make adding you to this little presentation easily controllable."
Michael rolled his shoulders, trying to ease the tension building down his arms. "You do not believe we can control our actions? Not even to protect your young charges?"
"They aren't YOUR charges anymore, Michael" Amenadiel replied, cutting a look back at his other brothers. "But since we don't know exactly what King Phoenix had in mind - perhaps having us all appear to these mortals wouldn't be such a bad idea after all."
Seraphiel rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Fine - come along. Makes no matter to me just as long as we get going NOW!"
“Do you know where the Triad are?” Uriel asked, tensely. “They still are keeping themselves invisible from our sight.”
“Not from mine” Zaphiel said with a cold smile. “All I’m waiting for, other than volunteers to “explain” to these humans what is required of them, is a quick word from King Phoenix.” He cocked his head, listening with a frown. “And there it is – our cue to appear.”
“Then let us not disappoint the young king” Michael replied, pulling his swords. “Let us return to the mortal realm and rain our Father’s anger down on these animals.”
At the ruins of the cult
Chloe blinked as images of wings and swords flashed in front of her, almost too quick to be seen. Time seemed to slow down, leaves freezing in mid-air as they floated to the ground. Her suspects were screaming in pain and horror, caught between multiple pairs of wings beating down on them. Beside her Lucifer was cursing colorfully. “Bloody Hell! You lot always spoil my fun!” He pouted for a moment then returned to his normal look, sending his red eyes away as quickly as he had called them forward. Only his massive white wings, called up when time had slowed, stayed visible.
“Lucifer, what’s going on?” Chloe muttered, watching as Reverend James was knocked backwards by Seraphiel, his bible flying from his hands. The old Seraph slammed his fist into the man's jaw, stunning him. Jonas James, who had been standing behind the make-shift altar with James was now crawling towards her, his faux wings shredded down to the frame. Uriel, the biggest of the angels she had seen at Lux during the Halloween party, was standing over him, a sword at his back. The giant angel stepped on the human's back, pinning him to the ground with a snarl.
Amenadiel appeared suddenly beside her, laying one large hand on her shoulder. “Chloe, you need to go. This isn’t something…”
Chloe shrugged him off. “These people murdered six little girls – I need to be here to make sure they face justice for their actions in a court of law. Not at the point of your brothers swords.”
Amenadiel shook his head. “That may not be possible. My siblings…”
“They need to back off” Arthur growled. “We needed them to appear and show these sods what Heaven’s sons are really like – not to act as judge, jury and executioners.”
“Not what I had in mind when I went looking for Amenadiel” Zaphiel’s voice was strained as he watched the Archangel’s subdued the human believers. “Michael, however, appears to have other ideas.”
Beatrice Tomes stared wildly around her as angels – real angels – descended on her little group of believers. They were nothing like her father had promised her they would be, protectors of the believers true to their strict faith. These were horrifying creatures, slamming the men to the ground contemptuously as they disarmed them. The tall, dark-haired man who had only moments before stepped out of the undergrowth to confront her was now kneeling beside their prospective sacrifice, untying her hands and carefully reviewing her injuries with a burly angel in green robes and leaning on a sword. “The angels have come! Praise to God, they have come!” Her voice wavered, as the Heavenly host stared back at her in distaste.
“You do understand” a mildly sarcastic voice called out from behind her “that we aren’t here to protect you.” Gabriel walked up to the kneeling woman, staring down at her with a sneer.
“But… we prayed for you to come and save us from the End Times!” She looked around her in confusion, noticing that some of Heaven's sons were more concerned with the unbelievers who had stopped the sacrifice than her own people. “If not for us then who? Those sinners who stand with the Devil?”
“One of those “sinners” is my son.” Gabriel’s silky voice turned chilling. “He and his siblings are children of the Lord, our Father’s most trusted Guardians. If they are here with Lucifer, then it is to make sure our Fallen brother takes only what belongs to him and nothing more.”
“But… we are Believers!” Beatrice screeched in disbelief. “We have mortified our flesh to show our piety, our devotion to HIM! We have put lambs to the slaughter to honor him!”
“What honor is there in humans sacrificing their own young?” Michael landed beside his twin, tossing Abraham Parrish in front of him.
The man’s limp body bounced and rolled as he hit the ground. He rolled away, scrambling backwards away from the winged creature who had literally picked him up off the ground and had, with little effort, had slammed him down again. “You don’t exist” he muttered, curling up into a ball, protecting his head. “Not like this. Grandfather said the angels would protect us!”
“Protect you? Such thoughts, such beliefs are a sacrilege, an insult to our Father. And for that, if nothing else, you all deserve to be sent to Hell.” Michael raised his blade, preparing to strike.
“I agree” Rowan’s voice called out, rising from her crouched position. She looked with pity down at Marcus Tomes, who kneeling, trembling, beside his foster father. “But Michael, some in this place could be saved given a second chance.”
“You would allow them to get away with murder?” Michael asked, stunned, looking from his brother Gabriel to the young woman standing before him.
“No – I would give them the same chance your Father gave us. Most of these creatures are not worth the effort but there are a few…” she motioned down to the two men huddled at her feet. “They were dragged into this nightmare and had not the strength of character to turn away or stop the evil done in your father's name. But now - maybe - they can be redeemed. There is a story in the Bible where one of the original patriarchs asked one of you lot if there were even one innocent man in the city of Sodom, would you spare the city? I would ask the same – if there is at least one person in this group who truly, deeply repents of his actions would you spare him? Let him make amends, take a different path, do SOMETHING to make his path not a straight shot into Hell?”
“These slugs deserve no pity, no sympathy” Arthur’s voice called out, as he and Zaphiel walked up to the alter. “But it is not the place of the Triad to sentence them to their rightfully earned deaths. Det. Decker represents the human justice system. Let her and her fellow officers take these animals before a human judge and pass sentence on them properly.”
“I agree, young Phoenix” Zaphiel replied, giving his charge a pleased smile. “Let Father’s pets literally police their own.”
“Guys, I hate to break up this lovely philosophical discussion” Khan’s annoyed voice called out. “But this kid needs more medical attention than either I or Rafael can legitimately give her. Can we wrap this up and let time run normally so the Feds and Lt. Sanchez come in for the clean-up?”
Michael looked down at Rowan for a moment. “Are you sure, my Queen?” he whispered softly.
“No” she admitted with a shrug. “But I have to believe that redemption is possible else why even try to save them?”
“Michael” Gabriel said softly, laying a gently hand on his brother’s arm. “I agree with them as well. Let the human’s deal with their monsters, that they may learn what is NOT acceptable in our Father’s eyes.”
Michael sighed. “Bind them lest they try to escape. Then we will leave the field to our cousins – and their human compatriot.”
The smile on Rowan’s face was all the archangel needed to know he had made the right choice.
Chapter 31: The cavalry arrives
The cavalry arrives
Dan jumped out of the van, followed closely by Lt. Sanchez and several F.B.I. field agents. The detective was still fuming that no one had thought to tell him what was happening with an investigation he had been working from the start (despite the lieutenant’s orders). If he had not heard from Linda that she had Trixie at her place, he would not have had a clue. Racing back to the station, he had seen Ella frantically trying to collect a kit and nearly a dozen Bureau men and women milling around with vests and weapons. It wasn't hard to make a quick (and accurate guess) as to what was happening and insisted on coming along.
Earlier that morning
“Chloe went WHERE?” Dan had growled at Lt. Sanchez, watching as the older man stacked his bulletproof vest and shotgun on the desk.
“To a small, abandoned compound outside of a town called Lordsville” Sanchez had replied calmly, signaling to one of the Bureau agents that the State Police had sent their reply to his request for assistance. “Seems the Tomes and Parrish families were once part of a small cult in that area. Decker and her consultants believe that the group responsible for our Schoolgirl Ripper case may have retreated to that area to make their final kill before they disappear from view.”
“And no one thought to stop her?” Dan gasped, outraged.
“Why would I stop her?” Sanchez replied coldly. “She was following a lead and from what she told me, I’d say it was a good one. Besides, she’s not alone. She has Dragón and his siblings as well as Mr. Morningstar with her. Not sure how much help he would be but from what the FBI has told me about the Dragón family – let’s just say I’m more worried about us then her.”
Dan swallowed the vicious comment he was tempted to make and looked at the map on Sanchez’s desk. “How far off is this place?”
“About four hours by car. The Bureau has a plane at LAX ready to take us to a small, commercial airport nearby. We should be on the ground in about an hour.”
“So you’ll get there before Chloe and her group” Dan said, sighing in relief.
“No – they are already there. Dragón had a plane at a private airfield gassed up and ready to go when she contacted me.” Sanchez snatched up the map, search warrants and other papers along with his tactical gear and started for the door.
“Do the local authorities know they are coming?” Dan said, refusing to move.
“Dragón believes the locals might be peripherally involved in covering up some of what has been happening – at least in the case of this last abduction. The Bureau is handling dealing with the local sheriff. Now, move Espinoza. I’ve got a plane to catch.”
Dan’s hands clenched as he fought back an angry reply. “Sir, I’d like to join you for this. I’ve been on this case since the start and even though I’ve been relegated to the outskirts of the investigation I’d still like to see it through.”
“What you’d like to see” Sanchez said coldly “is Decker and her group finding nothing at this site so you can make your case that her civilian consultants were a waste of time. Fine – you want to see this through so bad, get your jacket. We’re wheels up in twenty minutes.”
Later that morning
Dan and the others mobilized around Sanchez and the FBI field agent in charge – Agent Clinton Morrison. “Listen up” Morrison called out to the teams. “According to one of the locals there are a group of small shacks just up this road. The remains of the church that once was on the property will be just past that. Lt. Sanchez and I suspect that’s where our unsubs will be located. Also remember, we already have a team on the premise so be on the look-out for them. No sudden moves – wouldn’t want to take out one of our own.”
“One of our own?” Dan grumbled. “A bunch of rich kids with nothing better to do that poke their noses into something that doesn’t concern them.”
The agent beside him leveled a cold stare in his direction. “If you’re talking about the Dragóns then you’d keep that shitty attitude to yourself. Arthur Dragón saved my younger brother’s life in Iraq when he and his unit came under fire from an insurgent in the Green Zone. Dragón put his own hide on the line to lay down fire so my brother and his men could get clear. Took the insurgent out quick. He didn’t have to do anything – all Dragón was there for was to check on a shipment of supplies his company had sent for the military but he wasn’t about to stand around and let some punk ambush anyone if he could help it. So, friendly warning, I hear you badmouthing that man again you and I will NOT be working well together.” The man shouldered his weapon and walked away with a backwards glance.
Dan stared at the agent, then noticed Federal agents – having heard the “discussion” were glaring at him. “Great – so the guy’s a hero. Doesn’t mean he can’t be wrong” he muttered, staring up the path.
The teams fanned out, carefully working their way towards the center area where the remnants of the old church would be found. They were a hundred yards from the structure when the first sounds were heard – a man moaning in pain, a woman crying hysterically. And just barely audible in the background – someone singing a lullaby. Sanchez and Morrison exchanged glances then motioned the teams to close in.
Dan skidded to a stop, staring around him in amazement. The burned out pieces of a structure lay before him. Only the steps and part of a wall remained – the rest was nothing but burnt lumber and overgrown vegetation covering broken stones. Sprawled out in front of him were the suspects they had been chasing after, looking for the most part like they had been in the losing end of a brawl. Three of the men – including one who was wearing the remnants of an angel costume, were hog tied and dumped just in front of the steps leading into the ruins. The moaning was coming from one of those three, a man dressed in a cassock. The woman who had escaped the precinct – Beatrice Tomes – was also restrained, handcuffed to a small tree. It was her voice that they had heard crying. Two men – one being their missing witness Andrew Tomes, were huddled at the foot of the steps, quietly consoling one another. But it was the group that sat in the center of the ruined church, backs to a make-shift altar that stunned him most.
In the center was the hulking figure of Khan, the man who Dan remembered talking down the suicidal Andrew Tomes in the precinct. On either side of him were his brother Arthur and his sister Rowan, each with their arms around him. Chloe and Lucifer sat at opposite ends from each other, each leaning against one of the Dragón siblings – Chloe beside Rowan and Lucifer beside Arthur. And in the big man’s arms, almost totally concealed by Arthur’s expensive leather jacket, with the frail figure of their kidnapping victim, a child whose name they still did not know.
Dan swallowed hard as the other officers stopped, struck by the scene in front of them. Khan was cradling the child against his chest, singing softly to her as he carefully rocked her. The detective could see child’s face, pale and filthy, her eyes closed and her thumb in her mouth as she rested against this giant of a man holding her. “Is she…?” Dan whispered.
Khan stopped singing and looked up, eyes going straight to Sanchez. “She’s hurt more than I can help her here. Did one of you bring med techs with you?”
Morrison nodded, his face grave. “I’ll give the signal to allow them to come up and take over.”
“No need” Khan replied softly. “It would be better for her if I just carry her down to them.” He rose gracefully, his brother and sister moving with him. Chloe and Lucifer also stood up, the uncharacteristically somber club owner still holding on to Arthur’s arm.
“I’ll let them know you’re on your way down the trail” Morrison replied quietly.
“You good to do this alone, baby brother?” Arthur whispered.
“I’m good – you tell Sanchez what he and the Feds have on their hands. I’ll wait for you by the van.” With a nod, Khan carefully picked his way past the officers and soon disappeared down the path, still singing the gentle lullaby they had all first heard.
Rowan sighed and took her older brother’s hand. “Lt. Sanchez, Agent Morrison – it’s really good to see you both.”
Sanchez nodded. “Anyone want to tell me what happened?”
Chloe straightened and began the story they had all agreed on – the one where they had come upon the group about to sacrifice the child, had ambushed them before the unsub’s could react and stopped the horror before it could begin. “Read them their rights – but I think a couple of them are going to try to go with the “not guilty by reason of insanity” tactic so we should be prepared for that.”
“I can vouch for the fact that Det. Decker did at least try to read them their rights.” Arthur’s deep voice sounded equal parts tired and angry. “No matter what those animals say – they were treated better by us then their victims were.”
“Agreed” Lucifer replied quietly. “Left to my own devices they wouldn’t still be breathing. Lucky for them my young family members were more forgiving.”
“Forgiveness has nothing to do with this” Rowan replied. “We just didn’t want to put Chloe in a bad spot after she trusted us this far.”
One of the state police officers who had accompanied the team unlocked Mrs. Tomes handcuffs and yanked her unceremoniously off the ground. The frazzled woman started screeching wildly. “The Devil is in your midst! Don’t you see – we had to do this! The Devil walks among us!”
Arthur rolled his eyes in annoyance. “She’s been whining about that since we took them down. Probably part of their strategy to claim insanity.”
“Don’t think it’s going to work” Sanchez said, looking around him. “Insanity defense doesn’t have much of a chance on a normal case but when the jury hears all the planning and prep work that went in to finding a victim and laying them out to be found afterwards – it’s going to be a hard sell.”
Rowan shrugged. “Doesn’t mean they won’t try.” She carefully picked her way down the stairs, leading her brother and Lucifer gingerly back to the path. “With your permission, I think we’d like to catch up with our brother and make sure he’s okay. Khan runs an orphanage in his monastery so crimes against children wound him very deeply. He’s going to need us to lean on.”
Sanchez nodded. “Go on. Decker, you stay behind and help us sort out who is who here.”
Chloe stepped down carefully as well. “Right – so let’s start over here.” She looked up as Lucifer hesitated, turning back from his nephew towards her. “Lucifer – why don’t you go with Arthur and Rowan? I’ll catch up with you in just a bit.”
“You’re sure, detective?” he asked, quietly.
“I’m sure” she replied, firmly.
Down in the staging area
Khan carefully lowered the little girl onto the stretcher, gently removing her clenched fingers from his shirt. “These are good people” he whispered to her, nodding towards the paramedics standing respectfully nearby. “They are going to take really good care of you. And my godfather is going to talk to the judge and make sure when you’re all better you go to safe place.”
The little girl’s eyes flicked between the towering giant of man who had been so kind to her and the strangers he had mentioned. “Promise?” she lisped, her speech slurred by the pain and her missing front teeth.
“I promise” he replied, smiling down at her. “But my godfather needs to know what to call you when he talks to his friend the judge. What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Maggie” she whispered. “Maggie Whitting.”
“Maggie” he echoed, gently patting her hand. “That’s a nice name. Mine is Khan. Now you close those pretty eyes and sleep and when you wake up you’ll be in a safe place with people to help you. Okay?”
“Okay” she sighed, giving up the fight to keep her eyes open.
Khan motioned to the paramedics. “Careful with her – those bastards really did a number on her.”
“We’ll be gentle” one said, his voice sad. They carefully loaded her into the back of the ambulance and soon disappeared down the road, a state police escort beside them.
Khan sighed and stretched out his six foot four inch frame, trying to unkink the knots in his back. “I really want to go home now” he thought, moving to lean up against the van they had arrived in. He watched the path carefully, seeing representatives of various law enforcement agencies run up and down it, taking forensic kits up to where the sacrifice was supposed to have occurred. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the local sheriff, blocked from the scene by members of the Bureau, watching in frustration as both State, Federal and out of town lawmen take over a piece of his jurisdiction. “Serves him right to be locked out of this – especially if Arthur’s right about him turning a blind eye.”
“Khan!” Rowan’s voice echoed down the path as his siblings and Lucifer appeared, minus Chloe. “How the child?”
“Name’s Maggie” he rumbled, wrapping his arms around his pretty sister. “I think she’s going to be okay but we need to get Zaphiel to work his magic and get her into a foster home where she’ll be safe.”
“Knowing our Throne godfather, he’s probably already planting the seeds for that to happen” Arthur replied, wrapping one arm around his brother and the other around his sister. The trio stood, leaning on each other for a moment, comforted by each other’s presence. Arthur peered over at the Devil, who was staring morosely down the path. “Hey, uncle – come on over here. Sometimes a group hug is better than all the booze in the world.”
“I somehow doubt that” Lucifer muttered, watching as state police officers roared up to assist.
Khan reached out and snagged the Devil’s collar, dragging him back towards the group. “Yeah – not going to let you get out of a hug. Get used to it uncle. You’re family.”
Rowan smiled and kissed Lucifer gently on the cheek. “It won’t hurt – really!”
Lucifer sighed. “That’s what you think.”
Six weeks later
Chloe slumped in the passenger seat of Lt. Sanchez’s car, wishing she hadn’t mentioned where she had planned to be that morning. She had been discussing the particulars of another case with Ella…
In the office
“So – want to catch an early lunch?” Ella asked, tossing her notes on Chloe’s desk.
“Can’t” Chloe responded, grabbing up her jacket. “Promised I’d make a run up to the Dragón family compound and give them an update on what’s been happening with the Schoolgirl Ripper case. I’ll probably be out the rest of the afternoon.”
“Going to see our former civilian consultants?” Lt. Sanchez’s voice sounded off behind Ella. “So am I. I was going to call up to the Dragón corporate offices but figured going to their house might work better. Might as well just pile into my car – I’ll drive.”
“You will?” Chloe said, hesitantly. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. They are kind of private people and if they don’t know you’re coming...”
“Not a problem” Sanchez replied calmly. “I’ve received a message from their family attorney asking about the status of Maggie Whitting’s custody hearing and he made it quite clear the family would not take it amiss if I just happened to come by and give them an update.”
“Gee, can I go too?” Ella asked, excitedly. “I’ve got some forensic stuff I’d love to have them pass on to Dr. Morgan for her book on the Angel Killer case.”
Sanchez nodded. “Yeah – the lawyer said something about you sending a note to the company’s office about getting in touch with Dr. Morgan. Probably as good a time as any for you to pass along what you’ve found.” He turned and started away then paused. “Oh, and Espinoza will be joining us.”
“He will? Chloe and Ella looked at each other in shock. “Why?”
“I want to make sure Espinoza apologies for his shitty attitude in front of the family.” Sanchez glared across the floor at Dan, who ducked instinctively. “The D.A. called and said your ex has been making inquiries into the family as a whole and what was found at the old church in particular. I’m going to nip this in the bud right now. He either zips his lip or he can find himself demoted to traffic cop. His choice.”
On the way to the compound
“Take a left here” Chloe instructed, watching as the family’s sprawling residence came into view at the top of a hill. “Just pull up front. According to Lucifer the place is wired like Ft. Knox so they probably already know we’re here.”
Sanchez nodded and eased his aged sedan to a stop in front of the house. He motioned to a figure standing in an open field beside the residence. “Isn’t that the other brother – Khan?”
Chloe looked over and nodded. Khan was standing out the open, twirling what looked like a lure on a long rope around and around, his eyes on the sky above him. He was wearing a heavy jacket with a leather patch on the shoulder and a thick leather glove on one hand. From where she was sitting, Chloe could hear him whistling to something above him.
“Oh, gosh, look!” Elle exclaimed, pointing above them A falcon sped out of the sky, grabbing up whatever was at the end of the rope Khan was holding and bringing it down. “He’s training a falcon!” Ella said enthusiastically. “I’ve seen this before on the Discovery Channel.”
Sanchez chuckled. “Discovery Channel? Why doesn’t that surprise me? You seemed like the Discovery Channel type, Ms. Lopez.”
Ella blushed and watched raptly as Khan gathered up his things.
Chloe slowly climbed out of the car and waved, hoping to catch the big man’s attention. Khan finally looked up and smiled, whistling to his hawk to return to his hand. The petite falcon leapt up, perched for a moment on his leather glove and hopped up onto his shoulder. “Hey, Chloe! Forgot you were coming today. Lt. Sanchez! Good to see you too!” He strolled across the driveway, the bird, clinging to the patch on his jacket.
“She’s gorgeous!” Ella cooed, looking up at the falcon.
“She’s a peregrine falcon. Named her Desiree. A hunter accidently shot her about six months back. Broke her wing – a real mess. I’ve been nursing her to health ever since. Took a while but she’s finally flying like she’s supposed to.” He affectionately scratched the bird’s head, cooing something in its ear.
“Poor thing!” Ella said, looking back at the man holding the falcon. “It’s nice of you to help her.”
Khan shrugged. “I like birds. Always have. Arthur likes wolves, Rowan likes cats of all shapes and sizes and I… I go for anything that can fly.” He waved towards the front door. “I’m guessing the family is waiting for you?”
“Chloe- yes. But I think the rest of us maybe imposing on your brother’s good will. Especially…” Sanchez glanced back as Dan finally pulled himself out of the car and trying to make himself inconspicuous.
Khan’s face darkened. “Oh yeah – him. Arthur will NOT be happy to see that guy again.” On his shoulder, the little peregrine fixed its eyes on the man beside the car and started to scream – loudly.
“I don’t think she likes you, Espinoza” Sanchez chuckled.
“That’s on me” Khan admitted, pulling piece of raw meat from a bag on his belt and offering it to the bird. “She reacts to whatever I react to. I’ll need to put her on her perch before I go in. Just knock on the door – Draco will be waiting.” He turned and walked away, the little falcon still screeching in his ear.
“Not an auspicious start to a visit” Sanchez commented, starting for the door.
“I didn’t do anything” Dan grumbled. “Not my fault the bird was wacked out.”
“It’s a falcon” Ella corrected. “And she was just angry because Khan was upset. You’d better hope Mr. Dragón doesn’t have a pet wolf with the same attitude. You could be turned into Kibble.” She trotted off after the lieutenant, leaving Chloe and Dan standing beside the car.
“Look, Chloe” Dan began, moving to stand beside her. “I’m sure these guys are great but they are Lucifer’s family…”
“And Lucifer is my partner” Chloe said firmly. “I trust him and them. If you can’t deal with that then maybe you should just stay in the car.” She turned on her heel and marched off after the others.
Dan stared at her rigid back for a moment then slumped. “Wait up – I’m coming” he called out, moving quickly to catch up.
At the door, Draco, the Golden Dragon (wearing his human veil) stood to welcome the family’s guests. “Det. Decker – a pleasure to see you again. The family is waiting for you outside in the garden.” He glanced at the others with Chloe, eyeing them quizzically.
“This is my boss, my friend Ella and detective Espinoza. I don’t think anyone is expecting them but…”
Draco’s eyes narrowed, staring at Dan. “No – I’m quite sure they are NOT expected. You know the way down to the garden. Why don’t you lead the way? I have lunch to finish and bring out.” He silently turned and walked away, leaving the group standing at the door.
Sanchez sighed. “Maybe bringing him wasn’t such a good idea after all.”
Chloe shrugged and started forward, leading them through the house and down to the garden. Outside, the beauty of the compounds external living spaces was shone with its multitude of vines, flowers and trees lining the path. From the top of the steps Chloe could see Rowan, in a short little white tennis dress, holding a English longbow almost as tall as she was and lining up a shot. Beside her, in sweats and a sleeveless t-shirt, was her godfather Seraphiel, leaning on his own bow. Rowan looked down the shaft of the arrow and released it, sending it to the center of her target. “There – beat that!” she crowed happily.
Seraphiel smiled, lined up his shot and released his arrow, splitting hers down the center. “I think that might just be better” he said, smugly.
Rowan stared at the target then sighed. “I’m never going to beat you at this, am I?”
“Not likely” he admitted with a chuckle.
“Really, Rowan, I don’t even know why you try” a voice hidden behind a tangle of ferns called out. Vlad rose up and took his daughter’s bow from her hand and lined up his own shot – which split Seraphiel’s arrow as neatly as the angel had done Rowan’s. “Age and treachery will beat youth and skill every time” her father commented, winking at the Seraph.
Rowan smiled. “You two are impossible.” She looked up and waved to Chloe and Sanchez. “Hey, about time you got here.”
Chloe smiled and led the way down the stairs. “Sorry – I seem to have brought company with me.”
“Lt. Sanchez is always welcome” Rowan said, shaking his hand. Turning she motioned to her father and godfather and made introductions.
Vlad bowed slightly to Chloe. “A pleasure. My children have spoken quite highly of you.”
Seraphiel nodded. “My brother Zaphiel also speaks well of you. Which is a rare thing as he normally doesn’t like anyone. Sometimes I’m not sure he even likes me.”
“Your brother would be the family lawyer?” Sanchez asked, looking from one man to the other with interest.
“Yeah – that would be one of his many brothers” Arthur’s voice echoed in the garden setting. He and Khan appeared at the end of another, almost hidden path, behind Rowan. “Zaphiel sends his apologies but is busy with other issues and can’t be here today.” He nodded acknowledgement to Sanchez and Chloe and smiled warmly at Ella. “And this is…?”
“Ella Lopez, our CSI” Chloe replied, nudging her friend forward. “She has some material she was hoping you would get to Dr. Morgan for use in her new book on the Angel Killer case.”
“Well, then the young lady can just turn right around and give them to me herself” a pleasant, English-accented voice called out as Alice Morgan rose from the spot where Vlad had been sitting only moments before. Her petite stature, pleasant smile and bright eyes framed by a mound of silvery hair gave her the look someone’s English fairy godmother. “Vlad – you didn’t tell me we would have guests!”
“My apologies, Alice” Vlad replied, sounding totally unapologetic. “But I thought you would enjoy the surprise. Chloe, I believe, is here to tell us about the aftermath of arresting those beasts who murdered children in the name of God.”
Alice sighed. “I’m hoping that for once the wheels of American justice move quickly.” She re-took her seat and picked up a delicate bone china teacup, tipping it slightly to mix the contents.
Sanchez shrugged. “Quick as they can. Helps when two of your six detainees make a deal with the D.A. to testify against the other four.”
“Let me guess – Mr. Tomes and his foster son Marcus.” Arthur said, taking his seat and extending an invitation for others to do the same. "The former Moses Parrish - is he sticking with the Tomes identity or returning to his birth name?"
Sanchez shrugged. "He never changed his name so legally he is still Moses Parrish - but I think that's become the least of his worries." The lieutenant settled in a lawn chair as he talked. . “Best part of that little deal is that both he and Tomes the elder were able to offer more than just their word for what happened. Seems Mr. Tomes and Marcus both kept pictures, video and even audio of the group planning what needed to be done to re-start the church and begin to offer sacrifices to God again – like they had done in San Francisco.”
“Which tied them into the Angel Killer case” Chloe said, taking up the story. “SFPD is re-opening that closed case and checking out things that the two men have told them to see if they can be verified. As for the others…”her voice slowed, looking at her lieutenant for a moment. “Well, some of them may not go to trial.”
“Oh please don’t tell me the D.A. is buying that “not guilty due to mental disease or defect” defense!” Khan growled.
“Both Mrs. Tomes and Abraham Parrish are refusing to allow their lawyers to use that plea. Seems they both still think they did nothing wrong. Which, of course, is only making them seem more than crazy. Jonah Parrish isn’t saying squat. He has a prison record a mile long – and an outstanding warrant for escaping from state prison after he was convicted of murdering a prostitute. He’s well aware of how the system works so he’s letting his lawyer do all the talking.” Chloe looked down at her hands sadly.
“Wait – what about the Reverend Jonas James?” Rowan asked, leaning against her father with Seraphiel on the other side of her. “You haven’t mentioned him.”
“He… may not make it to trial” Chloe admitted somberly. “Shortly after they were put in the local jail awaiting transport to L.A. he somehow managed to get hold of a pen and…” She swallowed, remembering the scene vividly. “He gouged out his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see the world he’s condemned to living in without his child.”
Khan shook his head. “Wow! I mean, that’s heavy. I’d say poor guy but…”
“It’s hard to have sympathy for his sorrow when you consider the horror he inflicted on others.” Vlad said softly, patting his daughter’s arm. “But having said that – I’m not sure what lengths I would go to if my children were torn from me as his was.”
Alice played absently with her tea cup. “I suspect its best we never find out, old friend. But it is a sad thing – his one chance to escape this madness his father and his father’s family enveloped him in died the minute his child did. After that – he was lost.”
“What about the girl?” Seraphiel asked, wrapping one arm around his student’s shoulders. “What has happened with her?”
“That’s a happier story” Sanchez replied. “Thanks to your brother, CPS was able to locate a good foster home for her. Her parent’s parental rights were scheduled to be terminated before she was kidnapped so the foster parents are moving to make this a permanent situation. She will need a lot of help both physically and psychologically but I think she’s going to make it.”
“Good” Arthur replied, leaning back in his chair. “That’s one good thing to come out of this nightmare.”
“That and the destruction of a group devoted to the death of innocence” Alice scolded mildly. “Let’s not forget that.” She laid her cup down and picked up the tea kettle. "Anyone for tea?"
"Draco said something about getting lunch ready" Chloe replied, leaning back in her seat. "I'd love some tea while we wait."
Arthur looked up with hooded eyes at the still standing, fidgety Dan. "And what, if anything, do you have to bring to this party, Det. Espinoza?"
Sanchez waved him off before he could get a word out. "My bad - I thought that giving him a chance to apologized for his behavior might be beneficial to all - including him. Now I think maybe that was a bad idea."
Vlad pulled a cellphone out of his jacket and passed it to Chloe. "You could always call Uber and get him a ride back to the precinct" the old man purred.
Sanchez took the phone from his detective. "Now that's the best idea I've heard in a while."
Outside of the house
Dan angrily watched down the driveway, waiting for the ride that had been ordered for him. The group inside had ignored his protests and instead had their manservant deposit him beside the lieutenant's car with orders to wait till Uber sent a driver for him. "I don't care what anyone says" he muttered to himself. "There's something not right about that group. They are too much like..."
"Like Lucifer?" a voice commented from behind him. He whirled, gawking, as a figure came into view - a figure with huge, black wings carrying a flaming sword. The man (if that was what he was) stood staring down at the detective pensively. "My Lady asked I give those creatures who raised their hand against my Father's most innocent creations a chance to redeem themselves. She didn't, however, mention anything about you. So, Detective Daniel Espinoza, perhaps it's time your eyes were opened to just who and what you have been insulting."
In the garden, Arthur cocked his head with a frown, hearing something that sounded suspiciously like a scream. "Did you hear...?" he whispered to Seraphiel.
The angel shrugged. "One of my brothers is cleaning up the last of this mess. Not to worry, young phoenix. He's usually pretty good about cleaning up after himself."
Arthur watched as Michael appeared at the top of the stairs and gracefully joined the group, settling himself at Rowan's feet. "I was afraid you'd say that." he sighed.
So ends the next story of the Triad and their unusual family. I'm going to put any further Lucifer stories on the back burner until the new season pops up on Netflix so I can get a better handle on the new characters being added. Next story will continue with the Librarians.