He’s alone a lot. I like that. Everyone here is always surrounded by people all the time and it’s very detrimental to thinking and morality as far as I can tell. My father warned me of that, of course, but it’s still jarring.
“It will be noisy,” he said over and over. “They cannot bear to pay attention to save their own souls, let alone their necks. They move from distraction to distraction without a care for the weighty matters surrounding them. The only way to shake most of them into a semblance of rationality is with a solid dose of pain.”
I’ve learned for myself that my father, as usual, was completely correct, though often for reasons quite different than he claimed. My research of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, the former associate of Angelus and the key to questions for which I couldn’t find the answers, has revealed all sorts of interesting things.
Solitary people begin talking to themselves. He sleeps more than most of the other people working for Angelus. Also, the solitude has driven him to a grievously common sin: he’s taken a mistress. I followed her around as well and have discovered, to my surprise, that his mistress is a respectable woman within the community. Justine explained that it was common, but I wasn’t entirely sure that was so. Adultery is a vice for the weak, as my father told me over and over.
Neither Wesley nor his mistress are particularly weak, though they are both often alone, and rather prone to strong drink. Justine says it is a sign of depression, and that he’s probably suicidal, but I don’t particularly think so. I think that he is weighed down with grave concern and he knows that to move impetuously is to court disaster. Justine, who is dangerously impetuous, cannot see this.
I’ve been trying to find the proper way to approach Wesley. The first attempt was a complete disaster and I had a fight with Justine because I discovered Wesley’s version of events was the true version of them. She told me there were certain things I didn’t need to know, that she was telling me what my father would have wanted me to know.
I want to ask Wesley what to do about Justine. She’s obviously lying to me, but I’m not sure if she’s being honest about doing my father’s business. If that’s so, there is a great deal to question. I’ve always accepted that my father occasionally crafted stories to protect me from youthful weakness, but to keep from me that the strange man who had delivered me to Justine before being terribly betrayed was painful and strange. What else might Justine be capable of, if she was capable of keeping that secret?
It’s on my mind as I travel the hard, hot sidewalks of Los Angeles. The cement remains harder than stone against my feet and I consider how best to speak to him. He’s so strange! There’s no reason I should speak to him, except that I know he’ll be honest.
So I sit in the courtyard of his building and think of what to say.
I need to know things.
I want to know things. I want to know you. I want you to explain things to me. I don’t want you to be my father. I don’t want you to be any of my fathers. I don’t need a father.
I’m less observant than usual while I ponder my introduction to the man and before I can hide, I catch the woman walking out of the building. That’s never happened before. She’s never here at this time of day. I didn’t think I’d be in any danger of–
“Hey, you,” she says in a dangerous tone of voice that’s half catcall and half poison. “Come over here. Don’t try to hide.”
“Too late now, I suppose,” I say. “We haven’t been properly introduced. My name is Steven Holtz, and your name is?”
“Lilah Morgan,” she says. “What have you been calling me?”
“His mistress,” I say before I can stop myself. She lifts an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, that’s impolite.”
“I like it,” she replies. “Come over here. I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.”
She thinks she’s being clever. But now that I know her name, I think less of Wesley and much less of her. She works for nothing but her own desires and petty vengeances, my father told me, if she ever approaches you, run. More dangerous, if less effective, than Angelus. Angelus at least had an animal affection for me. Lilah would gladly see me dead.
“You tried to kill me,” I said. “You wanted me dead.”
“I did,” she said. “I do, if that’s the best for me. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to kill you in the middle of the day in public.”
She gets closer and I can smell her. I can see how she’s got reflexes. Lilah’s afraid of me. I can use that against her. I can use her to get more information about Wesley, the one who matters.
“I don’t like you,” I said, getting near enough to her to sit down on a pathetically false stone bench next to us. “You’re human and you behave like the demon who–”
She smiles and sits down next to me, not bothering to deny the truth or protest her innate goodness. I find that fascinating. Most fallen women and sinners swear that their actions are aberrations, that they are good at heart. Apparently, Lilah doesn’t believe herself to be good and does not fear that knowledge.
“What do you want, Steven?”
“I want the truth,” I admit. “About my father. About all of this.”
“Don’t we all,” she replies. “Why do you think Wesley’s the one who can give you the truth? I’m just curious.”
“He’s honest,” I said. “He does what he thinks is right.”
“He does at that. Even if it totally screws everyone else up,” she agrees. “You’re a funny kid, Steven.”
“I’ve heard that,” I said. “Why do you fornicate with him? You don’t think that’ll convince him to?”
She smiles, but it’s a real smile, not one of the devilish, smirky smiles that so many people use here when they think they’re being clever. Her shoulders relax and I realize she’s thinking lascivious thoughts about him, which is sinful and common of her to do in front of me.
“I like him,” Lilah murmurs, eyes dreamy. “Besides, you have no idea what I really want, do you?”
“Power,” I say. “That’s what Justine and my father said.”
“Oh, Justine, huh?” she says, her voice sharpening. “I’d love to have a few words with Justine.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Unfinished business,” Lilah says, the rage and hatred flaming up into her eyes. “But that’s none of yours.”
“I suppose it’s not,” I reply, reaching out and grabbing her arm before she can walk away. “How do you get into his house?”
“I had a key made,” she explains, pulling one out of her pocket with her free hand. “You can have it. I have another one. After all, in my line of work, you never just make one extra set of keys.”
I take the key from her and look at it glint. “Which one is his?”
“Apartment 104,” she answers. “Are we through here? I have a meeting. I just came over here for–- well, never mind what I came here for.”
“I won’t,” I say easily, fascinated at how inconsistent they all are. She easily accepts I know that they’re fornicating, but she hesitates to admit she came over for a tryst? “He won’t even know we spoke.”
“Of course not,” she says easily, rising and dusting off her expensive clothing. She is still afraid, but she’d rather die than show that fear openly. I respect that. She has all of the strength that I originally noticed in her, and all of the wickedness. Lilah is difficult. As an evil woman, I ought not let her run about for romantic trysts with Wesley, who is much better than her. But so few people in this dimension are as awake as she is. I would like to speak with her again, knowing that her words will always be in her best interests.
“Goodbye,” I tell her. She tilts her head strangely, looking me up and down as if she is assessing me. Perhaps she is, comparing me to Angelus, to Wesley, to my dad. “We’ll meet again.”
“No doubt,” Lilah says with a false smile. “Good luck with the truth. I find it’s never been all that useful, but maybe you’ll get lucky.”
She brushes past me and walks away, her shoes clicking on the concrete. I don’t understand what she’s said at all, but from the tone of her voice, I know that it was meaningful. Before I can call out and ask her what she meant, she’s gone and I feel the key in my hand.
It’s Wesley again. She was talking about Wesley, somehow. It’s another question I’ll have to ask him when I ask him all the questions that he can answer for me.
I put the key into a pocket and walk into the building. Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. These are all simple gospel truths, and every day, I see further validation of my father’s faith. Even when I don’t ask, I get the answers to the questions in my heart, the guidance to where I must go.
Wesley is where the path has led. And I have no doubt he will lead me to what I seek and do not understand.