July 25, 2011

Az walked with long strides toward Sarah’s abandoned car just as Gabe rattled the old Indian to a stop nearby.  The demon stared at the battered sedan.  There wasn’t a flat piece of metal left anywhere on it.  “Christ on a cracker,” he muttered.

Sick with dismay, Gabriel jumped off the bike and went to the driver’s window.  Roni was curled on the seat, but jumped to his feet when he saw Gabe, wagging his stump of a tail.  Gabe opened the door and caressed the dog gently, trying to calm Roni’s mind.

Friend, friend!  Love you, love you!  Roni’s frantic mind greeted the angel.

Shhhhhhhhh.  Calm, little one.  Tell me.

Bad smell.  Bad woman.

An image of Belphagor with her silver eyes and her scent of the dead flashed through the dog’s mind and Gabe felt a prickling of anger in his stomach.  “Belle was here,” he said to Az.

“I knew she was in town, so I figured she was in on this.”  Az circled the car, studying the damage.  “I see her slimy hand prints everywhere.  And if there’s something fucked up goin’ on, you know that bitch has a piece of it.”

Gabe turned back to Roni.  “Where’s Shine?” he whispered.

Michael, Roni answered.  His stump of a tale began to wag again, moving his hindquarters with it.  Michael.  Michael.  Michael.

The angel took a step back.  “No,” he muttered. “Not Michael.”  He reached for the dog again, capturing Roni’s head in his hands and forcing the dog to meet his gaze.

Roni stopped wiggling and stared back at Gabe, showing the angel what the dog knew.  Gabe saw Sarah – a younger Sarah with fewer tattoos, the dog fighting scars still livid and fresh across her arms and neck. She was crouched in a dark corner, confronted by a man.  Her thoughts screamed out where Roni picked them up and now they played back for Gabriel:  “St. Michael, defend us.  St. Michael, be our defense against the wicked.”

Gabe shook his head. When faced with danger, Sarah prayed to St. Michael and Michael responded.  That’s why Roni knew the other archangel – knew the smell of him, knew the sight of him.

“Uh, hey, man,” Az said quietly from the other side of the car.  “You’d better come look at this.”

On legs that felt rubbery with fear, Gabe went around the car to the passenger door.  Gold dust shimmered everywhere – on the ground, on the door handle, even on the mangled passenger seat.

A whiff of attar of roses – the fragrance of the dead – reached Gabriel as ghastly titters floated through the air.  He swirled and saw Belphagor standing a few yards away.

She smiled coquettishly, running a pale hand through her moonlight hair.  “Hello, Gabriel,” she said.  She waved at Az.  “Hello, Asmodeus.”

Gabriel crossed the space between them in an instant, picking the demon up by the throat and smashing her against a BMW.  The car alarm went off, wailing under the low ceiling of the parking structure, as a handful of scattered humans turned to look in surprise.

“Where are they, Belle?” Gabe hissed in her face.  “So help me I will rip your lungs out through your windpipe if you don’t tell me where they are.”

“Whoa, buddy, whoa!” Az ran over and tried to pry Gabe’s steely grip from Belle’s throat.  “Dude, if you want to find out where the kid is at, you need to back the fuck off.”

Gabe continued to squeeze Belle’s throat, staring at her in a blaze of anger.

A man across the aisle stopped in the act of unlocking his car and approached Gabriel.  “Leave that woman alone,” he shouted.

Gabe turned a deadly look on him.  “Stay away,” he hissed.

“Oh, shit, Dude,” Az said nervously.  “This is getting out of control.  You’d better let her go, man.  Gabe – let her go.”

Giving her neck one final squeeze, Gabe shoved the demon against the BMW again and stepped away. Belle grasped her throat and looked at him with hatred.

Gabe pointed at her. “You’re going to take us to them.”

“That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Belle gasped.  “That’s what I was about to do before you attacked me.  Unprovoked.  Not very angelic of you, was it, Hope of God?”  She smoothed her long hair petulantly and grinned.  “Besides, you have greater trouble than me.  Michael is waiting for you.”

Several men approached them.  One stepped over to Belle and reached for her arm.  “It’s okay, Ma’m,” he said.  “We’ve got help coming.”

Belle swirled on him, flashing several hundred wickedly sharp teeth and her soulless silver eyes. “I need no help,” she snarled.

The man jumped back. “Jesus Christ!” he cried. “Jesus Christ!”

Belle cackled. “There is no Christ here.”

“Well, this whole scene is going to hell in a hand basket,” Az commented wryly.  “I hope you both know that you’re totally blowing our cover.”

“Shut up,” Belle spat at him.  “Friend of angels.”

Gabe went back to the sedan to get Roni, then flung the end of the leash and the duffel bag at Az. “I’ll deal with Michael,” he said, grabbing Belle just above the elbow.  “Let’s go.”

“Shit! Fuck!  Damn!” Az cried as Roni snapped at him over and over again. “I ain’t taking this damned dog. He wants to chew me up and shit me out.”

Gabe turned to Roni and pointed.  “Roni,” he said sharply.  “Chill.”

“He’s deaf, ya moron,” Az protested.

Roni stared at Gabe; then, with one last snarl at Az, seemed to wait patiently at the end of his leash for further instruction.

Gabe scanned the small crowd of humans who were now keeping a safe distance from the scene.  Several of them were holding up camera phones.

Az put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.  “Forget it, man.  We are totally fucked.  We’re all over the freakin’ internet by now anyway.”

Gabe nodded and turned back to Belphagor.  “Let’s go,” he repeated.


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