It was sometime past midnight, into the bleak early morning hours, when they
finally made it to San Francisco. Zeke wasn't at all familiar with the city,
so he drove around without any real direction or plan until he ended up in
an industrial area that showed no signs of life beyond a few street bums. He
felt tired from the long drive, even though he knew the sense of exhaustion
was all in his head. He had no physical need for sleep, yet he found it hard
to lose the mindset that a human being required a certain amount of rest
But that was the thing he had to keep reminding himself--he wasn't human. He
was a demon. He was a dead man imitating the living.
Lucifer, on the other hand, was quite human at the moment and had been sound
asleep for hours. He didn't have the money left to try to find a flophouse
for the rest of the night, so instead Zeke chose a place that looked
reasonably safe and quiet to park for a few hours. He shut off the engine
and got out of the car to walk around and stretch, and to check out his
immediate surroundings. The temperature was noticeably cooler here than in
Los Angeles and a dampness clung to the air, suggesting a recent or
He felt as disoriented as he had after first moving to Los Angeles from New
York; it made him uncomfortable not knowing the streets, the good areas and
the dangerous ones, the general "feel" of a city. And already he felt an
ache inside at the distance now separating him from Rosalyn...he sighed and
tried to shake off that thought. The less he dwelled on her, the better.
He walked back to the car, sat down inside and got out the stack of
newspapers he'd picked up at a gas station along the way. He'd hoped they
might give him some leads about the recent crimes in the area he suspected
were the handiwork of one of the one-thirteen: victims' backgrounds, names
of investigating officers, bizarre details, anything that might be useful to
It was, at least, a way to keep his thoughts occupied with things other than
Rosalyn. And Ash. And of course his newly-constant companion, Lucifer. When
he'd exhausted three papers front to back and taken a few notes, Zeke put
the rest away and decided he would try to catch a little rest at last. He
eased the seat back, and turned to look at the sleeping man beside him,
studying him in his unguarded state.
"It really is pathetic, isn't it?" a familiar voice queried from the back of
Zeke sat up and spun around in alarm, eyes widening in surprise at the sight
that greeted him. The voice belonged to someone who, except for the way he
wore his hair tied back from his face in a tight ponytail instead of loose,
looked exactly like the devil. There was no mistaking him for Zeke's
guardian angel, either. This one's dark suit, sneering smile and sulfurous
scent clearly marked him as one of the fallen.
"The ruler of Hell reduced to sleeping in a stolen car like a common bum.
How the mighty have truly fallen this time," the angel said, disgust evident
on his face as he looked at Lucifer.
"Who are you?"
"Just someone who believed in him, once." The angel nodded toward Lucifer.
"I was his second in command, which of course now leaves me in charge of
things down under during his...leave of absence." He snorted and added, "And
not a moment too soon. Look at him. He's grown soft. Vulnerable. If I'd been
in charge of things before now, those one hundred and thirteen would never
have escaped in the first place."
"So I take it you're my new employer?" Ezekiel asked.
"Bright fellow. At least my brother seems to have done one thing right, in
choosing you to clean up his mess." There was a coldness in this one's eyes
that Zeke did not like at all. The angel leaned forward, grasped Zeke's
shoulder tightly, and continued in a harsh tone, "But don't think I harbor
any ridiculous affections or love for you. You'll get your job done and I
won't tolerate any insubordination...nor will I be around to bail your ass
out of trouble if you fuck things up again. I might look like him to your
eyes, but I'm not. Don't ever forget that. I'll honor the promise he made
you, should you succeed in bringing back the remaining escaped souls...but
if you fail, I'll just find another to finish the job. Is that clear?"
"Good." The angel released his grip and clapped Zeke on the shoulder. "I'm so
glad that we understand each other."
"What about him?" Ezekiel asked.
"What about him?" his question was echoed. "He's not my problem, Mr. Stone.
Nor, quite frankly, is he yours. You have enough to worry yourself over
with...what is it now?...seventy-eight more demons to capture? And I've got
enough to do trying to get things back under control back home." The new
ruler of Hell got out of the car, but paused by Zeke's open window. "It's
all about priorities, Detective. Make sure you don't forget what your
priorities are. I really don't want to be bothered having to find a
replacement for you, but I will if I find your work...unsatisfactory."
With a curt wave good-bye, the figure turned and walked off, dissolving from
sight into the darkness of the deserted streets.
Zeke sighed, and sunk wearily back into his seat.
Now he had to worry about not pissing off his new boss and his old one.
Life just kept getting more interesting--and aggravating--by the minute.
He eventually drifted off into an uneasy sleep, demons real and imagined
chasing him through his dreams.
* * *
The next morning over a greasy breakfast and too-strong coffee, Ezekiel told
Lucifer about his late-night visitor.
"Well, at least I know now that things are in good hands in my absence," the
devil remarked casually.
"Good hands? He more or less said he didn't care what happened to you--in
fact I got the impression he'd actually be pleased if you ended up dead and
out of his way."
"Precisely! He was always an opportunistic bastard who didn't care what it
took to be on top. I can't think of a better man for the job--except for
myself, of course."
"So it doesn't bother you that he said you'd gone soft."
"Of course it does. That's the point. He knows just the right things to say
to piss someone off. Even me." Lucifer took a sip on his coffee and added,
"He's wrong, of course."
"Is he? I was thinking maybe he was right," Zeke said. "After all, I
couldn't see this guy doing what you did to save me the other night. The
devil being compassionate? That's definitely unheard of."
Lucifer said nothing, so Zeke continued, "Why did you do it, really? I
mean, you're always telling me how you could just find someone else to do my
job. I fucked up; I let those guys capture me. Why didn't you let them send me back to Hell?"
"An admitted momentary lapse of judgement, as I've already said."
"It's gotta be more than that," Zeke pressed. "You don't do 'nice' without a
reason, and you knew it would get you in some serious trouble."
"Are you going to eat that bacon, or may I, before it gets cold?"
"Your brother told me why you did it."
"Both of them, actually. I just don't know if I can believe what they told
me, even though they basically said the same thing."
"Your instinct for disbelief is a good one. I wouldn't put any merit on
anything either of them said."
"They said that you were in love with me." There. He'd said it. Might as
well get it out in the open. Zeke watched for even a flicker, a hint of
shock or surprise, or indignant denial.
Lucifer just raised an eyebrow at him and responded calmly, "As I said, I
wouldn't believe anything my brothers might have told you."
"So you're denying it?"
"You really believe I could be in love with you?" The devil burst into
laughter. "Please, Ezekiel. I'm flattered, I suppose, that you could imagine
yourself as the object of my heart's desire. But I told you, I haven't loved
"--since God. I remember. And I didn't believe you then, and I still don't."
Lucifer sighed impatiently and tossed his napkin on top of the congealed
remains of his omelet. "Thank you, Mr. Stone, for giving me my first taste
"Only returning the favor of so many meals of mine you ruined." Zeke waved
over the waitress and asked for the check. He decided it was time to change
the topic to more pressing matters. "Anyway. I was looking through the local
papers last night, and another priest was attacked the night before. Some
guy grabbed him on the street and tried to pull him into a van parked in an
alley. This one got away, though--the assailant got scared when someone
spotted what was going on and started shouting for help. The priest...one
Father Stanton," Zeke read off his notepad, "couldn't provide the police
with a very good description of his attacker. But they're certain this case
is related to the murders of the other priests. I want to talk to this guy
myself. Find out if there's anything important that didn't get printed in
the papers--maybe that he felt he couldn't even report to the police."
"A wise plan," Satan agreed.
"You're not going to give me any leads here, any clues as to which one it
is--if it even is one of them?" Stone asked.
"Quite honestly, Detective, I don't really have a clue. Considering we're
talking about escapees from Hell I should think any number of them could
be on a vendetta against those who claim to represent God on this Earth. I
didn't have the time to follow them all around, keeping tabs on each one's
every moment while they ran amok on Earth."
"Okay. But which ones might have had something against the church--priests
in particular--before their deaths?"
The devil looked pensive for a moment, then shrugged. "Six or seven at
least, off the top of my head. It is one of the escapees, of that I'm
certain. Otherwise my brother would have discouraged you from this
investigation last night. Which one it is, perhaps this Father Stanton can
help us determine."
Zeke nodded. "Then let's get going."
Zeke stopped outside the rector's office door and turned to his companion.
"Let me do the talking, all right?"
"I have no intentions of interfering, Detective," Lucifer assured him. "I
will merely observe. In fact, I should think this will be rather
illuminating--having the chance to follow you through the steps of one of
your investigations first-hand."
"I'll save any critical comments for later."
Ezekiel was going to tell the devil just where he could stick those critical
comments, but he held his tongue. They were in a church, after all, and this
wasn't the place to start bickering--especially not with the devil. Zeke had
been hesitant enough about bringing him along for this interview in the
first place. It felt wrong for the devil to be here, and wrong to
make a priest who'd already suffered enough recently have to deal with the
devil strolling into his office.
Oh well, Zeke sighed to himself. What Father Stanton didn't know hopefully
couldn't hurt him.
He turned back around and knocked lightly on the door. It opened a few
seconds later to reveal a bespectacled gray-haired man who looked to be in
his sixties. Tall and thin, he regarded his visitors with cautious
"Good morning. May I help you, gentlemen?"
"Are you Father Stanton?"
Ezekiel pulled out his NYPD badge and flashed it in his customary
too-quick-to-be-closely-inspected manner. "I'm Detective Stone, this is my
partner...Detective Gonner. We'd like to talk to you about the attack the
"I see. Well, I did make my statement to the police already. I'm not sure
there's anything else I can tell you."
"My partner and I were only assigned to handle the investigation this
morning. We were hoping we could hear about what happened directly from
you...just in case you might remember any details now that you'd left out
before, anything that might not have seemed important..." Zeke trailed off,
hoping the priest would buy his story. Most of the time people did; he had
learned during his years as a cop how easy it was to get a lot of people to
talk with just a pleasant smile, a confident manner, and a simple story.
The priest gave them both a more considered once-over, then nodded his head.
"Very well. Come in, and have a seat. Certainly I want to help your
investigation in any way I can. It's a tragedy, a terrible tragedy, about
those other three men who were killed. I am truly fortunate to be alive, if
this was the same individual responsible for their deaths who tried to
"We have every reason to believe it is," Zeke assured him. The other three
priests hadn't merely been killed. Their bodies--each one returned,
mysteriously, to their church about a week after their disappearance--had
shown signs of severe and brutal torture, even mutilation. In all cases a
slit throat had been the final cause of death. All three, like Father
Stanton, had been Caucasian men of at least middle age. The first murder had
occurred not long after the escape of the 113 from Hell, the last one only
three weeks ago.
"Did you know any of the murder victims personally?" Zeke asked.
"I'd known Father Gartner, in passing, but not the others."
So much for an obvious direct link between the victims, Zeke thought. It had
been worth a shot. "And you said you didn't get a good look at your
assailant...nothing's come back to you about him since you made your
"No, I'm afraid not. He came up behind me; I never saw his face. I only saw
him from behind when he was running away, and it was dark outside... He had
short light-brown hair, average build, dark clothes...that's really all I
"Could you just briefly go through what happened again? How you remember
"Of course. It was a little past nine, in the evening. I'd just stepped out
of Rosie's--the diner over on 5th Street, around the corner?" Zeke nodded.
He'd seen the place, made a mental note to himself that they might want to
go inside and see if anyone remembered any unusual customers lately. "A nice
place, nice people. Rosie makes the best apple pie in the city, and, well,
I'd had a craving for it." Stanton smiled. "Anyway, I was walking back here,
to the church to finish up some business before turning in for the night.
"I was walking past the laundromat, just down the street, when it happened.
I didn't hear or see anything, or anyone--that time of night there isn't
many people on these streets. All I knew was suddenly this man had me by the
throat, and he told me he would kill me right there on the street if I
fought him or shouted for help."
"He had a knife, you said?" Zeke prompted, remembering what details had been
given in the papers.
"Yes, he held a knife to my throat." Stanton rubbed his neck
self-consciously. There was a small cut, Zeke noticed, where apparently the
blade had been pressed close enough to break skin.
"Was there anything about the knife that you remember? Anything...unusual or
distinctive about it?" A number of Ezekiel's previous quarry had employed
very unique weaponry; details about what this attacker had used might help
him pinpoint who this one was.
"Distinctive?" The priest frowned and sat back, looking thoughtful. "Not
that I recall. I didn't honestly see much besides the glint of metal. It was
certainly larger than a pocketknife, but that's about all I could tell you."
"That's all right. So...he told you not to fight him... What else did he
"Nothing...nothing much, that I can recall. He was just rambling on,
cursing, telling me not to fight him while he tried to lead me away into the
alley next to the laundromat." The police had found a van parked in the
alley, which according to the papers they'd assumed was the assailant's.
Stolen, of course, therefore it hadn't provided any good leads on the
"What about his voice," Zeke tried. "Did the man have any kind of accent?
Foreign, or just from another part of the country..."
"Why, no... No, none that I was able to identify. And I can remember his
voice quite clearly, if nothing else." The priest got a far-away look in his
eyes and said, "I doubt I will forget the sound of his voice for a very long
"And it was a young girl, just walking down the street, who ended up
interrupting the assault?" Zeke asked.
"Yes, yes, Cara. She's the daughter of the woman who operates the laundry.
She was looking for Bogey--a stray cat who comes by the
laundry most evenings to sleep. She saw what was going on and started
screaming, calling for her mother. The man seemed to panic; he pushed me
down onto the ground, and by the time I got back to my feet he was gone."
The girl had been the one who'd managed to supply a very basic description
of the attacker, apparently, but she was only eight and the details she'd
managed to convey to the police were vague at best.
Zeke ran through a few more routine questions, but it was mostly all a
regurgitation of what he'd read in the papers, nothing new, nothing of much
use to him. He was about to thank the priest for his time and leave when
Lucifer suddenly spoke up.
"I have a feeling you haven't told us the entire story, Father. What is it
Zeke glared at him. Hadn't he told Lucifer to keep his mouth shut?
Father Stanton looked taken aback. "I...I don't know what you mean,
"Oh, I think you do," Lucifer disagreed. "I think you saw something, or felt
something...or perhaps heard something that disturbed you so much, you
decided it had to simply be your imagination."
Father Stanton shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I...well, I tried to tell
the other officers about that. They wouldn't listen; they told me it was
probably just the stress of the attack making me...hear things. Things that
weren't there..." He gave a small, nervous laugh. "The more I thought about
it afterwards, the more I became certain they were probably right."
"Maybe, maybe not," Zeke said. "Why don't you tell us."
The priest looked back and forth between them, and after a moment sighed and
said, "Voices. I heard...children's voices."
"When?" Zeke asked.
"As he was trying to lead me away. Whispering, crying voices. All around
him, around us. Telling him to stop. Asking him what he was doing, begging
him to stop. So many of them...but there was no one there! No one at all..."
Stanton trailed off. Zeke noticed his hands were shaking now.
Zeke glanced at Lucifer and caught the devil's smug grin. It was time to
leave Father Stanton alone and find out what the devil knew that he was
keeping a secret. "Thank you for your time, Father. If we have any more
questions, we'll be in touch."
Stanton managed to compose himself enough to see them to the door and wish
them the best with their investigation. Once they were outside, Stone turned
to Lucifer and said, "So what was that about? The voices. I thought you said
you didn't know which one of these demons was responsible for the attacks."
"I didn't, but I had a few ideas. I took a guess. I could tell Father
Stanton was leaving something out." The devil shrugged under Zeke's
questioning gaze. "I may have lost my powers, but I haven't lost thousands
of years of experience observing mankind."
"Part of the unique punishment I devised for our little lost soul," the
devil explained, but he said no more than that as they walked down the steps
and onto the street.
Zeke stepped in front of him and pressed, "So? Come on, if you know who it
is, how about you let me in on it?"
"I'm not here to spoon-feed you information, Ezekiel. Hunting down the
demons is your job, not mine."
"It's not your job to do anything right now, is it?" Zeke snapped. He turned
away and took off down the street toward the laundromat, wanting to take a
look at the alley, check for any clues the police might have missed.
Wanting to get away from the devil.
Lucifer caught up with him, and with a snappish tone to match the
detective's said, "I can't say that I care for this new attitude you're
developing, Mr. Stone."
"Yeah? Well I've never cared for yours, so I guess that makes us even." He'd
reached the alley now, and he knelt down low to the ground, looking
for...something. Anything. Anything the demon might have dropped or left
behind when he'd fled. Something as simple as a coat button had proven to be
a vital clue in the past, and he didn't want to miss such a lead this
time--especially if Lucifer wasn't going to help him out.
"If you think I'm going to forget about the way you've been acting when I
get my powers back, you are seriously mistaken."
"If you get your powers back. Until then you're not the one I work for,"
Zeke said, glaring up at the devil. "Frankly you're nothing but a pain in my
ass, and if it wasn't for the fact that I owe you for saving me and that I
made a promise to look after you, I wouldn't give a damn what happens to
Lucifer stared at him, dumbstruck. Under that unblinking, gray gaze, Zeke
felt sorry, almost, for the anger with which he'd spoken. He was just too
frustrated with the situation and not in the mood for things to continue
like they had been. If they were going to be able to do this, work together,
live together (Ugh! Zeke grimaced; that was a disturbing thought), things
had to change. No more bickering, no more goading. No more damn games.
Lucifer finally snapped out of it and managed a weak smile of acquiescence.
"Joseph Holland," he said.
"Joseph Holland?" Zeke repeated with a frown.
Lucifer nodded, and leaned against the brick wall of the laundromat, arms
crossed over his chest. "He was raised in a Catholic orphanage--raised, and
repeatedly sexually abused by a priest who had a fondness for little
blond-haired boys. Clearly those early childhood traumas left a lasting
impression on our dear Joseph. Like so many of the abused, he went on to
commit the same crimes himself when he grew older. The sins of the father,
as they always say..." the devil trailed off with a shrug.
"So he's a child molester."
"And a murderer. He grew too paranoid about one day being caught or reported
by one of his victims, so he started killing them once he was finished with
them. The sorry bastard got away with all of it--until he died forty-odd
years ago of heart attack." The devil tilted his head and smiled. "I thought
it was quite a fitting punishment, to be forever tormented by the cries of
his victims. Looks like it stuck too, since he carried those voices back
with him here to Earth."
"And now he's going after priests. Was the priest who abused him ever
brought to justice?"
"After his death, most certainly. During his life, I don't know."
"So is Joseph from this area?"
"Can't recall, but it would seem to be a likely bet. Demons are rather fond
of returning to familiar territory when they can--even when the memories are
less than pleasant."
"So what was the name of the orphanage...and the priest?"
"I don't know."
"No!" the devil answered testily. "Be glad I can remember as much as I do
about him. Once, I could tell you the entire life story of every soul in my
domain. This now-human brain I'm stuck with is woefully incapable of such
tasks. I've forgotten more in the past two days than you could ever imagine
learning in a thousand lifetimes!"
"Sorry," Zeke offered in gruff apology, this time really feeling a tinge of
honest sympathy. He could see the tension in Lucifer's face; for a moment
the devil's calm exterior seemed in serious danger of collapsing.
Yet Lucifer recovered his composure within the space of a deep breath and
curtly replied, "Apology accepted, if insufficient. But I'll let it pass
Zeke went back to searching the ground for anything of note, but came up
empty-handed. The alley was clean, not that he'd held much hope of finding
something, but he never could tell. Still, with the devil's story he had
much more substantial information to go by and it was time to move on.
"Are we done here?" Lucifer asked as Zeke stood up, brushing his hands off
on his coat.
"Yeah. Seems like a dead end here."
"Or a not-so-dead end, from Father Stanton's point of view. So what's next?"
"The library. Time to do a little research. We have a name; hopefully we can
dig up something of use from that."
Research was tedious work. Zeke found himself
wishing he had spent a little more time with
Max, learning how to use the internet to do
this instead of spending countless hours in
the library. He always got completely lost
when she started rambling on about "dot.com"
this and "yahoo" that, but he had a feeling
she'd have been able to find the information
he was looking for in no time at all.
The thought crossed his mind that he could
give her a call and see what she could find
for him, but he quickly vetoed the idea. He
had to remind himself that he'd left L.A. not
just to protect his own skin, but to protect
his friends' as well. He needed to keep his
distance from all of them now, if he wanted
to make sure Ash left them alone. Besides, he
knew his way around index cards and
microfiche machines. With a little patience,
he knew he should be able to find at least
some information about his quarry, Joseph
Holland. Hopefully, that information would
put him on the demon's trail before Holland
could attack another priest.
Lucifer, while not offering Zeke any help
with his task, at least stayed out of the
detective's way. He settled down at a
desk with a pile of current newspapers,
claiming he needed to spend some time
catching up on current events. "Just because
I'm out of the game temporarily doesn't mean
I should fall behind on what's going on in
the world," the devil had explained,
"especially when I orchestrated so much of
By late afternoon, Zeke's search had yielded
some results, but not much. He found an
obituary from October 12, 1957 for a man by
the name of Joseph Holland, resident of 815
Cole Street. The man had died of a heart
attack at the age of fifty. That matched the
cause of death and approximate timeframe that
the devil had given Zeke for this particular
soul's arrival in Hell. This Mr. Holland had
run a small bookstore on the first floor of
the building where he'd lived. He'd died
unmarried and with no children, and no known
surviving relatives. There was no reference
to any family at all in the obituary--no
parents or siblings--supporting the fact that
Holland was an orphan.
While scanning through newspapers from around
the time of Holland's death, Zeke also found a
small item on the discovery of a young boy's
body in a nearby park, just a few days
before Holland had died. The body had shown
signs of sexual assault before death by a
broken neck. It wasn't much to go on, but it
was confirmation of the devil's suspicions as
to who Zeke's quarry was this time--a child
molester returned home to San Francisco, out
for vengeance against the priests he blamed
for his deviant ways.
If it was still standing, Holland's old
residence would be a good place to start the
hunt. Even if the building was gone, Holland
could still be hanging around in the general
area, so Zeke could try asking around about
him. As the devil had said, demons liked to
stick to familiar territory. Zeke had been no
different upon his return to Earth, visiting
his old home, staying in New York City and
hovering near familiar places until he'd
found out Rosalyn had moved to Los Angeles.
And there he'd stayed, hanging close to her,
to that "familiar territory", until forced to
With research concluded for the day, it was
time to take care of a slightly different
problem--finding a place for them to stay for
at least the next few days, perhaps even
longer, if it turned out Holland wasn't the
only demon haunting the streets of San
Francisco. Zeke didn't fancy camping out in
their car every night, nor did he think
Lucifer would, either. He searched the
library for some tourist guides to the city,
looking specifically for information on the
seedier areas of town that the guides
recommended travelers avoid if at all
possible. Zeke figured those would be his
best bets for finding a room within his
"The Tenderloin", as it was called, proved to
be just the kind of neighborhood he was
searching for. A section of the city filled
with strip clubs and seedy bars in buildings
that looked ready to be condemned, it was
there that he found a run-down boarding house
with a room rate Zeke could afford. The place
made his old room in L.A. look like a penthouse
suite, but it would have to do. It had the
bare essentials they needed--two beds, a
bathroom, and a small kitchenette down the
Lucifer took in their accommodations with
obvious disdain but, for the most part, kept
his mouth shut and didn't complain. He
crashed and slept most of the afternoon while
Zeke zoned out in front of the TV. It only
picked up two stations clearly but he didn't
care; he wasn't really paying attention to
the programs. He just needed a few hours to
relax and not have to think about anything of
importance. He only perked up when the early
evening news came on. He listened to hear
if there was any new information on the
attacks on the priests--or even a new victim.
But there was nothing new to report.
Zeke was getting ready to head out to resume
his hunt when the devil finally awoke from
"Where are you going?"
"Out to do my job. You coming along or
staying here?" Zeke asked, rather hoping
Lucifer might stay behind so he could have a
little time to himself--and no interference
while he worked.
"Why, I'm coming along, of course. Where are
"To check out Holland's old neighborhood. I
want to see where he lived. If we're lucky he
might still be hanging around."
With evening the temperatures had turned
colder and a drizzling rain had begun to
fall. Having a car made it a lot easier to
get around, even if Ezekiel got lost a few
times trying to navigate the unfamiliar city.
They finally found Cole Street and Ezekiel
was able to park just across the street from
their destination, building number 815.
"Damn this weather," the devil cursed as he
stepped out of the vehicle, shivering even
though Ezekiel had loaned him his long coat
to wear. The detective could sense the strong
chill in the air, even though he was immune
to an actual physical reaction to it.
"I like cold. And wet," Zeke mused aloud,
remembering far too well the conditions in
Hell. "It certainly beats the heat."
"Heat? Please, don't mention heat. You're
making me homesick."
Ezekiel looked across the street, at the
building where Holland had lived nearly a
half-century ago. The two-story brick
building showed its age, but it was still in
reasonably good condition. The first-floor
bookstore was gone, replaced by "The Crimson
Moon" coffeehouse. Dark red curtains in the
large storefront window obscured most of view
inside. There were no lights on upstairs
that he could see.
"Well, at least we can get something to eat
while we're working tonight," Zeke said.
Though with these trendy new coffeehouses
that had sprouted up everywhere while he was
in Hell, he knew they'd be lucky if they
could just get two cups of coffee and maybe a
cookie with the cash he had left in his
They crossed the street and entered the
establishment, finding it to be a cozy,
warmly lit room filled with mismatched
second-hand tables and chairs. Ethnic music
of some sort rumbled beneath the chatter of
the coffeehouse patrons. It seemed to be a
pretty young crowd of student and artistic-
types--he could see Max fitting in perfectly
in a place like this. A waitress with a
pretty face but shocking blue hair and
multiple piercings smiled at them from across
the room and said, "Take a seat anywhere,
I'll be with you in a sec."
They sat down at a small table just inside
the doorway. From there, Zeke had a good view
of the place and he could also watch the
street, from an opening in the curtains. He
gave the other patrons a better once-over
while Lucifer studied the menu on the wall
across from them. The devil laughed a little
and shook his head. "Double-latte caramel
mochachinos and fusion-berry frappes...what
nonsense you humans blissfully buy into, all
in the name of being trendy and 'chic'."
"You humans?" Ezekiel repeated. "You would
be one of those 'you humans' now, don't
forget." On this point, though, Ezekiel had
to admit the devil's mockery wasn't entirely
off-base. He'd take a plain cup of good
coffee for a quarter any day over these five-
dollar-a-shot-confections of burnt espresso
and sugary syrups.
The blue-haired waitress came over after a
couple minutes and said, "Hi, do you guys
know what you want?"
"Actually, what we'd really like right now is
a minute of your time, if that's possible."
Zeke quickly flashed his badge at her. "I'm
Detective Stone, this is my partner,
Detective Gonner. We're looking for a suspect
in some recent crimes. We have reason to
believe he might have been here, some time in
the last few days or weeks. He might even be
a regular customer," Zeke wagered.
"Really? Wow, that's freaky," the woman said.
"Is this guy dangerous?"
"He could be. But probably not to you or any
of your customers here. His name is Joseph
Holland. About fifty years old, light brown
hair, average height and build. Not the kind
of guy that would really stand out in a
crowd." Of course in a place like this, a guy
like Holland probably would stand out, though
Zeke didn't say as much. "He used to live in
this building," Zeke added, and at that the
woman's eyes suddenly lit up with
"Hey, wait a minute, I think I know who you
mean!" She grabbed a chair from a neighboring
empty table and sat down next to Zeke. "Yeah,
Joe. I know Joe. He comes in here every
couple nights. I remember him saying
something about living here a long time ago."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. Weird old guy, talks to himself when
he's not trying to hold me or one of the
other gals up in a conversation." She
shrugged. "At first he made me nervous, but
then I figured he was just kind of sad and
lonely. So I put him at one of the tables in
the back of the room when he comes in; that
way he doesn't bother the other customers."
It seemed as if they'd found their man.
Zeke asked, "He didn't happen to say
anything about where he was living now, did
"No," she answered, shaking her head, "not
that I remember. He just said he'd been away
for a long time, for years."
"When does he usually come in?"
The waitress thought for a moment, then
checked the clock on the wall behind them.
"Close to now, actually. If you wait around
you might get lucky and catch him here. It's
been a couple days since I've seen him."
"Yeah, I think we'll stick around for a
while," Zeke answered. He looked at Lucifer,
who merely shrugged, offering no other
They ordered some coffee and a sandwich. When
the waitress came back with their order a few
minutes later, Lucifer asked her, "Tell me,
young lady, the apartment above this fine
establishment--do you know if it is currently
"Last I knew, there was this old hag named
Marta living there. God, I hated that woman!
She was always coming in here bitching about
the noise and music, complaining to the
landlord about us. But you know, she hasn't
come by to hassle us in a while, so maybe she
finally got fed up and moved out. Or
croaked." The woman shrugged. "I see the
lights on upstairs sometimes so someone's up
there--places around here get rented out
quick. Must be someone new who's real quiet."
"Must be," Lucifer said, raising an eyebrow
at Ezekiel once the woman left. "Care to take
a guess as to the identity of that new
"Wouldn't be surprising, would it?" Zeke
checked his watch. "If Holland doesn't make
an appearance in here before closing time,
I'll check it out." He didn't want to attempt
any breaking and entering upstairs while
there were so many people here in the cafe.
"Very well," Lucifer agreed, and then he
grabbed their plate of food, claiming the
sandwich all for himself.
"Hey. I thought we were going to share," Zeke
"You eat out of habit. I eat out of
necessity. Go flirt with Marge Simpson's love
child back there and I'm sure she'll offer
you some tasty favors," the devil said with a
nod toward their waitress.
"No thanks. Blue's not my color." Zeke sighed
and took a sip of his coffee, and settled in
for what he figured was going to be a long
* * *
They waited, and waited, until the steady
stream of customers slowed to a last few
night owls, but there was no sign of Joseph
Holland. In the meantime, they had both
consumed far too much coffee as their chatty
waitress kept them going with free refills.
The caffeine had no effect on Ezekiel, but
Lucifer was practically bouncing off the
walls and had had enough of just sitting
"This is pointless. Holland's not going to
show. Go check out the upstairs and see if
our little lost demon has made a messy
eviction of the former tenant."
"Be patient," Ezekiel advised.
"Fuck being patient. This sitting around for
hours staring at the walls is driving me
"You're going to make me crazy if you don't
switch to decaf."
The waitress came over and said, "Sorry boys,
closing time. Looks like your man was a no-
"Yeah, well, there's always tomorrow," Zeke
"So you'll be coming back?" She looked
hopefully at Ezekiel.
"If we don't have a better lead by then, most
"Well, good luck with your investigation and
all that. And maybe I'll see you around
"Yeah. Maybe." She smiled at him, obviously
pleased at the prospect of him coming back.
He returned her smile, but sighed and shook
his head as soon as she left to settle up
with the other remaining customers. "Let's
get out of here," he told Lucifer.
"It's about time."
Ezekiel led the way outside and then across
the street to their car. "I thought you were
going to check out the apartment," Lucifer
"I am, as soon as everyone's out downstairs.
Until then we sit and wait in the car."
They waited. Zeke watched the building, the
upstairs windows, but there were still no
lights on, at least not in the front room
facing the street. After about twenty
minutes, the lights went off in the
coffeeshop, and Zeke watched as their
waitress and a few other employees locked up
the storefront and left. The detective waited
a few more minutes, mostly just gearing
himself up for a possible confrontation. He
was trying not to think about how poorly his
last confrontation with a demon had gone, and
the torture he'd gone through as a result of
"Nervous, detective? Doubting your ability to
"I thought you couldn't get into my head any
"I know you well enough, Ezekiel, that I
don't need my powers to see your thoughts
right now." There was silence, for a moment.
Then Lucifer touched Zeke's hand. Zeke turned
to look at his companion, angry at first but
then just puzzled. Lucifer's expression, for
once, was serious, and there was no mocking
tone in his voice when he said, "You made a
mistake the last time. Accept it and move
past it. I would not have chosen you for this
task in the first place if I did not believe
in your ability to complete it."
The devil's words and honesty surprised
Ezekiel. Maybe mortality was having a good
effect on Lucifer after all. "Thanks,"
Ezekiel said. Their gaze held for a moment
longer than the detective was comfortable
with. He drew his hand away and quickly got
out of the car, checking to make sure he had
his gun tucked against his side, under the
baggy folds of his sweatshirt.
"Stay here," he said to Lucifer, "If it looks
like there's going to be bad trouble, don't
come after me, just take the car and go back
to the hotel. All right?"
The devil nodded.
"Let's get this over with," Zeke said to
himself, and then he crossed the quiet, empty
street and stood before the apartment entry
to 815 Cole.
He tried the buzzer, just in case. He didn't
want to bust into the place if Holland wasn't
there and it had just been rented to another
individual. When there was no response
after a few minutes and several rings, he
tested the door. It was old and not very
secure; with his better-than-human strength
he knew he could break it open without too
much trouble. One quick glance around the
street, and one deep breath, and then he gave
the door a solid kick. It flew open and Zeke
rushed up the stairs, not looking back,
knowing he should work quickly. There was a
second locked door at the top of the stairs,
which he made quick work of again. He entered
just as he would have during any police raid,
gun drawn, at full alert.
No lights were on. The apartment seemed truly
empty. He stood frozen, for a moment,
listening, straining all of his senses to
detect any sign of movement, of there being
anyone else on the premises. When he
convinced himself that he was alone, he felt
the wall for a light switch. He turned on an
overhead light and took in the contents of
the apartment living room quickly.
Everything was fairly neat, though there was
definitely a musty smell to the air. He saw a
large pile of unopened mail sitting on the
coffee table in the middle of the room. He
glanced at one of the envelopes--it was
addressed to "Mrs. Marta Diamond". He went
into the kitchen, and found nothing in the
refrigerator except for some extremely fuzzy
fruit and a pile of mold that at one time
might have been cheese.
One thing caught his eye in the kitchen--an
open Yellow Pages, next to the phone. He
walked over to take a better look.
Holland had been here, all right. Zeke was
certain of it when he saw where the book had
been left open--a page listing "Churches-
Catholic-Latin Rite". There looked to be
nearly a hundred listings, though many had
been crossed out with a red pen. About a
half-dozen churches had been circled, and
one of them Zeke recognized as Father Stanton's.
Zeke put his gun down for a moment as he
reached in his pants pocket for his paper and
pencil to write down names and numbers.
Holland could be at one of those circled
churches right now, stalking his next victim.
Zeke wanted to take this information and get
out, as quickly as possible.
Zeke paused in his writing, once, thinking
he'd heard a voice. Just a soft whisper. He
listened closely for a minute, standing dead
still and tensing for action, but he heard
nothing more. He shook it off as just nerves
and went back to writing down the
He finished up and shoved the paper into his
pocket. He was just reaching for his gun and
turning to leave when someone plunged a knife
into his back.
The pain and shock to his body left him
helpless for a moment, but he fought against
the pain and spun around, grabbing his assailant
and slamming the figure against the kitchen
Joseph Holland glared back at him, fire rising
up in his demonic eyes as he hissed "Who are
you?" and struggled against Zeke's grip.
"Your ticket home, Holland." Zeke's gun had
slid down the counter, out of his immediate
reach. His pencil lay just inches from
Holland's head, though. If he could let go
for a moment, he could grab it and--
"NO!" Holland screamed. He broke free of
Zeke's grasp and sent the detective flying
into the opposite wall. Zeke gasped as the
knife in his back was slammed in deeper,
radiating pain all through his body.
"No, I'm not going back there! You can't make
me go back! Leave me alone or I'll kill you!"
"You can't. I'm already dead," Zeke ducked a
swing of Holland's fist at his head, then
landed a solid blow of his own to the demon's
stomach. Zeke ran for his gun, grabbed it and
spun around, firing madly in Holland's direction.
But Holland was on the run now, looking to
flee instead of fight. Zeke heard glass
shattering and ran into the bedroom in the
back of the apartment. He saw the broken
window and ran for it, feeling glass shards
ripping at his clothes and flesh, not
thinking of anything except not losing
Holland. He fell hard on the pavement but got
to his feet as quickly as he could, looking all
about the dark alley behind the building,
looking for any signs of Holland.
Nothing. Not a trace. The alley led out into
open streets to Zeke's right and left, but
Zeke couldn't see the demon anywhere.
Zeke fell to the ground, breathing heavy,
cursing himself for losing Holland. The pain
in his back reminded him of the blade still
lodged there, and he reached behind him to
find the hilt of the knife. Gritting his
teeth against the pain, he pulled it out and
threw it away in disgust. He knew he had to
get out of there. Between the break-in and
the gun shots it wouldn't be long before one
of the neighbors called the cops. He staggered
to his feet and ran out of the alley, around
the corner back to Cole Street.
Lucifer was standing out on the street next
to the car. Relief was clear on his face as
soon as he spotted Ezekiel running toward him.
"I saw Holland go inside. I heard shots. Did
you get him?" Lucifer asked.
"Get in the car," Zeke ordered. "Come on,
let's get out of here. Now!" He practically
pushed the devil inside.
"What happened, dammit!"
Zeke slammed shut his door and started the
engine. "He got away," he finally said once
they had pulled out onto the street and were
driving away. "The son of a bitch attacked me
and then ran, right out through the back
window. I lost him."
"Hell," Lucifer swore.
"Soon enough," Stone promised.
Go on to Part Seven...