When the golem docks us by the reservoir stairs, Lucifer dials the chauffeur and tells him to wait back where he dropped us.
When we get back to the street, he isn’t there. Does this moron want his throat slit all the way around back, too, so it matches the front?
I say, “Go back inside. I’ll wait.”
“Calm down. Here he is.”
The limo pulls up to the curb and Lucifer heads straight for it. I grab his arm and hold him until the driver gets out. When he does, I do something I’m pretty sure no one but God has ever done before. I knock Lucifer down. The guy getting out of the limo doesn’t have the heartbeat or the nervous breathing of someone who’s just kept the lord of the flies waiting. He sounds more like me when I’m hunting.
Five more men follow him out of the car. They’re dressed in black jumpsuits, boots, and balaclavas, typical tactical drag, but they don’t have insignias on their suits. For all I know, they could be LAPD, Dr. No, or the SPCA.
Next time, no matter how tight the damn jacket is, I’m bringing a gun.
The six men split into two groups. The four with what look like nonlethals go for Lucifer. Two with guns come at me.
The taller one has an AA-12 auto shotgun. Looks like his pal has a G3 assault rifle. This is only interesting because it means that they work for people who can afford the best toys on the shelf, which means they’re probably pros. Damn. I was hoping to buy them off with free movie rentals. Microwave popcorn included.
Shotgun Guy starts blasting the moment he hits the curb, pushing me back toward the reservoir, trying to cut me off so I can’t help Lucifer. It’s a good plan. I’m not running in front of the double-ought shot and I’m not charging him while he has that hand cannon. I do exactly what he wants me to do. I fall down.
In gunspeak, it’s called a fall-away shot. You fall over backward while raising your gun and firing. If you’re good at it, a fall-away is a great way to shoot at an armed assailant without getting shot. Unfortunately, I’m not great at it. Fortunately, hitting something in the dark with a na’at is a lot easier than with a bullet.
I snap the na’at up and out, tagging him on the side of the throat. Judging by the red fountain that erupts there, I must have nicked his carotid. Lucky shot. Double lucky because his buddy with the G3 turns to check him out and gets hit in the face with some of the blood spray. Blinded, he snaps up his rifle, but he’s too afraid he’ll hit Lucifer or one of his own men to shoot. He tries to wipe his eyes with his sleeve. It takes him all of about ten seconds to get one eye clear. Long enough for me to collapse the na’at’s shaft and spin it like a whip so that it slams him in the center of his chest. His body armor stops the spear point from going all the way in, but the way he’s gritting his teeth tells me I’ve made contact.
I sprint forward and pull my knife. Still half blind and hurt, he starts popping off panic shots. It’s more dignified than just standing there. My jacket is open and the material snaps back when a couple of his shots get way too close to me. He finally clears both eyes, but I’m right on him, so it’s not going to help. I drive my shoulder into his chest right where the na’at hit him and he thuds down onto his back. Before he can react or smack me with the gun butt, I drive the black blade straight down into his throat until I feel it snap through his spinal column.
I look over at Lucifer. The other four guys have him surrounded.
Two of the tactical team have Tasers as big as RPG launchers. The other two are carrying what look like industrial-strength tangle web guns. Those two are in a ready position waiting for the electric boys to drive Lucifer into their loving arms. That means they’re standing there like a couple of macho ducks that got high and had targets tattooed on the sides of their heads right before hunting season. But I can’t be sure their weapons don’t have rifle fail-safes built in in case the nonlethals don’t work.
I grab the G3 and put two rounds through the closest duck’s head to see if anyone shoots back. Everyone looks at me, but no one fires. I give the second duck two in the chest and one in the head to make sure he stays down. The other two aren’t so lucky.
There are lots of theories about fighting and warfare, from Sun Tzu’s Art of War to Der Führer’s Total War to when you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way. The one thing all these theories have in common is this: Know your enemy. His tactics, strengths, and weaknesses. When you do, ninety-nine percent of the time you’re going to make him squeak like a church mouse and run away like the Road Runner. Of course, if you get it wrong, you’re going to be a ten-foot banana and the guy you’re fighting will be King Kong with the munchies. That sort of describes the glimmer twins with the oversize Tasers.
Seeing the rest of their team dead, they do the only thing they can. They fire at Lucifer and keep pumping the juice into him, hoping to knock him down by themselves.
This whole time, all I’ve seen Lucifer do is watch what’s happening like he’s at the zoo and wondering what funny thing the monkeys are going to do next. When the Taser darts hit and the electricity starts to flow, though, he flinches. Then he stands stock-still and for a second I think that they’re zapping him with so much current that his brain has short-circuited. A moment later he holds his arms out in a way that brings back bad memories. Bodyguard or not, I’m not getting anywhere near him.
Lucifer, once upon a time the greatest angel of them all, conjures up not one, but two flaming gladius swords. He sweeps them down in a smooth, simultaneous overhand attack that slices both Tasers in two. The swords are between the shooters and down low. He brings his arms up at an angle and hits the gunmen just above their waists, but he doesn’t stop. He keeps going until he’s drawn the swords all the way through them. Their bodies are nothing but towers of burned meat and they fly apart like suicide bombers at a backyard barbecue.
Lucifer stands with his head bowed, staring at the ground, studying the smoldering mess. I wonder how long it’s been since he’s used those swords. They probably bring back funny memories for him, too. Finally, he looks up and heads toward me.
On instinct, I snap the rifle up to my shoulder, sighting in on his left eye. He freezes. Looks at me hard, wondering what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Finally, he lowers his arms and the swords flicker out. I drop the rifle to my side.
He comes over like he’s going to say something, but two unmarked vans are roaring down the street toward us. Backup for the first team. I toss the empty rifle away and sprint to the limo, start it up, throw it in reverse, and floor it.
The vans are doing about forty and I’m doing the same when we hit. Van number one smashes through my back bumper and up onto the trunk. Then van number two crawls right up number one’s ass, knocking it and the limo another ten feet down the road. Good thing I wasn’t doing anything important with my vertebrae or my neck would probably hurt.
Both vans are smoking and silent, but the men inside won’t be for long and I’m not waiting around for Lee Marvin and the Dirty Dozen to come out shooting.
Half a block from us, two limos are at the curb to take other guests home from the party. I gesture for Lucifer to head for the lead car and I take off after him.
I can feel it now. The heat in my muscles and bones whispering to me like an old forgotten friend. I’m not Lucifer’s anymore. I’m not the Vigil’s night janitor, sweeping up bloodsuckers and demon fuckers. I’m back in the arena where the air tastes like blood and dust. Something is screaming at my feet because I’m making it scream. Then I make it stop. I throw its head into the grandstands to remind the crowd what a real monster looks like and it’s just like coming home.
I get to the limo first and put my fist through the driver’s-side window to pull out the chauffeur. A jelly-bean-size chunk of my frontal lobe is firing just enough to remind me that the driver is probably just a terrified slob doing a shitty job. I pull him through the window and shove him hard enough that he lands on the opposite curb, out of harm’s way. Lucifer is already in the limo when I slide behind the wheel. As we take off I can hear gunfire popping behind us. The crowd from the party is screaming and running back toward the water.
Overhead, there’s the whup-whup of helicopter blades and a floodlight hits us from above. At the far end of the reservoir, two vans are parked side by side, blocking the road. I turn off the headlights and look at Lucifer.
“I hope that’s not your favorite suit.”
I floor it and crank the wheel right, fishtailing the limo up over the curb and across the grass. While we’re still under the trees, I push open my door, grab Lucifer, and roll left. We hit the ground hard, but not as hard as the limo when it hits the water. The hood snaps back and smashes through the windshield. It only takes a few seconds for the car to disappear into an oily froth of bubbles. The helicopter hovers over the crash, its bright belly light turning the scene into a Vegas floor show.
By then, Lucifer and I are hunkered down behind the cars on the opposite side of the street. While the vans and chopper concentrate on the spot where the car went into the resevoir, we head down a side street into a residential area. I must have pulled a muscle or something when we rolled out of the car. My side is cramped and burning.
Down a block or so, I spot an old Jeep Wrangler in a weekend warrior’s driveway. I get it open with the knife, but don’t start the engine. Just pop it into neutral and Lucifer and I push it into the street. Then we hop in and coast. It’s slow going with no engine and no headlights. I don’t see any better in the dark than you do, and my Batman night-vision scope must have gotten lost in the mail, so we pretty much crawl down the hill.
When we hit Fountain, I start the engine and steer us onto Sunset Boulevard, where we’re immediately lost in the city’s bumper-to-bumper nightlife wonderland. I’ve never been so happy to get stuck in traffic among a million other assholes in my life. I glance at Lucifer to see how he’s doing. He’s frowning and fingering a spot on his jacket cuff where he lost a button.
BACK TO THE Chateau it’s no big surprise when we find that Amanda and her coven pals took off a few minutes after we left and there was never any trouble there.
We take the elevator up to Lucifer’s floor, get out, and squeeze through the Alice in Wonderland clock. My neck and left side where I landed after jumping from the car is numb except for spasms of pins and needles. My right side is burning and leaking red all over my nice suit. I want a drink and a real cigarette.
I start to sit down and Lucifer says, “Don’t get blood on my couch.”
“It’s not your couch.”
There’s a black hotel phone on almost every flat surface in the room. Lucifer sits across from me and picks up the one on the coffee table between us.
“Desk? Would you ring Dr. Allwissend’s room and tell him to come to my suite immediately? Thank you.”
“If you’re doing that for my benefit, don’t bother. I’ve got my own doctor.”
“Do you mean the little girl or the missing old man?”
“Sounds like Kasabian’s been earning his keep.”
“He told me about the girl. As for Kinski, it’s part of my job description to keep track of all of Heaven’s rejects. You never know when you might need an archangel.”
“Maybe you can hire him for a party like those idiots tonight. He can turn your guests into pillars of salt.”
Lucifer takes off his jacket and tosses it onto a chair. Gets a cut-crystal bottle from the end of the table, fills two glasses, and slides one in front of me. When I reach for it, I can feel the wet spreading from my stomach down to the tops of my legs.
“Does it hurt?”
“Is this Aqua Regia?”
“Then it won’t hurt for long.”
“Was it a bullet or the jump from the car that did that?”
“A lucky shot from the rifle, I think. I’d still be on my back if it was the shotgun. It’s not too bad. He hit my side, so the shot went through and through. No bullets inside me this time. But I seem to be losing a lot of blood.”
“The doctor will be here soon.”
“I want to call Kinski.”
“Be my guest.”
Both of my hands are covered in blood. Not helpful when you’re trying to dial the tiny keypad on a cell phone.
Surprise, surprise. I get Kinski’s voice mail.
“Goddamn it, doc. Where are you? I’m bleeding to death and all I’ve got here is Lucifer, a stapler, and a couple of cocktail napkins. You said to get help from Allegra, but she doesn’t know how to handle stuff like this. Please call me back.”
I go back and drop down onto the couch.
“Did you have a nice chat?”
“Do you know where he is?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I have a general idea, but he’s a powerful fellow. Angels are very good at not being seen or heard when they don’t want to be.”
“Then what use are you?”
“None. We angels have outlived our time. We’re superfluous. But I thought you already knew that.”
“The pyx is gone. It’s back in the limo. So much for my bonus.”
I pick up my drink. Something reflects off the glass and for a second I see Alice’s face. I turn quickly and the pain in my side is blinding. There’s no one there.
Why can’t I forget anything like regular people? Is it because I’m a nephilim that my brain hasn’t dissolved by now? I’ve swallowed an ocean of the red stuff and Jack Daniel’s, but I still remember everything. Every woman looks like Alice and every cigarette smells like my skin burning down below.