Vidocq, with Allegra’s help, has turned the place into the Library of Alexandria, only French, with a schmear of L.A. art school punk. On a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf sits the foot-high three-thousand-year-old statue of Bast that Vidocq stole from an aristocratic bastard back in France. Next to Bast, Allegra has propped a pink Hello Kitty doll with tentacles. Hello Cthulhu.
The rest of the place is stacks of old manuscripts, crystals, weird scientific instruments, potions, herbs, and the gear to cut, cook, and mix them. Merlin’s workshop with a big flat-screen TV and stacks of movies Allegra brings home from the Max Overload. There’s porn stashed under the sofa, but they don’t know I know about that. I think they watch it together.
“Where did Vidocq say he was going?”
“Out for mazarine ice.”
“Sounds like wine cooler. What is it?”
“When he gets back, he can tell us both.”
When I met Allegra her head was shaved smooth. Now she’s letting it grow out short and shaggy. It suits her. It’s pretty.
My shirt is off as she smears green jasmine-smelling paste on my burned shoulder with her hand. Somewhere in L.A. there’s some poor guy who dreams about having a pretty girl rub paste on him, but none of the girls he knows will do it. Here I am taking his turn at bat and not even appreciating it.
“Does this hurt?”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Nurse, some psycho is making mud pies on my blisters with her hairy meat hooks and it hurts.”
“That’s more like it, baby boy. Knowing when I’m hurting you and not hurting is how I get better at this.”
“You’re doing fine. I’m a happy guinea pig.”
Allegra sets down the jar and uses the lid to rub the excess paste from her hand.
“Why is it you come to me these days instead of Kinski? I’m not complaining. Patching you up is a great crash course in the whole healing thing.”
“You’re good at it, too. When people find out, you’ll steal all of the doc’s business.”
She puts a couple of wide red leaves on top of the paste and wraps my arm in gauze, then uses white medical tape to hold the gauze in place.
I put my shirt back on. The arm still hurts, but it’s definitely better.
“As for Kinski, I don’t need any more neurotic angels in my life. Aelita wants to mount my head on a wall like a stuffed trout and Kinski is in his own remake of Earth Girls Are Easy.”
“Avoiding Kinski doesn’t have anything to do with Candy?”
“You’re the second person who’s asked me about her today.”
“You should call her.”
“Candy doesn’t factor into anything. And I have called. She doesn’t answer the phone anymore. It was only Kinski for a while. Now it’s no one. I haven’t talked to either of them in weeks.”
“You only come over here anymore when you’re bleeding. You don’t talk to Eugène. Kinski is gone. You’ve been avoiding everyone who cares about you. All you do is lock yourself up with Kasabian, drink, and drive each other crazy. Speaking as your doctor, you’ve got serious issues. You’re like those old guys you see at diners, staring at the same cup of coffee all afternoon, just sitting around waiting to die.”
“Sitting around? Tell that to my burns.”
“That’s not what I mean. You came back to get the people who hurt you and Alice and you did it. Great. Now you need to find the next thing you’re going to do with your life.”
“Like learn the flute or maybe save the whales?”
“You should grow up, clean up, and treat yourself like a decent person.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m not either of those things.”
“God. At least everyone who works for Him.”
Allegra looks past me into space, thinking.
“If I gave you some Saint-John’s-wort, would you take it? It might help your mood.”
“Give it to Kasabian. He’s the shut-in.”
Allegra pulls me over to the window and examines me under the light.
“Do you think your face is getting worse?”
“Are the changes becoming more noticeable?”
“I know what I think. Tell me what you think.”
“It’s worse. Your old scars are healing and your new cuts aren’t disappearing like they used to. You still heal fast, just not ridiculously fast.”
“Can you stop it?”
“Leave it to you to ask for the opposite of everything I’ve been learning for the last six months.”
“I need my scars. Come on, if you can fix something you should be able to break it, too, right?”
“I can beat the shit out of you with a claw hammer. That’d be easier than working up a scar potion.”
“What about something that’ll just stop the healing where it is?”
“I don’t know about that.”
The door opens as Allegra is talking.
“But I do,” says Vidocq.
He comes in with a paper bag full of what looks like weeds, bugs, and most of the animal parts the dog food company rejected. He holds up a jar full of turquoise liquid.
He hands the jar to Allegra, who gets up and gives him a peck on the cheek.
“That’s mazarine ice?”
“Oui. If you look in The Enochocian Treatise, the large gray book by the old alembic, you’ll find notes on the Cupbearer’s elixir. Take the amber and start gathering the other ingredients.”
“That will bring my scars back?”
“No, but we might be able to halt the healing. The Cupbearer brewed and served the gods the elixir that gave them eternal life, keeping them as they were forever. Her elixir doesn’t cure; it holds illness and infection in place. Teutonic knights brought it back from the Holy Lands during the Crusades for comrades who had contracted leprosy. I suspect that if it will stop the spread of a disease, I can make it hold your scars where they are.”
“But you don’t know.”
“How could I? Only un homme fou asks for a way to stop healing.”
“Fou me up, man. Give me skin like rhino hide. Make me look like the Elephant Man.”
“It might take some time to get it right, but we’ll see what we can do.”
Vidocq and Allegra gather plants and potions, cutters and crushers, on the worktable. They don’t have to talk much. Just whisper a word or two to let the other one know what they need. They’re a nice team. Batman and Robin, but without the rough-trade undertones. For a second, I really hate their guts. I could have been like that with the right partner, but I’m stuck with the Beast That Wouldn’t Shut Up. I wonder how smooth these two would be after a week of Kasabian screaming for porn and cigarettes. I should bring him over for a family dinner. Vidocq must have a ball gag around here somewhere.
Damn. What a childish little prick I am. There they are, working to save my ass, and all I can do is whine about poor, poor pitiful me. I need to go kill something real, not snuff dead cheerleaders, but something alive and nasty, something that deserves it.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?”
I look up into Vidocq’s eyes.
“You spent all those years in Hell fighting to stay alive, becoming injured and earning your scars. Then you come back home in hopes of destroying both your enemies and yourself, but instead you find yourself healing and becoming your old self again.”
I get up and glance at my phone. There’s still time to make a couple of stops before I have to be at the Chateau.
“Fuck my old self. My old self got his life stolen by morons and the person he cared about most killed. If I start turning into that asshole again, I’ll peel these scars off myself and put a shotgun to my forehead.”
“But how do you really feel?” asks Allegra.
“Thanks for fixing me up. I’ll see you later.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to buy a prom dress.”
I MAKE A quick stop at the Bamboo House of Dolls. You don’t want to play into the “do me a favor, I’m a rock star” thing too often, but when you’re being followed around because you’re the celebrity killer of the month, why not use it occasionally, like when you need a human in the paranormal biz and you don’t have time to screw around?
Mediums, exorcists, and sin eaters at Bamboo House aren’t the big-money kind, so most of them have to do odd jobs to stay afloat. When you’ve been career-counseling ghosts all night, it’s hard to answer phones or sling lattes for yuppies all day. Most human paranormals tend to dabble in things like gambling, sex work, and cream-puff crime. I only have to ask a couple of people to find a well-stocked thief. He sells me a new leather sport jacket and a rifle frock coat for a hundred, which even by booster standards is cheap. Of course, now he can tell his clients that he sells to Sandman Slim and jack up his prices. Let the circle of celebrity be unbroken. Amen.
There’s still time to kill before I have to head over to Chateau Marmont and I’m restless. I haven’t stolen a car in a month. All death and no play makes Stark a dull boy.
Hollywood Boulevard is long and the side streets aren’t always well lit. You’d be surprised how cheap rich people can be when it comes to parking. They’d rather leave a half-million-dollar Lamborghini in a drugstore parking lot after hours than pay a valet fifteen bucks. Their car insurance payments are what most people put out for a mortgage, and they pay them for the privilege of being stupid, so they can leave their car on the street alone and unprotected, like a four-wheel Red Riding Hood waiting for a wolf like me. I’m doing people like that a favor when I take their cars. Every time stupid rich people get ripped off, it makes them feel better about hating poor people. All they did was leave the equivalent of a big pile of cash by a parking meter, and when they came back, they were horrified to find it was gone. Leaving their stuff out for people to steal proves to them that people want to steal their stuff. Fear is like curling up under a warm blanket for some people, especially the rich.
Something evil and full of testosterone must be smiling down on me tonight. About half a block from Sunset on Cahuenga Boulevard, parked right out in the street like Grandma’s Camry, is a silver Bugatti Veyron 16.4. An easy two million dollars in precision engineering and eyeball kicks. If Hugh Hefner designed the Space Shuttle, it would look like the Veyron. Luke Skywalker would be conceived in the backseat of this car, if it had a backseat.
The Veyron is stuffed with more tech than a particle accelerator, so the black blade won’t get me through the electronic lock without alerting every screaming bit of it. Fortunately, this isn’t the first time the genius who owns the car has left it out in the open. A thin layer of dust covers the top. Just enough for me to draw in. I face west and move my finger slowly over the swept-back plastic roof, trying not to trip the alarm. I finish with a counterclockwise twist on Murmur’s sigil. Murmur is a big-mouth Hellion prick with a voice like a 747 engine, but when you reverse his name, you can hear a pin drop from a mile away. When I’m done, I give the car a good shove. It rocks for a second, the lights flutter as the alarm tries to activate, but it gives up and dies. I slip inside through a shadow, jam the black blade into the ignition, and start it up. There’s something very satisfying about stabbing two million dollars in the heart.
Murmur’s silence fills the car inside and out. My brain starts to untangle after a long, weird day.
Which is good and bad. It leaves me asking the big question I need answered: Why is Lucifer in L.A.? There’s nothing I’ve picked up from Kasabian that gives me a clue, and he can’t lie as well as a five-year-old. Have I done anything to piss Lucifer off or make him especially happy lately? Not that I know of. I haven’t done anything for him at all except take his cash. His retainer checks are a decent amount of money, and if I didn’t piss it all away on the big black money pit that is Max Overload, I’d be doing all right. If I was a regular desk monkey with a regular apartment and a used Honda Civic, I’d be living pretty well. But I like my little tree fort. Any more room and I’d get lost. Vidocq would find me a week later, starving and hallucinating in the breakfast nook. Max Overload is all I need or want. There’s a bed, a closet, a bathroom, and a million movies downstairs. I didn’t crawl out of Hell to hit the pillow sales at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I have a hard enough time keeping clothes for more than a week.
So, what the hell does Lucifer want? I don’t have my gun or the na’at with me, which is probably just as well. I have the black knife and the stone Lucifer gave me the last time we saw each other. I tested it. I’ve thrown every kind of magic I can think of at it and it seems to just be a rock. I don’t know why I carry the damned thing around. Superstition, maybe. When the devil tells you you might need something someday, I figure it pays to listen. Between the rock, Azazel’s knife, the na’at, Mason’s lighter, and Kasabian’s head, I’m starting to feel like a Gnostic junkyard.
As I cruise the streets, my mind wanders. Never a good idea. An image of Alice tries to form in my brain, but I concentrate on the lights, the billboards, and the other cars and it goes away. I spend a fair amount of time and energy not thinking about Alice these days. On the other hand, I think about Mason all the time. I know Kasabian knows more about Mason than he’s telling me. I’d love to get some alone time with the Daimonion Codex, but I’m not willing to get my head cut off for the privilege.