Kill the Dead Page 6

“Bullshit. I saw this kind of thing when I was Downtown. It might be a book, but you don’t read it like one. It’s conceptual, mental. Like a mystical database.”

“If you know so much about it, why don’t you look it up yourself?”

The Daimonion Codex is Lucifer’s private notebook, reference book, strategy, spell and wisdom book, and anything-else-you-can-think-of book.

“The Codex is for official Hellion business and I only use it when the big man asks me because he’s too busy to find something himself.”

Satan’s Big Little Book of Badass. A kind of Bizarro World Boy Scout manual. High-grade Gnostic porn. The Codex is the second most important document in the universe, right after the Scroll of Creation in you-know-who’s personal library.

“Bullshit. Every time I leave the room, you’re in there trying to find some angle that’ll get your body back.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You always were a terrible liar, Kas. A career crook should be able to bull better than that.”

“Leave me alone. When I get a spare minute, I’ll look for your monster. Now let me eat these while they’re warm.”

I sit back on the bed and sip the glass of Jack. On the monitor, Peter Fonda is shooting at carloads of backwoods demon fanciers from the roof of a speeding camper.

“You been watching this all day?”

Kasabian talks between mouthfuls of food.

“No. Before that it was Shout at the Devil, only there wasn’t any devil in it.”

“No. That’s a war movie.”

“Why doesn’t it say that on the box? ‘Warning: Lee Marvin might look pissed off, but he’s not the devil. There’s not one fucking devil in this thing.’”

“Watch what you want, but promise me that I’m never going to ever come in here and find you spanking yourself to The Devil in Miss Jones.”

“You’re a scream, Milton Berle. Now I’m not going to tell you the good news.”

“What good news?”

Kasabian takes a last bite of tamale and lets it fall into the bucket. Then he takes it and the Styrofoam container to the end of the table and waits. I haul my ass up off the bed and step on the trash-can pedal. When it opens, he tosses in the Styrofoam and upends the bucket into the can.

“What good news?”

Kasabian goes back to where he’d been working, leans over the table, and sets the bucket underneath, next to the minifridge. Then he finally looks at me.

“You have an actual job. Starting tonight. Something a lot better than stepping on bugs for the Wells.”

“I’ve already got a job tonight. Straight consulting for the Vigil. No killing.”

“When are you supposed to do it?”

“Around three? Why?”

“Good. You’ll probably be done by then.”

“Done doing what?”

He smiles at me exactly the way you don’t want a dead man to smile at you.

“The big man is in town. He wants to see you tonight at the Chateau Marmont.”

Damn. I finish my drink.

“What’s Lucifer doing in L.A.?”

“What do I know? I’m just the answering machine.”

“And snitch.”

“That, too. He knows every time you jerk off. Unfortunately, so do I. You really need to get a girlfriend.”

“What time am I supposed to be there?”

“Eleven. And be on time. He hates late. It’s a real thing with him.”

“Christ. I don’t even have a jacket anymore. I need to get cleaned up.”

“Don’t freak out, man. You’ve got hours. This is a good thing. We need the money. Doing the deed for the Vigil tonight and picking up some new work from Mr. D might just let us keep the lights on for another month.”

I go into the bathroom, close and lock the door. I’ve never been a shy boy until recently.

I peel the Evil Dead shirt off over my black shoulder. The pink flesh under the peeling black skin looks like the worst sunburn since Hiroshima. I kick off my boots and jeans, and check myself in the mirror.

A pretty sight, I am not. I turn the light on over the sink and lean close to the mirror, turn my head from side to side. The thousand tiny cuts from the flying glass at the theater are mostly gone. I tilt my head forward and back. Run my hands over my face and neck, looking at the shadows of the lines and creases from my neck to my forehead, feeling familiar contours.

Maybe not so familiar.

I felt the changes before, but over the last month they’re undeniable.

I’m pretty sure my scars are healing.

The one thing I brought back from Hell that I wanted. The one thing I counted on. I spent eleven years and shed a thousand pounds of blood, flesh, and bone to grow my armor, and after six months of living in the light, I’m losing it.

I hate this place.

Hell is simple. There are no friends, just an ever-shifting series of allies and enemies. There’s no pity, loyalty, or rest. Hell is twenty-four-hour party people, and the buddy you shared a foxhole with yesterday is a head on the end of a stick today, letting everyone in shouting distance know, “Abandon all hope ye who piss me off.”

Back here in the world it’s all soft, fish-belly white, “normal” people with jelly for backbones and not even the basic kill-or-be-killed honor of the arena. The L.A. sky doesn’t turn brown because of smog. It’s the metric tons of shit coming out of people’s mouths every time they open them to talk. Know the old joke, “How do you know when a lawyer is lying?” “He’s moving his lips.” Up here, everyone is Perry Mason.

Little by little, I’ve been preparing for this moment, when I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

I upgraded my guns. Easy.

Before I got my ass kicked by malt-liquor-swilling teenyboppers this afternoon, my new working policy has been to duck when I see bullets, knives, and/or two-by-fours coming at me.

I’ve been shifting back more to hoodoo and hexes and relying less on muscle. It isn’t as fun, but so far, the change has helped me keep my internal organs internal, where they fit better and don’t attract flies.

A scalding shower helps to scrub off Eleanor and Ziggy Stardust. With an old hand towel, I scrape off as much of the burned skin as I can.

I even shave. It’s a good, mindless activity and I’m sure the boss will appreciate me looking like I live indoors when I go to his hotel.

I wish I hadn’t given Wells that body armor back after the shoot-out at Avila. The next time I’m at the Vigil’s playhouse, I’m going to have to steal some.

Of course, to wear armor in the street, I’m going to need a new jacket. But not now. Not this second.

I go back into the bedroom with a towel around my waist, leaving my clothes on the bathroom floor. The dead girl’s ash sifts onto the tiles. Except for the boots, I doubt that I’ll ever wear those clothes again.

The bedroom reeks of cigarettes, whiskey, and tamales. I crack open a window.

Kasabian is back working at the computer.

“Careful, you’re going to make L.A. smell funny.”

Walking back to the bed I feel dizzy. All of a sudden I’m very tired. I shove the weapons to one side of the mattress, lie down, and pour a little bit of Jack.

“Do me a favor and watch that with headphones. I need to lie down for an hour.”

“No problem.”

Kasabian takes a set of earbuds, plugs them in, and the movie sound cuts out. He takes another beer from the minifridge and pops off the top.

“Before you zone out, have you heard anything about Mason?”

Ever since he became Lucifer’s conduit to Hell, Kasabian has learned to overhear and “accidentally” stumble on a lot of information he’s not supposed to have. He’s Lucifer’s personal ghost, so he doesn’t really exist Downtown. Even Hellions can tell the truth when they think no one is listening.

He says, “Not much. He’s in deep with some of the boss’s old generals. Lucifer’s original bunch. Abaddon. Baphomet. Mammon. They’re trying to recruit the younger officers for a full-on revolution. But I haven’t heard anything from Mason himself. He’s pretty well insulated. He’s the man with the plan, so they’re keeping him out of harm’s way.”

“Is that the truth?”

Kasabian sets down his beer and looks at me.

“I wouldn’t lie to you about Mason. I want him as dead as spats.”


“Get some sleep. You want to look good for the cotillion.”

“I’ll save you a slow dance.”

“Just keep your hands off my ass.”

“What ass?”

THERE’S THIS GUILTY dream I have. Been having it on and off for six months, since right after I dropped Alice’s ashes in the ocean.

We’re in the apartment smoking and talking. The Third Man is playing on TV, but the sound is off. A desperate Harry Lime runs through the sewers under Vienna. What I hate about the dream is that I can’t tell if I’m remembering something that happened or inventing something. A confession or apology to the ghost that lives in my head.

“I blew up at a junkie on the street today. He just bumped into me. He smelled like piss and I wanted to strangle him and I almost did.”

“Your father beat the shit out of you. Everyone who’s been abused has those thoughts.”

Alice is pretty forgiving when I get like this. She’s a better human than me in almost every way possible. I don’t know if I could be with someone whose main topics of conversations were movies and who I wanted to kill today.

“You need to get away from Mason and those others. They’re no good for you,” she says.

“You’re right. But I’ve already blown off the Sub Rosa world. If I walk from the Circle, what am I? Should I pretend I don’t have power? That was my whole childhood. Hiding so people wouldn’t know I was what my granddad called an ‘odd case.’”

“You’re not an odd case.”

“What am I?”

“You’re my odd case.”

“I’ll tell you a secret. Mason’s an odd case, too, but he doesn’t care. I admire the hell out of him for that.”

Alice rolls her eyes like she’s a silent-movie star.

“Put a dress on, drama queen. Admiring anything about him is kind of fucked up.”

“It’s most definitely fucked up. But it’s true. He’s relentless. He’s a force of nature. And he’s always going to be just a little better than me. You should see the old books he’s collected. Half of them are in Latin and Greek. He knows magic I’ve never even heard of.”

“I thought you didn’t need those things, all the books and objects he uses. You can pull magic out of the air.”

“Maybe. Maybe that’s not enough.”

“From what I’ve seen and heard he’s jealous of what you can do, which means you’re doing fine.”

“He says he can invoke an angel.”

“Why would he want to do that?”

“To gain secret knowledge. Learn how the universe runs behind the scenes. And to prove he can. He says he’s talked to demons, too.”

“Now, that’s just bullshit.”


“Is that where all this is coming from? Demon and angel envy?”

“I can’t help it. The sheer balls to say it is something. And if he can do it, I don’t know. He’ll be my hero and I’ll have to put up a poster of him, like Bruce Lee over my bed back home.”

“I hope you like this couch ’cause you’re talking yourself into sleeping here tonight.”

“Mason says he’s making a deal with some kind of demons to get even more power.”

“I don’t believe in angels and devils.”

“Why not?”

“I was raised Catholic.”

She stubs out her cigarette and lights another. She was in a Robert Smith mood before I pissed her off, so she’s smoking cloves. The apartment smells like a junior high girls’ bathroom.

“He’s Beverly Hills hoodoo. Going to be big in the Sub Rosa. He plans ahead. I skate by.”

“So? If Mason’s your big guy crush, be more like him and make some plans.”

I smoke for a minute and watch Joseph Cotton following Harry Lime’s girlfriend on the road from his grave.

“You’re right. I can’t just wing it for the rest of my life. Time to turn over a new leaf. I’ll start planning ahead tomorrow. Or the day after.”

“Or the day after that.”

“Maybe next week.”

“You’re better than Mason and you can read people really well. If he starts waving his dick around and wants a Dodge City gris-gris shoot-out, you’ll see it coming a mile away and kick his ass.”

“Maybe I ought to get some of my own demons.”

“Next week. Or the week after.”

“Yeah. There’s always time, right?”

IT TOOK ME months to start thinking of the apartment as Vidocq’s and not mine and Alice’s. François-Eugène Vidocq is my oldest friend. He’s two hundred years old and French, but don’t hold that against him. I’m glad he took the place after Alice died. Six months in, the apartment is so transformed that I can’t find a shred of my or Alice’s life there. It was strange the first time I saw it that way. Allegra told me that in ancient Egypt, when the new pharaoh smashed the statues and hieroglyphs of the old one, it wasn’t just good old-fashioned hooligan fun. The new pharaoh was trying to wipe the old one out of existence, erase him from the universe. To the Egyptians, no images meant no person. That’s how it was when I first walked in. I felt erased. Now it’s a relief not to be reminded of my old life every time I go over.

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