This is my Fort Knox, my office, and my panic room. I’ve laid the heaviest protective hoodoo I know around this place. Of all the hideouts I ever thought of running to when things got weird, a library was right behind a leper colony and a burning garbage truck. But here I am.
I haven’t paced the place off, but the library looks about a football field long, lined with two floors of books in hundred-foot stretches of ornate dark wood shelves. The ceiling is domed and painted with scenes illustrating the three tenets of the Hellion church. The Thought: God and Lucifer arguing that if humans have free will so should angels. The Act: the war. It’s pretty but stiff and trying too hard to look noble, like a Soviet propaganda poster. The New World: Lucifer and his defeated, punch-drunk Bowery boys in Hell. He looks like a tent revival preacher selling snake oil to rubes, but in his own fucked-up way, the slippery son of a bitch is trying to do right by his people.
I’ve made myself a comfortable squat over by a wall of the Greek wall, the stuff Samael told me to read. In a copy of a half-falling-apart Reader’s Digest condensed large-print book on Greek history, I found his notes (it’s embarrassing that he knows me well enough that he left the info in a book written for shut-ins and half-blind grandmas). He included names of people I could think about for the Council. If they’re the Hellions I can trust, I’m not ready to meet the ones I can’t.
I dragged a plush red sofa trimmed in gold, a big partner’s desk, and a few chairs over to my squat. Sometimes I even let people in to use the chairs. Not many and not often, but anyone who comes in is on my turf. I know which carpets cover binding circles. I know which books are hollowed out and stuffed with knives and killing potions.
The desk and nearby shelves are covered with books, paper, pens, and weird little machines. Stuff you can only find at an Office Depot doubling as a night school for amateur torturers. There’s a spongy red clamshell that growls when you squeeze it and spits out what I think pass for Hellion staples. They’re sharp and thick, like they’re designed to punish the paper and not just hold it together. There’s something that looks like a set of brass teeth. The teeth chatter sometimes. Sometimes they don’t do anything for days. There’s a gyroscope that when you spin it talks in a deep monster-movie voice in a language I’ve never heard before. On one of the bookshelves is a gold armillary sphere. When I touch any of the golden rings, I feel like I’ve fallen out of myself. Like I’m nowhere and being pushed through empty space by a freezing hurricane. There are stars far away and beyond them a mass of pale boiling vapor streaked with lighting. I think it’s the chaos at the edge of the universe and that this is the deep void that separates Hell and Heaven. Wherever and whatever it is, it’s a lonely and desolate place.
In L.A., I lived with a dead man named Kasabian who worked for Lucifer and could see into parts of Hell. I don’t know if he can see me here, but sometimes I scrawl notes and leave them on the desk for days. Some are to friends. Most are to Candy. We’re a lot alike. Neither of us is quite human. And we’re both killers. We try to forget about the first as much as possible and try to avoid the second as much as we can, which, the way things are, usually isn’t long.
There’s a click behind me. I put my hand on my knife and turn.
Two Hellions come in through a false section of bookcase that slides away like Japanese paper doors.
Merihim, the priest, bows. He’s in sleeveless black robes. Every inch of his pale face and arms is tattooed with sacred Hellion script. Spells, prayers, and, for all I know, a recipe for chicken vindaloo.
The guy with him, Ipos, is big and blunt. Like a walking fire hydrant in gray rubber overalls. The heavy leather belt around his waist holds tools that range from barbarian crushers to delicate surgical-quality instruments. From a distance you can’t tell if he’s the palace’s maintenance chief or head torturer. His job in the palace makes him a useful agent. No one pays attention to the janitor.
“Did we interrupt playtime with your toys, my lord?” asks Merihim.
“Go harass an altar boy, preacher. I’m working.”
On a table near the sofa there’s a line of peepers projecting images from around the palace onto an old-fashioned home movie screen I found in a storeroom. I pop out my right eye, drop it into a glass of water, and stick a peeper in the empty socket, rolling back the images the eye picked up like a video rewinding. Like I said, I have a few of Lucifer’s powers but mostly Vegas magic-act stuff.
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