“Well, that does it,” muttered Ella, peering under the tented yellow tarp over their latest victim. “I’ll never be able to eat beef kebabs ever again.” She replaced the tarp and got to her feet, checking the surrounds of the crime scene, noting the complete lack of blood and positive it was a body dump.
Not many reasons to come to an abandoned building site. Dump a body, shoot up, film a crappy music video, or - judging by the beer bottles and cans and steel drums scattered around the large space - hold a trashcan bonfire party.
She got up and walked back to her kit thinking that even though she wasn’t keen for kebabs tonight she and Nick could maybe whip up a nice spicy tagine. Stay in, stay nice and safe at home. Maze had been hunting demons but they had so far avoided her, Charlotte didn’t have any leads for them, and Muriel didn’t seem to have any useful information either. Either that or they just weren’t ready to talk, and neither Lucifer nor Amenadiel wanted to push them. Not yet.
Ella was uneasy as Hell. The Sinnerman had demon henchmen! And was trying to bring about the end of… if not the world exactly, then civilisation! Was he behind all the supernatural activity they’d seen over the past several months? She shuddered, remembering Raum’s beady eyes reflecting in the glare of the truck’s headlights, how the demon had chased them through the desert beating the crap out of the truck, trying furiously to get at them-
“¡Ay!” Ella jumped in fright as Chloe and Lucifer walked up behind her. She whacked Lucifer in the arm. “Don’t do that!”
“What,” said Lucifer defensively, “walk and talk? A tad on edge, aren’t we Miss Lopez?”
Ella scoffed. “Yeah I’m a little shooketh, but can you blame me with all the shit that’s going on? There’s a friggin’ crime lord demon king on the loose! I’m having ‘Army of Darkness’ flashbacks!”
“Not to worry, we’ll get him,” said Lucifer reassuringly. “On a less harrowing subject, have you heard from Raemond and Muz?”
The corners of Ella’s mouth lifted slightly. “Yeah. Rae-Rae can’t use her cell phone at the wellness retreat but she visited me at home yesterday. Muriel’s staying frosty with all the chill hippie vibes and both the angelenos are having an amazing time.”
Chloe smiled. “Getting Muriel out of Hell and away from the city was a really good idea, Lucifer. Hopefully they’ll manage the full week no problem.”
Lucifer added, “Very L.A. of them, isn’t it? Vegan cuisine and meditation, and the pair of them are mad about yoga.”
The corners of Ella’s mouth lifted higher. “I bet Muriel is all over the ‘fallen angel pose’.”
Chloe tugged on her jacket, the brisk movement a subconscious signal they were getting to work. “So what’ve we got, Ella?”
Ella’s face fell again. “Chloe, I’m really sorry… but it’s Reese Getty, senior reporter for the L.A. Telegraph.”
Chloe gasped. “What? Reese?! ” She strode over to the body and lifted the yellow plastic sheet from the corpse. She flinched at seeing a length of rebar protruding from Reese’s chest, but put aside her shock to focus on the details. She saw, for example, that there was blood on Reese’s hands and ligature marks around his neck, as well as petechial hemorrhaging in and around his eyes. He’d been strangled, then staged like this with the rebar. But why? To send a message? Linda’s fears for her missing ex-husband had been well founded.
“How long?” Chloe asked.
“Medical examiner said time of death was between six and seven p.m. Friday. About when Linda was trying to…” Ella trailed off.
When Linda had tried to call him, the night Muriel had come to Lux. Linda had been trying desperately to find him ever since but she’d been too late. Chloe’s heart lurched; she knew Linda had been close to Reese and his death was going to hit her hard.
As Chloe replaced the covering over Reese’s body her cell rang. It was the lieutenant. “Decker.”
“I hear it’s Reese Getty,” Pierce said by way of greeting. “Did he suffer? I want to know the sonofabitch suffered.”
Chloe was taken aback. “Sir?”
“He murdered a damn good friend of mine. His editor at the Telegraph, Shelley Brown,” Pierce said, his voice breaking slightly.
Chloe blinked, speechless. Reese a murderer? That didn’t track at all.
“I’m very sorry for your loss, Sir,” she said delicately, “but why is Reese a suspect?”
“Espinoza told me his CSIs found Getty’s prints on the murder weapon and his phone at the scene. And Tech pinged it to Shelley’s neighbourhood around the time of her murder.” While Chloe processed that information, Pierce continued, “What’d the asshole do, off himself out of guilt?”
“No sir,” Chloe replied. “He was murdered too.”
When Pierce finally spoke again disbelief coloured his voice. “Are you sure?”
Chloe rolled her eyes but kept her tone businesslike. “Yes, Sir. Somebody strangled him then dumped his body and shoved a steel rebar through his chest post mortem. It’s possible his and his editor’s killers are the same person, maybe because of a story Reese was working on. I’ll talk to Dan, see what he’s got so far.”
Pierce was silent again, then said brusquely, “You do that.” Then hung up. Chloe blinked. That was rude. But he was grieving, and no doubt pissed that the guy who’d murdered his friend was still out there. She dialled another number and put the call on speaker.
Dan answered. “Hey Chlo’, what’s up?”
“Hey Dan. You’re working the Telegraph editor murder?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Shelley Brown. Got a warrant out for one of her reporters, Reese Getty-”
“Why on Earth would you like Reesie for it, Daniel?” Lucifer interrupted. “He’s no killer!”
“The evidence is pretty overwhelming, Lucifer,” Dan replied. “First off, Shelley was killed by someone she knew; there were no signs of forced entry but there were signs of a struggle. A lamp smashed on the wall, overturned furniture, that kinda thing. Reese’s phone was found at the scene, we figure he must’ve dropped it and forgotten it in his panic. His prints were also found on the murder weapon, and there were two mugs on the kitchen table, one with the vic’s DNA and one with Reese’s. The Telegraph had a DNA sample on file for identification purposes since he was always going on dangerous assignments-”
“What was in the mugs?” Chloe interrupted.
“The mugs on the table. What was in them?”
“Uh…” There was a rustling sound as Dan presumably shuffled through crime scene photos. “Uhh,” he said, “Coffee. Two black coffees.”
Lucifer and Choe gave each other meaningful looks and Ella looked between them expectantly. “Why? Is it important?”
Lucifer raised an eyebrow at his partner and Chloe nodded. “It means somebody else was there, and Reese is being set up. His DNA didn’t get on that mug by accident.”
Ella’s eyes widened. “Whoah! How’d you get all that from a cup of coffee?”
“Reese has a thing about his joe,” Lucifer explained. “Won’t drink it unless it’s made a particular way, and he’s definitely not the long black sort. His editor would’ve known that.”
“Maybe he made an exception this time,” Dan suggested. “I mean, the other evidence is pretty conclusive. Fingerprints and DNA are hard to fake. We checked Getty’s home and office and they’ve been cleaned out. Linda doesn’t know where he is. Why would he be on the run if he didn’t do anything?”
Lucifer shook his head. “He was never on the run, Daniel. He was probably already dead.”
Dan was silent for a moment, then said in astonishment, “He’s dead?”
“We’re at his scene,” Chloe explained. “Body dump, coroner says he was killed between six and seven p.m. Friday. What was Brown’s T.O.D.?”
They heard Dan blow out a breath. “If Getty's is right, they died within a couple hours of each other; Brown was killed between five and six. She was found by her middle son yesterday morning when she didn’t show for a family thing.” They all paused for a moment, sympathy welling for the victim and her family.
“Pierce is pretty cut up,” Dan went on, “and he’s been calling for Getty’s head. He told me Shelley had turned down one of Reese’s articles for being a load of conspiracy B.S. and Reese was pretty pissed about it, which spoke to motive.”
“I understand that Pierce is upset, but Reese didn’t do it, Dan,” said Chloe. “He was a high profile journalist, and we know he’s been investigating criminal figures including the Sinnerman. He was probably looking into something the killer didn’t want him to. I think we should compare notes.”
Ella spoke loudly into Chloe’s phone. “Hey Dan, it’s Ella. Has anybody put the busted lamp back together?”
There was a pause. “No. Why?”
“Prints, duh! It worked for the champagne flute that killed Dean Cooper, remember? Whoever threw the lamp was probably trying to defend themselves. Get me the pieces and I’ll see if I can get anything.”
“Okay,” Dan said. “I’ll pull the evidence and see you guys when you get back.”
“Thanks Dan.” Chloe ended the call and looked around at the others.
“Well,” said Lucifer. “Knowing Reesie’s rep I imagine there’s plenty of miscreants who’d have motive to silence him, but with this level of cover-up, with even his home and office cleared out…” he trailed off meaningfully.
Chloe nodded. “From what we know of the Sinnerman, he’s easily capable of something like this.” She chewed her lip. “I wish we’d found out what Reese was doing sooner, we could’ve warned him.” At least they had been able to warn Charlotte. Since learning of Reese’s disappearance she’d joined Rivers in hiding and was desperately trying to dig up more leads to track the Sinnerman down.
Lucifer looked over at Reese’s shrouded body. “Yes. The steel bar through the sternum does have a bit of a demonic flair to it-”
“Whoah, whoah, whoah!” Ella flinched violently and hissed over her shoulder. “Calm the eff down, dude!”
Lucifer was taken aback. “I am calm! What’s the matter with you? ”
Ella shook her head, setting her long ponytail swinging. “No, no, not you. There’s someone here,” she said in a stage whisper, “And he suddenly just started yelling at you, Lucifer. He says he knows you guys; he knows you’re the Devil!”
Lucifer rolled his eyes. “Casper is wasting his breath… at least he would be, if he had any. I can’t hear him.”
“Who is it?” Chloe asked.
Ella listened, head cocked, then gasped and pointed at the covered body on the ground. “It’s Reese!”
They all looked over at the shrouded body, then back at Ella. “Well?” said Lucifer impatiently. “What’s he saying ?”
She tilted her head, listening, then recited, “Uh… ‘what the Hell kind of useless effing Devil are you... if you can’t even effing hear me... when I’m effing yelling at you… open your effing ears’...” Ella pursed her lips slightly. “Except he’s not saying ‘effing’, he’s saying-”
Lucifer tutted impatiently. “No, I mean what does he want?” He declared to the room at large, “Reesie, I can’t hear you, you nob! Settle down!”
“Lucifer,” Chloe chided, “give the guy a break. He just died!”
Lucifer glanced at her, then relented. “Sorry.” Then he added, louder, to the room, “Sorry, Reesie!” He realised Ella was studying him closely. “What?”
“Why can’t you hear him?” Ella asked. “You’re a frickin’ angel!”
Lucifer gave a tiny shrug. “He’s crossed the threshold, and I’d have to as well. Although I only have power over souls bound for Hell.” He brightened at that, and again loudly addressed the room. “Oh there you go, you’re probably off to Heaven, Reese Lightning! There’s the silver lining, quite literally. When you go into the light, give all the wingnuts in the Silver City the finger for me, will you?”
Ella grimaced and cupped her hands over her ears. “Dude! You don’t have to yell! I’m not deaf!” At Lucifer’s irritated look she added apologetically, “Again, him, not you, Lucifer. He’s getting a little pissed. He says it’s really important.”
“Alright then,” said Lucifer with exaggerated patience. “So what’s he saying?”
Ella tilted her head, concentrating. “He’s saying a lot now. It’s all kinda getting… mixed up. He sounds real stressed out and confused, which isn’t helping-”
Lucifer added, “The recently dead usually are a bit confused. Don’t know their grave from a hole in the ground...”
Ella cut her hand through the air to shush him, then said thoughtfully, “But I think he’s saying, ‘I gave it to Linda’?”
Chloe and Lucifer waited expectantly, then Lucifer prompted, “Well? Gave her what? A souvenir keychain? Chlamydia?”
Ella listened very carefully. “The... story.”
A frisson ran up Chloe’s spine. “What story?”
The lab tech squinted, then looked confused. She shook her head slightly. “I think he’s saying ‘cinnamon’? He did a story on contaminated donuts or the risks of the cinnamon challenge or something?”
Chloe and Lucifer went very still. “The Sinnerman ?” they said in unison.
Ella’s eyes widened. “Oh, snap! Yeah!”
Lucifer rubbed his hands together. “Well done, Reesie!” he cackled. “I always suspected you were smarter than you looked. Let’s go to Linda’s and see what he’s got.”
Chloe put a restraining hand on his arm as she suddenly thought of something. “Wait up. How do we know it’s really him?” She looked at Lucifer doubtfully. “Amenadiel said Malcolm name-dropped the Sinnerman too… what if this is some kind of setup?”
Ella glanced at the tarp. “You’ve already confirmed I.D.”
“Yes, the victim is Reese Getty, but how do we know that’s who you’re talking to?” asked Chloe. “You’ve never met him - you were on leave with Nick when Reese had his ride-along, remember?” She added to Lucifer, “Malcolm fooled Kinley easily enough, what if this is another demon?”
“He says he’s not a demon,” said Ella, “but if he was a demon he’d still say that.”
“Since this isn’t a summoning situation, a demon would need a body to make themselves heard, Detective,” Lucifer reassured. “Since the corpse isn’t talking, it must be a spirit.”
“Could it be an angel?”
“No, I’d be able to sense them.”
“Okay, a spirit then. But how can we be sure it’s really him?”
Lucifer again addressed the room. “Reesie, what did we talk about when we first met?”
Ella listened carefully for a few seconds, then rolled her eyes. “Centrefolds? Really?”
Lucifer nodded. “Okay, it’s him.”
Chloe glanced around the room and tentatively asked the air, “Do you know who did this to you, Reese?”
Ella listened, then made a loud scoffing noise. “ Bullshit! ” At the prompting looks from the other two she added disbelievingly, “He said it was Pierce!”
Chloe’s mouth fell open. “What?”
Lucifer frowned. “Lieutenant Man Ham murdered a reporter? That would be rather contrary to his redemption arc.”
Ella tilted her head to the side, a line between her brows, and repeated back what she was hearing. “Reese says he got a call from his editor… to go talk about a piece he was working on, about the Sinnerman organisation… but when he showed up at his editor’s house she was dead, beaten to death, and Pierce was there. Pierce tried to strangle Reese but then Reese shot him… killed him - wait, what?” She spoke to the air. “If you killed Pierce, how could he have killed you? I think you’re still a little mixed up there, buddy...”
Lucifer waved his hand. “Not necessarily. Pierce is Cain. You know, from the Bible, and immortal. I even killed him myself once, but he doesn’t stay dead.”
Ella stared at him, wide-eyed, unable to believe what she was hearing. Then she heard Reese confirming it and she nodded slowly.
“Reese says he killed Pierce in self defence, shot him with a pocket pistol. But before he could call 9-1-1 Pierce came back to life and got the drop on him. Strangled him with a curtain cord. Reese says he watched Pierce tie it back around the curtains.” Ella swallowed thickly. In that case, Reese’s DNA would be on it, and maybe his editor’s too, if Pierce hadn't taken care to not transfer blood evidence. “Reese also saw Pierce plant his DNA on the coffee mug and his prints on the murder weapon.”
“Pierce was quick to point the finger at Reese to Dan,” Chloe pointed out, remembering what Pierce had said to her, and what Dan had told them. She felt sick. “But why? Why would Pierce murder his friend and set up Reese for it, then kill him?”
“Perhaps Cain still has that penchant for beating people to death with blunt objects,” said Lucifer darkly. “So much for his supposed rehabilitation.”
Ella took a deep breath then let it out slowly, trying to take it all in. “Holy shit ...” The marks on Getty’s neck… the postmortem impalement... Pierce did this? Their lieutenant, the guy she’d idolised for years, who she’d been working with side-by-side for months, was a murderer. And not only that; the world’s first murderer, thousands of years old. No wonder his aura was so horribly dark; the dude might’ve died and come back a thousand times or more over his lifetime. She gulped. Not to mention the countless lives he could’ve taken, including Reese and his boss.
“What the Hell… Cain ? For real?” she whispered. Then her head whipped towards Reese’s voice as he dropped another bombshell.
“There’s more,” she choked out, reeling in horror. “Reese says Pierce is the Sinnerman too!”
Ella was in a state of shock. Lieutenant Pierce, their boss, was a cold-blooded murderer and liar… was a crime lord… was an immortal figure from the Bible. His aura literally pulsed with death, negativity and deceit, all while he presented a wholesome, heroic image to the world. It was all an act, a fake-ass façade that Ella had trusted even over her own abilities. Her stomach roiled and she felt like she was going to hurl. She’d hero worshipped that stank-ass trash!
She looked at Chloe. She seemed just as blindsided as she was; she’d even gone on a sort-of date with the guy! Ella managed to ask Reese if he knew anything else, but he seemed to have left; he’d said something about Linda and Ella assumed he’d gone to be with her. Maybe that’s where he was before. Reese seemed to be one hella determined spirit, and didn’t seem in any kinda hurry to move on.
Meanwhile Lucifer was pacing and fuming. “No bloody wonder his so-called investigation never went anywhere, there never bloody WAS one!” he growled. “I’m going to kill him. I know it won’t be permanent but it’ll be satisfying nonetheless, and I can always kill him some more. It’ll be my new hobby.” He abruptly stopped pacing and turned to leave.
Chloe grabbed his arm. “Lucifer, stop! We can’t let him know we know! Not yet. We’ve got to see what Reese had on him, see if there’s enough to arrest him.”
Lucifer gaped at her. “Are you mad? You want to arrest him?”
Chloe threw her hands in the air. “Well what were you planning on doing? You can’t kill him, and I don’t just mean that in an ‘angels can’t kill humans’ kinda way; I mean you literally CAN’T kill him. We’ve got to take him down properly, along with his network, and neutralise him some other way.”
“He’s been around for millennia, Detective,” Lucifer argued. “And there are probably thousands of people in Los Angeles who owe him a favour. I have no doubt whatsoever that he has the resources to disappear off the face of the Earth any time he chooses. How do you think he’s avoided discovery by humans all this time? We need to get him before he finds out we’re coming! We have no idea how far his reach goes.” He again made to leave and again Chloe grabbed him by the arm.
“That’s kinda my point, Lucifer,” she insisted. “We have no idea who he has in the precinct or even in the feds - you can’t confront him all by yourself! This is a ruthless, immortal crime lord who even has demons working for him. You can’t just walk in there, with your three-piece suit and say, ‘Hello, Sinnerman! ’”
Lucifer tried to gently extricate himself from her grasp. “I beg to differ, Detective. I’ll be better off confronting him alone and invulnerable - otherwise I’d just be giving him the perfect opportunity to off us both, wouldn’t I? Rest assured I can handle any sinnerminions he throws my way, be they human or demon. Don’t fret.” He tried to prise Chloe’s fingers off his arm, but she hung on like a barnacle.
“Please, Lucifer, we have to be smart about this,” she insisted. “We need to tell Amenadiel and Maze what’s going on, we need to tell Charlotte who the Sinnerman is, and we need to see what Reese gave Linda. Once we have all the info THEN we make a proper plan.”
Lucifer scowled at her, huffed like an impatient mule, then rolled his eyes. “Very well. I suppose I do need a strategy other than ‘tear Cain’s head off, rinse and repeat’.”
Chloe nodded, relieved. “Thanks, Lucifer.” She let him go and pulled out her phone. “Right. I’m calling Amenadiel.”
They called Amenadiel who called Maze, then picked her up on the way. They all met up in an abandoned homeless encampment a discreet distance from the crime scene.
Chloe looked around the group. “First thing’s first-”
Lucifer cut in, “We need to go to Linda’s and get Reese’s story.”
Chloe nodded. “Yes, but first we’ll have to break the news that her ex-husband is dead.”
Maze stepped forward, dark eyes flashing as she twirled her blades. “I’ll tell her. She needs to know that I will take vengeance for Reese in her name.”
Chloe said tactfully, “I’m sure she’ll find that comforting, Maze, but maybe not just yet. When humans lose a loved one suddenly we can be a little… fragile. And the shock could even be dangerous for Linda because of her pregnancy. This might be easier on her if Amenadiel does it.”
Both Lucifer and Amenadiel nodded in agreement and Maze shrugged. “Fine. I wasn’t planning on dealing with the emotions shit anyway.”
“Can I tell her after she finishes work?” asked Amenadiel. “It’s my turn to cook dinner; I’ll pamper her a bit first, try to minimise the trauma as much as possible-”
Ella suddenly exploded, “The Sinnerman?! I mean what the fuck! ” She stared at them all for a moment, then whirled and stormed over to a battered oil drum. She gave it a ferocious kick, swearing vehemently in Spanish. The drum tipped over and fell to the ground with a loud clang, ashes and chunks of charcoal spilling out of it. Ella booted it again and it rolled over to hit a wall. Ella followed it, each kick punctuated by a vicious curse.
Ella couldn’t remember ever being this angry; if Pierce was here she’d tear his damn throat out. The veil had been lifted and she suddenly saw Pierce for what he truly was, and everything she thought she knew about him was cast in a horrible new light.
His putrid, pervasive aura. The fake brother in Chicago, that Pierce had probably murdered himself, if he’d ever existed at all. All those awards for bravery in the line of duty, like the Medal of Valor for saving Chloe’s life, were all meaningless because he’d always known he was never in danger. He could’ve even planned the precinct shooting himself, to make himself look good! She shuddered in revulsion and gave the drum an extra hard punt as she remembered giving him CPR, naively thinking she was saving his life. Then she went cold as she realised something else.
The suicide bomber. She suddenly knew without a doubt that Marco had been telling the truth about their lieutenant, that Pierce was so bent that he’d stolen those millions, framed Marco and orchestrated multiple murders to cover his tracks. And when he’d silenced Marco, the last remaining witness, Pierce had killed him even though he’d been holding a dead man switch, not even caring that the bomb could’ve killed Lucifer and Chloe too.
Cain had been manipulating them, just as he’d probably been manipulating people for thousands of years. His entire phony ass career in the police force wasn’t about doing good or helping people, it was all about gaining power so that he could abuse it.
¡Pinche puto pendejo baboso!
Behind her, Chloe exchanged a glance with the others then walked over to Ella. She stood to the side while Ella expended her rage on the drum, then when she finally stopped, panting slightly and with tears in her eyes, Chloe stepped forward and put her arms around her. Ella accepted the hug, dropping her chin dejectedly onto Chloe’s shoulder.
“This is so fucked up,” she mumbled. Then she sniffled, “I’m sorry Chlo’, I shouldn’t be acting like this… you even went on a sort-of date with the guy!”
Chloe shook her head. “I never had strong feelings for him, Ella, not like you - I know you really looked up to him.”
Chloe remembered the feelings she’d had, the niggling doubts about Pierce that she’d been so quick to dismiss. She’d given him the benefit of the doubt because she knew history and especially religion didn’t always portray people accurately; she’d seen that with all the stories about the Devil. But she suddenly realised she’d known deep down for quite some time that something wasn’t quite right with Pierce. That was a feeling she’d never had with Lucifer.
She put her hands on Ella’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Pierce betrayed all of us. And he’s not gonna get away with it.”
Ella nodded, dried her eyes, and looked back at Chloe with equal determination. “Hells no.”
When they got back, the others didn’t mention Ella’s outburst, but Amenadiel silently reached out one arm to give her a hug. She gave him a wan smile in return.
“Humans were never designed to live this long,” Lucifer said disparagingly. “It’s no wonder Cain is off his trolley.”
“He probably wasn’t altogether there to begin with,” added Amenadiel. “It’s a Hell of a thing to take a life, never mind your own broth-” He snapped his mouth shut. “I’m so sorry, Luci, I didn’t mean it like that.”
Lucifer shook his head. “It’s quite alright, Amenadiel, I fully agree with you. The man is pure filth, premeditated evil. And Father is indirectly punishing everyone else by allowing him to carry on down here. Besides which, how exactly is everlasting life on Earth even a punishment?” He scoffed. “Earth’s much more fun than Hell, it’s why I moved here! Dad had some quite frankly ridiculous ideas on punishment, the bloody amateur. He should have left Cain to me.”
“Maybe God thought there’d be a conflict of interest?” Maze suggested. “You did bang Cain’s mom.”
“No. Abel was still sent to Hell - wrongfully I might add, and Dad had no qualms about that. It’s just yet another case of Him thinking He knows best.” Lucifer scowled. “I rejigged how damnation worked after that initial snafu and Abel moved on to the Silver City, but Cain already being immortal meant he slipped through the cracks. We need to sort him out once and for all.” He grunted and angrily shook his head.
“It was easy enough for him to spin all that claptrap to you about wanting redemption, Amenadiel, but I bloody asked him what he wanted! I used my mojo on him! He said he wanted revenge on the Sinnerman for his brother’s death; all complete rubbish! How was he able to bald-faced lie to me?”
Amenadiel shrugged. “He must have found a way to resist your powers, Luci. Perhaps the fact that he’s not a normal human means he’s less susceptible? Or he discovered a protective talisman?”
Lucifer scowled and muttered something unintelligible. He seemed deeply affronted that his powers had failed to reveal the truth about Pierce.
Chloe touched his arm. “Don’t worry about it, Lucifer, we know the truth now. But we’ve still got to prove it.” She tugged on her jacket. “Okay. We’ll give Amenadiel time to break the news to Linda, and in the meantime we’ll go get Charlotte, see if she and Reese found enough evidence for us to go over Pierce’s head to Chief Monroe.”
Ella gulped. “But what if the Chief is crooked too? Pierce could have anybody in his pocket!”
“Give me a minute with her and we’ll soon find out,” Lucifer replied.
Chloe nodded. “Alright. Let’s go.”
“Airi bi immak ya ibn el sharmouta!”
Cain swore viciously in Arabic, then snatched a fist-sized rock off a nearby shelf and smashed the man/demon before him in the face with it. The demon’s head snapped back from the blow but he didn’t fall; instead he turned back with a rebellious scowl to face Cain, blood running from his vessel’s shattered nose.
Cain was apoplectic with rage. Reese’s body had been found, not hanged in his home as had been the plan, but run through with a length of rebar and dumped on an abandoned building site. Could not a demon follow even the simplest fucking order?!
“You fucking moron! ” Cain bellowed. “I had Getty nice in the frame for Brown’s murder! Had the perfect narrative; divorced alcoholic burn-out gets his nutcase conspiracy story turned down by his editor, he kills her in a fit of rage then offs himself, case closed!”
Cain’s fists clenched. “But now that he’s been found with three feet of steel rammed through his chest Decker is gonna look closer, you stupid fuckshit! We can’t cover this up! Who gave you permission to get creative?!” He abruptly pulled his gun from its holster and fired into the demon’s chest half a dozen times, his boyishly handsome face ugly with fury. The demon jerked at the impact of each bullet but still didn’t fall, and Cain stopped firing and holstered his weapon in disgust.
“That’s the trouble with you second-rate new demons, you’re still too fucking human! No goddamn discipline!”
It was a familiar tirade; newly forged demons were often unreliable and even more unpredictable than the Lilim. But it couldn’t be helped because so many hellspawn had, inexplicably, remained loyal to their posts despite Lucifer abandoning the throne. Cain had lost a considerable number since Abaddon had gone AWOL, as well. They’d had to forge more for their operations on Earth and it had been problematic, to say the least.
Some new demons had their own agendas, like the serial killer Aleksander Prifti a few months back; he’d decided to pick up where he’d left off and had brought a fucking Feds taskforce down on their heads. Luckily he’d been tracked down and returned to his cell before Lucifer was any the wiser. And Malcolm Graham, who’d seemed made for the job of handling Kinley, had turned out to be too fucking crazy to be of any use at all.
Still others were incompetent; one had even screwed up disposing of its vessel after completing a mission! He’d returned to Hell completely oblivious to the fact that Sam Carroll had initially survived the bullet to the head, and it was only pure dumb luck that he hadn’t regained consciousness and talked to Decker before he died. Instead he’d apparently talked to Getty, and typically for a reporter - and fortunately for their operation - Getty had decided to keep the information to himself.
As for the Lilim, it wasn’t that they weren’t loyal; quite the contrary. It was just that most had no loyalty to HIM. A great many of them, disgruntled by their king’s absence, had imprinted themselves on Abaddon as well as himself once they came to Earth, but their lawless nature and unpredictability was starting to drive him crazy. Demons were just so… chaotic! And they seemed to be finding every little way they could to fuck with him. Perhaps killing Lilith had been a mistake after all.
The demon said nothing, but his eyes glittered with satisfaction. He’d impaled the reporter’s corpse partly because he’d just felt like it, but mainly because fuck Cain. He needed to be taken down a peg or two, thinking himself above the Horde. He was neither angel nor demon; immortal he might be, but he was still only human and therefore beneath contempt.
The demon had been only recently transformed, could still remember what it was like to be human, and rebelled at Cain's arrogance. He’d encountered many bullies during his relatively short and miserable mortal existence, and Cain was just like them. The demon liked being in a position to get his own back in any petty way he could.
Cain closed his eyes, inhaled deeply through his nose, then exhaled from his mouth, reining in his temper with an effort and thinking carefully. It was fine; he could fix this. He’d dealt with worse situations.
Getty and his editor were out of play, along with Getty’s research. But judging by his correspondence with deputy D.A. Charlotte Richards she’d been working with him and had to go too. Being a lawyer she’d have made copies of copies and they had to find her. He’d sent teams to her office and condo, as well as Espinoza’s place, but she was way ahead of them and nowhere to be found.
“Find that bitch lawyer and take her out,” he hissed. “We’ll put out the story it was gang-related, pin it on those loser Latin Kings. Actually no, the Paradisos. It’ll fly as a grudge killing since she’s switched from defending their teamsters to prosecuting them. And we should take out Getty’s ex-wife too, just in case. Send a team tonight when she’s leaving work, when Amenadiel’s not with her, and do it quick before she can call him for help. A hit and run. I want it to look like an accident, understand?” Cain blew out an angry breath. “I don’t like it. What a fucking mess.”
Getty’s murder would give credence to any stories he was working on, and the ‘Sinnerman’ story which had been about to be buried as the ramblings of a paranoid old drunk might now be considered motive. So they had to find and get rid of any more copies of his work, fast. If they were as thorough as what they’d found in Getty’s computer they could be in deep shit.
“Check her home while she’s at work, then her office once she’s dead. Now go. No more fuckups or you’re dead. For good.”
The demon left and Cain yelled for his second-in-command. He had still more damage control to do. Decker and Lucifer had been down to City Hall to talk to the Chief of Police this morning - there was talk of a task force. He had a very bad feeling; he had to nip this shit in the bud. Maybe killing Decker would work a second time, maybe it wouldn’t, but he could always grab her brat, or Lopez, or both, and use them as leverage. It’d worked well enough with Constantine.
That evening Lucifer, Chloe, Charlotte, Dan, Amenadiel, Maze and Ella got together in the penthouse for updates on the Sinnerman case so far. It’d been a hectic day; Lucifer, Chloe and Charlotte had first spoken with Chief Monroe and were relieved to discover she was clean. Shrewd to the point of calculating, but clean, and appalled when Charlotte laid out the reams of evidence she and Reese had found. Within hours she’d assembled a task force to deal with the Sinnerman threat.
There’d been some initial drama; when it’d got around that Detective Chloe Decker and her civilian consultant were questioning every cop and staffer at the precinct and City Hall there was an unexplained spate of broken windows, fainting and memory loss. Another three people had skipped out early from work. It was discovered that one had legitimately gone home sick, but the other two, including the Chief’s deputy, were in the wind.
Charlotte solved the mystery of how Pierce had resisted Lucifer’s mojo; she’d seen footage of him at a press conference with sunken black eyes and a blackened mouth. He’d acquired demon blood, just like Constantine. Ella had reassembled the lamp at Shelley Brown's house and found Reese Getty's prints on it, suggesting he'd been defending himself from an unknown assailant. And Amenadiel had found the story Reese had told them about; Reese had prudently couriered a copy of a Sinnerman exposé to Linda’s office late Friday afternoon. They’d all read it, impressed by Reese’s diligence as well as slightly daunted by the scope of the problem they were facing.
Amenadiel sighed. “I still don’t understand why you didn't come to us when you first learned of the Sinnerman, Charlotte. Especially to Chloe and Lucifer. We could’ve been working together all this time!”
“And if I’d known Cordell was on the Sinnerman’s trail I could have warned him,” Dan added quietly.
Squeezing his hand, Charlotte said with a note of apology in her voice, “I told you, it was Reese’s investigation so it was his call, and he didn’t want anything getting back to the Sinnerman… to Pierce.” She shrugged ruefully. “And he was right to be paranoid; he trusted his editor with it and look what happened. We didn’t tell you because Reese didn’t trust Lucifer - partly because he barely trusted anyone, but mainly because I told him demons were involved.”
Lucifer muttered under his breath.
“Let’s focus on moving forward, okay?” said Chloe diplomatically, patting his knee. “How’s the task force going, Charlotte?”
Charlotte waved her hand at the large wheeled suitcase she’d been taking everywhere with her. It contained copies of the hundreds of files she and Reese had compiled during their Sinnerman investigation of the past several months.
“We have enough to start making arrests,” she said confidently, “but are doing distance surveillance for now, especially for Pierce and other key players, to see who else crawls out of the woodwork. And now that I have the Sinnerman’s true identity - well, sort of - I can start cross-referencing his alleged crimes and ties with Pierce’s locations and likely associates. I have a feeling the Russians in particular will want to cooperate so they don’t all die in prison.”
“And I have a feeling the task force is going to get a lot bigger by the time this is over,” said Chloe, glancing at Lucifer. And they would have to quietly question everyone in it. Charlotte’s ability to spot demon stowaways would be invaluable, but unfortunately it wouldn’t work on ordinarily corrupt human cops.
Charlotte hummed. “Yeah, it’ll get a lot bigger. This thing is global. The FBI, Homeland Security, Interpol, they’re all going to have to work together on this. It’ll take years.”
“I’m sure we can speed things up a bit,” said Lucifer encouragingly. “To that end, Pierce must have a base of operations somewhere in the city. Somewhere for his people to go, likely more than one. We need to find it.”
“We could try pinging his phone again,” suggested Ella, punching keys on her laptop. Unfortunately Pierce’s cell was still switched off. Its last known location was the precinct parking lot.
“He’s too rat cunning for that,” said Maze. “He’ll use burners on Sinnerman business.” She flicked her blades back and forth, thinking. “Cain will know something about what went down at City Hall today; he’ll be pissed. And from what I know about him from Abel’s Hell loop that means people are gonna die.” She looked pointedly at Charlotte. “Cain stole Reese’s research, notes, computers…”
“... and emails,” finished Charlotte, nodding. “Yeah. I’ve been laying low with Ben because I figured Pierce would be coming after me next.”
Dan put his hand on her knee. “The sonofabitch will have to get through me first.”
Maze added, “Hell Loop Cain’s MO was to destroy his enemies, but not only the people who crossed him. Their allies as well. And Abel knew his brother better than anybody.”
Ella’s eyes widened. “What, you mean… you think Pierce is gonna come after us too?”
Maze shrugged. “Depends. On how much he thinks you know.”
Ella spread her hands. “But why would he think that we know anything? We only just-” She abruptly startled, shying away from something behind her. “Crap-! Dude, you-” She trailed off, then gasped and swore. “Amenadiel you gotta get to Linda! Right now! Reese says she’s in danger!”
Amenadiel leapt off the couch and unfurled his wings. “Where?!” he barked.
“The sidewalk outside her office! Get over there!”
Amenadiel disappeared in a gust of wind, Maze yelling after him to move his ass! Ella quickly crossed herself.
“I guess that answers that question,” said Chloe grimly into the ensuing silence. “Pierce must know we know.”
“I’d say he suspects, and that’s enough for him,” said Maze. “He knows the Sinnerman name is out there thanks to Reese, and he’s looking to clean house. He’s being strategic, taking out the people who knew, and the people they could’ve told. Cordell. Reese. His editor. His ex-wife.” Her face turned stony. “But he’s careful, too, and a compulsive control freak prick, so he might just think fuck it and assume Charlotte told us everything.”
Ella stared at her. “Mierda. I gotta go get Nick and Josita. And tell Rae-Rae what’s going on.” She pulled out her phone and dashed for the elevator. “I’ll catch you guys later! Be careful!”
“We have to get Reese’s story to the Chief, and tell her who Pierce really is,” said Charlotte, looking at Dan. “Tonight. This can’t wait.” He nodded, and they headed for the elevator.
“I gotta get Trixie and Mom to a safe place,” said Chloe, chewing her lip. What could she tell them without making them worry?
Lucifer nodded. “You can all come and stay here.”
Maze rolled her eyes. “Your door is an elevator, Lucifer! And it doesn’t even have a lock! The only other way out is a header off the balcony.”
“But I'd be here!” Lucifer protested.
“So would Granny Decker, and Chloe, and you’d be vulnerable," Maze reminded him. “Besides, it might not be demons Cain sends. He could just hit the penthouse with an RPG from a helicopter, or park a vanload of plastique out front-“
“Alright, alright, I get the point!” Lucifer groused.
“Me and Maze can handle it, honey,” Chloe soothed, then gave him a hard look. “And in the meantime, no going after Pierce by yourself.”
Lucifer threw her a churlish look and took a suspiciously long drink from his glass.
“Lucifer?” Chloe prodded. “No going after Pierce by yourself. Okay?”
Lucifer scoffed. “How would I even do that, Detective? We don’t know where the cockroach has scurried off to.” He tutted and adjusted his cufflinks. “I suppose we’re at the mercy of the boffins and forensic accountants on Reese’s paper trail and those doing surveillance. Until we get a lead we’re at a dead end.”
Chloe gave him a reassuring pat on the arm. “We’ll get him, we just gotta be patient.”
“Yeah,” said Maze, nodding and getting to her feet. “I’ll help with the hunt, but first thing’s first, let’s go get Trix and Penny. We gotta get you guys someplace safe.”
Linda walked briskly along the twilit street toward the lights of the nearby shopping precinct. For once she’d finished work on time, but she needed to stop by the pharmacy for some antacid before heading home. Pregnancy heartburn was no joke and there were some things even her angel couldn’t help with.
She passed a thrift store, the sidewalk outside lined with clothing racks, vintage lamps and upholstered chairs, and made a mental note to come back and hunt for designer label maternity dresses. Because secondhand store or not, this was Beverly Hills.
As Linda approached an intersection, she heard the rev of a car engine and tyres squealing on asphalt. Her head reflexively turned toward it, and thoughts of it being some teenage motorhead trying to impress his pals vanished in a millisecond when she saw a black sedan accelerating right for her.
She barely had time to squeal in fright before Amenadiel appeared, scooping her into his arms and kicking off from the ground. He pumped his wings once, lifting them both into the air as the speeding sedan mounted the sidewalk and barrelled past right below their feet.
Amenadiel slowed time and landed, then put Linda down well out of harm’s way. Then, sheathing his wings and releasing time, he gave the vehicle a mighty shove, the added momentum sending it careening into a telephone pole. With a grinding shriek of metal and an explosion of glass it wrapped itself around it, trapping the men inside.
Amenadiel advanced on the vehicle, fists clenched and eyes blazing. Trembling with righteous wrath, he was sorely tempted to crush them all inside it, vividly recalling how he himself had been murdered. Only abject cowards would try to mow down a defenceless pregnant woman! But instead he stopped, turned and walked over to take Linda into his arms.
“Are you alright, Lin?” he said, his brow creased with worry.
“I’m fine.” Linda stared in shock at the unconscious men in the accordioned vehicle, then up at Amenadiel. “They tried to hit me on purpose!”
“But… how did you know?”
“The Sinnerman sent these men.” Amenadiel gently cupped Linda’s face. “Reese told Ella, who told me - I’m so sorry, Lin.”
“Reese told Ella?” Linda’s look of confusion changed to one of horrified realisation. She put her hand over her mouth and tears sprang to her eyes. “No… no… you mean Reese is…?”
Amenadiel nodded sadly and wrapped Linda in his arms as she wailed in anguish, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then she abruptly stiffened with a gasp, clutching her stomach and groaning with pain.
“Another Braxton-Hicks contraction?” Amenadiel said sympathetically.
Linda stared at him, her tear-filled eyes wide. “No, it’s not. The baby’s coming.”
Amenadiel stared back, shaking his head slightly. “But you said it was too soon!”
Linda’s face twisted in fear. “It IS too soon. But my water just broke. You need to get me to the hospital.”
Ella raced home as fast as she could. When she barged in the front door she found Nick had their bags packed ready to go, and Josie was peering curiously out the porthole of her kitty carrier. Ella threw her arms around Nick and her fingers brushed the holster and pistol he had concealed at his back.
“Ready, cariño?” she said. “Just to be safe.”
Nick nodded. “Let’s go. Jonás knows we’re coming.”
They grabbed their bags, Ella slinging Josie’s carrier on her back, and quickly left the apartment. In the hall they encountered a couple of neighbours, and despite their friendly greetings Ella was apprehensive. Demons could be hiding in anyone! And unlike Cain, they had no tell-tale aura to give them away. Ella’s skin crawled until they were down a couple flights of stairs and well away from them.
They reached the underground parking level and picked up their pace, wary of the large concealing concrete columns and rows of parked cars and trash cans. Ella wondered, were they hiding demon assassins? They’d made it halfway to the car when there were running footsteps and a shout from behind them.
They spun around and saw an unfamiliar man sprinting towards them from the stairs. He was only slightly taller than Ella, with spiky brown hair and a short beard, and was wearing baggy jeans and a black leather vest with a gray t-shirt underneath. He had a slight pot belly and bright blue eyes in a sweet-looking, chubby face.
“They’re coming for you!” he yelled anxiously. “Please, you must come with me!”
Nick glanced at Ella. “You know this guy?”
Ella shook her head, confused. “Uhhh, no?” They sped up toward her car, throwing cautious glances behind them as the guy followed them. Ella knew he couldn’t be a demon, because he had an aura; a powerful magenta one which denoted a big heart. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t unknowingly possessed by one…
Either way, he somehow knew her name, and he was creeping her out. “We’re leaving now, okay dude-”
A blonde soccer mom in fitness wear suddenly barrelled out of the other stairwell at the far end of the parking lot, followed closely by a tall man with shoulder-length brown hair and a sleeve of tattoos on his right arm. They spotted Ella and the stranger and bolted straight for them. The stranger scowled and reached to his back as he ran. As he neared Ella, twin flat-bladed daggers appeared in his hands.
Ella gasped and whipped the lid off a nearby trash can, then cracked him over the head with it. The metal rim dented but the dude barely reacted.
¡Mierda! Who or what was this guy? As Ella raised the trash can lid again, she felt Nick draw her protectively to him as they moved to take cover between two parked cars. She saw he had his gun out, holding it ready at his side, and her mouth went dry.
“Walk away, man,” Nick ordered, then raised his gun and added to the other two who were also closing in, “All of you! Just walk the Hell away!”
Knife Dude stayed where he was, standing between Ella and the others. “I cannot walk away, I must guard Ella from this evil!”
Soccer Mom snarled and leapt at him and Knife Dude smoothly pivoted on his left leg and roundhouse kicked her in the head. She flew upside down several feet into the back of a car, smashing in the rear window and setting off the car alarm. Then she promptly flipped nimbly to her feet, snatched up a trash lid of her own and flew at Knife Dude again.
Nick gaped. “¡No chingues!”
Meanwhile Tatt Guy used the distraction to dodge past Knife Dude and lunge for Ella. “Step OFF!” Nick bellowed, finger tightening on the trigger. But before he could fire, there was a cacophony of high-pitched screeches. A dozen nearby car windows shattered, alarms blaring, and Tatt Guy and Ninja Mom dropped like they’d been hit with bags of cement.
“Ella!” Rae-Rae’s voice spoke from thin air beside her.
Ella jumped about a foot in the air. “¡En la madre! ”
“You were wise to call me,” Azrael said loudly over the din from the alarms. “Your defender is Gaudium, a cherub who works for Lucifer, and he is right, there are more demons coming. They mean to kill Nick and take you prisoner.” Ella gulped and looked at Nick. Judging by his expression he’d realised what was going on.
“Who is it?” he said warily. “Because you look like you just heard a ghost.”
“Uh-huh, it’s a ghost,” Ella fibbed. “She’s telling us to get outta here, fast. There’s demons on the loose.”
Nick paled. “Ay güey, demons? Here?! That guy?” He raised his gun and pointed it at Gaudium.
Ella pushed it down and away. “No! No, that’s… um…” Her mind raced. “He’s a… a friend.”
Gaudium turned to face them, his baby face breaking into a shy smile and a large gold tooth winking in the light.
“Just get in the car and go, Ella,” said Rae-Rae. “Hurry! Gaudium and I will take care of the demons.”
Ella nodded, grabbing Nick’s jacket and urging him the last dozen yards to her car. Moments later they were peeling rubber out of there, Ella white-knuckling the wheel and Nick bracing Josie’s backpack securely in his lap.
“What the fuck is going on, Ella?” Nick said quietly.
Ella had no idea what to say.
On the drive home, Chloe rang her mom with a left field suggestion; why didn’t they all take up James’ offer of a stay at his holiday home? Penelope was delighted if a little bemused that Chloe was suddenly saying yes after months of stonewalling, especially since it meant having Trixie play hooky from school only two weeks into the new year.
“You know I love surprises, Pumpkin, and it sounds wonderful, but… is everything okay? Is everything alright between you and Lucifer?”
“Everything’s fine, Mom,” Chloe lied, putting a smile into her voice. “It’s just that we’ve been meaning to spend more time with you and James, especially before the wedding, and if we don’t make the time it’s not gonna happen. And, I guess,” Chloe huffed a laugh, “being with Lucifer is really nurturing my impulsive side.”
Her mother laughed. “You can say that again, sweetie.” Chloe got the impression her mom wasn’t fully convinced, but thankfully she didn’t call her out on it.
“So Lucifer’s coming too, right?” her mom added. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen him.”
“Uh, he’ll come up tomorrow,” Chloe said. “He wanted to drive us up but we can’t all fit in his car.” Lucifer had actually wanted to fly them up but of course that wasn’t possible with Penelope coming - Chloe had often wondered what her mother’s reaction would be to having the literal Devil dating her only child but she sensed now was not the time to find out.
Chloe fixed to pick her mom up in a half hour and ended the call, and when they got home she and Trixie started quickly packing a bag each for several days. Maze also grabbed an assortment of weapons in case they encountered trouble on the way.
She was just debating whether to take her nunchaku when there was a crash and tinkle of glass from downstairs, then another one, and a furious yowl from Haaris.
Intruders! Get out!
Maze’s hackles went up as she immediately sensed demons. She bolted from her room, still gripping her nunchaku, and heard Chloe running down the hallway behind her. From the top of the stairs she saw an unfamiliar demon with greasy, lank brown hair striding from the broken patio door toward Trixie’s room. Unleashing a battle cry, she took the entire flight of stairs in one leap. The trespasser’s head snapped toward her just in time for Maze’s bootheel to drive into his face, shattering the right eye socket and knocking him backwards into the wall.
Maze landed nimbly, straightening as a second demon with beefy arms and a mohawk rushed her with a short sword. Maze raised the nunchaku with both hands, the connecting chain blocking the overhead strike, and Mohawk responded by kneeing her viciously in the stomach. Maze grunted, then hit him in the face with one end of the nunchaku. As he fell back, Maze released one stick and whipped it around to crack Mohawk’s skull open. He went down like a sack of shit, but Maze thumped him a couple more times just to be sure.
“Maze! Behind you!” Trixie yelled. Maze suddenly realised another demon had broken in through the French doors in the kitchen. As she whirled to face them, she saw Trixie standing in her bedroom doorway with her super soaker, blasting a stream of water straight into the demon’s face.
The demon screeched and clapped her hands to her eyes as they started to smoke. Then Chloe popped out of the stairwell and swung a straight-sided mace into the back of the demon’s head. She pitched forward onto the floor.
Trixie whooped. “Get her, Mom!”
Meanwhile, the first one had got back on his feet. Maze pushed Trixie over to Chloe, then tossed her nunchaku aside. There was a soft slither of metal as her blades appeared in her hands. She twirled them, smiling at her opponent. “Just my kinda guy,” she murmured approvingly. “A sucker for punishment.”
Greasy produced a curved blade. As he came at her, Maze saw from the corner of her eye Chloe grab Trixie’s hand and quickly haul her upstairs. Greasy slashed at Maze and she dodged back, the tip of the blade nicking her leather jacket. Maze cursed, but had to chuckle at Trixie’s protests floating down from the hallway.
“But Mommm-! ”
Greasy lunged at her again and Maze blocked his arm, then kicked him hard in the knee. His leg folded and Maze kicked him again in the face. And an instant later her demon blades were buried to the hilt in his ribcage. He let out a wheeze and crumpled to the floor.
“You can come down now- oh, wait up,” she added, as the she-demon Chloe had knocked out came to and groped blindly at her leg. Maze spotted one of Trixie’s toy karambits on the side table and snatched it up, plunging it through the demon’s right eye into her brain.
“Okay, NOW you can come down,” Maze called, tugging it back out.
Chloe and Trixie reappeared, Trixie toting her supersoaker across her chest like a little Rambo and warily eyeing the three demon corpses littering their apartment.
“Nice work, Trix’,” Maze said. “You too, Decker.”
Trixie beamed and patted her water pistol. “That was a really good idea to put holy water in here, Maze.”
Chloe said wryly, “Our secret weapon; tap water blessed using instructions off YouTube.”
Trixie’s eyes widened at the toy karambit in Maze’s fist. She said in fascination, “Is that… blood?”
“Uh-huh.” Maze lifted it to inspect the point more closely and noticed in addition to the blood a smear of a clear, gel-like substance; vitreous. Punctured eyeball goo. She shrugged and amended, “Well, mostly blood.” She handed it to Trixie, who took it almost reverently.
“Cool! ” she squealed.
Maze glanced warily out the broken doors and shooed Trixie and Chloe off to go finish packing. While she was wiping off her demon blades her phone rang. She rolled her eyes; it was Amenadiel.“Not a good time, bro,” she said impatiently.
“Mazikeen, the baby’s coming. Linda’s gone into labor.”
Maze blinked. “But last week she told me it was months too early!”
“It is,” Amenadiel replied. Maze detected a note of suppressed panic in his voice. “I rescued Linda from the men sent to kill her, but when she realised Reese was dead the emotional shock triggered premature labor.”
Maze stared at the phone for a second, then yelled, “You idiot!”
“I’m not Raphael, Maze, I can’t regulate human stress hormones,” Amenadiel retorted. “How soon can you get to the hospital?”
“I gotta get Trixie, Chloe, Penny and the cat the Hell outta dodge first. It’s Penny’s fiance’s place, over three hours return, but I bet I can do it in two. Put Linda on the phone.”
“I’m at the house packing a bag, but I’m heading right back. Just get there as fast as you can, Maze. And be careful.”
“Don’t let Linda have that baby without me! Slow time if you have to!” Maze ended the call and bounded back upstairs to grab her arsenal. “Come ON, you two!” she bellowed. “Let’s go!”
Charlotte and Dan headed straight to City Hall for a special meeting with the Mayor to inform him, Chief Monroe and the task force about the latest developments. They took precautions, Charlotte wearing one of Maze’s wigs and a pair of large sunglasses as a makeshift disguise, and borrowing Ben’s motorcycle to prevent being recognised by their cars.
Chief Monroe and the Mayor were understandably shaken, but shock soon gave way to fury; both of them had considered Pierce a close friend. They channelled that anger into action and soon the task force was planning a re-examination of the evidence of both homicides, expediting search and arrest warrants, putting out BOLOs, putting together a team to search Pierce’s workplace and home, and working up a media release for the following day. Reese’s story - the story he and his editor had been killed for, with only the addition of the Sinnerman’s identity - would be rushed into the next edition of the Telegraph.
When Dan and Charlotte were finally done, they headed wearily for an elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor. The elegantly restored 1920s art deco doors opened and they stepped into the car, with its polished metal walls overlaid with ornamental brass squares in a chessboard design.
As they waited for the doors to close, a man in a suit approached, smiling, beckoning for them to hold the door. Dan reached for the button panel but Charlotte knocked his hand away. Without expression she held down the button to close the doors.
As the car started down, Dan smiled at her impatience. “Keen to get home, huh? Don’t blame you-”
“He was possessed,” Charlotte said tightly.
Dan blinked. “What? Did he recognise you?”
Charlotte bit her lip. She hadn’t been able to read any expression on that face, all she could see was the black eye cavities, the gaping, dripping black mouth. “I don’t know.”
Dan reached over and pressed the button for the third floor. “In case they’re waiting,” he said. “Let’s take the stairs. Use the Spring Street exit instead.”
He undid the clasp on his holster, then put his hands together and muttered a quick prayer, presumably to Amenadiel. Charlotte took off her high heels, feeling her legs go rubbery with a sudden rush of adrenalin. Dan’s hand found hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
The doors opened and they ran through the opulent Byzantinesque rotunda, the sound of Dan’s footsteps echoing off the colorful symmetrical mosaics and high domed ceiling. As they went they scanned the arched doorways and marble columns for lurkers, even checked the metal and glass chandelier suspended high above. There was nobody else there. Not even security.
Going out through the oversized door they were relieved to see the spacious forecourt area was also deserted, and they hurried toward the wide monumental staircase leading down to Spring Street. Nearing one of the enormous corinthian pillars beneath the decorative archways, Charlotte glanced ahead down the steps and stopped dead, gripping Dan’s arm.
Ascending the right-hand side of the steps were a couple dressed in smart casual business attire. They were carrying attaché cases, had neatly styled hair and expensive shoes… and their eyes and mouths were yawning black pits of slime.
“Demons!” Charlotte whispered, pulling Dan back. They made for the far left side the staircase, staying behind the second row of pillars. Dan saw a young Asian man and an older White woman in sweats jogging up the left-hand side of the stairs; pretty normal-looking, but Charlotte hung back with a curt shake of her head.
Dan’s gut plummeted. Four demons?! Plus the one inside, and who knew how many more - were they watching all the exits? He cursed under his breath. Where was a goddamn celestial when you needed one?!
They quickly backtracked and ducked behind one of the pillars on the perimeter of the courtyard. Then watched as the two couples reached the top of the staircase, glancing at each other before looking around. Almost instantly they spotted their quarry hiding behind the pillar, and by the looks on their faces were confused as to how they’d been made. But then they gazed at Charlotte and the most disturbing, hungry smiles Dan had ever seen lit up their faces.
Dan drew his Glock at the same time Charlotte pulled her Colt pistol from her purse. The demons’ eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed with contempt as they all whipped out knives and darted across the courtyard. Dan and Charlotte opened fire, expertly grouping their shots in the center of their attackers’ chests, but to their horror, it didn’t even slow them down.
Dan reflexively adjusted his aim and shot the female jogger right between the eyes. The woman/demon dropped instantly. “In the head, Charlotte!” he said quickly, drawing a bead and firing on the second jogger. “The suits! Aim for the head, like for zombies!” The jogger fell, but the others were nearly on them.
Charlotte fired on the guy in the suit and he crumpled, his knife clattering to the ground at their feet. Aiming at the last demon Charlotte squeezed the trigger but the gun clicked on empty. “I’m out!”
Dan fired point-blank, but the demon knocked his arm with her briefcase and the shot went wild. With inhuman strength the demon wrenched the gun away and punched Dan, sending him sprawling. Charlotte pulled her stun gun from her purse and pressed it into the demon’s neck, the powerful surge of electricity zapping and popping. The demon gasped, back arching with pain, then let out a soft moan as she turned to face her. Charlotte quailed slightly as the bottomless black eye-holes seemed to appraise her.
“I’m in no hurry,” said the demon, an undercurrent of excitement in her voice. “Do that again.”
As Charlotte groped in her bag for her telescoping baton there was a sudden powerful gust of wind. The demon yelped in alarm and went somersaulting backwards, thudding head-first into a pillar and landing bonelessly on the ground.
Charlotte blinked in astonishment. Did she have telekinesis mind powers too now? An instant later Lucifer appeared beside her and she jumped.
“Lucifer!” she exclaimed in profound relief. “Thank G… er, you.”
Lucifer looked down at Dan unconscious on the ground and said disapprovingly, “Sleeping on the job again I see.”
“That demon knocked him out,” said Charlotte, kneeling down to give Dan a gentle shake. She looked around them warily. “I think there’s more.”
Lucifer did indeed sense several more demons not too far away. Excellent - he’d make them tell him where Cain’s hideout was. He started walking toward the nearest entrance just as the distant wail of a police siren started up.
“Lucifer!” Charlotte hissed. “Where are you going? We can’t be here when the unis arrive, we have no idea which ones are working for Pierce!”
Lucifer spread his hands. “Well I can’t fly you both out of here, you don’t have pendants and it’s chancy enough not being seen without Douche here screaming, vomiting and fainting all over the place.”
“We rode here on Ben’s motorcycle,” said Charlotte quickly. “Could you maybe, I dunno, please bring it here for us?”
Lucifer sighed heavily. “Where is it?”
Charlotte explained where it was and held out the keys. Lucifer waved them away and disappeared, leaving a breeze in his wake. It seemed to rouse Dan; he groaned and tried to sit up. And as Charlotte helped him to his feet, Lucifer appeared, dropping out of thin air astride a roaring motorcycle and whooping with delight as he tore across the forecourt.
He came to a screeching halt. “That was fun! I hope I can get Chloe to come with me next time!”
“Where’s Amenadiel?” asked Dan, a little woozily. “He’s the one I called.”
“Amenadiel is currently indisposed as Linda’s gone into labour,” Lucifer explained, dismounting. “So he asked me to fill in.”
“Oh,” said Dan. “The baby’s coming already?” Then he frowned and added, “What took you so long? Demons were trying to kill Charlotte!”
Lucifer rolled his eyes. “Amenadiel only told me you’d spotted a demon, not that a gang of them were hunting you. Besides, I could hardly have done a vanishing act in the middle of Hey There Delilah now could I? You’re welcome, by the way.”
“Thank you, Lucifer,” said Charlotte pointedly, with a raised eyebrow at Dan as she pulled her heels back on. “Now let’s get the Hell out of here.”
As the Triumph rumbled down Spring Street, Dan leaned forward and yelled in Charlotte’s ear, “Who’s going to tell him this isn’t Ben’s bike?”
Lucifer got right to tracking the demons he’d sensed, but to his dismay the trails had gone cold. Cain’s minions must have realised who was hunting them and decided to scarper back to Hell. Annoyed, Lucifer went back to Lux and consoled himself with a few double whiskies. His foul mood improved even more when his phone rang ten minutes later - it was Chloe.
“Hello, Detective,” he said, beaming. “Are you there yet?”
“Not yet,” Chloe replied. “Just checking in.”
“Is your preternaturally captivating and alluring mother with you?”
“Lucifer, darling!” Penelope said loudly in the background, clearly on loudspeaker. “I hope I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, you handsome Devil?”
“Wild stallions couldn’t keep me away, Penelope,” Lucifer called out.
“Guess what? Our apartment got attacked, Lucifer!” said Trixie suddenly. “Bad guys came and smashed in our front door!” There was dead silence for a moment, then a sudden clamour as Penelope and Chloe both started speaking over each other.
“Monkey, remember how we were going to wait to tell Grandma that?”
“Wh-? I knew something was going on, Pumpkin, you could have told me-”
Lucifer spoke over both of them, his insides twisting with anxiety. “Why didn't you call me?”
“I’m calling you now?” offered Chloe penitently.
“I meant before, when I could’ve helped!”
“It’s okay,” Chloe soothed. “We’re all fine. Maze took care of it.”
“And Mommy!” Trixie called out.
“And Trixie,” added Maze. “She kicked ass.”
Lucifer longed to fly straight to Chloe’s side, but he knew he couldn’t. Unless he stayed unseen by Trixie and Penelope on the car roof for the rest of the drive, anyway. “As long as you’re alright…”
“We are. Don’t worry. Our ‘safehouse’ is well supplied, with firearms too, apparently. And let’s face it, there’s worse places to bunker down than a winery.” There was a slight rustle and Chloe murmured, “You’re off speaker now. Have you heard about Linda?”
“Yes, about the bastards who tried to kill her and that’s she’s gone into labour. I had to stand in for Amenadiel to help Charlotte and Daniel escape a demonic hit squad.”
Chloe gasped. “Are they okay? What about Ella? Are she and Nick-?”
“They’re fine, they’re fine. I heard from Azrael that there was an abduction attempt, but somehow my old ally Gaudium turned up to play guardian cherub. Raemond’s been hassling me since to go after the demons.”
“That’s not a bad idea…”
Lucifer humphed. “It’s Cain we need to bust. Who knows what else that mental case is cooking up?”
They talked until Chloe’s cell phone coverage faded and finally dropped out. A moment later Lucifer heard Chloe praying to him.
I’ll say my prayers after Mom and James have gone to bed and the coast is clear. Then you can answer my prayers, if you know what I mean. I’m visualising a wink emoji. See you soon.
Lucifer was obliged to wait until after Penelope and James had gone to bed so they wouldn’t ask any tricky questions about how he’d got there so quickly without a car. He groaned and went to top up his glass. He hated having to wait. Wait to visit Chloe, wait for the Sinnerman story to break, wait for that bastard Cain to be tracked down…
He spent the rest of his evening in Lux, killing time and trying to distract himself with singing and booze, confident Cain wasn’t stupid enough to try anything in the club. Still, his senses were on high alert. Humans clamoured for his attention and he indulged them, although his heart wasn’t really in it. He wondered what Chloe was doing, and looked forward to sneaking into her room after lights out like some kind of naughty teenager. The thought cheered him, and by ten pm he was headed to the penthouse.
On the way up, however, other thoughts intruded. Pierce must know by now that Muriel had defected, and with his attempts to variously kill or kidnap those who could help to bring him down, that humans were onto him as well. No doubt the bastard was feeling the net start to close, sense his control starting to slip away.
Lucifer smiled to himself. The thought of Pierce off somewhere losing his shit was immensely entertaining. He’d be pissed off and frustrated, and possibly…
I wonder, Lucifer thought. It might be worth a try.
Lucifer focused his thoughts on Cain, and waited. He got himself a drink. Then another, and a cigarette. He played ‘Sinnerman’ on his piano.
He amused himself by making a list on his whiteboard of all the different ways he’d like to punish Cain, as well as all the most insulting nicknames he could come up with. That took up a couple of hours. Chloe prayed to him but he stayed focused, and sent her a caring but cryptically brief text in reply.
Sheer stubbornness prevented him from abandoning his stakeout. Then at around half past midnight he finally heard a familiar voice snarl in his head.
Fuck you, Lucifer. Fuck you and your entire fucking family. And all of your useless fucking demons...
Lucifer chortled with delight. For once it was a good thing to be blamed for things going wrong! His head swivelled towards Cain’s disembodied rant and with a little Devilish triangulation it was relatively easy to zero in on roughly where he was. Lucifer unfurled his wings and took a running leap off the balcony, disappearing before his wings completed their first downstroke.
A moment later he was high above what looked like L.A.’s Downtown Industrial District. Factories, smokestacks and a maze of manufacturing complexes stretched out below him. He listened for Cain but the undead oaf had fallen silent again, something else having captured his attention.
“Shit.” Lucifer surveyed the area below him, circling effortlessly through the night sky on strong thermals from the urban sprawl below. What now? With the lateness of the hour all businesses and factories were closed for the day, but it was likely that Cain still had his flunkies on the job, probably preparing to cut and run.
He reached out with his senses, and was surprised to detect several large gatherings of souls close by. He headed for the biggest one.
He landed in a deserted alleyway, sheathed his wings and walked around the corner, following the soft susurrus. He was astonished to see dozens of tents, thickening to hundreds further up the street, and realised he was in Skid Row. He let out a soft huff of irritation; Cain would never have his headquarters here, he must be in the wrong place. Although it did give him an idea.
He walked over to the nearest tent and scratched on the closed door flap. “Anybody home?”
There was a sudden high-pitched barking from inside the tent followed by a sleepy male voice. Voices raised in protest from several nearby tents.
“Quiet, Jess!” ordered a voice from inside. The added, somewhat tentatively, “Who is it?”
Lucifer laid on the charm. “Hello there. I was wondering if you could help me.”
The tent door unzipped and a blond-streaked head of bed-ruffled curls poked out, the expression under them decidedly grumpy. The man was in his mid-to late forties with a thick beard and hazel eyes squinty from sleep. A small brindle terrier materialised next to him and glared up at Lucifer as if daring him to try anything.
The human’s expression was rather belligerent as well. His gaze took in Lucifer’s expensive suit and shoes and he growled irritably, “Me help you? It’s the middle of the fucking night, man.”
“All I require is information. I’ll make it worth your while.” He gazed into the other man’s eyes. “Tell me, what do you desire? What’s your deepest, darkest-”
“A hot shower,” the man blurted. “It’s what I miss most about having my own place. But there’s only two public showers out here. And six restrooms. In fifty damn blocks!” Then he blinked and looked back at Lucifer with a bemused expression, no doubt wondering why he’d said all that.
Lucifer hummed and said sympathetically, “As it happens that’s my deepest desire for you too. This should allow you to find somewhere suitable in the short term...” He withdrew his money clip and handed over all of his cash; the man’s eyes bugged. He accepted the money, but not without casting a few cautious glances around them first.
Lucifer continued, “Give me a little more time, and I assure you you’ll have your own place, as well as brand new ablution blocks with facilities down here as soon as superhumanly possible.”
The man didn’t believe the rich asshole standing in front of him for a second, but the cash in hand was good enough. He raised his bushy eyebrows expectantly. “So what you wanna know?”
“Would you happen to have heard anything about a criminal dicknozzle calling himself ‘The Sinnerman’? Perhaps working this very neighbourhood?”
Instantly the man’s face closed off. “I don’t know anything about that. I don’t want any trouble.”
Lucifer smiled reassuringly. “Rest assured the only trouble will be for him. Word on the street is this Sinnerman’s a right bastard, and I’m sure you don’t want someone like that hanging around. I’m not the police, and I don’t want to know your name. Come now, you must have heard something.”
The man gazed steadily back at Lucifer for a long moment, then his expression hardened as he made a decision. “Yeah, alright, I’ve heard the name. We all hear it, but we aren’t supposed to. We don’t ever go past Towne anymore; there’s a big coldroom facility down East Fourth Street that some scumbag is running; if we go near there we get beaten up, arrested… sometimes even disappear." He shook his head bitterly. "Cops never listen, they don’t give a shit. They told us the others who went missing either got into drugs or moved on someplace else.” He scoffed. “But they’d never have left all their stuff behind, everything they own, or left town without saying goodbye.”
Lucifer thanked the man for his help and walked back the way he’d come. As soon as he was out of sight he took to the air again, following the man’s directions. Sure enough, down East Fourth Street there was a large industrial building, and even though all external lights were off there was a hive of bustling activity inside, at least four dozen souls. And pushing deeper, he felt the flicker of other presences as well; the ever-present, idling rage of demons.
Gliding in lazy circles and surveying the streets below, Lucifer realised it was only two blocks from where the dismembered corpse of Officer Welling had been found in the Arts District. Perhaps Welling had been one of Cain’s men, his murder staged right on the Sinnerman’s doorstep to send some sort of message. He nodded to himself; this had to be the place. He pulled out his phone and called Chloe.
The Detective answered on the third ring, her voice only slightly muzzy from sleep. “Lucifer? What’s wrong? Why didn’t you come over?”
“Hello Sleepyhead,” said Lucifer playfully, picturing her delightfully tousled in her cat pyjamas. “Do I have a surprise for you!”
Chloe paused for a moment then whispered, a sexy smile in her voice, “Are you coming over now? Because that would be one surprise I would definitely be okay with…”
Lucifer smiled. “That sounds lovely, darling, and I am right on board. But I am both delighted and narked to say we have a little police business to sort out first.”
“Huh? What work could we possibly have at one in the morning?”
Lucifer beamed and replied with satisfaction, “Why, apprehending Cain and his henchmen, of course. I found him.”
“You’re kidding!” There were some muffled thuds and a mild curse as Chloe fumbled to switch a light on and find her notepad. “Where?”
“It’s a large complex at the corner of South Central and East Fourth Street, a refrigeration facility between Skid Row and the Arts District,” Lucifer replied, narrowing his eyes at the buildings in question. “There’s probably... oh, fifty or sixty reprobates in there? Both human and demonic. We’ll need SWAT. Just tell them you got an anonymous tip. Which is actually the case since I didn’t ask my informant’s name.”
“But how did you-”
“I’ll take out all the demons before SWAT gets here, but will obviously have to leave the humans. They’ll only be unconscious for an hour or so, so you should get a wriggle on calling in the big guns.”
Chloe, listening on in astonishment, clutched the phone in a sudden rush of dread. She had a really bad feeling about this. “Lucifer, hold up! Please don’t go in there alone!”
“Don’t worry, Detective,” Lucifer replied. “As I said, I can handle Cain and his stooges. Besides, I need to sort out the demons before SWAT gets here, to forestall any bloodshed, not to mention demonic goings-on getting onto bodycam footage. I’ll have everything wrapped up nice and neat for when the troops arrive, then I’ll drop by your boudoir so I can give you the play-by-play and you can reward me for my heroism.” He chuckled. “See you soon!”
“Lucifer, wait! Don’t-”
Lucifer hung up, shaking his head. The Detective was such a worrywart. He was invulnerable, with all his powers, and with Chloe a safe distance away for the action he had absolutely nothing to fear from Cain and his demonic flunkies.
There was the loud rattle of a roller door and a large freezer truck departed the loading bay. It headed for the guarded gate, which swung open.
Lucifer smiled and sauntered toward it, cheerfully humming a tune.