Lucifer: Chapter 21
DAMIEN KNELT STARING at Lilu's grave. He didn't even have the heart to talk to her this time. Not after that fiasco back at his house. If Derrick had shown up threatening Kat and the kids, then he must have known. Damien didn't know how, but he must.
How can he? Isn't there any way to be careful enough?
He knew he shouldn't have involved the cops. Things always got ruined when the cops were involved. He knew that well enough from past experience. It was too late to change that now, though. He bet the next time he'd see Elise she'd be in a body bag. If he ever saw her again.
Damn it, Lilu, how does everybody I know end up dead? Of course she's not yet, but I just keep finding myself seeing her that way. And somehow she keeps looking a lot like you.
Inside, though, he also knew part of it had to be his fault. As inept as he tried to consider Danser and Felman he knew they were straight; Danser was simply too greedy for information to be faking it, and he already trusted Felman, at least as a person if not as a policeman. His overture at the police station hadn't been faked either. They'd sent Elise in, sure, but he'd let down his guard. Somewhere, sometime, Derrick must have spotted them together.
What would he do now?
Damien sighed and traced his finger along the edge of the plaque set in the ground. He rearranged the lilies for what seemed like the hundredth time, and thought to himself.
Danser and Felman--at least Danser--is partly to blame, but most of it's me. I got greedy too. If I hadn't been so obsessed with this--now four of the people I care about the most will be gone.
It was like dominoes. First Lucifer, then Lilith, Lilu, and Elise. One toppling against the other. He wondered who'd fall next. And when.
He stood up, nudging the lilies closer to the headstone with his foot, and went back to his car. Even as he was getting in and slamming the door he could see, in the rearview mirror, a state car coming up behind him. He sighed inwardly. Oh, goodie. As if things can't get bad enough, now here comes the parking patrol.
Instead of pulling up behind him, it came up on his right. Double whammy. A rookie? Yet as he rolled his passenger-side window down he saw it was Officer Felman.
"I thought you had bigger fish to fry than chasing after motorists," Damien called across.
Felman shrugged. "You do desk time, you drive a car. Variety. It's the spice of life."
Damien sighed again and pulled the key out of the ignition. "Look, you're not talking to me for variety. What do you want to screw up now?"
"I never wanted to screw up anything," Felman insisted. "I wanted to tell you Danser's been trying to locate you all day."
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, really? He'd like to take a return swing at me?"
"No," Felman said, and Damien could hear the frown in his voice. He checked himself. Maybe he was being a little too sarcastic. "He's feeling bad about what happened earlier." With a snort of annoyance he turned off the engine so he didn't have to yell. The resulting silence made Damien's ears ring. "Look. None of us ever meant for this to happen. Danser gets caught up in things like this. If you'd seen all he has, you would too."
"I'm caught up enough, thank you very much. You already know what my stake is in this. But I'm not sending out people to get killed."
"Are you sure she'll be killed?"
"Beats what else they could do to her."
Felman sighed this time and sat back in his seat, pushing his policeman's hat back and rubbing his forehead as if hot or tired or both. "You have no way of knowing how involved in this Danser is. I can't even tell you. That's how deep it goes." Damien started to frown but Officer Felman didn't elaborate. "He feels every bit as bad as you do about sending Ms. Danbrook in there. But we all know it's the only way to get what information you need."
"More like what information he wants."
"I never said he was above using people for his own purposes," the policeman replied. He started up the engine again. "But he is above using people for that reason only." He glanced back over his shoulder and pulled out into the road.
Right. He's a real saint. Saint Danser. Damien followed the officer's example and fired up the engine.
Even as Damien and the others had been arriving at the house in response to Kat's call, Elise had been wandering around the Scorpio building, kicking any little object she'd seen on the floor and coughing at the dust. As soon as she'd made it through the door she'd discreetly removed the wire, dropping it behind an old box, of which there were plenty all around. She'd been standing in the middle of a long hall stretching off to left and right, with several doors opening off it in front of her. It had seemed like ages since she'd last been there, yet little had changed. The place appeared deserted, and sometimes, during the day or whenever the threat of a police raid showed up, it was; yet she knew that was only this building's best disguise.
She wasn't quite sure which way to go, though. As a female member she'd never been allowed full run of the place. She wasn't even sure if this was the way she'd exited when kicked out.
Why does everything look the same?
Well, if she walked around a bit she was bound to find something.
She started walking down the hall, entering the last door at the end. Her lucky choice; it appeared to be a storage room filled with those boxes, each emblazoned with a flying eagle logo and the words BLACK EAGLE PRODUCTION COMPANY. She'd lived here long enough to know all of this was just a front, too. The eagle--one of the symbols of Scorpio.
She pushed a couple of them aside, looking. She brushed away the dust with her hands, trying not to breathe too much of it in. That would be great to be caught in the middle of a coughing fit. The place was as full of dust as it was of those boxes. She wondered if dust was all the boxes contained. After a brief search she found what she was looking for.
A door hidden in the floor.
She took a deep breath to control herself, reaching down and prying at the edges. It came easily, more easily than she'd thought it would; there were stairs leading to a basement level. Taking another breath, she put down first one foot, then another. As soon as she was low enough she reached up and closed the door above her.
She made her way down the stairs and into what seemed to be another storage room. She glanced around herself uneasily.
Why is it so quiet?
Somebody should have shown up by now. Scorpio was by no means lax when it came to keeping an eye on the premises. There must be somebody nearby.
Just as she turned around to watch where she was headed she stopped abruptly in her tracks, nearly keeling over. Her shorter, newly shorn hair flew forward into her face as she did so.
Well, she'd been right. Scorpio still hadn't lost their touch.
Standing directly in front of her was a man with a shotgun pointed right at her chest. He had his eye to the sight and his finger on the trigger. Elise slowly put up her hands, trying to show she was harmless. Her heart was thumping wildly in her chest.
"Name," the man said, simply.
"E--Elise Danbrook," she tried not to stutter. "I'm--I used to stay here."
She nodded mutely. "I--uh--I used to be with you."
"No, with you." Another nod, this one more nervous, hoping he'd get the point. "You know."
"I don't know." She saw his finger flex over the trigger, and put her hands out in front of her in a gesture half of protection, half of supplication.
"With you! The Scorpion. Hail Satanas, the Scorpion that brings death to all nonbelievers."
His eyes narrowed at her recitation but he lowered the gun slightly. He paused. "Why are you on the outside?"
"I--I fell from grace." She used Danser's words, unsure what to say. As a female, she'd never been clued in as to how members were supposed to address one another. Her "Hail Satanas" bit had been pure guesswork.
Now the gun's barrel touched the floor. She let out her breath. The look on the man's face was one of disgust. Disgust aimed at her.
"What are you doing back?" he snorted. "You should be glad to be out and be alive. Go away before we decide to find some other use for you."
"No. Wait." She held up her hands again as he started to turn away. He glanced back at her, still looking suspicious. "I want to come back. I want to be one of you again."
A crooked half-smile. "You? Want to come back?" He laughed; it was a bitter sound, ringing sharply off the walls. "You 'fall from grace,' and you expect us to let you back. I don't know you but there must have been a good reason. We don't let people go that easily."
"I made a mistake," she said. He didn't appear to know her, so she could make things up a little. Who knew, it might increase her chances of gaining favor somehow. "I presumed too much." She swallowed. "I thought I could start over."
For a long time he just stared at her, looking her up and down carefully. Then his eyes narrowed--just slightly--and the faintest trace of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"You want back."
"You don't get out."
She shook her head.
Another long pause. Finally he snorted again and turned away, lifting the gun to point at the ceiling. "Follow," he said curtly. "I'll have to report to the high priest about you."
Elise let out her breath, trying to calm her trembling nerves. So far, so good. She'd made it in, she was still alive; now all she had to do was get the information she needed and get out.
Two down, two to go. It was only too bad that the latter tasks appeared as if they were going to be the hardest.
"He sent her in?"
Kat stared at Damien and his uncle, sheer disbelief all over her face. She was holding a steaming cup of coffee in her hands; the story the two had just told her, about Danser's plan to send in Elise to obtain information from Scorpio, had shocked her so much she took no note of the way her skin was turning bright red and starting to sting very painfully.
Damien nodded, looking out the window. It had grown dark by now; the stars were out, and he was staring up at them, as if trying to count them one by one. He and his uncle had decided to go against Danser's wishes and tell Kat about the plan; it seemed she'd need to find out anyway, with what had happened at the house. "Good ethics for the men in blue."
Kat turned to face the priest. He too had a mug of coffee, yet he was holding his by the handle--and staring at her hands with almost as much disbelief as she felt. "How can he do that?"
Father Damien snapped awake and glanced up at her, shrugging. "She volunteered. She thought she had nothing else to give. This was her way of contributing to society."
"By sending herself in to be killed?"
Isn't it nice how all of us are agreeing on Scorpio's greeting methods? Damien turned away from the window, blinking at the light even though the room wasn't brightly lit. "We all tried to talk her out of it. We all failed. Now that Derrick's threatened us, we know she's in trouble." He snorted halfheartedly. "And there isn't one thing we can do about it."
She glanced from him to his uncle and back again. "Can't you send in some police? It's madness he even allowed this! Did you contact the county--?"
"She wouldn't tell us where this compound is," Damien muttered, moving to the couch and sitting down with a thump. He heard a scuffling sound upstairs, from where the kids were still staying, and knew they were listening in, yet ignored it. "She didn't want to get anybody else involved." He sighed and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "The thing is she doesn't know just how involved everybody is already."
Kat stared off into space for a while before yelping and finally setting down her mug with a clink, rubbing her stinging hands. Father Damien let out his breath.
"Well, she made it this long, it means she's got something in her to keep going. If and when the trouble gets to her I doubt she'll take it lying down."
Damien shut his eyes briefly. He did not like the way she'd phrased that.
Nevertheless, he hoped it was true.
Three a. m. found Elise sitting in the hallway outside where the cultist who'd greeted her with a gun told her the high priest stayed. She couldn't hear anything going on inside yet assumed they were talking with one another. This high priest probably wouldn't know about her, at least not too well; she'd been kicked out shortly after he'd come to power in 1986. However, that didn't mean he hadn't heard things. There were some people who'd been here from the beginning--and she didn't even know when that had been.
She scuffed the floor with her foot, leaving a mark. She wished they'd hurry up and decide what to do with her. Anything to end this waiting. It seemed to go on forever. What could they possibly be talking about, anyway? Should we let her in or not? Is she any use? Can she have babies?
She rubbed her temples, forcing that out of her mind. She didn't even want to think about that right now. If she had to, she'd make herself useful. Somehow.
Somewhere, down the hall, she heard a door creak open and shut, sending echoes bouncing off the walls. She jerked back slightly. Why should every little noise frighten her so much? Was simply being in this place after so long making her jumpy? She didn't know what else it could be.
When she heard the sound of footsteps drawing nearer she realized someone was coming her way, far down the hallway to her left. Maybe he was going to see the high priest, too. She knew it must be a he; very, very few women would be allowed to simply walk about unattended, especially around this area of the building. Maybe it was because of the high priest; she didn't know who'd made the rules or why.
She stared down the dark, dusty hall, straining her eyes to see who it might be, if she could recognize him in any way. It was a simple instinctive gesture. As he came closer her sense of uneasiness grew deeper; she stood up, and as soon as he spotted her he stopped and stared back.
She hadn't seen him before, but the look on his face told her--all too clearly--that he knew her. At first he looked surprised to see her; then his eyes narrowed and a creepy smile spread across his face.
Elise hugged her elbows and took a step back, toward the door. Whatever this was, it didn't look good.
"I knew it," the man said, his voice soft yet strangely triumphant. "I knew. I knew you two were together. When I saw you in the park I knew it."
Alarm stabbed through her. Who was this person? How had he seen her and Damien together in the park?
"I'm--I'm sorry, I don't know you," she said, taking another step toward the chamber door. Even facing the high priest seemed better than this! "I was just here to talk with the hi--"
"You were just here to find out where they are," he said, also stepping forward. Elise let out a little gasp and backed into the wall. "You think we can play your games. I know who you are and I know why you're here."
"Who are you?" she asked, just as Kat had done. She was trying unsuccessfully to make herself as small as possible, possibly to blend back into the wall itself.
He sneered. "I'm sure Dami's told you all about me. Or hasn't he? Hasn't he mentioned his good friend Derrick Grant?"
Grant? She paused momentarily, fighting to remember the name. Somehow, it seemed familiar, even when Damien had told her and the police about him; only then she hadn't been able to remember it either, else she would have told him. Where else could she have heard that name?
And then it all started to come back, surging up like a long-suppressed tidal wave. Grant. Derrick Grant! That's where I've heard it before! Panic swelled over her--how could she have forgotten? Even after three years? Derrick Grant, in Scorpio second only to the high priest himself!
Oh, God, Dami, how much have you been taken in--?
"Have you announced your presence yet?" Derrick asked, almost conversationally. Elise just cowered against the wall. He cocked his head and said, as if in explanation, "You should know you have to do that whenever you present yourself. Who knows you're here already--?"
The chamber door opened and the cultist who'd met her with the gun earlier stuck his head out, apparently having heard the two of them talking. He glanced at Derrick and frowned. "What's going on?"
Derrick turned to him, pointing at her. "Has she announced herself yet?"
"What do you mean, announced? I was just telling him about her. She came earlier today asking to be let back in."
"Really." He gave her that narrow-eyed grin again. "I happen to know she's been in quite recent contact with an old friend of ours."
The cultist frowned again, stepping out and glancing at her. As a guard he still carried his shotgun, slung over his shoulder. "What are you talking about?"
"Tsk tsk. She didn't tell you? Now, Elise. I thought you wanted to be one of us." He shook his head at her, as if in reproach. "Poor Ms. Danbrook. She's been talking with Damien. And that priest, his uncle. That's too bad. She never even told you. It must have just slipped your mind, huh?"
Now the cultist looked surprised. A second later the long barrel of the shotgun was pressed against the side of Elise's head. She squinched her eyes shut, forcing herself not to scream.
"You bitch!" the cultist breathed, disbelief in his voice. "You honestly thought--you damn bitch!"
"Now," Derrick said again, waving a hand at him and snorting lightly. "Watch where you point that thing. We don't want her head splattered all over the wall. Yet."
"Are you kidding me?" The cultist looked extremely upset. "Shit, if he finds out about this--"
"He doesn't have to. Not yet. But don't go pulling that trigger either. Ms. Danbrook can still be of some use to us." He grinned at her again. "Isn't that what you wanted most, Ms. Danbrook? To be of use? Well, here's your chance." His grin grew even more evil, more wicked, than she'd thought was humanly possible. "I've found a way we can make good use of you, indeed."
The phone rang. Damien snorted awake, able to hear it even through his door and down the hall.
For God's sake, I finally manage to get to sleep and now this. He glanced over at the clock. 3:49 a. m. Who on Earth would be calling at this hour--?
He stumbled out of bed, opening the door and making his way down the hall in the dark, feeling along the wall. "G'back to bed," he mumbled to someone who stuck their head out of their room. "I'll get it." The only person he could think of who'd be calling right now was his uncle. And the last time his uncle had called so late at night, it hadn't been good news.
He doubted this would be good news.
He reached the phone and picked it up on its sixth ring. "Hello?" he murmured, rubbing his eyes sleepily.
All traces of grogginess left him the instant he heard Derrick's voice talking back to him. "Good morning," he said, sounding cheerful enough. "Hope I didn't wake you from pleasant dreams."
Damien's eyes grew wide in the dimness, his hand holding the phone starting to shake. Oh, my God--
"I thought maybe you'd like it if I arranged a little family reunion," Derrick continued. "Just you, your uncle, and you know who! Yes, I've spoken with your father, Lucifer, his name is? He'd be very glad to meet you." A slight laugh. "After all these years."
"What is this?" was all Damien could force out, his voice barely a whisper. He couldn't have felt more frightened had Death himself called on the phone.
"Oh, you didn't know? It's just a going-away party for your friend, Ms. Elise Danbrook." Raw terror wrapped its icy fingers around Damien's chest, squeezing tighter and tighter, making his heart have to struggle to beat. "Seems she was caught trespassing. Put her foot where she shouldn't have stepped. Oh, well. That's what happens when you mess with Scorpio."
Damien finally found his voice again. "What did you do to her?" he demanded.
"Do?" Derrick asked, as if the question offended him. "We haven't done anything. Yet. However, if you fail to attend this little gathering, I can guarantee that when the police find Ms. Danbrook's body, even they won't be able to identify her."
There was a rushing, roaring sound growing in Damien's head. He had to grab hold of the table to avoid falling, and could barely hear Derrick's parting words to him over the phone:
"Make sure you show up soon. Lucifer is very anxious to meet you. Damien." Another low, harsh laugh. "His favorite son."