Eve of Chaos (Marked #3) - Page 34


Eve silently thanked whoever had the foresight to take care of that.


“So here’s what we’ve got,” Jones said, straightening his tie over straining shirt buttons. “Your neighbor, Mona Basso; your school chum, Anthony Wynn; your priest, Miguel Riesgo; your car at a possible abduction scene, and a serial killer. You’re smack dab in the middle of everything, Ms. Hollis. I’ve been at this long enough to know that you’re withholding valuable information. Which doesn’t make sense, considering this guy clearly has it out for you. Tell us who he is, before Father Riesgo pays the price.


You don’t want the death of a priest on your con science. -


Eve’s gaze moved between both detectives. “I have no idea,” she said fervently. “Believe me, if there was some way I could help Father Riesgo, I would. Even though he isn’t ‘my’ priest.”


“What business did you have with him, then?” Ingram asked.


She explained, leaving out why she wanted a Bible in the first place. “The last time I saw Father Riesgo, he was picking up bats and mitts.”


Not exactly the truth, but...


“Would you let us take a look at your car?” Jones asked.


“Of course.”


“We also need you to come down to the station and give us a statement about last night. We might have your car finished by then.”


“Can I come by after work? Say around five o’clock?”


“Fine. We’ll send a squad car around to pick you up.”


“That won’t be necessary,” Ishamel assured. “I’ll bring her in. Which station?”


“The one on Harbor. By the way,” Jones’s pen hovered over his notepad. “Which route home did you take with your boyfriend and what does he drive? We’ll want to check the cameras and see if this guy was following you.home.”


“Reed drives a silver Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. And we took Harbor to Brookhurst.” She glanced at Ishamel, who somehow conveyed reassurance without any alteration in his stance. He would find a way to make her fictitious trip home happen for the detectives.


“Lamborghini, eh? Must be nice. Thank you.”


The detectives rose to their feet. Ingram collected the photos. His gaze lifted and locked with hers. “Think about what happened last night. Every detail. Every word spoken. Anything that might strike you as odd in hindsight. The smallest detail can sometimes break a case.”


“Of course.” She stood along with them. “I’m eager to help.”


Ishamel walked the detectives out. Eve expected him to return, so she waited for him. But he didn’t come back.


Knowing she’d see him on the way to the police station, she set off to find Hank instead.


CHAPTER 15


Raguel smelled the scent of ripe mortal terror before the door to his cell opened. Using what little strength he had left, he altered his appearance, tucking away the wings that kept him warm and altering his features to those of a teenager. He would get out of Hell, and when he did, he couldn’t risk being recognized as the real estate mogul who was so widely known.


The new arrival was pushed into Raguel’s stone enclosure with such force, he stumbled. Shock had already begun to set in. The man’s eyes were dilated and his breathing was too quick.


It took a moment before recognition hit Raguel. Evangeline’s priest. The one to whom she had turned, which had in turn prompted an investigation into the tengu infestation at Olivet Place. She must be the reason why the priest was

here.


“Have a seat, Padre,” Raguel said, gesturing to the wide expanse of stone floor. “As you can see, there is plenty of room.”


Like Jehovah, Sammael employed drama for effect. In this instance the allusion was to the Spanish Inquisition, a time when atrocities had been committed in God’s name. Manacles hung from the wall, and distant screams kept nerves on edge and prevented restful slumber.


“Where are we?” the priest asked, sinking to a crouch with unfocused eyes.


“I think you know.”


In a rush, the man stood and moved to the door. He gripped the rough iron bars and tried to see outside. There was nothing out there but fire and heat. No ground below, no sky above. Sammael could choose to make it the most gorgeous of spaces, but that would be too kind. This way, the feeling of safety came from their imprisonment.


“There was someone else with me,” the priest said roughly. “A young woman.”


“Evangeline is fine. For now.”


“How do you know?”


Raguel wrapped his arms around his knees. His soul was cold when separated from God. “You would be dead otherwise, or not here at all.”


“Who are you?”


“A prisoner like you. Leverage to force those on earth to do a demon’s bidding.”


“Are you one of them?”


“No. I am a servant of God, just as you are.”


“How can I believe you? How do you know Evangeline?”


“You will have to take it on faith, Padre.”


The priest’s knees lost strength and he dropped to the floor. His lips moved in what was likely a silent prayer. Raguel didn’t see the point in telling him that


Jehovah couldn’t hear him here. Hope was something neither of them could afford to lose. They had time enough to talk after circumstances sunk in through the shock. There was no point in questioning the man when his brain wasn’t running at full speed.


A long time passed. Raguel had begun to doze when the priest spoke again.


“She asked me if I believed in demons.”


Raguel scrubbed his hands over his face, hating the smell that coated his skin. “What was your answer?”


“I’m not sure I gave her one.”


“Understandable. Even those with faith have their limits.”


The priest looked at him. “She claims to have no faith, yet she believed. She even hired bodyguards to protect her.”


With narrowed eyes, Raguel asked, “Did you meet these guards?”


“Yes.”


“What were their names? Do you recall?”


“Montevista and Sydney. Why do you ask?”


She was in danger. Somehow, Cain or Abel had known she was at risk before the priest’s abduction. What was happening? Why would Sammael want Evangeline?


“How long have you been here?” the priest asked. “Are you the reason she believes in demons?”


Raguel leaned forward. “You and I have much to talk about if we are to find a way out of here alive.”


“Can we get out?”


“We must.” At the very least, I must.


Cain would have to relinquish the position he’d stolen. Somehow, Raguel would find the tools he needed to make that happen. The priest was all he had to work with and time was short. A prolonged stay in Hell was like a cancer that ate its way in from the outside. The longer the mortal was here, the less of his soul and sanity would remain. Raguel was already feeling the effects and he was

far stronger.


“Get comfortable, Padre;’ Raguel murmured. “I will need you to be as precise in your recollections as possible.”


***


Eve had just raised her hand to knock on Hank’s door when it swung open of its own accord. It was dark inside, as usual, with only strategically placed lighting over counters littered with petri dishes and glass tubes. Unlike usual was the racket resounding from the depths of the room. It was the first time she’d visited Hank’s domain when it wasn’t deathly quiet.


“Hank?” she yelled.


He stepped out of the darkness as a man, dressed in black slacks and dress shirt. The somberness of his garments allowed the brilliant red of his hair to take center stage. Eve was slightly envious of that color.


“Eve.” He held out his hands to her. “What brings you to me?”


“What the hell is that noise?”


“Your tengu friend.”


In the distance, she could hear Fred cursing and growling.


“What’s the problem?” she asked.


“I’ve been experimenting with the fellow, using him as a guinea pig for my masking agent trials. This most recent test involved a higher Mark-to-Infernal ratio and the demon in him is rebelling.”


She winced. “How long will he be like that?”


“Another couple hours, at least.”


“I don’t think I can shout that long!”


His smile was charming. “Should we go somewhere else?”


“If you don’t mind.”


They were about to exit when the rapid thudding of cement feet betrayed the approach of the escaped tengu.


“Watch out!” Fred yelled.


“Pretty Mark!” the tengu screeched, before launching like a missile toward Eve.


“Oomph!” She hit the floor on her back, her teeth snapping together painfully.


Her arms wrapped around the heavy beast and she rolled, knowing from experience that it was best to avoid taking the bottom position with a tengu.


They grappled like wrestlers. Eve’s stilettos made it difficult to gain purchase on the polished cement floor. The Infernal took advantage, cackling in a manner she’d never heard before. Less mischievous, more maniacal. With a resonance that sounded almost as if there were multiple beings laughing instead of just the one.


Fred bounded out of the darkness in wolf form, barking.


“Enough,” Hank roared, reaching down to free Eve. But the tengu caught a fistful of her chignon and held fast. Eve screamed as he pulled. In the violent jostling, the necklace fell from the V of her neckline. The moment it touched the tengu’s forearm, the demon stilled. His mouth opened in a surprised O, then he blinked as if waking. The hand in her hair loosened and the arm fell to the floor with a heavy thud.


“Pretty Mark,” he said in a soft whisper, appearing dazed.


She yelped as she was hauled upward by Hank.


The occultist grabbed her necklace and stared hard at it. “Where did you get this?”


Eve blinked as rapidly as the tengu had. She thought of Satan and hoped that Hank would read her mind as he often did. Instead he glared at her. When the tengu began to stir and rumble low in his throat, Hank pulled the necklace over her head and dropped it around the tengu’s neck. The Infernal quieted, sitting with hands in his lap and his head cocked to the side. His cement fingers caressed the charm reverently.