21 Hell’s Divisions

Judah and Roy stood aside as Avram waved his hand in front of the hotel door. They each heard the nearly inaudible click, and then Avram threw the door open, striding into the room with his hand raised to direct his power if necessary.

Marx was in no position to defend himself. The man was nude and belly down on the bed, face buried in a pillow, getting his ass pounded by his personal trainer.

The young stud looked shocked, and Roy said, “Get the fuck out of here, kid!”

The young man hopped off, his erection wilting rapidly. Roy pushed back his coat to reveal his holster and the young man ran out of the room zipping his pants. Judah watched the door as Avram dragged Marx up and said, “No magic,” with a menacing growl, “or you’re dead!” Roy cuffed the man’s hands behind his back, leaving him naked. Then they wrapped him in a sheet and shoved him into the back seat of the car, driving off in case lover-boy called the cops.

As they drove, Roy said, “I must say, I never expected that, Roger! What will everyone say about you getting reamed by that young stud?”

Roger surprised him by laughing. “Do such norms bind men like myself? You really thought I’d be living this secret life, hiding from my family and raising normal, suburban children? You white-hats!” When no one spoke, he said, “Sometimes my wife beats the boys we bring home as I give them the old what’s for….”

“You have sons,” Roy said with disgust.

“And in a few years, they’ll be old enough,” Roger sneered, smiling with such malice that Avram shivered. Roy pulled off the road and into a stand of trees and dragged the man out of the car, letting his sheet fall away.

“What’s your leader’s name?” Roy barked in his face.

Again the man just laughed. “You can’t blackmail me, so what’s your plan?”

Roy reached beneath his coat and pulled out a gun. Before surprise could even register on Avram’s and Judah’s faces, Roy shot the man in the right foot. Marx doubled over in pain and Roy said, “Tell me the name of your leader.” He didn’t even give the man time to answer before he shot him in the other foot.

Marx was screaming and crying as Avram said, placidly, “You must allow a prisoner time to answer before continuing with torture!”

That was for fun,” Roy said, and Avram nodded gravely. “Now name your leader!”


“Who has seen his face?” Roy asked, putting his gun back in his holster.

“I don’t know,” Marx said. “Start with Hal Fuller! Fuck!” he yelled, grabbing his feet.

“He doesn’t know anything more,” Avram said.

“Call me an ambulance,” the man yelled, and Judah reached for his phone.

Avram grabbed the man’s wrist and said, “This man … cannot be trusted.”

“What are you saying?” Judah asked.

Roy said, “Thing is, Roger, you got the wrong white hats. Your sons, you sick mother fucker?” The echo of the gunshot filled the woods. “So what now?” Roy asked.

“Take Judah back to the car,” Avram said. As they walked away, Roy felt heat against his back and saw the flickering shadows from a fire. When Avram got in the car, he held out his hand to Roy, dropping the three slugs into the man’s hand. “Soak them in bleach.”

“I know,” Roy said.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Judah asked him, still shell-shocked.

“If that’s the worst thing we have to do before this is over,” Roy said, “I’ll count myself lucky. He wasn’t lying about those boys.”

“I know,” Judah said. “I know….”

“What are you doing, Reynolds?” Assistant Chief Brian Fuller asked casually as he peered over the officer’s shoulder.

“You know Aiden’s partner, Tom Corman?” Jim asked.

“I know of him,” Fuller replied. “I know Chief Pryce asked him in to consult.”

“Well, he’s on to something,” Jim said. “He asked me for a list of crime scene addresses. I know the chief doesn’t want the files getting out, but I figured a list couldn’t hurt….”

“No, of course not,” Fuller said. “But you should have asked. The cadets Tom was working with compiled a full list. I’ll just copy that, so you don’t have to go through them all and do it yourself!” Fuller said.

“Oh, thanks,” Jim said, closing the file and deleting the data.

“Not at all,” Fuller said. “Especially with an officer wounded in the line of duty!” Jim followed Fuller, who sat at his desk, opened a file and clicked print. “You’ll deliver it yourself?” the assistant chief asked.

“Yes, sir,” Jim answered.

“Put it in his hand yourself. We can’t have this kind of information leaking before we have a handle on these freaks,” Fuller grumbled.

“Are you sure Chief Pryce won’t mind?” Jim asked.

“You let me deal with him when he gets back,” Fuller said.

“Everything alright? I didn’t realize he was going anywhere,” Jim said.

“Something about his wife’s father. I’m covering this weekend,” Fuller said.

Jim nodded and said, “If you hear from him, tell him I hope everything’s alright.”

“Will do, Jim,” Fuller said. When Jim was gone, Fuller got back to work.

Tom was talking to the boys about security when the doorbell rang. “Excuse me, boys,” Tom said, leaving them in his office.

“You told him about the man?” Peter demanded, leaving Billy looking confused.

“The man?” Billy asked when no explanation was forthcoming.

Peter gave him a chilling look. “Of all the people our parents knew, he was the cruelest, most powerful, and most dangerous. Now Tom’ll go looking, and I just don’t know!”

“Tom can handle it,” David said. “Not even the man could be worse than a demon!”

“Yeah, well, the man knows people. He’s powerful even without magic. He can make people disappear the old fashioned way. Tom might be able to take him in magic, but not in overall power!” Peter insisted.

“Tom will beat him,” David demanded. “He will!”

“I hope so,” Peter said, lacking his little brother’s absolute faith.

When Tom returned, he was examining a few pages carefully. “Remember boys, nowhere outside the house without an escort! We should have plenty of men here by Saturday, so the dance is still on, if you insist?”

“If we can manage, I’d like to,” David said, somewhat embarrassed. He knew he should give it up, but just couldn’t. Tom nodded.

“Right, Father Tim and I and some of the others will be out tonight, so you boys do as you’re asked. Do you need anything before I go?” Tom asked.

“How about some videos to watch?” Peter asked.

“There’s a bag full of DVD’s on the kitchen table,” Tom smiled. “I’m so sorry!”

“Tom,” Peter said, “if anything, we brought all on you!”

“Enough of that kind of thinking then!” Tom smiled, heading to round up his teams.

“What’s going on here, Aiden?” Micky demanded. “That house is filling up with weirdoes, and this town is crawling with cult whack-jobs! Tom’s been all over the place!”

“Dad,” Aiden said, “There’s so much going on, and so much we still don’t know!”

“Why don’t we start with the people we are sharing that house with?” Micky prodded.

“Micky, he’s still weak. Don’t press so hard,” Doreen said with a mother’s concern.

“I’m fine, mom,” Aiden said. “Dad, Avram is an old friend and teacher of Tom’s, and Rabbi Steinmetz is Avram’s friend. The rest are students of Avram’s….”

“And why are they here?” Micky continued.

“They have special expertise in the occult,” Aiden said.

“Dietrich and Cho seem a little hard-core for graduate students,” Micky frowned.

“No, they aren’t academics, dad,” Aiden sighed, letting his head rest on the pillow to relax his neck. “They’re mystics! I know! I know! It’s ridiculous! All I can tell you is that, the day I met Tom, I saw something that changed my life!” His parents waited, so he continued. “Peter was dying, and there was nothing the doctors could do. Tom put his hands over the boy and began to chant, and the brightest light I’ve ever seen filled the room. Then he was talking to someone I couldn’t see, and the most horrible voice I ever heard filled the room. But Tom banished it, and within a few days, Peter had made miraculous progress healing.” After a long pause, he said, “Mom, dad, say something!”

“Go on,” Micky indicated with an even tone.

Aiden was surprised. His dad was listening to him. “I’ve seen him move things with a flick of the wrist; I’ve seen him make things invisible. Not too long ago, I saw him walk into a church graveyard with a demon and exorcise it from this world. I know you’re not superstitious, dad, but I saw it, the most horrible evil I ever saw, and Tom backed it down.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Micky said. “It’s hard to swallow….”

“Ask Father Tim,” Aiden said. “He was there!”

Micky shook his head. “If that’s what you saw, I believe you,” the man said, squeezing his son’s hand. “Now tell me how all this relates to those boys.”

Doreen slipped away to the chapel to pray and cry, leaving father and son alone. She’d never seen them closer, and in part her prayers were prayers of thanksgiving.

Tom was taking Tim and Cho, while Dietrich would accompany Avram and Judah; the goal was to find and banish as many demons as possible. Shirit and Elise had already been dispatched to protect the Peabody residence until Alasdair’s reinforcements arrived.

Tom divided his list and highlighted what he thought were the most likely locations for a demon, based on the desecration activity involved. Misha and Alexa, backed up by Roy with a big gun, were charged with defending the boys and the house. Alasdair, meanwhile, would be protecting Aiden at the hospital.

“Everyone understands what we’re doing, right?” Tom asked after he’d laid it all out.

“Delaying?” Misha said, and though it was annoying, he had a point.

“Yes, it’s the only move open to us,” Tom said. “The alternative is that Malphas raises his coven, and comes one step closer to his goal.”

“What?” Judah asked.

“Aiden helped me think it through,” Tom said. “Why would a demon like Malphas need a demonic coven? What sort of work would a high-level demon like that need a coven for? Raising a much more powerful demon, or one near his own level who does not want to be raised.”

“Hmmm,” Judah thought to himself. “That is a worrisome thought. Whatever Malphas would want to bring into this world, it would be … terrible, to say the least.”

“And so it is imperative that we stall, until we can figure out what to do next,” Avram said, with a sharp look that made Misha cringe. “Perhaps we can destroy the Codex? That would put a permanent end to his plan.”

“Destroying such a thing would be no small feat,” Judah said. “But that has to be our focus once we buy some time!”

“Well, then, let’s buy some time,” Tom said, grabbing his bag. The men drove off into the night to begin working through the lists.

The leader, clad in his black robes with a protruding cowl, stood before a great fire.

“Last night was successful?” he demanded of the gathered cultists.

“Yes, master,” a middle-aged woman responded immediately. “We raised three, and we should be able to raise three more Friday night.”

“Excellent,” came a reply that shocked them all. The voice chilled even their master to his core, though he’d heard it many times before. The voice was smooth but it oozed with something that left a greasy feeling upon the spirit, and it was so full of gleeful malice that it could drive out all happiness.

“My Lord Malphas,” their leader said, bowing his head in submission. The cultists dropped to their knees in honor of their exalted guest.

“It is imperative that you raise the three by Saturday,” Malphas said, no threat necessary. “The timing is … opportune!”

“There is one difficulty, my lord,” the leader said with some hesitance.

“Corman,” Malphas said.

“Yes, my lord,” the leader said, pointing to a man who, by instinct, tried to slink into the shadows as the demon’s glowing eyes settled upon him. “Explain, Mr. Fuller!”

Assistant Chief Brian Fuller lowered his cowl and said, “Corman is looking into the desecration sites again. He requested a list….”

“It’s taken care of?” Malphas asked, his eyes flashing angrily. There was a murmuring around the fire. Everyone knew they had a highly placed source in the local police department, but now they knew whom.

“I intercepted Officer Reynolds and gave him the list Corman asked for,” Fuller said. “Without any of the legitimate sites on it, of course.”

“When Corman has exhausted the list, he’ll know he’s been betrayed,” the leader said.

“It’ll take a while for him to work his way back to me,” Fuller said.

“And by then it will be too late,” Malphas said. “Or for your sakes, it had better be,” the demon growled.

Suddenly the fire flared, licking toward the sky. The blaze must have reached thirty feet high in an instant, and it burned hot and controlled. The leader felt his pulse race and pure terror fill his heart as he saw Malphas’s face, which was a mask of surprise with even a touch of fear. A background buzzing filled the clearing, but no one noticed, given what happened next.

Within the flames stood four figures. “Bow before your gods, mortals,” a voice from the sky demanded, its quality a hybrid of screeching and growling.

A more complex and nearly feminine voice then spoke to the humans, “And they saw four figures in the midst of the furnace! You understand we love our perversions!”

A third voice then spoke directly to Malphas with the whiney, nasal voice of a bureaucrat – an angry, hell-spawned bureaucrat. “Brother, what you are doing has not been authorized.”

“You weren’t meant to see until it was too late,” Malphas said, snarling with contempt. “But no matter. You cannot stop me, brothers!”

“You thought you could hide your attempts to call up a small army of demons?” the whiney administrator demanded.

“An army? That’s what you think this is about?” Malphas laughed derisively.

“You cannot stand against us alone,” the feminine-voiced one growled.

“I do not stand against you! I am merely doing what you have not the will to! Our interests are one!” Malphas declared.

“Then return and convince the ruling council, brother!” the administrator demanded, offended by the breach of decorum. The human witnesses were forgotten now.

“Why? My will be done!” Malphas growled at his brother demon. “YOU ARE NOT HERE! I AM!”

“We will prevail in the end, brother,” the screecher snarled.

“I know the location of the Codex,” Malphas said, and silence reigned.

“You wouldn’t dare,” the administrator snarled.

“I know the name of its author; I will possess its secrets!” Malphas declared. “Then none will stop me!” Then he raised his right hand, and with it a controlled, swirling tunnel of wind so powerful it scattered and killed the fire and carried its fuel off many miles.

Malphas laughed and the leader of the cult looked at him expectantly. “The debris from that fire just caused a pile-up on the 105…. It amuses me!”

“Who … who were THEY, master?” the leader managed.

Malphas looked at him with a little amusement and a lot of contempt. “Have my brothers scared you, my faithful servant? Have you lost your devotion to the cause?”

“Yes, my lord…. I mean, no. Scared, yes, but I will serve you,” the leader declared.

“Very well,” Malphas smiled, which was not at all a comforting gesture. “The screeching one was Moloch. The one who sounded like an overfed bureaucrat was Adramelech. The other, who spoke like a woman, was Lilith.”

“Fuck,” the leader muttered. He could think of no list that would disturb him more. “The one who did not speak?”

“Did you not hear the buzzing that filled the woods?” Malphas asked, laughing.

“Yes,” the leader said, his voice full of confusion still.

“Flies! He excites them; or this time of year when they’re mostly gone, he creates them out of the earth for pure effect. Flashy devil. But he has the right to make a show, he appears so rarely.” Seeing the blank expressions, Malphas laughed again and said, “You all disappoint! The silent figure was none other than the Lord of the Flies, my lord Beelzebub.”

There was some grumbling. Here were demon worshippers faced with the prospect of running afoul of some of the most powerful demons in hell. Among the grumblers was Brian Fuller. Malphas smiled at him with extra hatred, and Brian burst into flame as the others backed away. “Remember, I am here, and they are there. So unless Corman and his crew want to summon one of my brothers, I am the only power in town!”

Tom left the fourth location he’d chosen from his list perplexed. He thought at least one of the places would be the temporary home to one of hell’s denizens.

He took out his phone and dialed Avram. “Tom?” the man asked.

“Avram, I’m coming up dry,” Tom said. “Found anything?”

“Not even a glimmer,” Avram said. “These places have seen no real magic in years!”

Tom said, “I’m getting a bad feeling about this.” They talked a few minutes, until Tom pulled up in front of his next address. The feeling was instantaneous and overwhelming. “Avram, something’s here. Something bad.”

“We’re on our way,” Avram said, handing the phone to Judah while he drove.

“Tom, give me the address!” Judah said.

Tom did so, then turned to Tim and Cho. “We’re going to wait for the others this time.”

Cho looked concerned and Tim asked, “You can feel something?”

“So can you, Father,” Tom replied. “You just don’t recognize it yet. In time, it’ll be like a familiar smell. And right now that smell is as strong as a skunk’s spray….”

“Not just a demon then?” Cho asked rhetorically.

“Not just a demon,” Tom nodded. It took about ten minutes for the others to arrive, and Cho, Tim, and Tom got out to meet them. “It knows we’re here, by now,” Tom said. Avram reached for a bag very much like Tom’s but was startled, as they all were, by a voice.

“Of course I know,” Malphas said, his eyes glowing brilliantly in the darkness. “I thought we should talk again, Tom. You’ve been a pain, and I think we can resolve this tonight.”

“Malphas,” Tom said, motioning for Tim to take cover. “At last we meet….”

“We’ve met before, Tom, you just didn’t know me then,” the demon said with a hellish grin. Then he repeated, “THE BOY IS NOT INNOCENT!”

“It’s been you from the beginning,” Tom said.

“Oh yes,” Malphas smiled. “You have no idea how hard it was to mask my true power, and then you did surprise me! And it was I who lurked outside the boy’s room.”

Tom raised his hand, and the gathered men followed suit. Tim mimicked their gesture and began reciting the prayers he knew under his breath. Malphas began to shift uncomfortably on his feet and the flesh beneath his sticky, putrid skin began to writhe like snakes.

Malphas raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Please do notice, I am not resisting you. Now I’m not letting you send me back – and I’m not sure you could, but I won’t let it get that far – but for now I simply wish to speak with you white hats.”

Tom kept his hand up, but stopped projecting. “WHAT?”

“I’m willing to compromise,” Malphas said, surprising Tom to no end. “I’m willing to walk away from you, your family and friends … even the boys!”

“What?” Tom asked, his face a mix of confusion and suspicion.

“None of you is essential to my needs,” Malphas said. “But at present you are an annoyance I do not need. Thus I shall allow you all to walk away from this fight. Otherwise, I’ll search the wide world over to tear you and your loved ones limb from limb. Gutters will run with their blood.”

“Tell me one thing,” Tom said. “Who are you calling?”

Malphas laughed and said, “The book holds that secret, and thus I cannot say. Of the many horrors you might imagine, he is relatively unknown, if that’s any consolation.”

“I don’t suppose you’ll put me at ease by telling me your plan?” Tom asked nervously.

“Perhaps I should tell you how to stop me as well?” Malphas laughed. “No, Tom!”

“I’m afraid,” Tom began but he was cut off.

“No, no … don’t answer now. If I don’t have your answer by Saturday at midnight, then all bets are off,” Malphas said. And then he was gone, and with him the sickly, greasy feeling that permeated the air.

The assembled men looked to Tom, who stared distantly. At long last, he said, “Let’s get on our computers and see if we can find reports of desecrations that are not on this list.”

“Maybe we should start with Hal Fuller?” Roy suggested. Everyone but Judah and Avram looked at him with surprise. “Roger Marx suggested he had seen the leader’s face….”

“You talked to Roger Marx?” Tom asked.

“Yeah,” Roy said. “We questioned him.”

“How did it go?” Tom questioned.

“Not well for him,” Roy said, and Avram nodded.

“Justice,” Avram added.

Tom sighed and said, “Let’s keep our focus on finding and banishing a few demons. Then we can worry with Hal Fuller.”

Dietrich looked at Roy and wrinkled his brow. “Let Roy and I go? You don’t have enough computers for everyone anyway!”

Tom looked at the normally quiet German and nodded. They could use all the information they could get. Back at Corman’s, Roy and Dietrich drove off, while the others gathered with their computers, hitting the news sites and sorting through the evidence.

At last, Tom picked up the phone and called Jim. “Yeah,” the sleeping man answered.

“Jim? It’s Tom.”

“You find something?” Jim asked, turning on a table lamp.

“Nothing,” Tom asked. “That’s why I’m calling. Did you make this list?”

“No,” Jim said. “Assistant Chief Fuller printed it out for me.”

“Fuck,” Tom said.

“You don’t think,” Jim began.

“I fucking know!” Tom said. “Tell me about the worst crimes you can remember.” As Jim began to list the ones that stood out, Tom saw some of them on his list. But a few, a handful, were not on the list. “Right, that’s at least four that aren’t on the list, Jim.”

“Jeeze, Tom,” Jim said. “You don’t know he even made the list!”

“I’ll look into him soon,” Tom said. “In the meantime, I’m going to check out the sites that fell off the list. Thanks Jim…. And watch your back!”