Guns. There always seemed to be lots of guns in the trunk these days. It was getting heavier; not the trunk, but that too. It was the whole thing that was getting heavier. This cathedral was a tourist location, what were we going to do with all these guns? In the heat of the moment how would we know who was Nephilim and who wasn’t? Was the plan to just walk in, find Ephra, and shoot him down? If it was, it wasn’t much different from what we’d been doing all along. It was a hell of a lot more final though. This was the end it seemed. The end of the road, the end of the fight, the end of us to be sure. I couldn’t see how we’d walk out of this one as free people.
The Choir was an awesome thing to behold around the Cathedral. Even the nonbelievers walking the grounds were in a state of rapture almost. Small wonder as it was the fourth largest church in the world. Its Gothic stylings, laid over the original Roman and Byzantine, blew the mind to look at them. I really didn’t want to shoot this place up. We talked about luring Ephra out somehow, but no one really thought that would work. Becca suggested we get him down into the crypts and finish him there. Her and Sam both wanted to be there to put a bullet or twelve in him, so no one was in favor of me going in alone. There we were, the four of us, sitting in a car loaded down with weapons in the parking lot talking about how best to go in and murder someone. Fuck me but my life had gotten strange.
“What if we just…walk away?” Magda asked us.
“Not an option,” I replied, shaking my head. “This guy is going to dog my steps and fuck with my family until the end of time. We’re here now, I’m not turning back.”
“Quite a while back, 2001 I think, there was a big fire here,” Sam said. “What if we pull the fire alarm? Ephra will know we’re there, his Nephilim won’t leave, we’ll know who’s who that way, yeah?”
“Not bad,” I said, scratching at the stubble on my face. “Until the fire department shows up.”
“We’ll do it fast then,” Becca offered. “In and out. I don’t know how but he can probably sense you, Michael. Get into the crypts after the alarm goes off, we’ll take care of the Nephilim, and you can handle him until we join you.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “This is turning into a plan.”
Magda looked worried for the first time since this had all started. I asked her what was on her mind and she replied, “This is just…I don’t know. It seems like a bad idea.”
“Make it better then,” I said to her. She frowned and bit her lips, thinking.
“I don’t know guys,” she went on. “Firemen, police…they’ll all be there when we try to get out. This doesn’t seem right.”
“There might be another way...” I said. Becca looked back at me and narrowed her eyes menacingly. I waved her off and said, “No, not that.”
“Not what?” Sam asked us.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it,” I said to him. “I mean maybe there’s another way out. This place is old, there has to be hidden tunnels or something under it, right?”
“I think you watched too many movies when you were little,” Sam said with a smirk. “But I’ll humor you, yeah?”
He took out his phone and got out of the car, walking a little ways away as he spoke into it.
“Did you tell her yet?” Becca asked in my head.
“I told you that’s not what I’m planning, so let it drop Bec,” I replied.
“You’re impulsive,” she thought. “Don’t fuck this up…”
She sneered at me and looked to Sam as he got back in the car. He held up his phone so we could see the screen. On it was a blueprint of a small maze of tunnels under the cathedral. “Turns out our boy Michael is on to something. Davis sent me these.”
“Solid,” I said, feeling a surge of confidence. “So we get in, I go down to the crypts and let Ephra find me, you guys pull the fire alarm and handle the Nephilim that don’t bail out, and we rub him out down in the basement. Out the tunnels…then what?”
“These connect to the sewer,” Becca said, looking at the image on the phone’s screen. “From there we might be able to get to the subway. With any luck we can get lost in a crowd before the police even know who they’re looking for. Maybe even before they know Ephra’s dead.”
“Who would give a fuck other than his cronies?” I asked her.
“Are you that thick?” she asked me. “As far as they know he’s just some creepy guy with long hair. They don’t know who he is. He’s not even a criminal like the others we’ve taken out.”
“We’re gonna need some damage control then,” I said. “I’m gonna call Paul.”
It was my turn to get out of the car and make a call. I’d never told Paul about something we were going to do before we did it, but I needed him to know exactly what was going on so if the shit hit the fan he could do something. What he would do I didn’t know, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time.
“Paul Presswood’s office, Judith speaking” a female voice answered after a couple of rings.
“Mr. Presswood is not in at the moment, may I take a message?”
“Can you page him or something? I really need to talk to that guy.”
“Is the matter urgent, sir?” she asked with her chipper telephone swagger.
“Yeah it’s fuckin’ urgent. I need to talk to Paul.”
“He can’t be reached at the moment sir, may I ask what the call is regarding?”
I remembered Paul telling me the FBI had bugged his office. “No. You may not. How can I reach him?”
“Mr. Presswood is engaged in a private matter, sir. May I tell him who called?”
“Tell him he already knows who called,” I said to her. I tried to think of how cryptic I could be and still get across what I needed him to know. “Tell him…tell him the cathedral was me and that it’s over now. Tell him to call me when he can.”
“May I be more specific in the message, sir? I’m not sure he’ll know what to make of this. There are several cathedrals in the city.”
“He’ll know. Don’t worry.”
“If you could stay on the line I might be able to reach his mobile phone for you…”
“Yeah,” I said. “Do that.”
She put me on hold. The music sucked. I made a mental note to tell him that later. It was tinny and canned sounding, and the track had little clicks and pops in it like it was taken from an old record. Shit, I’d give him a bonus if he could just fix that.
“Sir? You’re on with Mr. Presswood.” I heard her click off her connection.
“Paul, it’s Michael,” I said, glad not to have to leave a message with Judith or whatever her name was.
“Why are you calling my office Michael? We talked about this,” he said.
“Your secretary put me through though, we’re not on your office line anymore.”
“We most certainly are,” he sounded more annoyed than ever with me. “The call is being routed through my office right now, Michael! How long have you been on the line with Judith?”
“I don’t know. A few minutes. Why?” I asked, confused.
“Hang up the phone right now and get away from wherever you are, Michael. Not only has your call likely been recorded but it’s probably been traced as well. I know you won’t, but as your lawyer I have to tell you to turn yourself in.”
“What?” I asked. “What the fuck, Paul!?”
“What else can I do? I told you my office was bugged! Did you think that excluded the phones? Shit, Michael…!”
“Ah fuck,” I said, hanging up.
I walked over and knocked on the driver’s window of the car and motioned for them to get out. They did, tucking weapons in pockets or under jackets.
“We’re good?” Samael asked.
“Yeah, Paul’s in the loop. We gotta do this now though. Right now.”
Maybe it was the urgency in my voice, maybe it was the tension of the situation, but they all got into their mode on the spot. Face’s turned from anticipation to resolve and we walked across the grounds towards the cathedral. I couldn’t feel her in my mind, but Becca looked at me sidelong once or twice with steel in her eyes.
“It’s not what you think,” I thought to her. “So stop worrying about me and get into this. It’s on now.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about you selfish shit. Don’t be stupid. Keep your head straight and we’ll all get out of this. It’s a good plan.”
Sure. A good plan. A good plan marked by a little dot on a computer screen somewhere courtesy of me calling Paul. I wasn’t about to back away now, though. The less the others knew about that particular little fuck up the better. We’d get out alright, but if we couldn’t then they would. I’d make sure of that. I could get away and meet up with them later. Becca worried too much.
My phone vibrated in my pocket as we reached the bottom of the stairs leading up into the cavernous cathedral. I looked at the screen. Paul’s office. It couldn’t be Paul so I turned the phone off and dropped it into a garbage container as we went through the doors. No one noticed and that was fine.
“The crypts are down that way,” Sam told me. “The stairs are around the corner, in the back.”
I took a look at the screen of his phone, nodded to him, kissed Magda on the cheek, and left them near the entrance. I found the stairs easy enough and slipped in with a group of European tourists taking pictures and heading down ahead of me. The crypts were extensive and it wasn’t long before I could slip away from them and through a door arch that lead off the beaten path. I found another set of stairs blocked off with a velvet rope on brass poles and went down deeper beneath the cathedral.
It was all emergency lights at corners and the odd construction lamp hung from a wire above down there. It was dusty and smelled like the past forgotten. I could feel him somewhere in the dark around me. Ephra had sensed me and was down in the dark, stalking or following.
“I know you’re down here,” I said, my voice echoing through the dimly lit halls.
I heard his dry chuckle echo around me. It was impossible to tell where exactly it was coming from.
“Come on, man. Let’s just do this and get it over with,” I said to the crypts.
Then he was there, stepping into the wide hall ahead of me. He held his serrated blade at his side and his head was tilted forward so his long white hair hung in his face.
“That’s dramatic,” I said, stopping and moving my feet apart. “You look like a fucking villain.”
“I knew you were eager but I did not know you were stupid, Michael,” he said in his deep atonal voice.
“Stupid is as stupid does, right?”
“Why here, Michael? In the bastion of my strength. You are a fool. Will your allies slay innocents in their desire to kill me?”
The fire alarm went off then. There were no bells or speakers down this deep in the crypts but you could hear it echoing down from above. I shrugged and told him, “I guess not.”
“There are many Nephilim who will not flee, Michael. All willing to die for me in an instant.”
“Then they’ll die happy I guess,” I said. “So what’s the deal, Ephra? We gonna catch up on old times or are we gonna do this shit?”
He stood his ground as I took slow steps towards him while he spoke. “You are remarkably short sighted. All of your kind is. It is an unavoidable failure of your minimal existences.”
“Ha! You’re not looking so spry old man. Last time I checked you were ‘one of our kind’ now, too,” I said as the gunfire started somewhere above us.
“I am not as human as you think. The strength of my followers is my strength too, Michael.”
In the Choir I could see what he meant. He was attached to it by thin strands feeding life into him. I stopped moving forward about ten feet away from him and we stood facing each other in a patch of black between pools of orange light.
“I can live with that,” I said. “You’re a fucking leech Ephra. Nothing more.”
“Words,” he said in his deep voice. “It is always bluster and words with your kind. A slave race defined by their point of view and not their deeds. It is a shame you could not have evolved to your true potential but the bitch child Aliona ruined it for all of you.”
“That’s my mother you just called a bitch,” I said, my voice getting tighter as I clenched my fists.
“And what of your father, Michael?” Ephra asked, tightening his grip on the hilt of his blade. “Are you proud to be sired by the death of a species? Do you hold your head up high knowing your life came at the theft of an entire race’s destiny?”
“Words,” I said, stealing his line and throwing it back as dismissively as I could. “Bluster and words.”
“Fiat,” he hissed and then lunged at me.
I felt his intention in the Choir a split second before he moved, and that’s all that saved me. I twisted to the side and the blade scraped its jagged edge across my stomach. I grabbed his wrist and tried to twist his arm to disarm him as Christopher had taught me when I was little, but Ephra was too strong. He span on his toe, graceful like a dancer, and his hair spiraled around him as his other fist caught me backhanded across the face. He put his other foot down and spun back the other way, drawing the knife across my back as he stepped around me to where he had started. The two wounds burned with pain and I clenched my teeth and went for him with both hands. I closed my hands on air as he launched himself over my head to land behind me.
“You are a clumsy species,” he said as he stabbed downwards at my back.
I sensed it in the Choir again and stumbled forward out of the way and turned on him. He was smiling a wide smile and cutting an intricate pattern through the air with his knife. Every feint was broadcast through the Choir as a true strike and I couldn’t tell what he was going to do next. I dodged and weaved and did my best to keep its serrated edge off my flesh.
“I have been the death of untold thousands, child!” Ephra boomed. “You find hope in this?”
I was too busy to come up with anything witty to say so instead I just tried to stay alive. The staccato and booming sound of gunfire was getting louder…closer. I saw an opening and kicked out with my boot, catching Ephra on the hip bone and knocking him off balance long enough to strike at his face, his neck, anything I could reach. As he slipped out from under my blows and to my side he managed to stab me twice with the dagger; shallow and superficial wounds but they burned like the sun.
“You fight like a Cherub,” he said, taking a quick step back and putting a space between us. “Bludgeoning your way through the Choir like it is some drum for you to bang on.”
I lunged at him again. He span out of the way again. I got cut again, this time across the left cheek. His every movement was singled by a jangling of the Choir less than a second before he did it, but I couldn’t keep up with his feints and small flurries. He knew what he was doing to the Choir, he was doing it on purpose to fuck with me.
“I taught the first Cherubim to wield the Choir. I showed them how to fight. I was the First, Michael. What chance for you then? Give up. Give up and I will take the Spark from you gently and let you die. Fight me and I will rip it from your screaming soul.”
“You talk too much,” I panted.
We engaged again, this time I managed to catch his wrist in my hand so I squeezed as hard as I could. My grip could shatter bone, rend flesh, but Ephra gritted his teeth and fought back. I slammed his back against the wall of the dry and dusty room we had moved into while fighting and I brought my knee up into his stomach and groin three or four times. He was about to pull away from me and so I slammed my forehead into his face, a surge of satisfaction welling inside of me as I felt his nose shatter under the blow. He pulled his leg up at an impossible angle and kicked me in the stomach, driving me back away from him. I slid backwards on my feet and then leapt at him again as he pushed off the wall towards me.
The knife went into my side, deeper than any of his stabs or slashes so far, and I screamed in agony as I grabbed his hair and slammed my forehead into his broken nose again. His grip faltered in that second and as he stumbled back from me his blade stayed in my left side below my ribs. With a wet tearing sound and another scream I drew its serrated length from my flesh and brandished it at him.
“Come on fucker,” I grated out between my teeth as I took steps towards him.
We jumped into the air at the same time and there was a loudly audible thump as we collided in midair, spinning almost 360 degrees around each other before falling into a tangled grapple on the floor. He was on top, then I was, then he was. The Choir was an indiscernible mess, like playing the drums with violins as mallets while broken glass rained from the sky. Ephra’s face was a savage mask of determination and hate. He wrenched the blade free from me and raised it in both fists above his head to plunge it into my heart.
The blast startled me despite my impending doom and Ephra flew off of me to land in a pile against the wall. There were two more, sharper and higher, and I glanced over to see Samael and Becca in the arch leading from the corridor. A smoking handgun in Sam’s hand, Becca pumping her shotgun and firing again.
“Where’s Magda!?” I yelled.
They didn’t answer, they were walking toward Ephra and shooting him as he struggled to regain his feet. I leapt up and rushed into the corridor to see her sitting on the floor slumped like a broken doll against the wall. She was holding her stomach with both hands and looked up weakly at me.
“It really does suck,” she gasped. “Being shot sucks, Michael.”
“You’ve been shot before,” I said through clenched teeth, dropping to my knees beside her. “You’ll be fine.”
“N…not… like… th…this… I haven’t,” she stammered weakly, blood from the corner of her mouth running down to string and drip from her chin.
“Come on Magda,” I said, panicked. “Let’s see.”
I pulled her hands away from the wound and she gasped in pain as I lifted her shirt to see the two holes in her stomach. I laid my hand on her and drew one of the bullets from one of the wounds.
“You’re going to be fine,” I said in a low shaky voice. “We have a cottage on a mountain somewhere we have to get to, right?”
“Yeah,” she said, then screamed as the wound closed. “That’s right, we do.”
There was blood on the wall behind her. The second shot had gone right through. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. I was about to put one hand on the front and one on the back to heal her when I heard a high shriek from the room Ephra and the others were in.
“Hang on!” I yelled at Magda, closing the front wound then standing and wheeling around the corner.
Ephra was up again and had his hands tangled in Becca’s hair, his teeth locked on her face. Sam had his arms around Ephra’s neck and was trying to pull him free. I jumped forward through the air and came down hard with my fist in Ephra’s cheek. He came away from her, blood trailing from his mouth back to her face. I smashed my head into his nose again and as he fell back I grabbed his face between my hands. I didn’t know what I was doing but something inside of me told me to do it anyway.
Screaming an inhuman cry I looked in his eyes and they started to glow with white fire. The light grew in his mouth and his nostrils as well, building in intensity. It streamed from my face as well, soon coming from my very pores. My scream grew strange, alien, distended and resonant. The Choir built to an intense, solid, explosive note that erupted around us like the detonation of a star…and then it shattered into pieces.
Someone was pulling me up by my forearm. I opened my eyes but all I could see was white. There was a muffled and mumbled sound like voices heard from underwater. I felt motion, someone was dragging me along. My ears were ringing with a high pitched squeal that made my head feel like it had been spilt open. The white field of my vision began to resolve into shapes as it faded to a dull grey. There was a smell. Sewers. We were in the sewers.
A faint green glow lit my surroundings. Sam had my left arm over his shoulder, my wrist gripped in his left hand and his other arm holding me up as we stumbled along with a glow stick in his teeth. I swiveled my head around, my neck weak, and saw Becca staggering backwards, dragging Magda by her underarms. I lurched free of Samael and fell to my hands and knees in the muck of the dank tunnel.
“Come on, friend!” Sam yelled. “We have to move, yeah!?”
I pulled Magda away from Becca and rolled her over onto her side, putting my hand over the wound in her back where a bullet had torn through her body. I focused all my will on healing it but nothing happened.
“Fuck, Michael!” Becca yelled at me. “Comeon! We have to fucking go! The cops got there sooner than we thought they would!”
“Let’s fucking go!” Sam yelled again, pulling me to my feet.
I couldn’t hear the Choir.
I could barely move my legs. I could barely hear over the ringing in my ears. I could barely focus my eyes. We stumbled and staggered along as fast as Bec and Sam could make me move.
“Subway’s right out, not with these two like this,” Sam was saying to Becca. He’d propped me against the wet wall of the sewer tunnel and had his phone out. “No fucking bars on the mobile. No plan B.”
“We have to get her to a hospital,” Becca said. “I hate to say it Sam my man, but this is completely fucked.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Proper fucked.”
“I’ll take her,” I said, my voice barely obeying what I wanted it to do. “I’ll do it…”
“Michael you shit! I warned you about this!” Bec yelled.
“Warned him about what?” Sam asked her.
“He’s going to let himself get caught so we can get away. I fucking told you that you’d do something stupid! Fuck, Michael! We’ll find another way!”
“There might not be another way,” Sam said, crouching down and catching his breath. “Sara had a theory about this.”
“Yeah, you told me. Prophecy and not history. But do you know what Aliona is going to do to us if we don’t get him out of here!? You want that!?”
“Fuck…yeah,” Sam said. “What then?”
“Let’s keep moving,” Becca said with a resigned shrug. “We can’t do anything else.”
They drug me and Magda along with them for some time, stopping and cursing whenever Sam checked his phone. Eventually he let out a yell of pure glee and started dialing.
“Davis!” he yelled into the phone. “We need an out man. Can you trace this and get us out? We’re in the fucking sewers man, underground. Yeah? You’ve got us? You’re a fucking saint Davis! Right. At the river. Blue boat. We need a doctor too. A good one. Will do, friend. Will do.”
“Where?” Becca asked him.
Sam led the way. I still hadn’t come around. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It felt like I’d been hollowed out, gutted, stripped clean. I felt like a husk. I was only half conscious as they put me into the bottom of a rusty and chipped aluminum boat next to Magda. Her face was next to mine and though she was breathing, barely, she was unconscious. I clumsily felt around over her breast. The rhythm was still there, and for that moment it was enough for me.
I let the exhaustion take me and I passed out with my hand over Magda’s barely beating heart.
Give Us a Reason For Going To War…
“I don’t know what else I can tell you,” an unfamiliar and nasal voice was saying as I woke up. “Look what I have to work with. We’re in a storage unit, not a surgical suite.”
There was pain all over my body. I thought about each spot where it hurt; everywhere Ephra had stabbed me or cut me. The wounds were closed but not mended. I tried to heal myself but it just made me feel sick. I tried to listen through the Choir to the thoughts of those around me but it just gave me a headache. I cracked my eyes open and tried to see the strands of light connecting me to Magda but it only made my vision go blurry. I opened my eyes further to see Becca with a gauze pad taped over her cheek, Samael with his shirt off and a bandage around his shoulder showing blood soaking through from underneath. Magda was laid out on a sheet covered metal folding table on her stomach. Someone dressed as a doctor, mask and gown and gloves covered in blood, was standing next to the table holding his hands out with a look of concern in his eyes.
“Davis said you were good, one of the best,” Sam was saying forcefully. “So do something, yeah?”
“She’ll live,” the doctor said. “What else do you want me to say? She needs to be in a hospital.”
Becca shook her head in disgust and stood to walk away. I heard the sound of a metal door opening and Sam went after her; the door slammed shut. The doctor gathered some things in a bag after taking his gloves and gown and mask off. Through one eye open I watched him take another look at Magda, shake his head, and leave as well.
I pushed myself to my feet and my head swam with dizziness. I clenched my eyes shut and fought off the blackness, staggering over to her side. The small of her back, where the messy exit wound had been, was a map of stitches and staples. I put my hand on her and tried to heal her again and a wave of nausea washed over me and I fell to one knee beside the table.
“M…Mi…Michael?” her soft voice wheezed.
I pulled myself up with the edge of the table to look at her. Her face was slack and her eyes were distant, her hair plastered to her forehead and cheek with her sweat.
“Hey Mags,” I said quietly. “What’s up, babe?”
She smiled weakly at me and then coughed blood onto the white sheet between her and the cold grey metal of the table.
“Can you make it better, Michael?” she said softly, sounding far away.
“Where’s it hurt, babe?” I asked her, tears coming to my eyes and my lower lip shaking.
“It doesn’t,” she sighed. “I can’t move my legs Michael…”
“I’ll fix it, Mags. I promise I will.”
I went to the door of the storage unit and peeked out. Sam and Becca were standing some distance away, she had her forehead against his chest and he had his hands on the back of her head and his lips to her hair. They weren’t looking. A car was parked not far away, between them and the storage unit. I went back and picked up Magda delicately in my arms, wrapping the sheet around her as I did. I slipped out the door and crept to the car on unsteady feet. I put Magda down and she gasped in pain. I opened the back door quietly, checking to see if Sam and Becca had heard her. They hadn’t looked up. I slid Magda into the back seat, climbed in with her, and closed the door softly, pulling it closed with a click. I climbed into the front seat, took a deep breath, and turned the key.
Samael and Becca looked over with a start as I put it in reverse and wheeled the car around in a slide and floored the pedal. In the rearview mirror I could see Becca yelling at me in the glow of the tail lights but I couldn’t hear her. I didn’t care about anything outside the car at that moment.
I found the nearest hospital. Luck I suppose. Fate maybe. Who cares. The emergency room doors slid open as I carried Magda inside, leaving the car with its doors open and the engine running on the sidewalk outside.
“Hey!” I yelled hoarsely. “I need a fucking doctor!”
When you’re wearing torn and bloody clothes and carrying a girl wrapped in a blood soaked sheet in your arms people pay attention. People jump to help you.
“What happened to her!?” a trauma doctor was yelling at me.
“She’s been shot,” I said in a weak voice.
They took her away from me. I tried to go with them but the orderlies stopped me. A cop was nearby, suddenly taking interest and talking on his radio. Fuck it, I thought. The men in my family had done their fair of running already and I was tired of it. So very fucking tired. I walked towards the cop as he put on his business face and held his hand palm out towards me, his other resting on his sidearm.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m Michael Fox.”
His gun was coming out of the holster and people were looking shocked or jumping back or hiding behind chairs. I got on my knees and before I interlaced my fingers behind my head I took a battered and bloody business card from my pocket and threw it on the floor between us.
“Call my lawyer,” I said as he wrenched my arm around and cuffed me. “His name’s Paul.”