E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!-------------------------------------------
Summary: A series of brutal killings in London has Logan searching for a supernatural source - but
the truth might be more bizarre. Meanwhile, almost everyone who escaped from the base at Mirror
Lake is being plagued by nightmares, and Scott attempts to hunt down Bob.
Notes: Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Floodland".
“This is so retarded,” Katy complained, flicking her cigarette butt towards the nearest tombstone.
“Would you please not use that word,” Rajiv griped, giving her a dirty look. His first cousin was retarded, and he was highly sensitive about it.
Katy sighed and rolled her eyes, shoulders sagging as she crossed her arms aggressively over her chest. “Fine, whatever. Why are we doing this Harry Potter shit anyways?”
“It was your idea in the first place, remember?” Adrian countered, laying out a blanket on the ground before the most recent grave.
“I thought this was more like Alistair Crowley shit,” Clark said, lighting the first candle.
Glenn chuckled under his breath, and slid his backpack to the ground, where it landed with a dull and heavy thud. “You’re all a buncha pussies.”
“Ooh, mister high and mighty over here’s gonna go up his own arse again,” Katy chided. “Who has the torches?”
There were some weak laughs as Glenn and Katy got into one of their usual bitchfests, but Asha stood on the sidelines, ignoring them and wondering if this was such a good idea. Glenn and Katy were both popular, in a relationship with more twists and turns than the M-1, and she knew she was only here because she - in some moment of temporary insanity - gave Katy a ride home after she and Glenn had an explosive argument in the school car park. Asha had just transferred from her old school in Yorkshire three months before, and still hardly knew anyone; she also didn’t know that Glenn and Katy broke up and got back together on a bi-weekly basis. Glenn was the star footballer who planned to carry it on to the professional level, and Katy … well, Katy was pretty. If she had any other function besides looking glamorous - which, admittedly, did seem to be a full time job - it wasn’t immediately obvious.
Asha was sucked into the popular clique vortex on the coattails of Katy’s pity, and she knew it. Every pretty girl had to have a fat and homely friend who was known for her “great personality”, and Asha knew she was it. Katy never hung around people who weren’t wealthy, chinless wonders, connected somehow, or also pretty, and she knew she didn’t fit that bill. She was just the new, weird girl, the one with two recently dead parents, who lived with her dotty old Aunt Elspeth and her pet parrot in a second floor walk up, who was only known for being really quiet, and reading weird books.
One of those weird books that Glenn had just pulled out of his backpack.
When the kids asked about how her parents died, she always stuck to the official story, which was “car accident”. But she didn’t understand it, as they almost never commuted together, and she was sure her mother had actually caught a ride to work that day with her friend Raina. It was Auntie Els (as she called her) who spilled the beans one day, forgetting the lie she was supposed to tell her. “Some bastards blew them up, sweetie,” she said almost dismissively, pouring fragrant chamomile tea into her slightly chipped china cups. “In their line of work, it was probably inevitable that some evil mastermind would find a way to get to them all. Two sugars?”
What were her parents? According to them, they worked for the government, but according to Auntie Els, they were something called “Watchers”. “Think of them as supernatural police, in a way,” Els told her, perfectly serious. “I used to be one too, but then, uh … oh dear, I can’t remember. Well, something went wrong, and I was no longer able to function as an … oh, what was the word? Agent? No, but close enough. I wish I could remember what it was, but I don’t anymore. Still, they didn’t want you to get involved with it. They felt it was becoming too dangerous, and rightfully so, I may add. They should have gotten out themselves.”
This was Auntie Els talking, so she couldn’t trust her and her eccentric memories, but a web search turned up these weird paranormal pages that claimed to have news about the Watchers headquarters being blown up by these evil minions of some guys, and up to fifty people dying in the blast. But if that were true, why wasn’t it reported on the real news? You’d think an explosion at a major building in the heart of London wouldn’t go unnoticed, even if they were supposed “demon hunters”.
But how could any of this shit be serious? Those same sites that mentioned the explosion also had “news” stories devoted to “demon attacks” and “vampire massacres”, which simply had to be bullshit, no matter what the books her parents had said. Although so much of this world was weird and inexplicable, up to and including the death of her parents.
Her parents, whose locked liquor cabinet actually contained those strange books she found, books about demons (both good and bad - she couldn’t help but think how her scary, aggressively Catholic great Uncle Roger would be devastated to learn demons could be good, and there was a hell of a lot more than one god … if any of it was true, of course … , about rituals and spells (it described witchcraft like it was an actual talent, like some people were more naturally inclined to it, like painting or piano playing), and, in a hidden room inside their library, had enough medieval weaponry - crossbows, swords, boxes of sharpened wooden things that could only be stakes - that it could have been a display in the Tower of London.
It was so strange she wasn’t sure she had accepted it yet. Her parents were boring, regular people … who just happened to be living some bizarre secret life right under her nose. Still, it couldn’t be true, could it? They must have been nuts, or supernatural historians or something, and she really didn’t like the nuts theory.
She started reading the books she found - well, the ones in languages she could understand - and sneaking them to school, hiding them in dust jackets of more traditional books. This was what led to her downfall.
After giving her a lift, Katy had decided to adopt her at school, and Asha went along with it, having nothing better to do. One day, at lunch, the cover of the book she was reading slipped, and Katy saw some of the real cover. She didn’t ask, as girls like Katy didn’t ask for anything, they just took; she ripped it right out of her hands, and glanced at it. It was some kind of compendium, a book of demons and spells, legends, lore, and rituals, and it had quite a few black and white drawings, photos, and schematics, which was what drew Katy’s eyes immediately. She passed it on to Glenn, and even though Asha claimed it was just this weird fictional book she picked up second hand at a jumble sale, no one believed her, and Glenn was convinced it was a genuine “black magic” book. Not that he believed in it, of course, but he didn’t seem to disbelieve it either, or at least not enough to convince him they should leave this shit alone.
Glenn was the alpha male of this pack, and the others always followed his lead. If he jumped off the Albert Memorial, they’d all follow single file.
She didn’t want to go along with this, but she did want her book back, and she knew that letting them go through with this was the only way to get it. As Clark started pouring the salt at Glenn’s instruction, she was quick to sidle up next to Rajiv, as she didn’t want to get stuck anywhere near Adrian. Rajiv was the token nerd of the group, the painfully shy and proper son of Indian immigrants who were so certain their son was going to be a doctor they’d already bought him a stethoscope. He was obedient, studying to be a doctor, but he seemed to have no passion for it at all; he was just a very dutiful son who didn’t want to disappoint them. Glenn had adopted Rajiv as his “go to guy” for his homework, meaning Glenn had him do it for him, and in exchange, Rajiv got some much needed attention and acceptance.
Clark was just a dumb jock, who followed Glenn around like a puppy. He did what he did, hung on his every word, and probably would have held his hair while he vomited; at seventeen, Glenn already had his first “yes man”. Behind their backs, they were often referred to as “Burns and Smithers”, as the cartoon characters fit their personalities perfectly (although, to be fair, cartoon Smithers seemed smarter).
Adrian was Clark’s half-brother, and as naturally sadistic as anyone she had ever had the misfortune to meet. If demons did exist, he must have been one, in spirit if not in flesh. He even had a face like a weasel, pinched and feral, like he was always planning something distasteful and quietly snickering about it. But to call him a weasel was an insult to weasels.
“Make yourself useful for once,” Adrian snapped, shoving candles in Rajiv’s hands. Rajiv bobbled them for a minute, then started setting them in the salt circle and lighting them.
In the book they took from her, Katy and Glenn had found a demon named Haggoth, who had supposedly been invoked by the wealthy and powerful in times past. Those who controlled Haggoth were guaranteed not only wealth and power - as those were the attributes of this particular demon - but eternal youth, as long as the demon was contained and constrained by its handlers. According to the book, Haggoth was both easy to invoke and easy to contain, as he wasn’t the smartest demon on any planet. But Asha had read enough of these books to know that nothing was that easy; there was always a catch somewhere, and she knew Glenn and Katy weren’t the most observant people in the world, so it was easy to imagine that they had overlooked something, some detail that would send everything off the rails.
Well, if any of this were true. It wasn’t, so she had no idea why she was so nervous.
Maybe it was just being in a cemetery after dark. Stupid superstitious nonsense, but she could remember her parents telling her to never go in a graveyard after dark, no matter what, and she supposed it was ingrained in her now. (Why had they told her to avoid graveyards? Were they actually afraid she would get eaten by a vampire or something?)
Or it was being on church property. According to Adrian, who “knew some people”, the Vicar of this particular church was gone for a couple of days, so there was no one looking after the grounds - well, supposedly. She didn’t trust Adrian, nor did she trust that in this day and age, someone would leave property like this without security of some sort, even if it was just cameras, or a guy who drove by every once in a while.
But the ritual was apparently specific: it needed to be done in a graveyard, and fresh graveyard dirt was a key component. Why this dirt would be different from any other dirt she honestly had no idea. It probably just seemed spookier to write down than “some dust bunnies from under your bed”.
Once the setting was complete - salt circle with six candles spaced a roughly even distance apart, and a seventh in the middle - Glenn told them, “Well, sit already.”
“I am not sitting on salt,” Katy insisted, “This is a McQueen skirt!”
Glenn sighed, and fixed her with a caustic stare. “Then take my bloody coat and sit on that.” He tossed it to her, and she caught it before it smashed her in the face, but just barely. That earned him a dirty look from her in return, but she spread it over the salt and sat on it, crossing her legs so Adrian, Clark, and Rajiv didn’t get a free peek at her knickers. (Who wore that short a skirt if they knew they were going to have to sit down?) She sat down between Katy and Rajiv, feeling that was the safest spot.
Glenn stood in the middle of the circle, besides the candle, and stripped off his shirt, revealing a chest he must have worked out weeks to get, dotted with a few scraggly strands of ginger hair. That was gross enough on its own, but made worse by the fact that the hair on his head was brown. Did he dye it? Katy would know, but there was no way in hell she was going to ask.
Adrian pulled what look like a night cream jar out of Glenn’s backpack and grabbed a handful of grave dirt, although he only sprinkled some of the dirt in there before tossing the rest of it away, and pulling out a coffee stirrer straw to mix it into whatever was in the jar. After a moment, he held the jar up towards Glenn, saying, in an exaggerated Cockney accent, “Yer Bloody Mary, squire.”
Katy wrinkled her nose like she smelled something bad. “What is that?”
“Part of the ritual,” Glenn said, a leering grin splitting his face. “Blood and grave dirt.”
“Eww,” Katy exclaimed, her nose creasing even more in disgust.
“Hey, it was ‘spose to be virgin blood,” Glenn continued, dipping his finger into the jar and coming out with a small dark blob of mixture, which he smeared in a sloppy circle on the center of his forehead. “But we didn’t know any, so we went with sheep’s blood.”
“We never asked Asha,” Adrian said, giving her a cold look as he snickered.
She wanted to tell him to fuck off, but didn’t dare.
“Where did you get sheep’s blood?” Rajiv asked, suddenly looking apprehensive.
“You don’t want to know, Hajji,” Adrian replied, turning his scorn on him now. “Don’t want’cha runnin’ home to your Mum cryin’, now do we?”
“Let’s get this done,” Glenn said impatiently, screwing the lid back on the jar and tossing it at Adrian. “Clark?”
Clark currently had the book in his lap, open to the page that Glenn had told him to open it to, finger under the paragraph that Glenn has said he had to read. “Umm, this language is weird …” he admitted hesitantly.
Glenn made a noise of exasperation. “Just sound it out then.”
“Uh, okay.” He cleared his throat nervously, and tried to hide his anxiety by giving the words gravitas, like he really knew what he was saying. “Nocens infensus phasmatis exaudio nostrum votum …”
She almost recognized the language, but not quite. It did sound kind of like Latin, though, but it could have been just the way he was pronouncing it.
As he droned on, she noticed Adrian scraping up the salt on one side of him, as if trying to make a salt man or a salt ball. She didn’t know why, but she really thought that he shouldn’t be doing that, that there was some logic to there being an unbroken circle. (How stupid was that? None of it was real.)
The flames of all the candles began to flicker in unison, a small wind seemingly kicking up around the edge of the circle, and the hair on her arms started to stand on end. But that was probably just the cold.
“Stop it,” Katy hissed in Adrian’s direction.
He looked at her blandly, but his cold eyes glittered like broken glass in a shallow pool. “Stop what?”
“What you’re doing, you wanker.”
In the center of the circle, Glenn stiffened and looked up towards the overcast sky, his arms thrusting out straight from his sides. “Oh, knock it off,” Katy snapped. “You’re not fooling anyone.”
The wind seemed to whip up harder now, snuffing all the candles, as there was the slightest tremor in the ground beneath them. “I said knock it off, Adrian,” she exclaimed, jumping to her feet.
The book slammed shut, and from the startled look on Clark’s face, he didn’t do that.
Glenn looked at her, and said, “Girl, did you just break the circle?” But it wasn’t his voice that rumbled from his throat, and his eyes had a weird, yellowish glow to them.
Rajiv went pale as parchment, and asked, “H-how are you doing that?”
“This isn’t funny anymore,” Katy said, her face contorting in anger. “What do you think we are, in junior school? It’s not even Halloween yet. Why don’t you save it ‘til then, see if you can get the five years olds to run screaming? I’m going home.”
As she turned to go, something like panic burbled up in Asha’s mind, a thought that was frantic and almost alien: - can’tbreakthecircleit’llbelooseifsomeonebreaksthecircle - so she reached to grab Katy, stop her …
But the second Katy’s foot touched the ground outside the circle, Glenn held out his hand, and something shot out of it. No, not from it - something like yellowish light came out of Katy’s body, straight out of her back and into his hand, somehow being absorbed by him.
Katy made a small noise, like a strangled whimper, and suddenly she was surrounded by a corona of energy, half black and half yellow, before it seemed to burn straight through her and leaped right towards Glenn. Katy’s body collapsed to the ground, looking like a desiccated mummy dressed in designer clothes.
“Wicked,” Adrian said, cackling.
Glenn pointed at him, and said, in his new funny voice, “You’ve broken it as well, boy.” Adrian’s eyes widened as he realized he was in trouble, but before he could move, that energy seemed to manifest, jump out of his body towards Glenn, and they could all see Adrian seemingly age a million years a second as it seemed the very life force was ripped out of him in a bright burst of energy.
“What the fuck is going on?” Clark exclaimed, almost screaming.
Asha broke out of her paralysis, and grabbed the arm of Rajiv, who was staring in abject horror at whatever Glenn had become - or whatever was inside him. She knew something had gone wrong here, several things had gone wrong, but the end result was a worse case scenario straight out of a horror movie. She shook Rajiv’s arm until she got his attention, and when he looked at her, she said, firmly but quietly, “Run.”
“What the fuck is this?!” Clark was now yelling at the demon Glenn. He stood up and threw the book at his feet. “You said you’d share!”
She climbed to her feet, tugging Rajiv up with her, and they both ran headlong through the small cemetery, not looking back to see what the demon was doing to Clark, and not really caring.
What a way to prove that not only were her parents not crazy, but she was for not believing them, even after their deaths.
She wondered how soon she would be joining them, and how many others would be going along for the ride.
He looked out the window, and saw that the landscape was blanketed in pure white snow. It was flawless, a soft layer of white not unlike icing, giving everything a silence that could have been eerie, but wasn’t.
Logan put his hand against the lightly frosted pane of glass as he looked out at the backyard and the thin layer of snow coating the otherwise empty branches of the cherry tree close to the house. He could see the tiny imprints of bird tracks, and wondered, if he concentrated, would he be able to name the specific kinds of birds that had been there. Then again, why would he want to?
Mariko came up behind him and looked out as well, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head against his shoulder. “Ahh, winter,” she sighed. “I missed this during college.”
“Yeah. Southern California doesn’t have seasons, just three temperatures: tepid - which is what passes for winter - warm, and hot. Endless summer was fun for the first five months, then it got tired.”
“This is just like home to me. I’m not sure snow will ever be a novelty.”
“Oh yes, it’s always snowing in Canada, isn’t it?” She teased, her hair soft against his skin. “Snow and rutting moose and flying hockey pucks.”
“Better than rutting hockey pucks and flying moose.”
“Okay, that’s a point.” She leaned against him, her body a pleasant warm contrast to the cold glass against his palm, and the silence of the snow seemed to join them, fill up their small and strange home, but it was a comfortable silence, each lost in their own specific thoughts. He wasn’t always sure what she was thinking, but that was kind of refreshing. She could be thinking about what she wanted for breakfast, if she wanted French toast with regular maple syrup or that huckleberry syrup she had imported from the States, or if she was thinking about how she’d be able to legitimize Yashida Industries for the Nikkei Index. Sometimes he worried that she would figure out she could do way better than him, but she must have done that long before now, and simply decided to shrug it off. He hoped she continued to do that, because he knew it would destroy him if he lost her. God, what was wrong with him? He used to be better than this; he used to be able to keep his feelings totally locked away. There were times when he wondered if he had any left at all, and now he wondered if he‘d let them take him over completely. “What is it?”
“Huh?” He didn’t know why he started to drift away there for a moment. Considering he was supposed to be a bodyguard, that was a real snafu.
“You had that pensive face again.”
“I have a pensive face? Is there a cure for that?”
She gave him a small slap on the arm, little more than a love tap. “Don’t play dumb with me, Mr. “I-read-Russian-novels-in-Russian”. You know what I mean.”
“I don’t read Russian novels. With a few exceptions, most are breathtakingly ponderous. I prefer Russian poetry. Much more direct.”
She sighed dramatically, and let her head sag against his arm like she was about to pass out. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Can I offer some suggestions?”
“No.” Her hand slid down his back, and he realized that it had suddenly turned cold. That wasn’t a surprise, as, save for during the summer, Mariko always seemed to have cold hands and cold feet. Just one of those things. “Can I ask you something, Logan?”
“Sure.” He felt something warm and liquid crawling down his arm, and realized she was crying. Why? And why was she doing it so quietly?
But when she looked up at him, he saw she wasn’t crying - or at least, not yet. She was bleeding from her nose and ears, blood oozing from the corners of her mouth, and as he watched, tears of blood started trickling from her eyes, leaving dark crimson trails down her cheeks. “Why did you kill me?”
Logan woke up, swallowing back something that could have been a scream or maybe a groan; he didn’t know. It just tasted sour and felt hard, like a clot of gristle in his throat. He turned over on his side and blinked back tears, his solar plexus tensing like a fist. It was just a nightmare, right? That’s all it was, it didn’t mean anything.
(So why did he have such a strong feeling of déjà vu?)
“Who’s Mariko?” Srina muttered into her pillow.
“Mariko. I think that’s what you said.”
Had he talked in his sleep? Oh fuck, what was he thinking? He screamed in his sleep; talking would actually be an improvement.
“I just … “ he sat up, keeping his back to her. He still wasn’t sure he could speak about her to anyone, even Srina. “It’s not … “
“Yeah, something like that,” he admitted, and quickly got up and left the bedroom, padding out to the living room. He meant to hit the bathroom, but fuck it, he needed to get some distance and gather his thoughts for a moment. Dreams with Mariko in them always shook him to his core, almost as much as remembering what the Organization had done to him. The only difference was emotional pain over physical, although in the realm of psychic pain, they seemed about even.
He felt that typical sense of dislocation before remembering he was in Srina’s London flat, where the traffic rumble seemed to loiter just outside the window, an erratic stream of white noise based purely on the repetitive hiss of tire treads on asphalt. He decided to head for the kitchen and grab a beer - he really needed a beer - when a hint of blood reached his nose and made him stop.
He was naked, so a quick glance down confirmed he wasn’t bleeding, and the thought that he was still smelling something from his dream (Mariko's blood?) occurred to him just as he looked around the room, scanning the carpet, and found something unusual.
There was a note sticking out from the crack under Srina’s front door. A note smeared with Human blood.