When the dagger took him over, he was completely lost. It filled him with one thought and one alone. He rushed to the book and tore through the pages, stopping only when he found the one he wanted. There it was, the knife he held in his hand, drawn in intricate detail in fine pen and ink, Malakh Rozeach – The Angel Killer.
Here was the ritual, the binding spell and the words of summoning for the most fearsome demon of them all – Helel Ben Shakar, the book called him – Son of the Dawn. Lucifer himself!
And then it all started to come back to him. His present life was obliterated by the past and he completely forgot who he was. A cry escaped his lips, pain shot through his head and he clutched at his skull, dropping the knife to the wooden floor with a clatter. Images filled his mind. None of them made sense at first, then he recognised them as the lives he’d lived before. Everything he knew was overwritten like a computer file until there was nothing left. He saw himself as he had been in many lifetimes before. In each one the dagger and the book had always found their way into his possession. He had come so close on so many occasions to getting what he wanted and had been thwarted each and every time by the sainted bastard he pursued. The angel and the woman he guarded through time. Her stubborn refusal to comply with his demands had frustrated him at every turn. She had killed herself, or even killed him, rather than consenting to the murder of her beloved angel. Their forbidden love had doomed them all to repeat this travesty over and over again.
The memories swelled and shifted at the forefront of his mind. He had to be careful, take it slow, he had once learned to his cost that even the remembering could kill him. He focussed, turned his mind this way and that until the combined chatter separated into individual voices and a name echoed around his head.
She had called him that more than once.
“Where is Ash?” he mocked.
The name was useless to him though, it wasn’t his complete angelic title. That, he had kept guarded because if he had known his proper name he would have been able to summon him, without all the trouble he was going to have to go through.
“Well, I will find you!” he roared. “And this time I WILL get my way.”
There was only one thing to do now. Find the angel and his human lover.
He waited until nightfall before going out, dressed in warm, dark clothing, with a woollen hat pulled low over his eyes, and drove to a suburb of town away from his home. He saw it as a lucky omen when the black cat crossed his path. It stopped in mid-run to watch him warily from a distance and trotted towards him when he crouched down, fingers extended to offer a mock treat. His quiet cha-cha, cha-cha almost hypnotised the cat to within grabbing distance. It’s cold, wet nose sniffed his fingertips, the whiskers twitching, and at the last minute, as it was about to turn away disappointed, he lunged, grabbing the startled animal by the scruff of its neck. He pulled it close to his body, tucking the writhing, spitting creature under his arm, then throwing it into the box he’d placed in the back of the Jeep. He made sure he hadn’t been observed, then went in search of the next one. After the fifth he felt satisfied he’d have enough, climbed into the car and drove back the way he’d come.
Back in the safety of the darkened house, he pulled off the hat and threw it aside. He picked out a cat and held it at arm’s length, with its back legs tucked up beneath it, tail twitching, angry growls issuing from its throat. He swapped it from one hand to the other as he shed his coat then carried the animal to the kitchen. He had no choice but to hold the cat tightly as he retrieved a bowl, one handed, from the cupboard and took it to his study where the book still lay open and the dagger lay discarded on the floor where it had fallen from his hands.
He kneeled, placing the bowl in front of him and groped for the knife, then unsure how to proceed, manhandled the cat into a position against his chest. The terrified feline scrabbled for purchase, digging its claws into his forearm and he let out a cry of pain and anger. It was the last act the cat had a chance to perform. The dagger sliced across its throat and blood spurted out in a wide arc. He aimed the fountain of hot liquid at the bowl without spilling a drop and watched as it began to fill. As the cat weakened, the blood pulsed slower and slower until it reached a trickle and its killer dropped its limp body to the floor. The bowl was almost full with the thick, sticky, jam-like liquid. He sat cross legged, leaning over it, and whispered a chant called up from a distant memory across the surface. Staring at the viscous substance, he waited. In his imagination the circle of the bowl expanded and crimson filled his vision; it seemed to fill the whole room, forming a screen on which shadows were projected. He concentrated, the image wobbled and shifted into something he recognised. Buildings, streets, a city.
It was York.
So he was here already. Somewhere in the city, with her no doubt, which meant she lived here too. Like once, long ago, so far away it was difficult to remember.
But where? Where were they?
“Show me!” he screamed, but the image was already fading and try as he might, he couldn’t hold it.
It had been a long time since he’d done this. Almost a century by his reckoning and he was out of practice and weak. He lashed out, hitting the bowl and sloshing the blood over the floor.
“Damn you, you bastard. I know you’re in this city and if I have to knock on every door in this town I will find her. I find her, I find you.”
He levered himself up from the floor, slipping in the blood pooling around his feet. His head ached and he squeezed his face between his hands, knowing there was nothing more he could do now, it was almost dawn. He needed rest, but tomorrow… Tomorrow, he had another trick up his sleeve. There was more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.
* * *
The remaining animals had been left in the cold garage for the day. The box stank of stale urine and excrement. He lifted one out, stroking it, calming it with gentle words. Its fur was wet and matted where it had lain in its own filth in the cramped confines of the box.
It was no use scrying with blood again, this needed a more specialised approach. He needed to see, and what better way to see in the dark than with cat’s eyes.
The animal was wrapped in a thick towel to prevent further injury from needle sharp claws and he trapped it between his upper arm and his body, the dagger poised in his right hand. The cat had to be alive for this. It wasn’t going to like it. As soon as the point touched the cat’s eye it began to wriggle and writhe, desperate to escape, but he held tight, ignoring its terrified whines. The point of the blade slipped in beneath the eyeball, prizing it free of the skull, like jimmying a diamond from a rock. It hung loose from the cat’s head and he severed it with a swift flick of the blade, dropping the cat which wriggled out of the swaddling and ran, bumping into chair legs in its haste to get away.
On the table he already had the needle threaded with a gold cord and passed it through the centre of the cat’s eye as if he was preparing for a game of conkers, then he took it to the map spread out on his desk and dangled the eye above it, swinging it back and forth.
Under his breath he whispered the words of the scrying spell, concentrating on finding the angel. There should have been one light, pinpointing his and his ward’s location and there it was, tiny at first, then growing to the size of a pea. It hovered over the map of York and its outlying villages. He leaned closer, trying to make out the words of the streets in the dim light.
Another pinprick of light appeared, inches from the first, then another and another.
“No, No, NO!” he yelled.
How many angels could there be in this city? It wasn’t possible. Unless they were shielding him.
“All right, if that’s how you want to play it.”
He grabbed the map and marched into the garage, the tiny angel lights trailing behind, like fireflies. There was an old roll of duct tape on a shelf, which he now used to fix the map to one wall. The lights bobbed and swirled in the air then reassembled themselves in their original positions. With an angry growl he thrust his hand into the box and pulled out another cat, cutting off its head before it had time to protest, then he walked a path around the inside of the garage, letting the dripping blood mark out a large circle on the concrete floor.
He dipped his index finger into the gaping neck hole, painted a geometric symbol in the centre of the circle then sat cross legged on top of it. With the cat now discarded, he began to chant and drew the dagger across his forearm, turned it and repeated the action with the clean edge of the blade. He sucked in his breath as it started to sting.
The dagger was linked to all three souls, it was part of the curse that bound them together. He had died by it, so had she and once, he had even tortured the angel with it. The blade had been soaked in their blood, over and over. It would recognise them.
Standing the Angel Killer on its point, he held the hilt between his palms and spun it like a penny. It gathered momentum and where a penny would have fallen to one side or the other, the knife carried on spinning, faster and faster until it was just a blur. Then it rose, hovered in the air for a second and whistled through the air, burying itself in the map in front of him, slicing through one of the bobbing lights.
When he checked the location he raised an eyebrow at his own stupidity. It was obvious really, if he’d stopped to think about it. Where else in this city was she going to be?