This is a short story I wrote for Halloween that I definitely wanted to share for any fans of our favorite devious villain, the archdemon Belial. BE WARNED: this is a horror story, with plenty of violence, foul language, and sexual innuendo. It also has spoilers for The Black Parade and She Who Fights Monsters, so make sure you've read those stories before proceeding. Enjoy!
The list of people whom I have been unable to fuck, manipulate, or murder is very short.
In fact, there is only one person on that list.
One woman, rather.
God always did have a great sense of humor. No wonder I rebelled.
The afternoon air reeks of exhaust from eighteen-wheelers and various eddying perfumes from the women brushing past me on the street—and I do mean brushing past me. I’ve let my demonic energy slip just a bit, enough to form a bubble around me, and any of the women close enough get a good whiff of it and forget themselves, sending me bedroom eyes and accidentally touching me. I offer them my usual covert smile and absorb the low-frequency lust that they emit, adding it to my own power reserve. It’s oddly like solar power, this method. Just less expensive.
I flip open my lighter and fire up a cigarette. Humans are remarkably dense in their understanding of senses. If they can see it or hear it, they trust it. Demons aren’t like that. There is so much more to life than sights and sounds. Tastes are a particular favorite of mine. It is why I’m so fond of smoking. Hundreds of flavors swirling over my tongue, down my throat, into my lungs, and all of them are trying to kill me. Marvelous.
I lean back against the concrete wall behind me, blowing out a stream of death, and return my gaze to the quaint little restaurant half a block from me. It’s late afternoon, and the sun will set in a couple of hours. I don’t even need a watch for that. I can feel it when the sun sinks below the horizon.
All predators can.
She slips back into my perspective. There is a tray balanced on her hand, laden with Southern cuisine. I’ve never been partial to it, thanks to so many needless calories, but I do happen to like the fried whiting they serve. Her smile is bright. Her brown eyes are lit with energy. It’s false; merely a persona she adopts to pay her bills and get a good tip by the end of the meal (not that all New Yorkers are prone to such a thing). It’s interesting to watch her work. Not that it’s why I’m here.
My gaze slides to her neck. The bruises that had been there were gone, healed away by yours truly over a day ago, but it still summons a memory. I remember her lying there on the floor of the hotel, lifeless, until I’d conducted CPR. She’d coughed once or twice and then started breathing just barely, and a startling sense of relief had flooded through me. The rogue angel was lucky. If he’d taken her from me…Hell was nothing compared to what I would do to him.
She tells the patrons that she’ll have their check ready in a couple of minutes and to take their time. I’d mastered the art of reading lips ages ago. Not that I particularly need to with the job I’m on at the moment, but I don’t mind having an excuse to look at those lips of hers. A smirk slithers across my mouth. How many times had I tasted them? You would think it’s nothing special, considering my track record, but something about those lips is different.
Granted, she had been manipulating me the first time we kissed, but perhaps that was why I found it so memorable. I remember the ice in her eyes when I lay on the ground with a hole burnt in my chest and she stood above me, telling me that she’d just live with the fact that we were both black-hearted. I remember lying there for a second in amazement that this girl—this human girl—had handed my ass to me like I was a rookie. After she left, I had lain back on the floor and laughed hysterically for several minutes.
Perhaps that is part of what led me here, on this surveillance job. Technically, it doesn’t count as stalking. After all, she and her husband Michael, as well as their doting brother Gabriel, were all in agreement that I would help them find and stop the rogue angel. He’d almost killed her, and I’d be damned if I let her slip through my fingers. So I’d watch and wait and see if he came for her again.
Another hour slips by, and her shift ends. She and the Korean girl—L-something, maybe Laura or Lauren—link arms and chat as they stroll down the street towards the bus stop. I don’t have to trail them closely. She’s easy to follow with that maddeningly intoxicating scent. Cocoa butter and well-worn cotton. I can practically taste it on my tongue.
Long before they reach the apartment, I’ve already checked that there is no sign of the rogue angel ahead or behind them. Just me. Good.
After the two ladies have spent enough time together, Jordan leaves to go meet with an unidentified third party, and one who concerns me deeply. I hadn’t been close enough to read his lips during their conversation at the restaurant, but her body language had told me everything at the time: shoulders and back rigid, arms crossed, legs apart, her aura roiling like huge waves on the ocean. He’d made her angry, and not just in her usual cantankerous sort of way. He’d scarred her on some level, though up until this point I’d never seen him before. It stands to reason that he could be a threat, and so once I knew she’d left the company of her best friend, I had left to find our mystery man.
I call one of my minions for a location. Shortly after he left Jordan’s company, I’d described his clothing, appearance, stature, and possible economic standing and had him tracked while I continued following Jordan. He’d gone back to his hotel on the west side of Albany, and now he’s currently in a cab on his way to a small Mexican restaurant called Mojo’s.
And apparently, he has a tail.
My interest piques. “Are you sure?”
“Five-foot-five, brown hair but balding on top, hook-nose, brown eyes, early forties. He’s carrying a .45 with a silencer. Paid the cabbie extra to follow your man.”
“Excellent,” I purr as fresh adrenaline streaks through me. Now here is something actually intriguing. I’d assumed I’d be playing Tag all night, and now the universe has offered me something to play with.
“Where is he now?” I ask.
“Just parked a block from the restaurant. Your man’s walking there now, and the tail looks like he might make a move to intercept.”
“Very well. I’ll go greet him, then.” I hang up and stomp out my eighteenth cigarette of the day, adjust my clothing, and get ready for a night of fun.
Criminals are funny things. Most of them have a rhyme or reason for what they do, and it’s often apparent in their appearance and body language. Our tail had a business-like walk: brisk, direct, and almost rhythmic, as if he’d spent a small amount of time in the military. It wasn’t uncommon for a low-level errand boy like him. Soldiers take orders well and usually without question.
He keeps a respectable distance from his target, enough that the fellow probably doesn’t know he’s being followed. I can therefore deduce that our tail isn’t here to kill him. He’s here to observe and then report in for further instruction. The fact that he doesn’t seem overeager means he’s done this before, and part of me almost wants to admire that. I like professionalism, after all.
It’s for that reason that I wait until he’s at a stop light and walk up behind him with my knife.
“Good afternoon, sir,” I say in his left ear, pleasant and polite as can be. “I have an eight-inch blade pointed directly at the fourth lumbar of your spine. Such a wound is instantly fatal, and unless you would like to find out firsthand, I suggest you accompany me towards your left. And please do not reach for the gun, or I’ll be forced to get blood all over that nice coat of yours.”
I listen to his frantic heartbeat for a second or two and then see his head bob once in acknowledgment. I shift my weight without moving the tip of my knife away from where it’s nestled along his spine and guide him towards the butcher shop one block over. It’s nearly eight o’clock, and the darkness shields any innocent bystander’s view of the gleaming metal. He very wisely acts like we’re walking together as old buddies, his sweaty hands at his sides, taking quick steps and even quicker breaths. I briefly survey our surroundings, ensuring that the coast is clear, and then direct him into the alley behind the butcher shop.
I’ve known this city for a while, and so the blind alley is no surprise, and there’s little chance of an interruption since the butcher shop had closed at seven o’clock. The sharp scent of bovine and porcine bones and rotting meat invades my nostrils, and while it’s repulsive, I’d chosen this place for a reason. It sets the mood and unbalances the prey, knowing that they could be the next thing chopped up and discarded to be devoured by rodents and insects.
“Now then,” I continue, still smiling disarmingly at the little man. “Might you be kind enough to relieve yourself of that firearm?”
He takes a sharp breath in. “And what if I don’t?”
“No one said I was here to kill you. But I certainly don’t mind making you bleed in the meantime.”
“You say that ‘cause you got the drop on me. Maybe I’m fast. Faster than you.”
“I highly doubt that,” I say, and can’t resist a tone of exasperation. “Do yourself a favor and hand it over.”
To make my point, I press the knife in deeper so that the tip slices neatly through his leather coat and he flinches in pain. He reaches into his pocket and hands me the gun without qualms. I give him a small shove towards the brick wall behind him and dismantle the weapon as I continue.
“Thank you. I have a bit of a schedule to keep, and so we’ll make this as painless as possible. Who are you following and why are you following him?”
A sneer creeps up over his thin lips. “Just ‘cause you got my gun don’t mean I’m gonna run my mouth for you, pretty boy.”
I smile. Who can be angry with idiots like this in the world? I’m counting on them to help me overthrow the earth someday, after all. “No, that’s what the knife is for. Answer the questions.”
“Fuck you, dickless.”
I chuckle. “And here I woke up thinking this was going to be just another normal, boring day.”
I shove him against the wall and plunge the knife into the meaty section of his left shoulder, just above the collarbone. I angle the blade so that it goes through and through, missing vital arteries and veins, and is instead unbelievably painful.
The pain doesn’t register for perhaps two seconds and then his mouth flies open. I clamp my gloved hand over it and the scream comes out as a weak, muffled thing. He struggles against me, but I’m positioned so that my arm is across his upper body and he can’t get out of the brace. He goes limp after a few moments, sagging against the wall, his whole frame shuddering from the shock.
I lift my hand away. “That was a warning. Would you like to see what happens when you actually manage to evoke a response from me?”
He pants heavily for a few seconds and then spits in my face. It smells like cheap whiskey and burns slightly on my skin. I’ve been spit on before. I’m an archdemon. It happens.
But it doesn’t happen when I’m wearing my brand new Gucci shades.
Keeping my arm across him, I reach up and take off the sunglasses, examining the bits of spittle on the beautiful golden glass. “As you wish.”
I tuck the shades inside my coat pocket. Then I twist the knife 180 degrees. While it’s still inside his shoulder.
Screaming isn’t quite the word. He shrieks underneath me with every last ounce of air inside his lungs. Rationalism flies out the window, and his human body reverts to that very primal instinct of fight-or-flight. He chooses flight, throwing his weight on mine, trying to burst free, but he’d have better luck moving an elephant. His eyes cloud with tears as the blood gushes down his ruined arm and soaks into his grey dress shirt. The wound is deep. By now, I’ve hit enough things that he’ll have to seek medical help within an hour or he’ll bleed to death.
Eventually, he collapses into pathetic whimpers that a dog would make when someone is done beating it, and I remove my hand again.
“Once more,” I say, and this time I have eliminated any amount of patronizing tone. I instead replace it with inescapable implications that if he doesn’t cooperate, things will get nasty. “Who are you following and why are you following him? Does it have anything to do with the girl he is meeting at the restaurant?”
He licks his lips, his eyes darting around the alley, as if he can find something to help him. He meets my gaze, and I recognize the look in his. A coyote on its last legs, backed up between a hunter’s gun and a cliff.
Unfortunately, he chooses the cliff.
I only have time to elicit a tired, “Don’t” before he lifts up his pants leg and goes for the tiny derringer strapped to his ankle. However, the movement makes the knife slide out of my grip and I’m forced to take action.
He grips the gun and straightens to point it at me. His finger closes over the trigger and squeezes down.
I grab his wrist and point the muzzle at his chin just as he does.
The caliber is small, but the damage is done. The top of his head bursts in a cloud of red meat and bone matter, splattering against the wall. Damn.
Good thing my shades were in my pocket.
I sigh as his body slumps backwards and retrieve the handkerchief in my suit breast pocket. Not much had gotten on me, but my face is speckled with his blood. The corpse twitches a couple times and then the life leaves him. His soul is a faint whitish-grey imprint that rises above the body and hovers, staring mournfully at it and then me before it drifts upward towards the Space. I’m quite sure he is going to Hell after Judgment, but every soul passes through that Great Divide anyhow. Protocol.
I retrieve my knife, wipe it clean, light the kerchief on fire, and watch it burn to ashes before leaving the alley post-haste to ensure no one comes snooping after the gunshot. Derringers aren’t terribly loud, but I can’t afford the nuisance a fresh dead body can bring. However, before I leave, I take his wallet and phone.
Once I’m safely out of the alley, I check through the wallet. His license proclaims him Butch Coolidge. Fake ID, and one referencing Bruce Willis’ character from Pulp Fiction. Not a smart fellow, but he had good taste in movies. Nothing of significance in his wallet other than a name and where he hails from—Detroit, Michigan.
I check the phone next. It’s a cheap burner phone. His recent calls bear more fruit. There are two numbers he’s called multiple times today: one in Detroit, and another that’s a cell phone with a local number. More than likely, the other person bought a burner as well while in town in case they were apprehended by the police.
As I sift through the texts, I find a bomb.
His partner has been instructed to kidnap Jordan Amador.
Son of a bitch.
Jordan’s tail is sloppy. I spot him immediately after she leaves the restaurant, keeping pace behind her by only several feet. He hasn’t done this often, if at all. He is so obvious that even Jordan notices, and she starts checking behind her after she crosses the street. I curse under my breath as I see him reach beneath his jacket, undoubtedly going for the gun early. I’ll have to intervene sooner than I thought.
I wait until Jordan reaches my location and snatch her off the sidewalk. Her wrist is small in my grip, small enough that I could pin both of hers with one hand if I wanted to, and I’ve thought about it more than once.
I’m jolted out of this thought when Jordan punches me in the ribs. It’s enough to make me cough, and that’s no mean feat. Good girl. Also, goddamn, that smarts.
“It’s me, you fool!” I hiss.
Her dark eyes widen, then narrow, and she shoves me so hard that I stumble and hit the wall opposite her. “What the hell did you do that for?”
Footsteps approaching. Rapid ones. I don’t have time for this. “Hush. Come with me.”
I yank her alongside me behind a nearby dumpster. She tries to protest again, but I hold up a finger as the man following her finally reveals himself.
He’s a man of intimidating stature at over six feet tall and stacked with muscles, even though some of them have softened into fat over time. He can’t be out of his thirties yet, and I suspect it’s why he doesn’t know better than to track someone so closely for a kidnapping. Must be new blood.
I wait until he has walked past us to inspect the alley and leap out, grabbing him in a full-nelson. He thrashes, and Jordan immediately darts forward. She shoves the heel of her hand into his stomach, winding him, and then snaps his wrist to one side. He drops the gun, but his size is hard to control, and he manages to land a punch to the side of her face with his other hand.
Fury blazes inside me. No one—and I bloody mean no one—hits Jordan Amador but me.
I press my knife to his vulnerable neck, my voice cold and hard. “Move again and I’ll slit your throat.”
The man complies and holds his hands up in surrender, though he looks like he wants to keep fighting. I slam him into the wall, hard enough to knock his head against it for good measure. I pause and tilt my head, addressing Jordan with a slightly softer tone.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she says with a grimace, rubbing her cheek. “Just tired of getting hit in the face by guys. Whatever happened to chivalry?”
I snort. “It’s a dying art.”
We interrogate our man—also under the assumed identity of a Pulp Fiction character, this time Marsellus Wallace—and I send him packing, but it’s not the end of the affair. After he stumbles away from us, I feel the small hairs on the nape of my neck standing up. Jordan is behind me, and her anger writhes and whips around her like a zephyr.
“What do you mean you ‘took care’ of his associate?” she asks.
I face her, and regard her with a thoughtful look, wondering if she truly wants to hear the answer. “Would you prefer a lie or the truth?”
“Answer me, you son of a bitch.”
I let my expression flatten into nothingness. “He decided not to cooperate. I had no choice.”
Her eyes close then. “You bastard.”
My anger rises from the depths of where I’d buried it. There is no one on earth who can irritate me like Jordan Amador. My lip curls in disgust as I speak. “You are the most ungrateful person I have ever met. That is twice now that I have saved your life with nothing to show for it.”
She opens her eyes again, and they are full of light, but this kind is dangerous. Twin stars threatening to go supernova and obliterate everything in their path. She moves in close, her shoulders tight, her muscles taut, her jaw clenched. My gut tightens, and not with fear or anger. Desire.
“Listen and listen well, Belial. You are not my lover. You do not have the right to protect me and if you ever kill someone in my name again, I will personally send you back to Hell where you belong.”
The world seems to blacken at the edges until all I can see is her. “Since when do you have the backbone to threaten me, human?” I whisper, making sure that every single syllable is dripping with hate. “I could rip you apart before you could blink and send you back to your archangel in a pretty cardboard box. And I would enjoy doing it.”
“But you won’t,” she snarls. “Because that violates our agreement and you’d be sent to Hell to report yet another failure to your master.”
My ego flinches in the wake of her words. All thoughts of being civil have left me. Nothing remains but the fury…and the lust.
Part of me wants to wrap my hand around her throat and choke her until she passes out, and then wakes up in my lair. I briefly contemplate how long it would take to break her, how much torture I would have to inflict to unravel the very threads that make her Jordan Amador, the martyr, the broken little girl trying to put her broken little world back together. How many minutes, hours, days, weeks, until her diamond-plated willpower shattered and she gave in to either death or an eternity at my side as my plaything? It would be so easy. I’ve done it a million times before. Souls are nothing more than currency, and while she was the highest cost, like anyone, she could be bought.
Part of me wants to wrap my hand around her throat, shove her up against the wall, and ravage her in unspeakable ways. Oh, she’d certainly fight it at first, she always does. But then she’d feel all of that pent-up aggression weighing down on her, and that dark thing she pretends isn’t inside her would rise up to meet me and then everything would melt into the kind of pleasure that poets have written about for centuries. I can almost picture it. How she’d be in my bed. A tigress. A predator, not of my caliber, but a predator nonetheless, taking what she wanted from me. She’d tear into me and I’d do the same until we both drowned in our own selfish, wicked needs. Need. I need to feel her soft flesh trembling underneath me, need to taste that sweet mouth and hear her curse my name to God and anyone else who was listening, need to discover that pitch-black corner of her soul that is dying for attention. I could make her into a goddess. Or unmake her.
But I don’t do either of those things. I use my words instead. “Fair enough. But let me also make one thing clear.”
I reach up and slide my hand into her ponytail, wrapping those silken locks around my fingers, leaning my face down towards hers. She doesn’t know that I’m lying to her, that if I wanted to I could kiss her, and yet I hear her reaction. Her heart hammers against the inside of her ribs and her chest--goddamn that stupid trenchcoat, hiding those lovely little breasts from view—rises and falls in unsteady intervals. She’s scared, and it’s like heroin to me, so sublime that my toes almost curl as I feel that fluttering pulse. I can smell her, and it’s more than the cocoa butter and the cotton this time. It’s sweat and hormones and even the barest forbidden scent of her arousal. She’s so afraid of me, and yet part of her wants me to take her right here, right now, despite her utter devotion to her marital vows and her faithful, valiant husband the archangel. It’s by far the most delicious thing I’ve tasted today, this cocktail of fear and desire.
“When this is over,” I murmur, inches away from that mouth that I want to devour. “I will no longer uphold my previous chivalry. I want you for myself and I intend to take you from your archangel. Rest assured that it will be bloody and violent and you will regret refusing me while I was still being a gentleman.”
Then I form my hand into a fist and jerk her head up, forcing her to meet my eyes from so close. “Do you understand me, Jordan?”
She breathes deep and then replies with that same stubborn fire in her eyes. “Knock yourself out.”
I fight the urge to smile at her cavalier words and let her hair slide between my fingers, waving towards the open mouth of the alley before us. “Ladies first.”
She stalks away from me, still shaking slightly. Another fight, another stalemate.
I’m patient. I’ll wait.
All predators do.
Kyoko M is the Amazon bestselling author of The Black Parade and the Of Cinder and Bone series.