Read In the House of the Wicked Online

Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski

Tags: #Remy Chandler

In the House of the Wicked (10 page)

BOOK: In the House of the Wicked
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Tears began to fill her eyes and she looked down at her feet.

“You’ve been a great help,” Remy said quickly, trying to take the attention away from her emotion.

“Thanks.” She sniffed loudly and ran the back of her hand under her nose. “Are you really a detective?” she asked.

“Yeah, I really am,” Remy answered.

“Ash used to talk about you a lot,” Melissa continued. “She always said that if she flunked out of school, she was going back to Boston to work for you…be your assistant or secretary or something.”

Remy smiled. Ashley had never shown much interest in what he did. “Let’s hope she doesn’t flunk out.”

“Where do you think she is?” Melissa suddenly asked. “You don’t think somebody took her or anything like that, do you?”

It was obvious that the girl was frightened.

“I really don’t know,” Remy answered quietly. “But the police are looking into it, and so am I.”

“You’re gonna find her, right?”

“I’m certainly going to try.”

“She said you were, like, the best private eye in Boston,” Melissa said. “I guess now’s the time to prove it.”

Remy nodded slowly.

“You’re right,” he said. “Now is the time.”

Remy had already been to three of the addresses on Ashley’s list. She had indeed dropped off copies of her résumé on Friday. Most of the people he’d spoken with had remembered her, and all said that economic times were tough and they had nothing for her. A few were curious as to why he was asking about her, and when he’d told them that she was missing, they suddenly had so much more to say—how polite she had been, what an impression she had made.

They all hoped that she was all right, and so did Remy.

The fourth address on the list was to the Junk Drawer, a consignment/antique store minus the snootiness. The aisles of shelves were stacked high with used books and
National Geographic
magazines, old toys, and dishes and glassware, and multiple racks were hung with vintage clothing. Madeline had loved stores like this, referring to them as a walk down memory lane, a place where the hunger for nostalgia could be fed.

A yellowed, original movie poster for
The Magnificent Seven
hung crookedly on a wall, and Remy considered asking the price. He knew the film to be one of Francis’ favorites, although he hadn’t seen his friend since that business with the Garden of Eden. Remy had thought him killed in the Hell realm of Tartarus, but Francis had lived, although he was definitely different. Something had happened to him, but Remy hadn’t been able to find out exactly what that was.

The Junk Drawer’s single proprietor was busy at the front of the store, discussing the value of some
Star Wars
action figures with a customer. As he waited, Remy caught the swish of a puffy brown tail as it quickly disappeared toward the back of the store.

Figuring there was no harm in trying, he walked to the back, where he found a few overstuffed couches, a set of rattan chairs, a glass-topped coffee table, and one extremely large Maine Coon cat nestled inside a wicker hamper atop a folded red blanket.

Remy stood very close to the basket and looked down at the cat, whose eyes remained tightly shut.

“Hey,” Remy addressed the animal.

The cat did not respond in any way.

“Hey, I’m talking to you.” Remy poked the base of the hamper with the toe of his shoe.

The cat’s eyes shot open, staring intensely ahead, but not at him.

“Would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?”

“Leave me,”
the cat growled.

“Sorry to disturb you, but I really need to ask you a few questions,” Remy told the annoyed feline. “Then I promise I’ll leave you alone. All right?”

The cat slowly lifted its furry head to glare at Remy with eyes the color of jade.

“There was a girl in here a few days ago,” Remy began. “She came in to ask for a job, but I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t have seen you and tried to make friends.”

“No girl,”
the cat said, closing its eyes.

Remy kicked the base of the hamper again.

“She would have been really nice, and probably would have scratched behind your ears and told you what a pretty cat you were, or something like that.”

The cat raised its furry bulk, arching its back with a hiss; then it paused, seeming to think about what Remy had just said.

“Nice girl,”
the cat said after a moment.
“Did scratch

felt good
.”

The Maine Coon sat and turned its face up to him.
“Yes,”
it said.

“So you remember her?”

“Didn’t hear?”

“Yeah, I heard,” Remy said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice, reminding himself why he thought that most cats were assholes. “Do you remember if anything out of the ordinary happened while she was here? Anything that you might’ve noticed?”

“No,”
the big cat said, standing up and moving in a circle as it prepared to again curl up on the blanket.
“Scratched and stroked…then gone.”

“That was it?”

The cat didn’t answer as it snuggled back down and closed its eyes, finished with Remy. Well, he had said he would leave the cat alone if it answered his questions.

He was turning to leave when the cat’s voice stopped him.

“Strange man,”
it said.

“Excuse me?” Remy turned back and peered down into the hamper.

The cat was looking up at him.

“Strange man in store,”
the cat said.
“Followed nice girl.”

“A strange man followed her out of the store?”

The cat made a face, as if something disturbed it.

“What do you mean by strange man?” Remy wanted to know. “What was strange?”

“Smell,”
the cat explained.

And the cat’s ample fur puffed out on its body as if the threat was still there.

“Smell wrong.”

Remy grabbed a coffee from a pizza shop on the corner and stood at the window counter, gazing out at the people walking by on their daily grind. He imagined Ashley doing the same, moving from one store on her list to the next.

A strange man following.

He sipped the hot black coffee, letting it burn the inside of his mouth. He wanted to feel something other than the growing sense of dread in his belly.

The cat had said that the man smelled wrong—strange. Animals were extremely sensitive to the unusual, the bizarre, and Remy was forced to wonder if Ashley’s disappearance could have had something to do with him.

And what he actually was.

He’d tried as hard as he could to keep the more unusual aspects of his existence separate from his human life, but, as of late, it was becoming increasingly difficult. And what if someone—
something
—with a grudge against the angel Remiel had decided to get even by striking against those about whom he cared the most?

Remy drank from his cup again, scalding the inside of his mouth. He didn’t care for that thought, not one little bit. Briefly he imagined what he would do to anything or anyone that tried to hurt him through his friends. All he could see was fire; all he could hear was the screams of whoever or whatever might be stupid enough to dare.

The imaginary screams were suddenly drowned out by the sound of his phone ringing. He reached into his pocket and checked to see who it was.

Carol Berg.

“Carol?” Remy answered, feeling his body immediately tense.

“Remy,” she said. “They just called…the police…They found her car.”

His heart began to race faster and faster, and he thought it might explode.

“They found Ashley’s car.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

The police had found Ashley’s car not five miles from her new apartment.

It was in the parking lot of a small strip mall, where they’d gone for a quick cup of coffee when Remy had helped her move.

He wished himself invisible and approached the car, watching as the local police swarmed about the Honda, searching for clues.

Remy could feel his anxiety growing, and then he heard the words he dreaded most.

“I’ve got blood in here.”

He quickly stepped up behind an officer who was leaning into the vehicle, shining a flashlight on the passenger’s seat. He forced himself to remain calm as he waited for the officer to withdraw. It seemed to take forever, but finally the policeman stepped back and Remy was able to take a look, relieved to find only a few spatters of blood on the passenger’s seat.

Images of Ashley fighting an attacker flashed before his mind’s eye. He saw her scratching the assailant and drawing blood; he saw her being struck, the blood upon the cloth seat from her nose.

He shook his head and moved away from the car as more detectives approached to gather their evidence. The scent of Ashley’s blood lingered in his nostrils, and he cursed senses that had become stronger since embracing his true nature.

He had hoped that this was all some sort of enormous mistake, that he would arrive in Brattleboro to find Ashley at her apartment, wondering why everyone was so upset when she had simply gone to visit a friend at another campus, lost track of time, and her phone had gone dead.

But that wasn’t her…. Ashley wasn’t wired that way.

Remy looked to the car again…the empty car where spatters of blood had been found. He watched the policemen doing their job. He wanted to do something, too. But what?

Frustration roiled within him. An angel of the Heavenly host Seraphim was not accustomed to standing idle. He was a creature of action, of battle, of war…but there was nothing to lash out at with his sword of fire.

He was helpless, the only clue he had coming from a cat that happened to notice a strange-smelling man follow Ashley from a store.

He was considering going back to the store to question the Maine Coon some more when his cell phone began to ring. The officers around him immediately reacted, checking their own phones as Remy walked away from the scene, taking the phone from his pocket. He expected it to be Carol, but instead saw a number that he immediately recognized.

“Ashley?” he cried into the phone, desperate to hear her voice, desperate to know that she was all right.

There was an odd silence from the other end, reminding him of the roaring sound he and Madeline had heard when they’d pressed seashells to their ears at the beach on the Cape.

“Hello?” Remy prodded. “Ashley, is that you?”

“Remy Chandler,” said a voice as dry as the grave. “Is that what you call yourself, angel?”

“Excuse me?” Remy asked, stunned. “Who is this?”

“Never mind that,” the voice croaked. “I have the girl…. I have Ashley.”

Remy was silent, waiting for what was to follow.

“Go someplace quiet and wait for me to contact you again.”

“If you’ve hurt her…,” Remy began.

“Now, why would I want to hurt the darling who has given me you?” interrupted the voice, sounding jubilant. “Go and wait for my call.”

The line went dead, and Remy stood there, too stunned to move. It was exactly as he feared. Not only had Ashley been forcibly taken.

It
did
have something to do with him.

Remy took a room at the Simons Motor Lodge.

He sat in the semidarkness, cell phone on the circular tabletop beside him, waiting for it to ring.

He’d put the television on, hoping for a distraction, but it did little more than annoy him.

Lucky him, there was another story about the little girl who’d awakened from a coma with a message from Heaven. He saw pretty much the same footage he’d seen the other night at Linda’s, but this time he learned the young child’s name.

Angelina Hayward.

She’d suffered massive head trauma after falling off the back deck of her home, putting her into a coma from which no one ever expected her to awaken. But little Angelina had surprised everybody, saying that the angels had brought her back and that the Almighty had a message.

Remy could not help but feel contempt for the media and how they played up the story. He knew that angels had nothing to do with the girl’s awakening. As far as he knew, they were far too busy dealing with the return of Lucifer Morningstar. And as far as getting a message from God? Well, suffice it to say that Remy doubted the validity of that claim.

Angelina was just a very lucky little girl who had managed to beat the odds and come out on the other side reasonably unscathed.

The screen showed a close-up of the child in her bed, clutching a stuffed bear, the reporter asking her if she had anything to say to all the people watching her.

“Talk to you soon,” she squeaked, then smiled, hugging the bear.

The anchors gushed about how inspirational the child was, and Remy was about to change the channel when his cell phone began to ring. He snatched it from the table and saw that it was Ashley’s number. But instead of relief, it now filled him with dread.

“Remy,” he said.

There was that pause again, that hollow rushing sound before the old voice began to speak.

“There’s a farm on the outskirts of town. Used to belong to the Deacon family…Do you remember them?”

“Can’t say that I do,” Remy answered truthfully.

The voice went silent, and Remy wasn’t sure if the line was still open.

“Hello? Are you—”

“Never mind,” the voice interrupted. “They haven’t been in the public eye for quite some time. They were once like royalty, you know.”

“And what does that have to do with—”

“You will go to that farm and wait,” the voice instructed.

“Wait for what?”

“I need to be sure of you, Remy Chandler,” the voice said. “I need to be sure that you are what the girl showed me.”

“Ashley has no idea what I am…and neither do you.”

The voice laughed, a sound like old, dried leaves being crushed.

“I know exactly what you are, angel.”

“Why are you doing this?” Remy asked.

“Because I can, angel,” the voice said. “Because I can.”

Beacon Hill

Fall 2008

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