Read In the House of the Wicked Online

Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski

Tags: #Remy Chandler

In the House of the Wicked (5 page)

BOOK: In the House of the Wicked
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“Here, let me,” Veronica said, coming up behind him.

His wife took control of the tie, as he watched their reflection in the mirror.

“I can’t believe you didn’t ask me to do this,” she said, the smell of alcohol on her breath. “You’ve never been able to manage one of these.”

Deacon’s reflection smiled. “Still not used to having you here, I guess.”

Veronica’s face grew sour as she continued to manipulate the silk around his throat, transforming it into a perfect bow tie. She started to move away, but he turned and grabbed her arm in one of his aching hands.

“Don’t be mad at me,” he said.

She stared glacially at him, pulling her arm from his grasp.

“I didn’t want to come here,” she said, returning to the table where she’d left her latest drink. “I told you that, but still you insisted that Teddy and I come.”

“You’re my family,” Deacon said. “Of course I want you here.”

“But
we
don’t want to be here,” Veronica said, her words dripping with scorn.

“This is
my
home,” Deacon said forcefully. “And I want it to be yours and Teddy’s, as well.”

“But we already had a home,” she told him.

“Without me.”

“You made your choice.” The ice tinkled merrily as she brought the glass to her mouth and drained its contents.

“What can I do to make you understand?” Deacon asked. “Everything I’ve been working toward is for you and Teddy.”

Veronica smiled with little warmth or humor. Then she turned away and walked to the portable bar in the corner of the room.

“All for Teddy and me,” she repeated, dropping some ice cubes in her glass before filling it to the brim with bourbon. “And here I thought it was all about your little playmates joining us this evening.”

She leaned her hip against the cart, waiting for his response.

“They’re important to the future…our future,” he tried to explain.

“They’re monsters,” she snarled. “I would say they’d sell their souls for some arcane piece of knowledge that would put them a step above their fellow man, but I’m guessing they already did that some time ago.”

She took a long pull from her drink.

“The members of the cabal are extremely powerful individually, but together, I doubt there’s anything they couldn’t do,” Deacon stated. All had come from vast family fortunes that they had used to become masters of industry, as well as masters of the dark arts.

And joined together, they had the power to shape the world.

“But they hate each other,” Veronica retorted. “None of them trust each other. You’ve told me as much.”

And therein lay the rub. The mistrust the members had for one another was monumental, hindering any greatness their powerful gathering could muster.

“It is the nature of powerful men and magick users,” Deacon excused with a shrug.

“And you still hunger for their acceptance.”

“Only for
our
benefit. If I can get them to come together, to join our powers…”

Veronica only laughed and shook her head. “The great Konrad Deacon will change them,” she scoffed.

“If I can convince Algernon Stearns, the others will follow suit,” he told her. “If he believes in what I have to show them…”

“They’ll give you a special place in their club,” she finished scornfully.

Deacon couldn’t stand it anymore. He charged across the room, slapping the drink from her hand, and grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. “Listen to me,” he roared, trying to hold back the violence he wished to unleash upon her. “I’m doing this for you and the boy!”

“You’re doing it for power,” she spat, squirming to escape his grasp, but he held her arms tightly in spite of the agony he felt in his hands.

“Yes, I’m doing it for the power…the power to keep you safe…the power I need to fight. Germany? Japan? They’re just the tip of the iceberg waiting on the horizon.”

Veronica closed her eyes, refusing to look at him…refusing to see what he was trying to do.

“There are dark times approaching,” Deacon hissed, squeezing his wife’s arms all the tighter, hurting her so that she might listen. “And the world will need men like me…like Stearns and the other members of the cabal…those who can lead the world from the shadows that will threaten to overtake it.”

The door to the bedroom swung open, and Deacon immediately released his grip on his wife. Both of them looked to the doorway as their son entered, holding the hand of one of Deacon’s magickal creations.

“Hello, Daddy…. Hello, Mommy,” Teddy greeted them, a hint of a British accent in his speech, an accent that Deacon was sure would fade now that the boy was in his proper home.

“Hello there, Teddy,” Deacon said, shaking off the terrible mood his drunken wife had put him in. He opened his arms, inviting the boy to run to him.

Teddy released the hand of the large and powerful golem and jumped into his father’s arms.

“What are you still doing awake? You were supposed to be tucked in and fast asleep hours ago.”

Deacon looked to the golem for answers, admiring his handiwork. What he had done with the information from the rabbi at Dachau was quite impressive, and he had perfected the magick with magick of his own.

“The child summoned me to his room,” the pale-skinned being explained. His stark faux flesh was adorned with black tattoos, making the name that the artificial life-form had given himself—Scrimshaw—fabulously appropriate.

“Is that so?” Deacon asked the boy.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Teddy said. “I heard cars coming up the drive. I didn’t know we were having company.”

“In fact, we are,” Deacon said, holding his son close as he turned to his wife. Veronica rubbed the reddened places on her arms where bruises would surely form. “Some very important friends of your daddy will be here this evening.”

“Can I meet them?” Teddy asked.

“Not right now,” Deacon said, bringing Teddy over to Veronica. “Perhaps another time.” He placed his son in the arms of his wife and looked back to the creature that still waited obediently.

“Have all my guests arrived yet, Scrimshaw?” he asked, humoring his creation by addressing him with the name he’d given himself.

The artificial being beamed, his chest swelling with pride.

“Yes, master. All of the cabal have arrived, except for Algernon Stearns.”

Deacon’s stomach clenched. If Stearns did not show, there would be no point to this evening. The cabal would do nothing without first seeing what the oldest and most powerful of the sorcerers would do.

“Fine,” Deacon said. “Tell our guests that I will be there shortly.”

The tall, pale figure bowed at the waist and promptly exited the room.

“What if he doesn’t show?” Veronica asked.

Deacon looked at her, at his son in her arms, and said nothing, imagining a world where the cabal did not act together.

A world not guided by their combined power.

He could not bear to think of such a thing.

As luck would have it, there was an empty parking space in front of Steven Mulvehill’s apartment building, and Remy pulled in close to the curb.

Marlowe began to whine and pant from the backseat.

“What are you going on about?” Remy asked as he put the car in park.

“No going on. Excited,”
Marlowe expressed, drool starting to leak from the sides of his jowls.

“Yeah, we haven’t seen our buddy Steven in a while,” Remy agreed, glancing up at the second floor and seeing one light on. He retrieved the brown paper bag with his liquor-store purchase from the passenger’s seat and got out of the car, opening the rear door to let the dog out.

“Excited to see Steven,”
Marlowe said, darting across the narrow street and lifting his leg to urinate on a telephone pole.

“I can tell,” Remy said, watching as the dog finished and began to sniff around. “You done?”

“Yes,”
Marlowe said, running back to join Remy on the steps to the front porch of the building.

The doorbell was busted, but the front door was always unlocked, so Remy pushed it open and Marlowe immediately began the trek up two flights of stairs to Steven’s apartment. The angel followed, feeling a sense of trepidation.

He hadn’t seen Steven in a couple of weeks, not since that nasty bit of business with the shape-shifting Shaitan.

Remy had asked Steven to check in on an elderly friend of his, not realizing the connection to the case he was working on or the danger he was putting his friend in. The homicide cop had nearly been killed, and had gotten a full taste of the weird shit that Remy often dealt with. Since then, Steven had avoided Remy and hadn’t answered any of his calls.

Marlowe’s whining interrupted Remy’s thoughts, and he reached the second-floor landing to find the Lab sitting outside Mulvehill’s door, wagging his tail.

“Did you knock?” Remy asked.

Marlowe looked at him indignantly.
“No knock. No hands.”

“Well, you could scratch,” Remy suggested.

Marlowe just looked back at the door and cried as Remy reached out, rapping his knuckles on the heavy wood.

He waited, listening for sounds of life from the other side, but heard nothing.

“Steven,” Remy called out, knocking again. “I’ve got a bottle of Glenlivet here with your name on it…. Open the door and it’s all yours.”

He tilted his head, listening all the more intently, but still he heard nothing. “Is he in there?” he asked the Labrador.

Marlowe pushed his snout into the crack beneath the door and began to sniff.
“Smell him.”
He began to bark pathetically.

Remy closed his eyes and reached out with his senses. He could hear everything in the building and even some of what was going on in the houses next door and across the street. He pulled back and focused on Steven’s place, the hum of the refrigerator, the whirr of the clock over the stove, the hiss and gurgle of the hot-water heater in the far corner of the kitchen.

And the sound of someone breathing nervously—someone who did not want to open the door no matter who was on the other side.

Or because of who was on the other side.

“He must be out,” Remy said to Marlowe.

The dog looked at him.
“Smell him,”
he growled.

“Of course you do. It’s his apartment.” Remy turned and headed for the stairs as Marlowe continued to sniff beneath the door. “C’mon, buddy. We’ll come back another time.”

Marlowe offered one more pathetic-sounding bark.

But still the door did not open.

The Labrador started down the stairs as Remy momentarily paused. He looked at the paper bag that held the bottle of fifteen-year-old Scotch and returned to the apartment door.

“A peace offering,” he said, placing the bag with the bottle in front of the door before following Marlowe downstairs and back out into the night.

Steven Mulvehill sat perfectly still, waiting for his friend to leave.

He’d known it would be only a matter of time before Remy showed up; Steven had lost count of how many times Remy had called since—

The images flooded his mind again: a beast whose flesh shifted and changed like smoke that had shown him the dangers of a hidden world.

Of monsters and angels.

The physical injuries Steven had sustained in his encounter with the Shaitan were healing well. But the mental ones were deep and still ragged, so much so that he was surprised when he actually had the courage to get out of bed these days.

Seeing Remy Chandler right now wasn’t in the cards. As much as Steven hated to blame him, Remy was, after all, responsible for exposing him to things he never should have known about.

A Boston homicide cop for more than fifteen years, and he’d never known this kind of fear before. He was reminded of his early childhood and how he’d gone through a phase when he’d been terrified to go to bed at night.

And now he understood what he had known in those early years: that there really were good reasons to be afraid of the dark.

The Catskill Mountains
In a Subterranean Chamber Beneath the Deacon Estate

August 6, 1945

And to think, I wasn’t going to attend Konrad’s little soiree,
Algernon Stearns thought as he watched one of Deacon’s golem servants finish attaching the last of the numerous coils and wires to a heavy metal harness the sorcerer wore on his naked body.

The artificial man tugged on the vest to be sure it was secure and accidently pinched Stearns’ left nipple.

“Damn you!” Stearns hissed. Supernatural energies that could easily have reduced the being to dust danced at his fingertips.

“Is everything all right, Algernon?” Deacon asked as he checked the connections on his own vest.

Stearns managed to suppress his anger, offering a tight smile. “Everything is fine, Deacon. Just a little pinch is all.”

“Well, if everything goes according to plan, you’ll be experiencing far more than a pinch shortly,” Deacon warned. “But what you will gain from this temporary discomfort…”

“Is power,” Stearns finished.

He glanced around at the other four members of the cabal. They were all there: Daphene Molaar, Robert Desplat, Eugene Montecello, and Angus Heath—some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful magick users. And they all appeared nervous, their eyes darting about the room.

They stood in a circle in a subterranean room beneath Deacon’s estate, all naked except for the same metal vest that Stearns and Deacon wore. Cables trailed across the cold stone floor, connecting the vests to a series of complex machines that, in turn, were attached to an impressively large device that had been erected in the room’s center. Stearns understood that the device was a kind of antenna—an antenna that would attract vast amounts of life energies and distribute the raw power among those who wore the vests. If Deacon was right, his machine would transform the cabal forever.

Konrad Deacon, the hero of the day.

Stearns knew what the man was up to. Deacon coveted his position as leader of the cabal, and now the upstart believed that he had what was needed to steal away Stearns’ authority.

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