Read The Devil You Know Online

Authors: Mike Carey

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Ghost

The Devil You Know (19 page)

BOOK: The Devil You Know
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Twenty minutes later, Josh stepped out with Tiger dressed in his blue apron. He looked strangely blanked of all emotion. “My sis wants to talk to you.”

I went inside the visiting room and sat down with the glass division between us. Vivian looked tired, her face unnaturally pale, with dark rings under her eyes. I slid my hands through the slot and she took them. She said, “They found evidence of the Cassie kidnapping on my computer at home. Web searches on kidnapping girls, instructions on how to dispose of a body. Ridiculous stuff. None of its mine.” Like her brother, she looked at me blankly, strangely resolved to this. She looked a lot like how I imagined a drowning person looks when they realize they’re just floating in the ocean, waiting to die, no rescue in sight. “The state attorney pulled my records, Nick, my rap sheet. Everything. One of the investigators wants to reopen the case on Mitchell. They have the death penalty in Pennsylvania, don’t they?”

I grasped her hands, tight. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“I told Josh I’m really glad our parents are gone now. We never got along, but I wouldn’t want them seeing me like this.”

“We’ll get through this,” I told her. “I won’t let them nail you with this. And the day they release you, we’ll go for donuts and coffee.”

She smiled, a little. “I appreciate you watching over Josh, Nick. You don’t know how much that means to me. Josh, he’s . . . ” She shrugged. “He’s the only good thing left in my life. The only thing that I haven’t screwed up.”

We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about Billie Berger, and I wrote down everything that Vivian said. It confirmed everything I’d suspected. Billie had been sexually abused by her father from a very young age, but she’d sworn Vivian to secrecy about it. Vivian, who had already told Billie about Mr. McCarty, had never told Billie’s secret to anyone until now. She’d been too afraid that her parents would find out what Mr. McCarty had done to her and blame her for it. But Vivian knew what was going on. Thom Berger regularly pandered to his daughter, which led to the vicious rows and hysterics between him and his wife.

So I knew I was right. I just had to find a way to convince a judge.

At the end of it, Vivian said, “Can I ask you something very personal, Nick?”

I set my pen down. “Of course.”

“You’re really the son of the Devil?”

I held her eyes. “I’m really the son of the Devil.”

“So can you do contracts?”

I shrugged. Kind of yes, no. Maybe. “My dad told me once, but I don’t do that kind of thing. I’ve never done it.”

“Would you do it with me?”

“That won’t be necessary, Viv…”

“I want you to.” She glared at me, her eyes as shiny as polished aquamarines. “Just in the event something goes wrong—Malach, something. I don’t want to belong to anyone above or below. I want to belong to you.”

I laughed a little nervously. “I don’t know if it works that way between daemons, frankly. I mean, we could wind up married or something…”

“Nick, please. I’m asking you. If someone wants to give you their soul, you have to take it. Right?”

“I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

She smiled. “You’d keep it safe.” She slid her hands under the partition, palms up. “Please.”

I thought of a few arguments, then dismissed them. With the Throne vacated, I truly did not know what would happen to Vivian if she died. Probably nothing good. I put my hands on top of hers. She felt cold.

She stared at me with determined, tearless eyes. “What are the words, Nick?”

“There are no words. You just have to want to do it.”

“I want to do it. I want you to have my soul, Nick Englebrecht.”

“Then it’s done,” I said. I dug my fingernails into the soft flesh of her left wrist and drew them slowly down. Vivian shuddered but did not move. My fingernails left four shallow scratches diagonally across her wrist, what historians and witch-hunters had called the witches’ mark. When it was done, my own left wrist immediately began to burn coolly, but I ignored it.

Vivian admired the marks. She looked at me and she smiled. “Thank you, Old Nick.” She leaned toward me as she stood up and kissed the glass partition separating us. I stayed seated and watched the guards lead her away. Once I was alone, I slid my sleeve back. Four shallow crimson scratches marked my own flesh. I wasn’t entirely certain what they meant, but I thought it was possible we had marked each other.

I was on the way back to the shop when my cell rang.
It was Morgana again. “Anton and I deciphered the language in the Book of Shadows, Nick. It was actually written in medieval French.”

“What does it say about the dolls?” I prompted.

Josh looked over at me in question but said nothing.

“We had it wrong, Nick. They’re not effigies as you would expect but
wards
.”

“Wards to hold something back?”

“It depends on the dolls’ orientation, according to the book. If the dolls are hanging up
Blair Witch
-style from trees, for instance, then yes, they’re for holding something back. In this case, angels. But if they’re lying down…”

“They’re there to hold something in place,” I finished. I suddenly had a very sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Wards were powerful magic, not always white. With a ward, you can call something to you, send it away, keep it out, or hold it in place
ad infinitum
. “Morgana, I’ll need you to take the shop this afternoon. And watch Josh. It’s vitally important that I return to those woods immediately.”

She must have sensed something in my voice, some urgency, because she said, “That’s fine. Are you all right?”

“Yes, of course,” I said in an utterly false voice.

“Do you need help?”

“You can’t help me with this, Morgana,” I told her in all honesty. “No one can.”
No one mortal.

I hung up before she could protest.

Josh was still looking at me oddly. “You have a doll collection, Nick?”

“Yes. A big, bad doll collection that nobody wants. Nobody sane, that is.”

“I don’t understand.”

I was sweating and feeling sick. I couldn’t think of a single decent lie so I said, instead, “I found some dolls buried in the woods behind the Berger house. They look like angels. I thought they were effigies—voodoo dolls in layman’s language. But they’re not. They’re wards, according to my partner Morgana. Powerful, dark magic used in reverse conjuring—the summoning of angels. They were put there to hold something underground. Something that wants to get loose. I mean to find out what tonight.”

There was a long, breathy silence. Then Josh said, “Um. Okay then.”

After I dropped Josh and Tiger off at the shop and told them to stay put, I drove down to the local Home Depot in Easton, the next big city over, and went hunting for the perfect shovel. I found it myself because of course there was no one around to help. I included a couple of hi-power flashlights, a bottle of Mountain Dew and some Skittles. I got back to my car as soon as possible with my booty, slightly disgruntled because I had overpaid on a lot of it. I needed smokes, but I didn’t have the time to stop at a convenience store. The sun was already dipping below the mountains. Instead, I drove straight out to the Bergers’ place.

I parked the car as close to the wooded area and as far away from the actual house as I could, which put me in a narrow spot near a creek. It was full of brush and scraggly sweetbay magnolias that scratched my paint job, what there was of it. Brush was good. It would hide the car, I thought. I got out, armed with soda and candy in my pockets, the shovel balanced across my shoulder like an Old West gravedigger, and a battery-powered lantern in one hand, and started hiking through the woods, following almost the exact same path as the last time I’d been here. The journey went faster this time because I knew where I was going. When I reached the ridge, I didn’t hesitate; I skidded down the side and ducked into the utter blackness of the hollow, the lantern in my hand my only beacon.

The ground had been recently disturbed. I supposed Billie had been back at some point to replace the angel dolls I had taken. I could imagine what I had done had probably upset her—I had essentially crossed a number of magical barriers that I’d had no business being anywhere near. Sort of the equivalent of a witch’s hi-tech security system. It might even have been one of the reasons why she’d set Vivian up. Not only was she the perfect fall guy for Billie’s crimes, but she was connected to me. Two birds, one stone. I’m sure Billie was pretty pissed that I’d disturbed her graveyard.

I stood at the edge of the overturned ground, leaning on the shovel, and stared down at the first big plot before me. I was still experiencing that feeling of malice, of
not-rightness
, and
keep-out
-ness, but now I realized why. There were wards in the ground, not just to keep whatever was beneath it down, but to keep strangers—in particular magic-wielders like myself—away from the hollow. But I had, in my power and ignorance, crossed the wards and disturbed them. I was my father’s son; you couldn’t keep me out of anything. You could bind me for a short time, as Emily had done, or you could repel me if your faith was strong enough (most people’s aren’t), but you could not bar my way.

My dad can walk heaven, hell and earth. He can even go before the Throne. In fact, one of his duties is to drag the sins of the unrepentant before the sinner on their day of judgment. If he wins his argument, he gets to keep the soul and add it to his personal Legion—sort of like a corrupt prosecutor. That means if you’re a very bad person, you go to hell when you die and either become his entertainment or his foot soldier. I’ve heard that neither job is especially pleasant.

I sighed. I knew I was putting off what had to be done. I jabbed the spade into the earth, pushed down on it with my foot, and began to dig. The little box came up fast enough. I shook dirt off of it and opened it up. There was a new angel doll inside. I tossed the box and doll aside. At that moment, I detected a soft, muffled moan that made every hair on my body stand at rigid attention, mostly because it seemed to be coming from
beneath
the ground. I stopped to listen. Even though I knew I was alone, I resettled the Tanaka in the waistband of my jeans where it would be faster for me to get at in a pinch. Yes, I left the safety on. Anyone who goes shoving a gun down his pants with the safety off is not badass; he’s looking for castration.

I kept digging. As I dug, the moaning grew louder, and I don’t mean pleasant moaning, or moaning like in some cheap-ass horror flick. I mean the kind of sick, pain-filled moaning that creeps along your subconscious, sticks a finger in, and wiggles it around a lot. By the time I hit the anticipated second big box under the first little box, my stomach was in knots and I felt like throwing up all over myself. My sense of pity and revulsion had been thrown into overdrive and I hadn’t even fully uncovered the casket yet.

I stopped digging and hunkered down in front of what looked like an old cedar chest, the kind you can buy around here from any antique store. The terrible, heartfelt moaning was coming from inside the box. I had one of those bad moments when I really wanted God to come help me with this because I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle it on my own. Then I remembered that He’d retired—apparently without an heir or replacement—and I was on my own.
C’est la vie.

I reached out and pushed dirt off the top of the box. I found some latches along the sides, not locked, and I unclasped them. I thought to myself, I really fucking don’t want to do this. Then I reminded myself that nobody else wanted to do it either, but that I was probably the only one capable of it. The only one with the power. Feeling sick to the point of passing out, where darkness was seeping into the corners of my eyes, I dug my fingers into the seam of the lid and pulled it open.

The box had been buried a long time, years, maybe decades. The top virtually disintegrated in my hands. Inside, an angel stared up at me. I knew it was an angel from the way it felt. I couldn’t tell by its appearance. It was mottled blue-black in appearance. Its limbs had been surgically removed, along with its lower jaw. The rest was skeleton covered in that purplish, parasite-infected skin. The left side of its heaving breast had been carved away, allowing a lively nest of yellow maggots to feed upon its eternal flesh. Its pale blue eyes were open and very clear. It saw me. It was aware. The smell it gave off was like roadkill mixed with burning sugar.

BOOK: The Devil You Know
8.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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