A few minutes after the girl left, the ticket taker came out and started across the parking lot. The man walked toward him. At first his legs were stiff from crouching in the dark. He must have appeared drunk. The ticket taker was walking behind a white four-door Honda to the passenger side, and the car was between him and the theater across the alley. The ticket taker stopped when he saw the man, but he did not seem afraid of a drunkard who could hardly walk. The man walked, partly stumbled, as he moved toward his prey; the knife in his right hand behind his back. About two steps from the ticket taker, he could see the boy recognized him. He felt a powerful, uncontrollable rage. Before the boy could resist, the man smashed his left forearm across the boy’s chest and pushed him against the side of the Honda. His right arm drew back like a softball pitcher, and in one fluid, powerful motion he drove it forward with an underhanded arc into the upper abdomen of his victim. He heard and felt a dull thud as the knife went in.

The man’s face was just inches from the boy as he held him against the car. He looked into the boy’s eyes. He wanted to see death. Instead he saw only surprise. Keeping his elbow pressed against the ticket taker he rotated his arm to put his left hand over his victim’s mouth. The ticket taker made a weak attempt to cry out, but it was muffled by the man’s hand. He suddenly liked this boy. It would be right to share this moment with him. As he continued to stare into his eyes, the expression changed from surprise to terror and pain. The boy tried to struggle with his arms, but his attempt was weak. There seemed to be little or no strength in his legs as the man felt him begin to slump. He pushed harder with his elbow to keep the boy up.

The man’s right hand felt hot. He looked down expecting to see his hand holding the knife; instead, he saw his wrist protruding from the ticket taker’s stomach. He must have driven the knife through the boy’s body and into the back door of the car. That must have been the cause of the thud. He withdrew his hand, creating a wet sucking sound. He lifted his hand near his face and slowly turned it with his fingers slightly bent and apart. He was fascinated by the blood as it dripped from the glove and ran down his arm.

The boy made another weak attempt to struggle. The man removed his left hand from the ticket taker’s mouth. Still holding him up with his elbow and forearm, the man pulled the glove from his right hand, turning it inside out. The boy weakly asked “Why?” just before the man put his left hand back over his mouth. The man took the glove with his right hand, forced it back into the wound and left it. He felt the soft tissue and organs with his hand as he moved it around the hard slippery-wet handle of the knife, staring with fascination into the eyes of the ticket taker with each movement.

“Only your mother could love you like I do. She was there to bring you into the world. I am here to send you out.” The terror in the ticket taker’s eyes seemed to subside, and his eyes filled with hopelessness and tears.

The back door of the theater opened. The manager of the theater came out and turned his back to the alley as he locked the door behind him. The man pulled the ticket taker from the side of the car. The knife slid out of the boy’s back and remained in the car door. He quietly dragged the boy to the back of the parking lot. The manager unlocked the driver’s door of the white Honda, got in, started the car, and drove off. The man watched the car leave with the knife sticking out and blood smeared across the side. The man almost laughed out loud as he dragged the ticket taker to the bushes to share this most intimate moment with him. The ticket taker stopped struggling. The man removed his left hand from the boy’s mouth.

The man knelt beside him and took the glove from his left hand, turning it inside out. With his right hand he found the open wound again and pushed his right hand with the glove in. The warm softness of ticket taker’s insides felt good. He massaged the organs never taking his eyes from the eyes of the ticket taker. He wanted to see death eye to eye as it crept in to take the boy home. The ticket taker whispered again, “Why?”

The man leaned over to his ear. “Because,” was all he said. He watched in fascination as the ticket taker’s eyes glassed over—the left eye half open and the right eye wide open. They stared past the man blankly into space.

 

“I’m heading out there right now. Call Alexander and let him know we may have found Marty.” DeMayo ran to his car and squealed the tires as he left the station. He drove up Fourth South to Seventh East, where he turned right heading south. Seventh East was a main arterial where he was able to reach speeds up to seventy miles per hour. At Twenty-First South he made a left turn and sped up the two blocks to Ninth East, where he turned right. After a couple of blocks, he was pulling into the parking lot closest to the Fairmont Park swimming pool.

He jumped from the car and ran the sixty yards to the back of the pool. The I-80 Freeway ran east and west behind the pool. A four-foot walkway went between the fence around the pool and the fence along the freeway right-of-way. The walkway was empty. The freeway was several yards above the park. The slope up to the freeway was landscaped with trees and bushes. DeMayo climbed over the fence and started to look in the bushes and trees near the pool. There was nothing directly behind the pool, so he started following the slope east, away from the pool. He was about to give up when he saw something red about a hundred feet east of the pool. He found the body of a very small girl sitting cross-legged with her back to a tree, facing up the slope to the freeway. She was wearing a new red skirt with a white blouse. Just under the hem of the skirt DeMayo could see she was wearing white panties. A folded piece of paper was tucked in the right leg of the panties. She was small for her age. DeMayo pulled the paper and sat on the slope above her. Just days ago she was alive and happy. Frustration flowed down DeMayo’s checks with his tears as he read the new poem.

DeMayo heard Alexander calling his name. He did not respond. Alexander ran along the fence until he was even with DeMayo. “Hey, buddy! What’s up?” DeMayo still did not answer. He sat on the hill looking at the tree on the slope in front of him. “Hey! Come on, man. It’s Alexander here! You find the girl?”

DeMayo did not make any kind of acknowledgment that he had heard Alexander. Alexander climbed over the fence and walked up the hill to DeMayo. As Alexander approached, DeMayo looked up. He handed the poem to him. “He did it again, Joe—right under our nose. We knew it was coming, and we couldn’t do a thing about it.” Alexander sat down beside DeMayo with the poem.

The Lion and the Angel

Muscles rippling under tawny skin
the lion stocks his prey.
In majesty he moves upon the herd;
no one can tell him nay.
He takes just what he wants and needs;
that’s what the herd is for.
He is the king of all the plain;
who dares to keep the score?

 

And silly members of the herd
would catch me in my game.
Forgetting all the laws of nature,
they hunt me just the same.
I lead them here, I lead them there.
The clues I just alter.
They think that dear Tahariel was
drowned beneath the water.

 

One of the seventy amulets
Tahariel must be.
But seventy times seventy
is not enough for me.
I come I go where I please.
My name—invincible.
Follow all the clues I give, but
catch me—impossible.

 

Abaddon/Apollyon

 

“Come on, DeMayo, this isn’t the first child to die, and it won’t be the last.”
“She’s not an it, Joe. She’s a little girl who was depending on us to save her. We had two days, and we didn’t even get close. I can’t be on this case anymore.” DeMayo had stopped crying.

 

 

 

A concrete window well was constructed to keep the dirt away and allow light to get in; it was an open box about two feet wide in front of the window. I should have gone home to change, she thought as she hiked up her dress so she could climb down into the window well. She found a piece of brick, which she used to smash the window and break the shards of glass from around the frame. Looking in, she could tell this was an old coal room. She carefully climbed through the window into the basement. The wall on the side she had climbed in was partially paneled, and the floor was bare concrete. It felt cold and had a musty smell. The pool table was exactly as Tom had described it. Outside the coal room, the basement was just a large open space.

Shari walked up the wooden steps to a landing four steps below the level of the kitchen floor. She stopped to take a breath. Her heart was pounding against her ribs. As she stood there, she could think of a thousand excuses Carl might have for coming home. Shari walked up to the kitchen and measured the length and width with a cloth tape she carried in her purse. The tape was only six feet long. She had to leave her comb on the floor to move the tape. It was not very accurate, but she was sure it would be close enough to find a hidden room. After carefully marking the dimensions, she walked into the dining room.

BRDRING … BRDRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRING … BRDRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

Shari screamed and threw her clipboard and tape measure in the air as she was surrounded by the blaring alarm!

BRDRING … BRDRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION! The alarm screamed back. Shari ran a couple of steps toward the front door, then stopped—ran back to pick up her clip board and tape.

BRDRING … BRDRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRING … BRDRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

Shari’s knees suddenly felt weak. She turned back to the kitchen.

BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

Shari started down the back stairs.

BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

She realized it would be impossible to get out the basement window.

BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

“Shut up!” Shari screamed as she fumbled with the back door lock.

BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!
BRDRRRING … BRDRRRING … INTRUSION INTRUSION!

The door flew open and she stumbled out, falling down the stairs into the garage.

As the girl walked by, the man said, “Hi, Azura, how’re ya doin’?”

The girl stopped. “How do you know my name?”

“I’ve been a friend of your father and mother since before you were born.”

“I don’t know you.”

“I know—I’ve been living in New York since you were two years old. Your sister, Razel knows me. I used to babysit her.”

“Are you coming over to the house?”

“I just came from your house. Danielle, your mom, I mean, left to get Razel. Your dad is taking off from work early to meet us all at my house for a picnic to celebrate my moving back from New York. We’re all going to have a lot of fun times. You’re seven, aren’t you?”

“Almost eight.”

“Yep—that’s right. Your birthday is … don’t tell me … let’s see … it’s September, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Wait … it’s the sixth … right?”

“How did you know that?”

“My little girl, Virginia, was born two days before you. I’ll bet you’ll be great friends.”

“Is she in the second grade?”

“She just finished the second. She’ll be in the third this year. You’ll be in the third too, won’t you?”

“Yep.” She was very proud of this fact.

“Your mom said you’re doing real well in your swimming class.”

“I can swim all the way across the pool by myself.”

“That’s really great. Virginia doesn’t know how to swim. Maybe sometime you could show her what you can do. That would be real neat.”

“Well, I’m not a teacher, you know.” She walked from the sidewalk, across the grass to the man’s car.

“Of course you aren’t. I think it would be neat if she could just see you swim … you know … so she can see someone her age can learn to swim.”

“I don’t mind showing her.”

“Come on. Let’s go, and you can meet her.”

“I can’t go with a stranger.”

“You’re exactly right. Your mom will be you proud of you. But I’m not a stranger. I know your sister, Razel. I know your mom, Danielle, and your dad, Dean Curdwell. I even know your address and phone number.” He had researched those few facts from the phone book, from watching the house, and from picking through their garbage. He had followed Dean and could have told Azura where her father worked. After giving the right address and phone number, he slid from the front fender and opened the door of the car. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

Azura took a step back. “I don’t know.”

The man calmly took his wallet out and removed his driver’s license. Holding it out to her he said, “Here’s my driver’s license. It’s got my name and picture on it. It’s positive identification. Here, you can take it.”

Azura moved closer. He held it close to himself so when she reached for it she was close enough to grab. He looked around—no witnesses. He was tempted, but he wanted to talk her into the car. Azura looked at the license, and then she looked back at the man. “You can keep it until we get to my house.” The man motioned to the girl to get into the car.

“I’m not sure.”

“Look, Azura—I’m not a stranger. I know all about your family. You know my name and you’ve got my driver’s license. Now come on; your parents are waiting at my house. We need to get going.” The man used a quiet tone of authority as he spoke. The girl seemed a little unsure, but she got into the car.

“We’re going to have a great day. Be sure and buckle your seat belt.”