|Daughter to Demons chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6||Ashes to Ashes chapter 7 8 9 10 11|
|Daughter to Demons: Ashes to Ashes
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©1999 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story stands by itself, but it describes the continuing adventures of characters first presented in Daughter to Demons.
Chapter Eight: Fuel for the Fire
|I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.
-- Allen Ginsberg
"Would you like something with your tea?" Aunt Sarah was a unfailingly friendly, matronly woman, with the puffy hair so common to those of her generation. Only the faint stress lines at the corners of her lips and the small ripples on the surface of the proffered tea cup revealed her illness.
"Now Sarah, you know Jackie's not here for tea and cookies," Sergeant Athram rumbled from his cushioned chair.
"Yes dear. You'll talk in a moment." Turning back to Jackie she continued, "Would you prefer cream, sugar, or lemon?"
"Just one lump of sugar is fine. Thank you Mrs. Athram."
"Call me Sarah dear." She added sugar to the tea and placed it on a lace doily on the coffee table in front of them. Sitting back, she folded her hands on her lap to prevent them from trembling and nodded to her husband.
"Okay. First, here's some money." Hank glanced surreptitiously toward Sarah and then down at the coffee table as his face reddened. "It's not much, only five hundred dollars, but it may help."
"Uncle Hank, Aunt Sarah, you know I can't accept this." She pushed the wad of money back across the table towards the embarrassed man. "And we don't have time to argue if we're going to help Frank."
The ritualistic give and take continued until Jackie had decided that the next time he offered the money she would use her mind control powers to force him to stop. She didn't want to fore the issue because it would involve arousing him sexually and then getting him to acquiesce for imagined love, or lust to be more accurate, for her instead of his wife. There was a risk of deterioration in the couple's obviously loving relationship if he felt guilt about possibly cheating on her. Luckily, Sarah intervened just before Jackie convinced herself to act.
"Hank, the girl doesn't want the money. Put it away and help her save her husband."
Calaca E. was dead, but Jackie was usually there on weekends rather than on a Tuesday night. There were only two couples on the dance floor and another half dozen people at the bar.
Jackie sat at the same table by the stage that she had been at the night her life had changed, the night she had first met Lilith, as she waited for the succubus to finish her last set of the night. If it weren't for Lilith, Jackie would have still been male and alive, but she also would not have had the intense relationship she had with Frank, nor would she have found her calling as a "cupid," a bringer of love. In that sense Lilith was her mother, more of a mother than her natural mother who had died along with her father when Jackie was less than two years old. Of course, Jackie thought to herself, If Lilith were her mother, Jackie must be something of a disappointment to her for not following in her footsteps as a demon who thrived by absorbing the sexual energy of humans.
"Why do you enter my domain, spawn of god?" Lilith scowled as she sat opposite Jackie.
"What information would I have for you? I neither know, nor care to know, of the path you've chosen." The succubus smiled lasciviously and licked her lips in sexily.
"I'd like information about someone who hangs out here a lot, a tall man, about six foot even, one hundred eighty pounds, wavy black hair with grey streaks. His name is..."
"His name is Sylvester DeBaulk and he is beyond the reach of your kind."
"He is dead, and given his behavior I feel quite certain he is now a plaything for my brothers and sisters."
"Oh." Despite having met a succubus and an angel, despite being a supernatural being herself, Jackie was still a bit shaken at the implication that hell really existed. She shook herself as if to brush off the unpleasant thought and continued. "Anyway, what can you tell me about him?"
"I believe the question is 'Why should I tell you anything?'" Lilith slid back in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest, challenging her to give an acceptable answer.
"My husband has been accused of his murder."
"You could help me prove him innocent."
"You bore me child. Go away." Lilith turned and gestured to one of the unattached men at the bar and within seconds he was seated beside her staring raptly into the demon's eyes.
"I don't think I will."
"Hush boy. Dream of me while I speak to my daughter." A sappy smile formed on the boy's face at the same time as his eyes glazed over.
"I don't think I'll leave. If you won't help me I might as well stick around."
"You would hunt in my domain?" Hackles raised and suddenly Lilith was not a beautiful creature.
"No, of course not. But won't I cramp your style a bit? Isn't it going to be hard to get nourishment from these poor souls if I'm around turning their sexual arousal and lust into loving concern?"
"You think you can challenge my power? Try me."
"Be my guest. You have a victim. Feed." Jackie's voice quavered but she sat back and tried to present more of an air of confidence then she actually felt.
Several seconds passed and then Lilith snarled, "Go boy. Back to your friends with wild tails."
Turning back to Jackie she continued, "What do you want to know?"
"Tell me about DeBaulk."
"He was a pig, always trying to pick up the whores and then stiff them. He must have had some familiarity with our kind. After just one 'date' he always steered clear of me."
"That's not what I hear."
"You call me liar?" The demon was plainly visible in the horns, fangs, black leathery skin, and glowing red embers that had replaced her eyes.
Jackie flinched, but held her ground and suddenly Lilith was laughing uproariously. "There may yet be hope for you daughter. Consider it professional courtesy. Besides, sometimes the truth can be better than a lie. DeBaulk, or Debauched as we too liked to call him, was an animal, or to be more accurate, a satyr."
"You mean like horns, hooves, and a hyperactive sperm injection system?"
"Yes, daughter mine." Jackie was miffed at the demon's continued attempts to remind her that Lilith had created her as a succubus and how easily she could slip back into that mode of existence if she wasn't careful. Well before she had married Frank she had resolved never to allow herself to be drawn back to the darkness that was the obverse of the coin of her goodness. Jackie hated being reminded of how little difference there really was between a cupid and a succubus and how easily, just a slight change in perspective could result in her feeding off lust rather than love.
Lilith had waited, almost as if she could follow Jackie's thought process, but now continued. "Sylvester was a satyr. A satyr who couldn't learn not to feed from my pond so to speak. The day before he died I warned him that I would send him back to hell if he did not discontinue his unwelcome forays. It was so convenient of someone to do that for me."
Jackie looked at the self-satisfied smile on Lilith's face and asked, "Why should I believe you? Why should I believe that you did not kill him?"
"You should not. After all, I am a demon and I would have gladly destroyed him without the slightest bit of the 'remorse' of which these foolish humans speak. But I am a lover," her sardonic smile belied her words, "not a fighter, and it would have taken some preparation and effort; effort I was pleased not to expend."
Jackie stared at Lilith trying to decide if what she had said was true, or if her putative mother even knew what the truth was. After going around in circles while Lilith's self-satisfied smile slowly grew into a sated grin and Jackie finally gave up.
"Fine. If you didn't kill him do you have any idea who might have done it?"
"Certainly, but will you believe me if I tell you?"
Jackie growled and stalked off.
Jackie wondered if DeBaulk had ordered the fog and drizzle in order to assure an appropriately dismal atmosphere for his funeral. She also wondered if he was somewhere in hell laughing about the Christian rites of burial his remains were being given... or maybe it was painful for a demon. That cheery thought made the slick muddy hillside more bearable until she realized how uncharitable it was.
Chiding herself, she turned to Dr. Long and whispered, "Nice service."
When her mentor nodded, she continued, "Did you hear how he died?"
"He was immolated."
"You didn't like him much did you?"
"Do you know who might have done it?"
"The list is quite long. I don't think this is the time or place."
Jackie actually agreed with him, but was not going to pass up the opportunity to find a possible alternative to Frank as number one candidate for murderer. "Let's move to the entrance to that crypt. It will be drier and we can still watch the ceremony."
"Actually, we could go back to my car and still watch, since there's no one else here."
"Fine. Let's go."
Jackie was wet and uncomfortable, but remained that way rather than use her magic to change her image to one that was dry. Dr. Long was a bit absent-minded and distractable, but he was the smartest man she had ever met, as well as one of the most knowledgeable human beings in the world when it came to things supernatural. She always wondered how someone who knew so much about the occult could have so little ability to perceive. It boggled her mind what he might have been able to accomplish with even a little bit of mystical power.
"I think the priest was glad we left, see how quickly he finished when he didn't feel the need to provide for our spiritual needs."
"I hope he doesn't slip on the muddy grass. Look how quickly he's leaving." Jackie bit her lip trying to decide how to proceed. "Dr. Long?"
"Yes my dear?"
"What was Dr. DeBaulk like?"
"Let's not speak ill of the dead. How's your thesis research coming?"
"Fine doctor, but please. I'd really like to know."
Professor Long sighed and brushed at his scruff of grey-white hair. "Must we?"
"Please doctor, it's important to me." When he still hesitated Jackie tried another tack. "The police think there was a supernatural aspect to his death. I'm working with a Sergeant at the thirteenth precinct, but I'd appreciate your help."
"Why didn't you say so my dear. Congratulations. Is this your first consulting fee?" Jackie nodded. "May there be many, many more?"
"That's why I need to know about him. Please tell me everything you can think of. You never know what can help."
Well, if you insist." He brushed at his sparsely covered pate again as he thought. "Well, much as I disliked his political positions, his life style, and his cavalier attitude towards others, he seemed to be yang to my yin. I can best describe him in those terms.
Jackie nodded and smiled encouragement as the older man took a deep breath before continuing. "He was an unrepentant reprobate, always chasing skirts and mercilessly teasing anyone who was not as 'lucky in love' as him. For example, I would always know whenever he had had sex the night before. Instead of calling me Ben as usual, he would greet me with 'Ben Long, Now Short."
Jackie tsked appropriately and he continued totally oblivious to the corner into which he was painting himself.
"He was vehemently opposed to the recently proposed expansion of the Department of Humanities and was quite eloquent in his opposition before the University Senate. As Department Chairman I've had my work cut out for me since, smoothing the ruffled feathers of some of the other members of the Humanities Department who were counting on a bit more room in their offices and a bigger library with access to better research facilities."
"Well, you know about the house he was building by the lake, the one that blocked my view of it? I had always thought I was safe because the land between my house and the lake had been designated as wetlands and as such could never be built upon.
"For Sylvester it wasn't enough to build it, he also had to gloat about how he had convinced the zoning board to ignore my objections and accept another parcel of land to be designated wetlands and how it served me right for not purchasing the land to insure it would not available for construction."
"Did you know that last night he even came by my house? He said he wanted to see exactly how poor the view was now."
"Wow. I knew he was a pain from some of the comments Frank had made, but I didn't know he was that bad."
"Have I ever met your husband? I don't remember it. How is he doing?"
"He's in jail. The police arrested him for DeBaulk's death."
"Oh my. Is there anything I can do?"
"I don't know Dr. Long, but I wouldn't volunteer much. If you tell the police what you just told me they'll consider you a suspect too."
"Oh my. Really?" He sounded almost excited to Jackie.