Without Light or Guide (8 page)

BOOK: Without Light or Guide
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Unless Prieto wasn't supposed to have Moloch's idea, or the mortal destined for the idea wasn't yet in Spain. Either way, Prieto was on his own.

Diago had the more immediate concern of Lamashtu.
And the daimons. Samael working with Moloch? That was unheard of.
Somehow Ba'al, the king of daimons, had managed to focus the daimons on a common course of action.

All so Lamashtu could possess Diago. And what if she was successful? What then? Lamashtu would raise Rafael while Diago watched helplessly from some vacant corner of his mind. If the daimons intended to execute such a plan, now was the time. Rafael was at a critical crossroads. Whatever happened to him over the next few years would shape his attitudes and allegiances. The daimons wanted the child badly enough to take Diago by force if necessary.

We'll see about that
. He wasn't running, though. He was done running.

Guillermo's voice echoed down the corridor and jarred Diago from his thoughts.

“There you are.” Guillermo strode toward him. Anger burned in his tawny eyes.

Dear God, what now?
Diago straightened.

“We have a problem.” Guillermo paused and registered Diago's features.

“Oh, we have a whole host of problems,” Diago said. Still shaken from his encounter with Prieto, he ran his hand through his hair.

Guillermo's frown deepened. “You don't look good.”

“I had another attack of chromesthesia. And I saw Prieto. He offered to exchange information. He gave me our daimon's name. Lamashtu. She is a minion of Sitra Akhra.”

“Samael's realm,” Guillermo muttered. “And what did you give him in return?”

“Only the obvious: two Nefilim have died due to conflicting orders from angels. He's extremely concerned about your allegiance. I told him you were simply being cautious.” Diago's tension eased with Guillermo's nod.

“Don't worry. It was bound to come out sooner or later. I wish we knew more about his intentions.”

“For now I'm worried just as much about Garcia.” At Guillermo's raised eyebrow, Diago told him about seeing Garcia talking to the German angel, Engel. They conversed in hushed tones and used Old Castilian to prevent any mortals, who strayed down the corridor, from understanding their discussion. By the time they finished, Guillermo had his lighter out and was furiously flipping the lid open and shut.

“Engel,” Guillermo muttered. “It's German for angel. He's mocking us.”

A pair of doctors ventured in their direction as they conferred over a patient's chart.

Guillermo said, “Let's get out of here.”

Diago fell into step beside the taller Nefil. “You said we had a problem. What did you discover?”

“The Ferrers are dead.”

“Jesus Christ.” He stared at Guillermo. “When?”

“Last night. It looks like they died in their sleep.”

“You said Amparo was the best. You said she'd get the fragment. What happened?”

“Strychnine.” Guillermo snapped. “Sound familiar? They suspect it's the maid, Elena. They can't find her.”

Horror settled like a noose around Diago's throat. He recalled Señora Ferrer's penchant for sherry and music teachers. She had been young. Too young to be married to a man twice her age and forced to mother a child that resented her.

The Ferrers were like a grotesque reflection of Diago's family.
Miquel, so much younger than me, suddenly forced into raising a child that wasn't his, and Rafael . . . did he resent us taking the place of the mother he idolized?
Worse still, was this how they would end up? Poisoned, murdered in their sleep, and left as carrion for strangers to pick over their bones?

Diago cut off the thought. This was how the mortals stroked their fears, and he had plenty of complications without imagining more.

Guillermo paused in front of the elevator and stabbed the button like he had a vendetta against it. When the car arrived, he opened the gate and Diago followed him inside. A doctor and two orderlies hurried in their direction. The doctor called out for them to hold the car.

Diago stepped forward, but Guillermo slammed the gate shut and punched the button for the ground floor.

The maneuver didn't bode well. Diago put his back against the wall and listened to the whirr of machinery. He tapped a quick rhythm against the wall, hoping he was wrong. “Please don't stop the car—­”

Guillermo rapidly punched a button.

The car shuddered to a halt.

“—­between floors. Jesus, Guillermo, you make me so nervous when you do this.”

“Stop whining. I'm tired of looking over my shoulder to see if the mortals are listening. At least we have some privacy.” Although Diago couldn't see Guillermo's hand, he heard the steady click of the lighter's lid. “What is Lamashtu protecting by killing the mortals? José was insane. No one was going to take his ravings seriously. Why leave such a murderous trail in her wake?”

Diago thought about the question for a moment. “Not ‘what' is she protecting, but ‘who.' Someone, mortal or Nefil, had to help her get the fragment to José in the first place. The daimons wouldn't concern themselves with protecting a mortal. They'd simply kill him or her. But a Nefil, someone under deep cover, someone hard to replace, now
that
would be worth this trail of death. Lamashtu is killing the mortals to prevent us from finding the name of a traitor. Think about it. She has been one step ahead of us ever since the beginning.” He hesitated. Guillermo wasn't going to like what he was about to imply.

“Say it.”

“Someone in Los Nefilim is feeding Lamashtu information. I think it's Garcia.”

Guillermo shook his head. “I can see Garcia conspiring with angels, but not the daimons. He hates them too deeply.” Before Diago could object, Guillermo pointed one blunt finger at him. “I know him, Diago. He would cut his own throat before he made an oath to daimons. No.” He punched the button again and the car lurched into motion.

Diago breathed a little easier. “What if he asks me about today? You said I was to share everything with him.”

Guillermo pursed his lips. “Keep him in the dark for now. Let him investigate the Ferrers' murder and run interference with the Guard. I want to see if he mentions his little meeting with Engel to me. I'll give him that much of a chance. If he doesn't, then I'll deal with him tomorrow.”

At the ground level, they left the elevator and walked to the exit in silence. Outside the mist had stopped but the weather remained chill and overcast.

Diago raised his hand to signal Suero. The younger Nefil waved in response and got into the car.

Guillermo withdrew a cigar from his breast pocket. “Prieto said you should leave Barcelona.”

“I'm not running. Not away from them. Moloch is trying to lure me to the bridge. I should go.”

Guillermo lit the cigar and blew a cloud of smoke into the damp air. “No.”

“We don't have the fragment. We don't know where to look. If we can't burn the sigil on the document and sever Lamashtu's link to the mortal world, then we have to cut the life-­strand that links her soul to the fragment. The only way to accomplish that is to follow her to the borders of the daimonic realm right where they're trying to entrap me.

“What if we turn the tables on them and hunt Lamashtu? What's the old saying? ‘The best way to beat an ambush is to spring it.' I can entice her away from the bridge so we can take her down.”

When Guillermo made no immediate answer, Diago lowered his voice. He hated to plead, but he had no choice. “I've spent my whole life running, Guillermo. I ran from my true nature; I ran from Miquel's love; I ran because I was afraid. It stops today. I'm not running anymore. I have to face them and make a stand.”

Suero pulled the car up to the curb. He opened the backdoor and waited, his gaze flickering from Diago to Guillermo.

Guillermo smoked and considered a distant spire. Almost a full minute passed before he spoke. “All right. We're going to my apartment on Carrer del Carme.” The street was only a seven-­minute walk from the Liceu station, close to the bridge. Guillermo put out his cigar and got into the backseat. “Let's hunt a daimon.”

 

CHAPTER SIX

S
uero stopped the car in front of a shabby apartment building on Carrer del Carme. Guillermo leaned forward and gripped the back of Suero's neck. “Find Amparo and bring her to number eight. She will answer to me. I want to know what the fuck happened last night. Then you call Juanita. Be careful and use code. We don't know if anyone is listening on our lines. Tell her we've been delayed in the city, and ask her to get Miquel to bring the kitten into our house for the night.”

The kitten was their code for Rafael. Any doubts Diago might have entertained about joining Los Nefilim dissipated. Guillermo would keep his word and protect his family. He put his hand on the door handle, but Guillermo wasn't done.

“I want you to put a tail on Garcia. I think he's communicating with an angel, a German. He calls himself Engel. I want to know Garcia's every move. What he eats for dinner, who he sees, when he goes to bed—­everything. Stay away from Engel right now. I don't want him to know we're on to him. Understand?”

Suero nodded. “I'll see to it myself.”

“Pair up. Everyone pairs up until I've gotten to the bottom of this. If anyone fucks up, I will have that Nefil's head on my gate. Am I clear?”

“Yes, boss.”

“Spread the word and make them believe.”

Suero's Adam's apple bobbed twice in rapid succession. It was the first time Diago had seen the young Nefil anxious about his orders. “I will, boss.”

Satisfied with Suero's response, Guillermo opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk. Diago got out and followed him through the maze of alleys winding away from Carme. Eventually they reached a building with a narrow entrance. Inside, the stairwell reeked of cheap beer and stale cigarettes. ­People moved behind the doors, conjuring images of rats in a nest.

At the second floor, Guillermo went to the end of the corridor and inserted a key in the door of apartment number eight. The cheerless apartment possessed one window, which looked down into the alley. A thin layer of grime covered the furniture, as if the residue of the other tenants' lives had somehow leaked through the walls to coat the furniture.

Diago took off his coat and hung it alongside his hat on the rack by the door. A quick tour of the apartment revealed one bedroom with a wardrobe against a wall.

“Bathroom is down the hall,” Guillermo said. “If the door is shut, make some noise as you walk. Someone might be in there shooting heroin. You don't want to startle them into rupturing a vein.” Guillermo flung his coat over the back of the sofa and tossed his hat beside it. “That's messy.”

Diago retrieved the garments and hung them properly by the door. “I don't need the bathroom.”
Thank God.

Guillermo went to a cabinet and returned to the table with glasses and a bottle of Veterano. “I hope you don't mind your brandy in juice glasses.” He didn't wait for an answer and poured them each a round. “But I need a drink while we wait for dark.”

Diago sat at the scarred table. “They expect us to wait for tonight. We should go soon.”

“You want to walk the tracks with the trains running? Are you serious?”

“I think we should avoid the tracks, precisely because that is what they are expecting us to do. I thought about it on the ride here. I know another way in, through the sewers. We can come up behind them.”

“You don't intend to cross the bridge, do you?”

“No. That would be a fool's mistake.” Diago sipped his drink. Guillermo might serve his liqueur in juice glasses, but he always made sure to buy the best. “I want to get close enough to show myself, and then lead Lamashtu back to you. Together, we can take her down.”

“How?”

“If Lamashtu is possessing mortals, then she has left her corporeal body someplace safe—­I'm guessing in Sitra Akhra where Samael protects her.”

“And she possesses the mortals with her spirit?”

Diago nodded. “She infects them like a virus and lodges herself in her host's brain. Then she manipulates the mortal by controlling the person's muscles and nerves.”
Just like she intends to do with me,
he thought and quieted the shiver stealing over him. He nursed another sip of his brandy before he continued. “In doing so, she effectively becomes that person.”

Diago stroked his glass with one finger. “We've got to kill the mortal she has possessed. In this case, Elena. It's the only way to force Lamashtu's spirit into the open.”

“I thought you didn't like murdering mortals,” Guillermo said.

“I don't,” he admitted. “But Elena is already the primary suspect in the Ferrers' murders. If we manage to eject Lamashtu from her body, what does Elena have to return to in this life? Imprisonment? Execution?” He shook his head. “Knowing how involved she was with the Ferrers, she will be horrified that she had a hand, no matter how unwillingly, in their deaths. She'll become like José, a shell of person. That's not living.”

Guillermo withdrew his lighter and flicked the lid open and shut just once. “All right, we kill Elena; then what happens?”

“Lamashtu will flee Elena's dying body and return to spirit form. She will have two silver threads extending from her soul. These threads are the tethers that anchor her spirit to her corporeal form. One will lead to the fragment, the other back to her body in Sitra Akhra. We have to sever those threads with a sigil that looks like this.” He hummed a short note in C and used the sound waves to carve an intricate sigil in the air. The double-­edged lines were thin and sharp like a knife—­the perfect glyph to sever a spiritual tether. “You try it.”

“I can't go that high.”

“Try it in D.”

Guillermo followed Diago's example and crafted a ward that, while it wasn't quite as sharp as Diago's, could certainly function as a blade.

“That's good,” Diago said. “When I find her—­or when she finds me—­I will draw her as far from the bridge as I can. Once we've eliminated the host, we sing our glyphs to life. You sever the thread leading to the fragment—­it will be the thinner of the two. I'll cut the tether that connects to her body with the sharper sigil. We hit her hard and fast before she realizes what we've done. Once we've disabled her anchors, her spirit will die and so will her body.”

“And what about Alvaro?” Guillermo asked.

Diago looked away from him.
Stop acting guilty. I've done nothing wrong.
He forced himself to meet Guillermo's gaze. “What about Alvaro?”

“Moloch is using him as a hostage. How will that affect you?”

Diago shrugged. “Why should it?”

Guillermo's voice was gentle, but the truths he spoke were not. “In spite of everything, he is your father. You might not want to face it, but we often hold onto loyalties based on blood . . . and spirit . . . regardless of whether those allegiances are rational or not.”

Diago's fingers tightened around his glass. A spiral of anger coiled in his gut. All of Guillermo's talk of trust was easy when they were safe at Santuari, but now, in the face of going below, he obviously had doubts.

“Let's be honest.” Diago leaned across the table, unable to keep the hurt out of his voice. “What you want to know is where my loyalties lie. If I should have to pick between saving you or Alvaro, who will I choose?”

“No.” Guillermo's ire rose like the color to his cheeks. “You're wrong.” His palm smacked the table. “You've never betrayed me, Diago. Never. And you've had ample opportunities before now.” He leaned back in his chair. “No. I'm worried about
Alvaro
deceiving
you
. Or worse, luring you onto the bridge.”

He's telling the truth.
Guillermo could be as transparent as a mortal when he chose.
He's concerned about me.
Diago's rage slipped away. “What cause have I given you for concern?”

“It's like Candela's rape,” Guillermo said softly, digging at a wound Diago didn't know how to close. “You never talk about it.”

“And we're not going to talk about Candela now,” he snapped.

Guillermo raised his hand in a gesture for peace. “And I'm not suggesting we do. It simply illustrates a pattern of your behavior.” Diago opened his mouth to protest, but Guillermo talked over him. “Anytime something bothers you, you tuck it away in some quiet corner of your mind and simply ignore it. You need to learn to deal with your feelings, Diago. You've got to stop carrying all of your guilt and shame inside.” Guillermo sighed and looked at the window for a moment before turning his gaze back to Diago. “Talk to me like we used to talk. Tell me what is in your heart, my friend.”

Diago stared into his glass. “My heart . . . is a dark song best kept silent.” He felt Guillermo's stare like a hand on his face.
Give him something or he won't let the subject go.
“I've talked with Miquel about Alvaro. A little. I remembered something. Last night. My father left me with my aunt. He promised to return. He never did. I didn't see him again until I met him in Moloch's lair. Once I may have loved him, but after he abandoned me, I forgot him. I deliberately forgot him.”
Like Candela and how she raped me.
He lifted his head and met Guillermo's gaze. “Alvaro hasn't meant anything to me in this life.”

“Yet you tried to hide him from Garcia.” It wasn't a question.

“I wasn't worried about Alvaro. I was concerned Garcia would make it seem as if I was colluding with my father. I was worried what you would think of me.” He drained his glass and set it on the table with a thump. Unsure how to untangle his conflicting emotions enough to articulate them, he murmured, “It baffles me.”

“What is that?”

“I spent my whole life either hating Alvaro, or not thinking about him at all. Now, when I'm with Rafael, I wonder . . .” The thought drifted away like the sun behind clouds. Diago was ready to let it go until Guillermo snatched it back.

“Wonder what?”

“I wonder if he was a bad man, who followed his heart, or if he was a good man, who just made bad choices.”

Guillermo shook his head. “I don't know. You may never know. Just promise me you will open your eyes until you're certain. Look for the truth of his motives, not what your heart wants to see.”

It was wise advice. Outside the window, drops of rain spattered the balcony's railing. “All I know for sure is that the time has come for me to take a stand, even if it means standing against my kin.”

Guillermo reached across the table and gripped Diago's forearm. “It's not an easy thing, but I've got your back.”

Uncomfortable in the face of his friend's love, Diago attempted to lighten the mood. He teased gently. “You said Garcia had my back.”

“Garcia is an asshole. I'm not.” He gave Diago's arm a squeeze before he poured them another round. “This will be just like old times, routing daimons and fighting in the labyrinths.”

“I'm getting too old for daimon routing and labyrinth fighting.”

“You'll be fine.” Guillermo raised his glass. “Salut.”

“Salut.” Diago tipped his glass against Guillermo's.

A rap at the door interrupted their drinking.

Diago raised an eyebrow. Could it be Amparo? So quickly?

Guillermo scowled at the entrance and rose. He padded to stand behind the door. Even without a weapon, he was a formidable opponent. One of his massive hands around an intruder's throat would stop all but the biggest of mortals.

He motioned for Diago to answer the door.

A woman stood in the hall. She was dainty with black wiry hair and dark slanted eyes. The subtle tones of her skin placed her mortal parentage somewhere between China and Africa. The light shining in her pupils marked her as an angel-­born Nefil.

“What do you want?” Diago asked.

“I'm Amparo.” Her voice was a deep contralto, rich as the newly-­turned earth.

Guillermo nodded, and Diago stepped aside to let her in.

“Who are you?” she asked as she shimmied past him.

“Diago Alvarez.”

“You're the new one.” She gave him a good once-­over. “Funny. I expected you to have horns.”

“I take them off when I go among the mortals.”

The riposte won him a wry smile, which vanished the moment Guillermo spoke. “You got here fast.”

“I was supposed to meet Suero a ­couple of blocks away this afternoon with the fragment. I offered to walk here, but Suero brought me. He's upset. I can always tell. He drives like a madman.”

“Sit down.” Guillermo patted one of the chairs. “Sit right here, and tell me what the fuck happened last night.”

She remained standing, and though small in stature, her self-­confidence more than compensated for her lack of height. “It's a short story. I was arrested for being out after curfew. I spent the night in jail.”

“Why didn't you call me, or Garcia?”

“Mieras wouldn't let me near a phone. There was an angel at his side.”

Diago asked, “Did he look German?”

Amparo nodded. “He is visiting the Urban Guard in an advisory capacity. He goes by the name Anselm Engel and claims he is from Berlin. He has a message for you.”

Guillermo's glare turned cold. “Does he now?”

“He said Los Nefilim were created to be soldiers, and soldiers obeyed their superiors. He said Los Nefilim have become arrogant.”

Oddly enough, Engel's words echoed Prieto's concerns. As a matter of fact, the sentiment was
identical
to the one Prieto had voiced during Diago's very first meeting with him. The angels seemed to be very apprehensive about Guillermo's allegiances, and with good cause. Los Nefilim were their ground soldiers. Clearly, Diago wasn't the only one concerned with which side Guillermo would take if the angels engaged in civil war.
Or if he will take one at all.

BOOK: Without Light or Guide
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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