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The Fool's Journey

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The Fool's Journey
by MJ
mjr91@aol.com

 

Atu 0: The Foolish Man, or The Fool.

Representation of the Inner Journey of the Soul

Unlucky in Reference to Business

Despite being the first card in the Tarot Major Arcana, its number is Zero.

Placed by the French as the Twenty-second card of the Major Arcana, still Zero

Herein is a Mystery.

The dark-haired woman gathered the spill of colorful cards into a scarf on the table, straightened the edges, and tied them into the scarf. Bodie peeled two one-pound notes from a roll of bills in his pocket and slid them to her. "No need, luv," she told him. "I just do this for a bit of a lark."

"No, Celinda, I want you to take it. You worked hard practicing that; you deserve it. Buy yourself a pint."

"Thanks, luv." She blew him a kiss. He smiled at her, white teeth gleaming, and she smiled back, embarrassed. He slid out of the seat and returned to the corner table in the pub, where his partner, Raymond Doyle, sat waiting with two pints.

"So, mate, what's the word? Beautiful rich lady going to sail past you at dinner and make you an offer?" Doyle slid a pint across to Bodie as Bodie seated himself on the rickety hardwood chair.

"Nope," Bodie replied, smiling into Doyle's face.. "No such luck. Goin' to keep my day job, not win the Irish Sweepstakes, and I'm stuck with the same blighter I've been seein'. At least she figured he was tall, dark, and handsome."

"Can't be me, then," Doyle chuckled. He raised his glass to Bodie. "Cheers."

"Cheers." Bodie drank along with Doyle, but his heart wasn't quite in the toast. His mother had been a believer; every time the gypsies had passed through, she had gone to them, and come back either elated or disturbed depending on the news. Though he knew he should know better, it was hard for him not to believe what their old pub friend had told him, and what she'd told him had nothing to do with what he'd told Doyle.

He'd gone with his mother once to the gypsy camp; he'd seen the fire, the caravan, the women dripping with huge pieces of jewelry, all manner of beads. He'd climbed into the one wagon with his mother, smelled the thick smoke from the joss sticks, watched the candles glow, their wax trails running down the holders onto the tablecloth. He'd seen the deck of brightly colored cards, been amazed at the pictures…and had run out of the wagon when the gypsy woman had turned up the card without a number, the one with the skeleton on it. Even at that age, no one had needed to tell him its significance.

His uncle had died the next morning, unexpectedly. And as for his father…He shook his head, trying to clear it. Celinda had turned up the same card there. Oh, she'd tried to gloss over it, she had, but he knew that card. Knew he was staring directly at Death, just as he'd seen It before. And he'd stared at other forms of Death other times as well. In Angola, during the fighting. Here in CI5, more than once. He knew bloody well what it meant to see that card now. He or Ray would be staring Death in the face once again. Very soon, undoubtedly. And whichever of them it was, they were going to be going along with Death for a one-way ride.

No way was he going to tell Ray. The last thing he needed was to put the fear of bad luck in an Irishman. Even if the Irish wasn't from this generation. He didn't want to find out just how strong his lover's own superstitiousness was.

»»»

The masked figure wore a black robe and a medallion around his neck. He had a sword strapped to his side. Across from him stood a man in a red robe, wearing a red head covering and a strangely painted cross, holding what looked like a children's book drawing of a king's sceptre. The man in red spoke to him across a thick cloud of incense smoke from a waist—high table between them. "Of what are these words a symbol?"

"Of life, for they begin with the letter 'H'. The 'H' represents the Greek aspirate of breathing, and the Breath of God gives Man life." The masked man sat down across from the altar of incense, waiting for the next figure to perform his part of the rite.

About an hour later, the ritual was completed. The six officers shook hands quietly with a few other black-robed participants, who exited through a side door. Most of them would remove their black cassocks and cinctures, put on their watches and metal jewelry again, don their jackets, and return home or step out together for a pint. The officers would take rather longer to depart. "What did you think?" the red-robed man asked.

"The Presence was very strong this evening," a woman dressed much like the masked man answered. She set a pewter wine goblet down on a small side table. "Even some of our new members noticed, I think."

"We may thank our good brother here for that," the red-clad leader replied, clapping a hand on the masked gentleman. "It's his position, after all, to hold the forces of darkness in check and prevent them from approaching the altar. A dirty job, as they say, but he does it well."

"What if it weren't done properly?" the young woman asked. "What would be the effect, anyway?"

"Very nasty indeed," the leader answered. "It could result in the total disruption of the forces we invoke, and could injure people right here in the temple. If we were working on affecting something outside of the temple, they could actually disrupt the outside world. And then, of course, if it's not done properly, there's always the risk of possession. Especially for the swordbearer himself, since the forces love to attack the person trying to repel them."

The masked man nodded. "So they do, Honoured Lodgemaster."

"Have you met them personally, Brother Swordbearer?" the woman inquired.

"I have." He unbuckled the sword belt, hefted the antique weapon he had worn, and placed it in a draped cabinet against the wall of the lodge.

"What on earth are they like?"

"Like nothing on this earth, as they are not from it. And as our Honoured Lodgemaster says, very nasty indeed." He stripped off his cassock and removed the domino that had covered his face during the ritual. His eyes glittered ferally. A woman who had dated him recently had told her flatmate that his eyes "weren't like anything on this earth, Doreen. He's too spooky for me."

»»»

The Honourable Frederic Carrington sat down in his town house library with a snifter of cognac and looked at the pile of books spread out in front of him. It was a good thing that he didn't need to work, as he'd clearly be up all night looking up what he wanted. A copy of Francis Barrett's "The Magus" kept company with Aleister Crowley's translation of the "Lesser Key of Solomon" and with a worn, dog-eared copy of the "Book of Raziel" he'd taken pains to acquire from an elderly Hasidic rabbi. He'd paid a dear price for a book in such condition, but it was nearly impossible to find, after all. A reprint of Reginald Scot's "Discoverie of Witchcraft" was present; although Scot had been quite the sceptic, and that during the witch trials of King James, Scot had nonetheless catalogued the mythical demons and spirits against which the clerics had foolishly preached quite neatly, and with good directions. Blast, where was his copy of "The Black Pullet"?

If only he'd had time to perform the six months' preliminaries needed in order to work the Abra-Melin rituals. But it would have been a waste anyway if the angels refused to speak with him…and in his case, Carrington conceded, that was distinctly possible.

Which of the dukes of Hell did Crowley say was required for the bringing of treasures of gold? One of them, surely. Unless it was one of the presidents. Thank God, or whatever entity, that others had catalogued the demonic hierarchies by rank; he certainly couldn't figure it out yet…

»»»

George Cowley threw the glossy black and white photographs down on his desk. Bodie and Doyle studied them, both wincing with distaste. "The fourth murder in four months. All women, all killed the same way. All having skin literally peeled off of their backs or stomachs."

"Any sexual attacks?" Bodie asked. "Genital mutilations? We got us a bloody Jack the Ripper copycat here?"

"The police don't think so," Cowley told him. "No signs of sexual mutilation or attack, no notes, not all prostitutes. Little common thread except that all of them are women and all were strangled, then literally skinned."

"It's disgusting," Doyle said to Cowley, "but what makes it a CI5 case?"

"Ah, 4.5, now we come to the point," Cowley answered. "The killings appear to be ritualistic, do they not? The dates of the murders were checked. All of the women were killed on the night of the new moon. And the last woman killed…a friend of hers stepped forward with information that she was a member in some sort of occult lodge meeting in Richmond. The person who came forward is apparently a member of the lodge himself. We don't know much about the composition of this lodge—who its members are, what it really does, whether it fronts for anything more sinister. It's not as genteel, apparently, as the Theosophists are; they seem to do a bit more than chase swamis and meditate, and they're much more secretive. The police think that there's no particular connection, since she's the only one of the women who seems to have been connected to anything esoteric. But the facts seem to have attracted the attention of some of our domestic security chaps."

"So why don't they go poking into it, then?" Bodie grumbled. "What are we even looking for?"

"CI5 has the authority to investigate to see if there is in fact anything suspicious here. The other departments don't. And not to put too fine a point on it, lads, they may be afraid of a Masonic connection."

"Come off it," Bodie spat. "The Masons are harmless; we know that even if the coppers don't. So what's the problem?"

"The problem," Cowley explained patiently, "is that while the Masons are indeed harmless and charitable, they attract a good many joiners. People who join one lodge or club often join several others. And there's a fear that although this lodge seems not to be Masonic, there could be Masons who are members. A good many of the chappies in the other departments are Masons, and they apparently feel a bit delicate about it. They don't want to be accused of the various things that the press gets on about. Giving someone an unfair break, covering things up—they don't, of course, but that's what the Press says about them. Now, neither of you are Masons, most of CI5 is not, and I'm one of the few men of my civil service level who have never joined the Lodge. Please tell me that neither of you is a member of any other lodges or secret societies."

"Not me," Bodie replied. "I'm not a joiner. Been asked into a few, but not my style, is it?"

Doyle shook his head. "I'm Catholic, sir."

Cowley raised one brow. "Ah, 4.5, that raises a different point. You aren't automatically prejudiced against members of such groups, are you?"

"Couldn't care less. Always figured they were just an excuse for getting together to drink anyway, and I don't need to pay dues and take oaths to go drink. If they want to, that's their right."

"This group seems to be a little more exotic than a drinking club, 4.5, but it's your department to find out just how exotic that may be."

»»»

"Sister Chalicist," the Lodgemaster repeated to the masked figure. "Dead. Skinned. I know what that means as well as you do, Brother. Three other women killed the same way over four months on the new moon. A little obvious, isn't it?"

The other man tightened his red cincture around his waist. "Maybe. Maybe not. Are you giving me a message, Honoured Lodgemaster?"

The Lodgemaster nodded silently. "The forces of the Qliphoth gather at the base of the altar, Brother. It is the Swordbearer's task to repel them, not to be absorbed among them. This thing must stop, Brother. Will you stop it?"

The masked man lowered his head, stared at his feet sullenly. "I will."

"On your oath to the Lodge?"

"On my oath to myself, Honoured Lodgemaster. The work of the Lodge is all well and good, and I know what happens to those who violate its oath. But the Lodge is not my highest authority."

The Lodgemaster dropped his hand upon the swordbearer's shoulder. "I understand. But remember that the forces of justice ride upon the winds and strike as no man may, Brother. You must stop this thing."

"I understand." He picked up the sword, hefted its weight, considered. "And I will obey my own oath."

»»»

"Well, Sunshine, who do we go see first?" Doyle asked.

"Hmm," Bodie considered. "We've a couple of names. They seem to be some kind of muckety-mucks in this bloody Lodge the bird belonged to. Suppose they could tell us a thing or two about her. And just maybe they can tell us what kind of ruddy occult meaning there is to killin' and skinnin' a bunch of chippies on a monthly basis."

Doyle looked over the information they had been given. "Interesting lot here. The Lodgemaster's a chemist, has his own shop; here's some Honourable or another who collects occult books and writes nutty articles on demons…whoa, now, this IS interesting."

"What's that?" Bodie asked.

"Ever hear of a bloke name of John Constantine?"

"Can't say I have, luv."

"Well," Doyle said, warming to the task, "John Con's a bit of a name some places. Used to be lead in a band—I forget the name, but they had a couple of hits. Ever hear 'Venus of the Half-Shell'?"

"Oh, maybe. Wait, I remember the video. That was a few years back, though."

"Yes. He pretty much dropped out of sight when the band broke up. But he had quite a reputation. A Satanist or something. Actually went out and put a spell on the audience a few times, he did. Used to cast spells during backstage parties, once put a whole room of partiers in a trance or some such when they ran out of drugs. They claimed it was the best trip any of them had ever had."

Bodie frowned. "I was goin' to suggest starting with their club president there, but this one sounds like an actual suspect."

"My thinkin' too," Doyle sighed. He dug into his pocket, handed something over to Bodie. "Take this, luv."

Bodie reached over. "What's this?"

"A rosary. Got one on me, too. Me mum used to give me rosaries all the time she'd had the priest bless. Thought they might come in handy with this crew."

His lover nodded, pocketed the rosary, then looked up, abashed. "Got something for you too, mate," he replied sheepishly. He handed Doyle a tiny box. "It was me mum's. Superstitious, she was. Used to go see the gypsies when I was a lad. Found it this mornin' when you were in the shower." Doyle opened the box, looked into it.

"Coins?"

"That's it, mate. A gypsy she went to see gave her those; I think they're Roumanian or something. Supposed to be where the Gypsies come from or some such. Told her they were blessed and she should carry them 'round for luck. She kept them in a little bag she'd pin inside her dress every morning."

Doyle nodded and pocketed them. "Well, if they worked for yer mum, mate, they're good enough for me." He reached over and squeezed Bodie's hand, smiling. " 'Sides, got all the good luck I really need right here, don't I?"

»»»

"If he's such a powerful magickal muckety-muck," Bodie groused, "why's he living like this? Do me a spell for a pile of gold, I would." They walked from the Capri across the street to a dilapidated lodging house. The East End neighborhood was overrun with drunks of varying nationalities sitting on the stoops, waiting for their dole checks to arrive in the post. The front yards, postage stamps fenced in with rusted wrought iron fencing, were overrun with weeds. The County Council had never seen its way to beautifying and improving this area, had it? And something suggested that the residents would fight the idea of improvement tooth and claw were it proposed.

A tenant opened he screen door to the building. "What's your business, eh?" she demanded curtly. "You from Inland Revenue?"

"Nah," Doyle replied with equal curtness. He'd walked a beat in just such a neighborhood, he had. "Lookin' fer a bloke name of Constantine."

Her expression barely changed except to register further distaste. "John Constantine? Con-Job's on the third. Ought to still be in, he staggered in drunk late enough last night, didn't he? And tell him he owes Martha Padgett five quid, and not to forget it."

"Hmm," Doyle mused on the way up the steps. "Maybe he's doin' a spell to get out of here, eh? Maybe it needs a few human sacrifices."

The stairs were dark, the steps creaky. Bodie could feel his own weight creasing the treads under his feet. Rubbish was plentiful; he half-expected a mouse to visit from under a pile of newsprint. The Daily Mail, by the look of it; who'd have though there was a Daily Mail reader here? Maybe a down-at-the-heels retiree. Finally, at he top of a sharp turn, there was a door tagged "Constantine". The label was fairly fresh; apparently he had moved here only recently. Bodie knocked.

"Bloody hell, Padgett, you'll have the five quid tomorrow!" called an identifiably hang-over voice from within. "Check's due today, innit?"

"Sorry, Mr. Constantine, we're not the Padgetts," Bodie announced.

"Damn…see here, wait just a minute…" A moment later the door opened, a thin, haggard blond man at the door in a v-neck and underpants with a cotton robe thrown over them. A cigarette dangled loosely between his lips; his eyes were bloodshot. "Who're you? Collectin' for the home for washed-up rockers? Book me a room, eh?"

Doyle produced his ID card. "We're with CI5, Mr. Constantine. May we come in?"

The blond considered for one moment. "Sure; come in. Had a rough night, is all." He ushered them into the cramped efficiency. A tiny kitchenette was at one side; two rooms and a bath made up the rest of the flat. "Not exactly the Ritz, gentlemen, but make yourselves comfy." He pointed to a threadbare chaise longue. The agents seated themselves as Constantine sank into an ancient armchair with exposed ticking. "CI5? I've heard of you blokes. Got no government connections that I know of, though; what can I do for you?"

"Daria Lawrence," Bodie responded. "Understand you might know her."

"Daria Lawrence? Girl in the papers with the killing?" Constantine nodded, watching their faces. "I knew her. Not by name, though. She and I were in a club together; I saw her there. Never talked personally, just on business, you see. Nice. Pretty girl, too, and smart. Sorry about it and all."

"This club the two of you were in, Mr. Constantine. What can you tell us about it?"

Constantine raised an eyebrow. "If you found me, you've already done a bit of research, eh? Then you know we were in a lodge together. Order of the Black Sun. She was an officer in it. Very good psychic, she was; not much of a kabbalist, just learning her way through the rituals but she was a trouper. Think she'd been in a wiccan coven, she knew a little about circles and the directions and all, but not much about the elementals or the spirits."

"No idea whatcher talkin'," Doyle told him, watching Constantine light another fag—he could swear he hadn't seen Constantine light a match; how had he lit the thing?—and studying the singer's expression. "Take yer word for it, whatever you mean." He felt for the lucky coins he was carrying. How had Constantine lit that thing? "Any idea why someone'd want to kill her?"

"I didn't know Daria well enough to know if she'd have any personal enemies or not," the blond replied. "Far's I know, everyone in Lodge liked her—'course, they'd never say otherwise if they didn't, see? But she could also have been at the wrong place t the wrong time, you know? If someone's going to kill the first person that fits their bill and you walk right past them at the time, and yer it, mate, then it was nice knowin' you."

"So," Bodie asked, "could she have been killed because she was the right type in the wrong place? Any idea whatcher right type would have been if she was the one killed?"

"Ah," Constantine replied. "Now yer talkin' something, ain'tcha? Notice there's been four young ladies killed? All the same way? On the new moon? Yeah, I think there was a right type. And why. I just don't know whose right type they were, or I'd tell you. I don't hold with coppers as a rule, which you've probably figured, but this boy's got to be stopped."

"Boy?" Doyle asked.

"Man. Not too mature, though, is he, if he's pullin' a stunt like this? Means he really believes everything he reads in the old grimoires. Spell books," he added at Bodie's and Doyle's obvious confusion. "Sure some of it's right enough, but some of it's right garbage, and that's part of it."

"What is?" Bodie raised an eyebrow.

"Lemme show you." Constantine threw an Indian print cloth off of his makeshift coffee table, which turned out to be an old trunk. He knelt down and opened the trunk. Various odd things were there—knives with oddly painted hilts, a brass wine cup, a painted goblet, packets of incense and herbs of unknown type and legality, sheets of parchment, assorted small stones, and a jumble of old books. "The remains of a great magickal career, dear friends, reduced to the essentials I can move from flat to flat. The rest's in storage with my mate Chas. Never let 'em tell you you'll get money and power outta this, mates. You believe that, yer in for a big surprise. As is our friend who likes to filet his victims under a moonless sky." He rummaged further. "There we are." He lifted out a book wrapped in silk, set the parcel on the floor, and shut the lid of the trunk.

Unwrapping the crimson silk from the book, Bodie could see that the book was an old volume bound in rusty black leather, flaking at the spine. No printing was on the cover. Constantine opened it carefully. "This is a copy of the grimoire of Gilles de Rais," he said. "Joan of Arc's advisor. He was an alchemist and a bit of a perv, apparently; he was burned for pederasty and child murder of dozens of kiddies. He believed what he was told, too. Look at this page." He thrust the book under Bodie's nose.

" 'For Bartzabel to bring much wealth and then influence with the throne,' " Bodie read in the old print. " 'Much parchment is needed, that of the skin of virgins is best, then young women, taken at the dark of the moon. If not these, then a young, strong lad; failing these, any skin will do, but not so well, yet see that the body is not cut in any way before taking the parchment, so that there is no blemish upon it.' Ugh. That's it, all right. 'Six skins at least should be prepared, for Bartzabel is great for writing. And these should be prepared with myrrh, since Saturn is needed for Bartzabel to bring treasure forth from the earth on your behalf.' Whatever that means. 'Do you then enter the circle and conjure Bartzabel to visible appearance in the triangle of art with a ring of lead upon your finger, and lead chain to bind. Let the scryer write what Bartzabel shall speak, and to what you shall agree, upon the parchments.' Gawd, this is insane."

Constantine took the book from Bodie, closed it, and wrapped it. "Of course it is. Gilles de Rais was bloody nutters. And while this is hard to find and pricey, it isn't the only copy known to man. There was a printing of these in a batch of about 50 back in 1815 or so, probably by students of Francis Barrett. I know of three or four other copies personally. There are probably more of them than that. I figure whoever's doing this either has a copy of the book or has read another person's, because he's doing what it says to do. And to my knowledge, there's been no reprint of the book and this spell's never been printed anywhere else."

"That ought to narrow down the candidates," Doyle said.

"Well, it would," Constantine informed them, "only, who knows who has the copies, and who knows who's read them? Not like there's a registered list, is there?"

"So we're no better off than we were," Bodie sighed.

"Dunno, mate," Constantine said. "Couple of other chappies in the lodge have their own copies, though I know at least one's a photostat. Our Lodgemaster's is a Photostat of mine. Our guardian's is a photostat, too. Freddy Carrington might have an actual copy. Rich young arsehole with too much time on his hands, and he likes to collect books. Nice collection of occult stuff that he can't understand half of if you ask me."

"Writes articles, doesn't he?" Doyle asked, recalling the membership list.

"Freddy Carrington wouldn't know a real demon if it came to visible appearance and bit off his bollocks. Assuming, that is, that he's got any. Which is doubtful if Daria was right. She went out with him once, said nothing happened."

"Maybe he's a gentleman," Doyle suggested.

"Or a poofter," Constantine chuckled, then looked over at the agents. "No offense intended, of course, mates. Didn't mean it like that, you know."

Bodie stared. "How'd you know?"

"Said Daria was a good psychic, didn't I? Didn't say she was the only one we had, mates. Don't do it often, but I can when I want. If I try hard enough, anyway. Prefer the other end of things m'self, but I've knackered around with the mind reading bit before. Basic training, sort of, for this line of work." He lit another fag with an apparently empty hand. "Other skills are more useful for me, though." He coughed.

"Shouldn't smoke like that," Bodie suggested.

"Doesn't matter, does it? Was dying of lung cancer a couple of years back in a bad hospital. Got cured right up by a transfusion of this one nattering demon's blood. Handy business, that—makes me immune to vampires, too." Bodie stared in disbelief. "Seriously, mates. Vampires don't like demon blood one bit. Same way I feel about blood sausages. Just wish it killed bloody hangovers, eh?" Constantine rubbed his temples. "Got a lot of skills, and none worth a dime in the public economy."

"Any other thoughts?" Doyle asked.

"About Daria? Just this, mates. There's a lot of total nutters in this business. I mean, worse ones than you think I am. A lot worse. I know some of 'em, but not nearly all of 'em. Some of 'em specifically go into the dark side of things, but others start out all goody-goody and the dark side comes up and bites 'em. The demons at the base of the altar are most likely to go after and to take over the white-light types most anxious to keep 'em down."

Doyle took a hard look at Constantine. "You think this man's possessed?"

"Could be, mates, could be. Be very careful with him. Don't go anywhere without those rosaries you're carrying. Not if you like stayin' alive, anyway."

'How'd you know we're—oh, never mind."

»»»

The Honourable Freddy Carrington shut the door behind Doyle and Bodie when they left his flat. A couple of good-looking men, he decided, even if they were government chappies. Too bad you couldn't ask the investigating officer out, eh? Daria had wanted him to ask her out; he knew that. She'd never realised just how unlikely that was. Still, she'd been a nice girl, he supposed; a pity she'd bought it the other night.

That really attractive bloke, Bodie, was it? The one in the blazer? He'd looked through Freddy's copy of "The Magus" really quite intently. He'd talked to Constantine first, of course, but really, he'd grasped all of this quite well. Freddy tried to picture Bodie in a black cassock and cincture, swinging a censer of incense in the lodge. Yes, he could see that quite clearly. Bodie would make a really fine-looking ritualist, much better than that short, dumpy dentist that currently served as thurifer. Hmm, be fun trying to conjure up a few spirits with that Bodie around, and maybe nobody else; he'd have to dig out that book on Crowley's sex magick rituals and call CI5 back, eh? Important information for that nice Mr. Bodie. Doyle? Nobody'd miss Mr. Doyle, not Freddy, anyway. He'd have to call Bodie with an urgent message some time when that curly-haired chappie was off-duty.

Bodie had asked about the Gilles de Rais grimoire. Really. Of course, it was quite a collector's piece, and Constantine had told him about the book. But surely he'd find Crowley's Enochian sexual rituals much more entertaining than the spells of some old French pederast.

He checked the clock in his hall. Time to get ready to head over to the lodge.

»»»

A few sniffles could be heard in the lodge as the Lodgemaster solemnly pronounced the closing invocation at the memorial rite for Sister Daria Lawrence. The Lodgemaster knew that his voice was theatrical, and he catered to his listeners with his orations. The Universe would surely forgive him such a small display of vanity, would it not?

"Holy are You, Lord of the Universe.

Holy are You, Whom Nature did not form.

Holy are You. O Great and Mighty One,

Lord of Darkness and Lord of Light."

He sighed inwardly in satisfaction at the sound of tissues being used, assuring himself that he was not being vain, but that he had successfully raised the energy level of Jupiter, of charity, in the Lodge.. Had God not given him this voice for just such a purpose?

But along with his satisfaction came a slight chill. He knew, as surely as he knew anything—and he was not normally very psychic—that one of the members of the Keph-Ra Lodge of the Order of the Black Sun who had been sniffling into his handkerchief was in fact Daria Lawrence's murderer. And that the demons at the base of the altar had more than successfully claimed one of the finest Swordbearers it had ever been his privilege to see in a Lodge.

Johnny Constantine's pronouncement to CI5, which he had duly told to the Lodgemaster, that Gilles de Rais' invocation of Bartzabel was being worked was all the further confirmation the Lodgemaster needed. No man not possessed by Qliphotic forces could ever dream of working such a rite. And the Lodgemaster knew, in his heart, that he was not powerful enough a magus to stop this act; that someone else would almost surely die before the Qliphotic spirits were appeased by the appearance of Bartzabel.

He had spoken to his Swordbearer, had he not? His Swordbearer was the most powerful of his officers. He had told his Swordbearer that this must be ended. There was nothing more that he could do. Even turning the miscreant over to the police or to CI5 right now was pointless, since the man's body was nothing more than a house for the Qliphoth at the base of the altar. Imprisoning a human body would not contain forces that needed occult repression. Could his Swordbearer pull himself together long enough to use his own powers against them?

Oh, he knew that everyone might think he was being melodramatic about this. That was the chance he was taking. The others were too young; they hadn't yet seen. Only young Constantine—who was hardly all that young, come to think of it—understood fully; only his possessed Swordbearer could feel it totally To anyone else in the Lodge, these were the ramblings of a man who had been foolish for too long. But the Fool going over the cliff, was he not the one who returned to report on what lay beyond? It was his job to tell of what he knew lay on the other side. And in one man's case, what lay on the other side was the madness of the Gods.

»»»

Ray Doyle lay in his bed that night, his arms wrapped tightly around Bodie's chest. Something was bothering his lover; he knew that much. When Bodie was upset, his lovemaking was more energetic than usual, yet more detached, as if by throwing himself totally into sex he could hope to make his concerns vanish, rather than simply be displaced for a few moments. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"Nothing," Bodie groaned. "Only—Ray, you don't think all of this stuff we're hearing is true? Man can't open a book, follow directions just like a cookbook, and summon demons? I mean, we've got us a man who murders birds to get their skins for a parchment, it means something to him. He's not a sex pervert, he's not a million things, he's just following the steps for this demon to give him something. Clear enough that's exactly what's happenin' here. He's doin' it 'cos it's supposed to work. Does it?"

"Hmm," Ray mused, his face pressed into Bodie's dark hair. "Seems to me that's not our problem. Whether it works or not, *he* thinks it works. And he does it because since he thinks it works, he expects results. So he'd do it regardless, wouldn't he?"

"S'pose so…" Bodie was starting to drift off, the aftereffects of his orgasm creeping up on him slowly. "But what if it *does* work?" he asked sleepily. "What if these demons really are out there like Constantine says?"

"Then we'd better stop this bloody bugger before he brings them 'round, hadn't we?" Ray kissed Bodie's hair gently. "After we get some sleep."

»»»

The Honourable Freddy sat bolt upright in his bed, panic on his face. The abrupt wakening was nearly as frightening as the vision he'd had.

That really delicious Bodie person had written down a telephone number for Freddy to call. It had given him a sample of Bodie's writing, as well as a pen and paper that Bodie had handled. Freddy had brought these magickal links to Bodie to bed with him, hoping to make a psychic connection with the object of his desire.

He'd picked something up. all right. Bodie'd just had an orgasm that could have shaken all of Notting Hill, one strong enough to wake Freddy, and it certainly hadn't been while thinking about Freddy Carrington.

In fact, rather than thinking of sliding deep into Freddy Carrington's all-too-willing body, he'd been having the same done to him.

By that annoying Doyle person.

Freddy Carrington liked nothing in life, even sex, better than he liked getting his own way. The Holy Guardian Angels of the Abra-Melin rite and the fallen angels of Pope Honorius might not think Freddy was worth their time, but there were plenty of neglected little lesser spirits only too happy to do a human a favor if they only got some attention in the bargain. A few of them would be certain to be willing to help Mr. Bodie adjust his attitude, surely. And if not…if not, the phrase "by hook or by crook" surely applied here as well as to other things.

He'd have to go look through his books; surely there was a good spell for just this sort of thing somewhere. Constantine would know, but he'd never dream of asking that slug. A washed-up alcoholic ex-punker? Who'd made Con-job Magus of the Year? He'd show Con-job, and the Lodgemaster, and anyone else who wanted to know, that Freddy Carrington could *too* conjure his way out of a paper bag.

Alas, he'd never heard Constantine's entire line. "Freddy couldn't conjure his way out of a paper bag, y'know. But he also hasn't figured out that it's faster 'n easier to tear the bag open and climb out than it is to try to do a spell inside the damn bag."

»»»

"Hey, Freddy." That blasted Constantine. "Got a fag?" Always shaking you down for a cig; too cheap to buy his own. A magus on the dole? Why the hell did people think that Con-job was so bloody powerful? Surely he'd have money, and still have his band, if he could swing a wand like he ought to judging from his reputation.

"Sure, hold on." Freddy Carrington patted down his pockets. No Players; too bad, he hated wasting his Dunhills on dungheaps. Finding his packet, he proffered it to Constantine, who removed one and lit it before Freddy could offer a light.

Then Freddy noticed. Constantine was flicking that flame off of his index finger. No lighter, no matches. "How—"

"Oh, Freddy." Constantine laughed. "The A'ashim don't do a lot, but they shoot off nice sparks when you need one. Did the King of the A'ashim a good turn the other year when there was an upset in the Elemental Kingdoms. Gave me a little gift when I left. Nice—I never worry about losin' my lighter any more, do I? Handy for lighting fags, starting barbecue grills, when the pilot light goes out, all that. Need a light?" He held his left thumb and index finger together, pinched slightly, and released the fingers. A small flame emerged, which he brought to the Honourable Freddy's lips.

Physical gifts from the Kings of the Spirit Realms? That put a whole new complexion on Con-job, it did.

"So," Constantine asked outside the door of the lodge, "those CI5 chappies been round to see you?"

Carrington nodded. "Yes. And to see my Gilles de Rais. They were asking me who'd have done such a thing. I can't imagine anyone would dream of using the Gilles de Rais as anything but a collector's item. Not like some of the other works, is it?"

"Which ones you thinkin' of, mate?"

"You know," Freddy shrugged. "The Black Pullet. The Almadel. The Legemeton."

"No, it's not much like. Then, of course, a lot wouldn't touch any of those either."

"And what *would* they touch?" asked the Honourable Freddy.

It was Constantine's turn to shrug. "Any more, I don't go much past the Greater Key of Solomon and the Abra-Melin. A little Franz Bardon sometimes. Don't need much more."

"The Abra-Melin? Without the six months' preparations and the Conversation of the Angels?" Freddy was frankly shocked. The Abra-Melin, notoriously, would work no other way.

"Been there, done that, got tired of talkin' to an old wanker with a white robe and harp. Don't use it much 'cos he's always so pissed at me. Hard to get rid of an angel once he's started buggin' you. Even after the time I chainsawed that one's wings right off of him."

Carrington stared. Was the man serious, or had he actively gone either off the deep end or over to the Other? "How can you joke about such a thing?"

"Who's jokin', mate?" Constantine dropped his cigarette butt to the sidewalk. "Ready to go on in, Carrington?"

"Indeed, Brother Swordbearer."

Constantine bowed and held the door open for Carrington. "After you, Honoured Swordbearer."

»»»

"I'm so glad you could come over, Mr. Bodie," Freddy Carrington told him. "I noticed something at the Lodge meeting last night, and I thought that you and Mr. Doyle should know right away." He ushered Bodie into a chair near the tea table. "Tea?"

"Please."

Carrington poured Bodie a cup of tea, carefully, into a Royal Doulton teacup. A three-tiered tray of small cakes stood on the table beside the teapot. "Please, Mr. Bodie, help yourself to the cakes. My cook is excellent."

"Thanks." Bodie took a fairy cake and a black bun, setting them carefully on a small plate. Carrington passed milk and lemon. "Any sugar?"

"Oh, dear, Reynolds forgot. I never use it myself. Allow me." The Honourable Freddy left the room, emerging a moment later with a silver sugar bowl and spoon. Bodie accepted the sugar and sweetened his tea heavily.

"Now, what's this about, Mr. Carrington?"

"Call me Freddy, Mr. Bodie. As I was saying, there have been some comments made by our Lodgemaster, a very wise man, and he knows all of us, about the spirits at the base of the altar being responsible for all of this. Now, it's the task of a lodge officer called the swordbearer to be responsible for controlling those demons. And I thought, what if he's telling us that the swordbearer is responsible for all of this—what if he's the one who got Daria?"

"And who is your Swordbearer?" Bodie asked, sipping at the tea.

"There are two. The current one and the past one. He fills in if the present one is away, and he retains his title unless he takes another lodge position. And the current one is John Constantine."

"Constantine? The blond gentleman, the singer?"

"John Constantine is no longer a singer, and as to whether he's a gentleman one can only conjecture. He's broke, he's down on his luck," unlike the speaker, whose flat dripped with a showy display of inherited wealth, "and the spell that's being done is undoubtedly one for obtaining money and power. The man's on the dole, Mr. Bodie. Who could need it more? More tea?"

"Yes, thanks."

It was so easy, wasn't it? And Constantine had given him just the idea for it. Why bother with summoning spirits and sacrificing to the demons? A little low magick, some cheap witchcraft, was easier by far and should be quite effective. That sugar was so laced with the love philtre he'd compounded from Lady Magred's spell book that it could cause an army to go off mating in mid-hike. Bodie ought to be falling hopelessly in love with him even as they spoke.

Then Bodie would believe anything he told him about Constantine.

And Bodie wouldn't need Doyle. But Carrington would. After all, he was young and strong—the very last of the acceptable choices in Gilles de Rais' guide. Raymond Doyle would go to a far nobler purpose serving Bartzabel's dealings with his skin than he served now in Bodie's bed. And with Bodie helplessly in love with Carrington, Doyle could be overcome easily. Bodie would help him do it.

After a bit more conversation on the case and another cuppa, Bodie rose to his full height. "I'm afraid I have to go now, Mr. Carrington. But thank you for assisting with your investigation. And, of course, the tea."

"Of course." He batted his eyelashes shamelessly at Bodie. "Do come again." He held his hand out to Bodie, who seized it in both of his, looking deeply into Freddy's eyes as he did so. Freddy returned the gaze, melting into the twin pools of blue light fixed on him.

It had worked. Freddy was elated.

»»»

The Skeleton with the scythe, the Grim Reaper. He'd heard somewhere that it was the only card in the Tarot that had no name or number on it, so that it did not have to be mentioned. One simply knew that it was the unlucky thirteenth card, that its name was Death.

He could see the skeleton swinging the scythe, reaping the hands and heads that rose from the ground as if planted as seeds. It danced amid the rows of bodies, capturing an arm here, a foot there, an occasional head. Swinging the scythe like a hockey stick, it reaped the low-lying now, finally catching and trimming a head with a mop of curly, coppery hair, green eyes, a broken cheekbone.

The head rolled along the ground until it stopped at the edge of a stream, face-up.

Ray Doyle's face.

Bodie woke screaming.

Ray caught his lover in his arms, gathered him to his chest. "Been havin' a nightmare, what? It's all right, there you are; you're safe."

Oh, yes, that was all well and good; of course Bodie was safe. But Celinda had seen it, hadn't she?

Ray was going to die. He knew it.

»»»

The telephone rang in Freddy Carrington's flat. "Very good, sir; I shall see if he is in." Reynolds was the last of a dying breed, Freddy feared. If anything happened to Reynolds, Freddy worried, he'd be out of luck. What to do then? The Abra-Melin let one reanimate a corpse, or so it said, but he couldn't use it, and that bloody Con-job could. Why that bugger had a relationship with the angels when Freddy could barely eke out the services of a minor planetary spirit was beyond Freddy's guess. "Sir, a Mr. Bodie on the phone for you. Are you at home?"

"Yes, of course, Reynolds." Maybe he could bribe a Hasidic rabbi to help him with a golem. A golem would make a splendid servant—only he'd not be able to answer the phone. The Honourable Freddy had never heard of a speaking golem. "Mr. Bodie. How nice of you to call. What may I do for you?" Charm oozed out of every pore of Freddy's being. Not that it was needed, of course, if Lady Magred's receipt was correct, but it never hurt.

"Well, Mr. Carrington—"

"Freddy, please, Mr. Bodie."

A throat-clearing sound on the other end of the connection. "Very well, Freddy it is. It's getting on to the new moon in a few days. I thought that maybe you could—what with your experience and all that—possibly provide some advice on where the killer might strike next, or his possible targets. possibly provide some advice on where the killer might strike next, or his possible targets. You having been so helpful already and all."

"Why, certainly, Mr. Bodie. Have you followed up on John Constantine?"

"Been doin' just that. Don't want to make him suspicious, though, by following him around too closely as this date comes up, you know."

"Oh, of course not. Silly of me. Well, I'd be delighted to have you come over this evening—say, around nine?"

"Thanks very much. Splendid of you, that is. You've no idea how grateful I am for this."

It was all Freddy could do not to snicker into his sleeve. He certainly owed one to Lady Magred. Maybe a new sword for her coven would be in order. Constantine's. When Freddy was done with him, and with Ray Doyle.

»»»

"Another drink, Mr. Bodie?"

"Just Bodie, Freddy. No 'Mr.' in front of it, thanks. And yes, I'd love another." Hearing this message, Freddy rose from the couch where he and Bodie were both ensconced to fix another round of pink gin. Wallace had left out the ice, gin, and bitters and been given the evening off; Freddy wasn't sure how far matters would go tonight, but he planned to be ready for anything, and that with as few intrusions as possible. He mixed the drinks quickly, then returned to the couch and slid back onto the cushions, his thigh slightly grazing the fabric of Bodie's trousers.

Bodie accepted the drink and turned towards Freddy, his knee brushing Freddy's in the process. "Now, you were sayin'? I'm fascinated how you know all this business, mate." He reached over, touching Freddy's forearm for emphasis. "Let me hear some more on this."

Freddy nodded, steeling his face into a mask of deep concern. "Certainly…Bodie. I'd love to teach you this myself—I could, you know, if you were ever interested. You've a great deal of talent, you know. The latent psychic potential you have is quite incredible."

"No. Go on, you." Bodie chuckled, and, Freddy swore, was flushing slightly. The oldest occult pick-up line in the book never failed to work its charms at vulnerable moments, and Bodie was certainly vulnerable.

"True, Bodie. But, as I was saying. The killer will probably strike on the West End this time. I checked the astrological significances in the past few events, and there's no doubt that this will be a West End job. Another woman, of course; blond, almost certainly, since the blondness represents purity. I don't think he's any specific target in mind, you know, but when he sees a lone woman who fits that description, there you'll be. And I don't know how you'd order all the blond women in London to stay indoors, or at least out of the West End, that night. Of course, I could be wrong, I'll say that. The killer might not go for type, just to foil anyone who might be trying to track him just this way. And if he's using the Gilles de Rais, he's smart enough to know that someone could track him just like this."

"Well, Freddy, I'll certainly consider that very point," Bodie assured him, setting his glass down on the cocktail table. "Thank you." He leaned yet closer to Freddy, starting to lean in towards Freddy's body. "Freddy…I…" He reached out, pulled Freddy to him roughly. Their lips met—not gently, not tenderly, but with unrestrained heat, Bodie's mouth engulfing Freddy's as they kissed. Freddy fought with himself to avoid coming up for air as Bodie crushed him against his chest.

Just as suddenly, a release. Bodie was holding Freddy by the upper arms, gently, several inches away from his body. "I—I—"

"It's all right, Bodie," Freddy soothed. "I wanted that, too, you know."

" 'S not that, mate. It's—dunno what came over me there." Bodie shook his head in consternation. "And I—look, Freddy, I'm still investigating this case. I—I can't, not yet." Blue eyes pleaded with Freddy's brown ones for understanding.

Still in Bodie's grip, Freddy raised his own hands to Bodie's shoulders and squeezed lightly. "Of course. I understand. It's not a problem. Just…come back afterwards. After you've got that bastard Constantine roped in." Was it too melodramatic? Bodie seemed to be soaking it in like a sponge.

Bodie slumped back, nodding weakly. "I'd best go home now, Freddy. But…I'll do that. And I'll call you?"

"Please. Please do." Freddy rose, extending a hand to Bodie. "Let me show you out. You look drained, you poor thing." He helped Bodie up from the couch and to the door, a hand upon him the entire time. "Call me," he added at the door, planting a light kiss on Bodie's cheek.

Bodie exited the building, looking for his vehicle. He finally spotted it, and entered. Pulling the van door shut behind him, he collapsed on a bench. "Here's the mike," he moaned, pulling the wire off of him. "Phew, that was rank. You get it down, Ray?"

Doyle nodded. "Every word. Want some mouthwash to get the taste of him off of you?"

The darker man shook his head. "Don't need it; just kiss me yerself, luv."

"Not unless you *do* gargle, lover."

A third occupant of the van coughed. "See here, you two; plenty of time to shag later. 'Cos if you start with it now, I'm out of here, get it? Don't mind a bloke here and there, but groups just aren't my scene."

"Sorry, Constantine," Bodie replied, pulling himself together. "Promise we'll be good. Now, what'd you get?"

Constantine lit a cigarette, on his second pack of the day now. "Well, put it like this. First off, the killer's not me. Although it might just be the lodge's other swordbearer that Freddy told you about."

"And that'd be?"

"The Honourable Freddy Carrington, mate. Same as tried that cheap two-bit love spell of that bitch Magred's on you."

"I didn't believe you at first," Bodie said, "but when it became that clear that the Honourable Freddy was tryin' to pick me up, I figured that it might just be something he'd try. Seemed his speed to do that love charm kind of thing. Thanks for breakin' it," he added, fingering a small charm in his jacket pocket.

"No problem, mate. Child's play. 'Course, that's about all Carrington knows; he doesn't like anything takin' too much work. Got a few other thoughts, too, if either of you's interested enough to hear 'em."

»»»

Ray Doyle wrapped his leather jacket more tightly over his shoulders. The wind, mixed with a fine rain, was coming through the fabric of his jeans as he walked along the dock. Bodie was in the backup van with Jax and with Constantine—who had been right so far, but had better be right this tie too, damn him.

Freddy Carrington had told Bodie on the telephone that morning that there was a lodge meeting that night being worked to protect the women of the city from the killer, and that he felt obliged to attend as part of his assisting Bodie. Bodie had complimented him profusely, choking to himself as he did so. Another brief call, to the lodge master, had served to prove that no meeting was scheduled, that all members had been asked to remain home that night and perform a series of visualizations designed by the lodge thurifer—that meant "bloke in robe swinging incense," Bodie finally had figured—to accomplish just those protective ends. Assured that Constantine was accompanying Bodie and Doyle, the lodge master had volunteered to dispense Constantine from the lodge's assignment.

Susan and Anson, staking Carrington's flat, had reported over R/T that Carrington indeed had left his flat—in black jeans and boots, and carrying a black satchel which might contain anything. Constantine was curled up in the back of the van, a blanket under him and one over his shoulders, body rigid, eyes slack. Jax watched him in amazement. "What's he doing?" he whispered to Bodie.

"Tryin' to get a handle on Carrington, mate. Can't tell you how he does it, but he can—that's all I know. And Carrington's after Ray, so Constantine thinks…and I told Carrington that Ray didn't believe his prediction and was staking out the docks."

"Why would the killer go after Doyle? He's only killed women."

"Couple of reasons," Bodie hissed. "First off, this spell or whatever he's cookin' up—girls are better, but Ray fits the type that's listed as second or third best victim or something. And second, Carrington tried putting a love spell on me; Constantine thinks he's jealous of Ray."

Jax looked at Bodie, eyeing him suspiciously, then over at Constantine. Patting the pistol in his shoulder holster, he finally exhaled. "Whatever you say, Bodie, but this is way too strange for me."

At that moment, Constantine jerked violently. "He's near here. Over by the pier, behind a stack of crates. They're marked from Malaysia, whatever they are; he's behind that."

"Radio Ray," Bodie ordered Jax. "Anything more, John? Can you see anything else?"

"No…" Constantine slumped against the van's wall. "Lost it there. Can try again…" He shivered. "Cold, mate. Hand me my fags and a cuppa from that thermos." He nodded towards a thermos of coffee he had brought with him when leaving his flat. Bodie tossed over the pack of cigarettes and carefully poured hot coffee into the thermos lid. Constantine lit a cigarette and took the coffee from Bodie. "Thanks, mate."

"Doyle's heading over," Jax called back. "I'm moving the van closer, Bodie. Told Doyle to keep an open channel so we can hear what's happening."

As Jax pulled out, voices could be heard over the receiver. "Agent Doyle. So nice to see you. What are you doing out here?"

"Had a thought of my own the killer might come to the docks. Checkin' it out, Mr. Carrington. You?"

"Me? I was just over at the lodge. Our Honored Lodgemaster has taxed me with coming here tonight to invoke the elemental spirits of water to protect the women in town. Quite a lovely little ritual, if you'd care to watch."

"Liar," Constantine hissed at the radio as Jax moved the van. "Fucking elemental water's in the West, Carrington, it's got nothing to do with where there's running water. You're so incompetent you can't even lie right!"

"He can't hear you," Bodie reminded Constantine. "And Ray wouldn't know, after all."

"Here," Carrington's voice crackled over the receiver. "Hold this, Agent Doyle. That would help considerably. Yes, like that. I have to summon the undines and their elemental king, Paralda—"

"Shit," Constantine shouted. "Carrington, you don't know your arse from a bleedin' hole in the ground!"

"What's wrong?" Bodie asked.

"Great bleedin' fool doesn't know what he's doing, or which of the elemental kings to invoke—if he really tries that, especially there in the East—which is air—well, mate, you don't want to see the weather report."

"This garbage *works*?" Jax asked, alarmed.

"Trust me, mate, been doin' it since I was in school." Jax pulled the van alongside a brick wall and parked it. "Even worse when it goes wrong. And Carrington's tryin' to get cute to keep Ray off balance 'cos he thinks Ray dunno what he's up to? Got a mess here, gentlemen."

"What should we do?" Bodie asked.

"Get your arses over to th' bloody docks, man," Constantine spat.

Another crackle. "What's the knife for, Carrington?"

"Ritual, Agent Doyle. You hold the cup like so…and I use the knife, holding it down into it…to direct the elemental movement. You'll see as it happens."

"Move it!" Constantine hissed as Bodie and Jax exited the van and headed for the pier. Constantine appeared to consider for a minute, then shrugged. He looked up at the sky. "Could use a hand here, Ellie," he sighed, then tying his trench coat about himself more tightly.

»»»

Doyle looked suspiciously at Carrington. True, he'd heard these occult arseholes did things with knives, but you could skin a deer with a knife, too. Or a person. And Ray knew he was Carrington's target. That knife made him nervous, even though Carrington had never stabbed anyone first. "You sure 'bout this, mate?" he asked.

"Certainly," Carrington replied. "Now, I'll begin my invocation—it's not in English, but in something called Enochian, so it'll sound a bit odd." He was pleased with himself. If he did this properly, the spirits would strike Doyle for him, and he'd have no call to try to struggle with the more muscular man himself. "And at the high point of the whole thing, I'll touch the knife to what's in this glass, you see." He almost thought he could see it himself. Admittedly, this was all a bit—er…impromptu? Not quite planned out, and he didn't know Enochian all that well, but it should sound quite impressive to Doyle. And since the important thing was to impress the spirits, not to worry that they were like the French and likely to take offense at a linguistic error, it would hardly hurt if he made this up a bit as he went along.

»»»

The chanting was undoubtedly peculiar. Not French-sounding, not German-sounding; not quite like anything Ray Doyle recognized. Although it certainly sounded as if a few words of German were being thrown in—was Carrington serious about this bloody thing or was this some kind of complicated put-on? At least his radio line was open; Bodie and Constantine could hear this happening.

There; Carrington was lowering the knife, right to the top of the fluid in the glass. It almost sparked as he touched it to the liquid—and was that lightning flashing over the water behind Carrington?

No, Doyle almost shouted; more like lightning deciding to strike right by the pier. Doyle lost balance as the pier shook, dropping the glass. "Damn it!" Carrington yelled at him, lunging, still holding the knife. Another crash brought both of them falling against each other, as Bodie and Jax rounded the corner to the pier. Doyle reached out to Carrington's wrist as Carrington pitched into him…and he could feel the slicing through his jacket as the knife sank in.

"No!" Carrington choked, realizing what was happening. "I didn't get him yet…and now he's marked…" Months of preparation for the Gilles de Rais ritual were being ruined before Carrington's eyes…and Doyle would have made such a lovely large set of parchments…

Constantine came up behind the two CI5 agents, clutching at Bodie. "Jax," Constantine ordered, "go check on Doyle. Don't touch Carrington, whatever you do. I mean it." Bodie tugged at Constantine. "Hold up, Bodie. Look, mate, I know it's yer man there, but trust me, you don't want to be out there. Jax!" he called again, "just drag Doyle away! Hurry!"

Jax slid his arms under Doyle's beefy shoulders and began pulling him away from the water's edge as Carrington crouched on his knees, holding the knife. Light glinted from the point of the knife and from the fallen glass that Doyle had been holding.

The wind began to pick up around the pier as lightning flickered out over the water again…and then, just as suddenly, struck not on the pier, but directly on Carrington's knife.

Bodie never was able to describe exactly what he'd seen, though he reported that Carrington, apparently dazed or dead from the lightning, fell into the water. The body never had been found. But he could swear, just then, that a woman with long dark hair had come down with the lightning, and had somehow clutched onto Carrington and taken him in her arms…and then vanished.

All Constantine had done was to throw a cigarette to the ground and stamp on it. "Thanks, Ellie," he called out across the pier…and, Bodie was sure, he had waved at the spot. "Old friend of mine, she is," he explained, shrugging. "Now, let's see to yer man over there."

Jax had already grabbed Doyle's radio and had called in for emergency assistance. All Bodie could see, however, was the blood on Ray Doyle's chest, what seemed to be vast quantities of it

And Ray Doyle wasn't moving.

Bodie slumped to the wood of the pier. "I knew it," he moaned to Constantine. "I knew something was going to happen to Ray…"

"Eh?" Constantine lit another cigarette.

"Friend did a card reading over at the pub. The death card with the skeleton on it came up—she said it was nothin', but I knew it was for Ray…" Bodie leaned against a wooden post. "All my fault," he choked. "Knew this setup was a bad idea, knew that card was for him…"

Constantine knelt down, grabbed Bodie's wrist, and slapped his face. "See here, Bodie. That's what you get when you muck around in what you don't know. 'Cos yer bloody wrong, mate. One hundred fifty sodding per cent wrong."

Bodie looked up. "What?"

"Watch this." He turned to face Jax. "How's Doyle?" he shouted.

"Just a flesh wound. A lot of bleeding, but I've got compression on it. Ambulance is coming; he'll be fine. He's taken a lot worse on duty than this," Jax called.

Constantine turned back to Bodie. "You great bleedin' oaf, the Death card's got nothin' to do with that. It's about change. And Lord knows there's enough of that around for everyone. Don't second-guess your tarot reader. Not if he knows what he's doin'. What kind of change d'you have goin' on? That's all it's about."

Bodie looked up blankly, comprehension of Constantine's comments and Jax's message just starting to filter through. "So Ray's all right, then?"

"He's fine. Be a lot better if you were with him, I figure. Might startle your friend Jax there, though."

The CI5 agent pulled himself together with an effort and rose from his crouch. "Don't think I care, do I? Ray needs me, right?"

" 'Zactly," Constantine pronounced.

By the time Bodie turned around to thank Constantine, he was gone. The only evidence he had stood there was the smoldering cigarette butt at Bodie's feet.

»»»

"Here's yer mum's lucky coins," Doyle laughed as he cleaned out the pockets of his ruined jacket a week later. "Didn't do me much good, did they?"

"Dunno, sunshine," Bodie grinned back as they sat on the edge of the bed and sorted. "All that happened was you got cut; it could've been a lot worse." He kissed his lover's bashed cheek gently. "Ought to thank yer lucky stars."

"Yeah," Doyle acknowledged. "Guess I've got one or two of those, eh?"

"Looks that way. Er…Ray, what's that?" Bodie asked, looking at a small dried object that Doyle was pulling from a pocket.

"This? Oh." Doyle blushed furiously. "When Constantine was breaking that spell Carrington tried putting on you? He gave me this, said it guaranteed you wouldn't be able to—er—go anywhere else? As long as I have it, yer stuck with me."

"Nice bloke," Bodie observed. "Liked him, I did. Strange, but…you know, he was all right."

"He's gone."

"What?"

"You heard me," Doyle replied. "Cowley wanted me to go round and thank him for assisting us. And he's gone."

"Guess the Padgetts proved to be a bit much for him, after all," Bodie sighed.

"Funny thing, though," Doyle sighed. "He left you a package with the landlord. "Had a note that said that he knew that one of us would be by for this week, and would the landlord hold it until we arrived for it." He opened a drawer, pulled out a small box. "Was going to give it to you yesterday but I forgot."

Bodie opened the wood-and-lacquer box. "Oh."

Doyle looked inside the box. "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot," he read. "And a deck of cards. Goin' to tell me my fortune, sunshine?"

"I know *your* fortune already," Bodie snapped.

"Go on!"

"Well, mate," Bodie said, setting the box on the floor and suddenly pinning Doyle to the bed by his shoulders, "Looks like you've got that root thing Constantine gave you. So yer fortune is yer stuck with me."

"Ooh, er," Doyle squealed, imitating a Cockney street girl. "Like that, I do. What do I owe you for that readin'?"

"Nothin," Bodie smirked, nibbling at Doyle's strong neck. "Think I'll take it in trade."

 

end