Authors: Tim Marquitz
Beyond the Veil
Book five of the
Edited by Tyson
Cover design by
(Check out his
amazing art at: www.carterillustration.com
Created in the
United States of America
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in
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recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the
prior written consent of the author, except for brief quotes used in reviews.
This book is a work
of fiction. All characters, names, places, and incidents are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual
persons, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
hate these things. I really do. There are so many people in my life who have
helped me along the way that I’m always afraid to leave one of them out. And
inevitably, I will. It’s what I do: forget shit. So rather than list everyone
who has impacted my writing and my career, I’ll stick to just a few who had a
direct impact on this particular book.
thanks to Tyson
for taking on the
monumental task of cleaning up my mess at the last minute. 11
edits for the win.
as always, my faithful early readers and biggest critics: Ryan Lawler, Mihir
, and Bastard. Without you guys, I’d be horribly
condemned to the nine hells of literary suck. Oh wait… Nah, I’m sure you help.
. Regardless, I’m grateful for
to those I didn’t list, consider yourselves thanked in far kinder fashion than
those three above. If you’ve stuck with me this long, you deserve a medal, or
at least a cookie.
Beyond the Veil
Book five of the
Also Available in the Demon Squad series:
At the Gates
Echoes of the Past
“Tell me where she is.”
Mihheer grinned, his mouthful of piranha
teeth glistening for the wideness of it. He was seated comfortably in a chair just
a few feet out of reach. Katon lurked to my right and Rahim hovered off to my left.
The alien’s smugness was salt in the wound his master had inflicted by
kidnapping Karra. He crossed his arms and settled back, unrestrained for the
power dampener that had been injected into his spinal column. The hamburger
meat of his cheery face was healing nicely after the beating I’d given him,
though it didn’t look like the horn was ever gonna grow back. Can’t say I
DRAC had been holding him for a week now,
and it was clear they’d been treating him pretty damn good. It was far kinder
than I would have, which was why dark and darker were up my ass deeper than a
TSA agent on a hunt for bomb residue. They knew me too well.
Mihheer gave a little snort of a laugh, his
lip curling into a sneer. Up to then, I’d been calm, under control. I drew a
deep breath and let it sink into my lungs. Rahim made me promise I wouldn’t do
anything stupid, wouldn’t go after the alien shit no matter what he said or did
to provoke me. When I agreed, we
knew I was lying, but they let me in anyway.
I exhaled and my shoulders slumped, my chin
drooping, but there was nothing I could do to hide the fury that seared my
cheeks. My knuckles sang out like Snap, Crackle, and Pop when I forced my fists
open and turned my back on Mihheer. He’d been asked that same question about
Karra a thousand times and wasn’t talking. Nothing DRAC had done had broken
him, but I knew there was a line they wouldn’t cross…not for Karra, at least.
Not for me, either, it seemed. That was why I was there.
“Okay, I’m done with his ass.” The words
chiseled their way through gnashed teeth while I took a step toward the door. The
tension left the room with an almost audible
, Rahim and Katon shifting to follow after me, probably proud
of me for doing what I promised.
That was what I was waiting for.
Unlike the Pantera song, I didn’t need five
minutes alone with Mihheer to get what I needed out of him…I only needed five
My fingers on the knob, I yanked the door
open with a pissed off grunt I didn’t have to fake. For just an instant, Katon
disappeared behind the steel of the door. I couldn’t see him, and he couldn’t
see me. It was my one chance.
I spun and dropped low, diving across the
room at Mihheer before Rahim realized what I’d done. The alien’s eyes went wide
and he cursed while trying to get up. His feet scrabbled for purchase, but they
just slid on the slick tile floor. Both he and the chair toppled to the ground with
“Damn it, Frank!” Katon growled at my back.
He’d be on me in a second, but there was no stopping what I came here to do.
like a prison-raised chicken when I got ahold of him, my hands pawing at his
face. The terror in his eyes set them to swirling, yellowish-orange
kaleidoscopes in their blackened wells. My fingers sunk into cold flesh and
grabbed hold, the tips clawing at his wide eyes. He opened his mouth and
screamed, which was just what I wanted.
I felt Katon at my back, but he was too
late. I forced my thumb into Mihheer’s mouth. Sharp teeth tore open the flesh
as I forced the digit deeper and deeper into the jagged maw. He gulped hard and
swallowed, instinct taking over at the warm gush of fluid hitting his throat.
Katon’s hands locked about my waist and yanked me back. I didn’t bother
resisting. We tumbled to the floor in a mass of entangled limbs, but there
weren’t any weapons in the mix. Despite it all, Katon wasn’t trying to hurt me.
“Enough,” he growled in my ear, and I
nodded, raising my hands in meek compliance.
Katon rolled me to the side, away from the
alien, and stood between us, keeping a restraining hand on my shoulder. My gaze
crossed the room to where Mihheer crouched in the corner. He wiped at the blood,
which stained his chin and teeth, spreading the mess across the back of his
hand and down his wrist. His lips quivered, and he huffed to catch his breath. I
could see the subtle flickers of his arrogance resurfacing. His eyes flared
with it, certain now that Rahim and Katon would keep him from harm. I choked
back a laugh.
I got to my feet with deliberate slowness,
not giving Katon any reason to think I was gonna go after the little shit
again. The enforcer hung over me, and I couldn’t blame him. Rahim was in my
face a heartbeat later.
“What the hell was that?” He stood tall,
forcing me to look up at him, jabbing a long finger into my chest. “I know his
master took Karra, but do you really think some pathetic attempt at hurting him
will help you get her back?”
Behind the anger that darkened his cheeks
was a disappointment I remembered seeing on Abe’s face a couple of times in the
distant past. It was a swift kick in the balls to spot it now, having thought
those days long over. I’d expected to feel guilty when I came to DRAC’s
headquarters for the sole purpose of confronting Mihheer, but I thought I could
handle it. I was clearly wrong.
In spite of the alien
having helped his boss to kidnap my woman, the inferno of my anger sputtered
and fizzled out under Rahim’s frigid gaze. Though it wasn’t the first time I’d
let him down, it looked as though he’d pinned some miraculous hope on the off chance
I wouldn’t do it
time. A ragged
sigh slipped loose as I realized that. His hope never stood a chance.
He drew a deep breath at my words, a father
believing his child’s penance as nothing more than reactionary training, an
effort to mitigate its losses, but there was more to my apology than that. I
wasn’t sorry for what I’d done to Mihheer. That was nothing. He deserved every
bit of the agony that came his way, but my little outburst was only the very
tip of what I’d have to atone for later.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, turning to make
sure Katon knew I was speaking to him, as well. His dark eyes narrowed as he
assessed me, widening suddenly as he caught on.
“Oh shit. What have you done, Frank?” His
gaze shifted to Mihheer who went still under his intense scrutiny, realizing
perhaps that things weren’t as cut and dry as he believed.
“Only what I had to.”
Rahim looked to Katon, and then to me, and
finally back to the alien. Just then, Mihheer twitched, his body shuddering as
though he were suffering a seizure. He gasped, a drowning fish out of water,
and was gone, only the vague outline of his form still visible before it faded
into nothingness. Katon and Rahim spun to glare at me, spears of accusation
hurled from their eyes. A bitter sickness welled in my throat as time ground to
a halt; it was the sour taste of betrayal.
“This is the only way to find her.” The
words fell from my tongue like shards of glass, broken and brittle, tumbling hollow
into the space between us. These were my friends, and I’d not only let them
down, but I’d stabbed them in the back, the pre-meditation of it obvious even
to Stevie Wonder. I’d come into their home and took a big
Taco Bell dump on their kindness and smeared it into the carpet and drapes for
good measure. That stink wasn’t coming out.
I sighed as I felt the subtle tingle of
magic wash over me. The twin of the transportation gem I’d snuck into DRAC embedded
in the tip of my thumb—the same one I forced down Mihheer’s throat—warmed
inside my guts as its energy took hold. In a moment, I’d be gone, too. I
muttered one last apology before the magic whipped me away. Their crestfallen
expressions lingered on my retinas long after I was gone.
With a quick tap of my heels, I was in
Hell, both literally and figuratively, though decidedly more the former.
“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Even if it was just a
rundown double-wide in the infernal trailer park of my new domain.
Venom’s “Welcome to Hell” sounded in my
skull, and for just a moment I was in my happy place. Mihheer’s panicked
scramble pulled me back to reality before I’d even gotten to the damn chorus.
Chatterbox would have been so pissed. I missed the stinky bastard.
The alien lay on the rocky ground just
outside the God-proof room the Almighty had been kind enough to gift the
Morning Star, Daddy
himself, Lucifer: my own
personal sperm donor and the hero to metal bands everywhere. The alien squirmed
as soon as he realized his nice, plush accommodations at DRAC had
into thin air, and his would-be protectors along
with them. He was alone with me and didn’t like that one bit.
“There’s nothing you can do to make me
betray my master,” he sputtered as convincingly as he could muster. “You will
not break me, demon.”
I shrugged. “While I’m no slouch in the
foot in ass department, it’s not me you need to worry about.”
He stiffened and followed my gaze over his
shoulder. A meaty hand dropped down on it and I heard the creak of bone
grinding in the joint as the fingers clasped tight. There was a whiplash of
motion and the little alien was granted the gift of flight. His breath whistled
from his lungs as he was flung backward, through the newly created archway and
into the God-proof room beyond. There was a meaty
a moment later, followed by a pained groan. I scored the
somersault a “4.” Such potential, but he clearly flubbed the landing.
“Come inside before your friends realize
where you’ve gone,” Longinus told me.
laughed. How cute of him to think I hadn’t just napalmed the fuck out of that
bridge. He spun about and stormed into the room, unconcerned with my shattered
relationships or moral failings. His massive shoulders filled the doorway as he
strode through with intent, his hair dancing in the breeze of his momentum. I
followed after without saying a word. Now certainly wasn’t the time to rattle
his cage, not that any time was real good.
As worried as I was for Karra, and
desperate to bring her home, my feelings paled before Longinus’ desire to have
his daughter back. He’d been dead for four hundred some-odd years and had only
just recently been reunited with her after she conned me into helping her bring
him back to life. There was nothing in this world, or the next, that was gonna
keep him from her. We both wanted the same thing, but I wasn’t gonna lie to
myself and pretend Longinus wouldn’t mow me down as quickly as anyone else who
stood in his way, intentionally or otherwise.
My eyes drifted to Mihheer at that thought.
He scrambled to his feet before Longinus, but there was nowhere to go. We’d
prepared the room beforehand, shifting its proportions and sealing off a tiny
section where Longinus could get the answers we were after without having to
worry Mihheer might escape. He was trapped in a twenty-by-twenty foot space,
which stood at the end of a short hallway, the ceiling just high enough that
Longinus didn’t have to duck. Magical torches fluttered to life along the wall when
I sealed the first door to the chamber, adding a wonderful dungeon ambiance to
the bare room. The closing of the second door, the one sealing the room off
from the exit hall with five feet of stone, did nothing to detract from that
Mihheer took in the whole room in an
instant. Shudders wracked his frame as he realized he was in a tomb of stone
and there was nothing between him and Longinus. The ex-Anti-Christ’s mood only
added to the oppressive gloom. He left his power off the leash, and I could
feel waves of it peppering my skin. It felt like I was getting a colonoscopy
from a belt sander. Mihheer stumbled backward until he hit the wall, trying to
escape the onslaught. His hands dug at the stone behind him, unconsciously
seeking another way out. He wasn’t gonna find one. Not so much as a mouse fart
could squeak out now that both doors were shut. I know that because I tested
It needed to be that way. DRAC would know
where I’d taken the alien even before they put Rachelle on the case. She’d
track the fluctuations of the dimensions and realize I’d dropped off the radar,
only confirming I’d either popped into the God-proof room or Limbo, and they’d
come here first. I also wouldn’t put it past them to have installed a homing
device of some sort into the power dampener they’d plugged into Mihheer, just
in case he managed to slip loose. They couldn’t track it into the room, so that
wasn’t a concern, but it could point them in the right direction. It also
couldn’t be used to lead anyone to his master. Mihheer was stuck on Earth
without his boss.
Longinus had already determined Gorath fled
the plane through a dimensional gate, but there was no way to follow without
the specific coordinates and an ass load of power. While Mihheer probably knew
where his boss had gone, which was what we were banking on, he didn’t have the
sack to open the portal on this end. Longinus did, but we needed time to figure
out where Gorath had gone. The new hidey-hole, sealing off a tiny piece of the
God-proof room way in the back, would give us that even if DRAC managed to get
into Hell, which was unlikely.
As a perk of being the interim Devil, I had
the keys, which would have been handy had I realized that a long time ago. I
sealed off all the gates into Hell and hung out the
Do Not Disturb
sign. There was no guarantee Rahim and company
wouldn’t figure a way around the locks and find us eventually even if they
couldn’t track the dampener, but it gave us a little while to play while they
hunted. Longinus didn’t waste any of our lead. He got right down to it.
“Where is my daughter?” The question was a
hammer’s blow, his basso voice echoing off the walls.
Mihheer shrank down but he kept his gaze
locked on Longinus. “I will
betray my master.” He bared his teeth to emphasize his token defiance.
I had to hand it to him, he was brave.
Fucking stupid, but brave. Not that any of his posturing mattered. If he knew
anything, he was gonna be singing
in Longinus’ Magical Misery Tour sooner or later. He wasn’t dealing with DRAC
any longer. There wouldn’t be any cradling or coddling here.
The ex-AC hadn’t bothered to bring any
tools, so it caught me off guard when he unstrapped his sword belt and passed
it back to me. The blade tingled in my hands, Longinus grinning as he motioned
for me to step back. The tasted of bile filled my mouth and sunk deep into the
pit of my stomach at the realization of what was going down. Slayer’s “Piece by
Piece” came to mind. He was gonna do this the hard way: by hand.
Mihheer must have figured that out, too. His
head snapped back and forth, his coiled body telegraphing which way he was
gonna dart. He shot off—not that there was anywhere to go—and ran straight into
the back of Longinus’ hand. The alien’s feet flew out from beneath him and he
slammed hard on the stone floor. The ground vibrated with the impact.
When Mihheer didn’t immediately answer,
Longinus crouched down beside him and grabbed ahold of his remaining horn. The
paper-ripping sound of it coming loose resounded in my ears. The alien’s
screech vied for space right after. The horn came out at the root, several
inches of the remaining hole filling with blood as he thrashed and screamed.
Longinus muffled the noise by pushing Mihheer’s face into the ground, leaning
his weight on his head until I was sure I heard his skull creak. He
motor-boated the floor as he screamed, blood and spittle foaming up around his
mouth Longinus relented a moment later, easing up a bit.
“Where is she?” he asked again, no hint of anger
in his voice. There was only the steely determination to get an answer.
was the demon whose resurrection
was so feared, the one who strolled amongst the Romans and slipped the point of
his spear into the side of Jesus himself, in front of everybody.
Longinus was made to create terror, the
true Anti-Christ no matter who wore the mantle. For all his talk of settling
down and fitting in with the New World Order left behind by God and Satan’s
departure, this was all Longinus would ever be: a cruel, depraved killer who
could make De Sade piss his breeches and sprout wood at the same time. And while
he was doing it all to save Karra, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of
puzzle box I was opening by aiding and abetting.
I swallowed hard at the thought just as a
drew my attention to the
floor. A yellowish-white triangle laid there, a couple of thick threads
protruding wetly from the flatter end. It took me a second to realize it was a
tooth. By then, another had joined the first. Mihheer clutched to Longinus’
wrist as the ex-AC held the alien’s mouth open with magic and was pulling his
teeth out one at a time. A gurgled screech accompanied each removal, blood
gushing into his throat. It spewed out with every scream, spattering Longinus,
but he didn’t seem to care. He spent several minutes de-
Mihheer, stopping only when the alien’s mouth was a mountain range of jagged
flesh and oozing blood. A pile of teeth sat on the ground next to him.
Then Longinus moved on. A small piece of
the alien’s finger flew past me, dots of blood speckling my sleeve, their
warmth sinking in. There was a flash of energy and the smell of charred meat wafted
to my nose as Longinus cauterized the wound with his magic. Then another finger
bone whirled by. Another followed, and then another.
pause: the pattern repeating over and over. All the while Mihheer shrieked,
Longinus’ question floated from his lips every few seconds, punctuated by the
snap of bone.
When he’d finished the fingers, the alien
still refused to answer, so he went on to the metacarpals, plucking out each
bone with vicious precision. He worked to the wrist, grabbing the nubs of both
bones and yanking them apart as though they were wishbones. The skin and meat
tore, Mihheer’s forearm shaping a “V” until the bones slipped loose of the
flesh. Longinus cast them aside and peeled the skin away next, tugging at the
By the time he’d reached the elbow, I’d had
all I could take. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above putting a few bullets in a
guy—angel, whatever—for information and the occasional vicarious thrill, but there
was a hazy line I tried not to cross…too often…when I could help it.
Normally, I’d have just blamed my
sensitivity to ultra-violence on my mother, the inner monologue of my underdeveloped
conscience, but recent revelations screwed the pooch on that excuse.
The image I’d had of her, however
manufactured and unlikely as it might have been to begin with, had been shot all
to hell. Now I didn’t know who or what I was supposed to be. My moral compass
was fucked seven ways to Sunday and twice on Tuesday, all without lube. It’s
not that it ever pointed true north, but it hadn’t slipped
far south until recently. Nothing puts a black mark on your
permanent record quite like cold-blooded murder.
Maybe I wasn’t that different from dear old
dad after all. That didn’t stop me from wanting to be.
Longinus caught up in his
origami flesh and bone, I slipped into the adjoining hallway and shut the door
behind me. I was still in the God-proof room so Rachelle couldn’t spot me, but
the stone helped filter out the alien’s screams…at least a little bit.
I wanted Karra back more than anything, so
I sunk to the floor and waited while Longinus did his thing. My guts churned as
I imagined what was happening on the other side of the stone barrier. I
wouldn’t waste any energy to stop him, but I damn sure didn’t feel the need to