Chapter 1: Billy Scratch
“Tell me, Doctor Morgan,” the man said. “How do you feel about sin?”
He’d introduced himself as Billy Scratch, the tall stranger in the fine suit. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth and he puffed it with what one could call fiendish delight. He had the air of a man used to the high life, who was only too happy to indulge in material pleasures. The year was 1952, and the lighting in the bar was low. The aura of money lingered in the air, mingling with the cigar smoke and the smell of fine alcohol.
Henry shrugged, swirling his cognac in its snifter. “I think sin is… largely relative. A good part of it has more to do with faith and an individual’s own moral compass than it does any measurable notion of right and wrong. Because of this, and because of how widely open to interpretation the broader definition of the concept of ‘sin’ is, it’s really only useful in the context of privately assessing oneself. Any sort of justice system based on ‘convicting sinners’ is bound to fail due to its very base nature. The only way to really ensure justice that is, well… just is to rely on a methodology based in the rule of solely secular law. As soon as you involve theocracy it becomes a matter of subjective sin versus subjective purity, rather than a matter of objective guilt versus objective innocence, as it should be.”
One of Scratch’s eyebrows rose quizzically, and the cigarette at the corner of his mouth twitched in charmed amusement. “That was… a lot more answer than I was expecting, Doctor. And not at all what I was asking.” Two immaculately manicured fingers plucked the cigarette from his lips, and he leaned in. His breath tickled Henry’s ear. “I’m more curious as to how you feel about committing a delectable little bit of sin with, ah… me.”
Henry could hear the man’s smile. It was hungry, and excited. He felt the blood rise in his cheeks as he became suddenly very aware of the man’s soft, musky cologne. It was an enticing smell, and surprisingly subtle, especially given… everything else about him. Henry cleared his throat and directed his eyes to the ceiling, imploring them not to wander. He matched the man’s volume. “Mister Scratch,” he said, picking his words carefully. “Please believe me, your invitation is… far from undesirable. However, you find me a man whose loyalties are already occupied by another, and I am perfectly happy for them to remain that way. “
Scratch sat back, looking thoughtfully down a regal, beakish nose at Henry. “A faithful man,” he murmured. “How charmingly novel.”
“Not so novel, surely,”
“More than you might imagine,” Scratch said. “Well. If I cannot guarantee the pleasure of your company for the rest of the night, at least allow me to get you another drink.”
“First tempting me to sin,” Henry said with a smile. “And now to vice. What are you sir, the devil?”
Scratch just grinned with white, even teeth and tapped the side of his nose.
Chapter 2: Familiar Faces, Familiar Places
The club was poorly lit. The bass-heavy drivel that young people were calling music these days made Henry’s head throb, and the strobe lights flashing over the room of entwining bodies made him motion sick. He tried to keep his eyes on the back of Detective Martinez’s head as best he could, both to quiet his nausea and so as not to lose her in the dark. She made her way up to the bar and, as politely as he could, he shouldered his way through the crowd of inebriated twentysomethings to stand beside her. He shrugged off a woman who was trying to drunkenly caress his hair and straightened his scarf. Detective Martinez glanced at him before flagging down the bartender. “Hey,” she said. “Will Rogers?”
She held out a polaroid photo. In it was a young woman with short hair and an infectious smile. It had been taken at a party, and she had light up necklaces around her neck that cast a gentle glow up around her face, making her look ethereal. “Do you recognize this girl?”
The bartender took it. A few stools down, a man with dark hair looked up from a gaggle of fawning young women, peering over at them. Something about him made Henry’s hackles rise, but he didn’t look over.
The bartender shook his head. “Can’t say she rings a bell.”
“Really? Apparently she made quite the scene the last time she showed up,” the Detective said.
“Well… when was she here?”
“Three days ago.”
He nodded. “I wasn’t on that night.”
“Your name was on the schedule,” Detective Martinez said.
He nodded. “Yeah. My dog ate a chicken bone, I had to rush him to the vet.”
“Who covered for you?”
“Uh…” he shrugged. “Steven. Steven James.”
“Can you give us his number?”
As the bartender wrote it down on a cocktail napkin, Henry noticed the tall, dark man standing up and pushing his way through the young women to head over to them. “Detective,” he murmured, taking her elbow and pulling her gently towards the door. “Shall we?”
Detective martinez frowned at him. “Why?”
“We,ah, have incoming.” Henry nodded in the direction of the approaching man.
“He doesn’t seem hostile,” the Detective said. “He doesn’t even seem angry.”
“It’s just a - a ‘gut’ thing,” Henry said. Something about that man was familiar, and not in an ‘I was next to him on the subway this morning’ kind of a way.
“Based on what?”
“I don’t know - look, you can stay here if you want. I’ll meet you outside.” Henry unmoored himself from her, pushing his way out through the crowd.
Detective Martinez looked after him and sighed. “Henry,” she called. “Henry, hold up.” She too began to make for the door. She had a slightly easir time of it, able to follow in his wake, and she caught up quickly. “Happy now?”
Henry glanced at her. “‘Happy’ might be a stretch.”
Things had been strained between him and the detective ever since she had shown up at his door with a vintage photograph depicting a man, his wife, and their infant son three weeks ago. The man was a spitting image of Henry. He’d spun some story, fear making his memory blurry and his tongue thick. He started off with the truth, beginning with the slave ship and the Doctor Henry Morgan who was shot and killed upon it, when he saw the detective’s expression and his resolve bottomed out. He ended in a lie as cowardice wrapped icy fingers around his heart and he was flooded with memories of loathing, abandonment, institutionalization, and torture. He had spent the next ten minutes hurriedly building a family tree and praying he didn’t step on his own toes. His grandfather, the story eventually concluded, was Henry’s namesake, and the familial resemblance was strong. He couldn’t tell whether the Detective had bought it, and the story didn’t sit well with him.
Henry Morgan couldn’t die. He couldn’t age, he couldn’t fall ill, and he could not be killed. It was his best-kept secret, and his life was transient and distant. People had found out before, and… it had never ended well. He was holding the Detective at arm’s length, and he could tell she was aware. The friendly cordiality they had built over the months of partnering with each other was gone, leaving behind a stiff, formal professionalism.
Guilt burned in Henry’s stomach as he raised his arm for a cab.
“Hallo,” said a voice behind him. He jumped. He and the Detective turned to face the tall, dark haired man from the club. He had his hands in his pockets and was leaning forward with a smile, casually conspiratorial. His dark eyes glittered with mirth and intellect.
“You followed us outside,” Henry said numbly.
“Well, you left in such a hurry,” he purred. “Rude of you, really. You’re clearly police. You’re looking for a girl?”
“No,” Detective Martinez said. “We’re looking for a bartender who saw a girl. Steven James. Are you him?”
The man’s lip curled in disdain. “Do I look like I tend bar for a living?” he said. One dark brow rose and he plucked the cuff of what Henry could see was a bespoke suit.
“No,” the Detective admitted. “Well, I’m Detective Martinez. If you aren’t Steven James, who are you?”
“Lucifer,” the man purred. “Morningstar.” He held out a hand.
The Detective took it, but she scoffed. “Like the Devil?”
Lucifer grinned. “Precisely.”
Skepticism was splashed across Detective Martinez’s face like paint, but her eyes were fixed on his. “And, uh… what do you do, Mister Morningstar?”
‘Whatever I want, mostly,” Lucifer said. He leaned against a streetlamp with an easy grace that would have made almost anyone else jealous. “Currently I’m entrepreneur. And I work with the police,” he added, an eagerness flickering behind his black eyes. “So perhaps you can avail yourself of me, detective.”
Her eyebrows rose. “You. Work with the police. I’ve never seen you around before.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have. It’s the Los Angeles police, mostly.” He inspected his nails.
“What brings you to New York?” the Detective asked.
“Change of scenery. Fresh air. And whatnot. Have we met before?” he asked abruptly, shifting his focus to Henry.
Henry shook his head, realizing he had been staring. “No,” he said, “I don’t think so.”
“Really?” Lucifer cocked his head. “I never forget a face.”
Henry smiled tightly. “Neither do I.”
Lucifer shrugged. “Suit yourself. The girl,” he said, looking back to the Detective. “Is she missing, or dead?”
“The case is ongoing,” Henry said. “I’m not sure it’s wise -”
“Well, that much is available on Google,” the Detective said without looking over at him. Henry realized she hadn’t taken her eyes off Lucifer since the handshake. “She’s dead,” she said. “It’s looking like a homicide.” Which wasn’t as true as it could have been. ‘Looking like’ a homicide implied there were other things it could have been. Jenny Nelson was tortured, long and slow. Cuts were made neatly and precisely, in carefully curated arrangements that Henry had no doubt meant something. But his own memory couldn’t be bothered to dredge up more than a vague sense of dread, and Jo’s combing of the internet had recovered nothing. She was found in an old house in the middle of the woods, completely off the grid and too far away for anyone to hear her screaming, even without the gag they had found around her mouth.
Henry looked between the Detective and the tall, dark Mister Morningstar, and fought the urge to wave a hand in front of her eyes.
“That’s lovely,” he purred. “Well. Not for her, perhaps, but that means there is a guilty party somewhere that needs punished. My speciality. I may be able to help you, detective.”
“I don’t think you will,” she said with a small smile. “Sorry.
Lucifer blinked. “Whyever not?”
“Because you consult for the city of LA. This is not LA.” She spoke a little slowly, as if she had to think about her words more than usual. “Your credentials aren’t valid here, and you don’t have enough of a tie to this case to entice me to do any kind of paperwork on your behalf. You said you’re on vacation, right? Well, let’s keep it that way.”
Lucifer looked two parts impressed and one part annoyed. “Well, you’re a little more complex than I would have thought, detective,” he said.
Detective Martinez’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
Lucifer grinned again. “Take it as a compliment. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.”
“We’d better not,” she said. “Or I’ll arrest you for interfering in an ongoing investigation.”
“What a novel thought.”
She looked him up and down, and Henry watched a number of emotions flash across her face, too quick to make out. “Have a good night, Mister Morningstar.”
“You as well, detective. And associate of the detective. I never did get your name.” Lucifer cocked his head.
“You did not,” Henry agreed. “Good evening.”
Lucifer narrowed his eyes, but it was an expression more thoughtful than hostile. “Yes, I’ll do my best.”
Henry turned and walked away. The detective looked between them for a moment, trying to untangle some of the subtext that was clearly being tossed around, before following after Henry. “Hey,” she said, when she’d caught up. “Did you know that guy?”
“No,” Henry said. “No, I couldn’t have done.”
The Detective looked at him sidelong, but didn’t speak the rest of the way back to her car, or the rest of the way back to the precinct.
Henry took a long, circuitous route home, keeping his eye out for the faintest indication of a tail. There was none, and eventually he made it to the door of Abe’s Antiques. He rested his head on the doorframe as he unlocked it, and stepped inside.
“And where the hell have you been?’ Abraham said. He was in his seventies and a little portly, but with an air of sprightliness about him that was the envy of some people twenty years his junior. He was sitting on a vintage sofa, his cell phone on the arm of the chair beside him. “I was getting ready to go out and start trawling rivers for you.”
Henry locked the door. Then he bolted it. “Sorry, Abraham. I was worried about being followed.” He went around the shop and checked the window latches. “Is the back door locked?”
Abe nodded. “Yeah… who would be following you? Is this about Jo again?”
Henry hesitated. “... I’m just going to double check it. And no,” he called over his shoulder as he headed for the back. “It isn’t. Why would it be about the detective?”
“Because she gave you a chance to be open and honest with her like no one has since Mom,” Abe said. “And because you did such a piss-poor job abusing that chance that now you live in perpetual fear of her getting fed up with your terribly fabricated lies and taking matters into her own hands.”
“Does it ever occur to you,” Henry asked, upon his return, “not to say something sometimes?”
“Only when it doesn’t need to be said,” Abe replied. “If it’s not Jo… Henry, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, probably,” Henry said. He sat beside Abe on the couch and sighed, burying his face in his hands. “I just met an… odd man tonight. I think I recognize him from somewhere, but I can’t place him.”
“That doesn’t usually result in locking this place down like Alcatraz.” Abe’s green eyes, one of the pupils large and fixed, swept Henry head to toe. “That can’t be all.”
“It is all.” Henry’s jaw worked, his gaze was fixed on the floor about four feet in front of him. “There was just something about him, Abe. Something… ephemeral, something that set him apart.”
“And set your teeth on edge, apparently. This guy have a name?”
Henry looked up at the ceiling, a mirthless laugh escaping him. “He did indeed.”
“What was it?”
Abe paused. “... I need a drink.”
“I think I’ll join you.”
Lucifer Morningstar was walking. Usually, he preferred to drive, and had circumstances been normal he wouldn’t have been caught dead wandering this part of town. But the smog and grime was… oddly grounding. The mazelike streets and sooty air reminded him of someplace he’d forsaken years ago. He found it comforting, in a hellish way. He’d gotten bored of being drunk some time ago and had sobered up. Chill wind tossed his hair and ruffled his clothes, and the sounds of the city made it easy to clear his mind.
Until his phone started ringing.
He sighed and collapsed onto a bench by the roadside, facing a strip of greasy-looking bars. He thought he remembered this part of town from the last time he’d been here, six-and-sixty years ago, but decades of neglect and built-up filth did a good job of hiding what it may have once been. He watched the flickering neon beer logos in the windows as he withdrew his phone from the innermost pocket of his jacket. He looked at the caller ID and made a face, but picked up anyway.
“Doctor Martin,” he said, voice dripping with sickening saccharine. “However can I help you?”
“ Lucifer, thank God.” Doctor Linda Martin’s voice was quavering, just slightly. She was a strong little thing, and she could hide her emotions quite effectively when she needed to, but Lucifer could tell. She was exhausted.
“Don’t bother, He won’t take any notice,” he said, almost automatically. “Are… you quite alright?”
The incredulous laughter on the other end of the line had not been what he was expecting. “ Am I all right? Am I all right? Lucifer, where even are you?”
“... Away,” Lucifer said cagily.
“ You’ve been gone for three weeks. You didn’t say where to, or when you’d be back. You just left Chloe in that room with all those bodies and never showed back up.”
“This is better,” Lucifer said. “At least… for now.”
“Oh, it’s better, huh?”
“I need space, Doctor. I can only assume the Detective does as well. You know that she knows, I take it.”
“ That’s one way of putting it,” Linda snapped. “Chloe burst into my office at ten p.m, three-quarters of the way to a full breakdown. She demanded to know if I knew.”
“Yes, well. Leaving you alone worked wonders for our professional relationship, didn’t it?” Lucifer said. “I’m just giving the Detective the same courtesy.”
“Our relationship is a little different than yours and Chloe’s,” Linda said. “Are you sure this is the right choice? Have you even tried to get in touch with her?”
“Of-” Lucifer realized the word had been nearly a shout and lowered his voice, starting again. “Of course I have. Voicemail. Every time.”
“ Have you left any messages?”
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’ve done this all before, remember. The last thing she wants to hear is my voice.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Voices caught Lucifer’s attention and he glanced up. A young man with a stylish haircut, but cheap clothes, was exiting one of the bars. The smell of alcohol rolled off him like he’d been dunked in it, but he seemed completely sober.
“Hey, Steven,” another young man said, leaning out the door. “You left your keys, dude.”
Stylish-Hair, Steven, turned around to his buddy and held up his arm for a toss. He caught them handily and stuffed them in his pocket. He was definitely sober.
“Lucifer?” Linda asked.
“Hate to cut this impromptu session of ours short, Doctor,” Lucifer said. “Well, not really. But if you’ll excuse me, I rather have a murderer to catch.”
“What? Lucifer, wait -”
He ended the call.
Steven was walking his way, and Lucifer stood up with a menacing gravitas that made him grateful he’d decided on sobriety tonight. “Hello,” he said, baring his teeth in something that was nearly a smile. “Your name wouldn’t happen to be Steven James the bartender, would it?”
Steven stopped walking and took one careful step back. “Who wants to know.”
Lucifer’s almost-smile widened, and he pulled out the polaroid he’d palmed off the detective. “I think you and I should have a little chat.”
Chapter 3: Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Hey, all! Sorry for the long time away, and thanks for reading. A special thanks to Brevityis, for beta reading and some high-quality commentary. Thanks too to everyone else commenting and encouraging me to pick this one back up. It's gonna be a wild ride, you guys.
“It’s remarkable, Detective,” Henry said. “The killer was operating in total or near-total darkness when he committed the crime, and yet it was carried out with almost surgical precision.”
“How could you possibly know that?” detective Hanson asked. He, Henry, and Jo were all settled around Jo’s desk in the precinct. Lucas Wahl hovered around the edges of the group, peering over their shoulders.
Lucas pointed at Henry with a thin finger. “Oh,” he said. “This is really cool, actually. I don’t know how you’d have experience enough to pick this out, but Doctor Morgan strikes again, I guess.”
Henry looked at Lucas in fond exasperation. The junior medical examiner had become something of a protege of Henry’s, especially over the past month or two. But while he had an undeniable brain on his shoulders, his naive enthusiasm often reminded Henry just how young he was in the grand scheme of things. “Yes, Lucas, thank you. Well, I noticed that her irises were fully dilated.”
“Sure, but that happens sometimes, right?” Hanson asked. Jo nodded her agreement. Hanson hooked a thumb at her as if that alone added weight to his argument. “When people die, sometimes their muscles go slack after. Pupil dilation isn’t exactly unheard of, Doc.”
“Ah,” Henry said. “Yes. But.” He reached into his leather satchel and pulled out a file. Opening it up on Jo’s desk, he revealed several close up photos of the girl’s eyes. Hanson made a noise and looked away, but Jo leaned in.
“But what?” she asked.
“The average diameter of the human pupil is two to four millimeters,” Henry said. “In the event of total relaxation of the muscles of the iris after death, it widens to about six millimeters. Miss Nelson’s pupils are fixed at a diameter of nine millimeters, far above average. My first thought was some sort of narcotic, but she had none in her system. So I dug a little deeper.” He turned the photos to an image of some kind of cell structure.
“What is that, Henry?” Jo asked.
“The musculature of Miss Nelson’s left eye. Well, part of it,” Henry amended. “These are her radial muscles. As you can clearly observe here and here -” he pointed to two sections of the photo that, to the detectives, were indistinguishable from the rest. “They are completely contracted. The radial muscles of the eye only contract this far when the eye is straining to see light where there is none. She could have been blindfolded, but it is very rare to find a blindfold that allows perfect darkness, and I failed to recover any sort of fibers or adhesives from her face, aside from those left by the cloth gag we found her wearing. This is a man who did his work in utter blackness.”
“So he works by feel?” Jo said.
“It would appear that way. Either that or he has a very powerful pair of those, ah…” Henry waved a hand as he tried to find the words. “Dark-Vision goggles.”
“Night vision," Lucas said. “Yeah, he could have used the infrared spectrum to see what he was doing. They’d have to have a crazy battery, though. I mean, that old house had no power and no way to get any, right? He would have needed some serious juice to use them as long as he did.”
“How do you know about them?” Hanson asked. Henry and Jo both shot him identical looks, but Hanson didn’t notice.
Neither did Lucas. He shrugged, feigning modesty. “I’m kind of an expert with this stuff. I used to use night vision gear all the time when I was a supernatural investigator. I did a stint on the road in between film school and getting my M.E certification. I was kind of the precursor to Buzzfeed Unsolved, really. Without me, those guys would have never been where they are now, let’s be real. But you know what they say, lesser men achieve fame by stepping on the backs of their betters…” he sighed wistfully. “I still have all my old gear. I could show you sometime. We could check out my old video logs of the hunts and my cryptid journals. It’s like, a treasure trove of cryptozoological evidence.”
There was a moment of silence when he paused for breath, no one at the desk quite sure how to reply.
Luckily no one had to. The elevators pinged open and a young man shuffled out. He looked exhausted and unshaven, clearly wearing last night’s clothes. His eyes were red from sleeplessness and weeping. “Detective Martinez?” he said, to no one in particular. “I need to speak to Detective Martinez.”
Jo frowned and waved the men away from her desk. Henry stood and took exactly two steps back, only barely out of hovering range. Jo looked at him flatly and raised an arm. “Over here,” she said.
The young man shuffled over to them. Henry’s eyebrows rose. He smelled like he’d been swimming in alcohol, but Henry saw no signs of a hangover.
The young man rooted in his back pocket and pulled something out. “This is yours, I think.” He held it out.
Jo took it. She frowned, looking from it to the young man and back. “Where did you get this?”
Henry leaned in for a better look. It was a polaroid, the picture of Miss Jenny Nelson they’d been passing around in search of anyone who may have seen her. He looked at the young man with a frown to mirror Jo’s.
“He said you’d want to talk to me,” The young man said. “And that you’d be looking for that back.”
“Uh.” He swallowed. “Lucifer Morningstar?”
Henry and Jo exchanged a long look. “When did you talk to him?” she asked.
“Last night, when I got off work.”
“And he just had the polaroid?”
He nodded. “I’m, uh. Steven? From the bar? He said you thought I might know something about Jenny.”
Jo blinked again. “Mister James,” she said. “Yes. Uh, we do, actually. We just have a couple of questions about the last time you saw her. Would you come with me, please?” As she stood, she leaned back down to Detective Hanson. “Can you look up everything you can on this Lucifer Morningstar guy? He says he owns a business in LA, and that he consults for the police.”
“Lucifer Morningstar?” Hanson said, like he was waiting for the punchline. “There’s no way that’s anyone’s real name.”
“That’s what he gave us.”
“Ten bucks cash and coffee for a week says he’s not a real consultant,” Hanson scoffed. “I bet you he’s just some crazy looking for attention.”
Henry smirked. “I’ll take you up on that, Detective,” he said. “His suit was immaculately tailored, and the cologne he wore cost more than you make in a week. Wealth does not preclude eccentricity; in fact it may encourage it. But This Mister Morningstar was something besides your usual attention seeker.”
Hanson eyed him. “The offer was for Jo, not you, you Holmesian freak,” he said without any real venom. “But sure. You’re on.”
Henry turned and followed Jo, who’d started walking Steven to the interrogation room. Behind him, he heard Hanson sigh. “I’m gonna lose now, aren’t I?” he said.
“Yeah,” Lucas replied. “Probably.”
In the interrogation room, Jo sat across from Steven. Henry was behind the mirrored glass window as usual, but he wasn’t paying the best attention. Something was nagging at him, something important.
“Tell me about Mister Morningstar first,” Jo said. “He approached you?”
“Yeah… I work in a couple of different bars, filling in on off nights and stuff. I was leaving work at Club Twelve on uh… forty-fourth?” Steven shrugged. “He was talking on a phone I think. On a bench. When I walked past he stood up and asked me my name.”
“Did he threaten you or coerce you at all?”
Steven shook his head and to Henry’s surprise, his eyes welled up. Jo was quiet for a moment before glancing over her shoulder at the mirrored window as if to ask if Henry was seeing this too. Steven sniffed, and she looked back at him.
“No, he was great,” Steven said. “I mean… it was a little weird at first, him showing up out of the blue. And he’s not exactly the kind of guy you expect to see in that part of town. But uh… we had a good talk. He walked me through what happened to Jenny, and uh… he helped me get some stuff off my chest. Figure out what I… truly desire, you know?”
“What you truly - what, like a therapy session?” Jo asked.
“No, it’s just…” Steven shrugged. “When you look him in the eye for long enough, your walls start coming down. I don’t know. I just started telling him about everything. Everything with Jenny, my own shitty decisions. It all came out.”
“Yes,” Jo said, latching onto a scrap of normalcy as it floated within reach. “Jenny. Jenny Nelson. She was killed four days ago. You were on first name terms with her?”
He nodded. “Jenny was cool. We used to date.”
Jo frowned. You’re her ex-boyfriend? Uh - don’t take this the wrong way, but when we asked around for people who might have been attached to Jenny, your name didn’t come up.”
“Oh, well, yeah.” Steven shrugged. “It’s been like, ten years or something. We dated in highschool. For like… five months? And that seems pretty insignificant now, but when you’re a kid it feels like a big deal.”
“Did you stay close after you broke up?”
“Not… really? I mean, we saw a little more of each other in the past few years, what with my job and her being big into the club scene. We were friendly. I comped her a drink once or twice… but I never saw her outside of work. She was just a familiar face.”
“And what happened four nights ago at the Star Bar? You were on, weren’t you? Witness accounts all agree that she was making a scene.”
Steven laughed. “That was one word for it. Jenny was always a party animal, but that night… wow. It was like she was possessed.”
“And that didn’t strike you as odd at all?”
He shook his head. “I just… figured she’d had a really good day.”
Jo glanced at the mirrored window again. “And she didn’t seem… distressed or agitated at all?”
“Nah. I mean… you see a few party drugs in my business. Jenny drank, but she wasn’t into the drug stuff, you know? But if I didn’t know that, I would have said she was on something. She was wild.”
“Okay… and did she leave with anyone?”
“No…” Steven thought. “No, she definitely left alone. I was shocked she was still on her feet.”
Henry pounded on the glass of the window.
Jo closed her eyes. She smiled at Steven. “‘Scuse me.”She stood and left. Henry jogged out to meet her in the hall.
“Do you think he’s lying?” Henry demanded.
“It doesn’t seem like it.” Jo eyed him. “... why?”
“Jenny Nelson had not a trace of alcohol in her system. Or any other intoxicant, for that matter. She was, as they say, stone-cold sober.”
Jo blinked. “... okay. And she died hours after leaving the club. No way she would have had time to process all the booze it’s sounding like she drank.”
“So either he’s lying through his teeth, or we’re missing something.” Henry looked through the window on the interrogation room door at Steven, who was looking down at his hands. “I hardly make him for a fabulist. If he was able to falsify that little display of emotion earlier, then I think he’s missed his calling.”
“So you think there’s something we don’t have.”
Henry exhaled. “The specifics still need to be solidified. The locations and patterns of the cuts suggest a specific intent, and now with the darkness and the disappearing drink…” He shook his head. “I’ll have to… get creative, I think. It’s a puzzle.”
“And we all know how much Doctor Henry Morgan hates solving puzzles,” Jo drawled.
Henry looked at her dyly.
“I’m gonna cut him loose,” she said. “Unless you can think of anything else to ask him?”
Henry shook his head. “No… no. As a matter of fact, I think I need to go for a walk.”
Jo blinked. “Where?”
“Nowhere special,” Henry said.
Chapter 4: Teatime Tête-à-Tête
Hello hello! Sorry I've been less than active. This semester is kicking my ass :')
But I haven't forgotten about the boys, I promise. Thanks again to all the lovely commenters, you really keep up my motivation to keep coming back to these two losers; and especially thank you to Brevityis for their impeccable beta reading. Thanks for visiting, and Enjoy!
“Detective Hanson,” Henry said, clapping a hand down on the back of the man’s chair. “Hard at work, I see.”
Hanson sucked his teeth and sighed, not looking up from his phone. “What, Henry? Here to gloat already?”
Henry frowned. “What about?”
“This… Lucifer Morningstar character. He’s legit. Owns a club called… Lux? And I talked to LAPD. He is a registered consultant with them. So congrats, I guess.” He opened his desk and fished for his wallet.
Henry held up a hand. “Keep your money, detective.” One corner of his mouth twitched. “I will hold you to those coffees, though.”
“I’ll write down my preferred preparation for you.”
“If it doesn’t fit on a sticky note, I’m not doing it,” Hanson said. “I’m not a chemist and those poor baristas aren’t either.”
“Oh, it’ll most definitely fit on a sticky note,” Henry assured him.
“I have very small handwriting.”
Hanson turned in his chair to glare at him.
Henry smiled beatifically. “Actually, Detective, I didn’t come over here to gloat. I do have a question.”
“Could I trouble you to look up an address? For Club Twelve on forty-fourth street.”
Hanson blinked. “You couldn’t do that yourself? What about Google?” he paused as realization hit him and he sighed. “No computer.”
“No computer,” Henry agreed. “Sorry.”
“What is your deal with all the tech stuff anyways?” Hanson asked, opening Google Maps. “If the rumors are true, you don’t even own a microwave.”
Henry shuddered. “Despicable things. Call me a man nostalgic for a simpler time.”
“Nostalgic? You’re what, thirty-five? You can’t be nostalgic for a time you weren’t alive for, Doc.”
Henry just smiled.
“... Yeah. Well. Here’s the address.” Hanson scrawled it on a post-it and handed it to him. “That’s a rough part of town.”
“It wasn’t always.” Henry scanned the note and put it in his pocket. “You have lovely handwriting, Detective. You never should have given up calligraphy.” He nodded to Hanson and turned to leave.
“It’s been over a decade! How could you know that?” Hanson demanded.
“Your ‘I’s and ‘T’s have the characteristic flourishes,” Henry called over his shoulder, stepping into an elevator as a couple of beat cops exited.
Hanson sat back in his chair as the elevator doors closed. He exhaled, a half-laugh that was just as exasperated as it was bewildered. “‘Characteristic flourishes,’” he quoted. “‘I’m Henry Morgan. I’m English and I know how to pick out characteristic flourishes.’”
Henry was dawdling, and he knew it. He had walked a few blocks away from the precinct, fully intending to catch a cab… but he found himself sitting outdoors at a cafe, warming his hands on a mug of darjeeling that did nothing to distract him from the dread he was trying to escape.
A man whose face inspired a sense of doom like Mister Morningstar’s should not be so damnably hard to place.
Because Hanson was right. That was a bad part of town. Henry could only imagine one or two places he had ever been on that strip, and he hadn’t set foot near them in decades as their fortunes began to fall and they had slipped closer to the city’s underbelly. A man in a suit the caliber of Lucifer’s wouldn’t be there without reason. Henry knew that if he could see the place, he could place the man. He knew it.
“What kind of man wears a… big-brand designer, Gucci perhaps? What kind of man wears a Gucci suit to a third rate club on the edge of such a blighted part of town?” Henry asked, looking at his tea like it would answer him.
Behind him, a throat cleared politely. “Actually,” an English tenor said. Henry closed his eyes. “I think you’ll find that the devil does, in fact, wear Prada. Hello, Mister Associate of the Detective.”
Henry didn’t turn around. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I was on my way to the precinct to see if you people enjoyed my little present when I couldn’t help but notice Mister British Mac-Broodypants, looking like he wanted to crawl into his cuppa and die there.”
“And you took it upon yourself to… come over and say hello,” Henry said.
“I did indeed.”
“Well… having done that, maybe you can move on.”
Mister Morningstar was silent for a second, and Henry allowed himself to hope that maybe his unnerving countryman had listened to him.
He hadn’t. Lucifer Morningstar pulled out one of the wrought-iron chairs from the matching table. It screeched loudly enough to make Henry flinch. He supposed absently that it was lucky he couldn’t age, because Lucifer seemed like the kind of man who routinely shaved years off the lifespans of others.
“So. Do I get a name, or does British Mac-Broodypants have staying power?” Lucifer purred.
Henry took a calming sip of tea, but he could all but feel his blood pressure rising. “Henry. And pointing out my Englishness is a tad undermined by your being English yourself.”
Lucifer chuckled. “Oh, I’m not English.”
“... then what are you?” Henry asked.
Lucifer smiled crookedly. “Well, I suppose I’m celestial originally, though if we’re nitpicking then ‘infernal’ is really the most current technical term.”
Lucifer made an indulgent gesture with one manicured hand. “Because I’m the Devil.”
Henry’s frown did not abate. “Mm.”
“Are you sure we haven’t met?” Lucifer asked. “You wouldn’t think I’d remember someone as boring and dour as you, but something stuck with me, clearly. Maybe the scarves.”
“No,” Henry said.
“You’re certain? Oh!” Lucifer pointed at him, realization dawning. “Have we had sex?”
Henry snorted darjeeling. “No!” he snapped, mopping at his face with a cafe napkin.
Lucifer sat back a little. “Sorry, Henry,” he said, not looking sorry in the least. ‘I had no idea the concept was so repellent to you.”
Henry glared. “The concept is nothing of the sort,” he said. “The question, on the other hand, is wildly and entirely inappropriate.”
Lucifer grinned, touching the tip of his tongue to his front teeth. “Well, I do excel at wild impropriety.”
Henry set his tea aside sourly. “What did you do to Steven James?” he asked quietly.
“Bartender boy?” Lucifer asked. “Not a thing.”
“You must have done something,” Henry said. “He came in dazed, emotionally fragile. He teared up at the mention of your name. Did you roofie him?”
Lucifer placed a hand over his heart. “I am appalled,” he said. “That you would suggest such a thing. I did nothing of the sort. We just talked.”
“Oh, just talked?” Henry said. “Forgive me, but I don’t think I can believe that young man a mere victim of ‘just talking.’”
“Well,” Lucifer said. He shrugged. “There was one thing.”
Henry’s expression grew thunderous. A waiter, cruising by to see if he wanted a refill, caught a whiff of the tension in the air and made a speedy exit. “What,” Henry said. It was less of a question and more of a quiet demand.
“I asked him what he truly desired,” Lucifer said. He smiled, the expression serpentine.
Henry paused. “Is… is that a euphemism for something, or…?”
Lucifer laughed. “No, don’t be ridiculous. When I ask people their true desires, they… tell me. It’s a neat little trick, it saves a lot of time on the whole ‘lowering boundaries’ thing.” He paused. “But I can tell you don’t believe me, so perhaps a little demonstration is in order.” He put his forearms on the little table and leaned across it, uncomfortably close.
But Henry refused to give him the satisfaction of backing up even an inch. He looked coldly into Lucifer’s dark, canny eyes and allowed one eyebrow to climb.
Lucifer matched it, though Henry got the impression that the other man’s expression was more invitation than condemnation. “Tell me, Henry,” he said. “What is it that you truly desire?”
For a moment, Lucifer’s eyes seemed to expand into huge black pools. For a moment, Henry had the urge to let himself fall in.
But the moment passed, and Henry remembered how to breathe. “At present?” he said. “I truly desire that you back. Up.”
Lucifer did, sitting back abruptly. He looked Henry up and down, perplexion growing. “That’s very odd,” he said.
“What is?” Henry asked.
“That usually works.”
“What does? Asking nicely? I barely even know you. A violation of my personal space won’t exactly incline me towards candor.”
‘It should,” Lucifer said. “That always works. Mortals can’t help it, they always tell me what they want. Mostly. But the one other person who’s immune had… extenuating circumstances. Your conception wasn’t blessed by an angel or ordained by Dad or anything, was it?”
“... Not to my knowledge,” Henry said. He had gone very still at the mention of the word ‘mortals,’ and his voice was absent.
Lucifer frowned. “You alright there, Henry?”
“What were you doing on forty-fourth?” Henry asked. “Were you waiting for Steven James?”
“Goodness, no,” Lucifer said. He chuckled. “Fortuitous though, wasn’t it? No, I was revisiting a couple old haunts I hung out at the last time I was here. I remember them as being much nicer. The place has really gone to Hell over the years. And I’m speaking from experience.”
“Which old haunts?” Henry breathed.
“Oh, goodness. It’s under a new management of course, and disappointingly so. But back in the day they called it… the Moonrise Club.”
Henry stood abruptly. His chair screeched, and it was Lucifer’s turn to flinch. “I have to go.”
Lucifer eyed him. “That’s sudden. Where?”
“I - have an appointment.” Henry started down the sidewalk.
Lucifer blinked. “... Good talk,” he called.
Henry raised a hand in acknowledgement. He controlled himself until he got around the corner and out of sight.
And then he ran.
That Henry No-Last-Name was an odd duck…. On a hunch, Lucifer stood and followed him. He rounded the corner around which Henry had vanished, just in time to see the man break into a dead sprint.
“Someone more suspicious might think he was running away from me,” Lucifer murmured. His eyes roamed the street… until they settled on a small blonde in a plum sheath dress. Lucifer knew in his gut that her name would be Brittney. He’d always had a soft spot for Brittneys. He arranged himself so he’d be the first thing she saw when she came around the corner.
He was the first thing she saw, and she stopped to look him up and down as he pushed himself off the wall and held out the absent Henry’s mug, freshly refilled with piping tea. “Hallo,” he purred, and was gratified to see two circles of pink appear on her cheeks. “Do you like darjeeling?”
Chapter 5: Assurance and Reassurance
Hi all. Finals are bad, so have organic, home-grown escapism. I'm super psyched about the release date for Lucifer! Since the promo came out I haven't been able to stop thinking about the Boys.
I love all the feedback this piece has been getting. I'm so grateful to you all, and I hope you continue to enjoy. :)
As ever, eternal thanks to BrevityIs, my darling beta reader. (Screm is good. Love the screm.)
Henry yanked the door of the antique store wide, the bell’s deceptively cheerful jingle making Abe look up from his desk. “Hey, Henry!” he said. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your—what’s wrong?”
Henry didn’t answer immediately. He was pacing around the perimeter of the shop, peering out the windows. His forehead shone with sweat. Seemingly satisfied, he locked the door and turned the sign to read ‘closed.’
“What are you doing?” Abe asked.
Henry grabbed Abe’s arm as he passed, tugging him towards the basement. His shoes were loud on the wood floors, as he was moving with the percussive haste of fear.
“Henry, what’s going on?” Abe asked. “It’s peak business hours—”
“Oh, don’t give me that,” Henry snapped. “It’s three p.m on a Wednesday, Abraham. Anyone who has work is currently doing it.”
“Except for me, apparently.” When they made it down the stairs and into Henry’s lab, Abe shook himself free of his grip. “What’s got you so riled? I haven’t seen you this bad since… since that whole thing a month ago.”
Henry whirled on his heel to face Abe. Tension braced his shoulders and drew his brows together. He was still breathing hard from his run. “Lucifer Morningstar flirted with me,” he said.
Abe tutted disappointedly. “I know you’re old-fashioned, Henry, but that’s no reason to push you to the brink of a panic attack.”
“No, Abraham,” Henry hissed. “The man calling himself Lucifer Morningstar flirted with me in nineteen fifty-two.”
“Oh my God,” Abe said. He lifted a hand to his mouth. “Oh my God. Do you think he recognized you?”
“I can’t be sure. He didn’t seem to know my name, but I wouldn’t put it past him to be an excellent actor.” Henry braced his hands on his desk and hung his head, inhaling and exhaling in slow, controlled rhythm.
“Well, it’s no wonder you didn’t recognize him,” Abe said. “He must be ancient now.”
“That’s the thing,” Henry said distantly. “That’s the damnable thing, Abe. He hasn’t aged a day.”
Abe reached for the banister as though to brace himself. “He’s like you.”
“It seems a safe assumption.” Henry looked up at the ceiling and took a final deep breath. “I have to wonder, sometimes, whether my… condition only affects men with a natural depravity, or if they grow to be that way over time.”
Abe blinked. “What are you talking about?”
“The track record isn’t exactly great, is it?” Henry said. “Adam was cruel and compassionless and arguably deranged. Lucifer Morningstar either talks in a web of metaphors so complex it must have taken him decades to perfect, or he believes he’s actually the devil. And even I elect to spend my days alone in a refrigerator full of corpses.”
Abe stiffened, drawing upright and glaring. “Hey,” he snapped. “Don’t you dare .”
“Don’t I dare do what?” Henry asked. He was looking at his hands.
“Don’t you dare lump yourself in with them,” Abe said. “It’s ridiculous, and furthermore, it’s utter baloney.”
“You can’t deny that we do have rather a large commonality between us,” Henry said.
“Yeah,” Abe said. He yanked up the sleeve of his shirt, where the numbers in his forearm stood out from his skin, faded and blue-black, but still clearly legible. “Adam and I have ‘a large commonality between us’ too, remember,” he said. “Would you say that we’re the same?”
“Of course not!” Henry said, appalled. “But that’s completely different!”
“Is it?” Abe asked. “How so?”
“I—because you—you have compassion. A regard for human life and an appreciation of its worth!” Henry gestured to Abe. “You couldn’t be further from that—that man.”
“Are you saying you don’t have compassion? I think Mom might disagree with you.” Abe folded his arms.
“Oh, you leave Abigail out of this,” Henry said. He looked away as pain lined his face.
“Why? Why should I? Because you know what she’d say. She’d say you were being a self-pitying moron, and that you’re better than that. You married her, didn’t you? You loved her.”
Henry nodded slowly.
“I’d call that an appreciation for human life. And besides, I had to learn that stuff from somewhere. If not the man who took me in and raised me, then who?” Abe pulled his sleeve back down and folded his arms as he waited for a reply.
Henry didn’t speak. His eyes found the photo of Abigail he kept on his desk. It had been taken just after the war, right before Henry had proposed to her in New York. She looked so happy.
“It takes compassion to be a good father, Henry. And I think I can speak from a place of authority when I say you were better than good. And are, as a matter of fact. And that’s not to mention the work you do with the police. How many lives have been saved because you took an interest in preserving them?”
Henry sighed. “Yes, I think I get the picture now.” He raised his eyes from the desk to find Abe looking at him darkly. Henry smiled, but the expression was melancholic. “... Thank you, Abraham.”
“‘Course. And don’t let me ever hear you talking like that again, huh?” He put up his fists. “I may be in my twilight years, but I’ve still got a right hook hard enough to knock some sense into your thick old head.”
Henry fought the urge to smile again, but it stubbornly wormed its way across his face despite his best efforts. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to blows.”
“It better not. So. What are we gonna do about the Devil in New York?” Abe asked. “I’m assuming that trick you used with Adam won’t work here?”
“Mister Morningstar is a little more… physically imposing than Adam was. And there’s about a six-inch height difference between them. It would make it much harder to pull off. No, I think the way to resolve this will be to get into his head. Figure out what he’s doing, what he wants, why he’s interfering.”
“Well, lucky for us we have a brilliant doctor on our side with a special insight into that sort of stuff. We’ll crack it in no time.”
Henry rolled his eyes fondly. “Well, now you’re just gassing me up, Abe.”
One of Abe’s considerable eyebrows rose. “Oh, get over yourself, nimrod,” he said. “Last time I checked, you aren’t a bombshell blonde, you didn’t go to Yale, and… frankly, the image of you in a dress leaves something to be desired.”
Henry’s eyes widened. “No.”
“Come on, Henry!”
“I haven’t spoken to her in well over a month!”
“And whose fault is that?” Abe demanded. “From what I remember, the attraction was mutual. If you call her, she’ll pick up.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“It’s that immortal charm you pretend not to know about. Any woman who agrees to relocate your date to an active crime scene is interested in more than a casual fling.”
“It wasn’t exactly hard to persuade her,” Henry said. “Molly was interested in the crime based on its merits, not just mine.”
“All the more reason to call. Her,” Abe insisted. “Anyone as interested in a good puzzle as you are is a rare find. And this Lucifer guy is nothing if not a puzzle, right?”
“You just resent that I never brought her home for you to meet,” Henry said dryly.
“I have a right to know who my old man is stepping out with,” Abe agreed. “And I may not know her, but I do know that for the few days you were working together, she made you happier than I’ve seen you in a long time.” Abe watched Henry’s face. After a moment, he sighed. “Come on, Henry. You don’t wear a new scarf for just anyone.”
Henry narrowed his eyes. “... Fine,” he said sullenly. “I will call her. In a strictly professional capacity.”
“Oh, uh-huh,” Abe said. “Sure.”
“I need her help to understand Lucifer,” Henry said. He squared his shoulders. “This isn’t a social call.”
“I never said it was.”
“We’re working together as peers,” Henry muttered. “As doctors.”
Abe stepped over to his father and clapped him on the shoulder. “Yeah,” he said. “You keep telling yourself that.”
Henry looked at Abe dryly as he headed past him to jog up the stairs.
There was a landline on the shop, and Henry picked up the receiver. He was keenly aware of Abe’s eyes on him. His finger hovered over the buttons as he made a quick decision, and he punched in a number.
“Dialled that awful quick for someone you haven’t spoken to in over a month,” Abe said.
“So what?” Henry asked.
“So nothing! I’m just saying. No one can blame you for running her number over and over in your head. ‘Specially if she’s as lovely as you implied.”
“Abraham.” Henry closed his eyes and covered the mouthpiece. “If you please, it’s ringing.”
“And be quiet?”
Henry could see Abe’s reflection in the shop window, and he couldn’t help but smirk as Abe flapped a hand and rolled his eyes. But the line picked up and he sobered.
“ Hello?” asked the person on the other end.
“Hanson,” Henry said, relieved to have not been sent to voicemail. “It’s Doctor Morgan.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” Abe snapped. Henry held up a finger over his shoulder.
“Yeah? What’s up?” Hanson asked.
“I need a favor from you, detective,” Henry said. “It’s important.”
“Well, that doesn’t fill me with dread in the slightest. How can I help?”
“Lucifer Morningstar,” Henry said. “I… have some suspicions about him. He may not be as transparent as he claims.”
“Suspicions? Doc, you just won a bet that this guy was on the level. His background check came up clean and clear.” Hanson scoffed. “You can’t be serious.”
“I am, detective. Deadly. Think of my resume for a moment. My degree is from Guam. Previous engagements include gravedigging. I’m technologically abstinent, I have no more than eight general acquaintences. I do little with my time besides work, and my home life is private and fairly reclusive.”
“What are you getting at?”
“Look at that profile from the outside. Ignoring all knowledge you have of me as a person, just the facts.”
“It… looks like… a shaky identity at best. If it cropped up on a case I was working, I’d be inclined to check for previous aliases and other missing persons or accidental deaths that matched your description. It seems like the identity of someone who could pack up and run at a moment’s notice.”
“But Doc,” Hanson said. “This Lucifer guy, he’s got substantial holdings and enterprises in LA, he’s on file with their police department, he’s not going anywhere in a moment.”
“All I’m saying is that a solid paper trail does not an honest man make, no more than a shaky one does an honest man unmake.” Henry sighed. “I have a feeling that, regardless of his identity and its factual merit, he’s not just here on a vacation. He’s interested in this case for a reason. Now, I intend to find out what that is, but in the meantime… be wary, Detective. And do your best to give him a wide berth.”
“Can do…” Hanson said. “ But, uh. Henry?”
“Why are you coming to me with this? Why not Jo?”
“Detective Martinez has had enough of my gut feelings and subpar explanations for a good while, I think. I thought you’d be more receptive.” Henry looked down at his free hand, which was absently twining the landline cord around his fingers. He clenched the spiralled wire in his fist.
“ Are you guys okay?” Hanson asked.
“Fine,” Henry said.
“If you say so. But Henry,” he added. “Look. I think you’re a swell guy. Honest. But, uh. Anything happens to Jo, physically, emotionally, whatever, and it is remotely your fault?”
Henry nodded. “If anything happens to her because of me, you have my fullest permission to retaliate any way you see fit.”
Hanson chuckled a little. “Yeah, somehow I thought I would. All right, Doc. I’ll keep my ear to the ground on Lucifer for you.”
“Much appreciated, Detective. Look after yourself.”
“Yeah.” Hanson ended the call.
Henry turned to Abe. “All right,” he said. “ Now I’ll call Molly.”
Chapter 6: Strictly Professional
How about that new season of Lucifer, am I right? I've had this chapter written for months now (I like to keep a buffer so I can go back and fix issues of continuity), but, without getting too specific, seeing my suspicions confirmed nearly verbatim in the show filled me with joy. The writing this time around was so tight, and even though the rights to the show changed hands, it felt like a really natural continuation of the franchise. Did you cry? I cried.
That being said, obviously now this story is a Massive canon divergence, but I think I'm still going to see it through to the end. I'm having fun!
Thanks for your feedback, and thanks as always to Brevityis, my beta reader!
The table was situated under a trellis overflowing with fragrant vines in the back corner of the courtyard. Heaters scattered around between the tables meant that the flowers were still in full bloom despite the chilly air. The tables were all for parties of two, and most were occupied by young couples. Henry checked his watch for the third time in ninety seconds, and pushed the tealight around on the tabletop with one finger.
“I thought you said this was a working meal,” a rich, feminine voice said from behind him.
Henry jumped, burying his finger up to the first knuckle in the melted wax from the tealight. Trying to control the sudden rush of embarrassed nerves, he put the hand under the table and turned to smile at her. “It, ah, is,” Henry said. “If it helps, the theming fairly similar across the rest of the establishment.”
“That it is. How’d you end up here? It doesn’t seem like your kind of place.” The beautiful blonde woman came around the table and sat, relaxing back in her chair and crossing her legs with a calculated degree of sensual ease.
“Abe was insistent that we eat here. Looking around, it seems we may have been… ‘played.’” Henry chuckled ruefully. “He thinks I need to get out more.”
“Well, regardless, I’ve always heard good things about the pasta special here. Maybe it won’t be so bad.” She inclined her head. “Hello, Doctor Morgan.”
“Hello, Doctor Dawes,” Henry replied.
“How are the corpses?”
“Still dead,” he said. “And how are your patients?”
“Confidential,” Molly laughed. “But, uh… stimulated.”
Henry swallowed. “Good for them.”
Molly folded her arms on the table. “So what pressing matter finally convinced you to give me a call, hm?”
“There’s a man in town, trying to interfere with a case Detective Martinez and I are working on.”
“If it’s about a case, why aren’t you going about this through the police?” Molly asked.
Henry shrugged, making a face. “He isn’t technically a person of interest yet. But… call it an intuition, I think he’s probably up to no good.”
Molly smiled. “And why do you need me?”
“You specialize in fantasy, Doctor, and this man is entertaining a fantasy that could prove particularly fascinating.” Henry smiled knowingly. “I thought it might catch your attention.”
“What is it?”
“Either he’s constantly putting on a show for the rest of the world,” Henry said, leaning in and lowering his voice. “Or he actually believes he’s the Devil.”
“The Devil,” Molly said.
“Like the Bible Devil?”
“The very same.”
Molly grinned. “Doctor, you bring me the nicest things. What’s his name?”
Henry raised his eyebrows. “Lucifer Morningstar.”
“Is that like a stage name?”
“No, according to his background check, it’s legal.”
“Wow,” Molly said. She sounded impressed. “That’s thorough .”
Henry nodded. “I get the impression he’s had a lot of time to work on his presentation.”
A waiter materialized at the table, and they settled back in their chairs. “Welcome to Fleur du Seine, can I start you off with any drinks?” he asked. He was youngish, in his late twenties, and had a face spotted with old acne scars.
“A cognac,” Henry said. “The oldest you’ve got. And whatever she’s having.”
“Pinot Grigio,” Molly said. She batted tawny eyes at the young waiter, but as he stepped away to get their drinks, she turned a half-serious glare upon Henry. “We are splitting the check, correct?”
“Absolutely not,” Henry said.
“Henry, I’m perfectly capable of buying my own food.”
“I insist, Doctor Dawes.”
Molly cocked her head. “I thought this was a work thing? What kind of Doctor buys his peer and professional colleague’s tarte flambee?” she asked, her voice dangerously sweet.
“A generous one,” Henry said, gently unyielding. “Doctor Dawes, I insist. You’re doing me a service on your own time. I won’t have it also be on your own dime.”
Molly folded her arms. “You’re lucky you’re such a puzzle, Henry Morgan, or that old-fashioned schtick would get old fast.”
The waiter reappeared and set down their drinks, putting the conversation on brief hold. They both skimmed the menu and ordered.
“I beg your pardon,” Henry said, as the waiter took his leave. “It’s hardly a ‘schtick.’”
“Oh, please.” Molly sipped her wine, but she was smiling. “You wear your formality like armor, Henry. You think that using antiquated social conventions like a buffer between you and the world can protect you from intimacy, but it all it does is leave you out in the cold.”
Henry paused and picked up his cognac. “Excuse me,” he said. “I thought you were here to psychoanalyze Lucifer Morningstar, not Henry Morgan.”
“I’m here to help. How I help is up to me.” Molly’s lipstick was a deep, tasteful crimson, and it emphasized the interesting things her half-smile did to the shape of her mouth.
Rather than stare at it, Henry took another sip of his drink.
“But all right. Fill me in on Lucifer. There’s only so much I can do without meeting him, you know.” Molly’s tastefully manicured fingers tapped lazily against the glass.
“I know,” Henry said. “But I don’t think that would be wise.”
“I thought you’d say that. So what can you give me?”
“Well, according to Detective Hanson, he’s a fairly public figure in Los Angeles. He owns a nightclub there. I’m sure there’s some evidence of his presence on the internet.”
Molly pulled out her phone. “Which part of the internet?”
“... I don’t understand.”
Molly looked back up at him. She squinted. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…”
The words meant nothing to Henry. He frowned. “Ah, I got the impression he was… socially prolific. Some sort of general search should find something.”
“Do you still not do computers?” Molly asked. The corner of her mouth twitched.
“Not if I can help it.”
“A puzzle…” she murmured absently, tapping away. “Is he beautiful, at least?”
“I always thought that anyone who claimed to be the Devil should at least look the part.”
“Ah. Well.” Henry shrugged, his mind drifting back to images of dark eyes and a sharp, artfully stubbled jawline. “He’s hardly the blond-haired blue-eyed Samael the Lightbringer of canonical tradition, but… he is, empirically, quite attractive.”
“Good. I never much cared for blonds anyways… Is this him?” she held out the phone. It was the page of some sort of photo sharing website. The picture was of a man dancing provocatively with a young woman. The man was unmistakably Lucifer Morningstar.
Molly looked back at it. “Damn,” she said. “You weren’t kidding.” She sat back and scrolled through. “His social media is just full of photos like this. It seems like he genuinely runs the accounts, which means he’s doing this on purpose. He is carefully curating an image endorsing vice, decadence, the opulence of shortsighted high living.”
“Isn’t the Devil supposed to engage in bad behavior?” Henry asked. “He’s a rebel. The rebel, to be precise.”
“Mm…” Molly held a finger to her lip in thought as she continued to peruse. “Sure, but this whole collection of his life, his public identity… It seems a little one-dimensional to me. When you talked to him, did he come across that way?”
Henry shook his head. “Quite the opposite.”
“Then we are missing something,” Molly said. “My phone isn’t exactly the most conducive to snooping. I don’t suppose you have a computer at your place?”
“Abraham does, I’m sure,” Henry said. “But he’ll be working.”
“Then what do you say about… heading back to mine? In a strictly professional capacity,” Molly added, as Henry opened his mouth to protest. “Let’s ditch the tacky French romance, get some good takeout, and internet stalk the most interesting man in LA.” She grinned, and Henry found himself grinning back.
“Doctor Dawes, that is the best idea I’ve heard in a while.”
Molly’s sofa was plush in the way that whales were large. Henry was having trouble keeping himself from being swallowed up by it. It was old and careworn, at odds with the tastefully curated decor of the rest of her apartment.
Her laptop was set up on the coffee table, surrounded by the remnants of takeaway meals from an italian place around the corner. Henry had been quietly appalled at the thought of eating on the couch, but Molly insisted. And she had let him pay, so he gave in.
They were on YouTube. Lucifer Morningstar apparently made for good content. There were clips of everything from wild parties at his club to a news segment that showed him beating a street preacher senseless in the middle of LA. There were even videos of him singing. Several. He wasn’t half bad.
They had watched about six of the songs, recorded by members of the audience, and Henry couldn’t help but feel they had gotten off-track.
“He’s pretty good,” Molly said.
“He veers a little sharp when he belts,” he murmured. “He’s right on the edge of losing control.”
“You can tell that?” Molly asked, looking over at him.
Henry blushed. “I… may have perfect pitch. I don’t like to brag about it.”
“You brought it up. Are you a musician, Henry Morgan?”
“I dabble. Classics, mostly.”
Molly laughed. “Why does that not surprise me?” Her eyes slid back to the screen. “I think you’re right, you know,” she said.
“About his pitch?” Henry asked.
“No… about him being right on the edge of control. Look at him. Look at his appearance.”
“It’s… clean,” Henry said. “Meticulous, composed of individual pieces each selected for maximum effect. It’s a projection.”
“Dapper Dan is an odd look for Heaven’s first rebel, don’t you agree?” Molly asked. “You’d think that if God stood for order, Lucifer would stand for chaos. But he owns a business, one that keeps regular hours. He works with law enforcement. His cufflinks match his pocket square and he doesn’t have a hair out of place. He is holding onto control like it’s a duffel bag full of hundred-dollar bills.”
“If he’s holding onto it, he isn’t doing a very good job. That video, with the minister on the sidewalk. That’s an illustration for the polar opposite of control if I’ve ever seen it.” Henry shook his head. “He was barely goaded at all, and suddenly the man was pinioned against a lamppost. ‘I should destroy you’ aren’t generally the words of a man with a firm grasp on his composure.”
Molly was looking at the screen, her golden eyes thoughtful. “Well, something tells me that kind of outburst is exactly what he’s afraid of. He wears this whole Devil thing like a badge of honor because it’s the part of himself that he hates most. By owning it, by making it his, he’s trying to make it so that when other people say the same things about him that he says about himself, they won’t get to him.”
“Does that work, do you think?” Henry asked.
“I doubt it.” Molly sighed.
“And what about his… ‘filthy humans’ and ‘puny mortals’ rhetoric? It sounds like you’re saying this is a coping mechanism, but in my experience that isn’t the way most people cope.”
“If he’s working through a trauma, or dealing with an ongoing one, it isn’t unthinkable that he’s hiding behind this… facade of diabolical intent. If he’s gone a long time without healthy influences in his life, then sure, it also isn’t unthinkable that the terminology and imagery he presents publicly could have taken root in his subconscious.” Molly spread her hands.
“Are you… saying he could be deluded?” Henry asked carefully.
“I’m saying he’s trying to heal. And that’s all I can say, really.’ Molly closed the video. “If I had to wager a guess, he’s trying to involve himself with the NYPD because it reminds him of the structure of his life back home. Maybe your relationship with Detective Martinez reminds him of the one he had with his partner, whoever they are. Beyond that… I don’t have any sort of guide or anything as to the direction of his moral compass. All I can say is that if he is making a genuine effort to put himself back together, he can’t be a totally lost cause.”
Henry sat back and scrubbed his chin. Molly watched him keenly.
“So,” she asked. “Did that help?”
“It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear,” Henry admitted. “It’s a different train of thought than the one I had been pursuing. But… yes. Any step towards understanding is a step in the right direction.”
Molly smiled at him. “How very sage of you, Doctor.
Henry started to speak when Molly’s phone rang. He looked out of the windows and realized it was dark.
Molly picked up. “Hello?” Then she frowned.
Henry frowned too. “Who is it?”
“It’s for you.” Molly held out the phone. Henry blinked at it for a split second, frozen as memories of mystery calls and sinister conversations washed over him. He shook his head. He was being ridiculous. Adam had been… dealt with. He picked up. “Hello?”
“Henry,” Jo said. “There you are. Why didn’t you come back in this afternoon?”
“Hello, Detective,” Henry said. “Apologies. I had personal business to attend to… how did you know where I was?”
“We called the shop. Abe told us.”
Henry sighed. “Of course he did. Well, consider me back in the service of the NYPD. What do you need?”
“Steven James was just found murdered in an old warehouse on the docks. And according to the timeline we have so far, the last person to speak to him alive besides us was—”
Henry paled. “Lucifer Morningstar.”
Chapter 7: The Provenance of Men’s Hearts
See? See? I told you I wasn't abandoning my boys! If you want to see the reason for the Hiatus, go check out Blade, Book, Bentley on my page. The first chapter just went up, and I'm excited to bring you more! But it felt so good to get back in here with the lads. I'm looking forward to writing them again. Thank you so much for your kind words while I was away; it made this project even more of a pleasure to return to. And as ever, the biggest thanks I can muster to Brevity Is. :)
Usually, when Lucifer found himself on the arm of a beautiful woman with a badge, it was a lot more fun than this. Detective Martinez marched him into the precinct, and all eyes turned to him. Despite his predicament, he tossed a few easy smiles to the officers, and was gratified to see several pairs of cheeks redden. Martinez’s partner, a man with a comically thick New York accent that had introduced himself as Henderson or Hamilton or something peeled off and headed for his desk.
Martinez opened the door of an interrogation room and ushered Lucifer inside. “You people have no manners,” he said, straightening his jacket and brushing his cuff clean. He pulled his chair out and lounged in it. “I mean, really. Pulling a man away when he’s waist-deep in a perfectly decent Brittney. The nerve.” He folded his hands on the desk and eyed the detective with an unflappable eagerness that he had perfected in the days of David.
“Brittney?” she asked. “That the woman you were with when we showed up?”
“Indeed she was.”
“Who is she?”
“Oh, the usual. Smalltown waitress with a big dream… though, her dream is to be a stock analyst, so I suppose that does settle her towards the edge of the bell-curve.” He grinned.
“What were you doing with her?”
“All manner of things. I’m very creative,” he purred. “We had little chat about what she desired, and then we… built from that.”
“Steven James said you asked him what he truly desired, too,” Martinez said. She sat across from his and put a file on the table. “You wouldn’t happen to have had that talk with him again, would you? After he left our precinct?”
Lucifer laughed. “Oh, please, spare me. I don’t double-dip desires, detective. Especially not ones as boring as as his.”
“He bored you?” Martinez asked.
“What he wanted did, certainly.” Lucifer waved a hand. “Occasionally you get some really fun ones. Or weird ones. But Steven James was so vanilla he gave me a toothache.”
“What did he want?”
“He wanted to work up enough courage to ask out that dead girl,” he said. “Before he knew she was dead, of course.”
“Yeah? Well, now Steven James is dead too,” Martinez said.
Lucifer blinked. Then he frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
“And it’s looking like, besides us, you were the last person to speak to him alive.”
“But—but that doesn’t make sense,” Lucifer protested. “Steven James was like Captain Bland! Blandy McBlanderson. Marlon Blando. Why could someone have a reason for popping him off?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Whether or not it makes sense, I’m still going to need to know where you were between noon and seven-thirty this evening.” Martinez smiled tightly at him.
“First cafe, then hotel. Never alone,” Lucifer murmured.
“Do you have names of the people you were with?”
“Well… you know Brittney. And then… Henry, actually.” Lucifer eyed her.
“... Henry?” she asked.
“Your Henry. The one with the tea and the scarves?”
Martinez turned slowly to glare at the mirrored window.
“Oh, he’s there, is he?” Lucifer asked. Glancing at the window himself, he winked. “I’m glad we have an audience.”
Martinez turned her glare on him then, but Lucifer had had enough of Chloe’s disapproval that he was unswayed. “Which cafe?” she asked.
Lucifer told her. “Was it the same killer?” he asked.
“Looks like,” Martinez said. “I’m going to need your alibi and your two corroborations in writing.”
Lucifer smiled, but it was really more of a baring of teeth. “Show me,” he said.
Martinez blinked. “What?”
“How they died. Show me.”
Her hand drifted down to rest on the folder. “How would that help?”
Lucifer leaned in, just slightly, never looking away from the detective. “I’m no stranger to homicides,” he said, voice little more than a velvet croon. “I could be of use to you. And something tells you you’ll need all the help you can get, doesn’t it?”
Jo’s jaw worked.
“I’m a police consultant,” Lucifer said. “Practically one of your people. You can trust me.”
“What do you want out of this little chat, Detective?” Lucifer asked.
“I want…” Martinez said slowly. “I want to catch the sicko that’s cutting up these kids. And I want to put him behind bars.”
“Well then we want the same thing,” Lucifer said. “Never let it be said that Lucifer Morningstar shied away from justice.”
“And if you’re lying to me?” Martinez asked. She was a tough cookie. Lucifer couldn’t help but be impressed.
“My dear, I never lie. Lies are cheap. The truth has worth. It makes more sense to trade in something valuable, doesn’t it?” Lucifer made a dismissive motion with his hand. “Just… show me how they died, I’ll help you punish the cretin responsible, and we can put all this behind us.”
Slowly still, as though she hadn’t quite made up her mind, Martinez opened the file. She pulled out some five-by-sevens and slid them across the table. Lucifer picked them up with a triumphant grin.
Then he looked down.
The grin dropped.
His brows came together over eyes that were beginning to smolder with the embers of a red-hot, righteous rage. “... I’ve seen this before,” he said, softly.
Jo blinked. “You’d be the first, then,” she said. “What… what is it?”
Lucifer looked up at her. His mouth was drawn into a thin line. “What do you know about the Hellfire Club?”
“Yeah. Mm-hm. Okay. Okay. Thank you.” Dan put down the phone and took a deep breath. Daniel Espinoza was a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s homicide division, and he did not like what he had just heard. He shook his head and picked his phone back up.
It rang for so long he started to worry it would go to voicemail again, but eventually a scratchy voice answered. “ ... Hello?”
“Chloe,” Dan said, relieved. “Thank God you answered. How are you doing?”
“Fine,” Chloe said. She didn’t sound fine. She sounded hollow, like her mind was miles away. She’d sounded like that for about three weeks. Since the day Marcus Pierce had died.
“Well, I think you should know I tracked down Lucifer. Kind of.”
“Yeah. I got a call from a Detective Hanson in New York, just a courtesy thing since Lucifer’s on our payroll. Apparently he got brought in.”
“Why am I not surprised.”
Dan blinked. He didn’t know what reaction he’d been expecting, but… it wasn’t this. “It’s not just a drunk and disorderly or something this time, Chloe. It’s… it’s bad. They think he’s involved with a murder investigation.”
“To be honest, Dan, that doesn’t surprise me either.”
Okay. This was not right. “Is—is this about Pierce? Chloe, anyone could see that was self-defense. Hell, he saved your life. Even if he fled the scene afterwards. No one even tried to file charges. That’s a little different than killing a man in cold blood.”
“ This isn’t about Marcus, okay?” Chloe murmured. “Just drop it. For your own sake”
“... seriously?” Dan scrubbed his jawline. “I mean don’t get me wrong, the guy’s an ass, but that’s a little cold, don’t you think?”
“ He’s more than an ass.”
“Oh?” Like how?” This was way, way off. Chloe had been on leave since the shootout with Pierce and his thugs. It made sense, even though she hadn’t been too badly hurt. She was in shock when they found her, and everyone agreed she would need some time to recover. But… she wasn’t recovering. If anything, she was getting worse. Something was eating her from the inside out, and try as he might, Dan couldn’t get her to tell him what it was. He’d tried going to Linda, but they’d had some huge fight that night, and now Chloe wasn’t speaking to her. Dan hoped she’d talk to him, but… he had a feeling that the odds of that were slimming with every call.
“I can’t—it’s hard to put into words.” She sounded exhausted.
“Try?” Dan asked. “I just want to understand what’s going on.”
Chloe laughed, but it was a joyless sound. “He told me this big… thing about himself, over and over again. I never believed it. But… it’s true.”
Dan’s frown was teetering on the edge of becoming a scowl. “Did—did he do something to you? Did he hurt you?”
“ No. No, that’s the one thing he didn’t do.”
“Chloe,” said Dan, a little desperately. “What does that mean?”
“I have to go. Trixie’s home from school. Will you pick her up when you get off?”
Dan ground a knuckle into his eye. “Of course I will. Chloe?”
“You know I’ll listen to you, right? No matter what?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Dan.” The line went dead.
Dan sighed and sat at his desk. Something had happened in that loft with Pierce and his goons. He couldn’t get a straight answer out of anyone, and whatever it was, it was eating the people he cared about alive. Maze had made herself scarce upon Chloe’s return. Linda had put a hold on reaching out after so many rebuffs. Lucifer’s weird brother Amenadiel was nowhere to be found, and Lucifer himself was involved in a murder?
Dan looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking, and he pulled up an address.
They were taking him to the morgue . Lucifer Morningstar, in Henry’s morgue, looking at Henry’s corpses. Henry slipped out of the observation room, intending to go make ready.
“Hey,” Hanson said. He stood up from his desk as Henry passed it. “Doc.”
Henry turned on a heel, trying to wear his best poker face. “Mm-hm?”
Hanson frowned. Apparently Henry’s best poker face could use some work. “I’m gonna tell Jo all this, but I figured I’d let you know. ‘Specially since you asked me to keep an eye on this guy. I just got off the phone with LAPD. It was just a courtesy call thing, to let them know we had their guy. Lieutenant Reese told me about his alibi. I managed to pull security cam footage from the cafe. He was with you until you leave, and then he met this girl straight after. She was in his room when we picked him up. He might not be lying.”
“According to him, he never lies,” Henry drawled. “Thank you, Detective. Good work. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Where are you going?” Hanson asked.
Henry was grim. “I think I may have to batten down some hatches.”
Henry and Lucas stood over the body of Steven James. They’d ushered everyone out of the morgue and put away as many loose items as they could. Henry couldn’t help but think that they would be preparing similarly if the morgue were to be visited by an eight year old. Or a brighter-than-average macaw.
Steven James had been in a good condition when he died. He wasn’t an athlete, but he took care of himself. The autopsy had yet to be formally conducted, and even a superficial examination hadn’t really begun; but his musculature was firm to the touch, and though the stench of booze pervaded his skin and clothes, considering his line of work it doubtful much of the smell was from his own drinking. A paper day planner found in the back pockets of his jeans was meticulously filled out, and besides the changing locations of his nightly shifts, it had about it an air of curated routine. Steven James had been a creature of habit, and had Henry been a betting man he would have bet that a break in those habits led to his untimely death.
The Hellfire Club. Henry hadn’t heard those words in years. He’d hoped never to hear them again. The thought of the organization, and what it gave birth to, made his skin crawl.
“Doc,” Lucas said. “The elevator.”
Henry lifted his eyes from the corpse to stare with set-jawed grimness down the hall as the elevator doors opened, and Lucifer Morningstar was led, in cuffs, towards him.
“I’d believe he kills people,” Lucas said.
Henry glanced at him.
“It’s the eyes. There’s something really angry in there. In film school we called that expression he’s got the ‘Kubrick Stare.’ Perkins did it in Psycho, Nicholson did it in the Shining. It’s a whole thing. I’ve never seen someone do it in real life before though. Like, unironically. It’s kind of creeping me out.”
“I don’t think he did it,” Henry murmured. He tried to keep his voice toneless, but a bit of his distaste at the admission leaked through.
“What? Henry, look at him! He’s like a British American Psycho! The movie, not the musical—”
Henry elbowed Lucas as the morgue doors swung open and Jo led Lucifer inside. He looked around at the spotless stainless steel, the empty surfaces, and the display monitors rotating through an array of data and images from various cases.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a morgue before,” he said, his voice carefully metered. “Chilly.”
“He totally kills people,” Lucas whispered to Henry.
Lucifer looked over at Lucas and smiled. With the rage that continued to roll off him like mist off the Hudson, the effect wasn’t so much friendly as it was… sharkish. Lucas gulped. Henry watched the man’s adam’s apple bob in his periphery.
“So is this him?” Hanson asked, dispelling the silence before it could grow too thick.
“It is indeed,” Henry said, drawing the sheet down to Steven James’s hips. “Well,” he added. “Was.”
Lucifer walked over, his red-soled shoes crisp on the linoleum, and leaned in. “He’s so pale,” he murmured.
“He’s dead,” Henry said. “And mostly exsanguinated. Do refrain from touching anything.”
Lucifer wriggled his fingers, his hands cuffed in front of him.
“So?” Hanson said. “You wanted to see him. You’re seeing him.”
“I am.” Lucifer’s voice was absent. He leaned in, gaze tracing the torturous array of cuts and carved designs. It was odd, in the light his dark eyes looked almost red.They rested on the cavity in Steven James’s abdomen where his liver would have gone. “... Azaroth,” he murmured.
“Gesundheit,” Hanson said.
“What’s Azaroth?” Jo asked.
“A demon,” Henry said, looking intently at Lucifer. “One of the names commonly invoked by the Hellfire Club. But this… this isn’t how one comes by what Azaroth supposedly offers. For one thing, that ritual requires a group. This killing was committed by one person. For another—”
“This isn’t fulfilling a contractual obligation to Azaroth,” Lucifer sneered; though Henry noticed with interest that his disdain seemed to be directed at parties not present. “This is foreplay. Whoever’s doing this is interested in something long-term. These cuts on the chest are part of an… invitation to Azaroth to physically appear in a specific vessel. There are restrictions on the sort of people he can take up long-term residence in. But something here is wrong.”
“Wrong?” Henry asked. He frowned.
“These carvings are in Lilim,” Lucifer said. “But some of the symbols are botched. This corpse would be useless to the ritual.”
“What’s the killer doing with the livers?” Hanson asked. “Jenny was missing hers too.”
“Azaroth is a demon whose power supposedly lies in consumption,” Henry said. He too was looking at the hollow in Steven’s torso. “To take part in what he can give you, you have to… take part… in others.”
“Take part like…” Hanson mimed bringing a fork to his mouth. “... Oh my god. I think I’m gonna throw up.”
Jo was visibly paler, but her eyes had gone steely. “And what’s it for? What does this Azaroth guy say he can give you that makes it worth doing… that? ”
“Immortality,” Henry and Lucifer said, simultaneously. Their eyes met across the corpse.
“Which is bollocks of course,” Lucifer said. “No one but Dad can grant immortality or take it away. The Hellfire Club were fools.”
“Fools?” Henry asked, one eyebrow rising. Lucifer’s incensed attitude was unexpected, but it put him in mind of some of things Molly had said.
“But… they’re Satan worshippers,” Lucas said. “Isn’t Satan your whole like. Thing? I’d have thought you’d be pumped about that kind of thing. No offense,” he added, as Lucifer’s eyes flicked to him.
“Worship,” Lucifer said quietly. “Don’t make me laugh. I rebelled exactly because Dad wanted people to worship him, don’t you see? I didn’t just Fall, I took a flying bloody leap to get away from that prick and his worship. I set up shop in Hell, ruled happily for a few millennia, popped up one century to see what’s become of the old place and lo and behold, people are worshipping me. I am not my father,” he snapped. “If there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s you people’s bloody deference. Grow a spine, develop some imagination, or just go to church if you’re truly desperate to bow and kowtow to someone who doesn’t give a damn. Because I’m not listening.”
Jo and Hanson exchanged a look.
“Well,” Jo said. “This killer clearly has an infatuation with this Hellfire Club. Mister Morningstar, you and Henry are the only people I’ve met who have even heard of it. We’re going to need everything you have on the organization.”
“Of course,” Henry said. “I’ll write it up, you’ll have it tomorrow.”
Lucifer shrugged. “I don’t know anything about the society you can’t get from a particularly thorough Google. I never actually met any of them face to face. It ended in the eighteenth century for Dad’s sake.”
“Publicly, anyway,” Henry muttered.
“Why the interest in this stuff, Mister Morningstar?” Hanson asked. “Henry’s weird, but what’s your excuse?”
“I like to keep tabs on people doing things in my name,” Lucifer said.
Jo shrugged. “I… guess that’s fair enough. Look—”
“Can I have a moment alone with it?” Lucifer asked. “The body.”
Jo narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think that’s wise.”
“I’ll stay,” Henry said. He hoped his face was as hard to read as he was trying for.
“... Why?” Jo asked.
He shrugged. “I’m… curious as to Mister Morningstar’s method. Who knows? Maybe he’ll turn up something I missed.”
Jo and Hanson looked skeptical, but when Henry didn’t say anything more Hanson came around the table to grab Lucas by the arm and drag him gently from the room.
“Kind of you, Doctor Morgan,” Lucifer murmured, not looking up from Steven’s pale face.
Henry frowned, his blood starting to rush. “How…”
“Name tag.” Lucifer pointed to the badge clipped to Henry’s lab coat.
“Ah.” Henry flushed. His eyes went to Jo, talking to Hanson in the hall. “What did you do to detective Martinez?”
“In the interrogation room. Before she brought you here.”
“Not a thing,” Lucifer said absently.
“She was acting rather like this young man when he came to see us.”
“Suggestible.” Henry realized he was speaking through gritted teeth. He rolled his shoulders.
“Oh.” Somehow Lucifer managed to seem even less interested in the conversation than before. “Yes. I’m not doing anything to anyone, Doctor. Call it… an effect of my presence.”
“Your presence,” Henry said. “Because you’re the Devil.”
“What are you looking for?” Henry asked. He didn’t know if he meant in New York, in the investigation, or in the corpse from which Lucifer could not seem to avert his eyes.
Helpful. Henry sighed.
Something about the exhalation prompted Lucifer, at last, to look up. “... You don’t blame me at all , do you?”
“I think it doubtful you killed him, so… no.”
“But I’m the Devil,” Lucifer said, leaning back into a languid slouch. He bared his teeth in ironic mirth. “God’s perfect monster. Are not all evils committed in my name?”
Henry tilted his head down, scanning Lucifer’s face from under furrowed brows. “Despite what some people claim,” he murmured, and he had to fight the urge to press hand to his middle as the ghost of an old agony reared its head. “The hearts of men remain their own. Evil may be out there, but its participants are willing. That’s what makes it evil.”
“So what? The Devil can’t make you do it?”
“Doubtful,” Henry said.
Lucifer was silent for so long the back of Henry’s neck was starting to prickle before he murmured, as though he was only half-aware he was saying it, “... I do know you, Doctor.”
Henry’s tongue turned to paper. “Really? F-from where?”
Lucifer’s mouth twisted. He shrugged. “Who’s to say? I’ve been around. But I do know you.”
Henry moistened his lips. He looked away from the Devil’s keen gaze and back at the corpse, searching for anything to divert the man from parsing just why Henry was so familiar.
He was almost surprised when something genuinely caught his eye. “... there are abrasions on his knuckles,” he said.
“You’re only just seeing that now?” Lucifer said. “Isn’t that one of the first things you science types are supposed to look for? Signs of a struggle, or what-have-you? Maybe you aren’t as bright as everyone thinks.” He came around the body and leaned over Henry’s back to see, his chest just brushing Henry’s shoulder. Henry’s eye twitched.
“Of course I saw them,” Henry snapped. “But look at this. I assumed at a glance that he sustained these marks just prior to or during his demise. But this bruising…”
“Is the ‘lividity far too advanced to have been sustained at T.O.D,’ or something?” Lucifer asked, side-eyeing Henry.
“... Yes, actually.”
Lucifer looked pleased with himself.
“You’ve heard forensic technicians say that before, haven’t you?” Henry asked.
Henry cocked his head, half-amused and half vaguely disapproving. “When do you suppose it happened, then? Since you know so much.”
Lucifer seemed unruffled by the jab. “You went to medical school, Doctor. You tell me.”
“I’d say approximately sixteen hours ago, at a glance. So… before he came to see us.”
“But well after I’d finished with him,” Lucifer said.
“Yes, seeing as you don’t have any matching defensive wounds, I did figure as much.”
“Oh, a mortal strike can’t wound me.”
Lucifer spread his hands. “Devil.”
Henry sighed. “Right. Well, this is more a matter for the constabulary outside, but I believe odds are favorable that I have just exonerated you.”
“Wonderful.” Lucifer grinned. “These business handcuffs chafe dreadfully.”
Henry’s smile was brittle. “... Quite. If you don’t mind, Mister Morningstar, I think I’d best turn you over to the capable hands of law enforcement once more.”
“Tired of me already, Doctor?” Lucifer asked. One eyebrow arched primly.
“Hm. Let’s just say that the handcuffs are not the only thing about you that chafes.”
Lucifer grinned. “I think I like you, Henry. Let’s do this again, hmm? Maybe without the slightly chilled body between us this time.” He backed towards the door, eyes locked with Henry’s the whole time; until he turned and emerged with a flourish into the hallway where the impassive detectives and an actively apprehensive Lucas were waiting.
Henry knew he’d have to go out too, or they’d all just come back in. But his legs were suddenly weak-kneed with relief. He felt the blood rushing from his head. And so, in a silence that was sure to be as temporary as it was blissful, he sank down into a chair and rested his forehead on an empty slab.