Chapter no 14

Hell Bent

Turner couldn’t just walk away from an active crime scene, but he agreed to pick her up the next morning after Modern Poets. Word of Dean Beekman’s death had spread quickly, and an uneasy mood settled over campus. Life continued on, the rush of people and business to be done, but Alex saw groups of students standing with their arms around each other weeping. Some wore black or tweedy bucket hats. She saw flyers up for a vigil in the Morse courtyard. She couldn’t help but think of the morning after Tara’s body had been found, the false hysterics, the gossipy buzz that had moved through the university like a giddy swarm of hornets. Alex understood that Beeky had been beloved, a father figure, a character woven into the fabric of Yale. But she remembered the excitement that had followed Tara’s death, the danger a step removed, a new flavor to be tried without any risk.

This was true grief, real fear. Alex’s professor began her lecture by talking about how Dean Beekman and his wife had hosted her at their home one Thanksgiving and how anyone who knew Beeky never felt alone at Yale. The dean’s office at Morse had been sealed off and safety officers posted at the door—Yale police, not NHPD. The university president was holding an emergency meeting for concerned students in Woolsey Hall that night. The Yale Daily News had written up a brief summary of the murder— a suspected robbery, police already pursuing a strong lead outside of the New Haven community. That smacked of spin: Don’t worry, parents, this isn’t a Yale crime, it isn’t even a New Haven crime. No need to pack your children off to Cambridge. If Professor Stephen’s death had barely caused a ripple, Dean Beekman’s murder was like someone heaving a grand piano into a lake.

Turner picked up Alex in front of one of the new hotels on Chapel, far enough from the crime scene and campus that neither of them had to worry about being spotted. She tried to prepare him on the way to Black Elm, but he didn’t say a word as she gave him the bare-bones account of her theory on Darlington and how against all odds she’d been proven right. Turner just let her talk, sitting in cold silence, as if he were a mannequin who’d been placed behind the steering wheel to demonstrate safe driving. Only yesterday she’d given Mercy a similar speech, but Mercy had soaked it all up and come back hungry for more. Turner looked like he might just drive them both off a cliff.

She had texted Dawes that they were on their way to Black Elm because it seemed like the right thing to do, but Alex regretted it as soon as she saw her standing at the front door in her shapeless sweats, her bright red hair in its usual lopsided bun, like a lumpy candle topped by an unexpected flame. Her lips were compressed in a disapproving line.

“She looks happy,” Turner observed.

“Does anyone look happy when they see the cops coming?”

“Yes, Miss Stern, people having their shit stolen or trying to avoid being stabbed usually do seem happy to see us.”

At least she knew Turner had been listening on the drive over. Only talk of magic and the occult could put him in this kind of mood.

“Centurion,” Dawes greeted him, and Alex winced.

“My name is Detective Abel Turner and you damn well know it. You look exhausted, Dawes. They’re not paying you enough.”

Dawes looked surprised, then said, “Probably not.”

“I left an open case file to be here. Can we get this going?”

Dawes led them inside, but once they were trailing Turner up the stairs, she whispered, “This is a bad idea.”

Alex agreed, but she also didn’t see what choice they had.

“He’s going to tell Anselm,” Dawes fretted as they followed Turner down the hall to the ballroom. “The new Praetor. The police!”

“No, he’s not.” At least Alex hoped he wouldn’t. “We need his help and that means we need to show him what we’re up against.”

“Which is what exactly? Just admit you’re making it up as you go along.”

She was. But something in her gut was pulling her back to Black Elm and she had dragged Turner right along with her.

“If you have any other ideas, just say the word, Dawes. Do you know any murderers?”

“Other than you?”

“He can help us. And he needs our help too. Dean Beekman was murdered.”

Dawes stopped dead. “What?” “Did you know him?”

“Of course I knew him. Everyone knew him. I took one of his classes when I was an undergrad. He—”

“Christ on a bike.”

Turner had frozen in the doorway to the ballroom and he did not look like he had any intention of going in. He took a step backward, one hand extended as if to ward off what he was seeing, his other hand resting on his gun.

“You can’t shoot him,” Alex said with all the calm she could muster. “At least I don’t think you can.”

Dawes ran to the doorway, placing herself between Turner and the golden circle like some kind of human shield. “I told you this was a terrible idea!”

“What is this?” demanded Turner. His jaw was set, his brow lowered, but there was fear in his eyes. “What am I even seeing?”

All Alex could offer was, “I told you he was different.”

“Different is you lost a few pounds. You got a haircut. Not … this.”

At that moment Darlington’s eyes opened, bright and golden. “Where have you been?” Turner started at the sound of Darlington’s voice, human but for that cold echo. “You reek of death.”

Alex groaned. “You’re not helping.”

“Why did you bring me here?” Turner bit out. “I asked for help with a case. I thought I made it clear I don’t want any part of this crazy cult shit.”

“Let’s go downstairs,” said Dawes.

“Stay,” said Darlington, and Alex couldn’t tell if it was a plea or a command.

“I think Darlington can help you,” she said. “I think he’s the only one of us who can.”

“That thing? Listen, Stern, I don’t know how much of this is real and how much is … hocus-pocus bullshit, but I know a monster when I see one.”

“Do you?” Alex felt her anger rising. “Did you know Dean Sandow was a killer? Did you know Blake Keely was a rapist? I showed you what’s behind the door. You can’t just shut it and pretend you never saw.”

Turner rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I sure as hell wish I could.” “Come on.”

Alex marched into the room and hoped he would follow. The air was lush with heat. That sweet scent was everywhere, that wildfire smell, the stink of disaster riding the wind, the kind that sends coyotes running from the hills and into suburban backyards to crouch and howl by swimming pools.

“Detective,” said the creature behind the golden wall. Turner hovered in the doorway. “That really you?”

Darlington paused, considered. “I’m not entirely sure.”

“Goddamn it,” Turner muttered, because despite the horns and the glowing symbols, Darlington seemed nothing but human. “What happened to him? What is all this? Why the fuck is he naked?”

“He’s trapped,” Alex said, as simply as she could, “and we need your help to get him out.”

“You don’t mean filing a missing persons report, do you?” “Afraid not.”

Turner gave himself a shake as if he still wondered, even hoped he might be dreaming. “No,” he said at last. “No. I don’t … This isn’t my job and I don’t want it to be. And don’t tell me this has anything to do with our bosses at Lethe because I know that squirrelly look on Dawes’s face. She’s afraid I’m going to tattle on you.”

“Your case—”

“Do not start with me, Stern. I like my job—no, I love my job—and whatever this is … It’s not worth all the money in the devil’s pocket. I’ll solve the case on my own with good old detective work. Hide the outcasts and all that shit—”

Bewray not him that wandereth,” Darlington said, finishing the quote.

Alex almost expected thunder and lightning, some cosmic response to a half demon, or maybe more-than-half demon, reciting from the Bible.

“That’s the one,” Turner said uncomfortably. “Told you,” whispered Alex.

“You came from the crime scene,” said Darlington. “It’s why you wear death like a shroud.”

Turner cast Alex a glance, and she wished Darlington would just talk like Darlington. But Turner was a detective and he couldn’t help himself. “The quote is familiar to you?”

“Who was killed?”

“A professor and the dean of Morse College.”

“Two bodies,” mused Darlington; then a faint smile crossed his face, mischievous, almost hungry in its glee, nothing human about it. “There will be a third.”

“The hell does that mean?” “Exactly.”

“Explain yourself,” Turner demanded.

“I always admired virtue,” Darlington murmured. “But I could never imitate it.”

Turner threw up his hands. “Has he completely lost his mind?”

Somewhere far below the doorbell rang at the same time that Dawes’s phone buzzed.

They all jumped, all but Darlington.

Dawes drew in a sharp breath. She was staring at her phone. “Oh God.

Oh God.”

“Who are they?” Alex asked, looking down at the screen, where a well-dressed couple was trying to peer through the windows by the front door.

“They look like real estate agents,” said Turner.

But Dawes looked more terrified than when they’d opened a portal to hell. “Those are Darlington’s parents.”

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