Chapter no 34

Hell Bent

Something’s wrong,” she told Dawes as she hurried across campus to meet Turner. “The Praetor didn’t say anything about the Gauntlet or disciplinary action.”

“Maybe Anselm changed his mind?”

“He was furious, Dawes. There’s no way he decided to give us another chance.”

“You think something … one of the demons…” “See if you can find out if he’s been home.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“Call his house, pretend you work with him.” “Alex!”

“Goddamn it, Dawes, do I have to do all of this myself?” “If ‘this’ is unethical, then yes!”

Alex hung up. She felt frantic, exposed, like Not Hellie could be around any corner. Or Eitan. Or Linus Reiter. Demons aren’t smart, Dawes had once told her, they’re cunning. Alex had to wonder how many people had said the same thing about her.

“Okay, so what would I do?” she muttered to herself, watching her breath plume in the cold air as she hurried toward Chapel Street.

Hang back and watch. Look for an opportunity. Find a way to shift the odds in her favor.

If something had happened to Anselm … well, that would take care of one of their problems. But Lethe wasn’t just going to shrug off his disappearance, not when two faculty members were dead too. Alex stopped in front of the University Art Gallery. Marjorie Stephen. Dean Beekman. Could Anselm be a victim as well? Not if Turner had the right suspect in

custody. Ed Lambton’s son had no reason to go after someone barely associated with Yale anymore. Unless they’d been making the wrong connections from the start.

A few minutes later, Turner pulled up in his Dodge and Alex slid into the passenger’s seat, grateful for the heat.

“Jesus,” she said. “Did you sleep at all?”

He shook his head, a muscle ticking in his jaw. He was sharply dressed as always, navy wool suit with the subtlest pinstripe, slate-colored tie, Burberry overcoat laid neatly over the back seat. But he had dark smudges under his eyes and his skin looked ashen. Turner was a handsome man, but a few more nights playing tag with his personal demons and he might not be.

“What line did it use?” Alex asked.

Turner navigated the Dodge back into traffic. “It didn’t show up as Carmichael this time. Thought it would be cute to wait for me in the parking lot dressed up like my grandfather.”


He gave a single, terse nod. “For a second I thought … I don’t know.” “You believed it was him.”

“The dead stay dead, right? But he … It looked like him, sounded like him. I felt happy when I saw him, like it was some kind of miracle.”

A gift. A reward for all the pain. Exactly the way Alex had felt when she’d held Hellie. Losing that again had almost broken her.

That was why Turner looked terrible. Not because he hadn’t slept, but because the demon had fed on him.

“I don’t know how much longer I can handle this,” Turner said. “How did you get free?”

“He told me we were both in danger, that I had to go with him, and I was halfway down the block when I realized how fast he was moving, how light on his feet. My grandfather had arthritis. He couldn’t take a step without hurting. I said … Maybe some part of me knew he wasn’t right. I said, ‘Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed.’”

“Did he burst into flames?”

Turner barked a laugh. “No, but he looked at me with this soft little smile, like I’d said something about the weather. My grandfather loved scripture. He had a pocket Bible, carried it everywhere with him, kept it over his heart. If I quoted God’s word to him, his face should have lit up like a sunrise.”

Cunning, but not smart.

“Then things got ugly,” said Turner. “Even though I knew it wasn’t him, I didn’t want to use the oak on him, to push him away. He seemed…” Turner’s voice tightened, and Alex realized he was fighting back tears. She’d seen him angry, frustrated, but never grieving, never lost. “He was so old and frail. When I turned on him, he looked scared and confused. He…”

“It wasn’t him,” Alex said. “That thing was feeding on you.” They pulled into a parking lot.

“I know, but—”

“It still feels like shit.”

“It really does.” He stared straight ahead, at the chain-link fence and the big brick building beyond. “You know they call the devil the Father of Lies? I don’t think I ever really understood what that could mean until now.”

Alex tried not to squirm in her seat. Every time Turner got biblical, she felt uneasy, as if he was telling her about some grand hallucination and it was her job to nod sagely and pretend she saw miracles too. Then again, she’d spent her whole life seeing things no one else did; maybe she could extend him the benefit of the doubt.

For a moment she felt that pull to tell him everything, what Eitan had asked of her, the jobs she’d done for him, the fact that he had been here, in New Haven. Turner knew what it was like to be backed into a corner, to do the wrong thing because all the right things just got you in deeper.

Instead she got out of the car. “I think something may have happened to Michael Anselm.”

“Because he didn’t show up at Il Bastone?”

“I figured he went back to New York, but I met with the new Praetor just now and he didn’t say a word about the Gauntlet or all of us getting kicked out of Lethe.”

“Could be Anselm wanted to talk to the board in person.”

“Could be,” Alex said. They hustled across the street to the entrance, and passed through a revolving door into a big, anonymous lobby. It didn’t really look like a hospital. They might have been anywhere. “Or maybe something got to him before he made it back to the city.”

Turner flashed his badge and ID at the desk, and they headed for a bank of elevators.

“I thought the demons were tied to us. Why would they seek out Anselm?” He sounded worried, and Alex understood why. None of them wanted these things going after their friends and family.

“Who says something else didn’t get loose? Anselm stopped the ritual.

Maybe there was blowback.”

“You’re guessing,” Turner said. “Or, as we call it in the business, pontificating out of your ass. For all you know, Anselm had a fight with his wife and he just hasn’t gotten around to screwing us.”

“It’s all guessing, Turner. But it doesn’t have to be.”

Turner sighed. “Fine. I’ll see if I can look into it without raising any alarms. Now would you focus?”

Focus, Miss Stern. But Alex didn’t want to focus. All of it was too familiar. The white walls, the inoffensive art on them, the reception carpet giving way to cold tile. These were the places where she’d learned to lie, to pretend she was an ordinary kid who’d fallen in with a bad crowd, to tell kind social workers and curious shrinks that she liked to make up crazy stories, that she enjoyed the attention.

There had been truth mixed in too. She didn’t want to hurt her mom. She knew she was a source of headache, heartache, financial trouble, maternal woe. She wanted to make friends, but she didn’t know how. Tears had come easily. The hardest thing had been hiding how desperate she was to get better, how much she wanted to be free of the things she saw. The single upside to psych wards was that Grays hated them even more than the living.

Only once had she given in and told the truth. She’d been fourteen years old, already hanging with Len’s crowd. She’d already let him fuck her in his narrow bed with the dirty sheets. They’d smoked before, after. She’d been

disappointed by the mess of it, but tried to go along, made the noises that seemed to excite him. She’d stroked his narrow back and felt something that might have been love or just a desire to feel love.

Her mother had dragged her in for evaluation, and she’d gone along because Len had told her if she played her cards right, they’d prescribe her something good, and also because it was better than getting sent somewhere to be scared straight again. Guys in fatigues could shout at her and make her do push-ups and clean bathrooms, but she’d been scared her whole fucking life and she just kept getting more crooked.

Alex had actually liked the doctor she’d met with that day at Wellways. Marcy Golder. She’d been younger than the others, funny. She had a pretty tattoo of a rose vine around her wrist. She’d offered Alex a cigarette, and they’d sat together, looking out at the distant ocean. Marcy had said, “I can’t pretend I understand everything in this world. It would be arrogant to say that. We think we understand and then boom! Galileo. Bam! Einstein. We have to stay open.”

So Alex had told her the things she saw, just a little about the Quiet Ones who were always with her, who only disappeared in a cloud of kush. Not everything, just a little, a test.

But it had still been too much. And she’d known it right away. She’d seen the understanding in Marcy’s eyes, the studied warmth, and, beneath it, the excitement that she couldn’t hide.

Alex had shut up quick, but the damage was done. Marcy Golder wanted to keep her at Wellways for a six-week program of electroshock treatment combined with talk therapy and hydrotherapy. Thankfully it had been out of Mira’s budget, and her mother had been too much of a hippie to say yes to clapping electrodes on her daughter’s skull.

Now Alex knew none of it would have worked for her because the Grays were real. No amount of medication or electricity could erase the dead. But at the time, she’d wondered.

Yale New Haven was at least trying to keep itself human. Plants in the corners. A big skylight above and pops of blue on the walls.

“You okay?” Turner asked as the elevator rose.

Alex nodded. “What’s bothering you about this guy?”

“I’m not sure. He confessed. He has details of the crimes, and the forensics all line up. But…”


“Something’s off.”

“The prickle,” she said and Turner startled, then rubbed his jaw. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s it.”

The prickle had never led Turner astray. He trusted his gut, and maybe he trusted her now too.

A doctor came out to meet them, middle-aged, with highlighted blond hair cut into fashionable bangs.

“Dr. Tarkenian is going to observe,” said Turner. “Alex knows Andy’s father.”

“You were one of his students?” the shrink asked.

Alex nodded and wished Turner had prepped her better.

“Andy and Ed were very close,” the doctor said. “Ed Lambton’s wife passed a little over two years ago. Andy came out for the funeral and encouraged his father to move out to Arizona with him.”

“Lambton wasn’t interested?” Turner asked.

“His lab is here,” said Dr. Tarkenian. “I can understand that choice.”

“He should have taken his son up on the offer. By all accounts, his doctoral candidates had almost no oversight. His head just wasn’t in it.”

Alex saw the way that assessment troubled Tarkenian. “You knew him,” Alex said.

Tarkenian nodded. “I did my doctoral work with him years ago. I’m afraid you didn’t see him at his best.” Her expression hardened. “And I knew Dean Beekman too. He didn’t deserve that.”

She led them down the hall to a sunroom where a man in his thirties was seated, handcuffed to a wheelchair, his back to a spectacular view of New Haven. His lips were chapped, and his fingers flexed and unflexed on the armrests as if they knew a secret rhythm, but otherwise he looked fine. Healthy. Normal. He had dark hair and a close-cropped beard streaked with gray. He looked like he worked at a microbrewery.

That could be me, she thought. That was me. She’d met Dean Sandow in a hospital. She’d been handcuffed to the bed, no one yet sure if she was a

victim or a suspect. Some people were probably still trying to figure that out.

Behind Andy Lambton, gray clouds hung low over the city. She could see the gap of the New Haven Green, East Rock in the distance, the big Gothic spike of Harkness Tower, though she doubted anyone could hear the bells from here.

“That’s quite a view,” Alex said, and Andy shuddered. They sat down across from him.

“How are you, Andy?” Turner asked. “Tired.”

“Has he been sleeping?” Turner asked the doctor.

Alex cut him off. “Don’t talk like he’s not right here. You sleeping okay?”

“No,” Andy admitted. “It’s not exactly a restful environment.” “I’ve seen worse,” Alex said.

Andy shrugged. “I don’t like it here.” “In the hospital?”

“In this town.” Andy glanced over his shoulder, as if New Haven were listening, as if it had snuck up on him.

But Andy was calm, his manner easy. Alex wondered if he was medicated.

Turner leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, interlocking his fingers. “I need you to talk to us about what happened, strictly off the record, no tape recorder, no notes, nothing can be used against you in a court of law.”

“Why? I told you what I did.” “I’m trying to understand.”

Andy Lambton’s eyes shifted to Alex. “And she’s supposed to help you understand?”

“That’s right.”

“She’s covered in fire,” he said.

Alex forced herself not to look at Turner, but she knew they were both thinking of the blue flame that had surrounded her in hell.

“I told you I did it,” Andy said. “What else do you want?”

“I just need clarity on a few things. We had a good look at your computer. Aside from some pretty unremarkable porn, your search history didn’t turn up anything to speak of. And nothing related to Professor Stephen or Dean Beekman.”

“Maybe I cleared it.”

“You didn’t. And that’s unusual too.” Andy shrugged again.

“How did you get into Dean Beekman’s home? Professor Stephen’s office?” Turner continued. “Did you follow them? Stake them out?”

“I just knew how.” “How?”

“He told me.”

Turner practically growled in frustration. But Alex had the sense that Andy wasn’t being stubborn. Something else was going on here.

Who told you?” Turner demanded. Now Andy hesitated. “I … my dad?”

Turner leaned back in his chair, appeased. “Did he know you planned to hurt these people?”

Andy’s head snapped up. “No!”

“He just handed you his key card and rattled off their work schedules for fun?”

“He didn’t rattle off anything. The ram told me.” Andy smacked his lips, scraping his tongue over his teeth as if he didn’t like the taste of the words.

Alex stayed very still. “The ram?”

Andy rolled his eyes. It wasn’t a look of contempt. There was something wild in the movement, like an animal caught in a trap, straining to get free.

Even so, his voice was reasonable. “It wasn’t a big deal to find them, to get them to let me in. I’ve spent most of my life at Yale, okay?” He jabbed a finger at Turner. “And don’t try to bring my dad into this. You said we were off the record.”

“I’m not going to get your dad jammed up. I’m trying to understand what happened here.” Turner studied Andy. “Talk to me about Charles II.”

“The … king?”

“Why did you open Marjorie Stephen’s Bible? Why Judges?”

Now Andy’s face flashed with anger. “She cost my father everything.

And over what? Someone else’s mistake?”

Turner spread his hands as if he was just laying out the evidence. “My understanding is he was the person in charge of the lab. Oversight was his responsibility.”

“They went too far.”

“He has tenure. He isn’t out of a job.”

Andy laughed, a harsh, serrated sound. “He could have handled losing his job, but he became a joke. A study on honesty that used falsified data? He couldn’t show his face at conferences. He lost his reputation, his dignity. He was a laughingstock. You don’t … You don’t know what that was like for him. He doesn’t want to teach anymore. He doesn’t want to do anything anymore. It’s like a part of him died.”

“They judged him,” said Alex. “They signed the death warrant and as good as executed him. You wanted revenge.”

“I … did.”

“You wanted to humiliate them.” “Yes.”

“Knock them down off their high horses.”

“Yes,” he hissed, the sound curling through the room. “But you didn’t want to kill them.”

Andy looked surprised. “No. Of course not.” Turner’s eyes narrowed. “But you did kill them.”

Andy nodded, then shook his head, as if he was a mystery to himself. “I did. He made it easy.”

“The ram?” Alex asked.

Andy’s eyelids fluttered rapidly. “He was kind.” “Yeah?” Alex pushed.

“Easy to talk to. He … knew so much.” “About what?”

Again Andy looked over his shoulder. “This town. The people here. He knew so many stories. He had all of the answers. But he wasn’t … He

didn’t lord it over me, you know? He just wanted to help. To make things right. He was polite. A real—”

“Gentleman,” Alex finished for him. Cold sweat had broken out over her body, and she struggled not to shiver.

The ram told me. Alex thought of Darlington’s horns, curled back from his forehead, glowing behind the protection of the golden circle—his prison.

But maybe the circle had been an illusion. Maybe Darlington had let them believe it kept him at bay when it had been nothing more than fairy dust.

She had known there was something off about the crime scenes, elaborate stage sets steeped in New Haven lore. A game a demon might like to play.

Turner was watching her. “Something you want to share with the class, Stern?”

“No … I … I have to go.”

“Stern—” Turner began, but Alex was out the door, striding down the hall. She needed to get to Black Elm.

Darlington, who knew everything about New Haven’s history, who had “recognized” the quote from Davenport’s sermon. What had he said that day? I always admired virtue. But I could never imitate it. Alex tapped the quote into her phone. The search results popped up immediately: Charles II. Darlington had said he was the hermit in the cave. And of course, he’d meant Judges Cave. Anselm had warned her: Whatever survived in hell wouldn’t be the Darlington you know.

Demons loved games. And he’d been playing with them from the start.

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