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THE METATRON MYSTERIES
By James Glass
John Smith looked at his silent phone and tried to scratch his back. It had always itched for as long as he could remember – which was not a particularly long time – and his extensive collection of back-scratchers were no help. He’d spent hundreds of dollars he didn’t have on massage sessions asking only that the masseuse scratch him as hard as they could. Sometimes with a fork.
He took out the serrated knife tied securely to a stick and began to run the teeth over his reddened flesh. He had been to countless dermatologists and doctors. The conclusion was always the same; it must be a result of the accident that had left him in a coma for two weeks. After the coma he woke with no memory of who he was, no one to claim him, and two long scars running the length of either side of his back. They itched like hell, dammit.
As a means of becoming a productive member of society, John Smith managed to get his private investigator’s license to support himself. That is, after the initial awakening and subsequent lack of family interest following hundreds of media ads with his picture and description spread around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the surrounding cities of Baltimore, Harrisburg, York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.
The first were likely pity cases, a small town trying to help the underdog. Gradually those cases dried up and the money put into savings for a rainy day was now being eaten up paying the rent, electricity, and phone for his office space. An office space he recently began using as an apartment, since the hospital told him it was time to leave the nest.
He glanced at the phone one more time then turned to the stack of newspapers that outlined his accident. It was referred to as an ‘accident’ because he had come out of his coma with no memory and thus no way to confirm or deny the suspicion he saw in everyone’s eyes. The details and those looks told him he had tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge and into a river.
The devil was in the details, as always. The only snag in his theory was that there had been no note, and the bridge wasn’t very high — certainly not high enough to kill a man from the jump alone, and the rocks beneath the surface of the water had only left the two long scars down his back as a souvenir.
He scratched at the scars again as he read the specifics one more time, cross-referencing with his notes. “Unidentified Man Falls from Bridge” and “Man Who Fell from Bridge Still in Coma”. Not much coverage, he thought bleakly, but then if his life had been worthless to him at one point, how could he expect more from the media?
With a growl he threw the papers into the trash and stared up at the ceiling. He prayed someone would hire him soon.
Pazuzu was tired…. He glanced up briefly from his ponderings as a man exited the shadows of the doorway across the street and splashed through puddles of streetlight.
“That is the one,” Pazuzu’s companion hissed.
With a sigh Pazuzu snuffed out his cigarette in the palm of his hand. He had hoped they would be able to lurk a bit longer. Opportunities for outings were few and far between back home.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I am sure. He wears an overcoat.”
“Very well,” Pazuzu said.
He pushed away from the cool concrete of the building they had chosen several hours before, the perfect lurking spot, and a charred outline was left in his wake. The smoke emanating from the outline smelled of fire and sulfur.
Pazuzu had his doubts about his companion’s positive identification of their target based on the man’s attire, but remained quiet. He had not been topside for many years, and who was he to argue that the man might not, in fact, wear an overcoat? They had watched all the movies from Hollywood, and in the movies the detectives all wore overcoats.
They’d followed the man in the overcoat for several blocks when Marduk stumbled over a large bit of trash and the man stiffened. When he turned to face them, Pazuzu flashed a menacing grin. With a cry of terror the man pulled a glinting metal object from beneath his overcoat and pointed it at them.
Pazuzu paused with a feeling that was more instinct than foreknowledge gripping his insides. His companion was less cautious. Pazuzu had learned during the Inquisition that humans were bold when they had a weapon, and from the way the man stood he knew the metal object had to be a weapon.
There was a loud bang and flash from the object and Pazuzu’s companion flinched backward, clutching at his chest where a heart might have beaten.
“Hellfire and brimstone that hurts!”
The human unleashed the weapon again, this time at Pazuzu. He sidestepped the projectile and shook his head at the man in disapproval. When the man ran he turned his attention back to his companion who was writhing on the ground. “Are you hurt, Marduk?”
His companion glared up at him, silver blood glinting over now carnivorous teeth. “Of course I’m hurt! What was that thing?” he snarled as he climbed to his feet.
Pazuzu shrugged. “I am unsure. Possibly one of those guns we viewed in the films? Luckily it was a small one.”
“Small? I assure you, the pain is not small.”
Again, Pazuzu shrugged. “You must be more careful when dealing with humans,” he said, “They may seem incapable of harming us, but they are dangerous to both themselves and to us.”
“Lesson learned,” Marduk hissed and wiped silvery blood from the front of his shirt. “Damn it, I liked this shirt,” he said with an angry pout.
Pazuzu shook his head and removed a soft pack of cigarettes, tapping one from the open portion of the pack and inserting it between his thin lips. He flicked the long fingernails of his right hand together and flames sprang up to meet the tip of the cigarette. He inhaled deeply and stared in fascination at the plumes of exhaled smoke.
“How long has it been since you were last topside?” Marduk asked him.
Pazuzu squinted up at the night sky, considering the question. He took another drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and responded, “A century or more? I don’t know. Time is meaningless.”
“So how did you know to avoid the weapon?”
The demon smiled and his wings twitched beneath his shirt.
“When a human aims something at one’s person, one can safely assume it is a weapon. One should therefore make haste to avoid having it pointed at oneself.”
“Good advice,” Marduk said as he lit his own cigarette. He gave a cough of anger as smoke swirled out of the hole in his back and chest where the bullet had pierced him.
“Damnation,” he muttered, “When we catch that little prick I’m going to kill him.”
“I believe we need to remember our mission, Marduk. And I do not think that was our man.”
John Smith was not a run-of-the-mill P.I. At least he didn’t think so. His exaggerated opinion of himself had not, however, been paying the bills since he woke from his coma, and the ad that told the masses how good he was had only helped to get the electricity turned off in the end. Luckily he kept office hours during the afternoon and his office had a southern exposure, so lighting was not a problem… but coffee was.
He glanced up from the magazine on his desk. The one he kept in his desk drawer for occasions when he wanted to appear busy – in case a client walked in, he told himself. The phone on his desk rang a second time and it took a moment longer for the sound to register in his brain. On the third ring he picked it up and held it to his ear.
“Mr. Smith?” the voice on the other end sounded tinny and far away.