The abandoned apartment building where the Glass had made their gang’s safe house was darkened and mostly silent that night, save for the faint glow of a television set up among the slew of old furniture that littered the lobby. Sitting across from it with a pizza in his lap sat Jesse, one of the three local members of the South Side Glass who had decided to stay the night in the comfort of this particular safe house. He laughed at the box capturing his attention and made an inquiry to Keith, who was leaning against a wall across the room staring lazily into his cell phone. Tyrone didn’t seem impressed, leaning back in a chair in the opposite corner.
“Man, for a safe house for the Glass, I was hoping this place wouldn’t be such a drag.” Said Tyrone, sighing as he sagged deeper into his chair.
“Come on dude, it’s not so bad. At least the TV actually works at this place. Last place I stayed in got theirs jacked by the Kings. Didn’t even bust up anything in the place, just took the TV.”
“If they didn’t bust it up, how you know it was the Kings?” Keith interjected, never looking up from the dim light of his phone’s screen.
“Had to be them. Who’s poking around in abandoned buildings for TVs to steal?” Jesse replied through the bolus of pizza in his mouth.
“Man, who cares?” Asked Tyrone. “We oughtta see if we can make a score around here.”
“Of what?” Inquired Keith.
“I don’t care. Anything to make this place less boring.”
“I hear they midway crystal through this place. Maybe they’ve got some around here.” Jesse interjected, much to Tyrone’s agreement.
“Man, we can’t just jack their crystal. What if Blades found out?” Protested Keith halfheartedly.
Tyrone replied as he rose from his chair. “They won’t notice if we just take a teenth or two. I’mma go see if I can find some.”
“Whatever man.” Keith shrugged as Tyrone ascended the stairs to search for the contraband. Keith and Jesse sat in silence for a few minutes, glued to their personal screens with no consideration for Tyrone’s whereabouts.
Until they heard the sound.
There came from the second story a spectacular noise, like furniture being broken against a wall.
“What was that?” asked Keith, finally looking upward to the ceiling.
Jesse was unphased. “Probably just Ty getting frustrated cuz he can’t find anything.”
“Are you sure? Maybe we should go check it out.” Keith said, gazing up the staircase.
“Then go do it.” Moaned Jesse.
“Why don’t you?” Asked Keith, apprehensively.
“You’re the one who wanted to check.”
Keith loomed for a moment before Jesse reassured him. “Dude, take a piece with you if you’re so concerned.”
Keith picked up a nine millimeter from the table in the center of the room and cautiously made his way up the stairs. “Try not to get shot or anything.” Jesse warned, his statement engrained in sarcasm.
Jesse’s gaze never left the television as he continued to gorge himself on the pizza, when he heard yet another sound, followed by two muffled gunshots. He stood up and slowly pulled a gun from the front of his pants, calling out for Keith in curiosity. He pointed his weapon up the staircase and waited for a few moments, before quickly spinning in place to face the sound of a bottle falling over. He stood with his gun pointed at the bottle on the table nervously, breathing heavily for a few sighs. He turned back to the stairs and lowered his gun, calling upstairs. “Keith, I don’t know what kinda crap you’re trying to pu—“He was cut off as an arm flew around his neck from behind. He choked for a moment before pulling the gun from his pants and firing over his shoulder. The figure behind him grabbed the weapon and moved in front of him, wrenching the weapon from his hands and throwing it aside before gripping his hoodie and slamming him into the table. He looked up into the figure’s face, illuminated only slightly by the faint light of the TV.
The sight he beheld was one of menace and fury, a man in deep gray body plating and shrouded beneath a black hood so that only my scowling mouth was visible beneath the shadow. Jesse took a few swings at my shoulders in vain before I picked him up and slammed him against the table once more.
“Where is your boss?” I demanded, shaking him with the question.
“What are you talking about?” He avoided, squirming beneath my grasp.
“Blades!” I pushed.
“I don’t—“I threw him against the wall before picking him and pinning him against it.
“The man your friend mentioned before I bashed his head in. I want a location.”
“I don’t know where he lives.”
“Wrong answer.” I grabbed his wrist and turned him around, pressing his face to the wall as I pushed up on his shoulder. “You want to keep this shoulder intact you’ll tell me where I can find him.”
“Alright, alright! Geez, dude! Apartment 36, at Oaks on Fortieth! Now let me go!”
I flipped him over my shoulder, causing his back to land flat on the floor before I punched him out.
“Much appreciated.” I remarked as I made my exit.
I turned over a vambrace in my hand, polishing the deep silver of the plate that would cover the outside of my forearm before placing it on its appropriate stand in the case. The case was a large glass box containing a display mannequin that held the upper half the suit, with allotments for the vambraces and knee-high boots on either side. I admired the glint of the armor in the soft light of the beige room, the silver plates shimmering in the warm glow. The base of the armor was a black leather jacket, zipped up the middle with a dark hood at the top. It was covered in silver plate armor, with deep crimson fabric adorning the edges of each piece. There were two components to the chest plate, covering either side of the top half of the chest, with thin silver components running down from and off of them in resemblance of a ribcage. The black sleeves were rolled up above the elbows, and the shoulders were covered with a series of smaller plates running from front to back that allowed for a full range of motion. Connecting them to the chest plate was a sigil that matched the one at the top of the alcove where the display case stood, a ring with four triangular points facing the four directions.
The same crest was borne by the weapon in my hand, a rod about three hands long with one blunt end and a larger version of the sigil at the other. I held it up before me, and as if it responded only to my thought, a curved blade shot out from one side of the scythe. I smiled at it for a moment, when a woman walked in through the door behind me.
She was dressed casually in jeans and a depressed white button-up shirt. Her shimmering, wavy onyx hair was piled up in an elegant series of curls, with two long strands gracing either side of her immaculate face. She yawned before opening her piercing royal purple eyes. “Hey there, hero.”
I smiled as I retracted the scythe’s blade and fit it into its allotted place in the weapons drawer beneath the armor stand. “Hey there, pretty lady.” I greeted her, wrapping my arms around her and kissing her gentle lips. She turned around and walked out of the closet into the bedroom, loosing the ties the held her hair up and letting it fall over her left shoulder.
“How’d it go tonight?” She asked, the music of her voice moving through the air.
“Not so bad.” I replied. “I have a good lead on where to go next.”
“That’s good.” She replied as she removed her earrings and placed them on the dresser. “Do I get to come with next time, handsome?”
“Whenever you want, sweetheart.” I replied, gazing into the mirror atop my dresser. I rearranged my disheveled brown hair, brushing it to the right and off my face. My sunken grey eyes confronted me, and I certainly didn’t feel too handsome.
She called from the bathroom, toothbrush in hand. “My sister called tonight and asked for you.”
“Ava knows how my schedule works with all this. If she calls me that late, she knows she’ll miss me.” I replied, following into the bathroom to prepare for bed. “Did she say what she wanted?”
“Not too specifically, but she says she just found out something pretty bad that’s relevant to you, so.”
“Well that’s just what I needed. Is she sending Gabriel?”
“I’m sure she will. I’d expect him tomorrow.”
“I could use his help with that new lead, I guess.”
“I’m sure he’d be thrilled as usual. Not every day you get to hang out with the Angel of Death.”
“You get to.” I smiled.
She smiled back as she placed her hands gently on my chest. “And I’m loving every minute of it.” She kissed me. “Now get some sleep, you look like you got hit by a subway train. I can make pancakes tomorrow if you want.”
“Okay, the subway thing was last week, and I told you, it only nicked the back of my leg.” I joked, hitting the light switch and making my way towards the bed.
“Details, details.” She sighed in jest.
“Didn’t even hurt that much… Been through worse.”
“So am I hearing a yes on pancakes?”
She threw the sheets over my head and giggled before kissing me once more. “I love you.” She smiled.
“I love you too.” I replied.
She rolled over as she settled into the pillow. “Good night, Azrael.”
“Good night, Iris.”
I awoke with a start, and much to my misfortune, with no smell of pancakes to be found as the phone by the bed demanded my attention, calling out in the darkness. I rolled over and checked the display. “Lockhart, Ava.” Oh joy.
“Ava? It’s Azrael.”
“Hey, Az. Sorry to wake you.”
“Not a problem. Is this about what you found in the book?”
“Sheesh, isn’t it too early to be having visions?”
“I was going to send Gabriel later, but I got something new.”
“The courthouse on 86th and Stone.”
“Go there. There’s something there for you.”
“I think it’s a body, but the book doesn’t say much.”
“Alright, I’ll go check it out. Thanks.”
“Sorry about waking you up.”
“No worries, I’ll see you this weekend, right?”
“See you then.” I hung up the phone.
Iris rolled over and mumbled through the inquiry “Who was that?”
“Ava.” I replied, sitting up on the edge of the bed. She made a quizzical noise. “Raziel. Sorry.”
Iris groaned. “What’s she want?”
“There’s something I gotta go take care of. Raincheck on the pancakes?”
She made some unintelligible noise along the lines of ‘grarblharbl’.
I kissed her forehead. “Love you, baby.”
“Love you” she replied, as I opened the hidden door in the closet to suit up.
The sun had almost reached the bottom of the horizon, and the foggy street glowed dim in the cold morning. I approached cautiously, but didn’t sense anyone in the area for blocks, which wasn’t surprising considering the largely abandoned nature of this part of the city. I walked through the middle of the street as the intersection of 86th and Stone began to come into view through the fog. A tree stood looming at the center of the square, standing isolated among the brick streets surrounding it before the courthouse. It was enveloped in the fog like a rock in the bottom of a river, as if the world didn’t want anyone to see what it was hiding.
As I grew closer I began to see the leaves blowing gently in the wind, and from a distance, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly amiss with the scene. Raziel was never wrong about these things, surely there had to be something there.
As I began to look around the circle the tree sat in, I discovered what she meant. Hanging from the tree with a length of rope and wrapped in dirty-looking bandages, a body swayed in the breeze, gruesomely nonchalant in the haggard scene. I could sense it was definitely dead, and the smell would certainly start to corroborate that soon. I knew I should work as quickly as I can.
It was clear that the victim died of strangulation via the noose that secured him to the tree, and based on my analysis it seemed he was killed on sight. I pulled a scythe from the cloth underside of my vambrace and cut open the bandages by the victim’s hand, staring at his fingers for a moment to identify who he was. Just like every other crime scene, I recognized the prints without ever having seen them before. One of my gifts.
Miguel “Blades” Alvarez.