Chapter One – Rattle and Roll
Crouched on a grimy rooftop, Shane Constantine scanned the surrounding streets and alleys below, looking for the usual suspects; demons, vampires and anything else evil he hoped would cross his path. Nothing came, nothing dared. It was a slow afternoon in San Francisco for demon hunting; night time tended to bring out the uglier side of his job. The, I-have-to-hack-off-your-head-now-so-you-don’t-pop-back-up-and-try-to-kill-me, type of ugly. Without something to slay, his mind tended to wander into things that just made the day impossibly long and the night unbearably bittersweet. Being an immortal Shadow Knight—he might as well rope himself to a pyre and light it on fire, because that’s exactly what it was like to think about her.
He reached inside the secret pocket of his Kevlar lined, black leather armor suit and pulled out her picture. It was ridiculous, the lengths he went to, just to keep the image of her near him at all times. A photograph of a painting resized and cropped down to the 2x3 print-out and kept in his removable wallet ID case. The edges of the black leather so worn, the natural brown color peeked through. Drinking in his fill of her, he carefully tucked her back into her hiding place. It wasn’t as if he needed to be reminded of what she looked like. Over two hundred years of staring at the same face will certainly engrain it into every cell of your brain for all of eternity. Looking at it was unnecessary. Looking at it was a sure fire road to insanity; at this point, psychosis was welcomed and not far behind. Maybe that’s the only place he’d ever see her again, in the lost recesses of his mind. In the only place he could truly be with her again . . . in his dreams, in the abyss of his mind and memories. He clamped his eyes shut, the pain, and the loss of her consuming him again; he really needed to be rid of it all.
Tiring of his perch, he leapt to the next three rooftops over and scanned the area.
Again . . . nothing.
Come on! Just give me something to do! Shane began pacing back and forth. Feeling like an addict waiting for his next fix, he rubbed his shaking hands. Why couldn’t he just let her go? She died over two centuries ago . . . come on Constantine, for the love of God and your sanity man, move on and find some peace. You’re never going to see her again.
Wait! There . . . to the left of his vision he saw it. A blurred outline moving in the shadows of an alleyway stopped and turned to face Shane just as he spotted the entity. He couldn’t make out what the creature was; no matter. Evil emanated from it like a lighthouse beacon. For a Shadow Knight, this was the equivalent of waving a brightly colored sequined flag in their face. The thing took off down the alley towards the street. Shane pushed a button on a handheld remote, starting his motorcycle that would drive itself to his location just a few blocks over. He jumped from the rooftop and landed in a crouch, then ran to the street’s entrance to check the direction the evil-thing took off in . . . Great, it’s heading for the Embarcadero, in the middle of the day! Just fucking great! Honed in on the remote tracker in Shane’s armor, the bike drove up next to him, steadied by the custom-built kick-plates that kept the MV Agusta F4 from teetering over. Shane jumped on the bike, revved the engine as the kick-plates retracted, taking off after the creature.
Using his Shadow magic, he cloaked his already black clad self and bike in shadow, the disguise all his Shadow Knight Brothers used to keep the populace from getting an eyeful of what was about to go down. After chasing the thing through several streets and a couple of near misses with various street cars and pedestrians, he closed in on the evil being he was about to annihilate. Shane initiated release of the custom kick-plates on the bike and it skidded to a halt just as Shane leapt off it, tackling his prey to the ground. As he turned the thing over, it appeared in the form of a man, but his head kept morphing from a ram, a bull, and then a human with a sneering smile.
Suddenly, an image of Shane’s late wife, Elizabetha chained to a wall while a vampire raped and drained her of her life giving blood; was being forced into his head by the man. Only this demon could force that image on him.
“Asmodeus.” Shane spat out and picked up the man by his suit lapels and set him on his feet. “Tell me—ASS—what is the demon of lust and a prince of hell doing in my city?”
Asmodeus brushed dirt from his suit and straightened his tie and shirt while he smirked at Shane. “Your city? I wasn’t aware the Order of Shadows had begun acquiring ownership of human cities. Unless you are now taking a zealots approach to keeping the balance between good and evil?”
Shane chuckled. “No, that would be your department . . . not ours.”
“You mean my father’s.”
“How is dear old dad?” Shane mocked. “Business must be good; he’s certainly keeping us busy.”
“Oh, you know . . .”
Shane frowned at the prince’s vagueness. “When’s the last time you’ve seen him?”
Asmodeus shifted his feet and as he turned to look over his shoulder, his face turned to that of the bull; something that would only happen under duress.
“Hey!” Shane called to get his attention and the prince snapped his head back to Shane. “You weren’t really running from me, were you?” The prince flashed a quick nervous smile but said nothing. “Course not. It’s not as if I’m allowed to do anything to you; you being one of the princes of Hell and all. Who’s chasing you and why are you scared?” That seemed to catch his attention.
“A prince of Hell fears nothing and no one!” Asmodeus scowled.
Shane crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Yeah, sure. You gonna tell me what’s goin’ on or not? Cause I’m not supposed to let anything harm you, but if you don’t clue me in here in about two secs then you’re on your own, ASS-hole.” Shane narrowed his bright hazel eyes on the prince, waiting for an answer but all he got was laughing. “Oh, I see, so this is funny? You’re a funny guy now, huh?” Shane turned and let the prince laugh at the back of his spiky black-haired head.
Shane turned around and cocked a brow at him, “Yeesss?” he drawled out.
“Look, I can’t tell you who, but I can tell you where.” Asmodeus looked around frantically, checking for signs that he’d been found.
“All right, that’s not cryptic or anything. Where?”
“There’s a business, Vector Genetics. That was the last place I saw it after I managed to lose it.”
“What! That company belongs to a friend of mine!” Anything fierce enough to scare the shit out of a prince of Hell must be bad. And now it seemed it had found its way to his best friend, Gabriel’s front door. Fabulous. “What. Was. It?”
“I can’t—” he turned to leave, but Shane caught his arm, swung him around and grabbed his face with his free hand.
“If you can’t tell me what then be more specific on the where part. It’s a big god damned building Ass-modeus,” he said and simultaneously squeezed his arm and face harder.
“The parking garage,” he said through puckered lips. “Follow the smell of sulfur.” The prince shirked out of Shane’s hold and began rubbing his face and arm.
“The name is, Asmodeus.”
“Yeah, well, from me, you’re only gonna get, Ass-hole, Ass-mole or Ass-pole . . . take your pick.” Shane looked away from the idiot prince, down the street he saw some gawkers loitering around his bike. “Look, sorry for the tackle and thanks for the info, but I gotta jet.” Shane started to walk away, then remembered, “Oh, and another thing, you pull that twisted sex image shit with my late wife on me again, and I will personally hand you over to whatever it is that’s chasing you and watch while it picks his teeth with your skinny ass bones.”
“You know, for a member of royal lineage, you have a filthy, uncouth mouth.”
“A by-product of ridding the world of scum-bags like you, Ass-mode.” Shane lightly slapped the man’s cheek twice, “Take care, Prince.” He said, and stalked off.