by Rowdy Tanner

Disclaimer: The boys are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment. I do not own them or make money from them but if I did own them I promise I would share at least six of them.

Characters: Old West. Vin and Chris.

Feedback: I would love to know what you thought.

He wanted to get back...home? Was it home? Four Corners? Or was home still a burnt out ranch house? Home was where the heart was. Did that mean home lay moldering in two small graves? Or was it time to admit home was wherever those six men dwelled? Was home a patiently waiting pair of crystal green eyes unable to fully understand him but willing to fall in love with him none the less? Or was home the smell of buckskin and woodsmoke?

All he knew for sure was that he wanted to reach Four Corners in time to sit across the table from that raggedy tracker and share a bottle of Highland Rye whiskey. So he was thankful for the full moon that gazed down at him, bathing the crossroads up ahead with silvery light. Casting long black eerie shadows as stars actually twinkled in a midnight blue sky.

Suddenly Pony shied and tried to dance around some invisible presence only the animal could see. It was so unlike the black gelding's usual steady gait that the expert horseman was almost unseated.

He steadied the quarter horse with a single word and unbidden the next words fell from his lips in a torrent of emotion, "Forgive me, Sarah! Forgive me, Adam! I swear I would give my very soul to hold you in my arms just once more!"

Without warning the ground shifted under the horse's hooves, Pony reared up, forelegs thrashing at thin air and it was the last thing Chris Larabee remembered.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner swaggered out of the saloon and into the moonlit street. It was nearly midnight by his reckoning and the last day of October. As he stared up at the man in the full moon Vin knew in his bones that Chris Larabee was in danger. The worst kind of danger that came from neither man nor beast. Icy fingers gripped his heart as he realized it was too late to prevent it from happening.

"Chris!" he screamed as he collapsed onto the boardwalk with a resounding thud.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee awoke to velvety darkness. Involuntarily he shrank back as a dank, mushroomy smell enveloped him.

"Hush, my love."


"Chris, my love..."

He sighed joyously as familiar, never to be forgotten, soft hands drew his face towards warm, loving lips. Her body melted into his as they made love over and over again.

+ + + + + + +

It was early dawn when he sat bolt upright in the brass bed, "Chris!"

"Steady down, Vin," soothed Nathan Jackson.


"Probably just now starting out on his way back from Watsonville."

"Naw! He rode all night!" yelled Vin, clambering out of the bed, impatiently throwing blankets and the hand-stitched quilt aside. "Where's m' pants? Hell, Nate. How many times do I need ta tell ya not ta hide a feller's pants?"

"How many times do I need to tell you they're only folded over the chair? Here."

"Nate? I need yer help."

"You have it."

"We need ta save Chris."

"Vin? What do think Chris needs us to save him from this time?" chuckled Nathan.

"The Devil," rasped the tracker hurriedly buttoning his pants as Nathan could only gape at him.

+ + + + + + +

Outside the dawn had pushed the darkness aside and Larabee nuzzled the cloudy red hair away from her neck. Recoiling as he encountered a soft gelatinous mass. He brushed aside her hair. The scream of horror was torn from somewhere deep inside him as the peeling, charred skull lolled onto his naked shoulder.

+ + + + + + +

"Here," announced Vin as the two men scrambled up onto the flat rock surmounting the jagged cliff.

"Vin, you're mebbe half-eagle but I'm not sure I won't slip over the edge," protested Nathan weakly.

"I need ya, Nate."

"You said so in the clinic and that's why I'm here but I still don't understand."

"Ya trust me?"

"Like I said I'm here," Nathan answered trying not to be offended that the tracker had even asked.

"No offense meant," smiled the tracker.

"None taken," smiled back the handsome healer.

"Chris made a deal with The Devil at the crossroads afore midnight on All Hallows Eve."


"Ya understand me? Ya believe me?"

Nathan had no doubt the tracker believed every word he said and that was more than enough for the healer. "What do you want me to do?"

"I's goin' ta go after Chris. Ya gotta stay here and make sure nothing happens ta me."

"If you're going after Chris why did we both climb all the way up here?"

Instead of giving Nathan a verbal answer the tracker took the pack from his back and unrolled the white buffalo robe. Nathan watched intrigued as Vin placed his clothes in a neatly folded pile before opening the small pots of red and yellow clay and painting his face, chest and legs with precisely rendered sigils. "Yer a right clever feller when it comes ta folk, ya reckon women can have that there animal magnetism, Nathan?" Nathan Jackson spluttered slightly at the question that had come so far out of the blue. Still he gave it some thought, puzzled as to what had made the tracker ask that particular question and why it was on his mind at this precise moment. "I think they can. I don't see why not. Why?" "Jus' wonderin'." Nathan waited. "Ya reckon Cousin Elvira has it?" "By the bucketful," chuckled Nathan, "look at how Buck, Josiah and Ezra get around her. JD can't even string two words together when she's there." "Reckon Ezra was only after the Stacey money, Chris." "I reckon Ezra is fooling himself if that's what he thinks." "Ya do?" "What about you?" "Me? Naw! Hell naw. Well, I feel a bit strange when she gets really, really close. Sorta hot. Ya awright there, Nate, yer shoulders are shakin'?" "Fine," answered Nathan trying not to laugh at his normally shy friend, "You've never felt like that before?" The tracker gave it careful consideration, "No, not like that exactly," he said softly, "This is a mite different. Ya ever feel like that?" "No," lied Nathan. "Reckon that's all it is then, animal magnetism."

The tracker seemed relieved to have hung a label on his strange feeling. Nathan realized that he always forgot how young Vin was. Living the hard life of a buffalo hunter and then bounty hunter had made it difficult for him to experience things other young men took for granted. Having a $500 bounty on your head meant carousing and chasing women every night was out of the question if you wanted to stay alive.

As Nathan watched in rapt fascination, Vin replaced the clay pots, hooked silver and shell earrings through his earlobes and braided strands of his long hair adding his eagle feather before adjusting the medicine bag around his neck. Nathan was amazed to see how Vin gradually took on the appearance of his Indian mother's side of his family, comfortable with his Indian heritage. Realizing that Vin Tanner was also two men living in one skin.

Sitting cross-legged on the buffalo robe Vin unwrapped other items and placed them reverently on the robe in front of him.

"Vin?" Nathan asked both shocked and surprised, "Are you going to smoke the pipe?"


"Is it what I think it is?"


"Is that wise?" Nathan stared at the man who so often exasperated the healer by his repeated refusal to take even a small dose of much needed laudanum without being nailed to the bed first.

"Necessary," rasped the tracker.

Nathan knew there was nothing else to be said.

+ + + + + + +

Things best not named scuttled over Larabee's body and face as he unsuccessfully tried to fight the skeletal grip that sought to drag him down into the putrid depths. On opening his eyes he found he was struggling to wade knee deep in what seemed to be thick black ash. A hard black rain lashed him. Smoke stung his eyes and the heat from volcanic geysers sending jets of red hot lava upwards scorched his skin. Molten pools bubbled and frothed, eagerly waiting for him to fall in.

"Hell..." he croaked as the horrendous truth hit him.

The jagged outlines of a horde of black misshapen forms came towards him, talons outstretched to seize him, foul breath reeking, red eyes glowing in the darkness.

+ + + + + + +

In front of Nathan's eyes the tracker's cross-legged form rippled outwards as if a stone had skimmed the smooth surface of a lake to finally land in the water with a dull plop. Years spent living in the chattel houses while enslaved on the plantations had led Nathan to witness many strange supernatural happenings but even he was spooked as the tracker's breathing became shallower and shallower.

A fierce hot wind whistled through the rocks. Whipping up the dust that threatened to sandpaper Nathan's skin off his bones. The high pitched keening of a circling bird of prey wailed a warning high above Nathan. A clap of thunder echoed like the crack of doom in a cloudless azure sky, the pungent smell of ozone filled the charged air. Everything capable of escaping scurried away. The hair stood up on the back of Nathan's neck. Skin prickling with cold sweat, heart beating wildly, fighting the prehistoric instinct to flee, the healer was certain a preternatural entity loomed at his back. Trying to make himself small and insignificant he hoped to be overlooked. Certain that the phantom thing was there for Vin and was fully expected by the tracker.

A shadow darker than night fell across the cross-legged figure of the tracker, his long hair lifted in a caressing breeze, the shell earrings moved slightly and a shy smile flitted across the tracker's tanned face as if in welcome. His upper body flinched, perhaps responding to a spectral finger running up and down the length of his twisted spine. Tanner's head rested on his chest, accompanied by a dry rattle his shallow breathing seemingly stopped altogether.

Nathan reached nervously across the buffalo robe and took Tanner's now limp wrist in his hand. There was barely a pulse. Tanner was no longer on the flat rock. What remained behind was only an empty shell. Nathan hoped to whatever gods there were that Tanner knew exactly what it was he was risking.

+ + + + + + +

The encircling heavy iron chains weighed him down as the whip cut deep into his flesh to keep him constantly moving endlessly forward. Claws raked at him and bestial creatures flitted past his eyes. Viciously taunting him, threatening to blind him, to rip out his tongue. The desperate cries and shrieks of the infernal damned assailed his ears. The physical pain was indescribable but far worse was the bitter knowledge that this was his fate for all eternity. Tears streaked his face as a colossal shadow fell over him bringing with it the light.

+ + + + + + +

Tanner knew the way. He ran. Hiding from time to time behind soot blackened boulders. He had no time to spare a moment of sympathy for the multitude of broken and lost souls he saw on his journey. He had only a slim chance of finding the one doomed soul he was seeking. He couldn't squander this brief time before he was discovered. He had accepted that. The sure knowledge that he would never again leave this place if he was caught but that he was the only man alive who could find Larabee and free the gunfighter forced him to close his ears to their eldritch screams.

+ + + + + + +

The smell of sulfur burned his nose, eyes and throat as he squinted upwards. He had expected horns and cloven hooves. He had expected suppurating sores and weeping pustules. A red forked tail and maybe even a trident. He had not expected ethereal Angelic beauty.

Long blond hair rippled over the golden shoulders barely covered by the clinging iridescent gossamer gown. The draft from huge feathered wings wafted a perfumed cooling breeze over his dirt streaked face.

A thunderous laugh shook the unstable surface Larabee was kneeling on.

"Everything in The Holy Book is true. I am God's most beautiful Angel and I bring the light," it said as Larabee knelt helplessly at its perfect feet.

"God help me," sobbed Larabee desperately.

+ + + + + + +

The hunter had found his quarry at last. Sitting crouched on the edge of the glowing rock, the tracker's painted face gave him all the outward appearance of a brooding cathedral gargoyle.

"Look at me!" it commanded towering over him.

"I ain't gettin' a crick in m' neck," rasped Tanner.

A deep vibrating voice muttered something in a guttural language never meant for human ears.

"Ain't listenin' ta no devil talk neither."

"What makes you think you can make stipulations, monkey?"

"Yer the one always wantin' somethin', I ain't wantin' nuthin' off ya," he lied.

Tanner glanced at the matched katana and wakizashi swords with the slightly curving blades and ornate hilts knowing just how sharp those blades were and how unlikely they were to ever break.

"I saved you from drowning. I saved you from the blizzard. I saved you from the fever with no cure. I have watched over you since you were four years old. You must remember?"

"That I do."

"Yet still you are insolent, monkey."

"Never asked ya ta save me from the river. It were fer yer own twisted amusement."

"No, it was because your mother was the bravest women I ever met."


It cocked its head first to one side and then the other studying him. "Now you have six other such brave souls to ride with you, little monkey."

"Ain't a little monkey."

"You are whatever I say you are, Tanner!" it warned its booming voice capable of making men's ears bleed.

"Ya cain't put a scare inta me."

"Is that a dare?"

"Reckon somewheres I got a Guardian Angel ta protect me."

"You had!"


It covered the distance between them at such a speed he felt only the draft of its three sets of leathery wings. "You did have one but I slew it!" it hissed in his ear, speaking with a legion of voices that resonated inside his head and made it ache.


"I was jealous of it, monkey. God's Angels are so insufferably smug. All that holier than thou talk, you have no idea how boorish they are. So I hacked off its wings with my sword just to watch it crash and burn."

"Ya wouldn't do that. It wouldn't be right. Such evil is beneath even ya."

"You do know Angels carry fiery swords don't you? They don't really sit on clouds plucking harps all day. Whenever I come across one they are fair game for a Tartarean demon such as I."

"God wouldn't let that happen."

"You know God has no mandate over me! He let me fall from Heaven! Cast me out. He can't save you, monkey. You belong to me now. Heaven is closed to you. I condemn you to walk this earth again and again, unless one day I choose to open the Gates of Hell to you!" raged The Demon as what at first had appeared to be a number of long braids of platinum hair writhed around the flawless face like so many venomous serpents.

"I look like I believe ya?"

"I look like I care what you believe?" The Demon asked, the seraphic smile back in place.

"I saved you last time."

"Is that what you think? That you saved me from those two bumbling idiots?"

"Did too."


"Fer savin' the likes a ya? Reckon I is."

"Shall I say thank you?" pouted The Demon.

"Good manners don't cost nuthin'."

The red-eyed demonic figure sighed resignedly, "So you have sought me out. What is it that you desire?"


"Another miserable monkey? Ask for more than that, you misguided fool. Power, gold, jewels, beautiful women falling at your feet, entire kingdoms, whatever you ask for I can give you. Your heart's desire."

"Chris Larabee," repeated the tracker stubbornly.

Red eyes regarded him with disdain, "Larabee?"

"He made a pact with The Devil without knowin' it an' I's wantin' him back."

"Such a binding pact cannot be undone. This you know."

"Ya kin do it."

"You flatter me," said The Demon sardonically, with a low sweeping bow.

"He's trapped here in Hell an' ya can set him free."

"No. He made a bargain with very The Devil himself. I am powerless to intervene."

"Ya kin do it. I seen what ya is. Them fancy swords ain't fer show."

The scornful cackle of laughter hurt Tanner's ears. "You expect me to call out The Devil himself? Do battle on your behalf?"

"Ya owe me."

"Owe you? Owe you? You insignificant little monkey! I OWE YOU?" bellowed The Demon enraged.

"We kin trade."

"You, have nothing I want!" spat The Demon.

"My soul," declared Tanner defiantly.

"You would trade that?"

"Fer him? Yep."

"I do battle to free Larabee and in exchange you give me your soul?" pondered The Demon, obviously tempted.

"Ya gotta free Larabee's soul an' ya gotta vow never ta harm even a single hair on his head an' I reckon that's a fair bargain 'tween us."

"I will never ever understand your monkey kind or why God finds you so diverting." The Demon mulled over Tanner's offer, "Very well, this is our covenant."

+ + + + + + +

Horrified, Larabee realized this was only the start of his eternal torment. The Devil had greater tortures in store for him. Was ready to hurl him into the inferno only to pluck him back out and make him suffer all over again. Prayer would not help him now as he sat back on his heels and waited for his endless punishment to begin.

"I would throw this one back. He has nothing to make him any more riveting than all the other feeble monkey men God sets so much store by," drawled a silky voice accompanied by a yawn of boredom.

"Ah, no? I think he is quite easily as entertaining as that grubby little creature you take such an unholy interest in," answered the soft musical voice of The Devil.

Larabee raised his sweat soaked head and stared astonished at the newly arrived long-haired, chthonic beauty in the swirling jewel studded velvet coat.

"You are well aware that Tanner has no idea what he is. None of them know who they really are. It amuses me greatly to see him struggle daily with his human destiny."

"I could snuff him out more easily than a candle's flame," mocked The Devil.

Larabee climbed to his feet, staggering under the back-breaking weight of the iron chains. "No!" he yelled up at them but his voice wasn't strong enough to attract their attention and was carried away on the satanic winds. Falling back down on to his knees he could only listen helplessly.

"Then Tanner would truly belong to me," smiled The Demon.

Its eyes suddenly turned black as jet and it raised an elegant eyebrow to give a sly wink at Larabee. Before flicking out a long lizard tongue contrasting hideously with the Angelic face. The very sight of which frankly turned Larabee's blood to ice water.

"Why you are so intrigued by the blue-eyed monkey with so much shining Angel in him bewilders me."

"You once captivated me didn't you, Fallen Angel?" purred The Demon blinking red eyes coyly.

The Devil laughed harshly. "I hope you are not comparing me to him!"

"Tanner never backs down from a righteous fight whatever the odds and that has to be greatly admired even by the likes of us."

"Neither do I!"


"Any fight."


"Is that a challenge?"

"Only if you would care to make it worthwhile," shrugged The Demon. Carelessly tapping a high booted foot as silver spurs jangled Larabee's shredded nerves.


"We two fight a duel and the victorious winner takes Larabee."

"A duel?"

"Your own choice of weapons," offered The Demon graciously, resting a gauntleted hand on the hilt of the katana. "I am quite sure you know there is none with a greater mastery of the sword in Heaven or Hell than I?"

"You dare to think I am afraid of those human made swords?"

"I think it is only chivalrous to allow you a choice of weapons," bowed The Demon as the vipers falling around its shoulders writhed again.

"Then I choose swords!" exclaimed The Devil taking the bait.

"Then we fight?"

"For the mortal's soul!"

+ + + + + + +

Larabee opened his bloodshot green eyes wide as both radiant figures suddenly disappeared.



"Keep still, Larabee. Got ta git ya free a these chains."

"We can't hope to get out of this place, Vin."

"There's always Hope, Larabee. Still I don't trust either of 'em, Cowboy, so hurry---"


They ain't here, Cowboy. Sarah an' Adam were never in this place.


I swear it ta ya, Chris, they weren't never here.

Thank God.

Amen, Cowboy.

+ + + + + + +

The ground shook and as if emerging from the very bowels of Hell arose an impossibly dark, glutinous mass eventually metamorphosing into something resembling a great black winged Angel.

First it spread its wings shaking a few black feathers loose. The face started to change subtly. It was still eye-wateringly beautiful but that was because its fangs were hidden. The long horns revealed themselves, pointed and sharp. Then it shifted to its true size. Towering up over them both. It allowed its skin to glow first amber then red. The satanic ground around its feet singed. It rose a little way up in the air to keep from scorching all of the ground. The Demon's wings shifting up and down slightly as the glossy dense black and purple feathers spread out to their full span.

A forked tongue spat out venom that sizzled on the smoking ground and it swished its pointed scaly tail. Its red eyes hardened and its fangs extended downwards. Vicious, long curving talons shone blue black. The sword was already in its fist. Waiting.

The Devil manifested in front of Larabee and Tanner. The Devil's hairy skin too glowed a fiery red as the feathers fell away to reveal thick leathery black wings set high, that beat the air with their own peculiar rhythmic sound. Long curved horns were as black and as shiny as ebony. The once beautiful face was now a hideous grimacing mask that made even Tanner's blood run cold. It wielded a massive burning sword with an odd wavy edge to the blade.

Their swords clashed at once. Deafening the eternally damned with a sound resembling a thunder strike. They slashed and parried. Screaming with ear-splitting demonic rage, frustration, pain and bloodlust. They rose high up into the fetid air framed against the flaming crimson sky. Twisted and writhed dragon-like far above the two watching mortals. Soaring, diving and almost falling to the ground. Venom and blazing sweat fell down as acid rain.

Until at last blood. Thick and black it gushed noxious smelling from The Devil's severed arm. Again the ground beneath the two

watching men quaked and then came the silence.

+ + + + + + +


It was Nathan's voice full of concern.

"Vin?" moaned Chris.

Nathan glanced towards the body covered from head to foot in the white buffalo robe.

"He's gone, Chris."


"He let out a soft sigh then there was no longer a pulse. No sign of life."

"No! No! NO!"

Larabee crawled painfully across the rock inch by inch and threw back the buffalo robe to reveal Tanner's face rigid and gray. Trembling, he stroked the long hair back from the smooth brow. Kissed the blue lips of his soul mate before taking Tanner in his arms and hugging his friend's lifeless body close to his own broken heart.

+ + + + + + +

"Tanner! Larabee and his cursed soul are free and now you in turn owe me your soul. I demand it now."

Tanner shrugged, "Cain't give ya what I ain't got," he rasped.


"Ya let it go."

"How dare you speak in riddles to one such as I, Tanner! I want your execrable little monkey soul and I want it NOW!"

"Ya set it free."

"I SAID HAND IT OVER NOW!" commanded The Demon.

"Chris holds it safe. Two hearts, one soul. He's always had it an' I reckon he ain't fixin' ta ever be parted from it."

"Then I'll hunt him down, take him slowly and let him watch me rip it out of his dying cadaver."

"Ya gave me yer solemn word ya weren't ever gonna harm a hair on his head. It was our covenant, Demon."

"You impudent little monkey! You tricked me! YOU DARED TO TRICK ME!" roared The Demon shaking first with a boiling rage that gradually subsided into laughter. "I should slay you at once you hairy little ape!"

"Yeah but ya won't," grinned Tanner.

"No, I won't because God's ridiculous little pet world is much more curious with you still in it, Poppet," it cackled.

"Aw shucks an' don't call ever me Poppet in front a Larabee."

+ + + + + + +

"Nate?" he rasped.

Both men stared slack-jawed at the tracker held in the gunfighter's arms.

"What?" drawled the tracker. "I's gotten drool on m' chin?"

"You had no pulse," accused Nathan.

"I's kinda got fixed up."

Nathan stared hard at Tanner before looking up at Larabee. "Ain't you gonna say something to him? Because to Hell with the hippocratic oath I'm 'bout ready to go Old Testament on his ass and kick him senseless," he said with one of his beautiful smiles that belied all his angry words.

Gazing down, Larabee scrutinized Tanner's face for a long time. Stared deep into his eyes. Seeing the dark lines that the last few fear filled hours had etched around the younger man's eyes and mouth.

"Why all the warpaint?" the gunfighter asked eventually.

"Ain't wantin' all them other demons I knows down there recognizin' me. Coulda meant big trouble fer us," drawled Tanner with a wink.

"Dear Lord above," groaned Nathan shaking his head.

"The Demon, Vin, what's his true name?"

"She, Cowboy, it's a she-demon."

"Tanner, it was definitely male."

"I knowed it since I were four years old, Cowboy. It's a she-demon."

"No wonder you're confused when it comes to women."

"I's sure gotten a hankerin' fer Miz Nettie's peach pie, Cowboy," shrugged the tracker, "Goin' ta Hell an' back fer ya is mighty hungry work."

+ + + + + + +

Larabee spent some time out at his small ranch taking special care of a still shaken Pony. While keenly missing Sarah's gentle touch and Adam's happy, childish laughter as much as he ever did.

"Vin Tanner tells me you have possession of his soul. I don't expect you would care to hand over what is rightfully mine?" asked a deep voice.

The resplendent figure standing in front of him was dressed in a long black coat, open to reveal a bare muscular chest, that reached down to shining silver spurs. While wearing an ugly black hat over what appeared to be waist length platinum blond hair.

"No, I wouldn't care to," spat out Larabee.

"Care to reconsider that? Is a little monkey soul worth the pain I bring you?" mocked The Demon.

Brought to his knees Chris felt the agonizing pain in his chest as if a hot burning hand had reached inside him and was squeezing his still beating heart.

"Ah, fire frightens you still does it not? You are so afraid it will come again and take everything? Their final screams, they keep you awake at night don't they? You hear them, see them, smell their scorched flesh, fires illuminate your nightmares. You thought there was nothing else the leaping flames could rob you of but there is now isn't there?" it hissed next to his ear even though it was clearly standing some yards away. "Every mortal has a different Hell to face. Yours was fire and ash. This is a glimpse of Vin Tanner's Hell."

Larabee was dragged down to a place worse than anything that could be imagined by the human mind.

"Nice?" laughed The Demon.

"Go to Hell! I'd die before I'd ever let you take him there!" shouted a horrified Larabee. "Do you hear me? I'd give up my life first!"

"What a dreadful curse it is to love him! We share that at least," sighed The Demon sounding almost human as it released Larabee.

Larabee pulled himself up onto his feet and glared defiantly at The Demon.

Circling Larabee, it tilted its head on one side and regarded the gunfighter thoughtfully. Its red eyes glowed with devilish amusement. "You have seen and know who, what, I am," it stated. "Know too that I watch over Vin Tanner."

"Is that why he screams in the night? Bears those scars? Why he is a Wanted man? You cruel son of a bitch," spat Larabee.

"How do you think a five-year-old survived at all?"

"Is that why Vin's Guardian Angel had to die? Why you murdered it? So you could steal its rightful place?"

"Is it dead?"

"Vin says you told him that you'd killed it."


"Did you?"

"Yes, I told him that." The Demon reached upwards, plucked a fruit from a nearby tree and took a single bite before throwing it down on the grass.

"Why did you kill it?" questioned Larabee watching aghast as the tree blackened, shriveled and died right before his eyes.

"I didn't."

"Is it alive or dead?" Larabee wanted to know.

"Alive. Most definitely."

"But you told him it was dead."

"I lied," shrugged The Demon, seemingly all its attention on a heavy gold cuff encircling its wrist.


"I didn't kill it. It is alive and well."

"Then why tell him such a monstrous lie?"

"Why did I lie?" scoffed The Demon, "It's what I do, tell lies. Trip and trap. Trick or treat? Chaos is my middle name so to speak. Lies are both what I say and do."

"You're nothing but a miserable liar?"

"The Prince of Lies," sneered The Demon. "Just between you and I," it confided in Larabee's ear, its inhuman voice both an animal roaring and a sibilant whisper, "my kind does very bad things."

"You're wicked!"

"Why, thank you, I didn't think you had noticed!"

"You're pure evil," snarled Larabee.

"Give the man a prize coconut! Can anything be 'pure' evil?" considered The Demon, "I think you mean unadulterated evil and yes, I am. Yet, I wouldn't hurt Vin."

"You could be telling one of your lies when you say that."

"You begin to bore me," yawned The Demon folding its arms across its broad chest, "and even for one such as you that could be dangerous."

"If you hurt him I'll find a way to destroy you whatever it takes," warned Larabee coldly, "You evil, lowdown, corrupted, lying sack of sh---"

The Demon placed its gauntleted hands over its ears until Chris had run out of expletives. "I've never heard such bad language! So I have to actually prove to you that I would never, can't ever, hurt our Poppet?"

"I have never seen the lion lay down with the lamb."

It abruptly vanished leaving only a mellifluous voice echoing in the sulfurous air.

"Then keep a watch, Guardian..."