Avast! A new update! Enjoy folks, and reviews would be very nice, not that I'm begging. :)

CHAPTER THE FOURTH - ROXANNE AND DEALS

"The police are still baffeled by who or what caused this gruesome homicide, and we'll keep you updated when the forensic results return. Until then, this case remains a mystery. I'm Roxanne Simpson, on scene."

"And cut" Stewart said, the red recording light on the camera winking off.

Roxanne's friendly and reassuring smile slipped and she puffed out a tired sigh, and she ran a hand over her dark hair that was tugged back intoa ponytail. It had been a tough day already, and the sun had risen mere hours ago. But with the newcasters ordering her to go report on two cases by 8am, and considering that she'd hardly slept last night because of her recurring nightmares, she was already exhausted. The make-up artists had had to apply an awful lot of foundation to hide the dark circles under her glazed eyes and the pinched ashen tone to her skin.

Roxanne turned around and came face to face with the crime scene. Beyond the vivd police tape that boasted no entry beyond this point, there lay a relativly quiet street in the outskirts of the city. The calm had been disturbed in the early hours by someone or something, and now the fresh-faced street was marred with four corpses. Roxanne had seen bodies before, and although they were na ugly sight that made her nauseous, this particular crime scene made her stomach churn and squirm.

The lifeless husks lay in the middle of the road within the heart of a shallow crater that had been caused by what appeared to be a bomb. The tarmac had been scooped out and hurled in all directions, blasting the glass out of near by windows. The bodies themselves were twisted and bloodied, as if malwed by some sort of ferocious beast, their remains slightly scorched and ash streaks exploding outwards from the crater like a black charcoal star.

Roxanne shuddered are turned away. She suspected with a chill of dread that no human had been involved in this murder. A few months ago she would have been highly skeptical if someone suggested something otherworldy had commited this brutal act. But after the events of San Venganza, and been thrown into a world where demons and fiery, skeletal bounty-hunters existed, her views had changed.

Then her eyes widened as a familiar face came closer to her, squeezing past the thick crowd of policemen, scientists, reporters and bystanders. Her heart fluttered a little and a smile tugged at her lips as she saw Johnny approaching her, but she suddnely frowned in concern. Why was there blood pumping out of his nose?

"Hey Roxanne" Johnny greeted, his faint smile turning into a grimace. As well as a face covered in crimson, his usaully quite neat hair was ruffled, his leather jacket dusty and even torn a little.

"What happened to you?" asked Roxanne looking him up and done. "Is your nose broken?"

"It's alright, I'm fine" he replied shaking his head slightly.

"Got into trouble with a ... you know what?" she asked, lowering her voice.

"Ah-huh" Johnny said with another pained expression, but this had nothing to do with the wound he'd recieved. Suddenly, his bright blue eyes became anxious and he said to Roxanne "Listen, I want you to be careful. If you ever suspect anyone of being something they're not, then stay awy from them."

"What do you mean, Johnny?" answered Roxanne with confusion as they squeezed out of the crowd.

His eyes flickered from left to right and back and he rubbed the back of his neck. "The demon I got into a scuffle with today," he murmered. "He was, well he was Blackheart's son."

"His son?!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah," said Jonny with a breif nod of the head. "I didn't know either, till he smashed my face in. What I'm trying to say is that being his son, he'll probably have the same sort of ideas as Blackheart, as well as picking up a few tricks from his dear ol' grandpa. So you know what that means?"

"Don't worry, I'm a big girl, I can look after myself," Roxanne smiled, playfully punching him on the shoulder.

"Ow" Johnny winced, and rubbed the spot. "There was a bruise there."

"Sorry, honey" said Roxanne.

"What's going on here, anyway?" questioned Johnny, looking at the hive of fearful activity around him. "I reckon it's something big."

"Four bodies," answered Roxanne grimly. "And to me, they don't look as if they've were killed by humans."

Johnny's eyes widened, then darkened as he scowled. "How come I didn't sense this?"

"The forensics think it happened a few hours ago. You were probaly occupied with fighting off Blackheart's son."

"Hrmmm" was all Jonny said.

"You can go see for yourslef if you want" Roxanne suggested.

"Yeah, I think I will" he said distractedly.

**

Upon a nearby building, Loki sat perched on the precipice, a crow-like ink blot against the cerulean morning sky. He sighed as a cold wind ruffled his hair, bowing his head.

The Rider had hammered home some vital points that he'd foolishly overlooked. There was always the chance that Mephisto had decieved him to help carry out his own wicked plans. But what if he'd genuinly meant it?

Pft, unlikely! he thought.

But now he was tangled up in this business, and either way he had to kill the Rider or share his father's fate. He shivered inwardly: the Traitor's Circle was the place both mortal and immortal feared above all of Hell's other God-forsaken pits. Perhaps he would have felt pity for his father, trapped in those darkest of depths, but it didn't quite form in his cold heart. But if not, what was it that fueled him to risk his own life to save a creature that despised him? He didn't know anymore.

But then there was another option. The Rider said there were other methods, other ways, other theories that could release a demon from the Underworld's prison. Why wouldn't there be?

But he had no idea how he was supposed to do this. Maybe if he got help, or asked someone...

His thoughts were shattered by a sudden ear-splitting crack like a whip snapping in the air. Loki leapt to his feet and swivelled around, fists clenched.

"How are things, Loki? Having fun in the mortal world?"

A demon stood a few feet away from him. Dark crimson hair fell in messy braids over his broad shoulders, a long coat tugged westward by the wind. His expression permanantly settled into a smug, sneering leer, a coy, malicious smirk constantly tugging at his lips that when parted revealed rows of stained teeth like a shark. Between a narrow nose sat two watery black pools for eyes, intense with an almost animalistic desire for flesh and blood dancing in the shadowed depths.

Loki's fists unclenched, but only a little. He cocked his head to one side. "Ciardha?"

"Aye," the demon called Ciardha replied, taking a step closer. His hulking form towered over Loki. He grinned, but it was devoid of warmth. "Like what I did down there?" nodding over the edge.

Loki's eyes flickered to the crime scene. "You did that?"

"Aye. Sometimes I get bored. Killing humans has always been great sport, and I would have done away with more if I'd had the time. You and me will have to go hunting for humans one day, Loki. Rip out a few eyes, grind a few bones, eh?"

"Yes" agreed Loki distractedly. He didn't mind killing when he needed to, but he didn't get as much of a kick out of claiming human lives than other demons. His human blood was to thank for that.

"But what are you doing here, Ciardha?" continued Loki. "You're not just here to discuss sport?"

"Nay, as you guessed. I hear you're trying to free Blackheart, for whatever reason that is."

Loki stiffened. "You know about that?"

Ciardha guffawed deeply, and it rattled Loki's bones. "Every demon in Hell knows about it, maybe even Blackheart himself, if he can hear anything between his own screams."

"Seems word get's around fast in the Underworld" Loki scowled.

"Anyway, I'm here to help you?"

"Come again?"

"I'm offering to help you kill the Ghost Rider."

"But why?"

Ciardha frowned, a low growl boiling in his thick throat. "We've fought in the past. We have things to reslove. And I'm extremly tempted to tear his bony head off and squash it between my hands." His fists shook before him, as if he were imagining doing the action there and then. "Besides, you need my help."

Loki paused. He didn't want to fall into another sticky deal. However, maybe this was just what he needed...

"Help me kill him by midnight" said Loki, shoving out a hand.

Ciardha shook it, his grin broadning. "Bring it on."