Chapter Six: Last Chance
"Last chance, cousin. Y'all either give me the required info or I send up a red flare for Azazel to find y'all."
Dimme Teer jutted out her chin defiantly, holding back pearly tears, and her bony right hand squeezed Bart's rougher left apologetically. They were bound, hand and foot, to a pair of uncomfortable kitchen chairs.
"Very well, Jirjis," She said finally, her heart pounding in her ears, her hands clammy. "I'll tell you what you want to know."
"Now that's much better, Dimme." Jirjis drawled, smiling to display a row of disturbingly pointed teeth. "Now tell me about the Doors. The ones your dear lil' son intends to open."
"Haven't you realized by now, Jirjis?" Dimme taunted slyly. "He's already opened one of the Doors. Haven't you noticed all of these ghosts floating around?"
Jirjis did not respond immediately. "You could say that," He finally said, so quietly that Dimme and Bart almost didn't hear him at all. "Kate keeps coming nights to stare at me."
Dimme smirked. "That's what you get for murdering your wife, cos."
Jirjis ignored this. "So Azazel has opened which of the Doors?" He mused. "Not Heaven, definitely. And definitely not Hell, either. If he'd done that we'd all be dead by now."
"You'd be dead, Jirjis," Dimme remarked frostily. "I know a thing or two about avoiding demons. Anyway, isn't obvious? Azazel's opened the door to Purgatory, unless I'm very much mistaken."
"Hm," Jirjis absorbed this information carefully. "And he plans to open the Door to Hell next, I s'pose" He seemed completely oblivious to the two burly men hauling large sandbags full of reddish powder into the seedy kitchen and stacking them around the perimeter. Bart, however, did take notice, and his mind raced to try to find a way out.
Dimme shrugged. "How would I know? I have about as good an idea as to what's going through that boy's head as you do, cos. However, that would seem to be the logical choice. I'm inclined to think that opening the Door to Purgatory was his way of proving that he could do it."
"And he can," Jirjis sighed. "Well then, Dimme. You've been helpful, I s'pose. Boys! We're leaving now."
The two men brought in four more bags of red powder, and proceeded to lay them in a square formation around the two bound djinn.
Jirjis, as calm as you please, took out a gold plated lighter from his pocket, along with a cigarette. "Y'know something, cousin?" he began, sticking the cigarette into his mouth and lighting it easily. "You recall when I took my axe and chopped my beloved wife, Kate, into pieces of course."
Bart rolled his eyes. "Everyone remembers that, idiot. 1973, as I recall. You were mad at her for putting too much salt in a casserole, weren't you?"
Jirjis grinned horribly, exhaling a large cloud of bluish smoke. "Exactly right, Mister Aalesworth. I was mighty angry at her. Still am, a' course, since she's turned up again to haunt me. Nothing on y'all, though. I'm gonna enjoy this."
He lit the lighter once more, and held it to the sandbag closest to the door until it began to burn with a quiet red-and-white flame. "This here's thermite, cousin. It'll burn and burn till there's nothin' left to feed the fire. No amount a' water'll put it out. See y'all in Hell, and tell Beelzebub howdy from me!"
With that, Jirjis swaggered out of the slowly combusting shanty, leaving Dimme and Bart to burn.
"What do we do?" Dimme whispered to Bart, over the crackling of the flames. "We can't put it out, we can't use djinn power to get ourselves out... what are we going to do, Bart?"
The tears she'd been resisting before welled up in her dark eyes and crept their way, like silent thieves, down her pale face.
Bart, by stark contrast, was grinning. He had been examining the window opposite him. His right hand, the hand that was not clutched in Dimme's vice-like grip, slipped into his pocket and resurfaced with a gleaming silver pocket knife. He made short work of cutting first himself, then Dimme free of the ropes binding them to the chairs. He took Dimme by the hand once again, nodded reassuringly, and crashed through the window and out into the blinding snow.
Holly shivered suddenly, not so much from the cold as from the singular sensation that she was being watched by someone. She glanced at the rearview mirror that Alexandra was busily pretending she didn't know how to use. There was Dr. Moore's little silver car, directly behind them, but somehow Holly didn't think her odd shiver was because of them. She looked beyond the little silver Prius and felt her blood run cold. There, caught up in the February London traffic, was a sinisterly shadowy black Ferrari. Holly knew that Ferrari: it had once followed her the first time she, Mark, and Cas had come to London, with John and Philippa.
She still didn't know for absolutely certain, but Holly was fairly sure that the sinister black Ferrari belonged to Azazel. And he was following her again.
"Are we almost there?" Holly asked her mother impatiently, tugging both of her thick leather gloves off in order to pick at her brand new manicure nervously.
Alexandra rolled her eyes. "Yes, dear. We're almost there. Goodness, but you're as impatient sometimes!" Alexandra spotted a parking space at the curb and without hesitation, pulled into it, rear-ending a car parked behind them. She glanced sidelong at Holly. "What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost. You haven't seen a ghost, have you?"
Slowly, hardly daring to move, Holly shook her head and swallowed.
"Let's just go in and eat," She said, voice trembling. "I'm starving, aren't you?"
They met up with Dr. Moore and his daughter at the corner, and then crossed the street to Alexandra's 'little sandwich shop,' which was miraculously still in business, and went inside. Immediately, Holly's claustrophobia kicked in, leaving her feeling dizzy and nauseous, as well as giving her an unpleasant pit in her stomach as she took in the steamed-up front window, the half-dozen tables crammed in the front room, and the busy kitchen in the back, thinly veiled by a partial wall.
Almost immediately, a young woman came over to them and smiled somewhat obnoxiously. "Hallo!" she chirped. "Table for four, then?"
"Yes, thank you." Alexandra said imperiously, and the young woman, whose name was Michelle, led the foursome to an empty table pushed up against the eastern wall. Holly glanced over at Zoe, and saw (without much surprise,) that her fellow djunior djinn was also looking rather queasy in response to the surroundings.
What seemed like seconds later to Holly, they were all sitting around the table, each with a steaming mug of hot chocolate (or, in Alexandra's case, hot coffee,) and the two young djinn were listening tacitly to the adults' gushing conversation.
Holly's eyes wandered around the sandwich shop, and she examined the few other customers, in a vague hope that she'd forget about her claustrophobia.
In the corner sat a solitary blond woman, probably in her early or mid twenties, reading a newspaper while she waited for her food. At the table next to her, two similar-looking dark haired men in suits sat, both eating, and discussing something in hushed voices. A group of five subdued but still rowdy students filled the shop with their incessant chatterings. Otherwise, the shop was completely deserted.
The little bell attached to the door rang, signalling that someone was coming in. Both Holly and Zoe twisted around in their seats to see who it was, but Dr. Moore and Alexandra paid absolutely no attention to the skeletally thin girl decked out in expensive furs walking through the door.
Holly stared moodily into her mug of hot chocolate. She hadn't really wanted to come with Alexandra on a shopping trip in the first place, and right now, in the cramped sandwich shop, was the low point of the entire day. Almost without realizing it, Holly began to speak, though in little more than a whisper at first.
"In the moment before the dawn,
Three djinn will hear the Phoenix Song,"
Alexandra, laughing nervously, hissed "Holly, do please be quiet."
Holly couldn't obey. The voice coming from her, while it was still her voice, also wasn't hers, not exactly. She had the oddest feeling that someone or something was speaking through her, as though she was merely a receptacle.
"They'll follow the song to the ends of the Earth,
As the Enemy plots with malice and mirth,"
Holly's voice was louder now, and she became aware of the fact that everyone was listening to her speak.
"Time is running out for the souls of the dead,
Unless the mystic bird of orange and red,
Is sought out by the three purest of heart-"
"Holly," Alexandra grabbed the sleeve of Holly's red peacoat and dragged her daughter closer in order to hiss in her ear. "Be quiet. Now."
Holly tried, she really did, but whatever force was making her speak took over her movements as well, and it shook Alexandra off casually, making Holly stand up, attracting even more unwanted attention.
"To ask for its aid before the end starts.
Where their elders have failed, these three will succeed:
A djinni, a human, and an angel in need."
"Holly sit down right now, or-" Alexandra began, but stopped abruptly as Holly's body went limp, and she tumbled painfully to the floor.