AN: This is seriously AU for me, OK, downright lurid... I had this weird idea, maybe six months ago now, listening to a golden oldies program, and I thought, "I'll never write that, it's too far-out."
I told the idea to Angel of Clay, who said "Write it for Halloween," which I thought was a brilliant idea, so thanks for that, Angel! This is for you. Or, all your fault.
Title and inspiration from Bobbie Gentry's song, but not a song fic.
Mention of the lovely Kath Wigg, from some of my previous stories. If you've not come across her before, she and Gibbs have an occasional... thing.
I Saw an Angel Die
The demon breathed heavily, grunting, gurgling and snorting. It was lame, and tormented by unceasing fire, daggers driving into its brain, but it had a destiny to fulfil. Ahead of it the angel ran, stumbled, staggered, and the demon slowly closed in on it. Among the dark, windy trees the blood-splashed figure of light was easy to see, and the demon howled its rage as it drew closer. The angel's wings beat feebly, but couldn't raise it from the ground, and the demon was upon it. The angel didn't resist, and the demon laughed in triumph and scorn. It snarled, and tore, and slashed – only death on its mind –
Abby sat bolt upright with a long, tearing gasp, and stared around her dark bedroom, still seeing the images of her nightmare floating on dim walls of shadow. She hugged the quilt and rocked back and forth, crying and moaning softly. This time... this time the dream had been worse... the worst it had ever appeared. Faces... of good and evil... faces of her friends... she switched the light on and tried to banish the pools of darkness... shadows that were usually her friends clawed at her like the demon clawed at the angel. She mewed helplessly... the angel had Tony's face... the demon... no... no... the demon was Gibbs.
Tony stood still, looking thoughtfully down at the corpse at his feet. Jimmy went quietly about his job, bearing the scene with fortitude, much like his friend. This was weird, the Italian was thinking. Gibbs didn't believe in coincidences, but what else could this be, for freak's sake?
Jimmy looked up. "First findings indicate your theory was correct," he said formally, until Tony shook himself out of his reverie and raised an eyebrow that said 'really, Jim?' "All right, all right, you thought right. He didn't die here; he was dumped. Clear lack of blood considering the number of wounds; it's reasonable to assume that he bled out somewhere else, but of course I'll know more later." He paused. "Here's something rather strange though..." and Tony bit down on his desire to say 'yes, Dr. Mallard?' "Settlement also says he's been moved, but it suggests that he died in a very strange position. On his knees, his arms hanging at his sides, left shoulder jammed up against something, and leaning forward with his face pressed up against some flat surface, with a deep vertical groove."
Tony hunkered down, and looked closely at the bruising that Jimmy showed him; he'd seen enough over the years to make him agree at once. "Maybe a door? This –" he indicated the vertical mark that Jimmy had been very observant to spot on the ravaged face – "would be the crack between the door and the frame? I'd ask if he was trying to get out, but there are no marks on his hands."
Jimmy nodded. "Unlike just about everywhere else. He's covered in bruises, Tony. Both Gibbs and Dr. Mallard are always telling me never to assume, but if it weren't for the lack of damage to his hands, I'd say the pattern of cuts suggests self-infliction. With parallel instruments, like finger-nails."
"But what finger-nails could cause damage like that? They'd have to be claws. What about these marks? Was he tied up?"
Jimmy lifted the dead man's wrist. "Some sort of constriction, but broad, like a strap, not a rope. You'll find out," he finished confidently.
Tony knelt there for a while, thinking about coincidences, as Jimmy watched him in puzzlement, until a voice said sharply, "Ya going to move any time soon, DiNozzo?"
The SFA didn't react with any sort of surprise, even if the tone of voice suggested he was slacking; always be aware of your surroundings even when you're having some truly odd thoughts... "Oh, Hi Boss... just thinking here." He rose fluidly to his feet. "D'ya think maybe I should always stand up to think? Maybe I'll fall over with the effort when I'm crouching down. Dr. Palmer there's just had some very interesting thoughts -"
"DiNozzo..." Gibbs said almost soothingly; he'd caught the reproachful edge in Tony's voice. He hadn't actually meant to imply Tony wasn't pulling his weight, and anyway, comments like that usually rolled off the Italian like green peas escaping from a fork. "Somethin' bothering ya?"
"Hah, Boss, I'm fine. Just didn't sleep so well, is all. I'll go see if any of the guys on the taxi rank saw anything." He loped away, and Gibbs watched him go with a slight frown, then turned to Jimmy.
"So, Doctor Palmer..." The newly fledged MD allowed himself a warm glow at the approval behind the Marine's seemingly mocking tone.
Didn't sleep well... you bet he didn't. After calming a semi-hysterical Abby down over the phone, Tony had of course not taken her at her word when she said she didn't need him to come over, and twenty minutes later he'd been there.
"Me... an angel, Abs? Come on..." he'd spoken into her hair as she clung to him frantically. "C'mon, over here, sit down... I'll make a hot drink." She muttered something into his chest. "No... you can not have a CafPow. Mmm? I don't care if I do sound like your big brother. I am your big brother."
She'd still been trembling from head to foot. When he'd got her steady, she'd told him every detail of the dream she'd had; details like the parallel slash marks on the demon's own body, great long bloody ones on its thighs. Gashes to its cheeks – caused by its own long claws, as if it had tried to tear its own face off. Details like the white clothing of the angel splattered with vivid red blood, its wings thrashing ineffectually as it tried to rise... so OTT, Tony had thought, but it had taken Abby apart – so after his original derision he wasn't going to laugh.
"I still wonder why your subconscious would put me as the victim... or more importantly, Gibbs as the monster. You love him... you don't see him like that."
"I know, Tony. That's why it was so bad..."
He'd stayed there, lying on her bed and cuddling her until it was time for them both to go to work, and although they'd dozed, you couldn't have called it sleeping. But he'd been instructed not to tell Gibbs, and he hadn't been going to anyway... so here he was, feeling like a dishevelled and bad tempered hedgehog, getting half a dozen variations on a theme of 'didn't see a thing' from the taxi drivers.
They'd caught this case late in the day; it had been quiet up until after lunch, and he'd hoped it'd stay that way; maybe he'd do pizza and a movie with Abby tonight and make her feel a bit better; see she got a decent night's sleep. She loved Halloween, but she always did seem to get a bit fey in the build-up to it.
He made his way back across the grass to the crime scene, where Jimmy and his temporary assistant were about to take the murdered sailor away, looking round casually to see who was rubbernecking. Dog walkers, (they'd spoken to them,) the taxi drivers of course, from a distance... passers by, who hurriedly did just that. There was the guy who drove the park's mower, and who'd found the body. His machine stood idling at a distance, belching out gasoline exhaust, the smell of it overpowering the much more pleasant aroma of newly cut grass.
The guy himself smelled of sweat and ganja, and looked like an overweight Hell's Angel wannabe in a leather jacket too hot for the day, with a design even Abby would have thought over the top. As Tony drew closer, he heard the man telling Gibbs in dire tones, "No, I didn't see nothin' unusual. Except the body. The taxi drivers... they're Latinos..." as if that made them all weird. "They say there's a bad spirit haunts these parts..." It was a good job he heard that bit, and had time to compose himself before the guy went on ghoulishly, "a demon. Not the first time someone's died around here at the hands of a slasher. A demon with claws... that slashes its victims to pieces."
"Demon my ass," Gibbs said shortly. "Think sick minded human who hurts people for fun." He walked away, feeling the venomous glare the man sent after him across his shoulders, and not giving a shit about it.
Tony had his cell phone out instantly. Gibbs shot him a look; he knew exactly who his SFA was calling at Metro PD. The Italian answered him with a broad grin; and while he had the phone in his hand he took a picture of Mr. Lawnmower Ghoul. He'd already got the taxi drivers, and as many of the dog walkers as possible; where they were too far distant he'd still snapped the dogs.
By the time they returned to the Yard, Kath Wigg had come up trumps; there were two other cases that possibly matched their sailor. A longshoreman at the commercial docks had been found dumped in the same area ten weeks ago; the parallel gashes all over him had been thought to have been caused by the multiple hooks on a bar that stevedores used to lift crates. Another docker with a history of violence and a beef with the dead man was awaiting trial, protesting his innocence.
The other was from about a month ago; and over the state line into Maryland; something that Kath had insisted on after her promotion to Captain was that the sharing and collating of information between the many police departments in the area should be of the highest possible standard.
A young construction worker had left the site he was working at after a late shift and was walking to his car. He'd been jumped by a shadowy figure emerging from a dark corner, that slashed wildly at him and repeatedly hissed 'No such thing...' The young man was strong, and fought his attacker off, his yells soon attracting his workmates, and the figure had run. He hadn't a clue why he'd been attacked or what the words meant, but he had parallel slashes on his arms, chest and back, which he said burned like fire. When his injuries were treated, it was discovered that the weapon had been coated with formic acid. He'd made a good recovery, and was back at work.
"Need the evidence from Metro," Gibbs said abruptly, getting up from his chair.
Tony just gave his Boss that grin again. Grin? Leer... "Say hello to Kath from me," he said in a cheerful undertone.
"I'm going for coffee, DiNozzo," Gibbs growled.
"I know that, Boss... but won't you want to collect the file from the other case, and the physical evidence from Metro while you're about it? There's a really good coffee shop in Indiana avenue... practically opposite the door..." Gibbs growled something unintelligible and stomped out.
Tim set out to track the movements of the murdered sailor, and to ensure that if there were any reports of large amounts of spilled blood being discovered they'd be told. Ziva studied witness statements to look for discrepancies. Tony looked up Mr. Lawnmower Ghoul, for no particular reason other than his gut, and found him unremarkable in every way. A parks and gardens employee without a stain on his character. He huffed, and under the genuine guise of discovering more about formic acid, went down to see Abby.
"How ya doin', babe?"
"Tony... I don't know who that was an impression of, but it was pretty bad."
"Guess it must have been if you don't know who it was."
"So who was it?"
He looked innocent. "No idea," he said, and got the laugh he'd been hoping for. "So... you look strained, Abs. How are you doing?"
Abby frowned, searching for the words. "Not... not peaceful. I've not had a CafPow all day, I feel so wound up. I keep having that dream, Tony! I keep having it and it keeps getting worse. Dreams mean something... I'm afraid! She grabbed his upper arms and rubbed her thumbs over his biceps. "I'm worried about you, and I'm worried about Gibbs. He killed you! In the dream, he killed you, Tony!"
"I know, Abs... but could you see the real Gibbs killing me – uh-oh, don't answer that one..."
She pushed her face into his shoulder, and her muffled voice said plaintively, "Not funny, Tony!"
"Yeah... well, he's gone to see Kath Wigg; he's out of harm's way for the moment."
Abby pushed herself away from him. "What? You let him go off somewhere by himself? Tony, what were you thinking of? You mustn't let him out of your sight!"
Now it was Tony's turn to frown. "Well... apart from the fact that once Kath's name was mentioned there was no way he was going to take company, if it's me he's going to kill, isn't he out of harm's way if I'm not with him?"
"No way. Not if he's with Kath. You call him." She glared. "OK... tell me about formic acid, and I'll find an excuse to text him."
"Why d'you want to know about formic acid?"
Tony took her gently by the shoulders, and told her about the slasher.
"You always let it get to you too much, man..."
"But he said it! He said 'demon my ass'! He doesn't believe!"
"You gonna take care of him like the others, though, aren't you?"
The room was dark, and smelled pretty ripe; sweat, ganja, and blood. The floor was damp, and a hosepipe was coiled near the door. A couple of candles illuminated the clutter, a strange hotchpotch of collected items. There were voodoo dolls, black candles, a few animal skulls that Lawnmower Ghoul had found in the park, an eyeless rabbit's head... A psychiatrist would have said this was the lair of someone who had an imagination and a yearning towards black magic, but didn't have the first idea, and lacked the drive to do the research. They'd have been right.
On one wall, painted direct onto the rough wood of the shed, was a picture, about four foot square, dimly lit by the candles. It was well executed; the painter had some skill. An angel lay on the ground, a tangle of wings and limbs; a demon stood above it, poised for the kill, howling its triumph at a black, fire-filled sky.
Lawnmower Ghoul took the roach that his friend passed him, and drew deeply, gazing up at his own work adoringly.
"Man," his friend muttered irritably, (Tony would have recognised the third taxi driver he spoke to,) "If you'd worked at painting, you'd be rich and famous by now, not driving a mower for the district..."
Lawnmower Ghoul shrugged. "I ain't sharin' my inner soul with anyone, 'well, 'cept you. You still got stuff?"
"Sure," the taxi driver said, "left it in here for you." He pulled a drawer open; there was a plastic jar with a self-venting lid, some bee-keeping paraphernalia shoved to the back, and a couple of sharps in a hard plastic case with a transparent lid. The mower driver looked and smiled. He took out a cell phone.
"Special Agent Gibbs? You said to tell if I found stuff. Yeah, somethin'... a jacket... yah, blood. By the trees – by the drinking fountain. Yeah, I'll stay till you get here."
The link was definitely there – Abby found that tissue samples taken from Seaman Arkin's wounds contained formic acid. She was deeply disturbed by what Tony had told her, and he stayed with her while she ran the tests.
While he waited, he contacted the pathologist at Metro PD to ask if any trace had been found on the murdered longshoreman. With the new information Dr Horton agreed to retest, and Tony called Kath's former sergeant, now Lieutenant Roy Fordham, since he didn't know the arresting officer, and didn't know how he'd take to the possibility of having the wrong man on remand.
"Ah, the delicacy of inter-agency diplomacy," he said airily, as he put his phone away.
Abby didn't smile. "Has Gibbs answered your text?"
"He doesn't know how to – he'd have to call, and no, he hasn't." He looked at his watch. "Five o'clock. Maybe he took Kath for a late lunch. I'll call him... Not picking up. I'll keep trying, and keep you posted, OK?"
"I will. I'm going to see if McGee's got anything, Abs. I think we're close on this one." She just bit her lip and nodded, watching him go.
Truth was, he felt somewhat uneasy himself; Gibbs might put his phone in a jam-jar in his basement, but he wasn't usually unreachable during working hours.
There was an update on his desk when he got back; he read it and his blood ran cold. The young man in Maryland, contacted by Kath's team that morning, had recalled something. The evening before he was attacked, he'd got into a silly argument in a bar, with a guy who insisted demons existed. He'd told him there was no such thing.
His phone rang; it was Jimmy. Tony – I got the photos from both cases, and I'll tell you two things. All three men's wounds were caused by the same weapons; there were two of them. The gashes are parallel, but a docker's tool has the hooks evenly spaced. There weren't – I've measured the gaps – it was a pair of claws."
"Make sure you fasten them tightly," Lawnmower Ghoul told Taxi-man, bending over the figure slumped unconscious at his feet.
"You always say that, man."
"Yeah, well, they've got to be like extensions of his hands... and they've not got to come off. Gimme the pot." Taxi-man passed the vented tub over; in it was a thick gel. He lifted one of the unconscious man's hands – it was encased in a glove that had long metal claws attached to the fingertips.
"Don't get it on your bare skin," Taxi-man said anxiously.
"Huh. You always say that."
"Well, it burns, man!"
"Only if you've got cuts. Which he will have soon enough. The others always cut themselves." He smeared the grey gel on the claws of both gloves. "Hey... he's wakin' up... gimme the stuff."
Taxi-man passed the needle, and his friend stuck it in the slumped figure's neck like he knew what he was doing. The man struggled, and Lawnmower Ghoul pulled him up by his silver hair. He held his chin so he couldn't escape. "Look there," he told him as he opened eyes that struggled to focus; forcing him to look up at the painting. "You believe... there are demons... your brothers... you are a demon..." He nodded at his friend, who opened the shed door.
Light flooded in, and Gibbs screamed in pain as it lanced through his head. Two dark shadows stood against the light. "See," the shadow that had already spoken said happily, "Light's your enemy. All light things are your enemies. You are darkness." The light disappeared, and the demon was alone.
It curled up in the corner of its lair. It didn't remember why it had slept, it didn't remember what it had done before it slept. It whimpered with pain, and tried to clutch its head, but its claws got in the way. It scratched its cheekbone accidentally, and screamed again at the fiery pain that flared.
Its head was full of hellish noise, its vision distorted into grotesque patterns and shapes in the dimness, and its whole body was out of control. It tried to stand up, but its flopping, tangled limbs wouldn't obey it; it fell back against a wall of its lair, and looked up at the picture of its brother.
The clearest thing in the darkness was the white figure of the angel; it was tangled on the ground just as he was. His brother demon stood over it... the angel had hurt him; his brother had killed the angel for him... That was the fate of demons and angels, to kill each other. The demon snarled and clawed at the picture. Angels must die...