Fallax paced outside the diner where Ashley worked his shift. He sighed and looked at the tacky bar and to its entrance. “Come on. Come on.” Leah walked up to his side. He turned to her. “Where have you been?”
She smiled, licking a chocolate ice cream cone. “An ice cream store round the corner. They’re fab.” She held the cone to him. “Want a taste?”
He grimaced and shook his head. She continued licking and shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Fallax pointed at the diner. “We’re supposed to be waiting for this Ashley guy to finish his shift and you go off buying ice cream?”
She stopped eating and looked at her companion. “Look. Firstly, our Lord told us we don’t have any restrictions. So I felt like having a chocolate ice cream.” She licked it. “Plus Ashley’s shift would be to an hour or half past the hour.” She looked over at Fallax’s wristwatch. “So it’s just coming up to five so he could be out in a few minutes.”
Fallax looked unconvinced. However, after a couple of minutes Ashley came out of an alley by the diner, dragging his bag. Leah was now licking her fingers clean of chocolate. “Thee?” She peered at Fallax with two fingers in her mouth. “Wha did I thay?”
They followed him as he slowly wandered. Fallax frowned. “Where is he going?” Eventually Ashley disappeared down a subway entrance.
Leah looked up at the street sign. “A subway access on 14th street, apparently.”
Fallax looked at her and his voice became sarcastic, “Amazing Holmes!”
As Leah led him down the subway steps, she spoke, “Nice Nigel Bruce impression.” She paused. “I met him once you know.”
“What was he like?”
“Charming gentleman. Very good at cricket.”
“How do you know about Bruce’s Doctor Watson?”
Fallax paused. As they reached the bottom of the stairs he spoke, “I don’t actually know. Strange. I must have heard him somewhere but-” He shrugged. “Oh well.”
They walked into the central area and saw Ashley waiting in a line of commuters wanting a MetroCard from one of the vending machines. Leah and Fallax queued a few people behind him. As Ashley began paying for his card Fallax peered at him.
Leah gazed around at the passing people. “I hope you’ve got the change to pay for both of us.” She glanced down at her tight fitting dress. “Obviously I don’t.”
Fallax looked down at her outfit and smiled. “Well you did choose to be a temptress.”
“Actually I didn’t choose. I was quite happy the way I used to be.” Fallax frowned but before he could answer Leah continued, “but that’s another story.” She nodded ahead of them, “Our turn.” Fallax reanimated, operated the machine and got two MetroCards.
They ambled, allowing Ashley to gain some distance before following him through the turnstiles and along the corridors to the tube.
The platform was crowded and Leah kept looking for Ashley, standing on her toes, peering over the people. A man standing by her looked up from his newspaper, lustfully surveying every contour of her body as she gazed at the crowds behind him. She glanced at him. “Don’t even think about it buddy. I’m with my boyfriend.” Fallax smiled at him. The man saw him as someone handsome, muscular and probably inclined to violence. He quickly looked down to study his paper.
They didn’t have long to wait but had to jostle with the people surging towards the tube. They managed to climb on board using a different door to Ashley but while Leah remained motionless, Fallax sought him out, his disguises masking him.
After a few moments Fallax returned. “He’s close to the next door. It’ll be easy to catch him up.” Standing near Leah was a man, holding a handkerchief to his bleeding nose. “Trouble?”
Leah glanced at Fallax. “Someone was having a go at feeling my ass.” Her eyes darted toward the man holding the handkerchief.
The tube continued gently rocking, passing several stations, stopping at some. Each time they stopped, they scanned for Ashley but still he stood motionless watching through the window at each passing platform.
When he moved closer to the tube doors, the two demons readied themselves for the next stop. Fallax perused the subway map at eye level, “We’re in Brooklyn.”
Leah nodded. “Remember I used to work in New York.” She paused. “Mind you, Brooklyn was a separate city back then.” Fallax frowned as he looked at her. She glanced at him. “And this subway wasn’t here either of course.”
As the tube juddered to a halt at the next platform and the doors opened, Ashley walked out while Leah and Fallax left via another door but still closely watched him. He didn’t notice them, lost in his own thoughts.
Cautiously, they followed, allowing him to gain some distance. After a while following Ashley, he suddenly entered a late night store. Leah turned to Fallax but, before she spoke, he answered, “Yes, I think I should go in.” He jogged to the store.
After little while, Ashley came out. Soon after Fallax strolled out. He walked towards Leah smiling. “This is a regular visit for him.” He turned and watched Ashley dragging his bag. “He even has deliveries here. I overheard his conversation with Mike, the cashier who obviously knows him and his mother. This Mike and his wife – I didn’t see her – sound like good people.” He pointed to the shop over his shoulder. “This could be a useful place for us.”
Leah nodded. “OK, I’ll go in and,” She looked down the street. Ashley could still be seen in the distance, dragging his cart. “You’ll go and follow our friend?”
Fallax nodded. “Agreed.” Fallax’s face became more serious. “And-”
Leah interrupted, smiling, “I know. I know.” Her voice sounded flat, as she recited, “We’re not supposed to ‘harm innocents’.” Fallax smirked and then ran off in Ashley’s direction.
For a short while Leah watched him running away until he slowed and paced his walk with Ashley as he neared him. Leah stirred and moved to the store. As she stood at the entrance, she scanned the exterior. Like so many stores in Brooklyn, Leah could see that the windows were reinforced with bars. She nodded to herself and walked in.
A well-groomed and middle-aged Indian man stood behind the cashier desk. Piles of small boxes and packets surrounded him; many of them were candy bars. Behind him was a wall‑mounted unit containing a huge number of cigarettes on long thin shelves. By them was an open doorway obscured by hanging beads. As soon as Leah walked in, he immediately focussed on her. She didn’t react but noticed him gazing at her figure. She smiled at him and wandered around the store, casually examining various items. She knew he was watching her but still she appeared nonchalant, looking at crisps and snacks and then at the racks of casual clothing arranged indifferently on hangers.
The shopkeeper could tell Leah wasn’t aiming to buy any of the things she was looking at. He leaned forward. “What can I do for you, my lovely lady?” Leah looked at him. She tilted her head slightly, detecting a slight Eastern European accent in his voice.
She smiled and wound her way nearer to him. “A friend left me near here whilst he went off to find someone we both know.”
The man looked shocked. “Left you - in this area? Dressed like that?” He looked down at her shapely outfit. Then a thought came to him.
“This ‘friend’ of yours, does he look after your - how shall I say – ‘business payments’?”
Leah smiled, understanding. He thought she was a prostitute. She opened her mouth but then hesitated, torn between her immediate chosen reply and coming to understand the Devil was, to her and to Lila, a kind of pimp.
She decided to stay with her chosen answer, “No, he doesn’t.” She smiled broadly. “We were coming from a party. I can take care of myself but, of course, in this dress,” She gradually looked down and sensuously whispered, “I do feel the cold.”
He stared across at her cleavage before stirring, answering hoarsely, “I bet you do.” He exhaled. “I bet you do.”
Leah smiled and swayed to his desk. She noticed him gulp and smiled again as she slowly twisted a strand of her hair, leaning on the desktop.
She quickly scanned the visible parts of the shelves under the surface and noticed some personal items. Then she looked closely at the man and murmured, “What’s your name?”
“Mike.” He smiled, noticing her slightly surprised expression. “Well, that’s actually what several customers started calling me. It’s caught on. My real name’s Farooq.”
Leah smiled. She paused, scrutinising him. “And you’re Muslim as well I take it.”
He started guiltily. “Yes. I- I am but I don’t advertise that these days. Not with recent things going on.” He looked at Leah’s low cut dress. “And yes, there are some people around the world who call themselves Muslim are,” He sighed, “very cruel to women,” He looked up and his face was tinged with sadness. “But, of course, many Muslims aren’t.”
Leah nodded in sympathy. “I know.” She reached out to touch Mike’s shoulder and her hand glowed slightly. He straightened his neck and smiled as his eyes became unfocussed. He opened his mouth, exhaled sharply and closed his eyes as he collapsed, knocking over some of the displayed items as he fell.
Leah glanced at his body and then swung up the hinged part of the desktop to stand by him. She bent down to hold his wrist and felt for his pulse. He was trapped in sexual dreams with Leah. She was distracted by a female voice. “Farooq? Farooq! Are you all right? I heard some banging.” Leah stood up and looked at the beaded open doorway. The voice became more insistent, “Farooq!” Leah moved the hanging beads to reveal a small dark room. She was almost face to face with a middle aged Indian woman. She started and spoke accusingly. “Who are you? Where’s my husband?”
Leah gave her a comforting smile and the woman calmed a little. “He’s OK. Just a few things fell over. He’s sorting things out now. He sent me in to reassure you.”
The woman screwed up her face. “I don’t believe you.” She neared Leah and sharply motioned to pass her. “Let me by.”
Leah nodded and extended a hand to gently touch the woman’s arm. Again her hand glowed slightly and the woman froze in shock. She swayed in confusion and turned to Leah blinking rapidly. “What are you doing to me-” Her eyes became unfocused. As she began to collapse, Leah reached out and caught her limp body, steering it to a sofa by them. The woman’s unconscious form slumped on the settee.
As with Mike, she took hold of the woman’s wrist and felt for her pulse. She was now also trapped in sexual dreams with Leah. Leah nodded and quietly uttered, “Stable as well. Good. Now then.” She stood straight and walked out to see Mike. He was still unconscious, untidily sprawled on the floor. Unemotionally, she crouched down and pushed her hands under his shoulders and began dragging him into the back room, grunting as she did. She let him go and as she stood up she looked at the two people. “Anyway, ‘night, night’ to both of you.” As she walked over Mike to the doorway, she continued speaking, “I know you’ll both have pleasant dreams.” She paused, looking down at Mike’s wife, “She’ll certainly have confusing dreams.” She smiled artificially at her, “Aw, bless. New feelings, no doubt.”
Leah then walked into the store and looked around. She went through the hinged opening in the counter top to the front door. She looked though the door windows and saw it was now raining. After a moment, assessing, she pushed two strong bolts at the top and bottom of the door and turned the sign to display ‘CLOSED’ to anyone outside. As she turned away, she spoke quietly, “Now we wait for Fallax to come back.”
Two men stood at the entrance of the dark alleyway, scanning the road, lit by occasional streetlights. Peering through the rain, one spotted Ashley trudging along the sidewalk on the other side, his heavy bag skittering noisily as he dragged it. The man nodded to his companion to follow him as he reached into a front pocket. He stepped out of the alleyway and, briefly glancing behind him, frowned as the other man remained still. He stopped and turned to the other man, pulling a small gun from his pocket. He spoke urgently, “Come on. This guy’s-”
The other man shook his head. “Not him.”
The first man scowled and looked briefly again at Ashley. “He’s fuckin’ easy.”
He answered irritably, “I don’t fuckin’ know, alright? Me and Denny always let him go.”
The first man stared at Ashley who still shuffled. “What is he? Some fuckin’ Bruce Lee?” His companion slowly shook his head. “Fuck it, man. I’m going.”
He stepped forward one foot onto the road and stopped. Ashley was almost opposite him, glumly looking down at the wet shiny sidewalk. The man frowned and shook his head. Ashley continued walking, unaware he was being watched.
The man kept still, looking confused. “I- I- It don’t feel‑“
The other man nodded, understanding. He scanned the street and pointed. “There.”
Walking on the other sidewalk was a young man. The two men ran across together with the first holding his gun aimed at the man. He glanced unemotionally at them-
The man holding the weapon looked up and down the sidewalk. “Where-?”
“Let’s fuckin’ go. There’s too much weird shit around here.”
They ran down the road, still glancing around them until the rain obscured them. Fallax reappeared and sighed. He frowned. “Why you were so freaked out by Ashley?” He dismissed his thoughts. “Oh well.” He turned and continued walking. Then he began to run as Ashley went round the corner.
He didn’t notice another person watching them all - an old man, wearing a fraying toga, standing in the shadows. He turned around and faded into the wall.
As Fallax reached where Ashley had turned, he slowed as he saw his quarry again who paused by some steps leading to one of the dark apartments, without looking up. Fallax stopped, watching him. Ashley walked up the worn steps up to the double doors, dragging his bag. He reached into his pocket and took out several keys on a loop, fumbling as he fitted one into the door lock.
Ashley pushed open the front door and paused by the letterboxes. He didn’t look at them. He sighed and walked down the dark dirty hallway to the staircase, glancing at the peeling wallpaper. At some time in the past the house was very attractive. Then the place had been neglected. Various landlords had owned the building but none put any of their profits into it. He climbed the steps, the bag trailing after him.
He stopped at the first level in front of a door, which he unlocked with another of his keys. As he stepped in, a voice shouted, “Have you got my smokes?”
Ashley’s shoulders slumped. He remained silent, standing at the doorway.
A dirty old woman appeared at the far end of the flat’s hallway. “Ya didn’t, did ya?” She looked pained and angry. “You’re a thoughtless shit.”
He walked towards him as he spoke, “I’m sorry, mother. I got everything else you asked for.”
“So I’m supposed to be grateful?”
“No. I meant that-”
She hit his chest with the handle of her walking stick. He winced and cowered. She hit him repeatedly as he backed away, stumbling over his bag. “Go and get my smokes. Now.” She emphasised her words by poking him with the stick, leaving grey dusty round marks on his jacket.
He turned, escaping the flat and paused by the door to calm. He frowned, slowly and repeatedly shaking his head from side to side. He stopped, twitched his shoulders and walked down the stairs. At the main door he sighed and opened it.
Fallax stood outside, thinking. He was about to go up the steps when Ashley appeared. Immediately Fallax became invisible. Ashley walked down the steps and as he walked along the sidewalk, the demon followed. As he walked round the corner, Ashley murmured, “Smokes. Smokes. She always wants me to get her smokes. Why did I forget?”
Fallax moaned. Ashley paused and looked back. The demon stopped, his eyes wide in shock. Ashley was frowning but his eyes didn’t focus on anyone. He turned and continued walking. The demon sighed and Ashley sharply turned back. Fallax stood still. On some level, in some way, Ashley seemed to hear him.
The demon tried to pass him but Ashley kept meandering, blocking him. Subconsciously, Ashley seemed to be aware. Resigned, Fallax slowed.
Ashley trudged in the store but stopped as he looked around. “Where’s-”
Leah peeked around a revolving card stand. She smiled. “Oh, hi. Mike’s just gone out. He’ll be back soon.”
Ashley frowned, scanning her outfit. “Who are you?”
Leah walked closer. “Oh, just a friend. Looking after the shop. My name’s Leah.” She held out her hand and winced as he shook it. Their hands separated and tiny electrical sparks jumped between their palms. She gasped, rubbing her fingers. “So, your name is?”
“Oh sorry, yes. Ashley.”
She closely looked at his eyes. As Leah expected, they were dilated. He was obviously aroused by her but there was something in him pushing her away. The shocks on her hands stopped Leah using her powers. She smiled again, edging closer. “Well, Ashley, where do you live?”
“Just round the corner.”
“On your own?”
“No. With,” He hesitated, “with my mother.”
Leah became thoughtful. (Seducing Ashley will be difficult if his mother’s around.) She smiled again but Ashley had seen her negative reaction. He glanced at her figure and she noticed his faint sadness.
At that point Fallax walked in and, looking at Ashley, he quickly became Mike. Ashley blinked but then approached him as Fallax/Mike pulled down the hinged part of the worktop. He smiled at Ashley as he neared. “Ashley! I didn’t expect you to be back so soon.” Ashley looked a little confused and peered at Fallax/Mike before rubbing his eyes. As he opened them again he appeared to be satisfied. Fallax/Mike spoke again,
“Are you alright, young man?”
Ashley tilted his head. “Yes, Mike. You just look sort of,” He paused, trying to think of the right word, “hazy. Anyway, can I have a packet of mum’s usual?”
Fallax/Mike paused, uncertain of what his mother’s usual brand was. He leant forward and instinctively Ashley drew away a little, frowning at him. Fallax/Mike tilted his head slightly, as he tried to read Ashley’s prominent thoughts. Ashley winced and rubbed his temples. His voice was strained, “I- I- I feel like something’s squeezing my brain.”
Fallax/Mike stood back and turned around reaching for the brand of cigarettes Ashley had been thinking about. As he twisted back Ashley looked relieved, dropping his hands. “The pain’s gone.” he said. “As soon as you stepped away, the pain went.”
Fallax/Mike smiled a little as he answered, “Well, that’s good. Anything else you want?”
Ashley shook his head and muttered, “No. No. There’s nothing else.” He turned towards the main door but glanced over his shoulder at Leah who was intently studying the crisps and biscuits on an aisle a few feet away. He frowned but continued walking. He opened the door and began walking back to his home.
Fallax/Mike watched him walk away and, once Ashley was out of sight, he lifted the hinged park of the worktop. He quickly went to the front door to bolt it shut and turn the sign back to ‘CLOSED’. As he twisted to look directly at Leah, Fallax began to change back to his usual appearance. He spoke severely, “Where’s Mike? I couldn’t detect him. I had to use Ashley’s own thoughts to work out what Mike’d do.”
She pointed to the back room’s doorway. Fallax strode back to the cashier area and pulled back the bead curtain to look inside. There he saw the two unconscious bodies. He twisted to Leah. “What did you do to them? We’re not to harm innocents. You know that. I thought you understood.”
Leah picked up a packet of crisps, opened it and began to eat them. She ambled nearer to Fallax. She paused and offered him the crisps. He shook his head and ignored them. “Well?”
Leah shrugged uncaringly. “I lied.”