Not forgotten, p.1
Angel ran. He ran fast. Somehow, he outran the officer again, and he stopped moving long enough to check in with Doyle.
There was no answer. Alarmed, he remotely played back his messages and heard what was obviously a veiled cry for help from Cordelia. Clearly someone had supplied her with a false name for Club Komodo, in order to throw off anyone who might hear the message. Doyle must have left the apartment to search for her.
I should have run after the limo, he thought, but he had to admit that he couldn’t have caught up with it even if he hadn’t stopped to talk to Meg. More likely he would have been hit by oncoming traffic or bullets or both, and taken to the hospital; and wouldn’t that have been interesting when dawn came?
He was stymied.
Maybe even the Powers That Be can’t deal with this one, he thought. Maybe this is the one we can’t even fight, much less win.
And if that’s true, more people besides that frightened little boy are going to get hurt.
Angel: City of
Angel: Not Forgotten
Available from POCKET PULSE
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This one is most definitely for
Lara and April Koljonen.
You are my angels, and I love you both.
My deepest thanks to the cast and crew of Angel, especially Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Glenn Quinn, and Caroline Kallas. Also, to Debbie Olshan at Fox. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Lisa Clancy, Micol Ostow, and Liz Shiflett at Pocket. To my agent, Howard Morhaim and his assistant, Lindsay Sagnette, you’re both aces. For all their help and support, thanks so very much to Linda Lankford; C, as always; Karen Hackett and Sue Farley; and Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart.
P R O L O G U E
Near Nias, in Indonesia, 1863
The dead hunted her.
She was cursed, and the cursed were their meat.
In the wind they chewed on her hair. In the rain they gnawed on her bones.
The dead were always starving.
As she crawled through the jungle, they sliced off her skin with their fanged teeth and drank her blood with the ends of their bony fingertips.
The spirits feasted on her living flesh. The delicious treasures, her organs, lay deeper. The most prized of these was her heart. With the cracked bones of their arms and legs, they gouged her in search of the delicacy.
The drums were the heartbeats of the dead, pounding faster as they closed in. The nearer she got to death, the louder the drums played. Soon the beats would catch the rhythm of her heart and change it. Like two sticks rubbing together, a spark would ignite. Then her heart would catch fire and burn her from the inside, until she was nothing but a pile of ash.
When her body was a memory, demon jin would rip her soul away and devour it. She would be damned to oblivion. She would not remember her life, or her self. Nothing of her would linger in the universe. She would simply be gone, forever.
Only Latura, God of the Dead, could save her from that fate now. The dead were in his thrall. If he commanded them to spare the cursed woman, they would.
And he would save her, because she alone knew the words that could grant him access to the world of men. Latura dwelled in the Underworld, with only demons and the dead for companions. His world was the closest thing to oblivion that existed. It was the stuff of hell.
It was hell itself.
Latura’s twin brother, Lowalangi, was the god of the sky, the ruler of the heavens. Lowalangi had created the human race. Humans changed. They had adventures.
The dead never changed. They were static.
Latura yearned to surface from the underground and dwell among the living. For this, he needed someone who would perform untold sacrifices, increasing the population of the dead so that he might take a rest from gathering their lifeless corpses.
Someone who lived, who would speak his name and perform unholy rites and rituals, concentrating magickal energy to strengthen him for the journey.
He must also have a vessel — a living body in which to dwell. It must be properly prepared, or it would burst into flame, and he would return to the depths.
The Servant understood now that her human lover had planned that fate for her. His betrayal had shocked her to her core.
Once he realized that she knew, he had professed his love for her, and told her he couldn’t go through with her sacrifice. But she knew by then that that was a lie, too. He had foreseen his own death, and he must leave someone behind to carry on his work. If he did not, Latura would feed his soul to the dead.
So on pain of the same punishment, she became Latura’s new acolyte. She had to learn the rites, and the incantations, and quickly, before her lover was found and killed. Or else Latura in his thwarted wrath would allow the jin to devour both their souls and grind them into forgotten dust.
Now her lover was dead, and she alone knew the words that would bring Latura forth. She was spared the “honor” of becoming his vessel. She was safe.
Unless the secrets of Latura were ever written down.
The Servant could not write. She had memorized everything by rote. That knowledge would keep her alive, at least until someone tortured the forbidden knowledge out of her.
Unless Latura lost his patience with her and gave her to the demons.
If she had known what it would be like to serve the god, she would never have begun the journey she now so bitterly regretted. The best she could hope for now was to escape the souleaters into the land of the afterlife. To exist as a phantom.
In misery, but to exist.
“Latura,” she whispered. She murmured additional sounds, words that made no sense to her, were not a language of this time and this world. But they brought him forth, though only as an invisible power.
Lightning crackled. Wind roared through the jungle. Birds swarmed out, shrieking, as the trees swayed and fell.
The steamy jungle fell cold, unbelievably so; and a rotten stench rose like mist from the ground.
Panic spread through the jungle animals.
The drums fell silent.
She put her face to the ground and hid her gaze.
The earth shook; trees and ancient stones pitched with the sharp cresting of the jungle floor, rising, falling with awesome force as the God of the Dead walked the earth.
Fires flared up and made a ring around her. The world burst into flame. The moist jungle caught and began to burn. She felt the heat, smelled the smoke. She did not move.
The dread Lord of Shadows lifted her up. He carried her on his shoulders as she dragged herself through the tangles of vines and lush, primeval gro
Warriors in black jackets and crowns of feathers emerged shouting from the fiery landscape. Their spears sliced through stalks of bamboo as they advanced on her.
She was in Nias territory; the people were head-hunters and cannibals. Latura had commanded her to come to them, and promised that they would not take her head.
She trembled, hard. She was a Badui. Both sacred and outcast, Badui were forbidden to have contact with the outer world. They could not cut their hair. They could not eat four-legged animals. They could not touch money. They could not commit adultery, or steal.
For the sake of Latura, she had done many of those things.
The Badui woman, who called herself the Servant because her name belonged to another lifetime, had cut her hair to the center of her shoulder blades. She had loved a married man in secret, the Badui headman who had worshipped Latura. Her lover had been fierce, handsome, and terrifying. He had sacrificed to Latura in his name and her own, and they became Latura’s devoted servants.
To this day, she didn’t know how he had first contacted Latura from the depths. That secret had died with him. But before he had died, he had mingled his blood with her own, and passed the ability to commune with Latura to her. If she did not succeed in bringing the god into the world, it would be her duty to create a new Servant before she herself died.
Latura came to her, in the form of a whirlwind of fire, and told her many mysteries of life and death. He taught her incantations and secret potions. He could stop the progress of disease and decay. He promised to tell her the magick words that would spare her from death forever, if she would be faithful to him.
But in the three small forbidden villages of the Badui, it was impossible to keep secrets. Latura, the cruel and vicious God of Death, was a forbidden god. Before the Servant’s human lover had been butchered by his own people, he begged her to escape while she had a chance.
The Badui villagers hunted her. But Latura protected her in return for her vow to go to Nias. First he called darkness, and the sky filled with lowering clouds. Then he called heat, and the jungles sizzled and steamed.
The villagers dogged her.
Latura sent a horde of demons. Hidden in the jungle, she watched as the green-skinned monsters ripped off the heads of her pursuers — many of them her relatives — and yanked their hearts out of their chests.
Those were the lucky ones.
For the others, death was more excruciating. Their hearts caught fire and burned inside their chests, igniting their blood until their bodies were burned to ashes.
Seeing this, the Servant trembled. She and her lover had given Latura their souls and she was his, forever. She would serve him to the end of days. Though her village had cursed her, her oath of loyalty was the stronger curse.
Now, as the headhunters converged on her, she wept so hard that blood streamed from her eyes. Warriors whooped and called out to each other, racing at her with their spears held over their heads.
She prayed to gods who now shunned her.
Venice Beach, the present
“No one lives forever.”
— Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo
In the bright ocean sun, Meg Taruma sailed along on her in-line skates, listening to Oingo Boingo. The California-based group had disbanded a decade ago, and their leader, Danny Elfman, had since become a famous movie composer. Their macabre sense of humor and catchy rhythms were ageless, and she was sorry she’d never heard them live.
Six months into her new life, Meg lived in a funky old Victorian mansion in Venice Beach. Legend had it that a magician had owned the large shingled house with its bay windows and imposing turrets before it had been converted by his estate into apartments. At night the stairs creaked and wind whistled up the chimney flues. It was scary, but it was fun.
Kind of like Jusef, she told herself, and giggled.
Venice Beach itself was like every dream of southern California every Indonesian kid back home had: hip, crazy, sexy. Meg had felt at home as soon as Jusef had taken her there. She just knew it was where she had to live. And the Victorian building — called “Casombra” — was the only place they looked at before he signed a one-year lease for her.
For three months she studied voice and dance while he groomed her to be lead singer in his new band. In Asia, Jusef Rais was a huge rock star. But he wanted more. He wanted America. He was forming Bahasa Fusion around himself to achieve that. Meg firmly believed that he was going to be the next Ricky Martin, only Asian.
And she would be beside him all the way.
Jusef was the only son of an incredibly wealthy Indonesian family, the Raises. His father, Bang, was a cult figure in Indonesia. Bang was both idolized and feared, often by the same people. Thousands wanted him to lead the country, in whatever manner he chose: president, prime minister, dictator.
Jusef was intimidated in the extreme by his father, which Meg could understand. She’d rather do just about anything than be in the vicinity of Bang Rais. Pak Rais gave her the creeps. He was always watching her, always studying her. Jusef tried to laugh it off, tell her she was a hottie and could she blame the old man?
She never told Jusef that his father reminded her of all the men who had come and gone after the death of her family. She wasn’t sure he would understand. She and Jusef were both Indonesian, and they both knew she had asked for the treatment she had gotten by virtue of the path she had taken. Men were men. The woman who expected a man to be different from his nature was only asking for trouble.
But all that was just a shadow in an otherwise very sunny sky. Jusef had been afraid that his father would block his dream. As the only son, he was destined to take over the family empire. In Indonesia, sons must behave like sons. But Bang had indulged him and chose Jusef’s cousin, Slamet, to be the next Rais to manage all their businesses.
Jusef moved to the family compound in Los Angeles to pursue his ambitions of American stardom. Slamet and Bang came over often, bringing along an entourage, and often stayed for months. According to Jusef, Bang’s devoted followers were planning a government takeover.
Meg had no idea if that was so. At Jusef’s order, she concentrated on her music. She exercised at the gym, took dance, and skated whenever she could. She had a sleek, athletic body now, and she dressed to show it off. She wore a pair of cutoff jean shorts and her baby tee was tight and seductive; she grinned when a few of the bodybuilders working out on the sparkling sand hooted at her. Her incredibly long, straight black hair was piled up on the back of her head, and it fell out of her hair clip as she picked up speed. She gave her hair a shake, and the steroid brigade applauded.
Her McDonald’s bag was clutched in her right fist. She knew she was late for rehearsal. But Jusef would forgive her. After all, she was late because he’d kept her awake all night.
Talk about melting . . .
She giggled, feeling good, feeling young, feeling safe after all. She would never be Mary Margaret Taruma again, back in the killing fields, when every good thing in the world had been ripped to shreds.
She winced with physical pain at the threatening memories and pushed them away. She had worked on erasing them for over five years. Thanks to Jusef, they were almost gone.
She skated along, whistling Jusef’s new composition. It was called “Raising the Dead,” and she hoped it would be the hit that took them mainstream. Los Angeles was totally into “ethnicity,” and their band, Bahasa Fusion, was primarily Indonesian. When over half the kids born in L.A. were non-Caucasian, there was a lot of room for stuff that reached beyond what Jusef called “the whitebread boundaries.”
Jusef was tall for an Indonesian, with spiky black hair and those huge eyes that gazed into you forever and ever and ever. His chisled face and the large, brilliant flash of his smile were enough to make her do anything he wanted.
Oh, Meg, you’ve got it bad, she told herself.
But there was nothing bad ab
Okay, a few shadows now and then. But she could deal.
“Hey, baby, what’s happening, baby?”
It was the bow-legged old man who lived in an abandoned house a few blocks away. He wore a bright orange track suit and an old-fashioned hat with a long feather in it. He always waited for Meg against the chain-link fence. She brought him an Egg McMuffin every morning. He told people he had sung with Bo Diddley. He hadn’t.
“Good morning,” she said as she braked.
“Tingtang wallawalla bingbang,” he replied. “I get it right?”
She chuckled. He had decided the nonsense phrase meant “Good morning” in Indonesian.
“Almost perfect,” she assured him.
She handed him the McDonald’s bag. Eagerly he looked inside for the Egg McMuffin and hot coffee. As far as she knew, it was the only real food he ate all day.
“You’re a good girl,” he told her, holding up the sandwich. “Muchas gracias, amiga linglang.”
“You’re very welcome.” She smiled at him. “You take care of yourself.”
“I knew Bo Diddley,” he told her.
“Yes, I know.”
“He used to bring me two Egg McMuffins,” he added.
“I’ll bring you two tomorrow, how’s that?”
“Inky dinky parlez vous.” He bit into the food with a blissful expression. “A ramalama ding dong.”
“See you later.”
“Chattanooga choo-choo. Do-wah-diddy-diddy.”
She gave him a little wave and skated on. A few blocks on, she would run into Olive LaSimone, an elderly lady who claimed to have been a silent film star.
“Big as Mary Pickford,” the old lady would say as she watered the geraniums in front of her apartment. She dyed her wisps of hair the same bright orange as the flowers.
Since there were no records of an actress named Olive LaSimone, she’d explain, “Pickford had me erased. She was jealous.”
Jusef thought poor old Olive was funny. “She’s like an ancient Egyptian,” he’d told Meg just last night. “She thinks if she’s remembered, she’ll live forever. That’s what all the people in Los Angeles believe. That’s why they all want to be movie stars. If they’re captured on film, they’ll never die.”