Read The Four Horsemen 4 - Death Online
Authors: T.A. Chase
Pierre peered down at the bag in his hand. It was the last packet of heroin Day had brought him, or whoever got the drug into his room. Should he call for more to be delivered before he shot up the last bunch?
His hands shook, and he dropped the baggie. It fell to the carpet beside his feet, and he sat there, staring at it. How had it got there? Had he dropped it or had it always been there?
He slid down off the bed onto the floor and scooped up the baggie, clutching it to his chest. Pierre glanced around the room, searching each shadow. Since the night before, he’d been sure someone had been watching him. Of course, his rational mind knew there wasn’t anyone in the room with him, but the paranoia demanded he pay attention to it.
No. He’d shoot up the last batch and order more when he started to come down off it. Pierre licked his dried lips, need starting to gnaw into his flesh. Undoing the baggie, he dropped the lump into his spoon and put a few drops of water over it. He stirred it a little to make sure it didn’t stick to the surface.
Pierre picked up his lighter and began cooking the heroin. He wanted to make sure it was all dissolved into the water. The brownish liquid floated in the spoon, and his hands shook a little in his anticipation.
His little kit held several cotton balls, and he used one to soak up all the liquid. After that was done, he took his syringe to pull up the entire drug. Pierre could have done this in his sleep, and in many ways, he was. The craving and desire built inside him. His heart pounded, speeding up his breathing. God, he wanted the heroin flowing through his blood as quickly as possible.
As soon as the syringe was full and all the air bubbles tapped out, he tied the tourniquet around his arm. He hadn’t used his right arm for the last day or two, so the vein should be fine. Everything was done, and he pressed the end of the needle into his flesh. Pierre pushed the plunger, and the heroin entered his bloodstream with a rush.
It was only when fire ripped through his arm that Pierre realised there must be something wrong with the heroin he’d got. How could that be? All the other lumps were fine. Actually, it had been some of the best shit he’d ever got. Maybe it came from being in Paris. Could be they got the good shit.
Every inch of Pierre’s body stiffened, and he thought his heart stopped for a moment. It started beating again, pounding so hard he believed it would rip open his chest and fly out. He slumped against the side of the bed, his hands hitting the floor. He couldn’t move as he tried to rip the needle out of his arm. Yet there was nothing left in the syringe. He’d shot it all, and the corrupted drug ate him alive.
Foam framed his mouth, which seemed so odd, considering how dry his mouth and throat were. He tried to shout or make some noise for people to come find him. Another stupid idea because there was no way anyone would come looking for him. At least not for another day or so since he’d paid up through the rest of the week for the suite. Pierre had put a Do Not Disturb sign out when he’d first arrived, and there had been no maid service.
Pierre listed to one side, not having any ability to brace himself, and felt his head rebound off the carpet. Shit! It was going to leave a bruise. He closed his eyes, and his arms flailed all around him as the seizures started. At some point, he was sure his heart would stop, and he’d die in the penthouse of a Paris hotel. God, he didn’t want to prove his father right, or at least, the man he’d always assumed was his father. Yet did it matter in the long run? No one had ever cared about him or what he was doing. They all threw money at him without stopping to ask him if it was what he wanted.
Now wasn’t the time to whine about his life. Pierre should be worried about getting someone’s attention to save him. While he thought about crying out again, nothing worked on his body. He could feel his life disappearing, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The drug slashed through him like razor blades, shredding his insides. His throat clenched shut until he could no longer breathe.
Panic gave him strength as he scratched at his throat. Air! He needed air to stay alive. Something told him it wouldn’t work out for him. This was going to be the end, and did he have anything to show for his life? Pierre didn’t think he even had any friends who truly liked him. The people who hung around him wanted the money he had, or to meet the people he knew. They didn’t care about who he really was.
“What is going on here?”
Pierre jerked. Well, maybe he twitched at the sudden sound of the voice. It wasn’t like he had the ability to jerk, sit up, or anything else. Everything else involved breathing, and since he was pretty sure he wasn’t inhaling or exhaling, Pierre figured he wasn’t moving.
“Why did I get sent here to pick up a junkie who overdosed on some bad stuff?”
Forcing his eyes opened, Pierre stared up into the all-black eyes of a stranger. He blinked, trying to focus on the image in front of him. Christ! He swore he’d seen eyes that colour before, but when and where? It wasn’t something he’d forget.
The grey-haired man grimaced before taking a seat on Pierre’s bed. “Since when am I sent to gather one single soul?”
Pierre dragged one of his hands across the floor and touched the man’s foot shod in expensive Italian leather. Yet another item Pierre remembered seeing lately, but were those images real or delusions?
“Could you not touch me? I don’t think you’ve showered in days, maybe even a week or so.” The man drew his foot away, out of Pierre’s reach.
“Who are you?” Pierre forced between clenched teeth and desert-dry lips.
“Does it really matter who I am?” The man’s grey hair seemed to shimmer in the sunlight drifting through the gap in the curtains.
Pierre had never seen hair exactly that colour. Oh, he’d seen grey hair before, but none of the ones he’d seen gleamed like tarnished silver. “It might. What’s your name? Mine is Pierre.”
“Really? Are we being polite now?”
Pierre shrugged at the man’s sarcastic question. He took a deep breath, and shock rippled through him. The dying didn’t seem to be happening anymore. Of course, he might be dead already, and all of this could be nothing more than an after-death experience.
“I guess I can tell you. I’m Death, and I’ve come to escort you to the gates.” Death stood and bowed gracefully to Pierre.
“Are you kidding? Death? Seriously?” Pierre coughed as pain began to tear through him again. Whatever peace or euphoria he might have got from the heroin had disappeared, and he was back to dying.
Death sat again and shook his head. “Apparently you are going to die, and for some odd reason, I’ve been sent here to take you in for judgement. I’m not sure why they would waste me on just one soul, but I don’t ask questions anymore. It tends to be frustrating when no one will answer them.”
Pierre slapped Death’s leg, trying to get the man to help him, or at least to call someone to come and save him. Death leant forward and pressed two fingertips to Pierre’s forehead. The pain eased slightly, though Pierre understood it wasn’t gone, and he was still going to end up dead.
“Why are you here?” Death waved a hand at the room. “Seems to me a guy like you could find something better to do than to get strung out in a hotel room.”
“A guy like me?” Pierre gasped, forcing air into his burning lungs. He didn’t want to suffocate, but he knew his heart was going to stop beating soon. Or maybe explode from beating too fast.
Death tilted his head, studying Pierre for a few minutes. “You might be handsome, after you clean up. Wash all the stench of sweat and drugs from you, and I’m sure someone would go for you.”
Pierre wrinkled his nose. “Being handsome doesn’t mean anything. I’ve found it simply means they want to be my friend because I’m pretty, not because I’m a good guy or smart or anything like that.”
Death laughed, and Pierre shivered. Death’s chuckle was cold and impersonal, giving Pierre the impression Death didn’t really find anything amusing. So the man wasn’t laughing at him in particular.
“Must be difficult to not be taken seriously.” Death shook his head.
Choking, Pierre wrapped his hand around his throat as his airway was restricted again. He coughed and fell onto his side on the floor, his legs brought up to his chest as tight as he could. The pressure of his thighs against his body seemed to help keep his heart in place, instead of clawing its way out.
When the fit was over, he flopped over onto his back, staring at the ceiling. What Death had done to him must have slowed down the dying process, but it hadn’t stopped it. His strength slowly leaked from him, and it would only be a short time before Death took him to wherever the gates were.
“I was supposed to meet someone here. He said he loved me and wanted to spend a romantic week in Paris.” Pierre waved a hand in a vague gesture towards the window. “What city is more romantic than Paris? Well, Rome or Florence might be, but I’ve never been there before.”
“So your lover never came?”
Something in Death’s voice made Pierre look at him.
“You’ve probably heard several versions of the story over the years, huh? I shouldn’t have trusted him. I might be rich and good-looking, but I don’t have a lot of experience with guys who actually want to spend time with me on our own. Anyway, when I got here, he never showed up, and then I got a picture from a so-called friend of the guy with some girl at a party. I guess he either forgot about me or he never really cared about me to start with.”
Pierre closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. He didn’t want to whine or make Death pity him. He simply wanted to inform the man what had happened. Something hitting him in the leg got him to open his eyes. He grunted as a bright light filled the room. Pierre couldn’t lift his arm to cover his face.
“Look at me.”
He forced his watering eyes to meet Death’s dark gaze. The grey-haired man studied him closely before scrubbing his hand over his face.
“I can’t believe it,” Death muttered. “Is this my chance to rectify what I did wrong?”
Pierre frowned. “What are you talking about? What do you have to fix? You weren’t the one who left me here by myself, knowing that I was only six weeks out of my second rehab.”
“Six weeks out of your second rehab? Guess the first one didn’t stick, huh?” Death grimaced before heaving a sigh. “Well, whether it’s a chance to redeem myself, or the opportunity to help you, I don’t know, but I suspect I’ll be taking you with me.”
“Wait,” Pierre protested. “I’m not ready to die. I’ll give up the drugs and turn my life around if you’ll just give me a second chance.”
“Bargaining with Death never works,” Death informed him. “There is nothing you can offer to stop me from taking your soul, if I want to do so.”
Pierre laughed weakly. “It was worth a try. It’s not like anyone will miss me if I die.”
“Were you trying to commit suicide?” Death glared at him. “Killing yourself isn’t the way to solve your problem.”
“It wasn’t like I planned this. I just wanted to ease the heartache, I guess. It’s not like I can get a bad batch of heroin on purpose. You have to work really hard to do that, since most dealers won’t admit they cut their drugs with shit.”
Death rolled his eyes. “I didn’t really mean the bad batch you got this last time, but the whole shooting heroin for over a week or so.”
Pierre blinked at him. “Has it really been that long?”
Snorting, Death stood and started to pace along the perimeter of the room. Pierre stayed on the floor, rank and dirty. Death wrinkled his nose at the stench of the room and Pierre each time he went by the man. Christ! Why couldn’t Pierre have taken a shower or four during all the time he was getting high?
“Yes, it’s been a week or so, I believe, since you went on your binge.” Death folded his arms over his chest and glared out the window. “I’m still not entirely sure why I’m here. I don’t do single souls. I am usually called to take large amounts of the dead to the gates.”
“Excuse me for not being important enough to rate having Death himself take me alone,” Pierre groused.
“Stop whining,” Death ordered.
He needed to think. When he gazed into Pierre’s eyes he saw they were bright green with flecks of gold. They had been filled with so much pain, and it wasn’t just from the bad drugs. Had being abandoned by the man destroyed something in Pierre? Was he so broken inside that all he wanted was to end it? Could Pierre have been so upset he thought killing himself was the best policy?
Yet it wasn’t really the pain in Pierre’s eyes that caught Death’s attention. It was the colour so familiar to him in his memories. He might have been alive for centuries and forgot his sister’s image, but there was one person he’d never forgotten. He never allowed himself to let those images and memories fade. Eyes like Pierre’s, staring up at him in the throes of passion, and those same eyes looking into the sky, blank and empty of any life.
Death scrubbed his hands over his face and heard Pierre coughing as the pain grew too strong. He had to make a decision. Should he take Pierre to the gates like he was supposed to do? Or should he move Pierre to his own residence in the Latin Quarter of Paris? Death could take care of him, and maybe atone for what he’d done to Oliver.
He didn’t expect to get the same opportunities as the other former Horsemen, and being absolved of guilt wasn’t something he figured would ever happen to him. Forgiveness wasn’t something he could give himself, though he knew Oliver would never have blamed him for anything that happened to him.
“Are you a whore?”
Pierre gasped, and Death flinched. There was probably a more politically correct way of asking the question, but Death really didn’t care about Pierre’s feelings. It wasn’t like he was Pierre’s best friend or anything.
“Why would I sell myself? My family has money, and I don’t need to make any.”
The faint lie colouring Pierre’s words told Death the truth. He turned to lean against the windowsill and looked down at Pierre.
“Lying to me won’t change anything,” he pointed out. “I don’t really care if you did or not. I was simply asking.”
Pierre closed his eyes, obviously not proud of himself, but Death wasn’t going to judge Pierre for what he’d done.
“Yes, I have accepted money for sex.” Pierre exhaled harshly. “I don’t understand why it matters, though.”
Death breathed deeply through his nose and gritted his teeth. Christ! He should just turn his back and let someone else handle this death, yet no one else seemed to be coming for this soul.
“So you’re a whore and a drug addict,” Death muttered. “It doesn’t surprise me you ended up here, though I would have thought a gutter somewhere would be a more fitting end for you than a penthouse at an expensive hotel.”
“Fuck you.” It appeared Pierre didn’t have the strength to make his voice more than a whisper.
I must say you’re being rather a bastard, Gatian.
Death started when Oliver’s voice echoed through his head. It had been centuries since he’d heard or seen the man. He rubbed his hands over his face. Pierre reminded him of his lover, and how Oliver’s life ended because of his arrogance.
While he thought about Oliver, Pierre started to have another seizure. If he did his job, he’d wait until Pierre’s heart stopped before taking his soul to be judged by someone more knowledgeable than he. Yet in Death’s mind, an image of Oliver suffering the same fate plagued him, and Death found he wasn’t able to let Pierre die just yet. He needed to figure out why the young Frenchman affected him so deeply.
Death crouched and gathered Pierre in his arms. When he straightened, he sniffed. The scent of cinnamon and sulphur drifted on the breeze, and he tensed.
“Where are you going with him?”
He turned to face Lam with a slight sneer on his face. “Do you really think you have any right to question my actions? What will happen when the others find out who you hang out with?”
Lam grimaced. “It’s none of your business, and I was simply asking. I don’t really care what you do with the man, but shouldn’t you think about your actions a little more? You aren’t supposed to save them. You’re supposed to let them die so you can take their souls to judgement.”
Lam was right, but Death didn’t care. If his immediate superiors cared, they could do something about it. It wasn’t like he loved being Death. Hell, he could do without all the dead people. He lifted his shoulder in a slight shrug and frowned. Maybe being the messenger angel who worked the closest to the Horsemen, Lam would be able to get the Higher Powers to let Death go for the breach of protocol.
“I’m taking him with me. Maybe he doesn’t have to die and I can help him.”
Shock rippled over Lam’s face, and the messenger angel seemed confused. “Are you a doctor? Or were you a doctor in your former life? I guarantee getting this one off the drugs is going to be a miracle. I think he has a death wish.”
“Don’t we all?” Death raised his eyebrows at Lam.
Pierre shook so hard Death almost lost hold of him. He glared at Lam and hitched the slender man higher up in his arms. Pierre’s head rolled on Death’s shoulder, his shallow breaths washing over Death’s skin. He tightened his grip, trying to ignore his body’s reaction to the closeness of the human.
It didn’t seem to matter that Pierre reeked of sweat and illness. Death still found the man attractive in a way he hadn’t found anyone in centuries. He wanted to drop Pierre into Lam’s arms and run the other way.
But you don’t run from anyone.