The Angel of Death wasn't much of a talker.  In fact, he was near too damn stoic, almost to the point of bein' anti social.

"I don't often stick around the ones still kicking," he explained, and I slammed my hand down on the steering wheel, hard enough that a jolt of pain wound it's way up my arm to my neck.

"Would you fucking stop that?!" I yelled, and Tom yowled at me.   "You shut the fuck up too, you overgrown rat!"

Uriel sucked in a breath, disapproving.  The guy even breathed disapproval at me.  It was amazing.  "They're two entirely different species, Thomas.  One is felis domesticus, and the other is-"

"Shut it!"

He scowled, and sat back, steepling his fingers on his chest.  I took a few deep breaths, and calmed myself down.  Personification of all that was creepy and voice of the grave itself, this guy was going down if he didn't stop peeking into my head.

He smiled. 

"You're doing it now, aren't you?  Right fucking now!"  I yelled again, swerving to the left as he pointed out the cat on the road in front of us.  I barely missed it.

"No."

"Yes you are.  I feel it."

"I am not."

"You are t-" I almost said, but caught myself.  I was not three years old.  Even if he treated me like I was.

Nearly an hour passed, with me driving like a bat out of hell.  We hadn't stopped for gas since that accident, the one with the kid's doll.  There hadn't been a peep out of the usually noisy engine.  The radio was belting out tunes by Coltrane and the Count.  I felt the hairs on the back of my neck creep up.  That doll...it'd looked just like Moira on the day I'd married her.  White dress, long red hair braided and curled around her head, long tendrils falling out in front of her face and her green green eyes...she was so small and delicate, so young and soft.  I'd cherished the way the make up couldn't cover her freckles, the way the divot under her nose curved out into those perfect pink lips.  She'd been so damn perfect.  What was that divot called, anyway?  There had to be a name for it.  Damn but that engine was quiet.

"My car is dead, isn't it?"

"How did you meet your wife?" he asked in response, avoiding the question.   I cursed.

"Limey...I met her in the rain.  She had just gotten off work at the library - she was a clerk there.  Always did love books, Moira did.  She was gorgeous, it was the 70's, when women wore those tight tops that just tied in the back, you know those?  And hip hugger jeans..."

"Yes, I remember the fashion.  White lipstick?"

"That's the 60's, asshole.  Anyway, it was raining, and I'd just joined the force.  I was cruising by, there were these druggies around there, we were lookin' out for 'em.  Whole precinct had nothing to do but look for those guys.  So it's raining, and she's standing by her car, and I'm driving by, and I'm about to turn the corner right-"

"Of course."

"And suddenly this guy comes out of nowhere, starts wrestling with her, but she's tougher than she looks.  Been takin' self defense classes.  I jumped out of the car, and run up, and yell 'Freeze!' like I'm friggin' Starsky, and he lets go and throws his arms up in the air, and she takes that moment, and fuckin' takes him right between the eyes, full hard punch, and the guy crumples like a goddamn paper doll."

"Brave woman," he said, admiration in his voice.  I barely noticed, I was seein' Moira standing there, her chest heaving up and down, hair to her waist, snarling, blood on her knuckles, the guy on the ground and her standing over him like some kinda Celtic warriorette.  "Yeah.  God she was beautiful.  I cuffed the guy, and took him in.  She came in with me to give a report, and by the time he went to trial, we were datin' real heavy.  The guy squealed like a pig, we had the whole drug ring in by the end of the year, and I was up for promotion.  We were so full of hope.  So stupid and young."

"Invincible."

"Yeah.  Fuckin' invincible," I said softly, thinking about her sitting so straight backed in that chair yesterday, her emerald eyes fixed outside, waiting for that cab.  She was still invincible.  By God, she was still so perfect.

"Why did you cheat on her?" he asked, his legs curled up a little, his face looking haunted.  Serves you fucking right, I thought at him.  Serves you fucking right for getting in my head.

"Fuck you," was all I said, though.  "Fuck you very much, asshole."

I looked straight ahead, and I could feel Tom looking over my shoulder at the road.   Dawn was breaking, the horizon in front of us was a soft yellow and blue, Venus still visible in the paleness.

"I don't know," I sighed, finally.  "I guess I was bored.  I was stupid.  I was really stupid."

I blinked, rapidly, and pulled over to the side of the road.  All my life, I was told that real men don't cry.  You don't fucking cry in front of your mom, in front of your kid, your wife, your fucking dog.  I leaned over the steering wheel, and I put my hands over my eyes, and I let out a long hitching breath, and then another, and pretty soon I was a fucking mess, bawling my eyes out, staining my pants with salt water.   Uriel leaned over me, a hand on my back, and in that soft black voice, that soft compelling, James Earl Jones voice, said "It's okay, Thomas.

"It's okay."

After a good cry and another three hours of driving, I finished up my drive into New York.  I thought about just turning around, and making for maybe, Mexico or something, but Uriel clucked his tongue before I even get the whole thought towards my lips.

"You can't escape your destiny," he said, "If you leave, your car will stop-"

"It's already dead."

"-Or you'll be hit by a car, your cat will run into the city...anything," he finished.  I eyeballed him, and opened my door, figuring I'd walk home.  True to form, Tom darted out the door, and right down the street, into the cold snowy streets of New York.  Nevermind that there wasn't more than a couple of hairs on him, and that it couldn't be 10 degrees out, he apparently needed to pee even more than I did.  I saw him duck down into a side alley, and heard the clatter of trash cans.  I glared at Uriel.

"It's not like he's dead too," the angel said, and I figured that he couldn't lie to me, so I let it go.  I stamped my feet and put my hat and jacket on, and went off after the old coot, Uriel sitting serenely in my front seat, playing a hand held video game he'd taken out from his backpack.  I tucked my gun into its holster.  This was, after all, New York, at one in the morning.

I turned the corner and started down the alley, glancing around for the tell tale paw prints, the night quiet around me, except for the sound of some of that techno "music" coming from somewhere in front of me, throbbing beats and screeches.   The bass I could feel in my chest, even from here.  Two reflective eyes blinked at me, and I smiled.

"Come on, Tom.  Come here, puss puss.  We're goin' home, right?   Nice and warm home, with some milk and cat food.  Cat food, Tom," I was cooing, coaxing, cajoling at a cat.  Like he was holding a gun to a hostage or something.  You ever really talk to a cat, that's what it's like.  You don't ever say no to a cat, you don't try and reason with a cat, you don't ever act like the cat isn't the most important element in a conversation.  Just like a terrorist.  I curse the man who thought bringing a cat indoors was a good idea.

A door beside me opened, the music blaring loud and caustic in my ears, and Tom literally leaped at the chance to get away, rushing into the warmth of the club like a moth to a flame.  I yelled a few choice words at the drunk who'd stumbled out, the guy that'd knocked me over, who was pawing me and apologizing.  I shoved him off, and grabbed for the door.  There was no handle, and my desperate grasping just served to close it faster, muting the music again, and closing Tom off to me.  Great.   Some asshole who didn't like cats could be doing the boogie woogie stomp on the last piece of my life that I had left, and I was stuck out here, helpless.

I started pounding on the door, punching as hard as I could, kicking and swearing, yelling loudly to be let in, putting dents in the metal and warping the parts around the locking mechanism, causing irreparable damage to it.  I must've pounded for 15 minutes.  The door suddenly swung in, and I feel forward, two huge meaty slabs for hands caught me and held me, and I looked up into the face of a guy who ought to have been born a troll.  His bald head shone with the colored lights from inside the club, and he seemed to dampen the music far more effectively than the door ever could.  He filled the entire thing - he'd have to duck to get through it, while walking sideways.   I swear his shoulders were three feet wide.

"Got a problem, mister?" he asked in a rumbling purr.  I was expecting the voice to be like Uriel's.  He was that unreal.  But it was a normal regular white guy's voice, albeit a bit lower than mine own.

"My cat...he..he ran in, he..." I stammered, trying feebly to point inside.

He narrowed his eyes, and spoke again, after I finally gave up trying to get around him.  "You some kind of sick fuck gets off torturing cats?  You shave any others, leave 'em out in the cold?"  His tone was so hard, so menacing, that if PETA had him on their side, the whole goddamn world would be full of vegans.  I swear to the God that I just recently found again.

"No, I promise.  He got into tar.  I couldn't wash it off.  Please, he's all I got," I blubbered.  I was ready to fucking cry again, already.   My Dad was probably looking down on me right now, wishing he'd cut me out of his will and given everything to my brother.  I was gutless.

"Alright.  Mistress Dementia found him," he said, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at that name.  Much as I loved that cat, and much as I was close to shedding tears all over Bruno's shirt, that had to have been the second dumbest name I'd heard in all my life.  There was probably some 50,000 Mistress Dementias in New York.  But I managed to keep it all in, and brushed past him after he'd stopped blocking the door, and followed him towards the back.

Kids were all around, dancing and gyrating under the lights that flashed and looped and swirled all over them, scenes from black and white movies played over the walls, and the music was so loud that even when I shouted I couldn't hear myself.  Most of these kids, they couldn't be more than 20, some were as young as 15.  They weren't just dancing.  I passed a guy and a girl, his tongue down her throat, her legs around his waist, pumping into her in time to the beat, frantically, pounding her against the wall, his spiked hair bouncing and a knot forming in the straw like blue wig on her head.   Girls and guys in zippered, tight fitting leather underwear danced in cages, people reaching in, trying hard to touch them, to caress them, but the cages were big enough to keep anyone but an NBA player away.  Two girls, one a natural redhead, the other a bleached blonde were dancing cheek to cheek, toe to toe, crotch to crotch, their wrists and ankles bound together by long chains, another chain leading from the red girl's tongue to the other's navel.

I stood, frozen, as the redhead led a trail of kisses down to that belly button, then lower, her fingers revealing a previously hidden chain that slipped down between the lips of the blonde's crotch, and pulled on it with her teeth.  Her tongue soon sought to retrieve the loop, and  I lost my ability to breath.  The blonde was tweaking her own nipples, pulling on the rings through her sheer black blouse, a look of rapture on her heavily glittered face.  Bruno grabbed my arm, and half pulled, half dragged my ass across the floor to a large black door, almost indistinguishable from the rest of the walls.

"They were-" I started, as soon as the door was shut behind us, cutting off the music abruptly.  Sound proofed.

He nodded.  "It happens."

We traveled up the long staircase, and he unlocked the door with a key from around his neck.  He opened the door, and I walked inside at his gesture to do so, the door slamming shut and locking behind me, a loud buzz sounding.  I was alone, in the dark.

Something rubbed against my leg, and I yelped, almost kicking at it.  Tom rumbled his purr, and meowed.  I stooped down, and he jumped at my shoulders, like he always does, and started purring louder, and I stroked him, from his bare nose all the way to the tuft at the end of his tail.

"I had hoped you wouldn't come," a husky female voice called, somewhere to my left.  A light came on, a red spotlight, illuminating a two square foot patch of ground immediately in front of me.  I blinked at the sudden difference in darkness.

A red clad foot, the leather toe of the boot a sharp point, slid into the light, shortly followed by the rest of the leg, the boot going up to the bare crotch, V shapes cut into the top, revealing the place where the garter belt teeth connected to the top of the thigh length red hose.  Her belly button was pierced as well, though, thankfully, no chains led from it to anywhere else.  Her tiny breasts came into view next, bare, each nipple pierced and swollen by double bars, and I winced at how much that must've hurt.  The other foot came in along with her face, a ring in her nose, another pair of bars in her left eyebrow, and one across the bridge of her nose.  Her head was bald, And she wore fake eyelashes that were tipped in silver glitter, making her eyes stand out more.  She tilted up her face to look me in the eyes.  She must've been a foot shorter than me, barely topping the 5 foot mark, without an ounce of fat on her.

One eye was blue.  The other was a milky white.

I had to use all my willpower not to take a good step backwards, and Tom purred louder in ear.

"Trust me, detective.  I don't make that statement very often."

I'll bet, I thought.

Dementia looked at me, a slight smile on her lips.  "You the strong silent type, detective?" she asked, reaching towards my face.  I flinched as her fingers rested against my cheek, then her palm, and she rubbed her hand against my face, caressed it, and scratched gently against my earlobe, moving on to scratch behind the ear of the endlessly purring Tom.  I nodded to her, for I really was speechless.  It wasn't that I couldn't think of anything to say, I had lots of things on the tip of my tongue.  The problem was most of it involved the phrase "Nice tits!"

She tapped her right thigh, and a man came forward, clad head to toe in black leather.  She purred at him, and he licked the heel of her boot, and sat up like a dog in its hind legs, his hands pawing at the air.   "Don't mind my pets," she cooed at Tom and me, petting the man on the head.  She tapped her left thigh, and a girl in the same manner of dress crawled up, rubbing against her like a cat in heat.  I was hot and cool at the same time, the sight alternately thrilling and repulsing me, like those two girls downstairs.  I was a moth to a flame - but a smart moth.  I knew I'd get burned.

She pulled my head gently down, and then she leaned in close, her breasts pressed flat against me, the balls on the bars digging into my chest.  Her tongue flicked out against my earlobe, then curled up along the sensitive edges.  Her left hand pressed against my erection, and shoved against it, hard, her hips slammed against my thighs.   "Never fly faster....than your guardian angel can drive," she whispered into my ear, and let loose with a laugh so loud and shrill I thought my ears would burst, and I slapped my hands against them, doubling over in pain, and the light went out.   The door opened behind me, and Bruno's huge hand reached in and grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, my arms clinging hard to Tom, who was hissing and spitting and clawing at my chest, ripping into my skin even through my shirt and jacket.

I gasped for air, panting, and Bruno held me up while I calmed down.  I was terrified for some reason that I couldn't even begin to name.  Tom was still growling, but softly, and trembling like a leaf.

"You were with the Mistress for nearly an hour," Bruno said to me, his mountainous voice filled with concern.  "The club is empty.  You should go home."

"I can't," I said weakly, "I'm gonna die in a week."

"That as it may, you still have to go," he said, though not very harshly.   He led me down the steps, and held the door open for me, and I blinked as the sunlight fell into my eyes.  He kept out of it, for the most part, though his arm didn't turn into ashes or anything when the rays poking through the overcast day hit it.

"What's your name?" I asked him.  "I can't keep thinking of you as just some bouncer."

"You may call me Zel.  If we ever meet again."

And with that, he shut the door.  I squinted some as I walked back down the alley.   The drunk guy was still there, passed out, half frozen.  He looked like he'd been relieved of most of his cash already.  I made my way back through the snow to the car, and got in.  It was still running, the heater on full blast.  Uriel was smoking a black cigarette, which he put out as soon as I got in.  There was no smoke in the car, but it smelled pleasantly of roses.

"How'd you like meeting the devil?" he asked, checking his blonde hair in the vanity mirror.

I shrugged.  "I thought she'd be taller."