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I gathered myself and went to knock on the door.  Before I could reach it, the doorknob turned and a familiar face greeted me.

“Well, look what the Devil dragged in,” the woman taunted, standing in the doorway.

She was about my height, but irritatingly an inch or two taller.  Long straight blonde hair stretched halfway down the length of her back.  Physically, she looked like she couldn’t be older than twenty-five.  In reality though she was actually thirty, two years older than me.

“Shut up Julia, you knew I was coming,” I snapped at her.  “Let’s just get on with this.”

“Fine, fine.  Come in then,” Julia said, holding the door and motioning inside.

The inside of her house always surprised me with its tidiness.  When I knew her, she wasn’t remotely someone you could call ‘tidy’.  Julia used to be a bit wild and unpredictable.  That was a long time ago though.

“Take a seat,” she said, having directed me into the kitchen.  “Can I get you anything?” she asked, irritated, as she opened the fridge.

“No, I’m fine.  Tell me what information you have before I decide to leave without it.” I answered.  My patience wore thinner with every passing second.  Julia rolled her eyes and poured me a glass of water.  She sat down across the table from me after getting an iced tea for herself.

“Axel, I know you don’t want to be here, but it’s not going to kill you to have some patience,” she said condescending me.  “If you want to hear what I have to say, you’re damn well gonna be polite.”

“Alright!” I exclaimed, and took a deep breath.  I took a moment to try to push all the reasons I couldn’t stand Julia out of my mind.  As calmly as I could, I asked, “So, what is it you wanted to tell me?”  Impressed, or at least satisfied with my new tone, Julia began her story.

“There’s been some strange occurrences in town lately.  I thought you might be able to make some sense out of it.”

“Okay, what’s been happening?” I asked.

“I guess it all began a few weeks ago.  I started noticing some rough looking individuals around town.  When they first arrived, they spent their nights terrorizing the local bars.  Nothing big, just some roughhousing and harassment, but more than we usually see around here.  Soon, the police got involved and these newcomers stopped their trouble-making.  I’ve still seen them around, but they’ve been keeping out of trouble.”

“Do you remember anything specific about them?  Anything identifiable?” I questioned.

“Nothing specific.  They just all feel out of place.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that they don’t feel like they belong in this realm.  They all look a bit... brutish?”  she said, fumbling for a better description.  “They’re altogether rough looking.  Some of them had scars, others had obscene or crude tattoos.  Not to sound discriminating, but they just don’t seem like the usual candidates for this particular afterlife.”

“Sounds like a group of individuals I ran into a little bit ago.  Is there anything more you can tell me about them?”

“Oh, I’ve just gotten started,” she replied.  “I’ve been working with the police department to try and keep tabs on their whereabouts.  They refuse to take any direct action against them, but they agree that something seems unusual.  First of all, the police keep losing track of them.  As far as I’ve been told, these individuals will disappear down an ally never to be seen again.  Either the police are flat out incompetent at their jobs or these individuals have been vanishing like you do.”

She paused for a moment to cast me a questioning glance.  When I refused to give her any information, she continued, “Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a bit of both.  But anyway, here’s where it gets interesting.  There’s a gunsmith downtown.  In his life, he was renowned for his craftsmanship.  Around here, he scrapes by on what work he can get.  There’s not much interest in weaponry here, and the police only need his expertise every so often.  I suppose sometimes there can be a downside to being an upstanding citizen in life.”

“So you think he’s turned to supporting criminal activity to keep his business going?”

“Don’t you try and get ahead of me!” Julia exclaimed.  “So, up until a few weeks ago, rumor was that he planned to close up his shop and find a new line of work.  In the time since then though, he’s spent more time in his shop than ever.  The strange thing is that his shop’s been locked up tight.  Besides him, the only people seen going in or out of it have been those shady individuals I mentioned.”

“So whoever they are, he’s making them weapons,” I commented.  “Lovely.”  

“This definitely doesn’t sound like a group of random thugs.”  Lost in thought, she sighed, “Organized crime.  All this shady stuff,” Julia paused and gave me a serious look, “Honestly, it's starting to remind me of old times.”

At those words I slammed my hands down on the table.  “We're done here!” I yelled in frustration.

“Axel,” she called after me.

“I don't want to hear it!” I dismissed her.  “Thanks for the info, I'm leaving.”  Without looking back, I stormed out the front door.

I began to wander the streets, trying hard to not to think of the past.  Unable to stop them, thoughts of ‘old times’, and another ‘boss’ I once worked for, soon overtook me.

Julia died when she was only twenty-four, but I knew her long before then.

--- * ---

“Come on Axel, it’s over here!” an enthusiastic voice called out.  An energetic and fearless girl led me along a winding path of city streets.  The neighborhoods became more dilapidated and run-down with every turn we took.

“Where are you taking me?” I questioned, trying to keep up.

“I told you already! I know somewhere we can earn some money.”  she answered.

“Yeah, but where?”

“We’re almost there,” she replied, dismissing my question.

Though she kept racing ahead of me, I maintained a focus on her short, bright, pink and blue hair.  Eventually, she stopped in front of a decrepit looking butcher’s shop and waited for me to catch up.

“Just follow my lead,” she said, trying to reassure me.

We entered the shop, which was somehow still open and in business despite its outside appearance.  As we approached the counter my companion looked around, checking to see that there were no other customers inside.

“We’ve come to see the big man,” she said.  “Tell him Jewel is here.”  One of the two butchers behind the counter motioned toward a door into the back room.

“This way,” he said in a deep voice, leading us into the next room.  We came to a walk-in cooler.  The large man opened the cooler door and waited for us to enter.  Without hesitation, Julia walked right in.

I stood, staring into the cooler.  The perimeter of the room was adorned with large meat carcasses hanging on hooks.  Toward the back there were pallets containing boxed items.  I couldn’t see any other exits though.

After a low growl from the butcher and an urgent look from Julia, I reluctantly entered the room.  The butcher took one last look around and nodded, presumably to his coworker.  He then turned and followed us, shutting the door behind him.

The butcher cast a murderous look toward me as I stood petrified by the blood on his white coat and concerned of its potential origin.

“Axel,” Julia harped under her breath, tilting her head and signaling me to move.  I looked down and noticed a small recess in the floor by my feet.  Upon noticing it, I quickly moved aside and joined Julia.

The butcher bent down and pulled on the small handle embedded in the floor.  With what looked like little effort, he lifted open a rather large insulated trap door revealing a staircase.  As soon as it was open, Julia darted forward once more.  I followed behind, forced forward by the broad-shouldered butcher bringing up the rear.

Julia led the way, navigating through several basement hallways.  We found ourselves in a darkened room with a desk.  Across the desk from us sat another broad-shouldered man, this one wearing a stylish, and expensive-looking suit.  As soon as we were in the room our butcher escort turned and left, closing the door behind him.


Read the rest of this chapter at devilsadvocatestory.com!
WoW Numix-Bevel Icon by krTsukasa
WoW Numix-Bevel Icon
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I stood there, staring at the bar, for a good five minutes.  I knew it was a trap, it had to be, but at the same time this was my only lead.

Several cars drove by, their drivers gawking at me while I prepared myself.  I took a deep breath and began to cross the road.  I reached down and felt the weapon holstered at my side, taking comfort in its presence.

As I got closer, I noticed a brand new window in the door to the Truth in Shadows.  The window still had factory stickers on it.  Recalling a few nights before, I felt guilty for having shot out the poor guy’s window.

I entered the shady bar.  The lighting was much dimmer than usual, and I could only just make out the bartender due to some accent lights around the bar.

As my eyes adjusted, I could tell that the entire room was packed.  Almost every seat was taken, but due to the lighting, all the faces looked blank.  As I approached the counter, the barkeep looked up at me with a scowl.

“I believe this is yours,” the man grumbled, handing me my long since forgotten debit card.  “Today’s already paid in full, and then some.  I took the liberty of charging your card in advance,” he continued, smirking.  “What can I get you?”

“Rum and Coke I guess?”  I shook my head at the situation and took a seat.  I didn’t feel up to a drink, especially in the presence of such ominous company.  The way he asked it, I didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter.

As the barkeep fixed my drink, I began to catch glimpses of the other patrons.  I thought it was my imagination at first, but as I started to make out their features, the crowd seemed too familiar.

My eyes adjusted more to the darkness and my fears began to come true.  The other patrons of the bar were all individuals I had tracked down before, all souls I had brought to judgment.  Each and every one of them I had encountered already, but most importantly, not one of them belonged in this realm!

The faces started to sink in, and memories of past missions flooded back to me.  These men were brutes and killers, all of whom I’m sure would give anything for a shot at revenge.  The realms that these souls had been condemned to were, after all, not the most hospitable.

The only soul I couldn’t recognize was a hooded figure in the corner.  For whatever reason, this person was dressed in baggy clothes and a hoodie with the drawstrings pulled tight.  I can imagine there are a number of people that wouldn’t want me to recognize them.  Still though, I found it peculiar that only this one out of the crowd decided to stay anonymous.

My drink soon arrived.  I sipped at it as I contemplated my next move.  I didn’t have long to think about it before several of the dark figures closed in on me.

A moment later a hand clamped down hard onto my shoulder and I felt the sharp pressure of a knife against my back.  A broad-shouldered man towered over me.  I recognized him.  He was a cold blooded killer, known for mutilating his victims.

“We’d like to have a quick word with you,” the man said.  The knife against my back pierced through my jacket and poked cold against my skin.  “And your good friend the barkeep, has kindly requested that we take our ‘conversation’ outside.”

Upon mention of himself the barkeep quickly turned away, pretending to look busy organizing some liquor bottles.  The hand on my shoulder and knife on my back began to move, guiding me out of my chair.

The other individuals formed a circle around me, each wielding knives.  Together they escorted me out the door and around into the alleyway.  They formed rows blocking off either exit and threw me into the middle.

I looked around and noticed that the fire escape I had climbed last time was unfortunately missing its bottom two levels.  They looked like they had been ripped from the wall, leaving large holes where the supporting bolts had been.  I could jump pretty high, but not high enough to reach it.  There was a second story window, that I could maybe reach though.

As I thought about my escape plan, the gang began closing in.  Three individuals broke away from the crowd.  Two in front of me and one behind me.  The man to my front right came at me first.  I sidestepped his knife and elbowed him in the back of the neck.  

I drew my weapon and shot the man who had approached from behind.  He fell to the ground clutching his shoulder.  During my counterattack though, the last individual caught me off guard and cut a decent gash in my side.  I grabbed his arm as quick as I could and threw him back into the crowd.

I managed to wound several of them with some hasty shots before the entire crowd closed in on me.  Attacks came from all sides.  Having a gun becomes useless when all you can do is dodge and counter.  Whoever invented the adage ‘Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight’ had obviously never had the odds reversed on him.

Strength in the afterlife isn’t tied to an individual’s muscles.  What value would muscles be to a soul?  Strength here is measured by strength of will.  As such, even a scrawny guy like me can hold his own against a burly murderer or two.  A whole bar’s worth however is still a bit much.

After repeated knife strikes, elbows to the face, stomach, and just about everywhere else, I felt down for the count.  I almost wished they’d just kill me and get it over with, at least then I’d be back home.  Somehow though, that didn’t seem to be their intent.  I laid on the ground, helpless, trying to regain my strength.

“Not so tough now, are you?” questioned the broad-shouldered murderer from the bar as he kicked me hard in my side.  A few other blurred insults came from the crowd as I struggled to stay aware of my surroundings.

Suddenly I felt myself get picked up by the collar.  I could vaguely make out the person who had me.  It was the hooded individual from the back of the bar.  I prepared for the worst as they pulled me in close to them.  A soft voice whispered a single word into my ear.

“Run.”

Suddenly, wind was whipping by me as I was tossed through the air.  I felt a hard impact as glass shattered against my head.  Dazed and disoriented, I stumbled to my feet.

I found myself in the second story apartment, as a confused family stared awkwardly at my abrupt entrance.  Wasting no time, I ran out their front door and toward the roof.

Strength in Hell is based upon an individual’s will... and whoever just threw me sure had a strong one.

I summoned the last bit of my strength and hopped across a few buildings to find a place to hide.  I sat down a moment to rest amongst the herbs in someone’s rooftop garden.

Below, I could hear the angry mob kicking in doors and scouring homes in search of me.  I couldn’t help but feel bad for the lives I had just interrupted.  I’d be sure to put in a good word for them with my boss when I got home.  Home.  I struggled to focus on the place.

I envisioned the Throne Realm, with it’s gray stone walls and red carpet.  I thought of the queue line, the throne, the hallway to my room.  My room itself, involuntary decorations and all.  It’s really hard to focus when you’re bleeding out from bruises and knife wounds.  The world began to faded away, then back in, then away.  I wasn’t sure if I was beginning to transport myself home or just passing out.

Eventually, just as I heard the door to my roof kicked open, things faded out completely.  I managed to get my eyes open again, just for a second.  I was awake only long enough to see a red carpet of disgruntled souls and a well-dressed man in a top hat running toward me.

----

It wasn’t until the next morning that I woke up in my bed.  As I struggled to open my eyes, I could see the Devil waiting in my room.  He was sitting in a small wooden chair in the corner, leaning it back against the wall on two legs.

“About time you woke up,” he joked at me, landing his chair on the floor.

Still in a daze, I rolled my eyes and turned my head away.

“They didn’t belong there.” I replied, trying to find my thoughts.

“Hmm?” the Devil questioned.

“The men who attacked me.  They weren’t supposed to be in that realm.  Neither was the arsonist from Christine.”  I struggled to piece together my memory.

“So something was up after all.” He paused a moment to think.  “If the souls of the dead really have learned to move between the realms, then our problems are just beginning.  Why don’t you stay here and rest for a few days,” he added as he got up and headed toward the door.  “Gonna need you in good shape if things keep up this way.”

“This is only the beginning of something much bigger than us,” I said as he reached the door.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing.  Just something Toni Giuliani said to me the night I caught him.”

“Hmm,” he paused to think again.  “Let’s hope it really is just ‘nothing’ then.  Get some rest Axel.”  My boss turned and left the room.

As I lay in my bed my fight wounds continued to burn and sting.  Every inch of my body felt beaten and sore.  Ordinarily, I heal up pretty quickly.  Deep wounds of the soul though can sometimes take much longer to heal, and I certainly felt wounded.  I closed my eyes again and decided to get some much needed rest.

----

The next few weeks passed by uneventfully.  I got back on my feet within the following day and a half and returned to business as usual.  Across all the realms there seemed to be a universal rise in crime rates.  Each and every one of my investigations however turned up empty.

I managed to catch a few regular criminals here and there, but no one involved in the events of that night.  The few individuals that did seem to be involved in unusual activities turned out to be nothing but pawns or blind accomplices.  Not one of them had any useful information to provide.

Honestly, at this point I wished that I had done more than just wound those bar thugs.  At least one fatality would have been one soul we could interrogate.  Maybe then we’d have some answers.

Meanwhile however, my boss was intent on sending me to talk to the one person in the afterlife I wanted nothing to do with.

“Of all people, why do I have to talk to her?” I asked.

“Because, she says she has information on what’s been going on.  Last time I checked, that’s more than you can say,” he taunted me.

“Fine!  I blame you for any mental trauma that comes of this though,” I scoffed as I walked toward my archway.  “I’ll report back if she tells me anything interesting.  If she wastes my time though I’m going to waste yours and take the rest of the day off.”  Without looking back for a reaction, I headed through the stone arch.  I envisioned a secluded rural street corner I’d grown too familiar with over the last few years.

I walked down the street, stopping in front of a small two story house.  It was a white house with baby blue shutters and some decent hedges forming a parameter around the front lawn.  The house itself was older, and a bit of a fixer-upper.  I walked up the steps and hesitated at the doorway.

In each realm, the Devil had one or two individuals who would keep tabs on things and contact him if something was unusual.  Cops, reporters, investigators, and people with shady pasts.  Those were the usual volunteers.  Unfortunately for me though, an ex-girlfriend from my former life just happened to be one of them.

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krTsukasa
Simon McDougall
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Celbatrix Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011
I have tagged you!

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Minnat Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2010
Happy Birthday!
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KumagoroBunnyGirls Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Hobbyist Filmographer
Thanks for the fave ^_^
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krTsukasa Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010
I gotta keep track of who uses my brush somehow. =P
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KumagoroBunnyGirls Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2010  Hobbyist Filmographer
hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. That I can not help you with... maybe keep track of all those who fave your brushes?
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SkiesOfAzel Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2010
Thanks for the fav on Orta, an update is coming soon btw;)
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Notmiown Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2010
Thanks again man. I appreciate It.
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Notmiown Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
Me again. Thank you also for the :+fav:. :)
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Notmiown Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
Thanks for the :+devwatch:
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