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Ozryel is one of the names of the Angel of Death. It is found in Medieval, Hebrew, and Islamic writings. Translated as ‘One Whom God Helps,’ the name can also be rendered as Izrail, Azrin, Azriel, et cetera.
Silas tsked and turned the page.
As master of life and death, the figure is commonly depicted as a gatekeeper of the afterlife. Jewish mystics commonly associate Ozryel with the destroying angel who killed the firstborn of Egypt during Passover. Ozryel survived in popular lore during the Middle Ages when stories were carried to Europe from the Middle East.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Silas said, trailing his finger across the page. He began skipping sections until his eyes landed on: “Religious Practices Associated with Ozryel”.
“Okay, lemme have it.”
There are no popular religious practices associated with Ozryel. Jonius Publicus, a 5th Century historian, wrote briefly about a sect that offered sacrifices to an Ozryel-type deity. They were summarily imprisoned.
Silas slapped the book shut. The noise was surprisingly loud. He glanced at Hannah. She was still fast asleep on his couch. With her arms sticking out at weird angles and her head over the armrest, she reminded Silas of a chalk outline of a body. He heaved the textbook onto the fire bench and reached for another. It was something he dug out of his father’s collection.
There was only one entry on Ozryel. The sparse paragraph repeated most of what he already read. Opposite the text was a Doré-inspired picture of the creature. It was angelic all right, if angels had wings of bone. Ozryel floated over the world, its hands outstretched. On either side of it were the gates of Heaven and Hell. Its face was a cheerless skull. Silas was impressed and took out his sketchbook.
A door slammed downstairs. Barnabas, Silas’s dog, lifted his enormous and let out a sonorous woof. Hannah sat up, almost falling off the couch. Immediately, her hand went to her neck.
“Ah, what was that?” she asked.
“Mrs. Plonka, I think,” Silas said. “She likes to slam things.”
Hannah groaned. “What time is it?”
Silas looked around the room. “I used to have a clock in here.”
Searching her pockets, Hannah found her phone. “Eight o’clock? I’ve been out all afternoon?”
Slowly her wits reassembled. She looked around suspiciously. “Where’s the fetish?”
“In the box,” he said. “Haven’t had time to look at it.”
“What’ve you been doing?” she asked.
“Working on the case. Thanks for the help, by the way.”
“How am I supposed to help you read books?” Hannah said. “Should I turn the pages for you, sir?”
“Four eyes are better than one,” he said.
“Learn anything?” she asked.
“I’ve been searching every book I have for mention of Ozryel,” he said. “They all say the same thing.”
“And that would be?”
“It’s the Angel of Death.”
“Is that all we’re up against?” Hannah said.
“But few people ever worshipped Ozryel,” Silas said. “Not in any large-scale way. How could there be a high priest devoted to him?”
“Qule could’ve gotten the name wrong,” Hannah said.
“Not likely. The creature sells idols for a living,” he said. “No, there’s more to Ozryel than my books can tell me.”
“Have you checked online?” she asked.
Silas cast her an annoyed glance. “Why don’t you check online, smarty? Tell me how that goes.”
Hannah opened her phone. There were fourteen new messages from Liz. Cursing, she got up from the couch, swayed a little, and called her friend. Silas put down his book and watched as she sidled into the kitchen. He flipped open the pizza box at the far end of the bench and grabbed a cold slice. Words floated back to him from the other room.
“Yeah girl, I’ve been super busy… No, that detective I told you about… Shadowing him for a few days… What? My apartment is fine… Who told you that?… How does my landlord have your number?… It’s totally cool… Catch you later.”
She bumped into the Narnia-like wardrobe as she made her way back to the living room.
“Why is that there? It’s a fire hazard.”
“I like it there,” Silas said. “Besides, there’s no other place it’ll fit. What did Liz have to say?”
“She wanted to know what I was up to,” she said.
“Nosy, isn’t she?” he said.
“That’s what friends do, Black,” she said. “They express an interest in your life.”
“Is that what friends do?” Silas said. “I thought they just gave rides to the airport.”
“We normally talk all the time,” she said.
“But you’ve been avoiding her.”
“Yeah,” Hannah said. “You told me too.”
“I just said you shouldn’t tell her about the case. I didn’t want word to float around about what we were doing. Could get back to the kidnapper.”
“How?” she asked. “Liz would tell him?”
“No, but he’s proven to have eyes in strange places,” Silas said.
“Point taken. Ugg, my head is killing me.”
“Well, you sleep like a monkey,” he said.
“No, I had this weird dream,” she said.
The detective put down his pizza and leaned forward. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
“I don’t remember it,” Hannah said. “Kind of blurry now. Why? What’s so special about my dreams?”
“Ordinarily? Nothing. But considering you have a telepathic link with our kidnapper, we should investigate.”
“But Luther’s necklace was supposed to stop all that,” she said.
“It’s weakened, but it’s not gone,” Silas said. “Your mind is extra open while you sleep. More receptive to magical forces.”
“Is that a fact?”
“Ever experience something in a dream that eventually comes true?” he said. “It’s not déjà vu. Well, it is, but now you know why. Needless to say, you’re vulnerable when you sleep. That’s why I sleep with a nightcap.”
“Is it made of aluminum foil?”
“Copper,” he said. “Now close your eyes and try to recall what you saw.”
Hannah sighed as she closed her eyes. She took a deep breath. “I’m not getting anything.”
“Focus on just one detail,” he said. “It’ll develop from there.”
She really did try to remember. But the fragments of the dream slipped like watermelon seeds between her fingers. “I’m getting nothing.”
“Maybe this’ll help.” Silas took out the fetish.
Hannah pulled her legs up from the floor and leaned away from the fire bench. “Get that thing away from me.”
“Hear me out,” Silas said. “We can try using the fetish to tap into your link.”
“Why would I want to do that?” she asked.
“You can relive the dream,” he said, “by using the same power that sent it. The fetish can boost the signal back to the kidnapper and you can pluck the dream right out of his brain.”
“How do you know the dream was from the kidnapper?” she said.
“Just a hunch,” Silas said.
“No way,” Hannah said.
“You promised to help me, this is how.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “How do I tap into anything?”
“I’ll guide you,” he said. “It’ll be ten minutes, tops. If anything goes wrong, it goes back into the box.”
Hannah was scrunched up in a corner of the couch, her arms wrapped protectively around her. The apartment felt like a laboratory and she was the rat. But short of running away screaming, she could think of no alternative.
“What do you want me to do?”
Silas set the fetish in front of her. It seemed to be brimming with glee. “Use the fetish as a point of contact to reach out to the kidnapper.”
“How do I do that?”
“The psychic realm is controlled by the mind,” he said. “All you have to do is think, and it’s done. With the added strength of the fetish, all you have to do is focus on the dream and it should come.”
“And the kidnapper won’t blow up my head or something?” she asked.
“Like I told you before, my apartment’s safe,” Silas said. “We can reach out, but he can’t reach in.”
Hannah laughed at that. Lowering her legs to the floor she sat forward. Tentatively she touched the doll with her fingertips. The wood felt rough, but there was no shock of electricity, no disturbing sensations.
“Still here?” Silas asked, studying her crinkled face. She nodded.
“Pick out one detail you remember,” Silas said. “Focus on it. It could be a sound, an image, even a feeling.”
Hannah’s eyes were glued to the fetish. She refused to look away, in case it decided to jump at her. Thinking back, she struggled to remember something from the dream.
“I’m not good at this,” she said. “I never remember my dreams.”
She thought back to just before she woke up. There was a feeling, a swirling sensation in the pit of her stomach. Hannah dredged it up like a pearl at the bottom of a well. The feeling grew. There was a noise, like wind through branches. She remembered a forest, with dark trees covered in snow. Silas’s living room started to fade. He said something, but it was swallowed up in the howling.
For a moment everything was black. Hannah sat up, realizing she was sprawled across the forest floor. She was shivering. The ground was blanketed in snow. Staggering to her feet, she discovered the ground sloped downward. She was at the foot of a mountain. Another howl reached her. It wasn’t the wind.
A woman was screaming. She ran down the mountain, stumbling, tripping, her dress snagging on the undergrowth. For a second she looked over her shoulder, her eyes wild with fear. Beyond the trees, at the bottom of the mountain, glowed a town. She would never reach it. Something wrapped around her legs and she rolled across the ground. A figure, cloaked in shadow, materialized over her. He forced her face into the dirt to muffle her screams as he stuck the knife into her back.
The man trod over the dead woman. He turned to the town. Thunder rumbled and he scowled. He stretched out his hands to the cold night. It took him. Smoke rolled down the last legs of the mountain and entered the town.
People were out. Despite the late hour, they had left their homes and gathered at the town hall. The square was filled with mothers and fathers, partners and friends. They had gathered to pray, gathered out of fear. A few heard the thunder, though the sky was bare of clouds. The bells sang as the clock struck twelve. The shadow descended.
The people were given over to another mind. In their madness, they turned on each other. Men strangled their wives. Mothers cast their children into the fire. Skulls were trampled underfoot. Glass shattered and doors were kicked in. Even as soldiers arrived to restore order, their feet like thunder, the townsfolk wouldn’t relent. The troops were forced to turn their guns on the people to save themselves. Before the night was through, every citizen was dead.
Hannah watched, helpless, as the town was destroyed. She was taken from the scene, and up the mountain. Hidden among the trees was a house. It thrummed with a life all its own. Standing on a balcony was the man in shadow. His mouth parted in a smile. He roared with laughter. The sound mingled with the voices of the dying, like a victorious refrain.
Hannah was on her knees in the middle of Silas’s living room, clasping the fetish. She would not respond. He wrestled the fetish away and locked it in the iron box. The woman slumped over.
“Oh God, I killed her.”
Pulling her up by the arms, Silas shook her. He slapped Hannah’s face, first gently, then not so much. Her head lolled lifelessly. Silas opened her eyelids to see white. Propping her against the couch, he ran to the kitchen. Digging through boxes of takeout and a lifetime’s supply of Mexican orange soda, he found a very old dusty bottle of Scotch. Spilling a bit into the first cup he found, he went back to the living room.
“Now how do I get you to drink this?”
Hannah sat up, gasping for air. Her eyes fell on the glass of Scotch. Instinctively, she grabbed the whiskey and slammed it down.
“Gah, that’s terrible,” she said.
“Well, it’s been in the fridge for a while.”
She was breathing hard. It took her a long minute to reassemble her thoughts.
“Why am I on the floor?”
“You sort of passed out,” he said.
“And why does my face hurt?”
“I slapped you,” Silas said. “A couple of times.”
“Nothing personal. It’s what they do on TV,” he said.
Setting the empty glass down, she climbed back onto the couch.
“What did I miss?” she asked.
“Looks like you were in a trance,” Silas said.
“Like a waking dream,” he said.
“Felt like it.”
“It only lasted a few minutes,” he said. “Definitely under our ten-minute time limit.”
“Felt longer,” Hannah said.
“Did you see anything?”
“I’d say so.”
“Care to dish?” he asked.
Hannah pressed her eyes shut. They were sore as if she hadn’t slept in days. Slowly she recounted the dream. Silas watched her as she spoke, studying the way she moved her face and hands. Something was different, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He made a mental note to study her mannerisms more carefully.
“At midnight the people went crazy,” she said. “They killed each other. The soldiers had to stop them. There was no one left.”
“As far as dreams go, that’s a doozy.”
“It was him,” Hannah said. “I saw the kidnapper.”
“Had to be,” Hannah said. “I felt him. The same thing I felt when I touched the fetish. That’s the man.”
“Sounds like what you described happened a long time ago,” Silas said. “Judging from your description of the town, the clothes.”
“How long?” she asked.
“Have to pinpoint it,” he said. “What did the soldiers look like?”
“They had helmets,” she said. “Not modern, though. Maybe World War II?”
“And the uniforms?”
“Looked like Boy Scouts,” she said.
“National Guard,” Silas said. “Circa 1930s or 40s.”
“It felt real, but it didn’t happen, right?” Hannah asked. “It was just a dream.”
Silas looked at her pointedly. “There’s never been just a dream.”
“When did the National Guard kill a town full of people?” she said. “Have you ever heard of that?”
“No. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
Silas pulled out his notebook. Looking over what he had on the fetish, he added what Hannah related to him in shorthand. Flipping back and forth between the growing number of pages, his mind sifted through the information.
“We have a kidnapper associated with the Angel of Death, who years ago drove an entire town mad.” He was lost in thought until a bitter taste filled his mouth. He was sucking on the end of his pencil. Silas wiped his lips. They were black.
“Why would he send me a dream?” Hannah asked.
“Can’t be sure about that, for now,” Silas said. “Could be another attempt to overwhelm you.”
“Well, it’s working.”
“He overplayed his hand with this one,” he said. “We can dig around and find out more about this massacre. Could lead us right to him. Maybe that Internet of yours can help.”
He looked up at Hannah. Her head was drooping. She stared blankly at a corner of the room.
She jerked her head up at him. Her eyes were glassy. “Hmm?”
“How ’bout we go for a walk?” he said. “Get some fresh air.”
“I don’t want fresh air,” Hannah said.
“Well the dog needs to poop, so let’s go.”
The temperature had dropped over the course of the night. Cold air clung to their faces, sucking heat straight from their pores. Silas bundled up his greatcoat, flipping up the collar for good measure. Hannah let her coat hang open. She walked a few steps behind the detective and his dog. Silas pulled back the chain that was barely keeping Barnabas in check as he stared up at the sky.
“Gonna snow,” he said.
Hannah looked up. A gray veil hung across the sky. The air was thick with anticipation, but no snow yet. Distant noises floated down the street. They only added to the vacant feeling that hung over the neighborhood.
“It’s too early for snow,” Hannah said in a detached sort of way.
“It’s been known to happen,” Silas said. He was jerked to the right as Barnabas moved for the curb.
“Should have brought a bag,” he said, eyes on the dog.
“For what?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Silas studied the woman. The haze was slowly lifting, but she was still miles away. Hannah stood in the middle of the sidewalk, her coat flapping in the breeze, shoulders slumped. Someone walked by and had to awkwardly move around her. She didn’t notice. For a moment Silas regretted making her use the fetish. He dismissed the thought immediately.
“I was thinking we can run by your apartment,” he said. “Pick up some of your clothes? Should be safe. We’ll be in and out.”
Hannah shrugged noncommittally.
“I’m sure you’re tired of wearing Plonka’s stuff.”
She seemed to not understand what he meant.
“Ah, hey,” he said, “you never told me why you got into journalism.”
“Yeah, tell me about that,” Silas said.
Hannah shook her head as if the drowsiness was wearing off. “Um, I always wanted to be a journalist.”
“Since you were a kid?” he asked.
“That’s right. My dad was a photographer,” she said. “I spent a lot of time around reporters and bullpens. I guess it rubbed off.”
“That’s very interesting.” The dog pulled Silas a few more steps down the block. “Tell me more.”
“I saved up my allowance when I was ten to buy this clunky tape recorder,” she said. “To interview kids at school. I was always on the lookout for the big scoop.”
“And that’s what you do now,” Silas said.
“I guess. There’s always a lot of news, but they only want stories that’ll get clicks. That usually means crap. It’s pretty hard to do meaningful work.”
“Yet you’re still at it. Not giving up.” He nodded. “I admire that.”
“Why are you so interested all of a sudden?” Hannah asked. She sounded more like herself.
“Isn’t this what you said friends do?” Silas said. “Get to know each other?”
The detective shrugged. “Kind of.”
“Okay. Your turn.”
Silas cursed to himself. Had that coming. He looked at Hannah. There was that reporter’s gleam in her eye. Reminded him of an alley cat he once knew.
“What do you want to know?” he asked.
“Why do you do all this?” she said. “Put yourself in danger, just for strangers?”
“It’s not about the danger,” Silas said. “It’s about the discovery. I’ve seen things, kid, you just couldn’t imagine. I want to learn as much as I can about the Universe. Isn’t that why we’re all here?”
“You don’t need to be a detective to do that,” Hannah said. “Why take on clients?”
His head bobbed from side to side as he thought about it. “One time, I went to Mexico,” he said. “For a case. Children were going missing from a town outside Juarez. Local authorities blamed wolf attacks, but I didn’t buy it.”
“There are no wolves in Mexico. One night I got a little carried away trying to blend in and drank twelve shots of tequila.”
“Yikes, I didn’t know you drank,” Hannah said.
“Not anymore. I woke up in a basement, chained to a radiator. There was another hand handcuffed to mine. It wasn’t connected to a body.”
“Turns out a coven of body snatchers was taking the kids,” he said. “They spiked my drinks at the bar. The severed arm belonged to the man who hired me, a deputy sheriff.”
“How’d you get out of that one?” she asked.
“I don’t remember,” he said
“Hangovers can do that,” Silas said. “But I did find the children. To see the joy and relief on their parents’ faces, it made the danger worth it. To live. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.”
“What are body snatchers?” Hannah asked.
“Sort of like crones,” he said. “Only meaner.”
“So, which is it for me?” Hannah asked. “Are you only interested in me as a case study, or do you care?”
“Does it matter?”
“Does for me,” she said.
“It’s getting cold,” Silas said, walking back up the street.
Hannah watched him for a minute. The temperature had finally gotten to her and she pulled her coat closed. Reaching into a pocket, she found her phone.
“It’s only nine?” she said. “Feels like midnight.”
Silas stopped. He turned on a foot. “What did you say?”
“Nothing. I just feel tired.”
“Midnight,” he said. “In the dream, you said it was midnight.”
“Yes. You said it was midnight when the massacre began. How did you know?”
“There was a clock,” she said. “The bells were ringing.”
“A clock tower,” Silas said. “Like in a town square?”
“Yeah, all the people were gathered in the middle of the town. The clock struck twelve and they went crazy.”
Barnabas pulled on his leash, but his master did not budge. “A clock tower. A town in the mountains. Why does that sound familiar?”
He looked up at Hannah, excitement in his eyes. She took a step back.
“I think I got something.”
Grabbing her by the hand, he pulled both woman and dog back to the house. Barnabas moaned as he was dragged from an attractive fire hydrant. He decided to conduct his business anyway as they ran.
“I’m not finding anything online,” Hannah said.
“I didn’t think you would,” Silas said. “A massacred town. The National Guard involved. The government would’ve covered it up.”
“That’s too big to hide,” Hannah said. “There should be a record, somewhere.”
Silas stepped out of his bedroom, a pile of books in his arms. “Not everything’s leaked to the public, Ms. Brockovich. Especially in the age before television or the Internet. I know that shatters your paradigm, but it’s true.”
He returned to his chair and dropped the books onto the fire bench. Hannah lowered her phone and stared at them.
“What’s all this?”
“Almanacs,” he said.
“Before the Internet, there were almanacs,” Silas said. “If you wanted to know anything about the world around you, these were your source.”
“So long as what you wanted to know was when to plant sorghum,” Hannah said.
Silas stuck a finger at her. “Don’t be silly. Everyone knows you plant sorghum in early June. Almanacs also published oddities or stories of note from the local area.”
Cracking open a large book, he started flipping through the pages.
“Your dream reminded me of something,” he said. “An entry I read a while ago.”
“In an almanac?” she asked.
“And you remembered it somehow?”
“I always file away important bits of information.” Silas tapped the side of his head. “You never know when they’ll come in handy.”
“How do you know what bits are important and what bits are just trash?” Hannah asked.
“That’s the tricky part.”
He reached a certain page and smiled. Turning the book around, he showed it to Hannah. His finger was on a picture. It was the clock from her dream. The face was cracked and it tilted precariously from the tower, but it was the one. The caption below read: “Barrow Hill Clock Tower in Disrepair.” There was a short entry:
The years have not been kind to the eclectic mountain town of Barrow Hill. After years of economic decline, it now faces the loss of its clock tower. The town hall has been in disrepair for a decade and the clock threatens to fall from its setting. A lack of funds prevents the beleaguered town from restoring it. Only time will tell whether or not it plummets to the ground below.
“‘Only time will tell,'” Hannah said. “That’s what writers say when they don’t know how to end an article.”
“Is that your clock tower?” Silas asked.
“I can hardly believe it,” she said, “but it is.”
“Then Barrow Hill’s the place,” he said.
“Do you believe a town in Upstate New York was massacred,” she said, “and nobody knows about it?”
“Like I said, it could have been covered up,” he said.
“You know, for a journalist, you’re not very cynical,” Silas said. “The other reason no one knows is, for better or worse, sometimes things are forgotten.”
“For worse,” she said.
He pulled out another book from the pile. “But with the help of a very old atlas, we might find this Barrow Hill ourselves.”
“You wanna traipse through Upstate New York in search of the scene of a massacre?” she said. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
“Why not?” he said. “Best case scenario: we find vital clues about our kidnapper. Worst case: we’re attacked by hillbillies. Either way, put on your shoes.”
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