The smack to Chloe's rear end is hard enough that she moans a muffled "Ow" into her pillow. She whines as covers are pulled away from her naked body. At least Lucifer keeps it warm in the penthouse.
"Rise and shine, darling!"
"What time is it?" she mumbles.
"Oh, it's a bloody ungodly hour."
Chloe snorts into her pillow. "Let me sleep."
"'Fraid I can't, my dear. It's going to be a long day, so we need to start early. First stop is a meeting with Blackjack Haley."
That makes her sit up on her elbows and look at him over her shoulder. He's dressed in a black three-piece suit already, no hair out of place, no sign that he spent hours, drunk and depressed, in the shower, and only escaped with her help.
"Blackjack Haley...the head of the Iron Ghosts Motorcycle Club?"
"The one and only."
"You know him? Lucifer, the LAPD's been trying to catch him for years."
"Well, he lives in Santa Monica and drives a Bentley when he's not on his motorcycle, so they must not be trying too hard. But, no, I don't personally know Haley," he says, his voice carrying as he wanders into the closet. "Shouldn't be a problem, though." As if it's a minor detail. He returns and throws black jeans and a white shirt at her.
The clothes slide off her body as she turns onto her back. She throws an arm over her eyes to hide from the rising sun. "Can't we just stay in bed another hour?"
She lifts her arm a little, peeking at him, and is amused to find his attention isn't at all directed on her face. Dragging her knees up, she spreads her legs wide and enjoys how his eyes dart from one leg to the other before settling between them. He doesn't lie. He really is a leg man.
"Lucifer, come back to bed."
He stares for a long moment, the smirk on his face deepening. "Oh, what the hell?" he says, throwing off his jacket.
Chloe smiles in victory.
Lucifer works through buttons and hooks with practiced ease until he's left standing in all his naked glory. Sunlight tingles through Chloe's skin and casts enticing reliefs across his body. Her heart rate spikes as he crawls up the bed like a big, prowling cat. Suddenly, she's not tired at all.
He leans over her, his erection pressing hard against her thigh, and kisses the corner of her mouth. He drags lips and teeth and tongue down her jawline, the slope of her neck, and the wings of her collarbone. Resting on his elbows, he holds a breast in each hand and circles his thumbs around her nipples. Chloe arches into him when his fingers change course and drag roughly over the sensitive skin.
"Quite the seductress, aren't you?" he chuckles, his warm breath leaving gooseflesh in its wake. "Tempting the Devil."
She melts beneath him as he dips his head and draws a pink bud into his mouth. The thing about foreplay and sex with Lucifer is there's no part of him that's ever idle. His hands are no less busy because his mouth is at work. He heeds every moan and sigh, and reads flesh and bone like a blind person reads Braille.
"Such a siren," he says, dragging long fingers down her ribs. He grips the curve of her waist tightly and kisses his way downward. His tongue follows the crescent arches of her hipbones, and finally—finally—he's between her thighs, where she wants him, and she's already moaning his name.
He presses a hot, wet kiss directly over her clit, and she jolts a little at the contact. Backing away suddenly, he gently slaps her inner thighs. "Right, up you get, Jezebel. We've places to go, people to see." He scrambles up before she can reach for him and looks down at her in lustful amusement.
Chloe sits up at once, her mouth hanging open. "What? No!" As he slides his arms back into his dress shirt, she throws a hand out, indicating his arousal. "You obviously don't want to stop!"
"Nothing wrong with a bit of delayed gratification. Besides, darling, you've trained me too well. I've suffered with blue balls next to you for years."
"But you don't have to anymore!"
"I'll get the shower started for you, shall I?" he says, waltzing from the room. He peeks around the corner of the hallway that leads into his closet and bathroom. "Water a bit cooler than usual, yes?"
She groans, and his laughter is loud and full.
Chloe rushes through her shower, feeling like a wire pulled taut. She'd get herself off, but Lucifer seems to know that and keeps passing through the bathroom. When she steps out of the water, he hands her a bath sheet and a cup of coffee with a smirk.
"I know we need to find Shay," she says, holding the hot mug close, "but why are we starting so early? It's five-thirty in the morning."
He shrugs a shoulder. "Early bird catches the feather-thieving degenerate?"
Setting aside her coffee, she flips her hair and towels it dry. "And why do you think the leader of the Iron Ghosts will know who or where Shay is?"
"Crime syndicates keep tabs on each other, just like the LAPD keeps tabs on them. Any crime ring that sells drugs is notoriously tetchy about new drugs entering the market. They like to get their hands on them—I should know, because I like to get my hands on them, too. And yet my contacts have curiously had no firefly heroin to sell me, nor have they been able to tell me where to acquire it. So. Time to speak to management myself, as it were. If Haley doesn't know Shay or where to source the drug, we've seven other kingpins we can see."
She turns her head slowly to look at him. "You know seven drug lords."
"Mm. Well, in L.A., at least, and not directly, but soon I suppose we both will."
Chloe stands straight, towel clutched to her breasts. "And we're just going to go...talk to them."
His mouth twitches. "They're people just like you and me."
"Very dangerous people."
"And I'm a dangerous devil," he says, his sharp grin coming out in full force. Digging into his trouser pocket, he emerges with a pair of her underwear, which he presses into her hands. "Chop-chop, darling. If you don't hurry it along, I'll have to speed more, and we both know how much you hate that."
Chloe holds her underwear limply and stares at his black-suited back as he strolls out of the bathroom.
What the hell has she gotten herself into?
Lucifer drives them deep into Glendale, while Chloe squints behind her sunglasses and nurses a second cup of coffee. It's barely ten in the morning, but she's already come face to face with men from the Iron Ghosts and the Yakuza. Neither group knew anything about Shay, even though both had heard of Firefly in passing. That's the important takeaway, but all Chloe can really focus on is how nice everyone has been. Because everyone likes Lucifer.
"I can't believe they gave us snacks," she says, staring at the small box of Japanese treats on her lap. It contains everything from mochi to matcha chocolate and wasabi peas.
"Yes, I really thought the Yakuza and I had parted on bad terms last time," Lucifer says, taking one hand off the wheel to dig into the box for chocolate, "but perhaps I misread things."
Last time. Because her partner, the Devil, her boyfriend, occasionally meets with the Yakuza. And she, a woman who doesn't even know if she's quite human anymore herself, goes with him.
What the fuck.
She grounds herself by focusing on the streets as they pass them. Like most neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Glendale is a sprawling mishmash of businesses, nouveau-riche wealth, and urban poverty. As always, gentrification is making for strange bedfellows, placing houses flipped by hipsters one street over from dilapidated bungalows, and trendy juice bars next to pawn shops.
They pull into a tiny parking lot beside a trio of businesses, one of them Niko's, a dive bar with a traditional, red-brick face awkwardly forced onto the concrete body of its mini-mall container. They've come to meet Terenti Abashidze, the head of the Georgian Mafia, another man the LAPD would like to have a word with, but can never seem to track down.
Lucifer parks the Corvette—poorly, as usual—and pulls the keys from the ignition. The engine ticks as it cools.
"So, are the Georgians going to give us treats to go?" Chloe asks, trying to make light of the bizarre morning she's had. She's not sure what the hell else to do with it.
"No, but they might shake figs at us." Lucifer fails to notice how her brow furrows with confusion. "The Georgians are a deeply religious and superstitious bunch. The only reason they tolerate me and my name is because money often has more pull than dear old Dad." Tilting the Corvette's rear-view mirror toward himself, he smooths his hair. "As such," he says, glancing at her sidelong, "might I suggest you take a step back, Detective? I do love to see you at work, but I fear you might get us shot dead, is all."
Chloe stares at him, lips parted. She's never been one to shy away from danger—far from it—but she's used to being in control and having the police force at her back. Mostly, anyway. If she's honest with herself, Lucifer's been the one at her back, usually.
"What are we walking into here?" she asks, concerned.
He pats her thigh. "It'll be fine, I'm sure. At any rate, you'll find a gun and ammo in the glove box for you."
"What?" Chloe yanks open the glove compartment and gawps at the Ruger pistol. "Lucifer, is that even registered?"
"Not likely. I bought it from a chap at three in the morning."
"I'm not touching that."
He shrugs a shoulder. "Suit yourself. Probably won't need it."
"Probably," she mutters. She stops him before he can climb out of the Corvette. "Wait, wait, wait." She smacks his arm. "Put the top up! We can't just leave a"—she mouths the word gun—"out in the open." She's horrified to realize they did exactly that during their last two stops.
"Ah, right you are," Lucifer agrees, while Chloe does her best to hold it together.
At the front of Niko's, a yellowed Closed sign hangs in the slender, diamond-shaped window of the venue's vaguely Eastern European-styled door. Chloe frowns at it. "Do you know someone who will let us—"
The lock snaps free beneath Lucifer's touch. "Why, yes, darling, I do know someone who will let us in," he says, pushing the door open. He walks into the dark bar, munching on the last of the Yakuza's chocolate.
"All's quiet on the Caucasian front," he declares.
Chloe follows him inside, yanking her sunglasses off and blinking against the sudden change in light. For a moment, she feels off-kilter, as she often does now when going between the intense power of natural light and the relative tranquility of shadowed or artificially-lit interiors. The swoop in her gut and the sharp pang in her skull are reminders that what's happening to her physically hasn't gone away, simply because the rest of her life is relentlessly busy and complicated.
She closes the door behind them. Without the sounds of growling car engines from the street outside, she can just make out the soft, fluctuating noise of muffled human speech. "Where's that coming from?" she asks.
Lucifer flicks a finger toward a door behind the empty bar counter. A white-and-red sign declares in both English and squiggly Georgian script that the space is for employees only. "That leads to the illegal gambling hall set up in the basement." He fingers his cufflinks and grins. "Shall we?"
He strides forward before she can answer, pausing only briefly to peek behind the bar and turn his nose up at the selection. Tugging open the Employees Only door, he reveals a tiny threshold that leads into a narrow, dimly lit stairwell.
A thickly-bearded man looks up from his cell phone in surprise from where he perches atop a wooden stool far too small for his giant form. He stands, shoving his phone into a pocket, and booms, "How did you get in?" He points a finger behind them. "We are closed." Slapping the flat of his palm against the door he guards, he adds, "Staff only. You don't read?"
"Been around since cuneiform, actually, so, yes, I do happen to be literate, thank you." Lucifer slams a hand to the door before the goon can close it. This time, Chloe doesn't object to his aggressive methodology. "We're here to see Terenti Abashidze."
The bruiser's bushy brows arch like black umbrellas above his eyes. A gold tooth flashes beneath the overhead light as his head falls back with his laughter. "And who are you?" he asks, once his amusement has died down.
"Lucifer Morningstar. You may have heard of me."
The barrel-chested man's eyes widen as he clutches at the buttons of his shirt. "You go."
"Bloody hell, you must be new." Lucifer rolls his eyes and waves a hand. "Yes, yes, my name strikes terror, but be a dear and pop downstairs to announce my arrival, would you? Someone will know of me. I've played here before."
Shaking his head, the bruiser moves to close the door and frowns when his shove doesn't make it budge an inch. Lucifer glances at Chloe in amusement as the man continues to push with increasing agitation, going so far as to peer at the bottom edge of the wood, convinced something—certainly not Lucifer—must be blocking the door's movement. Chloe looks away, face scrunching as she struggles to contain inappropriate laughter. Nothing could have prepared her for this morning.
"Batono Lucifer?" a heavily-accented voice calls from the base of the stairwell.
This is followed by a steady flow of Georgian. Chloe doesn't understand any of it, but it must be in their favor because Lucifer grins smugly at the bouncer.
Scowling, the large man steps aside, opening the door wider before stopping them again with a raised hand. "Who is this?" he asks, looking down at Chloe, as if noticing her for the first time.
"Ah," Lucifer says, dragging her in front of him by her shoulders, "this would be my associate, Jane. She's not a cop."
Chloe nearly chokes. If they survive this basement full of mobsters, she might kill him.
Despite Georgian ownership, the basement is modeled after vintage American gambling halls. Waitresses dressed in tiny black skirts weave around classic, green-felted gaming tables, holding aloft serving trays laden with glasses. Pale yellow liquor glows beneath golden-domed lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
At the base of the stairwell, the swift, clipped syllables of the Georgian language wash over Chloe, leaving her feeling foreign and disoriented. She tries to convince herself this is just another undercover job, with the only (big) difference being that she's not the one in control of it. It'll be okay, she thinks. Lucifer knows what he's doing...right?
She yanks her hand away from her face when she realizes she's chewing on the edge of her thumb. She can't bring herself to say it to him after the long night he had, but the visits to see the Iron Ghosts, the Yakuza, and now here, to talk to a Georgian mob boss, feel like wild goose chases. What are the odds Abashidze will lead them any closer to Shay?
"Turns out the Devil does go down to Georgia," Lucifer jokes, observing the smoke-filled room with fondness. He looks toward the back, right corner of the hall, where a waitress is bent toward a middle-aged man. "Ah, there's Terenti now."
Lucifer leads them to the oval-shaped poker table. Players at other tables look up and watch them pass, giving Chloe the distinct impression that the Devil has a reputation here. Whether it's good or bad, or simply notorious, she can't be sure, and not knowing puts her on edge.
Five men are gathered round Terenti Abashidze's table, some slender, some hulking and bearded like the bouncer. Shot glasses litter the spaces between them, and cigarette and cigar ash gathers in ashtrays. One man reaches for his poker chips, revealing knuckles scabbed over from what Chloe can only assume was an act of mob justice.
Of the small group, Terenti is the only attractive man. Dressed in a black button-down, he is lean and dark, like Lucifer, but with ice blue eyes that lock onto them with shark-like intensity. While the men around him seem savvy in the way all hardened criminals do, Terenti is the only one who doesn't look like he earns his living by throwing punches. As the boss, he earns it by being clever. The nervous pit in Chloe's gut twists, making her regret her second cup of coffee.
"Dila mshvidobisa!" Lucifer cheers, standing at the head of the table. Chloe blinks at the reminder that he's fluent in literally every language, ever.
Lucifer scoffs and makes what is clearly a sarcastic reply. The dealer slings cards toward the players at the table.
Terenti shrugs a shoulder in response. A moment later, his eyes cut up to Chloe, and he smiles around his cigarette. It's a cruel smile she refuses to be intimidated by. She's seen it on others, many times before, and it pisses her off more than it scares her. Terenti asks Lucifer a question.
"Es is Jane," Lucifer says, glancing at her.
The mob boss chuckles and peeks at the cards he's been dealt before returning his attention to Chloe. Winking, he holds his hands in front of his chest and shakes them up and down. "Genatsvale jigrebshi!" he laughs.
Other men at the table, and even some at the tables nearby, suddenly ohhh and ahhh and roar with laugh. She doesn't need to be fluent in Georgian to know they've recognized her from Hot Tub High School, the movie that won't die. In this particular case, she supposes she should be grateful they know her from that, and not for her work as a detective.
Lucifer speaks through a cutting smirk, the language rolling off his tongue. Their corner of the room falls quiet at once, save for the soft clicking of caressed poker chip stacks. The men at Terenti's table look up with narrowed eyes.
Chloe rests a hand on Lucifer's elbow. "Lucifer, it's fine. I'm sure I've heard it before." She resists the urge to point out his chivalry is hypocritical, given his own crass, if glowing, reviews of her erstwhile acting career.
A match of wits starts up between the two men. Chloe stands to the side, her eyes shifting back and forth, as she tries and fails to understand where the conversation has drifted. Are they still talking about her breasts? Who knows.
But then she hears "Shay" and realizes Lucifer has managed to stay focused.
Terenti, having won a round of poker, rakes chips toward himself. He leans back in his chair and locks his fingers behind his head. He looks up at Lucifer, as though he is a king staring down his nose at a lowly subject. Lucifer's expression borders on dangerous.
Don't, Chloe wills Terenti. Don't be stupid. Not today. Not over this.
But when Terenti speaks again, it's through a dismissive sneer.
Lucifer's teeth show in a barely-contained snarl. Chloe calls to him softly, one hand lifted between them, but she's seen him this way, shoving men out windows, sitting unrepentantly by criminals he's rendered insane. He's too far gone, and something crackles through her in response, a sharp reminder.
Time seems to slow around Chloe. She steps back instinctively, bumping into a waitress, who curses as glasses tumble and shatter. But all Chloe can see is the moment Lucifer springs like a cobra, grasping the end of the gaming table and flinging it sideways. The table crashes into the wall, plasterboard exploding. Poker chips and cards fly through the air.
Terenti's men yell and scramble up as one, but they're too slow. Lucifer rages forward, lifting Terenti by his throat and slamming him into the wall. The mob boss babbles and gasps, his blue eyes wide as he grasps at Lucifer's forearms in shock. Lucifer growls a question while Terenti's men surge forward.
The gambling hall erupts around Chloe.
"Lucifer!" she cries. And it's Colinda all over again. It's freefalling from the sky, feathers engulfing her and snapping in the wind.
The crowd swarms around him, separating them. Struggling to keep a hold on her light, she shoves back at a man twice her size who tries to move her out of the way.
Chloe's eyes dart around the room, hunting for other exits to the surface and finding none. They have to get out of here. For their safety. For everyone's safety.
One of Terenti's men shouts something in Georgian and raises a pistol, firing it at the ceiling. The blast is deafening in the basement. Chloe's ears ring as plaster and wood rain down. Behind the crowd of mobsters, she makes out Lucifer's slow, agitated turn. Newly free, Terenti scrambles away.
A scream gets stuck in Chloe's throat. She presses forward in a panic as the gunman trains his pistol on Lucifer.
But Lucifer's hand flashes out, snatching the weapon with ease. The barrel bends alarmingly beneath his fingers, and he hurls the gun sideways—right into the face of the shooter. The man drops like a rock.
"Iqos mase!" Terenti's shout is all but a scream. "Iqos mase!"
The room goes still. Chloe sucks in a breath as Lucifer turns toward her with crimson eyes that send the Georgians scurrying, muttering litanies to God. Many hands have grasped at him, leaving him disheveled. He steps before her and stops, the red of his irises slipping back to warm, familiar dark brown. He stares, as if she might have answers to questions he hasn't voiced.
She grabs his hand. "Let's get out of here."
They leave the basement without being further accosted, their shoes crunching on glass. The bouncer at the top of the stairwell gives them a wide berth as he holds open the door to the bar, which is still closed for the morning. The staff door slams shut behind them.
"Not until we get to the car," she says, dragging him with her to Niko's entrance.
She pulls the door open and steps outside, only to wince as bright sunlight bears down upon her. Pulling her sunglasses from her back pocket, she shoves them onto her face and marches to the Corvette, trusting Lucifer is behind her.
The inside of the Corvette feels more like an oven than a car. Lucifer cranks the engine and turns up the air conditioning.
"What the hell?" Chloe finally says.
Lucifer glances at her, fingers tapping a jittery rhythm on the steering wheel. "Go on, then," he huffs. "Tell me off."
"You know what? I will. You could have gotten us killed in there! And I had no idea what was going on! I can't understand Georgian—I can barely handle Spanish!"
"The Los Angeles public school system really does leave much to be desired, doesn't it?"
Chloe's eyes narrow.
"Fine. I could have prepared you better. But I had it under control," he argues, shoving a loose curl back from his forehead. "Things simply went a bit south because Terenti's a knobhead who wouldn't make a deal with me that didn't involve you."
She'll have to unpack that later.
Lucifer continues, "But nothing would have happened to you or to me. I assure you of that."
"That man had a gun!"
"And you could have one, too," he sing-songs, nodding his chin toward the glove compartment.
She closes her eyes. "Oh my God."
"Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if Dad were behind the reprobates who absconded with my feathers."
"Look at yourself," she seethes, jabbing a finger toward his half-tucked shirt and drywall-dusted suit jacket. Scoffing, he lifts his hips and re-tucks his shirttail. "That," she says, directing her finger toward the building, "was not control."
"What would you know about my control?" he gripes. "Anyway, you're bloody with the Devil, aren't you? Devil is as Devil does. Best get used to it now."
The trouble with moments like this one is sometimes she wants to kiss the attitude right out of him. Today, she wants much more, but she squashes those feelings down with brutal efficiency.
"You just— You just—" She lets out a small squeal of frustration and blows air past her lips. "We're done for the day. We're not going to go on anymore wild goose chases because"—she slips into her fake British accent—"'I'm the Devil, Chloe. This is Devil business. This is what I do.' No." She quiets, searching for patience. "I get that you want to find Shay—I do, too—but we have to remain calm. We have to do this logically."
"Calm," he chuckles. "Detective. Darling. Someone stole my body parts to sell to the highest bidder again, and said body parts are now killing humans. I. Am. As. Calm. As. I. Can. Be." Pulling his flask from his breast pocket, he unscrews the cap and drinks deeply.
"Okay," Chloe says gently, touching his arm. "You're right. I'm sorry. I just... We need to be careful, you know? You need to be careful."
His gaze softens. "No need to worry about me. I'd make my way back if anything happened. Eventually." He adds in a somber voice, "I'm not the fragile one in this partnership."
But she does worry. He lives like he's immortal around her, but he's not—not quite. And the thought of him descending to Hell—again—because of her... They can't be sure what would happen if he truly died in her presence. He's convinced he'd be able to come back, but it's not as if the theory has been tested.
Lucifer makes a small sound of protest when she yanks the flask out of his hand and drinks from it. "Let's just go back to the office, okay? I'll make some more calls, see if I can't find us a lead. There has to be something I haven't thought of yet."
She feels she's exhausted everything, but some stone must remain unturned.
"No need for further inquiries, Detective," he says, taking the flask back and screwing on the top. "Terenti squealed on a Salvadoran by the name of Fernando Portillo. He's rumored to be dealing firefly heroin. Lucky for us, Mondays apparently happen to be Bad Guy Meetup Day at Portillo's house."
For a moment, words fail her, then she bursts out, "Why didn't you lead with that?"
"Well, someone was bloody well reaming me, wasn't she?" he says, delighted.
"You are such a dick," she complains, ripping into overheated wasabi peas for something to do with her hands that won't involve throttling Satan.
Lucifer barks a laugh, sounding as crazed as he looks. He shifts the gear into reverse. "This is the part where you tell me to lead the way, Detective."
"Just drive, Lucifer."
They head south to Pico Union, one of several Salvadoran enclaves in Los Angeles. While Lucifer drives, Chloe calls Ella and Dan to get as much information on Fernando Portillo as possible. There isn't a lot. Aged thirty-five, Portillo is a second-generation immigrant, born and raised in L.A. His record is spotless. After a little digging, Ella discovers his most revealing behavior online is that he owns a pest control business.
"Excellent cover for making special deliveries," Lucifer comments. "Kill a roach, sell a roach." He looks at Chloe, expecting a laugh. "You know, because roach is a euphemism for joint."
"I got it," Chloe says.
"Wow, Fernando's got five stars on Yelp," Ella says. "Think he knows of a humane way to get rid of ants? I've been trying to live with them ever since my ant farm fell off the table and broke, but it's getting pretty hard. They're all like, 'We didn't ask you to put us in a prison made of glass, Ella.' And I'm all like, 'Yeah, I know, but you're kinda getting in my peanut butter.' I eat a lot of peanut butter, you guys."
Chloe blinks. "Um, we'll...ask him, if we get the chance, I guess." She shakes her head.
Dan is nearly as upset as Lucifer about the news that angel feathers are in firefly heroin, and he still hasn't warmed to the idea of Chloe slipping into the role of private investigator, though he knows better than to voice that opinion outright. Taco night might have smoothed over the worst of the tension between her ex and the Devil, but he's far from accepted the supernatural at large. Sometimes Chloe wonders why she finds it so easy to accept, especially with her own body doing things she can't explain. But, as always, there's little time to process her feelings in the work they do. There's only going forwards.
"Lemme send a few guys, Chlo. Unmarked cars."
She considers it, but she doesn't trust anyone at the precinct right now, not even the guys Dan is close to.
"Cops will only complicate matters, Daniel," Lucifer replies, speaking loftily from the driver's seat. "The scent of cop is just now fading from the Detective. Don't want to ruin that, now, do we?"
"We'll be fine," she assures her ex-husband, her voice pitched high as she thinks of the disaster they just narrowly escaped. Clearing her throat, she changes the subject to something safer. "Did you send off the payment for Trixie's art camp?"
Traffic crawls like sludge down a drainpipe as they make their way to Portillo's neighborhood. There's little street parking close to his house, leaving Lucifer to wedge the Corvette into a spot too small for the car's long, steel body. He "solves" the problem by parking the front of the Corvette over the curb, on the dry grass of someone's front lawn.
"Ready?" he asks, cutting the engine. He ditches his suit jacket and dusts plaster from his vest and out of his unkempt hair.
Chloe holds up a finger. "On one condition."
"Oh, and what might that be, Detective?" Lucifer grins. "That I make for up this morning?" He glances at a nonexistent watch. "I suppose we have time now if we're quick." He tilts sideways, looking past her. "Can have a roll in those bushes over there."
"What? No," she says firmly, and his eyes glitter with amusement. "Just let me take the lead on this one, okay? You're too close to this case"—she is, too—"and I want us to make it out of here alive. One near-death experience is enough for a day."
"Very well," he sighs. Pushing open the driver's door, he turns back and asks, "Sure you don't want to arm yourself, then?"
"No, I'm good," she says, still reluctant to leave the Ruger unattended. She climbs out of the Corvette and pulls down her fitted shirt, smoothing wrinkles. "Think I'm too afraid I might use it on you," she jokes.
"Angling for those earrings, after all?"
Chloe laughs, and Lucifer falls into lockstep beside her. From the corner of her eye, she watches his thumb worry his ring.
Portillo's eggshell-colored dwelling is lined by bars, from a white-painted iron-bar fence, to white window guards and a white security door. It's also well-kept, unlike some of the other homes on the street. Potted herbs line a compact patio, and the grass is neatly trimmed, and greener than most. It's a good cover for a drug dealer.
They push past the waist-high gate and make their way to the front door, where Lucifer rolls his eyes at the large wooden crucifix hanging at eye level. Chloe jabs her finger into the doorbell.
A moment later a young Latina woman dressed in a yellow sundress opens the door, her curly-haired head turned as she continues to speak, laughingly, in Spanish to someone inside the house. When she faces forward, she stares blankly at the gringos on her doorstep.
"Can I help you?" she asks, her eyes sweeping over Lucifer.
"We're here to see Fernando Portillo," Chloe answers, and her hand ghosts toward her waist, where her badge used to rest.
Lucifer sighs. "Really, darling, we must work on your social skills." He holds out a hand. "Lucifer Morningstar," he says, introducing himself. "And this is Jane. I apologize. She has no manners."
Chloe rolls her eyes.
"Rosa," the woman says absently, shaking his hand. "Are you...cops?"
"How dare you? What cop dresses in bespoke wool?"
"No," Chloe responds, struggling to hold back a laugh, "we're not cops." The truth of her answer settles on her all over again. "Lucky for you, since we heard Fernando sells drugs."
"Uh, Nando's in pest control."
"Sure, but this guy," Chloe says, chucking a thumb at Lucifer, "has got more money than he knows what to do with, and he loves drugs." Too much.
Lucifer grins widely. "It's true. And I'd particularly like to get my hands on a drug Nando is said to be selling right now."
Rosa shakes her head, confused by the blunt honesty. "Uh, well, he's out back." She shrugs a shoulder. "Guess you can eat while you're here."
"Marvelous," Lucifer says. "Are there pupusas? I love pupusas."
In lieu of responding, Rosa leans out of sight, grabbing something with a grunt. "You got any guns or knives?" she asks. "Abuelita has a zero tolerance policy on violence."
Chloe looks around the patio with sudden understanding. The house might belong to Fernando, but the home must be kept by his grandmother. When her focus returns to Rosa, Chloe's mouth drops open. The young woman holds aloft a basket filled to the brim with pistols and knives. No doubt all the guns are loaded.
"Ooh, do we get to pick one?" Lucifer asks.
Rosa looks at him strangely. "No... Put your weapons in here."
"W-we're unarmed," Chloe stammers.
Rosa leads them past a cramped living room and a pale blue kitchen that's less kitchen than kitchenette, but is nonetheless filled with three young women—possibly Rosa's younger sisters—who are busy cooking. They look up briefly, brows raising at the sight of white people, but quickly turn back to work. Considering their tepid reaction, it seems they're quite used to seeing visitors.
Latin pop flows from a stereo as they step into the backyard, which is shockingly green for southern California and larger than the front yard and house, combined. A small vegetable garden rests near the back edge of the fence. Bright red tomatoes hang on the vine.
A man standing at a charcoal grill looks up at them, curious, tongs and meat thermometer in hand. Beyond him, five other men lounge in lawn chairs, paper plates stacked high with beans and various meats, beers in hand. The men stop speaking and stare. They all slightly resemble each other—cousins, Chloe thinks, maybe a brother or two.
"Nando, you got visitors," Rosa announces unnecessarily. A bald-headed man wearing a red jersey sets his beer on the ground. "This is Jane and...Lucifer." She shakes her head at the name. Introductions made, she turns on her heel and returns inside.
Nando rises and walks closer, all loose-limbed, a slight smile on his round face. Though she's never worked in Narcotics, Chloe knows men like Nando from her days as a patrol officer. The problem with small-time dealers is you never know who's a poser making a buck, versus who's looking to prove themselves to someone bigger and badder. One's harmless if you overlook the drugs, while the other might kill you to climb the ladder. At least Abuelita makes them leave their guns at the door, though there was no pat-down to prove they were unarmed. Chloe eyes Nando and his men with suspicion.
"Lucifer, huh?" Nando says, chuckling. "El Diablo."
"That would be me, yes," Lucifer replies.
Nando hesitates a beat before asking, "What can I get you?"
Chloe steps in. "We heard you have something that"—she lowers her voice in a whisper—"heals people."
Nando snorts. "Nah, sorry. Sold out of Firefly a week ago."
"Sold out?" Lucifer repeats, a tinge of panic in his tone.
"Yeah, that shit sold fast, even with the high price tag." The dealer rolls his eyes. "I got other stuff, though. You look more like a coke guy, anyway," he says, eyes on Lucifer. He glances at Chloe, but seems to decide she's too straitlaced for any of it.
Chloe puts a soothing hand on Lucifer's waist. "You don't seem to believe Firefly works."
Nando sighs, "I go to Mass on Easter and Christmas. I light a few candles." He nods his head toward the house. "Makes my abuelita happy. Look, I don't know if you heard, but the whole thing about Firefly was it supposedly had angel feathers in it, and that's just..."
"Bayunco," one of Nando's men supplies.
"You wouldn't even be able to look upon angel wings without turning into a babbling prat," Lucifer scoffs at the man.
"Oh, we got a believer," another man crows.
"Don't mind them," Nando says to Lucifer. "Come on, let's see what I can get you."
Before Chloe can stop it, Lucifer's hand flashes out and grasps Nando's arm. "What you can get me," he growls, "is the name of your supplier because we both know you're not at the top of the bloody pyramid."
Nando's men rise to their feet. The man barbecuing ribs drops the top of the grill closed and comes to join the others.
Dammit. They just went through this.
"Lucifer, let him go." Chloe looks at their potential assailants in concern, hands lifted in an effort to soothe.
"It was Shay, wasn't it?" Lucifer grinds out, his jaw tight. "Who is she?"
Trying to salvage the situation, Chloe rushes to add, "Is that who you got it from, Nando? We won't tell her you told us. But we need to find her." Without protocol to hold her back, she takes a page out of Lucifer's book. "We'll pay you for the information."
Despite the bright noonday sun, Nando's pupils dilate, as if he instinctively knows Lucifer is other. "You aren't missing anything, man," he evades, his voice shaking. "I doubt they're even gonna make more—they change their ingredients and claims all the time. I'm ending things with that supplier for a reason."
"Didn't ask for a review," Lucifer says, leaning forward and giving Nando a rough shake. "Who is she, and where can I find her? I know you know."
"Hands off," one of Nando's friends finally warns. "The feathers aren't even real, you idiot," he says, clapping a hand onto Lucifer's shoulder to push him away.
It's the wrong move.
Lucifer's left fist rises and punches straight into the man's nose, which crunches loudly. It's such a hard punch that the man goes down and stays down.
Violence erupts for the second time in as many hours.
"Everybody stop!" Chloe shouts. But she's not an officer, she has no badge or gun, and her words fall on deaf ears.
At her left, Lucifer faces off against five men, laughing and taunting them in Spanish because of course he's been raring for another fight. The girls from the kitchen yell at the doorway to the backyard, Auto-Tuned melodies from the Latin Top 40 drowning out half of their words.
A man wearing a blue baseball cap reaches for Chloe. Without thinking, she rears back and meets him with the right hook her father taught her so long ago. She could have easily slipped away, but, boy, did it feel good to land that hit. She laughs slightly, so pumped up on adrenaline that her bruised knuckles don't spark with pain.
The man stumbles back. For a moment, they stare at each other in shock. Chloe breathes heavily, feeling the light in her body, crackling like a raging fire. She could reach for it, she thinks, and raises her hand.
A meat thermometer flies through the air, spinning end over end like a pint-sized cheerleader's baton. The metal probe lands with a horrifying squelch in the man's left eye. Chloe's mouth drops open as he crumples to the ground, screaming in shock.
"He's well done, Detective!" Lucifer quips over the moans and screams.
She turns, her attention landing on her partner, who's in the process of rolling up his shirt sleeves. He's grinning and wild, shirt untucked, hair a mess, and so alive that it takes her breath away. Three men lie flat on the ground, knocked out cold near his feet. He sidesteps the bodies and sways backward, dodging the grasping hands of Nando and his two remaining men. Swiping a lawn chair from the grass, Lucifer hoists it and uses it like a discus against one of them. The man is struck in the stomach and goes flying backwards.
Whatever is playing on the stereo, whatever the girls are yelling at her back, whatever the man injured by the meat thermometer is groaning, all of it falls away as Chloe watches the Devil dance. Her understanding of the past changes with each second. Finally she sees why Lucifer walked into Jimmy Barnes' gunfire, why he was so surprised by his own blood when she shot him, why and how the Korean Power caved. She sees, too, how easily Cain was dispensed of. In her nightmares, the fight has always been close—a true struggle between the Devil and the world's first murderer. But that isn't what happened, is it? She sees that now.
Chloe is shaken from her thoughts when a short, stocky elderly woman dressed in a pink nightgown bursts from the house, cursing in Spanish. The woman stomps toward the mayhem, a leather sandal lifted high in the air.
"Ma'am!" Chloe calls, following close behind. Everything's already a mess. The last thing they need is an old woman getting hurt.
But said old woman is already in motion. The sole of her shoe makes first contact with the back of Lucifer's neck. He turns around, confused, just in time for her to hit him again, this time on the side of his head. Tired and bloody, Nando and his flunky take a step back, breathing heavily, as Abuelita's sandal strikes the Devil again and again.
"Basta, basta, basta!" Lucifer whines, wincing with each thwack.
Chloe can't help it. A giggle slips through, and soon enough she can't stop laughing. On the other side of Lucifer, Nando huffs and then follows suit. At the threshold to the house, the teen girls join in.
When Abuelita's righteous anger has spent itself, she directs her grandson and the other man left standing to clean up—wake their friends, put the chairs back in place, clear the strewn beer bottles. The men who were knocked out slowly come to and wander indoors, groaning.
Abuelita points at Lucifer. "You pay hospital bills," she demands, looking at Chloe's half-blind assailant, who Rosa is going to take to the ER.
"Sí, Abuelita," Lucifer agrees, sounding almost contrite.
"She got you good," Chloe says, stepping up beside him a moment later and slipping her hand in his.
"Well, women are bloody terrifying," he replies, squeezing her fingers. "Especially abuelitas."
True, she thinks, but she also knows now that the fight stopped only because the Devil was ready for it to. She supposes he needed to let off some steam. He does seem more relaxed now, the lines of his face smoothed.
Abuelita plunks three lawn chairs down into a circle. "Sit," she commands the men. "Talk."
To Chloe's surprise, the men obey.
Nando is the first to speak. "You fight like hell," he says to Lucifer.
"You have no idea," Lucifer says.
Abuelita adds a fourth chair to the circle and looks at Chloe. "Don't let them be stupid," she warns, and pats her shoulder. "I bring food."
Beers and tequila, and new plates of beans and carnitas, are brought out. The truth surfaces slowly. Nando is only in the drug business to keep his younger sisters in private schools.
"If I snitch on a supplier, we're dead," Nando says of himself and the man they've since learned is his cousin Oscar. "And then what happens to them?"
Lucifer leans forward, sensing an angle. "I can cover their tuition. You could get out of this whole nasty business. All I ask for in return is that you tell us what you know about the person who supplied you with Firefly."
Nando and Oscar share a look, and Chloe jumps in, "We'll make sure you're safe."
"What?" Oscar laughs, speaking up for the first time. "By having the police patrol the area? Quickest way to die."
"We're not with the police," Chloe says.
"If you need security, you will have the best money can buy," Lucifer adds. "Surely Abuelita's virulent shoe will suffice for the rest."
Nando is quiet for a moment before he nods. "I want it in writing. That you'll pay their tuition. Whether I'm alive or not."
Lucifer settles back into his chair and crosses his legs. "My word is my bond, but if you insist upon a devilish contract, fetch me parchment, and it will be done."
Chloe watches, rapt, as the contract is drawn. It's simple and straightforward, no legalese. And she faces, again, the uncomfortable expediency of the Devil's favors and deals. How many times in her own life has she wanted to bypass all the red tape and get down to the point? Even her apartment lease is ninety pages long.
The longer she is with him and sees him for who he truly is, the more skeptical she becomes, not only of God, but of her own world, with all its strange and inconsistent rules, its extraordinary unfairness. Lucifer is a criminal, but he speaks the truth, and he's fair to a fault, so long as his emotions don't cloud his judgment.
"Now," Lucifer says after scribbling his sweeping signature, "your end of the deal." He opens a hand in invitation.
"De la Cruz," Nando whispers, as if mere utterance of the name might kill him. "That's the supplier."
"Of the cross?" Lucifer scoffs and glances toward the sky. "What irony."
Nando frowns at his strangeness. "Shayna is who approached me."
"Shayna?" Chloe confirms. "Not Shay?"
"I knew her as Shayna." Nando takes a long draw from his beer bottle. "They're weird. Very cagey. The product changes. The pickup and dropoff point change. Everything's careful, calculated. I was already selling—have been since I was sixteen. I got approached by Shayna because my cover's good. They don't use full-timers. Everybody who deals for them has to have a job outside of dealing. They don't like anyone getting suspicious." He shudders and adds, "And if you slip up, your ass is dead."
"What do you mean 'the product changes'?" Chloe asks.
"Their whole thing is"—he uses air quotes—"celestial ingredients. It's just dumb shit rich white people buy." He looks at Lucifer, wide-eyed. "No offense."
Chloe waves him off. She may be white herself, but as a child of L.A., she knows well there's a lot of "dumb shit" rich white people buy, especially if they've made it to the big screen or landed a solid gig on television. And there's no denying there's a lot of dumb shit Lucifer Morningstar does with his money.
"The latest ingredient was angel feathers," Nando says with a shrug. He notes Lucifer's responding silence. "Hey, man, if you were hoping to find a cure for something... If you're sick or somebody you know is... Sorry."
"I'm not sick," Lucifer says, his tone menacing. "I'm bloody furious."
"Do you know where we might find Shayna?" Chloe asks over the subsequent awkward silence.
Nando shakes his head. "I only met her the one time. But—" He breathes quickly, like he's panicking. "But I can tell you where and when the next pickup was set for."
They leave Fernando Portillo's house with leftovers and a lead.