The man who stepped through the door was a thing of nightmares. He was huge – six or seven feet tall, and he had wolf grey skin that was scarred and torn in a thousand bloodless wounds. These pulsed wetly, full of tiny worms that slipped in and out of his pores. He was both muscular and starved, his ribcage visible above a narrow waist. Thick dreadlocks hung like vines over his face and shoulders, and the eyes that peered from behind this veil were black. His mouth was wide and lipless – torn skin dangling like a curtain over dog’s teeth. He even had a tail, a whip that curled behind him with a vicious point. Like the others, he wore dirty rags, though he also had a belt with a stained dagger tucked on one side and a bag of something dangling from the other. This he tossed to Darla as he entered, and she gave him a mock bow and dropped it into her pocket, where whatever was inside struggled madly to escape.
‘Sorry it took so long,’ he said, his voice tired and croaky. ‘I had to take the Mouth back, obviously. Plenty of rats, so I thought I’d bring a snack.’
‘So you did it?’ Calvin asked him, long fingers tapping the sink. ‘You saw where they went?’
‘Yes. First the sewers on Maybridge Way, then I almost lost them in the dark, got into a rat and smelled them out again. They were meeting with some crew, then all of them split up. I followed them through the Mouth, but they headed for The Maze and, well…’ He trailed off, his black gaze moving from Calvin to Will, huddling in the corner. Will swallowed. Despite the level way the demon spoke, he couldn’t shake the thought of those wet teeth sinking into his flesh. What if Calvin had only brought him here so this thing could eat him, like bringing home a roast for dinner?
Calvin nodded, casting Will a reassuring glance. ‘That’s not even the best of it. He’s a Seer.’
‘Two of them? I wonder what the odds…’ He took three heavy steps, stopping beside the sink and staring at Will for a long time, fascinated. ‘My name is Dale.’ He extended a large hand. It was so mangled – fingers of splintered bone covered in scar tissue – that it would be like shaking a ball of rusty nails. Will didn’t move. Darla piped up from behind him. ‘No one calls him that. It’s God Man. He used to be a monk!’ She cackled madly, and Dale shook his head, bemused, and stood back, allowing Will to pull himself to his feet. Even then the demon was nearly twice his height, his dreadlocked head grazing the ceiling.
‘Will. I’m sorry for my friends’… lack of empathy. They’ve forgotten what it was like to come to this place for the first time. To lose everything you once had.’ He smiled, one side of his ragged mouth revealing red gums. ‘Why don’t you take a walk with me, alone, and I’ll explain some things? You can ask me any question you want, and I’ll give you the truth. On my word.’
Will looked from Darla, who was watching him with her head cocked to one side and her arms folded, and Calvin, who gave him a Cheshire grin that wasn’t at all reassuring.
‘Okay,’ he said. He pointed to the bottle on the counter beside him. ‘What’s that stuff?’
Calvin’s grin disappeared instantly, and he moved as if to grab Dale by the shoulder, but he was too late: the God Man answered in a low, calm voice, as though it made all the sense in the world.
‘In the bottles? Why, that is the liquid essence of human souls.’