J oshua Wainwright said that he was passing through the UK on Sunday afternoon on his way to Switzerland. Nightingale arrived at Biggin Hill airport in Kent just after three-thirty and already the sky was darkening. He showed his driving licence to a bored security guard, who checked his name against a list on a clipboard. The guard pointed towards a car park next to a large glass-sided building. ‘You can park over there,’ he said. ‘Go through into reception and they’ll tell you where the jet is.’ The guard raised the barrier so that Nightingale could drive his MGB through.
Inside the general aviation terminal an equally bored receptionist pointed towards Wainwright’s Gulfstream jet, parked in front of a hangar. ‘Mr Wainwright’s plane will be leaving within the hour,’ she said.
‘I know, it’s all a bit rushed,’ said Nightingale. ‘He’s a regular visitor, right?’
‘At least once a month,’ she said. ‘Usually at the weekend.’
‘Beats flying economy, doesn’t it?’
‘You’ve got that right,’ said the receptionist.
‘How much would Wainwright’s plane cost, do you think?’
The receptionist wrinkled her nose. ‘It’s a Gulfstream G550,’ she said. ‘Anywhere between forty-five and seventy million dollars.’
Nightingale whistled. ‘It’s a different world, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘Think how many years you’d have to work to earn that much money.’
‘Years? Lifetimes, more like. It’s a funny old world, innit? Most of us are working all the hours God sends to make ends meet but there are people flying around in private planes and living the life of Riley.’
‘Who was Riley, anyway?’
The woman shrugged. ‘Probably a banker,’ she said. ‘Those bastards, they run the economy into the ground and then us taxpayers pay to bail them out.’ She jerked a thumb at Wainwright’s jet. ‘He’s not a banker, is he?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ He smiled at her and went outside. The lights were on in the cockpit of the Gulfstream and Nightingale saw two pilots deep in conversation. There was a set of steps leading up to the open hatch and Nightingale climbed them slowly. As he got to the top, a blonde stewardess with waist-length shampoo-commercial hair appeared. She was wearing a stylish grey suit and blood-red high-heeled shoes.
‘Mr Nightingale?’ she said.
‘That’s me,’ said Nightingale.
She showed him into the cabin. Joshua Wainwright took a foot-long Cuban cigar from his mouth and grinned when he saw Nightingale.
‘Jack, how the hell are you?’ he asked in his mid-Western drawl. He had a New York Yankees baseball cap on his head and a thick gold chain around his neck from which dangled a fist-sized letter J that looked as if it was solid gold. Wainwright swung his feet off a white leather footstool, stood up and shook hands with Nightingale. He was a couple of inches shorter than Nightingale with skin as black as strong coffee and the muscular upper arms of a man who either lifted a lot of weights or injected steroids. From the strength of Wainwright’s grip, Nightingale figured it was the former.
‘All good,’ said Nightingale.
Behind Wainwright was another model-pretty flight attendant in a grey suit, this one a brunette with razor-sharp cheekbones and piercing blue eyes. She smiled at Nightingale as if he was judging a beauty pageant and she was a front-runner.
‘Drink, Jack?’ asked Wainwright.
‘I’m driving,’ said Nightingale.
Wainwright waved him to one of the leather seats. He sat down and flicked cigar ash into a massive crystal ashtray. His face was smooth and unlined and Nightingale would have been hard pushed to put his age at more than twenty-five. ‘Just the one?’
Nightingale grinned. ‘A Corona would be good,’ he said. ‘If you don’t mind me drinking a Mexican beer?’
‘Hey, what they did at the Alamo is old news,’ said Wainwright. ‘You can’t spend your life looking back. It’s like the whole slavery thing. You’ve got to move on.’
‘You don’t look like someone who’s been held back on any front,’ said Nightingale.
‘That’s the truth,’ agreed Wainwright. He sucked on his cigar and then blew smoke at the ceiling. ‘I was glad to get your call, Jack. The last time we met I was a bit worried.’
‘Because you were talking about Gosling selling your soul.’
Nightingale shrugged. ‘All’s well that ends well,’ he said. ‘Anyway, I’m still here.’
‘Glad to hear it,’ said the American.
Nightingale took a computer printout from his jacket pocket and gave it to the American. ‘My secretary’s been through about five hundred of the books in my late father’s library,’ he said. ‘We haven’t bothered with anything that looked like it was mass-produced – I figured if there’d been substantial print runs you’d already have them. This list is the old stuff, leather-bound, antique. Some of them are hundreds of years old.’
The blonde stewardess handed Nightingale a bottle of Corona with a sliver of lime in the neck. He smiled his thanks and pushed the lime down into the bottle.
Wainwright sucked on his cigar as he studied the list. He raised his eyebrows. ‘This one, De Lamiis. It’s a first edition it says here.’
‘Then that’ll be right,’ said Nightingale. ‘My assistant is thorough.’
‘It says published in 1489, but there were two editions that year, both marked as firsts. It’s the woodcuts that I’m interested in.’ Wainwright looked up from the printout. ‘You need to check if there are small upturned crosses in the bottom corners, left or right. If the crosses are there you can name your own price.’
‘If they’re not?’
‘Then it’s just a book,’ said the American. He jabbed his cigar at Nightingale. ‘The woodcuts of the first edition are a little bit special. There are seals in there that have never been published before or since.’
‘Seals as in stamps?’
‘Satanic seals,’ said Wainwright, nodding. ‘Secret insignia. There were only a hundred copies published with the special woodcuts but then the author came under pressure from the Vatican to remove them. Which he did.’
‘I’ll check as soon as I get back.’
‘I’m serious, Jack. If you’ve got the right edition, I’ll give you this plane. And the girls.’
The two stewardesses beamed at Nightingale as if they were happy to be included in the deal.
Wainwright went back to scrutinising the list while Nightingale sipped his beer.
‘Have you seen the copy of Daemonologie?’ said Wainwright, tapping the list. ‘Do you know what state it’s in?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘I haven’t seen that one. My secretary did most of the books.’
‘If it’s pristine then I’ll buy it,’ he said. ‘The copy I have is pretty shabby. You know King James the Sixth of Scotland wrote it, right?’
‘I didn’t know that.’
‘Yeah, at the end of the sixteenth century. Not much of real use in it, but it’s worth owning. I’ll pay top dollar.’
‘I’m sure you will,’ said Nightingale.
Wainwright picked up a Mont Blanc pen from a side table and put ticks next to a dozen or so of the titles. ‘You’ve got two books here by Aleister Crowley,’ he said. ‘ Magick Book 4 and Liber Al Vel Legis , The Book of the Law. I’ll have them both. But what I really want is a diary of his. He’s rumoured to have written one during the last five years of his life and it’s believed that one of his followers published a very limited edition after he died. A dozen copies at most were printed and distributed to his closest friends and members of his coven. The presses used to print the book were destroyed and the typesetter is supposed to have killed himself. No one knows where the twelve copies are or who has them.’
‘I’ll have a look in the basement,’ said Nightingale. ‘Any idea what it’s called?’
‘It might not even have a title,’ said Wainwright. ‘It would have been published in 1948, that’s all I can tell you. But I have to warn you: if you do come across a copy, you mustn’t sell it.’
Nightingale laughed. ‘To anyone other than you, you mean?’
‘To anyone,’ said Wainwright. ‘The rumour is that if a copy was ever sold, the buyer and the seller would both die.’
‘It’s cursed, you mean?’
‘It’s not really a curse. The book itself is fine, and ownership is quite safe. But if a copy is sold for money…’ He shrugged.
‘You believe that?’
‘I know that Aleister Crowley was one of the most powerful Satanists who ever lived,’ said Wainwright. ‘And his closest followers were only one step behind him.’
‘And a book can be cursed?’
‘Anything can be cursed,’ said Wainwright. ‘I’m serious about this, Jack. If you do find a copy don’t try to sell it. Come to me and we’ll work out a deal.’
‘A deal?’ Nightingale grinned. ‘You’re not after my soul, are you?’
‘A deal for the diary – one that doesn’t involve a financial transaction,’ said the American. He handed the list back to Nightingale and put down the pen. ‘Let me know when I can see those and I’ll come along with cash. And I need you to keep an eye out for another book. It’s called The Lemegeton. Or The Lesser Key of Solomon . First published in the seventeenth century. But I need to know about the binding. The binding is as important as the content.’
Nightingale nodded and put the list away. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ he asked.
Wainwright picked up a crystal tumbler filled with whiskey and ice. ‘Can’t promise I’ll answer, but go ahead.’
‘You’re rich, right?’
‘Not as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, or that Mexican who heads the rich list, but I do okay for a black guy.’
‘But you weren’t born rich, were you? You don’t come from money.’
‘Made every cent myself.’ He raised his glass to Nightingale. ‘Started from nothing. Less than nothing. Father ran off before I was born, mother did laundry to try to make ends meet and failed miserably. Had no money to pay for any sort of education. Had to do what I had to do to survive.’
Nightingale nodded and tapped the neck of his bottle against his temple. ‘That’s one hell of a jump. From there to here.’
‘And I’m guessing you want to know how much is down to my specialist knowledge of the occult?’
‘You got me,’ said Nightingale. He took a long drink from his bottle, his eyes never leaving Wainwright’s face. ‘Is everything you’ve achieved the result of a deal you did with…’ He grinned and shook his head. ‘I feel stupid even asking,’ he said. ‘We’re sitting in a Gulfstream jet and I’m talking about something that would have had us burned at the stake in the Middle Ages.’
‘Actually, if you’d gone around telling people that you could sit in a metal bird and fly from here to America in six hours they’d probably have burned you as a witch anyway,’ said Wainwright. ‘Much of the technology we take for granted in the twenty-first century would have had you put to death or committed to an asylum back then.’
‘But what we’re talking about is the exact opposite, isn’t it?’ said Nightingale. ‘You’re saying that you can do a deal with a devil and get rich. And if you went around saying that, you’d be treated as an idiot or fitted for a straitjacket.’
‘I’m not saying anything of the sort,’ laughed Wainwright. ‘You’re the one who’s doing all the talking at the moment.’
‘But you’re not contradicting me, are you?’
Wainwright chuckled. ‘There’s the cop in you coming out,’ he said.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Nightingale, settling back in his seat. ‘Old habits die hard.’
‘Nah, I see where you’re coming from,’ said the American. ‘This is all new territory for you and you want as much information as you can get. But there’s a limit to what I can tell you. There’s an element of non-disclosure involved, you have to understand that. The true believers don’t shout it from the rooftops because they’ve a vested interest in keeping the knowledge to themselves. And the principals, well, they’ve always preferred to work in the shadows.’
‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he doesn’t exist,’ said Nightingale.
‘That’s the truth,’ agreed Wainwright.
‘Because if there’s a devil, then there’s a God. You can’t have one without the other. So if the world believed in the devil then it would also have to believe in God. And given the choice, most people would side with God.’
Wainwright laughed out loud. ‘You believe that? You believe that people are inherently good? Look around you, Jack. Look how people treat each other. Whether they’re Christians or Muslims or non-believers, they rape and kill and lie and steal. Do you think they would behave any differently if they truly believed there was a God?’
‘I’m having trouble with the devil thing,’ sighed Nightingale.
‘You and the whole Catholic church,’ said Wainwright.
‘I mean, understanding what it means. You’ve summoned devils, right?’
‘That’s not the sort of thing you ask,’ said the American. ‘You’ve heard of the sanctity of the confessional, haven’t you?’
‘Well, this is sort of the opposite.’
‘But you have, right?’
‘Jack, please. I’ve already told you that there’s a non-disclosure agreement. Even if I wanted to tell you, I couldn’t. Just leave it at that.’
‘Okay, what about this: there are devils, lots of devils – three billion, right?’
Wainwright frowned. ‘Who told you that?’
‘It was in Sebastian Mitchell’s diary. “There are sixty-six princes under the devil, each commanding six thousand six hundred and sixty-six legions. And each legion is made up of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six devils.”’
‘Too many sixes,’ said Wainwright. ‘You sure that was in his diary?’
‘I got it second-hand,’ said Nightingale. ‘My secretary was reading it. It was in reverse Latin.’
‘Well, someone screwed up,’ said Wainwright. He sipped his whiskey. ‘There are only six hundred and sixty-six legions. That makes the total number just over a hundred and thirty-three million.’
‘That’s still a big number,’ said Nightingale.
‘Hellishly big,’ said Wainwright. He grinned and raised his glass.
‘So how do you know which one to summon?’
Wainwright shrugged. ‘Word gets around,’ he said.
‘Can you do a deal with any of them?’
‘You wouldn’t bother with the rank and file,’ said the American. ‘There’s not much they can deliver. And the princes probably wouldn’t bother with you. You’d be better off going for the heads of the legions or their number twos.’
‘And who’s at the top of the tree? Satan?’
‘Lucifer, yes,’ said Wainwright. ‘Directly below him would be Beelzebuth, a prince, and Astaroth, a grand duke. Beelzebuth and Astaroth are pretty much level in the hierarchy but they’d both probably argue otherwise.’
‘And you can summon them?’
Wainwright laughed, a harsh bark that echoed around the cabin. ‘You really are a lamb to the slaughter aren’t you, Jack?’
‘I’m just curious.’
‘Yeah, well, you know what curiosity did to the cat.’ Wainwright took another sip of his whiskey, then nodded slowly. ‘You can summon all three of them, but it would be the equivalent of opening the door to a nuclear reactor. You couldn’t cope with the power. It would blow you away.’
‘But they do appear sometimes?’
‘If they want to appear, they can choose their form. But if you summon them, they come as they are. And you really wouldn’t want any of the big three appearing in their true form. And even if you were able to bear being in their presence, they’d be hell to deal with.’ He smiled. ‘No pun intended.’
‘But a strong Satanist, someone who knew what he was doing, he could?’
‘Someone who knew what he was doing wouldn’t even attempt it. Even the best, even someone like your late father, wouldn’t go any higher than the six subordinates of the three rulers, and even then they’d be taking a risk.’ He took a long drag on his cigar. ‘You don’t mess around with these guys, Jack. Any sign of weakness, any hint that you’re not completely in control of the situation, and they’ll rip out your heart.’
‘Six subordinates, you said.’
‘Subordinates, or they’re sometimes called inferiors. The three main ones would report to Lucifer. There’s Satanachia, he’s commander-in-chief of the Satanic Army, and Aglaliarept, he’s a commander too. Lucifuge Rofocale functions as a politician, a sort of prime minister, but without elections, of course. All power flows down from Lucifer. But Lucifuge Rofocale has dominion over the wealth of the world and negotiates when there is conflict between the rulers.’
Nightingale smiled ruefully. ‘That’s what I was, in a previous life,’ he said.
‘Police negotiator. I was the guy called into sieges, hostage situations, suicides, that sort of thing.’ He sipped his beer before asking his next question. ‘This Lucifuge Rofocale. How would I summon him?’
‘Why would you want to?’
‘I’ve got a plan,’ he said. ‘And he’s a crucial part of it.’
Wainwright shook his head. ‘He’s way above my pay grade,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t know where to start. You have to know his character, and by that I mean the symbol that represents him. It has to be written on a special parchment and the ceremony is complicated. I doubt that there’re a dozen people in the world who would know how to summon him. And even if you did know how, if you tried it you’d be signing your own death warrant.’
‘Even if I was inside the pentagram?’
‘The pentagram is part of the protection but it’s not the be-all and end-all,’ said Wainwright. ‘You don’t have the experience. Or the power. And, frankly, neither do I.’ Wainwright sucked on his cigar and studied Nightingale with unblinking brown eyes. ‘Look, Jack, I like you. Plus you’ve got access to books that I’d love to have in my collection. So I’m happy to help you, if I can.’ He tapped ash into the ashtray by his elbow. ‘Tell me your situation,’ he said. ‘Think of me as a priest and this jet as the confessional, if that helps.’
‘Interesting analogy,’ said Nightingale.
‘I’m telling you that you can trust me,’ said Wainwright.
Nightingale nodded slowly. ‘I appreciate that, Joshua,’ he said.
‘Call me Josh. And I’m serious.’
Nightingale sipped his Corona. ‘Okay, here’s the thing,’ he said. ‘Gosling gave me away when I was born, and he did the same thing with my sister. He gave her up for adoption and he sold her soul to a devil. Frimost.’
‘So he wanted power over women, then. It’s almost a cliche.’
‘There’s an added wrinkle,’ said Nightingale. ‘She’s a serial killer. She kills kids. Or at least she did kill kids. She’s behind bars now.’
Wainwright’s cigar froze on the way to his lips. ‘You don’t do things by half, do you?’ he drawled.
‘It does get messier by the day,’ said Nightingale.
‘How old is she, your sister?’
‘Thirty-one,’ said Nightingale.
‘So she’s got two years. I’m assuming that Gosling did the same deal as he did with your soul, right?’
‘That’s right. It all goes tits up on her thirty-third birthday.’
There’s nothing you can do to save her, you know that?’
‘There are always options,’ said Nightingale. ‘Room for manoeuvre.’
Wainwright frowned as he sat back in his seat. ‘Once a soul is sold and the person bears the mark, there’s nothing that can be done. I told you that before.’ His raised his glass to his lips but then his eyes slowly widened. ‘You found the mark, didn’t you? On yourself?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘Yep.’
‘But you’re still here.’
‘Like I said, there’s always room for manoeuvre.’
‘You escaped Proserpine?’
‘Not escaped, exactly. But she’s off my back. For the time being, anyway.’
Wainwright raised his eyebrows. ‘You’re full of surprises,’ he said.
‘I’m on a steep learning curve,’ said Nightingale. He leaned forward, his arms resting on his knees as he held his beer bottle with both hands. ‘The last time we spoke you said that my father was part of a sect that practised human sacrifice.’
‘The Order of Nine Angles, yes.’
‘My father said I should talk to them. They were connected to my sister’s adoption and he said they might be able to help me.’
Wainwright exhaled through pursed lips. ‘They’re dangerous people, Jack.’
‘I guessed as much,’ said Nightingale. ‘The human sacrifice was the clue.’
Wainwright chuckled. ‘I know you were a cop, and I know you’re a smart guy, but these people are at the sharp end of Satanism. The cutting edge. And they don’t stay there by talking to strangers.’
‘Understood,’ said Nightingale. ‘And I appreciate the warning. But I need to talk to one of the members.’
Wainwright ran a hand through his hair and crossed his legs. He was wearing cowboy boots made from grey and white snakeskin with silver spurs that jangled when they moved. ‘These people won’t open up to strangers,’ he said. ‘Especially strangers who used to be cops.’
Nightingale grinned. ‘I’ll be careful,’ he said.
Wainwright lowered his voice. ‘And I wouldn’t want anyone to know who pointed you in their direction.’
‘Like you said, this is a confessional.’
Wainwright nodded slowly. ‘There’s a man by the name of Marcus Fairchild. He’s a lawyer in the City. He’s in the Order, has been for more than twenty years. But be very, very careful, Jack.’
‘Have you met him?’
Wainwright shook his head. ‘I only know of him by reputation. He’s very well connected, both in the real world and beyond.’
‘Thanks,’ said Nightingale.
‘I’m not sure that you should be thanking me,’ said the American.
The cockpit door opened and a middle-aged man in a starched white shirt with gold and black epaulettes emerged, holding a plastic bottle of Evian water. ‘Excuse me, Mr Wainwright, but we’ll have to start rolling if we’re to get our slot,’ he said.
‘No problem, Don,’ said Wainwright. He shrugged at Nightingale. ‘Unless you want to come skiing, you’re going to have to deplane,’ he said.
Nightingale stood up and shook the American’s hand. ‘When are you back in England?’
‘If all goes well in Switzerland, probably Christmas Eve. Next Friday.’
‘I’ll try to get back to you before then about the books,’ promised Nightingale.
The Gulfstream’s jets kicked into life and the plane vibrated as Nightingale hurried down the stairs to the tarmac.