Down in the basement, the biker donned his gloves and goggles, mounted the chopper, and then drove up the stairs and out of the church. After thirty minutes of driving through the fog, he finally found what he needed: a place to lure a spirit.
Merrick drove the chopper around the side of a long-abandoned plantation house and down a foot path. When he finally reached the small family cemetery, he secured his bike with the kickstand and pulled out a small silver coin from the Archaic Period. Then, with the bike still parked, he shifted into sixth gear.
There was a tingling sensation as Merrick and the chopper faded slightly from human reality, not the static POP! that came with fully entering the astral plane, but still unpleasant nonetheless. He was also extremely vulnerable during these moments, with one foot in each plane he could be seen and attacked from either side ... or both at the same time.
Merrick held up the coin. He didn't have to wait long for a spirit to come by and investigate.
"Have you come here to trade?" asked the spirit.
"Yes," answered Merrick.
"What is your question? Speak quickly!"
Merrick, having found himself in this situation before, worded his question carefully. "Who closest to this cemetery where I entered the astral plane to barter with you can summon a possessor?"
The spirit wrapped itself around the hand holding the coin. "The witch doctor Joseph Ajanti is the one you seek" it answered, before vanishing with its reward.
Merrick shifted down into neutral, becoming fully visible again in his native realm. Then he fell off his bike and onto a patch of barren earth.
The spirit must have stolen some of my energy when it touched me.
He closed his eyes and clutched at his chest as the most intense cramp that he had ever felt ruthlessly took control of his entire body. When he opened them again, he could see that he was not alone. Standing in the shadow of a tomb with a praying angel on top of it, was a scruffy looking man.
Merrick tried to reach for his ax but his arms, like the rest of his body, was locked in place.
"Don't worry, Elijah, it's only me."
"Michael," Merrick whispered. "I . . . can't move."
The angel walked over and gathered Merrick into his arms. There was a sudden rush of well-being felt by the biker as the angel lifted him to his feet and kissed him on the forehead.
Merrick grabbed Michael gently by the shoulders and took a few steps back. "Where's Gabe?" he asked, looking at the angel's shabby clothes and beard. "I thought he was your bosses little messenger boy?'
Michael gave him a patient, yet sarcastic, smile. "Gabriel's on another assignment, so I guess you're just going to have to deal with me instead. That's cool, isn't it?" The angel winked the eye with the jagged scar across it, a parting gift of Lucifer's before he was cast out of Heaven.
"Uh huh, just as long as you don't start whistlin' like that creepy brother of yours."
"Oh come on, Elijah, you know Gabe: he likes to whistle while he works. Besides, he saved you, which means he can't be all that creepy."
A surge of anger caused the biker's face to become red and moist with sweat. "Yeah? Well, he let Jerrod die!"
"That couldn't be helped," said Michael.
"And Dinah, what about her?"
The angel cast his eyes downward. "The same."
"Really?" Merrick tried to relieve some of the tension in his upper body by rubbing angrily at his neck. "And why is that?'
"I'm not the one who's all-knowing; neither is Gabe," answered the angel. "We just follow orders."
"That's right, you just follow orders. And since you're smart enough to admit that, it should be real easy for you to get that I don't take orders. Not from you, not from your god, not from anyone." He looked at the angel through tight eyes. "Now what are you doing here, Michael?"
A grin crept to one side of the angel's lips, the side with the scar. "Following orders."
Merrick turned his head the other way and grunted. "You're determined to put me through this, huh? Well, get on with it then."
"Actually," said Michael, brushing some grass from the biker's shoulder, "I just dropped by to see if you needed anything."
Merrick gently, but assertively, pushed away the angel's hand and smiled. "Yeah, Dr. Joseph Ajanti."
"Ah," said Michael, "the witch doctor." The Archangel remained silent after that, offering up no more information than the spirit from the astral plane.
The biker, growing uncomfortable under the brilliant gaze of the celestial being standing across from him, gathered up the extra saliva in his mouth and spit it on the head of a snake that was passing between them. "Uh . . . do you know where I can find him?"
Michael slowly shook his head while clicking his tongue. "Come now, Elijah, you know things are never quite as simple as that.
"Wait! I have an idea: How about asking your new friends? Perhaps they know where he can be found."
Merrick straddled his bike. "Friends? What friends?"
"You know, the ones you left back at the church."
The biker laughed bitterly. "So that was you hitchin' a ride?"
"Or starting some shit. That's what you really wanted to say, isn't it?"
Merrick had wanted to say it-still wanted to. Instead, he said: "I thought angels weren't supposed to cuss or some shit like that?"
Michael's face took on a serious expression. "Well, I suppose you're right. As a matter of fact, I'm positive you are. I think that rule's even in the Angels' Hand Manual." The angel began checking the pockets of his jeans. "Now let's see, where did I put it?" He then stopped searching for the imaginary manual and laughed at the biker.
"Smartass," Merrick mumbled.
"Just trying to teach you a thing or two, Elijah."
Merrick raised the kickstand and shifted out of neutral. "Is this a test?"
The angel looked at him with genuine sympathy. "Isn't everything?"
The chopper, sensing that its master was ready to ride, revved its engine and pulled forward. As the biker was leaving the cemetery, Michael shouted: "Don't forget to pay a visit to your old friends as well-and soon!"