Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

Prologue

London holds an awful secret close to her heart, like a serpent to her bosom. The Nightside. A dark and corrupt place, a city within a city, where the sun has never shone and never will. In the Nightside you can find gods and monsters and spirits from the vasty deep, if they don't find you first. Pleasure and horror are always on sale, marked down and only slightly shop-soiled. I was born in the Nightside, some thirty years ago, and someone's been trying to kill me ever since.

My name is John Taylor, and I operate as a private investigator. I don't do divorce work, I don't solve mysteries, and I wouldn't know a clue if I fell over one. I find things, no matter how well hidden, though mostly what I seem to find is trouble. My father drank himself to death after discovering my missing mother wasn't human. The Authorities, those grey faceless men who run things in the Nightside, inasmuch as anyone does, see me as a dangerous rogue element. Mostly they're right. My clients see me as their last hope, while others see me as a King in waiting; and there are those who would risk anything to kill me because of a prophecy that one day I will destroy the Nightside, and the rest of the world with it.

Finally, after a trip through Time into past incarnations of the Nightside, I have discovered the truth. The Nightside had been created by my missing mother to be the one place on Earth free from the influence of Heaven or Hell. The only truly free place. Her own allies thrust her out of this reality and into Limbo, because they feared her so much. Now she's back, and threatening to remake the Nightside in her own terrible image. My mother, Lilith. Adam's first wife, thrown out of Eden for refusing to accept any authority. She descended into Hell and lay down with demons, and gave birth to all the monsters that have ever plagued this world. Or so they say.

Lilith . Mommie Dearest.

All I have to do now is figure out how to stop her, without destroying the Nightside and the whole damned world in the process…

One

Somewhere in the Night

Strangefellows is said by many and considered by most to be the oldest bar in the world, and therefore has seen pretty much everything in its time. So when Suzie Shooter and I appeared suddenly out of nowhere, looking half-dead in blood-stained and tattered clothing, most of the bar's patrons didn't so much as raise an eyebrow, cosmopolitan bastards and general scumbags that they are. Suzie and I leaned heavily on the long, polished wooden bar and spent some time just getting our breath back. We'd been through a lot during our trip through the Past, including being possessed by angels to fight demons from the Pit, so I felt very strongly that we were entitled to a little time out. Alex Morrisey, Strangefellows' owner, bartender, and general miserable pain in the arse, stood behind the bar putting a lot of effort into cleaning a glass that didn't need cleaning, while he fixed us both with his familiar unwavering scowl.

"Why can't you walk through the door like normal people, Taylor?" he said finally. "You always have to make an entrance, don't you? And look at the state of you. Don't either of you dare drip blood over my nice, new, and very expensively cleaned floor. I haven't seen the natural colour of that floor in more years than I care to remember, and I'm trying to memorise it before