Demons of the Guilded (the Demon Cleaner #1): Sample

DEMONS OF THE GUILDED

The Demon Cleaner: Book One

By

Nadiyah Abdul-Khaliq


Demons of The Guilded

Copyright © 2013 Nadiyah Abdul-Khaliq

Smashwords Edition 2013

Merkanisch Justice Logo by Tamera Cotton ©2009 Cotton Illustrations

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced

in any manner whatsoever without written permission

except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Acknowledgments

Of course, it’s a cliché to say, “This book would not be possible without X person.”  However, it’s a cliché because it’s true.  At least in my case.  While being a writer lends itself to having some editorial skills, they only get me so far.  It’s been my family and friends, whom I’ve tortured with rewrite after rewrite, who point out to me when a section of the story is unclear or even little grammatical errors I may miss who have kept me in line.  For that, I thank you all.

To you the reader, for your trust, for your patience, I cannot express enough gratitude.  Like Jason and the Argonauts we are headed on a journey to great things.  May we not get eaten along the way.

Dedicated to:

Stuart B. Franklin (1981-2003)

T. Ira Farr (1983-2006)

On a random note, Norton rules.


THE DEMON CLEANER BOOK ONE: DEMONS OF THE GUILDED

Prologue

The sun broke over the horizon. The morning was warm and humid as light rain set on the diamond. Forty thousand people gathered for the event that could only be described as historic. They yelled and cheered as the morning light poured down on them. Umbrellas, fists, and signs held high, echoing their anger and hatred.

“KILL THE BEASTS!!! KILL THE VAMPIRES!!!”

Guild City police officers stood in a circle around the guillotine at the batter’s plate, dart guns cradled in their arms. The priest stood in his black robe with his Bible at his side.

Below shuffled Xavier and Javier Merquenez. Gold-threaded shackles and cuffs itched and burned. They grimaced and groaned as the gold turned their skin red. Textured with tiny bumps. Under normal circumstances this inhumane treatment of prisoners would not be tolerated. But this was not a normal circumstance. And the prisoners were not human.

Javier hung his head. His mop of curly brown hair flopped around in front of his black eyes. He watched his brother’s heels alternate left and right and wished he had been born with telepathy. For now, he was glad that at least his brother was. Without his ability to make them ignore pain they would never make it through this.

Six of Guild City’s finest escorted them. Their rapid heartbeats thundered in Javier’s ears. Despite their being armed with dart guns full of a painful toxin, they were terrified that the prisoners would break free of their bonds and rain down on them monstrous hell. They had no idea of fear. They were afraid of their own paranoia. He was actually going to die today, guillotine or no. Ravenna and Angel had both, directly or indirectly, ensured his death. If he didn’t escape, Angel would kill him and his brother. If he did escape, Ravenna would kill him, his brother, and Selena.

That was really what this all came down to, wasn’t it? Their love for their friend and blood donor and a vampire’s need to protect his human. No matter the incarnae’s warning, Ravenna was unruly. Warnings only served to alert her to the punishment that waited when she transgressed. Javier liked to imagine that there was some corner of the Earth where the three of them could hide. But Ravenna had spies everywhere. They couldn’t hide from every life form with wings or a multitude of legs. She would find them and have birds pick out their brains through their eye sockets as she was fond of doing.

Then there was Angel. To defy the incarnae was to defy that short-tempered creature. By the time it was done, there wouldn’t be enough of them left to fill the palm of a hand.

Sixty-five years of life as a law-abiding citizen, and this was how it would end. With a legacy as the first vampires, tried, convicted, and executed for murder. Actually, for serial murder, conspiracy, horrendous crimes against humanity, working with a terrorist group, and anything else that the prosecutor could think of. Life was a son of a bitch.

Xavier’s head was held high.  Even now he walked with the same determined sway as always. There was no question in him, no doubt about his decision. Javier was surprised that Angel hadn’t ended Xavier’s life already. It must have known that he wasn’t going to run and put Selena’s life in danger. But who knew? Maybe when faced with the blade, he’d change his mind. Unlikely, but there was still a chance.

White-washed walls were painted in the yellow glow of the overhead lights. The smell of disinfectants, dirty restrooms, and locker rooms made the hall seem to be the longest in the world. How could a species which boasted the status “God’s image” stay so filthy? They must not know the cleanliness-next-to-Godliness rule.

The sound of heavy boots hitting concrete, the scuffling of tractionless soles, and shaking of chains brought Javier’s thoughts back to Earth, back to the present. The reality of this sacrifice started to set in in a way it hadn’t before. He didn’t want to die like this, a killer, a monster that tears apart children while they sleep in their beds. That wasn’t who he was. That wasn’t who they were. Not him, not his brother, not vampires.

They turned a corner and were faced with the exit. Daylight leaked onto the doorway floor, catching on lint and moisture that floated in the air. The crowds roar drowned out the patter of rain, but no matter, they would soon be in it.

The inhabitants of Guild City, Louisiana were eager to see the devils that would brutally murder human men, women, and children punished with the scorching fire of hell. Only then could they sleep at night. Only once these ogres had been killed and could no longer harm any decent human beings could everything return to normal. But that was a lie. No one in Guild City believed that such crimes were done by only two vampires. Oh, they wanted to. But they weren’t that stupid. No matter the pride and satisfaction shown around the water cooler, they would always look over their shoulders, around every corner, and fear every shadow, knowing that more of these creatures could leap out at any one of them, at any time.

A small hike up a few steps and the twins were in the rain. Javier squinted as the rising sun’s light hurt his eyes. He was always amazed that a day could be so cloudy and still so bright. Rain coated his hair and dripped into his eyes. He blinked to get the water out of his irises, but his effort proved futile. Nevermind. It stung, but a little water in the eyes wasn’t going to kill him.

Through the mist and fog he could see a little sliver of silver that rose slowly then dropped in a blink. Thick wood posts split cleanly. The blade so sharp that it could slice a floating hair in half. However, it had been tested all morning. With any luck, by the time it was to be used for more than making firewood, it would be too dull to do anything. Wait. No. That wasn’t luck. Nevermind.

As they crossed the field the crowd went silent. Javier looked around at the mass, read their signs, felt the white hot hate that emanated from them. Forty thousand people. And those were the just ones who arrived early enough to get in. There were more outside the stadium and even more watching from their homes.

Seeing this he could almost side with Ravenna in her revolution against humanity. Unfortunately, she was insane and only motivated by her massive ego and greed. Then there was Selena to think about as well as Nema, the incarnae, and all of the other humans who stood with him, humans who were not allowed to enter the stadium for fear that they would start a riot or try to break the twins free. Which he knew for a fact that the incarnae would do. Hell, she was the only human with the power to do it.

Eventually, the silence was too much for the blood-thirsty mob and had to be broken in the only way there is to break anything. With violence. First came an apple cord, then rocks and stones, rotten vegetables and meats. Javier and his brother ducked and tried to shield themselves as the police attempted to quell the uprising, but they were overwhelmed as well. Apparently, the angry apes didn’t care what they hit. They just wanted to throw and hit. Although, they were on a baseball diamond. So, go figure.

The stones and coconuts hurt Javier’s body, but his nose suffered the worst. His sense of smell was overwhelmed by the fumes from the ripe garbage that must have been engineered and saved for this occasion. If things in here were this bad, Lord only knew the violence erupting outside the stadium, the clash of vampire lovers and haters. If aliens could see this, what would they think? Clearly, this species was too primitive to be abducted. Vampires, however, were far advanced. And he just happened to know of at least two who would go willingly.

Xavier slipped in the mud and fell, taking Javier with him. The cops, with itchy trigger fingers, fired on them, hitting them with a swarm of darts. The twins screamed as the poison burned its way through their veins and nervous system. Even after they were quiet, they still twitched and writhed.

After a while the Merquenez’s could stand up. Officers had to help them to their feet then help them walk, tripping over garbage and other objects on the field. They stumbled closer to the guillotine, hanging off the shoulders of the officers who’d shot them.

The serum weakened Javier’s senses, blinded him, ruined his equilibrium. Yet, even with this, he understood now why Angel hadn’t killed Xavier. Because Javier could still save him. Despite his twin’s wishes, he could grab his brother, grab Selena then run to the incarnae for help. All he had to do was explain to her what she was and the power that she had. Then she could do…jack shit. The problem was now and would always be Ravenna being Ravenna. She meant to start a war here in Guild City and would willingly die to do it.

Despite her promises to protect Selena, if she had to throw the human under the bus to ensure the success of her agenda, she would do it in a heartbeat. Fuck her and her promises. As soon as he could stand on his own, and see, and regain feeling in his anywhere, Javier would grab his brother before he had a chance to stubborn himself to death, grab their human, then Superman their way to the incarnae’s home to speak with her.

Their lives could not end this way. Gold eating through his flesh. No one he cared about allowed to see them off. And all because the twins happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time while trying to help people. Humans!

Javier pushed the officers away. He nearly fell over, but forced himself to stand. Whatever he was going to do, he had to do it quickly before he was shot again and this time by a lot more officers with a lot more darts.

There was a suddenly a burst of wild commotion. He blinked and strained his eyes, but could not yet find his brother. He could see a blurred vision of the crowd, police, but not Xavier. He could see that the guillotine’s blade was no longer set to where it should be, but was down. As if it had been used. His heart may as well have stopped beating as he understood why he couldn’t find a sign of the only family he had.

Angel got Xavier before the blade did.

Javier sank to his knees. Tears held back by confusion and toxins. It was over. All of his plans to save his and his brother’s lives were now pointless. His body fell limp. His arms rested at his sides, the weight like dead animals. He’d failed. It was his fault they were in this mess. He promised Selena he would save Xavier’s life. How could he face her now? What would he say to her?

He looked up at the sky that cried for him. The priest who cast knowing eyes over him. Kasimer! One of the devil’s own two children. A vampire masquerading as a man of God who hates vampires. All a part of his and Ravenna’s master plan to rip apart this city. There was a special place in Hell for people like them. Javier was sad that he wouldn’t live long enough to see the day someone puts him in his eternal coffin.

He heard Kasimer’s voice in his head. “You defied the order. You chose the human.” He shook his head. “I hope you’re happy with the fortune that choice has given you.

He cleared his thoughts. He refused to play into the games of the dethroned prince. He refused to play into the games of anyone. Ravenna and Kasimer would get their due. Of that he was certain.

He pictured one of the last nights he spent with Selena and Xavier. They were enjoying a nice night in, playing Monopoly and watching a movie. That was a really good night. It was a really good day. He’d found out that he was up for promotion at the engineering firm.

That was what he wanted to remember. The way his brother and best friend looked. Their eyes, their smiles are what were on his mind when he called, “Angel.”

Without warning, he burst into dust that was spread across the fresh air like dandelion seeds.

Back to the top

Javier, Xavier, and Selena

Selena, Xavier, and Javier sat on the floor around a coffee table, a bowl of Chex mix and bottle of cola and giant bowl of ice cream on the side, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, playing in the background. Selena shuffled a pair of dice in her hand. “I can’t believe you won’t let us throw you a party.”

“You can throw a party if I actually get the promotion,” Javier said. “There’s like five guys up for this.”

“Yeah, but come on. Who has more experience than you?”

“Counting vampire years is cheating,” Xavier said.

“So what? Experience is experience. In my opinion.”

“Yes. Well, I’ll be sure to tell them that on Monday.”

“Babe,” Xavier said. “Roll.”

She blew on them then threw them down. They hit the cardboard and slid across the glossed surface, rolled and bounced on their angles and sides before settling on five and two.

“Ooh, lucky seven,” she said. She moved the iron around the board, counting the spaces as she went.

“Oh, unlucky for you,” Javier said once she had landed. “You owe me…” He picked up a property card and read it.

“Uh, nothing.”

“…thirty-five dollars.”

“Excuse me; you do not own Park Place.”

“According to the bank, I do.”

“According to the…I don’t believe this. Five rounds in and you’re already cheating.”

“Listen, I’m sorry that your human memory is failing you…”

She picked up her spoon and waved it at him. “…I’m going to give you a concussion.”

“You know,” Xavier said. “This is why I hate playing this game with you two.” He looked at his brother. “You cheat.” He looked at Selena. “And you’re hostile.”

Both took offense to him calling them out, but neither protested, knowing they had no defense against the truth. Instead Selena turned her attention to the matter at hand. “I’m not paying you anything.”

“That’s fine. You’re about to pass ‘Go.’ Per court order, I am garnishing your wages. Ergo, you’ll be receiving one hundred sixty-five dollars instead of two hundred.”

“Xavier, do something,” she said.

“I’m going outside.” He kissed her on the side of her head then pushed himself off the floor, propping himself on the coffee table.

“Really, Honey? That cannot be your solution every time we play Monopoly.”

“It wouldn’t have to be if you two knew how to play like civilized human beings. Excuse me. I mean civilized adults,” he said before Javier could correct him.

Once outside, Xavier took a big whiff of the cool spring air. The dark Guild City night was accented by a breeze that chilled yet soothed. In the distance, lights from office windows made up for the stars covered by clouds. The smell of cold and rain always calmed him, reminded him of the life he’d had in Chile. His parents, four sisters, his brother and himself, were all cramped into a small two-bedroom house out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wheat and weeds. He missed his family. His parents and all but one of his sisters had died. His surviving sister had become a vampire and fell off of the grid. No one had heard from her in several years.

Back on Selena’s porch, Xavier reached into his jeans pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He released one of the tobacco filled papers from the soft pack, put the stick to his mouth, then lit it with a silver Rolling Stones Zippo, last year’s birthday gift from Selena. The tip turned bright orange as he inhaled. A long trail of smoke rippled from between his lips.

He flicked away ash then paced the porch, the wood creaking under his weight. He stopped in front of the window and checked in on Selena and his brother. They were determined to continue their damned game of Monopoly that would only end in food thrown everywhere and a week-long treatment of silence. The two took turns moving his piece, buying properties for him and charging obscene amounts whenever he landed on one of their properties, compounding labor fees, and an “absentee penalty.” Sharks, both of them.

The twins shared many features, big black eyes, golden skin, curly hair. But what Xavier really wanted was Javier’s full lips and his height. Javier stood at 5-foot 11. Xavier at 5-foot 8. Xavier had the cheekbones though. So that was good. He had a more masculine face whereas his brother kinda looked like a girl.

Unlike the Merquenez brothers, Selena Howl was a native of Guild City. They met at the Farmer’s Market and the twins later watched her perform in, Chicago. Five years later the three were inseparable.

By conventional standards, she wasn’t beautiful. More like cute. Black wavy hair framed a cocoa face and poured down her back. But it was her smile that drove them to her. So sweet and alluring, yet behind that smile was an undeniable dark streak manifested in a strange fascination with serial killers and the detectives who caught them.

When they revealed their species, she barely blinked. Turned out her favorite dance coach was a vampira. In high school, she was acquainted with a girl who was best friends with another girl who could control electricity with her mind.

He traced Selena with his eyes. His heart beat faster as he followed the lines from her exposed shoulder and arms, down to the curve of her hip. He took a long draw from his cigarette then exhaled slowly. He reached up and grabbed the top of the window, stretched himself to his full height. He swayed back and forth on his arms as he watched Selena.

A Hello Kitty sweatband on her wrist covered marks from Javier’s fangs. Xavier hated to share her. The idea seemed brilliant at its inception. He and his twin would always befriend a human whom they could use as a blood donor. In a world still skittish about vampires, sharing one human was far more practical than trying to get two to keep their secret. Xavier had no intention of loving a human the way he loved Selena. Many a vampire fell in love with a human and either killed them or succumb to the grief of losing that human to one of the many ways they die.

Yet, here he stood, in danger of becoming one of those statistics.

She grabbed a handful of mix, threw some in her mouth and some at Javier, who was trying to convince her that he’d been in jail for three turns. She pulled her hair back in a ponytail, exposing her neck. And his marks. Those little red dots in her skin made him long to touch her. To not run in there took all of his willpower. All he wanted was to grab her and take her to his bed for an encore of their performance last night. Even though she had just fed them not two hours earlier, he missed the taste of her, the warmth of her blood as it burned through his veins like hot syrup.

He put the cigarette to his lips only to find that it had gone out. As Xavier reached into his pocket to retrieve his pack Javier looked up then shook his head.

“What?” Selena asked.

Javier nodded towards the window. “X is leering again.”

She looked at him.

Xavier shook his head. “I’m not leering.”

She stood and walked to the window. “You can come in.”

But he barely heard her as a very familiar scent blew past his nose. It was strong and it wasn’t Selena; he was sure of that. Still, it didn’t hurt to ask. “Babe, are you bleeding?”

“Um, no. And I’m pretty sure you’d know if I were.”

“Holy hell,” Javier said. “Lena, did you…”

“Oh my God, it’s not me!”

Javier stood, adjusted his jeans, then made his way to the porch. He looked his brother up and down. “Well, if it’s not you and he hasn’t killed anyone then we have a problem.”

“What?”

“Someone’s been killed,” Xavier said.

“For it to be this strong…”

“A lot of someones have been killed.”

“What do we do about it?”

“Nothing,” Selena said. “You call the police.”

“They must be close,” Javier said.

Xavier nodded. “Let’s go.”

“What?” Selena protested. “You can’t leave. It’s past curfew. You’ll be arrested and tortured.”

“Hey, doesn’t Harold Kingston live down the way?” Javier said.

Xavier turned to Selena. “Call the police.”

“I’m going to call the police on you. Listen, to me,” she demanded. “You cannot leave this house…”

“There could be survivors, Lena. They’ll be dead by the time the cops get there.”

“They may already be dead!”

“X, kiss your girl and tell her we’ll be right back,” Javier said.

Xavier gave her a solid kiss on her soft lips then said, “We’ll be right back.”

“Please, don’t,” she begged.

He looked into her black eyes and smiled as he walked away. He and Javier hopped off of the porch and into the air.

Back to the top

How the End Began

The scent of blood led the brothers to Evelyn Road. Winter’s snow had cleared the neighborhood of its normal honeysuckle and rose scent, replacing it with death and wet rot. Except for a few domestic arguments, the neighborhood was quiet. A little too quiet. The lack of second-hand music and partying deafening, which was why they preferred the more urban areas of the city. After all of these decades, they never learned to float in the poshlands.

The strongest smell of hemoglobin floated from the mortar of the house belonging to Harold Kingston, noted vampire-hater and weapons designer. Having bypassed the front gate, the twins stood before the three-story block of brick and wood.

“Oh God,’ Javier said, squinting front the strong scent of blood. “We told them to move.”

“Well,” Xavier said. “Moving didn’t benefit the Cardinals who were in Puerto Rico, or the Bastions who were in Canada.”

The house was unbelievably dark. Between that and the cloud cover over the moon, it was doubtful that any human without night vision goggles could see them. Still, “We need to get the hell out of here and call the cops. There is obviously no one alive in there.”

Xavier was silent.

Javier felt pressure in his head. He looked at his brother. “X? Do you feel that?” The pressure escalated to outright pain that sent them both to their knees. He groaned as scattered images flashed through his mind. Images of a boy…no…two boys. There were shadows, labs. The alternations of light and dark hurt his eyes. He saw the incarnae and a tombstone. Then a different light sparked. “Oh, God. That’s not possible.”

Before either could recover from the mental assault they were bombarded with sirens and red and blue lights. Javier tried to grab his brother and dash away, but it was too late. He was barely on his hind legs before he was shot with rounds of anti-gold red. His blood was set to blaze as he shook in the grass. There was yelling and more gun fire. He was thrown onto his stomach, his face pushed into the moist dirt, arms yanked behind his back. The cuffs clicked until they were set to bruise his wrist, but he was in so much pain from the poison that he couldn’t feel them.

Rough hands clasped around his forearm and waist and dragged his limp form off the ground. The officers had to practically carry him to the car. Sometimes he was able to step. Sometimes his foot just didn’t move. They spoke to him as they lugged him and his brother. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, which was just as well. No doubt they were insulting him and right now he just didn’t care.

After he was practically tossed into the backseat, he realized that holding himself up was not an option. Before he knew it, he was lying across the backseat, his eyes closed, drifting. The memories of what he’d seen fading.

Back to the top

Nema Arrives at the Kingston’s

For a child brought to the States illegally, Nema Habana did alright for herself. Sure, she had some troubles, but she managed to outpace the past, get an education, and do something good for herself and the city. Generally, she was happy with the way life had turned out. But there were some nights that tested her resolve and faith in humanity. This was such a night.

She arrived on Evelyn Road, flashing lights lit the block. Neighbors huddled together in the street in robes and pajamas. Officers in the yard exchanged information with the CSI’s. Three coroner’s trucks were parked along the curb. Nema shook her head. She knew the family and that they had hired security guards. They were going to need more than three trucks for this.

She found a place in the street to park, exited and approached the house. As she made her way under the yellow tape she was greeted by one of the officers.

“Hello Detective.”

“Officer Prio.”

Prio worked the overnight shift. A great-grand mother, the red-head didn’t look a day over forty. The perks of being a vampire. “Cooper’s already inside.”

“Thanks.” She looked at the cars that held the twins and frowned. “What are they doing here?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out. They were found exiting the house.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” She walked to one of the cars and looked inside. He had his head down so she couldn’t tell for certain which twin he was. But took a shot in the dark anyway. “Xavier?”

That seemed to break him from his trance…a little at least. “Yeah,” he whispered, still not looking at her.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

He breathed, but barely responded. “There was so much blood. There was so much blood.”

Confused, Nema turned to Prio who only shrugged.

“He’s been like that the entire time he’s been here. Javier hasn’t said a word either.”

Nema walked to him. He sat hunched over. “Javier?” No response. She turned to Prio. “You shot them?”

Prio crossed her arms. “I did nothing. The first responders did. But even if I had, they tried to escape. You know the procedure, Detective.”

Nema gave her a dirty look then walked away.

“Don’t look at me like that, Habana. I am non-biased. You know that.”

“Yeah, right.” As Nema entered the yard she passed two small puddles of vomit. She frowned but continued on. “There was no blood on them,” she said to Prio.

“What?”

“There’s no blood on the twins’ clothes.”

“Ah, finally, you’re here.” Cooper stood in the doorway, holding a small notepad and pen.

Nema walked past him and stood in the foyer. A thick trail of blood led from the steps through a doorway. Bloody footprints covered almost the entire area. “Anything new?”

“Nope. All of the family is piled together in the dining room. Note on the wall. All per usual.”

She followed her partner across the foyer, careful to avoid the puddles. They walked through a small library, and entered the kitchen and dining area. The oak dining table was surrounded by six deep green chairs. Lots of light wood and dark green. The colors matched the wallpaper, but what caught her attention were the black top-hat lights above the dinner table. She’d met Harold and his wife. Neither struck her as being particularly clever or creative. Surprise. Surprise.

Blood spread across the floor, its deep red a startling contrast to the rest of the décor. The bodies of Harold Kingston, his wife, son, two daughters, and their bodyguards were torn to pieces and piled. On the wall above the pile was a note written in bloody block letters, the same note left at the scene of the first five murders.

As with blood, has man destroyed Earth, so shall we inherit and restore it.

These were the words that gave the killer or killers their PR name. The Inheritors.

“I’ve tried calling Mik,” Cooper said. “But she’s not answering her phone.”

“I think she has a case tonight. Where’s your brother?”

“Wife says he’s out of town. I called Aubren. She’s upstairs.”

“She find anything?”

“Not that she’s said.”

The place was an absolute unnatural disaster, a complete desecration of both life and death. Eight stretchers were in the kitchen. Each with a head. The bodies were in various states of completion. A leg here, arm there. Torso. Maybe. Blood continued to pour onto the floor. The CSI’s worked with the ME, taking pictures of parts as they were separated. The ME then placed the parts on the table that fit the person.

She sighed. “We did tell them to move.”

“Yes. We did. But I’m sure when it didn’t help the Cardinals or the Bastions he decided there was no point.”

“He was the last weapons designer in the city. The Inheritors no longer have a reason to stay here. If we don’t find these people soon, we will lose them.”

“Well, we have two of them in the car. The Merquenezes of all people.”

“Coop, come on. You don’t really think they’re involved in all this. We know those guys. Plus, there’s no blood on them. You can’t commit a crime like this and not get blood all over you.”

“Listen, I don’t think they did this. But hell, what do we know? The first responders saw them exiting the house…after curfew. They had no business being here. I mean, we have to take them in for curfew alone so we’re going to do that, question them, and see what turns up.”

It wasn’t right. Those guys were as far from killers as anyone. Unfortunately, Cooper was also right. They were out past curfew and had to be taken in. However, in the state they were in, she doubted they could tell anyone anything.

A tingling through her spine caught her attention. Something was above her. “Aubren’s upstairs”

“Yeah.”

“I’m going up.” She speed-walked past Cooper and several other officers and CSI members. On mission mode, there was no time to talk to them about what they’d found.

Three demon hunters lived in Guild City. Lillas Mehkinnan. Eljiofor Cooper, Detective Cooper’s older brother. And Aubren Fisher. The New Orleans native and former gymnast barely hit five feet. But as she would say, big blasts come in small packages.

In a white and blue Lupe Fiasco t-shirt, Aubren stood. Just stood and stared down the hallway, mesmerized. She looked down in the direction that held Aubren’s attention, but didn’t see anything. At all. The whole area was blacked out. “Aubren?”

“Do you feel that?” she whispered, clutching a dagger so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

Nema felt weird. She couldn’t stop thinking about her past. Her father, step-mother, meeting Lillas. Things that she never thought of at a crime scene. “I feel something. What is that?”

“I have never felt anything like this before in my life. There is something in this house. Lingering. And it is wrong. We shouldn’t be here. None of us.” Aubren was a demon hunter. Like most of her ilk, she began hunting as a child. More for survival than choice. A veteran in her early thirties, there was nothing she hadn’t been through. To now, after all of this time, come across something that makes her want to turn tail and run was like hearing a doctor say, “Hm. I’ve never seen this before.”

“I’m going to try my sister again,” Nema said.

“No. Don’t call her…”

All of the lights in the hall dimmed and continued dimming until both women were immersed in complete darkness. “What the hell?” In the dark Nema couldn’t see in front her face. Even the steps had been covered in a blanket of black. The only indicator of light came from the foyer and the opened bedrooms where the investigation team was collecting evidence. But the light didn’t travel past the doorway, as if a barrier kept the light from dark as a river from an ocean.

“Oh shit,” Aubren said.

Nema drew her service weapon from its holster and aimed. There may not have been a target yet, but damn it she was prepared for one regardless. “What? What the hell is this?”

“You need to go.”

“What?”

“Whatever this is is angry with you. You need to leave. Now.”

“What? I am not leaving you up here.”

“Pssht, please. I do this all…”

Suddenly, Nema fell to her knees and grabbed her head. Images flooded her head, scenes she couldn’t understand. Some were so bright that they hurt to even think about. Others were too dark and disastrous. They were out of order. Destruction. Fire and invisible forces like a bomb wrapped around the city, disintegrating everything in its path. Her mouth was open, but if sound came out she couldn’t hear it from all of the pain she was in. She pushed on her skull, trying to relieve the pressure.

At once she was assailed by images of boys and scientists. Cities breaking apart and darkness. The face of a man, a stranger, that faded into the shadows. There was something so familiar about him. She’d seen a similar face before, but couldn’t remember where.

Something grabbed and dragged her down the steps. The next thing she knew, she was surrounded by Cooper, Aubren, and a slew of colleagues. They helped her down stairs and out to one of the paramedics. Once outside, she recovered quickly. Cooper and Aubren stood over her as the paramedic checked her vitals. The paramedic wiped sweat from her brow and blood from her nose.

“What the hell, Habana?” Cooper said.

Memory of the images slowly faded until she could barely recall what she had seen. But she remembered what she felt. “It was so sad. And so much hatred. I’ve never felt hatred like that…and I’m a cop.”

Cooper and Aubren exchanged a look.

“I’ve never felt anything like that before in my life,” Aubren said. She looked at Nema. “You haven’t returned to your old clepto ways, have you?”

“What? No! What kind of question is that?”

“Oh, you know what kind. You felt it just like I did. You have taken something, something priceless, something irreplaceable. I don’t know what it is, but you need to figure it out and give it back.”

“What? Or what?” Her head was back to stave the nose bleed.

“I get the feeling that migraine was just a preview.”

“Habana,” Cooper said. “Do you have any idea what this mystery item is? Did you steal the Holy Grail?”

“What does this have to do with the families this thing has killed? And is it even the same person?”

“My guess,” Aubren said, “is yes. To do what this thing’s been doing, you have to have a lot of power and a lot of anger. And that has both.”

Cooper ran his hand down his head. “Son of a bitch. Should we pull our people out of there? Is there someone in there? We checked every damn room in that place and the basement!”

Nema watched as Aubren studied the house. She seemed to focus only on the third floor and only on one area. That was enough proof for Nema that someone, or something, was still in there. “I’m going in. Whatever this is needs to answer for what it’s done.” As soon as she hopped down out of the back of the ambulance, all of the lights in and around the house went out. The whole house became as a shadow. “On second thought…”

“Everybody out,” Cooper yelled as he ran to the house.

Nema backed away from the house. As soon as she stood behind Aubren, all of the lights returned. Aubren faced her. Whatever it was, did not want Nema near the house.

 ***End of Sample. Get the ebook free at Smashwords.***

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