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Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 11

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Daggers of morning sunlight stabbed through my closed eyelids, adding a fresh wave of agony to the pounding in my skull. My clock said I still had more than an hour before the alarm was set to start its Bean-Sidhe shrieking at seven. Hoping to fall quickly back to sleep, I pulled the covers up over my head and snuggled deeper into my pillow.

The sound of glass shattering dashed that hope.

“Somebody’s going to be extremely pissed off when they wake up,” I mumbled to myself, rolling over.

A second later, adrenaline sent my body’s nervous systems into overdrive as I realized it wasn’t a car window being smashed; the shattering sound was coming from inside my house.

Wakefulness sliced through my hangover-induced lethargy and I fumbled for the metal bat I left behind the nightstand for such an emergency. Settling its weight comfortably in my hand, I slipped off the side of my bed, careful not to shake the ancient wooden bed frame.

My house was old and creaky, but I’d grown up there and knew exactly where to step to avoid making noise. Standing at the top of the stairs, it sounded as if somebody was breaking every one of my downstairs windows.

Son of a bitch. Where the hell are Luka’s wards?

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Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 10

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Almost missed yet another week of posting a chapter. Whoops! Since nobody screamed for me to save Alex’s dignity and stop posting, I’m just going to keep throwing chapters up and hope people are enjoying the story despite the rough writing.

Getting Luka and his wheelchair into my car was an easier deed than I had imagined. Luka nimbly swung himself out of the chair and into the passenger seat. As for the chair, it performed some amazing feats of acrobatic agility and I was able to fold it down to a size compact enough to fit in my messy trunk.

“Tell me about this Carlos,” Luka said as I pulled out of the Agency parking lot.

“Born in nineteen eighty-seven on the island of Puerto Rico, his family emigrated to mainland America when he was five. His parents and younger sister died in the Fall and he was adopted by a distant relative.” I recited what had been in Carlos’ file without taking my eyes off the road. Luka was the worst passenger I’d ever had the displeasure of driving anywhere. Not being in control of the two tons of metal and glass hurtling down the streets made him antsy. It was only a matter of time before the “helpful suggestions” started. “He showed a bit of promise when his magical abilities first began to appear, but he topped out as only a low-level sorcerer.”

“Watch out for that pedestrian, Lex. He is not paying attention to where he is walking.”

“I see him.” The pedestrian in question was a young man walking along the opposite side of the street. If I didn’t know he did it with everyone, I’d have been more annoyed by his side-seat driving, but I simply smiled and reveled in having my friend back. Read the rest of this entry

Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 9

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All my contacts had gone silent, and not only the ones in Skullhaven. I couldn’t reach any of them through means either mundane or magical. The only other time I had lost complete contact with my informants was a few years back, when a group of trolls decided they objected to being snitched on and killed every single one of the Agency’s narcs they could get their oversized paws on.

“I’ll be so pissed if this lot is dead. It’s such a pain in the ass to cultivate new contacts,” I grumbled to myself as I tossed my phone back onto my desk. Almost three years had gone by before my current contacts fully trusted me. Knowing that your predecessors had been squashed into a giant, bloody puddle doesn’t do much for a person’s confidence. If my newest batch was dead, I would probably never find anyone willing to talk to me again.

I banged my head against the padded back of my chair, my brain running around in circles like a hamster, trying to find something to work with. Stag had called me back with some disturbing news – the heavens were silent. Not a peep, whistle, or out of tune hum could be heard by anyone in the Astrology Department.

She wasn’t too worried, it happened from time to time, and I shouldn’t be concerned, more than likely the silence had nothing to do with my case. Her underlying message being that nothing I was working on could ever be important enough to make the heavens keep their secrets. Yeah, right. Because a case that involved Death, a Seer Pope, and a supposedly impossible curse was just your everyday run-of-the-mill occurrence.

Vic hadn’t called me back, so I was working under the assumption he hadn’t found anything yet.

The only call that gave me any new information was from the crime scene analysis department.

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Where Demons Fear To Tread ~ Chapter 8

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Walking back to my car, my head was abuzz with everything Bishop Montoya and I had talked about. The weight of his words and presence had inflamed my body, but soothed my mind.

Bishop Montoya hadn’t given me much new information, and we may have had severe theological differences, but merely being in his company and listening to him talk had made me, or at least the human part of me, feel better. He was a man who knew his place in the world and strove to make a difference. I liked that.

My cell phone chirruped at me. It was Vic with my update. Hopefully he had some good news for me.

“Alex, you’re not gonna like what I have to tell you.” Not the best way to start a conversation.

“Well, go ahead and spit it out. If I don’t like it, I’ll simply kick the crap out of you the next time I see you.” I was in a good mood and I wasn’t afraid to let Vic know it.

“Somebody’s in rare form this afternoon. I take it your meeting went well?”

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Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 7

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My meeting with Bishop Roberto Montoya was not what I had expected.

He agreed to meet me for noon tea at a little bakery down the street from Father Callahan’s parish. Demons are invulnerable to most attacks; the only thing capable of completely destroying a demon is pure faith in something based on goodness. The Church had spent centuries battling demons, and the essence of their convictions seeped into the very walls of their churches. Merely walking past a church on a normal day was an uncomfortable experience for me, stepping inside one now would be crippling.

Bishop Montoya’s dark, intelligent eyes took in everything about me, lingering for several moments on my hair and neck tattoos. I waited for the inevitable grimace or even just a raised eyebrow, but he gave me nothing. His face was as serene and impassive as a statue.

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Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 6

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Almost forgot to post Chapter 6 today, but here it is!

 

The next morning, I walked into the morgue’s front lobby and immediately wished I’d stayed away. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My brain had been wound too tightly for sleep to be anything but a couple minutes of downtime interspersed with long bouts of tossing and turning. My entire body ached from the night before as did my hand.

I wasn’t ready to deal with anybody else’s drama. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be that lucky.

A wash of agitated panic cascaded over me. It was nearly a physical blow to my already raw and exposed system. I had to pause for a moment to catch my breath.

“Agent Powers, you got my message.” Mel Stevens, the head medical examiner, was a behemoth of a man. As far as I could tell, he was completely human, but at close to seven feet of nothing but bulk, he towered over everybody. Short grizzled hair clung to his head and face, nearly obscuring his dark brown eyes and bulbous nose. The hair on top of his head always stuck out at the oddest angles as if he either didn’t brush it in the morning or he ran his hands through it and tugged on it throughout the day. Despite his haphazard hair, his clothes were always freshly pressed.

He was also as skittish as an over-caffeinated cat.

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Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ Chapter 5

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I regretted my decision to walk home before I had gotten more than two streets away from the bar. It wasn’t that far a walk, but I was a bit wobbly on my feet from having danced for so long. I’d used muscles I didn’t realize I’d been under-utilizing. It was perhaps time to take up a more comprehensive work-out program.

Thankfully, the night air was cool and helped clear my head. If my earlier shadow sparring had been like unfulfilled sex, then the last few hours were akin to the ultimate orgasm. All my limbs felt loose and languid. I was going to be sore in the morning, but for now I was euphoric.

My euphoria was short-lived. I was passing the high school football field when a red pickup truck skidded to a halt at the corner of the side street in front of me. Kurt and several friends hopped out of the cab, nasty smiles aimed in my direction. All of them sported variations on the “biker tough” look – lots of leather, chains, and tattoos.

“Well, lookie what we have here,” one of his friends laughed. “Nice hair. Does the carpet match the drapes, I wonder?”

All four men laughed, menace and lust pouring off them in waves thick enough to drown in.

Can you get any more childish? I thought irritably. My entire body went into high alert for the second time that day. I had wanted this level of heightened awareness in my shadow-match, but there were too many variables here, too many chances for somebody to get seriously hurt. Relaxing back into a fighting stance, I let them come to me while I examined my surroundings for anything to help me if things got ugly.

“Too good to dance with me, but you spent the entire night with that God-cursed freak,” Kurt spat as he advanced toward me, his hands clenched into fists.

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