As promised, the Riley and Beck novella (set after Book #4) has begun on my Grave Matters website. I will be posting new sections every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in true serial form.
So if you’re dying to know what happens to Riley and Den while he’s in <spoiler> studying to be a <spoiler>, this is the story for you.
Thanks to all my fab readers across this very big planet. You guys totally rock!
Beck & Jackson Scene from FORGIVEN
November 18, 2013
Not everything I write finds its way into the final book. This is an outtake from FORGIVEN (Demon Trappers Book #3) and it happens right before Riley and Beck share a deep conversation and a cookie on Stewart’s porch the night before the final battle with Sartael. Beck has been tracking the people responsible for buying demons illegally and he’s about to close in on them with Chris Jackson’s help. FYI: Dodger is one of the two guys who stole Riley’s Grade Three in THE DEMON TRAPPER’S DAUGHTER during her solo trapping run in Demon Central.
It’d been a long day and though it was only eight in the evening, Beck was exhausted. He wanted to be in his bed, but instead he was waiting in a seedy parking lot south of town with Dodger, one of the losers they’d captured in Demon Central. Jail time had done some good for Dodger’s sense of survival: he’d been the first to cut the deal with the cops, leaving his buddy to swing in the wind.
“Will ya stop that?” Beck snarled, irritated at the man’s constant jittering.
Dodger paused for a second or two, then fired back up.
I gotta stop volunteerin’ for this kind of crap.
Once Dodger had made the call to whoever was buying the demons, they’d been sent to this parking lot in one of the rougher parts of Atlanta. Like most of lots in the city, this one had its supply of abandoned tires, discarded trash and gang graffiti. Someone had dumped a sofa near the tires and the way the cushions bulged said something nocturnal called it home.
“Tell me about this guy we’re meetin’,” Beck demanded. “What’s he like?”
“He’s okay. The other dude, he’s wicked.”
“What other dude?” This was the first Beck had heard there were two buyers involved in trafficking the demons. If he’d known that, he’d have brought more backup than just Jackson.
“The one in the suit,” Dodger replied. “He doesn’t come every time.”
“He gets into your head, like an ice pick in the brain.”
Dodger seemed offended that Beck wasn’t buying his story. “It’s not only me, man. You know how the demons always howl like crazy? If he’s around, they go real quiet. Even they knew he’s wicked.”
Maybe this junkie’s onto somethin’.
“Did ya hear all that Jackson?” he called out.
“Sure did,” came the muffled reply from the bed of Beck’s truck. “I hope this goes down soon. Tell me again why I’m the one hiding under this tarp of yours. It smells disgusting.”
“Next time bring yer own,” Beck replied, smirking.
A vehicle pulled into the lot and headed toward them, a white delivery truck with no markings. Beck shielded his eyes from the headlights.
“Heads up, we got company.”
“That’s the guy,” Dodger said, bouncing around even faster now.
As soon as the truck stopped, a man stepped out, though he left the motor running. After a cautious look around, he walked towards them. Clad in jeans, sweatshirt and a baseball cap pulled low, he had a pistol stuck in his waistband.
The newcomer halted about ten feet away. He kept staring at Beck.
Dodger jittered faster. “Hey, ah. . .we got a demon for you.” No reply. “Did you hear me, man?”
“I heard you,” the guy said. His hand was closer to the gun now. “Why is the trapper here?”
Beck jumped in before Dodger said something stupid that would get them killed. “He brought me because I’m damned tired of makin’ diddle on the demons I’m trappin’. Dodger,” he slapped a hand on the loser’s shoulder, “said he knew how to help me with that problem.”
“How do I know you’re on the level?”
“If ya don’t want the Four I’ve got in the back of my truck, I’ll take it to a trafficker,” Beck said.
He’d purposely chosen a Hypno-Fiend as his bait rather than a Three. A Grade Four demon was harder to trap and that made it more valuable.
“A Four? Show me the thing,” the buyer replied.
Beck didn’t like turning his back on an armed man, but he had no choice. He kept it cool and made sure Dodger stayed at his side. Once they were around the back of the truck, Beck popped down the rear gate. As the buyer watched Beck tug off the tarp, he found himself pitched forward, kissing the truck bed, the gun no longer his.
Jackson flung off the tarp and it was all over.
Beck hauled the guy up and gave him the full evil-eye stare. “We need the name of yer boss.”
The man shook his head. “No way I’m going to––”
He was bent double, clutching his gut a moment later. “You shouldn’t have done that,” the guy wheezed as Jackson hauled him back up.
“Put it on my long list of sins,” Beck said, his knuckles complaining. He retrieved his steel pipe from under the tarp and jabbed it at the guy’s chest. “Give us a name. That’s all we need.”
“You don’t know what he’ll do to me. He’s got connections.”
“With who?” Beck asked.
A shake of the head.
Tempting as it was to work this guy over, Beck knew this is what the masters got paid for. “Let’s load him up and take him to Stewart. I’m sure––” he began.
“Stewart?” the man said, trying to back away. That proved impossible with Jackson’s hold on him. “No way. I do not want to be anywhere near that lunatic.”
Beck and his companion traded looks over the man’s shoulder. Maybe they’d just gotten a break.
“How do you know Master Stewart?” Jackson asked.
“I used to be a trapper, about a decade back.”
“We had this gig going, we’d shake down businesses and if they didn’t pay, we throw a Pyro-Fiend in their place and burn it down.”
“I know this story,” Beck said. The Scotsman had told him the tale. “Some of ya tried to take down Master Harper, and National sent in Stewart to clean up the problem.”
“Yeah and the man’s batshit crazy!” the man retorted. “I saw him kill a guy with his bare hands.”
Beck’s respect for Stewart went up another notch. “Why?”
The trafficker was shaking now. “We started a fire in a dry cleaners. We didn’t know there were kids in the back of the place and––”
“They died,” Beck said.
Jackson’s arm went into a chokehold. “You help us and you go to the cops when we’re done. If not, you go to the Scotsman. Then we’ll refresh his memory as to who you are and what you did. You understand?”
The buyer’s eyes were saucers now. When he nodded frantically, Jackson loosened his grip.
“Spill it,” Beck ordered.
“I buy the demons for a suit in the mayor’s office. He’s a real eerie bastard. Gives me the creeps. I swear he can get inside your head and make it bleed.”
Something clicked over in Beck’s brain. When he and Stewart had been hauled in front of the mayor to explain why the Tabernacle was a flaming wreck, His Honor’s assistant had spent most of the meeting whispering in Montgomery’s ear, like he was feeding him information.
Maybe he was tellin’ him what to say.
“Is this dude the mayor’s flunky?” Beck questioned.
“Might be. I don’t know.”
“When did this guy start buyin’ the demons?”
“A couple months back. He said money was no problem.”
“Any idea where he got it?” Jackson asked.
“Try again,” Beck said, poking the pipe into the man’s chest.”
“I really don’t know. He said something about the Holy Water and how it wasn’t what everyone thought it was. He seemed to think that it was really funny. Like I said, the guy is scary.”
“Holy Water.” Beck grinned. Jackson matched it.
“We might have a two-fer here,” the other trapper remarked.
“One can only hope.”
With a nod from Beck, Jackson hauled the buyer into the back of the truck, did some quick work with a rope and left him bound and gagged under the smelly tarp.
“Yer a cruel dude, Jackson,” Beck said.
“I try my best.”
As if to prove brains were an optional accessory he’d not bothered with, Dodger was still hanging around. He’d had plenty of time to take off when they’d been working over the buyer but instead he’d stayed put.
“There’s four demons in the back of that truck,” he said, pointing toward the vehicle. “All Threes. We could split that money, man.”
“And we will,” Beck said, “but yer not included in the deal. Get in my pickup.”
“Come on, I did what ya asked,” Dodger protested.
“The cops aren’t done with ya yet. Seems ya have a few charges hangin’ over yer head. Ya know, like demon traffickin’ without a license, assaulting a minor and––”
“Is this about that girl you were with? Come on, she was in Demon Central. That chick was just begging to get––.”
Beck’s fist met the loser’s chin a split-second later.
(c) FORGIVEN 2012 Jana Oliver
One of the key dynamics in the Demon Trappers series is an event between Riley and Beck that occurred two years before the first book. This is that interaction (I call it the “Riley kicked to the curb” scene) and it sets up their tumultuous relationship. It explains why Riley detests him so much and why Beck really had no other choice.
Denver Beck didn’t expect to find a fifteen-year-old girl on his apartment doorstep, but there she was. Riley Blackthorne’s deep brown eyes peered up at him with nervous anticipation as she clutched a paper bag close to her chest.
What’s she doin’ here?
“Yeah, girl,” he said. “What’s up? Is Paul okay?”
“He’s fine. I just wanted…” Riley clutched the bag tighter. “This is a nice place,” she said abruptly.
“No, it’s a dump,” he replied, “but it’s all I can afford right now.” Which was why his apartment faced the interstate and had a tendency to flood when it rained heavily. Once he’d saved up enough money, he’d buy his own place if he could find one cheap enough.
More fidgeting. “Dad told me how awesome you were last night when you caught that Three.”
Yeah, awesome. He was sliced in more places than he could count and felt like shit.
But singing his praises wasn’t the reason why Riley was at his door at eight in the morning. Did Paul know she was here? Probably not as he was usually in bed at this hour, which is exactly where Beck wanted to be after a full night’s trapping.
“If that’s all, I need some sleep.” he said and began to shut the door.
“No! I was just, well…” Riley was more agitated now, as if all her careful plans were going up in flames. “I was thinking of going to a movie this Friday and, ah, it’s about these guys who fight off aliens and, ah, I thought maybe we could go…to… together.”
“I don’t wanna go to a movie. I’ve got trappin’ to do.”
Her face fell, then she seemed to rally. “Maybe we could go to the coffee shop and you could tell me some trapping stories.”
When he shook his head, Riley took a deep breath and with the rustle of paper she pulled something out of the bag. It was gift wrapped with a pretty bow, proving she’d taken a lot of time with it. She shoved it out in front of her, her hands shaking and her cheeks flushed.
“This is for you, sort of a late birthday present,” she said. “It’s a book about a boy whose mother is a human and his father is a Greek God in Olympus. So that makes him a demigod. He gets into all sorts of trouble with crazy mythical creatures who try to kill him. It’s a great story.”
She’s tryin’ to give me a damned book.
There was no way he could tell this girl he couldn’t read. Only Paul knew that secret.
When he didn’t take the gift, Riley began to fidget again. “I babysat some extra hours,” she explained. “I bought it because you remind me of the guy in the story, because he’s full of awesome.”
Beck exhausted brain finally processed exactly what was happening here. Why hadn’t he seen it sooner? Riley was in a newer pair of jeans that seemed tighter than usual and her hair had been curled. She was wearing makeup, not much, but you could tell it was there. The top she wore was a bit too tight.
My God, she’s comin’ on to me.
Now what should he do? Take the present and hope that’d be the end of it? Pray that she never asked if he’d read the story? No, that wouldn’t work. She would track him to the ends of the earth to see if he’d liked it. The problem wasn’t the gift; the problem was Riley wanted way more than he could give her.
If he turned her down she’d take that as a challenge. She wouldn’t believe him if he told her that her father would rip his heart out if he came anywhere near her. Not with that look in her eye.
The only way was to make this short and brutal so she’d stay away from him, before he began to think this might actually work.
“Beck?” she asked, offering the gift again. “I’m sure you’ll like it.”
“I don’t read kiddy books,” he said, his gut knotting at what he was about to do. “What are ya doin’ here, girl? Don’t ya know it’s not right to come visit some older dude on yer own?”
Riley reeled back as if he’d slapped her. “You’re not just some guy, Beck.”
“Yeah, I am. I’ll be twenty-one next year and yer…what…twelve?” he asked, deliberately lowering her age.
Her eyes flashed and then narrowed. “I’m fifteen and I don’t care how old you are. I thought we could hang together and—”
“And then what? Date? Yer crazy. I don’t have time to waste on some skinny kid. Run on home, now. I got better things to do.”
“But—” she began, her lower lip quivering. “I don’t understand.”
Lord, is she stubborn. “If ya thought we were goin’ hook up, then yer just plumb crazy. Yer not my kind of woman.” He took a menacing step forward. “Now get out of here and leave me be. If ya come back, I’ll tell Paul what yer up to.”
Riley’s jaw dropped open. A second later the book hit the ground and she took off up the street. After a short distance, she staggered to a halt and shot him a horrified look, tears flooding down her face. When she started walking again she had her cell phone out, probably calling one of her friends to tell them just how much of an uncaring bastard he was.
“Sweet Jesus, why did ya make me do that, girl?” Beck murmured. His heart ached to see her like that. She was such a nice kid and someday, she’d be a really fine woman.
He’d have been happy to take her to a movie when she was older and he was a journeyman trapper. Maybe Paul would say it’d be okay. But not now. Not with everything riding on the line. If he made one mistake, his only chance to better himself would be history. If he went too far with Paul’s daughter–same result.
Right before he closed the door he scooped up the present. Another guy might have thrown it in the trash, but instead he hid it in his closet, out of sight, touched she’d thought of giving him a present. Maybe someday he would be able to read it, though he doubted Riley would ever want to talk to him again.
The next stop was the refrigerator and a beer. Make that two.
When he and Paul went trapping tonight he’d have to tell his teacher exactly what had happened.
I hope the hell he understands.
© 2012 Jana Oliver
Jana is an international & multi-award winning author in several genres including young adult, paranormal romance and urban fantasy.