Demon Trappers Book 2
Feeling a tickle in his throat, Denver Beck coughed deeply in an attempt to purge the stale smoke from his lungs. It did little good. In the distance, firefighters moved across the Tabernacle’s rubble, working on the hot spots and searching for charred bodies in the mounds of broken bricks and burnt wood.
I should have died last night. In the past it wouldn’t have mattered, but now it did. It was his fear for Riley that had driven him out of the smoke and flames.
To his right, Master Demon Trapper Angus Stewart leaned heavily on his cane in the late-afternoon sun. His usually ruddy face was nearly the color of his white hair, pale against the bloodstained bandage tucked into his hairline. They stood near one of the many holes in the Tabernacle’s parking lot, the stench of burnt asphalt hanging heavy in the air. Beck stared down into the crater’s maw, which was laced with tangled wires and debris. It was a good ten feet wide and three times as deep. A thin column of steam rose from its center.
“How does a demon do this kind of damage?” he asked.
“The Geo-Fiend just waved its hands and this abyss appeared. They have some strange power over the earth and the weather,” Stewart said in his rich Scottish accent. It was still noticeable, though blunted by a decade in Atlanta.
As Beck straightened up, the demon wound in his thigh cramped in protest. The dressing was leaking, and the drainage had soaked into his blue jeans. He needed more aspirin—his temperature was up and every now and then his teeth would chatter. Like a mild case of the flu with claw marks as a bonus.
Everythin’ has changed now. He knew angels were for real; he’d seen them around Atlanta. Most were the ministering kind, the most prolific of Heaven’s folk, who came and went doing whatever God wanted them to do. He’d never seen any from the higher realm, the ones with the flaming swords. He had last night.
Beck shook his head again, unable to deal with how eerie the things had been. At least seven feet tall, clothed in eye-blinding white with shimmering alabaster wings edged in gray, their fiery swords had roared like summer thunder and filled the night air with the crisp tang of ozone.
“I’ve never heard tell of Heaven steppin’ in to protect trappers,” Beck said in a lowered voice, mindful of a television news crew on the other side of the parking lot. They were all over the city now, trying to get a handle on one of the biggest stories to hit Atlanta since the 1996 Olympics. “Why’re the demons workin’ together now? It feels like a war’s brewin’.”
“So it does.” Stewart cleared his throat. “Seein’ the angels make ya a believer?”
Beck blinked at the question. He’d never really thought much about God, and he figured the feeling was mutual. “Maybe,” he admitted.
Stewart huffed in acknowledgement. “The city will be wantin’ action.”
“Master Harper will take care of that, won’t he?” Beck asked. Harper was the most senior trapper in Atlanta and Riley’s master. Harper was a seriously nasty piece of work, but a good trapper when he wasn’t drinking.
“Nay, not with his ribs bein’ the way they are,” Stewart said. “I’ll have ta take the lead. With Ethan dead, I’ll need yer help.”
Ethan had been one of Stewart’s apprentices, but he’d not made it out of the Tabernacle alive. “What about yer other apprentice? Rollins. Where’s he?”
“He quit. Canna handle this sorta thing. I respect that.” Stewart paused a moment, then added, “I’m pleased ta hear young Simon’s gonna make it. That’s good news for Riley.”
“Yeah,” Beck replied, unsure of where the old master was heading with that last comment.
“She and Simon have taken a fancy ta each other, did ya know? They were holdin’ hands and kissin’ before the meetin’. They didn’t know I saw them.”
“Kissin’?” Beck felt something heavy form in his chest, like a stone resting on his heart. Had to be because of the demon wound; they always made you feel sick. It wouldn’t do for him to think of Riley as more than just Paul’s little girl.
“Ya didn’t know?” the master asked, all innocence.
Beck shook his head. He’d known Riley and Simon were spending time together. They were both apprenticing with Harper and saw each other every day. But he hadn’t realized their relationship had gone that far. She was only seventeen, and now that both of her parents were dead he felt responsible for her. Sort of like a big brother. Sort of something more.
“Yer frownin’, lad,” Stewart observed.
Beck tensed, uncomfortable under the old trapper’s scrutiny. “Simon’s better than some she could date,” he admitted. “But he’s not what she should be thinkin’ about right now. I’ll have a talk with him once he’s better. Warn him off.” Let him know if he goes too far with her, I’ll rip his damned head off.
The master gave him a fatherly smile. “Let them sort it out, lad. Ya canna keep her in a bubble the rest of her life.”
Wanna bet? It’s what Paul would have wanted and, if he was honest, the only way Beck could sleep at night.
As he stared at the broken landscape and the savaged building, his mind filled with images from the evening before. Of Hellspawn and the trappers battling for survival. Of Riley in the middle of the flames and how close he’d come to losing her. Beck shuddered, ice shearing through his veins.
Stewart laid a heavy hand on his shoulder, startling him. “I know ya stayed inside that furnace until the very last. That takes stones, and I’m damned proud of ya.”
Beck couldn’t meet the master’s eyes, troubled by the praise.
The Scotsman’s hand retreated. “Ya can’t carry it all on yer shoulders, broad as they are.”
He sounded just like Paul, but that made sense since Master Stewart had trained Riley’s father, who in turn had trained Beck. From what Paul had said, the Stewarts were some of the best demon trappers in the world. And this man thought he’d done all right last night. He’s just bein’ nice.
As if knowing a change of topic was needed, Stewart asked, “Any idea who pulled Paul from his grave?”
That was the other thing hanging over them. Though he’d been dead for almost two weeks, Riley’s father had appeared at the trapper’s meeting, summoned from his eternal rest by a necromancer. He was a reanimated corpse now, money on the hoof, providing he’d made it out of the Tabernacle in one piece.
“Riley did everythin’ she could to keep him in the ground,” Beck complained. “She sat vigil, made sure there was a consecrated circle around his grave. Then some bastard steals him when she isn’t there. It just sucks.”
“She have any notion who did it?” Stewart nudged.
“I didn’t get a chance to ask her.” Which wasn’t quite the truth because Beck could have.
They’d huddled together in her family’s mausoleum in Oakland Cemetery until dawn, on hallowed ground in case the demons came after them. She’d been so upset about Simon and the others, she’d cried herself to sleep.
At the time it didn’t seem important to know who’d resurrected Paul, so he’d just held her close, kept her safe, thanking God she’d survived. Trying to work through his feelings for the girl. When he’d left her this morning she’d still been asleep, dried tears on her cheeks.
He hadn’t had the heart to wake her.
Stewart shifted position again: He was hurting more than he let on. “I canna help but believe there’s a connection between the demons’ attack and Paul’s reanimation.”
“How could there be?”
“Think it through. Wouldn’t he have gone off with the necro who summoned him rather than droppin’ in for a wee visit with his old mates?”
“I don’t know,” Beck said, swiping a hand through his blond hair in agitation. “But I’ll know soon enough. I’ll find the summoner who did it and we’ll come to an understandin’—Paul goes in the ground or the necro does.”
Stewart stiffened. “Be careful on that account. The summoners have wicked magic and they’ll not appreciate ya gettin’ in their business.”
Beck didn’t respond. It didn’t matter what happened to him; Paul Blackthorne was going back in his grave, and that was that. He hadn’t been able to keep him alive, but he could honor his friend’s memory in other ways. He’d do it for Paul’s daughter, if nothing more than to give her peace of mind.
“I hear that Five went after Riley in particular,” the master added. “I wonder why.”
Grade Five Geo-Fiends were the big boys of Hell who generated earthquakes and spawned mini storms as easily as Beck took a breath. A Five had killed Paul, and he was willing to bet it was the same one who’d gone after his daughter during the battle.
He was sure of one thing: The demons were taking too much of an interest in Riley, calling her out by her name. Lesser Hellspawn didn’t do that as a rule. Maybe I should tell Stewart. Maybe he would know what’s goin’ on. But if he did, it’d only add to Riley’s long list of troubles. Before Beck could make the decision, the master’s phone began to buzz inside a coat pocket.
Frowning, he pulled it out. “Stewart.”
Beck turned his attention to the hole in front of him. One of the trappers told him that the Geo-Fiend had thrown Riley into this very pit. That same trapper hadn’t known how she’d managed to escape, said there’d been too much smoke to see what had really happened.
Why didn’t the Five kill ya, girl? There was one possibility, but he didn’t want to think about that. No way Riley would have sold her soul to Hell to stay alive.
What if she’d fallen into that hole and never come out again?
Before Beck could admit to himself what that loss would mean to him, Stewart ended the call.
“That was Harper. The Guild’s representatives are ta meet with the mayor in two hours. We need ta be there.”
“We?” Beck said, caught off guard. “Me too?”
“Certainly. Ya gotta problem with that?”
Hearing the challenge, Beck shook his head. “Can’t the city at least wait till we bury our dead?”
Stewart huffed. “Of course not. Politicians wait for no man when they can lay the blame on some other poor bastard.”
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Demon Trappers® Book 2
Originally Entitled Soul Thief
Copyright ©2011 Jana Oliver
Angel Wing Graphic used with permission of Macmillan Children’s Books
Cover image courtesy of Yocla Designs
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Demon Trappers is a Registered Trademark of Jana G. Oliver
is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.