Demon Trappers Book 1
Forced to wait outside the library, Denver Beck gave a lengthy sigh as he ran a hand through his short blond hair. His mentor’s kid had just topped the list for Biggest Apprentice Screwup. That upset him not only for the ten kinds of grief she’d get from the Trappers Guild, but the fact that that had always been his honor. Who’d have thought she could outdo his nightmare capture of a Gastro-Fiend in a rush hour MARTA station? A disaster that had required not only the fire department but a HAZMAT team.
“But somehow ya did it, girl,” Beck mumbled in his smooth Georgia drawl. He shook his head in dismay. “Damn, there’s gonna be hell to pay for this.”
He rolled his shoulders in a futile effort to relax. He’d been wired ever since Paul phoned him to say that Riley was in trouble. Beck was on the way to the library even before the conversation ended. He owed Paul Blackthorne nothing less.
Barred from entering the library by the cops, he’d cooled his heels and talked to some of the students who’d been inside during the trapping. It’d been easy to get information—he was about the same age as most of them. A few reported they’d seen Riley capture a small demon, but none of them had been clear as to what had happened next.
“Somethin’s not right,” Beck muttered to himself. A Biblio-Fiend could make a damned mess, but that usually didn’t involve emergency personnel.
A pair of college girls walked by, eyeing him. Apparently, they liked what they saw. He ran a hand over the stubble on his chin and smiled back, though now was not the time to make plans along that line. At least not until he knew Riley was okay.
“Lookin’ fine,” he called out, which earned him smiles. One of them even winked at him.
Oh, yeah, mighty fine.
A campus cop came within range, the one who’d told him he wasn’t to move. They’d traded words, but Beck had decided not to push the issue. He couldn’t collect Paul’s daughter if he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
“Can I go in now?” Beck called out.
“Not yet,” the cop replied gruffly.
“What about the demon trapper? She okay?”
“Yeah. She’ll be out pretty soon. I can’t imagine why you guys would send a girl after those things.”
The cop wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines.
“It’s not legal if she’s bein’ questioned without a senior trapper there,” Beck warned.
“Yeah, yeah. Your rules, not ours,” the man replied. “Nothing we care about.”
“Not until ya get a demon up yer ass, then yer all over us.”
The cop snorted, hands on his hips. “I just don’t understand why you don’t cap their asses, like those demon hunters do. You guys just look like a bunch of sissies with all your little spheres and plastic cups.”
Beck bridled at the insult. How many times had he tried to explain the difference between a trapper and a hunter? Trapping a demon took skill. The Vatican’s boys didn’t bother; they went for firepower. To the hunters, the only good demon was a dead demon. No talent needed. There were other differences, but pretty much that was the dividing line. The average Joe just didn’t get it.
Beck summed it up. “We got skills. They got weapons. We need talent. They don’t.”
“I don’t know. They look pretty damned good on that television show.”
He knew which one the cop was talking about. It was called Demonland and was supposedly all about the hunters.
“The show’s got it all wrong. Hunters don’t have any girls on their team. They live like monks and have about as much sense of humor as a junkyard dog.”
“Jealous?” the cop chided.
Was he? “No way. When I get done with my day’s work, I can go have a beer and pick up a babe. Those guys can’t.”
“You kidding me?”
Beck shook his head. “Nothin’ like that TV show.”
“Damn,” the cop muttered. “Here I thought it was all chicks and flashy cars.”
“Nope. Now ya know why I’m a trapper.”
Beck’s jacket pocket erupted into song: “Georgia on My Mind” floated across the parking lot. That earned him a few stares.
“Paul,” Beck said, not bothering to look at the display. It had to be the girl’s dad.
“What happened?” the man asked, his voice on edge.
Beck gave him a rundown of the situation.
“Let me know the moment she’s out of the building,” Paul insisted.
“Will do. Did ya trap the Pyro?”
“Yeah. I wish I could get away, but I have to finish up here.”
“No sweat. I’ll keep an eye on things for ya.”
Beck ended the call and jammed the phone in his jacket pocket. He’d heard the worry in his friend’s voice. Paul was fanatic about keeping his apprentices safe, and even more so when it came to his daughter. It’s why he’d slowed her training to a snail’s pace, hoping she’d change her mind and pick a safer profession. Like walking the high wire for a living.
Not gonna work. He’d told Paul that countless times, but he wouldn’t listen. Riley would be a trapper whether her father approved or not. She had that same stubborn streak as her mother.
Beck’s attention moved to the news crew positioned near the building’s entrance. He knew the lead reporter, George something or other. He’d covered Beck’s catastrophe. The media loved anything to do with demon trapping as long as it went wrong. A quiet catch in an alley would never land on tape. Hellspawn going berserk in a train station or a law library? They were all over it.
A lone figure appeared out of the milling crowd. It took Beck a moment to recognize her. Riley clutched her messenger bag to her side with whitened knuckles like it held the Crown Jewels. Her chestnut brown hair was a mass of tangles, and she walked with a slight limp. Even covered by her jean jacket he could see she’d filled out in places that would make boys dream of her at night. She seemed taller now, maybe five inches or so shorter than his six feet. Not so much a kid anymore. More like a young woman.
Damn girl, yer gonna break hearts.
When the newshound headed for her, Beck went on alert, wondering if he would need to run interference. Riley shook her head at the reporter, pushed the microphone out of her face, and kept walking.
Smart girl. He could tell the moment she’d spied him: Her expression went stony. No surprise there. When she was fifteen, Riley had developed a huge crush on him even though he was five years older than her. He’d just begun his apprenticeship with her dad, so he’d done the smart thing—he’d avoided the kid, hoping she’d latch on to someone else. She had, but that story didn’t have a happy ending. Riley got over her puppy love but not the hurt feelings. It didn’t help that he spent more time with her father than she did.
He retrieved his phone and called Paul. “She’s okay.”
“Thank God. They’ve called an emergency Guild meeting. Warn her what she’s in for.”
Riley halted a few feet away, her eyes narrowing when she saw him. There was a rip in the leg of her jeans, a bright red mark on a cheek, and streaks of green on her face, clothes, and hands where the demon had marked her. One earring was missing.
Beck could play this one of two ways—sympathy or sarcasm. She wouldn’t believe the first, not from him, so that left the other.
He cracked a mock grin. “I’m in awe, kid. If ya can do that kind of damage goin’ after a One, I can’t wait to see what ya got in mind for a Five.”
Her deep brown eyes flared. “I’m not a kid.”
“Ya are by my calendar,” he said, gesturing toward his old Ford pickup. “Get in.”
“I don’t hang with geezers,” she snapped back.
It took Beck a second to decipher the insult. “I’m not old.”
“Then stop acting like it.”
Seeing she wasn’t going to give an inch, he explained, “There’s an emergency Guild meetin’.”
“So why aren’t you there?”
“We both will be, just as soon as ya get in the damn truck.”
Realization dawned in her eyes. “The meeting’s about me?”
“Duh? Who else?”
When she reached for the door handle, she hesitated. Beck realized the problem by the way she held her hand. “Demon bite ya?” A reluctant nod. “Did ya treat it?”
“No. And don’t bitch at me. I don’t need it right now.”
Grumbling to himself, Beck dug in his trapping bag on the front seat. Pulling out a pint bottle of Holy Water and a bandage, he headed around the truck.
Riley leaned against the door, weary, eyes not really focusing on much. She was shivering now, more from the experience than the cold.
“This is gonna hurt.” He angled his head toward the news van. “It would be best if ya not make too much noise. We don’t want them over here.”
She nodded and closed her eyes, preparing herself. He gently turned her hand over, studying the wound. Deep, but it didn’t need stitches. The demon’s teeth didn’t rip as much as slice. The Holy Water would do the trick, and it would heal just fine.
Riley winced and clenched her jaw as the sanctified liquid touched the wound. It bubbled and vaporized like some supernatural hydrogen peroxide, removing the demonic taint. When the liquid had entirely evaporated, he shot a quick look at her face. Her eyes were open now, watering, but she’d not uttered a peep.
Tough, just like her daddy.
A few quick wraps of a bandage, a little tape and it was done.
“That’ll do,” he said. “In ya go.”
He thought he heard a reluctant “Thanks” as she climbed inside the truck, still clutching the messenger bag. Beck hopped in, elbowed the door lock, and then started the engine. He pushed the heater control to its highest mark. He’d broil, but the girl needed warmth.
“Do you really use that thing?” she asked, pointing a green-tipped finger at the steel pipe that poked out of the top of the duffel bag on the seat between them.
“Sure do. Handy for Threes when they get rowdy. Really good if they sink a claw in ya.”
“How?” she asked, frowning.
“Gives ya leverage to push the fiend away. Of course, that rips the claw out, but that’s for the best. Worst case, the claw breaks off inside ya and yer body starts to rot.” He paused for effect. “It’s this really gross brown stuff.”
He’d been graphic on purpose, testing her. If she was squeamish, she might as well give it up now. He waited for her reaction, but there was none.
“What happened back there?” he asked.
Riley turned toward the window, cradling her injured hand.
“Okay, don’t tell me. I just thought we could talk it out, figure out where it went wrong. I’ve had my ass chewed enough by the Guild, so I thought I could give ya some pointers.”
Her shoulders convulsed, and for a moment he thought she would cry.
“I did everything like I was supposed to,” she whispered hoarsely.
“So, tell me what happened.”
He listened intently as she told him how she’d trapped the Biblio-Fiend. The girl really had done almost everything right.
“Yer sayin’ the books were flyin’ all over the place?” he quizzed.
“Yeah, and the bookshelf tore itself out of the wall. I thought it was going to crush me.”
Beck’s gut knotted. None of this was right. To calm his worries, he tried to remember how Paul had handled him after the MARTA incident when he was sure his career was over.
“What would ya do different next time?”
Riley’s misty eyes swung toward him. “Next time? Get real. They’re going to throw me out of the Guild and laugh about this for years. Dad is so disappointed. I totally blew it. We won’t be able to pay the—” She looked away, but not before he caught sight of a tear rolling down an abraded cheek.
Medical bills. The ones left behind after Riley’s mom died. From what Paul had told him they were barely getting by. It was why they lived in a dinky-ass apartment that used to be a hotel room and why Riley pushed herself so hard to learn the business. Why Paul had to take any trapping job he could find to make money, though it cost him time with his only child.
Troubled silence fell between them as Beck concentrated on the traffic and what the evening might bring. The trappers weren’t easy about change, and having a girl as one of their own made a lot of them downright pissy. Riley needed to talk it out, get over the guilt before the meeting, or they’d eat her alive.
After honking at a rusty MINI Cooper that cut him off, he took the turn toward downtown. The intersection ahead of them was a tangle of bikes and motor scooters. One guy was pushing a shopping cart filled with old tires, another on Rollerblades, his hair streaming behind him, gliding through the traffic like a speed skater. Nowadays people used whatever it took to get around the city. With the ridiculous cost of gas even horses made sense now.
The biggest problem was the empty air above the intersection: the traffic lights were gone.
“They keep this up and there won’t be one damned light left in the city,” Beck complained.
Most of them had been stolen and sold for scrap by metal thieves. It took some guts to climb up on those things in the middle of the night and dismantle them. Every now and then a thief slipped and ended up a grease spot on the road, buried in a tangle of metal.
Like so many things, the city turned a blind eye to the thievery, saying they couldn’t afford to replace every missing light. Too many other things to worry about in this bankrupt capital of nearly six million souls.
Beck nearly clipped some idiot on a moped and then made it through the intersection; his hands clutched the wheel tighter than was needed.
Talk to me, kid. Ya can’t do this alone.
Riley flipped down the visor and stared into the cracked mirror.
“Omigod,” she said. He watched out of the corner of his eye as she gingerly touched the green areas where the demon pee had dyed her skin.
“It’ll be gone in a couple days,” Beck said, trying to sound helpful.
“It has to be gone by tomorrow night. I’ve got school.”
“Just tell ’em yer a trapper. That should impress ’em.”
“Wrong! The trick is to blend in, Beck, not glow like a radioactive frog.”
He shrugged. He’d never blended in and didn’t see why it mattered that much. But maybe to a girl it did.
Turning to the mirror, Riley began to dislodge the tangles. Tears formed as she pulled a comb through her long hair. It took time to get presentable. She put on some lip gloss but apparently decided it didn’t work with the splotchy green and wiped it off with a tissue.
It was only then she looked over at him and took a deep breath.
“I should have treated the doorway into the Rare Book Room with Holy Water. That way if the demon got loose, he wouldn’t have been able to get in there.”
“Dead right. Not protectin’ that room was the only mistake I see. Bein’ a good trapper is just a matter of learnin’ from yer mistakes.”
“But you never learn,” she snapped.
“Maybe so, but I’m not the one who’s gonna get reamed by the Guild tonight.”
“Thanks, I’d so forgotten that,” she said. “Why were the books flying all over the place?”
“I’d say the Biblio had backup.”
She shook her head. “Dad says demons don’t work together, that the higher-level fiends think the little ones are nuisances, like cockroaches.”
“They do, but I’ll bet there was another demon in that library somewhere. Did ya smell sulfur?” Riley shrugged. “See anyone watchin’ ya?”
She gave a bark of bitter laughter. “All of them, Beck. Every single one of them. I looked like a total moron.”
He’d been there often enough to know how that felt, but right now that wasn’t the issue. Why would a senior demon play games with an apprentice trapper? What was the point? She wasn’t a threat to Hell in any real sense.
At least not yet.
Riley shut down after that, staring out the passenger-side window and fidgeting with the strap on her bag. Beck had a lot of things he wanted to say—like how he was proud of her for holding up as well as she did. Paul always said the mark of a good trapper is how he handled the bad stuff, but telling Riley that wouldn’t work. She’d only believe it if she heard it from her father, not someone she considered the enemy.
They passed a long line of ragged folks waiting their turn to get a meal at the soup kitchen on the grounds of the Jimmy Carter Library. The line’s length hadn’t shortened from last month, which meant the economy wasn’t any better. Some blamed the demons and their devious master for the city’s financial problems. Beck blamed the politicians for being too busy taking kickbacks and not paying attention to their job. In most ways, Atlanta was slowly going to Hell. Somehow, he didn’t figure Lucifer would object.
A few minutes later he parked in a junk-strewn lot across from the Tabernacle and turned off the engine. He was used to ass chewing, but the girl wasn’t. If there were any way he could take her place tonight, he’d do it without thinking twice. But that wasn’t the way things worked when you were a trapper.
“Leave the demon here,” he advised. “Put him under the seat.”
“Why? I don’t want to lose him,” she said, frowning.
“They’ll have the meetin’ warded with Holy Water. He’ll tear himself apart if ya try to cross that line with him in yer bag.”
Before every Guild meeting an apprentice would create a large circle of Holy Water, the ward as it was called, which would serve as a sacred barrier against all things demonic. The trappers held their meeting inside that circle. Beck was right, the Biblio wouldn’t cross the ward. She pulled out the cup, tightened the lid, and did as he asked.
“One piece of advice: Don’t piss ’em off.”
Riley glared at him. “You always do.”
“The rules are different for me.”
“Because I’m a girl, is that it?” When he didn’t answer, she demanded, “Is. That. It?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “As long as ya know that goin’ in.”
She hopped out of the car, hammered down the lock with her uninjured fist, then slammed the door hard enough to make his teeth rattle.
A green finger jabbed in his direction the moment he stepped out.
“I’m not backing down. I’m Blackthorne’s Daughter. Even the demons call me that.
I’m going to be as good as my dad, and the trappers will just have to deal. That includes you, buddy.”
“Blackthorne’s Daughter? The fiends actually say that?” Beck asked, taken aback.
“Hello! That’s what I said.” She squared her shoulders. “Now let’s get this over with. I’ve got homework to do.”
Demon Trappers® Book 1
Originally Entitled The Demon Trapper's Daughter
Copyright ©2011 Jana Oliver
Second Edition November 2021
Angel Wing Graphic used with permission of Macmillan Children’s Books
Cover image courtesy of Yocla Designs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means now known or hereinafter invented, electronic or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
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.