From Hell with Love
A Demon Trappers® Short Story
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
It’d been a day from Hell.
Even for a seasoned demon trapper like Riley Blackthorne, today had been one for the books—four Hellspawn trapped before lunch, followed by an exorcism at a private girls’ school. She definitely had a few tales to tell her husband, Denver Beck, when he flew back into Atlanta this afternoon.
My husband. That was a new thing, just six weeks in the making. Their wedding had been a media free-for-all because, only a few days before the happy event, the bride and groom had helped save the city from becoming a mass graveyard. Again.
How often did a Master Demon Trapper (Riley) get hitched to a Grand Master of the International Guild (Beck)? Truly a rare event. As one reporter had blithely explained, it was almost like a royal wedding, except that their matchmaker had been the Prince of Hell himself. That observation still made Riley’s skin crawl.
The newsies had eventually moved on, leaving Den and her in relative peace, which was why no one noticed when she tucked her car into a slot in the airport parking garage. After a quick application of lipstick and a brush through her hair—at least her gold and auburn highlights were still making her brown hair look cool—she was ready to meet the man she loved. She’d even swapped out her usual trapping clothes—the stained and ripped blue jeans and an equally dilapidated T-shirt—for a bright blue shirt and new jeans.
After double-checking her phone for Beck’s flight arrival details, only to find that the plane was delayed by thirty minutes, Riley hauled herself out of the car. She automatically retrieved her worn bag full of trapping supplies and slung it over her shoulder. For a moment, she considered putting it back in the car because it seemed like overkill. As she debated, her late father’s voice filled her mind, as clear as if he were standing next to her: Plan for demons, because they always plan for you. She took the bag with her.
Riley had just exited the parking garage into the hot Atlanta sun and was about to cross to Hartsfield-Jackson’s South Terminal when her phone buzzed with a message. It was Master Harper, her superior, and since he knew she was picking up Beck, this had to be something urgent. Moving out of the flow of foot traffic, she stared at the message—and then read it again just to be sure.
Demon at airport. See chaplain @TSA So. Terminal. Kids arriving on train as backup.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Riley eyed the huge building in front of her, crowded with passengers, all intent on their own journeys. A demon here? They always avoided the place. Was this a coincidence?
“Nope.” Not with the way the day had gone so far.
She reread the message—unfortunately Master Harper hadn’t indicated the type of Hellspawn—and smirked at the word “kids.” In this case, he meant her two apprentices, Kurt Pelligrino and Jaye Lynn. Her year with them was about over, as Kurt would soon be sitting his journeyman exam. Jaye, her training delayed because of family issues, would do so in late June. Riley had no doubt that both would pass, as had her third apprentice, Richard Bonafont. He was currently getting a tan on a Florida beach before returning to Atlanta to start his new job as a journeyman trapper.
Riley muttered to herself as she hiked across the pedestrian crossing, trying not to get her feet clipped by weary travelers and their rolling suitcases. If there really was a fiend at the airport, the actual trapping operation could get ugly. Anytime you put a dense concentration of untrained mortals near Hellspawn, the chance of injuries and deaths rose dramatically.
Since this airport handled over one hundred million passengers every year—her math-adept mind obligingly did the calculation—there’d be an average of a quarter million people through here every day.
Please let this be a hoax. Not that she planned on laughing about it if it was.
Continuing to grumble to herself, Riley was surprised to spy Jaye’s red hair near a shoeshine stand. Next to her, Kurt was checking his smartphone, per usual. Their trapping bags sat near their feet.
“Hey, ‘kids,’” she said, smirking as she joined them.
Jaye rolled her eyes. “Harper, right?”
Riley nodded in return. Both of them were a bit older than her eighteen years—but then, they’d not faced down the forces of Heaven and Hell on more than one occasion.
“Huh. According to Facebook, we’re not at the airport,” Kurt reported.
“Then where are we?” Jaye asked.
“The Hartsfield LaToya Jackson Intergalactic Space Bar and Nail Emporium,” he replied. “Who knew?”
“Riiight. Please tell me you didn’t check in,” Riley said. “I really don’t want the entire city freaking out because they know we’re here.”
“Nope, running in stealth mode, as usual,” he replied, looking hurt. “I know better than that.”
“Sorry. You do know better. I’m just a little skittish right now.”
“Only fair,” he replied. “Those trappings this morning were anything but pretty. At least not the one at the brewery.”
“That’s a nice way to say, ‘Thank God we got the damage waiver signed before we trashed the place,’” Jaye replied.
Riley groaned. “Technically, the demon trashed the place, but I’m thinking that the time it’ll take to mop up all that beer is going to count against us.”
“Yup,” Kurt replied. He eyed her nice clothes. “You think the fiend is here because you’re here to pick up your dude?”
“I fear so.” She looked around, pleased there were no signs of panic in the departing passengers. At least not yet. “You got here quick.”
“Mass transit rocks,” he said, giving her a thumbs-up.
“Sure faster than I-85. Let’s go find out what’s up,” Riley said. “Pray that someone made a mistake.”
If this was for real, a trapping here would be the kind of real-world experience her apprentices needed. Riley shifted to training mode. “How do you suggest we go about this, Oh-journeypersons-to-be?”
It was Jaye’s turn to groan, as she was all too familiar with Riley’s “teaching” voice. She eyed Kurt, who promptly gestured for her to take the lead.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that,” she said. Taking a deep breath, she dove in. “Okay, if it were me, I’d locate the reporting authority figure, show them my credentials, try to determine what type of fiend I’m facing, and then get directions to said fiend.”
“And if the person in authority has no clue?” Riley pressed.
“Then I’d wait until another legit report came in, because there’s no way I’d go through this entire airport, gate by gate.”
“There’re a hundred fifty-two of them in the domestic terminal alone. That’d take forever,” Kurt said. When Riley gave him a look, he added, “I checked Google on the way down.”
Of course he did. “Yet that’s exactly what might happen.”
Jaye winced at that depressing observation. “No way we’re getting stuck here forever. We’re going to a concert tonight. We almost had to kill people to get those tickets.”
“You both know that Hellspawn could care less if you have concert tickets,” Riley cautioned.
“Not happening this time,” Jaye replied, as if that somehow made it so.
Finding the authority figure wasn’t hard—the chaplain was indeed waiting for them near the TSA checkpoint, which was backed up more than normal. An older lady, the reverend had short silver hair and was dressed in all black, except for her crisp white clerical collar.
“You’re Riley Blackthorne,” she said, smiling. “I’ve seen you on TV a few times.”
Riley barely stifled the grimace. She didn’t like being well known, but that’s what happened when you took down Hell’s worst nightmares in public places—people noticed. And then those same folks uploaded their smartphone videos for the world to see. Apparently, Riley even had her own YouTube channel, though she’d never had the guts to check it out. But that wasn’t this woman’s fault.
“Good afternoon, Reverend.” Riley gestured toward her companions. “Apprentice Trappers Pelligrino and Lynn.”
Polite greetings were exchanged.
“I’m glad it’s you they sent,” the chaplain said, addressing Riley. She shot a look toward the checkpoint. “They’re about to shut down the concourse. The thing won’t move, and neither will the people around it. They just keep staring at it and nodding their heads.”
“A Mezmer, then,” Riley said. “A Grade Four,” she added, because most civilians weren’t familiar with trapper lingo.
“Apparently, security tried to intervene, and now they’re caught up in whatever that thing is doing, just like the others,” the chaplain said.
That was typical Hypno-Fiend behavior. Mezmers were particularly adept at tunneling into your mind, then telling you lies so entrancing that you believed every word they said. And the whole time they held you in thrall, they were happily sucking out your life energy. Sometimes they would bargain you out of your soul. On the demonic scale of chutzpah, they rated rather high just for their sheer cunning. Still, when cornered, Hypno-Fiends could turn lethal in a heartbeat.
Some Hellspawn were benign, like the Grade One Klepto-Fiends who loved to steal shiny objects. Riley had one of those in her house, so finding matching earrings was always a problem. Techno-Fiends, classified as Grade Two, were adept at giving your glitzy big-dollar computer a lobotomy. Others, like the Grade Three Gastro-Fiends, lived to eat everything, including people.
To a trapper, it was simple math: The higher the demonic grade rating, the more dangerous the fiend. Fours were never to be taken lightly.
“I’ve let security know you’re headed to the gate,” the chaplain said. “They’ll meet you near the train.”
“Thank you, Reverend.”
“May God watch over you. And good luck.”
(c) 2019 Jana Oliver
Demon Trappers® is a registered trademark of Jana G. Oliver
All Rights Reserved
Originally published in
You Want Stories?
2019 JordanCon Charity Anthology
is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.