From Hell with Love
A Demon Trappers® Short Story
Since the concourse was still open, at least for the moment, Riley knew there was no way they’d get through the screening process with the stuff in their trapping bags. The X-ray machine would absolutely freak out over the steel pipes and Holy Water spheres so she headed for the closest TSA agent. Holding up her trapper’s license, she smiled to break the ice—because every now and then that tactic actually worked.
“Hi,” she said, keeping her voice low to hamper any potential eavesdropping. “I’m Master Riley Blackthorne, and we need access to Concourse C because of an issue you have out there. Can you walk us through, so we don’t have to be scanned?”
“We’re shutting down the concourse,” the woman replied. “Maintenance issue.”
Not even close. “I know. We’re here to handle that maintenance issue.”
The agent thought about that and then added, “You can’t go out there unless you go through screening.”
“As a member of this organization—” Riley pointed at the Atlanta Demon Trappers Guild logo at the bottom of the license “—we are allowed to skip security screening if we are on official business.”
“You have to go through screening,” was the automatic reply. Around them, the news of the concourse’s shutdown had now reached the traveling public and wasn’t proving popular.
“But I gotta be in Detroit tonight!” someone called out.
Kurt tapped Riley on the shoulder and then handed over his phone. She gave a quick glance at what was pulled up on the screen, then displayed it to the agent. Having a nerd as an apprentice was often a bonus.
“These are the rules regarding trappers and airport security screening. In particular—” Riley glanced at the screen again and then turned it back to the lady “—paragraph three, subsection nine, says you are required by federal law to allow us to pass without screening in the fastest manner possible. If you can’t make that decision, we need someone who can. No matter what, we’re going through security in the next two minutes, because lives depend on it.”
There were a few blinks, a quick glance at the information on the phone, then more blinks. “Wait here.”
Riley handed back Kurt’s phone then began a mental countdown—at the two-minute mark, they were breaching the checkpoint and would deal with the fallout later. At a minute and a quarter, a supervisor appeared—another woman, one no doubt higher on the TSA organizational chart.
“I’ll walk you through,” the new arrival said, her expression grim.
All of them waltzed past the lengthy line like they were celebrities, which earned them both frowns and grumbling. It was going fine until another TSA agent moved into their path, which led to a heated discussion between the two supervisors. Time ticked away as the conversation dragged out.
Then someone in the line called out, “Hey, isn’t that the trapper girl? The one named Blackthorne?”
Heads swiveled. It was a given: If Riley was here, so were demons. That often made life difficult—like clearing out an entire grocery store just because she was buying milk, bread, and pizza.
Since Riley’s presence was never a harbinger of good tidings, more than a few people turned and left the line, not even looking back.
The recalcitrant supervisor dude stared at her. “Go on, get going,” he said, waving them away.
It was rare that she appreciated being a celebrity—and now was one of those times. They sprinted toward the escalator that led into the bowels of the airport and the various gates.
“That went better than I figured it would,” Kurt said, hustling to catch up.
“They haven’t had this kind of situation here in Atlanta, so it kind of locks up their brains until they work it out,” Riley explained. “To be honest, they figured it out quicker than I thought they would.”
She hadn’t had to yell even once. Part of her was actually disappointed about that.
“Don’t we need someone to sign a damage waiver?” Jaye asked.
“Good question. And nope, we don’t. Since the beginning of the year, state and federal facilities are required to have Guild damage waivers on file so we’re covered in any Hellspawn-related incident,” Riley replied. “FYI—questions about those waivers are on the journeyman exam.” Her two apprentices nodded solemnly.
At the bottom of the escalator, a single security guard awaited them, a heavyset Hispanic gentleman who looked decidedly spooked.
“I’m Master Blackthorne. You here to take us where we need to be?”
“Yes, ma’am. Follow me.”
She’d expected that they’d hop the train to the concourse, but instead there was a shuttle waiting for them. Even before she and her fellow trappers settled onto the bench seats, they were off, rolling down the long hallway that led past the Concourse T gates, then Concourse A and B. The farther they went, the less crowded it became, which told Riley that security had done their best to get the civilians clear of the threat.
By the time the guard parked the shuttle at the escalator that led up to Concourse C, there was no one else around.
“All of C is clear?” she asked. The guard nodded. On a hunch she asked, “Is the demon near gate C48?”
The man nodded again. “Down at that end, yes.”
So much for coincidence.
“Thanks, we got it from here,” Riley said after they’d disembarked. The guard rolled back down the way they’d come without ever looking back.
“Okay, then,” Kurt said. “Let me guess—Beck is supposed to land at that gate, right?”
“You got it.”
At the top of the escalator, Riley paused to get her bearings. To their right was the usual collection of shops and restaurants, interspersed with gates. To the left was the same. Plus a demon.
As they hustled along the left corridor, they found signs of rapid abandonment—a newspaper lying on the floor, an overturned piece of carry-on luggage, a Bluetooth headset still blinking away. There was even a child’s little stuffed rabbit.
“That’s creepy,” Jaye said, pointing at one of the video screens. The flight was listed as arriving from “Purgatory.” A quick glance showed that all the rest were the same.
In the distance, Riley could see what they’d come for—a Mezmer in full illusion mode, and the dozen people entranced by it.
“There we go,” Kurt said, speeding up.
“Wait!” Riley called out, and to her relief, he came to an immediate halt.
The hallway looked like it should, but it felt wrong. Very wrong. Someone who hadn’t been trained in magic wouldn’t have noticed, someone like her apprentices.
Riley held back, testing the edge of the wrongness.
“Some reason we’re not busting our butts to get to those people?” Kurt asked, looking first at her, then their destination, and then back again.
It was a valid question.
“What are you sensing?” Jaye asked, less eager than her companion. Her caution would serve her well in the years to come.
Once again, Riley would have to use her magic, and that annoyed her. It always felt like cheating because the other trappers didn’t have that ability. Beck strongly disagreed, and it’d proven to be a constant argument, one of the few they had.
“If it keeps you and yer people alive, where’s the problem?” he’d say.
Beck was right, but it still bugged her because the blame for that “advantage” fell firmly on Lucifer’s shoulders. His constant screwing around with her life—and her father’s life—had led to her learn magic to protect herself and Beck. As well as pretty much everyone else.
Riley spun a low-level spell, hunting for anything that felt like an illusion. There was none. Maybe she was just tired and overcautious. Or…
She upped the strength of the spell. Still nothing. Focusing harder, it suddenly became all too clear. “Heads up! We got Threes!”
With a quick burst of magic, she revealed what was actually in front of them. Kurt spat out a single swear word as he retrieved his steel pipe from his trapping bag. Riley did the same, minus the cuss word.
A Gastro-Fiend, or Three, had a single goal in mind: hook you on its claws and then eat you, alive or dead. This pair of vicious predators were mature ones—at least four feet tall, covered in thick fur, and with double rows of wickedly sharp teeth. As they lumbered toward the trio, the click of their claws on the floor was barely audible over their deep howls.
“I’m ready,” Jaye called out.
They’d practiced this. Since Jaye had better aim than Kurt, she had pulled a Holy Water sphere from her trapping bag. Now they just needed to buy her time to throw that sphere, and then re-arm. That meant Riley and Kurt were going to be the first in line for those teeth and claws.
When the fiends were within ten feet, a Holy Water sphere arced over them, striking one of the Threes in the face. Shrieking in agony, it collapsed to the floor, writhing and clawing at the burning liquid. The second demon had just reached Riley when she slammed her pipe into it, careening it toward Kurt. Just like they’d rehearsed, he swung his own pipe and connected with the Three’s head, dropping it to the floor, senseless.
“Score!” Riley called. But before any of them moved, the Threes simply vanished.
“What the …?” Kurt said. “Those were for real, right?”
Riley walked forward to where one of the demons had fallen, then bent to pick up a broken tooth near a small bloody hunk of fur.
“Yes, they were real.” She held up the tooth so her apprentices could see it, then pocketed it for later destruction. If it fell into magical hands, a witch or a necromancer could use the tooth to summon that particular fiend. That was always a stupid move that never ended well.
“So, we go from no demons at the airport to three?” Jaye said as she returned the extra Holy Water sphere to her bag.
“Yeah. That worries me.” Riley had an idea who was behind this, but right now wasn’t the time to share her suspicions, especially not with her apprentices.
She cleared her mind again and went searching for any other cloaked threats, finding only the Mezmer down the hallway. “We’re clear from here on.”
A quick jog brought them to the Four and its victims.
At first glance, nothing looked amiss unless you were trained in Hellish Tactics 101. A young woman with flowing blond hair stood in front of the gates at the end of the concourse, C48 being one of those. She wore a pristine white summer dress and a bright smile, and she appeared harmless.
“Impressive illusion,” Kurt said, nodding in appreciation. Riley had to agree.
What was more impressive was that the fiend had enthralled a dozen people with apparently little effort. As the chaplain had said, two were security personnel, and the rest travelers. Age didn’t seem to matter when summoned by this fiend’s siren call—there was a slack-faced teenager, earbuds hanging down his T-shirt, as well as middle-aged businessmen, women in crisp suits, a few seniors, and a young couple with a wide-eyed toddler. So far, none of them were unconscious, but that would happen if this demon was allowed to continue.
The victims were neatly arrayed in a semicircle on the terminal floor in front of the Four, just like they were in preschool. Their “teacher” even held a book in her hands, speaking in a reassuring tone while displaying the pictures for all to see.
“Storytime?” Jaye said. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“It works,” Riley replied. “It’s the perfect bait if you’re overworked, jetlagged, and just want to chill out. All they need is some juice and crackers, and they’re set.”
Ignoring the trappers, the fiend continued to read to its victims.
“Where the Demons Are?” Kurt said, catching sight of the title. “Maurice Sendak has to be turning in his grave.”
“It was my favorite book when I was a kid,” Riley said, which meant the Four was already playing with her mind. “We’ve got twelve victims here, so this one is way strong. Shore up those mental shields now, folks.”
(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.