Demon Trappers Series Book 8
Master Blackthorne’s plan to introduce her to the exorcist had hit a snag: As they were trying to find a parking place, Riley had been called to a trapping gone wrong. The injured trapper kind of wrong. After pointing her toward the church, the master had driven off at top speed. Despite her worry for the unnamed trapper, once again Katia was on her own in a city she didn’t know. At least this time she had Riley’s phone number and some money.
After waiting for a break in the traffic, she rolled her suitcase across the street. Built of red brick, the church in front of her was curiously asymmetrical with a taller tower to the left than the one on the right. Master Blackthorne had said it had been built after the Civil War, in the late 1860s, and that the homeless frequently hung out on the church steps to avoid the Hellspawn downtown. Katia couldn’t imagine a city so big it had one area known as Demon Central. Her hometown certainly didn’t rate that kind of attention from Lucifer and his servants.
She made her way up one flight of steps to a landing and settled on the worn concrete, then tucked her suitcase next to her, uneasy. Master Blackthorne had said she’d contact this Simon guy so there wasn’t much else she could do but wait and try not to fall asleep. That was going to be the hardest part.
Across the street from her, a massive glass and stone building dominated the entire block, the windows reflecting the church’s spires like a mirror. Three police cars were parked in front of it, so Katia guessed it might be the courthouse, or maybe a jail. She’d was just about to dig out her phone to check the time when she heard a series of barks, followed by a wet nose to her hand.
“Hi, you!” she said, beaming at the collie who sat in front of her now. Black and white fur mixed with a bit of cinnamon brown, the dog’s equally brown eyes were eager and happy, its tail moving so fast she could barely see it.
Katia knew this dog, and its “owner.”
“You get around, don’t you?” she asked the figure who stood a few steps from her. A nod returned.
To anyone else, this was a homeless guy in ragged clothes with a weathered face that spoke of years of deprivation and disappointment. Katia saw all that, but there was more—the white glow that hovered around him. He’d been at the bus station when she’d arrived early this morning and had given her directions on how to catch a city bus downtown. At first, that white aura hadn’t been visible, not until Katia had wished him well and placed a very precious dollar bill in his hand. Even if she was broke, and didn’t know when her next meal would be, she had more than him.
The instant she’d wished the man well, the Light had poured from him, nearly blinding her. She’d been so shocked, she’d just stared in wonder. Finally, Katia’d given him a big smile in return.
How many people walk right by him without knowing he’s an angel?
“A very large number,” was the reply. His hair was brown, long, curly, and looked like it hadn’t been washed recently. It was his brilliant blue eyes that held her attention.
He looked up at the church, then back at her. “You’re here for the exorcist.”
“Yeah. He’s okay, right?” she asked. Master Blackthorne had said he was, but trust wasn’t something she gave easily.
“He’s very okay, but he needs your help,” was the solemn reply. “He’s facing an unholy challenge.”
“I hope I can help.”
“That is why you are here.”
That made her uncomfortable, so when a weird question popped into her brain, she asked, “What do you do with the money you collect?”
“I give it to those who are in need,” the angel replied.
Katia reached into her trapping bag, found the small wallet inside and removed two ten-dollar bills, part of the cash she’d received from Master Blackthorne.
“I have more money now. Please give this to anyone who needs it.”
The angel nodded, took the bills and tucked them into a pocket. “You see more than most, Katia Allyson Breman. Be of the Light. Trust it, and trust yourself, for you, too, will be mightily challenged this day.”
After that pronouncement, the Divine headed up the stairs, the collie in tow. He sat near the entrance, the dog curling up at his feet, just another homeless soul in this huge metropolis.
Did he follow me here on purpose?
Katia certainly wasn’t going to ask that question, so while she waited, she unwrapped one of the power bars and ate her second breakfast of the day.
Crossing himself, Simon remained seated as the other parishioners filed out. The interior of the old building was cooler than he’d expected, and the light seemed to strike exactly on the ornate white altar. He looked up, seeking the paintings on the ceiling, then looked back down at his hands. His rosary hung from the right one, a gift from Father Rosetti when he’d graduated from the exorcism course. He rubbed his fingers over the wooden beads, remembering how proud he’d been that day.
How he’d felt he’d been called to this job. He still did.
This wasn’t his parent’s church, and he appreciated the anonymity. No family members watching his every move. Simon regularly attended Mass, seeking solace, but there was none to be found today. He’d made a deal with a demon, skillfully maneuvered into that “bargain”. It was ironic: He’d been personally invited to become an exorcist by Father Rosetti. He’d even had a private audience with the pope, and yet he’d fallen for Hell’s trickery, once again.
I’m a fool. If he’d expected a heavenly voice to dispute that, he’d have been disappointed. At least the time in this sacred space had allowed him to accept that he was willing to spend eternity in Hell as long as those boys were free.
That was what the demon was hoping for, the boys were just bait, with Simon the ultimate prize. Someone in the Pit, maybe even the Prince, had put a price tag on his head. In some ways that pleased him, because it meant that what he was doing here in Atlanta had meaning. That would all end if the fiend won.
As he reached the front doors, he turned on his phone and it instantly buzzed with a voicemail from Riley.
Hi, Simon. There’s a trapper waiting for you outside the church. Katia Breman is a journeyman from Kansas. She just arrived here this morning. Ori insists she’s been sent to Atlanta for a reason. We can’t help you with the demon, but he thinks she can. Sorry I couldn’t be there to introduce you. Journeyman Kilburn got jumped by a Three and I’m headed to the hospital to see how bad he’s hurt.
Riley added some personal details about the trapper, then repeated that he should trust Ori’s instincts. With a sigh, Simon clipped the phone back into the holder at his waist. Exiting the church, he paused on the front steps. Horns blared on the street as people headed to and from work. A few of the older parishioners greeted him, having seen him off and on, then went their own way.
A man sat near one of the doors, his expression neutral as if life had nothing more to offer him than living rough. Simon hadn’t seen him here before. The dog at his side looked up and bounced its tail on the concrete step.
Simon placed money in the battered paper cup in front of them. “May God Bless you.”
“Thank you.” The man’s bright blue eyes seemed out of place with the grubby clothes.
“You’re welcome. What’s your dog’s name?”
“Elijah,” he replied.
“Named after the prophet?” A nod returned as the collie banged its tail faster now.
“He is a good companion,” the man replied. “We should all have trustworthy companions on our journey through life.”
That was the truth.
“Are you new in town?” Simon asked. Another nod returned. “Then if someone hasn’t already told you, if you’re not staying in a shelter, it’s best to be on church property or in a cemetery at night. Someplace that is holy ground. We have a lot of demons here and they can’t hurt you that way.”
“Thank you for your warning.”
“May God keep you safe,” Simon added.
“May the Light guide you, as well,” the man replied. It felt like a blessing.
With a faint smile, Simon headed down the stairs. Out of the corner of his eye he saw another figure to his left. When she turned and looked up at him, so much was written on that face—sadness, pain, worry.
Another lost soul.
“Are you Simon Adler?” the young woman asked, voice rough as if she was getting over a cold. Her black hair clung to her forehead in the heat. It was cut shorter on one side, a little longer on the other. A trapping bag sat at her feet next to a suitcase.
“I’m Simon. Are you Katia Breman?”
“Yes. Master Blackthorne said she left you a message about me. She had to go check on an injured trapper.”
Ori knew exactly what Simon faced, and so did Riley. Had Heaven sent someone to help him, or was that just wishful thinking?
“I got her message. Did she tell you what I’m facing?” he asked, eyeing the young woman.
“That doesn’t frighten you?” She shook her head. “It should. I don’t need someone who is suicidal.”
“I don’t see you have much choice,” was the curt reply.
That was brutally to the point. “Riley said you just arrived this morning.”
“Yeah. I’m from Lawrence, Kansas. I was a problem child for the Guild there so they sent me here.”
He couldn’t hold back the laugh, rude though it was. “We’re all problem children here, so you’ll fit right in.”
“Master Blackthorne said that after we talked, if you had time, she hoped you could take me to some grand master’s house. He has a room for me. She said the guy is Scottish and that he’s cool.”
“That would be Grand Master Stewart, and he is cool. You’ll be fine there.”
Simon’s phone buzzed again. Checking it, he sighed in relief at the text message.
“The trapper who was hurt is going to be okay. Thank God,” he said, then looked up to see the journeyman watching him closely. “Riley wanted us to know,” he added.
“She was really worried. She felt bad leaving me here on my own, but that was okay. It worked out, and I got to pet the dog again.”
Again? He decided not to ask about that as they started down the stairs. When he offered to take her suitcase, she shook her head.
“Katia. That’s a different first name,” he said.
“I was named after my grandmother. She was amazing.”
Which suggested that others in Katia Breman’s life had not been.
She frowned now. “You really wagered your soul with a demon?”
Simon winced. “I didn’t intend that to happen, but the fiend was smarter than me. Now I have to make sure those kids get back home safe.”
She thought on that. “Us.”
“It’s up to us to get those kids back home safe,” she said, her voice stronger now.
There was steel in those words. Perhaps the Fallen was right and Katia Breman was the ally he so desperately needed.
I’ll know soon enough.
Ori’s fingers tightened around the demon’s neck as it flailed in vain. He’d found the fiend stalking an oblivious college student who’d had his head stuck in his phone as he texted his way to an early grave. Intent on its prey, the Grade Four demon had been equally oblivious until Ori had grabbed onto it and hauled it down a nearby alley.
“Answer me, Hellspawn!” he ordered.
“Azagar! It’s Azagar!”
Now he had the name of the fiend who’d taken advantage of the exorcist’s humanity, and that name rang a faint bell. He knew many of the stronger fiends in Lucifer’s kingdom, but not all of them. Recently his informants had mentioned this Azagar who had been stirring up trouble down in the Pit.
“Does it have a demi-lord?”
The fiend flailed more frantically now. “I say no more or they will kill me.”
“They won’t get the chance,” Ori said, scowling.
The Hellspawn’s body vanished in a swirl of still smoldering ashes, destroyed by Ori’s blade. A second later he felt the presence of another Divine, followed by the soft rustle of wings. He turned to study the newcomer, the sword still burning in his hand. For a moment he’d thought it might be one of Lucifer’s executioners—but this one was from the Upper Realm.
It was a female, tall, covered in a stark white robe. Her hair was as strikingly blonde as the exorcist’s, and it spiraled down in curls to well below her shoulders. The eyes were a deep crystal blue, and her wings were pure white.
“Ori the Fallen,” she said, her voice lower and deeper than he’d expected.
“Obviously,” he replied, letting his sword vanish. Until he knew her purpose there was no reason to antagonize her with a weapon. Words were another matter.
She frowned at him. “You are well shielded.” Meaning she couldn’t read his thoughts.
It went both ways, as her mind was as closed as his. “Some reason you’re lurking in a dirty alley?”
“Divines do not lurk. At least I don’t,” she snapped.
“Nonsense. You are in an alley in the heart of what the mortals call Demon Central.”
“I am here to observe you.”
“Why? I have nothing to do with your realm.”
“You don’t, but you do. I know that makes little sense, but that’s how it was explained to me,” the angel replied. “Our Creator is why you’re no longer on top of that tomb trapped inside a gargoyle. A fitting place for you, if it was my choice, but then I’m not in charge of those punishments.”
Their Creator had bigger things to worry about than one Fallen angel, which meant someone else had sent her. Who had he annoyed recently? Hell, of course, but this one was from the other sphere. Of those in Heaven who despised him a single name always rose to the top.
“Michael sent you,” he said.
“Why would you think the Archangel would bother with one such as you? Why would he care?”
“Because I refuse to bow to him. We have always disagreed about the mortals, which he dislikes because our Creator favors them over us.”
“That doesn’t bother you?” she asked. “The mortals, that is.”
“At one time it did,” he said. It had been one of the reasons he’d fled Heaven with the Prince. “Now it doesn’t.”
Now he knew what strength they held in their fragile bodies, the hopes they held deep in their hearts. The sacrifices they would make to save the world. How they could be incredibly full of love and then equally full of hate. He believed them to be the most complex of the Creator’s designs. That thought alone would be considered sacrilege by the Archangel, and many of the other Divines.
“The mortals serve a purpose,” Ori continued, “and though I don’t know what that is, I trust it will eventually make sense. Michael would cast them aside because they insist on being themselves. What he cannot understand, he either subjugates, or destroys.”
There was silence on the other side as the Divine thought that through. Then she shook her head as if to clear it. “I see now why the Adversary found you of value. You spin lies like a web weaver, Fallen.”
“I speak the truth, which is why Michael wants my head separated from my body. Is that why he sent you? Are you to be my executioner?”
“No! I was told to observe and report your activities. That is all.”
Ori could live with that, at least for the short term. It was curious that the Prince had sent his demon to tempt Simon Adler and now Michael the Archangel had ordered this Divine to follow Ori’s every move. The stakes were higher than even he had imagined.
“Your name?” he asked.
“Well then, Serrah the Observer, do try to keep up.”
Ori promptly vanished. If he’d stayed a moment longer, he would have heard her tortured sigh, followed by an un-angelic curse.
Demon Trappers® Series Book 8
Copyright ©2021 Jana Oliver
Angel Wing Graphic used with permission of Macmillan Children’s Books
Cover image courtesy of Yocla Designs
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is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.