A Phoenix Chronicles Short Story #4+


   I'd been out all night shooting trolls with salt--straight through the heart; it's the only thing that kills them.  So when the knock came on my motel room door before I'd even had a chance to wash their ashes out of my hair, I should have ignored it.

   Except no one knew I was in Minnesota, which made me nervous.  Though why, I have no idea.  Demons rarely knock. 

   However, when I peered through the peephole and saw a wide expanse of nothing, I whirled to the right expecting the imminent arrival of a shotgun-sized hole through the door.  Not that a shotgun filled with anything but rowan or iced steel would kill me, but getting shot hurt.

   Every single damn time.

   The knock came again--louder, more insistent.  Housekeeping or management would announce themselves.  They also wouldn't stand out of sight of the peephole.  Only someone who didn't want me to see them would.  Unless it was someone I couldn't see.

   I didn't like that scenario any better that the first one.  But since I couldn't stay where I was listening, hiding, practically cringing--it wasn't my style--I flung open the door and spewed fairy dust from my fingertips, even as my mind formed the words reveal and freeze.

   No demon materialized in front of me.  That was good.  Then someone coughed, and I jerked my head to the left.

   "This is bad."

   His face was covered in silvery particles that stuck to his long, dark lashes like goo.  His ebony hair appeared to have been dusted with snow.  His skin sparkled as if he'd been doused in glitter.

   He should be frozen like a gargoyle.  Instead, he lifted one hand and wiped at the mess, staring first at his palm then lifting his dark eyes to mine.

   A shudder ran through me.  I'd seen those eyes before.

   Every night in my dreams for the last few thousand years.

   "What are you?" he asked.

   "What are you?" I returned. 

   My hands shook.  I stuck them behind my back so I wouldn't have to explain why.  I wasn't sure I could.  I'd been dreaming of him for so long I'd begun to think he wasn't real, that maybe what I'd seen wouldn't happen, that what I'd done wouldn't matter.  I should have known better.

   "Name's Sanducci," he said.  "Jimmy."

   I noticed he hadn't really answered my question, but then I hadn't answered his either.

   I might have dreamed of him until I knew his face, and his body, even better than I knew my own, but I'd never learned his name or figured out what, exactly, he was.

   Despite being tall, at least six-feet of rangy muscle, and owning eyes that were haunted with things he would much, much rather forget, he seemed young.

   Of course to someone like me, Methuselah was a toddler.  Or at least he had been when I'd met him.  By the time the old guy expired, right before the flood, he'd been wrinkled, white and bent like a question mark, while I'd still looked exactly as I did now--blond, petite, annoyingly perky and forever twenty-one.

   "How old are you?" I asked.

   Jimmy's chin came up.  "Old enough."

   "For what?"

   "I was sent to meet another DK."

   "Another?" I got that shiver again.  "You're a DK?"

   DK.  Short for demon killer. 

   I'm not sure why I was surprised.  In my dreams of Jimmy Sanducci he'd fought demons of many kinds, and they'd killed him in many, many ways.  Subsequent dreams revealed that his death tipped the scales in that eternal war between good and evil.  Without this man fighting on the side of good, evil began to win.  I'd have promised anything to avoid that.  Even before I'd started having the dreams of him and me together, the ones where I loved him.

   "Are you?" he asked, and at my blank expression continued.  "A DK?"

   I nodded.  "Summer Bartholomew."

   "She said I'd find you here, and that we should--"

   "She?" I murmured, and then I understood.  Who else would be able to track where I was but--  "Ruthie."

   "She's my seer."

   Mine too.  And she knew that I worked alone.  I especially could not work with him.  That, however, she didn't know.

   "We're supposed to--" I held up my hand, and Jimmy flinched.  I guess he didn't want to get socked in the face with fairy dust again.

   When the dust hadn't worked on him, I should have known right away what he was.  My magic doesn't apply to those on an errand of mercy.  Since saving humanity from the demon horde was the life of a DK 24-7, my enchanted dust was useless on them.

   "You better come in," I said.  "I'm gonna have to call Ruthie."

   He stepped into the room then stared openmouthed. 

   On the outside, this place resembled a two-story Bates Motel.  But in here . . . 

   White plush carpet, French provincial furniture, thick white quilts and huge, cushy pillows on a king-sized bed.  Through the open bathroom door, a palatial hot tub was visible, surrounded by tropical plants and gold tipped white tile.

   I clapped my hands, and all of it disappeared, leaving behind orange carpet that I didn't want to walk across in bare-feet--I could swear something was crawling in it--a bedspread that smelled like dead moths, one lumpy full-sized mattress and even lumpier pillows.

   "What are you?" Jimmy asked again.

   "Ruthie didn't tell you?"  He shook his head.  "Then I'm not going to."

   I snatched the TV remote off the chipped, unvarnished wooden dresser and tossed it in his direction without warning.  He snatched it easily--most DKs were freakishly nimble and quick.  We had to be in order to fight demons.  Which meant most of us were at least part demon too.  I wondered what his part was.

   "No porn," I said.

   "I'm not a kid."  He pointed the remote at the TV.  "I haven't been a kid since I killed my first Nephilim."

   Nephilim.  The offspring of the fallen angels and man.  Behind their human facade they were the beings of legend--werewolves, vampires, shape-shifters and more.  My life has been devoted to killing them.  Sometimes I think I'll never be able to stop.

   "When was that?" I asked.

   Jimmy didn't even look away from the screen.  "I think I was eight."

   "You were eight?"

   His dark gaze flicked to mine then away.  "Guy came at me all tooth and claw.  What was I supposed to do?"

   "Drink your juice box and let your parents handle it."

   "Never met 'em.  I was on the streets when I was--" He paused, shrugged.  "I was always on the streets.  Until Ruthie."

   Ruthie Kane--seer, Leader of the Light, mother to all in need of a mother.  For a price.

   She and I needed to have a little talk.