One For Sorrow
“ D amnit , Ryder.” I hung up on Ryder’s message service for the third time, tucked the cell into my back pocket, and peered through iron gates at the brownstone house. Weeds encroached on the driveway and sprouted through cracked asphalt. Faded graffiti scarred the boarded first floor windows. Clearly, nobody was home and hadn’t been for a long time.
The cool Boston night air hummed with sounds of distant traffic, but inside those gates, all was still. “ Demon. Class C. Reckon it’ll be simple enough. Last one on scene buys the beers,” Ryder’s message had said . He was probably caught in downtown rush hour traffic. At least he’d be buying the next round.
I checked my Beretta Pico sidearm then tugged on the gate, rattling the length of rusty chain, and opened it just enough for me to squeeze inside. Flakes of rust came away in my hand and rained over my boots. I brushed my hands together, freeing them of dirt, and started toward the house.
It should be simple, but the demons left on this side of the veil when it had sealed for good didn’t know about my rep as the Mother of Destruction. Otherwise, I could probably have marched right on in, distracted them with a few insults, and been sweeping up their ashes in five minutes. Unfortunately, updating them on the fact I was demon death on legs didn’t help either. They inevitably called me a liar, and considering my so-called limitless power had been clipped when the veil sealed, they were factually correct. I had been a demon badass. I had once stood beside the Princes of Hell and rained fire from the skies. But today? Not so much. These days, I was just demon—and human. It’s complicated.
Grit crunched under my boots as I approached the abandoned building. By the time I’d reached the crumbling steps, the swirling mist had turned to rain and plastered my hair to my face. I brushed a creeping drip of rainwater off my cheek and blinked at the remarkably pristine door. 1930s art deco designs wove up its ornate frame. Akil had made his presence known in Boston sometime in the 1930s. I crushed that thought before it could take root and tried the doorknob. It turned with barely a squeak. The door swung open an inch, and a sigh of dust-speckled air escaped.
“Well, this isn’t creepy at all.” All it needed now was a clap of thunder and a few streaks of lightning, and I’d be starring in my own bad horror movie.
“Come out, come out, demon class C. This is not how I prefer to spend my Friday nights.” This was a lie, confirmed by a very demon prrp sounding in my head,reminding me that hunting demons was exactly how I preferred to spend my evenings, days, and weekends. What could be better than some wanton destruction in the name of protecting Boston from stray demons?
I expected the door to creak and groan and was a little disappointed when it swung open, whisper-quiet on its hinges. The entrance hallway that yawned in front of me echoed the art deco door. In its prime, the hall would have glistened with black and white mosaic floor tiles. Now, debris from a half-collapsed ceiling covered much of the floor. Dust and desiccated trash collected in corners and on the stairs. I pried my cellphone free and turned on the flashlight. Shadows sprang up and danced across the torn patterned wallpaper and up an elaborate staircase.
“Yeah, so not creepy.” My breath misted in the frigid air. I rolled my shoulders. “It’s just an empty house. I’ve faced psychotic Princes of Hell. This is nothing.” My voice drifted down the hall until the dark snatched it away.
“Listen up, demon,” I called before the quiet could worm its way beneath my bravado. “You should know I’ve put down a few of you.” A gross understatement. “There might not be any Institute to police you, but Boston is protected.” I cleared my throat and added, “By me.” I’d meant for that to come out with more gravitas. I couldn’t blame the demons for