Sins of the Demon
(The fourth book in the Kara Gillian series)
A novel by Diana Rowland
For Jennifer, Shawn, Katie, Ellie, and Ashley.
Every time I start a book I tell myself I’m going to create a file to keep track of all the people who help me during the book with research or support. And I forget to do so Every. Single. Time. So, once again, I’m doing the mad scramble at the end of the process where I desperately try to remember everyone who held my hand. Eep!
Many thanks go to:
My awesome husband for being my biggest fan.
My beautiful daughter for snuggling me when I needed snuggles.
Dr. Mike DeFatta for continuing to answer my bizarre questions.
Cpl. Judy Kovacevich for refreshing my memory regarding crime scene procedures.
Daniel Abraham for the advice, encouragement, and support.
Carrie Vaughn for helping me work my way through the mid-series hump.
Ty Franck for being irreverent.
Walter Jon Williams for inviting me to the mountain.
Roman White for letting me bounce numerous ridiculous ideas off him.
Nicole Peeler for being the best critique partner EVER.
Nina Lourie for being who she is.
Matt Bialer for being a wonderful agent and friend.
Lindsay Ribar for EVERYTHING.
Betsy Wollheim for even more EVERYTHING.
Someone had recently taken a leak in the alley behind the Beaulac Police Department. Splash marks were still visible against the bricks, and the beam from my flashlight reflected off the rivulets that led to a broader puddle in the center of the alley. Some other sort of noxious liquid dripped from the corner of a dumpster in viscous plops to mingle with the piss, and the dregs in a broken beer bottle added one more pungent ingredient to the resulting aroma.
I carefully picked my way around the various pools of who-knew-what as I made my way out of the alley. Along the ground behind me ran a faint track of arcane sigils, appearing in my othersight as silvery-blue shimmers, and completely invisible in normal vision. In front of me, Eilahn patiently traced more patterns along the back end of the building, using nothing but the movement of her fingers and her will.
This side was easy. The Beaulac Police Department and its parking lots took up most of a block in downtown Beaulac. We’d started with the back-alley end and the south side that held the detective’s parking lot and the entrance to the Investigations Division. Those were unoccupied at this time of night. The main entrance with its broad glass doors faced the street, which would only be tricky if anyone driving by happened to see us and wonder what we were doing. But the north end of the building—the one that held the entrance to the Patrol Division—would be the most difficult, since officers came and went through there at all hours.
For decades, the station had been a brick and chrome example of seventies’ era architecture, but thankfully it had been renovated in the past year to remove the majority of the chrome and restyle the structure to better fit the “elegant southern town” feel that the rest of the buildings along the street were striving for. Across from the station was the city administration building, built well over a hundred years ago and looking more like a plantation building than a government facility, complete with massive columns and a broad balcony. The rest of the street was taken up with smaller city offices and about half a dozen small shops and restaurants. The city had done its best to make the downtown area picturesque by replacing the big sodium vapor streetlights with smaller ones that were meant to look like Victorian gas lamps. Wrought-iron benches had been painstakingly bolted down along the sidewalk, and large planters interspersed between them. But right now, any elegance was overshadowed by the cheap and tacky Christmas decorations that the city workers put up a few days prior. Maybe next year they’d have enough in the budget to buy decorations that didn’t look quite so sickly.
Probably only if they cut salaries, I thought sourly. As long as they didn’t cut mine, I could put up with a Santa Claus who looked vaguely leprous.
I shifted out of othersight and peered at my watch using my flashlight. Four a.m. We’d been at this for nearly an hour and were barely halfway around the Beaulac PD building. But Eilahn had been adamant that the places I spent the most time should be protected—at least as much as was reasonable. She was a syraza, an eleventh-level demon, assigned—gifted? loaned?—to me by the demonic lord Rhyzkahl after it had become clear that someone or something in the demon realm wasn’t thrilled about my association with him. And Eilahn took her job damn seriously.
The wards on my house had been beefed up into intense and powerful protections, with an outer layer of aversions that would hopefully make intruders lose their desire to continue into my home. Needless to say it wasn’t practical or desirable to have that sort of thing on the Police Department building. Instead, these protections were the sort that would make it highly difficult for me to be summoned while I was inside them—necessary since someone in the demon realm seemed to be intent on doing just that.
The wards were undetectable by anyone without arcane abilities. At least I sure hoped so. But even though they couldn’t be seen by the naked eye, the process of laying them down looked pretty damn weird. Hence the reason we were out at oh-fuck o’clock in the morning—after the bars closed and before the sun came up.
I sighed and cast a longing glance across the street at the dark and closed coffee shop that had recently opened up next to the city administration building. Grounds For Arrest. The painting of a steaming coffee cup on the window seemed to taunt me.
Eilahn softly cleared her throat, and I dragged my attention back to the matter at hand. Slipping back into othersight, I let the sensations wash over me as I checked for gaps or weak spots in the chain of sigils. Even incomplete, the patterns buzzed against my senses pleasantly, like a flow of warm water over my skin. If any part of the sequence had been wrong or poorly scribed, I’d feel it like a vibration in the back of my teeth. But no, it was clear that this demon knew what she was doing.
I straightened and turned at the male shout from behind me, squinting in the sudden light shone into my eyes. Beyond the glare of the flashlight I could see it was someone in a Beaulac PD uniform. Crap.
“What’s going on here?” the officer demanded.
I lifted a hand to shield my eyes. “Could you lower the light please? I’m Detective Gillian. Who’re you?”
The officer obligingly lowered the flashlight. I tried to blink away the spots that now swam in my vision. “Oh, hey, Kara. It’s me, Tim Daniels. Sorry. Y’all looked like you were doing some serious skulking.” He gave a small chuckle.
I returned the chuckle. Luckily we’d already come up with a hopefully believable fiction for why we were tromping around the PD in the middle of the night. “Nope, nothing nefarious. I was bringing my cat to the vet earlier and it got away from me, so my roommate” —I gave a vague gesture toward Eilahn— “and I are trying to see if we can find it now that there aren’t a lot of people and cars around to scare it.”
His gaze shifted to Eilahn and lingered there. I couldn’t really blame him. The form she’d taken after I summoned her was female. Or, to be more specific, smokin’ hot chick. Tall and athletic, with violet eyes and sleek dark hair that flowed past her shoulders, she somehow managed to look Asian, Jewish, Indian, Swedish, and black all at once. Right now she was dressed in jeans, low-heeled boots, and a snug-fitting long-sleeved black shirt. Yeah, I’d have stared too if it was my first time meeting her. I tried not to think about the contrast between us. I was about three inches shorter, with boring gray eyes, poker-straight mud-brown hair that was more fly-away than sleek, and, while I wasn’t pudgy, I sure as hell didn’t have anything resembling an athletic build.