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“Discourages eavesdroppers,” she explained. “You and I can hear and understand each other fine, but anyone else will hear only mumbles, or snatches of phrases that make little sense.”

“That is too cool,” I breathed, staring at the glyph as I tried to memorize how she’d created it.

A faint flicker of pride crossed her face. “I will teach it to you later, if you wish. But for now we are free to discuss…matters.”

I sipped my coffee as I tried to gather my thoughts. “There’s a connection between the victim out at the nature center and the woman who ran into my car.”

“I assume you mean more than the nosebleeds before their deaths?”

I let out a slow breath. “Yes. So I guess that means she didn’t make it.”

“She was dead before you could even lay hands upon her.”

I didn’t feel any elation or relief at the knowledge. I was more pleased that since she’d been taken to the hospital, and it wasn’t a homicide, I didn’t have to investigate her death. That was for the hospital and the Coroner’s Office now.

“What killed her?” I asked.

“That I do not know,” she replied. “I sensed the freeing of the essence, but I cannot tell the cause.”

“I knew both of the victims.”

She tilted her head, eyes on me. “You do not seem grieved at the passing of either.”

“Probably because I’m not,” I replied. I sat back and tunneled both hands through my hair. “Fuck. Barry Landrieu gave me heroin when I was fourteen, and I came within inches of dying of an overdose. And Evelyn Stark,” I cocked my head toward the window and the view of the aftermath of the accident, “was driving drunk when she crossed the center line on Serenity Road and killed my dad.”

Her eyes darkened with sympathy. “You were not in the car?”

I shook my head. “My dad got a call from a client who needed some papers notarized. He was a lawyer,” I explained. “He knew he was only going to be a few minutes, so he left me at home while he went to meet the guy.…” I’d been so pleased that he thought that, at the ripe age of eleven, I was old enough to stay home by myself. When he still hadn’t come home after two hours, I’d been worried sick and terrified to call the police because I thought I’d be getting him into trouble. It had been another hour before the knock on the door came.

“And then your aunt had the care of you,” Eilahn murmured. “Which is how you learned to summon.”

“Yep.” I took another sip of coffee to give me a few more seconds to push the unpleasant memories back. “Not the way I would have planned it, given a choice.”

“A tragic path indeed,” she agreed, brow faintly furrowed. Then she spread her hands on the table and looked out the window. “And now these two people who did you harm both die on the day a demon attacked you.”

“Oh, and I used to date the witness who found the first body,” I added.


I let out a small bark of laughter. “That’s one word for it. I was thinking of a description more along the lines of ‘fucking shit damn it all to hell this is a confusing mess plus it means there’s another summoner who’s trying to fuck my life up.’” The last time I’d been looking for another summoner had been during my investigation of the Symbol Man murders, and that case had not exactly been wrapped up nice and neatly. Sure, the Symbol Man had been stopped, but I’d ended up dead for a while, and my aunt had ended up in an arcane coma that had taken me weeks to get her out of.

Her full lips twitched. “‘Interesting’ is more concise.”

“Stick with me a few more weeks, and I’ll have you cursing like a pro.” Then I made a face. “Do you know of an easy way to find a summoner?” I asked, looking over at her with undisguised hope. “Are there any demons who can, um, sniff them out or something?”

She raised one dark eyebrow at me as amusement flashed in her eyes. “No.”

I couldn’t help but smile at her firm answer, even though it dashed my briefly shining hopes. “Okay,” I pressed, “is there a way to ask other demons who’s been summoning them?”

She pursed her lips, appearing to seriously consider the question. “In theory, yes, but in practice, it is nigh impossible,” she said. “The demons are divided into numerous factions. It is a constantly shifting dynamic, affected by a number of factors, including which lord they serve. Simply answering a question would require payment on your part.”

I winced at that. Summoning a demon wasn’t like calling forth a genie who’d be at your beck and call no matter what the request. A summoning was a contest and a contract—first to show you were worthy to even call the demon by the level of skill used to create the portal and maintain the protections, and then to negotiate the terms of whatever service the summoner desired of the demon. Everything had a price and failure to abide by the terms—for either party—was a terrible breach of honor. If the summoner was the erring party, they usually ended up dead. There were no bad demons—only poorly worded contracts.

“So, I guess there aren’t too many pollsters in the demon realm,” I said glumly.

A smile curved her lips. “It is possible that you could pose the question and accept free response. However, that has its own drawback.”

“I might tip off this summoner that I’m looking for him or her.”


I let out a sigh. I didn’t know of any other summoners in the area, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. As far as I knew there were only a few hundred in the world, but even that was simply a slightly educated guess. We tended to be pretty private about our activities, for obvious reasons.

“Maybe the presence of the demon had nothing to do with the two deaths.” I paused in consideration. “Maybe it’s all a giant coincidence.”

“I doubt that,” Eilahn said, and I had to chuckle. She wasn’t the type to snow me with pointless reassurances or allow me to wallow in comfortable delusions. Usually that was a good thing. But there were times when I could have used some pointless reassurances and some delusion-wallowing. “If it had wanted to kill you,” she added, “it likely would have been a harder fight.”

So why the fuck hadn’t it? My arm still ached like a bitch where the damn thing had grabbed me. Had it been trying to do something else? Something Eilahn had managed to thwart? I had to fight the urge to thunk my head down onto the table. Fortunately the pinging of my phone signaling a text message distracted me from thoughts of self-injury. I read it with a growing sense of relief. “Ha! Since I’m on call Sarge is arranging for me to get another car.” It would probably be a total pile of crap, but it would be a pile of crap for which I didn’t have to pay a note or gas or insurance.

I stood and drained the last of my coffee. “I’m going to walk down to the motor pool and get my new wheels,” I told Eilahn.

“I will walk with you,” she said. “Too much is happening. I am unsettled.”

That was the first time I’d ever heard the demon admit to anything less than total confidence. There went the last of my comfortable delusions.

Chapter 5

The motor pool for the Beaulac PD was only a few blocks away. Well within walking distance. We’d barely made it past the PD building when we heard an eager shout from behind us.

“Kara! Ellen!”

We turned to see Officer Tim Daniels trotting up, wearing a grin that stretched from ear to ear. “I found her!”

I looked at him blankly. “Found who?”

“Fuzzykins!” His grin widened, if that was even possible. “Wait right here! She’s in my car.”

He took off at a jog. I felt rooted to the spot. “Okay,” I said. “You get to break his heart and tell him it’s the wrong cat.”