The syraza peered at the wound. “It does not appear to be very deep.”
“The bruise will probably hurt worse,” I replied. “It just needs a Band-Aid or something.”
She retrieved the first aid kit from my car and bandaged the puncture. The worry on Eilahn’s face didn’t abate, and I knew it matched the queasy unease in my own gut.
“This is the first time I’ve been attacked by a demon when there’s been no doubt it was meant for me,” I said. Earlier this year I’d had an unpleasant encounter with a creature called a kzak—a non-sentient denizen of the demon realm. But Special Agent Ryan Kristoff had also been there, and I had plenty of reason to suspect that he’d been the true target of that attack.
“Yes,” she said. “There is no mistaking that you were the target.” Her frown deepened as she scanned the area, lifting her head as if she was scenting the wind, which, for all I knew, she was. “Yet it was not trying to kill you.”
I resisted the urge to say something trite like Coulda fooled me. Because, truth was, I knew she was right. “It didn’t put up much of a fight,” I agreed. “Maybe it was simply a warning?”
“The graa was foolish to attack you when I was present.” She turned her gaze on me. “It had to have known that it would fail, and that its risk of destruction in this realm was great.”
“But it could hardly wait for when you weren’t around,” I pointed out. Eilahn was never far from me. I ran a hand through my hair, growing more unsettled as more thoughts occurred to me. “And, of course, this means there’s another summoner nearby, possibly working for the demonic lord who has it in for me.”
“You are mistaken.” The demon shook her head. “There is likely more than one lord with a desire to harm you.”
“Thanks,” I replied dryly. “You’ve really put me at ease.” The whole reason we were tromping around the PD at night was because there’d been several attempts to summon me to the demon realm. Usually I was the one who did the summoning. I had the ability to summon to this world supernatural creatures known as demons from another plane of existence. Not hell—these weren’t the demons of any sort of religious mythos, and the reason they were even called thus was lost to history. There were twelve species—or levels—of demons, and the higher the level, the more powerful they tended to be, both physically and in their ability to use and shape arcane power. And above the twelve levels of demons were the demonic lords—beings more on the level of demi-gods—who ruled the demon realm. Generally speaking, one did not summon a demonic lord without extensive preparation, planning, and loads of arcane power, since the lords had an annoying tendency to slaughter anyone who dared do so.
But eight months ago, or so, I’d summoned Lord Rhyzkahl by accident and survived. Since then—through a variety of circumstances and favors owed—I’d become his sworn summoner, bound by oath to summon him to this world at least once a month.
And someone in the demon realm didn’t seem to be too happy with that arrangement. Or rather, several someones, if Eilahn was to be believed. And I had no reason not to trust her.
A cruiser pulled into the parking lot, and I quickly pulled my jacket back on to hide the blood on my arm. A moment later Tim stepped out with two laden plastic grocery bags, abject apology written all over his face.
“Ellen, I tried three different stores, but most everything is still closed, and all I could find was some cheap Kitty Kibble at the 24-hour drugstore, and so I got a bag of that just in case, but then I also got some tuna, and went to the all night deli and got some sliced turkey.” He crouched and began unloading the bags onto the ground in front of her, like a cat presenting a dead mouse as a trophy. He looked up at her. “Y’think any of that might work?”
I turned away in a sudden “coughing” fit as the demon blinked in discomfiture. “I…cannot thank you enough for going to such effort,” she managed after an odd few seconds of silence. The look she sent my way was nothing short of desperate, and I felt a brief surge of ridiculous satisfaction. As capable and kickass as the demon was, it was a relief to see that there were some situations that she had no idea how to handle.
“I think we’re about done searching for the night, Tim,” I said, stepping between the two since I wasn’t sure if he was even physically capable of tearing his eyes away from her on his own. A gust of wind blew my hair into my face, and I shoved it back behind my ears. The eastern sky held ominous red and purple streaks as clouds churned across the coming dawn. “The weather’s turning. It’s time to pack it in for now.”
Worry shadowed across his face. “What if she gets caught out in it?”
Oh, hell no. There was no way I was going to tromp around in the rain—and early December in south Louisiana meant it would be cold rain—on a search for a cat that didn’t exist. Not no, but fuck no.
“Fuzzykins is a tough girl,” I assured him. “She’s just biding her time until she comes on out. I’m sure she has a warm box to curl up under.”
He blinked and focused on me. “Oh, sure, Kara.” He stood and looked down at the various supplies with a crestfallen look, and I felt a stab of guilt for sending him on this wild goose chase. “Well, maybe y’all can use all this next time you look for her?”
“I know we can,” I said brightly. “Fuzzykins absolutely loves turkey. Isn’t that right, Eilahn?”
“Loves it,” she agreed.
He brightened at that. “All righty then!” He adjusted his gun belt, and I had no doubt that if he’d had a hat he’d have tipped it to Eilahn. “I’ll see y’all around then!” Whistling, he returned to his cruiser. We watched him drive off, and Eilahn shook her head.
“Humans are weird,” she muttered.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “You pretty much nailed it.”
My cell phone rang. “Now what?” I moaned. I didn’t need to look at the caller ID to know it was the Beaulac PD dispatcher. I was on call for the weekend, and I’d yet to get through a Sunday on call without getting a message from the dispatcher. It wasn’t always a murder—in fact it rarely was, fortunately—but it never failed to be something I had to actually go to the scene for. Luckily, I didn’t pull weekend call more than once a month. Plus, it wasn’t as if I had anyone at home who wanted me around on the weekends.
Well, except for my demon roommate, but she was pretty good at fending for herself.
I listened to the dispatcher’s terse delivery, confirmed that I would be on my way, then hung up. “I guess we won’t be finishing the warding up tonight,” I said.
“We will finish it tomorrow,” Eilahn stated, voice firm. “It is even more evident that you require multiple sanctuaries.” With that she turned and strode toward the motorcycle parked beside my car. I frowned down at the blood on my jacket. I had a spare in my office that I could grab. That should be enough. And I had an umbrella in my car if it started to rain.
I even had a demon bodyguard. I was set for anything.
“This is wrong,” I stated, infusing my words with as much emphasis as possible in order to convey to anyone listening just how intensely I felt about this. “So so SO wrong.” I zipped my spare jacket higher as a shiver wracked me. “It’s unnatural. It’s worse than unnatural. It’s…” I struggled to think of an appropriate word.
“It’s snow, you weirdo,” Sergeant Scott Glassman retorted.
“This is the Deep South!” I wailed. Fluffy little flakes of madness swirled on the chill breeze and dotted the knit cap covering Scott’s bald head. “It was nowhere near this cold an hour ago.”
“It’s called a cold front. Ninth grade science.” He stood with a hip cocked and a thumb tucked into his belt by his gun, looking every inch the “good ol’ boy” street cop that he was. We’d been teammates when I was on the road, and Scott had taught me more than a few tricks for dealing with the rural mentality. He made sergeant about the time I became a detective, and I had no doubt he’d someday be in charge of the Patrol division.