Infernal War Machine: the Sunday Witch Hunters ep 6
Well hallo anyone who survived yesterday’s red light reading district. 😀
In episode 6 of The Sunday Witch Hunters, Joe winds down from his first job as an exorcist, Lily pays a visit, and Drake hides some disturbing news… news which will change the fate of the Muraluna Witch Hunters forever.
Characters in this chapter:
- Joe Malone (17): student. A generally serious young man with a talent for putting his foot in his mouth.
- Balthazar “the Chief” Knox (28): librarian, demonologist. Manages the Muraluna Witch Hunters.
- Erin Ireland (18): shoe shop assistant. Erin doesn’t always have lines, but when she does, they’re somebody else’s.
- Lily Buchanan (22): law student. Possessed by Drake, Lily nevertheless knows exactly what she wants.
- Drake (354): god of death. A horrible failure of a demonic Fate who tried to swindle Joe’s kidneys.
The Sunday Witch Hunters
Episode 6: The Infernal War Machine
Knox collected a fee from the pig farmers, promised to send an agent out the following day to thoroughly cleanse the area, and told Joe it was home time.
“Drop your bank details into the library and I’ll make sure you’re reimbursed for the evening. Miss Ireland and I have another job to attend. You, however, are done for today. Are you all right to find your way back into town?” Knox waited for Joe to agree as they squelched and slipped down the driveway to the Colt. Erin trudged behind them. She wasn’t speaking to either of them. “Excellent. Let’s debrief. How did you find it?”
Joe was cold and wet and heavy with mud and pig dung, his sneakers had been acquisitioned indeterminably by Erin, and he couldn’t recall having ever been so frightened. “Weird. Sweet. It’s the most fun I’ve had in ages.”
“Was it as you expected?”
The rain had eased for the moment. Bats chittered overhead, swooping after moths. There wasn’t a star to be seen in the storm-bloated sky.
Joe shrugged. “I didn’t expect anything. So, maybe.”
“An excellent idea. Expect nothing. The sole guard against being taken by surprise.” Knox appeared thoughtful. “This week, think about what you saw tonight – I imagine it’s rather too much to take in at the moment. If you found the work rewarding and you aren’t too afraid of ghosts and ghouls, then I will see you at the meeting on Sunday.”
Joe stopped. His heart skipped a beat. “Do you – do you really think I can do it? Fight demons, I mean. And vanquish poltergeists and that sort of thing. I mean, it’s kinda, you know. It’s not my thing. I mean. I haven’t really – I haven’t really done anything like that before. I don’t really know if I’ll be any good at it.”
Knox stopped by the passenger’s door of Erin’s Corolla, peering through the murky darkness at Joe. “These are early days. The jobs we had tonight were straightforward and reasonably safe. There’s a damn lot more you have to learn and most of it can kill you.” He broke into a grin. “But you’re keen, and I think you have potential.”
All Joe could think to say was, “Thank you.” The compliment spurred like a spanner through the clockworks of his brain, breaking gears, resetting others, altering the entire inner workings of the machine, and not until he was at he was sitting in the Colt and Knox and Erin were back away in the Corolla did he begin to feel elated.
By time he pulled onto the road, he was whistling.
His ecstatic mood was still in full swing a quarter of an hour later when the Colt crunched into the gravel drive of his grandparents’ house. Whistling tunelessly, he killed the headlights, retrieved his wallet from the dash, clambered out of the Colt, and –
– leapt out of his skin. Joe whipped around to see LilyBuchanan, a gauzy black miniskirt, stripy stockings and boots visible underneath her shapeless sweater, sashaying from the cover of Grandpa’s carnations. She wiggled her painted nails at Joe.
“Lily!” he could have fainted. He’d been expecting demons, poltergeists, the ghost of ElvisPresley. He should have taken his own advice and expected nothing.
“Sorry to spook you. I figured if I waited here long enough you’d show up.” Lily said, and yawned. “Oh! I can’t be tired already. I have an assignment to do tonight.”
“You want to talk to me?” Joe ventured. He didn’t quite believe Lily was there. Maybe he’d gotten it wrong, and that death’s head demon had been throwing him into the ceiling, and not the Chief. He drank in the sight of her. Her skirt was short enough to show a hint of garter belt. Joe’s heart was palpating with things other than fear.
The sensor light clicked on, and Drake skulked around the side of the house. He glared at Joe and faded into the cover of a plum tree.
“Ignore him,” said Lily, sticking her tongue out at Drake. “He’s grounded for trying to steal your kidney. Anyway, here. I want you to have this as a sign of my apology for the trouble we caused for you.”
She handed Joe a folded note. He opened it reflexively. A flowchart with an uncanny resemblance to a space shuttle blueprint looked back. Joe glanced at Lily for guidance.
“That’s a chart of all the members of the Sunday Witch Hunters, including yourself and Ducky,” she told him cheerfully. “The lines and symbols indicate our relationships to one another. I made it. It isn’t finished, so just assume that wherever there isn’t a line between two people, I haven’t observed any uncivil or intriguing behaviour. Okay?”
Okay? Each of the names on the chart had at least four lines extending from it, and each line was marked with a symbol for either close friendship, rivalry, romantic interest, mentorship, or partnership. Joe alone had only two lines – friendship with Lily, and mentorship with Knox. He was intrigued (and gut-wrenchingly distraught) to note the red line of romance between Lily and the Chief.
“It’s up-to-date, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Lily said, obviously anxious for Joe to say something.
He stared at the page a bit longer. He was trying to connect all the names to faces, then all of the faces to other faces. The OH&S guru HarveyGasper had red-line interest in every woman except Bliss, who was ancient. And mean. Also impressive was the amount of information Lily had gathered on the elusive O’Roarke.
“Gosh, it’s, ah, it’ll be really handy, thank you,” Joe said, not sure what else he could say. He folded the paper in half, went to place it in his mud-caked jacket pocket, and thought better of it. “I’ll have to study up.”
Lily broke into a smile and he just about caught fire. “Brilliant! Don’t tell anyone else you have it, though. I’d be in awful trouble if they found out I’d been collecting information. Oh, by the way, how was your first night? Did you see any demons? You look like you fell into a giant Bavarian … although you don’t smell like it.”
“No Bavarian. There was sort of this pigsty, you know,” Joe faltered, a product of trying to discreetly sniff his own armpit while talking. That failed and it was all downhill from there. “And when we were done with demon guys and I went to get off I mean get up I mean the Chief fell over and I went to get him up I mean help him up. Well he fell over again and he pulled me on top of him but not really like that because I fell next to him and he was laughing and then Erin went to get us both up but none of us got up in the end without getting covered in pig poo.”
For a long few seconds the only sound was Drake sniggering from the plum tree. At last, Lily whistled. “Wow. That has to take the award for the most humiliating explanation of the week. And it’s only Monday. Did you want to tell me something about the actual demons now?”
Eyes fixed on the eaves, Joe nodded. “Yep.”
“Go on, then. Cover for yourself. I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that other bit.”
“Thank you. I think the demons were called wisps. There were hundreds.”
“Ah. Wisps are the feeblest forms of demonic life we know of. Any feebler and they probably wouldn’t exist,” Lily said eagerly, as relieved as Joe to not be having the other conversation. “They’re really nothing more than biting, scratching, malevolent impressions. Once the static mine is in action, even talentless hacks can destroy a wisp.” Lily caught the flash of anguish on Joe’s face and added hastily, “But you sure were brave to face them on your first night. No demons are a walk in the park. Unless it’s some sort of park demon. I hear they’re a thing.”
Joe stared at his bare, muddy feet. He was shivering with the cold and he wanted nothing more than to run inside to hide from Lily and have a shower and go to bed and pretend this conversation had never happened. But he liked Lily and her legs that went from here to forever, he liked them a whole bunch. So watching her carefully from the corner of his eye, he said, “I guess there was a meaner demon out there, but the Chief took care of it.”
He needn’t have watched carefully. A passing meteor wouldn’t have missed Lily’s reaction. She hopped and squealed, a hand fluttering to her platinum ringlets. “He’s so cool, isn’t he? And he always knows just what to do. He’s a good mentor, too. And he looks damn fine in a suit.”
“He’s not that bad,” Joe agreed weakly.
Lily smacked him playfully on the arm. She smelled delicious. She smelled like a field of strawberries dipped in hopes and dreams and lust and maybe even a romantic dinner. “I’m glad you’re with us. You’re not that bad yourself. Will I see you at the next meeting?”
Joe’s heart soared and plunged like a rollercoaster. Since he was left soaring, he stammered, “Ye- yeah. I’ll be there.”
Lily beamed. She started off down the drive, walking backwards, smiling at Joe, Drake skulking beside her. She called as she waved, “That’s the spirit. Let’s make sure to take a job together next week!”
After a dopey wave accompanied by an even dopier smile, Joe turned towards the house. He wanted to check the chart again, to will it not to be true. But he’d seen it, he knew. Lily’s fate was written right there for him to see. And there was nothing a dumb kid like Joe could do to change it.
Unbeknownst to Joe, his own fate had been written months before he ever met Lily.
It began with a rumour overheard in that spectres’ dive, the Sunny Glasgow, at Christmas.
The rumour was this: after centuries of claiming neutrality, the Fates were finally being conscripted to serve Hell’s infernal war machines. There would be no escaping a term of duty, no mercy for deserters. The conscription officers would move first through the supercontinents of the underworld, rising through circle after circle, shipping demons by the tens of thousands to the front lines until at last they breeched the surface to drag down the Fates hiding there.
Desperately praying to the Queen of Destiny there was no truth to the rumour, Drake had asked around the Sunny Glasgow and pressed the other demons in Muraluna for information, but no one could tell him more than that. What he needed were the tough guys, the Hell merchants. The guys he usually avoided like crazy, because the Hell merchants were intense kind of guys and Drake was nothing if not a coward.
He’d been spared the meeting for a while, because there wasn’t enough sinning in Muraluna for the Hell merchants to set up shop permanently. Maybe some did and he just didn’t have the interest in finding them. He only knew one place for certain they would be; the merchant bar, 666, sitting right under the prime hunting ground of Starla Kurt University.
The new university semester started in February, Bar 666 opened for the season, and Drake reluctantly took his chance.
The bar opened on a Thursday night. Unibar night.
“You’re got to be kidding me.”
Lily glanced at Drake’s reflection in the mirror. She paused the application of her 5x lash bulk mascara to her glue-on eyelashes. “What?”
Drake leered at her. “You’re wearing that to uni-bar? What is it, seniors’ night?”
Lily rolled her eyes and turned her attention away from Drake. “I’ll have you know I’m toning down my wardrobe. The way I dressed last year, the boys were drooling on my shoes. It was annoying and anyway, I’m not interested.”
“So you’re becoming a frump.”
“If that’s the way you want to put it.”
Drake helped himself to a seat on Lily’s bed. Sounds of the other dorm girls dressing in their small, pretty outfits drifted under the door. There was a party on the lawn outside. Campus never slept. Neither did the demons. Difference was, demons grew impatient and left when their parties failed to turn into orgies and/or massacres. Preferably and.
“There’s just something about corduroy which fails to become you,” he told Lily, oozing obnoxiousness from every pore, “Not to mention that rack won’t last you forever. You shouldn’t drown it in grandma blouses.”
Lily pushed a protective arm over her bosom. She wheeled on Drake. “My bust is none of your concern! Nor anybody else’s!”
“Whatever. You shouldn’t keep all the fun to yourself.”
“I’m not! I’m just saving it!”
Drake sneered. “For what, paying off your hex fees?”
Taunting Lily to this degree was a risky business. If not done just perfectly, she would ban Drake’s television privileges. And while Drake pretended to represent 50% of the partnership with the formidable LilyBuchanan, in truth he was at her mercy. If Lily chose to ban TV, or worse, arcade machines, it was stipulated in Drake’s contract that he had to obey. Physically had to.
Unfortunately for Drake, Lily was exactly as aware of this as he was.
She turned a nasty little smile to the Fate. “Who’s asking? Oprah, Ellen, or Dr. Phil?”
Drake wanted badly to cringe. But when the stakes were this high, to cringe was to lose, and Drake could not afford to lose. He contented himself to smirk instead. “You shouldn’t threaten me when I’m trying to help you.”
“Oh, you’re helping me now?” Lily sounded like she didn’t believe him. She always was a clever girl.
“Yeah, I’m helping you. And nice trick with the orthopaedic heels, but it isn’t gonna work – Knox doesn’t go for ugly, frumpy chicks.”
“How do you know!”
“Because nobody does.”
“Hmph!” Lily spun to the mirror. She pulled at her hair without dignifying Drake with so much as a glance. “For your information, I don’t plan on wearing the grandma get-up around the Chief. This is for the benefit of the Unibar boys.”
“Then you’re not getting rid of those miniskirts? Because to be honest, I don’t really think Knox is the kind of guy to like those either. I know. Weird. Guy is screwy, it’s what I’ve been telling ya.”
Lily made a little noise of frustration and threw her mascara stick to the carpet. She wheeled on Drake. He eased away from her. “What’s the matter, Lil?”
“You’ve been provoking me all day, that’s what the damn matter is! If you’re not with me than you’re against me, and if you’re not with me then you can stay home from Unibar tonight!”
With mock horror, Drake exclaimed, “But Ellie said she was wearing a leather skirt tonight!”
“No, that’s Millie. Ellie is wearing the see-through skirt.”
“Sorry, my bad.”
“I still don’t want to miss it.”
“Will you stop being such a pervert!”
“Looking at a girl in a see-though skirt isn’t being perverted!”
“In what world?”
“Well,” said Drake, “is looking through a window at a girl getting changed perverted?”
Silence. Drake played his own words through his head.
“Oh, right. I guess it is. Hey, don’t give me that look. I’m a god of death. I do what I want.”
Lily stared at him across the length of the bed. Lightning crackled in the air around her. At last, with a sigh, almost like the whisper of a sword finding its sheath, she looked away.
Drake said, “A Victorian-era nightgown.”
Her back to him, her voice free of all emotion, Lily said, “What?”
“I bet that’s what gets Knox off. Victorian-era lingerie. I bet Neila owns a couple of pieces. She probably models them for him now and then-”
“Thunder rumble, vagrant sword!”
Drake darted backwards as Lily wheeled on him, lightning sword crackling in hand. She pounced. Drake scrambled for the wall. His foot slipped on the quilt and he crashed to the floor, where one swipe of the vagrant sword saw him plastering his shoulder blades to wall.
“I didn’t mean it!” he cried.
“Out!” Lily snarled, waving the sword under his nose. “Out, now!”
Lily swept the lightning sword against Drake’s throat. He felt this was unfair, as he’d been the one to grant her the ability to summon it in the first place. Then Lily swung at him again, and Drake threw himself through the wall. A moment later Lily caught sight of him tumbling ass-over on the grass outside the dorm. She waved her fist at him.
“Stay out of my sight!” she roared, loud enough to be heard through the window, “And don’t you ever dare mention NeilaSpeer’s underwear to me again!”
“Your wish is my command,” he muttered. He’d landed in the party on the lawn, but of course nobody saw him.
Thusly dismissed for the evening, Drake went to find out if the rumours were true.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to check in again tomorrow, when we’ll be sharing a very special Valentine’s Day Sunday Witch Hunters promotional poster and some other fun stuff probably. It’s also reading list day and this week I’ve been using an Excel spreadsheet. My micromanagement knows no bounds.
Posted on February 13, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged demon, fantasy, fiction, ghost, paranormal, poltergeist, romance, serial fiction, short story, urban fantasy. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.