The Sunday Witch Hunters: Ep 14 – Questions
Hey Anneque, I got a question for you. When are you going to do an article about dystopian fiction?
Well, smarty pants, I can answer that: tomorrow. Tune into my YouTube channel tomorrow night for a video special on dystopian wastelands. Here’s a very sneaky preview:
Now for the reason we’re all here. The Sunday Witch Hunters is more than a third of the way through, and the love triangle thickens. Rookie demon hunter Joe Malone isn’t sure he can win the heart of the lovely Lily Buchanan, but he’s determined to try. Meanwhile, Lily just wants to keep Joe alive. And Drake, well, the resident god of death has plans of his own.
If you’re new to the SWH club, you can find the first episode here. Or you can jump right into it now. It’s here, it’s hair, it’s …
The Sunday Witch Hunters
Episode 14: Questions
“What the hell was that all about?”
Drake stared at Lily from the bed. Lily had the God-handed gun clasped in both hands, and her message was clear. If she didn’t like the answer, Drake would be back in the gun. He eyed her coldly as if he didn’t care either way. His translucent skin tingled from his expulsion from the vial. Back in the gun? Forget that. Compression made Drake claustrophobic.
Not taking his eyes off Lily, he demanded, “What are you on about?”
Lily waved the gun at him. Her face was pink with rage. She stalked up and down the length of the small dorm room, her eyes occasionally flashing to Drake, steam venting from under her lace collar.
“How could you!” she bit, marching past Drake. “You know what the risks are – what damn good did you think you were doing? You could have gotten him killed!”
Miffed, Drake protested, “It was your idea!”
Lily spun on her heel to glare at Drake. She spat, “What?”
Drake made a hopeless gesture. “You told me to possess Knox. How was I supposed to know he would have a trap rigged against it? If anything, you should’ve known that. You guys were partners.”
“I’m talking about Joe!” Lily roared. Her hands were altogether too full of gun for comfort. “You kept talking about making a deal with him – you scared him half to death before we ever got to the job!”
Drake blinked. “Well I-”
“You what? What in Christ’s name were you trying to achieve?”
Drake could only stare in response. Lily broke eye contact and resumed pacing. “You could have gotten him killed. It’s fine for you out there – you skulk off into the shadows and leave us to do the dirty work. Joe doesn’t have that option. No human has that option. Fear is poison for an exorcist in battle. Joe could have seized up, or he could have run, and what do you think would have happened then, huh? You thinks those demons would have gone easy on him? You think they wouldn’t have smelled his fear? Tell me what you think, Drake, because I’m really dying to hear your excuses.”
For the longest time, Drake was quiet. After a while, gazing at the wall and hands in his lap, he ventured, “I’m sorry.”
Lily turned on him, her frown faltering. “They would have torn him to pieces. You know that as well as I do.”
“I was only telling him the truth. He deserves to know.”
“Don’t make me laugh. You couldn’t care less about what Joe deserves. And since when are you a campaigner for human rights? What Joe needs to know is what he can see for himself. Give him a chance to get used to the job. Then we’ll burden him with details.”
“Yeah?” Drake decided he wasn’t as mollified as he’d thought. He sneered up at Lily as she paced. “Which details were you considering telling him? The reason there’s a vacancy in the club? Or were you thinking of telling him about the Hell’s Gate-”
“Things he doesn’t need to know,” Lily insisted, but she couldn’t lie to Drake.
“Things which might save his life,” he told her. “Although I suppose that’s another detail that would only burden him.”
Lily faltered in her march, however momentarily. She realised what she had done, and stopped. She looked from the gun in her hand to Drake gathered on the bed. She still wanted to shoot him.
She stuffed the gun in a desk drawer instead. “That doesn’t change the point. What you told Joe, how you scared him, was far more likely to get him killed than to save him. And anyway, it was nothing but lies. You can’t make a deal with Joe; you already have a deal with me.”
Used to their easy back and forth, Drake almost told Lily that he could and would have more than one contract. He bit his tongue just in time. He supposed Lily was right; there were times when what you didn’t know couldn’t hurt you.
“I want him to consider it in case you get taken out,” he told her, “I don’t want to be spirited back to the underworld just ’cause you get offed.”
Lily wrinkled her nose. “Your empathy with the human condition is inspiring.”
“I’m a death god. Empathy doesn’t come into it.”
Lily’s vehemence had left her. She deflated. She dropped onto the bed beside Drake, who shuffled aside to make room. She rested her head on his shoulder.
“Don’t say things like that to Joe any more. He doesn’t deserve you scaring him. He’s a good kid.”
Drake let Lily settle against him. He didn’t want to lose Joe as a second contract. But the kid wasn’t as easy to spook as he’d thought. Drake was going to need a change of tactics. “He is a good kid. You better make sure you tell him what’s really going on though. Not enough information will kill just as quickly as too much.”
Lily huffed. “You can cut the moral superiority act already.”
“Okay.” Drake thought for a moment. The good old bait and switch. “You want to hear some gossip instead?”
“It’s what I found in the head of that nutter, Knox.”
Lily sprung up. “Tell me!”
Gotcha. Drake scrutinised his fingernails. “What is it exactly you want to know? I had access to the whole lot.”
With touching (from Drake’s suddenly generous point of view) anxiety, Lily asked, “Did you … see what he thinks about me?”
“I told you already. He calls you the crazy bitch.”
Lily slapped Drake’s arm. Drake flinched, but Lily didn’t seem to notice. “He would never think that about me. He used to call me Lily, but these days it’s always Miss Buchanan. Do you know why it changed?”
As it happened, Drake did know, and he hadn’t needed to go head hopping to find out. “Nah,” he said, “I didn’t have time to find something that unimportant.”
“Hey, shut up! It’s important to me!”
Drake sniggered. “I didn’t think to root around for his pet names for you. Come on, what else do you want to know?”
“I don’t know. You shouldn’t have pried. You’re nothing but a gossipy old maid.”
“Really, Lil,” Drake stared coolly at his master, “I’m addicted to day-time soap operas. Do you honestly believe I could be presented with this opportunity and not reef around in that nutter’s head for loose screws?”
“I don’t appreciate the metaphor, but no, I don’t think you would resist even under pain of vanquishment to a life without television.”
Drake leant forward eagerly on the bed. “Right, then. So what do you want to know? Club details? About O’Roarke? Who’s got overdue library books?”
But Lily shrugged. “I really feel bad about asking. It might not be on your conscience to be an utter bastard, but it would be on mine.”
“You want to know who he’s in love with, right?”
Lily hung her head. “I don’t want to know. It’s not me.”
“No,” Drake admitted. He saw Lily’s shoulders slump further, and nudged her. “Why don’t you go for Joe, huh? He likes you. And he’s normal. Everything in Knox’s head is back-to-front. He wasn’t even afraid out there tonight. He was … elated. He’s no more afraid of demons than you are of talking loudly in the night to someone no one else can hear. He was born to fight demons. He’s properly mental.”
Without much conviction, Lily said, “Will you stop calling him mental?”
“I believe that’s the first time I have. Mental, crazy, bonkers, nutso – pick an adjective. To have no fear,” Drake laughed lightly, gulped, “even I have fear. It’s part of being alive.”
“Are you alive now? I thought you were a god of death?” Lily smirked. “Anyway, you’re wrong. The Chief has things he’s afraid of. Me, for instance. Have you seen him run when we’re about to meet in the street?”
“That’s just a product of your both being mental,” said Drake.
Lily drew a long breath. She fell back on the bed, gazing at the dim, scarred ceiling. “Sheesh. What’s a girl to do about that?”
“I told you already. Date someone normal.”
He flinched as Lily smacked him on the shoulder. Her heart wasn’t in the strike. Sitting beside her, Drake regarded the girl with a fondness he would never acknowledge, particularly to himself, not if every episode of Desperate Housewives in the known universe depended on it. “Lil? Don’t think about it too much. I’m going to Mark’s to play pinball, okay?”
Drake was phasing through the window when Lily called, “Ducky? How do I make someone love me?”
Drake paused, half in, half out of the room. He looked to Lily, who was staring at the ceiling, and looked away again. “I can’t tell you. Being a demon, I’m probably not the best person to ask.”
He left her lying in the dark.
On Friday, Joe told Kammy he was an exorcist.
He could no longer resist. He had Knox’s Mustang parked on the school grounds, and was in such a state of constant terror that one delinquent or another would steal it, or worse, deface it, that his nerves gave out and he blurted what he’d wanted to say for a week.
He held out until last period, when he and Kammy were alone in the science lab. They weren’t early. This was Lochan Key, and it was possibly that no one else would bother showing up for class, including the teacher.
“Kammy,” Joe said, desperately, “I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to tell anybody else.”
Kammy was absorbed in his PSP. He hunched over it, jabbing at buttons. Just when Joe was about to repeat himself, Kammy’s eyes slid sideways to him. “Man, I’m flattered, but I only dig chicks.”
“It’s not that. I. I’m an exorcist.”
Kammy blinked. Sepiroth took off Cecil’s head with a single swipe of Musamune. The game over music blared, and Kammy dropped the PSP on the desk. He frowned at Joe, beady eyes under thick, fair brows. His tongue worked his loose filling. He finally said, “A what?”
“An exorcist,” Joe replied immediately. “I hunt demons and ghosts. Well, I try. I’m in training at the moment. But I’ve seen plenty of demons. Last night we found a whole hive of them.”
Kammy raised his eyebrows. “Man, is this a game? ’Cause I think I have it.”
“No!” Okay, he shouldn’t have said anything. Besides, now that he had Kammy’s attention he didn’t know what to do with it. He wondered if it was too late to backtrack to the game bit and decided it was. “No, it’s real. There are thirteen of us in town who do it. Drake’s one of them.”
“The dude who wanted your kidneys?” Kammy guessed.
“Yeah, that’s him. The reason you couldn’t see him is because he’s a shinigami, a god of death. Only people who can see ghosts and demons can see him.”
“As opposed to not being able to see him on account of he doesn’t exist?” said Kammy, slowly.
“Exactly. I’ve got these bruises. And look,” Joe lifted his jacket and his shirt up over his hip. There was a gory welt where a demon’s tusk had caught him in the side. The welt was red and weeping, too large to fit a band-aid over. The rest of him was peppered with bruises and claw marks, all of them aching. Joe’d had to keep his jacket on all day to hide the marks on his arms. “I got this last night.”
Kammy nodded. “That’s a pretty cool scratch. I was wondering why you were all blue and red all the time. Thought maybe you were just patriotic.”
“This is nothing. Our Chief was thrown into a tree, or a few of them, and beat bloody by this big cuttlefish demon. I bet he has some really awesome scars.”
“Yeah. Man, chicks dig scars. You’re a lucky guy.” Kammy and Joe exchanged a fist pound. Kammy reclined on his seat, almost upending the tall stool, gradually absorbing Joe’s story. Cecil and the others lay forgotten on the bench. At long last, Kammy glanced at Joe. “I ain’t saying I believe you, but it would be pretty grouse if you were telling the truth.”
“I’ve never been so honest in my life,” Joe told him.
A few moments sidled by in companionable silence. Joe said, “There’s a girl, too. Her name’s Lily. She’s pretty.”
Kammy grinned. “Now I definitely don’t believe you.”
Joe felt himself grinning back. Lily, Lily Lily Lily. His bruises hurt a whole lot less.
Will it all work out for Joe in the end, or will he wind up heartbroken? What do you think?