Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 21

“The book is at the cathedral, yes.” Father William considered me. “But getting you in to look at it?”

“I suppose I could…but no. I think I need to do it myself.” There were things I couldn’t relay. The feel of him. The smell…I was pretty sure it was a smell, not some other sense I was having problems defining.

“I can try, but you aren’t a priest or a nun.”

“I could disguise myself as a nun,” I quipped.

“A novice, maybe.”

He had a point. I knew somebody else who not only could but would disguise himself as a nun. But…no. Not encouraging him to join in on this. “A novice wouldn’t be given access to something like that.”

“No. But…” He frowned.
“Is there a copy?”

“No. You can’t just…copy it. Like a lot of magical books, it has to be duplicated in a certain way. So there aren’t many, and the cathedral only has one.”

I nodded. “I don’t want to sneak in. I really don’t. You don’t think they’d take ‘I need to identify a major demon’ seriously?”

“You aren’t even Catholic.” He considered that, looking at me. “Or ever likely to be Catholic.”

“So, giving you a good description might be the only…or…” I considered. “I think the best solution would be for you to get an eyeball on him. I don’t think you’re without a certain sensitivity.”

He laughed a bit at that. “If you can set that up, I won’t complain. As long as…”

“I’ll do my best to make sure he doesn’t notice you. Then you go, get the book, see if you can find his name.”

And then we could do the rest. The succubi had been minor. For a lord or prince, Thea said, you needed the name. That was why the Black Book was so important.

Copied in a certain way. “Magic is annoying,” I added.

“You say that?” He arched an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure you have your own share.”

“It doesn’t work that way, though.” Did he know? Did he suspect? But he wasn’t asking me to leave, so I could live with his suspicions. I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

“No. Witchcraft does…of all kinds.”

I wondered if a witch, the bad kind, was responsible for Martin’s presence in the first place.

“There’s one other thing. It used to be that demons couldn’t get into this city.”

An eyebrow arched. “Really?”

“L’Enfant’s design contained some pretty serious wards, but they’ve faded with time and nobody knows how to renew them any more.”

That, I thought, was something to look into. For later. For now. “I’ll remember that.”

“Just let me know when we’re going to do the Demon Lineup.”

I grinned at that. “Okay.”

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 20

The next day, I met up with Thea and, unexpectedly, Seb. She’d been giving him some instruction, I suspected.

At least in staying alive and not getting caught up in other people’s stings. But the first words out of her mouth were, “Still having demon problems?”

I nodded. “Maybe I should start carrying holy water and spritz him like a misbehaving cat.”

Seb laughed. “I could get you some easily enough.”

The thought was genuinely tempting. The image of Martin as a grumpy cat even more so. Actually, I was now envisioning the Grumpy Cat meme with horns and a forked tail and wishing I had more drawing talent.

“What’s so funny?”

“I’m imagining the Grumpy Cat as a demon,” I admitted.

Seb grinned and pulled out a piece of paper, starting to sketch quickly. While he worked, I turned to Thea. “Any suggestions for cooling his ardor? The more I play hard to get, the harder he tries.”

“That’s males for you. And if he only wanted a roll in the hay…I have some ideas for getting him convinced he doesn’t really. But…”

“He’s determined to get me and he wants to keep me.” Much harder to deal with, I was starting to realize, than just wanting in my pants. “He may not go away.”

“Banishing him is going to take more work than those succubi,” Thea mused.

“I can put up with him for a while. I’m mostly worried he’ll hurt anyone he thinks I might be interested in.” Which didn’t even mean I had to actually be interested in them. I was no fool on that front. He’d hurt Kanesha, he’d try and fail to hurt Thea. He might even hurt Barry.

“Good point. Seb, can you talk to Father William about it? See if he has a good idea.” Then she turned to me. “Loki have any thoughts?”

“None, really, but he did walk me home after the shoot last night.” I laughed. “I feel as if my virtue’s safer with a trickster deity who’s been known to sleep with horses.”

Thea laughed back. “Difference is he isn’t hitting on you.”

“I almost find that insulting.” But I also sensed…there was a thought I was shying away from. “Kanesha thinks I have some close connection to him.”

Shying away from indeed. “But that’s besides the point. Martin, or whatever his name is, is the real…”

“His name.”

“The Black Book is at the cathedral.” We’d had the same thought at the same time. “Seb, do you think Father William can get me access to it?”

“We can try.”

If I could discover his name, if I could work out which demon he was, we could banish him. Or maybe do the supernatural equivalent of a restraining order.

I needed that book.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 19

The shoot went well. Martin, though, was waiting across the street when I emerged, makeup washed off, but still feeling pretty good.

“Walk you home?” came a voice from behind me.

“Gladly.” I turned and saw one of the studio workers…except it wasn’t. Hello, Loki.

He fell in next to me. “I see you have yet to convince the demon to leave.”

“He enrolled in high school. I think that makes him determined.”

“It makes him crazy,” Loki quipped. “You should get out of that place.”

“Nah. I’m learning stuff.”

“Silly stuff.” He grinned. “What use is mortal history to us?”

“Better understanding of just how crazy they are?” That was what came out, but it might have been triggered by a keen knowledge of just who I was talking to.

He laughed.

“Still think the world is going to hell in a handbasket?”

He spread his hands. “Just look at it. The way things are going, they will take care of Ragnarok for us.”

I shook my head.

“War. Climate change. Terrorism. They long for self-destruction.”

“Not all of them.” If this was what I was supposed to be doing, at least arguing with Loki was fun. With a spice of danger. I did have to remember this being was quite capable of cold blooded, premeditated murder. “Why did you do it?” A change of subject.

“He was insufferable?” The slender hands lifted. I wasn’t seeing his disguise any more.

“That’s not a good reason. Even for you. Why would you cross every line there was?”

“You might not believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.” I turned to face him slightly, stopping on the street corner, the street lamp glittering in his hair.

“Two reasons.” He checked them off. “One, Frigga broke the rules. Two, no matter what we do or wish, Ragnarok will happen one day. When it does, only those in Hel’s Realm will be safe. And as insufferable a man as Baldr is…” He tailed off.

“…he takes over. After Ragnarok. But you started a blood feud. One that isn’t going to end. One that might cause Ragnarok to happen sooner.”

His lips quirked. “Bear in mind I don’t survive it either.”

The tense was odd, but… “And I?”

Again, the lips quirked. “I don’t know.”

Which meant I wasn’t in the prophecy. Just in a different one. Or maybe it meant I wouldn’t survive that long.

Yet, there was something oddly reassuring about a god admitting he didn’t know something.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 18

I had to trust Kanesha to think of good prank ideas, because almost the second I got out of school, my cell phone rang.
A client had an emergency. Could I get to a shoot in thirty minutes? You didn’t say no to things like that, not if you wanted to make money.

I was going, I thought, to need my own transportation if this kept up. Maybe a bike. No, definitely a bike. Not one like Thruor’s, of course, but a regular bike would get me through traffic better than a car would.

Affording one was the question. As it was, I tugged out my phone to check the bus routes even as I ran for the stop. It didn’t matter what state I arrived in – makeup would take care of it. Makeup could make somebody who was coming off a three day drunk look good, I’d found, if it was applied by a professional who did it all the time.

On the bus, standing – I didn’t expect a man to get up for me, but an old lady nearby was trying to look daggers at somebody to get them to. I shook my head. No sense to it. And off again, through the streets. I got there a little mussed and a little out of breath.

“Aha. Miss Rudi.”

“Sorry. I…only just got out of school.” It seemed a lame admission when most there were older than I was.

“Good that you’re staying in. Head into the back room and get made up.”
Staying in school. I appreciated the compliment. I wasn’t sure how much it mattered that I did, but it still made me feel a little good to know I was doing the right thing.

As long as Martin didn’t show up, but this was a studio shoot. He couldn’t get in. Or he could disguise himself as a cameraman.

Or…something. I felt a vague tickle that let me know Loki was somewhere in the area, but I didn’t look around for him. He could be anyone, after all. I sort of wanted to learn that trick, but he’d warned me.

Why? He’d warned me against becoming too trickstery, that was it. But I’d rather he was around than Martin.

As long as he didn’t photo bomb anything, which very much struck me as in his milieu.

Makeup took one look at me, sighed, and got to work. I’d already learned to hold still. I’d also realized I probably didn’t really need it, but I couldn’t afford to let people get that suspicious of me. So, I held still and hoped Martin didn’t show up.

The same woman who’d offered to kiss me in front of him…what was her name? Chloe, that was right…was amongst the models milling around and waiting for their clothes.

“Any more stalker problems?” she asked me.

“He’s proving a barnacle,” I quipped.

“Oh man. Restraining order?”

I shook my head. “Not going to stop him. Last person I knew who tried to get a restraining order ended up being kidnapped.”


“This guy isn’t that guy, though. He’s annoying, but he’s not going to try anything like that.” I was confident in that particular assessment.

Martin didn’t want to force me. He wanted to prove his manhood (demonhood?) by getting me to come to him willingly.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 17

Sadly, he gave me no such opportunity. I cornered Kanesha at lunch.

“We need to talk. I need your help. It might be dangerous.”

“Dangerous in what sense?”

“Cayenne in desserts.”

She laughed. “I like those brownies.”

“Why do you think I’m asking you?” I let out a breath. “I want to prank Mr. Otter.”

“That is dangerous. He’ll retaliate.”

“Well, yes.” I stretched a bit. “But I think it will be non-harmful retaliation. He likes you, remember.”

She grinned. “Yeah, but I don’t want to end up in the reflecting pool.”

“He’s the one who got pushed in the pool. Of course, Otters swim,” I quipped. I hadn’t seen anything of Thor since then.

Probably either busy or above showing his face on Midgard without what he considered a good reason. Or maybe avoiding Thruor. Relatives did that, after all.

“True. They do. So…any ideas on how to get him?”

“I’m still thinking about it. I’m open to suggestions.” I didn’t tell her what this was about. Let her think I was just a little bit bored.

Then Martin walked up to the table.

“Go away,” we said in near-perfect unison. It wouldn’t have been any better if we’d practiced it.

“You know, you’d be better off with me than some I could mention.”

I glared at him. “And if I see you off school grounds, I’ll…push you in the reflecting pool.”

Demons could probably swim too, but it was a threat that wouldn’t be taken too seriously and would probably not get me zero toleranced. He wouldn’t repeat it anyway…me being suspended would ruin his plan.

“Oh, come on.”

“Martin. I’m not interested. I’m never going to be interested. You’re wasting your time.” It would probably have come over as more serious if I’d been able to take my eyes off of him. This was thoroughly embarrassing.

He sat down anyway. Kanesha leaned over and whispered to me, “Maybe if we…”

“…it would turn him on.” I didn’t need to ask what the question she wasn’t asking was, but I certainly knew the answer.

With no choice but to put up with him, the rest of lunch passed in silence and the bell was a relief.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 16

There was, though, something I hadn’t anticipated. The next day at school, I heard a quiet voice behind me. “It’s…oh…uh…”

I turned. I had seen her around before, but it hadn’t registered the previous night. She was the girl I’d rescued from the vampires.

“I called the cops, but you were gone and…uh…”

Vampires, it seems, don’t turn to dust when you kill them. They turn to rot. “They didn’t like what they found.” I kept my voice quiet.

“How can I thank you?”

“By not mentioning it.” My lips twitched. “I don’t want to be arrested for vigilanteism.”

She turned pale again, then nodded. “Got it. I…”

“I’m sorry we weren’t there a bit sooner. What was his name?”


I stored that one up on the ledger. I knew I had to think about those I could save, not those I couldn’t save. But I’d also remember…and I did understand.

Thinking I was one of them had taught me to care. And if…well. I’d just have to work on him. I wasn’t sure how, I wasn’t even sure where to start. Maybe the party had been a start in and of itself.

Loki hanging out with mortals, playing pranks on them. And then I knew. It hit me.


Must have shown on my face. “Just an idea. And please…be careful. I don’t want to have to rescue anyone twice.”

Which I didn’t. And then I detached from her and headed to class.

Sitting on an idea actually kind of hurts. You want to act on it or at least enthuse about it, but I had to pretend everything was normal.
The worst part was that Martin came in, and sat down next to me. I shot him a look I hoped said he wasn’t welcome.

Maybe I should stop playing hard to get. If he’d just wanted a roll in the hay, that might have been the answer.

But there I was, sitting on an idea like it was an egg I wished would hatch already and trying to studiously ignore him.

At least we didn’t have that many classes together. But how did he manage not to be behind the way I had been?

Maybe he was reading minds or something. Demons could probably do that. And maybe if he was I could get him busted for cheating.

That would be amusing.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 15

The vampire nest was in a crumbling townhouse. It looked as if the only thing keeping it from collapsing was the better kept buildings on either side.

“Don’t worry about being bitten. We give them indigestion.”

I laughed a bit. “Got it.” If vampires were actually vulnerable to holy stuff, that made sense. Or maybe…I didn’t want to think about it, but giving a vampire indigestion sounded like a good thing. If the vampire got away and lived (unlived?) long enough to experience it.

That wasn’t in my plans.

Bad hip-hop – the kind where the “lyrics” consisted primarily of curse words and doing horrible things to people’s mothers – blared from the building as we approached. I could vaguely hear other sounds that it was covering. I glanced at Thruor. Should we just charge in?

“I’m going around back. Give me five minutes then kick their door in.”

I nodded. “Got it.” Cover both exits. Get them flanked. “How many are there?”

She held up four fingers then set off towards the alleyway in a surprisingly nonchalant manner.

I knew she didn’t need help with this. Either she was trying to improve my mood or she was giving me a refresher course in dealing with vampires. Or, more likely, both. I watched my watch, then kicked in the door.

My boot hit the hinges end and shattered the wood. In fact, the entire door pretty much crumbled. That image of vampires being all sophisticated that Anne Rice started? Nope. The place stank, and the hip-hop was coming from upstairs. I hoped the noise had covered my entrance, and quickly checked the ground floor. Crap. There was a basement.

Did I turn my back on it? I had to. The kitchen was covered in thick dust and the two other rooms on the ground floor had bedrolls in them. No coffins, but maybe those were in the basement.

Thruor was heading up the stairs. I hesitated, then followed. If there was anything in the basement, I’d just have to keep an eye on it.

Upstairs, the vampires were playing with their food. It was too late to save one of the kids they had, but the other was as yet unmarked. It was her screams the hip-hop had been not quite covering. They had her in handcuffs that had once been the fuzzy kind that you bought in adult stores, but the covering had almost completely worn off. One of them was sort of vaguely…well. It would have been rape, but he seemed to be having problems getting it up.

And Thruor stopped being subtle. She yelled a battle cry and charged. Three of the four leapt towards her.

I stepped around her and reached to grab (fortunately) desire-not-performance guy to throw him into the wall. He was stronger than I thought, though, and grappled with me, pointed teeth inches from my face for a moment. Not just fangs. They were all pointed, as if he’d had them filed down in prison. Then I flung him from me. I didn’t have a key for the handcuffs.

They were rusty enough that I didn’t need one. “Run,” I told the girl. “Out the front door. Don’t stop until you’re in an area with witnesses.”

She made a shrieking sound, but stood and ran, the bracelets still around her wrists.

I turned to the vampires. Now I had something to kill…and I felt a lot better.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 14

Being courted was an odd feeling, and he at least did give the vibe he might be interested in my looks, not just my bloodlines.

Whatever they were. Was I one of Odin’s numerous daughters? Supposedly most of the valkyries were, offspring sired on women other than his wife. Heads of pantheons could, apparently, get away with that.

Somehow, that didn’t feel right. Thruor wasn’t about to tell me. I even thought of asking Loki, but he was clearly off playing pranks on somebody else right now.

In fact, I felt a distinct absence of any supernatural presence in my vicinity. Maybe Martin had scared everyone off.

Maybe I had, without even realizing it. Maybe I was walking around with a storm cloud aura or something.

Truth was, I was frustrated, and I wanted to beat somebody up. Ideally Martin, but he was being careful to make sure there were always witnesses and I didn’t want to pit my will against a demon prince’s directly.

He’d make sure somebody saw it if I raised a hand to him. I was sure of that. Which left me looking for something else to hunt. Some minor demon, maybe a vampire if there were any. I prowled the streets. I’d found an old trenchcoat which was enough to conceal gun and sword from casual eye. As long as I was careful where and how they used them. Thrift stores for the win. Or something.

“Got a light?” somebody asked me.

I shook my head, but made a mental note to carry a lighter in the future. It might be handy, even though I’d made a vow of sorts never to smoke.

Other than that, I ignored the man…grey-haired, lounging against the wall. I was looking for something to beat up, after all.

“You’re almost as obvious as my dad.”

Thruor, stepping out of an alleyway.

“You mean, I’m right, and everything within a block can tell the mood I’m in.” I sighed a bit.

“I’d offer to spar, but I think you need a real fight.”

“I need to wipe Martin’s smirk off of his face. Doesn’t help that I actually find him cute.”

She laughed. “Of course you do. He’s doing his best to be cute. Maybe if you saw what he really looked like.”

“Wings and fangs? Worst part is, I feel like I could handle wings and fangs.” I shook my head again. “Don’t worry. I won’t give in to him, but I can’t help but be flattered.”

“Be flattered. Just remember he isn’t actually in love with you or anything like that. In lust, maybe.”

I laughed. “That might be mutual. Come on…let’s see if we can find something?”

“There’s a nest of vampires off of 15th street. Been thinking of going to clear them out.”

That sounded like just what I needed.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 13

“You talked to him?”

“And I got a fair bit.” I sighed, slumping into the chair opposite Kanesha. “At least I know what I think he wants me to do.”

“What?” She brushed back her hair.

“Convince Loki the world isn’t completely gone to hell in a handbasket.” It made sense after it had percolated. “I feel like I’m looking for good men in Sodom.”

Kanesha laughed. We were sitting opposite each other at lunch. “I’m not sure who you blasphemed there.”

I made a great show of facepalming at her. “It’s true, though. And if that’s what I have to do…I think I can do it. He…may listen to me.”

Why would Loki listen to me?

“Maybe you’re Sigyn.”

My eyes widened and I made what I thought was the sign against the evil eye. “No. I am not. If I was, would Surtur be hitting on me?”

“Good point. You can’t be Sigyn because she’s married.”
Which brought up another possibility, one that had drifted through my mind before. I was saved from having to decide whether to voice it by the bell warning us we had five minutes to bus our lunch and get to class. I grabbed my tray and ran. But that possibility was still in my mind.

I wasn’t going to voice it, and I wasn’t going to…and then I saw him. Martin. “Who’s the new student?” I whispered to somebody else.

“Just moved here from Los Angeles, I think. He’s hot,” the girl added, randomly.

He rather was. And Los Angeles. That was amusing…I had to give him a sense of humor. “I suppose he is, if you like the type.”

Of course, he was. He was trying to be my type, exactly, not helped by how confused I was about what that was.

Great. And at school, I couldn’t even kick his butt. For now, I pretended I hadn’t noticed him and headed to math class.

Math wasn’t my strong point, and wrestling with it claimed much of my attention. I managed not to think about Martin’s presence again until it was time to leave.

Of course, he cornered me at the gate. “How can you stand this place?”

“I’m sure it’s no worse than schools in Los Angeles,” I said for public consumption. Then, in a lower voice. “It’s not that bad.”

“I don’t particularly care what order your presidents came in.”

“They’re not my presidents either.” It felt almost like a truce. But, I also knew that he was trying to show he was willing to go through stuff for me. Including American high school.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 12

I had about decided the raven had only been a bird laughing at the silly human. I’d gone to an all ages club, using a bit of the money from one of the photo shoots. Ginger ale. I wasn’t going to be caught drinking under age.

I didn’t think many of the people there were over 21, either. Maybe a couple. Older siblings. Chaperones. Some parents worried an inordinate amount.

So, the man entering should have stood out like a sore thumb, but everyone’s eyes seemed to slide off him. And it wasn’t Loki. I had been sitting at a table. I pushed out another chair for him.

He didn’t look like I’d envisioned, or maybe he wasn’t looking like that in case somebody saw through the trick. I’d sort of imagined one-eyed Gandalf, all wild and long hair and beard.

His hair and beard were neatly trimmed and he wore a black patch over the missing eye. But it was him, and I knew it…and I abruptly wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

“Relax. If you were in trouble, I would not have come here.”

“No, I’d be in the principal’s office, wouldn’t I,” I quipped. And if anyone overheard that, they’d peg the guy as my teacher. “I…okay. I want to know what’s really going on. That’s all.”

“Surtur found you.”

I nodded. “He hasn’t hurt me. He hasn’t done anything other than try and convince me you’re the real bad guy.” I brushed back my hair. He didn’t look like it, but I could sense…and I could sense that the power rolling off him was utterly controlled and only a fraction of the reality.

This was the Allfather. This was a being as far above me as I was above somebody’s dog.

“And what do you think?”

“I don’t know that I like what’s happening. Giving me amnesia and dumping me on the street?” I kept my tone quiet. Very quiet. I was sure that anyone who overheard…would be hearing something quite different.

“And what have you learned from it?”

Not the answer I expected. “That…there are still decent people, and then there are a few that deserve a sword in the chest.”

He laughed. “You have learned to appreciate mortals.”

“Some of them.” I still wanted to disappear, but I couldn’t. I’d asked for this meeting; I couldn’t run from it. “Loki still wants the world to burn.”

“He thinks it may be beyond saving. Do you think so?”

“Nah. Messed up, sure. In need of a few things being fixed…some of the rich guys need taking down pegs. But not beyond saving.” I saw a bit of clarity there. If I’d come here knowing who I was I’d have been like Thea, moving among them, not being one of them. And as much as I liked her, she had that arrogance to her.

“And who’s side would you be on if it did happen?”

“I don’t know.” That was the big question. This…being…I couldn’t even think of him as a man. I almost couldn’t see the physical form, now, for the aura.

“An honest answer.”

“I’d rather it didn’t happen…although I suppose…”

“Everything has its limits in time. Even we do, in the end.” And then he stood. “Make your choices carefully, Jane.”

I wanted to demand my real name out of him. I couldn’t. All I could do was watch him leave.