Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 31

She laughed. “Relying on a little kid’s belief in Santa Claus.”

“No. Relying on this.” And Kanesha threw something at the succubus. She screamed and…

…fell out of the window again. “We need to stop defenstrating demons,” I noted.

“You need to remember to bring holy water.”

I laughed. “She’ll be back.”

“Not right away. I nailed her in the face.”

I turned to the kid.

“Was that really a demon?” he whispered.

“Yes, but don’t tell your mom. Most grownups are really silly, you know, and don’t believe in these things.”

I knew she’d be back. Or she’d run to her boss for help.

“I want my mom.”

“Well, then.” I offered him my hand and we walked out of the brownstone…

…right as the police showed up. It occurred to me that without Mike, or his legacy, to protect us, we’d be in real trouble.

“Stop right there.”

“They saved me from the bad lady!” the kid exclaimed, then hid behind me. Probably because a couple of the cops were pointing guns.

“Bad lady?”

“Bad lady. And bad man. Don’t know where the bad man went.”

The kid, of course, didn’t know they were the same person. I raised my hands in surrender now he wasn’t holding one of them.

“We’ll talk downtown. Where did the bad lady go?”

“She jumped out the window.”

One of the cops headed for the back of the house. I stood there until he came back, lowering my hands just enough to be comfortable.

“There’s a roof out there, and I see footprints on it. Kid’s probably telling the truth.”

“Doesn’t mean these two young ladies don’t need to answer some questions.”

I resigned myself to a fun time “downtown,” but at least the kid was safe.

For now.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 30

She backpedaled, apparently not having expected physical violence. Or resistance to her charms.

“There’s more than one way to be immune to a succubus.”

She recovered her poise and laughed. “You hit hard, godling, but you know it’s not going to hurt the real me.”

“I was intending to break your nose.”

She lifted her hand to make sure, and Kanesha broke free and ran for the brownstone. I hoped she had a plan in mind.

“And distract you.”

She turned, but I was on her. I might not be able to damage her, only her constructed vessel, but I could pin her down.

Except, of course, she could teleport. Fortunately I was somewhat ready for it and didn’t faceplant into the tarmac. I rolled to one side, then ran for the house myself.

The door was open, because Kanesha had kicked it in. Inside, it seemed like a pretty ordinary place. Nice stone floor. Which way? I heard something upstairs and pounded up the stairs.

The succubus had Kanesha up against the window, which was broken. In a moment she’d be throwing her out. The kid was there. He wasn’t even tied up. She didn’t see a seven year old as a threat.

I couldn’t let Kanesha go out the window though. I’d already made too much noise to approach stealthily, so I just charged in…twisted, grabbed Kanesha, and shoved.
The succubus went out the window, but she vanished before she hit the ground.


“Get the kid, go,” I told her. “I’ll…”

“You’ll what?”

The succubus was already in the doorway.

I turned to the kid. “Do you believe in magic?” I asked him.

He nodded.

“Okay. Well, she’s an evil witch.”

The succubus laughed. “Pulling…”

“Kids always believe. Don’t forget that.” Back to him. “She’s an evil witch and we need to send her back where she came from.”

This wasn’t the mistress of the Red Flowers. This was some less powerful friend.

I thought we might be able to send her home. With a bit of help.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 29

Kanesha did do a pretty good job of keeping up. Or maybe I was sending her energy somehow. I certainly wanted to, but I wouldn’t know how to actually do something like that.

Maybe wanting to was enough.

They’d taken the kid to a sketchy part of town. Not that Portland seemed to get that sketchy. We found ourselves opposite a row of brownstones that seemed to be well kept but cheap, mostly split into flats.

“Ben thinks he’s in number 32.”

“Ben?” Kanesha was amused.

“I can’t keep calling him the dog and I can’t be bothered to come up with something Norse.”

“So you go with something Jewish?” she teased.

“Shut up, we’ve got a kid to rescue.”

Then I sensed it. Demonic presence. It hadn’t been there a moment ago, but rather seemed to flow inwards, to resolve itself into a striking young man.

Minor incubus. I realized I wasn’t particularly attracted. Maybe being in love helped protect one.

Maybe he wasn’t turning his charms on me. “I was warned about you. Stay out of this.”

My lips quirked. “Sorry. Can’t.”

“Because some government dweeb asked you to?”

“Because you involved children.” That had crossed a line, I thought.
“He’d be almost a man, some places.”

“Don’t give me that. Let the kid go.”

“Oh no. We have to get Mr Immune somehow.”

My lips quirked. “Immune, eh?” What kind of person was immune to an incubus or succubus?

I’d figured he was gay, but they did have the sex change option, so that wouldn’t be it.

Maybe he just didn’t have much of a sex drive.

“Immune. Unlike your girlfriend there.”

“You’ll have to try a different form on me,” Kanesha quirked. Then she seemed to realize something and laughed.

I wasn’t sure what was so funny.

“Okay. Look. I can’t stay out of it at this point. Are we going to fight or are you going to at least let the kid get out of it?”

He examined his nails. No, her nails. No doubt trying to distract Kanesha with that shift. She’d gone dark skinned too.

Kanesha grabbed my hand. “Don’t let me.”

“You know it’s fake. What we have is real.”
Then the succubus, now, started to walk towards us. It was almost impossible to ignore the way she was moving.

I kept my left hand in Kanesha’s and grumbled about lack of weaponry. But I did manage to wait until the succubus was within range…

…and plant a punch on her perfect face.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 28

“This morning’s paper. They snatched the younger kid.”

I swore. In a mixture of English and old Norse. “Did you get Marrick’s address?”

“I did.”

“I’m going there. You see what you can find out about the kidnapping.”

I didn’t send the taxi to that address. I checked a map and got myself dropped off one street over then wandered.

There were cops outside the house. And media. Vultures, I thought, while I contemplated how to get close.

Then I saw Belinda and her other son, Aaron, come out of the house. Both looked pale, and Aaron was yelling at the media to go away, go home. His mother either couldn’t silence him or, more likely, didn’t want to.

He was probably saying what she thought. No. I wasn’t going to get close to her. Finding the kid was better, but seeing his brother helped. Siblings. Similar scents.

Anyone who looked over would see a random blond girl. I called the fyrhund and it came running in beagle form.
Anyone who looked over would see a random blond girl who’d just found her dog. Nothing more harmless than that. I was probably the only person Aaron wasn’t trying to skewer with his eyes right now.

“Find his brother,” I murmured to the hound, then we set off at a bit of a jog, him trotting ahead. I slowed to a walk and tugged out the phone.

“Marrick’s surrounded by cops and paparazzi. I can’t get close to her, but the hound’s got the kid’s scent.”

“Okay. Wait. I’ll catch up.”

It was smart, although I didn’t know…no.

This wasn’t one of those kidnappings. The boy was leverage. They wouldn’t hurt him. I could afford to wait for backup. I got out of sight of the house and stopped, petting the fyrhund. “Hold up.”

He licked my hand, a rich warm sense of gentle fire over my skin. “I really should name you.”

It was an acknowledgment of something, ownership perhaps, but at this point. “Ben?” I quipped. A doggy kind of name that, and it would work until I could find something more classy and mythological.

The fyrhund didn’t seem to care. He sat there panting until Kanesha ran up.

“Found you.”

“I don’t know how far we’re going to have to go,” I warned.

“I’ll keep up.”

I hoped she was right.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 27

I still felt I needed to get to Oregon. And it was spring break, so I finally could.

Kanesha found us both flights to Portland. Nonstop. Six hours on a plane, but I was sure we could kill it fine. She took her laptop with a DVD player and a couple of movies we’d both been wanting to see.

We pretended it really was a vacation, but we felt as if we were in a race. Against something we didn’t know, as the plane streaked west.

Everyone else was going to the beach. We claimed we were going to see mountains and there might even still be skiing.

The plane touched down, and I heaved a bit of a sigh of relief. Something about flying didn’t feel quite safe.

Or maybe it was my overall worries about the situation and being so far from backup. It was in the fifties as we stepped out of the terminal and flagged down a taxi. Not unpleasant. Not the beach, but not unpleasant.

I hadn’t managed to find Belinda Marrick’s address, but I knew I could track her down. If needed I could summon the fyrhund. For now the taxi took us to a cheap hotel. Just like two students on spring break. Looking for things to do.

I felt a certain tension in the air. Something was here. Something which I didn’t think liked me much. The room had no balcony, so I slipped back out and went out into the hotel garden.

Rain was threatening, but it was the Pacific Northwest, where it rained all the time. Or so I’d heard.

It wasn’t raining now, though, but I sensed something. We’d been noticed, and whatever had noticed us wasn’t on our side.

Did that mean it was our enemy? I had to find out, so I walked further away from the building, not wanting to attract it to so many civilians.

“Who are you?” I whispered.

I got no verbal answer, but the sense of being watched increased, then subsided. Most likely I’d caught the attention of some kind of landwight or similar.

Most likely. I wasn’t about to get into a fight with it, or anything else that wasn’t directly threatening me. I was going to stay on track and stick to the plan. Get to Belinda Marrick before something else did.

A cold feeling came through me. The fear that it was already too late.

Then Kanesha was texting me. “Get back in here. Quick.”

I ran.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 26

At this point, I was confident Sara had protection at least as good as any I might have been able to offer her. Spiritually, anyway. Physically – I still thought that meant her getting out of town.

But she wanted to stay and she wanted to help. I called Kanesha and asked her if she could use an assistant. I figured that she might even be able to leave Sara doing the computer stuff and come join me hunting. That would be as good as having another fighter.
And she could always learn.

I shook my head. I wanted to nudge her out of things gently. I’d become entirely too aware of just how much this business would get people killed, and I wasn’t sure she understood that.

Maybe the angel did.
And then she was there, leaning against the fence.

“Guardian angel?”

She smiled. “Let’s say I have an interest in Sara. Thank you.”

I shrugged. “I almost got her killed. It was kind of my responsibility.”

“Not one everyone would have taken for a soul that isn’t hers.”

A pause, then I shrugged again. “It’s her choice.”

“But you wouldn’t mind keeping her.”

I laughed. “Nah. I’m not ready to start collecting souls. I don’t know what I have to offer them.”

The angel studied me. “That may not have been determined yet. But I still thank you. And I will respect her choice.”

“From the way she said angel, I think it’s already made.” Maybe Sara could be persuaded to leave just by revealing my identity. Maybe she wouldn’t be too keen on hanging out with a goddess.

“As do I. And I trust…”

“I’ll respect it. And her. I’d rather she left town, though.” A pause. “Can you help with the succubus?”
The angel considered. “I can’t protect Charles Sarlac. He won’t accept it.”
“What about his sister and her kids?”


I’d take a perhaps over a definite no. “If sex isn’t good leverage, she’ll be looking for something which is.”


Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 25

Before I would have taken Sara to Mike’s. Now? I had no place to take her that was safe but my place.

“So, why…why did she do it?”

I kept next to her on the bus. “You’ve gotten involved in something you don’t want to be involved in.”

“There really was an angel.”

I had no answer to that other than. “Yes, and be glad there was. She was helpful.”

“What do I do?”

“What you do is let me send somebody who can look after themselves to get your stuff and get out of town.”


“She won’t let you go. You need to move now. I’ll deal with her and then you can come back.”

Her shoulders straightened. She looked up at me. “No. I want to help.”

I considered that. “I don’t know. You don’t know how.”

“I can’t fight, but I can…I know there’s something I can do. There has to be. I won’t…I won’t let her get away with this.”

I thought for a moment, then. “Okay. I’ll talk to Thea about a safehouse. What’s your major?”

“Computer science.”

“Aha. You can do some of the research with my girlfriend, then.”

“Girlfriend?” She squeaked out incredulously. “You’re gay?”

“What, I don’t look it?” I couldn’t help but tease. “Bi, actually. Don’t worry. I won’t try anything with you.”

“How do I know?”

“I’m dating a black belt,” I told her with some amusement. “That’s how you know.”

She laughed. “But I bet…”

I considered. “Depends on if she caught me by surprise. Point is, I’m taken, so you don’t need to worry.”

“I’m not at all interested in girls,” she told me thoughtfully. “I’m not really that interested in boys when I’m not getting money for it.”

“Then let’s get you somewhere you don’t need to do that for money.” I felt quite protective towards her. And older, somehow.

Then again, I was.

“Are you an angel?”

I shook my head. “Far from it. But we’re on the same side and I’m not going to let her kill you. Especially as it would be kind of my responsibility.”

“Because you talked to me?”

“Yeah. That’s why she did it.” It wasn’t my fault, I knew that, but I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit as if…

“It’s not your fault. She’s psycho.”

“She’s a demon.” The words were out of my mouth before I thought them.

“Oh, so that’s why there was an angel?”

I shook my head. “The angel was there to protect you.”

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 24

I glanced around. I wasn’t sure where I could take Sara to. My place was a little far. Then I realized.

Monica’s. I scooped her up in my arms and walked about a block, then stepped into the apartment building.

“What happened!” the concierge called.

“She fainted.”

“Should I call an ambulance?”

“No, she just…saw something a little shocking to her. She’ll be fine. Can you call up to apartment 310?”

The concierge frowned and I hoped she wasn’t going to call an ambulance anyway, but she tapped a few buttons.

“Tell her it’s Jane.”

I overheard her say a few things, then she looked up. “Go on up. Wait…”
She actually stepped out from behind her desk to help me with the elevator, which was good as I was juggling Sara and the fyrhund couldn’t really press buttons.

Monica’s apartment wasn’t a place I’d been. She’d told me her address, but I hadn’t realized how nice it was.


“She just fainted. I want to put her somewhere comfortable.”

Within a couple of minutes of me putting her down, Sara started to come round. “Ugh…where am I?”

“A friend’s place.”

She sat up slowly and saw Monica. “What…happened to you?”

“Cancer,” Monica said grimly.

I could tell she wouldn’t be able to be on her own much longer. She probably had an aide coming in.

I could tell she wasn’t going to take any more of it. I could see it in her aura.

Mourning two friends…I shook my head.

“She pulled a knife on me,” Sara added, pulling her knees to her chest. “And there was a dog?”

“I tied him up outside. He’ll be fine.”

“Good dog.” A pause. “I think I saw an angel.”

“Maybe you did.”

I wasn’t about to lie to her, but I couldn’t encourage it either. She would either remember the truth or not.

It wasn’t my place to push.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 13

Afterwards, the agency pulled both of us aside into a room. “Do you two know each other?”

“No,” we both said in sullen unison. She was a bit darker of hair and skin than I was, definitely more delicate.

“So, what’s with the glaring?”


I sighed. “I don’t know. It’s not the first time we’ve bumped into each other and I have no clue…”

“…exactly. She’s going to tell everyone.”

I shrugged. “That you’re an escort? Are you that ashamed of it?” I rather thought she shouldn’t be. Maybe her customers should be ashamed.

She shot daggers at me.

“Oh, is that it. Jane, please don’t tell people.”

I shrugged again. “Alright.”

“Marya. Please stop looking at Jane like you scraped her off your shoe.”

I thought it would be better if we didn’t work together.

“In fact, I’m going to leave you two to work it out.” She stood up and left.

I sighed. “I really don’t care.”

“That I’m…”

“I don’t. I don’t understand it, I don’t understand the need for it. I have a perfectly good girlfriend.”

Apparently that was a wrong move. “You’re a lesbian?” she hissed at me, as if that was far worse a thing than being a hooker.

“Not exactly. But I’m not ashamed of it. No need for that.” Then I lowered my voice. “You’re in out of your depth with the Flowers, Marya.”

“No. I’m finally somewhere I want to be. I have a family.”

Family. Something so intangible. “You’re being used.”

“What do you know about it?”

“About being used? A lot. About family…let’s just say mine is delightfully dysfunctional.”

She managed a laugh at that. “At least your dad didn’t kill your mom,” she suddenly burst out.

No, I thought, only cheats on her regularly. “And she promised you, what? Love? Happiness? Revenge?”

“All of those things.”

I thought she was beyond saving. And probably beyond backing out. But, well, nobody could say I hadn’t tried. “Revenge doesn’t bring happiness, Marya.”

“It brings satisfaction.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 23

The fyrhund came running back to my side, whimpering. I frowned, and broke into a jog, letting him lead me back there.

There was, of course, the Red Flowers offices. She’d run back to “mommy.”

Of course she had. Maybe I’d got through, maybe I hadn’t, but she was trusting her boss over me.

“Ah. I thought you might come.”

I smiled. “Let her go.”

“Oh, I think not. She’s too weak for this business, but I can’t let her repeat what you said, now can I.”

She was wearing black leather, head to toe, and had poor Sara by the back of her shirt in one hand, the other tugging out a knife.

“You really think I’m going to let you do that?”

“You really think you can stop me, you pathetic child.”

I rather wished Hunin had stuck around to provide an aerial distraction. Or that Clara was here…except no sleep spell or similar would work on her.

Sara was squirming. I heard fabric rip. “You’d be surprised. Besides, you’d have done it already if you were going to.”

“I want to make you watch. I want to show you what will happen to your girlfriend if you don’t take her and leave. Now.”

How fast was she? She wasn’t a war demon. She wasn’t optimized for combat. And she looked like a black pit, threatening to swallow souls.

Then with a flicker of vision I saw her as she really was. Still female. Still beautiful, but that wasn’t a knife she was threatening to gut Sara with, only her claws.

I tensed, and then the fyrhund moved. He leapt to grab her knife hand. Not expecting that, she tried to slash at him with his jaws closed around her wrist.

I moved…to grab Sara, tugging her away quickly. Her shirt ripped, but that could be replaced.

“Oh my god,” she whispered.

I wondered which one, and whether that was enough to give her any protection.

Maybe it was, because I sensed a fluttering of wings. The succubus freed herself from the fyrhund and fled as fast as apparently quite real high heels could take her.

“Show yourself,” I asked mildly.

The angel stepped out of apparent nothingness. She looked vaguely familiar, but she had probably been involved with the invasion of Hell or something.

“What’s…” Sara stared between us. Then she fainted.

“I guess that answers which God she was calling on.”

The angel smiled. “Get her to a bed.” And then she was gone.

Guardian angel, perhaps?