Sex stories

Short sex stories




Ghost Driver

Don't take this one too seriously. It's just a fun Halloween story. It's a long one so you might want to wait for just the right dark and stormy evening in front of the fireplace with a good beer to read it. Thanks as usual to Barney-R for his editing Wizardry that was done at the speed of light. Happy Halloween SS06

* * * * * *

Callie: two months ago.

Today was awful! It was my first day at the community college aka Loser University. Why do I call it Loser U? I mean since I go there doesn't that make me a loser by extension? Yep it does.

The school is attended by all of the people who a) didn't have the grades to get into a real school. And b) didn't have the money to get into a real school, c) didn't have the desire to get into a real school or d) were too lazy to get into a real school.

I really hoped that it would be different. I really hoped that I'd finally have a chance to make some real friends. I mean come on ... All the smart kids, the athletically inclined kids and the popular kids went off to Michigan or Michigan State. Some of them even left the state. I think one guy got in Harvard or some shit. So, all that's left are the losers.

Who would have thought that there are degrees of losers? Apparently, I'm even more of a loser than normal. Even the fat girls look down on me. So here I am again, alone in my room.

As usual, I'm the butt of most of the jokes and the subject of a lot of the bullying. It's funny how the worm turns. Most of the kids picking on me were the ones who were being picked on themselves not too long ago.

But they'd better recognize. This is the twenty-first century. Kids have been known to snap and go Columbine on their tormentors. So far, there haven't been any girls doing it, but I might be the first. Maybe I'm scared shitless of guns, but I can find a way.

That was my state of mind the day that this all started. I read a lot. I'll read anything. I also do a lot of research into subjects that are a bit outside of the mainstream.

So one evening, I was at home on the Internet as usual. I was eating cheese popcorn and listening to Evanescence, while I surfed the net. I don't hang out in chat rooms or anything like that. Shit, no one wants to chat with me. I think even the predators out there that are looking for young girls like me, think I'm too big of a loser to bother with.

Somehow, I got into a thread about witchcraft. Normally, that isn't my thing either. I'm more into fantasy than anything else. Game of thrones, Dungeons and Dragons, Legend of the Seeker, those are things that are in my wheelhouse.

As I wandered from page to page, an idea popped into my head. If I was a witch, it would open up a lot of possibilities to me. I could hang out with other witches. Or I could cast a spell on someone to get myself a friend, maybe even a boyfriend.

So I started trying to cast some of the simpler spells and enchantments. At first, what I was able to do was actually kind of stupid. I mean I spent three weeks gathering all the ingredients for a spell that made white smoke look yellow.

Then I spent a month on a spell that would give me increased spiritual powers. I had no idea, whether it worked or not. It's not something that can be quantified as easily as how high you can jump or how much weight you can lift.

I had to admit though there were some benefits to my dabbling. I was reading comments on the websites from other would be witches who seemed to be unable to even do the things I was able to do.

So encouraged by my meager successes, I pressed onwards trying more and more difficult spells and conjurings. I also found websites that sold ever more esoteric ingredients and compounds. The loneliness finally drove me to try something that even I doubted. I decided to summon a demon.

To tell you the truth, I didn't actually believe that I could do it. But on the off chance that something worked, I picked the smallest most minor demon I could find. It actually looked kind of cute in an ugly sort of way.

In all of the pictures I saw, it looked ... Well it looked kind of pathetic. I mean in the pictures ... For a demon, it looked like someone I could push around. Even his name was pathetic. Pythius? It sounded like something you go into a bathroom to do. I could just hear people saying ... Hey, gimme a minute. I gotta go take a Pythius. So hoping for a friend or a demonic servant, I started gathering ingredients and relics. My parents had no idea what I was doing. They were glad to give me the money I needed to buy stuff. They were simply overjoyed that I had found a hobby to occupy my time.

* * * * * *

Terry Slade

I watched as a group of people came together in front of a large department store. Without speaking to each other, they began marching back and forth in front of the store. It made no sense. At first, I thought that they were protesting something the store was doing or maybe those they were disgruntled employees who were picketing. But as I listened to them, it made less and less sense. They were all screaming for something different. Some were screaming, "Free Stuff." Others wanted the store to close down. And there were a couple who were screaming for the release of Jack Kervorkian.

One very thin woman was marching around holding I sign that read, "I want Kim Kardashian's Ass."

The whole demonstration, if you could call it that, made no sense, it was chaos.

Suddenly, it did make sense. It was what I was here for. As if on cue, some of the marchers began picking up rocks from the parking lot and other solid objects from the stores large trash containers. They began using the items to pelt shoppers going into and out of the store. Others used similar items to break the windows and the large glass doors on the front of the stores.

I heard sirens in the distance. They got closer and louder with every second, but they were going to be too late. The chaos was increasing in intensity.

A few yards away from me a teenaged girl slammed a shovel against the head of a middle-aged man. He went down immediately, and she pounded his prone form unmercifully while screaming.

"It's a small world after all," she sang while continuing to pound the man's lifeless form.

Directly across from her, a woman who had to be seventy years old gunned the engine of her car and ran into a woman riding one of those motorized mobility scooters.

"Fucking Bitch," she screamed. "That's what you get. 12 items or less means 12 items or less!"

The impact knocked the scooter onto its side and back several yards. The woman riding the scooter was thrown off of it and landed heavily, several yards further back with a horrible snapping sound. She screamed as the crazed old woman reversed her car and then headed for her again.

Several fires broke out in trash containers around the store. Four large men were trying to lift a flaming barrel and throw it into the store.

A couple of burly guys looked towards me sitting nonchalantly on the hood of my Mustang. They looked at each other, and something made them decide to go after easier prey.

Could I have done something to stop the chaos? Maybe, but that wasn't my goal here. Could I have saved a few lives? Probably, but again I was drawn here by the chaos. My job was not to stop the Chaos, but to capture and return the source of the chaos.

Across the large parking lot, on the fringes of the mayhem, I noticed an odd seeming couple that like me were unaffected by the Chaos around them. A chunky but pretty young woman seemed very nervous. Her eyes were as big as saucers, and she looked extremely out of place.

Beside her, clutching her arm as if for dear life stood another person who looked extremely out of place. But in his case, appearances were deceiving. He wore an expensive looking suit. And he had a smile as big as all outdoors. He reminded me of a political candidate in terms of his dress and persona. But his actions seemed more like those of a game-show host.

He reveled in the chaos and actually seemed to be directing it. As I watched he yelled for a trio of women to attack a group of children coming out of the store. One of the women grabbed a fire axe off of the wall of the lobby and set off in hot pursuit of the kids.

The sound of sirens and the arrival of several heavy vehicles broke up the mayhem. Swat team members armed with bull horns urged the crowd to disperse, while others used water hoses to forcefully disengage perpetrators.

The officers, most of them either in riot gear or in regular police uniforms, spread throughout the crowd, doing whatever they could to stop the chaos. Most of the perpetrators had begun to disappear with the arrival of the police but a few who were too crazed to stop continued.

I noticed her then. Truthfully it was hard not to see her. Her tall well shaped form, crowned with a head of very long, very light blond hair. The hair was restrained and pulled back into a very no-nonsense bun at the nape of her neck. Several errant locks had escaped capture and dangled over her shoulder.

While most of the officers accompanying her sought to stop the crimes that were in progress, she looked for the source of the problem. She wore a white blouse with a plain blue blazer over it, and jeans that looked like they were painted onto her amazing ass and legs.

The look on her face was one of total intensity. As she scanned the crowd, her eyes almost immediately locked onto the couple I had picked out as being interesting.

Unfortunately, those same eyes locked onto me. If more people were left between us, I could have ducked between them and avoided her. If it had been dark, I could have eluded her even easier.

But it was too late to run and trying to elude her would have only piqued her interest in me. As she approached, I leaned back further on the car. I was struck by exactly how pretty she was.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Hello Detective," I said. She looked at my face very closely and then shook her head. She ran a hand over the surface of my car's fender.

"Don't touch the car," I said.

"I asked you who you were," she spat.

"What am I being accused of?" I asked.

"I haven't accused you of anything, although I am wondering about your presence in my crime scene," she said.

"Please ... Go into the store. They have several video cameras aimed at the parking lot. In all of the video footage, you'll see me calmly sitting here waiting for you and your fellow officers to come and do something about this riot, so I could do my shopping," I said.

"I'm sure I also won't find you trying to help anyone either will I?" she asked.

"Nope, you won't," I said. "That's your job, not mine."

"What exactly is your job?" she asked.

"I work," I said.

"You aren't being very cooperative Mister ...?" she said leaving an opening that she expected me to fill. I didn't fall for it.

"You remind me of someone," she said. "There are just too many similarities. Your face ... From a distance ... I thought you were ... Even the car..." She shook her head. But up close I can see that you're not him. And the car isn't even the same color. There are millions of Mustangs out there..."

Her voice trailed off, and I got the impression that she was gone ... At least mentally. But I was gone too. I saw what I'm sure she saw. Only we saw the same thing at a different time and from a different point of view.

I saw a huge, ugly ass Dodge Ram truck slamming into the side of my car. I saw the truck hit my rear quarter panel the way the cops do to force a fleeing suspect into a spin. I saw my car spinning as I neared a sheer cliff on the side of the road. I saw myself fighting the spin and preventing the car from going over the cliff by the narrowest of margins.

Then I saw the truck coming after me again. I was perched there on the edge of the cliff still marveling that I hadn't gone over. The truck slammed into me again, and I was spinning again only this time the spin was vertical not horizontal as my car went over the cliff and flipped over and over before finally hitting the ground. As the car impacted, I died instantly. The car didn't burn immediately. The fuel tank didn't explode the car was too well-made for that.

It took a while, but the still-hot engine did eventually ignite the fumes that my very specialized fuel delivery system was producing. And then the car burned. The fiberglass body panels burned. The rubber gaskets and sealants burned. The metal parts and panels warped under the extreme heat. The expensive leather of my custom interior, burned, and the body in the driver's seat burned to a crisp.

I guess that was where Detective Grayson's viewpoint started. She arrived on the scene with my car still smoldering. I can't remember her arrival, but I'm sure that her cobalt blue eyes were just as intense. And she probably whipped the small notebook she always carried out of her pocket. She always used a notebook, never a tablet, or a phone. She liked old school.

We both snapped out of the memory at the same time. She found her tongue faster than I did.

"You're not Terry Slade," she said. "I'm sorry ... You just remind me of a failure. Maybe you should shop somewhere else today. I don't think this store is going to be open for much longer."

"Good advice, Detective," I said. As she turned to walk away I was struck again at how amazing her ass was. It took my breath away. That made me wonder whether, or not I actually needed to breathe anymore. I did know that Detective Grayson was doing more than I ever gave her credit for. She still apparently had my case on her mind. That was much more than I could say for some people.

* * * * * *

Darleen

"Be there by nine o'clock, and I don't want to hear about any shit!" He screamed.

"But I can't leave my baby," I said. I tried to keep my voice even because Michael could be violent.

"Get your mom to watch her," he spat. "Or just give her something to put her to sleep. I don't give a fuck what you do. It's not my problem. It's not like it's my kid. I told you to take care of it when you first figured out that you were pregnant. Now deal with it. Just have your ass at that club tonight!"

He stormed out slamming every door he ran into. I heard the door slam on his car, and then he drove away.

"I'll watch Terri," said my mom. She looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity.

"Darleen, you should ..." she paused and sighed. "There are so many things that you should do or should not have done ... The list is too long even to start. None of this is what I wanted for you. If your father was still alive ..."

"Mom it's really not that bad," I lied.

"How is not?" she spat. "He stops by whenever he feels like it, just to fuck you. Now he's making you take your clothes off in that club for a bunch of drug addicts and criminals. The next thing you know, he'll have you working there as a whore."

"I would never do that," I said. "Never!"

"A few months ago, you said the same thing about stripping," she reminded me.

"I'm only going to do this once," I said.

"Who cares," she said. "After the first time, everyone will have already seen everything you have to show. It won't matter anymore."

"Maybe I should take Terri and go away for a little while. You know... Just until you settle this," she said. "He won't care. He doesn't like her anyway. She isn't his, so she doesn't matter."

"Mom that sounds like a good idea," I said. "Let me think it over." I knew that I could never do it. Taking my baby away from me for any length of time would kill me. Terri was my only link to the life I should have had.

"So tell me, Darleen," she said softly. "Is your life as exciting as you wanted?"

A big tear that I couldn't control, rolled down my cheek.

"Terry would never have ..." she began.

"TERRY is DEAD," I screamed. "I know I fucked up, mother. I should never have started any of this. I should never have cheated on him. My whole God Damned life would be so much better. There I've said it for the thousandth God Damned time. It's old news mother. Let it go!"

She turned without a word and left the room. I fell onto my bed, crying my eyes out. I hated yelling at my mother. I hated arguing with her. I especially hated it when she was right.

Terry Slade had been the love of my life. I say had been because I killed him. Terry and I had gotten married right out of high school. We were so in love that we just couldn't wait.

Terry was working his way through college. He went to class most of the day, and worked his ass off at night in an assembly plant. The small amounts of time that he had to himself were spent with me.

Terri loved me like there was no tomorrow. He told me every day how much he loved me. Every spare penny he had was spent on me. The problem was that I was very young and Terry had spoiled me. I saw him busting his ass trying to make a life for us. But it just wasn't happening fast enough and to be truthful; it just wasn't enough.

I saw some of my friends. They went out every night. They were going to clubs and parties all the time. I began to resent not being able to go too.

Terry and I had a friend named Michael, who had always liked me, or so I thought at the time. Anyway, Michael started coming around while Terry was at work or at school. Michael always seemed to have lots of money. He was also willing to spend it on me.

I began to go out with Michael, thinking that Terry would never find out. And if he did, I was only going out with a mutual friend for something to end my boredom and loneliness.

I have no idea why I started having sex with Michael. Perhaps it was all of his honeyed words, while I was drunk. Maybe it was the fact that he took me to a lot of places that I hadn't gone with Terry. Maybe it was the fact that I loved the way people looked at me when I was out with him. I loved being the center of attention.

But as they say bad luck happens in threes. Michael and the way he treated me was pure bad luck. I got used to it. I got careless. And I got caught.

One of the workers in Terry's plant got his hand caught in a press. They shut the place down for the night for a safety inspection. Terry rushed home to be with his loving wife. He found me loving Michael.

It took seeing the look of pain on Terry's face as Michael fucked me to bring me out of the daze I was in.

Terry crossed the floor and grabbed Michael by his neck. He punched Michael savagely in the face without mercy and then slammed his head through the thick glass of our bedroom window. There were cuts and bruises all over Michael's face.

Terry took a very long look at me and then dropped Michael like a broken toy. Michael curled up on the floor on the fetal position as Terry calmly walked across the floor to his closet. He loaded up all of his clothes. He didn't have much in the way of a wardrobe.

He didn't bother with bags or even suitcases. He just grabbed all of his clothes in his arms. "She's all yours Mike," he said stepping over his former friend.

"Wait," moaned Mike. "I never wanted her, man. She's always been yours. I just wanted to ..." Perhaps that was a mistake on Mike's part; he should have kept his mouth shut. He never got to finish his sentence. Terry kicked him in the face, still wearing his steel-toed work boots. Mike was out cold.

And Terry was nearly out of the room.

"Terry, I'm sorry," I screamed. "It was a mistake."

The sound of my voice caused him to stop and face me. His intention had been just to walk out on me without telling me where he was going or when he would be back.

"It wasn't a mistake," he said. "Darleen, for as long as I can remember, I've been in love with you. All I ever wanted was to live the rest of my life with you. That was the mistake. What you did was just you being gutless. You didn't have the stomach to stick with me through the tough times. Jeezus, Darleen I graduate in six months. I've already been offered a position as an engineer at the Ford plant. We would have had everything we always wanted."
"I still want that, Terry," I whined. "I just lost sight of it for a minute. You don't know what it's like sitting here day after day, night after night with nothing to do. And then Michael came along, and he had so much money and..."

"You could have tried getting a job to help out," he said. "Or you could have gotten a dog. Do you think it's easy going to school all day and then heading off to work until midnight and then coming home to try to study and do my homework? Does that sound like fun, Darleen?"

"I guess not," I said.

"Do you know why Michael always has money? Darleen you can't be that stupid. You know Mike sells drugs. And you can't be dumb enough ... Well maybe you are. You know Mike has always been jealous of us. He was jealous of me because everybody in the old neighborhood is always talking about how great it is for me to go to college. And he was jealous of us because you and I have always had each other Darleen. We didn't have much, but we had love."

"We still do, Terry," I whined.

"No, Darleen," he spat. "You're Mike's now. Good luck with that. Didn't you hear what he was trying to say? He didn't want you. He just wanted to try you on like a pair of those expensive shoes he wears and then throws away. I hope you fit HIM better than his shoes, Darleen. You don't fit me anymore."

"Terry, you can't just walk out on me," I screamed. "We're married."

He just glared at me as he picked up a few pieces of clothing that he'd dropped. "My next check will go to get a lawyer. You can have this place. I'll find somewhere to stay, when the papers are delivered, just sign them, Darleen. It should be pretty easy. We've been married for less than a year, and we don't have shit. We even rent this place."

And then he was gone. I knew at that moment that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I had thrown away everything I had always wanted and for nothing. It was all so clear. Michael had never in his life had a steady girlfriend. He usually had several women that he was fucking. And he used and swapped them out regularly.

Mike had only wanted me to prove that Terry didn't have anything on him. He wanted everyone to know that he could take something from Terry. That was why he bought me clothes and took me to places. Terry only had one thing that mattered to him ... ME ... and Mike wanted to show everyone that he could take me from Terry.

Over the next few days, things got even crazier. Mike was in the hospital for a long time. He had several operations, but they were never able to put his face back the way it was. They did the best they could but his nose didn't look the same, and he would always have scars.

He also kept changing his mind about me. One day, he refused to see me and the next he acted like I was his one true love. But the changes in him went deeper than his looks.

Mike had always been your friendly neighborhood-type drug dealer. If you owed him money, he cut you off until you paid. But he changed. He hired a body guard and then two, who followed him everywhere. People who owed him money started disappearing. There were rumors that one or two of them had been found dead.

I made sure that I was home most of the day. I wanted to be there if Terry showed up for any reason. But he never did. I got tired of waiting for him to come home so I started showing up at his school. The first time I did it, I almost caught him. But he got into his class and closed the door behind him as he entered.

He was in a large lecture hall, and he vanished after the class ended. There were multiple doors, and he left through another one. After that I was never able to get into the engineering building. Terry reported me to security as harassing him.

I gave up. I realized that I was the one who screwed up. I had to wait for Terry to be ready to come back to me.

But while I waited, my life went to hell. My mother told me every time I ran into her, how stupid I had been. She told me that I had given up a man who loved me and had a future for one who didn't care about anyone at all and had no future. Everyone knew that drug dealers didn't live very long. The lucky ones went to jail. The rest went to hell.

At the same time, Mike was constantly asking me if I'd seen Terry. All at once, everything started to fall apart. I lost the house because without a job, I had no way to pay the rent. With no other choice, I had to move back in with my mother. On the first night that I was there, I discovered that my mom was playing her own games.

I found a familiar pair of running shoes under my bed. I immediately freaked out and confronted my mother.

"Of course, course I let him stay here," she hissed. "He's like the son I never had. And he was hurt pretty badly by what you did. But as soon as I told him that you needed to move back, he left. I have no idea where he's staying, so don't bother asking me."

My own mother hid my husband from me. Before I could tell her how angry, I was at her, the doorbell rang. I yanked the door open, expecting to find a Girl Scout selling cookies or a Jehovah's Witness.

I was ready to tell the scout where she could shove her fucking cookies or give The Jehovah's a performance they wouldn't want to witness. But standing in front of me was neither.

If Barbie was real, she'd look just like her. She was dressed the way I wanted to dress when I grow up. Her long pretty blond hair looked as if she had her own personal stylist who followed her around redoing her hair every time a strand got out of place.

She stood there perched on heels that most women would need a ladder to get into and then would be unable to walk in. She looked me over starting at my face and was bored before she got to my knees. She cracked her gum several times and asked me who I was.

"I'm Darleen Slade," I said. "Do you need to see my ID?"

"That would be perfect," she said. I showed her my license, and she handed me a stack of papers. She turned effortlessly on those towering shoes and left without another word. I almost expected her to get into a life-sized replica of Barbie's dream car.

I looked into the papers before she got to whatever car she was driving and nearly collapsed. I'd been expecting to get papers from the guy we'd rented our house from. In order to legally evict me, he had to serve papers on me and then give me thirty days to vacate the house.

My heart almost stopped as I realized that they were divorce papers. Tears filled my eyes. My heart nearly stopped. An image of my wedding flashed in my mind. I remembered him swearing to stay by my side until death do us part.

My mom tried to comfort me. She was sure that we would never complete the divorce process. "He loves you, Dar," she said.

The next morning things got even worse. You see the next morning I discovered I was pregnant.

* * * * * *

Callie

"Did you see that detective?" he asked me. "I want her."

"Why," I asked. I was becoming annoyed. Having my own demon wasn't much different from the rest of my life. It was worse than having a puppy. In the first place, I somehow screwed up; Pythius was, as expected, a very small, and a very weak demon. He was lizard-like and not very forceful.

The problem was that somehow my spell allowed Agravon, another demon to piggy back onto the summoning and come to our plane with him. Agravon quickly got away from me. He ran out into the streets and killed the first man he came across. He then took over the man's body. In order to disguise the crime, I had to help him dispose of his own demonic body.

From then things were spiraling out of control. It's gotten to the point where I'm no longer sure who controls whom. At first, things were good. Even though I knew that he'd murdered a man to get the body he was in, the thrill of having not only a boyfriend of my own, but an attractive one was too good to pass on.

When he wanted to explore his new body's urges and cravings, I was on board with it. First, we sought out his weaknesses and limits. He had me cut him. It caused him a lot of pain and except for the blood being green; he was no different from a normal person. The cut didn't heal on its own because it was too big, so we had to stitch it.

He was also no stronger than any other human of his size and age. He could lift about a hundred pounds, but not much more. He also couldn't run very far or very fast. We determined that in terms of durability or vulnerability and in other physical aspects, he was a normal human being. It was probably due to the fact that he was wearing a normal human body.

He enjoyed food and tended to over eat. He also enjoyed liquor of all kinds and got drunk almost every night. When we got to sex, I was apprehensive. It somehow seemed wrong to give my virginity to a creature that wasn't really alive or human.

The problem was solved in typical Agravon fashion. We went out and found a woman for him to have sex with. He took her in every orifice multiple times and then killed her.

The biggest problem wasn't the murders. It was his growing needs. We saw a car. It was one of those Italian exotics. I think it was a Feramborghini Carrerra or something like that. Anyway, he went up to the guy who owned the car and told him that he wanted it.

I think he expected to have some kind of power over the guy. The guy was bigger and stronger than Agravon, and he beat Agravon's ass. He left him beaten and bloody there in the street. The funny thing about it was that although it was painful for Agravon, he was actually stronger after it. He had also seemingly grown taller and slightly thicker.

It took us a few days to discover the reason. But once we did he was off and running. Agravon fed off of chaos and violence. He started arranging and facilitating more and more violent and chaotic events. He enjoyed sitting there on the fringes of those events and absorbing the energy he got from them.

As he grew stronger, he began attracting others to him and some of them, like him wasn't exactly human. They were all very good at playing human, but there was something just not right about them.

I think they all knew that I was the reason he was here. And I think that he knew that if anything were to happen to me, his presence in this plane would end.

The riot at the store was only the beginning of his plans. Agravon wanted to take over. He wanted the world. He was starting small, but his power increased daily. I began trying to imagine the horror that a world ruled by Agravon could bring.

As his power increased, so too would his minions. He studied the power levels of other demons. As his power increased he intended to summon others, who were weaker than he to this plane. That, I now see, was the main reason for keeping me around. It would be my job to bring them over. I wondered what would befall me when he was strong enough to do it himself.

As we prepared for another of Agravon's endless incidents, I was afraid. Just after dark, a woman appeared. She was very pale and in her fifties. As she approached me, my fear grew.

"You needn't fear me sorceress," she said. "Your place in history is assured. I am not stupid enough to arouse the wrath of our host. I am here to enjoy the evening and what comes next, not to end it."

I only understood about half of what she said. I got the part about not being afraid. But after seeing her in action later, my fears only increased.

* * * * * *

Terry

After leaving the parking lot and Detective Grayson, I had lost sight of the couple I was trailing. There was something off about them. They appeared to be human. I was supposedly trailing two minor demons. One of them was a chaos demon and could be expected to do the kinds of things the couple had done back at the store. But neither of the demons I sought was human or had a human form.

There was also the matter of discovering exactly how they had managed to escape to this plane of existence. They really weren't big on escapes from down there. I guess I couldn't blame them. If the word went out that someone had managed to escape, everyone would try it.

I had a few hours before dark. Looking for the pair in the daytime was a waste of my time. I got into my car and drove to a place that I wasn't supposed to go. I was supposed to stay away from places and people connected to my former life. For the most part, I had. But lately I'd been allowing myself one indulgence.

I drove to the park and hoped. I parked close enough to the playground to watch the kids there, but far enough away that no one there could really make out who I was.

I wasn't interested in the screaming seven and eight year olds. I watched the smaller section where the moms watched and played with one and two year olds. There was far more parental involvement there. I watched for hours before she showed up. I could spot Kathy from a mile away.

She looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. But in reality, all she did was push a stroller. She moved to the same spot she always sat in. The bench there was low enough that she could reach Terri in an instant. She put a blanket down although the grass there was really soft.

Then she put her wiggling granddaughter down on the blanket with a favorite toy.

"You should go over there and see her up close," said a voice just over my shoulder.

I started to turn but I already knew who it was. "No sudden moves," she hissed.

"Detective, you don't seem like the kind of woman to gun a man down in cold blood. You also don't seem like the kind of woman to shoot someone in the back," I said. "I like to look people in the eye when I talk to them that's all. I'm just turning around so I can see you."

"Why are you here?" she asked. "And don't try telling me you're shopping this time."

"Detective did you follow me?" I smiled. Her face turned red for a second making her look even more beautiful.

"I wanted to see if you were lying to me," she said.

"Maybe I just put my shopping off for another day," I said.

"The old woman over there," she said gesturing at Kathy. "She seems a bit old for you."

"She's not that old," I said. "She seems to be in her forties. She's still pretty. She has a nice body too. And maybe I just like older women. Is that a crime?"

"Maybe it's not the old woman you're interested in," she began.

"Detective, I assure you that I am not a child molester or a pervert," I said.

"I never said you were," she sputtered. Her face turned that same shade of red.

"You ... Waited out here for hours," she said. "You just sat there on the hood of your car until they showed up. The second she put that little girl down on that blanket your face lit up like a kid at Christmas time."

"Well ... She's a cute kid," I said.

"My BIBSD is going off," she smirked. "That's my ..."

"Built in Bullshit Detector," I finished for her. "Detective, I'm not lying to you. She really is a cute kid."

"I know you're not lying," she sputtered. "But you're not telling me shit. There are too many coincidences between you and my case and ..."

"Detective, I assure you; I had nothing to do with the riot at the shopping cen ..." I began.

"That's not my case!" she spat. "It's just something they assigned me to look into. I'm trying to solve a murder."

"What murder," I asked. "Are you accusing me of killing someone?"

"No Dammit," she sputtered! "I'm not accusing you of anything. I actually get the feeling that you, and I are after the same thing."

"Detective, I am not the least bit interested in seeing a murderer go to jail," I smiled.

She walked closer to me and sniffed. She looked at my face again. She looked at it so closely that I could feel her heat on my skin.

"So who are you?" she asked again. "Are you a long-lost step brother? ... A cousin? His best friend? What is your connection to Terry Slade?"

I laughed hoping to stall for time. "I read about that case in the papers," I said. "He was an engineer. He'd just graduated from college. It was almost exactly a year ago. In three days, it will be a year, right. Last year on Halloween night, he drove off a cliff. The papers said that he'd just bought himself a hopped-up Mustang, and they think he lost control of the car and took a long assed fall. That doesn't seem like murder. It seems like an accident." She looked angrily at me.

"Detective, I think I can solve your case for you," I said.

"You can?" she asked. "What do you know?"

"I know who killed Terry Slade," I said, trying hard not to smirk.

She pulled out her notebook and pencil then. "Okay, who did it?" she asked.

"Gravity," I smiled. She got so angry that the tip of her pencil snapped.

"Okay, asshole," she spat. "Let's get serious. You are the same size as Terry Slade. You have the same face as Terry Slade. Your features are different, but I've spent so much time watching videos of the man that I can see you have the same facial expressions. You even feel like Terry Slade ..."

"How the hell would you know what he felt like?" I asked.

"I met him once," she spat. Suddenly, time stood still for me. I really looked at her face, and I was sure that I had never seen this woman before. She was too pretty to be forgotten. And that tall, thin, but curvy body was the stuff of dreams. I was sure that I had never seen this woman before a few weeks ago.

"It was a long time ago," she said almost on the verge of tears. "My mom and dad split up when I was a kid. My dad's new wife was an older woman. He only married the bitch because she had a lot of money. She also had a son. He was a couple of years older than me and when you're twelve, a ten-year-old seems like a baby. I only had to see them once or twice a year when my dad got his custody visits. Most of his friends laughed at me, and I wanted nothing to do with them. I only had to be around them for a weekend once or twice a year anyway.

But on one of those weekends, I took a tumble. While my step brother and most of his friends split their sides laughing at me, one of his friends ran over and picked me up. He got some paper towels from the kitchen and cleaned off my scrape. He wiped off my tears, stormed over and demanded that my step brother and his friends stop laughing or else! He even went and got my step-mother. That was my one-time meeting with Terry Slade," she said.

"I looked forward to seeing him again when I went back to visit my dad," she continued. "But he didn't come over. When I finally asked about him. My step-mother told me that he didn't come over anymore. I asked my stupid step-brother about it, and he told me a lie. He said he didn't want to be friends with him anymore. I found out the truth from one of my step brother's friends almost a year later. I had been the reason Terry stopped being friends with my step brother. Terry thought my step brother was an asshole for caring more about impressing his friends than taking care of his own sister."

"Detective that's a great story," I said. "But what does it have to do with me?"

"YOU," she screamed at me. "You have something to do with my case. There are too many fucking coincidences. You look like him. You talk like him. You feel like him. You're driving a car that except for the color is exactly like Terry's Mustang. I'm not just talking about the same year of Mustang. You have the exact same modifications. I spent more than three months studying Mustang modifications. Did you know that Mustangs are probably the most customized cars in the world? There are hundreds of websites that focus exclusively on Mustangs. It's very rare for two guys, even when they're in the same club to do exactly the same modifications to their cars. How do you explain the fact that your car is exactly like his?"

"Uhm ... coincidence," I spat, "Or maybe good taste."
"Look Mr..." She paused again.

"DB," I said.

"DB, if you know something about my God Damned case you'd better start talking, or I'll ..." She suddenly grabbed me by my jacket and started pulling me. I had no idea what she was up to until it happened.

She dragged me over to the bench where Kathy sat. "Mrs. Jenkins, look who I've found!" she said triumphantly.

Kathy looked me up and down. Her eyes went over every detail of my face and body, and then she turned to the detective and asked, "Okay, who is he?"

"You ... You don't know him," asked the detective, releasing my jacket.

"Never saw him before in my life," said Kathy evenly. "Detective, Grayson, are you doing it again? Honey, maybe you need to take some time off AGAIN. I think it may be worse this time. Do you want me to ..."

Kathy was interrupted by the sound of Grayson's phone ringing. "I have to go," she said. She turned and started walking quickly away from us, back the way we'd come.

If she had stayed only a few seconds more, she would have seen something that would have made her even more suspicious.

The baby on the blanket had crawled and scooted her way over to me. She tugged on my pants leg as if she wanted me to pick her up. "Dada," she gurgled.

Her grandmother looked at me, and her mouth dropped open. Our eyes met, and I dropped to my knees and picked up the baby. I gently handed her to her grandmother and left even faster than the Detective had.

The sun was beginning to set, and I had work to do that night.

* * * * * *

Darleen

The dark dingy dressing room is nothing like the light airy main room of the club. The women in the dressing room chattered away as I walked in. They gave me the once over, and some of them laughed. These women were professional strippers. Most of them had years or even decades of dance training. They had bodies that were hardened by years of that training along with dieting and working out.

Most of them also had artificial enhancements of one type or another. Some only had hair extensions or hair that was dyed either blond or bizarre colors like blue or purple to make them stand out. There were others with huge un-natural breasts or even Kardashian-like butt implants.

As I watched them walk around it was incredible. Nothing jiggled on them. Their legs, their breasts, and even their asses were so tight that nothing moved. Their tummies were tight with clearly defined abs.

I know that they wondered who I was and why I was there. As I've mentioned they were professionals. They auditioned and competed for their spots. They also competed to be the best stripper there and for better tips. It was all about the money to them.

Not one of them had seen me audition, so whispers went through them. When I took off my clothes, some of them laughed again. One woman who looked really young came over to me.

"Hi, I'm Cherry," she smiled. "Don't let these whores scare you. They're just as afraid of you as you are of them. Where did you dance before this?"

"I've never danced," I said.

"Holy shit," she exclaimed. "So why are you here?"

"Mike told me to come here tonight," I said. "I didn't have a choice."

"You mean Michael Robbins ... As in Scarface Mike?" she gasped. I nodded.

"How do you know him?" she asked. I started telling her but left a lot of it out. I never told anyone about Terry, or what happened to him. I was too afraid of Mike and what he might do for that.

Within moments, Cherry had rounded up a lot of the other girls and dragged them over to me.

"You think we have it bad," she told them. "Mike ruined her marriage to a guy she loved. He tricked her and then started fucking her. Her husband, who loved her, beat the fuck out of Mike and walked out on her. Her husband is the one who fucked Mike's face up. Mike keeps her like a prisoner now. She didn't even want to be here tonight. As far as she knows she isn't even getting paid."

The women started murmuring among themselves. A tall thin woman with huge tattooed breasts stepped forward. "I hate to tell you this, girl," she said. "But he's playing a game with you. He's been sniffing around Phoebe all week. We aren't short any dancers. Most of us would jump at the chance for more stage time. More dances means more money, you know. And most of us have bills to pay. But this way, he can take Phoebe somewhere and while he's wining and dining that whore, he knows where you are too."

While we were talking, my mother showed up. I have no idea why she was there. My mother wouldn't set foot in a strip club if she was starving, and they were handing out steaks.

"Mom, what's wrong?" I asked. All the strippers were suddenly cooing and gushing over Terri. Cherry asked if she could hold her. I asked her to watch her for me for a few moments while I spoke to my mother.

My mom seemed hesitant to let Cherry so much as touch Terri, but she reluctantly gave in.

"The weirdest fucking thing ever happened today," gushed my mom. "I took Terri to the park. That detective, you know the one. The blond they assigned to Terry's case. Well, she showed up with some guy. Now the guy didn't look like Terry. I mean he was thin and wiry like Terry and about the same size, but his face was ... I don't know different. His nose wasn't the same, and his mouth was different. Terry had brown eyes, and this guy had blue ones.

So I was sure that it wasn't him. But you know how kids are. Terri crawled right over to him and grabbed his legs and called him Dada. Shit, she hardly talks at all, but she was a fuckin' chatter box suddenly.

Anyway, when that little girl said, "Dada," he dropped his guard. I looked into his eyes, and I'm telling you, it was Terry."

"Mom that's ridiculous," I said. "It's impossible. Terry is dead. I saw the body myself."

I could tell that she was shaken up. I also knew that my mom knew Terry as well as I did. Maybe she was just holding onto hope. But I have no idea what she was hoping for. Maybe she thought that I was such a shitty mother that she wanted Terry to come back from the dead and take custody of Terri away from me. That had been his intention before he died.

I blamed that blond cop more than anyone else. I loved Terry with all of my heart. I'd made one fucking mistake. I had a few days of weakness. I was and am a human being. But Terry threw me away like garbage.

He graduated with honors and got a great job, just as he'd always told me we would. Within a few weeks of him moving out of my mom's house, so I could move in, Terry had moved into a beautiful house in the suburbs. It wasn't huge but it was in a really good neighborhood, and it had a really nice yard.

I know all about it because Terry invited my mom over and made dinner for her to thank her for always being there for him. It also hurt me that Terry invited my mom to his graduation, but not me. My mom didn't even tell me about it until it was over, because she knew that I would have crashed the graduation.

She made me realize how sad it was and why she needed to be there. She reminded me that Terry's parents had died when we were young. If she hadn't gone, he would have had no one in the audience at his own graduation. He graduated with honors but there was no one except my mom in the huge audience for him to share it with.

That made me feel even worse. Terry had to forgive me. I refused to sign his divorce papers. I told his lawyer every time I saw him that I would not give Terry a divorce under any circumstances.

Mike got me a lawyer, so I could fight it. And yes, I had to keep fucking Mike to get him to pay for it. At first, there was nothing to be gained by it. Terry was twenty-two years old, and I was twenty one. We were married for less than three years. We didn't have anything worth fighting over. Terry had left me in the house we were renting. At the time that Terry left me, we had two hundred dollars in the bank. He left all of that to me. Terry just walked away and left me everything except his clothes.

Both Terry's lawyer and mine knew that I wouldn't get a dime. But it was never about money. I wanted my husband. I wanted our marriage. Terry had to get his head out of his ass and realize that all human beings make mistakes.

The next thing I knew, I was coming back from a meeting with my lawyer. A car pulled up in front of our house. It was a 2014 Mustang. Terry had always loved Mustangs. Even Mike noticed the car. It was the brightest red I had ever seen. It had all kinds of custom parts and the loudest exhaust system I had ever heard.

Mike was bringing me back to mom's house from the meeting with my lawyer. I guess he was really bringing me home, so he could fuck me. It made me feel like a whore. Sex with Mike, even before Terry caught us, had never been about pleasure or love. It had always been the coin of the realm. In other words, I fucked Mike to get something that I wanted.

Before Terry caught us, I wanted clothes and to go places that Terry didn't have the time or the money to take me. Afterwards, I wanted my lawyer paid for or other expenses. I had never loved Mike. There had only ever been one man that I felt love for, and I was busting my ass to get him back. So if I had to fuck a thousand Mikes a day, I would do it to get my man back.

The problem was that I never wanted Terry to know that I had done it. But when he got out of that red Mustang, I knew that things had just gotten much worse. If I'd thought that things had been bad before it got much worse.

As Terry got out of the car, he looked right through me at Mike. They never said a word to each other. It was like there was a battle going in between them that I never understood. My mother had to explain it to me later.

Mike saw Terry get out of that Mustang. He pushed me out of his car and then walked around and put his arm around me. At the time, I thought it was weird because Mike had never been affectionate towards me. But since I had seen Terry, I was unsteady on my feet, so I'd been glad that Mike grabbed me to steady me.

My mom who'd seen the whole exchange explained to me that it was a gesture meant to show Terry that Mike owned me. It was kind of an "in your face," gesture that implied not only ownership, but that he had taken me from Terry.

Terry then smiled and rubbed his hand across his own face. He let one side of his jaw hang slack. Even I understood that he was reminding Mike exactly what he had done to his face. Terry's sneer at me and spitting on the ground afterwards indicated that he didn't consider losing me a big deal. And the fact that he even refused to acknowledge my greeting, meant that I was no longer worthy of his notice or even his normal good manners.

He walked my mom to the door as I watched with tears running down my cheeks. And then he backed out of the driveway and peeled out driving down the street in a display of how cool his car was.

Half of the guys on my block were yelling and talking about Terry's car then, which only served to further infuriate Mike. My mother being home meant that Mike wouldn't be getting any pussy made him even angrier.

But Mike's absolute declaration of war came when people all over the neighborhood started on Terry again. They bragged about his car. They ragged about his college degree and his great career. Mike told them that he could buy anything Terry could and more. He reminded them that he had a lot more money than Terry did, and he made more money in a month than Terry did in a year.

One of Mike's friends explained it to him. "Dude, his money is legit," he said. "He can go into any place in the world and open accounts and buy shit and get credit. They write articles in the newspaper about him. They invited him to come and speak at the high school that we all went to. He is a success story. On the other hand, Mike, your money is drug money. You can't even put that shit in the bank without the Feds sniffing up your ass. You have to hide it all over town and there are always people looking forward to killing you for the money or to take your place and your territory. Everything you do has to be so complicated. Can you go out and buy yourself a nice house in the suburbs like he did? Nope, you have to get someone to buy it in their name for you, or you get hit for tax evasion and shit like that.

Mike, have you seen his new girlfriend?" he asked. That was news to me as well.

"You know he works for Ford, right," asked the guy. "Have you seen the redhead in those new Ford commercials? Terry is dating her. She's even hotter in person. But it's not too late for you, Mike. You guys are the same age. Take some of that drug money and go to college. If you stay on the same path you're on now, you're going to end up either dead or in jail with a stretched-out asshole."

Mike began to take it out on me then. I can even remember him calling me a redheaded whore as he pounded away on me in a motel room. Since my hair is brown, I knew immediately what was going on. It was funny to me because we were both doing the same thing.

"Mike, if you really want a crack at that skinny bitch, why don't you help me get my husband back," I said. "Then you can really go all over town and tell everyone how you took me from him and when you got tired of fucking me; you sent me back."

"You wouldn't care?" he asked. "Everybody we know would talk about you like you were a ho."

"Fuck everybody we know," I spat. "I need my husband back. And Mike you can't keep fucking me that hard in that position; I'm pregnant. I don't want anything to happen to my baby."

He looked at me strangely then. "Is it ...?" he began.

"Yours," I laughed. "More than likely not, Mike. I've only had sex with two men in my entire life. And you and I have never had sex without a condom."

It was Mike who came up with the idea that my divorce could be put on hold until the paternity of the baby could be determined. That was a good thing because just making the motion was grounds for the divorce to be delayed. Terry's lawyer fired right back though. There was a hearing, and Terry's lawyer countered our motion by stating that we could go ahead with the divorce, and Terry would even pay for a DNA test immediately after the birth. He would also agree to pay whatever the maximum amount of child support, if the child was his.

The kindly old judge asked Terry if there was no chance that our marriage might be saved. Terry then proved exactly how much contempt for Mike, and me that he had.

"Your honor, no honorable man would want to be married to a woman who broke her marriage vows and had sex with another man. It's especially bad when the guy is a known drug dealer. I will pay child support, and I will be in my child's life if it IS my child. But there is no way that I want anything to do with the mother."

All hell broke loose in the court room. There were all kinds of people who started cheering for Terry, and a bunch of people started taking pictures. Mike tried to hide his face and run out of the court room. He had never been caught or even implicated in any drug-related offenses. But there were several police officers there on unrelated cases and a lot of them took a good look at him. Again, Mike was belittled and degraded by Terry. This time it was far more serious because he'd done it, not in the neighborhood but in a court of law.

It was his own fault though. He was the one who'd insisted on being there. He had hoped to get a closer look at Terry's new woman, who wasn't even there.

The judge was trying to make a case that children needed a mother and a father in their lives. But Terry was ready for him again.

"Your honor, I agree with you," Terry told him. "Being a father is important to me. It's something I've dreamed of for most of my life. And for the longest time, I actually dreamed of doing it with this woman," he said pointing to me. "That dream, in fact, is part of the reason that I worked so hard in school, while working nights. All I ever wanted was a home and a family with the woman I loved and whom I thought loved me. I still want that, your honor. I just need to have it with a different woman. I need to have it with a woman I can trust. This child, if it does turn out to be mine, will be welcome to be a part of that life. I intend to be an active father. But at the same time, children are very sensitive. Nowadays, there are all kinds of blended family configurations. It would be far better and far healthier for a child to have two parents who love him, although they aren't together, than to have two people who HATE each other but are forced to stay together because of him. A child can sense it when his parents are not happy."

"Well said," said the judge. "I see no reason for the pregnancy to delay this process any further. The lawyers for both parties will submit the paperwork in a timely manner for my approval."

I was numb. My lawyer started talking to me. He was sure that it would take the lawyers a few weeks at least to agree on the language on the paperwork. The court usually gave them two to three months to get it in. There would then be a six-month wait before the divorce would be final. That mean that approximately three months after my baby was born, his or her father would leave me.

I walked out of the court room and found my mother talking to Terry. She gestured for me to come over to where they were standing. I was very nervous as I approached them. My mother was obviously trying to help me.

"Darleen, I was just telling Terry that they have tests that can determine paternity before the baby is born, now," she said. "That way, we could find out early who the father is and maybe Terry could be in the baby's life even sooner."

"That's a great idea, Mom," I said. "Terry, this IS your baby. We don't need to go on Maury. I have only had sex with two men and only one man in the world has ever been inside of me bareback, Daddy." I tried to get him to smile.

The funny thing about it was that being that close to him, though I had been nervous about it at first was making me feel stronger. As I looked at him, I noticed that he was becoming weaker. Terry, my strong willed, strong-minded husband was on the verge of tears.

"I've heard about those tests," he choked out. "They always say that there's only a tiny chance of any injury to the baby. The odds have always been against me, Darleen. When we got married everyone there thought that we would be together forever. There was only the tiniest chance that we wouldn't. Most people thought the only way we'd ever be apart would be if one of us died. That tiny chance came through. We didn't even last three years.

When I worked at the plant, there was always a small chance that someone would get hurt. We had a great safety record. No one had gotten seriously hurt in that plant in nine years. But it happened too didn't it? And what are the chances that I would come home and find you fucking some scumbag in my bed?" As he spoke his eyes got wetter and redder. I was moving closer to him. I was on my way to taking him in my arms and hugging him there on the spot.

"The odds don't ever seem to work out for me," he continued. "So on the off chance that this is my baby," I'd rather wait until it's born to have the test done. I don't give a bubbly fart what happens to it if it's Mike's puppy. But I want my child to be as healthy as possible."

"Whatever you say, Honey," I said. "I love you, Terry. Even with the mistakes I made due to my stupidity. I never stopped loving you. And I can tell, by the way you're trying not to cry that you still love me too. Can't we go somewhere and talk this out."

"No you can't," said a very rich voice from behind him. It was, of course, the redhead. "He already has plans for tonight, the rest of the week and the rest of his life." She put her arms around him and literally pulled him away from me until she was standing between us.
I was shocked. I mean I'm a nice-looking woman. There have always been guys interested in me. I never paid them any attention though, because I was always interested in Terry. But the woman who stood in front of me was beautiful. It was scary how pretty she was. And she wasn't like the girls I'd grown up with who thought they were pretty. She wasn't the type of woman who layered on tons of makeup and had to have her hair done every five minutes.

She stood there between us, and even though she had no makeup on, she was prettier than all of the women in the building. And everybody there knew it. Even worse was her obvious intelligence. She was smart enough to recognize what she had in Terry, and she was not letting him go. She was also fierce enough to make a scene if necessary.

This was a woman who could probably have any guy she wanted, and she was standing there, prepared to fight for Terry when I, the woman he'd loved enough to marry had lost him over a few stupid outfits and the chance to go out and be seen in some clubs that no one will remember in a few months. I pissed my life away for pretty much nothing.

"It was nice seeing you again, Kathy," she said to my mother. "Come on Honey."

And then she walked out, pulling Terry with her. He never even looked back at me.

When I got out of the building, I heard the loud assed exhaust system on Terry's Mustang start up. I looked over and noticed another Mustang, a silver one, next to his. I knew without even looking that it was her car.

I came out of my thoughts and told my mother that we would talk about it when I got home. As I said her words had made me numb. I was hoping with all of my heart that there was something to what she'd said no matter how impossible it was. On the other hand, I was afraid that Terry might have worked some sort of miracle and come back to life. As much as I still loved him and ached for him, I didn't want Terry alive again.

Cherry and some of the other girls came over as my mom left. "What are you going to wear?" they asked. I showed them my bikini, and they all started coming up with outfits I could borrow. They looked me over and started vetoing some of the outfits off hand.

"Honey did you know that you have some cottage cheese on your ass," said one woman. "And your tummy is kind of pudgy," said another. "Your boobs are kind of saggy for your frame," said a third.

They came up with an outfit that included a corset. The idea was that the corset would push my boobs up and disguise my tummy.

They were giving me their honest opinions based in what they knew men wanted to see from their fantasy women. Apparently, that was what Mike wanted too. It made me long even more for what I had lost.

Terry loved women. He loved real women. I can remember Terry grabbing big handfuls of my booty every time he saw it. He loved the way my ass jiggled when I wore jeans or tight skirts. Terry loved me for the way I was not for the way men thought a woman should be.

Terry would hate the idea of me going out on a stage and taking my clothes off in front of a bunch of strange men. He always considered my body HIS property alone. Maybe this was just another way for Mike to piss on Terry's grave. Maybe it was another way for him to remind me that the two of us were tied together, even though he didn't love me, and I would never love him. Or maybe it was simply fate that was punishing me for my part in killing Terry.

I walked out onto the stage oblivious to the cheers of the drunk men seated around the stage. I danced the way I did in my room when I was alone. The cheers died. It's been said that any woman, no matter what she looks like can get a man under the right circumstances.

There were a few men out there who liked what they saw. They liked the fact that I reminded them of their sister or the girl next door. My dancing was amateurish at best and awful at worst. But when I started taking my clothes off, even my few fans looked away in boredom. I'd been told to go out and dance for a three-minute song. It was the longest two minutes of my life. I never made it past two minutes before the DJ started talking and telling the crowd to give me a round of applause. My music was still playing as they pulled me off of the stage.

The manager looked at me like he'd never seen that reaction before. He told me to go out and circulate. The idea was for me to try to sell lap dances.

I did get what I thought was a lot of takers until I looked over and saw men fighting to get close to Cherry, and she hadn't even gone onstage yet. There were three guys who wanted lap dances from me. And two of the three didn't really like them. They complained to the manager. The third guy broke the rules and tried to grind his dick into my ass. He also whispered in my ear that he'd give me ten dollars if I let him fuck me. It was the most demeaning experience of my life. I ran out of the room crying.

* * * * * *

Terry

As darkness settled over the area, I felt a sense of calm settle over me. It wasn't always this way. The second time that it had happened was the worst. The first time, I had no idea what was going to happen. I remember that I was in the car and had been knocked out or maybe killed by the impact.

A man stood in front of me. He looked like a game show host. He even had a big dumb assed smile and a shiny fucking suit. I looked around, and I was somewhere. I have no words to describe it. I know it was a pocket dimension that was moved out of the space-time continuum. It was neither here nor there. It was outside of the flow of time but still existed in our reality.

As I watched he waved his hand and time backed up like the rewind button on a cheap old VCR. He let time moved forward, and I saw myself as my car fell hit and then started to burn. He backed it up again and stepped inside of the accident. He paused it and gestured for me to come over.

We stood there inside of my car, or maybe the car was inside of us. We were there and occupying the same physical space but out of phase with the physical plane.

"Did you see the way your head bounced back from the airbag?" He asked. "But then since you were falling gravity slammed your head into the steering wheel. Lucky you were already knocked out. That would have hurt a lot. Wait until you see the marks on your skull from the impact. Your frontal bone, right by the glabella shattered like a thrown beer bottle.

I'm not sure, but I think that was the hit that killed you. In retrospect, I think it's a good thing. It means that you didn't burn to death. You were already dead when the flames started. But since you didn't burn to death, you have no subconscious fear of flames. That would be a bad thing." He was still smiling.

We stepped outside of the accident, and I saw myself again. "Hey, stop looking at that," he said. "I'm trying to have a conversation with you."

I just looked at him. I thought that maybe I was dreaming or something.

"You're not dreaming," he said. "I've been waiting a long time for you. Let's get out of here. The accident is too distracting for you."

The next thing I knew we were in a room. The room was white. The floor was white; the ceiling was white, and all the walls were white. There were no windows or doors in the room. I wondered how we'd gotten in.

"Okay now we can talk," he said. "You're as dead as disco. The question is whether or not you want to stay that way."

"What choice do I have?" I asked. "Are you going to like give me a do over like in the comic books or the movies?"

"Nope, I'm going to give you a job," he smirked. "Actually, I'm just the one who recruited you. You will probably do the occasional job for the other guys as well, but I'm your boss. When I call ... You come."

"So what would I do?" I asked.

"Basically, you'd be like my messenger ... Or like a delivery boy. Do you remember that movie the transporter? It's kind of like that. Mostly, it's a case where from time to time something gets out, and you have to deliver it back."

"I don't know," I said.

"You need to figure out something," he smirked. "Because no one knows exactly what to do with you. You're not really BAD enough to go to hell, but at the same time you're not GOOD enough to go to heaven.

I mean basically you swear occasionally, and you tell the odd lie every so often, but you're basically a good guy. And that lasts until something pushes you over the edge. You become a motherfucker when they piss you off. Look at what you did to your friend Mike.

They might've let you into heaven even after that, or maybe they would have sent you back to earth for a while and watched to see where your heart really was. But then you spent months torturing that woman. What was her name ... Darleen? You were needlessly cruel to that woman. I mean I understand what the bitch did to you, but you built exactly the life she dreamed of and then shut her out of it. You did it just beyond her reach. Sure, she cheated on you. But she was young and stupid and bored. She never meant to hurt you. But, everything you did was designed to cause her the most pain you could muster."

"She deserved it," I hissed.

"You might be downstairs material after all," he smirked. "Jeezus you have the capacity to carry a lot of fucking hate around with you. I'll tell you what I'll sweeten the deal. For every thirteen problems you take care of for me, I'll let you handle one of your own."

"Sold," I said. But before the word had left my mouth, we were standing in the morgue.

"I assume that you'd like your own meat sack back Jack?" he smirked at me. "Sorry, I sometimes have this thing for rhyming triplets."

I looked on the slab and found my own body lying there. He lifted one of my arms, and the head of my humerus broke free. "Crispy," he said. He put the arm back in place and then grabbed some of my charred clothing. He ran his hands over the floor as of gathering something from it. In his left hand, he sprinkled some of the ashes over the body. His right hand sprinkled what he's gathered from the floor.

"Ashes to ashes," he cackled. "Dust to dust. Etcetera. Etcetera, etcetera."

The body on the table writhed and changed in front of me. I walked around it looking at it from every angle. "What happened to my face?" I asked. "I look different."

"You died, dummy," he said. "We can't send you back looking like yourself. If anyone you used to know sees you, it could cause all kinds of problems. Now get in there."

"How," I asked. Before he could say anything, I felt myself drawn back into my body.

I felt good. I felt stronger than I had ever been. "Now we have to get you something to ride," he said. He snapped his fingers, and a horse appeared in front of us.

"A distant relative of yours used this one," he smiled. "You like."

"Do I look like a fuckin' cowboy to you?" I asked. He snapped his fingers again. A motorcycle appeared in front of us.

"How about this," he asked. "My last guy loved these. You've heard of Johnny Blaze, right?"

"Read about him in the comic books," I said. "Things didn't work out well between the two of you did they?"

"Okay, what do you want?" he asked. He looked over at me. "Alright I'll give you a car." He snapped his fingers, and a black Audi sedan appeared in front of us.

"Fuck you," I said. "I have too much hair for that car. And I can't fake Jason Statham's accent."

The Audi disappeared and in its place was a silver BMW. I glared at him. "What now," he asked.

"What's with you and these euro trash sedans?" I asked. Another snap of his fingers swapped the BMW for a red Lamborghini.

"You're getting closer," I said.

"Oh alright, God dammit," he said. He snapped his fingers, and my Mustang was there in front of us.

"Perfect," I said.

"You can't have that fucking car," he hissed.

"Why not," I asked.

"For the same reason that I didn't give you your own face back," he said. "Pick another one."

"There are lots of Mustangs out there," I said. "It'll blend in better than any of the cars you wanted. Just paint it a different color. How about black?"

"You'd better be worth it," he grumbled. And then he vanished, along with the car.

"Hey, wait," I said. He reappeared.

"What do I do now?" I asked.

"You have a couple of hours until nightfall," he said. "Go out and drive around in your little car. But from now on, you are the Devil's Bitch. When I call, you come. And I will be calling soon. In the meantime, stay away from places you used to go and people you used to know."

As I said before, that first night, it was too much of a surprise for me to be apprehensive about it. There was some pain to be honest about it, but I was so charged up that I paid it no mind. What I did freak out about was what happened to my car.

I had, as I told Satan, seen Johnny Blaze in comic books. I knew that he had ridden that same dried out motorcycle that cheap bastard had tried to palm off on me. I knew that when Blaze changed, his bike did too. It became a thing of hellfire with skulls and shit all over it.

My blacked out Mustang glowed with amazing sky blue flames. The pony emblem on the grill was the same color as the flames. The rims were still black, but the brake calipers and tires were blue flames. The headlights were like snake's eyes, but they were made of blue flames.

Another interesting thing about the car was that in its normal mode, the car was a truly beautiful extremely high gloss, glass black. But in demonic mode, the car was a flat black. The lettering across the back of the car was funny. It read, Hellby. Not Shelby ... Hellby.

The front quarter panel emblems weren't 5.0 badges or running ponies or even snakes. There was a 13.0 on each quarter panel. I wonder if like on the regular Mustang GT the number referred to the engine's displacement. If it did the car would have to be scary fast. If a normal 5.0 five liter engine could put out over 600 horsepower with a supercharger, this thing would be incredible.

"Don't just stand there gawking at that thing," said a voice over my shoulder. "Get to work." Inside my head, an image formed. I knew what the thing was. I knew I could track it using my car's Hellby GPS system, and I had a vague idea of what to do with it once I caught it.

That was twelve cases ago. This would be my thirteenth. And after this case, I was allowed one of my own. I already knew that Michael was responsible for my death. He would follow me soon only he would be sent to the pit to burn for all eternity.

As the last embers of the fading sun disappeared, my body burned. My face and head were no longer visible, hidden beneath what appeared as a race car driver's helmet surrounded by the same blue flames that framed my car. My clothes were replaced by a racing suit that also glowed with the blue flames.

Beside me, my car changed as well. I got into the car and revved the hellish 13 liter engine. The roar of my exhaust system was loud as ... Hell. But surprisingly only the truly evil could hear it.

I looked down at my console and saw not one demon but two. The first one a smaller one called Pythius looked like something I could bring in while still in my human form. The second one Agravon was the one I saw at the riot. He had been wearing a different body, but I could recognize the essence of his foul soul no matter what he wore or how he tried to disguise himself.

* * * * * *

Callie

I was excited. I had never before been invited to a party of any size or any type. And now I was holding a huge party. The last time I had even thought about having a party had been my eleventh birthday party. That was also the last time I ever showed my feelings. That had been a real disaster. I was going to have ice cream and cake and soda and chips. I wanted to play games and watch my favorite movie.

I found out the day of the party that none of the cool kids in school were coming. That meant that none of the kids who were trying to be cool would come either. So with the exception of two of my friends who were as nerdy and needy as I was, no one came.

It was the quickest saddest little party ever. We sat around looking at each other. The games were no fun with only the three of us. We watched the movie, but since we had all seen it several times, we didn't even watch it all the way. I got two nice presents from them, mostly because I'd given them presents on their birthdays, too. We each had a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream and called it a night.

The party was over in just over an hour. They made a lot of jokes about it in school the next day. They called it a kiddie party. And since they were all trying to be seen as teenagers, I guess they were all above such things.

From then on, I have never had another party. You can only be kicked in the teeth so many times before you close your mouth. On the other hand, I haven't been invited to any parties since then either.

And what Agravon was holding tonight wasn't exactly a party. It was a full-fledged rave. He somehow got one of the biggest DJs in town to spin at the party. He had people supplying liquor, which of course would not be free. We got a share of the profits for that. There would, of course, be several drug dealers there, and we got a cut of that as well.

Agravon had a way with people. Besides his own need for Chaos to feed upon, which was the real reason for the rave, he had somehow taken over Pythius' power of lies. That was how he convinced people that they were getting the better end of the deal.

I heard him talking to the drug dealers. He made them think that this party was only an audition for our next party in three days. He told them that our Halloween party, The Rave to the Grave, would be the biggest party ever held in our state.

The strange thing about it is that I realize now how pathetic I was. Over the last few days, my life has changed to the point of being unrecognizable.

There are men at school following me around like puppies. I see them all the time trying to sneak a look at my boobs. Chunky girls usually have big boobs, but before now, no one wanted to look at them. Dealing with Agravon raised my confidence level considerably.

Agravon had made me realize that barely one person in a million could have performed the spells that I had. I still remember reading all of those comments on the Internet about how even the most simple spells I had done, hadn't worked for most of them. I realized that you had to have a certain type and amount of innate power for the spells to work. I also realized that I had it.

Then a few days ago, I heard some of the girls at school who thought they were cute or special talking about going to the rave. They were bragging about how much fun it was going to be and what they were wearing.

I surprised myself, by speaking up.

"You're not going," I said.

"What did you say," asked one of them.

"You heard me," I said. "You aren't going. You can go there if you want. But once you get there you won't get in. No matter how much money you bring or who you come with you won't get in."

"And why is that?" she asked. She was trying to act tough, but suddenly I could see how nervous she was. She wasn't just nervous; she was scared. She was just as afraid as I used to be.

"Remember last week when you and your dumbass friends made fun of me?" I asked.

"Well, we always make fun of you," she smirked. "You're weird."

"Do any of you idiots have the website that advertised the rave on your laptops?" I asked. "Pull it up. You'll notice that this one is only a warm-up for our Halloween Rave. You should also notice that my associate Agravon, and I are hosting both parties. We're going to make a lot of money doing it, so I don't need yours."
"Holy fuck! She's not kidding," exclaimed one of the guys. "There's her picture." The woman's face fell. She seemed on the verge of tears.

"Hey, weird girl. I don't really know her that well. I don't really hang out with her either, so can I still come," asked one of the guys sitting at the table with her.

"Not only can you come; I'll let you in for free," I said. "What's your name?" He told me his name, and I made a note of it. "I'll set you up for a discount on your drinks and uhm ... STUFF," I said.

I got up and walked away to a chorus of people begging for me to come back, and swearing that they didn't even know the girl I had just ostracized either. I had begun to see why Agravon craved power. With only a few words, I had reduced my biggest tormentor to tears.

I felt absolutely no guilt over what I had done to her. I felt no need to be the bigger person. At least when I had been down, I had self-respect. Apparently, she had none. She started stalking me and offering me everything she could think of. She wanted to be friends. Then she wanted to volunteer to be my sidekick. She changed that to flunky. She offered to let her boyfriend have sex with me. Then she offered to have sex with me herself. She even started trying to copy my clothes.

I finally agreed to let all of her friends, including her boyfriend attend the rave. But I let her continue to suffer. There would even be photos of her at every entrance to make sure she could not get in. A few days later, she would realize two things. The first was that bullying has consequences. She had already learned that and regretted it immensely. The second thing she would learn was that she was actually the lucky one.

* * * * * *

Interlude

The sleek plane touched down at Detroit metro airport and taxied to a rented hangar. No one would search the plane. The large cross on the tail and the Vatican's coat of arms saw to that. The occupants of the plane all had diplomatic immunity. Inside the plane, there was a beehive of activity. There was also a constant and heavy thudding sound that everyone aboard the plane ignored. Two women brushed and cleaned distinctive leather cloaks. A man sat at a computer in a specially built alcove in the plane. His fingers flashed across the computer's keyboard like lightning.

Two other men immediately left the plane and went into the airport to secure a rental vehicle. In the rear of the plane, the three women upon whom all of the activity was focused sat.

They were a study in contrasts. A slim and beautiful woman who was about fifty years old but looked much younger sat at her own computer screen. She wore a pair of half glasses that sat perched on her nose like a librarian's would.

Across the aisle from her, another woman nervously looked out the window of the plane. She was short and thin with a lot of nervous energy. This would be her first real mission with the team. She had been with them for six months but hadn't seen any real action yet. They had been ordered to take a month off after their last serious mission a little over a year previous.

They had lost another member on that mission. A woman named Sister Piety had given her life in a struggle against a very powerful witch and the vampire that served her. That vampire had been hundreds of years old and was probably the strongest vamp they had ever faced.

The mission had begun with Sister Piety being kidnapped. They had called in Piety's erstwhile love interest; a New Orleans vampire named Mason Devereaux. They had worked with Mason before, and he had actually flown to Texas to rescue the other two team members, who were under siege by a mixed group of vamps and werewolves.

It turned into a battle royal between them, with everyone they could imagine helping them out. Besides their former member Sister Prudence, they enlisted the help of her husband Jason, four red-headed witches, the husband of one of the witches, a Native American Shaman, a bewitched car and its driver Who was a child with some type of powers herself.

The opposition consisted of several very strong vampires, a hoard of werewolves, a disembodied force that was thousands of years old and a woman who had been killed during the Salem witch trials which had absorbed the souls and powers of a hundred witches.

They needed the break to deal with Sister Piety's death. It was also a chance for Piety's replacement, Sister Praise, to gel with the team. They trained together. They studied together. They discussed strategy. They prayed together.

Their first three forays together weren't really much. The first was a pure research mission. The second turned out to be a hoax. And the third, although there had been some action involved wasn't really the type of case they were supposed to handle.

But this was different. This was the real thing. This case had the two veteran nuns worried. A local priest had gotten the report and had sent that to an investigator. The investigator agreed with the priest. He had relayed the information to a bishop who sent it up the chain of command until the team had been dispatched.

They had no idea what was causing people to behave crazily, but it was determined that some sort of supernatural force was involved. Further investigation over the last few days had seemed to indicate some sort of demonic instigation.

The pattern seemed to indicate that whatever was instigating it, was building towards a large ritual on Halloween night.

Sister Praise was nervous. But she was more nervous about her team mates than the mission.

A part of the reason for her nervousness was sitting just behind her. Sister Penance was the biggest scariest nun who Praise had ever seen. She was like a really beautiful football player. Penance was over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds of muscle. She had huge boobs and a well-shaped butt. But she was stronger than most men.

At that moment, Penance was slamming the head of a huge Gothic mace into a rubber pad on the floor of the plane. Every time she slammed the mace against the pad the impact shook the entire plane.

The mace was a new toy that Penance had recently picked up during their stopover in Chicago.

They had gone to Chicago while their analysts were getting information on the situation in Michigan. It had not been what Sister Praise expected. They took a car to a really nice house in suburban Chicago. They had knocked on the door and a man, holding a little girl had answered the door. Praise hung back. The man had handed the little girl who had to be all of three years old to Sister Patience. He had hugged Patience like they were old friends, which had shocked Praise.

The Sisters of Fate were an extremely rare and special order. Most priests deferred to them. It was shocking to see a man just hug one of them.

Sister Penance reacted.

"Get your grubby hands off of her," she bellowed. The man looked across at Penance and with no concern on his face asked, "What are you going to do if I don't?"

"Step outside, and see," said Penance. Praise was taken aback. Even for Penance the behavior was shocking. They had been drilled over and over about conducting themselves as ambassadors of the church. They were supposed to be professional and courteous at all times.

Praise looked over at Sister Patience, who was so busy bouncing the tiny little girl on her knee that she was paying no attention to their teammate's rampage. Praise followed the man outside into a sizeable yard.

Penance grabbed a club off of the table and charged the smaller man. Praise was aghast. She had no idea whether she should try to rescue the man from her hulking teammate or just let it play out.

The man retreated from Penance and snatched a wooden Kendo sword from the table.

A hand touched Praise lightly on her shoulder. Praise turned to find the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, standing beside her. The woman looked like a model or an earthbound goddess. Her long golden hair formed a halo around her head.

The woman seemed to be extremely happy. She had that inner glow that only someone who was extremely happy ever had.

"Don't worry, Sister," the woman said to Praise. "This is their way of saying hello."

Penance took a swipe at the man's head with the club, and she was not holding back. The man was quicker than greased lightning. He ducked under the swing and chose to mock slash Penance's thick legs with the wooden sword.

Praise noticed that he could have slashed her midsection and seriously hurt her or even done a thrust that would have penetrated her internal organs and ended the battle had it been real. But he had chosen the leg cut. He clearly wanted to extend the battle.

Feeling the sword touch her legs, Penance was enraged. She slammed both of her hands into the man's chest knocking him backwards. He rolled with the impact and leaped into the air bringing the wooden sword in a horizontal arc in mid air. With great control, he lightly tapped it against the side of Penance's thick neck.

"Alright that's one," bellowed Penance.

"Isn't that two," asked the man politely. "Did you forget the leg cut?"

"Okay, we're tied," said Penance.

"Your club hasn't touched me yet," said the man.

"My palm strike would have caved your chest in," grumbled Penance. "And since I did it with both hands that counts as two."

Penance swung her mock mace even as she finished speaking, hoping to catch the man off guard. He sidestepped her blow. The club whistled past the man so hard the club dug into the grass. The man quickly stepped onto the club trapping it on the ground and tapped Penance on the shoulder with the sword.

"That didn't count," yelled Penance! "No one said go."

"But you attacked," sputtered the man.

"Yep, I did," said Penance. "But I never said go. There are rules you know!"

"There are rules about tearing up my grass too, Penance," yelled the woman beside me.

"Oh come on Prudence," whined Penance. "Your husband is cheating."

Penance took her stance up. She held the mace in a high guard. Her face was intense with concentration.

"Go," she rumbled. I have never seen anyone move as quickly as the man did. He one handed his mock sword. With his free hand, he grabbed Penance's club hand at the forearm. He leaped up onto her bent front knee and brought the tip of his sword down lightly on top of her head.

"Grrrr," growled Penance. "That was so cheesy it shouldn't count."

"What did I tell you about using that high guard," he said. "Penance, you are amazing with a mace. You are the most powerful bone-crushing mace woman I have ever seen. But your specialty is power. You are not fast enough for a high guard. I know you like it because you get to add gravity to the force of your blow, but you're not going to connect very often, and your arms are too far away to block most blows."

Penance looked towards us. "Did he not just say that I won," screamed Penance, jumping up and down.

"Huh," asked the man in confusion.

"Honey, you said she was amazing and the most powerful," said the golden goddess beside me. "In Penance talk, that means she won."

"What did I win? "What did I win," asked Penance.

"Come on in the house," said the man. "I was saving these for Christmas, but I'll get you something else by then."

Praise looked at Patience. She walked over carrying the little girl. "Sister Praise, this is the former Sister Prudence," said Patience. Praise went into shock.

"But you ..." she sputtered. "You didn't lose your grace. I don't understand."

Prudence smiled at Praise. "Come into the kitchen with me Sister," she said. "We can talk while I whip up some sides. Jason is probably going to grill. Shit, I hope we have enough steak for Penance. We'll have to do some chicken and some Salmon too."

"Purity, show you Aunt Patience your new move," she yelled.

"Sister you swore," gasped Praise.

"I'm not a sister anymore," smiled Prudence. "I'm married. I have sex ... A lot! And I have a baby. Besides, Penance swears all the time."

"Yeah but we're all too afraid to do anything about it," said Praise.

* * * * * *

As they prepared to get off of the plane and go after whatever waited for them in Michigan, Praise thought back to her time in Chicago. Prudence had made her choice, and she was immensely happy with her life. Had Praise ever been that happy? Another thing that bothered her was that she got the feeling that Patience and Penance still thought of Prudence as their partner.

Praise had met Piety once. Piety was selected to replace Prudence, but everyone knew that Prudence had been better than Piety. Praise had found out that Prudence even without her Grace was better with a sword than Piety had been. Piety tried to become Prudence. Piety was also better with a sword than Praise was. Perhaps she should bow out and allow Sister Prudence to take her spot back. It could be done. There were Nuns who had joined an order later in life after having children.

"Did you fill out a will, yet," smirked Penance, slamming the mace into the pad again. "We keep losing third members like spinal tap loses drummers."

"Don't worry," smiled Penance. "If anything goes down, I'll protect you. I have to. We're running out of names that start with P."

"Penance is joking, Sister," said Patience, turning off her computer. "She's trying to scare you. Conflicts with demons usually involve more exorcisms than anything physical. It's not like we're going after Vampires. You'll be fine."

* * * * * *

Callie

Oh my fuckin' God what have I gotten myself into? The party started out great. I was like a queen. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people all gathered in a field on the old state fairgrounds. The music was very loud and very constant. I couldn't help myself; I danced my ass off.

I didn't drink anything or do any drugs. I'd never tried alcohol or drugs in my life. Agravon told everyone to let the party progress until around midnight. Then the real party would begin.

In the darkness, I looked around and recognized a lot of Agravon's guests. There was the woman from the other night who'd told me I didn't need to be afraid of her. There were lots of others there too.

One of the drug dealers, a guy named Michael was making an ass of himself. He kept bothering Agravon to find out whether or not he would be working the Halloween Rave too. He fancied himself some sort of wannabe gangster. He even had his people call him Scar-faced Mike.

When he noticed that he wasn't making any progress with Agravon, he started on me. He offered me free samples of his stuff. He told me how pretty he thought I was. But I was getting smarter day by day. I told him that if he wanted to even be considered for the Halloween party, he should get his ass back to peddling his shit.

I saw Agravon standing up on the DJ booth. To most people, it would seem as if he wanted to be seen. But I knew better. Things were about to get started for real, and he needed to see what was going on in order to feed. He gestured for me to join him, but things started before I could get there.

I saw the woman from the other night brush by me. "Dinner time, Sweetie," she smiled. She grabbed a man from behind. He was one of the students from my class.

She had far more than normal strength. She bent him backwards until his head was back, and his neck was exposed. She bit into his throat so hard that blood spurted straight up into the air like a geyser.

She picked her spot well, as the crush of people covered what she was doing. His arms flailed as she drained the life from him. She drank her fill and then straightened him up. And pushed him deeper into the crowd where the crush of bodies kept him upright until he fell over.

The drugged out kids kept dancing as he fell to the ground. They probably thought he was too high to stand up. It was the first time I ever saw someone murdered. Well okay ... I'd seen Agravon take the body he wore from the guy he became. And I saw him kill that woman he had sex with. But I guess I had thought that those were cases where he didn't really know what he was doing. It was like a puppy chewing up your sneakers.

At that point, I still thought of Agravon as mine somehow. But as I watched that woman, that ... Vampire skipping through the crowd, drinking her fill and murdering person after person, I realized that I had lost control over him. All the woman's friends were doing the same thing.

And there were others. There were people who appeared to be human who were grabbing people and simply dragging them away in their drugged state. And above it all, above the drugs and fighting and murder and dancing, Agravon held court. He watched and swung his hands back and forth like a deranged conductor directing his symphony of death and Chaos.

None of that was what I had planned. All I wanted was to have a friend or two to combat my loneliness and my feelings of being worthless. I didn't want to kill anyone. Things were just getting out of hand.

And then it changed. Out of nowhere, I saw a huge woman with some kind of metal club that appeared to have spikes on it.

Agravon saw her too. I think he thought at first that she was one of his people. He actually licked his lips at what she might do with that mace. She was focused on two big male vampires who were about literally to rip a thin, drugged out nerd in half between them.

The big woman moved towards the vampires, brought her mace upwards, and then brought it down onto the arm of one of the vampires. He howled in surprise and pain as the spikes on the mace bit into and literally shredded his arm. He looked at her in surprise, but that was all he had time for?

One, and then a second small missile like object buried themselves in the chest of the screaming vampire. Although the arrows or whatever they were had struck his chest, they hadn't hit his heart.

But they were clearly treated with something special because his body began to burn from within. I looked back from where the vampire stood and saw another woman in head to toe white leather, including a hooded leather cloak that I would have died to wear just once. She held a white crossbow, and she had obviously fired the bolts that were killing the vampire.

The big woman who had begun the attack was clad in green leather. Her outfit was exactly like the white leather her comrade wore. She menaced the second vampire, causing him to retreat. Unfortunately, this put him right in the path of the third leather-clad woman who wielded a small round shield and a roman gladius.

She sliced at the vampire's head, shearing off a chunk of scalp and long dirty hair. The big woman moved back into range and crushed the creature's face with her huge mace.

A second later the third woman, the sword wielding one in the maroon leather hacked at the creature's neck. A gout of vile smelling blood and a bleating cry of anguish was the result. As the vamp fell, the swordswoman took one more swipe of her short razor-like blade, and the vamp's head sprang free of its neck.

I was so afraid that I pissed myself. The women in leather all wore crosses and holy emblems embossed on their leathers. The leather was thick and contained plates of what appeared to be padding or Kevlar over vital areas.

They were obviously affiliated with a church or something, and they scared the living shit out of me. I hoped that they knew that I had nothing to do with the vampires. In my mind, I saw them hacking me to bits like some sort of Holy Roman Ginsu team.

I looked to Agravon, and he was pissed. He was also clutching his chest, and he looked green. It was as if the Chaos that he'd planned and orchestrated gave him strength, but the counter attack by the leather women took his strength away.
He started yelling as I noticed that several of the vampires and other creatures had noticed the women. Some of them were watching curiously, while others were running away in abject terror.

And then SHE entered the fray. SHE being the woman who'd told me that I didn't need to fear her. She covered the space between where she was and the three women so quickly I had difficulty believing it.

She slammed into the big woman knocking her back several feet. The sound of their bodies impacting sounded almost like flesh being struck by wood. The big woman, as I said moved backwards, but she managed to hold onto her mace.

She felt the impact even through her heavy green leathers. The clash had knocked her hood back and revealed short but very stylish red hair and milky skin. Despite her freakish size, the woman was pretty in a giant white Halle Berry style.

She gritted her teeth and swung the mace with all of her might against the vampire. The vamp's unnatural speed and reach allowed her to catch the descending weapon and stop it in place. She smiled, just as the woman with the sword launched her attack. The vamp half turned while still holding the mace and caught the sword in her other hand.

"Shit, you little bitch. You cut me," she hissed. She snatched the sword from the smaller woman's hand and smashed it against the ground. The sword's handle shattered, and the blade bent. The vamp flung the sword as if it was an afterthought. The remains of the weapon flew away so quickly and so far that I couldn't track it.

A crossbow bolt hissed towards the she vamp, but she twisted her body and avoided them.

She was still locked to the big woman who was using all of her strength and both hands to hold onto her weapon. The vamp turned to her and brought her other hand to bear.

The big woman in green was amazing. As the vamp's barely superior strength began to dominate and threatened to take her weapon away from her, she suddenly let go of it. The vampire continuing to pull on the mace, slammed the weapon into her own face, much harder than her opponent could have managed.

She took off running after the big woman who appeared to be retreating. But as the vampire fully engaged her speed and started to gain on the bigger woman, she pivoted, dropped to her knee, and threw a handful of razor-sharp throwing stars directly into the vampire's face.

The vamp screamed in agony, and her face started smoking. Obviously the throwing stars, like the crossbow bolts were treated or blessed. The vamp's skin melted off of her face, and she appeared to have lost one of her eyes as well.

But the fight was not without its merits for the vampire. The other vamps and off creatures had seen that the three women, although faster and stronger than normal, were only human. They began to close in, with Agravon acting as a facilitator and urging them on.

"Get those bitches," he yelled. "There are at least eight of you. Francesca took them all on alone and nearly beat them."

The three women converged and started backing towards the exit. They realized that they couldn't take on all the creatures aligned against them. There were also lots of humans working with Agravon for whatever reasons or whatever promises he'd made them.

The big woman in the green leather picked up her mace from where Francesca had dropped it. She tapped the weapon against her boot with her left hand as if cleaning it, but it was a distraction. Her right hand shot out, and she threw a single throwing star so fast it was almost invisible.

The heavy metal missile embedded itself in the forehead of another vampire. This one was far younger and far weaker than Francesca. The star penetrated his skull, and the blessed metal lodged itself in his brain. His head exploded, and his body dropped to the ground. He was dead before he fell.

"Sister Penance, where did you get those from," asked the sword woman who now held only her small shield and a dagger she'd pulled from one of her boots."

"Jason gave me a bunch of them while we were in Chicago," said the big woman. "He makes them on something called a CNC machine and has them blessed by a priest that he knows."

There were still seven vampires and who knows what else inching towards the women. Agravon laughed with glee and for some reason, I could hear his laughter over the sound of the music. Another astonishing thing was that although a lot of the kids had begun to pay attention to the mayhem happening around them, it was a relatively small number, and most of them were in the immediate area of the struggle. The over whelming majority of them simply kept dancing to the ridiculously loud music.

As I looked around, the creatures managed to cut off the women's escape route. They ended up with their backs against a solid wall.

"Bring it," grumbled the big one. Her smile told me everything. She wanted to fight. She obviously loved combat. And even if she lost. Even if she paid the ultimate price on this night her opponents would never be the same. She would take many of them with her. Even the ones who survived would remember her forever. The damage she had done to Francesca was evidence of that.

So even with overwhelming numbers the creatures were hesitant to attack. Agravon continued to urge them on. He had reverted to use the powers of influence and persuasion that he used on humans to get them to riot and to ignore what was going on around them.

His powers were slowly influencing the creatures. He boosted their confidence and promised them untold rewards. The attack was coming, and I had the feeling that it would be epic. I was too rapt on the events playing themselves out even to try to run away, which was my instinct at the moment.

I was fascinated by the nuns, especially the big one they called Penance. I wanted a name like hers and leather like hers. Shit, I wanted to be her.

And then it all went to hell. There was a sound like the growl of some unspoken hell beast rending the air. A car drove up against the chain-link fence that enclosed the compound. We could all see it from where we were. The car drove on tires of blue flame. It was surrounded by the same blue flames. And suddenly, the driver got out of the car.

He looked across the area at Agravon. "Time for you to go home," he said in a voice that was as cold as the grave, but hot as hell at the same time.

The voice reminded me of rustling leaves. Its tone spoke of the certainty of the outcome. I heard Agravon's voice telling me to come to him and quickly. I knew what Agravon could do with his voice, but this was the first time I had ever had it directed towards me. And the way he used it with me was different. I realized that he had no power over me. So where with most, he could compel them to his way of thinking, he had to convince me.

I also realized that Agravon had powers he had yet to reveal. At that moment he was carrying on two mental campaigns at the same time. He was trying to convince me to come to him for reasons I still didn't understand. Was it that he sensed my growing fear of both him and his plans or did he need me for something.

"Come to me Callie, quickly," his voice was so clear in my head that it was as if he was yelling to me. "And bring Francesca."

At the same time, he was compelling the remaining vamps and other assorted weirdos as well as any of the assembled masses of humanity in the area to forget about the nuns and attack the flaming man.

One of the braver ... Stupider vamps bared his fangs and leaped at the flaming race car driver or whatever he was. It was like a suicide attempt. The driver grabbed him by the throat and lifted him in the air. He brought the hissing, flailing vampire face to face ... Okay face to helmet with him and stared into his eyes.

The vampire stopped moving as if he had fallen into a trance. He started crying like a baby and then burst into flames. The driver dropped him on the ground forming a puddle of flesh awash in blue fire.

Agravon's voice in my mind made me see reason.

"Callie, the driver is the devil's messenger boy. He wants to take me back to hell. If they're pissed that I got out of the pit, what will they do to the person who got me out?" I ran towards the stage grabbing a still moaning Francesca and dragging her with me.

Behind me, the driver was ripping through vampires like a fat kid goes through chicken wings.

"Callie, get us out of here," snarled Agravon.

"How," I asked.

"Open a portal," he said.

"Spells like that take weeks of preparation," I whined.

"Not with your power," he snarled. "And here I can give you as much energy as you need. Take my hand and take everything I have. Just get us the fuck out of here."

I closed my eyes and forgot about spells and preparation. I forgot about ingredients and brews and rituals. I squeezed Agravon's hand and Francesca's too. I opened my mind and winked us out of there.

* * * * * *

Praise

I don't know how I felt. On one hand, I helped to take out a vampire. Although it's true, it was a younger, less powerful one. But I helped. Patience, Penance, and I worked effectively as a team. That was all on the bright side.

One the other hand, when facing the older vamp, none of us was particularly effective. Of the three of us, only Penance was able even hold her own. Patience's bolts hadn't been able to hit the vamp, although a few more shots might have found their mark.

I, on the other hand, had gotten my sword broken and my ass kicked. I was scared shitless and all kinds of questions were going through my mind.

One thing that refused to leave had been the fight between Sister Prudence's husband Jason and Penance. Penance hated men, but she really seemed to like Jason. And the throwing stars he had given her had been extremely effective. So was the mace that he'd given Penance.

Penance had held her own against the vamp and had done damage, but Jason had clearly bested her. Exactly how good was he with a sword? I'd heard about him going after an even more powerful vamp than the one we fought to save Prudence. Unlike us, he didn't have the gift of Grace. He had only his skills and training. True he had beaten the vamp by pinning it to a wall with a car and then beheading it, but he had still taken out an aged and powerful vamp single handedly. I wondered how I would do against him. I wondered why the hell our superiors wouldn't ask Prudence to come back.

"Wake up, Sister," Patience said to me. "We have no idea what is going on here."

"As usual, I have to do all the heavy lifting and all the brain work too," grumbled Penance. "Let me explain it to you. The guy covered in blue fire is the demon we're here to take out. I'm gonna take him out, and then we can go home. On our way back home, we need to stop off in Chicago, so I can kick Jason's ass."

While we had the conversation, the driver was taking out the vampires one after another. I think I was the first to notice it. The sky was getting lighter. It would be morning soon. Perhaps the rest of the vamps would disappear.

"Penance, are you high," asked Patience. "I don't think the driver is our target. He wasn't even here when the vamps started attacking. The demon we're after sows chaos. I think he was the guy in the shiny suit that vanished with the fat girl and the female vampire."

"That female Vamp was just scared that I was going to finish kicking her ass," grumbled Penance. "She took the fat girl as a snack. I don't know why the guy who looked like Ryan Seacrest left. And the blue guy is clearly a demon. He's covered in flames, Patience. What more proof do you need?"

"Why do you want to fight Jason?" I asked. Penance glared at me. She was giving me that newbies don't get to talk look.

"The Damned throwing stars he gave me are clearly cheap. You can only use them once," she grumbled. "I think he's like a drug dealer. I've used them all and now I'll have to go back to him for more of them."

"Well if you don't like them, why would you want any more of them?" I asked.

"Shut up Praise," she grumbled. "I saved your ass, didn't I?"

"Sister Penance, you need to ..." Began Patience.

"Well I did," whined Penance. "That vamp took her sword from her, broke it, and threw it into the next county. I'll bet that sword is still flying and ..."

Penance stopped talking in mid sentence as she noticed Patience heading for the Driver. He chased away the remaining vampires. Then he was literally roasting all the people near us. Strangely enough none of the people touched by his flames seemed to be injured. They looked as if they were lying down to sleep.

"The soul fire will only hurt those who are truly evil," he said. "It will remove Agravon's taint from the rest."

"Why are you after Agravon," asked Patience.

"My job is to return him to hell," said the Driver. "I have no idea where Pythius is or who the girl with Agravon was. I will track him again this evening when the sun goes down, and he won't get away this time."

"What about the girl," asked Patience. "What about the Vampire?"

"My assignment is only Pythius and Agravon," said the driver. "If the vampire gets in the way, her life will end. I sensed no true evil from the girl. She seems more like a confused soul than an evil one. I would hate to take her below."

"Can we talk about ..." began Patience. I think we all noticed the flickering and dimming of the flames surrounding the man as the sun filled the sky. The helmet suddenly vanished and as Patience, and I gasped in surprise the helmet and flaming suit disappeared revealing a normal man.

Before either of us could say a word, Penance clubbed him over the head with her mace. He was out like a light a thin line of blood oozed from the head wound. She threw him over her shoulder and started heading for the SUV we had rented.

"Penance, you hit him too hard. You may have killed him," exclaimed Patience. Even as upset as she was, Patience's voice was calm and in control.

The two women, long-time teammates, and friends were as different as could be. Their names fit them. Patience was exactly that. She was patient and saw the big picture or the long game in everything. Penance, on the other hand, was punishment personified. She was intuitive and mercurial.

"Since when is killing a demon a bad thing," asked Penance.

"One, because I think he was on our side as unlikely as it seems," said Patience.

"What gave you that idea? I think you're cracked," said Penance. "Besides I don't need any men on my side."

"Penance, he saved us," said Patience. "And you have worked with men. You've worked with men a lot."

"When," asked Penance?

"Mason," said Patience.

"Doesn't count he was a God Damned Vampire," said Penance. "Besides he was under a spell. And Vampires aren't human, so he can't be considered a man."

"What spell?" asked Patience.

"Piety," hissed Penance. "It had to be some kind of spell. Vampires can't be in love."

"Jason," said Patience.

"Doesn't count," snapped Penance.

"Why not," asked Patience, with an eyebrow raised.

"Prudence is still our sister, right," asked Penance.

"Always," said Patience solemnly.

"She married Jason," said Penance. "That makes them one in the eyes of the lord. Therefore, Jason is like our brother. He's family so he can't be considered a man."

"Hold it right there," said a serious female voice behind us. "Put your hands up and drop the weapons."

The three women looked at each other and complied. "Look officer," said Patience. "This can all be straightened out very easily. The three of us are on a mission for the church. We have diplomatic immunity. Could you please call your precinct and have your superiors call the arch bishop of the area?"

"Diplomatic immunity doesn't cover murder," spat Grayson.

"He's not dead," spat Penance. "I had to knock him out. He was getting a little too big for his britches."

"Exactly," said Patience. "This man is a member of the local church. His priest called in to say that he was possessed. We were dispatched to evaluate and handle the possible possession."

"Okay, let's say that I believed you," said Grayson. "I don't, but let's say that I did. Let's say that some church sent three leather wearing, weapon toting uhm ... Nuns to investigate a possible possession that was almost biblical in its scope. One of you ... Any one of you ... Give me the first piece of information they told you about him."

"They gave us so much information that it would be hard to figure out what you want," said Patience.

"Nope, it's really easy," said Grayson. "You see; I know the guy you killed. And I know that he isn't the church type. So one of you ladies, and I use the term loosely, tell me what his name is."

Patience looked at Penance who nodded. The two women knew each other so well that the looks they exchanged and the nod were almost imperceptible. "That's too easy his name is ..." began Patience.

Penance, watched the detective. The woman was good she made sure that both, she and the gun she held were more than an arm's length away from the three of them so none of them could reach her with a quick strike. Their weapons were on the ground, so there would be no grabbing her mace for a quick blow.

But as good as the police woman was she knew nothing about how strong Penance was or how persuasive and reasonable Patience could seem to be.

As Patience began speaking in a tone like the one priests use to calm agitated parishioners, Grayson lured by the honeyed tone of Patience's voice flicked her eyes towards her for a fraction of a second.

"His name is ..." said Patience. As she was speaking, Penance swung the man over her shoulder like he was a weapon.

"Foot," growled Penance as the feet and legs of the body connected with the side of Grayson's head, dazing her and causing her to drop her gun.

Grayson was better than the women had expected though. She was down but not out. As her gun skittered across the ground she dove for it, but came up short. Praise stepped onto her hand preventing her from grabbing the weapon.

Penance, who had dropped Terry by then, grabbed Grayson. And pinned her arms to her side. Penance smiled at her. Strangely enough Praise walked over to the imprisoned detective and put her gun back in her holster.

"Detective, you probably don't believe this," said Patience. "But we really are telling you the truth. When you start to look into what happened here tonight ... Well technically last night since it's morning ... You're going to find a lot of weirdness. A lot of people here did terrible things to other people for no apparent reason. I believe you've had similar cases like this including one at a shopping center earlier this week. You probably won't believe that they were demonically possessed or influenced. You'll most likely come to the conclusion that it was some sort of mass hysteria or even the drugs that you'll find ample evidence of.

Your friend there didn't cause any of it. In fact, he tried to help us stop it, but he kind of passed out, and we need his help. There are a lot of passed out and even dead kids on this field so one more won't make any difference to your investigation. I'm leaving you my card in case you decide to try to contact us. Detective, we've done nothing wrong. So please keep an open mind while you look into this."

Praise came over and using the thick but flexible ties that they used to secure her cloak to her shoulders; she tied Grayson's hands to the fence they'd been standing next to.

"It won't take you very long to get out of this," said Praise. "We left you your little gun, in case there's something strange in the neighborhood. Hang on to this cloak tie for me. They get really pissed when we lose part of our uniforms okay?"
Grayson almost believed her. As the woman turned away she made the sign of the cross and her parting words, "Go with God, Sister," made Grayson feel strange.

Penance picked the man's body up as if he was weightless and slung him over her shoulder again. He groaned, which let them all know that he was unconscious but beginning to come out of it. With that the three women walked away.

Grayson immediately went to work on the rope or whatever it was they'd tied her to the fence with. She made short work of getting out of it. But by the time she'd untied herself, they were clearly gone. There was no sign of a car except for DB's outrageous Mustang, which was still standing there. She'd call in for backup and a CSI team. She'd also have the car towed ... In mid thought she had another idea. She walked over to the car and found it unlocked.

* * * * * *

Darleen

Self-realization is a bitch. We lie to other people all the time. Sometimes we get caught. It's embarrassing, but not fatal. We also lie to ourselves. And when we get caught, it can be devastating to our self-esteem. A woman's self-image can be like a house of cards. It's fragile; it's precariously balanced and waiting for a strong gust of wind.

I lie to myself all the time. I always tell myself that I'm beautiful. I believe it because for a long time Terry reinforced that idea every day. Terry was the Rock of my existence. He was everything to me.

When he caught me cheating, it did more than wrecked our marriage, it wrecked my self-esteem. Mike had no problem telling me that I wasn't that hot. I knew that Terry loved me, and I was so desperate to get him back. But it wasn't just because I loved him; I needed him back because he pumped up my self-esteem.

The worst moment of my life was the day I heard that he was not only dating, but considering marrying some TV model. When she showed up in court with him, ready to do battle to defend him; I knew that I was in trouble. Terry always told me that he could look at another car's engine and tell whether or not the car was faster than his.

I must have something like that because I can look at another woman and immediately realized whether or not she's prettier than I am. Not only was she prettier, it wasn't even close. She stood there with no makeup on while I had just had my entire face professionally done. I had full eye makeup, lipstick, the whole nine yards. When I looked in the mirror, I'd been sure that Terry would take one look at my face and drop the divorce.

But she stood there with her freshly scrubbed face, completely bare of any type of cosmetic enhancement and was still much prettier than I was, am, or will ever be. It was unfair.

The last straw that I had to play, also didn't work for me. I was as they say on Maury 10000% sure that Terry was the father of my baby. I was betting a lot on that baby. It was my last chance at getting my husband back. I was very sure that once Terry saw his child, I'd get another chance.

Terry was too much of a family man ever to leave his child. I would become the best mother in the universe and the best wife too. I figured that by the time our son or daughter was ready to start school, Terry would have forgotten all about this stupid little speed bump in the road of our lives.

All during my pregnancy he was conflicted; he kept giving presents for the baby to my mother. He wouldn't come and talk to me, but he constantly asked her about me.

I used it against him. I had my mother tell him how much I missed him. And that I still loved him. I had her tell him how much a baby needed to have both a mother and a father, not only in its life, but in its household. But I was too slick for my own good.

I had my mother let him know when I went into labor. I had her beg him to come to the hospital for the birth. If the doctors would have allowed it, I'd have had him in the delivery room as well.

I gave birth to the most beautiful little girl ever. Terry actually came to my room to see me after seeing the baby. I could tell that he wanted to touch me, but he was still holding himself back.

He came to the hospital every day and spent hours with her. As soon as I could get up, I started going down to the ward where they kept the babies, so I could stare at her with him.

Usually, we didn't talk. And sometimes he had the model with him. She tried to be nice to me. She told me how beautiful my daughter was and how lucky I was. I refused to answer or acknowledge her, the same way that Terry did me.

Every time I saw them together, I burned with a fury that was un-natural. Sometimes I wondered why my body didn't go up in flames. That all changed when an event happened that brought us all back to reality. I was still in the hospital four days after the birth. The baby was totally fine, but I had some complications that worried my doctors. My blood pressure was abnormally high, and they were worried that I might have a stroke.

Anyway, Michael came to visit me. It was the first time that he and Terry had run into each other in a long time. Probably to needle Terry, Mike leaned over and kissed me. It was an awkward kiss because Mike, and I had never really kissed. As strange as it sounds, it was true. Mike leaned over and grazed my cheek. It was so unexpected that I turned and looked at him with a "what the hell are you doing" look. Even when I was cheating on Terry with Mike, it was pure sex and nothing else. It was insert rod B into slot A and pump, nothing more.

But the look on Terry's face made my heart sing. At the same time, it terrified me. Terry has dark brown hair and soulful brown eyes. When he looked at Mike, I swear his eyes glowed blue. And if the model hadn't been there to hold him back, I think Terry would have killed Michael. Mike's bodyguard was waiting out in the car since they never thought there would be problems at the hospital.

Then Mike twisted the knife. "Did they do the DNA test yet?" he asked. "When do I find out if I'm a daddy?"

Mike had already made it very plain to me that he wanted no part of any children. He just said it, like I said to cause Terry pain.

"Mike, the chances of you being her father are EXTREMELY small," I said, more for Terry's benefit than his. His smile told me that he already knew that.

Actually, no one needed the DNA test. Immediately upon seeing her, my mom declared the baby to be Terry's female clone. Anyone who looked at her could see it. Terry and I during our sporadic bits of communication already discussed child support. He had looked at the state guidelines and found them woefully inadequate.

He wanted to pay for everything related to the baby. He had all of these ridiculous ideas about her upbringing. He wanted her every weekend. And he did the most insane thing I'd ever seen. He talked about consistency as she started to look around and recognize objects. He had picked a room in my mom's house that was approximately the same size as one of the smaller bedrooms in his house that I had still never seen.

He painted both rooms the same color and ordered two of every furniture item that he wanted. He made the two rooms almost exactly the same. I was surprised that my mom allowed him to do it. Especially since it involved moving all of MY things into a smaller room.

I knew that Terry loved his daughter, and everything was going to be fine. Even the model loved her. I had the sense that she knew she had to get on board with my daughter or lose Terry. I felt almost sorry for her, because I knew that if push came to shove, Terry would choose the baby over her, even if it meant taking me back.

So when Mike brought up the DNA test, I saw no problem. I called the nurse in and asked her about the test. She looked at me like I was a moron. The fact was that Mike, Terry, and I had gone to school with her, and she was no smarter than any of us and definitely less book smart than Terry.

"Darleen, they did that test immediately after she was born, like you asked, weeks before the birth," she said. "It's in her file."

"Well, no one ever showed me the results," I said.

"You never asked for them," she said.

"Jeezus! Just get me the fucking test!" I yelled. "When you went to nursing school did they have to take away all of your common sense when they taught you all of the medical stuff?"

She took off quickly. And so did Mike. He gave me another one of those weird kisses while smirking at Terry. This one was so off that we didn't even make contact. But I liked seeing the jealousy in Terry's eyes.

Mike took one more parting shot as he left. "I think when you get the results you should seriously consider changing her name," he said. "Remember that corny old TV show the Waltons? The actress who played the mother had an interesting name."

Terry bristled and balled up his fists as Mike left the room.

"I hate that fucking guy," he spat so loudly that I was sure even people in the halls could hear it. "He's lucky we're in a hospital. I should have fucked him up AGAIN!"

"Why," I asked. I was totally in the dark until I Googled the Waltons, and found out that the mother was played by a woman named "Michael Lerned."

"Here, Ya go ..." said the returning nurse. Placing a thick folder on top of my sheet. I was surprised that she stopped talking when she did. Her tone of voice indicated that she wanted to include one more syllable at the end of the sentence. My psychic powers told me that the word that she left off was, "bitch."

I was amazed that my four day old; perfectly healthy baby had a file that was that thick. I thumbed through it and found two separate sheets that were DNA comparisons. One compared Terri's DNA to Mike's. The other compared it to Terry's.

I looked at the Mike's test first. There were rows of dots and squiggles and none of them lined up. The test concluded that Mike was NOT Terri's father. With the biggest smile I could muster, I handed the other sheet to Terry.

"I can't believe it's only 99.999%" he gushed.

"Oh Honey, that's wonderful," said the model. "But come on, we knew it from the first second that we saw her." Terry was no longer paying Miss Beautiful any attention. He was hugging my mom and dancing in little circles with her.

"I have to go and get my lawyer," he said. He grabbed Miss Beautiful by the hand and told her, "We need to talk."

After they left the room, I started smiling myself. "Darleen, why are you smiling like a Cheshire Cat," asked my mom.

"I'm getting my husband back," I smirked. "Didn't you hear him tell her that they had to talk. I knew that baby was my good luck charm."

My mother didn't seem happy. "What's wrong, Mom?" I asked her.

"I have a bad feeling about this," she said.

"Why," I asked. "Don't you want me to get him back?"

"Darleen, listen to me," she said. "You're my daughter and I love you, but I'm not sure you deserve to get him back. At least not this easily, or this soon. The two of you haven't even spoken to each other alone one time since ... Well you know when. You weren't there those first few nights after he left you. You didn't live in that house.

Darleen, you are the first and the only woman that man ever loved. Everything he did was for you. You didn't have to hear him crying over you night after night. He tried to cover it up, but I guess he forgot about the heating vents in the house.

You hurt him pretty badly, Honey. And you did it for no good reason. And with a guy who only hangs around you because he wants to get back at Terry. How the hell could you even stand to be around a guy who uses your newborn baby just to take a jab at the man you supposedly love?

"You just don't want me to be happy," I spat. "Mom maybe you should go home. I'm feeling tired, suddenly.

Truthfully I was pissed. But my mom's words struck a nerve. And I also remembered then that my mom's intuitions often foreshadowed things that would come.

Two days later, I went home. On my first day back in the house, the lawyer that Mike got me called me. He wanted me to attend a meeting in his office later that day. Terry's lawyer had called him to arrange it.

I got my mom to watch the baby and dressed in my best. I still had some of the fat left over from having the baby. She was a week old, and my mom kept warning me to take it easy and not to try to do too much. She thought I should cancel the meeting and just have the lawyers come to her house.

I told her I was fine. I had pills for my blood pressure, and physically I was doing better. A chance to get out of the house would be good for me.

The meeting was not what I expected. I thought that it would be to sign off on Terry's childcare and custody plan. He had always told me that he wanted it in writing. That had hurt me because it meant that he didn't trust me.

I also expected for Terry to have gotten rid of the model. But there she sat, right next to him. She was so pretty that every man in that office, and some of the women kept coming in and out of the conference room just to look at her.

I hated that bitch even more then. She sat there smiling with her freshly scrubbed face. She had all of that hair swept back into one long incredibly thick pony tail. She had what looked like a man's dress hat from the sixties perched on her head.

She wore a blazer and blouse over the tightest jeans I have ever seen. And on her feet, she had a pair of those ridiculously high heeled open toe shoes that showed off her pretty feet. She looked like she had just stepped off of a magazine cover. But then she was a fuckin' model wasn't she?

I lied to myself then. I told myself that I could have been that pretty and that thin. But the truth was that even when I was fourteen, my ass and boobs were bigger than hers.

I told myself another lie to compliment that one. I told myself that the reason I was no longer skinny and elegant was because Terry had been using me as his personal sperm dump since we were eighteen.

Then I reminded myself why we were there. We were there because Terry had knocked ME up; not her. Terry had preferred ME over any and every other woman we knew. I was the one who had carried his baby. So as thin and pretty as she was, she was in short time.

When the lawyers started talking, my blood pressure rose so high that I almost blacked out. Terry wasn't trying to get me back. We were there because Terry was taking me back to court. He wanted custody of our baby.

Terry was claiming that our daughter was in danger because I was keeping company with a known drug dealer. He alleged that I was engaging in unsavory behavior and that our child would benefit from a more stable home life.

Terry's intention was to marry the model and raise Terri as their child. I would have full visitation rights, and she could spend summers with me once she was old enough, but he wanted her with him. I was so shocked that I have no memory of what happened after that.

Over the next few days, it all became clear. Terry painted a beautiful picture of the future. He and the model were in love. They were going to be married as soon as the ceremony they were planning could happen.

The model was going to retire to become a full time housewife and mom. That was what she'd always wanted from before she'd ever met Terry. The modeling thing had just happened because she met the right people at the right time while in college. She would raise my daughter as if she was her own.

I felt as if I'd been ambushed and betrayed. I got my mom to go and talk to Terry. He had always listened to her, and he wouldn't talk to me. He just wanted to let everything be settled in court.

My mom came back to me later that day. She spent a lot of time talking with Terry. It was far worse than I expected. Terry was getting ready to go to war. He was pulling out all of the stops. He was making a great deal of money as an engineer, but that didn't matter. He worked for a huge corporation that saw a great future for him. He had been allowed like many of their managers to use the corporation's legal staff.

That meant that Terry had a full-fledged legal team preparing a case and even the lawyer bought with Mike's drug money couldn't match. I also realized something else. My mom couldn't afford to pay for a lawyer for me, which was why I had allowed Mike to do it. But Mike was a liability for me.

Terry was building a case against Mike, and if I continued to rely on Mike's help, I made my own case weaker.

Terry also had another thing going for him. His fiancé ... God I hated calling that bitch his fiancé. I was the only fiancé that Terry should ever have. Anyway, the bitch was the perfect courtroom weapon. First because she literally may have been the prettiest woman breathing and every, man, boy, and lesbian in that courtroom would be hanging on her every word. But secondly because the bitch was giving up her career to be a mother ... Not a step-mom but a mom to my child.

The last straw would come when they found out that she was unable to have children of her own, so my daughter would be her one chance at maternal bliss.

I saw it all going south faster than one of those twelve thousand-pound bombs being dropped on a target.

Terry was going to paint me as a cheating whore, who had been unfaithful to the husband who had sacrificed everything to try to make her happy. The whore had also gotten pregnant while cheating on her husband with a criminal. It would look like I was just some whore dropping babies left and right without the ability, wherewithal or judgment to take care of them.

I was sure that no judge or jury would want to separate a baby from her self-sacrificing father, or his ex-model wife, both of whom loved the child no end and could provide an ideal life for her.

I was already crying my eyes out when Mike stopped by, and he was pissed. I had never seen Mike that angry.

"You need to talk to your fuckin' husband," he screamed at me. "That motherfucker needs to grow up and stay out of my God Damned life."

I got him calmed down enough to talk without screaming. It turned out that Terry's lawyers really had declared war. Spurred on by Terry's claims and court filings the police and several other agencies had begun to look into Mike's business and dealings.

They attacked Mike on several fronts. Mike and his home and several of the people he worked with were under surveillance. And the people watching him were not subtle about it. They did it that way because with the police watching him, Mike's business would drop off. Almost no one is going to buy drugs from a guy being watched by the police.

Mike was also being audited by the IRS. His house, his car and several of the things he did, simply didn't go with the lifestyle of a person with no job.

"If he doesn't back off I'm going to have that fucker killed," ranted Mike.

"Over the next few days, things got worse for both Mike and for me. The IRS must be the scariest thing on the earth. Mike had gotten the best tax lawyers he could find. He also got affidavits from several people swearing that they had given things like cars, jewelry, and other things to Mike as gifts. He thought that all of his bases were covered.

In reality, he has simply stuck his head further in the noose. The auditors simply noted item after item as a gift. They neither smiled nor frowned; it was all just business. Mike's lawyers thought they were doing well until the end of the first day. Then they lowered the boom. Mike and his witnesses owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on the gifts. His witnesses who'd provided the gifts would also be audited because there was a great deal of suspicion as to how they could give such lavish gifts with their current level of income.

Mike could of course pay the taxes, but he couldn't pay them with money from any bank or legal account. If he pulled out cash from his drug sales, there would be even more suspicion and possible charges for unreported income. It was a vicious circle that could only end up with Mike either totally bankrupt or in jail.
His friends, his suppliers, and his customers were abandoning Mike like rats leaving a sinking ship.

I got a pretty big shock myself. I had a surprise visit from a team from CPS show up at my mom's house and start asking me all kinds of questions.

I got a list of things I needed to buy or do before their next visit. I knew that I too was in trouble.

Mike called me that evening to make a deal. He would stay away from me and never speak to me again if Terry would call off his dogs. Even if Terry dropped everything the very next day it would take Mike months to rebuild his business.

I knew in my heart that even if Mike stepped away from me, which wouldn't bother me in the least, it wouldn't help me at all. So ... In a moment of weakness that I have regretted ever since, I told Mike to do it.

"Do what?" he asked.

"Mike you know Terry. He's never going to quit. You're going to have to take him out," I said. "And it needs to be soon."

We came up with plans on how to do it. We discarded several plans because they had no chance of success. Finally, I came up with inviting Terry to see his daughter being christened. I told him that I wanted it to be done at the old church on the edge of town where he, and I were both christened and where we had attended elementary school.

That church wasn't used much anymore because it was too far from the populated areas of town. The few houses surrounding that area had been damaged in a tornado three years previous. The church was actually scheduled for demolition, and its services and staff had been moved to a newer location closer to the city's center.

Terry agreed, and the rest is history. I can still remember my mom getting the call at the church. She dropped her cell phone in shock. She was in tears as she told me that Terry's Mustang was in a wreck on his way there.

I know that she was only a baby, but my daughter cried so much that she had to be sedated. She was too young to understand words, but somehow she knew that her daddy was gone.

My mom took it hard. And I sank into a depression so severe that it took months for me to come out of it. Sure my daughter cried because she was sad. My mom was sad too. But I was the saddest of all because I had loved Terry more than anything on earth, but I was the one who'd caused it.

It took weeks to happen, but without the constant pressure from Terry's lawyers, Mike was able to make a deal with the IRS. He would be making payments to them for years. But that meant that they wouldn't really be watching him. The police and other agencies sank back into the woodwork and except for the huge hole in my heart, everything was back to normal.

Mike bought several businesses, including the broken-down strip club that I was in last night while he was out fucking a stripper.

Mike and I also settled into an uneasy alliance. Mike needed to make sure that I was okay because I knew that he had paid for and ordered Terry's murder. On the other hand, I was equally culpable because I had told him to do it.

So when he showed up the day before Halloween, we were both on the edge. I was pissed about being forced to humiliate myself in a strip club. He was pissed because of what he was about to tell me.

"I got something I want you to do," he told me.

"I am not stripping for you again, Mike," I sneered. "I will not take my clothes off just so you can go out and fuck the woman who is supposed to take her clothes off."

"First off, I ain't asking you to strip this time," he said. "If you hate stripping, then fuck you cause you're gonna hate this even more. But I don't give a fuck. I have too many God Damned problems to waste my time worrying about you."

I turned my head and looked at him. Mike rarely spoke to me like that.

"Darleen, we've known each other for a long time," he said. "I don't have to justify who I fuck with you. We are not in any kind of relationship. If I want sex, I fuck. Sometimes I fuck you. But lately ... Darlene, fucking you isn't fun anymore. So if you want me to continue paying your rent and helping to support you, your old lady and Terry's kid, you're going to have to find a way to help me out."

He was making all of the sense in the world. Why the hell had I ever listened to a stripper?

"For your information," he continued. "I wasn't out fucking some stripper. Me, and my boys were working. We sold every bit of product we had and ran out. It wasn't even work. They were begging for it. There's another big party and even bigger one tomorrow night for Halloween. I want you to work it with me."

"Mike, I can't sell drugs," I said. "I wouldn't feel good about it."

"Well that's good to know," he said. "Because that ain't what you'll be doing."

I looked at him in confusion.

"You're going into the customer service business," he smirked. "If any of these drugged out kids want to fuck. You're going to offer them a little pussy ... Okay, a big stretched out pussy, but you get the idea."

"I'm ..." I began.

"Darleen, that fucking detective has been looking into your boyfriend's accident again," he said. "This is not the time for us to break ranks."

* * * * * *

Praise

"Penance, you hit him way too hard," I told her. "I think he's dead. His breathing is too shallow, and his body is getting colder."

"It's not my fault," she grumbled. "How was I supposed to know that he had a skull like an eggshell?"

"In all actuality, you should never have hit him," said Patience.

"Oh so you're siding with the newbie," whined Penance.

"We're supposed to be a team," said Patience. "We should discuss things before you ..."

"Oh no!" I gasped. "He just let out a sigh and stopped breathing."

"Start CPR," yelled Patience.

"Shit," said Penance!

I started doing chest compressions. But I could tell it was a lost cause. The body wasn't even trying to survive. I got the feeling that he was brain dead. I shook my head and looked at Penance.

She, on the other hand, was staring at the doorway. I turned to see what she was staring at and found Detective Grayson pointing her gun at us.

"If any of you bitches moves, I'll splatter your brains all over that cross behind you," she said evenly.

"What's wrong with him?" she asked. "Get away from the body." She walked over to the body keeping her eyes on us the whole time. She also made sure that we were far enough away from her that we couldn't get near her.

Her cell phone rang, and she answered it. "Yes sir," she said staring angrily at us. "No sir," I didn't realize that they had diplomatic immunity. "Yes sir. I'm leaving now. Yes sir, I'll be polite and apologize."

"Fuck you," she said looking up at us. "I apologize for not being able to arrest your asses right now. I've been informed that I can't touch you on church property. But sooner or later, you'll have to leave here, and then your asses are mine." She turned and walked away holstering her gun as she walked.

"I think this is personal for her," I said.

"I agree," said Patience. "She may become a problem for us. She's a very good detective. The card I gave her should have stalled her. It has a number for the Vatican that directs callers to a voicemail box. When the voice mail is full, they reset it. That alone should have stalled her for days. It's what six o' clock in the evening? She found us in barely twelve hours and was able to get past our local security and get into this part of the church. The woman is a bloodhound."

"Okay she's got a nose like a dog," grumbled Penance. "What do we do about that?" She gestured toward the body.

"I'll talk to the priest about getting an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Maybe he had drugs in his system or some type of heart or brain defect. If not Sister Penance, you may be censured," said Patience sadly.

"But I'd have to step down," said Penance equally sadly. "I'd lose my Grace and have to become ... Ordinary."

"That's what happens when you commit a sin, Sister," said Patience. "And make no mistake about it, murder is a sin."

"I didn't murder anyone," said Penance. "You can't murder a demon."

"Penance, we don't know that he was a demon," I said. "We don't know what he was. What we do know is that he saved us. You might believe that you were going to survive that encounter with all of those vampires, but I know I wouldn't have. All I had was my shield and a dagger. It didn't look good."

"See that's the problem we've had with every third member since Prudence left. That's why we keep going through them. You all think that your Grace is supposed to make you a God D ... I mean a God blessed superhero. But, when the going gets tough, you all fold up and hope for some MAN to come and save you," spat Penance.

"Penance what is the problem with you and men?" I asked her. "The lord Jesus Christ was a man in his earthly form. If he returns during our lifetime are you going to hate him too? And like Patience said we are supposed to be a team. The mission is paramount. We are charged with using any and every means to put down threats to the church and the flock. So if help comes from ... A man, are we supposed to refuse it?"

I looked at Patience, and she was smiling.

"That Detective is going to be a problem for us. If she launches an investigation into what we do, it could be very bad. She isn't a man," I said. "What exactly am I lacking Penance. What are all the third members lacking?"

"Faith," grumbled Penance. "Believe it or not our grace makes us stronger ... Well most of us anyway," she said looking at me. "It makes us faster. It makes us more durable and it helps us to heal faster when we're hurt. But it doesn't make us superhuman. You have to have faith, Sister. Without faith none of what we have or what we do matters."

I bowed my head knowing that she was right.

"I'm sorry, Sister," I said. "As you keep pointing out I'm new at this. I hope that you will continue to point out my flaws, so I can improve."

"Ahhh, shut up, Praise," grumbled Penance. "You're not so bad for a third."

"Then why am I handicapped?" I asked.

"Who handicapped you," asked Patience.

"Patience, the crossbow you use ... How old is it? Which century is it from?"

"Uhm ... It's from the twenty-first century," she said. "I think it's about a year old. It's more accurate and has a greater range than the antique one I used for years. The bolts I use are still blessed and the tips are dipped in holy water like your sword."

"Penance, I noticed that when you and that female vamp fought over your mace it didn't break, and it's not even damaged," I said. "That thing destroyed my sword and then threw it ..." I began.

"Yeah we got a call from NASA," laughed Penance. "Your sword was still picking up speed when it went past the International Space Station."

"So where'd you get that mace and how old is it?" I asked. "And those star thingies. They tore that vamp's face up, and she was ancient. When you threw one at that younger vamp, his head exploded. Where'd you get those again?"

"I already told you, where I got the stars," said Penance. "Jason owed them to me for kicking his ass."

"Did you get the mace from him too?" I asked.

"What's your point newbie," asked Penance.

"Back in our quarters, I remember you having a ridiculous number of antique maces in all shapes and types. But you never bring them on missions. You have six or seven modern hand maces and a few big long ones ..." I said.

"They're called pole maces. I got them from Jason," said Penance. "You can't trust men around antiques. Jason was always breaking my antiques, so he had to replace them. It's only fair."

"How many of your antiques did he break?" I asked.

"Two, I think," said Penance. "But they're worth more than the modern ones, so I figure he still owes me."

"Sister, after this is over, we'll go back to Chicago for a visit," said Patience. "Maybe Jason and Prudence can find something less antique for you too."

"That's a good idea," grumbled Penance. "Since I was the one who actually stopped all of the vampires, and I might be getting kicked out."

"What would you do?" I asked her. "Would you become like Prudence? You know with a home and a family?"

Penance looked at me like I was crazy. "What the hell would I do with a man? I don't know the first thing about housebreaking them. And if I told you about some of the disgusting things that Prudence lets Jason do to her, you'd throw up," she screamed. "They sleep in the same bed, together!"

"I think it's called SEX, Penance," I laughed. "How do you think they got that adorable little girl?" I stopped talking abruptly.

"What's wrong Praise," asked Patience.

"Does Prudence still have her Grace?" I asked. "It seems like she does. I mean I've read the reports. She was tainted by a vampire; an extremely evil one with malicious intentions. But she doesn't seem to have lost ..."

They looked at each other. "And she's had sex. She even gave birth to a child so how ...?"

"Faith," pushed Penance!

"Praise, how much do you actually know about the special orders that the church deploys," asked Patience.

"We can talk about that later," I said. "Sister Penance, I don't think you're going anywhere soon. I think your faith paid off."

They looked across the room where I was pointing. Even Penance was surprised as the body on sofa suddenly burst into blue flames. It abruptly sat up and twisted its neck left and then right.

You couldn't see its face, but the tilt of the head and its body language hinted that it was pissed. It stood up and looked around. Its eyes raked across us and settled on the door.

"Wait," said Patience. "Where are you going?"

"I have to deliver Agravon and Pythius back to the pit," he said in a voice like rustling leaves and burning logs."

"But that's our mission too," said Patience. "Perhaps we can work together."

"I work alone," he said. "Besides, I can't trust you. That one killed me," he pointed towards Penance.

"Are you a demon?" I asked.

"No, far from it," he said. "I was murdered and then offered the chance to come back. I track down whatever leaves hell, and force it back."

"So why are your powers working here, this is a church," said Patience.

"Why would they not?" he asked.

"Usually, things that are demonic in origin are less potent on consecrated ground," pointed out Patience.

The burning man stepped over to a cross and picked it up. "I do work for the other side from time to time," he said. "My abilities work everywhere."

He held out his hand as if feeling for something.

"How will you find Agravon," asked Patience.

"I have a tracker," he said.

It was clear that Patience was trying to get as much information from him as possible. But she was also trying to get him to trust us.

"What was your name before you died?" she asked. "How did you die?"

"My Mustang was pushed over the edge of a cliff by a drug dealer and his thugs," he spat.

* * * * * *

Maggie Grayson

"So Mr. Robbins ... Can I call you Mike?" I asked.

"Everybody else does," he said. "What do you want, Detective? I didn't have shit to do with Terry's death. You interviewed me twenty times last year."

"Mike, you're a drug dealer; we both know it," I said. "What I came here for was to ask you about the party you ... Attended recently!"

"I'm not a drug dealer," he spat. "You have no proof of that. And anyone who says I am, is lying."

I pulled out one of the four cell phones that I had recently confiscated or recovered from corpses on the scene. I hit the play button watched his face as a video of him handing several glassine packets to a girl and accepting cash in exchange.

"I don't really need the phone," I said. "I already have all the videos of your drug deals downloaded. I also have six witnesses who can describe you to a tee. From the tips of those expensive brass tipped shoes of yours to the top of your permanently scarred and fucked up, Sylvester Stallone jawed face.

They all either saw you or bought drugs directly from you. Now if I have to go further I also have several who bought drugs from people who are known to work for you. But I figured this needed a personal touch."

He stopped talking and just looked at me. I think he knew I had him by the balls. "Now as I said, Mike. I'm not a narcotics cop, although I know several of them ... I'm not interested in locking your piddly ass up for selling drugs to a bunch of burnouts that went to you asking for them. What I'm interested in is the people who held the party you worked at. A lot of kids died at that party. They died in a lot of weird ways. There were also a lot of kids who are having all kinds of hallucinations and mental issues as a result of that party.

I need to know who organized it and how the hell I find them. If you help me, I'll not only let you walk. I won't turn over these phones or the names of my witnesses to narcotics. Do we have a deal?"

"Okay, it was some guy named Agravon and a chunky chick that couldn't have been more than twenty years old. Detective you're not going to believe this, but I was not there selling drugs. I went there to the party to pick up a friend of mine who went there not knowing what kind of party it was.

I don't know what you think you saw on that video, but I was selling the kid a condom. She asked if I had any and being a single guy, I always carry a couple of them on me."

"Who's the friend you went to rescue," I asked.

"Darleen Slade," he said.

"Very good," I said. "There are things I'd like to ask her about her husband's murder case anyway." He looked nervous. I picked up one of the cell phones from the desk. I called the precinct.

"Officer Jones, this is Detective Grayson. I need a favor. I need you to pick up Darleen Slade. Make sure that she doesn't make or take any phone calls from anyone. Okay thanks," I said.

"Why'd you do that?" he asked.

"Because every word you told me was bullshit," I said. "This way, I'll get a chance to talk to Darleen before the two of you have a chance to compare stories. If your stories don't match ... You're going to jail."

"But I'm telling you the truth," he said.

"So you have nothing to worry about," I told him.

We sat there staring at each other across the table for a few minutes. "So why are you just sitting there?" he asked. "It's not like we're friends or ..."

My phone rang while he spoke. "Okay, I'll come to you," I said.

"You've got your wish," I smiled. "We're done for now."

I had the feeling that there was something going on with him. He seemed overly nervous, almost scared. He seemed more nervous about whatever went on at that party than he had a year ago when I was investigating him for the possible murder of Terry Slade. There was also something weird about the relationship between him and Darleen Slade.

I got into the Mustang that belonged to the guy I knew as DB. I left a couple of unies outside of that church. If the nuns or DB left the church grounds, I'd know instantly. And I was sure that DB had some sort of tracking device on this car. So when he came to get it, he'd find me.

But for now, I needed to talk to Darleen Slade. I drove to the address we had on file for her. She was still living with her mother. So much about the pair didn't add up. My earlier investigation had revealed that Mike Robbins was paying the rent on the place, even though he and Darleen weren't together in a romantic sense.

I also knew that Mike and Darleen had been involved in an affair that had brought about Darleen and Terry's divorce. The three of them had once been friends. They all seemed so different. Terry glowed like a light bulb. He was bright and hard working and full of love. Mike was just the opposite; he took the easy way out of everything. And Darleen was just confused. She'd clearly loved Terry, but she was a young girl and she wanted what young girls all want. It was really a tragedy.
I knocked on the door. Darleen opened it herself. "Okay, Detective," she said when we sat down. "What do you want to know?"

"Where were you last night?" I asked. Her face fell, and tears ran down her cheeks. "Just tell me Darleen. If you were doing drugs, it doesn't matter. I'm not trying to arrest you for anything. I just need to know where you were."

"But it's so humiliating," she said.

"Is it as humiliating as going to jail for obstructing an investigation?" I asked.

"Okay, Mike said that I had to start pulling my own weight. He told me the free ride on the fucking gravy train is over. Last night, he had me filling in at his strip club," she said barely holding back her tears. "Tomorrow he's trying to force me to be a prostitute at some big party."

"So you weren't at a party last night?" I asked. She shook her head. "If I go over to the club someone there will back up your statement?" She nodded.

"Oh, they'll have no problem remembering me," she said. "I was the worst stripper ever. And no one wanted a lap dance from me, either. They all thought I was awful."

"Darleen, I hate to do this, but I'm going to drive you over there and ask a couple of people," I said. "If they back you up, we're all done. And I really want you to know that I have never stopped looking into your husband's case." She seemed nervous when I brought that up. And her face fell. If I didn't know any better I would have thought I'd seen guilt.

That was really weird because I have witness's statements and video to prove that she was miles away waiting for Terry in a church at the time of the accident.

The three of us stepped out of the house. Officer Jones was heading back to the station, while Darleen and I went to the club to verify her story. I planned on having Mike picked up as soon as I verified Darleen's version of things.

From out of nowhere a hail of bullets cut Jones Down. I dove behind the Mustang forcing Darleen down too. I didn't think that they were aiming at her, but she could still have been hit by a stray bullet.

I pulled out my Glock and fired in the direction of the shot's origin. I looked over toward Jones. He was lying face down in a pool of blood. I pulled out my phone and called 911. I reported the gunfire and that Jones was down.

The next volley of shots struck all around us. I got the door opened and Darleen, and I got into the car. Then I noticed that the shots were coming from multiple directions. There was a big SUV that some of the shots came from.

"That's Mike's truck," said Darleen. She was pointing to the SUV in front of us. Two other men got out of a car behind us carrying guns. I leaned out the window and shot at one of them. He dove for cover and started shooting from behind a parked car. There were bullets zinging all around us. One of them hit Darleen in her upper chest near her right collar bone.

At that second the scariest thing I had ever experience happened. I'm not a typical woman. Being in the middle of a gunfight with bullets flying and men trying to kill me is stressful but not frightening to me.

But when that car suddenly burst into flames and started moving, I was afraid. At first, I thought the car was on fire. But I felt no heat from the flames whatsoever.

Darleen, on the other hand, was going crazy she kept talking about the heat of the flames, and how much it burned. But there wasn't a mark on her.

As I looked at the car, I noticed that the flames had possibly burned the paint. The high-gloss black was a dull flat black. And strangely enough the flames and only the flames were a weird blue color. I thought that maybe some sort of chemical in the paint was affecting the flames.

At any rate, the car's abrupt departure saved us. Darleen was babbling. It was probably a shock from the slug she had taken.

The car zipped around the trucks blocking us on as if they were no threat. Somehow the bullets whizzing through the air never touched us. And then we were clear and moving really quickly. We were whipping through the streets faster than I had ever gone on the freeway. Apparently wherever we were going, the car was trying to get there in the straightest line possible. We only turned to avoid hitting buildings. There were several times when we drove straight across fields or the wrong way down one-way streets.

We got to where we were obviously going in less than three minutes. The speeds we had reached made no sense. In some cases, the car was going more than two hundred miles an hour.

I wasn't sure our getaway was any safer than being in the gunfight had been. Suddenly, we passed between two massive gates that I recognized, and I knew where we were headed. We flashed around a long circular drive, and the church came into view.

The doors of the church opened, and one of the leather-clad nuns looked out. I grabbed Darleen and dragged her inside. I almost dropped her when I saw what was waiting for us inside.

My brain had to struggle to figure things out. It wasn't the remaining two nuns that had me confused; it was the thing standing next to them.

IT or maybe HE, seemed to be like a NASCAR driver from hell. He had the full racing suit on, including the helmet. But he was covered from head to toe in the same blue flames that surrounded and trimmed the car I had just gotten out of.

I was too shocked to say anything. I had yet to figure out what was going on.

"I've been shot. I'm dying," screamed Darleen. At once, everyone started moving, except for me and the flaming driver. He stayed rooted to the spot. Only his head turned slightly. He looked at me as if he was looking into my soul. And then he turned his gaze towards Darleen.

She was still ranting about being shot and dying. When she wasn't doing that she was screaming about being burnt to a crisp. Then she started just screaming out how sorry she was for all types of things.

At first, I thought that she was just ranting due to the pain from the gunshot wound. The wound was a through and through shot. It was just below her clavicle so the chances of it striking a lung or any other vital structure was remote. Besides, the way she was screaming indicated that she had full lung function. All she needed was a cleaning, some stitches, and some rest, and she would be fine. But she didn't know that.

"Tell my mom, it was me," she screamed. "Tell her I'm sorry. I stole money from her purse when I was sixteen because I wanted to watch Terry play football. And the lady who lived across the street from us ... I peed on her sheets when she had them drying outside. I didn't mean to ruin them. I thought she would just wash them again. I didn't know they were white silk. I cheated on my spellings tests all through school. And I cheated on my math test too. The math teacher caught me, but I let him look under my skirt, so he never turned me in.

And when Terry and I were married; I cheated on him. I'm so sorry I did that. I ruined my life. I loved him so much. I never loved anyone else, but I wanted to have some fun like all of my friends. And I lied about it. It was a lot more than once. Mike was probably fucking me more than Terry was because Terry was so tired from working all of those hours and still having to go to school. But he still found time to spend with me and to do things for my mom. I loved him so much. I'm so sorry I killed him."

Everyone in the room turned to look at her.

"I loved him so much. But he wanted to take our baby. She was all I had left of him. He wanted to raise our baby with his perfect girlfriend and have a perfect life and just leave me in my shitty existence all alone. Mike and I planned the whole thing together, and he did it. I lured Terry to that stretch of road. And Mike got that big SUV. He didn't have to be there. He could have had his bodyguards do it. But Mike enjoyed it. He wanted to get back at Terry for ruining his face.

When he came back and told me, it was done, I cried for days. It was the worst thing I ever did. I just want to say I'm sorry before I die."

"You're not going to die," said Patience. "The bullet passed right through you. It didn't hit anything. It didn't hit any arteries or veins. There's not even a lot of blood."

"It's not the bullet; it's the flames," she said. "I'm burning."

"It's called soul fire," said the driver. "It burns the souls of those who do evil."

"Is that why there was all of that fire around both of us in the car, and I didn't get burned?" I asked.

He nodded. If it was possible for a flaming man to be nervous, he clearly was.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Can we get down to business," grumbled Penance. "The four of us are all after Agravon. We can send the detective, and her friend back to the station while we discuss what we have to do."

"Look Gigantor," I said. "You don't get to send me back to the little kids table. I'm after Agravon too. He's behind all of these incidences of mass hysteria or mass hypnosis. I have to get his ass off of my streets before more people are injured. And I have to also ..."

"Detective, you're in over your head," said Patience calmly. "Do you even have any idea of what Agravon is?"

"He's the guy who ..." I began and stopped in mid sentence as I noticed all four of them shaking their heads like I DID belong at the little kids table.

"He's not a guy," said the flaming Driver he turned and looked at me. I noticed that when he had spoken the mysterious rustling leaves and wind sound was gone. His voice sounded like ...

"DB," I shouted. As I watched the flames and the driving suit disappeared and the man I thought I knew was standing in front of me.

"I really don't have time to explain all of this more than once," he said. "And even that explanation is going to be very short on details. My name isn't DB it never was. That was just what he called me when he turned me into this. He said I was the Devil's Bitch, meaning basically I have to run errands for him. Like I told the Homicidal Hussies here or the Necrophiliac Nuns or whatever they call themselves; I'm basically Christianity's version of Hermes."

"Christmas versa who?" I asked. "Look DB, you have to slow down here; I'm a cop not Laura Fuckin' Croft."

"Hermes ..." interjected Patience while Penance scratched her head. "...Was the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. He was freely able to travel between the realms and ..." Her brow furrowed in thought.

"What now," grumbled Penance.

"You said earlier that you sometimes worked for the other side," said Patience. "Does that mean that you also run errands for ...?"

"Angels," asked the man. "Yeah, I can't stand em' most of them anyway. They act like their shit doesn't stink and ..."

He was interrupted by a hail of laughter from Penance who was literally rolling on the floor kicking the legs of the table.

"And they hate the FUCK out of humans," he said. "There's one guy, in particular, that they can't stand. It has something to with Revelations. His name is A..."

"Don't say it," screamed Patience. "He might show up. Trust me that would not be a good thing!"

"Well they spend a lot of time making fun of the Pope too," he continued. "They have all of these targets that they shoot their arrows at with the Pope's head on them. I think it's really just jealousy. Angels are jealous of humans because God gave them souls."

"DB," can we skip the religious, supernatural, mumbo jumbo and get back to what you are and what Agravon, and his girlfriend are?" I asked. My head was beginning to hurt from contemplating the things they were talking about. I'm not Catholic and even so, I haven't been to a church that I was in because I was working a case since I was six.

"Sorry," he said. It must have been a habit left over from his past life, but that one word changed my life forever.

Darleen who was halfway across the large room and doped up on powerful pain killers sat up immediately and screamed, "Terry!" She tried to get out from under the sheet and fell. She quickly got up forgetting about her wound and tried to scramble across the room to the man sitting beside me.

He flicked a finger and the blue flame shot out of it striking her in the head. She lay down on the floor and started babbling out her sins again.

"You're ..."I began. "You're ...!"

"I'm Terry Slade," he said. "Or I was. Do I have to sedate you too?"

* * * * * *

Callie

"You're high," I told him. "I can't do that. And even if I somehow could, I wouldn't. He doesn't deserve that. And he probably doesn't want it. Besides he's kind of my only friend."

"Callie, he's an animal. He's like a barely sentient lizard. I have no idea why the hell ...excuse my pun ... They make demons like him. But since he's an animal, he probably wants what all animals want. He wants to eat. And he wants to be bigger and stronger, so he can eat more," said Agravon. "Do you know what Pythius' power is? If you consult your big book of witchery, or whatever the hell, you use, you'll find that he's a liar. That's his gift. So even if he could, which he can't because he's an animal, he'd tell you that he didn't want to do it. But he would be lying because every word that comes out of his mouth is a lie."

Agravon seemed to be extremely agitated. And there was more to it. His skin seemed to be very red and almost angry looking.

"Okay, forget it," he said. "Let's just die, instead. Have you said goodbye to your parents yet?"

"Why should I tell them goodbye?" I asked. "Where are we going?"

"We're going to hell," he spat. "And since you won't help me to prevent it, we should probably take a trip to CVS. We can try to find you some number ten bazillion sun block because your ass is gonna fry right next to me. And that pale Goth complexion you're so proud of ... It'll be gone in about two seconds. By three seconds, you'll look like an eight ball with teeth. And it's gonna be pretty ... Excuse my pun again ... Pretty God Damned painful ...so maybe we should load you up on Vicodin while we're there."

"I'll just tell them that I haven't done anything wrong," I said. "I just made a mistake and brought an extra demon out of hell. And it's not your fault either. You got dragged along against your will. Just let me handle it."

"Oh, I will," he said. "Think about it Callie. You pulled two demons out of hell as easily as most girls put their makeup on. They're going to want you to fry even more than me. Okay, I escaped. I killed, injured, or drove mad ...uhm three, four maybe fifty nine people, right? I could never have done it if you hadn't pulled me out. You're a bigger danger than I am. I mean once I'm back in my fryer, I'm good until they let me go. But YOU ... What's to stop you from running around hither and yon freeing demons whenever you get a bug up that wide ass of yours."

"Okay, I'll help you. What do I have to do?" I asked.

"Good girl," he said. "It's kind of a mixture of an aging spell and a growth spell. You can tap into my energies again. So grab my hand and think about Pythius. I want you to imagine him not as the cuddly little lizard that you've been treating like he's your fucking Cocker Spaniel, but as a fire breathing, ass kicking lizard. I want you to imagine him as God-fuckin-Zilla."

"Okay," I said. I did as he asked, and it took a lot out of me. I was exhausted, tired, and sweaty after only a few seconds. My temperature shot up and I could barely breathe, but I was sure we'd been successful.

A huge bump from the garage that the tiny Pythius could never have made was proof that we'd been successful.

Agravon looked worse than I felt. He was as red as a lobster and there was skin flaking off of him in huge patches.

"You can't go out in the street like that," I told him. "You'll scare the shit out of anyone long before you get close enough to baffle them with your bullshit."

Before he could tell me, anything there was a screeching sound from just outside of my house. We looked outside and saw the same drug dealer that had been begging for a spot at the Halloween rave. What was left of Agravon's face, smiled.

"If I needed any more proof that things were going my way," said Agravon. "Look, my new body just arrived. This is going to work. I'm going to be much more powerful, and the lords of hell will have to respect me. I alone will be able to wield power on Earth."

I was glad as hell that Agravon had been able to convince my parents to go on a short trip to visit my grandparents. They'd have never allowed the drug dealer in our house. Even though they wouldn't have known what he was.

"You gotta help me," he whined as I opened the door.

"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked. He came into the house with a gun in his hand and so did one of his huge bodyguards.

"I saw what you did last night," he said. "I saw the way that you guys got out of there when the cops came. I need you to do that to me. Can I pick where I go? I'm kind of in trouble."

"What kind of trouble," asked Agravon.

"I uhm shot at a cop," said Mike. "That fucking detective is getting on my nerves. And she started talking to that stupid bitch I've been keeping around because she knows about something I did. I should have taken care of her a long time ago, but I still like to fuck her occasionally. I keep imagining that every time I stick my dick in her, the guy she was married to rolls over on his fuckin' grave."

"When you say Detective, you're not talking about MY detective are you? Female, tall, incredible butt, nice boobs, long pretty hair," asked Agravon.

"Yeah, that's the bitch," sneered Mike. "I don't think I hit her though."

"It's good for both of us that you didn't," said Agravon. "Now I have a choice to make. Tell me, do your two idiots know everything that you know about running your drug business?"

"Yeah, they're both pretty good," said Mike. "I pay them enough."

"Good," said Agravon. "Hey, you, big guy. I need you to go into that room in the back and talk to the woman back there. Your boss and I have business."

The guy looked at Mike, who nodded. He went into the spare room off of our kitchen where the injured vampire woman had been sleeping. With the sun down I was sure she'd be awake soon.

As soon as the door shut, Agravon smiled. "Hey you don't look too good," said Mike. "You didn't get that way from the kid zapping you here from the rave did you?"

It was quick. It was much faster and much more complete than the first time. Agravon simply grabbed Mike by his face and then stared into his eyes. The body he'd been wearing dropped to the floor.

He turned and looked at me. "I feel much better, Callie," he said. "And I have a new trick. Papa's got a brand-new bag. I have Mike in here with me. That way, I can access his memories and everything I need to know about the drug business. We've been so busy amassing power that we need to think about making some money. We can't live in your parents' house forever."

"But what will we do, with the body?" I asked.

"Feed him to Pythius," he smirked. "He needs a snack after all of that growing."

"Pythius is too small to eat an entire human body," I smiled. We dragged the body into the garage, and we're both surprised. I was surprised because Pythius had grown to the size of a six foot man. Agravon was pissed because Pythius was ONLY the size of a six foot man.

"How the fuck did this happen?" he yelled. "I told you to think about Godzilla."

"Fuck you, you're not my boss," I hissed. "First off, off we, mostly meaning you, didn't have enough power to create any more mass than we did. Trying to create any more might've killed both of us. I was as weak as a kitten when we were done. And your old body was so hot it was glowing.

There are things you don't know about sorcery, Agravon. Mass and energy are simply different forms of the same thing. You can get a lot of energy out of a small amount of mass. It's the way they split atoms to make nuclear bombs. But you need a great deal of energy to create a small amount of mass. Even with as much energy as you expended, it wasn't enough for more. We tripled his size Agravon, be happy. There's also the fact that the only time I ever saw Godzilla in real life it was a guy in a suit outside of a movie theater. So if this one isn't good enough ... You can suck it!"
A woman's laugh from behind us caused to turn towards the door that Mike's lumbering henchman had gone into.

"Wow, the little one has teeth Agravon," smiled the vampire. "Thanks for the snack. His blood will help my face heal faster. Got any more?"

"You're going to need to hunt for any more," sneered Agravon.

"Perhaps the little one can ..." Began the vamp.

"I think I can do it," I said.

"I think you'd better wait until after tomorrow night when I'm at my full strength," spat Agravon. "Tonight we need to plan. Tomorrow I will gain more power than any demon has ever had on earth."

"Tomorrow I want those fucking nuns," said the vamp. "Especially the big one, she will pay for what she did to my face."

"Can you handle all three of them?" I asked.

"I already had, little one," she hissed. "Even with my face wounded, I was healing and my people were about to rip them limb from limb and spread their blood all over that field until that blue thing came."

I looked at her. It must be amazing to be that strong I thought.

"What will we do about the flaming man?" I asked.

"I've seen a couple of those before," said Agravon. They get on my fucking nerves. The first one was a few hundred years ago. He rode this dumb assed horse with red eyes, and apparently he could only work in the west. I can't imagine Satan sending a cowboy into the cities.

The next one rode a motorcycle and tried to fight against being controlled. He was a real tortured soul. I always thought he was an asshole. He made a deal and tried to back out of it when it didn't go his way. He could only work on earth.

This one seems to be able to go anywhere he chooses. That car of his can apparently go anywhere between the realms. At least, those are the whispers from the pit."

"So what will we do about him?" I asked.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "The Rider or in this case, I suppose he's a driver, is basically Satan's messenger boy, nothing more. So if he's so used to running errands and chasing shit down ... I'm going to give him something to chase."

* * * * * *

Praise

Halloween night, or 'All Hallows' evening. The night before All Saints day. It's funny that the night before one of the holiest days of the year is one of the least holy days of the year. It's the night when the veil between dimensions is the easiest penetrated.

Witches love it because it is a night where their powers are stronger and more effective.

My alarm woke me at 5 p.m. We had discussed strategy and our plans for most of the night. Penance had simply sat at the table growling about everything that she didn't agree with.

I don't think that Penance is really the planning type. I remember back a few days ago when Jason had tried to help her improve her technique as they sparred. She hadn't seemed to be listening to him, but I noticed that she had abandoned her high guard when we fought the vamps the other night.

And as much as Penance grumbles about me and constantly calls me the rookie or the newbie, I believe there's a purpose to it. It's like when she tells me that third members are like Spinal Tap drummers, she wants me to be careful. I think that both, she and Patience are affected by losing thirds far more than they show it.

And surprisingly Penance is far more emotional than she lets on. When we broke up our meeting early this morning and agreed to meet back here at 6 p.m. Patience, and most of our tech support people went to bed. I found Penance sitting at a table looking through a big photo album. I got a chance to look at the album and saw photos of Penance herself. There were also photos of Patience. There were photos of Prudence. Photos of Prudence and Jason together, amazed me. Even in photos the two of them always seemed to reach towards each other. It was as if even sitting right next to each other wasn't enough. There were photos of Piety with a man whose face was always either in shadow or blurred. I assumed he was the vampire that she'd fallen in love with.

There was an entire section of photos of Prudence and Jason's daughter, Purity. That little girl scared the shit out of me. She was the sweetest child I had ever met. But to see her running around with a sword at three or four years old was scary.

Another thing that was scary was her name. Patience had explained to me that Prudence had named her daughter Purity as a way of thumbing her nose at the church. They had declared her "tainted." But there were rituals where a person tainted by a vampire could be restored. It was especially true in cases where the vampire that had tainted the person had been killed.

I believe that the "taint," the church had referred to was Jason. And Prudence would never give up that "taint." Not even for the church itself. So naming her daughter Purity was her way of throwing it in the face of the church.

Another strange thing was that names in our order are usually assigned once a candidate is confirmed. Not all candidates are given names that start with P. If you are deemed worthy for a spot on the team someday your name is changed. Until two years ago, I was called Sister Hope.

Once I advanced enough to become an alternate team member, my name was changed to "Praise." I along with two others, Promise and Proof, became the next team members.

But Prudence's daughter who I assume will someday join the order is already named. To my knowledge that has only happened twice before in our order. Those two were Patience and of course Prudence herself.

Penance to my shock had photos of me in her album as well.

Penance grabbed me as everyone else headed for bed this morning. She led me out back behind the main building of the church compound. I noticed that we were in front of a large tree.

"We don't have much time," she grumbled. She handed me five of the throwing stars that she used against the vamps.

"Try them out," she said. She took one and flung it over handed against the tree. I laughed remembering the way Prudence had told me that she had to guard all of her trees from Penance.

The star flew through the air and embedded itself in the thick trunk. A few crumbling pieces of bark fell off.

I jerked my arm back and let the star fly as hard as I could. The star flew towards the tree and landed short. It hit the ground and rolled towards the tree before falling over.

"You're a natural," said Penance sarcastically. It took nearly a half-hour before I got one to stick. I leaped into the air kicking my legs like a cheerleader.

"If we have to count on your throwing ability, we're in trouble," grumbled Penance.

"It took you a while to get it too," said a voice behind us. "Can I have her for a while?"

"She doesn't need any help from any man," grumbled Penance.

"Then why did you call me and ask me to fly here," asked Jason.

"Because you owe me more of those crappy stars," said Penance. "I expected you to drop them off at the door and hop back home to Prudence. Don't you have a job or something to get back to?"

"I love you too, Penance," he smirked. "And we both know that Prudence and I would go through hell, if you needed anything from us."

"Whatever," grumbled Penance, "I'm going to bed." As she passed by Jason, she slammed into him. She quickly wrapped an arm around his waist and lowered her head to his shoulder. It was the quickest, weirdest hug; I'd ever seen.

"Get your hands off of me," she sputtered. "Isn't Prudence enough for you? Pervert!"

Jason rolled his eyes skyward and shook his head. "Hi Praise," he said. "You and I didn't get a chance to talk much the other day. Grumpy called me and told me about your last incident ..."

I laughed. "Is that what you call Penance?" He nodded.

"Your throwing technique is fine," he said. "You just need two things. You need some practice and ... These!" He opened the case he had carried with him and handed me about twenty throwing stars.

"The ones I make for Penance are different," he said. "Most throwing stars are about three sixteenths of an inch thick. Penance's are a hair over a quarter of an inch thick. I know that the difference is only about sixty two thousandths of an inch, but it makes a difference. You'll be able to throw these a lot better. You won't be able to get as much penetration into a target as she does, but since they're blessed even a scratch is going to do heavy damage against a vampire."

"Thanks, Jason," I said excitedly.

He opened the bigger case, and my mouth dropped open. He handed me a beautiful Gladius. He held another similar sword in his other hand. "Try that one for feel first and then this one."

I tried a few swings and thrusts of the first sword; it was heavier than my old one. He handed me the second one, and it felt really good.

"Where did these come from?" I asked.

"They're not antiques," he said. The one you didn't like is by Windlass Steelcrafts. The one you liked is by Paul Chen's company HanWei. Both of those will hold an edge as well as your antique, and they won't break. But now that we have something that you can use, can we try something?"

"Of course," I said. He went back to the case and brought out another sword.

It was longer than either gladius, but the blade was narrower. Unlike a gladius there was no flaring guard. The blade was beautifully polished. The handle felt thick in my hand, but good. The entire hilt, handle, and all were metal. It felt lighter, like aluminum as opposed to steel.

After a few swings, I was hooked. "Hold onto it for a second," he said.

As I held the sword, Jason did something on the end of the sword. There was beeping and the sound of a spring from the sword.

"Okay," he said. "I assume that you like this one."

I nodded my head so hard I thought it would fall off. "Okay, Praise, it's your sword," he said. "But you have to be careful with it. Don't let anyone handle it without turning it off."

"Turning what off," I asked.

"Okay, pretend for a second that you dropped the sword or someone took it from you ..." He had me put the sword down on the table. He counted to ten and as I watched three long slim blades sprang from the handle. If anyone had the sword in their hand, they would never have use of that hand again.

"Those are blessed as well," he said.

"I've never seen anything like that," I said.

"I saw it in a movie called Blade," he said. "If you need anything you can always call us. You're family. Good luck tonight."

He could tell that I wanted some time alone to practice with the new sword, and that time was short.

I had practiced with the sword for a while until I absolutely had to go to bed. Waking up a few moments ago, I was ready. I felt really good.

"So are you happy now," asked Penance. "Did that pervert give you some stuff?" I just smiled and nodded.

I showed her my sword. "It's okay," she smirked. I put it down on the table, and she reached for it.

"Penance, No," I yelled and grabbed her arm.

"Okay I won't touch your crappy ..." The blades sprang into position before she finished her sentence. Her eyes shot open, and her mouth dropped in surprise. "That son of a ..." she exclaimed. "Why didn't he ...? He owes me ...!"

Both Patience and I burst out laughing.

We all had our roles to play this evening, and we were all in good spirits. The detective arrived about a half-hour early. She parked what looked like an unmarked police car in front of the main building of the church complex. She looked around as if she was looking for something.

"Penance, you owe me a dollar," said Patience holding out her hand. The door opened and the detective stepped inside, still looking around.

"He's not here yet," grumbled Penance. "Denizens of hell are always late."

"Penance how many Denizens from hell have you run into," asked the detective.

"Just the one," said Penance "And as you can see he's not here."

"He still has about twenty-five minutes," said Patience. "And I don't think he's from hell. You heard him say that he works for both sides. I think that he's just a guy caught in a bad spot. That heaven and hell are exploiting for their own purposes."

"You mean he wasn't bad enough to go to hell, but he wasn't good enough to go to heaven?" I asked.

"Exactly," said Patience. "Detective, you've been investigating his murder. What kind of person was he?"

"I met him a long time before his murder," she gushed. "Even as a child he was very caring and really nice. But he had a temper, and he could be kind, feisty, and quick to judge. He grew older, fell in love, and got married. She cheated on him, and he snapped. He beat a man badly in a fit of anger and absolutely refused to forgive his wife.

I don't think they let people with anger issues or violent tendencies, who are quick to judge and can't forgive into heaven, do they?"

"I don't think he did anything wrong," said Penance. "Shit, if that's the way they pick em, I know a lot of people who won't get into heaven."

"Like whom," I asked, laughing.

"Like Jason," said Penance. "Any time someone looks at Prudence funny he's pissed. And do you really think that Prudence wouldn't go psycho? She even looked at ME funny this morning when I complained to her about him putting his hands on me."

I started laughing all over again.

"I was thinking more about you, Grumpy," I said.

"ME ... I'm a God Damned Saint," yelled Penance.

"Saint Penance, you just swore three times," said Patience. "You owe the offering plate fifteen euros."

"They use dollars here," whined Penance.

Before we could say anything else the sound of a low powerful exhaust system came from outside. Penance pointed at the detective as she turned and headed for the door.

When she came back, the man we knew as Terry Slade was with her. One of the things they taught us in training was how to observe people to determine their weaknesses and other personality issues.

And watching Detective Grayson as she walked back into the church, she was a completely different woman than the one who'd just walked out.

For one thing, she was finding it difficult not to smile. And she kept looking at the man beside her. Unlike Penance who had obviously been asleep during the lectures on human sexuality, I could clearly see that the detective was attracted to Slade. He, on the other hand, seemed stunted somehow.

"I had no choice," she said. "I took her in. She admitted it of course. She's been spilling her guts and confessing to every bad thing she's ever done. Apparently, her criminal past goes back nearly to the womb. Do you know that her first lies started when she was two or three years old? Her mom had some cupcakes for a party. She ate three of them and with the frosting all over her mouth, swore to her mother that the cat had eaten them.

She told the DA that she and your old buddy Mike had planned your murder. She even told him how it was done. Then she told him that she didn't have to go to jail for it because even though you had been burned to a crisp in the accident, and your body had been autopsied and pronounced dead; you were back walking the streets, and you glowed with blue fire. She's in the psyche ward until she's able to stand trial."

"I'm kind of glad that you did," he said in a tortured voice. "I don't really love her anymore. What she did with Mike ... The sex not the murder ... Kind of burned that out of me. But there was a time when I loved her a lot. I'm not sure that I'm capable of hurting her."

"I went and saw your mother in law," she told him. "She's perfectly fine taking care of your daughter. If you'd like I can sit down and explain the situation to her with you." He nodded.

"I'd like that," he said. "It's going to be one weird ass conversation though."

"So are you going to track down your other ex-girlfriend?" she asked. "You know ... the model?"

"Nah," he said. This, for some reason, had the detective smiling even more. "I'm not sure she could deal with what I've become or what I do."

"You know," said the detective. "Blue has always been one of my favorite colors ..."

"You know," grumbled Penance. "We do have a demon or two, a sorceress, a bunch of vampires and some assorted drug dealers, maniacs and psychopaths to deal with."

"We've found the location of the rave," said Patience. "It's getting dark outside, but it won't really start until nine p.m. according to the information on Agravon's web site. I think we should suit up and get there early, so we can scope out the location."

The three of us were already in our leathers. All we needed were our cloaks and weapons. Patience got us together for a short prayer. By the time we were done we opened the door to find the detective, getting ready as well.

She had the trunk of her car open and was strapping on Kevlar body armor and snapping several ammunition packets into pockets in her pants.

She seemed to be holding up her legs, so he could see them and bending and twisting to display her body as best she could.

"What is she doing?" I asked.

"It looks like some sort of mating dance," said Patience.

"That's not it," said Penance. "Haven't you ever heard of strippers?"

"I thought strippers took their clothing off to sexually titillate and arouse members of the opposite sex," I said.

"Exactly," said Penance. "And the really good ones can titillate by putting their clothes back on. It's called reverse stripping. Now watch ... Just like with birds and other animals, if the male is receptive, he'll do something stupid to show his interest."

Detective Grayson was smiling now as she pranced and donned various pieces of tactical equipment. Finally, she braided and tied her long hair into a long thick ponytail and batted her eyes at him.

He held out one hand in front of her. A ball of blue flame appeared in his hand. He smiled and threw the ball high into the air. It came down on top of him and enveloped him. He stepped out of the flames in his full flaming suit complete with helmet.

"Now that's just showing off," said Penance.

"We have a problem," he said in his rustling leaves voice.

"I warned you guys about wasting all of that time planning," smirked Penance. "You can plan everything up the ass, and it's never going to work because the enemy always has their own God Damned plan. So they never go along with yours. Yes Patience that's ten more Euros in the offering plate."

"What's the problem," asked Patience.

"Agravon and Pythius have split up," said the driver.

"How do you know that," asked Patience.

The flaming Mustang pulled forward stopping by the group. The driver opened the door and pointed to the dashboard. Two blips were flashing, and they were moving in opposite directions.

"The big blip is Agravon. He's heading for the big cemetery just outside of town. The smaller one is Pythius. Something is different about both of them. Pythius, from my information used to be smaller. He was no threat. He has tripled in size now ..."

"He's right," said the detective. "It just came across the radio. Multiple people have been attacked by something resembling a large lizard. It's supposedly ripping people to shreds."

"You four go to the cemetery," said the Driver. "I can move much faster than you can. Hopefully, I can take care of Pythius before you've been there for long."

"We don't take orders from MEN," screamed Penance. "We don't fuckin' work for you. You can't tell us what to do! We are the Sisters of Fate. We make our own plans."

"Okay how do we handle it," asked the Detective.

"The four of us will go to the cemetery," said Penance. "We'll send fire boy to track down Pythius and deal with him. He can move faster than we can. He can probably get to the cemetery before we've been there for too long."
"Good plan," smirked the detective rolling her eyes. She turned to the driver and tentatively reached out for the flames surrounding him. The contact didn't burn her, so she threw herself at him and hugged him really hard.

"Don't die," she said.

"I think I'm already dead," he said. "You hugged me for nothing."

"It couldn't hurt," she smiled. He got into the car and was gone trailing a long tail of blue flames.

"One last prayer, Sisters," said Patience. As we bowed our heads, Patience gestured for the Detective to join us.

She shrugged her shoulders and took our hands. "It couldn't hurt," she said.

* * * * * *

Callie

The party had gotten started even earlier this time. News of what had happened at the first one only seemed to make attending this one even more important to all the kids I knew. A lot of older than college-aged people were coming too. All of it conspired to make me a superstar at school.

There were times when people pushed football players out of the way to come and ask me a question.

"Is it true that people died at the first one?" they would ask.

"Yep," I said without even looking at them.

"Well did you guys up your security and safety protocols for this one to make it safer," they asked.

"Nope," I replied. "You come at your own risk."

"Well, shit I'm staying home," said one guy.

"Good choice, Frodo," I spat. "I'll have some milk and cookies delivered to your mom's basement."

Almost everyone, in the crowd that gathered to walk me to class, laughed at him. "I was just joking," he said. "I'll be there. I'll be there early."

I'd wondered all day, if I had ever been that much of a follower. I'd like to think that although I'd had the same desire for acceptance and to be part of a group that I had never sunk as low as some of these people had.

The girl that I'd excluded from the first one offered to lick my shoes in front of the school in the middle of the day, if I let her attend the second one. Three of her friends had died at the first one and one had been driven crazy. Two of the three that died had died of drug overdoses. The other had died from an animal attack ... Well that was the "official" cause of death. I knew that he'd had his throat ripped out, and all of his blood drained by several vampires. They'd used him like a tray of cold cuts, each picking a different body part to bite on as he screamed in agony.

When he'd been drained to the point of death, one of them had simply flung his body, still barely alive, over the fence, like he was tossing away an empty soda bottle. It wasn't worth anything anymore. So he'd just tossed it. Even soda bottles are worth a dime for the deposit. But they had simply discarded a living, still breathing, human being with absolutely no regard for what he was or what he could have become.

For the umpteenth time, I began to question what I'd gotten myself into and what I was becoming. How was I any different from these stupid kids? I didn't start out to hurt people. And to this point in time, I had never hurt anyone myself.

I did what I had done for the same reason they had. I wanted to have friends. I didn't want to be alone. I became so desperate that like those two nerd boys in weird science, I tried to make myself one. I had picked the lowliest, smallest, weakest demon I could find. I just wanted something I could control. It wasn't my fault that a homicidal, power hungry maniac had tagged along.

As the sun started to go down everything began to happen. Perhaps when everything got going, I could sneak out and leave. For the past few days, I'd been studying wards and spells that would make it impossible or at the least very difficult for even another witch to track me down.

I felt guilty about leaving Agravon alive and unchecked to do whatever the fuck he chose to do, but he had become too powerful to control.

Shit, let those nuns take him out. Or that flaming guy. Like Agravon said the flaming guy was here to take him back to hell. Agravon seemed to think that I'd go back with him. But if I wasn't with him when he left, and I had my spells to make me invisible to track down, then maybe they'd leave me alone.

Tonight would be a really big event as Agravon had said. Only for me, it would be big for a different reason. Tonight I would find out if I could summon a portal like the one that we had used to get away from the flaming race car driver the other night. But unlike the last time, I would attempt to do it without leeching off of Agravon's power.

If I couldn't do it alone, then I would simply leech off of Agravon to get away. I would have the portal go to someplace halfway across the country and then use my untraceability spell to disappear. By the time that Agravon got to wherever I'd taken the portal to, I would be long gone and untraceable.

"Everything is prepared, little one," said the female vamp beside me. "If you see anything or anyone that you would like as a pet ... Let me know, and I'll get him for you."

"Okay, thanks," I smiled. That bitch creeped me out. She kept telling me that I had nothing to fear from her, but she scared the shit out of me. It was like I was a mouse, and she was a friendly assed cat. Everything would be great until she got hungry and there was no other food around.

She sniffed the air and smiled. "I think I smell food," she hissed.

"There are people all around us," I said. "Enjoy!"

"No little one," she said, showing at least eighty teeth, which included two very long fangs that must have retracted like a snake's when she closed her mouth. "This is a very special food. And if I don't hurry ... I might not get NUN." She laughed hysterically at her own terrible pun, and then she was gone. She moved so quickly that it seemed as if she'd disappeared.

I spotted Agravon at the side tables where all the drug dealers peddled their wares. It was amazing that they had set up little stalls as if they were selling refreshments at a rock concert or the county fair. None of them knew that Agravon planned to kill them all after he'd gone through all the kids and everyone else who was there.

He gestured for me to join him. "Callie, my sweet," he said. "Once everything gets started it's going to be mayhem around here. I need you to do two things for me. The first is that I need you to watch out for my detective. Once you find her, keep track of her. I think we're going to take her with us."

"Why do you want her?" I asked.

"I'm going to fuck the shit out of her," he said. "Unless you want to volunteer ..."

"Okay, I'll find her," I said, "What else?"

"Just in case this all goes tits up, stay by the DJ stand. No matter what I'm talking about and no matter who I'm talking to, if you hear me use the word "home," open a portal and get us the fuck out of here."

* * * * * *

Terry

Detective Grayson ... Margaret ... Maggie! I had to get the woman out of my mind. It had been so long since I'd even thought about people, period. This case was weird. I'd had several like it, but usually, I drove in, grabbed my target, and drove out. I was still doing that this time too, but there were complications.

My plan had been for my thirteen job bonus to be ridding the world of whoever had murdered me. But not only had I found out who'd done it. I now knew who'd planned it, and I had to figure out how far I wanted to go in my revenge.

Finding out that the woman I had loved for so many years had decided to kill me or at least have me killed was an eye opener. But I still wasn't ready to kill her.

It seems stupid somehow or at least hypocritical that I could very easily fry Mike Robbins to a crisp, but I was unwilling to hurt Darleen. Mike's actions, from the beginning were understandable.

From the beginning, for as long as I've known him, Mike had wanted Darleen. We had been friends at the same time. I guess he hoped for a long time that Dar and I would break up. Mike isn't Quasimodo, he had girls of his own, but Darleen was his Moby Dick.

Over the years our paths diverged; I went into engineering, and Mike went into drugs. I had a rough time of it. My parents were killed during my last year of high school. I got a couple of grants and some student loans, but they barely paid for tuition and books. I had to work my way through school. Kathy, Darleen's mom was like a mother to me too. Even though she was on a fixed income, she was a shoulder to lean on and a good sounding board.

When I found out what Darleen had done I was shattered. And the fact that she'd done it with someone I had once considered a friend only made it worse. Her explanation ... If you could even call it that just seemed like so much useless blather. You couldn't even dignity it enough to call it cliché.

Although I wasn't dying, my life flashed in front of my eyes. All of my hopes and dreams for love and a family went to shit in an instant. I was hot. My body felt hotter than it does now with the flames licking my skin.

For the sake of my physical well-being and my sanity, I needed to release the energy. I needed to hit something. My eyes latched onto Darleen, who was there on the bed that we shared. She was reaching for me with those big soft boobs of hers dangling in front of me.

A lifetime of knowing that men don't hit women was still superimposed over my damaged psyche. So even though Darleen was the guilty party, I rejected her and went after Mike.

I know that Mike had never promised to be faithful to me. I also know that Mike was a piece of shit. After all, he was a drug dealer. But Darleen was really pretty in those days, and she was built like a brick shipyard. Mike like most guys was not going to turn down pussy. Especially when it was packaged like Darleen.

I don't remember actually beating Mike. I know I did it, but the actual blows were lost to my rage. I just remember looking down at him, there on the floor covered in blood and barely moving.

I also remember seeing him a few months later and laughing and making fun of what I did to his face. He'd deserved it when I beat him, and he deserved it when I made fun of him. That day the first time I'd seen him in months, he'd given me that, "I'm still fucking your woman," look.

I really believe that most of the people we knew were sure that Darleen and I would eventually get back together. But it wasn't in the cards. At least, it wasn't in the deck I deal from.

That deck has no forgiveness cards in it. I value loyalty, honesty and trust above all else. I met and started a relationship with someone new. I did it because I needed a friend more than anything else. It didn't start out with me trying to replace Darleen. It just started out as a friendship.

She gave me someone I could talk about my problems with. I gave her someone she could be herself with. She didn't have to be a supermodel around me. We could just lie around on the sofa watching corny movies and eating popcorn smothered in cheese and bacon. She didn't have to put any makeup on, and she could just wear ratty sweat pants and no socks, and I still enjoyed being with her.

Sex, just happened. When we woke up the next morning, she had stars in her eyes. The sex was warm, special, and emotional and magical. It was like screwing a unicorn. I felt as if I had defaced a piece of art. I felt like Ozzy Osborne must have felt after he had peed on the Alamo.

Even as I smiled back at her, I knew that I had fucked up. Because as warm and fuzzy as the sex was. As much as most of the men in the world would have wanted to be in my shoes ... I felt cheated. Sex with Darleen was muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccchhhhhhhhhh better.

Darleen's body was not in the same class, but to me, it was far sexier. Sure the model was every man's dream on paper. She had those perfect pert breasts and a tiny but round ass that looked awesome in a bikini. She had legs that were at least two miles long and a face that could launch a thousand ships or maybe a million hard-ons.

But Darleen was sex on two legs. She thought that her boobs were too big, but no man ever did. Darleen could get any guy she wanted to do anything she wanted just by leaning forward and showing some cleavage.

Her ass was round and looked obscene in jeans. Darleen in a long tight skirt could make a man go insane.

Her legs are a bit short, and since she had the baby, her tummy is a bit round, but who cares. Darleen also has a secret weapon. Her pussy vibrates. Well ... It feels like it does anyway. If I could have had anything in the world I wanted when I was younger, it would have been to just fuck Darleen all day long every day.

And it wasn't just the sex act itself. Darleen and I were good kids. We had sex before we were married, but it wasn't until after Dar had turned eighteen. I would never disrespect Kathy that way.

But from the moment we first laid eyes on each other, everyone around us knew that we belonged together. Darleen could see me across a crowded room and send me a look that said, "Every bit of me belongs to you."

If we were out and saw people kissing or making out, her look told me that I could do that or anything else that I wanted to her. We were made for each other.

So even as I was being pulled away from the courtroom by one of the world's most beautiful women, Darleen seemed to be even sexier. I now know that it was because at the time she had my baby in her womb. But I was still trying to fight my attraction to her with everything I had.

Even though it seemed that I had moved on, I hadn't. Everything I did was meant to punish Darleen. The woman I dated was perfect in the eyes of almost every man and made other women including Darleen insanely jealous. The house I bought was exactly like the one she'd always wanted. I never let her see it, but I made sure that Kathy visited me there often and even helped me to decorate it.

I also knew that she would have loved my Mustang had she ever gotten a chance to ride in it. Everything I did or bought was designed to punish Darleen for what she'd done. And I guess taking our child away from her, or threatening to do so was more of the same. Darleen came out swinging. She was pushed far beyond her limits. She was not going to lose another thing. So she had gone to Mike, who hated me with a rage bordering on my own hatred for him. And they killed me.

My return drove Darleen into madness or at least the semblance of it. I was prepared to call it even. Let her rot in an asylum for twenty years or so. Or they could alternatively send her to jail. Either worked for me. Mike, on the other hand, needed a punishment that was more physical, and he was going to get it.

There was no beeping to let me know that I had reached my destination. There was no need for it. The car and I were linked. It knew what I did, and I knew what it did. But Ray Charles could see that things were going crazy.

As I watched people were running and screaming. I looked in the direction they had come from and saw Godzilla ... Okay it was a smaller one, but that was what it looked like. It reared back its head and opened its mouth as wide as it could. It bit the head off of the man, it was holding in its two short stumpy arms.

It seemed somehow familiar to me. "Pythius," I yelled? It turned its head towards me and something akin to fear registered on its face. It dropped the body of the man, with blood still spurting from his neck and turned to face me.

"Time to go home," I told him. He quickly opened his mouth and spat a burst of acrid smelling fire at me.

"Okay, Bub, I was trying to handle this the easy way," I said. "Time to fight fire with FIRE!"

I clapped my hands, and a long hot jet of bright yellow flames reached for Pythius. Unlike my soulfire that caused no physical damage, this was hellfire. My hellfire could affect physical objects. It burned as hot as ... Forgive the pun ... Hell. I could burn through a block of solid steel as easily as a hot knife goes through Jello. So flash frying a Godzilla wannabe with delusions of grandeur was nothing.

As soon as the jet of flame hit Pythius, everything changed. He screamed in pain and then started screaming in an all too human sounding voice.

"Okay, I give up. Take me back. None of this was my fault, I never wanted to come here anyway!" he yelled all of this while trying to rub out the fires.

I looked around, and the people in the area were so busy running away from Pythius that none of them had really noticed me or what I'd done. One of my problems in this case was that Pythius was a demon. My soulfire wouldn't work on him because he had no soul to torture with visions of all of his past sins.

Since he was roughly the size of a human being, I stuffed him in the trunk. What really pissed me off was the thought that I was forced to drive him all the way to hell. Normally, it wouldn't bother me but this time I was in a hurry.

I gunned the motor and found a long straight stretch of the freeway. I put my foot on the gas, and the car leaped forward. Pythius knew what was coming so he started banging on the trunk. We moved faster and faster until everything around us was literally a blur. The flames outside of the car increased in both size and intensity until we were immersed in a river of flames.

We entered Phlegethon one of the five rivers of hell. Phlegethon is called the river of flames. We took Phlegethon to the river Styx, made a quick turn at Cocytus. As we approached it, a huge gate opened and Cerberus the guardian of hell barely noticed us. He'd become so used to my comings and goings that he didn't even look at me. Instead, he trained all three of his heads on watching for anyone trying to enter or leave during the fraction on a second that the gate was open.

I opened the trunk and dragged Pythius out. He was screaming, and whining and trying to explain his case even though there was no one around to listen to him.

As I turned to leave, a face appeared before me. "You're halfway done with this one already," she said.

A body appeared under the face and although the face was that of a beautiful demonic woman, my ability to see beyond the outer covering told me that I was speaking to Satan himself.

"Hmm, I sense a disturbance in the force," she said while licking her succulent lips with a long forked tongue. Just above the most perfect ass ever made, a long barbed tail swished back and forth.

The woman's skin was the color of fresh blood. Her collar length black hair and yellow snake-like eyes contrasted with the red skin.

"We need to talk, later," I said. "Why is it that a teenaged girl can summon portals and transport herself and the demon with her wherever she wants to go, but I had to DRIVE Pythius here and waste time?"

"I thought you LOVED the CAR?" she said.

"I do love my car," I said. "But just for sending targets back, a more direct method would be helpful."

"I'll think about it and get back to you," she said. She waved a clawed hand, and suddenly I was back in the car and flying over the fence surrounding a huge cemetery.

I looked around and saw that my allies were outnumbered and fighting for their lives. Maggie was tangling with two thugs and holding her own. Mike was on the stage watching gleefully as Maggie clubbed one guy over the head with her pistol and then turned and shot the other one who was advancing on her with a raise club. Her shot destroyed his knee cap and left him screaming and hobbling, trying to get away from her. She turned in a circle to make sure there were no more threats in her area, then flashed me a smile and went after Mike.

There was something off about Mike, but with time short, I turned to check on the nuns. Patience was perched atop the wall surrounding the rear of the cemetery. She fired bolt after bolt from her crossbow with speed and accuracy. It was her job seemingly to direct the battle and to protect her teammates from attacks that came while they were engaged with other foes.
Penance was power personified. She didn't so much engage her opponents as she did crush them with brute force. As I watched she swung her long pole mace at the feet of a vamp that leaped over the head of the heavy weapon with blinding speed. What he didn't expect was that Penance's weapon wasn't just a mace. As he landed she'd continued to swing the weapon so that it's spiked butt end was in line with his chest as his feet hit the ground. Penance had only to push her arms forward, and the hardened metal tip of the blessed weapon entered his chest causing him to scream in agony.

Penance wasn't done though. She knew from experience that hurting a vamp and killing one are two different animals with different sets of rules. She continued pushing the shaft forward until the wooden part not the metal tip was in the vamp's heart. As soon as the wood touched the vamp's heart it was the same thing as if he had been staked. He crumbled to dust.

Another young vamp was pressing Praise. He leaped forward towards her, and she slashed him. He screamed she slashed again and dropped to her knees before leaping upwards again.

"What the fuck was that," asked the vamp. "Was that Ballet? I prefer Hip Hop."

"Come and get me," cooed Praise. As the vamp took a step forward, or tried to, he fell over. Praise had severed both of his legs just above the knees.

The vamp started to scream, but never had a chance for the scream to reach its full volume as Penance brought the heavy end of her Mace down onto his head crushing his skull and destroying his brain.

"That one counts as mine," she gushed. "Cutting his legs off only wounded him, it didn't kill him. So that's two for me and none for you."

"Okay, watch this," said Praise. She ran over to a younger female vampire. The woman appeared to be in her forties but had been so recently changed that her skin still appeared to have the bloom of life in it. The jet black eyes with no irises, and inch and a half long fangs, gave her away though.

She hissed at Praise who turned and ran. The vamp sensing weakness, chased her. Praise turned and flung one of her throwing stars straight into the vamp's chest. The creature screamed at the torturous piece of blessed metal embedded in its sternum. The scream was cut short as Praise's blade took her head off at the neck.

And then things started to go south, quickly. From out of nowhere, a female vamp who still had the remains of hideous scars on her face slammed into Penance. Although Penance was much larger, the vamp was strong beyond belief. Penance flew backwards at least twenty feet landing awkwardly and was slow to get up.

She reached to her side and patted her hips. At first, I thought she was checking to see if she had broken a bone.

"I'll bet you're looking for these," hissed the vamp sarcastically. "Unh, uh, you won't get me that way twice, Honey. I learn from my mistakes. I learn even more from the painful ones. And payback is a bitch."

While the vamp was distracted by yapping with Penance, both Praise and Patience were getting into position. They were in danger but something else took my focus away from them. I heard the sound of flesh hitting flesh and then a weird whooshing sound.

What had happened was obvious, and it pissed me off. I turned to see Mike on the stage with his arms raised in the air like a gospel singer who is getting the Holy Ghost. He swayed back and forth, but the music that the DJ was spinning was techno. The way that Mike was swaying had nothing to do with the rhythm of the music.

I looked beyond what I saw with my eyes. I noticed people all around the stage that were fighting and taking drugs. There was one skinny little woman who was repeatedly stabbing a man that she was handcuffed to, in his abdomen. They were both soaked with blood.

Two men in their late teens or early twenties were standing directly in front of the stage, only a few feet from Mike. They were alternating punches like they were passing a cigarette around.

I realized then that Mike wasn't Mike. Somehow Agravon was wearing Mike as his new body. That was when I noticed the flesh being struck sound. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an arm flash. When I looked directly at the source, I felt something that I hadn't felt in a long. I felt fear. I was afraid.

I could only be killed while in my human form, which I wasn't in. And I would only stay dead until it turned dark. My fear wasn't personal. I was afraid for Maggie.

Again, it was strange. The nuns were facing a pissed off master vampire with several younger ones backing her up. Maggie was only facing a chunky teenager.

But my head turned at the sound of that slap. I immediately understood the danger. The girl had come at Maggie. For what reason I didn't know. Maggie had reached out to defend herself. She had slapped the girl. She hadn't shot her or done any serious self defense. I think that Maggie had underestimated the girl.

There was still a red mark on the girl's cheek. She was stunned more than hurt, which was probably Maggie's intention. She reacted in a totally instinctive way. The girl had, without even blinking summoned a portal directly in front of Maggie.

I too surrendered to instinct. I shot a blast of soul fire at the girl and ran as hard as I could. I dove and snatched Maggie out of the portal just before she disappeared to ... Who knows where.

The girl dropped to her knees overwhelmed by images of everything she had ever done wrong. All of her sins were exposed. I saw them all. And the strangest thing about it was that except for accidentally bringing Agravon to earth, she had none. She was just an extremely lonely, misunderstood child who'd turned to forces she didn't understand to combat her loneliness.

My dive and grab was an act of desperation. We ended up awkwardly rolling on the ground. We rolled and came up. I was worried about whether or not Maggie was okay. She had somehow managed to draw her gun even as we rolled.

"Drop the axe, asshole," she screamed at a guy who was about to hack into the chest of the guy next to him. Maggie snapped off two shots into his legs, dropping him instantly.

"I knew you cared," she smirked. "But you'd better get the leather girls."

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUUUUUCKKKK," screamed Agravon/Mike. "You lost my God Damned Detective. Mike's body was beginning to turn red, but I turned to check on the nuns."

It was like a movie playing out in slow motion. Patience fired two bolts from her crossbow. It was a very practiced move and a smart one; the two bolts came at a different angle and different height. If the vamp managed to dodge or deflect the first one, the second one would hit.

At the same time, Praise was stealthily advancing on the vamp from behind. It was an awesome plan. It was too bad they hadn't told the vamp that she was supposed to end up on the receiving end of it.

The vamp moved faster than I could. She snatched both bolts out of the air, one with each hand. She whirled and thrust one of the bolts at Praise's chest. The only thing that saved Praise, was the fact that directly over her heart was a double layer of Kevlar with angled edges that were designed to divert force away from her trunk. The bolt ended up on her shoulder instead.

The vamp threw the other bolt directly back at its source. Patience was as quick as a cat and she jumped sideways and twisted, but the bolt still struck home grazing her side. It wasn't a fatal wound or even a dangerous one, but the bolt had slashed her side open along her rib cage. That meant that it would be extremely painful. Every breath she took would bring pain. The second problem was that it was bleeding heavily. The smell of blood was attracting the other vamps like sharks to chum.

"Okay, I'm tired of this shit!" I screamed.

I did something I had never done before, I pumped as hard as I could and emitted a pulse of soul fire like an EMP. The blue flames covered my immediate area and everyone within a hundred yard radius.

Everything in the area was muted or stopped by the blast. Only Agravon, the nuns, the master vamp, and I were unaffected. The nuns, for some reason, probably what they called their grace, had no sins. The master vamp was too strong and demons like Agravon had no souls.

The weird thing was that the other vampires reacted to the blast. They were affected even more than the humans because of the many lives they had taken just to fuel their continued existence.

The entire area was suddenly inundated with the wailing of hundreds of tortured souls who were all forced to face their worst sins. Some were so bad that they were simply unable to face them and blacked out.

The vamp had moved over to Penance and had grabbed the woman still kicking and fighting, by her throat. She reached back with a clawed hand to strike. There was no fear at all in Penance's eyes; she continued to fight to break free. Even as the vamp's claws extended in preparation for a fatal blow, Penance fought.

The vamp tried to bring the blow down but found herself unable to move that arm. I was holding it. I looked deeply into her eyes, sometimes my Penance stare worked when the soul fire didn't.

But the vamp only smiled at me. "I hate to tell you this, Earnhardt," she smirked. "But I traded my soul away before your grandparents were born. None of your fancy powers will work on me."

I nodded at her. And then I ripped the arm I was holding off of her body. She screamed as huge gouts of blood gushed from her destroyed and vacant armpit.

"God damn it," screamed a newly freed Penance. "Do you know how hard it is to get vampire blood out of green leather?"

"You're welcome," I said sarcastically.

"You're out of your fucking mind," snapped Penance. "I had everything under control." I laughed. The woman was incredibly brave. Even as the vamp rolled and thrashed on the ground in pain, Penance looked around for a weapon.

"Here," I said, "Use this!" I handed her the vampire's arm. Penance's obvious glee made me wonder how the hell she had no sins. She started beating the hell out of the dying vamp with her own arm.

"Penance, that won't kill her," I said. "The blood loss has weakened her, but you have to ..."

"Stake her, or cut off her fuckin' head," snapped Penance. "Are you trying to tell me how to do MY Damned job?" She stared at me, and I laughed. If I wasn't interested in someone else, I could easily have fallen for her.

"Stop staring at me, you pervert," she grumbled. "Go kill something."

Even as Penance spoke, Maggie was heading for the stage. Agravon had seen her and was heading for her.

"Callie, get your head out of your fat ass and summon a portal," he shouted at the girl who seemed to be in some type of shock.

"Agravon, it's time for you to go hoooooooooome!" I shouted.

"This IS my home," he shouted. "I ain't goin' nowhere!" His body was shining so brightly that it glowed. He was drunk with power, but he still wasn't stupid. He was also not a fighter.

"Tell ya what," he said. "We're both from the pit. We should be bros. You know the drill. There is no need for the two of us to fight. We should be on the same team. This place is big enough for both of us. Hell has many lords. Why can't the earth?

I'm done here anyway. I have gained enough power for now. So I'll just take my spell caster and my detective and be on my merry way ... Callie, sweetheart ... Portal ... Now!"

"Mine," I exclaimed.

"Oh ho!" he said. "You have good taste. That detective is very hot. I don't know if it's the long legs, the child bearing hips or just those big old titties. You want her; she's yours. Bros before hos, Ya know?"

I held out my hand, and a globe of soulfire appeared.

He laughed. "Come on, that won't work on me. I have no soul," he said.

"I threw the ball and it struck him and continued to lick away at him. He smiled at first and then got nervous and jumpy. "Callie ... Portal," he said, obviously agitated.

As I watched he began scratching at his skin and then screamed and dropped to his knees.

"How the hell are you doing this?" he screamed.

"You might not have a soul Agravon, but the body you inhabit still does," I said coldly. "And you're both going to Hell."

I jumped up onto the stage and grabbed him by his neck. I held out my hand, and my car drove over near me. The trunk opened, and I dropped Agravon into it. He continued to scream.

I turned to get into the car and found Maggie and the nuns watching me. "My job here is done," I said.

"So ..." said Penance. "See Ya."

"He saved your life, Sister," said Praise.

"Do you need to be drug tested," gasped Penance? "I saved him." Patience and Praise looked at each other and shook their heads.

"What about Terry's job," asked Maggie? "Terry still has things to do, here. He has a child and people who care about him."

I got into the car and headed down the highway to hell.

* * * * * *

Epilogue.

Sisters of Fate

Patience walked into the hospital ward. She sat down on the edge of the bed and tapped the girl on her shoulder. Callie sat up and looked around. The woman sitting on the edge of her bed smiled at her.

"This can't be hell, can it," asked Callie. "Am I in heaven?"

"No, Child," said Patience. "You're in Rome."

They talked. Callie bared her soul and explained everything that had happened with Agravon.

After a few weeks at the large complex, Callie had begun to feel at home there. She was learning so many things about computers and research. They also allowed her to attended classes at a nearby university.

Her parents had been flown over to visit, and Callie had explained to them that she loved it there in Rome.

"Are you sure this is the right thing to do," grumbled Penance.

"What would you do with her," asked Patience. "She's not evil. She was just lonely. And the tests indicate that the girl has a great deal of innate sorcery potential. No one on our support staff or anywhere else in our organization has that. We've run into a number of cases now where we've been forced to go against witches. Perhaps it's time we had one of our own."

"Vampires, Werewolves, Witches and even Demons; the whole Damned world is going to Hell," grumbled Penance.

* * * * * *

Terry

I was sitting on a bench in the park, watching my daughter trying to get up onto her feet only to fall back onto her butt on the soft blankets. I felt an arm wrap itself around my waist, and a body pressed itself against me.

"Why are you rubbing yourself against me?" I asked.

"Oh, do not start that shit again," quipped Maggie. "What word did you use to describe me to Agravon? I think you said "MINE." If I'm yours, then algebraically you have to be mine, as well. And while we're on the subject ... I know that you delivered Agravon back to hell, but whatever happened to Michael Robbins? There's a warrant still open for him and a nice warm jail cell waiting for him.

I can't prove that he murdered you, but we do have lots of evidence linking him to all of those people who were beaten and killed out at that cemetery on Halloween. He's still going to be charged with their murders if not for yours."

"Just let it go," I said.

"But he has to go to jail," she whined.

"Maggie, he's in jail," I said.

I explained to her how I had driven back to hell. And dropped off Agravon. "The first thing they did was to separate Agravon's essence from Mike's body.

That basically left a living human being in hell. The demons there were only interested in Agravon. Mike started screaming about taking him home. I pointed the way to the gate. In over three thousand years nothing has gotten by Cerberus, but Mike is free to try. Meanwhile, there are some very nasty things in the pit. They could do things to a living human that are so bad they defy description. In my opinion, Mike deserved those things. He would also enjoy them for all of eternity. I got back into my car and drove off. I waved at Mike, but he was already screaming before I got back to the Styx.

I know you think that I let Darleen off easy, Maggie, but her life is going to be ... Hell. She's lost our daughter. She's lost her sanity, and she has only short periods of lucidity. If she ever does get her mind back she can always be prosecuted for her role in killing me. She did confess, remember. She's getting her own little slice of punishment."

"So what are you going to do with yourself?" she asked. "And who are you going to be. Terry Slade is dead."

"I'm Terry's cousin DB," I said. "DB Slade."

"Nice," she said. "So what if a certain police detective wanted to move into your big nice house with you and Kathy?"

"I'd say that I was planning on it," I said. "Can you take Terri back to the house?"

"No problem," she smiled. She leaned over and kissed me. The kiss was sweet enough that I hated to leave her.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"I'm sure you hadn't noticed it," I said. "But it's getting dark, and at least one of us has a job to do."

"Okay, Honey," she smiled. "Go to work. But don't turn blue and fiery until your daughter, and I are gone. I'm not sure she's ready for that yet."

I waited until the sound of Maggie's car was gone. Then I stood up and got ready to leave. A man stood behind me.

I looked beyond his outer shell and saw the being inside. He seemed to be composed of pure white energy with huge wings unfurled behind him.

"Michael," I said caustically.

"Did I offend you in some way, Messenger?" he asked.

"Nah, I just seem to have issues with mother fuckers named Mike," I said. He looked at me with that same expression Angels always have when they run into beings they consider less than. I wasn't offended because Angels are assholes, especially archangels. They think that EVERYONE is less than.

"I have a job for you," he said. "There is a HUMAN on this world. He has recently come into a great deal of power that should be mine. Deliver this message to him." He handed me a roll of paper that seemed to be ancient.

"Be careful, Messenger, he is easily perturbed. His companion is one of the undead. She seems to have a terrible attitude, but if you piss her off or threaten her ... He will KILL you," he said.

"I can't be killed," I told him. He just started laughing.

"He may even be able to kill ME," he laughed. "The two of you have much in common. Remember my warning." And then he was gone.

I whistled, and my car drove up onto the grass of the now deserted park near me. I held out my arms, and the flames took me.

I got into the car and hit the freeway. I drove faster and faster until I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that scared the shit out of me.

There was another Mustang keeping pace with me. I was driving close to three hundred miles an hour, but there it was. The car was a bright yellow 06 Mustang GT. I noticed that there were no engine sounds coming from it. The car was as silent as the grave. I flashed my headlights, and it did the same. Then it took an exit to leave the freeway, while I continued on. I did, after all, have a job to do.

The end

ghost   driver  

May 11, 2018 in romance

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