Demon's Grace Ch. 41-43byakbunny©
We had no time to recuperate completely. Thankfully, one of us was whole. Taurin and I walked stiffly, constantly taking in deep breaths as an indication of aches and pains. We were going to Zanzibar's so I could pick the brain of Patrick about the bullets. Thoughts about using a gun on Oldavai continued to race through my head. I still had no idea how I was going to fulfill my contract. Ezra wouldn't tell me any of his ideas until he completely and analytically dissected them. Meanwhile, Taurin came up with the idea of using a machine gun stocked with the bullets on him. I just looked at him with enough horror that he shut up, but not without first laughing at my sensibilities.
I had a brief argument with Ezra about driving to Seattle versus him just, well whatever it was that they did to travel. I won simply because I wanted my jeep in case we had to stay there longer than anticipated. We left within a day despite my unsuccessful attempts to contact Zanzibar. I could almost feel Oldavai closing in. The air felt like his breath on my neck.
The drive there was unremarkable, except that both of them drove with me. In fact, I had to pull over and let Ezra drive because my body simply didn't want to be accommodating. I ended up curled on my side, my head pillowed on Taurin's lap. I heard Ezra clearly when he dryly mentioned how easy it would have been if I let him have his way. I didn't tell him what he already knew, that the real reason I didn't want to was because of how dizzy it made me feel. There's a reason why I never went on roller coasters in my youth.
Without Zanzibar available to me I needed to wait for his bar to open. Even then I had no idea if the man I was looking for was there. I paced restlessly in the hotel room waiting, my combat boots stomping on the carpet, my back involuntarily twitching. We had to wait for the social evening to really descend on the city. I could tell Taurin and Ezra seemed to enjoy watching me walk back and forth. Both had a slight smile on their face until I gasped and clutched the back of the chair I kept passing.
I looked inside my spirit and saw the flames that Ezra had put in me. It felt similar to the first time I felt them when I was by myself, ironically, in a hotel. I looked closely at the sparks and noticed that it was a very small red dragon. That was what was causing all the trouble?! It cocked its head and looked up as if it could see me. It yelped, baby like and annoyingly cute. Then a small bubble of fire burst out of its mouth, which had me shooting out of my meditation and into the real world.
I groaned and looked up. Ezra stood by Taurin's chair. His smoking hand gripped the left flared top of it, precariously close to Taurin's head. Taurin had a look of steel on his face. I gave them a crooked smile and quickly assessed the situation. Ezra was waiting for me to find my own control without any interference from Taurin. I stood and stretched my shoulders back, my breath came out in a whoosh at the tightness.
"I'm fine. Do you know what you put in me?" I said without any inflection as I looked at Ezra.
"Not at first."
I bit down on the inside of my cheek in irritation. "But you know now."
I nodded and stared at the two of them, "Taurin puts a piece of glacier in me, but you, you put a dragon in me. And it's using me as a playground. Thank you, that was a brilliant," I said sarcastically.
I held up a hand to forestall his next words. "I don't care. Know what? I'm hungry? Anyone coming with me?"
I ignored them, smoothing down my form fitting black t-shirt as I neared the door. The two of them decided to follow me. During dinner I calmly stated that I didn't want us going in together at the bar and thought it would be wise if people didn't associate the three of us.
Taurin scoffed at that and mentioned that he had already been in public with me. "Not to mention that our brothers probably already connect us," he added.
"I. don't. care," I said enunciating each word. "If Patrick or Zanzibar are there I don't want you two hanging around making them paranoid."
"You worry too much, Dove," he said angrily.
"You will barely notice me," Ezra said as he took a drink of water.
Taurin and I looked at him with identical stunned expressions. Honestly, I though he'd put up a fight too. Especially after our talk about my inability to protect myself up to his standards.
"See!" I exclaimed to Taurin, gesturing to Ezra.
"You will notice me, Dove." Taurin replied.
"I'm still getting my way because I took a flogging for you. Regardless of Ezra's painfully healing magic."
Taurin narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.
"You go in first. Taurin and I will follow behind."
As Ezra dictated, that was exactly what we did. Once inside I gave a thorough scan of the first floor and promptly went downstairs when I didn't see who I wanted. Scanning this floor was significantly harder. Zanzibar's seemed to always be packed. Well, it wasn't like demon hunters had an actual work schedule. And demons... well, yeah. I waded through the people, spotting Zanzibar deep in a discussion with two of his employees by the back bar.
I sided up to the bar, close to him. He was still explaining something when I spotted Patrick seated in one of the booths talking to someone sitting across from him. I stood to go to him when Zanzibar spotted me and waved a signal for me to stay. I debated it for a moment and then leaned back up at the bar. As I waited for Zanzibar to finish I spotted Taurin on the other side of the room talking to someone. As if feeling my gaze he zeroed in on me and gave me an unfriendly stare, turning away promptly. I supposed he was still sore at me for not being able to actively annoy people who I needed to talk with.
'Time to be a big boy, Taurin. You can't always get your way.' I sent out.
'If you'll notice, I frequently don't get my way around you. I believe I am doing an admirable job of not making you bow to my will.'
His frustration came through clearly and I decided not to taunt him. After all, he really was acting admirably. I knew him enough now to know that he was unpredictable. I watched him from my position at the bar. He looked striking tonight. His blond hair was pulled back in the front by two small french braids, pulling attention to the clean beauty of his face. The rest of it was loose and free, flowing down his back. A dark red silk shirt and a pair of black pants framed him perfectly. His movements were fluid, like most demons. I became mesmerized as I watched his subtle shifting.
'When your done adoring Taurin from a distance you might want to turn to your right and do what you came here to do' came Ezra's sardonic voice.
He startled me out of my preoccupation. I looked casually around and didn't see him, just as promised. 'I wasn't adoring Taurin,' I said petulantly.
'Oh, I could have sworn I saw a forlone expression in you eyes. I must have been mistaken, because the Dove I know would have stayed focused.'
I didn't reply because Zanzibar took that moment to give me his full attention. I couldn't help but smile at his delight.
"Shugar!" He reached over and gave me one of his side hugs, my face tightened slightly from the pain he unintentionally inflicted.
"Hi," I said shyly, returning the hug gently.
"What are you up to, darlin'?! I keep hearing rumors, but I don't know what to believe. And when your demon calls to tell me you won't be able to make it! Damn! I didn't expect that! So, naturally, I started thinking that they were doing something to you. Made a few discreet inquiries, but when you disappear, you disappear."
As disturbing as his words were I was still charmed by his southern accent.
"Yeah. It's been a regular three ring circus. I'm sorry I had to have a demon call you to cancel for me. Something totally unexpected came up." I shook my head over how bizarre my life was getting. "But, that's all settled. Right now I need to talk to Punk about a certain type of bullet."
"Ahh," he said slowly and softly.
"You know what I'm talking about?!" I said in anxious disbelief.
"Don't get excited," he laughed. "I do know what you're talking about. Punk would be the one you want to talk to. You looking to kill your demons?"
I stared at him open mouthed for a second, "God, NO. No."
He pushed his glasses farther up on his face. "You know, the longer you stay with them..." He bent down close to my face, staring in my eyes, "The tighter the rope. You see, the magic they put in you, it grows roots. It may become a part of you, but it was always theirs first."
I focused on Zanzibar. "Could they pull it out by those roots?"
His face got hard, "Absolutely. And, Dove, you know how when you pull up a plant and there's still dirt on those roots?"
My forehead frowned in thought, "Oh fuck. I need to talk to you about these things, but I need to talk to Punk first."
"Will it take all night?"
He shifted his eyes over to the booth Punk sat in. "You know he's talking to a demon, don't you?"
I turned and looked closely, focusing for a scent, "I didn't. Although I would have noticed the closer I got. There are so many demons here that it overwhelms my senses." I studied them some more. "What could he be so engrossed in with a demon?"
Zanzibar laughed, "Officially, I have no idea. Realistically, making a contract for someone. As long as I don't know, he uses my bar to get most of his work. People always know they can find him here."
"You're shitting me!" My eyes widened, "You just keep surprising me Zanzibar!" I looked back over to the table.
"Punk does lots of odd jobs," he gave me a meaningful stare.
"My life just gets more and more interesting."
"Honey, it's bound to. Especially with two of them hangin' around you and one of them," he shrugged to where Taurin sat, "following you like one of you is on a leash. Downright terrifying if you stop to think about it. There's no way I would stand for that close proximity of a certain demon. And you know what I mean."
I turned and looked at Taurin momentarily.
He continued after a meaningful stare at me, "Are you gonna wait until he's done?"
I focused on my mission and smiled at Zanzibar. "Nah. I'm gonna see what happens when I get close."
He chuckled, "Girl, you're one impatient kitty."
I shrugged, the smile still on my face as I walked to the table. The closer I got the more I could smell the demon sitting with him and it wasn't a smell I knew. They turned as one to me and I fell to a dead stop. The demon and I gazed at one another and an unreasonable shiver of fear went through me. Fear always propelled me forward. His eyes were a robin's egg blue with a line of clouds moving through them. He wore black on black. His spiked, pale hair sparked silver with his movements. His nose sloped slightly and his bottom lip looked slightly fuller than the top. His skin, too, was pale and as we continued to stare at one another a soft glow infused it, like the sun lighting up behind clouds.
"Dove Hawthorn," he spoke with finality.
A rustling of wings filled my ears, I blinked and it was gone. "Do I know you?"
"No, but you will," he replied.
As if he couldn't sense the tension, Punk asked with a good natured smile, "Who are you here to talk to?"
"Come, sit," the demon demanded. His grasp of the hammer loop in my jeans was as fast as the displacement of air he caused. I lost my balance briefly as he pulled me to him, my back protesting at my over compensation.
'No,' Taurin stated and then there he was, his hand tight around the wrist of the demon.
I could almost feel Ezra look upwards for divine guidance for his impetuous brother.
Punk stood up, "Looks like I'm not needed here."
"No. Wait," I said hurriedly, holding my hand up.
He paused and looked at me expectantly. I turned to go to him and was stopped by the other demon. He still had a hold of my jeans despite Taurin. I gave him an exasperated look, "Do you mind?!"
And then Zanzibar was there slamming his hand on the table. It wobbled under his force. "This will end. Now. You," he pointed to the demon at the table, "let her go." I could actually hear Ezra sigh in exasperation in my head this time.
Zanzibar only needed the full attention of the two demons although he garnered everyone's within hearing distance. The unknown demon gave a small head nod to him and let go, "Of course, Zanzibar." Taurin dropped his grip and did the same head nod to the bar owner.
"Go," he directed at me without taking his eyes off them.
I looked up at Punk, "I need to speak to you."
"Sure, let's go over there," he pointed as far away from the confrontation as he could without going up stairs.
I followed him to a platform where we sat down. I absently started to swing my leg. My boot thunked on the wood behind it. We studied each other and seemed to come to the same conclusion, to ignore everything that just happened. Less questions for both of us to answer. He went back to smiling at me, "What do you need?"
"I need to know about these?" I pulled out the bullet and showed it to him.
He took it and twisted it in his fingers then looked at me without understanding. "It's a bullet. You can get them anywhere," His smile faded and he looked at me without any interest.
I nodded once very slowly, "I see." I tapped the tip of the bullet in his fingers. "This is a very special bullet and I need to know anything you know about it."
His muddy, green eyes regarded me for a long time. The pounding of the music filled the void in our conversation. He dropped the bullet into his palm and clenched his fist. He turned his hand over mine and I flipped it, palm up. He dropped the bullet and I shoved it back into my pocket.
"How many people know about that bullet?" He asked.
"I have no idea."
He put his hand up in the 'whatever' motion and jumped to his feet.
"Three," I said and watched him slowly sit back down. "That's including me, but not Zanzibar."
His mouth twitched, "Zanzibar knows everything."
"I'm learning that."
"So, who are the other two?"
Punk looked me in the eye and did a slow head nod. "I suppose they're bound to be informed considering they're one of the creatures they were created for. You realize the Affairs' Office can't know about these bullets," he said in a grave voice.
"Shit. The Affairs' Office might already know, they definitely know unofficially. I forgot to include the people who tried to kill me with it."
"They already know? How?!"
"I don't know. One of their members was trying to kill a demon with mercenaries. How much of a secret it is is anyone's guess."
He laughed in irony, "Oh, that I believe."
On cue we looked back over to the booth, but it was vacant. The demons were nowhere in site. "Tell me about these bullets. Please."
He glanced askance at me, "What's your name?"
"Dove, do you want to use them in your arsenal?"
"I'm open to the idea," I said seriously. "I have a 'trap and subdue' warrant. How the hell do you do that?!" I asked rhetorically.
His demeanor changed as he looked at me. It felt like he reassessed me with that one statement. "That's big money."
I gave him a look of disbelief that that was the first thing that came to his mind.
"You do know that these bullets will never make it legally to the market?"
"No. I don't. I know very little about them."
"They are imbued with the magic of a race of beings that suck the health out of people. They're called Haelithics, or derisively known as, Parasites."
It was just a big night for surprises for me. Dr. Bardellis' image raced through my head. "Keep going."
"They die to make these bullets. They're hunted down, captured and their magic, spirit, power, whatever, is extracted and blown into bullets."
"Why do they have to die?"
"Because they don't voluntarily give such an essential part of themselves and if you leave them alive they'll kill you."
"It doesn't make sense. We give blood during blood drives."
"This is not blood. It's more complicated. Think multiple organ donation, but you're still alive."
I looked out at the swaying bodies and considered his words. "Do they kill demons?" I turned back to him.
It was his turn to look into the undulating bodies, "I don't know."
"Oh, come on. You use these. I know you do."
He turned and gave me a fake smile, "I'm a demon hunter. I'm not gonna wait for them to kill the demon. I get up close and personal while they're riddled with holes. I kill the demon."
I nodded in understanding, "So, you don't know much about how long it takes to kill them or the long term effects."
"I'm not into torture, but others are. All I know is that they make the demon weaker as soon as they hit their body. Those babies are a hot commodity right now."
"What about other species?"
"It's indiscriminate. It's a regular bullet with a special twist. Make it a silver bullet and it's doubly bad for a shifter. Especially if they have no one with the right kind of magic to take the poison out."
"Who do I go to to buy them?"
"Why, you come to me." He said with a shy look, biting both his lips at the same time. It creeped me out, seeing that look on such a big guy.
"You make these?!"
His face and voice stayed innocent, "Do you want some?"
"I don't know. How much?"
"The bullets, price for the hunt, the extraction. Tell me what kind and how many and I'll give you a price." He smiled and it reminded me of the kids who were always a little slow in life.
I shook my head, "I have to think about it."
"One other thing. That bullet you don't have in your pocket. That's more than a bullet." He jumped off the platform and turned around, leaning on his elbows as he looked at me. Looking for all the world like he was bored. "If you have the magic you'll see a rune etched on it. That rune makes it fit any gun. Any gun. And that's BIG money. I don't do that, but I could send you to someone who does."
I stared at him thoughtfully, "You're awful trusting."
He studied me, his persona fading slowly. "I just have this feeling about you and I'm someone who relies heavily on intuition. It's never proved me wrong. But, think of it this way, you're awful trusting that I'm telling you the truth."
"Well, there is that." I gave a sharp laugh, "I think our kind hang around demons too much."
He gave an honest chuckled, "Oh, you'll get no argument from me."
Punk and I parted ways after I told him I'd find him if I needed to. I found myself scanning the throngs again. I didn't see Zanzibar or Taurin. I sighed in frustration and sided up to the bar. I beckoned the bartender over and asked if he knew where his boss was. He gestured with a glass in his hand to the floor above us. I nodded my thanks and jogged up the stairs. Zanzibar was easy to find. He was standing by a raised circular table talking to a couple there. He immediately saw me and closed up his conversation. I watched him shake hands with the two before he turned to me.
"Follow me," he said, pointing to the bar. We walked to a door behind it and into the same hallway that led to his office from downstairs. Once there I sat down in the comfy, beige chair and he propped himself on his desk. I squirmed trying to find a position that didn't stretch my back too much.
"Trouble follows you." He stated without his usual smile.
"You don't know the half of it," I snorted. "Does this mean you have time to talk to me?"
"I've been requested to talk to you."
Something about his tone perked up my suspicion. "You told your demon about me, didn't you?"
"Oh please, Dove!" He stood up and paced briefly. He stopped in front of me and stared down hard. He leaned down and placed his hands on either arm of the chair. His body filled my sight. "You know better than-"