She narrowed her eyes and said, “No. Damn it, listen to me for a second. There are more creatures out there than demons, and he’s not a demon. I think he’s in the chapter called ‘Lesser Mysteries.”
“Second,” she looked up from the tablet and caught his eye, “I’m going to be joining the Circle. My initiation is next month. They’re under new leadership. If one of them comes here, please don’t mention the past. It makes things awkward.”
“I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
“Please.” She turned her eyes back to the tablet, dragging her finger across it several times, and then stopping.
“Found him.” She grinned. “He’s barely worth mentioning. Yes, he’s immortal, and he’s a killer, but he’s only a little better than a human. He can be captured, and bound, and this book has circles for summoning him, and wards to keep him out. He works as a mercenary and sometimes a musician. He’s been observed to help certain individuals and even families without being formally bound.
“I’ll take the job,” she said. Then she named her figure.
He nodded. “Good enough. I’ll send the money to your account.”
She stopped looking at the tablet. “You’re not trying to argue me down?”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Between what I saved before and what I’ll get out of this, I’ve made more than enough. I don’t have a problem with paying you. When it’s done, I’m out, remember?”
She stared at him for a long moment. “I remember. I don’t believe it.”
He didn’t say anything.
She shook her head, took a breath, and held up the tablet as if to read it. After a few seconds she put the tablet down. “If we’re going to beat him, we’ll need a sacrifice. We”ll need something with strong emotions, and a deep attachment to this place. A child would be best.”
He turned away from examining the junk on the counter–rubber bands, twist ties, piles of leather bound books, chalk, and candles. She’d never been especially into keeping house, but she’d gotten worse since they’d broken up.
He’d considered cleaning up, but it wasn’t as if he lived here anymore.
“No,” he said. “Not a child. I’m trying to hide here, not start a manhunt. Besides, should we even be here? Shouldn’t we be running?”
She turned, her mouth tightening. “Did you just hire me? I think you did. As the resident expert on magic and mysteries lesser and greater, I’ll make the decisions here. My life is on the line too. What that means, is that when I tell you I’ll be strongest here with my own house, and all my materials, you listen, and when I tell you we need a sacrifice then you get a sacrifice. Got it?”
“Killing a child won’t get me off the radar right now. After all those murders downtown–”
“Fine. Then get a dog. I don’t care.”
* * *
An hour later found him carrying the neighbors’ miniature schnauzer into the house’s back door. He’d stuffed into a pillow case, and held its snout shut. It growled constantly, struggling to get away, and managed to scratch him even through the fabric.
He didn’t mind. This was the most quiet the dog had ever been.
When he’d lived here, the stupid thing made a nearly endless racket every time anyone walked down the street.
They’d never know, but he was doing the neighborhood a service.
Tiffany stepped into the room as he shut the door to the outside, struggling to keep control of the dog, and shut the door. A bark escaped before he got it completely shut. When he grabbed for its muzzle, he unthinkingly stuck his hand into the pillow case and it bit him, drawing blood.
She held out her hands. “Give it.”
He handed it over, “Good riddance.”
She stilled it with a touch and it gave a muffled whine.
He followed her into the main area of the house. She’d rolled up the rug in the middle of the room, revealing a ten foot wide circle that she’d burned into the wood years ago.
She’d taken the wooden cap out of the middle of it. He didn’t know where the dark hole that the cap covered went to, but it wasn’t the basement. He had no intention of ever finding out.
Over the next twenty minutes Tiffany lit candles, chanted, screamed, and finally gutted the dog above the hole.
Even as he turned his head away, a darkness billowed out of the hole. The dog turned to dust and disappeared.
“It’s over.” She walked past the counter, and rinsed off the bloodied blade of her knife above the sink with the sprayer. Unrecognizable symbols on the blade glowed slightly red.
“Over?” His own guts felt like they’d twisted around inside him. He tried to ignore it.
“I completed the ritual. The house is hidden from anyone who doesn’t already know it. Beyond that, we’ll have warning any time anyone gets near, and more defense than I normally keep active.”
Drying off the ritual blade with a dish towel, she gave him a quick grin. “All there is to do now is to have a quiet night at home. Want to watch a movie?”
“What have you got?”
She shrugged. “Whatever’s on Netflix.”
He glanced toward the television. It stood on the other side of the hole. “I can’t believe you’re joining the Dark Circle. You used to make fun of them.”
She tilted her head toward him. “You used to tell me to keep a distance from clients. You told me that not knowing their secrets would keep me safe. Yet, years later, you know the Rocket’s real name.”