“And this script will extract the data we want.”
“It’s like he’s speaking a foreign language,” Ashton muttered.
“Agreed,” Darby said, frowning at the computer.
“How does an ancient god know more about computers than you two?”
“Too much time on his immortal hands.”
“Potential side effect: Loss of Sanity,” Ashton said.
“Very low chance,” the witch reassured Darby.
“I’m not sure it’s worth it.”
“Well, I hear purple’s in this season.”
Darby glared and snatched the bottle, his magenta skin flushing to a lovely shade of mulberry.
Ashton wiped the ectoplasm from his face. “I have this fantasy, that one day I won’t be called into work to deal with poltergeists.”
“Last time it was a hellhound fighting ring, not ghosts.”
Ashton gave Darby a look. “You’re being pedantic, and I need a vacation.”
“The woman was quite frantic,” Darby said.
“They always are. She probably just saw an overfed house cat.”
“Or, it could really be the Cat Sìth.”
“If the King o’ Cats is hiding behind a pub dumpster in Kingsbury, I’ll eat my hat.”
“You don’t have one.”
“They’re trying to sell the cloak of Atlas the Titan?”
“No, this was supposedly from Atlas, the first king of Atlantis,” Darby said.
“That tourist trap?”
“Tourist trap or not, the cloak could be an important piece of history.”
“Or a fake.”
“This some kind of demonic ritual?” Ashton asked.
“No, but I think they were trying to imitate one.”
“Unless they were summoning the demon of–” Darby squinted at a symbol, “–sweaters, it’s fake.”
“Demon of sweaters not a thing?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Enchanted items are logged and sent to Obscurus.”
Ashton snorted. “If our sorcerer knows we’ve sent his doodad to MI13, he’ll disappear.”
“Do you want to keep him from killing again, or follow protocol?”
“Both,” Darby ground out.
“Can’t have both. Choose.”
“You can’t turn kids into donkeys,” Ashton said.
“They’re mules, not donkeys,” the witch said.
“What’s the difference?”
“Mules are the product of male donkeys and females horses, and often sterile,” Darby said.
“Now the kids are, too,” she said with an evil grin.
“They say that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” Darby said.
The demon rolled the possessed man’s eyes. “As though demons have a cornerstone on pride. Have you seen the human race recently?”
“It’s not wrong, you know,” Ashton said.
“Did you put in your request for leave yet?” Ashton asked.
“Yes,” Darby said.
“I’m visiting a friend, and we’re going to observe a pack of chupacabras in Texas.”
“Don’t you get enough of that stuff here?”
“You’re such a nerd.”
“Will the vamps cooperate?” Ashton asked.
“Doubtful, but we don’t want them to be too friendly, anyway,” Darby said.
“What happens if the other supernatural groups think we are #allies with the vampires?”
“Chaotic political bollocks?”
“My stuff can’t even do what you’re sayin’!” the woman protested.
“SOCO will be the judge of that,” Ashton said, as the shelves of the occult shop were slowly cleared.
“Most of this is for tourists,” Darby whispered.
“You want to bet someone’s life on that?”
“Vamps have their own empire?” Ashton asked.
“The enclaves need someone to keep them from falling into squabbles,” Darby said.
“Who rules them?”
“An empress. We don’t know much about her.”
“Is she real?”
“As long as they behave, does it matter?”
“I suppose not.”
“I don’t see why we have to get the rookie,” Ashton grumbled.
“It’s only for a few months,” Darby reassured him. “Plus, we’re one of the few liaison teams, and training more will lighten the workload.”
“If he survives,” Ashton muttered. “I give him a week.”
“Is this supposed to be a parody?” Darby asked.
“Actually, I think they’re trying to be serious,” Ashton said.
The man in a ghastly werewolf costume dropped to his knees, then did a poor imitation of a howl.
Darby cringed. “I’m not sure Hamlet needs werewolves.”
“I thought human sacrifice went against their creed?” Ashton asked, looking up from the body.
“It’s Rede, not creed. ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will’,” Darby said.
“This looks harmful.”
“Then it wasn’t a wiccan.”
“Anyone can buy a pentagram.”
“Greed does crazy things to a person,” Ashton said.
“Yes. Using ghouls to kill his grandfather for the inheritance was terrible,” Darby said.
“He got his, though. There was barely enough of him left to fill a gym bag after they turned on him.”
“How did Mr. Bailey not notice a barghest had infiltrated his flock?” Ashton asked, going over the report.
“Bad eyesight?” When Ashton gave Darby a look, he shrugged. “His real dog and sheep didn’t seem to mind.”
“Did it kill him?”
“They’re omens, not killers.”
“You did that on purpose!” Darby accused, brushing himself off.
“Of course I did. You should have seen your face when they dove at you,” Ashton said.
“Cockatrices are dangerous–that was not funny!”
“Maybe not for you.”
“Ridiculous. You and this illegal breeder.”
“You were a soldier?” Darby asked.
“Yeah,” Ashton said, not elaborating.
“Did you see anything in the middle east?”
“No, I mean–”
“I know what you meant.” There was a long silence. “There’s things out there best left alone, and not talked about.”
“This is not a solution, it’s a band-aid.” Darby grimaced at the smell of the sachet.
“Band-aid is better than dead,” Ashton said. “I’m not the one who pissed off the necromancer.”
“But we were all there, so why single me out?”
“Must be your stunning personality.”
“If you could get one wish, what would it be?” Ashton asked.
“That’s not how the djinn work,” Darby said.
“We can’t wish for #peace on earth, and good will toward men?”
Darby grimaced. “Not unless you want them to kill everyone.”
“That’s a bit harsh.”
“But it works.”
“This is a royal mess,” Darby grumbled.
“It’s not so bad,” Ashton said.
“Being quarantined for a potential magical malady outbreak is not trivial.”
“Think of it as a mini-vacation.”
“Yes, one that could end in death.”
“This is why no one invites you to parties.”
“Are you sure she said we’re looking for a bell?” Ashton asked, eyeing the scantily clad woman.
The succubus smirked, and her eyes flashed scarlet. “My name is Belle, pleasure to meet you.”
“There may, um, have been a slight miscommunication,” Darby said with a gulp.
“You mean they’re spirits distilled from…spirits?” Ashton asked, looking a bit green about the gills.
“Fascinating, isn’t it? I wonder how they do it, and what it tastes like,” Darby said.
Ashton gagged. “Absolute nutter.”
“You just have no sense of adventure.”
“Wraiths are a vermin class of incorporeal undead,” Darby said.
“What does vermin class mean?” Ashton asked.
“They can cause whatever disease they died of.”
“So they’re like graveyard rats?”
“Ugh, imagine getting ghost syphilis.”
“I’d rather not.”
“It’s a tourist destination now, not a place of power,” the old woman said.
“Could someone change that?” Ashton asked.
“Only with a lot o’ blood and power.”
“If they have that?” Darby asked.
“It’ll either wake the Henge, or kill everything in a hundred mile radius.”
“Liches have a deathly complexion,” Darby said.
Ashton snorted. “That’s most people this time of year.”
“As with most undead.”
“–and attract dead creatures through inadvertent leaking of their necromonic powers.”
“A zombie Pied Piper?”
“During the Hundred Years’ War, the English purged a vampire enclave, so the vampires took the side of the French,” Darby said.
“It helped that one of the French royals had a vampire lover,” Ashton said.
“Rumored, but not proven.”
“They’re French, that’s proof enough.”