Chapter Seven: Getting Caught in the Downpour
“Where’s this mission?” Gadge asked as he tossed his cell phone into the air and caught it.
“It’s in California,” Hermie replied with a cautious glance at Gadge. He made a growling noise in his throat and said, “Remember what happened last time we had an assignment in the Golden state?”
Gadge paused before throwing his phone again and laughing. “Yeah, we almost got kicked out because someone forgot how close the border to Mexico is from San Diego and when we had to go gallivanting across the border to capture a rogue demon we’d been chasing for months then, we had forgotten our passports.” Gadge grinned. “Good times down in Tijuana, I’d say. When do we leave?”
“Tonight,” I said, looking at the computer monitor in front of Hermie. We were now in the lounge area of Headquarters where there were couches grouped in quads at the center of the room and computer decks lining the walls. This was on the tenth floor along with the real offices of most of the Dreamcatcher authorities. It reminded me of a high school cafeteria, except nicer.
“Herman,” a voice called out. Most people acknowledged Hermie by his full name, Herman. His nickname had taken a place in our minds now and that’s all we ever called him. Besides, with a stature of six foot five giant and the muscle mass of an ox, it was hard to picture Hermie as, well, ‘Hermie’.
I glanced up to see Thatcher strolling purposefully towards us. My hands clenched and I straightened up. Hermie stood up from his chair and I crossed my arms, narrowing my eyes at Thatcher. For the most part, Thatcher ignored me as he faced Hermie.
“Thatcher,” Hermie answered. “What can I do for you?”
“There was a breach in the Watch about an hour ago when I was on my shift. I thought I would let you know since you have the next shift,” Thatcher said in a low voice. A soft thud hummed through my head and I tried blinking it away. It came again, right behind my ear. The same place as this morning when—
The girl! That same soft voice blared into my head.
I winced. “What the hell!”
Thatcher’s eyes narrowed as Hermie and Gadge shot me surprised glances.
“Um, sorry.” I waved a hand and stepped back, letting Hermie talk to him.
What was that? I yelped.
The girl is important. Remember the girl. The girl, Waylan! The voice faded completely and so did the dull pressure in my head.
Hermie was saying, “Does Sethar know?”
“He must. I reported it as soon as I got out of Guarding.”
“Do you know who it was? Was it a rogue?” Hermie asked. When Gadge nudged me but I ignored him.
“No. It was a girl.”
My shoulder stiffened. The voice had said it was a girl before Thatcher had even said so.
“A Dreamcatcher?” I heard myself ask, unable to contain my curiosity. “You sure she wasn’t rogue?”
Thatcher turned to me, gaze neutral as he replied, “As far as I know, it seemed as though she had no recollection of Dreamcatchers. She was definitely not human.” He shook his head and glanced away.
He knew I was Sethar’s son and he didn’t want to get on Sethar’s bad side—the one bonus of being a leader’s offspring. All Thatcher cared about was how he looked in front of the higher Dreamcatchers—and girls. He was a bully and a hypocrite. I didn’t like him, I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t approve of his fighting methods. The cheat…Words and punches had passed between us before and I knew that he was wary of me now. The authorities must have warned him then. Otherwise he would’ve made a pass at me the second he laid eyes on me.
“Did you get her identity?” Hermie asked.
“No, I did not. She…vanished.”
“During a dream?” I asked, skeptical.
Thatcher glared before answering, “I don’t think she was dreaming. When I was questioning her she didn’t seem to know anything about where she was or how she got there. She kept on telling herself that it was just a dream.”
“She’s probably human,” Hermie said.
Thatcher shook his head. “I fought her and she was winning.”
“Against you?” Gadge finally spoke up. He had been nudging me and trying to get my attention during the exchange but I was too engrossed in the conversation that I had ignored him.
“Yes.” Thatcher nodded before turning back to Hermie. “I’ve got to go now. I do not wish to spend my dinner break here with your little group of…’friends’, Herman. When you have accepted your calling amongst the big guns, you know where to find me.” Thatcher punched Hermie in the bicep, flexing his arm muscles over-exaggeratedly.
“Yeah, in the garbage,” Gadge muttered to me as Thatcher walked away, carrying the attention of most all of the girls in the lounge.
“Skylynn is coming this way,” Hermie told me.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you—!” Gadge began before he stopped abruptly. “Oh, hey, Sky! How was duty? Did your assignment go well? Nothin’ surprising I hope!”
“Hi, Gadge.” Skylynn gave a thin smile before she nodded to Hermie and flicked her pale blonde hair out of her face. “Herman.”
Hermie grunted in response before walking away. When Skylynn gave Gadge a look, he rolled his eyes and called a goodbye over his shoulder before jogging after Hermie.
I asked, “Hello, Skylynn. How are you?”
“You’ve been avoiding me, Waylan,” Skylynn said with a little pout as she ran a hand over the back of my chair.
I stiffened, wondering what game she was playing. Gesturing towards the table, I closed the laptop we had been using to check the next mission assignment before Skylynn sat down. “I didn’t notice. I’m sorry.” Slowly, I sat down, wanting to be anywhere else but there.
“You can’t make me a fool, Waylan. I know you still have feelings for me. Who’s the girl?” Her brown eyes bore into me and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for her. She still believed in that lie she had made herself. I didn’t want our relationship to end on a bad note and I said as much. But she wouldn’t listen, she was convinced that there was some new girl in my life suddenly who had stolen me from her. “Please, just be honest with me. I know you’ll come back sooner or later. I just wish it would be sooner.” She rolled her eyes as she smacked away at her gum.
“There is no girl, Sky, you must know that.”
Skylynn confessed, “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, but all we will ever be is friends,” I said softly, looking at the closed laptop as to avoid eye contact. “Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.” Coward, I thought.
“Fine. You’re right. Who needs you anyway?” Skylynn snapped, standing quickly. “After all of these years, this is what I get.”
“What did you expect, Sky? A check?” I sighed. “It’s not like we got a divorce. We were dating.” Emphasis on the ‘were’, I thought, trying not to squirm under her furious glare.
She jabbed a finger at me, “You know, Waylan. You can go to—.”
“Skylynn, watch it, don’t want to go summoning demons to Headquarters,” I said, eyebrow raised.
“Go to Hell, Waylan.” She spun on her heel and stormed-sashayed off. Kind of like some weird tango walk. Not that I watched her go, I was too busy watching Gadge giving me a look of wide-eyed interest from across the room as he whispered frantically to a disinterested Hermie beside him. I could just imagine how that one-sided conversation was going. She just blew him off and now walked away. That was a harsh move. Now he’s not even watching her walk away…he’s looking…Oh, he’s coming over and…
“Hi, guys,” I said, interrupting Gadge in his midsentence narration. “We’d better get a move on it if we want to make our flight. The plane leaves in an hour and we need to pack. Luckily for us, weapons will be provided there.”
“Right.” Hermie got to his feet and tossed the paper cup he had been drinking from into a nearby trashcan. “Better now than never.”
We landed in California at two in the morning on Monday. Because the plane had been delayed, we were only able to get a few hours of sleep in before we had to leave the safe house and begin the three hour stakeout.
Our mission was to intercept a secret meeting. We had gotten a tip that the demons, at the California location, were going to be dealing with a guns dealer to acquire more weapons. The meeting was planned to be at ten and we planned to stake the place out and be ready by seven.
The stakeout consisted of donuts, lots of coffee, and bad 80’s music. I was almost relieved when ten o’clock blinked onto the clock in the dashboard of the SUV we had been issued.
Ten o’clock came.
And at exactly 10:01 a.m., our easy plan burst into a distant memory.
The mission was supposed to be simple. It was also supposed to be quick.
That was, until the guns dealer fell dead the minute after ten.
We hadn’t planned on getting ambushed by three demons either. Although we should have. Been prepared that is. Demons often travelled in pairs or attacked in small factions. It wasn’t uncommon. However, we were caught by surprise, if only for a second.
That was why, now, Gadge had taken off down the narrow alley to chase one of the demons while Hermie and I chased the other two. Gadge’s demon hadn’t bothered to even shift into a human form as a disguise so it must’ve looked real peculiar for him to be chasing nothing in the eyes of the public.
The two demons we were chasing had taken on the guises of a young teenage boy and girl. People were oblivious to us as we passed. They couldn’t see us because we had taken the proper precautions before taking on this mission, just like protocol had required. It had to do with the same magic that was used with the portals. People only saw what they chose to see. Most demons didn’t care whether humans saw them or not, especially if they already went through the trouble of disguising themselves as humans. These two must care. They were up to something and I was planning on finding out.
“Stop!” Hermie bellowed. His strides were longer than mine, but I was faster. “I command you, in the name of Dreamcatchers!” I could hear the rage humming with electricity in Hermie’s voice and it was terrifying, even to someone that was on his side. No one wanted Hermie as an enemy, if they knew what was good for them.
Hermie, I thought, concentrating as we rounded the corner of a brick building. Corner them, alley down the way, split.
Hermie didn’t say anything and I hoped he got the message I had sent. When we got to the split in the alleyway, he turned left as I turned right. He wasn’t great at communicating through minds; when we were in that class a few years ago, he had fallen asleep during most of the lectures. His mindset was mainly programmed for fighting, planning attacks and military tactics, and sometimes negotiating—he always went straight for the point.
We all had our own strengths.
“You will never catch us, Dreamcatcher!” A voice hissed loudly near my ear. I flinched but didn’t slow my pace. I leapt over fallen trashcans and jumped onto a broken crate, launching myself off as I quickly gained on the demons. I whipped out my knife just as Hermie rounded the corner at the other end of the alley and the demons hissed, spinning to face me. They looked like two innocent school kids on their lunch break, but their demon images flickered underneath as they grew anxious.
“Well, it looks like we caught you,” I said, steadying my stance as I moved forward slowly.
“You will never get information out of us,” the girl growled. The sound grated on my ears and I winced inwardly.
“Oh, we will,” Hermie said. “I promise you, we will.”
And then he lunged.
“You’re running in the morning now? That’s…weird of you,” Rhiannon said over the phone. “What’s wrong? Next time you think of going on a run, call me. That way I can at least attempt to talk you out of it. Girl, you need more lazy-ing around the house, being a couch potato, eating candy time. Summer is here. The most exercise you need to do is going to the beach or the pool and tanning that little white backside of yours. Something’s definitely up if you’re doing neither.”
A laugh sputtered out of me as I gasped for breath. “I had to…get out of the house,” I told her, huffing into the cell phone. “I just wanted to…let you know where I was, in case, you know…I get abducted by aliens or…an ice cream truck runs me over.”
“Right.” Rhiannon sighed dramatically into the phone. “Thanks. Now that responsibility is all on my shoulders. You’re such a wonderful friend. What would I do without you? Oh, that’s right! I’d be doing the craziest, wildest things and be an uncontrollable menace to the world. Wild Child, yessiree! Or I’d try and make a clone of you. Who knows? Probably both.”
I laughed, gulping in air as I slowed down to a walk. “I’ll call you when I get back…there’s no way I can talk and…run at the same time.” I don’t know how celebrities do it or people in the movies. “Sound good?”
“Yes, it does. We should go catch an afternoon movie. The discounts started last week. We can tan tomorrow. Summer is here, baby!” Rhiannon let out a hoot and I could hear her dancing around her house.
“We’ve got a plan, and we’re not afraid to use it!” I grinned. I was about a mile from home but I wasn’t in a hurry to get there. I had brought my little purse in case I wanted to go shopping. There was a good farmer’s market nearby that set up booths every morning at seven and closed around eleven. I glanced at my watch. It was already fifteen after ten.
“I’ll hear from you later! The dog’s barking again…probably at a bird. Dumb, lovable dog. Good thing the neighbors like him enough…” Rhiannon pulled the phone away from her ear but her voice was still loud and clear, “Rudolph! What in the world are you barking at out there? If it’s a squirrel, I swear I’ll skin you alive! And this time I might even mean it!” Her sigh echoed through the phone as she came back. “I’ll talk to you later. Ruddy is being a pain and he knows I could never hurt him, the little pest. See you!”
“See ya,” I replied, glancing around. I thought I had heard something. Shaking my head, I continued walking.
Kylie, come to us. Kylie Roth. Come.
What? I thought, startled. What was that?
“You will never get information out of us,” a voice snarled. I almost jumped out of my skin at the sudden hissing noise in my ear. As I passed the next building, I stiffened. Something was off. I glanced to the right and saw a small group of people at the center of the alleyway. Two were crouched against the wall, huddled in fear. A girl and a boy, I noticed. There were two men standing threateningly over the pair. One must have been a wrestling champ, he was so tall and built. The other had light blonde curls and a knife in his hand. I couldn’t see their faces clearly but they looked like trouble.
“Oh, we will,” the giant man said menacingly. “I promise you, we will.”
He lunged across the space between him and the cowering pair and without warning, I met his attack. I must have already been running before he had even spoken because I had somehow gotten to the group just in time. Kylie, what are you doing? I silently yelled at myself. Are you insane? This is exactly the sort of thing parents warn their children about.
My purse was slung across my chest so I quickly slid it over my head and threw it at the two men.
“Here, take it, just leave these kids alone,” I snapped, throwing a look behind me. The pair trembled with fear. They were shaking so badly they almost shimmered. Wait, what?
“Get out of the way,” one of the men spoke. Not having the time to do a double take at the two kids behind me, I glanced up into the pair of bluest, lightest eyes I had ever seen. What had the fortune teller said? The pale blue of the stars, a Warrior will stand tall, like a guardian angel while you kneel. Okay, so not funny. What was going on…? My hand twitched for an invisible weapon.
“Kylie Roth, fancy meeting you here. Our leader will be proud that we have found you, sister,” the boy spoke in a raspy voice from behind me. I turned slightly and saw his tongue flick out. I nearly screamed as I fell back, scrambling away as the pair morphed into twin beings from a land of nightmares that was probably titled as All Things Which Are Horrifying.
They have tails…and…and tails? Seriously? And…Oh my—
“They are demons,” the pale eyed Warrior growled. Of course they were. “Now, get back!”
His voice, I thought, seeing the flash of mild surprise disappear on the Warrior’s face. I recognize that voice… It reminded me of dreams long forgotten—The demons hissed as they reared up to a frighteningly tall height, seeming to fly up into the air, as they proceeded to dive right for me. I yelped and darted out of the way, jumping to my feet. No time to think about that now!
The giant man raced forward and knocked their snake-like heads away with his bare fist. The heads flickered again. Human, demon. Human, demon. Argh, just show yourselves already, assholes, I thought with a glower.
My mind was a hot, jumbled mess and somehow I connected what I had just seen as realistic and not supernatural in the least. The image of the boy and girl flickered spasmodically and I forced my eyes to stay open, adrenaline suddenly coursing through me.
Staring hard, I saw the demons’ true forms as the façade slid away.
Their heads were huge, connected from the shoulder down; they were like some small, scary Hydra come to life from Greek mythology. Spikes ran down their gray-black, scaly serpentine backs and their eyes burned reddish gold with evil and hate. Everything about them screamed terrifying. Two long sharp fangs stabbed down from their upper lips and up from their lower lips. If you could call them ‘lips’; it was more like a gaping chasm of knives and with a spiked tongue in a sea of acid saliva.
Lovely. A freaking living nightmare. A shudder racked through my body as I was unable to look away. Like a horrifying car crash about to happen right in front of you. Like watching a freight train coming at you…with a bomb attached to it…and a giant meat tenderizer attached to the front, coming right for you—
They hissed and whirled away, turning towards the Giant. The Warrior jumped forward, slicing with his knife.
As the Warrior and the Giant fought, I took the chance to scramble back, scraping my hands against broken glass, rocks, and dirt in the process. My first instinct was to leap into the action and help fight but I knew that I first needed a weapon if I wanted to be of any help. Glancing around proved unhelpful until my eye landed on my purse. I had pepper spray in there. Pepper spray that my mom had given to me a while ago. Would that help? How much good is pepper spray against unholy fiends of darkness? The thought persisted in my head but I didn’t have time to mull it over.The demons—things—were preoccupied which gave me the time to slide over to my purse and crouch down against the wall behind an overturned crate.
“Hermie! Behind you!” The Warrior shouted. I breathed in two slow breaths of air as I heard the scrape of talons on metal and a shout of anger and pain. My thoughts flew out of my head and I decided that I had to act now or forever regret it in my short future. If I didn’t help now, the demons would definitely come after me while the two were preoccupied. Why not make myself an easier target then, huh? I jumped up and ran, practically in one motion. I almost ran too far and had to skid to a stop, nearly falling over myself. They hadn’t noticed my ever so graceful entrance.
I quickly straightened up and took a deep breath in. “Hey! Monsters, Inc! Things! Don’t make me call Ghostbusters!” I yelled, waving an arm above my head as the thing skittered to a halt, spinning and turning to meet my gaze. “Oh yeah, that sure got your attention.” The demon was no longer identifiable by gender and there was definitely zero trace of it ever being a naïve little teenage…human.
The demon leapt into the air and I fell backwards onto my butt. Wow, great retaliation, Kylie. You really showed that demon who they’re dealing with. Say your last prayers. Shouting a war cry that I hoped wasn’t too sissy, I raised the small can, covered my eyes and sprayed the pepper spray into the air above me with all my might as the thing fell toward me.
Time seemed to stop and shift into slow motion. Fire sluggishly rained down on my skin and I cried out in pain as something sharp cut into me. My scream mixed with the scream of the demon before it gradually disappeared off into the breeze.
When time stops, it needs to hurry to catch up again, I realized with dread.I fell back and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to ward off the piercing stabs of fiery pain before I forced them to stay open. I had to see what was happening. A knife whizzed past my head and embedded itself into the remaining demon that had been racing and screeching towards me. I wish I had kept my eyes closed. The thing shuddered before falling onto my legs. I didn’t have the will to even bother screaming and kicking it off of me.
“Is she alive?” The Giant crouched down beside me as the Warrior nudged the demon off of my legs with his foot. The Giant placed two fingers to my throat.
“She’s ignorant, that’s what she is,” the Warrior responded.
I could feel myself wanting to sleep. “Hey,” I coughed. Who does this guy think he is? Sure, he might look like an avenging angel but that gave him no right…
“Well, she’s not dead. Should we take her to a hospital?” The Giant cut in again before the Warrior could make any jabs at my intelligence. The Warrior could face me when I wasn’t lying half conscious on the ground of a dirty alleyway with demon blood on me. My mind didn’t even have the power to register that I had just thought ‘demon blood’ without questioning my sanity. I was sure that my brain had made sure to file that little tidbit away so I could question myself when I was a bit more alert.
“Not until she answers some questions.”
Wait, Rhiannon was right. He totally was an avenging angel.
“Come on, Waylan. She just saved your life.”
“Are you joking? She ruined the mission! We had no chance of questioning either of those…” The Warrior trailed off and I blinked slowly, not missing the cautious glance he cut towards the Giant.
“Demons,” I supplied. My tongue felt thirty times too large for my mouth and I thought I might be choking until I realized I didn’t care anymore. My laugh sounded garbled as I coughed and tried to gag. Funny how I didn’t care that I was probably dying. Take me. I am ready.
“Waylan, she’s starting to be affected by the demon’s blood. I think she was caught by a talon…the leg…” The Giant said in a low, growling voice.
“Alright, fine.” The Warrior sighed. “Let’s bring her to the safe house. We’re going to miss our flight back.”
“You need to carry her, I…” The Giant grunted. I felt my eyes close but I continued to sense what was happening around me. The Giant clutched his abdomen. Now that, I thought, Is quite the interesting development. I frowned. Can I always see with my eyes closed? Wait, that sounds funny. A smile quivered on my lips. What’s wrong with you? The Giant man is hurt. A frown immediately tugged at my lips.
“Where are you hurt?” the Warrior asked his friend as he quickly picked me up in his strong, warrior arms. My head lolled back onto his shoulder before rolling off and into the air. My eyes blinked and I saw a blurry image of everything upside down. A laugh gurgled out of my throat and I realized the fire hadn’t been put out yet. Everything burned.
The Warrior righted my head and it felt just right in the little scoop of his shoulder. I kept my eyes closed and started moving my hands about slowly.
“It’s just a flesh wound. I’m already healing.” The Giant looked down at his side and stood quickly as he yanked the knife out of the demon that had been skewered. It shimmered and disappeared, evaporating and leaving behind the slight stench of rotten eggs and dead things. My nose wrinkled slightly before my mind ran ahead of me.
“I see you,” I mumbled, bringing a hand up to touch the Warrior’s face. He glanced down at me, anger now overridden by concern. A giggle bubbled out of me as his eyes blinked. Such pretty eyes. He tilted his head out of my grasp and my hand fell short, running down his jaw and neck.
“What?” He asked.
“My eyes are closed, but I can see,” I whispered.