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I lost it.

I think.

The next five minutes were hazy as I unloaded every Anti-Demon shell I had on the demon. He blew into tiny bits and then I shot those bits to smaller bits. Katelyn’s room was covered in glittering anti-demon ammo pellets and sizzling demon scum. I hoped it took him a week to reform.

The next thing I remember was a soft hand on my arm and soothing fingers peel my fingers off my shotgun. I technically didn’t ‘see’ who it was until they spoke.

“Breathe, Gideon,” Anna coaxed as she put my shotgun down on the desk in front of the window.

“Chop?” Min inspected me, his round cheeks and narrow eyes were worried as he looked up at my face. I concentrated on inhaling and exhaling.

“He’s just shell shocked,” Phil said to Min.

“Can angels get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?” Duffy said. He and Phil inspected Katelyn’s room, impressed that so little of the demon remained intact.

“Hush,” Anna said. “If you can’t say anything nice, Duffy, don’t say anything at all. Gideon has been through a lot.”

“Demon hunting is fun,” Duffy said. “What’s his problem?”

I was still stuck, staring. Staring and breathing. I hated demons. Hated the entire lot of them. They were bodiless filth that spoke nothing but lies and that was all they were good for, which was nothing useful…obviously.

“I let him speak,” I said, at last. “And I shouldn’t have listened.”

Min’s eyes went wide in terror. “Chop!” he exclaimed as he whipped out his swords and began dashing what little was left of the demon to even smaller pieces. “Chop, chop, CHOP!!!”

“Rule number one from the Academy, bro,” Phil said, shaking his head.

“Never let a demon speak,” Duffy said. “Always shoot first.”

Anna’s face paled so much, her skin was nearly as white as her hair. “Let’s get him back to the school.”

She took my shotgun off the desk and hefted it over her shoulder as Min directed me to the door. Duffy and Phil cleaned up the demon, shoving what was left of him out the window. There wasn’t much.

“That is pretty impressive,” Duffy said in an undertone to Phil.

“And freaky. I wonder what the demon said to make him flip out like that,” Phil replied.

“What happened?” I said as Min coaxed me downstairs and out the back. For as lethal with his swords as he was, he was very careful.

“I slept through most of it,” Anna said. “I heard you scream and thought you were being attacked. I called Duffy and went after you. I had to wait until you were all done…doing whatever you were doing to it, but by the time I got Katelyn’s door open, the demon was obliterated and you couldn’t stop shooting.”

“Choppy,” Min said sympathetically. He patted me kindly on the shoulder and then whipped his swords out. He ran ahead of me and Anna, searching the shadows for anything lurking there.

“I’m not sorry I lost it,” I babbled. “I should have shot quicker. I shouldn’t have let him talk. I had him in my sights and I should have…”

“It’s past now,” Anna said.

I didn’t want to tell her that it was just the beginning. The demon would be back and that was what scared me. I didn’t want him back, did I? The demon’s lies were messing with my head.

Anna tried her hardest to stay awake and sit up with me on the benches at school. She did great for about a half hour before doing a classic knock out mid sentence and nearly toppling off the bench to the floor. I let her snooze on my lap. I was even getting used to her snoring. There was a pattern to it with a tell tale snort and snuffle between breaths.

Phil and Duffy prepped the school for the next day while Min did rounds at the perimeter of the sagging building. I kept telling myself that Tuesday was a new day. No worries. I could start fresh and make things right with Katelyn. I had to.

But, as the sun rose over the frost covered sagebrush fields, it was clear I wasn’t going to be that lucky. I almost didn’t recognize Katelyn when she walked in. The burnt sections of her hair had been cut away and the rest hacked off to match it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a major improvement, but her frizzy curls stuck straight up as if she’d put her finger in a light socket.

I stared at her as she walked past me to her locker. Duffy and Phil were close behind.

“Holy wings,” Duffy whistled. “Did you see that?”

“This can’t be happening,” Phil said.

Only Min seemed unphased. He grinned at her retreating back, nodding like Katelyn was the coolest Mortal he’d seen in decades. “Chop,” he said appreciatively fanning himself. Apparently, Min had a thing for wild short hair on girls.

“It’s not that bad,” I said. “I think she can pull it off.”

“Let’s just hope everyone else has the same crazy idea,” Duffy said. I wasn’t naïve enough to argue. Mortals could be horrible to each other.

It started a little after second period when Becca snapped a shot of Katelyn when she wasn’t paying attention. By the time lunch hit, a doctored photo hit practically every phone in the entire school. The only person who didn’t know what was going on was Katelyn. She didn’t have her phone to figure it out; it was still with Miss Gibson.

Becca laughed like a flipping hyena every time her phone went off with another comment about the photo. It was hard to ignore and before long, Katelyn was aware that she was the only one not in on the joke.

“We’ve got to find a phone and check this out,” Phil said. Which was saying something, because everyone seemed to keep an iron grip on there’s.

“Need a prank?” Duffy said. “I could lift a phone off anyone of these Mortals in my sleep. Just say the word.”

After watching Katelyn get lunch and eat it by herself, it was tempting to let him. Min was the first to act. With his sword he thwacked the underside of a boy’s pocket making his phone soar upward. It was a clean release, and the kid never saw it coming. Duffy snatched it out of the air and began flipping through his texts.

“Geez, this kid needs to get a filter,” he muttered.

“Just scroll up to find the photo,” I said.

It took a while. His text feed was loaded so, by the time we found the mass text Becca sent out I was getting irritated. His return texts to Becca made my face burn. The only word I could think of to describe his replies was ‘brutal.’

“Ah ha! Found it,” Duffy said. He pressed his thumb to the screen to maximize the size and what I saw made my jaw drop. It was Katelyn’s hair alright, but it was on a dirty pig and full of snakes like Medusa. It even had lyrics and animated bugged out eyes.

“Not cool,” Phil said.

Agreed. I was going to lose it. Even Duffy couldn’t find anything funny about it to say and Min was growling like a bear.

“That’s it,” I said, whipping out my six-shooter. “I’m going to destroy Becca. She’s going to have so many zits by the end of the day, she won’t know what hit her.”

“I’ll take out her phone,” Duffy offered.

“Chop,” Min spat menacingly.

“Hold up,” Phil said. “I hate to be the only sane one here, but we can’t go around shooting Mortals just because they ticked us off.”

“Oh, I can and I will. Starting with Becca,” I said, spitting out an anti-demon round and replacing it with a zit and rash shell. “One good shot with an Epic Epidermal and I’ll feel much better.”

“But it won’t make Katelyn feel better,” Duffy said. He rocked backwards, startled. “I can’t believe I just said that.” He shook his head like he was trying to revive his old prankster brain.

“For once, Duffy is right,” Phil said. “We’ve got to contain this. As long as we can find a way to lessen the blow before Katelyn finds out, I think we can stop it before it gets out of control.”

Min plucked at my sleeve. “Chop?” he said worriedly.

“Luckily Katelyn got her phone confiscated,” I said.

“For how long?” Duffy said.

“Until the end of the week,” I said.

“Perfect,” Duffy said, the old glint was returning to his dark brown eyes. “I’ve got an entire arsenal of tricks we can play on the school in the meantime. They won’t know what hit them.”

“Chop!” Min was more insistent now. He was practically yanking my arm out of its socket.

“Dude, I’ll let you do some chopping, okay?” I said, but Min was pointing frantically down the hall. Katelyn was headed toward Miss Gibson’s classroom, checking in all directions for anyone watching. It was tell tale sneaking around, if you asked me. “What the heck does she think she’s doing?”

Duffy chucked the Mortal’s phone and began to run after me as I sprinted after her. Phil tripped and hit the trophy case, but he bounced off and kept going. My heart was racing. Katelyn opened the door to the Math classroom and peeked in. The coast was clear and she went in.

“Min, keep watch,” I said as I slipped in behind her. The last glimpse I got of him was that he’d whipped out his twin swords and was doing a few test ninja swipes with them. Duffy got in, but the door slammed shut on Phil’s face. His nose crunched and he grumbled out terse slang.

“Get that drawer locked!” Duffy said as he dove for his shiny silver glock.

I ran past Katelyn and vaulted over Miss Gibson’s desk. I’d dealt with plenty of locks in my day. Desk and cabinets were the easiest. There was a lever connected to the locking mechanism and all it took was turning it in the right direction. I flicked it shut just as Katelyn reached for the handle and pulled.

“Done!” I said. I shouldn’t have been exultant. Katelyn was determined to get her phone back and began rummaging through Miss Gibson’s drawers for the key.

“What is with this Mortal?” Duffy exclaimed.

“She’s driven, which is admirable in any other situation than this one” I said. I searched my ammo belt for a specific shell and came up empty, which was odd. I didn’t remember using a Voice of Reason on anyone in a while.

“Gideon, she’s starting to trash the teacher’s drawers,” Duffy said.

“Hit her with a Voice Of Reason,” I said from under the desk. “Quick! Before she finds the key.”

“I’m short on V.O.R.’s,” Duffy said.

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“Uh, no. I usually shoot myself with one of them when I think up a really huge prank. I was short the other day, so I took all of yours when you were drooling over Anna.”

“You stole my ammo?” I roared at him.

“I wouldn’t say ‘stole’ in that exact context,” Duffy said. “I would say that I borrowed them…permanently. I was planning on getting you more.”

“Who cares! What else you have?” I said as I frantically shook all the shells out of the barrel of my six-shooter. My fingers trembled as I scrambled for a bullet of… anything, I didn’t care. I got my hands on a set of shells, not really paying attention to what they were and stuffed them into the barrel. I couldn’t hit her with what I had in there, which was the Epic Epidermal I’d planned to take Becca out with. I rolled out from underneath the desk and shot her right in the face.

I saw a light go on in her eyes as she stopped searching and knelt down in front of the locked drawer. She ran her finger lightly over the lock, traced along the edge of the drawer and then underneath. In less than a few seconds she had the latch freed and the drawer opened.

“What did you shoot her with?” Duffy said.

I flipped open the barrel and an empty shell popped out. It was smoking brilliant flashing lights. “I hit her with a Genius. No wonder she figured it out so quickly.”

“Well, Einstein, what are we going to do now?” Duffy said.

“We could fry her phone with a Destroyer,” I said. “But I used that one yesterday already. You got one?”

“Maybe. I haven’t used one in ages.” Duffy rummaged through his pockets and came up with a handful of multi-colored ammo. It was taking too long for him to finger through what he had and I was left to watch Katelyn flip through her texts. It didn’t take long for her to locate the photo and turn pale.

“Too late,” I whispered as I watched in horror.

“This can’t be good,” Duffy said.

At first, I thought Katelyn might be able to pass off the photo as a lame joke. Her face was blank for the longest time, almost as if she couldn’t register what she was seeing.

Duffy snapped his fingers in front of her face, but Katelyn was mentally gone. She didn’t even blink and her frozen state was unnerving.

There was a frantic tap of metal on the door. It was Min.

“Miss Gibson is coming,” Duffy said. “What do we do?”

“I’m going to kill her.”

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