“Uh,” With the demons attacking, I’d completely forgotten about them. “I think they’re still together skipping school… somewhere.”
Anna jumped to her feet. “You didn’t follow them? Are you insane? We have to get to them before Stan does.”
“I think they’ll be okay,” I said. “He said she’s down the list a ways and to not worry.”
That didn’t mean I didn’t get out my phone and double check just in case. My inbox from Headquarters had been empty ever since the mishap with Boyd and I liked it that way. Messages didn’t always mean good news. I expected it to stay empty, but as I flipped open my phone there was a beeping red light on the cracked screen.
The voicemail was automated and impersonal. “Katelyn Cody has…twenty four hours…until death. If you would like to listen to this message again, please press one. If you would like to speak to an Angel of Death Coordinator, please press two. To schedule a specific Angel of Death to collect your Mortal, please press…”
I hung up.
“This can’t be happening,” I said.
“I thought you had to get your girl off The List,” Duffy said.
“That was the plan,” I said. I checked the barrel of my gun, discarded the empties and began checking my ammo belt. My fingers trembled. What the heck was I going to do? Getting a twenty-four hour death notice reversed was nearly impossible. Not as impossible as an emergency call from Dispatch and a twenty minute time frame to reverse nature, but still…it was difficult.
“I hate to sound insensitive, but what are you going to do?” Phil said.
“Call,” I said, my hands shaking as I fumbled for my phone. “I’ve got to call Transportation.” I needed a quick light out of there before nightfall. I didn’t care that I didn’t have Katelyn’s code, I had to try.
I dialed for travel, but the call never connected. I got nothing but static. I hit my phone in the palm of my hand a few times, but there was no change. Instead of dreamy Kenny-G tunes, there was fuzzy white noise.
“My phone is out,” I said.
“That can’t be right,” Duffy said. He checked his phone and Phil, Anna and Min did the same. There was no connection. “It looks like we’re going to have to search for your girl old school.”
“That might be a problem with the school surrounded,” Phil said.
“Not to mention that wherever you go, you are going to have a horde of demons show up,” Duffy said. “That’s not exactly helpful when you’re trying to keep your girl alive.”
“This is a nightmare,” I said. “What am I going to do?” I was feeling the strain. Every second I stalled, was another second Katelyn careened toward death.
“You’ve got to get out of here, first of all,” Anna said. “And then you’ve got to track down Katelyn.”
“Have you looked outside, Anna?” Duffy said gesturing wildly at the window. “No, wait, you couldn’t have because you were SLEEPING! We are surrounded by hordes of demons that want to take over the school.”
Anna pushed us aside and ran to the window to get a look for herself. When she turned back to us, her face was as white as her hair.
“Okay, how are we going to get past all that?” she asked herself. “It can be done. I’m sure it can.”
“You’re the Miracle Worker,” Duffy said. “If you can think of a way to get Gideon out of the school in less than twenty four hours while we hold our ground against the demons, then I’m all for it.”
Min snapped his fingers like he had a glorious idea, but all he could say was, “Chop.” As if that explained everything.
“Can you be a bit more specific?” I said.
Min let out a frustrated growl. He pointed to Phil’s bazooka and then at me, making a hand gesture like I was going to catapult through the demons. “Chop.”
It was enough for me to get a brilliant idea. Granted it was suicidal, a little crazy and a long shot. How bad could it be? I’d probably get my backside fried off with demonfire among other things, but I was immortal. I’d live.
“New plan, guys,” I said. “We’re going to secure the school and blast a hole through the demon ranks. If I can get through, you’ll have to hold the school on your own until I get back.”
Duffy didn’t look convinced, but Anna nodded vigorously. “You must save Katelyn. We’ll do it.”
I could have kissed her. Thank The Boss I had her on my side. Even though Duffy was reluctant, he still leaned in eagerly with the others to hear the plan.
“We need light to fight,” I said. “You—,” I pointed to Min. “Secure the lower levels. All the windows and doors need to be locked the second school gets out. I don’t care what it takes; get all the Mortals out of the building. Shoot them with whatever you got. We’ve got to have complete control of the school before dark.”
“Duffy, dude. Just get it right once, will you?”
“Fine. Duffy,” I said. “Do what you do best, but turn those pranks on the demons. Cover doorways, hallways and make a perimeter around the main hall to keep them out.”
Finally, a slow grin spread on Duffy’s face. “Now you’re talking my language,” he said. “They won’t know what hit them.”
“Good. Take Anna with you and set up tripwires,” I said.
Anna rubbed her hands together excitedly. “I love a good explosive. The new plastics are amazing. Maybe a little nitro…”
“Can I shoot her if she falls asleep?” Duffy said wryly.
I dug a Panic Button out of my ammo belt and handed it to Duffy. “This does the job,” I said. “But only use it in an emergency.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Anna said and, unfortunately, yawned. “I’ll stay awake.”
Duffy eyed her skeptically, but didn’t say anything. He pocketed the ammo while she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “Just don’t expect me to carry you around like Gideon does,” he muttered under his breath
“What do I get to do?” Phil said.
“You’re coming with me,” I said. “I need you and your bazooka.”
Phil’s tight grin was tense. “O-okay…uh, are you sure? Just so you know, I’ve had this bazooka since I left the Academy and I’ve never fired it. Honestly, I don’t know what it’ll do.”
“Well, now is a good time to find out,” I said. My confidence was wavering. I wish I had at least ten more angels and an endless supply of ammunition. My wish was intensified when I looked out the window. The snowfall kicked up a notch as school began to wind down. The thick white flakes didn’t hide the ranks of demons filing in around the building.
The end of school bell rang and it was a mad rush of Mortals young and old to go home. Min expertly dodged in and out of classrooms and marking them with his sword when they were empty. I don’t know how he did it. I had to shoot a Mortal with something to get them to bust a move. All Min did was gently touch them on the arm and it was like they were overcome with the sudden mad desire to dash home.
Duffy and Anna left to set traps around the school. Duffy was in his element and I could tell he was thinking up a few doozies because the glint in his deep brown eyes was slightly wicked. The more damage he did on demons, the happier I’d be.
The problem was that our efforts weren’t going to be nearly enough. I kept that part quiet. It would take ten times the store of ammunition we had to keep the demons out and even then, Anna would have to pull off a miracle for it to work.
Phil and I followed the bulk of the crowd out the front doors. Phil kept tripping over his large feet and knocking into whoever was unfortunate enough to get in his way. It really did look as if half the school was cursed with the klutz gene for the way Mortals ran into each other because of Phil.
“Oh my gosh,” a familiar stuck up voice said. “Did you hear that Katelyn left with Greg? They’re like the perfect nerdy match. He’s a geek and she’s like totally ugly. I can’t believe I even talk to her. Come to think of it, why do I talk to her? Oh, right. Because I’m like totally her only friend.”
“Becca,” I spat caustically. Automatically I reached for my gun, but Phil stopped me.
“Another time, Gideon,” he said. “We don’t have time.”
He was right. Dang it.
“Fine,” I said, slipping my gun back into the holster. “But the second we sort things out, she is going down.”
Becca laughed like a hyena, which made Phil grimace in disgust.
“Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t shot her before now,” he said.
“I called it first,” I said. “I’ve got a shell with her name on it. She’ll be popping zits for a month.”
“If we survive,” Phil said as we pushed through the front doors to the blizzard outside. It was like walking through a moving curtain of white cotton balls and visibility was nil.
Phil and I took cover behind what looked like the entire basketball team. They were tall enough to make even Phil look short. Though the snow it looked as if there was a wall of black where the demons had compacted themselves together in a tight formation. They let Mortals through without harm, but they looked hungry.
“Hands off the Mortals,” Edward bellowed, his demonic voice screeched over the babble of the students. “Let them though. We want the angels to stay in the school.”
“Gideon?” Phil said worriedly. “How are we going to get through all these demons? They’re everywhere.”
I didn’t want to know how many demons there were, but out of curiosity, I took a good look around. They were everywhere. Literally. Heaped in piles on cars, buses, in the parking lot and out into the street. There were so many it was like a sea of black in the white powdery snow.
“Stick to a Mortal,” I whispered. “I bet we can slip through.”
I sandwiched myself between two basketball players and tried to walk normal like I was meant to be there. Phil nodded. I knew he’d try to do it. His heart was in the right place, but I seriously doubted his feet could pull it off. We got as far as the first row of busses and to the front line of demons when we were spotted.
Phil had been doing great. He walked along as if everything was fine, but his big feet snagged on the curb and he went sprawling. Ammo flew out his pouch and he fell face first on his bazooka at Edward’s feet. If the massive weapon wasn’t enough, the fact that Phil didn’t bleed was a dead giveaway.
“Ah poop,” Phil muttered as he tried desperately to get back on his feet again. His long legs were a tangled mess and he couldn’t get a grip on his bazooka. Edward the Fathead’s face lit up like Christmas came early.
“Going somewhere?” he said. He grinned bleakly at Phil for a second and bellowed, “They’re trying to escape. Get him!”
There wasn’t a chance I was going to get through now, not without Phil. I never left an angel behind and I wasn’t about to start now. I freed myself from between my two Mortals like a cork in a bottle and dove for Phil. Still on his stomach, he scrambled to pick up his ammo and stuff it back into the pouch at his hip. I yanked his legs straight and pulled him to his feet by the back of his shirt.
For a brief second, as Phil fumbled with his bazooka, I looked up and came face to face with Edward. If my hands weren’t full trying to keep Phil upright, I would have socked him good and hard. I owed him a punch in the nose.
This time, there was no way I was going to let him talk. First rule of demon hunting: shoot first. I dropped Phil, got my gun out and the trigger pulled, but not before Edward formed a ball of flaming demonfire and threw it into my face. I ducked for cover behind the bus. The fire fizzled a gaping hole in the blizzard, creating a pocket of steam.
“Hey Dorkface, you missed!” I taunted him.
The demon seemed to grow in size with his indignation. He heaved great gasps of air as smoke curled off the ends of his fingers. “I am Edward,” he bellowed in a deep baritone. “Edward the Deliverer!”
I snorted out a laugh. Sure it wasn’t the best timing for a laugh, but seriously? He was going full devil out there in the snow with the balls of demonfire going and his face twisted in a wicked leer like something out of a bad movie with really poor special effects. I couldn’t help it.
“What is wrong with you?” Phil hissed.
“It’s funny,” I said. “The shrink has me doing image association exercises so I can remember names and I got this really great mental picture of a demon with buck teeth and crown. You know, like King Edward of England, but he’s a Dorkface.”
Phil’s mouth popped open. “You’ve gone completely nuts.”
He was probably right, but I couldn’t shake the image or the fit of giggles. I rolled to one knee and got ready to fire.
“Yo, demon,” I hollered. “I think I’ll stick with Dorkface. It fits your personality.”
Incensed, Edward shrieked. He lunged for the bus and just as he got in my sights, I pulled the trigger. His ear, half his neck and most of his shoulder got blown to smithereens. Edward staggered backward as he clutched at his missing parts.
Phil whacked me in the chest. “Toss me up on the bus,” he said. “I’ll blow a hole through the demons so you can make a run for it.”
I shot at Edward again. I blew off his left leg, which was all I needed to jump to my feet and give Phil a boost. He got his elbow up on the roof along with his Bazooka and he struggled to pull himself up over the side. All around the bus were the hisses of demons, eyes red and threatening. Edward was quickly reforming. I didn’t have much time to mess with Phil so I shoved his feet upward and nearly catapulted him onto the top of the bus.
The weird part about this was that we were holding a miniature war with the demons while Mortal teenagers climbed into the buses, minding their own business. I had long gotten used to being ignored while Mortals got on with their daily lives, but we were talking about a major showdown and a group of boys were flirting with two cheerleaders not two feet away. If they only knew what was really happening and could see what was going down right in front of them.
“You got this Phil,” I said, hoping I was right.
“Yeah, I’ve got this.” Phil flicked off the safety as demons converged on the bus, ready to haul me off. “Get ready to run, Gideon!”
I stepped away from the curb and Edward who had regrown a stump for a foot and partial leg. In about a minute he was going to be in fighting shape again. Snow stuck to my hair and clogged my eyelashes, but I could see the demons moving in on me. Once they got past the bus, it was going to be all over.
“Come on, Phil,” I muttered to myself.
Phil was on his feet on top of the bus. He hauled the bazooka onto his shoulder with his legs set wide to handle the added weight. He aimed for the thickest section of demons right in front of me and pulled the trigger.