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Apparently demons, when they really wanted to cut off a handful of angels, could show restraint. Which was not what I had planned on. In fact, it was completely out of character.

“What is wrong with these demons?” Duffy exclaimed. “It’s like they’re…they’re…possessed!”

“Ha! Seeing as they’re usually the ones doing the possessing,” Phil said.

“It’s definitely weird,” I said. “Demons attack angels. It’s what they do.”

Min nodded emphatically. Anna studied the demons as they slowly filled in the gap and went back to their silent vigil of doing nothing.

“My dynamite has always worked,” she said. “Why didn’t it work?”

“It did work,” I said staring down at the masses of dark shadows perplexed. “These demons are obviously defective.”

“We’ve got to up our game,” Anna said. “What do we have left over from the basement?”

“Duffy and I cleared it out,” Phil said. “We were planning on them attacking by now.”

“We still have enough ammo to last for a while,” I said.

“Then I say we use it all.” Anna picked up a shotgun and hefted it over her shoulder. “There has to be a better way to do this. What haven’t we thought of?”

I was sure I was gaping with my mouth hanging wide open. I’d never seen Anna like this, awake and actually fully functioning instead of yawning in half-sleep. It was…seriously hot.

Phil punched me in the arm to break me out of my daze.

“Dude, you’re drooling,” he whispered.

I scrubbed my sleeve over my chin, just in case Phil wasn’t kidding around.

“What if we fake it? Make it look like we are going to make a run for it so the demons attack,” I said.

“With what bait?” Phil said.

“An angel,” I said.

Phil put his hands up and backed away. “I am so not volunteering. Getting my heart blown out of my chest once already was more than enough.”

“That won’t work,” Anna said. “They don’t want to attack the school.” Anna stared out the window at Edward. “Which is just so weird. He acts too much like…well, not like a demon.”

“Funny you should say that. He told me he was an angel once. He said he was just like me.”

Anna’s face darkened. “He’s nothing like you, Gideon. Nothing at all.”

“Chill. It’s not like I cared. But I thought it was interesting that he was an angel once. He kept on going on that he was The Boss’s favorite.”

“Not possible—,” Anna spat indignantly.

“Again, I know. He’s completely delusional, but… ohh. I just had a brain fart,” I said. Sometimes being the most brain damaged, forgetful angel out there was a good thing. Forgetting facts and them remembering them made for some excellently clear revelations. I quickly thanked The Boss for momentary lapses in brain dysfunction. “We need to insult the Dorkface and I know exactly how.”

I took up the sniper rifle and reloaded it. This time, I wasn’t going to miss. I spun to my knee and aimed at Edward.

“Hey, Dorkface,” I shouted. “How’s the devil treating you these days? Does he give you extra smelly breath as a birthday present?”

I put a hole through his hand and it hissed where demon flesh used to be. Edward yelped in pain.

He clutched his hand to his chest and glared up at me. “You and I grow more and more alike by the minute, Gideon,” he yelled back.

“It’s about time you started working on your insults,” I said. This time I aimed for his elbow and when I blew it off, Edward swore up a storm. “Language, dude! Remember what happened to you the last time you cussed at me?”

The line began to waver. The horde of demons pulsed forward as they fed off of Edward’s anger. Speaking of Edward the Dorkface, his face was smoking slightly as he struggled to regain his calm. If I kept this up, his head just might erupt in demon flame.

Anna studied the demons through her binoculars, grinning ear to ear. “Why is this working?” she said in awe.

“Because I figured out his weakness when he was an angel,” I said. “Nothing sucks worse than being an arrogant, self-absorbed prick and have an angel school you on it. Dorkface was the worst. He wanted to be The Boss’s favorite; the King of the Angels.” I fired again and took out his left foot. Rows of demons began to boil with anticipation as Edward hopped around, yelping, on one foot.

“Whoa, talk about delusional,” Duffy said.

“And strangely effective,” Phil said. “A few more ought to do it.”

“Fire off another insult!” Anna said. “He’s recovering.”

I popped out the empty shell and loaded in a fresh one.

“You need me, Gideon,” Edward bellowed. “Without me you are nothing but a struggling Junior Angel with Second Class wings and you’ll never grow up. Never!”

“Which is a whole lot better than being you, with no wings and a stench that could stun a skunk,” I shouted down at him. His arm regrew so I shot it off again at the shoulder. “What is your title these days? Edward the dorkiest of Dorkfaces? Or just Buttbreath, because that is basically what you smell like in close quarters.”

“I am EDWARD THE DELIVERER!” The demon was so incensed, the line of demons almost broke and Edward had to lash out at them with his whips of demonfire to get them back into formation.

“Geez! This guy just won’t break,” I muttered. I checked my watch. It was well past three in the morning. If I waited much longer I’d lose Katelyn, wherever she was. There was a point of no return when a Mortal was given notice of Death from the Department of A.O.D. and I was teetering too close on the edge of it.

“I can’t fool around anymore,” I said. “I’ve got to get out of here.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Duffy said. He bolted off down the hall.

“Where are you going?” Phil yelled after him.

“I’ve got an idea for the best prank ever,” Duffy called out over his shoulder. “Trust me!”

Duffy took the stairs two at a time, skipping over land mines with more speed that I would have dared try. After a few seconds I heard him shoot the front door off its hinges and run out to the top steps.

“What the heck—?”

Min, Phil, Anna and I leaned over the windowsill to get a better look at Duffy below us. Duffy strutted in front of the demons, arms out and grinning.

“He’s completely lost it,” Phil said.

“No, it’s brilliant,” Anna said. “It’s harder to resist attack when you’re right out there in the open.”

“Shh!” Min hissed.

“Welcome demons!” Duffy exclaimed ingratiatingly. “As Guardian of Muddy Gap High, I have to say that we’ve got top choice Mortals here, ripe for the tempting.”

“Yup, he’s crazy,” Phil said.

“What are you doing?” I hissed down at him. “Get back inside!”

Duffy waved me off. The ranks of demons faltered for a moment. It seemed they didn’t know what to do with an angel that flat out sacrificed himself on a platter for them.

“I am all for equal opportunities,” Duffy said. “I say we live in harmony, demons and angels together.”

“Not possible,” Edward said.

“You’re right,” Duffy said. “You’d have to fight us angels for that many succulent, fresh, young, untainted Mortals, just wide open, inexperienced and waiting for the right demon to feast on their despair.”

The way Duffy went on about the students, I was almost fooled into thinking the Mortals at Muddy Gap high were something good to eat. It worked. The ranks of demons surged forward as one in anticipation. The only thing holding them back was Edward and the strain was showing on his face.

Quickly, I shoved the butt of the sniper rifle into my shoulder and aimed for Edward’s mouth. He couldn’t command if he couldn’t speak. All I was waiting for was for Duffy to pull off the perfect stunt to get the demons running.

“So, I ask you,” Duffy said, yelling at the top of his voice. “Who wants a piece of top choice, grade A, angel meat?”

The demon horde pressed forward in a rolling mass of shadowy bodies. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on Duffy. I had Edward’s mouth in the crosshairs and just before I pulled the trigger Duffy hollered:

“Well, COME AND GET IT!” He spun around and yanked his shorts clean off his backside.

I landed a clean shot straight through Edward’s mouth just as the demons roared and surged forward, screaming and clawing their way to the front doors.

“Ha HA!” Phil screeched, his voice breaking in his excitement. “Did you see that? Duffy mooned the demons!”

“It worked,” Anna said as Min jumped up and down, whooping like a warrior.

Yes, it did. A little too well. The demons broke into a thundering gallop, heading right for Duffy who was struggling to get his shorts back up.

“RUN, DUFFY!” Phil shouted.

Duffy yanked his shorts upward and made a wild dash back inside. The walls shook as demons slammed into the school and clawed to get in through any available crack. Demonfire crashed into doors and windows and suddenly I didn’t feel so great hanging out on the second floor when it felt like the tiles were going to drop out from under me.

“Get ready,” I said as I loaded up the rifle and shotgun with whatever ammo I had left. Anna and Phil did the same while Min unsheathed his swords. Below us, I could hear Duffy’s progress to the stairs as he hollered insults over his shoulders. He was overdoing it. The demons were plenty riled up enough as it was.

Min got the detonator out of his shirt pocket and held it ready to blow and I did the same. Anna stood to the window, tracking the demon’s progress into the school.

“Almost there,” she said. “Just a few more seconds.”

“We don’t have seconds, Anna,” Phil said nervously as the top of Duffy’s head appeared in the stairwell. He was taking the stairs two at a time, but the demons had caught up and latched onto his arms and legs. They were literally flowing up the stairs in a tidal wave-like flood

“Fight them off then,” she said as she scanned the parking lot with the binoculars. “They’re not all in yet.”

I took two demons out with the rifle and freed Duffy’s legs and Phil’s peashooter took out the ones on his arms. Duffy broke free and ran, laughing the entire length of the hallway.

“Are we ready to blow?” he said, puffing.

“Just a few more,” Anna said, but by now the entire first and second floor was filled with demons. They closed in on us despite me blasting holes in their ranks with my shotgun and Min slicing demons that got too close with his sword. We were going to be overrun in a few seconds.

Phil was out of missiles and was conking demons on the head with his bazooka. Duffy emptied his glock and all his spare ammo. I was left with Min to defend our ground, but even that didn’t’ last long. I emptied my last round into the demons and began whacking them flat with the butt of my shotgun. If we didn’t go now, we were going to be angel paste.

In the middle of the chaos Edward Dorkface clawed his way through his demons to get to us. By this time we were backed up against the windowsill with nothing but air on our backs and a two-story drop. This was the part that made me sweat a little. The last time I jumped off a high place I was clinging to a Mortal strapped to a bungee cord. This time, there was nothing to break our fall.

“You have lost, at last,” Edward said, triumphantly. “We will tear you and your pitiful friends to shreds and scatter your pieces across the hills of Wyoming.”

“First of all, you haven’t won yet and secondly, gross,” I said. “I’m not big on getting my nose hung up on sagebrush, so, I’ll pass, thanks.”

“Your Mortal has hit critical,” Edward said. “You’ve run out of time and the only future you face is one of ruin and shame. Admit it. You need me.”

“Tempting, but no,” I said. I jumped up on the windowsill with the others.

“They’re all in,” Anna whispered.

Awesome. I looked over at Min who nodded. We were ready.

“Well, it’s been a load of fun, but I think we’re done chatting,” I said with a cheeky salute. “Hey Dorkface, enjoy splattering.”

I raised my fist to show Edward my remote and grinned. His eyes flew wide open in terror as I pressed the button. The ground level shook as every bomb we set detonated. All the windows on the first floor blew outward in shafts of bright white light. Min pressed the button on his remote and that was our cue to jump. Just as the windows on the second floor exploded outwards, the bombs and ammunition we rigged in every spare inch and corner of the second floor sprayed the demons with blinding light and shrapnel.

Some of us were better at falling than others. Anna’s hair was shooting straight up as she fell like a very graceful dart, toes pointed and everything. Phil flailed and Min jumped in a perfectly formed arc and flipped a few crisp backward summersaults.

Duffy was on a whole other level. He whooped and hollered like he was having the time of his life. He scrambled in his pockets and fished out his own third remote. I was guessing that it was connected to whatever he’d been rigging in private. I half expected confetti to shoot out the top of the school when he pressed the button.

The explosion was deafening. It wasn’t angel defense or demonfire that billowed out from the basement. It was fire: the kind seen in action movies where it engulfs everything and destroys all in its path. I figured the first and second explosions would be enough to level the school, but Duffy’s third ensured that the high school would be flattened.

Flames billowed outward, making the bricks bow under pressure and then burst. The expulsion of air and flame threw us across the front lawns and into the parking lot. I couldn’t control where I hit and slammed into the pavement back and butt first. It knocked the air out of my lungs. I wasn’t sure what happened to everyone else, but as I bounced again on the hard parking lot covered in ice and snow, I was on the verge of a blackout.

The last glimpse I got of the school was the roof caving in as the walls buckled. Flames roared to an inferno around the pile of rubble and lit up the night like a bonfire hopped up on gas bombs. No demons made it out. Not a single shadow shimmered in the night and all was still except for the flames licking upward into the snowstorm.

My head hurt. I was sure I’d probably bashed in my skull when I fell. My eyes closed and everything went black.

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