I’m having terrible trouble keeping track of all the names, so sorry if I mix them up at any point. I’m going to have to sit down and do a round of editing for nothing but name tracking. It’s probably silly to even have so many names named, but I feel if someone was talking about their co-workers, they would say their names instead of saying “Three agents,” right?
“Well we knew we had a man down.”
They were seated on a bench in the courtyard, coffee in hand. The last light of day was swiftly fading, the wind sweeping through was chill but not yet wintry.
“We didn’t know yet that it was Gennick. But everyone had been called. I got there just as they were deciding which three would go in. I guess there were six of us there at that point. Rogge and Schoettmer and Mokri were the ones to go in. The rest of us didn’t think we would even be needed. Even three Possessed are more than enough to take down a beta if they have notice, and we didn’t even know if that’s what it was. It could have been an alpha and Gennick just been taken by surprise. We were just security.
“Until the Spotters said that everyone inside was dropping. Rogge killed Schoettmer and Mokri. That’s not official, but we know that’s what happened. It got her and just stabbed or crushed or whatever…the two of them. The Spotters saw it happening – well, saw the auras vanishing, and I suppose that’s just as bad. And we all started talking about what to do, and we didn’t know what to do. We could go in, the lot of us, but we might just get cut down like the others. And Rogge is – was – prime talent, and look where she was now. We were fucked if we went in. So we started thinking containment, get more people there. Everyone and their mother was still on their way.
“Well we didn’t have to make a decision. She came out. I hear it collapsed the floors and just dropped down to the lobby. The Spotters called our attention to it, said she was coming down fast. Then she came through the doors, smashing the glass, and she just stood there looking around, and we didn’t need the Spotters to tell us she was under influence. Her eyes were burning fierce. But it seemed confused, like it hadn’t expected half of Chicago’s finest to be out there even though fifty red and blue lights were flashing. Me and the other Possessed ringed it and put up containment fire, and the fires just sputtered and faded out like smoke. Like when we were still training and couldn’t figure out how to make it stick.
“Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I should have tried again. I don’t know. But I saw its anger on Rogge’s face and I could swear I saw fear there too. I put up as large a barrier as I could, and so did Gennisson. That’s the only reason we’re still here.”
He suddenly looked at Bryan. “Shit, I didn’t mean to mention him. Don’t go to him and start demanding anything.”
Bryan shook his head. Even if he did, Gennisson would probably tell him to go fuck himself.
“Anyway, it sent out a psychic pulse, but it was so powerful. Just raw and unfettered. And the weird thing is the demon inside me was disgusted at the display of it. Like it was inappropriate. Like this was some fancy dinner party and someone had eaten the salad with the desert fork. But the pulse went out and just flattened everything. Crushed cop cars like tin cans. Shattered every light in the area. And the people…there’s nothing left of the bodies. Gennisson was blown five hundred feet. He’s still in the hospital, broken in a dozen places. But I got the lesser of the blast. I wound up slammed against a crowd of cops.
“I didn’t have time to try anything else. Everyone still alive opened fire. I saw Rogge ripped to pieces by the rounds, and it tried to take a few steps before her legs were shot out. It threw out another pulse and there was another deafening sound of metal crumpling and people crushing to pulp or screaming and then she was down and it was free again.
“I thought it was gonna come for me. I was certain. And my demon just kept tut-tutting all this behavior. But it didn’t come for me. It fed.”
He stopped. Their coffee had been forgotten in their hands; Bryan’s cup no longer seared his fingers. Cam was staring at the cobbles in the walkway. Bryan thought he might be done, was about to speak when Cam spoke again.
“I didn’t do anything.”
He said it so quietly the wind almost took it away, and Bryan thought he might have misheard. “What?” he said.
“I didn’t do anything,” Cam repeated. “I sat there on the street and watched people drop like flies until it escaped. Me and everyone around me. We just huddled there like children. But I could have done something.”
“You could have died. And taken more with you.” Bryan wanted to say more – he had thought fast, putting up a barrier, saving lives. But the words didn’t come. It was like all words had been taken from him, leaving him hollow.
“Maybe,” Cam said. “Maybe.” He stood and walked back to the Office, leaving Bryan on the bench.
Bryan’s phone chirped, and he pulled up the message. Orders for the night. “Partner with Andrade.” Another message popped up, this one from Andrade: “I’ll be in the lobby.” Always impeccable grammar, even on a text. He typed back an ok and leaned back to peer at the sky, swiftly turning dark. It was no coincidence they put him with Andrade again tonight, but it was silly. Did they expect him to have a heart-to-heart with her? Talk things out? Have a psycological moment? Or did they think she would be the only one able to handle him tonight? He supposed he should just be happy they were letting him work. As if that was a reward.
“No time to waste,” she said as he joined her by the shrubs in the lobby. “Late start and we’re way over on the west side.”
“West?” He nearly shouted the word.
“Yes, west.” She glanced back over her shoulder as he caught up. “Oh, you want to east. After the new one.”
“They’re keeping me away from it,” he protested.
“Of course they are. You were under terrible strain last night. They’re giving you a break. Take it.”
He growled but had no response. She was right, of course. But he didn’t have to like it.
The first call came as soon as they hit Garfield Park. Several demons in a commercial area in Oak Park. Andrade pulled up alongside the police block and they got out. The two cops there gave their badges looks of immense relief.
“They’ve been drifting from shop to shop,” one of them explained. “We think they’re in the Jewel now.”
Andrade looked down the road towards the grocery store. “I think you’re right.” She turned to Bryan and added “But get ready in case they come out. Most everyone in there is dead.”
“Most?” Bryan prodded as he reached into his bag and took out a deck.
“It’s hard to tell, but there may be human auras. Two inside, two down the street.”
Bullshit. People were still alive in there. Andrade just didn’t want him to rush in, like she thought he was some kind of idiot. Fucking Spotter psych shit.
He looked down and might have screamed had his throat not closed up on him. Instead he let out a croak and dropped the card he held in his hand and was about to tear.
The three of clubs. The beta.