The light switched to green. His fingers tap danced over the steering wheel. “What are you getting out of this anyway? Why come all the way over here for this, to be stuck with a partner?”
She turned her head to look out the window again. “I have my reasons,” she said quietly.
He sighed and turned his attention back to the road, gray beneath the streetlights. So she wasn’t interested in giving away information about herself. Meanwhile she had probably learned everything about him. She had probably been given an entire file on him, everything from “no remaining family” down to “loves chocolate chip cookies.” He felt like a bacteria in a petri dish, being studied and tested.
Neither of them spoke again until they stood in front of the apartments.
“Are you getting anything?” Harper asked.
“Of course not.” Bryan peered up at the building. Middle class setup. Concrete and glass, nothing special. Not even any patios. The place was ringed with yellow caution tape and traffic cones and smashed cars. Condemned signs were stuck to the first-story windows. The front doors were gone, as Cam had said, and the jagged hole where they used to be had been covered over with boards. As they walked closer they passed glass and bits of concrete littering the ground over splashes of blood. Crime scene. Don’t clean anything.
He studied the blood as best he could in the darkness. Did he feel something? Some hungry ravenous memory almost there and then gone, like a dream that slips away the more it’s searched for? He looked down at a long splash of blood as he walked. How had that one died? Throat ripped out? Stomach? Had it started with the legs?
He stopped, jerking with the motion. One of them was watching. Hard to tell which, it shrank back as soon as he noticed. But it had been watching, looking around with…what? Interest? Amusement? Indifference? It slipped away from him again.
“What?” Harper said.
“Nothing,” he said. “Nothing of interest.”
A flashlight shined in his eyes, startling all memory he almost had away.
“Get out of here. This is a crime scene,” came a voice from behind the light, short and gruff, as if it had already said these words five times tonight.
“Office of Demonic Defense,” Bryan said, flipping out his badge. “We’re investigating the area.”
“Oh, sorry about that.” The voice lowered the light out of their faces, and Bryan could see that there were two officers, the gruff one and another that lingered behind and was younger. The latter was wide-eyed at their badges. A rookie. “We get a lot of rubberneckers at these scenes. Amateur demonhunters and kids on dares and such.”
“I’m sure you do,” Bryan said. “Were you two here on the night of the incident?”
“No, but…we all heard about it. We all know the officers who were here and didn’t make it out.”
Bryan nodded, but he was thinking of the memorial service for the Office’s agents that he hadn’t attended because he had been unconscious, thinking of its replacement for him with a welcome back party. It made the event that happened here distant, removed. It made him certain that he wouldn’t recognize anything here, demon or no demon.
“Is it true it was caught?” the rookie asked, voice eager.
“Yes,” Bryan answered, the word sticking in his throat.
The rookie breathed a sigh of relief. The other said “And I hope you lock the damned thing away.”
Bryan held back a laugh, struck by the absurdity of the conversation, of him being here with these men affected and who had given silent prayer in memorials while he slept. Him here with the culprit demon. “Can we go inside?” he said.
“Well it’s dangerous.” Gruff cop waved at the place. “The structure’s punched clear through several floors. Stability’s compromised.”
“We’ll be careful.”
“Yeah, you guys are known for being careful. There’s a gap in the boards in the front door space. But seriously, and I know I won’t stop you, but I would recommend staying out of the place.”
“Thanks for the concern.”
“Besides, something falls and crushes you, it’ll be on our heads.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Harper said, starting for the building.
The cop huffed and held up his hands in surrender, and Bryan followed after Harper.
Broken glass crunched under their feet as they made their way to the door. They ignored the condemned no trespassing signs and squeezed through the gap in the boards, Bryan turning on his flashlight to scan the inside. It was pure rubble; nothing resembling a lobby remained. Even a decorative bench lay in splinters against the crumbling remains of a wall. Everywhere was plaster, glass, dust, twisted metal. And ahead, through what had once been walls or an elevator – it was hard to tell – was a hole in the ceiling. Bryan walked to it, trying not to trip or lose his balance on the debris and failing a couple of times. He looked up into the jagged darkness above and tried to imagine blowing this hole open.
“Anything?” Harper asked.
“No,” he said shortly, annoyed at her pestering.
“Then don’t stand there waiting for something to fall on you.”
He glared at her, but it was too dark to show and she wasn’t looking at him anyway.
“Let’s go up,” she said. “It started on the seventh floor.”