My phone rang seconds after Cal’s read receipt showed on my text. I swiped to answer.
“We’re dealing with demons?” Cal asked.
“That’s what our source said,” I answered.
“The enchanter that DPI arrested?” he asked. I’d hoped not to discuss the DPI arresting Saphina.
“Yes, her,” I said. “I take it Cormac is with you again?”
“Yeah, you weren’t worried about him, were you?” he asked.
“A little,” I admitted. “I got kinda used to him hanging around.”
“That’s so cute,” Cal laughed.
“It was just an abrupt exit,” I said defensively. “Can we get back to the reason you called?”
“Right,” he said, all mirth gone from his voice in seconds.
“Saphina said the demons would burn out their host bodies before giving them up. Have you seen any bodies with strange energy or anything like that?” I asked.
“Nothing demonic or demon touched has come through Johnny’s as long as I’ve been working with him,” he told me.
“And that’s the only morgue you have access to?”
“I’ve never needed more than that,” he said.
“But you’d definitely be able to tell if a demon had used a body before it expired?” I asked; choosing my words carefully didn’t make it any less horrible to think about. It’d been worth a shot.
“I’m not sure. Something that powerful has to leave a mark, right?” he asked.
“I don’t know either,” I said. Given how much damage the knife did, I imagined this demon didn’t care about leaving a trail behind.
“Meet me at the morgue in twenty,” he told me and hung up.
He didn’t give me long to get there, but at least I didn’t have to run this time. I spent my walk trying to think of ways to detect the DPI’s plans to raid the East Lyndale Market. I’d heard of a spell that signaled you whenever someone talked about you behind your back. It didn’t sound like something I’d want to know about, so I didn’t learn it. If I could find it again and understand how it worked, I could work off it as a base for a warning system against the DPI. It took me most of the walk to remember who’d told me about the spell. I put a reminder on my phone to reach out to my friend Giovanni about the spell.
“I heard you missed me,” Cormac greeted me at the morgue entrance.
“Don’t flatter yourself. I just didn’t expect you to bail on me like that,” I said.
“I didn’t know how long you were gonna be, and it seemed as good a time as any to give Cal my evaluation,” he told me as he led the way.
“How did that go? I’m guessing you had at least a few nice things to say since he didn’t block my number,” I said.
“Nothing but the facts,” he answered my question with a smile on his translucent face.
Cal once again matched his outfit to the purple shade of his magic. This time, he wore lilac pants with black boots, a white tank top, and a black bomber jacket. John looked ready to rob a bank in plain black pants and a matching long sleeve shirt. I hadn’t paid much attention to his clothes on my previous visits, but I didn’t remember him being so monochromatic. He’d been working at the time, so his professional attire didn’t draw the eye like his friend’s fashion did. Compared to Cal, my black jeans and grey paisley button-down looked muted. It’s the closest I came to business attire for the DPI.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
“Johnny’s got a list of places we can hit up to look for our demon possession victim,” Cal said.
“It’s just a few mortuaries and funeral homes we work with,” John explained.
“I’m guessing by your cat-burglar outfit, these establishments won’t welcome us through the front door,” I said.
“I’ve tried to convince him that he doesn’t need to go in for the all-black look just because we’re breaking and entering. He won’t listen to me,” Cal said. His teasing smirk told me he didn’t mind John’s stubbornness.
“It’s all well and good for you to wear whatever you want. You have magic to hide behind. If we get separated, I can’t just disappear if someone comes along to bust us,” John argued. His half-hearted tone told me he’d made this point numerous times before.
“Well, this time, you’ve got two witches, so just make sure you’re with one of us, and you’ll be fine,” Cal countered, obviously happy to have a new variable for this old conversation.
“So you guys break into a lot of places?” I asked.
“More than I’d like,” John said under his breath.
“It’s all part of the gig,” Cal said over him. “It’s not like the spirits we’re helping can always provide a key and alibi.”
“We should go,” John said.
“Yeah, the list ain’t getting any shorter while we’re standing here,” Cal responded.
“Later,” Cormac said, waving us off.
“You’re not coming?” I asked.
“Nah, funeral homes aren’t my scene. Too many fresh spirits hang out there looking for a mentor on ghost life,” he said.
The first three locations on our list didn’t turn anything up. We had to use an invisibility spell at the second location when a security guard did a walkthrough of the funeral home. I didn’t need Cal’s necromancy to sense one body’s wrongness at our fourth stop. The same repulsive energy of the demon’s knife permeated the body. The man looked middle-aged. I hadn’t expected him to be so normal. Instead, I’d imagined some young, wannabe goth type. I guess I should have known better than to have some stereotypical television satanist in mind.
The more I thought about it, the easier it was to picture this man caught up in this. Demon summoning and possession were one hell of a mid-life crisis, though. Had he really done it out of some misguided need for new thrills in his life? What could the demon summoner offer to make hosting an otherworldly creature seem like a good idea? A petty part of me hoped this man suffered for going along with it. Without him letting the demon in, Peter might still be alive.
“We need to find out everything we can about this guy,” I said.
“That might be a problem,” Cal responded.
“Why?” I asked.
He took my hand, and I saw what he saw. The man’s spirit stood over his body, reaching into it and coming back empty-handed over and over. It took me a moment to make sense of his constant whisper. He repeated get it out, get it out as his hands continued to pass ineffectually through his body. I regretted my desire for him to suffer. The demon shattered his mind. No one deserved this.
Cal tried to get the spirit’s attention, but none of us registered for the poor man. How could we get any information from him if he didn’t even know we were there? I felt tears slipping down my face before my mind caught up to the fact that I was crying. Did the demon’s magic similarly damage Peter’s spirit? Cal let my hand go, but I couldn’t stop seeing the ghost. I wished he hadn’t shown me. At least John wouldn’t have to live with this memory, too. Warm magic filled the room as Cal sent the spirit on.
“Where?” I asked.
“Somewhere kinder. I don’t have names for all the afterlife planes, but hopefully, they can help him find peace there,” he answered.
We went through the rest of John’s list quickly. I couldn’t help being thankful not finding any more ghosts like that broken spirit. Whatever they thought they were getting themselves into, the people the summoner offered to this demon were victims the same as Peter.