I brought two coffees to Sal’s lab first thing the next morning, expecting to finish cataloging Saphina’s inventory. Agent Boone found me before Sal and I got halfway through our drinks. I’d debated telling him about Donald Lowell’s body. John found out the man’s name while Cal and I tried to help his ghost. My internet search on the demon’s host didn’t turn up much. Besides his obituary and a few lackluster social media accounts, he didn’t have much of a presence online. The DPI could probably find much more with its resources. Ultimately, I didn’t want to risk a reprimand for investigating on my own again. I held my tongue and decided to lead him to the body if I saw the opportunity.
“We need to find the other victims,” he told me as I followed him to the parking garage. “If Saphina’s right and we can locate someone who died by demon possession, that will give us a lead.”
“So what’s the plan?” I asked. Maybe I wouldn’t need to lead him anywhere.
“We’ve got ourselves a list,” Boone said, holding up a folded piece of paper before walking to the driver’s side of the company vehicle.
“All right.” I went to the passenger’s side and got into the SUV. We’d get our lead as long as the list contained the funeral home housing Donald’s body. I still wanted to find Peter’s killer without DPI by my side, but if their resources could get me closer, I wouldn’t object. “How many are we checking out today?”
“As many as we can get through,” he answered and handed me the list.
I unfolded it and spotted Sutherland & Green funeral home third on the paper. My relief that I didn’t need to orchestrate anything warred with my nervous anticipation at seeing the body again. I couldn’t think of a way to convince Boone to skip straight to that stop, so I sat back and sipped my coffee. I’d need another one at some point if Boone forced us to keep going down the list after Sutherland and Green. The classic rock station Boone preferred to listen to played “Highway to Hell.” I suppressed an ironic laugh. Most of AC/DC’s lyrics didn’t fit my mixed emotions, but the song title felt spot on.
Cal, John, and I hadn’t visited Boone’s and my first stop, Blake Family Funerals, the previous night. He’d already put the address in his GPS and left the parking garage. It only took us ten minutes to drive from the office to our first stop. Cars filled the parking lot. I didn’t like the idea of intruding on a family’s memorial, but we couldn’t skip every business that had a service in progress, or we’d never find anything. If I read the discomfort on Boone’s face correctly, he felt the same way about walking into a stranger’s funeral.
“We need to keep this subtle. I don’t want to intrude on anyone’s grief,” he said as we walked up to the building. With his black suit and white button-down, he wouldn’t draw much attention from mourners. I, on the other hand, might in my grey jeans, wine-red tank top, and black leather jacket.
“Maybe I should change,” I said, looking from his outfit to mine.
“We don’t have—“The illusion spell I cast over my clothes stopped him mid-sentence.
“Your bracelet lets you see through the concealment spell at the market; how do illusions look with its protection?” I asked.
“I see both. The illusions overlay reality, but it’s like the opacity is turned down,” he told me.
“That’s interesting,” I said. It made a bit more sense why every agent didn’t have one. Making something that covered such a broad spectrum of magic had to wipe Sal out.
Boone held the door open for me, and we entered the funeral home. Thankfully, we walked into a lobby empty except for a receptionist. We’d arrived after the service started. The man behind the desk looked up and gave us a practiced somber smile. He picked up two memorial cards and came out from behind the desk, ready to direct us to the other mourners.
“Actually, we’re not here for a funeral,” Boone said, pulling his badge from his jacket’s inside pocket.
“Oh, sorry,” the man said. He stepped closer to inspect the badge. His face shifted to confusion, but the drama started before he could ask anything.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here!” someone shouted from behind the closed doors on the far right side of the lobby.
“I have every right to say goodbye. He was my father!” another person yelled. The receptionist and Boone both headed for the doors.
“Like hell! You haven’t been back in fifteen years!” the first man shouted back.
Gasps and startled screams rushed out of the room as we opened the doors. Two men struggled against the people pulling them apart. Blood flowed from the taller man’s nose, ruining his shirt and tie. I couldn’t see the other man’s face but quickly lost interest in any damage he may have taken. All my attention focused on the body. Their father’s corpse emitted the same demonic energy as the body we found at the Sutherland & Green funeral home. The power felt stronger here. I didn’t know if that meant the demon’s possession lasted longer with this man or had happened more recently. The reason didn’t matter while these two men struggled to break free and fight each other.
The shorter man pulled free and lunged at his opponent. Boone intercepted him and got knocked to the ground for his trouble. The enraged man forgot about his original target and attacked Boone instead. The other mourners sniped at each other more and more. Stirred up by the demon’s energy, the entire room devolved into chaos. That negative force sparked their initial frustration, but if it grew, the momentum could turn them into a mob.
I cast a flare spell, and flashes of light popped around the room, drawing everyone’s attention. The sudden distraction pulled them out of their rising anger. I followed the flares up with a calming spell until the room went completely silent. The mourners separated into smaller groups around the room with confused faces. They whispered to each other. None of them looked ready for violence anymore, but I didn’t know how long that would last with the demon’s energy still in the room.
“If you’d all come back to the lobby with me, we’ll get this room cleaned up as quickly as possible,” the receptionist said over the whispers. Boone nodded his approval, and the two of them waved people out of the room. The receptionist closed us in with an older gentleman.
“Nathan said you’re with DPI. What does that stand for?” the man asked.
“Department of Paranormal Investigations,” Boone answered him while holding up his badge. “I’m Agent Author Boone, and this is my consultant, Casper Clark.”
“Ah, yes, I remember the news stories from last year. I never thought I’d have anything to do with you all. I’m Rhett Chamberlin. I manage the day-to-day here. Can you explain what just happened?” he asked.
“Your mourners were influenced by the residual energy from the magic that killed this man,” Boone told him.
“What can we do?” Rhett asked.
“I can try a cleansing,” I offered. I didn’t know if it would work, but I wasn’t sure what else to try.
“Will it take long? We’re supposed to bury him in about thirty minutes,” Rhett said.
“Can you give us five minutes?” I asked. I’d know if the cleansing would work or not in the first minute. If I couldn’t pull it off, we wouldn’t need the full five.
“I suppose,” he said hesitantly. Whatever his objections were, he didn’t voice them. Instead, he stepped into the lobby to stall the mourners for us.
“Can I help at all? How does this work?” Boone asked.
“I’m not sure, but we’re about to find out,” I said. “Here goes nothing.”