The day dragged on unbearably. I woke up at four in the morning, escaping a nightmare about the demon Smith summoned. I couldn’t fall back asleep after that. The demon couldn’t reach me in my dreams, but it felt like a possibility in the dark. So, I got out of bed and turned on every light in my apartment. A cup of Lugh’s calming tea helped me get my fear under control. Under other circumstances, the hot beverage would have eased me into sleep. I drank two cups, though, and didn’t feel the least bit drowsy.
With it still too early to go into DPI, I killed time reading Peter’s grimoire. He’d written an extensive section about banishing dangerous spirits. I delved into it, memorizing several of the spells. The more I read, the more pages I marked to copy into my own spell book. Unlike Peter, I kept a physical copy. I’d inherited it from my grandparents. I’d painstakingly practiced calligraphy so that anything I added to it fit the aesthetic of the old tome. Before I brought the pen to book, I wrote spells on scrap paper at least five times.
I had twenty-three new entries planned when I finished my first read-through of Peter’s grimoire. Exploring the document made me want to copy my spell book in digital format. I wouldn’t use the Digital Grimoire app. I didn’t want to give them access to the last piece I had of my grandparents. Still, I resolved to learn to convert the book to a pdf. Accessing it on my phone while I walked the world would be worth the effort.
When I couldn’t stand waiting in my apartment anymore, I went out for coffee. To waste a little extra time, I went out of my way to Glam Doll Donuts. For a few minutes, I forgot about what my night had in store and enjoyed the ambiance. The caffeine and sugar lifted my mood right until I finished eating. The anticipation of my confrontation with Smith returned as soon as I walked out the door.
Agent Boone and Sal beat me to the office, and I found them in her lab. They looked down at a thin kevlar vest. The familiar glow of Sal’s magic surrounded the vest. When I noticed the null box at the far end of the table, I understood what they were doing. I didn’t think Sal would succeed but saying so felt too mean-spirited. Plus, I’d love for her to prove me wrong.
“Hey Casper, Art and I were working on a present for you,” Sal said.
“What enchantments did you use?” I asked.
“I layered my three strongest for protection from physical harm over my five best for defending against magical attack,” she said.
“You got here just in time to watch us test it,” Boone said.
“You’re not going to wear it while you test it, are you?” I asked.
“No, this knife is way too dangerous for that. We’ve got a test dummy,” Sal reassured me.
“Speaking of, let’s get this thing on it so we can get to stabbing,” Boone said. I don’t think I’d be that eager with the energy the cursed blade gave off.
Boone put on gloves so he didn’t have to touch the knife directly while I helped Sal get the vest on the test dummy. Sal and I took involuntary steps backward when he opened the null box. Agent Boone took hold of the hilt and frowned. The wrongness of demon magic filled the lab as he lifted the weapon from its metal prison. Sal and I got behind Boone. He plunged the knife into the vest as hard as he could. I watched the blade absorb Sal’s enchantments and release them in a glowing mist from its broken handle.
“Did it go all the way through?” Sal asked, not sounding very hopeful. Having cast the enchantments, she’d have felt them crumbling as the blade pierced them. Boone pulled the knife free and returned it to the null box.
“Let’s see,” he said, returning to the dummy and lifting the vest enough to slip his phone into the gap. The light of his screen peeked through a thin slit in the fabric. “Damn.”
“We’d hoped that even if the magic didn’t stop the knife, the kevlar might,” Sal explained. “It’s no good if the knife makes it even a centimeter through.”
“I appreciate the attempt,” I said, thankful I hadn’t gotten my hopes up.
“We can keep trying,” Sal offered.
“Don’t worry too much about me. I’ve got plenty of tricks up my sleeve,” I assured her. “And I’ll have two things the other witches didn’t, forewarning and backup.”
“I’m still going to try,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said.
Agent Boone and I left her to start over. It seemed he didn’t have the wherewithal to work on another case, either. Instead, we reviewed everything we knew from Peter’s and Ashley’s murders. When I couldn’t stand doing that anymore, we went over my stories for the tour of the house. I usually left some room for improvisation in my faux seances. This time, I knew the script word for word. I hoped it wouldn’t feel too rehearsed. Though, it wasn’t as if Smith actually cared about getting a good show.
With nothing else to distract us, we returned to Sal’s lab. She had four new vests ready for testing. Much to her dismay, none of them held up against Boone’s most aggressive assaults. I suspected that the enchantment on the blade allowed it to cut through more materials than usual. I doubted that would cheer Sal up any, though. So, I did my best to reassure her I’d be okay, but she still looked worried.
“You better not let him down, Art,” she ordered. “I can’t go back to being the only practicing witch in this place.”
“Wait, is there a witch who isn’t practicing in our department?” Boone asked.
“That’s not for us to say,” I told him. I guess he didn’t know about Jaime after all. “Let’s head out.”
Sal hugged me before Boone, and I left her lab. He sent his team ahead of us to get set up in the monitor house. I was glad to ride separately with him. He parked his vehicle in the seance house garage and did one more run-through with me. We went from room to room, confirming the surveillance system with the team next door. I didn’t anticipate how strange I would feel once he left me alone. Knowing they’d be watching made me self-conscious while I waited for Smith’s arrival.
The doorbell rang, and I actually felt relieved to end the wait. I already sensed the demon’s magic in the foyer. Maybe they already had the knife out and ready to use. I said as much into the closest crystal in case Smith came in swinging. DPI could move fast, but I’d still have at least a minute alone with Smith, even if he attacked me as soon as I opened the door. I reached for the doorknob, still uncertain about doing this Agent Boone’s way. A wave of magic slammed into the door as soon as I twisted the knob. I tumbled backward, barely able to turn it into a roll to put some distance between the door and me. It wasn’t the knife I sensed outside. They’d brought the demon with them.