deleted scene

 

 

Rory Mitchell as “Maestro.”

 

Ian Geyer as “Collin de Plancy.”

and introducing  Jaime Rodriguez as Morrison “Spook” James.

 

 

Austin, Texas. 

Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

Shortly before sunset.

Spook was dead. He’d been killed back in 1961 at the age of seventeen but never stopped walking around and shooting off his mouth. Or so his brother, Ross, liked to say. For the record, Spook hated the word “zombie.”

Ross was an old man now, with kids and grandkids. The two of them had hunted evil in all its forms for almost fifty years. They’d had a mentor named Percy who taught them how to fight and the rudiments of magic… but Percy had died. And Ross got old.

Spook would never grow old. And he didn’t want to watch Ross die. He didn’t want to watch his niece and nephews grow old and die. Nor their children. They wouldn’t keep walking around and shooting off their mouths like Spook. They’d just die.

And Spook was lonely. He wanted someone in his life like him. Someone who wouldn’t grow old and die.

He’d painstakingly inscribed the summoning circle from Ye Olde Booke Of Magick recommended by his friend Dina. She’d assured him the Book would give him exactly what he needed. What a spiffy friend. Um…. bitchin’ friend. Fuck. Cool witch. What was he supposed to say these days? Keeping up with trendy jargon was a bitch, but if he didn’t sound like the teenager he appeared to be, people suspected.

Anyway, Dina was an amazing witch with more knowledge than anyone Spook knew. And this was how the book she’d recommended told Spook to summon a demon.

Hopefully, a nice one. You know, one who would be his friend and not try to immolate his internal organs. He’d met nice vampires and ghosts, so there had to be nice demons out there. Right? Sparkly ones?

Right?

Spook hung out with a Goth crowd that’d taught him how to dress the part of the mystical undead at a place called Bitter Sweets on Austin’s east side. All these years of spell casting and hunting creatures of the night, and Spook had never realized the importance of image.

His short black hair rose in a spiky mess. His normally dark, Mexican skin was made up pale and kohl surrounded his eyes. He wore black leather pants, a black shirt, and a burgundy cowl with the hood down. Hm…. maybe he needed the knee-high boots Ravencancer had recommended. And should the shirt be velvet?

Who’d have known it’d take so much effort for an actual life-challenged American to blend into the death-becomes-us crowd?

As he lit the final candle, the circle glowed! So far, so good!

He rose to his feet, arms raised and eyes closed, reciting a spell of demonic summoning. “O Fortuna. . . velut luna. . . statu variabilis. . . semper crescis. . . aut decrescis.” Dust motes sparkled in the light of bloodred candles and swirled inside the arcane containment circle painstakingly inscribed on the bare concrete floor.

Spook’s Ye Olde Booke of Shadows had called for thee blude of a styll-brything mongrel poured unto the colde, colde stone whilst it screamed its fynal cries of terrour after its throat was verily slitte.” But that was impossible, since an animal with its throat slit couldn’t cry out in terror anymore. Spook had a deal with the butcher down the road who sold him farm animal blood at cost, just to get rid of the stuff. Close enough.

Spook continued his spell as he dribbled the cow’s blood into the concrete, which ate it up greedily with faint suckling sounds.

He rose to his feet and raised his voice. “Vita detestabilis. . . nunc obdurate. . . et tunc curat. Ludo mentis acie. . .” His voice dropped an octave and reverberated with a cavernous echo. “Egestatem. . . potestatem. . . dissolvit ut glaciem.”

The dust motes swirled into a vortex within the protection circle and a column of light ignited, bright enough to drive away the shadows and expose the clutter in Spook’s basement.

The illumination revealed the usual assortment of old—but still perfectly serviceable—chairs and tables, a collection of demon banishing swords laid out for easy access, boxes of clothes bound to come back into fashion someday, a standing mirror of soul capturing, and a Hello Kitty lamp.

An ethereal breeze stirred the various sheets that covered the furniture. Faintly, in the background, a chorus in three-part harmony rose up to support Spook’s voice.

Spook smiled. The spell was working.

He could feel it.

The power started as a tickle at the base of his spine and spread through his nervous system, which was nothing more than a conduit for magical energy since his death and reanimation.

Warm. Tingly.

Oh yeah, it was working. oh… yeah…..

“O Fortuna. . . velut luna. . . statu variabilis. . . semper crescis. . . aut decrescis.” Soon, the gate would open, and his own personal demonic companion would step through the dimensional rift and shuffle up this mortal coil to keep him company. Perhaps a trifle extreme, but Spook missed Ross.

“O Fortuna. . . velut luna. . . statu variabilis. . . semper crescis. . . aut decrescis.”

“What the hells are you doing?” someone shouted.

What the what? Spook’s house was protected through six dimensions!

The chorus cut out.

“Blast!” Spook’s voice still held all the reverb and echo of a demonic overlord.

The maelstrom in the center of the room suddenly and rapidly swirled down into a tiny spot on the floor like water down a toilet in fast forward. The last of the magical energy disappeared into the concrete with a pathetic “thwip.”

Spook looked up.

 

A middle-aged man in a trench coat regarded Spook with what could only be labeled contempt. He looked Spook up and down, and then his eyes settled on Spook’s face with an expression so utterly blank, it was worse than scorn.

In the basement of a mid-century modern home and surrounded by furniture from the last fifty years, the burgundy cloak was possibly a trifle excessive. And how much make-up had Spook applied?

Emotionless, the stranger extended a business card. “I just happened to be passing through your neighborhood and thought you might need some help controlling the demon you’re trying to summon.”

Spook sucked in a quick breath. How had he known? He grabbed the card. It read:

Spook glanced from the card to the man. “What. . . demon. . . what?” He floundered. “Do I look like someone who would try to conjure—?” He glanced at his reflection in a nearby mirror, suddenly embarrassed at the getup. With the crowd at Bitter Sweets, it had seemed restrained.

Hadn’t it?

The stranger, Maestro, spoke gently. “You look like a reject from a Goth Hello Kitty convention.”

Spook wanted to disagree but searched Maestro’s eyes. Definitely a fellow mage. Sorcerer? Witch? A powerful one, whatever he was, from the complete sense of control he radiated. Other than the power in the man’s eyes, though, he was so bland he’d be nearly invisible in a crowd.

Oooh. Was that just how he liked it?

Spook drew himself up. Project friendly and innocent! “What makes you think I was summoning a demon?”

Maestro pointed at the floor. “Anyone in Austin could feel that spell… not that it would have worked.”

“What?” But Spook had followed the book of shadows to the letter.

“This?” Maestro took two steps to the podium holding Ye Olde Booke of Shadows, tenth edition, paperback. He held it up with two fingers as if it offended him. “If you tell me you got this on Amazon, I am going to hit you with it.”

It’s like the guy read his mind! Spook had done all the research, though! “Dina promised—”

Wait…. What exactly had she said?

Argh. Ach! Ah, damn. Dina was a bitch.

Well, she was a witch, but she was a bitch, too.

Double damn.

“Dina promised you what?” Maestro replaced the book and moved around the basement, touching things and being all judgy-looking.

“You really don’t want to know,” Spook said, hands covering his face—wait! Makeup!

“No. I really, really do.” The man held up the Hello Kitty lamp with that same blank expression that utterly judged Spook.

He stood there, waiting.

And waiting.

“Fine.” Spook snatched the lamp and returned it to the spot Ross’s granddaughter, Bethani, had put it. She’d said Granuncle Morri’s basement was too dark and gloomy. She’d been six at the time. Ten years ago. He traced the cartoon cat with one finger. How old was Ross, now? He had to be at least seventy.

“She said it was the perfect book for someone of my extraordinary skill.” Nope. Spook wouldn’t look at him. “Except she didn’t pronounce it that way, she pronounced it extra-ordinary.” Damn it. “Except close enough that I misunderstood.” Or he’d just heard what he’d wanted to hear.

But he could do stuff! He spun to face Maestro, this total stranger who had broken all his enchantments and kept looking at him as if he were nothing. He lifted one hand, palm up, fingers curled. “Lorem Ipsum sit amet.”

A fireball spun into life and burned merrily. Spook tossed it from hand to hand a few times then brought his hands together to extinguish the flame. Would Maestro be impressed?

Wow. Spook hadn’t realized face palm was a real thing.

Without a word, the other mage stepped into the containment circle. He turned a complete three-sixty, obviously examining it… and probably judging it.

“Well?” Spook asked.

Maestro’s trench coat barely moved, the shrug was so small. He stared at Spook, with those empty eyes. They made him feel like the smallest, most insignificant. . .

Well?” Spook repeated.

“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Maestro said casually.

Fire engulfed his entire body! Holy crap!

Spook jumped back and stumbled into a couch. Held on for dear life.

Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap!

Fire! On his entire body! The heat was incredible.

The flames swirled, now, slowly at first, like a slow-motion tornado of fire.

“A Yankee Doodle, do or die.”

The fire swirled faster and contracted inward, more closely following the shape of his body.

What was burning? What was being destroyed?

Wait. Nothing. Nothing was on fire. But Spook felt the heat!

No? It wasn’t real? This man could make him feel the heat. Heat that wasn’t there?

Spook reached out.

Yikes! Fucking ow!

He sucked on his fingers.

“A real-life nephew of my Uncle Sam.” Maestro raised his arms. Below, the containment circle glowed bright purple.

So did his eyes! By all the gods and a goddess or two, his eyes glowed purple!

“Your eyes. . .”

The glowing purple containment circle lifted from the ground and rose into the air. Purple smoke wafted from it.

“Really,” Maestro said in that completely judgmental voice. “Body on fire. Levitating containment circle. . . and it’s the purple eyes that you notice.” He crossed his hands over his head, drew them to his chest, and thrust both arms quickly toward the floor. “Fuck off.”

All of it: the fire. . . the containment circle. . . it all blew down and out with an impressive and heartfelt FOOM!

And the man hadn’t even broken a sweat. “Throw the book away and stop trying to summon demons, or I will return, and the fire will be real.” He left the circle and approached the podium.

Okay, fine with the dire warnings, but. . . “Fuck off is a magic spell?”

Maestro closed his eyes for a second. “Did you hear what I said?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Spook closed in and waved it off. “No more demons. Got it, Daddy-O.” Who needed lame-ass demons with a guy like this in town? “Wait,” Spook asked. “Do you live in Austin?”

Someone nearby cleared a throat. Rather pointedly.

Now what? “Did someone plan a party in my basement and not invite me?”

Even Maestro’s head snapped to one side quickly. Surprised? Him?

Um. Wow. Interesting. . . dude. . . in the containment circle. A shirtless dude with black skin that. . . well, sort of. . . shimmered? Or something? Bright red hair. Glowing eyes behind John Lennon sunglasses. . . And what?

Spook sniffed. Sulfer!

“So sorry for the delay,” the demon said in a refined British accent because the scene wasn’t surreal enough without it. “Here I am.” He gestured broadly. “How may I be of service?”

A fireball appeared in Maestro’s hand. . . without a verbal spell of any kind! What the what?

Ipsum lorem,” Spook intoned. A sort of lighter-sized fire ignited on one finger. Fine. “Sit amet.” The fireball grew to a respectable size.

Damn it!

The demon held up both hands. “Gentlemen. No need for unpleasantries. After all, you did summon me.” His eyes narrowed, and he drilled Spook with a gaze that was the opposite of Maestro’s, full of avarice and greed. “Well, one of you summoned me.”

What? Ha! Suck it, judgy Maestro! Spook had his own demon, now! But before Spook could perform the requisite happy dance, Maestro looked the demon up and down, glanced at Spook, then gave the demon his full attention, fireballs glowing from yellow to white.

How did he do that? Most humans got all tired and shit if they did too much magic. Spook had never figured out why he didn’t—

“No,” Maestro said flatly. “That spell he did. That did not compel you to appear. Not you.”

The demon opened his mouth to speak. . . or perhaps to swallow a cat, because it opened more than it should have.

His mouth closed into a grin. So, he was going to lie, but changed his mind, right? “Well, that’s kind of you.” He crossed his arms. “And. . . No. Well, no it did not, did it?”

What? But he was right there in the contain—

With a shrug, the demon left the circle, grabbed the tarp over a chair, whipped the cloth away and dropped into the seat. He crossed his legs and peered at Spook over the tops of his sunglasses.

“No,” he said. “You didn’t actually summon me.”

 “No offense, kid,” Maestro said. “It wouldn’t have summoned a fluffy kitten.”

“Offense taken, Daddy-O,” Spook shot back. “Enough with the Hello Kitty jokes!”

Again with the blank stare. “Oh, dear gods.” Maestro turned to the demon. “Why are you here?”

“No offence, kid,” Maestro said. “It wouldn’t have summoned a fluffy kitten.”

“Offence taken, Daddy-o,” Spook shot back. “Enough with the Hello Kitty jokes!”

Again with the blank stare. “Oh, dear gods.” Maestro turned to the demon. “Why are you here?”

The demon’s leg swung a few times. He regarded his fingernails, which, against all odds were not long and pointed. Spook had battled a few demons over the years, and most of them had sharp, deadly—and often poisonous—fingernails. This guy looked like he spent a couple hours a week with someone buffing them

“I need your help.” Wow. That had to be hard for him to admit.

“And who are you, exactly?” Maestro asked. “And how did you get past my cantrips?”

What? He’d put up even more defenses?

But the demon springing to his feet distracted Spook. “How extraordinarily rude of me.” His smile said that he ate babies for breakfast. “Collin de Plancy. . . at your service.” He rose and extended his right hand.

Maestro glanced from his fireballs to the hand extended. With a sigh, he shook out the fire and gripped Collin’s hand.

Collin smiled like the Cheshire cat. “You’re unexpected.”

 

 

Maestro yanked his hand away. “What do you mean, unexpected?”

Collin sucked in a breath. “I… I’m not going to play that one off, am I?” But. . . he didn’t actually explain it either, did he?  He turned to Spook and extended a hand. “And you, sir. . . Who are you, exactly?”

Well, Spook wasn’t going to be out-cooled by Maestro. He pushed past the mage. “Call me Spook.” He grabbed the demon’s hand and extended an arm keeping Maestro at bay.

As soon as they made contact Spook saw demons! Hellfire and brimstone! Demons at war!

What the fuck! Psychic powers sucked!

Angels. The demons battle angels… 


 Except….. this angel… he had a darkness, too. What the fuck?

Rages and rages of demons, and this guy–  Collin– was in command of them. . .

 

…but not really in command. Somewhere in the middle. Balancing outcomes. Making projections. What the hell? Literally. Like…. a bureaucrat.  The word “Earl” rang in Spook’s ears.

 

Maestro pressed against the arm with which Spook held him back. No! Spook could handle this guy! He had to get his shit together and show Maestro he wasn’t a wuss.

The demon released Spook’s hand. “My, my, my…. I suppose the banal pleasantries can be abandoned.” He stared down at Spook. “My goodness, neither of you is at all what you seem, are you, and yet…. I don’t already know you.”

What did that even mean?

Maestro’s eyes narrowed. Would the fireball make a return visit? “I’m afraid you have us at a disadvantage.

A-ha! Spook’s time to show what he could do! “No, he doesn’t.” Maybe Spook knew something Maestro didn’t know, after all.  “He’s a demon.  Middle-management demon… an Earl or something.”

Maestro scoffed. “A middle-management demon. Is that a real job?”

Nice.

 

The demon scoffed as well, but his face screwed up into a look of pure disgust. “I command twenty-nine legions of demons,” he insisted, glaring at spook with smoldering eyes, and not in a figurative way.  “Middle management, indeed.”

Ha. Spook had gotten to him. “A title doesn’t make you cool, dude.”

“Neither does a hip, petulant attitude.”

“Says you.” Spook straightened his cape. Having this Maestro guy at his back meant Spook could go for broke, right?

Then a hand planted itself across Spook’s face and forced him back. Really? As if he was a little kid? Spook smacked Maestro’s hand away.

“What are you doing here?” Maestro squared off with the demon.

“I told you I need your help.” Collin’s face portrayed far too much innocence. “You do that right? Help people.”

 

Maestro cocked his neck to one side. It cracked. Same on the other. “People.”

Oooh! Burn!

Collin closed his eyes. “Ah, prejudice. Nice. And against your own kind.”

Maestro stepped closer. Anger radiated from him. . . um, once again, literally. “I might be many unsavory things, but I’m not a demon.” A nearby drop cloth rippled in the angry discharge.

Collin raised an eyebrow. “But not really human, either. Are you? Not anymore.”

What the heck did that even mean? But Spook kept his mouth shut. This demon seemed to know more about the other intriguing stranger than Spook could divine with a week’s time and a Ouija board.

Maestro gave Collin his empty face. “How many times will I need to ask?”

“I can pay you.” Collin held up a bracelet, a tiny little thing…. but were those real diamonds?

Holy shit!

Wait? “You get paid to help people?” Spook couldn’t believe it. What an idea!

Maestro didn’t even look at him. “Why else would I do it?”

Well, Spook was a sucker doing it all those years just to, oh, who knew, save innocent lives, maybe?

Maestro rolled his eyes.

Was he reading Spook’s cauliflower mind?

The mysterious stranger pulled out his iphone and pointed it at the bracelet. It made noises. Wait, was that a Supernatural ghost detector app? Bwa ha ha! “Those things don’t work, Daddy-o.”

“This one does.” He made some adjustments.

“On what planet did you find that?” Collin asked.

“It’s just an iPhone,” Maestro said in all sincerity.

Collin did a very exaggerated nodding thing. “Oooh, I get it.” He winked. “You don’t want the sidekick to know you’ve been to other planets.”

“I’m not his sidekick,” Spook said.

“He’s not my sidekick,” Maestro said at the exact same time, but the way he said it made it mean.

Wait a hot minute. Other planets? Spook made a grab for the “iPhone,” but Maestro deftly held it too high for Spook to reach without an embarrassing jump.

“You’ve been to other planets? That’s a thing?” Could Spook reach it without a jump?

“I have not,” Maestro said. “He’s full of shit.”

Yeah. Spook didn’t buy that. “So, aliens are a thing? That is so cool!”

What would aliens look like?

Maestro deflated a little. “Really not something I ever wanted him to know.” He squinted at the demon. “How could you possibly know?”

Collin shrugged with an innocent face.

Maestro stuffed the jiggety-whatsit from another planet into a pocket.

Spook made grab for it. What could it do?

Before he could snatch it though, Maestro managed to slide it away and grab Spook’s wrist. Hard. Ow.

His eyes burned, and, also, not metaphorically.

“If you ever try something like that again, I will melt you.” His voice was low and icy.

Hyperbole? Possibly not.

Spook yanked his hand away and rubbed his wrist. “I wouldn’t want to be your sidekick. You’re a dick.”

“And you’re a seventy-year-old child.”

“Well, they do tend to get stuck at the age they died,” Collin added.

“You’re also a dick,” Spook told him.

Collin made an elaborate shrug and raised his hands. “Which part of ‘I’m a demon’ did you miss?”

The “iPhone” must have convinced Maestro the bracelet was safe because he took it… then he startled as if hit by an electric current and his eyes narrowed.

Maestro startled as if he’d been hit by an electric current.

“Maestro?” Spook moved in, but the other man held up a hand.

“Mary?” He held up the necklace, drilling the demon with orange, glowy eyes. “This was hers?”

Collin gave a Cheshire grin.

Mary? Spook’s ex was named Mary, the one who’d killed him and turned him into a zombie. Had to be a coincidence.

Had to be. Right?

“Who the fuck are you?” Maestro said with more emotion than would have seemed possible ten seconds earlier.

“Someone who has come to collect a debt.” He settled into one hip and gave all his attention to Spook. “I may not have been summoned, but it seems a trifle foolish to drunk text someone who owns your soul.”

What the hell did that even mean?

“Drat.” The way Maestro said it made it sound like the worst expletive ever. Then he turned to Spook. “Hey, Spook, smile for the camera.”

“What?”

Maestro held up his phone and it flashed.

Wait. Really? Photo opp, now? He froze.

Maestro turned back to Collin and touched his arm. “Doohickey,” he said, “teleport to back yard.”

And they vanished.

What. in. every. hell. ever. imagined?

 

 

Maestro immediately released the demon. “What are you doing here? You’re not here for my help.” He knew why the demon was there, but he wanted to hear it say the words.

“Collecting on an old debt.” Collin smiled.

And there it was. That evil witch, Mary, had tortured Spook for sixteen hours, vivisecting him like a frog in a junior high science class then putting him back together so she could do it all over again, just to drive him insane so a demon could drop by when he died and devour his soul.

“You know I’m not going to let you do that,” Maestro insisted.

“I assumed you’d try to stop me.” Collin grinned. The energy from him amped up. The waves washed out like a tide. “Do you really think you can stop me from collecting your pet?”

“He’s not my pet,” Maestro said. “He doesn’t even know I was there.”

“Really?” The demon’s energy slithered away to a neutral position. “Color me intrigued.”

No one but Maestro’s old friend Percy, who’d ended up taking the boys in when Morri didn’t die, knew what had happened. Would it help the guilt to tell someone? Like a demon he was about to kill anyway?

“Mary ripped Morrison apart a hundred times for you,” Maestro said, “to break him down. I was there. I had to listen to his screams because I was so outclassed by her.” He’d cowered in the choir loft of an abandoned church while that bitch had tortured Morri for hours. And he hadn’t been able to do a thing. He’d been too afraid. “She used voodoo to keep him alive while she did it,” Maestro said, “then left him there to die.”

Realization dawned across the demon’s face. “Oh! But you were there. You stitched him back together. That’s why the little bitch didn’t just die for me.”

“I literally returned his intestines to his abdomen.” The thought of it still nauseated Maestro after everything he’d seen before and since. “So. . . . you don’t get to touch the boy,” Maestro said.

And Collin looked over Maestro’s shoulder with a raised eyebrow.

Drat. That only meant one thing.

“You. . .” Spook said. “You turned me into a zombie?”

Of course. An undead brain wouldn’t be affected by the stasis app on his Doohickey. Drat! He’d have to adjust the settings. “Spook.”

“No. Don’t even try.” He moved around Maestro, into his field of vision. “You came into my house today as if I was a total stranger, but. . .” His face showed revulsion. “You’ve handled my intestines? Who does that without mentioning it?” He shuddered. “Ew.”

Who did that? The guy who’d kept him walking around and shooting off his mouth.

But saying that would not be productive.

“I know I have a million questions to answer,” Maestro said as calmly as possible, “but there is a demon here who wants to devour your soul.”

Collin did an appropriately timed finger wiggle.

“So perhaps we deal with that first?” Maestro suggested.

Morrison opened his mouth and raised an accusatory finger, but he paused.

The finger dropped, and the mouth closed.

“Point taken,” he said, and the finger now pointed at Maestro. “But you and I will still have words, young man.”

Oh, dear gods, he was such a child. Thank the same gods Maestro hadn’t been rendered immortal until he was almost forty.

 

 

Since they still had a demon who wanted to take Spook’s soul, maybe he should cut Maestro some slack until they’d vanquished the bastard.

But. . . still. . . he’d put Spook’s intestines back into his body? How the fuck did he not remember that? Well, he had been in shock and possibly kind of insane at the time.

Maestro cleared his throat.

Yes! Focus.

Spook called up a fire ball and threw it.

Collin batted it away like a cat with a crumpled piece of paper.

Damn.

“Is that the best you have?” Maestro asked. He settled down, held one hand out and a sword appeared in it. “Banishing sword,” Maestro said as the blade sailed Spook’s direction, hilt first.

 

He caught it, flourished it a few times. Nice! Perfect balance.

“Wait.” Spook faced the creepy stranger, the one who wasn’t a demon. “How is this perfectly balanced for me?”

Again with the blank look. He held one hand out to the side. A second blade appeared. “Please, continue to make me regret reassembling you after the vivisection.” A dagger appeared in his other hand. He must have a stash hidden away and spelled for easy retrieval.

Spook had one of those, too, but his weapons weren’t as cool.

A blade struck down at Spook’s head, Collin yelling bloody murder as he attacked.

But Maestro’s blade appeared out of nowhere, blocking it. Damn, he was fast! Spook had barely lifted his own blade to parry.

All three blades met with a flash of sparks.

But the demon had superhuman speed. His sword managed to keep all three opposing blades busy.

Was there any way to get around to the other side? Spook tried to edge around, but, no, he saw right through that. Why didn’t Maestro just do the teleport thingy and get to the other side?

Spook and Maestro swung around and down at exactly the same time.

Collin blocked both blades, but only barely. His sword bounced off his sunglasses, cracking one lens. If only it had been his skull!

With a hate-filled grunt, Collin shoved both men back a couple of feet. He pulled the broken glasses from his face and tossed them aside. “I loved those glasses.”

One hand shot forward, and a force pulse hit Spook hard, throwing him completely off his feet and sending him twenty feet and almost into the pool. He landed on his back hard, but didn’t really have any breath to lose, so he rolled over one shoulder and rose.

Maestro landed on his feet a few feet away. Nice.

The demon sauntered casually out of the cramped side yard. “You realize I can do this all day, Hell, I can do it all year.”

Maestro shrugged and dropped into his knees. “I have done shit like this for a year.” He glanced at Spook. “You tired?”

“I’m dead,” Spook said. “Tired doesn’t really enter into it.”

Collin leapt at them, sword shrieking down at Spook’s head again. Spook blocked it, and Maestro added a stroke of his own that forced the demon’s blade down far enough that Spook could spin with a clean shot to Collin’s—

 

Well, to a spot about six inches above Collin’s head. The demon was freaking fast! Would the two of them be enough to take him out?

“You don’t completely suck at melee,” Maestro said.

“Well, Percy drilled us every day.” Yikes. Hopefully, everyone ignored the obvious double entendre. Spook blocked a low blow and lunged while Maestro kept Collin occupied. Nice. They actually worked well together.

Spook struck low. Would Maestro see his counter?

Yes! Maestro feinted high to draw Collin’s attention.

Spook’s blade sliced the demon’s leg.

He hissed, danced out of the way.

“I can see his style in you,” Maestro said quietly.

Oh! That’s why they worked well together. “He taught you,” Spook said, menacing a cringing Collin. “Percy taught you, too.”

Maestro grinned in what had to be the most honest expression of emotion so far.

“He was my first,” Maestro said. “But I’ve also learned from some of the deadliest badasses in the galaxy.”

Holy spit! “I will never try to outcool you.”

“Aargh!” Collin shouted.

Oh yeah. Deadly battle with a demon who wanted to steal Spook’s soul.

Spook and Maestro menaced him identically. Nice.

And then Collin vanished! Lousy teleporters!

He reappeared across the pool by the garage. “I admit I underestimated you both. Had I known neither of you was actually human, I’d have opened with this.”

He snapped his fingers. Half a dozen identical demons appeared to flank him, the smell of Sulphur overwhelming.

Well, crap. If Spook was going to go down fighting, at least he wasn’t alone. Would have been nice to figure out who the stranger danger in the overcoat was, but—

 

Maestro raised a hand. “Wait.”

 

Collin raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Maestro snapped his fingers and held out his hand. An amethyst egg appeared.

Really? He thought a new age-y thing like that would—

“Fuck me!” Collin rushed toward Maestro, his sword vanishing as he moved. The other demons stayed put.

What the hell?

A few feet away, Collin pulled back. “Wait. I’m not stupid. I’m not touching that thing.”

Was the incipient slaughter suddenly canceled? Spook held his crouch in case. “What is it?”

Maestro held it a bit higher. “Soul cage.”

Oh? What was that? No way Spook would let either of them know he’d never heard of a “soul cage.”

Collin seemed entranced. “Whose soul is in there?”

“There’s more than one,” Maestro said.

Wow creepy.

But Collin’s eyes opened wide. “You would give me this to save the boy?” He all but licked his lips.

Maestro held it out.

Collin snapped his fingers, and the demons vanished. He made a yanking motion, and the cage flew from Maestro’s hand to his.

He made a little sort of orgasmic noise.

Yikes.

And Maestro just handed it over? This thing that had a sort of big-time-ish demon close to jazzing? He gave it to Collin to save Spook’s soul?

“You must have very strong feelings for this one,” Collin said.

Which mirrored Spook’s thoughts. Sure, the decades of stranger danger stalking creeped him out, but. . . he had to really—

“His soul,” Maestro said, “and your silence.”

“Excuse me?” Collin asked.

What silence?

Maestro sighed. “I give you the soul cage, and his soul is free, and you don’t ever speak about it again.”

What did that even mean?

“I see.” The raised eyebrow had to mean something. But what?

“E-ver,” Maestro emphasized mysteriously.

“I see.” Well, the way he said that carried busloads of meaning right along the overpass above Spook’s head. Double damn them both! What did all that mean?

Collin held up the soul cage. “It has been a pleasure doing business with you.” And now he wouldn’t even meet Spook’s eyes, as if he suddenly didn’t matter.

“I assure you the pleasure was all yours.” Maestro’s smile was a complete fake.

 

And sure, maybe falling off this demon’s radar was a good thing. . . but who wanted to feel. . . inconsequential?

Collin vanished.

Damn it. “What just happened?”

Maestro sighed. “Morrison.”

“What was that thing?” Spook asked. “What souls were in it?”

“You really don’t want to know.” He turned Spook to the house.

“Oh,” Spook said, “I assure you, I really do.”

“Fine,” Maestro said. “I don’t want to tell you.”

And he wouldn’t break the way Spook had earlier. Fine.

“So—” Spook started.

“Don’t.” Maestro pushed him gently to the stairs.

Gently was good, right?

“What he said about—”

“Don’t.” Maestro said.

“I was just going to say we make a pretty good team, right?” Spook turned to face the unusual stranger. “I mean, he knew he had to summon those demons to defeat us, right?”

Maestro stood silently.

“We both learned sword-fighting from a freaking knight of Camelot.”

Nothing. No reaction.

“Look,” Spook said, “you just saved my freaking soul, okay. So, thank you for that.”

Maestro nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Well, it was something.

Could he push it? “But the whole creating me in the first place and sort of stalking me all these years…” Spook shrugged. “It’s going to take me a while to get my head around that.”

Maestro brushed past him. “No. It won’t.”

What did that even mean?

“Come on. You can’t drop all this in my lap and expect me to pretend I don’t know about it. And space witch? Just pretend. . . ” He put his fingers in his ears. “La, la, la. I don’t know anything.” He pulled the fingers out and shrugged. “What am I supposed to do with all this? Pretend I know nothing?”

Maestro’s face had gone all neutral again. Really? After all the revelations and vanquishing a demon, sort of, he was going to pretend it had meant nothing? What the hell? He really was a dick.

Then Maestro’s face beamed. Really, this guy could beam?

“Celebratory selfie?” He reached toward Spook.

Really? Well, sure, this was more like—

Wow. Bright.

 

Damn it. What had Maestro been thinking?

“You won’t have to pretend you don’t know anything,” Maestro said, moving away. Idiot. He’d adjusted his app to make sure it worked on the zombie.

When he awoke, Spook wouldn’t remember anything. He stood there frozen. If only Maestro could keep him that way like a bug in amber. He’d interfered because summoning a demon out of loneliness seemed. . . well. . . desperate and dangerous. Maestro wasn’t sure what to do with the stupid ghoul if he journeyed that far to the Dark Side.

But no. He couldn’t get involved.

Too many chances Spook would discover the truth.

So many truths he should never know.

And how had the demon known about space travel, anyway?

Never mind. Time to go. No room for sentimentality. Stepping in had been a huge mistake. Less than an hour and he’d revealed nearly all his secrets.

 One hand on Spook’s arm and—

They appeared in the basement where the evening had started. Maestro used his Doohickey to reset the candles and made a pass over Spook’s face to reset his make-up.

“It’s time to light the candles,” Maestro told Spook.

Obediently, Spook dropped to the floor and started lighting the candles. Would he notice he’d gone from daylight to sunset? Probably not in a basement.

Maestro climbed the stairs and made his way out of a house that had way too much furniture from IKEA. At least Spook couldn’t actually summon a demon, and Collin wasn’t a danger for the time being. Their bargain had assured that Collin would never let Spook know they’d met.

Maestro would leave well enough alone. No reason to contact Spook, after all. He left the hideously tacky house and headed to his van, a classic from a simpler time, tossing the swords into the back of the VW Microbus.

Wait. Why was his van flashing purple and green? Why were neighbors dotting the curb, staring in the direction of Spook’s house and pointing?

Double drat.

Maestro looked up.

Yep. A giant hellsmouth swirled over Spook’s home.

He may not have figured out how to summon a demonic version of My Little Pony, but he’d opened that?

Neighbors gathered, most likely assuming this was some sort of publicity stunt. Gods damn Austin, Texas!

What to do? Allow hundreds of civilians to die so Maestro could protect his secrets?

Gods damn it, time travel was a bitch.

Maestro stomped back to the porch.

He hit the doorbell.

He hit it several times more.

No. Screw it.

Too dangerous.

Every time he’d tried to fix the timeline, he’d blown up the dratting planet!

Why would this be any different?

Nope. He turned to leave.

The door opened.

“You better have pizza!”

The twerp’s voice still reverberated with demonic overtones.

Drat.

 

 

Buy the entire adventure here…

 

 

Cast and Crew:

(Click on names to go to their Instagram)

Maestro: Rory Mitchel

Spook: Jaime Rodriguez, aka the God Slayer

Collin: Ian Geyer, aka Jelliflow

Collin makeup by Makeover Melanie

Spook makeup by Angelique

Photography by John Robert Mack

 

 

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