Deleted Scene


Austin, Texas

Thursday, 8:00pm


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.”

He’d recently started studying witchcraft and had learned how to summon a demon. How cool was that?

He had a Booke of Shadows from none other than Merlin himself! And a local witch, totes powerful and the real deal, Dina had assured him it was the perfect book for someone of his “extraordinary ability.” Well, she’d pronounced it kind of funny, but English was not her first language. Who knew what you could find on Amazon!




He stood in his basement, 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 blood-red 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.



Spook hung out with a Goth crowd that’d taught him how to dress the part 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 spikey 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.



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

He opened his eyes 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.

The spell was working.

He could feel it.

The power started as a tickle at thebase 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.


“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 hell are you doing?” someone shouted nearby.

What the shit? His 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.


[Maestro looking blank. Spook POV.]


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


[Spook closeup.]


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 did he know? He grabbed the card. It read:


[Shot of Meastro handing card replaces below card.]





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 get-up. With the crowd at Bitter Sweets, it had seemed restrained. Hadn’t it?


[Spook in fancy mirror. Reflection of Maestro in background.]


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. He was 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?


[Maestro looking bland. Spook trying to look impressive.]


Spook drew himself up. “How did you know I was summoning a demon?”

Maestro pointed at the floor. “Anyone in at least ten dimensions 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. 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.”


[Maestro with Ye Olde Book.]


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

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

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

Double damn.


[Spook with hands up in disgust. Maestro in background touching things.]


“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 a Hello Kitty lamp with that same blank expression that utterly judged Spook.


[Maestro with Hello Kitty lamp. Spook deflated.]


He stood there, waiting.

And waiting.

“Fine.” Spook snatched the lamp and returned it to the spot his niece had put it. She’d said his basement was too dark and gloomy. She’d been six at the time. Ten years ago. He traced the cartoon cat with one finger, missing his family but not wanting to watch them die. How old was Ross, now? He had to be at least seventy.


[Spook with hello kitty lamp.]


“She said it was the perfect book for someone of my extraordinary skill.” Nope. Not going to 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 of his enchantments and kept looking at him as if he were nothing. He lifted one hand, palm up, fingers curled. “Lorem Ipsum sit amet.”


[Spook with fireball.]


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, then opened them. Would Maestro be impressed?


[Spook playing with fire.]


Without a word, the other mage stepped into the containment circle Spook had inscribed into the cold, cold earth, taking a very high step over the inscriptions. He turned a complete circle, obviously examining it. . . and judging it.

“Well?” Spook asked.


[Maestro judging containment circle.]


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!


[Maestro on fire. This should be a challenge.]


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.


[Spook hiding behind couch.]


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.


[Spook sucking on 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.


[Maestro lifting the containment circle while on fire.

Seriously. How the fuck am I going to do this?]


“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!


[Maestro making everything go 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?”


[Maestro and Spook on opposite sides of the podium.]


“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 own basement and not invite me?”

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


[Maestro looking surprised.]


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

Spook sniffed. Sulfer!


[Collin looking sexy.]


“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?”


[Collin gesturing broadly.]


Maestro dropped into a crouch and a fireball appeared in both hands. . . without a verbal spell of any kind! What the what?

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

Damn it!


[Collin holding up hands to slow them down. Spook and Maestro with fireballs.]


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.”


[Collin with his mouth open to speak and greatly enlarged.]


Collin opened his mouth to speak. . . or perhaps to swallow a cat, because it opened a bit 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?”
[Collin grinning. Arms crossed unless that will hurt the makeup,

in which case he can do something else. Maestro and Spook with fireballs.]


What? But he was right there in the contain—

The demon left the circle and dropped into a comfy chair sideways, one leg over the arm. Huh. Spook liked to sit in it that way, too.


[Collin in chair.]


“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 Asian women buffing them.


[Maestro and Spook with fireballs.]


“I need your help.” He met Maestro’s gaze. 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 bare 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.


[Collin extending hand, Maestro looking judgmental.]


With a sigh, he shook out the fire and gripped Collin’s hand.

Collin sucked in a surprised breath and his eyes widened and flared orange. “You’re unexpected.”

Maestro’s eyes narrowed, and he 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 the hand. “And you, sir. . . Who are you, exactly?”

[Collin and Spook shaking hands.]


Well, Spook wasn’t going to be out-cooled by Maestro. “Call me Spook.” He grabbed the demon’s hand.

What the fuck! Hellfire and brimstone, armies in battle, demons and angels waging an all-out war!

[Shot of Indi Gogh as demon.]


Rages and rages of demons, and this. . .  Collin in command. . . but not really in command. Somewhere in the middle. Balancing outcomes. What the hell? Literally.

Maestro moved closer. No! Spook could handle this. He pushed against Maestro’s chest.



[Spook stopping Maestro, who has a “oh, really?” expression. Collin looking bemused.]


The demon smiled. “My, my, my…. I guess the banal pleasantries can be abandoned.” He released Spook’s hand. “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.”

“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. What the hell’s an Earl?”

Maestro scoffed. “A demon named Collin?”



[Collin and Spook facing off. Collin disgusted and pissed. Spook self-satisfied.]


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?


[Spook with Maestro’s hand in his face.]


A hand in his face told him otherwise. Really? Spook smacked Maestro’s hand away.

“What are you doing here?” Maestro asked the demon.

Collin met Maestro’s gaze. “I need your help.” His face portrayed far too much innocence to be real. “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.”


[Maestro facing Collin, glowing, Spook in background.]


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 dripping with enormous diamonds.


[Collin holding fancy bracelet. Fuck… where am I going to get one of those?]


Holy shit!

Wait? “You get paid to help people?” Spook asked. What an idea!

Maestro looked at him with disgust. “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 i-phone 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.”


[Maestro pointing his phone at the bracelet.]


“This one does.” He made some adjustments.

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

“It’s just an i-phone,” Maestro said in all sincerity.

Ha! Nice. Wait, was that a dig?

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.”


[Collin nodding. Maestro and Spook looking at each other like neither of them wants to think of Spook as sidekick.]


“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 minute,” Spook said, “Have you been to other planets? That’s a thing?”

“No,” 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?


[Image of what Spook thinks aliens would 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.


[Maestro holding Spook’s wrist, eyes ablaze.]


“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’s hands sort of displayed his demony form, as if to point out that he was, after all, a demon.


[The trio, with Collin displaying himself.]


Maestro took the necklace. The thing he had must have convinced—

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.


[Maestro looking pissed. Collin grinning. And Spook looking clueless.]


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?


[Collin looking sexy and self-satisfied. Maestro looking worried. Spook still clueless.]


“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.”


Maestro held up his phone and it flashed.

Wait. Really? Photo opp, now? Spook was so surprised, he pretty much 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?

[Spook by himself.]




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.


[Maestro and Collin in back yard.]


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. Well, the insanity thing, and she’d also performed a very complex sex ritual. . .

Sigh. Maestro had also been forced to attend that as well out of fear of discovery.

“You know I’m not going to let you do that,” Maestro insisted. Just don’t think about it.


[Maestro and Collin in Anime battle stances, hai!]


“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.”


[Collin and Maestro facing off, but relaxed.]


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?


[Maestro and Collin almost casual.]


“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 at the time. I didn’t know a millionth of what I know now.” He’d cowered in the choir loft of an abandoned church while that bitch had tortured Morri for hours and hours and hours. And he hadn’t been able to do a thing. He’d been too afraid.


[Maestro, looking pretty much like he does now

backed up to the usual couch, looking scared.]


Collin smiled. “So, she inspired you?”

Fuck him and everything like him. . . but don’t let it show.

“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 put the lad’s intestines back in his abdomen.” The thought of it still made Maestro nauseous after everything he’d seen before and since. “His heart back in his chest. Added my own gris gris, a tattoo on Spook’s chest to keep him alive long enough to go home and see his parents one last time.”


[Spook with Ankh on his chest.]


“And you did all that why?” The demon crossed his arms.

“Because I’m a parent,” Maestro admitted. “And I never got to say goodbye.”

And that, more than anything that had ever happened to Maestro, made him who he was.

Collin stared at him.

Well, fine.

“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.


[Spook in socks standing nearby.]


“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 flinched. “Ew.”


[Spook and Maestro facing off.]


The guy who 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.


[Collin wiggling his fingers.]


“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.


[Spook pointing with one finger. Maestro looking annoyed. And Collin looking amused.]




Since there was still 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! Focused.

Spook called up a fire ball and threw it.

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


[Spook and Collin with fireball.]



“Is that the best you have?” Maestro asked. He settled down, held one hand out and a sword appeared in it.


[Maestro with a sword. Spook looking surprised.]


Holy shit! How did he call up things out of nothing?

“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.”


[Spook holding sword. Maestro looking nonchalant with second sword.]


Collin struck at Spook with a blade of his own.

Spook blocked it. Wait. Where the hell did he get a blade?


[Spook blocking Collin.]


Spook kind of had to pay attention to the melee. The demon was freaking fast, and despite his being outnumbered, he held his own.

“You don’t completely suck at melee,” Maestro said, his eyes drilling Spook.

“Well, Percy drilled us every day.” Yikes. Hopefully, everyone ignored the obvious double entendre.

“He learned swordsmanship from King Arthur,” Maestro said. “I’d hope he knew what he was doing.”

What? Spook’s guard dropped, but Maestro covered him until he got his point up again.


[Maestro and Collin parrying while Spook drops his guard.]


“What the fuck does that mean?” Spook demanded, blocking a low blow and spinning for his own gambit while Maestro kept Collin occupied. Nice. They actually worked well together.

Would he counter?

Spook struck low.

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


[Maestro slicing high, and Collin parrying while Spook strikes low.]


Spook’s blade sliced the demon’s leg.

He hissed, danced out of the way.

“Percy,” Maestro said. “Percival? Have you read no Middle English?”

What? Holy shit! “Percy was Sir Percival?”

And suddenly a million odd questions made sense.

Including the way Spook and Maestro had managed to corner the demon.

“He taught you,” Spook said, menacing a cringing Collin. “Percy taught you, too.”


[Spook and Maestro menacing Collin by the pool.]


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.


[Battle scene.]

“Wait.” Collin held a hand up.

“What?” Maestro demanded.

Collin snapped his fingers. He smirked.

Half a dozen identical demons appeared to flank him. The smell of Sulphur was overwhelming and obvious.



[Shot of lots of Collins. Damn, I wish I had a tripod. Collin 1 is pointing at Maestro.]


Collin pointed the snapping fingers at Spook and Maestro.

Maestro raised a hand. “Wait,”

Collin raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Maestro snapped his fingers and held out his hand. An amber crystal appeared.


[Some sort of crystal in Maestro’s hand.]


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

“Fuck me!” Collin rushed toward Maestro, then pulled back. “Wait. I’m not stupid, either. I’m not touching that thing.”


[Maestro holding crystal. Collin hanging back, Spook reaching for it.]


“What is it?” Spook asked, reaching out.

Maestro smacked his hand. “Soul cage.”

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

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

Wow creepy.

But Collin seemed close to orgasm over the thing. “You would give me this to save the boy?”


[Collin on his knees to be at eye level with the crystal. It should glow a little.]


Boy? Spook was. . . well, compared to these two. . .

Maestro held it out.

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

He made a little sort of orgasmic noise.



[Collin with soul cage.]


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, obviously as confused as Spook.


[Spook and Collin regarding Maestro in confusion.]


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


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

“E-ver,” Maestro added 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 holding up crystal with a raised eyebrow. Maestro looking stern. Spook looking annoyed.]


Collin held up the crystal. “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 had just happened?

Maestro sighed. “Morrison.”


[Spook with hands on hips. Maestro looking down.]


“What was that thing?” Spook asked. “And how do you know my real name?”

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

“Oh,” Spook said, remembering their earlier exchange, “I assure you, I really do.”

“Fine,” Maestro said, opening the back door. “I don’t want to tell you.”


[Maestro pushing Spook along.]


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

They made their way through the house to the basement stairs.

“So—” Spook started.

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

Gently was good, right?

“What he said about—”

“Don’t.” Maestro kept a steady pressure on his back as they descended.

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


[Spook and Maestro over circle. Spook hopeful. Maestro resigned.]


Maestro stood silently.

“We both learned sword-fighting from a freaking knight of Camelot.” That would take Spook several weeks and numerous bottles of magic-enhanced wine to process.

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 stranger danger 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’s not.”

What did that even mean?

“Come on.”


[Spook and Maestro back in positions from first meeting.]


Spook followed Maestro to the edge of the containment circle where they had first met. “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.”


[Spook with fingers in his ears.]


He pulled the fingers out and shrugged. “What am I supposed to do with all this? Pretend I know nothing?”

They stood there in the spot of their meeting.

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?

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


[Shot of Maestro smiling way too much and pulling Spook in for a selfie.]


“Celebratory selfie?” He reached toward Spook.

Really? Well, sure, this was more like—


Wow. Bright.


[Closeup of Spook, flashed way bright.]




Damn it. What had he 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.


[Spook looking dazed, Maestro back to Maestro.]


“It’s time to intone the spell,” Maestro said.

Morri stood there frozen. If only Maestro could keep him that way like a bug in amber. He’d interfered because the whole summoning a demon out of loneliness seemed. . . well. . . desperate and dangerous.

If the stupid ghoul was heading down that path. . . well, Maestro wasn’t even sure what to do with him had he gone that far to the Dark Side.


[Maestro leaning a bit oddly close to Spook, maybe reaching out to him.]


Nope. Not going to get involved.

Too dangerous. Too many dark options for the future.

Too many chances for this part of the planet to get flash fried.

Okay. Time to go. No room for sentimentality.

As Maestro climbed the stairs, Spook started the demon summoning spell.

Nope. Way too dangerous to contact him. He couldn’t summon a demon, anyway, and Collin wasn’t a danger for the time being.

Maestro would leave well enough alone.

No reason to contact Spook, after all.


[Maestro in front yard with swords, walking toward street.]


He left the hideously tacky house and headed to his van, a classic from a simpler time.

He threw the swords into the back of the VW Microbus.

Wait. Why was his van flashing purple and green? And at that obscene hour of the morning, why did neighbors in house coats dot the curb, staring in the direction of Spook’s house and pointing?


[Maestro in street with purple and green lights.]



Double drat.

Maestro looked up.

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


[Hellsmouth over the house.]


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

Neighbors gathered, most of them likely assuming this was some sort of publicity stunt for the latest reality show.

God damn Austin, Texas!

What to do? Allow hundreds of civilians stood to die so Maestro could prevent Spook from possibly annihilating the state in a few years.

Godsdammit, time travel was a bitch.

Maestro stomped back to the porch.

He hit the doorbell.

He hit it several times more.

[Maestro at front door.]


No. Screw it. Too dangerous.

Every time he’d tried to alter the timeline, he’d wound up exploding the fucking planet!

Why would this be any different?


He turned to leave.

The door opened.

“You better have pizza!”


[Spook shouting in doorway.]


The little twerp’s voice still reverberated with demonic overtones.



[Shot of Maestro over Spook’s shoulder.]

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