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London-three months later
Jack Harris had committed to this mission of destruction. The road, not up from his indiscretions, but one that threatened to parallel it all the way to hell.
He had been given a license to kill. Not mortals, but instead, the dark denizens from another world. A world called the dark realm. A world he'd never imagined to exist months before now. Yet, for all purposes, it had once touched him.
Since joining-make that being recruited-into P-Cell, the covert paranormal section of MI5, life had not been the same. Normal people did not dream about demons, or stalk the hallway in the middle of the night and reconnoiter the loo before taking a leak on the off chance a demon might be clinging up on the ceiling.
Yet, in all his years with the British Security Service, and then working as a spook for MI5, he'd never before felt quite like this. Confident and hungry for the kill.
Sure, confidence was second nature to Jack, but to hunger for destruction? Such an appetite was new, yet not unwelcome.
Jack hefted the M4 carbine, positioning the butt of the rifle upon the crook of his elbow. A salt grenade was locked into position. He'd only get the one shot.
The electromagnetic-field gauge he held in his left hand registered a faint blip. Something occupied the cavernous walls of this building. And he knew it wouldn't be all ducks and bunnies.
Slowly, he took the iron stairs in the abandoned warehouse, twisting at the waist to ensure the hand-size EMF gauge could pick up readings to cover his periphery.
A flick of his finger switched to GPS function. This model had been designed specifically to pick up theelectromagnetic resonance of ley lines and map them on screen. A network of ley lines stretched across the earth, meeting and aligning at key mystical sights and resonated with a magnetic energy that attracted the otherworldly.
Demons always came through to the mortal realm via a ley line. Combat boots tread stealthily. His stripped-down gear shifted silently upon his sturdy frame-flame-resistant black shirt and trousers, Dragon Skin vest, and at his belt a night-vision scope, combat knife and salt spray (pepper proved ineffective against the creatures he stalked). And he carried a silver dagger tipped with a UV cartridge, if by chance he stumbled on to a thirsty vampire.
In the past two weeks, Jack had gone out nightly on patrol. Direct orders from the deputy director of P-Cell. The paranormal activity in this area had increased measurably, of late. And the kicker? The hot spot was just up the road from his flat in Bermondsey. Much too close for comfort.
He had embraced the job at P-Cell with an angry heart and a keen eye.
He was still fighting terrorists-though now they were otherworldly. Demons were terrorists with uglier faces and supernatural methods. The challenge was that all bad guys had faces a man could read and react to-but not all demons did.
As a demon hunter, his objective was to shoot first, ask questions never.
P-Cell's array of weapons kicked arse. He used the M4 more often than he utilized his martial skills. Didn't get to physically kick a lot of demon arse because he still hadn't figured out where, exactly, that portion of the demon was on their strange anatomy.
Well, some, he could. In his short stint, Jack had learned the variety of demons was vast and varied. No two were alike, though they were classified into two genuses. Daemon sapiens, the modern demons were more refined, wise and always appeared in human form. The daemon incultus were the ancient, nastier breed that Jack preferred to hunt.
The latter usually appeared in demonic form, which worked for him. Jack could spar with them until they tired of the daft mortal's antics, and then the demon would attempt to take him out with a lash of burning tongue or some nasty exhalation of fumes or slash of talons. Confrontations kept Jack on his toes. He'd been hospitalized briefly last month for a deep slash through his kidney. Good thing he had two of those.
According to the GPS, he stood on top of a ley line. The electromagnetic field meter had a six milliguass range and picked up virtually all demon activity within shouting distance.
Something was in this building.
Of course, the somethings never showed themselves until Jack was close enough to be slashed, spit on, knocked down or all of the above. Which is why he wore Dragon Skin, a new scaled form of Kevlar that provided ease of movement as well as protection. Had to protect that last precious kidney.
Hell, he had to protect himself, because he wasn't going down until the dread demon that had murdered the woman he loved met the same bloody end.
The encounter with that particular demon had not been his first. No, Jack had recognized Monica's slayer. Last time he had seen that nasty thing, he'd been eight years old.
These days he wasn't tossing about silly glass balls. Now he relied on semiautomatic firepower.
Reaching the top of the third-floor stairs, Jack placed the palm of his left hand over his chest-there, where the subtle ache beneath the small scar never stopped.
Tonight, it was him or the demon. Take no prisoners.
The air was charged with the inexplicable, and it sent prickles up Mersey Bane's spine. She intended to get lucky tonight. She needed a fix.
Long sinuous strides moved her down a quiet pavement that paralleled the Thames. The moon waxed gibbous as the night crept up on morning.
Arms bent and hands held before her waist, she gripped the witching rods lightly, thumbs pointing skyward. The handles were ash columns, a hardwood resistant to influence. The copper rods, bent in an L-shape-the short length inside the handles-moved slightly with the rocking motion of her steps.
Two hours earlier, back at base, Mersey had received instructions to track down the leak in paras traced to this Bermondsey neighborhood. Paras were entities that were not human or mortal and usually apported here from the dark realm. Demons, faeries, elves, weres, the whole shebang.
The common man would be surprised to know how many nonhuman entities walked this earth. It was Mersey's job to keep that influx to a minimum, utilizing as little violence as possible. She loved tracking and capturing. Demons were her specialty, for reasons beyond her control-she'd never been given a choice in the matter.
Eyelids falling shut, she concentrated, walking slowly forward. She could scent things humans could not. The ever-changing odor of the Thames drifted up her nostrils, the river but a jog away. Tonight it smelled of cut grass and rotting hardwood.
A slight movement in the rods diverted her senses. She smiled. Getting closer. Beneath her steel-toe boots she could feel the vibrations rising up from the earth. Must be a ley line close by-an obvious place for a tear in the mortal fabric to transpire.
Something had to be torn. Four paras of the demonic persuasion had been reported within the last forty-eight hours. That was positively an invasion. Mersey hoped they were daemon incultus; a genus of demon that didn't use mortal disguise, but rather showed itself in all its natural, creepy glory. They were much easier to capture than a tricky human-form daemon sapiens.
Her mother had taught her to witch for ley lines when she was six. It hadn't really been an education, more like unearthing a talent already there. Mersey could witch a ley line, an underground trickle or stream, or wend her path toward an infestation of demons merely by concentrating and allowing the innate energies within her to connect to the otherworldly forces. Those forces were everywhere; most, invisible remnants from an unwarranted visitor, but some were definite trails.
Her connection to the otherworld was like breathing. Natural. In fact, it was mortals who gave her the most pause, if not, on occasion, out and out terror.
Trailing her wake by fifty paces, Mersey knew a white cat padded along. Ever curious about her, felines. If a cat prowled within shouting distance, it would eventually find her and cozy about her ankles to give a discerning sniff. Good thing she liked cats.
Suddenly the copper rods crossed. Mersey stopped straight away. The vibrations flowing up from the ground and through her body were unmistakable.
Cocking her head to the right, she assessed the dark warehouse beyond a chain-link fence. Three stories. Windows smashed out. Possibly abandoned.
She folded the customized rods and tucked them inside the pocket of her ankle-length suede coat. It was late September; though an early autumn chill warranted a cap and she had gloves stuffed in her pockets.
"Stay out here, puss," she directed. "This could get ugly." The cat obediently sat, curling a moon-white tail about its forepaws.
Ducking through a tear in the stiff chain mesh, Mersey then crossed the dirt courtyard and quickly located an entrance through a broken ground-floor window.
The building was cold, but her coat, rimmed about the collar and wrists with sheep's wool, kept her warm. A snug black leather aviator cap dangled over her ears and static-charged wisps of her shoulder-length hair clung to her neck and cheeks.
Scents of industrial grease and dust permeated her nostrils. Must have been a factory once outfitted with machinery that had dripped the huge black oil stains on the wood floor. The moon served as a pale white lamp.
Stretching out her arms, she walked through the empty warehouse. Her right hand, each finger stacked with protective hematite rings, divined for otherworldly vibrations, while her left, unadorned (for her past needed no protection), swept along in parallel. Her paces were steady, same as witching a line. Now was no time to introduce fear. Awareness became paramount.
She could feel something hum through the veins of her right hand, though the signal was blurred. Whatever it was, it wasn't on this ground floor.
Locating stairs at the end of the murky room, she flew up the debris-littered steps two at a time. No worry for making noise. If there was a para in the building, it already knew she was here.
Fine with her. She didn't need to see the thing; she just had to capture it.
"Heck of a way to spend a Saturday night," she murmured, topping the third-floor stairs. "On the other hand-" three strides took her into the vast empty room "-no one's been knocking down my door to go dancing, of late."
"You want to dance?"
Frozen in a beam of red light, Mersey instinctively put up her hands to shield her eyes. This wasn't quite the sort of luck she'd hoped to find tonight.