He approaches; the sound of feet crunching in the snow alerting me of his presence, I stop abruptly and put one hand up, "Someone's here, be quiet." The steps come closer, the strong scent of aftershave prevailing in the air, the faint odor of animal blood covering him, mixing with his human scent.
They come into the sight of the full moon, his long trench coat flows in the wind, exposing the revolver on his belt. He looks in our direction, not seeing us but not dismissing the possibility we might be there. I turn as Bartimaeus begins to whisper, placing a finger over his mouth, I shake my head.
I recognize his kind, a hunter, he examines the ground closely, frustration seeping in his face as no tracks are visible but the tracks he left behind him. Rising to his full height he looks over the forest with another gaze of his oak brown eyes, turning he keeps on walking, stepping quietly as he tries to listen for any movement.
We don't move as the sun soon moves into the sky, taking the place of the moon, only now do I turn and face Bartimaeus, "I don't mind you talking… but that was a hunter, they don't exactly differentiate good demons from bad ones."
Usually we could stick to small towns, but Py knew how I thought and I had been forced to change all my usual habits. We would stick to the wilderness until we got out of Canada, I never did like Bartimaeus at first, or as he liked to be called Sponge. He had something I never had, a life, he had humanity.
My humanity had been stolen from me before I could even finish my freshmen year of high school, I'd never had a family and I'd been immersed in the world of angels and demons without a single hello. Bartimaeus was supposed to be different, I wanted to scare him out of this life, to force him to live humanity.
Now he's kept his humanity intact and both heaven and hell owe him for establishing the order by playing a major contribution to Mizdo's incarceration. One of the golden rules Py used to quote almost religiously was never get too close to anyone, because when it comes down to the wire you should be able to stab your friend in the back to save your own skin.
Of course he would always grin when he said it, and finish with a joke and despite his words I knew he would never betray me. It's the one thing he feared, betrayal; he was betrayed by his brother, betrayed by a demon he vouched. If not for the death of Aurora he would have been ok, I always knew behind his humor he hid a darker side but he never showed any sign of letting it dominate.
The events that took place changed him forever, the betrayal of his protégé, on that day I fully respected Bartimaeus. Walking through the thick foliage he turned to Maxine, "So this is the reward we get for saving the world huh? I thought heroes were supposed to be praised and get to relax."
Chuckling I answer in her place, "I guess we got the wrong script, we aren't exactly the heroes and our mentor is trying to kill us. Now that's an odd story if I ever heard one, oh right, this isn't just some kind of novel, its reality. Whoever would write us in this kind of mess must really have issues."
Cutting in between us Maxine walks by, despite the cold she insists on dressing as sexy as ever, I wish she could be ugly from time to time and give my eyes some time off. Dressed in skinny jeans and a black tank top she points at smoke rising from a nearby cabin, "You two can talk about how screwed we all are if you want, I bet that hunter won't be expecting us."
Smiling in apprehension Bartimaeus nods, "I smell soup, beef broth with carrots, mushrooms, greek spices and…" Rolling my eyes I cut in, "Ya, ya, enough of the chef boyardi talk, let's go pay that hunter a visit."
Without further delay we walk towards the cabin, I smile at the thought that Anison was actually a hunter herself before she became the Queen of hell. Stopping at the door I look back at Maxine and Bartimaeus, turning to the door as I knock gently.
Opening the door I see his face widen in fear and surprise as I extend my hand, "May we come in and share your hospitality?" The hunter goes flying against the wall, not able to struggle he glares at me darkly, "I've been there, trust me I know being pinned against a wall sucks, I won't hold that against you."
Spitting on the ground he barks out, "You demons are monsters! How dare you impose your will on me, I hope you die!" Walking up to him Maxine rubs his face gently, smiling as she kisses him on the lips, "So your lips are sweet but your words are sour, make your words sweeter and you'll realize demons are good at more than just killing."
I could have warned her but I simply laugh as he spits directly into her face, eyes narrowed in rage, "You too whore, I know you're only as pretty as your host, you're nothing on your own." Raising his hand up Bartimaeus smiles sheepishly, "I'm not a demon, doesn't that count for something?"
Shaking my head in bemusement I look over at the brewing soup, "As long as you didn't spit in the soup we'll let you live after all this is done. You should eat Bartimaeus, I'm sure Mr. Canadian here won't mind sharing with you."
Walking off into the kitchen I drop the hunter casually, as he charges at me I draw my pistol, aiming it directly at him, "Please don't do that or I will…" Not seeming to stop I roll my eyes, clicking the safety off I squeeze the trigger, shooting him in the leg as he sprawls unto the ground, "I said don't do that."
Glaring at me angrily he backs away, sitting on a couch as Maxine arrives after searching the entire house, "It's clean, no hidden weapons in or around the house." Taking a spoonful of soup he does a noise of satisfaction, "You must tell me, there's one ingredient in here I can't pinpoint, it's driving me crazy."
I can only imagine how we looked to this hunter right about now, three strangers barging into his cabin; one a seductive woman, one an apparent food crazed android and then me, the psycho demon who had done nothing but attack him.
Rubbing his leg painfully he looks up, "What kind of demons are you? Why not just kill me and get it over with?" Sighing loudly Bartimaeus starts to answer, stopping as he realizes his mouth is full of soup, "First of all I am not a demon, secondly dead bodies draw attention and…"
The one problem about Bartimaeus since we've been on the run is that he talks too much, almost makes me wish he was a coward again, "He doesn't need to know, and don't get any ideas bub, a well concealed body doesn't draw any attention at all, especially when it's anchored at the bottom of the lake."
He scrutinizes me, checking to see if I'm bluffing although I can tell by the expression on his face he knows I'm not, "As our young friend likes to point out, he's not a demon so if you let us use your cabin for the night we'll be out of your life forever."
Chuckling dryly in surrender he turns away, turning the television on, "Funny, my ex wife said the same exact thing." Settling for a hockey game I sit on the couch as Bartimaeus walks over to the kitchen, probably getting more soup, "I can tell you're a realist, I got an offer for you Mr. Canadian."
His shirt pulled off he wraps it around the bullet wound, "I thought we already made a deal, what would make me want to do more? I'm not afraid to die; every hunter knows its part of the job."
Walking up to him I shoot the gun the window three times, smiling I press the hot barrel against his wound, satisfied as he grits his teeth in pain, "Killing isn't quite as much fun as torture, we need a guide through the wilderness, do that and I'll owe you one deal, and as everyone knows, a deal with a demon is worth more than all the gold in the world."