Sloan raced down the dark alley; his thudding boot falls echoing against the cobblestone. He knew he didn’t have long until early daybreak, otherwise he wouldn’t get paid. Sloan worried about earlier events before he took the job offered. He knew it was sketchy at best, but the woman who offered the job was cute and a tad bit desperate.
“I haven’t a lot of money,” the woman had said, “but I’m willing to do anything as payment.” Sloan had noticed her when she entered Karl’s Korner Pub. He had his usual seat in the back on the other side of the jukebox. The box always blared country music through its speakers, but if he wanted to run out the regulars in order to conduct business, he’d drop a twenty into the machine and rack up on techno and electronica. It always ran those drunken bastards out, except for the hardcore regulars, which had grown used to Sloan’s usual antics.
“Look, lady,” Sloan said over the thumping drum and bass, “Don’t say things like that.” He leaned back in his chair, raising a highball glass of vodka sour. “You don’t wanna say shit like that. It’ll get your pretty ass into some big trouble.” The woman that sat across from Sloan appeared slightly disturbed and blushed deeply when Sloan burst out with a hearty laugh. She looked down at the worn tabletop, absent-mindedly covering her mouth with a slender hand. Sloan threw back the rest of his drink and set down the glass with a firm bang. “So, how much are ya willin’ to pay?”
“I know you charge seven-hundred up front and five-hundred for expenses, along with a hundred an hour…” The woman blew a short sigh. “But I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Then what do you have?” Sloan let down his chair and reached across the table to take off the woman’s dark sunglasses. She was definitely cute, Sloan surmised, admiring her light brown freckles that dotted her gaunt cheeks. The woman looked up with wide light brown eyes, as if she were a deer mesmerized by headlamps. Sloan ran a hand down her cheek and through her curly strawberry blond hair, grinning devilishly as the flush on her face grew deeper. The woman looked away as the color suddenly drained from her face once Sloan leaned in closer. “Lady, don’t be so serious!” he said in her ear and pat her cheek as he sat back, guffawing. The woman clenched her teeth as he slipped the sunglasses on his face with a foolish grin plastered on. “Besides, I can’t get it up no more, dig it?”
“So, will you…?”
“I said; I don’t get it up no more!” The woman cleared her throat.
“I didn’t mean that! I meant the job… my ‘special problem’.”
“Well, maybe later if you can find me the right drugs.” Sloan cackled as the woman stood to her feet, scooping up her purse. Sloan put out his hands, feinting surrender. “Sorry, I’m just bullshittin’ ya, alright? Jesus, woman, I don’t mean to be so bad.”
“Well…!” The woman huffed and turned to leave and Sloan quickly stood, taking her by the arm.
“Sure thing, lady, whatever you’ll give me. I can take on a charity case or two, dig it?”
Sloan cursed his usual dumb luck. It wasn’t the usual charity case, he found. He wanted to bash in the bartender’s face that ran his mouth too damn much, telling customers that’ll listen about the notorious ‘nightmare investigator’, when he wasn’t swilling booze and popping pills for the phantom pains he always complained about or avoiding the daylight, fussing that it wrecked his already failing eyesight. The woman wasn’t an ordinary case either, after telling her story about her boyfriend, a hack ceremonial magician that overstepped his bounds and conjured sentient beings that he couldn’t toss back. He got destroyed in the end and the demons took over the house that ran the woman out, since she didn’t have the power or the skill to deal with the summoned beings. The woman was made of tough stuff and was able to put up a ward to keep the phantoms trapped in the house, but the mere mention of a portal to the underworld made Sloan uneasy.
“Got a proposition for ya,” said Sloan as he walked the woman back to the motel.
“I thought you couldn’t get it up,” the woman replied, mildly shocked. Sloan grinned.
“I gotta take my chances, ya know?”
Barely several meters from the intended location through the alley, Sloan came to a halt as he spotted a shadowy being blocking his path. He heard a thump above and glanced up as he put a hand to the hilt of his holster, noticing a shadowy figure on the tar and brick roof overhead, then another metallic thump as another body landed on the iron fire escape to his right.
“So the demon exterminator has come,” a dark voice hissed from behind. Sloan withdrew both the high-powered revolver from his side holster and the pistol from his waistband to point to both the demon behind him and the one that stood before him. His opponent had a dark thin grinning face with glowing red eyes beneath long oily hair that fell in its face, masking its features.
“You’re done, catch it?” Sloan said simply. “So just bow down and die.” The creature grinned, baring its fangs.
“You can’t take down all four of us at once, Hunter!” the demon hissed. “Your reflexes are too slow – dampened by alcohol!”
“I still got it!”
“You’ll be dead before you can take off the safety!”
“Then show me!” Sloan fired both pistols at once, then again to the demon on his left and right. He took out one more that appeared from behind that jumped on top of his back and blew a heavy sigh as he turned around to check his surroundings, finding only piles of ash near dark puddles of stale rainwater. Sloan sheathed his guns and after finding his direction of orientation, he searched his jacket pockets, withdrawing a cigarette case and lighter from the side inside pocket. Heading for the house ahead as he lit a cigarette, Sloan felt a strange sensation bubbling in him. He couldn’t figure out what it was and why it felt strangely familiar. He then pinned it once it hit him hard and fast: he couldn’t wait to return to his apartment to check on the woman. She was supposed to have his laundry done by the time he came in for the day.
© Copyright 2016 KP Merriweather. All rights reserved.
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