When Alex pulled into the parking lot for Phil’s store, the front windows were boarded up and Jane’s little Paseo was gone. He popped open the driver’s door as Phil climbed out. “Why don’t I follow you back to your condo? We can take my truck back to Madison’s house—”
He whirled toward the store and drew his gun at the same time. His mind extended, identifying everything in the surrounding area. Phil, Kiki, drivers in the street, a Normal next-door working late in his office.
There was something inside Phil’s store he didn’t recognize. Something that didn’t feel remotely human-related or even fae.
Alex glanced at Phil. She set Kiki on the seat with a whispered, “Stay.” For the second time that night, she reached beneath the passenger chair for his spare gun. With the front of the store boarded, there was only one way in or out of the building.
Another bang came from inside. Alex motioned for her to follow him. He eased around the corner of the stucco exterior.
He tried to quell his surprise that she obeyed. The idea of her swearing on the Styx had been grabbing at straws on his part. Of course, she could simply consider him cannon fodder.
The back door stood open, the steel frame gouged in order to pry the two deadbolts free. No light were on inside. More clattering confirmed that whatever was inside the store was near the smashed front doors.
Alex leaned toward Phil. Communication would be so much easier with telepathy, but if she was honoring her promise, the least he could do was respect her space. “Where’s the switch for showroom?”
“On the inside wall to the right at the entrance.”
He crept through the storage and office area. Whoever was in the shop muttered to himself. An odd sing-song language like nothing Alex had heard before.
He motioned to Phil, and with the palm of her hand, she flipped the row of switches. Light flooded the room.
Jane and the contractor had obviously cleaned up as best as they could. Merchandise had been neatly stacked on one side of the room. Debris had been swept to the other side.
A creature the size of a large chimpanzee or a small gorilla, Alex couldn’t decide, sat near the piled merchandise. It resembled a taxidermy project of a capuchin monkey, with orange LED lights instead of glass eyeballs, that had been partially devoured by a swarm of moths. And its scent made the zombies that had attacked during Tiffany’s wedding smell like the finest French perfume.
What was equally obvious was that it had been rummaging through the antique pieces and tossing them aside.
“Demon!” At Phil’s shout, she fired. One of the LED eyes disintegrated into a mass of orange goo.
The thing shrieked. It jumped straight into the air, claws scrabbling for purchase on the acoustic tile ceiling.
The same talons that had cut through the steel back door shredded the tiles as well as the aluminum framework. Foam and fiber floating through the air. Metal ricocheted off the walls before hitting the floor in rapid-fire pings. For a split second, the demon imitated a hellish version of Wile E. Coyote running in mid-air. Gravity had other ideas, and the creature crashed to the floor.
For something that looked like a giant dead monkey, it was fast. It leapt, and Alex ducked and rolled to avoid its claws. No doubt it could take off his head with one swipe.
It headed straight for Phil and knocked the semi-automatic from her grip. Alex raised his own gun and fired.
The thing shrieked again when part of its head disintegrated. It shoved Phil into the wall before it turned and glared at Alex with its one good eye. Before he could squeeze the trigger again, it dived through the doorway to the back room.
Alex jumped to his feet and ran after it, Phil hot on his heels.
A series of sharp high-pitched yips preceded another shriek from the creature. Alex raced out the back door to find the thing perched on top of the dumpster. It cringed while Kiki danced around the base, barking for all she was worth.
What the hell? The creature tore through a vampire and a demi-goddess like they were nothing, and it was frightened of a shaved Maltese?
From the ashy scent penetrating the thing’s body odor, there was no doubt. It was scared shitless of Kiki. More of its strange, chittering language issued from its mouth.
It looked at Alex and Phil approaching and back down at the tiny white dog. Resignation appeared on its mottled face. It reached for Kiki.
“No!” Phil’s scream was telepathic as well as auditory.
Horror seized Alex’s heart. He brought his gun up and squeezed the trigger the same moment the demon touched the hyper canine.
The monkey demon exploded into a cloud of ash before the silver bullet hit it.