Authors: Jill Cooper
S E R I E S
D R E A M S L AY E R
T H E
R E W I N D
S E R I E S
A D U LT
D Y S TO P I A N
S E R I E S
T H E
B L O O D
S I S T E R S
can I get some more coffee? Miss?”
paused at the counter and resisted giving an eye-roll. She held many dirty jobs
in the past, killing demons was her specialty, but working at a greasy spoon?
Being forced to wear the frilly waitress uniform had to be just about the worst
thing that had ever happened to her.
that whole, finding your parents murdered thing.
she donned her blue waitress uniform, tied back her long red curls, and got to
work. Without this gig, there
leads. Without leads, you just couldn’t take down a demonic crime syndicate,
jackass’s voice rose, so Jessica grabbed the coffee pot and plastered on a fake
smile. She gritted her teeth as she warmed his cup. “One lukewarm cup of
strong, day old coffee, coming right up.”
old man chuckled. Kind enough, Jessica guessed, but with a cottage cheese face.
He wore a plaid shirt, as if he had just come in from the farm.
“You’re really working on earning your tip
you have no idea.” Tips, Jessica snorted. Twenty-five cents weren’t a tip, but
she couldn’t complain. Her demeanor wasn’t cut out for this line of work.
Having to deal with people and serving up cheeseburger platters with a side of
was more at home chasing evil, saving people, but that’s why she was here
wasn’t it? She was working a case. As far as covers went waitressing pretty
front door opened, and a guy entered who could barely keep upright. He crashed
in to the magazine rack at the front and collapsed onto a booth. His outfit
said it all;
long black hair and a face full of piercings. His high-tops were soiled with
thick mud and his jeans were splattered with something.
didn’t want to make any guesses about what it might be.
eyes were on him as he threw himself into a corner booth, his arms hugging his
body tightly, as if he had a chill, like something deep within him was missing.
Most likely something was missing; his soul. Demon drugs had fractured it, a
new victim for the underworld.
might be the break she was looking for. Jessica pulled the pencil out from behind
her ear and walked over to him. His legs stretched out under the seat jittering
back and forth as he gazed out the window at the hardware store. In
window hung a ‘Going out of business’ sign
town was changing, and not for the better. Not on its own. Something was
gutting this place and Jessica was going to stop it. Or at the very least, slow
it down. Beggars couldn’t be choosers in her line of work. When it came to
demons, you took what you could get.
flipped his coffee cup right side up and started to pour him a coffee, but he
shook his head. “I don’t want coffee. Just pie.”
me, you need coffee.”
eyes were some of the most strung-out eyes she had ever seen. It stilled her
heart for a moment as she poured his coffee. Just as a doctor isn’t supposed to
be attached to his patients, Jessica wasn’t supposed to feel pity. She was in
town to do a job; she couldn’t go around saving everyone.
mean she didn’t want to.
can’t…” he hung his head. “I can’t afford coffee and pie.”
for one special,” Jessica flashed a smile. “You buy pie; you get coffee for
like that?” His eyes were
nodded. “Yup. So drink up, okay? Get your head right.”
hunkered forward and took the cup with both hands. They shook as he lifted it
to his mouth. His sip was followed by a sigh. The way he closed his eyes and
took in the aroma, he might as well have asked for a private room. “I can’t
remember the last time I had something warm. Thanks.”
Jessica leaned down, her hands on the tabletop, “you know where I can get some
quality stuff? You know, like the kind you’re on right now?”
jerked upward and his hand lifted. “I thought you were pretty, but your face…”
touched the scar that traveled down her left cheek. A long dagger cut was
responsible for that, a long time ago. Since then, Jessica favored distance
from her enemies. “You’re a real charmer.” She rolled her eyes and started
,” he said and sunk lower in the booth.
“He has stuff that’ll make your toes curl, man.” He chuckled with his head
thrown back, staring up at the lights. “Even the lights move, even the lights…”
was the moment when she was going to get the information she was desperate to
have. “Where can I find this
“I’m going to call the police.” Chuck, the
owner shouted from behind the counter, ruining Jessica’s big moment. “That guy
shouldn’t be here and you shouldn’t be talking to him.”
skin crawled. She had come so
Sigh…As bosses went, Jessica had had better.
leaned down and whispered to the man in the booth, who was barely older than a
kid. “You’re flushing your life away, for what? So some low-level can get a
grip on you? Everyone here?”
kicked back and forth, his head rolling to the side. “I need more money. I need
another fix. Do you have any? You got any money?”
Hopeless. Jessica wished she could say she didn’t care about guys like this,
she was angry, frustrated.
grunted and thought to smack some sense into him when… “Marie!” Chuck
his hands on his hips. “There are
other customers, get back to work!”
she got a job under a name that wasn’t her own, big deal. If Chuck, or anyone,
saw the length of her rap sheet, of all the things she had been accused of,
Jessica would never get a job. Truth was, Jessica had done most of the things
she was accused of. People just couldn’t know why.
couldn’t know what she did. Couldn’t understand the war that was being waged
under their nose. She didn’t exactly wear her rap sheet with pride, but it was
what it was. There were more important things at stake.
of those things walked through the door.
Blood, Jessica’s younger sister by two years. She had delicate features like a
pixie with golden-red hair that rested on her shoulders. She almost always wore
a soft, flowing dress, today was no exception.
a wave and a smile, Amanda bounced in. She said hello to the regulars like she
always did. Twenty-one years old, but most day she didn’t act older than
sixteen. Jessica wanted to protect that innocence and shake it clear out of her
at the same time. Things would be easier if Amanda would harden, just a little,
but Jessica loved that sweetness about her.
Jessica needed that sweetness.
took a seat at the counter. “Marie, hey.” She paused when saying Jessica’s
cover name ever so slightly. She let her book bag fall by her bare feet. Amanda
didn’t believe in shoes, like adults didn’t believe in Santa. It messed with
her gift, or so she said. Jessica learned long ago not to question it.
eyes followed each other as Jessica slipped behind the counter. Chuck huffed,
“Could you please, please, tell her to put on a pair of shoes.
she has to go!” And then he was on
his way. Jessica slipped the cash register open to pay for the coffee she gave
was a liar and a thief most of the time. It felt weird to do something nice for
someone. A good sort of weird, that tingled and traveled up her body, but
Jessica thought she could get used to it.
but didn’t say anything. The
glint in her eye said everything and Jessica squarely decided to ignore it.
you be at ‘group’?” Jessica grabbed a cloth to wipe down the surface of the
bounced slightly as she spun the small vase with one dead rose. The petals were
brittle and about to fall. “I got thrown out.” She studied the flower.
out? “That was supposed to be your cover? How else are you going to get close to—”
why I did it, silly.” Amanda arched her eyebrows. “Nancy finally saw me as one
. A friend. And she agreed to
meet with us. She just has to find a babysitter, so I said, we’d come to her.
You’ve always been great with kids.”
face twitched. It always did that when she thought of spending time with kids.
“You know my bedside manner is better—”
demons? Killing things? Really, don’t you think it’s time you branch out?”
Amanda’s nose scrunched up. Her hand hovered above the flower.
ball of light and power grew from her hand. Before Jessica could stop her, the
brittle flower was basked in Amanda’s glow. The flower grew tall, and what was
once hard, became soft. What was once gray was now red. The petals spun
together and like a dancer, the rose twirled in delight.
happiness, Amanda smiled, but Jessica had to stop herself from slapping her.
“You’re attracting attention to us. Again.” She took the vase from Amanda and
stashed it under the counter.
her shoulders rounding. “C’mon,
Jess. It’s just a little beauty. You know the things in this town—”
withering and dying faster than they
should. “Doesn’t mean I want the demons to realize we’re here before we get a
chance to run them out.”
had already been in this town too long.
farmer guy twitched beside Amanda as he lifted his cup of coffee. “You guys
sure use the word ‘demons’ a lot.”
started. She forgot that guy was there. That was the power Amanda had over her,
always distracting her. “It’s just code for men. Scummy, bad men.”
laughed as he took a loud slurp of his coffee. “Your coffee needs work, but
damn if you’re not funny.”
sucked in a laugh and covered her mouth. “That’s probably the best thing I’ve
heard all day.”
couldn’t help a smirk as she wiped down the counter. For a sister, Amanda was
pretty good and generally her laughter cured all of Jessica’s problems.
wants to kick the habit. She just needs some help. A push. Please, Jessica.”
wasn’t like they had a lot of options. Jessica took off her apron and wadded it
into a ball. From the tip
the measly tips she was owed for the week, plus an extra twenty. “I hope we
never have to see this place again.”
just shrugged as she stood up from the bar stool. “It’s not so bad. For a demon
infected back hole, that is.”
was Amanda, always able to see the upside.
the way out, Jessica paused at the booth were the junkie was laid out. His head
was thrown back, hands lax around his coffee cup. He must have fallen asleep,
but with the sound of a police siren growing closer, it was time for Jessica to
exit stage left. She tugged on Amanda’s hand.
she had seen the look on Amanda’s face before. The slow spread of sadness and desperation,
as she took in the junkie’s form. “The police are coming,” Jessica whispered.
“They can help him. You don’t have time.”
heal him. To save him. Life could be a real bitch for an empath.
shook her head, her curls bouncing. “No one can, Jessie. His soul is etched and
stretched over the booth, and street clear to the boundaries of this city. It’s
twisted and crumbled like a dry cookie. It smells of sulfur and is begging for
something we can’t give him any longer.”
other words, he was dead. Souls being ripped apart by demon drugs, Jessica had
seen it before, but never so close.
apartment was a study of squalor. Buzzing flies around stacks of old pizza
boxes, and a torn, battered sofa. Dishes piled in the sink, left caked with
food so long, it was dehydrated and brittle. The place smelled of urine and the
rugs were covered in old newspaper and assorted trash.
to be here, to be in this place, brought out a level of anger that Jessica had
trouble controlling. She walked through the small apartment and opened the
bedroom door to the kids’ room just enough to peek inside.
couldn’t have been older than eight and six. Their clothing was stained, their
faces unwashed. They sat coloring on mattresses with no sheets. Jessica had
half a mind to call social services.
only half a mind. If she did, she might lose her only lead. Jessica needed
Nancy to get her close enough to Branger so she could kill him. Without that,
more families would end up like this. More children would stare at Jessica with
haunting, vacant eyes.