Authors: Diana Rowland
Raves for Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian Novels:
“A nifty combination of police procedural and urban fantasy. Not too many detectives summon demons in their basement for the fun of it, but Kara Gillian is not your average law enforcement officer.”
New York Times
“Rowland’s world of arcane magic and demons is fresh and original . . . [and her] characters are well-developed and distinct. . . . Dark, fast-paced, and gripping.”
“A fascinating mixture of a hard-boiled police procedural and gritty yet other-worldly urban fantasy. Diana Rowland’s professional background as a both street cop and forensic assistant not only shows through but gives the book a realism sadly lacking in all too many urban fantasy ‘crime’ novels.”
—L. E. Modesitt, Jr., author of the
Saga of Recluse
“Diana Rowland has built a fascinating and compelling urban fantasy series, with main character Kara as tough as she needs to be yet vulnerable en
ough to be realistic.”
“Rowland once again writes the perfect blend of police procedural and paranormal fantasy.”
—Night Owl Paranormal
“Phenomenal world building, a tough yet vulnerable heroine, a captivating love triangle, and an increasingly compelling metanarrative that just gets juicier with each book. . . . Blows most other urban fantasies out of the park.”
—All Things Urban Fantasy
“Yet again, Diana Rowland has knocked my socks off with a stellar book that left me positively desperate for more.”
—A Book Obsession
“Mark of the Demon crosses police procedure with weird magic. Diana Rowland’s background makes her an expert in the former, and her writing convinces me she’s also an expert in the latter in this fast-paced story that ends with a bang.”
New York Times
Also by Diana Rowland:
SECRETS OF THE DEMON
SINS OF THE DEMON
TOUCH OF THE DEMON
FURY OF THE DEMON
VENGEANCE OF THE DEMON
MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE
EVEN WHITE TRASH ZOMBIES GET THE BLUES
WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
HOW THE WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE GOT HER GROOVE BACK
WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE GONE WILD *
* Coming soon from DAW
Copyright © 2015 by Diana Rowland.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art by Daniel Dos Santos.
Cover design by G-Force Design.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1686.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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Nearly all the designs and trade names in this book are registered trademarks. All that are still in commercial use are protected by United States and international trademark law.
First Printing, April 2015
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES —MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.
For my completely awesome readers! Seriously, do you even know how surreal it is to go from being an unpopular bullied nerd to having
So, yeah, Petey and Carrie and Angela and you other jerks in junior high who picked on me to hell and back,
Huge quantities of grateful appreciation are due to everyone and everything that made this book possible. Many thanks to Jack Hoffstadt, Tara Zeller, Charlie Watson, @notaalanister, Riv Hellington, Gerard Bultman, the Twitter hivemind, Mary Robinette Kowal, Anna Hoffstadt, and Sherry Rowland for vast quantities of help, support, and useful information. Praise and awe go out to my brilliant cover artist, Dan dos Santos, and of course the people who take care of all the pesky details: Matt Bialer, Lindsay Ribar, Betsy Wollheim, Joshua Starr, Marylou Capes-Platt, and everyone at DAW and Penguin. You all make my life much more fun.
Accessory after the fact. Principal to murder in the first degree. End of life as I know it. Death row.
Those thoughts ricocheted through my mind as Detective Vincent Pellini arranged a half-dozen photos on the diner table between us. I took a sip of iced tea in an attempt to cover my shock. It didn’t matter one bit that Pellini pointed to a man front and center in one of the photos rather than the hazy figures in the background. My entire focus locked onto the distant blurry image of
caught on camera seconds before the execution-style murder of James Macklin Farouche, as I stood shoulder to shoulder with the equally blurry killer.
My eyes slid to the other photos—all most likely taken with cell phone cameras. Watery ripples of distortion or jagged bands of color marred each one, but a few aspects were clear enough. People running. Faces full of panic and fear. Strange purple fire on rubble.
And then there were the details that only someone who’d been at the scene would be able to identify. A circle twenty feet across of charred grass. A pond steaming after being boiled away. The melted remains of a tablet computer.
Pellini tapped the man in the photo—powerfully built, with fading red hair and a ripple of photographic distortion through his face. “Angus McDunn,” he said. “He’s still at large with no sightings.”
I pushed aside my half-eaten cheesy fries and clung to the hope that Pellini couldn’t possibly recognize me in the blurry picture. “Farouche’s right-hand man,” I said, oh-so-coolly. “I’ve seen him on the news.” Up close and personal, too. Only a few weeks ago McDunn had held a MAC-10 submachine gun on me as motivation to have a conversation with his boss.
The booth seat creaked beneath Pellini’s bulk as he shifted. “Yeah, but here’s the kicker,” he said. “McDunn is Boudreaux’s stepfather.”
“You’re shitting me.” I stared at Pellini and pushed down my selfish worries about pesky murder trials. Detective Marcel Boudreaux was Pellini’s partner, a weaselly piece of work I’d had the displeasure of knowing for years. Yet even though Boudreaux ranked right below Pellini on my asshole list, in this moment I felt for him. With his slight stature and surly attitude, he already caught more than his fair share of crap from other cops. Add in a felon stepdad in a high-profile case, and things were sure to get ugly.
“Serious as a heart attack,” Pellini said. He swiped a piece of sausage through the mustard on his plate and popped it into his mouth. A speck of yellow bobbed on his mustache as he chewed and swallowed.
“Damn. How’s he holding up?”
“Coping by concentrating on finding Farouche’s killer,” Pellini said. “He’s obsessed.”
I sucked down more iced tea. I’d never known either Pellini or Boudreaux to be
with a case. Why the hell did his first obsession have to involve me? “It’s not in Beaulac PD jurisdiction,” I said. “Is he assisting the sheriff’s office?”
“He’s restricted from the official investigation because of his stepdad’s involvement, but it’s not stopping him from doing whatever he can.” Pellini picked up his napkin and, to my relief, wiped away the dab of mustard.
“Yeah, but why is he so worked up over this?” I frowned down at the photos. “I mean, the news reports say Farouche was involved in organized crime. Clearly, he wasn’t the saint everyone thought he was.”
“I guess Boudreaux thinks otherwise,” he said then exhaled. “His mom’s the head trainer out at Farouche’s horse farm and has worked with his thoroughbreds for over thirty years. Boudreaux grew up working with horses and still lives out there.” He paused to take a sip of water. I strained a few neurons in my attempt to picture scrawny, cigarette- smoking Boudreaux around horses. Nope. Couldn’t see it. Had to be an alternate universe.
“He’s always been private about his past,” Pellini continued, “but he claims Farouche saved his life and didn’t deserve to die like that. He’s pretty torn up.”
Great. It was bad enough having the FBI and sheriff’s department all over the Farouche Plantation incident, but now an unpredictable Boudreaux joined the mix. “Are these the only pictures of what happened out there?”
“The sheriff’s office has a few others, but they’re so distorted they’re useless.” His dark eyes sharpened on me beneath shaggy black eyebrows. “You have any idea why that might be?”
I could have said, “Probably because a crap load of arcane potency flies around when demonic lords battle it out over a passageway between worlds,” or, “Maybe it was from the lightning Lord Mzatal summoned in rage—right before he almost incinerated everything within a mile radius,” but instead I opted for, “No idea.”
His mouth tightened. “I get it. You can’t tell me.”
I scrambled to read his expression. Did he
I knew more or was he simply fishing for information? Neither possibility appealed to me. “I don’t have anything to tell,” I said, keeping my face composed.
“Sorry,” he said and sounded as if he actually meant it. “With Kristoff on the case, I thought it was worth a shot to ask, but I shouldn’t’ve pushed it.”
Relief flooded through me. Agents Ryan Kristoff and Zack Garner led an FBI special task force that dealt with weird stuff, and after I resigned from the Beaulac PD they brought me on as a civilian consultant. It made perfect sense that the task force would be assigned to the plantation case considering all the bizarre crap that had occurred there. It was natural for Pellini to assume I’d have more info.
“I was out of town for a while and haven’t been updated,” I said. It wasn’t even a lie as long as the demon realm counted as “out-of-town.” I didn’t bother to mention that Zack and Ryan were both as neck-deep in the plantation fiasco as I was. Or that Zack was totally out of commission, and Ryan hadn’t bothered to answer his phone or reply to any of my messages since I’d arrived back on Earth a couple of weeks ago.
“Boudreaux and I went out to the plantation the day after all the shit went down,” Pellini said. “Kristoff got us in before Boudreaux got banned because of his stepdad.” He pulled a file folder from his briefcase and placed it on the table beside the photos. “You think you might have time to go out there with me tomorrow?”
What was his game? Had he recognized me in the photograph after all? And did he think I’d break down and confess if I returned to the scene of the crime? Out of habit I mentally reached for Mzatal, like turning to share with a friend, but only felt the barest hint of him. He’d walled off his emotions after he wreaked havoc at the plantation. While I understood the necessity, I still ached with the muting of our connection. Beneath the table, I ran my fingers over my ring—Mzatal’s Christmas gift to me. Though the stone had been destroyed, I couldn’t bring myself to stop wearing it.
“I saw that you left messages for me while I was away,” I said. “Were they about this plantation incident?”
Damned if Pellini didn’t look guilty. Or maybe ashamed? “Yeah,” he said then paused. “And a few other matters.”
Other matters? Yeah, that wasn’t at
ominous. But my thoughts derailed as Detective Marco Knight of the New Orleans Police Department stepped into the East Shore Diner and headed straight for us.
Why in blazes was he in Beaulac? I’d known him for close to a year, ever since he helped out with one of our task force investigations in New Orleans. He was clairvoyant—at least as far as I could tell—which made him a perfect fit for the strange shit we dealt with. On the other hand, his talent for knowing more than he should unnerved most people. In fact, Pellini had once pulled me aside to warn me that secrets didn’t always stay secret around Knight. At the time, I was more shocked that the typically abrasive and unpleasant Pellini had my back than worried that he thought I had secrets that I wanted kept secret. Later, the NOPD detective admitted that many years ago he’d shared one of his revelations with Pellini and hurt him in a way he didn’t deserve.
By the time Knight reached our table I’d recovered from my surprise at seeing him. “Hey, Marco,” I said with a friendly lift of my hand. “What brings you to our neck of the woods?”
Knight gave me a quick smile and a “Hey, Kara” but then turned to Pellini. “Need to talk to you.
My bafflement increased. “Is something wrong?”
Knight shook his head and hooked a thumb at Pellini. “Nothing this ugly sack can’t handle.”
“Kara, I’ll be back in a few,” Pellini said. He pulled himself out of the booth and headed toward the door with Knight following, leaving me to stare after them in disbelief. Why on earth would Pellini jump to do Knight’s bidding when he distrusted the man so much?
Knight slowed and stopped, then he pivoted back to me. “Twelve,” he murmured, eyes unfocused. “The twelfth is a radical game changer.” He drew a deep breath and took a step closer. “Spawned of fierce cunning. Beauty and power exemplified. Beware the twelfth.”
Time stopped as the echoes of his words reverberated in the air. In the next heartbeat he staggered and blinked, shattering the moment. His face paled as he met my eyes, then he muttered an apology and hurried after Pellini.
The lunchtime din of the restaurant rushed back in his wake. My heart pounded as I pulled my notepad out of my bag and wrote the words exactly as he’d said. The small of my back tingled as I reread the seemingly prophetic warning, and I had a feeling I knew exactly what “twelfth” he’d referred to.
Whether by design or dumb luck, I’d spent my first decade as a demon summoner naïve in my worldview and ignorant of the machinations of the demonic lords. The last couple of years had changed all of that. I now sported eleven complex and hideously beautiful scars—sigils carved into my torso by the demonic lord Rhyzkahl during a failed ritual intended to strip my identity and make me his tool. Only a few weeks past, Ryan—a.k.a. Lord Szerain—completed and activated the twelfth sigil in a risky bid to save me from being enslaved by Rhyzkahl.
But was that his only purpose?
Knight’s warning rekindled simmering doubts, and the sigil pulsed warm on my skin as though it knew my thoughts. With a shudder I dragged my attention back to the immediate issue: my freaking picture at a murder.
I tweaked the faded green curtain aside to peer out at the back parking lot. Beyond it, sun shimmered off Lake Pearl, silhouetting the two men in deep conversation while also making it annoyingly impossible to read facial expressions. Then again, Knight’s arrival gave me the perfect opportunity to give the other photographs a more careful perusal. To my relief, other than the one with me in it, I didn’t see anything damning to me or my posse.
Casually, I flipped open the folder Pellini had left on the table. More photos. Five pictures of the ravaged plantation, likely taken by Pellini when he visited.
A copy of Jerry Steiner’s driver’s license. I bared my teeth in automatic response at the sight of the hard-faced man. Steiner was the sadistic piece of shit who’d done wet work for Farouche and liked it.
A photo of Leo Carter, Farouche’s head of plantation security. I didn’t know much about him, but he’d obviously piqued Pellini’s interest.
And finally, several photos of the eighteen wheeler where the body of Amber Palatino Gavin had been dumped. The sister of fellow summoner Idris Palatino, she’d been raped, tortured and murdered to create an arcane trap for me. I glanced back at the driver’s license with unmasked venom. Jerry Steiner had been one of her attackers.
The waitress approached with a pitcher of tea, and I quickly closed the folder before she could see the contents. I spotted Knight leaning against his car and puffing on a cigarette. A second later Pellini came back inside and returned to the table, but didn’t sit.
“Everything cool?” I asked.
“Something came up,” he said tersely, then gathered the photos and stuffed them into the folder. “I’ve got to go, but I want to head out to the plantation with you tomorrow,” he continued, snatching up his briefcase. “I’ll call.”
“No problem,” I replied, acting nonchalant and not at all completely perplexed.
Pellini fumbled a ten from his wallet and dropped it on the table. “If that doesn’t cover it, you’re shit out of luck.” With that he hurried out.
At least that hadn’t changed. Pellini still knew how to act like a dick. I peered out the window again and watched the two men get into their cars. A few seconds later Knight pulled out with Pellini following right behind him.
What. The. Fuck