Fighting demons is easy. Franco doesn’t even bother with weapons anymore. Relationships are another matter. He’d rather pay for “services rendered” than let someone get close to him because he doesn’t think he’s worth being loved. It may take miracle, or at least an angel, to give the hero the courage to confront himself.
Want to see more of Franco and his story? Read the excerpt below and leave a comment telling me what “weapon” Franco chooses to fight the demon with. I’ll give away a copy of “Angel in the Middle” to a lucky winner.
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Franco stepped aside as a second police officer flew out of the alley and hit the side of the Hummer with a thud. The man slid to the sidewalk and lay unmoving beside his partner. The rest of the Atlanta street crowd had become invisible. Franco knew they’d be watching the street, but no one wanted to be found nearby when something started tossing cops out of an alley.
The smell of cheap rum in the air hinted at what had tempted this one from Hell. Booze, not sex. After all, he’d just thrown away two perfectly acceptable cops, but then, Franco always appreciated a man who supplied his own cuffs.
Opening the back of the Hummer, he studied his options. The alley was too narrow to swing the sword. He considered the crossbow. Nah, for this one—he pulled a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark out of the SUV. The liquid glowed like gold as he held the bottle up. Well, the job did demand sacrifices. He gave the unconscious officers a quick salute with the whisky and strode into the alley.
The demon loomed halfway down a narrow space cluttered with garbage from overturned cans and ripped trash bags. “Do you know who I am, mortal?” it bellowed.
Franco removed the top from the bottle and made a show of taking a swig. The scent of the whisky helped to mellow the reek of the alley. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and studied the creature. It could almost have passed for one of the homeless with its greasy skin and ragged bits of clothing. Except the homeless weren’t eight feet tall with leathery wings. Damn, if this one took to the air, he’d need the crossbow.
“Nope, who are you?” They never gave their real names, and he never understood the priests who expected them to. Franco edged forward. He’d been hoping this was just a minor imp to send back down to his work in the pits; then he’d be off for a night at The Heretic. Instead he had a high-ranking demon on a binge. There was one name on the latest list. He just hadn’t expected to run across him so soon.
“Lucifer, cast down from the Heavens. Look on me and despair.”
Not that high ranking. Franco tilted his head and stepped forward, as if he needed to get a closer look. “Nope, don’t think so. Luc’s a good-looking fellow.” He took another step, holding the bottle out in front of him. The creature’s gaze moved to it. “His hair isn’t greasy, and he doesn’t have boils.”
With a roar, the demon made a swing for the whisky. Franco pulled back, letting the bottle drop onto one of the half-empty trash bags. The demon lunged for it.
Franco caught him by one ear. “By your name, Gressil, I bind you where you stand.” The demon howled, and Franco tweaked the ear. “Thought so.” He’d only had time for one guess, but this had to be Gressil, the demon of sloth and indolence. Any other demon of his rank would have torn the street apart. Gressil had hunkered down in an alley to get drunk. “See, I’ve met Lucifer. Made a bargain with him once. It went something like this—I don’t go to Hell if you do.” The agreement also meant he was provided with the names of any free-roaming demons. The priests would have been jealous. When it came to demon hunting, they were freelancers. He was staff.
He tweaked the demon’s ear again. Even a lazy demon would object to being returned to the pits. “By your name, Gressil, I send you back to your duties in Hell.”
The demon stretched out his hand, possibly in a plea for pity but more likely in an attempt to reach the whisky bottle. Then the air sizzled around him and he vanished, leaving nothing more than the odor of brimstone to mingle with the scent of spilled whisky. Franco put his hand out and felt the static in the air where the demon had been. The energy wrapped around his fingers and moved up his arm as part of the demon’s life force became his. He stood for a moment, evaluating the change. “Hardly worth the effort.”
He strode from the alley to find one of the cops stirring. Since he could already hear the wail of approaching sirens, he checked the second officer to confirm that he was still breathing, moved the first cop away from the Hummer’s wheels, and drove away. The men had been lucky. Gressil ranked high in Hell’s power structure, but he was a lazy demon without the motivation to do much in the way of real damage.
Franco noticed a few curtains flicker as he drove down the deserted street. Tonight no one would talk. By morning three different gangs would be claiming responsibility for dropping the cops. And if he was lucky, he’d have a few days before the next assignment.
Angel in the Middle from Liquid Silver Books (available in multiple formats)
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Contest question – what weapon does Franco use going into battle with the demon.