Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 4th of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
THE NEXT MORNING I hitched a ride downtown with Jamie. That sounds a lot more exciting than it was. Downtown Longmont was a nicely renovated street of Mom and Pop stores, but most of the action was on the west edge of town at the mall. However, the piece of paper Warwick James had slipped me the day before specified a Main Street address, so that’s where I headed.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Jamie asked for about the forty-fourth time. “Maybe I should stay with you.”
“Jamie, please. Do you think Mom would’ve let me out of the house if there was anything to worry about?” That stopped him. Mom was one of those old-fashioned women whose career was home and family. Nothing slipped past her where her children were concerned.
“Okay. You win. I’ll pick you up in front of Perks A Plenty at noon. Don’t be late.”
I slammed the car door, leaned back in the open window, and blew him a kiss. “Not to worry. I’ll be there.”
He shook his head, waved me off the car, and pulled away from the curb.
I glanced at the slip of paper and strode south down the wide sidewalk. The address was about a block south of the renovated portion of Main Street. Not yet to the train tracks, but beyond the well-groomed shopping district. I halted in front of what appeared to be an abandoned storefront. Wide display windows covered with brown paper stared back at me. Chipped white paint above and below the windows shouted the building’s need for repair. A small, hand-lettered placard announced a budding business:
Longmont’s Own Martial Arts Academy.
Classes Enrolling Now!
I shivered, but reached for the doorknob. What choice did I have? Warwick James had promised to explain things, and I desperately wanted information. I hadn’t seen any more monsters, but my newly acquired weird-o-meter told me they were still there, lurking just beyond my field of vision. I wanted them gone. I didn’t want to know that the monster under the bed was real or that his cousin really was hiding in the closet.
Pushing open the door, I stepped into a large, dimly lit room. My footsteps rang against ancient linoleum floors and echoed off walls in need of a fresh coat of paint. The paper-covered windows washed the room with a diffused amber glow, causing the glare of an electric bulb from a half-open door in the back wall to stand out like a flashing neon sign.
“Hello. Is anyone here? Mr. James?” I listened as the echoes of my voice died away. No response. Much as I wanted answers, my sense of self-preservation refused to allow me to walk to the back of the room and step into that well-lit doorway. I turned toward the front door. Warwick James had found me once; he could find me again.
“I’m glad you came, Miss Erickson.”
I nearly gave myself whiplash, jumping and turning in a less than smooth movement. Warwick James stood just a few feet from me. How had he gotten so close so fast? I frowned and studied the strange man who had appeared out of nowhere to release me from yesterday’s spasm. Tall, trim, with good muscle tone. Definitely not a guy who lived on pizza and beer. Short brown hair and neatly trimmed mustache and beard, his blue-green eyes sparkled with humor. All in all, a good-looking guy, if you’re interested in middle-aged men. I’m not.
“How do you know my name?”
“I know your family well, Miss Erickson.” He raised an eyebrow and waved an arm in the direction of the back room. “Would you join me in the back? We can sit down and discuss this in more comfort there.”
“No thanks. I’d prefer to stay near the door.” I glanced over my shoulder, gauging the distance to the sidewalk outside. Not far. I could sprint it easily. Exit plan decided, I turned back to Mr. James. “How do you know my family? I’ve never seen you before.”
“As you wish,” he said with a shrug, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You misunderstand. I said I know your family well. I didn’t say I was a family friend or even an acquaintance. You see, Miss Erickson, yesterday was the first time I’ve ever spoken to a member of your family, though I’ve been studying them for years.”
A shiver ran down my spine and I backed a step closer to the front door.
“Please don’t run away. You need to understand what’s happening to you and why.”
“So get to the point,” I said continuing back until the doorknob was within easy reach. To my immense relief, Warwick James remained in the middle of the room.
“You had, shall we say, visions, yesterday. You saw things that can’t possibly exist. Things no one else in your family saw. Am I correct?”
“That ability is the reason I’ve been observing your family. I’ve been watching, waiting for your power to manifest.”
Silence descended on the room. A heartbeat, two … fifteen or twenty passed. Neither of us spoke. Finally, when the pressure of words waiting to be released was palpable, I caved.
“You were watching … me?”
“Not at first. Your father’s family first drew our attention. Thirteen children is uncommon in this day and age. The stage was set, the potential for your ability to manifest existed. So we waited, checking back each year. Noting new members, new births. Updating the genealogical records. Do you know what we were waiting for?”
My shoulders relaxed, the knot in my stomach eased, and I snorted. “Don’t tell me. You’re one of those ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ fanatics. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but one: I’m a girl; two: you’ve got the wrong branch of the family. Uncle Gus is the seventh son, and unfortunately for you, he and Aunt Ellen can’t have kids.”
The jerk had the nerve to smile.
“I’m not disappointed Miss Erickson, not in the least. Your family’s understanding of the ability is incomplete. Yes, a seventh-seventh is required, but gender is not an issue. We were never interested in your Uncle Gus — though we were amused by your family’s delight in producing a seventh son. Your father was always the object of our study.”
I jumped and grabbed the doorknob for support. “My father?”
“Yes. Your father. The seventh child in his family. Only the fifth son, but the seventh child. And you, Miss Erickson, what does that make you?”
I swallowed and tried to speak, but my tongue felt swollen and the inside of my mouth was too dry to function.
He nodded. “That’s right. You, Dani Heleen Erickson, are the seventh child of a seventh child. You are the hereditary Demon Hunter.”
Thanks for reading! Part 5 will be posted on 7/22/15.