I’m growing less and less keen on little Sammy; I know that bumbling nitwit routine is just an act to make him more endearing than a braggart like myself. The two of them are spending a lot more time together lately and she’s really attached to him but whenever I try suggesting he is putting it on to get in her pants, she calls me the asshole. I’m going to hold my tongue for now and see what unfolds but I swear if that kid gets ahead of himself, I’d be half tempted to break that ‘demons only’ rule. I know she would never but still…
“I know I have no right to ask, and if there was anyone I could count to do this job I would ask them instead, but he needs you right now. I’m so worried… What if they hurt him? I can’t stand the thought of losing him…”
“I understand. I will look into it”
I had gone out and bought myself a couple of treats after a recent successful mission involving this big-ass minotaur looking mother fucker with a damn rocket launcher for a hand. Anyway, so I was geared up for some fun at my desk as I sat in front of the computer with a mug of tea beside me and a plate of Jaffa cakes to one side when in walked Katakura with that usual sour look to his features. I sighed and looked up at him, sitting back in my chair for a moment.
“Katakura my man, found me some work I trust?”
“As a matter of fact… A young boy in the next town is said to be joining a motorcycle gang that are nothing but trouble for the area and his mother has hired us to stake out near their den and see what he does, to make sure he isn’t at risk”
I looked at him as if he had dribbled down his shirt, asking me to play baby-sitter in a demon-free scenario too.
“Come on, that’s not my line of work Katakura and you know it. Local gang? So what? Kids join gangs all the time to rebel against their parents because not all of us can actually stab them through the chest with a sword”
“You’re hardly too busy to take up the job”
I indicated the spread before me of biscuits, tea and a laptop, which I spun around to face him so he could see the screen.
“Spent the last four hours trying to get Hexen to work on this laptop, think I deserve at least an hour of gargoyle-bashing puzzle-solving fun don’t I?”
“Take this job and I’ll clear the slate of any debts you owe me!”
“Tempting… Nope, no demons means no go. Sorry pal, I’d agree to most things if it paid the bills but you know my field of expertise shouldn’t be used against humans”
Katakura balled his hands up into fists and gritted his teeth, cursing to himself profusely as he stormed out of the office. I considered going after him but then also considered the fact that he was angry and even demons tremble when Katakura loses his cool.
Hexen, incidentally, is one of the greatest first-person shooter games of all time and I’ll never get over the fact it was killed off after one sequel and left to one side despite it’s potential as a RPG. I mean, the fans try their best but… Erhem, so Katakura went off to investigate this whole situation with the teen gang and I tried my hand at being my own agent for a while. Sufficed to say, I knew nothing of it and realised this as I sat and stared at my phone hoping it would ring. I eventually started calling up friends and contacts and asking if they had work.
“Come on, you’ve got to have something demonic you need dealing with… No? I’ll take any job you’ve got! Nothing? Shit…”
I repeated that cycle for a couple of hours and then get bored, going back to gaming and eating various baked goods when out of nowhere, someone called me. I quickly picked up the phone and put it to my ear.
“Hello? Patience speaking”
“Yes hello? Is this the demon hunter?”
“Nope, this is a steamy hot sex line, can’t you tell?”
“I was told to expect a reply like that so I know you’re the man I want”
“I get that a lot”
“This is serious. I represent the Mayor of Brookville, it’s a town about twenty miles from your current location. We have surveillance tapes suggesting that a local gang, the Wild Dogs, have been attempting to summon forth spirits from the underworld and up until recently it had been dismissed as just teen punks playing around with some mumbo jumbo tarot cards but… they’ve succeeded… A demon has been summoned from another realm!”
Well now, that caught my attention.
I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure childhood and teen years are supposed to spent either in the garden, on a playground or in front of a games console. I can’t talk from experience, having been raised in the underworld as a soldier for the infernal hordes of the Dark Lord until leaving that behind to find and kill my father, but even I couldn’t understand what drove a bunch of snotty yobs to hang around a warehouse so they could summon a demon. I figure they weren’t breastfed or whatever but anyway, I knelt on the iron roof and looked in through a window at the group, five of them in all and five bikes to one corner, by which I mean noisy little mopeds and racing wannabe shitboxes on two wheels. I watched carefully as four of them sat around the body in a circle but sat in the middle of the pentagram was the youngest member of this crew, his hair still in a smart style and his jacket covered in less patches than the others. I pried the window open to listen in on the conversation.
“Come on Jamie, don’t be such a pussy” the leader said.
“Guys… I’m not sure about this… Can I get up now?” Jamie replied, trembling in fear. I pulled out my sword ready to intervene.
“Shut it, no moving from that circle until we’ve finished got it?”
The leader began to focus, bowing his head alongside his three friends and they chanted in unison. I couldn’t understand the language but it sounded vaguely Greek. I wasn’t expecting what happened next…
The chanting grew louder and the leader of the group stood up within his circle, laughing like some sort of maniac and as the circle around the pentagram began to glow red, so did the leader.
“Big Boss?!” the others called out, but to no avail as they went unnoticed amidst his laughter. I could feel that stinging pain in my gut that came about when demons were in the area. The boy in the middle of the circle started to cry out in pain as he stood upright and rigid, a mystical lightning binding his body and a cloud of black mist appearing around his person.
“Shit,” I thought aloud “This isn’t some low-class imp summoning, that kid is being used as a bridge to open a portal!”
The ritual summon of certain demons requires a tribute, sometimes just a lamb or a few drops of your own blood but I only realised a little too late that these punks were offering this Jamie kid’s soul, the soul of a child not yet tainted, as a means of connecting this world to another. I cursed under my breath because I knew that the easiest way to prevent the appearance of this demon was to destroy the bridge, meaning Jamie was going to taste my steel with his lower back. Having resigned to the fact I could see no other way of doing this, I jumped into the fray and through the glass window.
“GO TO HELL!” I yelled.
There was a roar in response as something bolted out of the shadows and deflected my attack, knocking me backwards. I looked up at what had obstructed me in my mission and almost fainted in surprise when I noticed that stood before me, weapon drawn and rage burning in his eyes, stood Katakura.
I remember the old man looking pretty resolute as he held his cane up ready to hit me once again, the very air around him feeling tense. Jamie looked over in surprise, as did the other members of the gang, but nobody moved as the entire room was in awe of Katakura. I coughed and dusted myself off as I got back up on my feet.
“Kata… kura? What are you doing?”
“You will not harm the boy!”
I couldn’t understand his behaviour, so irrational for a man usually so cold and calculating. I took up a fighting stance once again.
“Katakura buddy, we’ve got to stop this right now before whatever these guys are summoning makes it through! The easiest way to negate a ritual summoning is to destroy the tribute!”
“There are other ways…”
“I can’t touch anybody else here, those rings around the gang members repel demons but the pentagram symbol in the middle is rife with evil power!”
Katakura shook his head, refusing to back down. I sighed.
“Katakura,” I said “If you won’t step aside, I’ll have to go through you. You know as well as I do that they cannot be allowed to summon a demon onto Earth, certainly not one so powerful it requires a human tribute!”
Katakura’s eyes gleamed with a burning rage so strong that I started to sweat and he replied with a threatening bark.
“I back down to nobody, least of all you!”
Before I knew it, he charged at me and swung his cane down with a harsh force that I only just barely blocked. I pushed him back but he came at me again, the rage in his heart bursting forth in truly brutal attacks that came at me over and over. I took up a defensive stance, looking only to block or reflect his attacks, but I fought with a half-heartedness that made him angrier as the battle went on.
“Commit to something for once in your life!” he shouted. I almost froze at those words and my mind was scrambled for a moment. Commit to something for once in my life? What did he mean by that? Enough, I wasn’t going to let him kick me around, mentally or physically. I laughed loudly and changed stance, switching to a more fluid yet aggressive fighting style.
“How about I commit myself to kicking your sorry ass old man?!” I beamed, grinning. Smiling from ear to ear, I leapt forward and knocked Katakura back a good distance but our squabbling was about to be overshadowed…
As Katakura and I duelled like rivals, the ceremonial summoning of the demon continued without interruption and it wasn’t until we heard Jamie scream and fall to the floor that Katakura backed off and shouted angrily at the group of teenagers.
“No… No… NO!” he roared “What have you done? He was just a kid, you bastards!”
I pulled at Katakura’s arm but he shrugged me off, his entire body shaking with rage and he pointed straight at the Big Boss.
“Bring him back!”
However, as he said this the swirling vortex of evil energy that lingered in the air became a solid entity. A giant headless centaur appeared, a face in his chest and his hoofed feet burning with the flames of hell. The centaur laughed as the pentagram vanished from the floor and the circles around the gang members vanished, each member fainting except for Big Boss who stood there with a wicked smile.
“Behold!” the centaur boomed. “I am Geyron, the master of the bridge to Hell! I will burn the world with the flames of sin!”
I looked upon the centaur with wide eyes, as did Katakura, but things only got worse from there. Big Boss was laughing again and as he spokes, his voice was not his own.
“Brother Geyron, at last we are reunited!” he said with a frenzied twang to his voice “It’s me, Orthon, and I have brought you here so that we might unite and devour humanity as one!”
Big Boss opened his mouth wide and a ghostly being left the body, flying straight towards Geyron. Geyron glowed a shade of violet and suddenly armour covered his body, a massive halberd in his giant hands and a new head appeared atop the body wearing a helmet. I gulped, Geyron and Orthon speaking in synchrony.
“The ultimate evil is unleashed!”
A mighty downward swing of Geyron’s shiny new halberd divided Katakura and I once again and we both ran in two separate directions around the beast. I leapt up into the air with a loud war cry and aimed for the head but I was easily deflected and fell back to the ground with a roll. Katakura shouted at me.
“Why do you always use the jumping slash attack? When does that ever work?!”
“I’m sorry ok? I figure it’s like darts, keep tossing til something happens!”
Katakura narrowly avoided being a foot shorter then went in for a counter attack, swapping his cane for two pistols and firing at the exposed parts of Geyron’s body but to no avail. Katakura retreated and I went in again, first attacking with a stream of fire and then an upward slash attack but it didn’t leave a scratch. Geyron laughed and swept across at me with his halberd but I rolled sideways. At that moment he started to argue with himself.
“You missed you idiot!” said Orthon, who had assumed the role of head.
“Whaddaya mean I missed? You’re the head, you should be aiming. I just swing the axe!”
I ran over to Katakura, who looked bewildered at this demon arguing with itself. I snapped him out of it and we both went in together for another attack; it didn’t work. Geyron, whilst fused with his buddy Orthon, was invincible. Katakura shouted again.
“We need a plan of attack!” he said.
“I have a plan: attack!”
“Fucking cut that out, that wasn’t even a subtle reference!”
Geyron and Orthon started laughing again and went for us again but we dodged with ease and then smirked at one another before turning to the giant.
“Hey Geyron!” I shouted “Nice swing there buddy, my Nan has a better swing!”
“Don’t blame Geyron!” Katakura laughed “Orthon’s the eyes, just as blind as a bat!”
Geyron squirmed around a bit in confusion, his own body turning against him but he quickly came round and roared angrily as he charged forward at me. I jumped up to the side and laughed as Geyron rushed forward into a pile of crates. The lumbering idiot turned around and snorted with rage.
“What the heck was that? Your partner is one stupid son of a bitch Orthon!” I chuckled. Geyron charged again but his anger was making him too predictable and unvaried in his attacks, each one easier to dodge than the last. Katakura and I now stood on opposite sides of the room, taunting our opponent with glee.
“Oi meat-head!” I cried “Forget Geyron, he’s as useless as a cock flavoured lollipop!”
“You want useless? Orthon’s the real meat-head!” shouted Katakura.
Geyron froze up and began arguing with himself again.
“Come on you idiot!” hissed Orthon from the helmet “Attack the older one, his insults to me are unforgivable!”
“His insults? The scrawny one in the big coat called me a cock flavoured lollipop!”
“Deal with it shit-sack, let’s get them now!”
“Shit-sack? Hey, you’re the one who fused with me remember?”
I watched with a smug little smile as Geyron lowered his guard and continued to bicker with the voices in his head; his body wide open to attack. I nodded to Katakura and tried out something new, pulling out my sword once again and throwing it at Geryon right in his soft underbelly. Geyron howled out in pain and looked at the sword embedded in his chest but before he could do anything about it Katakura fired six quick shots with each bullet hitting the handle of my blade to drive it further into him. Geyron, now paralysed with pain, stood there like a gormless shit as I then jumped up to grab my sword and pull it up through his body in a rising slash, cutting his chest clean open. With a deafening scream, Geyron fell to the floor in a bloody heap and two souls burst out of the body – one fled the scene and the other shot straight towards Jamie. I puffed and panted then turned to make a smart remark to Katakura only to realise he was helping Jamie up off the floor. I felt stupid for not realising sooner.
As we walked over to Katakura’s car, I looked at him with a stern glare but he didn’t seem miffed. We both got in and he started her up without a word and after a few minutes, I finally decided to chip at the ice.
“So… Jamie…” I said.
“What about him?” grunted Katakura, trying his best to appear detached from the situation.
“This wasn’t an ordinary job was it?”
“Perfectly ordinary job”
“Lee, we’ve been working together as partners for about seven years now right? In that whole time, you haven’t asked a single question about my personal life. I guess it never occurred to you that I might have made sacrifices to be in this job did it?”
I felt guilt bite my neck pretty hard and could see the old man was struggling with something. I sighed and looked down sheepishly.
“Son huh?” I said quietly. Katakura nodded and continued with a sad tone in his voice.
“Time I was more open with you Lee… My name is Travis Tyrell, formerly Detective Inspector Tyrell of Scotland Yard. I had a nice life once, a wife and a son, but then one day I’m investigating a murder case and it turns out the perp isn’t human. I track the son of a bitch down and he jumps my partner and I but not with a gun, this guy has two swords for hands and more teeth than a shark. I got away but my partner didn’t, got himself made into paste. I had to find out what was going on but the more I learnt, the more demons started to linger around our house so I set up this scheme… had my wife think I was sleeping with her sister, she divorced me in a flash and threw me out. I bought myself that office building with my savings and made it into a small home and well, you know the rest”
I was speechless. See, I had nothing to lose when I became a demon hunter, they had already taken away everything from me but this guy gave everything away to pursue demons. Katakura… Travis even, could have ignored what he saw but he didn’t. I put a hand on his shoulder and nodded.
“I’m sorry…” I said. The old man nodded. I relaxed back in my seat and we smiled to ourselves, my pal feeling better for having got that off his chest at last. In our seven years together, we hadn’t opened up much but now… guess this was the next stage in being real partners on the field. A moment later though.
“You know…” he began “It was my ex who put me on this case…”
“Oh? How about that? What’s the rate of pay?”
Katakura stared at me. I stared back. Silence.
“After all that you expect payment?” he said.
I thought for a moment.
“Do you not?”