Five and Daemon, Part Nine
“Does he smell like…?” Fran began as she and Cerise followed Johnny in. Cerise shut the door behind them.
“Yeah. Oatmeal and fatigue. He always does after one of these things.” Cerise shrugged and climbed up to sit on the edge of the bed. Her spindly legs swung well off the floor. “Get it done?”
“Yep. Good as new.” Johnny took a long sip of the tea through the straw poking up from the cover on the plastic glass. His eyes closed and he let out a long sigh. “Maybe even better than new.” He winked at Cerise, who raised her eyebrows.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing I didn’t have to,” Johnny set the tea glass down on the scratched dresser top. “He’s going to be tough. And, good as I am, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I can’t stop Luc. Oh, I can cause him some grief. And I can smart mouth him until he gets sick of it, but I can’t send him back. We need help. We’ll have it.” Cerise didn’t answer for a long moment. When she did, it was with a short nod of her head. Fran, standing by the door, looked from Johnny to Cerise.
“What are you talking about? What kind of help?” Her eyes flicked from Cerise to Johnny, and back again. She was clutching the strap of the purse over her shoulder so tightly her knuckles were white. Cerise kept her eyes on Johnny. She didn’t say a word. Johnny picked up the glass of tea, lifted it to his mouth, then sighed and set it down again. He sat on the bed next to Cerise.
“Sit down, Fran.”
Fran sat on the edge of the chair between the door and the window. She clutched her purse in her lap. She caught her upper lip in her teeth and held it, her eyes large and round. It was quiet for a long moment, then Johnny let out a loud breath. He leaned forward, setting his feet on the floor and resting his elbows on his thighs. He set his chin on his folded hands and looked at Fran.
“I know you’ve gone through a lot today.” And it does sound pretty crazy. But Cerise and I, we see this sort of thing all the time. Okay, not Lucifer, of course. But all types and classes of demons and other entities.” Fran’s eyes grew wider as he talked. “Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff out there that most people aren’t even aware of. Some of it is good. Or at least, not directly harmful. But some of it… Well, let’s just say they aren’t all here to help.” He stopped for a moment, and ran a hand through his drying hair. “Cerise and I are one of the teams that try to make sure these things can’t do any harm. Or at least, to minimize the harm they do.”
“You mean there are others like you?” Fran had folded her hands on top of her purse, and was watching Johnny.
“There is no one exactly like Johnny,” Cerise said, with a laugh. Johnny put a hand on her arm.
“Cerise.” She quieted and he went on. “Yes, there are others. We mainly work in the background, even if some of us are a bit more flamboyant.” Cerise gave a snort. Johnny continued as if he hadn’t heard.
“You know what’s going on here, Fran. You’ve seen it. You know who we’re up against. I won’t lie to you, this is going to be a tough one. And there’s no way I can do it alone. So, I had to ask for help. From a- higher order. One on a power level with Lucifer, but that would like to see him stopped and returned to banishment. I don’t do it often and I certainly don’t do it lightly. Sometimes, it’s necessary.” He stopped, watching Fran. She sat, looking past him at the cheap still life hanging on the wall over his shoulder. She was playing with the zipper on her purse unconsciously, opening it an inch or so and zipping it closed again. She turned her gaze back to Johnny.
“And this- higher order you asked for help? Is it an angel?” She whispered the words, as if afraid they would call down fire and brimstone on her for even thinking them. Johnny considered a moment.
“Yes, I guess from your point of view, it would be. In the same way Lucifer is.” Fran opened her mouth to protest. Johnny stopped her with a raised hand. “He is. Nothing can take that away from him. Rebellious, opinionated, likes to mess where he shouldn’t be, and he deserved what he got. But nothing can take his essential being away. So, I guess if I were to put it in your terms, we’re going to use an angel to fight an angel. I wanted to find another way, believe me. It’s not an easy bargain to make. There’s always a price for dealing with higher beings. It just had to be done.” He got up and picked up the tea, sipping the last of it through the straw until it sputtered.
“Fran, can I ask you something?” She’d closed her eyes, trying to take in all he’d said. At his words, she started and snapped them open.
“Sure. As long as it’s not about devils and angels. I’m not sure I know anything about them anymore.” Johnny grinned at her.
“Most people don’t. No, what I wanted to know is: how long has Miss Lucy and her store been here in Carroll Fork? Can you remember when she first came? When the store first opened?”
“Well, of course. She’s always been here. I think. Maybe not when I was a girl, but…” She stopped again, brows furrowed and head tilted to one side. She glanced around the room, as if she would find the answer there. “I guess I’m not sure, really.” Johnny nodded.
“That’s what I figured you’d say. Well, it’s getting late. And if we are going to send ol’ Luc back where he belongs, we are going to need some rest. What do you say we go to Essie’s, get some dinner, and then turn in?”
“Thought you’d never mention dinner.” Cerise jumped off the bed. “I’m starved.”
Fran stood and slipped her purse back onto her shoulder. “I should get home. I have to feed the cat. But I want to be there when you go back to Lucy- or Lucifer’s tomorrow. I need to see it end or I’ll never be sure.” Johnny watched her for a moment, then nodded.
“Can I bring anything to help?” Fran stopped at the door Johnny opened for her.
“Faith,” he said.
(Copyright 2015 M.A. Kropp)
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