by Karen Frost
Revoking unruly demons back to Hell is a rough job, but for Theodora, Annabeth, and Harriet, the three half-human women who do it on behalf of the Daemonium, it pays the bills. Plus, demons are jerks, so they’re kind of doing everyone a favor. But when an angel appears with the shocking news that someone has started opening the seven seals of the Apocalypse, setting in motion the end of the world, they find themselves facing a seemingly impossible problem: how do you find and stop someone who scares even angels…and you work for demons?
It’s a dangerous mission with terrible odds. Already, Pestilence—the first Horseman of the Apocalypse—has been released, and the longer it takes them to find the culprit, the more Horsemen will be freed. As the women crisscross the city, desperately trying to piece together the clues that could help them save humanity, they discover that a secret kept from them since birth holds the key to stopping the Apocalypse…or completing it.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"The Demon's Guide to the Apocalypse was inspired by the recent (and very welcome) trend in Hollywood toward casting middle-aged, diverse women in action movies. The protagonists of The Demon's Guide have kids and get winded more easily than they used to, but to save the world, they'll happily break out swords, shot guns, shuriken, and even a tactical repeating crossbow. Set in a Sin City-style urban setting, it's Gunpowder Milkshake meets Constantine."
Erica B. - This was an irreverent and wickedly fun read. Fast paced, with a good array of diverse characters and a plot that encourages readers to question the difference between good and evil.
Lekden D. - Wickedly fun, with a wonderful cast of characters and a fast-paced plot that keeps you on your toes.
Andromalius’s instructions had been clear. “Kill that fucking shit stain Merihem and text me when it’s done.” Andromalius wasn’t the sentimental type. Nor was he the forgiving type. Whatever Merihem had done, it was enough to get him a one-way ticket straight back to Hell, courtesy of the three women currently crouched in the hallway outside his door.
Theodora didn’t care what the demon had done. She never did. All she cared about was that in a few minutes, he was going to rejoin all the other miserable excuses for demons who couldn’t keep it together on Earth and were now going to be stuck in Hell for the rest of eternity.
She hefted her shotgun, snugging the butt into her shoulder and aiming over the black barrel at the pallid green door in front of her. The paint was peeling at the edges, and decades of hands had left dirty, blotchy stains around the knob. Demons like Merihem always lived in seedy, run-down apartment buildings like this. Roaches liked the company of other roaches.
“He better not be a fire-breather,” Annabeth muttered under her breath behind Theodora. The small woman was kneeling with her shoulder against the wall, her fingers wrapped tightly around a medieval-looking thick black morning star. If the demon stared out his peephole, the hallway would appear empty. He wouldn’t see them coming. “This is my favorite cardigan. I don’t want holes in it.”
Theodora rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything. The aforementioned black cardigan made Annabeth look like an elderly Latina librarian, an effect reinforced by her large, thick glasses. In Theodora’s opinion, Merihem would be doing her a favor if he torched it. She was too young to look like a grandmother. But then again, Annabeth had a closet full of cardigans. The loss of this one wouldn’t dent the collection.
“I bet he runs,” Harriet said. She was leaning casually against the railing, watching the door with deceptive casualness. Although her hands were empty, the black handle of her katana was visible over her shoulder. She could draw it in under a second, more than enough time if Merihem somehow caught on to what was waiting for him and decided to go on the offensive first.
“He better not,” Theodora growled, annoyed by even the prospect of it.
The first problem with hunting down insubordinate demons was that each of them had some kind of demonic ability or talent they inevitably tried to use to defend themselves. Andromalius had a fucking terrible habit of not mentioning what their targets’ supernatural abilities were when he sent the women to revoke them, so it was always an unwelcome surprise to see what waited for them on the other side of a door. And fire-breathing, as her wardrobe could attest, was an annoyingly common talent. As was venom-spitting.
The second problem was that their targets never went quietly. Those turdgurglers may have come from Hell, but they absolutely didn’t want to go to back there. Nothing was worse than Hell, even for a demon, so predictably, they either fought or ran.
Theodora hated when they ran. She was too old to go chasing after demons. Even thinking about running was exhausting. She might have chased demons when she was younger and had stamina and lung capacity, leaping over garbage cans and parkouring down stairwells, but she was too old for that shit now. Now she’d rather shoot them in the face and go from there. Less cardio was more.
She kicked the door to Merihem’s apartment a few times with her heavy black boot, the leveled shotgun barrel not wavering an inch. The sound echoed hollowly, like the distant boom of a cannon firing. No one inside could miss hearing it. Nor could the neighbors, although none of them would care or dare to investigate who had come knocking at this hour. In a place like this, the three women could be anything from undercover police to drug dealers to gang members. No one, in short, you wanted to meet face-to-face unless you wanted trouble.
Silence. For a moment, Theodora wondered if Merihem was out. That would be aggravating. One visit to this shithole was enough. She didn’t feel like making a repeat visit. And they weren’t exactly going to camp out for a few hours. She had shit to do at home, like laundry.
Finally, she heard muffled shuffling inside. The lock clicked. She looked down at Annabeth and nodded. They didn’t need to exchange words. Everyone knew what would happen next.
The door started to open, creaking noisily.
She didn’t wait for whoever was on the other side to finish. Her finger pulled gently on the trigger. The weapon roared in response. She gritted her teeth as the butt of the shotgun kicked into her shoulder so hard it made her collarbone burn. Her ears rang.
In front of her, a dozen small holes appeared in the door, perfectly round and black. She pumped the slide, ignoring the shell that ejected beside her, and fired a quick second round. Then, without pausing, she raised her knee and drove her foot into the door. The chain keeping it closed gave way easily, the thin metal links snapping without even a hint of resistance.
The door didn’t open very far. After only a few feet, it hit whoever was standing on the other side and came to an abrupt stop. She grunted and kept pushing, forcing it open until whoever was on the other side moved, creating a gap she surged through. In the sickly yellow light of the apartment, she saw that the buckshot had caught Merihem—she recognized him from the grainy, black-and-white picture Andromalius had sent—in the left side of his wide face. It made him look like he was suffering from a particularly bad case of chickenpox.
As he stumbled backward, he listed into the wall, one hand rising to his face and the other hand reaching weakly out as though to stop her. She glanced past him, confirming he was alone. She’d only made that mistake once. She could still remember the shock of watching her own teeth fly out of her mouth like rice at a wedding when the second demon inside sprang into action. Lesson learned.
Satisfied, she looked back at Merihem. She wasn’t surprised to find the demon was as unsavory as everything else in the apartment building. His white wifebeater had yellow-brown stains at the armpits and in a vee down the front. His greasy black hair was spiked like he was in an alt-rock band from the early 2000s, and between the purple under his eyes and the paleness of his skin, he looked like he hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. Most likely, he hadn’t. He didn’t seem the type to do anything more ambitious than stay home binging on Cheetos and bottom-shelf liquor, but he had done something, and whatever it was had been bad enough that the Daemonium, his own people, had wanted him revoked. That meant he was dangerous in some way. Probably. Or else an excessive embarrassment to his kind.
The third problem with hunting demons was they healed quickly, even when the bullets were blessed by a priest. In a minute, the buckshot Theodora had blasted into Merihem would begin to squeeze out of his healing skin and fall to the carpet like metal rain. Then it would be game on. She pumped the slide once more, ready to dispatch him back to Hell, but before she could pull the trigger, he grabbed the barrel, redirecting it just in time. A lamp exploded as the tiny apartment’s living room was sprayed with buckshot.
She grunted, annoyed. It was normally at this point, after the door had been kicked open and the demon caught sight of who was on the other side, that every demon they’d ever hunted either tried to run or fight. Merihem, it turned out, was a fighter. And he was not only strong, but fast. Before Theodora could react, he grabbed higher up the barrel with his second hand and yanked hard. Since she hadn’t expected it, the maneuver sent her staggering past him into the living room.
Annabeth, who had followed her into the apartment, swung at him with her morning star, trying to finish what Theodora had started with a crushing blow to the skull, but he was again too fast. He blocked her swinging arm, redirecting the weapon so that it slammed into the drywall behind him with a soft thud. She struggled to wrench the spikes free, finally tearing them out with a chunk of drywall still attached. Before she could wind up for another blow, however, he sucker-punched her in the stomach with a fist the size of a softball. She immediately doubled over with a squeak, her face twisting into a grimace of pain.
Theodora reseated her gun in her shoulder, looking for a shot, but it was too dangerous. Not only would she almost certainly hit Annabeth, but also Harriet, who was standing in the doorway. She growled, shaking her head. She would have to wait for a better opportunity. In the meantime, Annabeth was on her own.
Merihem raised his leg to kick Annabeth in the stomach, taking advantage of her injury, but before he could, she straightened, twisting her upper body at the same time. The morning star swung in an arc that—if successful—would have run from his hip to his chin. Instead, the spikes met only air. Surprisingly agile for a lowlife, he had dodged at the very last minute, backing away from her and toward the living room and Theodora.
“Come on,” Theodora growled, pumping herself up.
She glanced around the apartment. Since it was too risky to use her gun now that Annabeth had joined the fray, it was time to get a little creative. She threw the weapon down on the tan shag carpet and grabbed a frying pan conveniently located on the kitchen counter. It was the heavy, cast-iron kind, with egg still burned on from whenever he’d last used it—which, based on his overall level of hygiene, could have been weeks ago. Holding it like a baseball bat, she crossed the few steps to the demon then swung it at the back of his head, taking advantage of his distraction to deliver a sneak attack.
She was surprised to hear a soft metallic clang as it connected. “What the—?”
She didn’t have any more time to think about the unexpected acoustics as Merihem bellowed angrily and rounded on her. He grabbed for her, thick white fingers like overstuffed sausages topped by blackened nails stretching toward her neck. This close, the bright yellow irises and slitted, snakelike pupils of his eyes stood out even in the apartment’s low light. If she hadn’t already seen eyes like that a thousand times, she might have been shocked into stillness by their inhumanness. But this was just another day at the office, and he was just another dumbshit to take care of.
She leveled a front kick into his groin. He grunted as it landed, his body bending almost in half as he was pushed back a step. Before he could recover, she followed up with a spectacular blow to the face with the frying pan, swinging for the fences. This time, the sound was more like a quiet gong. He spun to the right, his body limp as a rag doll, and crashed into the wall next to the dirty green couch.
Annabeth was on him in an instant. She may have been a solid foot shorter than him and a hundred pounds lighter, but she could throw a punch that could fell an ox. Her small brown fist shot like a rocket toward his nose. Theodora could almost hear the crunch of bone as it connected. Then Merihem’s nose exploded, gushing blood everywhere. His head slammed into the wall behind him, then bounced forward. This caused his brain to pinball inside his skull, triggering an immediate, involuntary hard reboot. Although he was technically still standing, it was with the woozy half-consciousness of a boxer.
Now Harriet stepped into the living room, joining the fray at last. With an effortless elegance, she drew her katana and took Annabeth’s place in front of the demon. Next came the important part, the part that guaranteed Merihem wouldn’t be renewing his lease on this shithole apartment, this year or ever. With grim solemnity, she intoned, “In the name of the Daemonium and the demonic hierarchy, your permission to dwell on Earth is officially revoked.”
She said the words in Latin, the language of the celestials. It was the language that cast curses and made all covenants binding, demonic or angelic. Just in case the unconscious demon wasn’t up on his dead languages, Theodora added helpfully in English, “Enjoy your eternity in Hell, fuckface.”
With a smooth, single cut that would have made a samurai cry tears of joy, Harriet severed Merihem’s head from his body. His head fell to the carpet with a dull thud. The rest of his body followed a second later, a heap of limbs and flesh. Theodora stepped back several paces—arterial spray could be unpredictable, and she hated having to clean it off her clothing—and set the frying pan back down where she’d found it.
Annabeth looked away from the blood rapidly pooling in the carpet, nose wrinkled. Theodora could read her mind. Someone was going to have a sucky job cleaning it all up later. Merihem’s body would exsanguinate before his heart finally stopped pumping, and it wouldn’t take long for that gallon and a half of blood to seep through the carpet and carpet pad into the subfloor. It wasn’t the type of thing you could just get up with some hydrogen peroxide. On the other hand, a newly formed pond of blood was the least of the carpet’s problems—the whole thing smelled like sour milk in the middle of a heat wave.
Theodora wiped the frying pan’s handle clean of fingerprints using the bottom hem of her white tank top.
“Next time, you get to come in first,” she grumbled to Harriet. “That sleezeweasel’s breath could’ve knocked down a muskox.”
Harriet shrugged, unfazed. “Okay.” She retrieved a black piece of cloth from her pocket and used it to quickly wipe the blade of her sword. Satisfied, she resheathed the weapon. Theodora couldn’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy at how smooth Harriet made it all look. The one time she’d tried fighting with a sword, she’d gotten it stuck in a doorframe and had almost been forced to abandon it. She hadn’t tried again.
She cast a glance at Annabeth. “You okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine.” But the other woman wasn’t quite standing straight, indicating Merihem’s blow had taken more out of her than she wanted to admit. Theodora shrugged. The pain would wear off in another minute or two. Moving on, she began to scan the room, eager to be out of the filthy apartment. “Okay, let’s see what this fucker did to get himself revoked.”
They always checked the apartments of the demons they were sent to revoke. Sometimes they found nothing, but occasionally they found things the demons weren’t supposed to have on Earth. When they found those illicit items, they had to bring them back to Andromalius and the Daemonium. Although she couldn’t prove it, Theodora suspected the Daemonium had a room somewhere of confiscated items, like a police station evidence locker. She began pulling up the fading green couch cushions, tossing them carelessly onto the carpet. There was nothing beneath them but years of lint, crushed potato chips, and an empty gum wrapper.
She squinted at the walls. Sometimes demons liked to hide things on the backs of pictures or in safes. Not Merihem. The yellowing walls of his apartment were as smooth and bare as a prison cell. He definitely wasn’t hiding anything there.
Annabeth stepped into the tiny galley kitchen, opening the few cabinet doors and peering inside. “Nothing here.” She opened the refrigerator. “He liked Chinese food.” Pause. “Oh God, is that…Is that a maggot?”
“Dinner?” Harriet suggested.
As Annabeth made muffled gagging noises, Theodora moved on to the bedroom. The floor was littered with clothing the demon had been too lazy to pick up, detritus that would soon find its way into garbage bags as the apartment was prepared for the next occupant. She stepped on it guiltlessly, her boots crushing new wrinkles into the shirts and yellowing underwear. The only furniture in the bedroom was a bed and a dresser, both of which had seen better days. She pulled the dresser drawers out one by one, dumping their contents onto the floor and checking their bottoms for anything that might be taped beneath them. Nothing. Kneeling, she ran her hands along the inside and back of the dresser, feeling for concealed compartments. Still nothing.
“Come on, you muppethead, I know you’ve got something here,” she murmured. And it was true. She had a sixth sense for sniffing out what the rogue demons were hiding. If it was here, she would find it.
Standing back up, she turned her attention to the bed. She slapped the thin, lumpy pillows, feeling for anything he might have hidden in a pillowcase, but they collapsed with sorrowful, silent sighs. Huffing her annoyance, she got on her hands and knees to look under the bed, carefully scanning for any slits cut in the box spring, but aside from a few socks she had absolutely no fucking intention of touching, there was nothing there either.
She sat back on her heels, ignoring the crinkle in her knees, and considered the open closet door. Merihem would hardly be the first demon to hide something under a fake floor, behind a hidden panel, or even in a shoebox on the top shelf. Before she could get to her feet to go look, however, Harriet called out.
“Oooooh boy. Found it.”
Her tone—surprise mixed with something else that sounded oddly like awe—instantly put Theodora on alert. She unfolded herself, ignoring the soft grunt of protest from her lower vertebrae, and headed for the source of Harriet’s voice, arriving at the same time as Annabeth.
Over the years, the women had seen a lot of shit. They definitely hadn’t seen this kind of shit. Theodora gaped, then immediately covered her nose with her hand, fighting to avoid retching. “What the fuck is that?”
In the small bathroom, Harriet was standing between the toilet and the bathtub. The latter was a relic from older times, white porcelain with heavy iron claw feet. While it would have been considered chic and trendy in an upscale house, in this apartment it was both outdated and dilapidated. And it was filled with blood. Blood and entrails and Theodora was pretty sure at least one eyeball. It smelled one hundred percent as awful as one would expect of a bathtub of decomposing body fluids.
“So that’s why he was revoked,” Annabeth said. There was a note of recognition in her voice that indicated this wasn’t just any old bathtub full of blood.
Without thinking, Theodora crossed her arms, frowning. Of course Annabeth knew what it was. Annabeth was a walking dictionary. Then another wave of stench hit her and she immediately uncrossed her arms, returning the hand to her nose and gesturing to the bath with the other. “Well, what is it?”
“It’s part of a summoning spell. He was trying to summon something from Hell.”
The petite woman looked around the bathroom, taking in the grody sink stained with streaks of brown calcium deposits and the smudged, streaked mirror. Her eyes fell on a small pile of what looked like dog teeth mixed with black fur sitting on the metal soap dish. She pointed to it with a nod of certainty. “Oude Rode Ogen.”
“A what?” Theodora said.
Harriet raised her thin black eyebrows. “That’s a big no-no.”
Trying to manifest something from Hell without the express and extremely bureaucratic permission of the Daemonium was definitely more than enough to get Merihem revoked. No wonder the Daemonium had called for a rush job. But it was stupid as shit. What did he want a hellhound for? Even if he had successfully summoned one using his forbidden tomato soup, he would have been caught the second he took his new pet for a walk. Demons that dumb deserved revocation, and Theodora was happy to be the one to carry that out.
“Good thing we got to him before he completed the spell,” Annabeth observed, adjusting her glasses with her thumb and forefinger. “Otherwise, Andromalius probably would have sent us after the hellhound as well.”
Theodora considered the idea. She wasn’t sure if it would be easier or harder to kill a hellhound than a demon. Probably harder. They were likely smarter than their summoners.
She heard something in the distance and snapped to attention.
“Time to get out of this roach motel,” she told her companions.
“We can’t just leave this.” Annabeth waved her hands toward the bathtub.
Theodora furrowed her eyebrows. “Why not?” They weren’t a cleaning crew, nor did the Daemonium pay them enough to be.
Annabeth gave her a stern look that suggested she had said something dangerously close to stupid. “A decapitated body and a bathtub full of blood is noteworthy even for this city.”
The implication was clear. They didn’t want the police—or, just as bad, the press—investigating. The women never worried the city’s humans would discover they were unwittingly living side by side with angels and demons—there was no chance of that. The celestials were too good at covering their tracks, and what wasn’t covered could be covered up or written off as delusion or misinterpretation. But the women did have to worry that if they got sloppy, someone might come knocking on their door. The Daemonium protected its own, but they weren’t part of the Daemonium; they were just contractors. And as far as any human knew, they had just murdered the shit out of someone.
“So drain the tub and let’s go,” Theodora said. Her feet itched, restless. Her skin was starting to feel too tight. Apartment buildings like this were unpredictable. There was no telling what might be gathering outside Merihem’s door at this moment. Most of the time when the women carried out a revocation, the residents stayed inside their apartments, afraid of the sound of fighting. But every once in a while, they came ready to brawl, not knowing what was happening but prepared to defend their own. She didn’t feel like fending off angry humans all the way down nine flights of stairs. They should be thanking her for removing a terrible demon from the world, not trying to shank her with a paring knife.
Harriet ran her hands over her pristine white dress shirt as if to smooth invisible wrinkles. Somehow, she had avoided the dreaded arterial spray despite standing right in front of Merihem. She said firmly, “I’m not touching that.”
The eyeball in the tub stared at them balefully, floating in the biological equivalent of an oil slick. Theodora looked at Annabeth, who wrapped her arms around herself tightly and refused to make eye contact.
“This is my favorite cardigan!” she squeaked, shaking her head. “Besides, I cleaned up the mess last time.”
Theodora glared at both of them. She didn’t want to touch it either. She flexed her jaw, preparing to argue, but then she remembered Annabeth was right—it was her turn. Growling to show she didn’t appreciate what was about to happen, she shook off her leather jacket and shoved it into Harriet’s hands. At least since she was in a tank top, she didn’t have sleeves to roll up. Although that meant more of her skin would be touching the blood directly, which wasn’t much better.
She took a deep breath, held it, and got down onto her knees next to the bathtub. Harriet and Annabeth owed her for this. Big time.
Steeling herself, she silently counted to three, then plunged her arm into the tub. Her eyes shut reflexively, blocking out the sight of what she was touching. The blood was lukewarm and uncomfortably viscous. It reached all the way to her elbow, and she had to fight the urge to gag. She began to slide her hand along the bottom of the tub, feeling for the drain as quickly as she could while moving smoothly enough to avoid sloshing the liquid either higher on her arm or out of the bathtub. The last thing she needed was blood on her pants and shoes.
With her eyes still closed, she could almost pretend she was touching regular bath water. Until her hand brushed against something large and body-part-shaped. She instantly dry heaved.
“Are you okay?” Theodora could hear the concern in Annabeth’s voice.
She opened her eyes and glared at the other woman. “You want to feel around?”
Annabeth shook her head.
Theodora’s fingers brushed against the stopper. She yanked it gratefully. The drain made a loud, awful gurgle, then, slowly, the blood began to run down the building’s plumbing. She immediately pulled her arm out and rushed to the sink, frantically rubbing her dusky skin with the thin white bar of soap next to the faucet. She couldn’t wash the resulting pink lather off fast enough.
“Gross.” She checked her tan palm for any remaining flecks of blood that might have gotten caught in the creases. This was definitely the grossest thing she’d had to touch during a revocation, and that included the time she found brain matter in her hair. Fuck Merihem and his dumb ass for trying to summon a hellhound.
From the tone in Harriet’s voice, Theodora knew she wasn’t going to like what came next. With dread, she turned back to the tub. And felt her stomach sink.
It looked like someone had poured half-set raspberry Jell-O all over the inside of it. Patches of blood, both dried and gelatinous, clung to the sides and slid slowly toward the drain. But that wasn’t the problem. The blood would come out with a simple rinse, especially if they used the scraggly toilet brush to scrub the porcelain. The problem was the eyeball that was too big to go down the drain. And the arm lying on the bottom of the tub like it was on a goddamn silver platter.
“Shit.” A beat passed as she stared, mind blank. “What the fuck do we do with those?”
They couldn’t just throw them in the garbage. The whole idea was to hide what Merihem had been up to, not move it to the first place the cops would look. The police wouldn’t spend too much time investigating a dead lowlife, even if he had been decapitated. They would, however, go all Sherlock Holmes over an eyeball and an arm. That would make the scene a double homicide, not just a regular old homicide, and that was infinitely more interesting to bored detectives.
“We can stick them in a trash bag and walk it out,” Annabeth suggested. “We can toss it in a dumpster along the street.”
That idea might have worked had no one been around to see it, but that ship had sailed a few minutes ago. Theodora heard the low murmur of voices outside, indistinct gossip punctuated with exclamations indicating concern and shock. The residents had come to investigate. They wouldn’t forget seeing three armed women walking out with a trash bag slung over their shoulder like Murder Santa.
She jerked her head at the small, narrow window above the bathtub, thinking fast. “Get that open.”
“What? Why?” Annabeth asked.
“Just do it,” Theodora growled.
Obediently, Annabeth set her morning star down on the tile floor and started to wrestle with the rusty latch, standing on her tiptoes. It took a moment, but eventually the window opened outward with a sharp squeal of protest. The room was immediately filled with fresh air and the sounds of the city below them.
It was then Harriet realized what Theodora was planning. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“You got a better idea?” Theodora snapped. “I’m all ears.”
Harriet frowned and shook her head.
“That’s what I thought.”
Clenching her teeth and holding her breath, Theodora grabbed the bloated white arm, trying to ignore the way the skin wanted to slough off, and tossed it out the window. The eye followed a moment later, sailing through the air like a bloody golf ball. If someone was walking below, they were about to have a very, very bad day.
The evidence disposed of, she motioned to the tub. “Get that blood off. Fast.”
She grabbed the yellowing toilet brush and shoved it at Annabeth, ignoring the bristles that fell off like dandelion seeds. While Annabeth knelt and reluctantly began to scrub the tub, she washed her hands a second time, compartmentalizing her revulsion at what she’d just touched. If she thought about it, she might vomit, so she refused to think about it.
She finished right as Annabeth did. The tub looked a little better, but it still wasn’t anything someone would want to get into for a nice soak. Good enough. They weren’t the landlord. She grabbed her leather jacket from Harriet and shrugged it on. “Let’s get out of here.”
Back in the living room, she grabbed her shotgun from the floor. A cluster of round faces peered in through the doorway—at her, at the torn-up apartment, at Merihem’s body and detached head. They formed a gauntlet the three women would have to pass through in order to get out. She threw her shoulders back, undaunted. The best way to get through a situation like this was with confidence. You could get away with anything so long as you were confident about it—even decapitate a demon with a samurai sword and leave its headless body in a puddle of blood.
She marched toward the rubberneckers with the gun cradled in her hands, daring them to stop her. They did not. Like the Red Sea before Moses, they parted, giving way silently. Head held high, she started down the stairs. Another night, another dead demon. Revocations could get messy, but at least business was always good. The three constants in life were death, taxes, and some demons being absolute fucknuggets that needed permanent time-out in Hell.