And here is the final preview chapter. Enjoy
Steam rose from my leather trench coat as the unrelenting afternoon sun baked every inch of the surrounding geography. I arrived in front of a building block and opened the front door to my office. Inside I was greeted with a semi-chaotic mess of antiques, ornaments, scattered furniture and discarded delivery boxes, all managing to occupy a majority of the open area. At the far end stood an antique-looking wooden table and a leather chair where I managed the “business” side of my job. A doorway adjacent to the left of the desk led to a modest kitchen, a bathroom, and a narrow staircase leading to a basement. On the right of the desk was another staircase, this one wider, which led up to the second floor. It was mainly a corridor and two bedrooms opposite each other as well as a bathroom. I usually sleep in one, unless I just crash on my couch downstairs, whilst Amaymon occupies the other. The cat made it clear that he needs his own space.
I strode into my office, sighing loudly as I slid my leather jacket off and threw it at the coat hanger. I took out what remained of my guns and dropped them on a cheap, wooden coffee table together with my sword before slumping on the couch.
“Ugh, what a day,” I complained to no one as I shifted my position so that I was lying on the couch. I went into a trance, slowly losing focus and letting my thoughts drift freely. My mind brushed against several questions which were bothering me: How come the last Lizardman I faced was so different? Was it some kind of mutation? If so, who instigated it? Maybe it was all a fluke, a genetic anomaly. Random things like that happen in the universe and with greater probability when your job is to face the unknown and misunderstood. One thought led to another and my focus shifted to other unanswered questions: Would I ever be able to fully control my power? Would I ever be able to solve the mystery of my curse? What terrible thing did one of my twisted ancestors do to merit such a punishment? How come it had come to fruition now? Who or what was powerful enough to curse an entire bloodline, spanning thousands of years? I shook my head violently as if to shatter those thoughts and throw them out of my head. I caught sight of the discarded gun parts and the pile of letters on my desk, and said, “It’s all right, Erik. No need to worry about the big picture right now. Focus on the little things. The guns, the rent, the damn cat.”
As if on cue, a sizable black blob suddenly leaped onto my chest. I yelled out in shock, jumped off the couch and tripped on Djinn, which was propped beside the coffee table. My head hit the corner of the coffee table and I let out a pathetic ‘Ouch’.
While I was displaying just how clumsy humans can be, the black American shorthair simply stood on my coffee table, eyeing me with his yellow eyes. Cats cannot smile but Amaymon was halfway there as he snickered in amusement.
“Dammit, Amaymon,” I said as I nursed a bump on my head. “I told you to stop doing that.”
“And I told you I will not stop as long as your reaction is always the same as an eight year old’s.” Amaymon is the world’s only talking cat and he’s always quick to use his tongue. And possibly the world’s most intelligent cat. Certainly the most annoying one.
Amaymon is my familiar as well as a demon. Here’s a little back story: Amaymon used to serve directly under the former demon Emperor. He led Hell’s legions and was sort of a second-in-command in that realm. About a hundred years ago, the demon Emperor caught my grandfather’s attention when he tried to exert some influence with the Ashendales. My family didn’t like that and a feud started. A very short feud. Within the week, the Emperor was killed and all in his inner circle were captured or killed, never to be heard from again. That is, until I accidentally stumbled upon a caged Amaymon, who’d been stripped of his powers and sealed inside a feline body. When I opened up shop, he was, quite literally, dumped in my lap.
Initially, I kept him around for information, slowly bargaining pieces of freedom and power in exchange for help on some cases. I always made sure that he knew who was really in charge and he hated my guts for that. He lied to me once, on purpose, hoping to get me killed. Only later did I calmly explain that if I died, he’d end up in the mansion again where he’d be dissected and probed for an eternity. After that, he settled with peeing in the corner and breaking random stuff out of spite.
Nowadays he spends most of his time basking in the sun, awaiting the perfect moment to ridicule his master. He seems to have accepted his role as both a guide and a reference. I can always rely on his knowledge, something that was gathered over thousands of years’ worth of experience.
“And you broke your guns. Again. Fourth time this month, is it?” he asked as he playfully pawed the bits of metal. I rolled my eyes and made for the kitchen, aching for a cold beverage.
“Will you stop lecturing me? For now at least? First you hit me on the head and now you lecture me,” I moaned as I grabbed the soda can and pressed against my forehead. Relishing in the cool sensation, I rolled it down to my neck before my throat complained of neglect. I popped the can open.
“You hit yourself. And stop using regular junk as channels. Breaking stuff is not in your best interest. You’re already behind on your rent,” Amaymon continued, clearly enjoying himself.
“It was a critical situation,” I replied weakly.
“Critical, my tail.”
“Amaymon, you’re an immortal demon trapped in a cat’s body. Are you really gonna bitch about the rent?”
“Yes. If you can’t afford the rent, then you can’t afford my Flakes,” he said in his most serious tone. Amaymon was addicted to a brand of catnip called Lizard Flakes and refused to do anything but complain should his supply run low.
“You’ll live without Flakes,” I replied, sipping my drink.
“You don’t know that,” he moaned as he rubbed himself against my leg. I sighed and picked up his bowl from the corner. Filling it with his favorite snack, I grabbed both the bowl and the cat and carried them to the coffee table.
“There. Can I have some quiet now?” I asked.
“Sure. Can I have some beer?”
“You’re a cat! I am certainly not giving you beer. Don’t want you getting sick all over my office.”
“It will certainly improve the décor.”
“Shut up and eat. Did anyone call while I was out?”
“No,” was Amaymon’s muffled response as he stuffed his face with the biscuit-like substance. A few seconds later, however, his ears twitched and said, “Someone’s coming.” Amaymon also happens to be a very reliable home security system, if you’re willing to put up with sarcasm.
I glanced at the door and wondered who it might be. I had just come back from a job for the police and I was certain that I had no more appointments for the day. In fact, I had not put the OPEN sign up yet. The doorbell rang and Amaymon hissed, glaring at the door intently, as if forcing his yellow orbs the see through the door. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he could as he has many abilities I knew nothing about. I knew his reactions to clients even before they stepped foot into my office. Hissing and glaring were sure signs that whoever it was, Amaymon did not approve of them. Chances were that I wouldn’t like them, either. So with a grunt of effort I got up and made for the door.
“Let’s see what pest the universe is plaguing me with now,” I said, smiling at my own wit.
I opened the door and was greeted by a short young girl dressed in an olive green, Victorian-style suit, complete with an ascot and a cloak. Her platinum-blond hair gleamed in the afternoon sun and her skin seemed to glisten. Her penetrating green eyes matched my own color but burned with an intensity that seemed to weigh your soul and then judge accordingly.
Behind her stood a very tall and lanky man, dressed in a traditional butler’s suit. His long, wavy hair was pulled back into a ponytail, held firm with a midnight-blue ribbon. His most striking features were his eyes. They matched Amaymon’s: golden orbs with black slits. He grinned, revealing a set of pointed, serrated teeth, the kind you would expect to see on a shark. Behind them a pair of bodyguards stood still, like statues. They wore the typical Men in Black outfits, complete with black suit and dark shades.
The girl broke the slowly increasingly awkward silence. “Hello, brother.”
I shook myself out of my daze. Just seeing my sister mere feet away from me was enough to induce anxiety. Over the years I had learned that the only way to deal with stress is to laugh and occasionally give in to minor bouts of madness. I gave in. Glancing toward the sky, as if praying, I said, “Good one.”