Word Count: 1,197
part two of two
He knew they were sending their messenger with the slow, nearly painful, tingle of foresight. Almost casually, he threw off the roaring and biting and clawing demons that were attempting to leech themselves to him, and tore open his duffle bag without bothering with the zipper. His hand fell on an automatic rifle and he didn’t hesitate; yanking it out, he shoved a full clip into place and swung his body around, ducking as he went to scarcely avoid a kick to the face. The odor of spilled blood and the carnage of battle were pungent and unavoidable; the stink filled his nose like damp cotton.
With one hand, he leveled the rifle and moved his sight in search of his target; with the other, he clung to his sword. It took but an instant – though it felt like hours – to locate the fleeing messenger, and with a single pull on the trigger, a spray of bullets peppered the demons back until he collapsed in a pulpy mess in the street.
Judah was almost panting with the effort of his small war, with the force of adrenalin rushing through him, with the riotous thudding of his heartbeat, but it was gleeful. He turned to the remaining demons, the barrel of his rifle at roughly eye level for them all, and he held the trigger back until there were none left standing.
Finally alone on the roof, he took a moment to observe the butchery. From a side pouch on one of the duffle bags, he pulled out a small, glowing orb that was no bigger than a golf ball. They were custom holy water grenades Gabriel made, and Judah had only a few, but he knew that eventually the time would come when they were no longer needed.
That was what he was on Earth for, after all. To be the unflinching, inexorable machine when discretion was no longer an option, because that was what he was good at. The decimation of vast numbers.
He pulled the pin and rolled the grenade out into the middle of the flooded roof and watched as the light grew brighter and stronger, its luminescence gradually more painful to look at, until it exploded outward with some radiant, electric pressure that stung his face as it blew past him. For a moment, he was blinded by the blast, but his vision returned rapidly, the blackness dimming to grey, dimming to white, before the colors spread out across his sight again. The roof that had once been deep crimson with the slaughter he’d survived was suddenly untouched.
Only then, once the mess had been cleaned, did he inspect his own body for damage. Besides the tooth and claw marks that littered his entire body, some splicing entirely through his clothing to gouge out parts of his torso, the damage was not too severe. He had minor trouble breathing in, compliments of his punctured lung, and each breath became a little damper than the last, but it was no concern to him.
There was only one injury that complicated things. He seemed to have a massive tear in his shoulder blade; from his gentle probing he deduced it had to be at least three or four inches deep, at a ninety degree angle, and dangerously close to where his wings nestled against his spine. The pain of his wounds was still distant, kept at bay by adrenalin, but he would soon feel every minor ache and pinch. Some of the blood and chunks of demon that coated his entire body had been dissolved during the cleansing, but most of it remained. He needed to take cover, for a while; to wash up and stitch himself back together.
What bothered him was that his safe house was at least fifty miles northwest of where he stood. His best option was six floors beneath the soles of his boots. He shut his eyes, pressing his index finger and thumb into the bridge of his nose, and sighed. He would have to address her, anyway, he thought, now that he was obligated to keep her alive. He stifled a groan of frustration and unhinged the door to the roof in one unrestrained tug.
At her door, he froze for an instant – just an instant – but it was enough to set his nerves on edge. He was not the hesitating kind, he reminded himself bitterly, and rapped his knuckles against her door.
She peered through the peephole suspiciously, but he could see the low tones of her hazel eyes in the bubbled glass. He didn’t bother with a polite smile. A man showing up on her doorstep covered in blood and wounded was bad enough; a grinning man showing up on her doorstep covered in blood and wounded seemed worse, somehow.
The deadbolt slid out of place and she opened the door by a few inches. She said, “How did you find me?”
For a moment, he was silent, simply allowing his eyes to interpret the smooth lines of her features, a petulant bewilderment in his eyes. That was her first question? He blinked and said, “I would have thought you would be familiar with the concept of tailing someone.”
She narrowed her eyes at him through the thin opening and said, “Why are you here?”
“I need to clean up,” he said with a stray gesture at his appearance, and added, “Additionally, we have something to discuss, you and I. May I use your bathroom?”
He hated small talk. He hated beating around the bush. He resented that he could not simply transfer the knowledge to her and avoid the whole mess of a discussion.
She opened the door and led him to the bathroom, her eyes scrutinizing every iota of his existence, but he pretended not to notice and began cleaning up. He felt no need to waste time doing his tasks separately when he could easily do them simultaneously, and so before she could leave the bathroom, he said, “You’re not safe here, anymore.” He removed his coat and shirt and grabbed a washcloth hanging from a small hook beside the sink. The hot water took a moment to reach temperature, but when it did, he soaked the cloth and began the tedium of wiping dried blood from around his wounds. “The demons have taken an interest in you, and if you want to live, you need to leave this place.”
She held her ground, stunned for but an instant before snapping, “This is my home, and I don’t even know who you are. Why would I trust you?”
He glanced up at her over the chasmal slice in his shoulder blade, his grey gaze holding the same unconvinced perplexity at her incomprehension of the wealth of knowledge that he’d been privy to his entire life, and said, “If it weren’t for me, you would already be dead. Twice.”
She met his eyes, and he was almost certain she was challenging him. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Judah,” he said, and held a blood-stained hand out to her in the polite gesture he remembered only from his studies of human culture.