It was a dull day, if I remember correctly.
The migraine bright neon signs of the high street illuminating the low hanging clouds in a miasma of intermixing colours. Rain drizzled lazily, wetting the occupants of New Haven as they went about their business. Not that I saw any of this of course, our storefront did not decorate the city's main artery like the rest of them.
Our store was down a small side alley, where it could go completely unnoticed by main stream society and could not be found unless someone was specifically looking for it.
We'd lived in the building since the cities founding, when a million refugees lived in the bones of Old Chicago, huddling around fires and cursing the night. Praying to a God that didn't exist to protect them from Daemons that certainly did.
Back then, in the early years after the collapse, it was a constant fight for survival. Kill or be killed. Every day was a struggle to fend off the criminal gangs who ran riot through the dead city and every night was a crapshoot, the Daemons came or they didn't.
In those early years there was many times I thought we would never make it through the night...
But, after Dante and I slaughtered the gang lords and civilisation finally took hold of the people things steadily improved. The corpses of once great metropolises replaced by bastions against the horrors, nothing but camps with high walls at first, but over time the humans learned.
They learned to live again.
All through this we had shared the once apartment block that was now our home and place of work. We'd never saw fit to move, and I warded that place to high heaven. It was one of the very few places that people were safe, truly safe.
My wards of protection had a strange effect on the people who passed through our door, some simply shuddered, some looked suspicious - being so unused to the feeling of not being in constant danger-, some even cried. The woman who walked in on this grey did visibly relaxed, a tension she had carried since the collapse bleeding from her muscles as she stepped through and lowered her hood. Looking back at the bell that chimed as the door closed.
'Hello?' she'd asked to the empty office. So meek. So gentle. They all sounded like that, like lost children. I watched her from the shadows for a moment while she hugged herself and took small steps around, looking up at the walls decorated with Dante's collection of weaponry he'd...acquired, from Daemon enemies. She was around my height, middling for a woman, with long brown hair, soft blue eyes and hands so callused from hard labour building the wall that she tried to hide them beneath leather gloves.
But she couldn't hide them from me. I saw far too much now.
'Hi there,' I had said. Walking down the steps from the second level with my best smile, not that I am really one for smiling. She was so tense the poor woman jumped in freight, snapping back her hand from a spear that I had actually claimed after banishing it's owner. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you.'
'No, no it's fine.' She stalled then, when her eyes locked onto me.
Even for a world infested by Daemons the sight of my tattooed face, bright pink hair and henna'd flesh was still disconcerting. And in nothing but a t-shirt, denim shorts and my combat boots...I certainly didn't look like the main stream populace anymore. Where once my look could have been called edgy or punky, now it was an anathema to society.
But, to her credit, she recovered well.
'I...I was told to come here by a friend if I ever had any...troubles.' she said, hugging herself a little tighter.
'What kind of trouble?' I asked, gesturing to the desk in front of the fireplace. I waited until she sat down before I did myself, which took close to three minutes. So unsure.
'One that the Enforcer's won't help with.' Ah, the Enforcers. A strange cross between police and military who's job it was to hunt out and destroy Daemons, they had good intentions but weren't the best. Daemons were new to them, they knew almost nothing about them, where as Dante and I had decades of experiencing. 'I'm...I'm sorry I don't know you. But I was told there would be a man here?' She'd said looking around for at the upper balconies for any sign of the famed Devil Hunter.
'Tell me about your problem,' I told her gently, unclipping my precious box of tarot cards from my belt and laying it on the desk as I sat down. 'And we'll see what we can do for you. Oh, and I'm Kat.'
'Melaine,' she'd nodded. I sat patiently for several moments while she gathered her courage to speak. 'I live out in the Anvil, I'm a labourer helping to build the perimeter wall, I don't have much money...but I don't know what else to do and I've got nowhere else to go.' I remember reading her aura with my second sight as she talked, watching her thoughts bleed out of her open mind like oil leaking into the ocean. There was a man in her thoughts, a broad man with a kind face and gentle eyes. But there was a massive pain behind that image, a massive wellspring of grief so black it threatened to swallow this poor woman whole.
'Markus, he...died.' When she said that I saw his image, the sight of him in her minds eye that she venerated and cared for so much be suddenly consumed by a creature of crimson flesh and fire that was at once boiling hot and freezing cold. I'll remember that image to the day I die, and the psychic shock wave that followed after, so sharp and cold it made me physically jump. Thankfully Melaine was so consumed in her story that she didn't noticed, and after that I resolved to steel my second sight against her aura. 'Now I'm on my own, my parents are both gone and Markus had no family, I have only my friends...and my son.'
She looked at me then, deep into my eyes. Her own filled with a pleading and sorrow that could drown worlds. And feed enough daemons to consume every soul in this city. 'Go on,' I smiled. Giving her an encouraging nod.
'Deckan, he's seven. Lovely little boy, he looks so much like his father,' she said with a smile. 'A few months after Markus died Deckan started having nightmares, the doctor said it was normal, but...'
I'd seen that look so many times, the face of someone who didn't want to admit they'd seen the arcane. Daemons are now predators, like bears or wolves. Something that just...is. But their effects on people, the twisting of the mind and soul, the warping of the fabric of nature itself...the world was still coming to terms with those facts.
'Melaine, I won't judge or laugh at you. Tell me everything, we're here to help.' I said, pushing calming thoughts into her mind, the familiar pins and needles that using my abilities caused crawling up my arm. Power had flown through me, through my veins and blood, raw energy, wanting, yearning, to become something tangible. But I kept my control. I'd learnt early on the dangers of giving over to such urges.
'Two weeks ago he was crying, I went into his room and his back was covered in claw marks, still bleeding, when I took him in the bathroom to clean him up they were gone. A week ago he swore to me he saw a burning man outside his window, and yesterday...yesterday he was talking at night, I went in and he was scratching symbols into the floorboards of his room with his finger nails and I couldn't stop him. When he finally collapsed he'd torn three fingernails off,' tears flew. Emotion took over. 'I've told the Enforcer's and they won't help.'
Melaine looked up at me, tears brimming in her eyes and falling onto her rose coloured cheeks. 'Will you help me?'
'Of course!' he said from up on the balcony. 'I'm such a sucker for a damsel in distress.' Melaine looked up in surprise, I looked through her eyes in that moment, just to see how other's saw Dante.
He stood, cocksure as always, leaning against the wall by the balcony, looking down at her with a confident half smile, his dark eyes sparkling with what Melaine recognised as mischief, white hair short and spiked. His usual bright red coat replaced with one of black leather with a large cowl. Snapping out of her mind I sat and smiled, hearing him thunder down the steps one at a time, eager as always to be off on the hunt.
'You will?' Melaine asked, standing, clutching hold of her bag.
'Sure, sounds fun.' he grinned.
'Oh thank you! I, I just don't have anyway to pay you.'
'This sounds like the start of a bad porno.' he had said to me then. Dante's sense of humour could never be called professional...which was why I insist on greeting the clients.
'Don't worry about money,' I smiled at her, standing and reattaching the deck of daemon skin cards to my belt. Dante came and stood beside me, a lean giant compared to my slim and petite frame. 'We'll help you. Just tell me, what kind of symbols was Deckan drawing?'
'Who?' he asked me.
'Erm...I'm not sure, lots of circles and strange writing, but the biggest he did was an upside down triangle with like, lines coming out from the bottom point.' said Melaine.
A flicker of worry shot through me and I felt Dante's excitement at the thought of another possible manifest. That symbol had appeared time and time again after the last year, often around points of entry for some of the more powerful species of horrors, it meant something. I knew it then. But I would not realise how much it meant for many many months.
'We'll be at your place at sundown. Make sure the little man is ready.' said Dante, striding easily over to his gun cabinet and retrieving his two loves, twin desert eagles Ebony and Ivory.
'Deckan? Why?' Melaine had asked with all the worry and protective instinct expected from a mother.
'This Daemon is targeting your son, to get a better chance of it manifesting Deckan will have to be present.' I told her.
'I'm good lady, but even I can't kill a shadow on a wall.' he said to the cabinet, lifting the guns to the light, eyeing down their barrels to check for dust before the slides clicked back into place with a snap. Shoving the hand canons into the holsters on the back of his pants Dante turned to me with a smile. 'Ready?'
I smiled and nodded whilst trying to ignore the image in burning in my mind when I looked upon him. A Daemon one moment and a glorious Angel the next, each constantly fighting and warring beneath his skin, at one moment I could see him sheathed in yellow light and halo'd, the next he would be dancing in fire and horned. Such was the existence of the Nephilim. A child between two worlds.
'I'm ready.' I told him.
'Lets go kill us a Daemon.' he grinned wickedly, shrugging his shoulders as his great sword Rebellion appeared across his back in a flash of fire and white lightning.