Agents and Legends

by

Juan E Pastorelli

CHAPTER I

The limousine cruised to a stop in front of one of the elegantly clad servants. The man stepped forward to receive the guests as expected but did not approach the vehicle. Propriety dictated he wait until the chauffeur let the guests out or they step out themselves. He did, however, listen for voices from the interior.

"You pick now to do this?" A man's voice, clear and gruff. "You look fine, great, beautiful, look, we're here already..."

"Party. Isn't that what you said? A big party. This is hardly a party, it's a huge gala at an expensive mansion with a bunch of rich people!" An exasperated female voice that nonetheless sounded excited. The footman perked up, anxious to put a pretty face to the sexy voice. "I have to finish my makeup, and my hair needs teasing..."

Sigh. "I'll wait outside. I'll let them know we're here. Just...don't take too long. I can't see how much you have to do, you are absolutely gorgeous just the way you are."

A girlish giggle. "You are such a charmer! Now I remember why you're my favorite. Go on, I won't be five minutes."

"You have the corsage on, right? Do you need me to help adjust it?" More giggles and the car shifted.

"Get out of here! That's extra for you!"

The door opened and the servant snapped to attention, curious to see if the car's inhabitants were half as interesting as they sounded. He was somewhat disappointed. The man who stepped out and closed the door behind him was in his mid-forties. He was tall and slim, with a long clean shaven face. His dark hair was still full and perfectly groomed, with silver hair at both temples. He wore a white dinner jacket on dark blue slacks and a pale blue dress shirt topped by a black striped bowtie. His eyes were active, however, scanning the area and taking in all of his surroundings. He nodded to the footman as he adjusted his cufflinks.

"Gregori Stephanos and guest. She'll...be a minute. Is that okay?"

The footman checked his clipboard and saw Gregori Stephanos, plus one, VIP Plus.

"Of course, Mr. Stephanos. That's perfectly okay. This is the receiving line, and there's still plenty of room. Your guest should have plenty of time to get even prettier." He stopped as he realized he had given himself away and blushed. Gregori flashed a half smile at him. "It's okay, son, We all do it."

"Some of us are better at it than others," the voice in his head said.

Gregori managed to turn his laugh into a cough. He turned away from the confused young man and walked up the steps slowly, muttering to himself.

"Rosalyn, are you jealous that I didn't bring you to this thing? You know I offered. Some dinner, some dancing, schmultzing with the snobbery, maybe a little romance afterwards..."

"Oh I know all about your romance, Roman Capule." Despite her sarcastic tone the woman was laughing. "I think you get quite enough of that from other younger and more willing victims. Besides, you need someone to be your eyes and ears. It's just that...the girl? Did you really need her?"

"She's an escort. She's here to be distraction. And I'd look out of place at an event like this without some eye candy on my arm. You know as well as I do that half the old geezers here will have girls young enough to be their granddaughters. And too many of those won't be here just to look pretty."

"I know how these things work. But did she really have to be so...I don't know...filled out?"

This time Gregori, or Roman Capule as he was known to his employers, let out a chuckle.

"Again, distraction, Rosalyn my dear. It's a fact that seven out of ten men and nine out of ten women notice a large bust, especially when it's well-displayed. And that attention could mean the difference between mission success and death. So yes, if having a girl with some flattering décolletage on my arm will help, then I will use it, just like any other tool in my repertoire." Roman reached up and adjusted his bow tie, then a thought struck him. "How's the corsage looking?"

There was a snort through the invisible earpiece. "Little Miss BBB is so busy adjusting her décolletage that it's making me dizzy. But the hidden camera is working perfectly."

"BBB?"

"Blonde Busty Bimbo."

Roman opened his mouth to retort, but then the limo door clicked open. The footman nearly tripped getting to the door to help the twenty something out of the vehicle. She was pristine and flawless, more Princess Barbie and less Poor College Student Barbie. Flowing blonde locks framed her cherubic face and ruby red lips parted and gleamed in exactly the right way. She was filling out a long fluttering blue lacy gown with a plunging neckline. Pinned to one of the straps was the pink and white corsage.

Seeing where the bulging eyes of the footman were fixed, Roman chuckled. "This might work better than I thought. Now if only Sean Quinn is also connoisseur."

His only answer was another derisive snort.


"Gregori Stephanos, pleased to meet you finally! I've heard all about your yacht parties! Tell me, is the Duchess really as feisty drunk as they say?"

Roman stopped to greet the portly bank owner as Christy waited, hand laid gently on his arm and luminous toothy smile pasted on her face. She was a pro at this, used to dealing with these kinds of attentions, and pretended to not notice the many stares she was receiving. Roman, his eyes locked on Sean Quinn across the room, nonetheless played up his part of the Silver Greek, heir to a shipping fleet owned by his father and frequent thrower of yacht parties that always got broken up by the Coast Guard. He was very careful. You never knew when this identity might be needed to open a door later.

Roman was here to get close to Sean Quinn, a reclusive genius who was throwing this ball to unveil his newest product, some drug Roman had no idea about, and didn't care. According to his employer, that unveiling could not happen. Quinn was to be silenced, in as inauspicious and quiet a way as possible. Tonight.

Roman smiled and laughed and chatted people up, never failing to introduce his companion as he skillfully led them through the room. He didn't know yet how he was going to get to Quinn and get him by himself, but he would think of something. He had been in this business for over twenty years. When it came to accomplishing the mission, he considered himself the best. When he had officially retired from the agency eight years ago, only a few months had passed before he realized he had retired too early. He started freelancing, brushing up on new techniques and skills, acquiring more up-to-date tech, and getting in touch with old clients and contacts. Though he tried to keep his ethics ahead of his desire for adventure, sometimes he had to take questionable jobs to return favors or open doors. That was why he now enjoyed his current employer, one he had worked with a few times in the past. The Robinson Estates was an independent privately owned group that was involved in making sure greedy executives and corrupt mega companies didn't stand in the way of human progress, and used any means necessary to achieve that. Including using a former special agent to commit assassinations.

"So far the guest list checks out," Rosalyn's voice was crystal clear in his ear, despite the distance. She was sitting in an unmarked van several miles away, monitoring the camera on Christy's chest, his vitals through the electronic tattoo on his chest, and what she had been able to pilfer from the security cameras in the room itself. She kept him apprised of the situation around him, feeding him a stream of data so he could make the vital decisions fieldwork required him to make. He had never met her in person, but whenever he needed reliable recon or surveillance, she was his first choice. She was also one of the Estate's permanent agents, operating exclusively for them. He tried not to let that bother him.

"Good. Keep an eye on who Quinn's talking to, I might be able to use an introduction as a segue." Roman had just introduced Christy to a couple of young men who owned beachfront property in Hawaii, knowing the three would be fully occupied with each other, and excused himself to fetch refreshments for the group. As he turned away, he noticed a server cutting through the crowd, and an alert clicked on in his head.

"What do you have on hired help? Have all servers and caterers been checked out thoroughly?" His voice rumbled, the sub-dermal mike hidden in his bowtie easily picking up his voice through the chaos of the party.

"Hold please." Roman watched the server out of the corner of his eye as he walked by the refreshment table. He blinked twice, fast, and his vision telescoped and zeroed into the girl, enhancing details so he could study her better.

The girl was dressed innocuously as one of the servers; loose black slacks and a featureless white button-down shirt, but he noticed that instead of wearing dark serviceable shoes she had on grey slip-on sneakers. Allows for fast movement without hindrance and can be kicked off easily, he thought, instantly analyzing. She was tall, almost as tall as him, with an athletic build. She had dark mocha skin, but he noticed her facial features betrayed some European descent. Her eyes, especially, were shards of jade, glinting hard in the light. Her thick brown wavy hair was pulled back in a bun on top of her head. She was handsome, but she didn't seem to really care about her looks. No attempts to highlight and enhance and conceal with makeup and hair placement. Others noticed, however. He saw the looks many were directing at her, especially the young men, but the diffident chill she radiated seemed to hold them back. She should've been nondescript, relatively uninteresting in a room full of the rich and beautiful. But looking closer revealed why she had set off his alarms. Her thick lips were pursed, her stride was delicate but purposeful, unlike the other servers she had no tray of drinks or hor'dourves and did not pause to take any orders, and those green eyes were focused on her destination. He scanned her eyeline and cursed under his breath.

"What's wrong?"

"What's the status on that info?" He reached into his pocket and pressed a combination on a small key fob. The colors in his eyes bled away, allowing him to see contours and shading. He focused on her clothing and saw several suspicious bulges in her pants, along the thighs, and on her back. Could be, he thought grimly. Could very well be.

"Most of the staff checks out," Rosalyn said matter of factly. She sensed the tension. "Two are new, however, added this morning. Justin Harmon is the caterer's cousin, brought in to replace a sick employee. And the other...has no records. Just a name and a social that comes up fake. Dolores Romero. She's…"

"A woman of color, bout 5'7", brown hair, green eyes, no references, no employment history?"

Rosalyn's voice was tense. "What's going on, agent?"

"I think we have a second hitter. She's making a beeline straight for Quinn and not subtle about it. And she's packing. I'm intercepting. I'll have to give you her description later unless you have eyes on her from the cameras. Find out what you can ASAP."

Roman had already keyed the command to restore his vision to normal and was pulling away from the table, two champagne flutes in each hand. Without seeming to move deliberately or quickly, he nonetheless managed to meet up with Dolores. He noted as he approached that her hand kept straying to her back, where one of the odd shapes was concealed. Her hard eyes flicked to him, questioning, but before she could do more than register his presence, he had artfully stumbled. The flutes flew through the air toward her and splashed all over her. With a gasp she stopped and gaped at him, aware of the spectacle she made, and he was pleased to see that the front of her shirt was completely soaked through. His aim was still pretty good.

"Oh, OH, oh I am so sorry, that's...ugh...alcohol abuse and all that, amirite? Oh, oops, and it's getting a little risqué, if you know what I mean. Getting a little PG for this shindig...good thing you're wearing that tank underneath, huh? No, don't scowl, you'll get unflattering wrinkles, you're right it's not funny, here, let me help you. Put my jacket on and come with me, we gotta get that off of you and something decent in, I mean, on you…"

Amid the laughter and parting jabs by the festive onlookers, and more than one disappointed boo from the young men, Roman guided the girl towards one of the hallways. Keeping up a constant stream of comforting but inane talk, he and the girl exited the main room and he ducked down one hallway after another, looking for a bathroom or empty room. He was pretty sure that Sean Quinn and his entourage hadn't noticed anything more unusual than the Silver Greek making his moves on another unsuspecting conquest. The girl was flustered but was quickly recovering her composure, frowning at him as she tried to figure him out. His helping hand on the small of her back was not helping, and he knew from the way she tensed as his fingers brushed up against something metal that she was about to act. He grabbed the nearest door and pushed her in, then shut it behind him. She spun away from him and her hand flew to her back, only to see the barrel of his plastic gun pointed at her. Her eyes flicked down at the barrel, then back up to his. A sneer crawled across her face.

"Using a gun, monster? Don't your kind usually do your dirty work au naturale?" Her Caribbean accent was strong, but her enunciation was clear and concise. Her choice of words, however, baffled him. He frowned, a little confused, and it was the only reason why she was able to get the drop on him. She was good.

Whirling around and low, she swept one arm up and batted away the gun as her other hand whipped out what was behind her back. The ease and speed of her movement took him by surprise as she took the hilt of the sword and slammed it into his chest.

He stared down at the empty hilt pressed against his sternum. His heart decided to slow down from the near spike, and he wondered how that would look on Rosalyn's diagnostics. For her part, the girl's look of triumph faded into one of confusion as he refused to fall down and die.

Frowning down at her hand, she murmured, "I thought…" and then was away again, backing up and still holding the ornate sword hilt in front of her like a weapon. Her eyes shot daggers of disgust at him.

"So is that it then? You work for him? You betray your own kind for your thirty pieces of silver? Vile mercenary!" She feinted with the hilt, then reached down at her thigh, probably to remove another weapon.

As entertaining and pleasant as her voice was, her words were getting more confusing. He raised the gun again and pointed at her chest. She froze.

"Who, Quinn? You think I'm working for him? I'm not...far from it...and it's pretty obvious you're not either. Who sent you? I wasn't aware there were any contracts out on him other than mine." In the excitement of the situation and despite his earlier observations, it struck Roman suddenly that this girl was far younger than he had previously thought. "Wait, who did send you? You are way too young for wetwork. What are you, like, sixteen?"

The girl colored slightly, and she snarled, "I'm old enough to rid the world of a monster like that! How old are you, like, eighty?"

Roman grinned and lowered his gun, "Now that just hurts, girl. So we're here for the same reason basically. I don't know what he's done to you to merit such animosity, but I will have to ask for you to reconsider your position. I can get to him and have the job done quietly and quickly, without," he glanced down at the sword hilt, "bloodshed?" He slipped the gun into its hiding place under his armpit. He took the opportunity to tap a code on the tattoo on his chest, a stand-down order in case Rosalyn had started an extraction. Where was she, come to think of it? He hadn't heard from her since they got back here. His eyes flitted around the room until he saw the device in the ceiling behind the girl, almost unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Ah, jammers. That made sense.

She hissed and pointed the hilt at him. "No, you stay out of my way, whoever you are! You don't know what you are mixed up in...you couldn't possibly know! I must confront him and take him down...it is my duty. The Order does not allow civilians to interfere…" she caught herself.

"The Order? Never heard of an order. But I'm no civilian girl, and I know more than you think. I'm one of the best at what I do. I get the job done. And that job is…" he stopped when her gaze shifted behind him. He saw enough in the reflection of her eyes to turn around with his hands raised. Standing in the now open doorway was Aaron Sanders, Sean Quinn's personal assistant and right-hand man. Towering over Sanders were two large hefty individuals wearing matching black suits and matching black sunglasses. And pointing matching machine pistols in the general vicinity of the entire room.

Aaron spread his hands, the smile on his face never reaching his hard black eyes. They glittered behind small circular glasses.

"Mr. Stephanos, why, how we worried about you! You disappeared with this server," the black eyes took her in and subsequently dismissed her, "when the festivities were just starting to peak. And leaving your beautiful guest unattended...such a faux paux!"

Roman tried to bring up a reassuring smile as he subtly shifted his body to put himself in between her and the goons. "As you can see, Mr. Sanders, we're just fine, just having a little talk. Perfectly innocent, you don't even need to mention it to her. I'll be getting back to Christy now, she must be getting antsy without me there. I'm sure this server has to get back to work as well" He moved to step forward, then froze as red dots beamed out of the guns onto his chest.

Aaron shook his head. "Your date is being well taken care of by her many admirers. You needn't worry on her behalf. I would worry about yours. You will be coming with us, Mr. Stephanos. Sean wants to speak to you. Wolfgang here will take care of the girl." He gestured to the gorilla to his right, who broke his silence to leer at Dolores and lick his lips.

"No. Absolutely not. She comes with me." Roman dropped the Gregori Stephanos persona and the hardened special agent drilled holes into the assistant. There was no menace in his voice, just a promise.

Aaron narrowed his eyes at him and opened his mouth, then shrugged. "Suit yourself. As long as you come quietly, Mr. Stephanos." He smiled with his teeth, and moved to one side, waving his hand invitingly.

Roman stepped forward to follow, and dimly heard the girl grunt a warning. He barely felt the sting of the needle in his arm, and as darkness rolled over like a thundercloud his last thought was, Twice in less than an hour I've been surprised. I must be getting old. Then black.


He jerked awake as his back slammed into a hard surface. Groggily he opened his eyes in time to see one of the black suits standing back up from cuffing his legs to the chair he was in. He tensed and felt more cuffs on his wrists, probably chained to the arms of the chair. Neatly subdued, no fuss, no muss, he thought bitterly. A rustling to his left turned out to be the girl, still unconscious, being secured in the same way by the suit's twin. The two men, having completed this part of their job, exited the room without a backward glance and closed the door behind them.

Roman scanned the room quickly, then more slowly with growing concern. It worried him that their surroundings were so mundane. It appeared they were in a luxurious conference room, state of the art, with huge bay windows on one side and a long class conference table on the other surrounded by quality ergonomic office chairs (not one of the ones he and the girl were strapped to he noted). The walls were covered in motivational prints, and the table was overlooked by a giant flatscreen monitor. They were near the windows, and though the lights in the room were dim, there was plenty of light coming in from the lights of the city coming through the windows. Ah, so they were in Quinn's inner sanctum, his personal office suites in his tower downtown. He cast another look at the girl to make sure she was doing okay, and found her awake and conscious enough to glare at him.

He raised his eyebrows incredulously. "Surely you are not blaming our predicament on me?"

"Of course this is your fault! This never would have happened if you had stayed out of my way and let me perform my duty. You are an incompetent and a fool and a …" her words transitioned to French, and he guessed from the heat in her voice that they were not complimentary. She yanked at her cuffs to test their slack, then wiggled in the chair. He knew what she was doing.

"Save your energy, they've taken everything we had. All of our gear is over there on the table." He had seen them in his earlier inspection. Besides his earpiece and personal effects, he could feel the raw spot on his chest where the electronic tattoo had been. His gadgets were lying next to what had to be her gear. He studied them with interest.

Besides the empty hilt there was a long skinny dagger with an ivory hilt, a leather bracer full of throwing spikes, an old small leather bound book, and a silver bracelet with small metal charms hanging from it.

"Traveling light I see," he said wryly as he watched her take in their surroundings as well. His only response was another angry glare. That wouldn't do. They needed to cooperate or they were both in trouble. He had rarely been in this situation before but he immediately realized that there had to be upfront open communication. "Listen, we need to calm down and think things through. Obviously, Quinn got the drop on both of us, regardless of who's fault it could have been. Personally, I feel like he had advance notice about tonight from somewhere. But setting all that aside, we need to work together. We have to get free and away from here, then we can argue about who gets to take him out from the safety of not tied up in the target's room."

She stopped moving as she thought about it. Her young face was unaccustomed to concealing her emotions; he watched every thought play out. Finally, with visible reluctance, she nodded. "Very well, you make a good point. For once. I will agree."

He smiled and let out an exaggerated breath. "Good, glad you could see things my way." He grinned wider when she narrowed her eyes. "Alright, so let's start by actually introducing ourselves and where we're from. Maybe we can connect some dots on how Quinn knew about us. You can come clean, I know you're no Dolores."

She pursed her lips, then said, "My actual name is Eve. I've been sent by the Order of Tares to eliminate Sean Quinn."

Roman filed away the unfamiliar name. "Fair enough, my turn. My real name is Roman Capule. I've also been sent to make sure Mr. Quinn meets an unfortunate end tonight. I am under contract to the Robinson Estates. I'm a spy."

Eve paled visibly. "No," she whispered.

"Oh yes my dear," interjected an unfamiliar voice. Both heads snapped to the door, where the tuxedo-clad figure of Sean Quinn had entered the room. "He is indeed a super secret special agent, a spy, a saboteur, an assassin. It took me far too long to figure out who you were, Mr. Stephanos. Kudos to you, sir," he tipped an imaginary hat to Roman, who nodded in acknowledgment. "I'm usually pretty good about picking up on most of your type, but you are as good as your reputation. I've heard so much about the great Roman...I just never expected to meet you face to face. I am honored. You, however, my exotic young lady, are an enigma to me. There doesn't seem to be any information about you. So my question is," he stood in front of her, still smiling, still playing the inquisitive host, "Who are you?" The smile could not quite conceal the hard steel in his voice.

She just looked up at him, her mouth pressed close, her eyes communicating her response. Without a change in expression, he slapped her across the face. She growled and tried to leap up at him, teeth bared, but the restraints held. Quinn casually reached out and pushed her back in her chair.

"Who. Are. You. I won't say it again. You aren't just an assassin or a professional like him. This, for example," he reached over and patted the dagger, "should not exist. Especially not in the hands of a little girl."

The rage made her throw her shoulders back and look him squarely in the eyes. "I am not any assassin, monster. I am Eve Strauss, of the Order of Tares, and I will be your undoing."

Roman broke in. "Is all this necessary, Quinn? She's a bystander, collateral damage. This is between me and you. Leave her out of it, she's not a part of it. Uncuff me and we'll settle this man to man…"

"Demon."

It was said flatly, under her breath.

"What," Quinn said, unnerved.

"Demon. I name you, demon. Lesifuges, Bringer of Riches and Shortener of Life. You killed my father, you are corruption in flesh. I have been sent by the Order of Tares on a holy mission to destroy your kind. You have been marked for death by those who know what you are."

Both men stared at the girl. Roman was staring incredulously. He started to wonder about the girl's mental health. Eve seemed a bit unbalanced.

"Eve," he started in an effort to repair the damage. He was interrupted.

"How is it that name is still known in this world?" Quinn was surprised but amused. "And the Order of Tares? That pathetic little hunting club? I thought it was destroyed decades ago. Amazing the resilience of you little cockroaches. So what, girl, does that make you a demon hunter?"

Roman felt he was losing control of the situation.

"Yes," she hissed at him. "Like my father before me. Murderous monster. Demonic scum."

"Your father," Quinn mused. "Strauss, you say? I don't think I've ever met a demon hunter by the name of Strauss."

"Listen, neither of you is making sense…"

"I took my mother's name, as is proper. My father was Joseph Henry."

Quinn's eyes lit up. "Yes, that name is known to me! We did tangle a time or two. But you've been misinformed, my little demon hunter. I did not kill him. I wanted to. But it seems that honor went to another. Shame."

"Are you two insane?" Roman blurted out. The two turned to stare at him as if he had just appeared. "You're talking about demons and hunters like it's normal? Do you expect me to believe that this is real? How am I supposed...to…" Roman trailed off as he noticed Quinn's grin. It just kept getting bigger and bigger. It started to wrap around his suddenly bald and scaly head. His eyes were burning purple embers. Had Quinn always been tall, so tall he towered over Roman? More importantly, had Quinn always had a second set of arms, tipped with razor-sharp talons?

Sean Quinn laughed hoarsely as Roman drew back in horror, his mind shutting down in shock. "Poor, pathetic little Roman. You just now realize you are in over your head. You never could have hurt me, dog. You could barely cause me discomfort." His violet dripped eyes swiveled to Eve. "Don't get cocky, my little huntress. Did you really believe an amateur like you could take down a demon lord such as myself when your father couldn't even do it? Even your toys are nothing more than that...toys in the hands of a girl playacting at being like her daddy; a no-name, pathetic demon hunting failure from the island."

Eve choked on a squeal of rage and lunged at him again and again as he roared with laughter. Then he stopped and leered, his eyes roving up and down her body as she struggled fruitlessly.

"You're lucky I'm not one of those demons that takes pleasure in the taking of human females, my little huntress. You'd make a fine specimen." Eve spat at him, and Roman broke out of his paralysis to yank at his own bonds. Quinn chuckled viciously and held up a claw.

"No need to fret, cockroaches. My tastes don't run so deviant. But others' do. Your worth to me is far greater as a traded favor, my little huntress. Your purity and your heritage make you a precious commodity to those that value such things. Get comfortable, my very important guests," he said as he shrank back into his human guise. "I'll be back with hopefully a better idea of what to do with you."

Still chuckling to himself, Quinn walked out of the conference room and closed the door behind him.

Eve screamed, she cursed in several languages, she rocked back and forth in the chair and beat at the cuffs so much Roman could see her wrists start to bleed. Nothing he said made a dent in the girl's frenzy. After quite some time of that, she suddenly collapsed back in her chair, her chest rising and falling heavily, her head turned away from him. The violence had made her hair come loose completely, and the swinging locks hid her face from him. Thus he was completely floored when he heard her sobbing.

Roman was above all things a professional. He prided himself on having the experience and skill to get through whatever life threw at him. But as he watched the young girl breaking, he vividly recalled that sharp fear and helplessness he felt when he had first started this game.

"There was a mission back before you were born. We were being dropped in the jungle as part of a unit to capture some foreign national's cousin, We jumped from the plane at night and immediately came under fire. I was only twenty-two at the time, young enough to feel I could pick up whatever I needed to know along the way but old enough to have known better. I hadn't bothered letting anyone know I didn't know the first thing about HALO jumping, and definitely nothing about aerial evasive maneuvers." He looked up at the ceiling, remembering that moment when he had realized he was going to die. Dimly he heard her stop crying. "The marine tasked to guard me was shredded before my eyes. I could hear the bullets thudding into flesh over the roars of the guns and the men around me screaming. Screaming orders, screaming directions, screaming in pain. All I could do was shut my eyes and pray. Pray that I would make it through the gunfire, through the darkness, through the landing. I never felt so helpless in my entire life, and I haven't since. I promised myself and whoever I was praying to that never again would I be caught so vulnerable again."

He stopped, too aware. He looked out the window and tried to find the moon. He wasn't sure how long they had been left alone. Over an hour, he was pretty sure.

He wasn't surprised to hear her gruff voice. "I'm guessing you made it. The Lord works in mysterious ways." She paused as he looked back at her, She had composed herself, and although her eyes were still puffy they were clear, and no longer looked maniacal. She pursed her lips. "I am sorry for blaming you for this predicament. It is obvious you didn't know what was happening, what the truth of it was. And I am sorry about your situation. I didn't realize you had been sent on a suicide mission."

He nodded politely, then started. "Say what?"

She looked straight into his eyes. "The Robinson Estates. Your employers. They know Sean Quinn is a demon. They know that you would fail and be caught and killed, possibly in sacrifice to him. They sent you here to die."

He blinked at her, slowly. "And how did you come to this conclusion? With your supernatural hunter powers?"

She bit her lip. "The Robinson Estates is mentioned in my father's journal. They are a cabal of vampire lords."

Roman nodded, still thinking. He wasn't sure how much to trust her. But then again, there was Quinn. "Who's your father?"

"Joseph Henry was born and raised in Jamaica, in Spanish Town. There...was an incident involving vampires there, and he vowed to hunt them down. He found out about a sect of hunters left over from the Spanish Inquisition and traveled to Trier Germany. That's where he met my mother,

Eve was silent for a bit. "He had found the Order of Tares, created by Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit priest, and former witch confessor. He started training to become the best hunter in the world, to find out what happened to his son, to eliminate what he now understood to be the demon taint among mankind. He met Mother during that time, a direct descendant of Spee himself and an aspiring huntress. Lineage is traced through the mother, you see. They married soon after graduation and began working in the field as a team. Mother was pregnant when the castle was Order was destroyed. She gave birth to me in the forest outside as they fled the siege. A barghest found them and she held it off while my father took me to safety. That was the last time he ever saw her. He raised me to be a hunter, moving all over Europe and Asia, raising me as best as he could in between his own crusade to avenge his family and the Order. Three years ago he left me with some trusted priests and went after a solid lead on the demon behind the Order attack. And that was the last time he was heard from."

Roman listened to this tale with some incredulity, but he couldn't deny what had just happened. "Quinn mentioned novice. Is this your first time in actual combat, girl?"

Eve smiled nervously. "Actually, yes. The priests refused to let me leave, telling me it was too dangerous. I trained as best as I could and studied my father's books and personal journal. He had extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the demon world, and kept it all in that book over there. That's how I know about the Robinson Estates. He found out they are heavily involved in the medical and pharmaceutical industries clandestinely. They pull a lot of major strings for their kind. He just didn't know any specifics about them, like where they were based or who the members actually were."

Roman though of Rosalyn and an ice cube formed in the pit of his stomach. "I might know quite a bit about all that. I might know far more than they intended me to know." His skin burned as he thought about how he had been used all these years, on missions he had believed to be righteous, and then just thrown away at the end, without even knowing the rules of the game. The real game, as it turned out.

Eve sighed. "Not that it matters at present. We're trapped here by a demon, and you're probably going to be sacrificed, and I'm going to be made a demon bride."

Roman coughed convincingly to cover up his sudden discomfort. She was still very innocent about some worldly matters. "Actually, not really. You weren't really paying attention to my story. I vowed never to be vulnerable and contained as long as I'm capable of movement." he held up his freed hands and grinned.

Eve's jaw dropped. "How in the world…?"

Roman held up the handcuff key he kept hidden. "No time. We have work to do. Quinn will probably be back any second. This is our chance to get him, but we have to work together to do it. I get that you have special ways of taking him out, you have to trust I know quite a bit about sneaky ambushes and practical combat strategy. I am willing to trust you...will you trust me?"

Eve looked at the proffered key for a second, then looked him in the eye. "Yes."


Quinn walked into the room with an easy step, smiling down at what was written on the sheet of paper in his hand. He didn't even bother to look up.

"Good news, my young strumpet. You were the subject of an intense bidding war, but there's been a winner. You'll be pleased to know that…" He stopped abruptly as he sensed the change in the room. In one fluid motion he dropped the paper and swung an arm up to block the attack on his left. Roman had managed to get close enough with the dagger to strike at his flank but only managed to nick him before he was thrown back by the force of Quinn's counterattack. Even so, Quinn hissed in pain and his lower right arm went to the wound. He jerked it back as if burned.

The dagger is a rare metal believed to have been mined from a meteorite, blessed and anointed by the Jesuits, and is storied to contain a petrified splinter from the True Cross. It hurts their kind and poisons them like acid. Her voice rang in Roman's memory.

"What are you playing at, Capule? Do you think you can take me? ME?" he roared. "I caused the collapse of the Roman Empire because I was BORED! You are ants to me, pests to be used and smashed!" His lower extremities grew sickly green glowing claws, and he launched himself at Roman.

The agent met him head-on. He switched the dagger to his right gloved hand and thumbed a pad on the other. The smell of ozone crackled in the room and Quinn growled as the electrical charge traveled down the dagger and shot into his chest. Though it didn't appear to injure him much, he did stop in his tracks and draw a deep breath.

Electricity itself doesn't do much to a demon other than reveal their invulnerability to it, but maybe mixed with the holy metal it will at least cause a reaction. However, that's only a theory my father had. Chalk one up for Daddy Joseph, Roman thought and skirted around the table away from the ever-growing monster.

For his part, Quinn wasn't stupid. He instantly smelled the trap and whirled around. Eve had stepped out from behind the door holding the brace of throwing spikes. He sneered, the expression grotesque on his shifting face.

"My little huntress, come to redeem your honor? You're as ungainly as a giraffe and twice as ugly. You can't hope to do half as well as your silver fox here has. At least you've sense enough to leave the fighting to the men…" A flash of metallic light and a throwing spike grew out of his left eye. His scream of rage and pain made her flinch, and he rushed her. She stood her ground and let fly every spike she had with unerring accuracy, but Roman saw her faltering as Quinn closed.

"Now!" he shouted, as he threw the dagger at the demon's exposed back. Quick as a cat Quinn spun back around and caught the blade in one claw. A wicked grin spread across his face as he crushed the dagger to pieces, purple ichor still dripping off his chin. The expression changed to shock as a glowing sword erupted from his chest, white and pure.

The sword was forged by Friedreich Spee himself in his last years, in ways that we can no longer understand or duplicate. It is fueled by faithful and righteous anger, and can only be wielded by one pure in faith and spirit and body. My mother used it until she married, and then she kept it to hand down to her child. The blade only exists in our world when in the presence of those that don't belong to it, and it is impervious and invisible to all their powers and magicks. It destroys outsiders on contact.

"No," he whispered hoarsely. Eve was braced behind him, holding the hilt with both hands, the sword's glow enveloping her in an angelic halo.

"Yes, my little demon," she spat through gritted teeth. "May the grace of the Lord have mercy on whatever you call a soul." Then his body collapsed to the floor and melted into a purple green ooze that evaporated into nothingness within seconds. All that was left was a large gold coin with a strange symbol on it. Huntress and agent stared at each other over it, chests heaving. He grinned at her. "Not bad for a first mission, girl." She smiled back in weary triumph.


"Hey Rosalyn, you still there?"

"Roman! Where the blazes have you been? You fell off the grid hours ago! Are you alright? What happened?"

"I'm fine, got a scare when his men tried to grab me, and in the scuffle, some of my equipment got damaged. I had to take off and lay low. I think I'm in the clear for now. How's Christy?"

"Son after you disappeared with that waitress she got approached by Aaron Sanders. He asked her some questions about you then disappeared too. He came back after half an hour and basically just took over your date with her. They went home together."

"I'm not surprised. Listen, I…"

"Where's Quinn, Roman? His limo was spotted leaving the mansion and headed downtown."

"No idea. I never got to get close enough. I think he made me. I'm gonna have to do a disappearing act for a bit myself to make sure, maybe come up with another angle to go at him. Let them know the contract is still valid, but I'll need more time. My rates will drop accordingly."

A forced chuckle. "No problem, Roman. For you anything. Check in as soon as you can." A pregnant pause, then almost too casually, "By the way, did you find out what was the deal with that waitress?"

Roman almost wished he could reach through the phone and choke her. Instead, he kept his voice calm and slightly confused.

"Not a thing. She seemed suspicious, but I got attacked before I could get to her. You get anything on her?"

"Nothing, she's a nobody. She was probably just a red herring. I would just forget about her. Keep yourself safe and get back to the Estates."

"Copy that."

Roman dropped the earpiece to the floor and stomped on it. He then looked up into the expectant green eyes of his new partner.

"Let's get them."