Ruth told me to sit down, so I crossed my arms and remained standing. Armand was slinking through the room behind me, picking up a book only to drop it again without opening it. This could be a really long night.
I began by telling them how we’d been able to track the demon, which inhabited the body of a woman. We’d watched it for some time but realized immediately that it was still confined by the human needs of its fragile host. It had collapsed from exhaustion, slumped against a wall in a narrow alley, and we guessed that the demon must sleep along with its host. Armand concocted a plan to capture it while it slumbered. Keeping the body sedated, he had tried to drink from her to steal the demon’s hidden secrets, but connected to him by blood, it had almost taken possession of him. Jolted awake, the woman had taken flight. I’d easily snatched her up before she escaped, only to find that the woman was dead and the demon was gone. We’d been unable to find it again.
‘It looks like you’ve ruined our best chance of defeating it,’ Ruth said, just as if she wasn’t addressing two of the most fearsome creatures on the globe. Her fingers were covered in silver rings. To complete the image of a scholar, she wore a pair of thick spectacles and clutched a small book to her chest. Greg was silently willing us to leave.
‘Remind me why we need you.’ Armand’s voice was emotionless. I gestured him to stay quiet for all the good it would do.
‘This is painstaking work and I can assure you we will find a solution.’ Ruth’s voice was strong and unwavering. ‘And so far, we haven’t needed you at all.’
I laughed out loud. Point to Ruth.
‘You told me that you would find an answer and so you will.’ My tone was soothing and extracted a nod from Ruth. ‘I appreciate your help. I am sure you understand my concerns.’
Greg was watching me so intently that he didn’t notice the slight figure appear beside him like a malevolent ghost. Armand arched an eyebrow at the screen then snapped the lid shut. ‘At least I have information.’
The last threads of my patience snapped too. ‘This is getting us nowhere!’
‘We should kill these mortals and find the demon,’ he replied, slinking closer. Greg looked quite ill. Armand peered malevolently at Ruth. ‘Which of them do you want?’
‘Oh, that’s really helpful. We’re not killing anyone.’
‘Then that’s where we’re going wrong.’
‘Are you taking this seriously?’ Beside us, the Talamascans radiated a steady wave of tension.
‘Are you?’ He touched my arm in a gesture that might have been a challenge or affection or both.
I shrugged him off, installing myself in the seat by the fire. I was determined to get this meeting over and done with. I resented having to report to the Talamasca intensely, but they had pledged their help and if anyone knew how to get shot of a stalking demon it was them.