01 – Not A DemocracyThe Night Rangers
“No. You’re crazier than Trevor thought if you think I’m going to let you do this.” Jack’s Southern drawl grumbles at me from across the war table. “There has to be another way to lure this fanged fuck out of his hole.”
“We tried the other ways, Sir. What did it get us? Desecrated graves, a dead gravedigger, and us being no closer to catching him than we were three months ago, that’s what. I can do this. It will work.” I thump my fist down on the table. After a glance at Jack, our commander, to Trevor, to Buck, I can see that I’m the only one who thinks this is the way to go. I sigh as I cross my arms.
“I’m not fucking using you as bait. There’s no way I am going to put you or anyone else in that kind of danger.” Jack’s perfectly pouty lips jut out as he sulks.
Jack Talbett is one of the prettiest men I have ever seen; and trust me, I have seen a lot of soldiers. He’s charming too. It’s no wonder they call him the Candyman. I could see myself sucking on that piece long and slow. He wears his dirty blond hair cut high and tight. His eyes remind me of the Atlantic Ocean with their deep blue color and specs of silver. Jack’s quiet dominance, coupled with his perfect physique, is enough to make anyone pause in crossing him.
It’s hard to hold my ground when he sulks like this. I think it’s one of his superpowers.
I roll my eyes and look at Trevor.
He holds his hands up and shakes his head. “Don’t be lookin’ at me, girly girl. I think you’re crazy as fuck.”
Trevor’s brassy Chicago accent makes me smile. Tattoos cover him from head to toe. There isn’t a trace of his natural black hair as his head is freshly buzzed, revealing the tattoos on his scalp. His mustache and goatee make me want to tug on it. Soul patch, he calls it. How does a man who misses nothing when shooting miss how terrible that patch of hair looks? His piercing brown eyes are sharp as he stares at me, and I half expect him to start crossing himself. His superstitions can get out of hand. If he so much as looks at a black cat he spends two days performing all the rituals he can think of to protect against the furry demon.
With a huff, I turn to our demolitions expert and my favorite of the group, Buck. No one knows if that is his first name, last name, or nickname. His flirt game might be weak as hell, but he’s a beast of a man. Clocking in at six foot six with shoulders twice as broad as mine, I can’t believe he passed the size requirements for training. His soft green eyes remind me of moss growing over stone. I’ve seen a picture of his wavy, unruly hair when he grows it out; but, like the rest of the guys, the top of head is shaved skin..
“Awe, c’mon.” Buck shakes his head. “Don’t drag me into this. You two sort it out. I’ll blow the shit up. That’s the deal. I’m shit for making plans. You know that.” He holds his hands up to say he’s out.
That leaves me, Tabitha Murphy, Murphy for short. I’m the new guy. Turns out, a demon possessed the last guy and drove him bat-shit crazy, leaving this team without their healer. . Technically, I am more the close-quarters, sneak attack, rune maker. I’m no Half Divine, but I learn fast and have an affinity for magic.
With a snort, I cross my arms. “All in favor of the plan, raise your hand.”
“I abstain,” Buck and Trevor throw out faster than I had hoped.
“Great. That means we’re doing it.” I chirp.
“Hold up there, Murphy. They’re out, so it’s just you and me, and my vote counts twice. We’re not doing it.”
“That’s not how democracy works.”
“This ain’t a democracy.” Jack counters.
“You would think someone called the Candyman would be sweeter than this.”
All three men erupt into laughter at my turn to pout and sulk. Eventually, I grin at the joke and laugh with them. The tension breaks, and we relax.
Once the moment passes, I look down at the map, palming the table. Buck comes closer and presses against me while pretending to read the map.
“Do you have a better plan, Jack? We have been at this for months with nothing to show for it. And I don’t think there is any other way to get him to come out and play.” I chew against my lipin thought, then smirk. “Unless you think he’s into dudes?”
I look up to find Jack staring at me. I see the fear in his eyes. He is afraid of putting me at risk. I hate this macho, protect the girl, bullshit. I’m every bit a soldier he is. He isn’t seeing me, as I see the storm clouds of emotions in his eyes. He’s seeing Kevin, the guy they found out after-the-fact was a descendant of an angel. When the demon got to Kevin, it caused his angelic side to fall, rendering him a threat to humanity. He turned on Jack, Buck, and Trevor, forcing them to murder him. I can sympathize with his situation. He was responsible for bringing Kevin home, and he failed.
“I’m not him. I will be smart. I’ll get runed up and keep a weapon on me.”
“You think he’ll show up with you wearing tactical gear?” Jack’s brow raises as he crosses his arms.
My eyes roll so hard it hurts. “Of course not. I said a weapon on me. It’s not like I’m going out there in my Superman cape. And if you don’t want to do this plan, then we pack our shit and go home. Tell the Iscariot we can’t help and to go play nice with the Van Helsings. You really want to let those English fucks crow about catching the big bad vampire the yanks are afraid of?”
“Fuck that noise.” Buck butts in, and I bite my lip hard to keep from smirking. His ego is as big as the rest of him. “I say we parade her ass right on out there and blow the fanged fucker to mist.”
Jack narrows his eyes and shakes his head. “Buck, stop thinkin’ with your dick, man. You blow him up, it blows her up. Then who are you going to jack off to?” He turns to Trevor. “Could you take the shot? In the dark? That’s what three, three-twenty?”
Trevor twists the toothpick between his teeth, rolling it between two fingers as he eyes the map. “I need a few days to scope it out. We weren’t planning on dealing with this part of the city. The holy rollers ain’t gonna like it.”
“You let me deal with the Iscariot. You have three days to get it scouted. Meanwhile, you two, keep your hands to yourselves. Buck, you prep for containment. You.” He points to me, and I bat my eyelashes to look as innocent as possible.
“You fucking wipe that grin off your face. If Trevor says he can’t get a clean shot from any angle, we scrap the plan, and come up with a new one. You are heading to the library to brush up on your runes. Talk to Rowena Harper.” Jack glances at his watch and sighs. “I’ll talk with Cardinal Renford in the morning.”
Buck and Trevor give each other a look before they run. Cowards.
Jack rubs his hand over his face. “Murphy, you don’t have to prove yourself. This is what, our third, or fourth, mission together?”
“It’s not about proving myself, Jack. It’s about being the right man for the job. We know he has an affinity for young, pretty girls who wander away from crowds. He won’t mess with a girl who has a guy on her arm. And he knows the Iscariot. You saw him abandon his hunt and vanish the moment he got a whiff of one of those holy rollers.”
“This isn’t like Monaco. This beast is older. We have no idea what he can do and how fast he can do it. One thing goes wrong, and you’re a sitting duck. Or worse.”
I come around the table and rest my hand on Jack’s shoulder. “No fear, Jack. I’m not afraid to face the bad guys. You can’t be afraid, either. I need you on my six. We’re in this together, and if Trevor says he can’t take the shot, we’ll find another way. I’m crazy, not stupid.” I give him a grin.
“That’s the problem, Tabitha. You should be quaking in your boots. These monsters are dangerous. Just because we understand we have to fight them doesn’t mean we’re not afraid. Fear keeps you alert. Keeps you sharp.”
“You’re wrong, Jack. Fear makes you dumb. It paralyzes you. It makes you take the safe path, not the right one. We’re all that stands between these monsters and humanity.” All the jovial banter leaves my tone as I square up to face off with my commander. “You are so hung up on losing Kevin, you can’t think about how to use us right. You need to trust us to do the right thing when the time comes. You have to be willing to take the risk to get the reward, Sir.”
He studies me in silence. “Fine, we’ll do it your way. But, if anything goes wrong, we are there to protect you. Not to kill him. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” I reply. “But if you have the shot, take it. Don’t let this fangy fuck get away because you’re sweet on me.” I flash him a toothy smile.
“Don’t you worry. Cause when things go bump in the night…” He grins back.
“We bump back.”
“Hoo-Ah,” he calls. It sounds more like an amen than the army’s call back.