LW: Would you both mind introducing yourselves and letting the readers know a little bit about your background?
She ran weathered, veined hands down her slacks and pushed back her shoulder. “I run a homeless shelter in…downtown L.A. Near Union Station.”
With a raised brow, she delivered me a stare that could probably freeze vodka. And since I’ve never known vodka to freeze, I considered that formidable. However, I’m the author, so I occasionally get to pull the delicate strings.
“Decibel, please,” I asked.
“Fine. But for the record, I didn’t volunteer to be here. And I’m only an acquaintance of Thaddeus Kane’s.”
I waited the requisite sixty seconds of silence to honor the diva. We’d get nowhere unless she gave an inch. I know where the skeletons are buried—I know she has plenty of inches to give. I was willing to wait.
“You know very well that I’m of the Naamah clan. Descended of Samael. Demons of the first and worst order. The least of my faults is a lineage to Lilith.”
The last was a hiss, but I didn’t press her. I’m the writer, but she’s a several thousand-year-old demon. Tally had the good sense to stand and move behind me. I can’t save her but I can rewrite this scene if she gets injured.
LW: Okay, so how did you meet Kane?
Arms crossed over her chest, she glared at Decibel. I twisted in my seat to keep eye contact, but she didn’t really acknowledge me.
“I have regulars who visit my shelter. Some just want a meal. Some get a night’s peace before I kick them out in the morning.” She finally glanced my way. “Funding for these people gets worse every year. I don’t mean that people aren’t kind, but everyone’s strapped. So I’m happy to take whatever people are willing to donate. Food, clothes, even dog food because a few of the strays have strays of their own.”
Slowly, she edged by me and resumed her seat, sliding it closer to me. “A few years ago, I started getting packages of clothes. Bundles of new jeans, jackets, blankets and such, left on the back doorstep every few weeks. Then boxes of food started appearing. And finally, I found cashier checks for the shelter buried in the boxes.”
She pursed her lips and twisted her fingers together. Perhaps she was thinking back, but her gaze kept shifting toward Decibel’s feet. “I appreciate all the contributions everyone brings, but this looked so much like someone making retribution that I started waking up early to catch the person. I run a clean establishment. Getting mixed up with drug dealers or syndicate groups would derail all the work I’ve done.”
She stopped and I leaned closer. “What did you find?”
Startled out of her thoughts, she blinked. “I found Kane leaving seven huge frozen turkeys and twelve hams on my doorstep on Christmas Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I grilled him despite the donation. I asked him questions about who he was and why he did this. All he would tell me was that he’d had help when he needed it and since he passed through this neighborhood on his way to church, it seemed like a good place to give back.”
“Did you believe him?”
“Are you crazy? He can’t recite a line of the Bible. But I kept my eye on him. Watched him over the months, and then over the years. He knew when my regulars had problems. He even found some of them who had lost their minds, and brought them home. He wore me down. I can’t fault a man for doing good work.” She glanced between the two of us. “Even when he gets himself mixed up with the wrong element.”
“I can’t beat that, so I’ll pass.”
“No passes,” I said. “Share or I’ll have to share for you.”
Her right brow shot beneath the gloss of tamed brown curls, then she examined the details of her manicure. “I don’t have the righteous moral ethic that some people do.” She glanced toward Tally again, and the lunged for the woman’s wrist before Tally could vacate her seat again. “If I was going to harm you, I’d have done so. But then Kane would find out and there’d be all sorts of hell because he thinks you are his to protect. Another in his growing list of weak mortals. So stop fidgeting.”
Tally jerked her arm away, but remained seated.
“Now, back to Kane.” Decibel closed her eyes and tapped her nail between her perfectly trimmed brows. The forced frown didn’t even mar her smooth mocha skin. Then her eyes opened. “Now I remember. I tracked down Kane because his determination to have a conscience and draw a line between evil and innocent while serving a demon clan had earned him a reputation. Some considered him a weak link. I suspected he’d survived with skills that would be useful to me.”
“So you sought him out?”
“I found him, cornered him, offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse, and got myself mired deeper in his confounded sense of honor than I should have.”
LW: You both seem to have issues with Kane. Why do you bother to skirt the line for him?
“He’s earned my respect. I won’t jeopardize my shelter for anyone, but he gives way more than he takes. And when he takes, it’s not usually for himself. In my book that buys him a little trust and a margin of leeway.”
“My motivation is simple, he’s the only game in town. I needed him to find those responsible for the threat to pre-immortals who I need to ensure survive. Of all the demon clans, Kane has the skills to detect and withstand the magic the Consortium can dish out. And he’s easily manipulated. That fatal flaw of considering oneself a protector is just too easy to use against him.”
LW: Any final thoughts on Kane’s future?
“Kane knows what I think about him. I’ve said my piece and given the boy the good book.” She paused, rolled one shoulder, and then sent a cold glance toward Decibel. “I hope he finds some what he’s looking for. Like all the people under my roof, maybe more so, he deserves to find peace.”
Decibel offered no reaction to Tally’s rebuke, but she waited several minutes before speaking. “Kane’s future is up to him. We all have choices, decisions—yes, even demons can choose their path.”
The corner of her mouth twitched and then rose in a devilish smile. For a second, I thought I saw a gleam of fire deep inside her pupils. A second later it was gone.
“Whether he believes or not, Kane has a heart that bleeds so much every demon clan can sense him. His life isn’t the quiet, safe haven he believes. He needs strength and allies, not a book, to save the—” She halted and swallowed hard. “We shall see if he lives up to his legacy.”
Copyright © 2011-12 by L.W. Herndon. All rights reserved.
The copyright for this document is owned by L.W. Herndon.