Years ago, Tom Jurgen confronted a demon in a box—and set it free. Now it’s back, possessing Tom’s latest client. Stopping the killings leads Tom to revelations he never wanted to hear.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
My client sauntered down the street, a black raincoat flopping around him. He paused at a corner, then took the crosswalk to a bus stop.
A young woman sat in a short, bulky coat. She looked for a brief moment, then dug for her cell phone as the man sat next to her.
I crossed the street against the light, narrowly avoiding a racing taxi. The driver honked at me. I ignored it.
Tapping her keypad, the woman shifted to the far side of the bench.
My client slid closer.
“Hey!” I jumped the curb. “Walker! Mr. Walker?”
Walker lunged at the young woman. He opened his jaws wide. He wasn’t a vampire—I’d seen him in the daylight—but he looked ready to rip her throat open with his teeth.
The woman twisted, punching at his face, but he jumped on top of her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.
Then she jammed her phone against his shoulder.
“Ahh!” Walker screamed. Not a cell phone—a stun gun that looked like a cell phone. His body twitched from the electric shock. “Damn it. Damn it . . .”
The woman jabbed him again. Walker fell off the bench, moaning.
“Stop!” I held up a hand. “I’ll take care of him.”
She glared at me. “Who the hell are you?”
“A friend. Run.” I crouched down. “Just run.”
She took my advice. But she pulled a real phone from her pocket as she raced away.
“Walker.” I rolled him over. “Walker? Come on. We have to get out of here.”
FIVE HOURS EARLIER
“My name is Jeremy Walker.” He was a white male, late thirties, with thin brown hair and a short beard. “I’m a financial advisor. I heard you handle—strange cases.”
My name is Tom Jurgen. I’m a private detective, ex-reporter. And my cases do tend to veer into strange territory, for better or worse.
I sipped my coffee. We were in a Starbucks on the north side. “What can I do for you, Mr. Walker?”
“I want you to follow me.” He glanced out the window. “Tonight. Maybe for the next few nights.”
“Okay.” I checked my schedule on the phone. I had tickets for an REM concert at the United Center this Thursday, but that was three days away. “Why?”
He hugged his arms around his chest. “I’ve been having—blackouts. I don’t know what I’m doing. I need to know that I’m not—doing anything bad.”
Walker hung his head down. “I have these dreams, where I’m . . . hurting people. I don’t know. But I have to find out.”
“Okay.” I tapped my phone. “I’ll need some information. Where do you live? How do I contact you? And what time should I start?”
BACK IN THE PRESENT
I dragged Walker to my Honda. Fortunately I was only parked a few blocks away.
Police sirens rang in the sky. I pushed Walker into the Honda and buckled him into the seat, then ran around to climb into the driver’s side. He moaned as I hit the accelerator.
Goddamn it. I swerved around a corner. “Walker? Walker! Wake up!”
“I don’t . . .” He sat up. “Where are we?”
“We’re escaping the cops.” Sweat ran down my neck. I’d never done this before. As a private eye, I try to stay friendly with the police. And I had friends in the Chicago Police Department. They wouldn’t be happy if they found out I was shielding a streetside attacker.
I stopped for a red light. “You attacked a woman at a bus stop.” I only hoped there hadn’t been any surveillance cameras.
“Oh god.” Walker leaned forward. “It was him. Not me. Him.”
What the—The light turned green. “Just sit there. Don’t say anything.”
“Right.” Walker closed his eyes.
Up in my apartment I sat Walker down on my sofa. He was thirsty, so I got some water and a Coke for me. Then I called Rachel.
“What?” She squawked in my ear. “I’m busy here! I’ve got two sailors, and I’m trying to thank them for their service . . . okay, I can’t even do that anymore. But I’ve got two web pages to design by tomorrow, and I haven’t slept in two days. And some of that’s your fault.” She sighed.
“I’m sorry.” Rachel’s my upstairs neighbor, and my girlfriend. She’s at least partly psychic, and that’s why I needed her right now. “It’ll only take a couple of minutes.”
I gulped my Coke. I wanted a beer, but I can’t drink because of the medication I take for anxiety. Unfortunately, the medication doesn’t actually prevent anxiety-causing situations.
Rachel opened the door. “Okay, what’s up?”
She’s got red hair and hazelnut eyes. Walker checked out her jeans. I couldn’t exactly blame him. Rachel’s cute.
“This is Jeremy Walker. He’s my client. He might be possessed.”
Walker flinched at the word “possessed.” “What? I don’t know—”
“Just stay there.” I motioned to Rachel. “This will only take a moment. Rach? Please?”
Rachel stepped forward with a sigh. “Okay. I’m going to put my hands on your head.”
Walker nodded, his shoulders tense.
Rachel closed her eyes. Her fingers brushed his forehead, and then she planted her hands around his temples.
Rachel moaned. “Ohh . . . ohh . . .” Her legs shuddered. Walker’s eyes flickered.
“Wait—wait.” Walker’s head shook. “Ohh . . . it hurts . . . hurts . . .” He bit his lip. “Janeanne . . . help me . . . ohh . . .”
“It’s him . . . it’s him.” Rachel’s hands shook. “Oh god, oh god . . .”
I reached forward to pull Rachel’s hand away—
—and then she spun around, grabbing for a chair. She rocked back and forth on her heels, gasping, and then she leaned over and threw up on the hardwood floor.
I held her shoulders, trying to keep out of the way. “Rachel? Rach! What’s going on?”
Walker stood up. “What the hell?”
“It’s him!” Rachel jabbed a finger at Walker, coughing. “That demon! From the box! It’s—inside him!”
Oh god. Two years ago I’d investigated a case of suicide—caused by a demon kept trapped inside a box. The demon had momentarily taken Rachel. Until I’d set it free.
Free to go . . . anywhere.
“Uh . . .” Walker clutched the edge of the table .“What’s she talking about?”
“It’s a demon.” I held up a hand. “We’ve dealt it with before. I can get it out of you. I know a guy.”
“I don’t know.” He walked widely around Rachel as she tried not to throw up again. He looked at the door. “This is freaking me out.”
“Just wait.” I held up a hand. “I can take care of it. You’ve got to give me a chance.”
“It’s killed people!” Rachel jabbed a finger at him. “It’s right there inside him. It’s—it wants to kill people. More people. It—” She grabbed his chair and sank down before her legs gave out. “You’ve got to—kill it.”
That was too much for Walker. He ran for the door.
I didn’t blame him. Rachel was freaking me out too.
I ran after him, but he slammed the door in my face. His feet clattered on the steps next to the elevator. I followed, gasping hard by the time I made the ground floor.
The front door was closed. I went out into the night, the cool air chilling the sweat on my body, looking both ways up and down the sidewalk.
But Walker was nowhere in sight.
I took the elevator back up to the third floor. Rachel was wiping up her vomit with a roll of paper towels. “Do you have a mop somewhere?”
“I’ll take care of it. Are you okay?”
She ran a hand over her lips. “Let me rinse my mouth out.”
I mopped up as she spent fifteen minutes in the bathroom. I was trying to call Walker on my phone when she came out, her face pale.
Walker didn’t pick up.
Rachel sagged into a chair. “Sorry about . . . that.”
“My fault.” All the way.
“Is he gone?”
I held up my phone. “He’s not answering.”
Rachel sighed. “So now what?”
“Now . . .” I wanted a beer now more than anything ever. I sipped my Coke. “I’ve got to deal with this.”
“How?” Her eyes zeroed in on mine. “You got a plan?”
I shook my head. “Not exactly.”
Rachel groaned. “Okay. It’s not your fault. I was just—when I felt it again—it was so strong. So angry. And I was so scared of letting it into me again. You don’t know—you can’t know how it felt. It was like—like—”
She wiped her eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“Yeah.” I didn’t know whether to hold her or back away. “I’ll deal with it. One way or another.”
“What’s this ‘me’ shit?” She punched me. Hard. “I’m part of this. More than you. We’ve got to stop this thing. Get it out of him and send it back wherever it came from. Right now.”
“Yeah.” I looked at my clock. 10:32 p.m. “I’ll make some coffee.”
Rachel looked into Walker while I tried to track the demon’s murders.
Three attacks in the last two weeks fit the profile: A lone man lunging at women sitting in bus stops or at waiting to cross the street. Same vague description—white male, brown hair, sparse beard. An image from a video camera looked like Walker, or any one of a thousand guys in a black raincoat.
I went back. Chicago has hundreds or murders a year, most of them gang-related—drive-bys, revenge killings, innocent kids caught by stray bullets. And vampire killings. Separating out the random attacks and attempted abductions was depressing, but it wasn’t too hard.
In the end I had 18 open murders over the last two years that matched what I was looking for—and hoped I wouldn’t find.
Different assailants and different descriptions. A wide variety of victims—male, female, black, white, Asian. No obvious connection. A few reporters speculated on a serial killer, but the police would neither confirm nor deny a link between any of the killings.
So a bunch of murders I might be at least partially responsible for—because I’d let the demon go.
I looked at Rachel. I’d had to do it. I’d had to save her . . .
Rachel looked up from her laptop. “What?”
I gulped my coffee. “You find anything?”
She rubbed her eyes. “His address, place of employment—he works at a bank downtown. College—Northwestern, of course. Ex-wife, maybe a girlfriend, and lots of cute cat pictures.” She ran a hand through her hair. “Okay, I might have gotten distracted.”
“Yeah.” I shut my laptop. “Let’s get some sleep.”
“He might be out there.” She tapped some keys. “Give me a few more minutes.”
“Okay.” The demon had been inside Rachel’s head. I couldn’t tell her what to do. I leaned back and folded my arms. My head drooped.
I dreamed. The box the demon had come out of sat in front of me. It glowed like fire.
I pressed my hands on it. Trying to keep it shut. It trembled against my fingers, fighting me. I leaned forward, grunting. Trying to keep it inside.
“Stay in there.” My arms trembled. “Stay . . . inside . . . the box . . .”
“You let me out.” The voice growled like a wolf in the darkness. “You set me free.”
“Stop this.” My throat felt raw. “Go back—wherever you came from. Get out of here!”
“You think you can order me?” The demon’s voice roared inside my head. “You’re nothing. Your girlfriend was tasty, for as long as I had her. But now—”
I lunged forward. “No! You stay away from her! Get out!”
The demon laughed. I lunged forward—
And Rachel hit me in the neck. “Tom! Wake up! I’m going to call an ambulance!”
“No!” I sat forward, gasping. “I’m fine. Just—a dream.”
“You looked like you were having a seizure.” Rachel slapped my face. “Are you all right?”
“I think—I think—”
My phone buzzed on the table. Walker.
I grabbed it. “Tom Jurgen speaking. What’s going on?”
“Jurgen?” Walker’s voice was a whisper. “I don’t know . . . can you come and get me?”
We were too late.
Police lights flared across the North Avenue beach. Walker had told me he was close to a boat in the sand—a restaurant open all summer, but closed in the fall.
Rachel and I came up from the tunnel under Lake Shore Drive to see cops walking around, laying down crime scene tape and talking on radios.
“Damn it.” Rachel’s arms drooped. “Now what?”
I wanted to run away. But I needed to know what had happened.
“Stay here. Or go back to the car. Whatever you want.” I turned off my flashlight. “Let me see what’s going on.”
“No way.” Rachel slugged my arm. “I’m coming with you.”
“Whatever.” I’d learned not to argue.
One of the cops recognized me as I walked toward the building. “Jurgen?”
I stopped. “Hi, uh . . .”
A tall black officer swung her flashlight across my face. “Cameron. And you are . . .?”
“Rachel Dunn.” She stood close to me. “I work with him.”
“What’s going on?” A detective in plain clothes stalked toward us. This one I knew.
“Detective Hawkins.” I kept my hands free of my pockets. “Nice to see you.”
“This isn’t a vampire case, Jurgen.” Hawkins, built like a linebacker, glared at me and Rachel. “What are you doing here?”
Just talking a walk? That wouldn’t cut it. But anything else I could say would get Rachel and me sent downtown. I depended on Rachel to bail me out if I got arrested, but she couldn’t do that if she got thrown in jail too.
So I chose my words carefully. “I’m checking on a client. If he’s not here, I can—”
I shook my head. “I can’t tell you that.”
Hawkins smirked. “Officer Pauling, take them in.”
“Wait!” I held up a hand. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve got a dead woman on the beach here, Jurgen!” Hawkins pointed a finger. “Now you tell my everything you’ve got right now, and maybe I won’t lock you and your girlfriend up for the rest of the week.”
Damn it. I looked at Rachel.
She shrugged. “I can take it.”
I shook my head. “I’m not sure I can.”
Pauling looked at Hawkins. “Sir?”
“Okay, okay!” I stepped back. I’m not a lawyer or a doctor. I can’t protect clients from the law. “My client’s name is Jeremy Walker. He’s possessed by a demon. I’ll give you everything you want—just leave Rachel out of jail. All right?”
Rachel stared at me. For a moment I was sure she’d slug me—hard. But instead she turned away, breathing a sigh of relief.
“A demon.” Hawkins spat in the sand. “Goddamn it, Jurgen, can’t you ever get into anything normal?”
I sighed. “I wish I could, detective.”
Pauling looked at me, then at Hawkins. “Do I take them downtown, sir?”
“No.” Hawkins shook his head. “Sit them in a car and get everything you can about this Walker guy. Then let them go.”
So we sat in the back of a squad car and I gave up everything I had. Including the attack I’d stopped earlier tonight.
Pauling scowled at me through the rearview mirror. “You witnessed an attack and you didn’t call it in? I can arrest you for that right now.”
“I’m cooperating, aren’t I? He was my—”
“If you’d cooperated a few hours ago, that woman might still be alive.”
It hit me then, like a wave of nausea. I managed not to throw up, but I did hyperventilate a bit until Rachel slugged me. “Snap out of it!”
“Yeah.” Pauling shifted in the front seat, “Throwing up in my squad car will definitely get you arrested.”
I started talking. I didn’t know much—just Walker’s phone number and address. Pauling took it down, then told us to wait in the car while she talked to Hawkins.
I sank forward, my face in my arms. “I got that woman killed.”
“The demon killed her.” She rubbed my shoulder. “Plus, you saved that woman tonight.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. I should have . . . done something.”
“Like turn your client in to the police? Oh wait, you just did that.”
“I’m not Sam Spade. I don’t have any legal protection here. I’ll do my best to keep you out of it—”
Rachel snorted. “You notice how she didn’t ask me any questions? She only talked to you.”
I sat up. “So you may have to bail me out again.”
She sighed. “That’s what a good girlfriend does, right? A little dinner, a certain amount of sex, bail the boyfriend out of jail—”
The door opened. I jerked up. Ready to go to jail.
“Go home.” Pauling jerked a finger. “I would have taken you in right now, but Hawkins thinks he can trust you. Be ready to come downtown tomorrow.”
I clambered out of the squad car, my legs shaking. “Thanks.”
“There’s no ‘thanks.’” Pauling backed away as Rachel climbed up from the back seat on the opposite side. “Wait—who are you again?”
“Rachel Dunn.” She lifted her hands over the squad car’s roof. “Do you want to see my ID?”
“She’s my—associate. And my girlfriend.” I kept my arms spread. “She’s okay.”
Pauling stared at her. Then she glanced over her shoulder, looking at the detectives and crime scene techs on the beach.
“Okay.” She nodded. “Same deal. Don’t run. Or we’ll find you.”
Rachel smirked. “Not going anywhere.”
I looked at the lights on the beach. “What was her name?”
Pauling checked her phone. “Lori Santos. She was 27.”
I lowered my head. Rachel grabbed my hand. “Come on. Let’s go.”
The next morning I called Sharon Marmont. She was a lawyer. Not mine, but she’d sent a lot of clients my way.
Fortunately she wasn’t in court. “Good morning, Tom.” I heard her clicking her Montblanc pen. “What can I do for you?”
“I may need a lawyer.” I gulped some coffee. “Maybe not you—no offense. I just don’t want a conflict of interest with my client. He may need you more.”
Heard Marmont tap her pen on a desk. “What’s going on?”
I’m a coward. Okay, I’ve faced down vampires and assorted monsters, but the thought of taking showers in jail with big guys named “Red” and “Skippy” filled me with terror.
But as much I wanted to stay out of jail, I still wanted to protect my client’s interests if I could. “Hypothetically, if a man attacked and killed people while possessed my a demon—what would you do?”
Marmont laughed. “Well, there’s the insanity defense. But that hardly ever works. And the defendant would probably end up in an institution. I probably couldn’t find any expert witnesses to testify authoritatively on demonic possession—at least nobody I could convince the judge and the prosecutor to admit any testimony from. So I’d probably end up making a deal. And I hate that.”
“Yeah.” I sighed. “So, let’s say there was a hypothetical P.I. who got hired by a client who thought he was possessed by a demon. He follows the client around until he stops an attack. He doesn’t call the cops. Then later the demon apparently kills a woman. What do—does he do?”
Marmont took a deep breath. “Your best bet—his best bet—would be to bring the client in, or at least convince him to give himself up to the police. And then get a good lawyer. I can send you some names.”
Rachel came down a few minutes later. “Anything new?”
The murder hadn’t made the print edition of the newspaper, but it was online. I shoved my laptop around. “Take a look.”
“Woman killed on beach,” the headline announced. It had all the facts: Lori Santos, 27. A nurse. Cause of death, strangulation. No sign of sexual assault.
At least my name wasn’t in the story.
“So now what?” Rachel poured herself some coffee and sat down across from me at the table.
I shrugged. “I try to find Walker before the cops do. And convince him to give himself up.”
She snorted. “How likely is that? Either of those?”
“It’s all I’ve got.” I looked at my laptop. “You were looking him up last night. What did you find?”
Rachel opened up her computer and started tapping keys. “Yeah. Before we had to rush out, I had where he lives, where he works, his ex-wife Haley—”
“The cops will already be all over all that.” I shook my head. “Anything else? Aside from cat pictures?”
She glared at me. “Don’t make fun of me if you want me to visit you in jail.” She tapped some keys. “I had to visit this guy in jail downtown once. It wasn’t fun.”
I nodded. “I had to interview a serial killer in Joliet once—”
“Shut up.” She pounded at her keyboard. “This isn’t the same thing. He was . . . nobody.” She leaned back in her chair, her eyes half closed. “Just a guy.”
We don’t ask each other a lot of questions about the past. Rachel knows I was married once, and I know that I’m far from her first boyfriend. “Sorry.”
“Anyway . . .” She sat up and swung her laptop around. “There’s this.”
A social media profile for someone named Janeanne Lane. Young, brown hair, she wore black, mostly. She worked at a bank. The same bank Walker worked for.
“Janeanne.” I looked at Rachel. “He said that last night. When you were—”
“Yeah.” Rachel ran a hand over her forehead. “Don’t remind me.”
“Is she his girlfriend?” I reached for my phone.
“You’re the detective. I’m just your gorgeous assistant.” She lurched up from the table. “Is there more coffee?”
I was already looking for the bank’s number. “Help yourself. Make more. Please visit me in prison. Hang on, here we are . . .”
The bank’s customer service number prompted me to press one for account information, press two to talk to an investment counselor, press three for recent activity on my account, press four to discuss loans and mortgages . . .
I hit zero, which is usually the fastest way to get to a live person. But when the young man on the line transferred me to Janeanne Lane’s extension, all I got was: “Hi, this is Janeanne Lane, I’m not in the office today. For immediate account needs, please contact Mona Hollis at extension—”
I hung up.
Rachel went to make more coffee. By the time she came back, I had a home number for Janeanne Lane in Winnetka. She refilled my cup as I punched the numbers.
“H-hello?” The voice on the other end of the line quavered.
“Janeanne Lane? My name’s Tom Jurgen. I’m a private detective trying to locate Jeremy Walker. He’s a client of mine. I’m trying to help him—”
“Oh god.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper. “He told me about you.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. He called me a few hours ago. He said he’s in trouble.”
I bit my lip for a moment? How much to tell her? “The police are looking for him.”
“I know.” She sounded on the verge of tears. “What should I do?”
“Call the police.” Since I was going to anyway. “Tell them what you know. It’s the best way to help him—and keep yourself safe. If you don’t, they could charge you adding and abetting.”
“Oh.” I heard her swallow. “Right.”
“In the meantime, call me if you hear from him.” I gave her my number.
“Okay. Wait—there was one thing.” She hesitated.
“He said he was looking for a priest. He didn’t say why. He’s not even Catholic!”
Not much of a lead. I couldn’t call every Catholic church in the city, obviously. But at least I knew what he was looking for. “So call the Chicago Police and ask for detective Hawkins. He’s in charge of the case.”
“All right. God, this is a nightmare.”
My nightmares were worse, but I didn’t want to get into that. “Thanks for your help.”
I called Hawkins immediately. “You’re about to get a call from a woman named Janeanne Lane. She’s Walker’s girlfriend, and she’s heard from him, but she doesn’t know where he is.” I gave him her phone number. “And . . . she says he’s looking for a priest. Presumably for an exorcism.”
Rachel gave me a skeptical look. “Think that’ll get you out from under?”
“It can’t hurt.” I gulped some coffee. “I’m too pretty to go to jail.”
Rachel snorted. “Riiight. I’ll visit you every Sunday.”
“We’d better do a binge re-watch of Orange is the New Black.” I tapped my phone.
She cocked her head. “Now what?”
“Walker’s looking for a priest. I might know a guy.”
Father Neal Simmons was a friend of a friend. I’d never met him in person, but he called me back half an hour after I left him a message. “What can I do for you, Mr. Jurgen?”
I took a breath. Would he think I was crazy? “A client of mine is—possessed by a demon. I think he’s looking for a priest for an exorcism, but he’s not Catholic himself. Do you have any ideas where someone would just start looking for an exorcist?”
Simmons laughed. At least he wasn’t hanging up on me. “Well, we both know an ex-priest who does them, but your client probably wouldn’t know to ask him. I suppose he’d call the closest church. He might try the Cardinal’s resident if he wants to go straight to the top. Either way, he’d most likely get a dial tone.”
“I half-expected to get one from you.”
“Well, I’ve seen a lot of things.” Simmons paused. “Of course, he doesn’t necessarily need a priest. My bosses won’t like me saying this, but anyone can cast a demon out in the name of God. Mind you, it isn’t quick or easy, and the demon will taunt you to make you lose faith, but they usually flee in the face of our Lord.” He chuckled. “Sorry for the sermon.”
I’d lost my faith a long time ago, but I didn’t see any need to tell him that. “Good to know. Thanks, Father Simmons. Say hi to Luther for me.”
So I could start calling churches randomly, maybe starting with those close to his house. Or I could stay out of it.
My phone buzzed before I could talk myself into either option. Hawkins. “Good afternoon detective, how’s your day going?”
“Great, up until the part where I had to call you.” His voice was rough. “We talked to Janeanne Lane. How did you find her, anyway?”
“A little psychic detective work and a glance at Facebook. Any luck finding my client?”
“We’re working on it. I’ve even got people calling churches. And thinking I’m a complete nutjob.” He groaned. “Anyway, you’re not off the hook for this, but it helps.”
“So you don’t want me to call the Cardinal and ask if anyone has rung up looking for an exorcist?”
He laughed. That was a good sign. “The only call I want you to make is to me, telling me where to find him.”
“I’ll do my best to stay out of your hair.”
“That makes my day.” Hawkins hung up.
So now what? I had other cases I could work on, none of them urgent, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to focus. A nap sounded like an idea, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep, and Rachel had gone back upstairs.
So I made myself a sandwich, then took a walk around the block to clear my head.
When I got back, Jeremy Walker was waiting outside the building’s front door.
He obviously hadn’t slept. He was wearing the same clothes, stained and grimy with dirt. His eyes were bloodshot and raw.
He stepped forward. “You’ve got to help me!”
I already had my phone out. “You have to go to the police. Right now.”
“But I didn’t kill those women!” He kept his voice to a whisper. “The demon did!”
“And if you don’t turn yourself in he’ll kill more.” I put a hand on his arm. “And the cops might kill you.”
He stared at me, his bloodshot eyes betrayed. “Help me find a priest. Someone who can get this—thing—out of me!”
“I can do that.” I had Hawkins’ number. “But the police won’t give up. We could both go to jail.”
He yanked his arm free. “I hired you to help me!”
“You hired me to follow you. I did. I can’t help you with anything illegal. Even if—”
His face twisted. Darkened. His eyes glowed. “You . . .”
I backed away, frantically stabbing Hawkins’ number.
Walker—the demon—hit me in the face. I staggered back, my eyes watering, and managed not to drop my phone as he shoved my shoulder and jumped down the steps to the sidewalk and ran.
I spun, off balance, as Hawkins barked in my ear. “Jurgen? Now what?”
“He was here. At my building. He’s running south toward Fullerton. I’m—” I ran, huffing and puffing. “Going after him. I tried to talk him into giving himself up, but he’s scared.”
“He should be. You be careful.”
“I’ll call . . . I’ll call you.”
“Sending squad cars now.”
Walker rounded the corner. I ran as fast as I could, trying to keep him in sight without pushing my body harder than it could take. I’m in my forties, not in great shape, and I don’t work out as often as I should. But Walker wasn’t doing much better.
I managed to find Rachel’s number as my phone bobbed in front of my eyes. “Hey, what’s—”
“Walker,” I grunted. “He was here. I’m following him . . . up Fullerton. Cops on the way.”
“You idiot.” But I hung up before she could berate me further.
Walker dashed across the street, dodging cars that blared at him, and then into a coffee shop. He darted out two seconds later—possibly kicked out by a suspicious barista. He looked up and down the sidewalk, breathing hard, and then launched himself back across the street, again weaving between cars and cabs that honked, skidded, swerved, and expressed their displeasure.
I ran to intercept him, my heart pounding as I veered to avoid a nanny pushing a stroller. She flipped me the bird. “S-sssory . . .” I stammered.
Walker pushed his way into a big Walgreens drugstore on the corner.
I called Hawkins. “Walgreens . . . on . . . Fullerton,” I panted, and hung up before he could yell at me.
Cashiers peered suspiciously as I pushed through the revolving door. I didn’t see Walker. “Where’d he go?”
A young African-American woman pointed. “Up there.”
An escalator. This store was a two-story behemoth, more department store than pharmacy. Walker could easily get lost in here. “Tell the cops when they get here.”
She blinked in alarm and reached under the counter—maybe for a button to summon the police.
But sirens already blared in the street. I headed for the escalator, which was mostly clear. I took two steps most of the way up, then paused to catch my breath behind an elderly man with a cane who ignored me.
Walker was nowhere. I leaned over, hands on my knees, trying to decide which way he was most likely to run.
Shouting answered that question. I ran down an aisle of vitamins and herbal supplements toward the rear of the store, where a small food court was set up. Walker was standing in the middle of it while shoppers abandoned their sandwiches and drinks to get as far from him as possible.
I stepped forward, wondering what the hell I was doing. “Walker!” My voice trembled. “Walker!”
He looked up. His face flickered, and for a moment he was human again. “Y-you . . .” He blinked, not certain where he was.
We stood for a moment, staring at each other. Walker was terrified and desperate.
“Jeremy . . .” I held out a hand. “Calm down. Take a deep breath. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“I’m so . . .” He shook his head.
Then he spun around. Restroom doors waited behind him. With a grunt, he fled toward the men’s room.
I followed—just as voices shouted, “FREEZE! Hands where we can see them!”
I lifted my arms, planting my feet wide on the floor. “He’s in there! Don’t shoot him!”
One cop ran around me to the men’s room door. The next other stood on my left side, staying four feet away from me. Both had their handguns out.
The cop next to me spoke without looking at me. “Don’t move, asshole.” He was tall, Hispanic, and broad in the shoulders.
His partner—shorter, white, in wire-rimmed glasses—grabbed the door handle and counted to three.
But before he could pull it open, Walker pushed through, snarling in rage. The demon was back.
The officer next to me pointed his firearm. “FREEZE! Stay where you are!”:
“Don’t shoot him!” My voice was hoarse. “He’s . . . unarmed.” I was about to say, “Possessed,” but I wasn’t sure that would be a compelling reason not to kill my (former?) client.
The smaller cop ducked back and managed to holster his handgun before Walker saw him. As Walker lunged forward, the Hispanic cop shouting another warning, the partner yanked something from his belt and pointed it. A Taser.
Walker’s body jerked as if he was having a violent seizure. His face turned red, then white, and his legs gave out, sending him to the floor with a crash.
The cop near me moved up, still pointing his handgun. The other patrolman stepped forward with caution, leaned down, and quickly pulled Walker’s arm behind his back to snap handcuffs on his wrist.
“Thank you.” My knees shook.
The Hispanic cop glared at me. “Don’t move.”
“Tom Jurgen.” My mouth was dry. “Detective Hawkins knows me.”
“Tom?” Rachel’s voice behind me. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Staying quiet.” I kept my arms high.
She groaned. “Jerk.”
Hawkins met us downtown. “Jurgen.” He shook his head.
“Tell me about it,” Rachel agreed with a sigh.
The two cops took Walker to a high-security cell on a lower level—the same windowless, soundproof room the cops put vampires in when they caught one alive. A video camera monitored the room from a corner of the ceiling.
The cops left, leaving Rachel and me in the room with Hawkins and Walker.
Walker was on a chair, hands cuffed behind his back. “It was him,” he moaned, rocking his head back and forth. “Not me. The demon.”
“Demon.” Hawkins growled. “First vamps, now demons? I remember when our worst problem was gangbangers.”
“What about Al Capone?” I asked.
He glared. “Don’t be a smartass. What do we do with this guy?”
I sighed. “Do you have enough to charge him?” I hated to ask.
“Of course not. Just your word that he was on that beach when Lori Santos was killed. We might be able to get a DNA match from her skin, but that’s going to be a long shot. If he pleads insanity—”
“You know that hardly ever works.” I remembered Sharon Marmont’s words. “I mean, so you might get him off the street and into an institution, but—”
“That’s not fair!” This was Walker, as desperate as the demon, but more terrified than angry. “I didn’t do it!”
“He’s right.” Rachel put her hands on her hips. “It was the demon.”
“”The devil made me do it’ is not a defense.” But Hawkins pulled up a chair. Leaving Rachel and me to stand. I leaned against the wall.
“Mr. Walker!” He leaned forward. “I’m Detective Hawkins, Chicago, PD. I’d like to ask you some questions.”
Walker’s head hung forward, limp. “I didn’t do it.”
“What do you know about the death of Lori Santos last night?”
“I don’t remember last night. Parts of it.” He closed his eyes. “I was on the beach. It was cold.” He shivered, as if remembering the wind. “Then I was running.”
“Did you kill that girl?” Hawkins kept his voice low.
“N-no.” Walker trembled.
His eyes closed. For a moment he looked as if he’d fallen asleep.
Then he smiled, with the face of the demon. “I did.”
He lunged forward, dragging the chair on the dirty tiled floor. He made it almost a foot Hawkins shoved him in the chest.
The chair fell back, leaving Walker—or the demon—squirming and snarling on the floor, flat on his back.
“Nothing can stop me!” Spit flicked from his lips. “Not you, or them, or anyone. I have the powers of Hell inside me.”
“Yeah, yeah, your name is Legion, and you are many.” Hawkins stood up and shoved his chair back. “Guess you’re right, Jurgen.”
Rachel jabbed me. “Try not to let it go to your head.”
Hawkins pulled his phone from a pocket and tapped a key. “Yeah. Can you come down? Yeah, it’s what I thought.”
Hawkins grinned. “You’ll see.”
Walker was back. “Can I have a drink of water?”
“In a minute.”
Five minutes later the door opened. A young man in plainclothes slipped a key card back into his pocket and walked in. He carried a black leather bag like an old-fashioned doctor’s.
“Here he is.” Hawkins gestured to Walker. “Your subject.”
“Hi! Tom Jurgen.” I held out my hand. “This is my associate Rachel.”
“Hal Caffero. I’m a chaplain.”
I raised an eyebrow. “The CPD has a chaplain?”
“I offer counseling services. I’m an Episcopal minister. I’m also a cop.” He showed me his badge.
I glanced at his bag. “And you perform exorcisms?”
“When the need arises.” He set the bag on Hawkins’ chair and opened it up.
“How many?” Rachel asked.
He hung a silver cross around his neck. “Three.”
“How’d they come out?”
For the first time he hesitated. “Fine.”
“Let’s get on with it.” Hawkins picked Walker’s chair up.
“Patience.” Caffero sighed. “This may take a while. One procedure I handled took 20 hours.”
He paused for a short, silent prayer, then looked at Walker. “What is your name?”
“W-walker. Jeremy Walker.” He leaned forward. “Can you really—get this thing out of me?”
“God can.” He took a wooden cross and a bottle of water from his bag.
I glanced at Rachel. She rolled her eyes.
Walker’s eyes zeroed in on the water. “Can I have a drink?”
Caffero unscrewed the cap and poured some water in the palm of his hand. Then he flung it into Walker’s face.
Walker screamed. “Ah! Goddamn you!’ His face twisted into the demon’s. “You’ll burn in Hell!”
“Interesting way to start,” Rachel muttered.
“You’ll go back to Hell.” Caffero held up his cross. “In the name of Jesus Christ our lord, I command you!”
“I’ll go back when I’m ready!” The demon spit at Caffero’s shoes.
Caffero ignored him, waving his cross back and forth and chanting a prayer.
Hawkins crossed his arms. Rachel and I leaned against the wall.
“If this is going to take 20 hours, I’m going to need a chair,” she whispered.
I nodded. “And we’re all going to need a bathroom break.”