Jeff first saw the demon while having lunch at Panera.
The demon, in the form of a middle aged man with thinning black hair wearing khakis and a button down shirt, was ordering a sandwich and checking his phone at the same time in that distracted self important way that people who have been promoted beyond their abilities have. Jeff knew what it was immediately. He saw the face under the mask, harsh and ugly, even as the pretty cashier handed him the little buzzing square. The man thanked her, while the demon leered and licked its lips.
Jeff looked away, not wanting to see any more. It wasn’t his job. This was not his jurisdiction. Some other hunter would take the job.
But of course he couldn’t leave it alone.
He sidled up to the demon in its man suit, standing next to it, acting as if he was getting a closer look at the menu on the wall. The demon ignored him, and continued to scroll through emails on the iPhone in its bony hand. Jeff breathed deeply through his nose. The smell of sulfur wafted into his nostrils, and he stifled a cough. He moved away again, keeping an eye on the demon, who seemed unaware of his presence. It must have been fairly young and inexperienced. Any demon worth its salt wouldn’t have let a hunter get so close.
“What are you doing?” a voice hissed in his ear.
Jeff jumped and looked to see a small old woman standing next to him. “I’m sorry?”
“Are you crazy? You know you don’t get that close unless you’re going in for the kill. And the kill can’t happen in a place like this.” The little old woman barely reached his chest. Her thin white hair hung around her shoulders in a fluffy halo. She was leaning heavily on a walker that she held in both hands with a death grip.
Realizing who he was talking to he leaned over and whispered, “Sorry, I just wanted to be sure. Is this your jurisdiction?”
“Of course it’s my jurisdiction. Has been since ‘fifty-two!” Despite the frail body, her voice was strong and indignant. “You wanted to be sure, huh? What are you, a moron?”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” Jeff said keeping his voice low, as people were starting to watch them. Not the demon, though. It continued to stare at its phone.
“Get outta here,” the old woman said with a jerk of her head.
Thus chastened, Jeff gave her a curt nod and putting aside his desire for a Frontega Chicken panini he started towards the door.
Jeff stopped. “Yes ma’am?” Now the demon was watching. The man face was flat and expressionless, but the demon was interested.
The old woman shuffled towards him, scooting the walker ahead of her. It was a long and strenuous effort, but eventually she was standing beside him again.
“Let’s have a talk outside a minute,” the old woman said. Jeff held the door open for her as she shuffled through, then followed her out into the warm sun.
“What’s your jurisdiction, young man?”
“Section 85,” Jeff said.
“Long way from Connecticut,” the old woman said. Jeff was impressed that she didn’t have to ask where Section 85 was.
Jeff held up his hands. All he needed was another report for overzealous enforcement on his record. “Yes. Sorry. I didn’t mean to infringe on your jurisdiction.”
“Hrmph.” The elderly hunter adjusted her grip on the walker. Jeff guessed she had to be about a hundred years old. “Do you have a car?”
“Do. You. Have. A. Car?” The question was repeated as if he was the one who looked like he had one foot in the grave.
“I had to take the senior bus out here this morning. That jack ass judge took away my license. You're going to be my driver.”
“Hey. No. I can't.”
“You will unless you want me to report you.”
Jeff pursed his lips against a torrent of cursing. Of course he had walked right into this. He should have just minded his own business. He sighed and rubbed his hand across his face. “Where am I driving you?”
“You're so interested in my quarry, you can help me hunt him. Where's your car?”
“Look, Ma'am. I'm already in a lot of trouble for this kind of thing. I can't afford another mark against me.”
“And you won't get one if you do as I say.” She motioned with one wrinkled and veiny hand. “He's already left the store. Look.”
Jeff turned to see the demon walking very quickly across the parking lot. The creature didn't look at them, but Jeff knew that it was aware of them now.
“Damn it. He's going to get away.” The old woman was truly angry, and Jeff was suddenly afraid that she was going to use her walker as a weapon.
“OK. Fine. Just don't report me.” His truck was parked nearby, but the woman was so old and infirm he had to boost her into the passenger seat. Then he folded her walker and put it into the bed of the truck and got in. The demon had already left the parking lot, but Jeff had watched him, taking note of the blue Honda it drove, and the direction it had taken.
“What's your name, young man?”
“Jeff. Jeff Prather.”
“Lucille Hooper. Now drive.”