“HOW many babies have gone missing?” Li asked.
Caleb tapped the briefcase holding a stack of files given to him by General Taglioferro before they left their headquarters in Pittsburgh. “Three and several couples. The local priests and police think it’s all the work of demons.”
“I was too busy packing.” Temple patted the box that held his Tommy gun and ammunition. “I didn’t get a chance to check out what the Order already knows about what’s going on here.”
“Once again, Li, your partner was napping.” Agni leveled a look at Temple who wrinkled his nose.
“We’ll bring him up to date once we get there.” Li pulled his coat tighter as the truck taking them from train station to hotel lurched down the road. “I just want to know why we have to ride in the bed with the luggage.”
“We all wouldn’t have fit.” Caleb shrugged. “And the driver they sent didn’t want any demon hunters in the cab with him, like we’ll infect him with our ability to see the demons or something.”
“Idiot. Who does he think is going to save this dumb town?” Temple grumbled.
“I also think he wasn’t too keen on our partners.” Caleb glanced over at Agni. The Hindu’s dark skin was peeking out of the scarf wound around his hooded head.
Temple snorted. “Big surprise. One of Father’s biggest complaints about me joining the Soldiers of the Sun and not the Knights Templar was that we welcomed all faiths, all cultures. I thought he’d go apoplectic when he found out I have a Chinese partner,” he said. The wind nearly whipped away his whispered, “Too bad he didn’t just die from it.”
The four demon hunters hunkered down, trying to keep out of the wind as the truck wound its way through Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The storefronts winked by with promises of Christmas treasures on offer. The holiday was only a few days away. None of them, Temple in particular, had wanted to leave home before Christmas. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t be spending the holiday holed up in their hotel, nursing demon-inflicted wounds.
The brick hotel looked hospitable enough from its exterior. The truck driver was quick to help them off his truck and inside, away from him. It wasn’t an entirely new reaction. As Soldiers of the Sun, they had long since gotten used to people being wary of them. The hotel staff shunted them upstairs to adjoining rooms just as swiftly. Temple scowled at the twin metal bed frames in the room he shared with Li.
“These beds better be movable,” he grumbled.
“If you keep me awake, that adjoining door will be a pathway to your doom,” Agni warned grimly.
Glaring, Temple leaned against the wall. “Tell me what I missed of the report. Three missing babies?”
Caleb sat at the rickety desk crammed into the corner near a radiator that knocked and banged, but offered up toasty steam heat. “And several couples. No bodies have been found.”
“They could have been eaten,” Li pointed out. “Demons are best known for doing that.”
“That’s one of the reasons the Order was contacted,” Caleb replied. “We’re to meet with the local police tomorrow and a….” He opened the file to remind himself. “Father Garber.”
“What else do we know about the area?” Temple peered at the thin file in Caleb’s hand.
“Not much. Taglioferro didn’t waste much time sending us out here. We’ll have to do our own research. He did send along several texts with us he thought we could use.” Caleb tapped the briefcase. “But I’m not sure they’re all in English.”
“Perfect, why make it easy?” Temple sighed. “We’ll never get home for the holiday at this point, and I left my gifts for you there. That includes you two heathens, Agni, Li.” He shoved his partner.
“You’re like a little kid sometimes.” Li laughed. “As long as we’re not eyebrows deep in demon guts, you’ll have a good holiday regardless of where we are.”
Temple shrugged. “Still, the Order puts up a nice tree and it’s cold out there.” He shivered dramatically. “Ever notice we get the really nasty demon cases when it’s frigid?”
“Yes!” Agni glared at the window. “But knowing whatever this is has targeted babies, I’m willing to withstand the cold.”
“Oui.” Temple nodded. “So, anything else we need to know?”
“Taglioferro sent along a little pamphlet to read,” Caleb replied. “I didn’t get to it on the train. It’s a quick history of this area. I guess there’s something odd about it. I’ll read it before turning in.”
“Great. Demons, frostbite weather, Christmas away from home and cryptic messages about what we’re going to find here.” Temple threw himself on the bed, making it creak. His nose wrinkled. “And my bed’s noisy.”
Getting up, Agni said, “Use the floor then. I’m going to go meditate and retire for the night. We’ll have to be moving far too early in the morning for some of us.” He cast a glance at Temple.
Caleb stood. “Sounds like a plan. It shouldn’t take me too long to read it. We’ll divvy up the rest of the books tomorrow. I’m tired.”
“I’ll try to keep Temple quiet,” Li said, ignoring his partner’s hurt look. “It won’t be easy.”
“It never is,” Agni said, dodging Temple’s answering slap.