“We’ve got one!” I said before my sister could even start her greeting.

“You know, there were films besides Ghostbusters, Aliens, and Mystery Men,” she said, discouragingly.

“Perish the thought. I also quote from GalaxyQuest and occasionally modern shows. You have your squeeze?”

She sighed. “If you mean Roberto, yes, he’s here. We have demon-sign?”

“Now who’s doing it? If you stack a bunch of demons you could have a demon-striation, right?” I mused.

“Possibly. What does… oh.  Yeah, I don’t think the pun quite hit it.”

“I was hoping it rocked.” I waited for the mental bah-dump-dump-ching sound, and continued. “Seriously, though, yeah. Sixteenth street mall, Denver, maybe an hour ago.”

“In this traffic?” she asked. “That might as well have been last Tuesday.”

“Last Tuesday we hadn’t gotten confirmation that it was my ex-‘s friend’s ex-boyfriend.”

“That’s a tenuous connection, I’d say. Like you know a dude who knows a dude.” She punched the open channel key, also known as speakerphone.

“Yes, but can’t we use that?” I asked. I got a half-shrug from Nen. “Isn’t it a wart on the first law?”

“Thou shalt not rile up a woman because she’ll go have sex with djinn and angels and you’ll be like uncle to a billion deadly sins?  Or Newton, an object at rest rarely gets motivated to do anything else but slouch around? ”

“Is that the first law?  I was thinking similarity.  Contagion.  That sort of thing.”

“Oh, THAT first law.” I heard Roberto say something, but they must have been outside, because traffic overwhelmed whatever he had to say.  “Fine,” my sister responded. “There are lots of first laws. It’s like primo uno in spades. Or something like that.  Let’s not number the laws, okay?  Or rules.  I think Gibbs had two number ones, too.  And don’t go there. Toilet humour is so 3rd grade it’s poopy.”

I tried to restrain a snort.

“The first law is of that of naming,” Rayya said, late to the conversation.  Or maybe she was just trying to be helpful and remind me.

“I’m more surprised no one argued my wart comment, and explained that it was a polyp or a strange cyst-like growth. That isn’t an invitation, by the way.  Magda had a way of tracking people, and it’s a staple of magical fiction. Can you do that, only tracking the tracker?”

“I think you meant a corollary, and got caught up in the net of capillary instead. Um. Isn’t the law of similarity an artistic conceit of gestalt psychology?”

I rolled my eyes. Sometimes I forgot my sister was, well, my sister. “Point taken. Can you do it?”

“I don’t think so. It’s too tenuous. That’s wizard territory, really. If it were my own bloodline, then it’s a real maybe.”  She sounded disappointed.

I tried cheering her up. “So I should never try and hide from you?”

She laughed. “You never could. Remember trick or treating that year you were dressed in a thrift store tux?”

I groaned. “Oh please, don’t remind me.”

She chortled and then sighed. “I will remind you whenever I need to threaten you.  What’s plan B?”

“An option when Plan A fails,” I fired off, trying to give myself a second to formulate one. “Find something that can sniff out a demon and run the hounds on it?”

“That’s kind of just Plan A with three little letter ‘I’s after it.  Know a pious skinshifter?” she asked, off-handedly.

“Not to my knowledge, but then again, why would I?”  I meant it both ways.  Why would I know one, and why would I know they were one.

“You have weird friends,” was all she said.

I couldn’t deny that. “A wizard, you say?” Was I in debt to one, did one owe me a favour? I tried to add up the balance sheet real quick, but found myself probably even with the Questor’s wife. Misko. I finally had a use name for her, and I should use it.

“You know one?” she asked, suddenly interested.

“A weird friend,” I said, vaguely.

“Oh,” she said.

I couldn’t interpret that one, so I left it. “I don’t know if she’d be willing to get involved, or what I would have to pay her, though. She’s the kind who might get involved if she were interested, but I have a feeling this is maybe a bit more dangerous now that I am thinking about it and she has kids.”  I was half-thinking aloud, so I wasn’t going to worry about my sister’s grammatical sensitivities.  “The feeling I’ve had around the guy is like he’s a maw of infinite space.”

“Bound by a nutshell of bad dreams?” she asked.

“Should I be hoping it’s a hard nut to crack?” Back to banter. It was safer than thinking about that feeling. It made me want to shudder and sweat. It didn’t get better on repeat, but worse.

“You ever think you’re the bad guy, E?” she asked.

The question seemed like a huge non-sequitur from our conversation, and it completely derailed my thinking. “Um, only when it comes to people calling me a dragon slayer, or, well,” I thought of a few times I’d done bad things. Maybe I didn’t have a huge catalog of them, but there were always enough. It was the lazy path to humility, the stumble that led to a great Fall.  “Why?”

“Just thinking aloud,” she said, brushing me off. “So, great dragon slayer, you going to call your weird wizard friend, or are we going downtown? I could do with some nosh.”

“Since when do you use ‘nosh’ as a term?” I demanded.

“Since I was chatting with mom earlier. She was making a sweet kugel. If you make a kegel joke I will hit you.”

“Never even crossed my mind.” Truth, for once.

“So, dinner and maybe demons downtown?”

“Definitely a date.”


“Ew! You’re my sister. I was just alliterating.”

“Well, pick up your a-litter, trash boy.”

“That… doesn’t even make sense.”

“Neither do you.  See you at the deli near the Historical Society?”

“Probably bringing the sibs.”

“I thought I heard sins, and I was going to tell you to pray for them, but you might pray for those weird friends of yours, too.  I’m probably,” she dripped sarcasm into the word, “bringing this guy, although he has no appreciation for good food.”

“He probably thinks a knish is a low-class empanada.  If he can’t appreciate a really good pastrami, dump him.”

“I heard that,” I heard, and then with a chuckle, the call ended.