"I can't see her!" Lara screamed, leaning out of the car window as far as her seatbelt would allow.
"Get your head back in here!" Blackout shouted over the scream of the small car's engine redlining. "Remember what she did to your leg?"
Lara pulled her head back in from the freezing air and looked back at Andrew's unconscious form, strapped into the back seat and covered in heavy blankets.
"He looks dead!" Lara shouted.
"I'm not as worried about him right now!" Blackout replied, swerving madly, racing for the entrance to the high level bridge. If he could make it in there, they might have a chance of reaching the shop before the succubus descended on them again. The bridge's heavy steel framework would provide cover, and Blackout doubted the bitch could spread her wings in the enclosed space. He didn't think the car could withstand another assault.
When Lara had spotted Julie over Blackout's shoulder, the demon had still been at the far end of the hall. They'd both ducked into the apartment's back stairwell, and Lara had rammed a fire-extinguisher into the crash bar, preventing Julie from following them. They'd raced down the stairs, both of them uttering prayers mixed with expletives, profanity and petitions blurring into what Blackout could only hope God would construe as sincere pleas for divine assistance.
They'd reached the ground floor to find it empty save for other tenants, who gave them hardly a passing glance as they rushed out of the building. Blackout recognized the averted gazes; don't look and you don't have to get involved. At least one of them had held the door open.
They'd made it to the car before Julie had descended upon them. Lara saw her first once again, as Blackout was occupied trying to strap Andrew in. She'd shoved Blackout into the car, sending him sprawling across Andrew, while she dropped to the ground. There was a terrible deafening screech as sharp claws raked across the roof of the car.
"We need to get going!" Lara had screamed, jumping up from the pavement. Blackout extricated himself from the backseat and looked up into the night sky to see a huge, winged shape soaring upwards before banking and turning back towards them. He'd frozen in place, terror stealing his ability to move.
Julie had transformed into something that appeared to be a mix of an owl, with massive wings and outstretched talons, but retained the face and torso of a dark haired woman with a terrible look of rage on her face, fangs trailing spit in her fury. She was headed straight for him, and he understood that those claws would tear him half. And still he was unable to move.
And just as he thought his life had come to its end, there was a metallic ringing noise, a flurry of feathers and an unholy, inhuman shriek. The violence of the moment threw Blackout to the pavement, and he saw the Julie-thing crash overhead and into a parked car, the glass from the windows blowing out beneath the monster's weight.
Lara was standing over him, legs braced, clenched teeth bared, breathing heavily from the adrenaline rush. In her hands she held the snapped haft of the blessed shovel.
"I think the rest of it's in that bitch," Lara said, answering Blackout's unspoken question. "No time to check though!" She dropped the useless wood and ran around to the passenger side.
Blackout pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the pain in his shoulders and tail bone and got into the car, firing the ignition as he watched the wounded Julie-thing try to right itself from the wreckage of the car. He could see the snapped haft of the shovel buried in its torso.
"Yeah," he said, as the car lurched away from the curb. "She's still got your shovel."
Now, as they roared into the entrance to the high level bridge, driving faster than he ever had in his life, Blackout had a wild moment of elation; they were fighting the powers of darkness, and like every story or movie he'd ever seen, it looked as though they'd actually make it. They'd get Andrew to the Tree and he'd be healed and everything would be all right. They were only minutes from the shop now.
And then he saw Julie, flying parallel to them as they raced across the bridge, keeping speed with them despite the wound the shovel had inflicted. She was smiling at him, as though she knew what he was thinking, and was letting him know that things didn't work out that good in real life. In life, the bad guys won, all the time. Darfur, Rwanda, Sierra Leone...we've been to all those places, and we feasted on the bloodbaths there. What makes you think you're special?
"Because I'm a Dungeon Master, bitch," Blackout said through gritted teeth and leaned forward over the steering wheel.
"What did you say?" Lara shouted.
Blackout didn't reply, but instead dug his cell phone out and handed it to Lara. "Speed dial #2!" he yelled. "And put it on speaker!"
* * * * *
Ripper's cell phone began playing the theme to Star Wars; it was the ringtone he'd set for his friends from the gaming group. He knew it couldn't be Geo, as the man had a real job and would never be up past midnight on a weeknight. It couldn't be Mikey, since he was currently playing WOW with Ripper, and was actively engaged in a conversation with someone else in their party. It was unlikely to be Courtney, since she hated Ripper's guts, which left Blackout or Sunny. If Sunny was phoning at this hour, it was because she was hoping to take advantage of their Friends With Benefits arrangement. He grabbed the phone and was disappointed to see Blackout's number on call display.
"Not tonight buddy," he said, and shut the ringer off.
* * * * *
"No answer!" Lara shouted as they roared out of the corridor of the High Level bridge and up the hill towards the University campus. "Oh shit!"
Blackout caught a glimpse in his peripheral vision of Julie coming up broadside, and then the car lurched as her talons dug into the car and lifted it off the ground. Blackout had brief visions of the monster dragging them up into the sky and then out over the North Saskatchewan river before dropping them to an icy death by drowning.
But cars were not meant to fly, and vehicle roofs are not built to hold the weight of a car suspended in mid air. The roof tore loose, weakened already by Julie's first attack, and the vehicle slammed back into the road, bouncing as it struck. Blackout felt something give in his wrist as he tried to steer. Bright, lancing pain shot up his right arm and he let go of the steering wheel. The car swerved erratically, driving up onto the sidewalk before Lara leaned over and grabbed the wheel, turning them back onto the street.
Blackout grabbed the wheel with his left hand. "Got it!" he shouted. "Where is she now?"
"Six o'clock!" Lara yelled. "Shit shit shit!"
There was a crashing noise as the Julie-thing dropped the roof of the car, trying to bomb them with it. It struck the back of the car, denting in the trunk, and bouncing harmlessly off behind them.
Blackout turned the wheel, spinning the car hard to the right and racing down the street that lead to the shop. "Almost there!" he shouted. "Try the phone again! Speed dial #3!"
* * * * *
Courtney was up late studying for mid-terms when her phone rang. She furrowed her brow, wondering who could possibly be phoning at this hour. The call display said it was Blackout. She thumbed the talk button, and put the phone to her ear.
"Mark?" she said.
"CORT!" Blackout's voice, distorted, and difficult to hear with all the background noise. "I need you to come to the coffee shop NOW! Call Ripper and anyone else you can and tell them to bring their LARP shit! It's an emergency!"
There was a terrible screeching noise, and then the line went dead. Courtney sat there, dumbstruck for a moment, then calmly put down the phone and went to her closet, opening the door. She pushed aside clothes to take out a very heavy garment bag. As she undid the zipper, silver links of chain glinted in the light of her desklamp.
* * * * *
"What about the Nephilim?" Blackout shouted as they rocketed down the street, the coffee shop now in view.
Lara was holding her left arm against her body. Her arm was bleeding from where Julie's talons had grazed her while she was holding out Blackout's phone, now lying on the street somewhere behind them.
"Crash through the window!" Lara yelled back.
"Are you nuts?" Blackout screamed.
"We're being chased by a huge owl monster!" Lara shouted. "It tore the roof off your fucking car! We are going to DIE if you don't get us close enough to the Tree!"
And then they were skidding sideways on the icy road, their screams blending into a chorus as the car jumped the curb, spinning 180 degrees before slamming through the front of the coffee shop.