Authors: Tim Marquitz
The Best of Enemies
Book six in the Demon Squad series
Edited by Tyson Mauermann
Cover design by
(Check out his amazing art at www.thezombienation.com/)
Created in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any form, including digital, electronic, or mechanical, to include photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the author, except for brief quotes used in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Also Available in the Demon Squad series:
Armageddon Bound DS1
Betrayal (DS short)
At the Gates DS3
Echoes of the Past DS4
Beyond the Veil DS5
From Hell (novella)
Wow. Book six. How’d that happen? It feels like I’ve only just started to dig into the Demon Squad world, yet here we are half a dozen books deep already. Who would have thought we’d make it this far? I sure didn’t.
Uncertainty aside, it’s because of you, my wonderful readers, that we’ve made it to this point. I’m in awe of your support and honored to provide you with yet another opportunity to suffer through a novel alongside our tormented underdog, Frank. You keep coming back to read the Demon Squad, I’ll keep writing them.
I want to thank the usual suspects (Ryan Lawler, Mihir Wanchoo, and Tyson Mauermann) for their contribution to the series and my life, making both brighter and better for their presence.
To Bastard: Crawl out of your hole, turd-burglar. Your cynicism and assholish witticism are missed.
I also want to thank my brothers-in-arms, Joe Martin and Kenny Soward. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and I raise my glass to both of you. This journey has been made much grander for your friendship.
Hail to the Ragnarok Publications folks: Nick Sharps, Michael Edstrom, and Roger Bellini. You guys rok! As do the Writers of the Storm. I’m humbled to be surrounded by such talented folks.
Lastly, but hardly least, I’d like to thank a new addition to the early reader corps: Vix Kirkpatrick. Your contribution to the Demon Squad is greatly appreciated. Welcome to Hell.
Table of Contents
Boredom is a cancer.
It chews at your guts, gnawing away at your patience, bite after torturous bite, until there’s nothing left but the bitter, withered core, desiccated of all restraint.
For most folks, that’s how they feel waiting for the weekend to roll around. At least they get a weekend. Friday’s been teasing me blue. It’d been damn near two months of Mondays piled up like a Bangkok traffic jam since I returned to Hell, and it was wearing on me.
I let out a loud yawn and yelled at the stage, “You call that acting?” My temples throbbed, the start of my daily headache coming on.
The dread fiend turned to me, a stringy line of spittle swinging from its lower lip. Tiny rainbows flickered off it beneath the makeshift stage lights.
“C’mon, fuzzy butt. Where’s the dedication to your craft? Where’s the passion?” I thought about that last bit for a second and waved the fiend off before it could grunt an answer. “Never mind.” I’d seen more than enough
when they reenacted
. Who’d have thought watching a dread fiend humping its mother would make a guy uncomfortable?
Chatterbox rattled his head beside me, the maggots in his eyes rolling around in a sea of murky disappointment. “
Tsssssk, tssssssssk, tssssssssk—
“Yeah, I hear you, buddy. At least they’re over the show tunes phase.” Now
was hell. “Get off the stage, Keanu.”
The fiend grumbled something and slunk away through the curtains, leaving them to sway in its wake. Sadly, it only took the stink of its performance with it. The rest of its funk lingered.
” Chatterbox rumbled.
“Yeah, this is no rock opera, that’s for sure.” Where was Jon Oliva when you needed him?
The chair creaked as I slumped into it with a huff. We’d tried to do the gladiator thing for a while but there’s only so many times you can listen to a fiend mumble, “Are you not entertained?” before the magic wears off. For that matter, the shine had rubbed off everything after about the first week of being cooped up in Hell. It felt more and more like a prison every day, minus the benefits of a good spooning and post-coital smoke.
I’d hunkered down to let Rahim and Katon cool off a little before I faced them again, but the wait was killing me. Katon had only just begun to trust me before I snatched the alien out from under them. He’d been waiting forever for me to live up to my lineage and betray DRAC, but I hadn’t done it. Well, not until he started to actually believe I wouldn’t.
I guess if you’re gonna burn a bridge, make it count, right? No doubt the folks on the space station saw that one go up in flames.
Given enough time, I suspected Katon and Rahim would understand why I’d done it, but I wasn’t expecting any tongue in our makeup kiss, if we even made it that far. I certainly wouldn’t be copping a feel. The looks on their faces right before I disappeared with Mihheer told me I’d cashed in all the good will I’d been building up between us.
At least with Katon, I knew what to expect: violence. He’d want my ass for stabbing them in the back. If he had his way, my head would sit proudly above his fireplace alongside the rest of his demonic trophies. He was gonna be mad, and I couldn’t blame him, but anger and an attempted ass whoopin’ were something I could deal with.
Rahim, on the other hand, wouldn’t be so easy to anticipate. Even though I’d helped mend his broken back by giving him Lucifer’s blood, I couldn’t really expect that to play a factor in his reasoning. Compassion and fond memories were crutches the old man would never lean on. If he felt I was a threat to the world—and seeing how I was currently toting around the lion’s share of Longinus’ power, how could he not? He would be game planning how to resolve that threat. It wouldn’t be something as blatant as a shot to the head like the DSI folks had done not too long back, but that was what worried me. No, if Rahim decided it was my time to go, I’d likely never see him coming.
A chuckle welled up inside me at the thought, and I ran my hands through the wild growth sprouting on my head. While I couldn’t help but think like the old me, things were different now;
different. It had yet to sink all the way in, but I wasn’t the same Frank who’d left for parts unknown a couple months back. I was
boy in every way imaginable now: the Anti-Christ, proud owner of the best parking space in Hell.
I raised my hand and made the sign of the horns, summoning my magic without effort. It was so easy now. Flickers of energy danced at my fingertips with the grace of ballerinas. Dio would be so proud. I drew in a deep breath as my eyes followed the wisps of power, the acrid scent of brimstone filling my nose and chasing away the smell of dread fiend. A smile peeled my lips back.
If DRAC—or anyone else, for that matter—thought I’d roll over for them, they had another thing coming, and I didn’t mean the Judas Priest song. I hadn’t asked for Longinus’ magic, hadn’t wanted any of it, but there was no taking it back now. That pooch was well and truly screwed. It was
bitch now. That thought didn’t help my head any.
I glanced over at Chatterbox as he hummed the opening riff to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and snapped my fingers to get his attention, sparks fluttering as I doused my magic. His gory eyeballs squished in their sockets when they rolled to face me.
His looking away told me everything I needed to know. Karra was still giving me the silent treatment. I sank into my seat. More than anything I could lay the blame on, she was the reason I wasn’t sleeping. Even when I managed to squeeze a few hours in, my dreams were filled with distorted images I couldn’t make out and horrific memories I could see all too clearly. More times than I wanted to remember, I’d woken up screaming, bathed in sweat and trembling. Every single time, Karra was there in my head when I woke up. She just wasn’t there in the real world.
She’d gone home as soon as we returned to Hell, but I hadn’t seen or heard from her since. Wasn’t sure if I ever would. That thought was poison. Deep down, I knew she would always have a hard time coping with me being the inheritor of her father’s power, of his soul. She could never look at me and not see the man who killed and devoured everything her father had ever been, but that didn’t stop me from wanting her
the baby with me.
I sighed, not even knowing if it was a boy or a girl. Would I ever get to see my child, hold it in my arms, watch it stumble across the room at its first steps and hear the first of its garbled words that tumbled from its mouth?
Another chuckle crept up my throat.
Yeah, like I was father material. I could imagine telling the story of how Lou and I made a habit of killing Grandpa Longinus. It was like a holiday tradition, the two of us stringing him up and hitting him until presents spewed from his guts like a
. Yay! Good times, kid. I could see that going over well at the family picnic.
“That, child, is why your mother hates me.” The words tumbled from my mouth, my tongue stinging with the bitterness. While I wanted to be sad, wanted to cry and throw a fit, a strange sense of numbness had come over me. Day by day the sorrow became a little less painful, a little less present. I sank into my seat with a huff.
Chatterbox glanced at me, one ragged eyebrow raised.
“Yes, I’m talking to myself, and no I haven’t gone crazy.”
His other eyebrow perked up.
“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice or I’ll cut off your subscription to
His lower lip drooped and the maggots went still. A trickle of yellow pus ran down his cheek.
“Oh, settle down, you big baby. I wouldn’t really do it.”
Chatterbox wiggled and raised his chin, sucking back a sniffle. “
I jumped up from my seat, arms raised to the cavernous sky. “Yes, boobs. Let there be boobs; boobs everywhere. On the stage, in the chairs, on the ceiling, and even on the…” A quick leap landed me in the theater aisle, where I spun about, gesticulating wildly with my hands.
Rala stood in the entryway, staring at me.
“…doorknobs.” My arms dropped to my sides. Shit didn’t rhyme anyway.
Chatterbox whistled and looked away.
The little alien shook her head, her thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of her nose where the dark, zebra stripes radiated out across the orange of her face. She looked as tired as I felt. “Uh, if you’re not
busy, uh, dancing, singing…or…whatever it is you’re doing…” she started, “I could probably use your help.”
“I don’t know. Got a lot going on…the second act coming up, and stuff.” I gestured to the empty stage and had an unfortunate flashback of the dread fiend mating rituals that had warped the floorboards. “Well, maybe I could spare a minute.”
She exhaled hard and spun about, waving me on while waddling off as fast as her stubby little legs could take her.
I hurried after her. “Why the rush?”
Rala cleared her throat. “You know that stupid book you have me trying to translate?”
Like I’d forget. Outside of Karra, that’d been all that was on my mind. “You figured something out?” A flush of excitement warmed my cheeks, chasing away my weariness. She’d been working at it with no success since we’d returned to Hell.