A/N: My first attempt at an Urban Fantasy novel, so please be gentle.
Chicago, the Windy City as the media liked to refer to it, was a town with a past more drenched in blood than most people realized. In the new millennium the place had become a tourist hot spot; people flocked to the city to see firsthand the locale that had served as a gangster's playground back in the 1920's-and it didn't hurt that they had a thriving nightlife, either.
Roxie Saunders rolled her eyes as she passed a group of the idiots, standing almost in the street as they took amateur photos of the spot where the Lexington Hotel used to be. Okay sure, she got why they were doing it-the place had been Al Capone's headquarters-but backing into the street to take photos, at this hour? She could already see the cause of death on the Coroner's report, and it caused her to chuckle quietly; "death by stupidity".
"Morons. Oh, if they only knew the truth. Gangsters are tame compared to what roams this city nowadays. Maybe it's the bloody history that makes this place the demon capital of the US." Roxie mused, as she strolled along the sidewalk at a casual, almost leisurely pace.
She flashed a semi-sarcastic smirk at the tourists as they gaped at her, and wardrobe choice for that particular day; she gave an outright bark of laughter when one of the women clapped a hand over her child's eyes, and began to recite the Lord's prayer.
"Like that phases me, I work for the guy...essentially."
Most of the populous on the South Loop didn't even bat an eye at her anymore; they were used to seeing the small Gothic photographer walking around their side of town, taking her famous shots of the prettier spots, especially at the area churches and in their cemeteries. Artists were eccentric, and Roxie, as far as they knew anyway, was most definitely an artist if they'd ever laid eyes on one. Of course, rumors still circulated regularly-her favorite so far was that she was an associate of the Chicago Outfit, doing research for the Don himself, John DiFronzo.
The photos were not her job, but they were a large part of it; she let the residents and the tourists continue to think she was an artist-it worked out to be the perfect cover for her actual occupation.
Roxie glanced down at her watch, and allowed herself to grin widely-her shift ended in three minutes, which meant she could finally start the long trip from Michigan Avenue back to her apartment in Wicker Park, and start developing her shots for the day. Part of them would go into her portfolio for her exhibit at the "Around the Coyote" festival in October; the rest would go to her team leader, Trinity, to be examined for any possible information she could glean from them about their targets-from there, they'd be sent to the Vatican for further analysis.
At six, on the dot, Roxie took one last shot of the gargoyle she was passing, and began making her way north on Michigan, intent on heading to Rosemont to catch the bus back to Harlem, and walking to Bloomingdale, where the apartment was located. It was a walk she made on a daily basis, she knew the route, and the people she'd meet on it, like the back of her hand; the routine never deviated, as Roxie had never had a reason to change it up.
There's a first time for everything however, and today just happened to be the day she'd get her reason. She was just about to turn off of Otto and onto Balmoral when it happened.
Roxie knew by the way the hair was standing up on the back of her neck that she was in the presence of a demon, and a pretty powerful one at that-it took a lot to make her senses react these days, given that she was in the presence of lower level entities at pretty much any given time due to the way the city was saturated. She flipped her long auburn locks back, getting a quick glance out of the corner of her eye.
The demon was just behind her and to her right-longish dark hair, full sleeve tattoos, and a lip ring. He was dressed casually, obviously trying to blend in with the rest of the younger, artsy crowd, just like she was. The problem however, was that he could differentiate her from the rest of the population just as easily as she could him-years of training on both sides ensured this.
Roxie paused at the corner where she was supposed to turn off, and bent as though she were tying her bootlaces; in reality, she was unsheathing the knife that she normally carried there, just in case of such emergencies.
"Why do the hot ones always have to be assholes...?" she wondered, under her breath, as she shook the cuff of her pants back into place over her boots.
As soon as the being in question was level with the right side of her body, he knelt as well, feigning the action of tying his Nike's.
"Zephiir, Watcher, get it right."
"Cut me some slack, you're new here." Roxie retorted, standing and brushing off her black cargo pants.
The demon stood as well, and Roxie moved closer to him, making it appear to the surrounding civilians as though she were flirting with him.
"For the sake of both our covers, let's take this to the alley."
The demon nodded, and made a sweeping gesture with one arm signaling that she go first.
"That was not a wise move on your part, little girl, but thank you for making this easier for me. My Master has been itching to get his hands on the infamous Watcher for a long time." Zephiir smirked, moving around the redhead once they were safely out of view from the general public.
"Oh, somebody's a smartass. Guess old Scratch will have to wait a little bit longer. How's this for easy?"
Roxie smirked and threw the knife she was holding. The demon dodged it-barely; while he was busy avoiding the blade, she was retrieving three more from the waistband of her pants.
"How cute, the Templar knows parlor tricks!" he quipped, before rushing Roxie, quickly dodging another blade as he did so.
"Not a wise move, demon boy!" she replied, using Zephiir's own momentum to sling him to the ground.
When he went to get to his feet, he received a kick to the stomach, doubling him over. Roxie seized him by the shoulders and began ramming her knees into his sternum. Unfortunately for her, she hadn't realized he was silently reciting a spell.
"The Templar knows a lot more than parlor tricks, demon, she also knows Muay Thai."
Roxie gave the demon a hard shove backwards, and landed a kick to his temple.
Zephiir managed to stand up and shoot Roxie a sadistic smile, before blasting her in the left shoulder with a blue fireball, which sent her flying into the back wall of the alley. Wincing, Roxie shoved the shoulder of her t-shirt back far enough to examine the damage. A large black tattoo of an inverted pentagram now marked the spot where the fireball had hit.
"Okay, now I'm pissed. You're gonna pay for marking me, asshole."
"Oh, I'm shaking in my sneakers."
Roxie growled and sent two blades careening end over end at Zephiir-the first one he managed to dodge. The next one however, lodged deep into his left shoulder. He glanced over at the handle, then back at Roxie, smirking arrogantly.
"You honestly think stainless steel is going to stop one of Lucifer's own?" he asked, not bothering to stifle the incredulous chuckle.
Roxie shot the demon a smirk of her own, as sticky black looking substance began to pour out from around the hilt of the knife, and smoke carrying the putrid stench of burning flesh began to roll away from his shoulder. The arrogant smile that had graced the face of the demon was long gone, having been replaced by an expression of rage and excruciating pain.
"No, but Holy Water will."
"You BITCH! You had it blessed!"
"Hello, Templar, remember? You expected any less? That's gonna leave a mark by the way. A lair warming gift of sorts-my way of saying welcome to Chicago, motherfucker."
Zephiir narrowed his eyes, yanking the blade out his shoulder with a roar of pain. Holding the wound with his uninjured arm, he took a step forward, tilting his head up, and scenting the air; he lowered it seconds later, and locked eyes with Roxie.
"I'm going to find you, little Templar, and when I do, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy dismembering you piece by piece."
"When and if you find me, we're going to go through this same scenario all over again; I'm going to injure you, and you're going to threaten me with medieval torture, it's a vicious cycle that you're doomed to repeat, because you never learn."
"That's not a threat, little Templar, it's a promise."
And with that, Zephiir de-materialized, leaving Roxie alone in the alley, bruised, aching and now marked as one of Lucifer's own.
"Well. This is certainly going to go over well when Trinity finds out."
"Roxie, you're late-sweet Jesus, what's happened?!"
Roxie grimaced, not even acknowledging the outburst from Melanie Tribbett, the team's sniper, as she limped into the Bloomingdale Avenue apartment; she'd broken a couple of ribs at the very least when she was blasted into the wall-the bumpy bus ride home hadn't helped the situation either.
"I was attacked in an alleyway coming off Otto and onto Balmoral."
"New one-Zephiir. I gave him a little welcome gift, but it's not nearly as good as the one he gave me. I got blasted into the back wall of the alley by a fireball, and when I went to inspect the damage, I found out that-"
"He left his mark?"
Roxie's face went a shade paler than it already was, and she winced; Trinity strolled over to the sofa from where she'd been lounging in the kitchen area, taking a seat next to where Roxie had collapsed.
"Let me see it, Roxanne."
"You know, I really hate it when you use my full name. Do I have to?"
Roxie sighed, and pulled the shoulder of her t-shirt over, revealing the inverted pentagram that had been branded into her skin. Trinity winced, and touched a finger to it; the redhead writhed in pain at the action.
"I would like to tell you that it's just a tattoo and it means nothing, but that would be a complete lie, and we both know it. You've been linked, body and soul, to the demon who did this."
"Great. Does that mean it goes away if I kill him?"
"Fuck is right. On the plus side, we'll know everything thats going on with the sleeper cell that we've been tracking. On the minus side, they'll know everything that you know."
"In short, we're screwed."
"Not quite. You're the Watcher, not the Informer. You just observe and photograph...and not all of those photographs are for intelligence purposes, are they?"
"So, we're gonna switch your position. Lexi!"
Lexi Phillips, the team's Defender, had just walked into the apartment.
"You're the new Watcher."
"...You mean I get to patrol the Magnificent Mile?! AWESOME-wait. Why am I getting Roxies route?"
"I got attacked and marked. I'm essentially bound, body and soul, to said demon." Roxie replied.
"You got WHAT?! LET ME AT 'EM!"
Team spotter Kaycey Lockheart, all four feet eleven inches of her, was shaking in rage. Kaycey was fiercely protective of her teammates, especially when they were attacked without warrant.
Roxie chuckled at the outburst, and immediately regretted the action; she leaned back against the pillow she'd grabbed earlier, her face going paler than ever as wave after wave of excruciating pain washed over her body.
"A demon, I'm going to assume upper level, attacked Roxie in an alley when she was going from Otto onto Balmoral-and what the hell where you doing in an alley to begin with?" Trinity demanded.
"He came up behind me, pegged me for exactly what I was-I did what I had to in order to protect innocent civilians." Roxie replied, through clenched teeth.
"Since the demon will know everything that she knows, we're going to change things up a bit. Enjoy the shopping." Trinity agreed, smirking at Lexi.
"I know this is going to sound odd coming from me, but can we get me to Rush University Med? I...don't feel so good..." Roxie trailed off.
The very last thing she heard before the world completely faded into black were the voices of her concerned team mates, desperately trying to rouse her.