Fiends and Familiars - Debra Dunbar

Chapter 1


“Lord.” The demon bowed low before me, which was quite a feat since his nine-foot, half-fish/half-owl form wasn’t optimal for the motion.

“What?” I’ll admit my reply was a little snappy, but I was busy torturing a mass murderer and I hated to be interrupted.

“I heard from Bifrons, who says he got the news from Quitta, who supposedly found out from Nubar—”

“Get on with it, fiend. I’ve got a busy schedule today and this soul isn’t going to torture himself.” I looked over at the human, wondering if that were true. Some of them were very adept at delivering the sort of self-punishment even we demons would shy away from.

“We may have found him.”

I immediately forgot about the human, knowing exactly who “him” was. I’d forbidden my demons from mentioning Faust’s name for the last two hundred and forty years, ever since he’d gone missing and not even my most skilled hellhound had been able to find him.

The guy had signed a contract with a crossroads demon, then somehow managed to keep himself alive for three hundred years—in spite of all sorts of attempts on our part to kill him. Finally, he died and his soul was delivered unto our hands as per the contract. He wasn’t here a week before he disappeared. Gone. Poof.

And worst of all, I’d been the demon assigned to supervise his punishment. A soul escaped hell while on my watch. It was mortifying. The only reason Satan hadn’t demoted me was because it was clear that Faust had help.

It was those poor suckers who felt Satan’s wrath. And while I was glad it wasn’t me, Faust’s escape was a blot on my otherwise perfect record. I needed to get him back. And I’d been trying to find the sneaky bastard for two hundred and forty years.

I was thrilled at the thought that we may have finally found him.

“Where is he?”

The fiend, and Satan knows I couldn’t remember any of their names, took a hasty step backward at my tone.

“It might not be him. I’m getting this information fifth hand, and it could be faulty,” he warned, raising his hands as if to ward off my expected anger.

I wasn’t angry, I was excited. “Tell me.”

He gave me an address then wiggled an outstretched hand. “That could be off by a few houses, or even a few miles though. The demon who says he sensed him isn’t all that good at location or directions. And he supposedly is ambulatory. That’s what I heard, anyway.”

Ambulatory? As in he was moving about by his own free will and had somehow evaded all detection for hundreds of years? Or perhaps he was trapped and the bastard who had him was changing his location occasionally to help avoid detection?

Either way, I’d find him. Glancing over at the human and remembering my schedule, I reconsidered my initial impulse to drop the burning hot whip and race to the mortal plane. It wouldn’t be the first time rumors had been wrong, and I didn’t want to appear an idiot, or seem as if I took my infernal duties less than seriously. No, I’d send one of my hellhounds to check out the validity of this fiend’s claim. And if it proved to be true? Then I’d rearrange my schedule a bit and give myself enough free time to take care of a matter that had caused me no end of worry and anger for the last two hundred years.

Chapter 2


“There’s another one!” The woman screamed, clutching her ample bosom as I raced after the scampering squirrel.

Normally my pest control and wildlife removal company was the easiest job ever thanks to my magical talents. Waltz in. Tell a colony of a few hundred ants to go elsewhere, relocate a huge wasp nest from someone’s eaves to a remote tree, convince a dozen bats to take up residence in the comfy bat boxes I’d constructed rather than an attic. I spoke to animals, and they generally were amenable to doing my bidding.

Not these squirrels. They were determined to stay in this woman’s house. Basically, they’d given me the middle finger, and told me if I wanted them to move, I’d need to catch them. Which is why I’d been here for an hour, chasing the furry things all over. I’d caught three, but this last one was proving to be a clever little bugger.

Drake hissed and hopped from foot-to-foot, causing the woman to shriek once more. She wasn’t all that happy about my co-worker, but Drake