A spike in men’s deaths in coastal North Carolina. Where the Catholic Church’s American arm of the Segreto once headquartered. Where Alex and Lilith had fought.
Coincidence. Has to be.
But what if it wasn’t?
Lena ran out of patience when a law firm’s ad aired. She gave up on waiting for the news and sat down at her computer. Moments later, she scrolled through a news website of the area.
The dozens of deaths were spread over three adjoining counties; Pamlico, Carteret, and mostly Craven, which sat between the other two. To someone well versed in the ways and means of succubi attacks, Lena felt pretty confident that was exactly what she was looking at, especially since the victims were mostly young and middle-aged men.
What chilled her most wasn’t the evidence of demonic attacks, however. Another headline on a sidebar caught Lena’s eye: Church Burns to the Ground. Her heart pounding, she clicked the story.
St. George’s Catholic Church in Havelock is being deemed a complete loss following Tuesday’s fire that destroyed the chapel, the attached orphanage, and the private school on the grounds. Fire Marshall John Huffman has concluded the cause was arson and says, “It’s a miracle no one was killed.”
“Oh shit,” Lena breathed. It was the church that had once housed the original Segreto, the entity once tasked with destroying demonkind on Earth. The place her mother had called home for most of the first half of her life.
“Maybe it’s just a member of demonkind. A retaliation, the family of someone who that Segreto killed,” she said, unaware she spoke out loud to herself. Her own aunt whom Lena was named for had been slaughtered by the Segreto. It had caused no end of distrust between Alex and Colwyn when they first met.
The pictures showed the blackened brick shells of buildings that surrounded the still-standing playground. Alex had been raised in that orphanage. She’d taken communion in that church. Had fought their war until they excommunicated her for using witchcraft. Then Lilith had shown up, prompting the Segreto to reinstate Alex so that she could fight off mankind’s bitterest enemy. In the end, Lilith had wiped the original Segreto out, leaving Alex as the sole survivor. With Colwyn, Alex had formed a new Segreto, one made up of humans and good demi-demons, the kind that didn’t cause suffering in order to feed on it.
One picture, that of the church’s white-paneled lighted sign, froze Lena. She could scarcely breathe as she stared at the words painted on it. She’d seen dark brown stains like those that made up the message before, and a quick glance at the caption beneath the photo confirmed her suspicions. Officials had not yet confirmed whether the dried blood used to write the terse command was animal or human.
Lena stared at the four words that ran in streaks down the sign that would have been lit at night to invite the public to come worship. Now it spoke a furious demand, and Lena had no doubt as to whose words it spoke. Even as she reached for the phone on the nearby table, she couldn’t tear her gaze away. She dialed by feel, her fingertips unerringly pressing the numbers on the handset despite the tremor that seized them.
When her father’s deep voice came on the line, a comforting rumble that had always soothed her, Lena still stared at the words. She knew that as long as she drew breath on this Earth, she would never forget how the letters looked. They dripped, obscene and angry, bloody like the mind that had birthed them. The hateful order would be as if branded on her brain for all eternity, freezing her heart whenever it came to mind.
In all capital letters, like a feral scream it read, SEGRETO GIVE ME ALEX.
Through numb lips Lena whispered into the phone, “Dad? You and Mom need to come home right now.”