Angelic Shield

Chapter 2: Job Interview

I took a deep breath as I sat outside Dr. Hauser’s door. He was interviewing candidates for the assistantship. I had made the cut, one of only three. Ricky was talking to him right now, and Maddie, who always seemed like a bit of a loner, had talked to him first. I was last, and my nerves weren’t going away. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be his assistant. I was nervous that he was going to bring up being a demon and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I couldn’t give him the answers he must want, like why the head archangel was there to personally bind my powers, or why my powers needed to be bound in the first place.

The door opened and Ricky exited loudly, wishing Dr. Hauser a great evening. He smirked at me before heading down the hall. That wasn’t a good sign. He seemed pretty confident. I just hoped Dr. Hauser didn’t want someone with his attitude. Then Dr. Hauser called my name and I entered nervously, sitting in the chair across from his desk.

Dr. Hauser was a slender man with pale ginger hair that was noticeably paler at his temples, though his hair was so light it was hard to tell if that was because of grey hair or just natural variation. His face had pronounced features: large cheekbones and brow, and a hawkish nose. His mouth was diminished in comparison, a mere slit with almost no lips. He almost looked like a skull, I realized. I had never made that connection before.

“Tell me why you think you should be my assistant,” Dr. Hauser said, and I was surprised for a moment. I hadn’t expected a direct question like this. But I stumbled through what I hoped was a decent answer, detailing my exceptional work in class, my studious attitude, my many qualifications and the ways I could help him. I managed to recover my poise halfway through my explanation and felt fairly confident by the end. Listing why I should have the job was helping convince me that I should have it.

“Why do you want the job?” he asked, and this time I had an answer ready. I explained my future goals and how this would help me, and how much I hoped to learn from working so closely with him.

He asked a few more simple, open-ended questions and I wondered what the others had said, and if my responses were different than theirs. I needed to stand out, but I wasn’t sure how. I would just have to be honest and hope.

Finally, Dr. Hauser leaned back and steepled his hands together.

“I have three excellent candidates,” he said, and I tensed, not knowing where this would lead. “I would be hard-pressed to choose between you. If you could choose one thing that sets you apart from the others, what would it be?”

I considered for a moment. I knew what I wanted to say, but I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate because it would throw the others under the bus. Still, I wanted this position.

“My temperament,” I said, and he seemed amused and gestured for me to continue. “Maddie’s great, but she’s quiet and prefers to work by herself. Ricky’s too invested in himself and doesn’t know how to contribute to a team. I’ll work with you and I won’t mind anything you ask me to do.”

Dr. Hauser smirked. “Temperament, huh? I hadn’t expected that. You do make a good point. Of the three of you, you would be the best to work with. But you didn’t think that being a demon gives you an advantage? You didn’t mention that a single time and it does impact your ability to do this job.”

I was startled. Had he wanted me to bring it up?

“I don’t usually talk about it,” I said slowly.

“I imagine you don’t. Your cover is flawless. Even I wasn’t sure about you. But I do know about you, and your demonic abilities make you an ideal assistant. Why wouldn’t you use that to try to win this position?”

I paused, unsure how to answer that. In all honesty, I hadn’t realized my abilities would help me. But they would. I was able to read many of the scraps of spirits I fed on, and that did make it easier to find cause of death. But there was a lot more to pathology than that, I knew. Still, should I have mentioned it?

“I guess I wanted to play fair,” I said. “It’s not an advantage I asked for.”

“Neither is intelligence, but you listed that,” Dr. Hauser said, but he sounded amused. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-four,” I said, and his eyes narrowed. “Well, I guess I’m forty-four, that’s probably what you mean.”

“You’re practically a child,” Dr. Hauser mused. I was a little offended, but not much. Demons aged far slower than humans and their aging wasn’t standardized the same way. Some demons still were children at this age, but most, like me, were considered young adults. Compared to most demons, though, I really was a child. Demons weren’t born very often and there weren’t many as young as me. There had been a boom in births about two hundred years ago and almost all of the demons I had met were about that age. Not that I met many demons. Unlike angels, we didn’t identify ourselves to the public.

“What could you possibly have done for an archangel to want to bind your powers?” he asked, and I shrugged uncomfortably. This was exactly what I didn’t want to talk about. “If you’ve managed to commit serious atrocities in such a short span of time, I can’t consider you for this position,” he warned.

“It’s not anything I’ve done,” I said, wondering what I should possibly say. I did want the job. “It’s what my mother did. They don’t trust me.”

Dr. Hauser cocked his head. “Who is your mother? I can’t imagine any demon bad enough that they’d track her children as well.”

“I’d rather not say,” I said nervously, and to my relief he waved his hand.

“I won’t judge you the same way,” he said. “If you do take this position, though, I expect you to have your abilities available to use, not bound. I assume you would have no problems with that.”

“I don’t want my powers bound again,” I assured him.

“Again?”

I blushed. I hadn’t meant to say that, to indicate that this was a yearly occurrence for me. Still, if I wanted this job, I would be with him for a year and that meant I would have to avoid being bound for that long. He should have some warning.

“They bind my power every year to prevent me from getting too strong,” I explained, and his eyes widened. “They’ll be back to try again, too.”

“You’ll need protection, then,” he said, then eyed me curiously. “You didn’t mention being a demon as one of your qualifications for this job. If you took the job, would you be willing to use your powers as a demon as part of the job?”

“I don’t really want anyone knowing what I am,” I said cautiously, because this might lose me the job. “But if no one knows, then yes, I’ll do anything you ask.”

Dr. Hauser nodded, looking pleased. “That’ll be all, then,” he said. “Thank you for talking to me. My decision will be posted tomorrow at noon.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, shaking his hand and hoping I didn’t sound as obsequious as Ricky had when he left. The hall was empty and I let out a sigh. I had no idea what any of that meant. He was seriously considering me, but I already knew that. He was seriously considering all three of us. But he had said that I would be the best to work with. Still, that didn’t necessarily mean anything. I wasn’t actually sure whether or not being a demon would help. Even if he didn’t know who my parents were, knowing the angels were after me was enough to give anyone pause, even a spectre. Still, I hadn’t failed. He was interested. Now it was just a question of who he wanted the most.

Rob Hauser stared at the door after Daron left, his mind whirling. Not Daron, he reminded himself. Daemon. An odd name for a demon. It was very neutral. Most demons were distinctly evil and fed on chaos and death. He had noticed Daron feeding from the corpses in the morgue before, but so subtly that he wasn’t even sure it was happening. But the boy didn’t seem to feed from anything else. Rob had seen demons pretending to be human before, and none could keep it up so smoothly. They delighted in mischief and frequently misled anyone unfortunate enough to consider them a friend. But Daron had at least one solid friend, and was well-liked by the entire class. As far as he knew, there had never been any problems with him.

That would make sense if his powers were bound, Rob considered. He knew angels sometimes bound a demon’s power rather than kill them, but had never heard of them targeting a single demon and repeatedly binding him, especially if the demon hadn’t done anything wrong. If Daron had caused a massacre, he could see the angels targeting him, but not because of something his mother did. And his name was so neutral. Daemons weren’t inherently evil, after all. There were good daemons. Sometimes the angels targeted based on name, but why would they target him?

He picked up the phone and called one of his friends, an investigator and fellow spectre. The phone rang several times before a gruff voice answered. She lived a continent away and he realized this wasn’t the best time to call.

“Sorry,” he said, though he knew she would wake up quickly. Spectres didn’t need much sleep to function, and sleep didn’t cloud their minds. Nothing clouded their minds. “I have a favor. I need some information.”

“Of course,” she said, though she sounded irritated. They didn’t need sleep, but that didn’t justify waking her in the middle of the night for simple information.

“I have a demon as a student, and I need to know more about him,” he said.

“Good place for a demon,” she said. “Aren’t you used to them?”

It was true, demons did frequent morgues and take jobs that gave them access to bodies. Harmless demons, that was. Demons who were content feeding on the whispers of life rather than taking those lives themselves. The dangerous demons tended to be the cause of death and he was used to dealing with them as he collected souls.

“This one’s different. He’s young. Under fifty years. And the angels are tracking him.”

Rob briefly explained his encounter with Michael and the interview he’d just given Daron, and there was silence on the other end. He knew she was intrigued. Spectres interacted with demons and angels quite a bit, but didn’t know any of the secrets of their societies. Angels had a strictly hierarchical society almost entirely removed from humans. They ventured out regularly, but they made themselves known and kept apart from human affairs. Demons had no set society, as most of them were spread out with the humans. Some fed on various emotions, some on sins, and some on death. Those were the ones he encountered most, as he worked with death intimately. Most demons wanted to stay hidden, though they rarely managed it for more than a few years at a time. They were difficult to spot, unlike angels. Angels almost always had pale hair, skin, and eyes. Demons could look like anyone. Still, Daron fit the profile of most demons. Dark hair and eyes, pale skin, and, of course, extremely handsome. All demons and angels were designed to be beautiful. The only common physical features of demons was the five-sided star sigil on their left palms, which was hidden most of the time, and the fact that their eyes turned red when they fed or were overly emotional.

When Daron had rushed into the bathroom last night, his eyes had been bright red. It was why Rob had hidden instead of making himself known. That was the first confirmation he had that Daron was a demon and he was curious as to what caused him to lose his cover. Spectres could manipulate the minds of those around them, even demons and angels, and it was simple for him to watch the scene play out without letting either of them know he was there. He would have remained invisible the entire time, but he didn’t want one of his students to lose one of his key advantages in the field. He suspected Daron didn’t understand how much of his skill was based on his demonic abilities. And he wondered how strong the boy would get without the angel’s interference.

“I’ll start searching,” his friend said. “Not many demons are born these days. It should be easy enough to figure out who he belongs to.”

“Thanks, Tilda,” he said, then they hung up. He didn’t have the time or resources to look into this, but she did. She would put a price on the knowledge but that was only fair, and part of being a spectre. The deal they made with Death gave them access to many of the world’s secrets and allowed them to manipulate the world around them as no one else could, but there was always a cost associated with every piece of knowledge. Daron would learn that soon enough, if Rob chose him. He rubbed his hands together. Three excellent options for an assistant, and a new puzzle to solve. Perfect.

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