“Right. So, Demons 101,” I said, popping the top on my can of root beer. “First thing, you know all those movies, especially The Exorcist?”
“Is that the one with the soup?” Jessie asked.
“Yeah, that’s the one. Forget ‘em. They’re pretty much universally crap. Doesn’t work that way.”
Nikki tilted her head, looking at me with skepticism. “And how did you become an expert on demonic possession?”
“Says detective on my door, don’t it?” I jerked my thumb toward the hallway. “It does, right? Sometimes people scrape that off.” I looked over, verifying that it was still there.
“Titles do not bestow knowledge, take if from a duchess, a marquess, and a goddess.”
“Wow,” Jessie said. “you’re all of those?”
“Other lifetimes, dear Jessica. Other lifetimes. And I can assure both of you that the declaration of a title did not come with details on what that entailed.”
“Sure, sure,” I waved that away. “But I’ve got experience with this. It’s piecemeal, but it does all come together. You remember Renee Carrigan?”
Nikki was stone-faced, either not remembering or caring.
“No,” Jessie said.
“Before your time.” To Nikki, I said, “The succubus? Remember her, now?”
“My memory is clear,” Nikki said icily.
“I read about her!” Jessie broke the glacier in the room. “Jen said it was required reading. I think she just ran out of things for me to do, though.”
“Right. So, anyway, I bring up her because she’s recent, and you experienced this. I’ve learned that when it comes to demonic possession, it’s not surrendering the driver’s seat. More like a shared partnership.”
Nikki frowned, her eyes scrunching in thought.
“It’s not 50-50. It never is. But the host is always in there somewhere. Sometimes it’s 90% host, 10% demon. Other times it’s reversed. Usually it’s more equitable.”
“Then why is it that possessed people are so difficult to exorcise?”
“This is why I bring up Renee. See, the thing is, most possessions are welcomed. The person invites the demon in. You know something about invitations. But instead of the home, it’s the body. And once someone comes in, it’s a lot harder to kick ‘em out. Even if the host changes his or her mind, it’s tough. It’s much tougher if the host wants to hold onto the demon.”
“And is this why the attempt to exorcise the succubus from Renee failed?”
I looked at a spot on the desk between us, remembering what happened to Father Nate, and a flood of regret sucked at me like an undertow.
“No,” I said slowly, “That was . . . that was my fault. I should’ve realized Nate wasn’t in a good place to do that. He tried to. . . . Yeah.”
Nate left the priesthood after that. Haven’t heard from him, since. Hope he’s okay. Need to try sending another email to him.
The silence hit me, and I glanced up. Jessie frowned, an expression halfway between sympathy and confusion. She didn’t know enough of the details of the case to understand, but she saw I was unhappy.
Nikki looked considering, but it was softer than her usual weighing looks. I couldn’t tell exactly what that look meant on her. On someone else I might say she was empathetic, that she knew something of what I was going through.
“Anyway,” I began, leaning forward again, “exorcisms aren’t easy, no matter what. And there are different kinds of demons. Some more animal-like than others. I don’t know the full low-down on the different kinds—I’ve never needed to know—but there’s a lot of ‘em.
“Where was I going with this?”
“Their agenda,” Nikki prompted.
“Oh, right. So, like I was saying, there’s this blending, and it’s not like there are telepathic conversations between the two, more like urges. You know how sometimes you’ll get up and go into another room, but you don’t know why you’re there until you grab the thing you wanted?” They stared at me blankly. “Okay, that’s just me, then. But, yeah, so imagine there’s this urge to do something and get something, but you can’t completely identify it. You just go get it. I have no doubt that the demons want something related to this Nativity, but probably not the Nativity itself. That would be where the teens’ desire to pull pranks kicks in.”
“I see,” Nikki nodded.
“Good, because I don’t think I can come up with another way to explain it again. Does anybody want this slice?” I pointed to the last piece of pizza in the box.