He jumped up and landed on just his hands and walked the perimeter of the pit. When he was back in front of Valva, he flipped back over and picked her up. She giggled as he spun her around his head. He tossed her in the air and caught her in his arms.
I rolled my eyes. Maisie laughed next to me, enjoying the show. But the rest of the crowd started booing. They’d paid to see a fight, not some bizarre demon mating dance.
“No mercy! No mercy!”
Giguhl ignored them and set Valva gently on her feet. Slade jumped into the ring and approached the pair. I ran forward to play referee should the need arise.
Slade covered the mic with his free hand. “What the f**k is going on here? You know the rules. Two demons enter; one demon leaves.”
“Screw the rules.”
“Yeah,” Valva said in a high-pitched voice. She rewarded Giguhl’s rebellion with a kiss on his cheek. His green scales flashed red for a moment—the demon version of a blush.
A few members of the audience booed. Others picked up the chant. “Two demons enter; one demon leaves!”
Giguhl grabbed the mic from Slade, who looked like he wanted to fight him for it but thought better of it. Giguhl waved his hands for silence. “No one’s going to the Pit of Despair tonight.”
Jeers and more boos greeted this announcement. Giguhl ignored them and grabbed Valva. He dipped her low, going in for a passionate kiss.
Slade turned on me. “Order him to fight!”
“Sorry, Slade. It’s his decision.”
He glared at me for a moment. “If he doesn’t win, I’m out a fortune.”
Just then, a male pushed past me and rushed into the ring. “Get off her!” He launched himself onto Giguhl’s back. I grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck and pulled him off Giguhl.
The audience went quiet, holding their collective breath as they watched a new drama unfold. Maisie eased away from the crowd and came to stand next to me. “Who the hell are you?” I demanded.
He ignored me and jumped toward Valva. He grabbed her arm, inviting a low growl from Giguhl.
Slade stepped in. “That’s Lenny. He’s Valva’s handler.”
Lenny was a mage, judging by the scent of sandalwood coming off him. His lanky frame was covered in a bad suit, and his black hair looked like it had been slicked back using a pork chop. “You get your ass in gear and finish this fight,” he yelled at Valva.
“Hey,” I called. “I suggest you get your hand off the demon before Giguhl rips it off.”
“Fuck that! She’s going to finish this.” He rose on his tiptoes and whispered angrily in Valva’s ear. Giguhl shot me a look, begging me to let him take care of the mage. I shook my head.
“Calm down there, buddy,” I said. “We can sort this out, but clearly, Valva doesn’t want to fight.”
He ignored me again and said to Valva, “You know the deal. You wanna stay with Lenny, you gotta earn your keep.” He took a breath and changed tactics. His voice went from angry to sweetly threatening. “You don’t want me to send you to the Pit of Despair, do you, sweetheart?”
Fear lit up Valva’s golden irises. “No, Lenny. You can’t send me there.”
“What the hell’s going on here?” I demanded to Slade in a low voice. “I thought she was supposed to throw the fight anyway.”
Slade shrugged. “Lenny doesn’t want to pay his debt, which just doubled since he didn’t keep up his end of the deal.”
“Whether she can fight or not, it doesn’t sound like she wants to go home,” Maisie said.
Lenny was sweating now. His eyes had a desperate glint. Too desperate. “I told you to kill that demon!”
“Hold on just a damned minute,” I yelled. “What the hell do you mean by that? She was supposed to throw the fight!”
Shocked gasps rippled through the crowd. Slade cursed loudly. “Godsdammit, Sabina.”
I was too concerned with figuring out what the hell was going on to worry about keeping Slade’s racket a secret. “What did you mean she was supposed to kill him?”
Lenny’s head jerked up, finally realizing he had an audience. “Fuck. She’s gonna be pissed now.”
I frowned. “Who is?”
Lenny shook his head. “Like I’d tell you. It’s all your fault anyway, bitch.”
I did a double take. “How the hell is this my fault?” I felt like I’d entered the Twilight Zone.
Lenny’s eyes went unfocused and wild. “It’s too late. Unless…” Lenny spun around toward Giguhl.
A prickle started at the base of my neck as I realized Lenny was drawing up his magic. My blood went cold.
Time slowed. I leapt forward, my hand going for my gun. Valva fell as Lenny pushed her down. Giguhl’s eyes went red with rage. Behind me, I heard Slade yell.
The air shifted, crackling with energy. A bolt of something flew past me and slammed into Lenny. His body jerked, his own spell going wide. He froze like a statue.
The entire room went still with shock. I stopped with my gun aimed at Lenny’s inert body. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Maisie lower her hands. She saw my look and shrugged. “We can figure this out without anyone dying.” Her voice held an undertone of steel I’d never heard before.
Slade burst into action, calling on his bouncers to clear the room. While they rounded up the confused crowd, I slid my gun back into my waistband. Adrenaline still singed through me, making my hands shake. Giguhl helped Valva off the floor. He wrapped his green arms around her while she quietly sobbed against his chest.
Maisie came to stand next to me. “Sorry about that.”
“No, thank you,” I said, realizing I really meant it. “Now we can get some answers out of him.”
It took a few more minutes for Slade’s men to clear the room. When the last patron exited, he came to join us. He ran a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. “Remind me why I shouldn’t kick your ass out of here right now. Do you have any idea how much money you just cost me?”
I crossed my arms. “That’s your own damned fault, and you know it.”
“Children, do you think you can hold off on the blame game until we figure out why Lenny wanted Giguhl dead?”
Slade shot me a glare but nodded at Maisie. “You’re right, Fiona. What do you suggest we do?”
I blinked. I’d forgotten the whole Fiona charade.
“First of all,” she said and paused. A trickle of energy made my skin tingle. Sparkles of magic circled Maisie, morphing her back into her normal appearance as they traveled down her body. “My name’s not Fiona. It’s Maisie.”