Det. Jake Bolland had a look of defeat as he took down the landlady’s statement, which involved the words “private property” and “gross negligence” and “sue your ass” at an alarming frequency. The firefighters hosed down the last of the flames. The video store was now a hollowed-out, charred husk. No sign of the spiders remained.
Ben sat on the curb, swiping at his phone, looking for a car to drive him and Toby to class. The nearest one was ten minutes away. Toby was curled up in a ball next to him, napping. Sarah sat down on the other side.
“Is he gonna be ok?” Ben nodded to the cop he’d rescued, drinking coffee under a blanket on the back of an ambulance.
“He’s alive. I think you got him out before the spiders got into his guts, but we should probably have him looked at.” Sarah pulled out an envelope. “I’ve got something for you.”
“No,” Ben shook his head. “Sarah. We talked about this. I can’t take money.”
“It’s not taxpayer money,” Sarah said. “Me and the other cops who can see this shit put it together.”
“This is all my fault. The demons have been running rampant since I yanked Toby out of Hell. I left something open. They’re here because of me.” Ben pet Toby. The dog glanced at him then continued sleeping. “I shouldn’t get paid for that. You guys do most of the work, anyway.”
“Cool, you’re right. But also, shut up. Take it.” She forced the envelope into his hand. “Buy a vehicle. You’ll be more useful. What are you doing Friday night? My cousin sells used cars, I can bring you there, get you a deal.”
“I can’t, I have a, uhh…” Ben found it difficult to make eye contact with her. “…date.”
“What?!” Sarah smacked him. It hurt. He rubbed his arm. “Look at you! Who is she?”
“She’s a dog walker.” Ben smiled. “We work together.”
“That is your type. Are you sure you want to go down that road again? The last dog walker you fell for stabbed you and Toby to death.”
“She was nice to me after that.” Ben said, shrugging.
“Do you like her?” Sarah said. “This new one?”
Ben thought about it for a moment. Toby got up and stretched, yawning.
“I have no idea.” Ben said. Toby walked past him, heading for something on the other side of Sarah.
“You know how I know if I really like a guy?” Sarah pulled out her phone and messed with it. “I text him something funny and then, the moment I zone out, I look at it again to wait for the dot-dot-dot that says he’s typing back. It has to be unconscious. That means I can’t think about anything else. Shit, I’m calling you.”
She hit the End Call button. For an instant, she saw Ben’s phone screen change in his hand.
“Did you make a Batman signal with Toby instead of a bat and set it to show when I call you?”
“No.” Ben said, quickly pocketing his phone. “Yes. Whatever. I’m allowed to enjoy this a little.”
“You dweeb.” Sarah laughed. “You should’ve made it the Onislayer. The dog makes it look like I’m calling Toby and you’re his sidekick.”
A car horn honked right next to them. Toby was in the front seat of a dinky blue hatchback, paw on the steering wheel, standing on the lap of a very confused driver.
“Certainly no truth to that.” Ben said.