The demon slipped out of the wall at nightfall, sliding slowly toward its obsession without much sound. There was the whispering though, it was always whispering sweet nothings in a low, raspy voice to its obsession as she slept.

”What a pleasant sight you are, ” it hovered over its obsession, gazing at her sleeping face, ”So beautifully designed. ” Clawed fingers reached to caress her skin but a silver Star of David flashed with light and the demons touch was repelled. It snarled its frustration and its obsession began to stir so the demon fled into the space beneath the bed, whispering, ”I love you, I love you, I love you, ” all the way. Its obsession heard the voice and woke, clutching her sheets tightly as the demon began scratching against the metal frame of the bed.

Its obsession clutched her necklace and prayed.

She needed help.

#

Former FBI Alienist Dr. Josefine Wolfe left her apartment that day expecting it to pass like every other day had since shed lost her job, but instead, she found herself a case to feed into her severe addiction to puzzles at her usual cafe.

Josefine arrived at the cafe—a little Jewish place called Zaftigs Deli located conveniently between her place and the local Bureau office—in time to beat the lunch rush, the collar of her long coat turned up against the wind and the rain and the rim of her hat pulled low over her eyes. In hindsight, Josefine supposed it didn matter how close Zaftigs was to the local Bureau office considering theyd politely requested she never come back and she was only there because it was habit by now.

The door closed behind her and Josefine paused to fold the collar of her long coat back down—it was well-worn army green wool but still kept her plenty warm even after years of use—and removed her hat now that she was out of the rain. There was music playing, smooth jazz from a record player somewhere behind the counter almost lost in the sound of rain hitting the windows and the low hum of chatter in the sparsely populated seating area—Josefine supposed the rain had either deterred or slowed all except the most adventurous patrons that day.

”Oh, Doc, my favorite customer, ” Dubicki waved excitedly from behind the counter before returning his large hands to change out the coffee, ”I have beans from Brazil today. ” Josefine inhaled quietly, the scent registering as fresh grounds before she returned his smile with a very convincing one of her own; Dubickis love of coffee meant Josefine had a good supplier for her addiction to the stuff. ”How are you today? It has been a while, yes? ”

”Good, good, ” she approached the counter in two long strides, ”better now I get to have your coffee, ” she spoke with the same charming lilt to her words she always used when she cared about appearing normal. Dubicki laughed, the sound coming from somewhere deep in his belly; it was almost enough to distract Josefine from the dark chuckle in the back of her mind.

”Your regular then? ” She nodded slightly, taking in his collection of coffee presses on the shelf behind him while she waited for him to finish up so that she could hand him the dime for her first cup of coffee and a refill later. His customer service smile never wavered and the coin quickly disappeared into the register. ”Ill send Maggie right over with it. ”

”Thank you, ” Josefine turned her attention toward the chairs and tables arranged almost haphazardly across the open space, resisting the impulse to straighten them with her hands deep in her coat pockets as she made her way to her usual table by the window in the corner.

People watching, shed always called it when her overactive sense of paranoia made her hypersensitive to the movements and voices of the people around.

Wolf—the Monster in her head—usually laughed when she got like that as if it found her amusing.

Josefine continued to ignore it as the dark thing chuckled in the back of her head while she surveyed the other patrons with an analytical eye. Then Margaret ”Maggie ” Bates approached with a steaming mug of Dubickis latest experimental blend black as night. Josefine took the mug and napkin with a quiet thanks and Bates hurried on, uncharacteristically quiet and rushed despite the lack of customers, as if working to keep her mind off something, but that suited Josefine just fine; she wasn exactly in the mood to listen to idle chatter when she was too busy itching for a complex puzzle or some other way to distract herself from Wolfs more violent inclinations.

To Wolf, normal humans were little more than fragile playthings.

Josefine started to set the mug down on the napkin after the first sip of too-hot coffee, but neat handwriting scrawled stark on the paper made her pause. Please help me, it read in familiar, normally bubbly handwriting full of fear now, so she turned it over, looking for more information and finding none before her brow furrowed and she looked again at Bates. Josefine watched her, tucking the napkin into an inside coat pocket with her notepad before taking another sip of the coffee a

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