About The Demons of Chiyoda:
Occult private eye, Nora Simeon, and Eyre, her uncannily pretty boyfriend, are on another case on behalf of the Commission, the secret organization that controls financial sorcery in the Americas. This time they're hunting down an investment-bank sorcerer who cracked when passed over for promotion and used a summoned demon to commit murder. Finding the murderer is easy, but he's already dead, assassinated in a locked room.
The case's ramifications quickly reach far beyond New York. From a murder scene in Queens, Nora and Eyre discover a tangled web of international corruption and sorcery linking crimes in Japan and the US. Traveling to Tokyo at the behest of the mysterious Onmyōdō Group, they run afoul of the even more deadly Ministry of Shadows. In the rural reaches of Fukushima province, Nora and Eyre discover a fateful secret that could shake the foundations of financial sorcery all around the world and come up against an old enemy whose malice poses a greater danger than any they've faced before.
More people got on the train at Queensboro Plaza, so we sat in friendly silence except for the ninety-decibel roar of the train until we got off at Hudson Yards. After that it was just a short walk to 9th Avenue and 35th Street. Up sixteen floors in the dingy old elevator, past the frosted glass door with “Simeon Investigations” in gold leaf on the glass, and into my tiny, cramped office. And okay, I lied about there being nothing left to do, because I’d forgotten about the phone until we sat down at our desks.
First things first, though. I walked over to the flowerpot on my windowsill and my pet fire elemental, Spark, rushed out of it, a long streamer of fire like an incandescent snake spiraling up my arm, then changing form to buzz excitedly around my head like a demented moth who’d flown too close to a candle. Eyre held out his hand and the elemental darted over to him to alight on his wrist, now looking like a newly-hatched chick. Well, a newly-hatched chick who’d been drenched in gasoline and set afire, anyway. Spark was familiar enough with Eyre that they knew not to burn him. My assistant made those “cht-cht” noises you do when you’re trying to talk to a bird, but this seemed to freak Spark out and they fled back to my shoulder.
“Spark’s getting stronger,” Eyre said. “Not too long before you can consider embodying them. They’ll be able to do it themself eventually, but best if they have some help.”
“You think they’re...smart enough to be a person?”
“Not yet. Maybe not for ten or twenty years. But they’ll grow more self-willed before then, like a pet cat or a dog. And a willful fire elemental might be a bit of a chore to manage if they don’t have a body to conceal their flames. It will be good practice for them when they mature into intelligence, too.”
“Well, you’re the expert. I’ll keep it in mind.”
The problem was I’d need help if I wanted to bind the elemental’s spirit into a material body, and I wasn’t exactly on speaking terms with the only person I could think of who I could reasonably ask for assistance. It wasn’t an urgent matter, anyway. I opened a cabinet and found a big cone of sandalwood incense, offered it up for the elemental to ignite, and then placed it in the pot where they could play with it at their leisure. Then I took Carson’s phone out of my bag.
“Eyre, you want a try at this?”
He’d recently taken an online course for PIs about breaking into people’s phones but had yet to succeed with the new skill in real life.
I handed it over and he started doing his thing with a laptop, a USB cable, and his hacking class powerpoints. Meanwhile I began to write up my report for the Commission, and then stopped because I remembered the photos I’d taken. I brought up the image of the characters on the wall, wrote them out myself on a pad without all the blood smears and drips and stuff, and then tried Google Lens on that.
天罰. Hm. Could be tiānfá, “curse” in Chinese, or tenbatsu, “divine punishment” in Japanese. Both seemed fitting, but neither were immediately meaningful.
“You getting anywhere with that phone?”
“Stupid thing has all the latest updates. Can’t get through the lockscreen.”
I brought up my own phone’s dialing screen. “Try 73724.”
“Why? Did you find it searching his bags or something?”
“Just do it,” I said, hoping hard. Once when I was sixteen I hoped really hard for something almost impossible to happen and it did, so since then I try it from time to time.
Twice in twelve years! How about that?
“Ha.” I got up and walked over to Eyre’s desk. He had the phone jacked into his laptop and was in the process of syncing everything over to a clean workspace he’d set up. “Cold reading. Not too bad for a hunch.”
“You’re kidding.” He studied the number for a moment, then shook his head. “Doesn’t mean anything to me. How’d you guess it?”
“Spelled out Perah on the dialpad. Guess Carson must have cared some about his demon too. Wasn’t just one way.”
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