Jonas pried open the demon's beak, and I tossed the banishing rune into its mouth. It swallowed, single eye bulging, and then imploded with a loud bang, returning to the elemental plane where it had been summoned from.
I holstered my weapon, who whispered his contentment.
"You all right?" Jonas asked.
"Bit my tongue, and I think I have some bruised ribs," I answered.
"Let's wrap up here, and I'll take you to get something hot to eat. That was some shooting, by the way. New gun?" Jonas asked.
"Yeah, I passed the sixth mastery," I answered. "Master Dan gave it to me as a present. Looks like it packs quite a punch."
"Haven't been able to pass the third," he said.
He would have to let go of his hatred, for that. There was no point saying anything. Our mutual master of Discipline had told him often enough, and I didn't want to spoil Jonas's good mood.
"Our orders indicated the complaint originated in the basement," I said, avoiding the subject. "Let's see what bass-ackwards mistake the summoner made. Maybe our missing tenants will turn up while we're at it. Management is going to want that in our report."
Jonas nodded and led the way. I followed, keeping silent. The stairs sent a jolt of pain through my torso with every step, and only an effort of will kept my gasps inaudible. If Jonas realized how hurt I was, he would try to send me out, and he wouldn't make any extra effort to find the missing people.
We found the summoning circle in what had once been an underground garage. It had been converted into a storage area when magic came and the inevitable horde of imps made vehicles useless. I could still smell the tang of oil, but it was overpowered by cold concrete and dust.
The apartment manager had cordoned off spaces for the tenants using ropes and orange traffic cones. Clutter abounded. Old cardboard boxes vied for space with bicycles, musty furniture, and an assortment of random junk.
Someone had shoved the belongings out of four sections, swept the floor clean, and drawn their invocation using white chalk. I looked it over. The lines were precise, perfectly drawn and without the signs of the smudging or screwy spelling that would indicate an amateur mistake. I turned on my phone and took a picture, recording the inscription for study.
"Tess," Jonas said, his tone uneasy. "Is it just me, or are there three invocations in that thing?"
My weapon was in my hand without conscious thought. Free of the muffling influence of his holster, he roared in my mind, furious and possessive.
His ire didn't appear to be aimed at me. I spun on my heels, searching for the target of his anger. My ribs screamed with the motion, making me falter, and I pressed my free hand against my side. That didn't help, so I used it to steady my gun, instead.
The weapon hummed in my hand, dragging at my attention. I couldn't spot his target. A nudge, almost a tugging feeling, turned my head toward my partner.