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"Are you sure that's the gate?" Match asked, bemused by the curler's behavior.
The curler dived towards the TV, shattering its glass. Match and the others threw themselves back to avoid the flying shards.
"I am so out of here," the woman in curlers said, clutching her hair.
Before she could move, a shriek split the air and a long, thin arm stretched out from inside the TV. It snatched the woman by the hem of her floral muumuu and dragged her closer.
"Stop." Match took the woman's arm and tried to maintain a grip on her, but the arm from the TV reacted by pulling harder.
"Help me." The woman kicked a fuzzy slipper at the arm.
Match ducked to avoid a blast of flame racing up the demonic arm. Desperate, he gathered his power.
"Don't use it, Match." Brother Zachariah knocked over a table in his haste to reach him.
The woman in Match's arms struggled, flailing so hard she hit him in the stomach. He gasped and released his grip on the power even as Eddie walked over to the woman and hauled her to the edge of the shattered TV screen.
"Back off, Eddie."
The woman kicked Eddie's shin and the demon's apprentice yelped like a dog. Somewhere behind them, an engine roared.
"Come on," Eddie said in an aggrieved tone. "It's obvious a sacrifice has to open the gate all the way. Is one more housewife going to make a difference?"
"Hey now." The woman glared at Eddie. "I happen to run a successful online auction boutique at home. Don't label me without checking out the goods."
"Let the woman go, Eddie." Match advanced on the other man as the air near the picture frame grew hot.
"All I wanted was a toaster," the woman said with a wail. Her eyes grew wide. "Oh my God — look out!"
Match hurled the woman and Eddie aside as the SUV jumped the curb and roared to a stop inches from Eddie's boots.
"Boss, help me out here," Eddie said, dropping the housewife entrepreneur.
The vehicle's door opened and a tall, thin woman in a red dress stepped out. Match recognized her in an instant, though he hadn't seen her in years.
His stepsister looked more angular than he remembered and she walked towards them with stiff, erratic movements, like a puppet that didn't know its mark. Dark sunglasses obscured Marjorie's eyes and her manicured hands made Match think of talons.
"You found the gate." Marjorie's voice sounded pleased. "I told Eddie you would." She walked closer to inspect the broken TV.
Her perfume smelled like roses mixed with dried blood. Match clutched his stomach to keep from vomiting while the woman in curlers dragged him to his feet.
"I don't know what's up with that weird TV, but you should get out of here."
"You go on." Match shook his head. "I've got a job to do."
He sounded more determined than he felt. Match couldn't see a way to stop Marjorie from taking the gate if she wanted it. Brother Zachariah shot him a warning look — he couldn't use his power to destroy the TV without risking disastrous consequences. Last week's incident in Albuquerque had proved that much.
"It isn't the gate I wanted, but it will work for me." Marjorie took off her sunglasses and revealed eyes tinged with red. "Of course, I need a sacrifice."
Her straightforward tone compelled the woman in curlers to slap her slippers against the pavement. Marjorie smirked, then looked at Match.
"Have you gotten tired of hanging out with those old men yet? My reports say you haven't even mastered the most fundamental aspects of your magic yet."
The basketball rolled towards Match and he picked it up.
"Do you remember when I started playing in high school?" At Marjorie's nod, Match began to dribble the ball. "I didn't listen to the coach — I wanted to be the star. Instead, he benched me until I figured out the basics of working with my team. It's the same thing now."
Behind him, Zachariah let out a deep breath. "We wondered if you understood that lesson, Brother Match."
A sneer crossed Marjorie's face again. "Play your games, Match. You'll find them useless against me when I return from Hell. Eddie."
"Yeah, Boss?" Eddie gave Match a look stripped of any of the friendship from earlier.
Marjorie gripped his arm and dragged him closer to the TV.
"Boss, you don't want to sacrifice me — I've got a lot of work to do for you. Please — "
Ignoring his protests, Marjorie bowed to the gate. "Accept this token and grant me leave to return to the dark kingdom." She twisted Eddie's neck and dropped the body in front of the TV.
Tendrils of fire rippled outward from the gate and seized the dying man.
"Marjorie, don't do this." Match stared at the woman, but couldn't find his stepsister in the demon's amused face.
"If you weren't so afraid of your power, you could join me." Some of the sharpness in Marjorie's eyes faded and she held out her hand. "Your mom always wanted me to take care of you. I can take you home with me. Those brothers of yours can't shield anyone when the Final Battle comes, but I can protect you."