About The Demons of the Square Mile:
Occult Private Investigator, Nora Simeon, and her uncannily handsome partner Eyre – an elemental given human form – follow a trail of magic, murder, and conspiracy from the luxurious apartment towers of Manhattan’s upper east side to the ancient depths of London’s Inner Temple. Along the way they encounter powerful sorcerers, magisterial barristers, evil templars, and, of course, more demons gone rogue.
With their newly acquired ward, Martha – a rat-demon – in tow, they uncover a secret so profound it could both undermine the world’s financial system and topple the British government.
Paperback: 114 pages
Guest Post: Alternative Futures in the Nora Simeon Novellas
By Laurence Raphael Brothers
I started writing the Nora Simeon novellas
with the vague idea that they were set in something like the current day, but
insensibly, as I worked my way through the first one, the book slipped gently
into the future. Not the distant science-fictional future of spaceships and
sentient computers, nor even the middle distance of autonomous vehicles and
universal surveillance, but “the day after tomorrow”. This setting offers a
totally familiar world (well, except for the sorcery and the demons and all
that) but one that’s not set in stone in terms of current events.
Because one thread in these books is societal
criticism (hopefully not too annoying because the first purpose is
entertainment) I didn’t want Nora’s world to diverge casually or accidentally
from our own. Instead I wanted its divergences to be specific and limited, so
that as the reader you can assume that if you know something unstated about our
world, it will apply to Nora’s as well.
It was always my plan to take Nora to the UK
in the first sequel, so I had to deal with Brexit, which at the time of
conceiving the story was pretty clearly going to happen, but whose details were
unknown. Of course, like the vast majority of economists and observers outside
Britain, I was reasonably confident it would be a disaster, but the precise
scale and consequences of the disaster were unclear. The easiest approach was
to confront this unknown head-on, since I thought it so wonderfully stupid and
self-destructive. In the story I could come up with some reason, however
fantastic, that would necessarily make more sense than the idiotic actuality.
And so a point of divergence between our world
and Nora’s is that in ours Brexit was the absurdly unintended consequence of
in-fighting between factions of the Conservative party, neither of whom
actually wanted Brexit to take place, whereas in hers it came about due to
political infighting between continental and British sorcerers. The difference
there is that in Nora’s world at least the group who promoted Brexit sincerely
wanted it to happen, so I suppose in that respect her world is more sensible
I’d actually completed the ms when first
reports came of some new form of flu or something like that arising in China.
Pretty soon it became clear that if I wanted readers to imagine Nora as living
in the Manhattan of our own world, I’d have to do something. Because in the
novella, people can go out to restaurants and bars and hotels and take
international flights without worrying and without wearing masks, either. This
time, however, I decided head-on was not the right approach, despite this being
totally appropriate for other current-day and near-future stories. And so, in
Nora’s world, where sorcery is used in secret to influence the profits of
investment banks and mold the behavior of the global economy, it’s perfectly
consistent for this generally immoral and unethical art to be used, for once,
for the good of humanity, in wiping out the nascent disease before it could
take hold. Because, after all, Covid is terrible for the economy….
Anyway, easy and indeed appropriate as this
decision was, I worried it over for a while because it seemed a bit less than
forthright to finesse this terrible disease that has killed so many people and
damaged the lives of literally everyone else in the world. And moreover, no one
could anymore entertain the fantasy that the story’s events might be real in
our world. In the end I came to the conclusion that whatever secondary moral or
even political goals these books might serve, the principal one is
entertainment, and that especially in this unpleasant last year with who knows
how much more unpleasantness left to come, that a fantasy with no global
pandemic would be far more attractive than one without.
And so, apart from one brief mention
explaining how the Covid-19 was sorcerously decapitated before it could take
hold, you won’t find masks, social distancing, vaccine inequity, or the
perverse, stupid, and indeed wholly evil attempts of our various political
leaders to downplay or minimize the disease anywhere in The Demons of the Square Mile.
“We have your
minion,” said an inhuman voice. A demon’s for sure, unless it had been
synthesized. It sounded like shards of broken glass jangling in a paper bag,
but I could understand it. What I couldn’t understand was how anyone could
kidnap Eyre without getting their asses handed to them. Gun or no gun.
“Who are you?”
More broken glass
sounds, but no words. After a few seconds I realized it was laughter. At last
the voice answered. “We would be foolish to divulge our true name. Call us
“What do you
“We have a job
I felt a flash of
red rage. My little pet fire elemental, Spark, flared up in sympathy from its
urn on the windowsill, and I thought I might just burst into flame myself.
infernal-plane motherfucker! I charge a hundred an hour. All you had to do was
clear a check and I’d work for you. But now–”
“Now we have
“Let me speak to
and then Eyre came on the line. His voice was weak. I wanted to reach through
the phone and tear broken-glass-voice to pieces with my hands.
“Hey, Nora,” he
said. “I’m really sorry about this. They got hold of my sigil somehow. They
know what I am.”
“Eyre,” I said,
“listen to me. I’m coming for you. Don’t fight them yourself.” I was thinking, Not till I get there.
“No fear of
that,” he said. “It’s – you’ll have to see. They say they’ll let me go if you
work for them. But I don’t think–”
Eyre’s voice cut
off and broken-glass-voice resumed.
“Nora Simeon is
known to us as a hunter of demons. She was contracted to hunt the demon
Barbatos. She fulfilled her contract and killed the mighty demon Azriel.”
Actually, it was
Eyre who had the final word against Azriel, but there was a lesson there I
wanted this demon to learn.
“I’m a PI. An
investigator. Barbatos was just a missing person job. But listen carefully.
Azriel would have been in no danger from me, except she attacked Eyre. My
partner, Eyre. I’ve got nothing against demons these days. Not unless they
kidnap my friends. Do you understand me,
A pause. “Yes.”
I knew even as I
was saying it how stupid it was. But I couldn’t help myself. I was too damn
happens to Eyre, I will destroy you, too. Count on it. But if you release him right now, I might just let you live.”
A longer pause.
The phone was slick and uncomfortable in my hand. Then: “Very well.”
“Come to us. We
will release your minion into your care. We – do not wish to be destroyed. We
are used to negotiations in our world and – and we realize that we now exist in
your own. We wish you to do a job for us. We will pay. We did not believe you
would listen to us if we solicited your services without leverage.”
“Okay. Where are
“We are located
at…” Another pause, and I heard indistinct jangling noises away from the
phone. “Yes. 87th Street and York Avenue. The red building. Apartment 18E.”
Demons on the
upper east side. Why not?
“All right,” I
said. “I’ll be there shortly.”
Yet more silence,
like it was thinking about saying something else. Then: “Goodbye.”
something burning, turned my head to see a thin swirl of black smoke rising
from around Spark’s pot. The tiny elemental had gotten so hot from my emotions
during the call it had scorched the paint right off the windowsill. Fortunately
it was a metal sill and frame, with nothing inflammable nearby. Spark had been
growing stronger lately, more in the last few months than it had during the
previous ten years since I’d summoned and bound it as my first and only
successful feat of sorcery. I shook some powdered incense into the elemental’s
urn as a treat, and like a dragonfly made of flame, it flew up and spiraled
around my body, leaving only a faint sensation of warmth behind. Spark had
already forgotten my rage of a moment before. Any other time I would have
stopped to play with it, but not today.
I returned to
Eyre’s desk and retrieved his pistol, a massive old Colt M1911, made sure it
was loaded and safe, and dropped it into a tote bag along with his phone. My
own compact Ruger went into its tailored holster. Maybe Émigré was telling the
truth about letting Eyre go, but if it wasn’t, I’d have something to say.
Purchase Your Copy:
Laurence Raphael Brothers is a writer and a
technologist. He has published over 25 short stories in such magazines as
Nature, the New Haven Review, PodCastle, and Galaxy’s Edge. His WWI-era
historical fantasy novel Twilight Patrol was just released by Alban
Lake. For more of his stories, visit https://laurencebrothers.com/bibliography,
or follow him on twitter: @lbrothers.