About The Demons of the Square Mile:
The real story behind Brexit.
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
“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 Émigré.”
“What do you want?”
“We have a job for you.”
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.
“You stupid 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 leverage, yes?”
“Let me speak to him.”
Brief silence, 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, Émigré?”
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 angry.
“If anything 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 you?”
“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.”
I smelled 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.
Fantasy Romance vs Romantic Fantasy and Stable Relationships vs Contretemps
Laurence Raphael Brothers
The Nora Simeon novellas are romantic fantasies, by which I mean that a relationship is an important part of each story. As it happens, it’s the same relationship every time, or at least, that one relationship is present in every novella. But these novellas are noir fantasies first, and romances second, or from a strict genre viewpoint, not at all.
That’s because capitalized Romance, the genre, has strong rules, which work very well for readers who are expecting stories of longing, of clashes and reunions, of unfortunate contretemps and star-crossed lovers, and finally the happily-ever-after or happy-for-now resolution. But the Nora Simeon Investigations are stories of intrigue and mystery and sorcery and murder and romance with a small R. So while I’m very fond of Romance as well as romance, it can be a bit tough sometimes to distinguish just what I’m writing so as not to confuse or disappoint readers.
Consider, for example, Nick and Nora (her name is not a coincidence) in The Thin Man (note Hammett’s novelization is deeper and more interesting than the movie, which though very good is just a bit too frothy and superficial for my taste). This is a romantic mystery story in which the two protagonists are lovers who happen to be in a stable relationship (cue Garnet singing Stronger Than You in Steven Universe). This is unfortunately rare in fiction and represents a pattern I’d like to see much more of, which is why I decided to write it myself.
Now in The Thin Man, the leads start out married, but in The Demons of Wall Street, I started with Nora alone even though I wanted to tell a story of a supernatural partnership.
This is because in thinking about classical hardboiled protagonists it occurred to me these fictional types are so willing and eager to fight, to suffer injury, and even to kill or be killed without much thought that if they existed in real life, they must be terribly traumatized and distorted individuals. Which is why Nora starts out with such a harsh personality, suffering from extreme anomie and alienation as the result of her upbringing under her mother’s unloving and even cruel tutelage. But unlike say, Sam Spade or James Bond or even the somewhat more balanced Philip Marlowe, Nora’s well aware how messed up she is, and how much she needs to change if she’s to survive. And so, when she meets Eyre, who has a literally superhuman capacity to absorb and neutralize Nora’s more obnoxious features, she’s able to start back on a path to recovery of human traits like compassion and empathy. Of course, Eyre has his own problems, being extraordinarily passive and accepting of conditions around him, even those that are terribly unjust and unfair, and Nora complements his weaknesses with her own active and aggressive strengths.
Having come together in the first novella, all is not guaranteed smooth sailing for Nora and Eyre, in The Demons of the Square Mile and future sequels. they still have problems, not just externally, but with their own abilities to adjust and accommodate one another, as well as disagreements about how best to proceed with their lives and their linkage. And for people so wrapped up in the dreadful affairs of the sorcerous conspiracy at the heart of the banking industry, a perfectly actualized and placid relationship is never going to be very likely. But on the other hand, I do guarantee that so long as the series runs, they will be together, one way or another. No contretemps, foolish misunderstanding, or even tragic alignment of fate will keep them apart for long.
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.