In the summer humidity, Match considered ditching the oracle's advice to check out this particular yard sale. However, if the oracle had it right, they'd pick up one of the missing Gates of Hell — at a bargain price.
"I could use my power to persuade that woman into letting us have a sneak preview. I'd love to buy that flat screen TV." Match shot another hoop and spun enough of his magic into the ball to let it creep towards Brother Zachariah's feet.
The old man replaced his bookmark and gave the basketball a baleful stare. It halted an inch from his polished black boots and quivered. "Keep that orange monstrosity away from me, Brother Match. If you use your power in public again, I'll beat you with that thing."
"Sorry." Match picked up the ball and squeezed it. Sometimes his power just leaked out of him, but the old man had appointed himself referee in charge of Match's lack of discipline.
A loud roar from an engine made them turn around.
"How did Eddie know to come here?" Zachariah's voice held a hearty dose of contempt. In the last few months, Eddie had shown up whenever a mission drew them out of the Order's headquarters.
"I take it you aren't here for the exercise bike, Eddie," Match said. "Is your master in that oversized shoebox you drive or are you here alone?"
They'd gone to high school together close to ten years ago, but since then Match had joined the Order of the Northern Light and Eddie had yoked himself to a demon who borrowed bodies at the rate of one a year.
"You guys are in for a shock when my master opens that gate. You're here, so it must be around somewhere." Eddie reached for the basketball. "Come on, Match. I haven't been to the gym in two days and I need a workout."
In answer, Match looked at Zachariah. The older man waved them away. "We have a few minutes longer to wait." He beckoned Match closer. "Find out if the demon or its lackey knows what the gate looks like."
"Our GPS conked out on us," Eddie said with alarming directness. "Did your oracle clue you in this time? I hear it's not all that reliable."
The oracle twitched inside Match's jacket. When he slapped it, the oracle subsided and he dribbled the ball. All of a sudden, Eddie darted everywhere Match wanted to go, like a cadaverous shadow.
"I don't need an oracle to know your team is going to lose the game." Match rocked on his heels for a split second, then shot the ball. It teetered on the rim of the basket and refused to go in.
"Right now the Order consists of a bunch of senile old people and you," Eddie said, staring at the ball. "You don't even know how to use your magic beyond a few stunts. Word out of New Mexico is your guys killed a few priests. You guys are starting to look a lot like us, man."
The ball slipped off the rim and Eddie leaped to catch it. Frustrated, Match chased him around the driveway.
"The Order is doing its job," Match said, gasping for breath. "As long as I manage to stay a few steps ahead of you, I'll be fine."
"Look at you, Match." Eddie sniffed. "You should have been one of us — Marjorie did some amazing things in Boston. Instead, you're the Goth groupie to a bunch of prissy old men who can barely shave themselves in the morning."
"Leave Marjorie out of it." His stepsister had chosen her own path years ago.
Eddie aimed a wild shot at the hoop. It bounced off the rim and flew into the snarl of bushes nearby.
"Gentlemen." Brother Zachariah gestured to the house next door. "Let's go hunting."
Match went to admire the TV. The Order put him on the road so much it wouldn't be a practical buy, but he didn't mind drooling a minute.
Eddie noticed his destination and elbowed past him, bumping into a woman in a bright muumuu.
"Excuse me," the woman said, aiming an annoyed look at Eddie. One of her curlers popped out of her hair and landed in front of Match.
He stooped to pick up the curler, which skittered away from his fingers. "Knock it off, Eddie."
"It's not me, Big Guy."
The curler dragged itself along the ground towards the flat screen TV. Dismayed, the woman took a step backwards as Match raced up to Eddie and shouted for Brother Zachariah.
The elder broke off his conversation with the lady in charge of the cash box and hurried over in time to witness a blaze of fire appearing in the middle of the TV screen.
"That's it," Eddie said, pumping his fist.
For a moment, the pink curler stood still before the TV, then it raised itself up on one end and quivered.