Undead and Undermined - By MaryJanice Davidson Page 0,1

questions. (“What, now? You care, now?”)

While Betsy, Sinclair, BabyJon, and Jessica were on the Cape answering well-it’s-a-little-late-now questions, Marc, Laura, and Tina remained in Minnesota (Tina to help run things while her monarchs were away, Marc because he couldn’t get the vacation time, and Laura because she was quietly cracking up).

They hadn’t been gone long before Tina disappeared and Marc noticed devil worshippers kept showing up in praise of Laura, the Antichrist.

In a muddled, misguided attempt to help (possibly brought on by the stress of his piss-poor love life—as an ER doc, Marc worked hours that would make a unionless sweatshop manager cringe), he suggested to Laura that she put her “minions” to work helping in soup kitchens and such.

As sometimes happens, Laura embraced the suggestion with zeal. Then she took it even further, eventually deciding her deluded worshippers could help get rid of all sorts of bad elements . . . loan officers, bail jumpers, contractors who overcharge, and . . . vampires.

Meanwhile, on the Cape, Betsy spent time fencing with Michael Wyndham, the Pack leader responsible for three hundred thousand werewolves worldwide, and babysitting Lara Wyndham, future Pack leader and current first grader.

With Sinclair’s help (and Jessica’s cheerful-yetgrudging babysitting of BabyJon), Betsy eventually convinced the werewolves she meant Antonia no harm, that she in fact liked and respected the woman, that she was sorry Antonia was dead and would try to help Michael in the future . . . not exactly a debt, more an acknowledgment that because she valued Antonia and mourned her loss, she stood ready to assist Antonia’s Pack.

Also, Betsy discovered her half brother/ward was impervious to paranormal or magical interference. This was revealed when a juvenile werewolf Changed for the first time and attacked the baby, who found the entire experience amusing, after which he spit up milk and took a nap.

Though the infant could be hurt, he could not be hurt by a werewolf’s bite, a vampire’s sarcasm, a witch’s spell, a fairy’s curse, a leprechaun’s dandruff . . . like that. Betsy was amazed—she suspected there was something off about the baby, but had no idea what it could be. (“I was thinking . . . bred-in-the-bone Republican. Just really, really evil.”)

Sinclair, who until now had merely tolerated the infant, instantly became besotted (“That’s my son, you know.”) and began plotting—uh, thinking—about the child’s education and other necessities.

Back at the ranch (technically the mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul), Laura had more or less cracked up. She had fixed it so Marc couldn’t call for help (when he discovered their cells no longer worked, he snuck off to find another line, only to be relentlessly followed by devil worshippers who politely but firmly prevented this), and she and her followers were hunting vampires.

Betsy finally realized something was wrong (via a badly garbled text secretly sent by a hysterical Marc), and they returned to the mansion in time to be in the middle of a Vampires vs. Satanists Smackdown.

Betsy won, but only because Laura pulled the killing blow at the last moment.

People went their separate ways, for a while. And nobody felt like talking.

Three months later, Betsy decided to take the Antichrist by the, uh, horns, and invited her to go shoe shopping at the Mall of America. It was at this time she learned the Antichrist was fluent in every language on earth and had little or no working knowledge of big-screen devils. Thus, Betsy hauled her sis home for a devil-a-thon (including Al Pacino’s Satan, Elizabeth Hurley’s sexy devil, the baby in Rosemary’s Baby, and Damien Thorn in The Omen). It was at this time Laura confessed that she feels guilty whenever she’s interested in finding out more about herself, her capabilities, or her mom, Satan. (“It’s like I’m slapping my adopted mom and dad in the face by wondering about her.”) It’s also at this time that Betsy realized she was sick of having a never-fail resource in her own home, the Book of the Dead, which she doesn’t dare use because anyone who reads it for longer than twenty minutes or so goes insane.

So she and Satan struck a deal, which actually made sense at the time: Betsy would help Laura embrace and use her supernatural powers, and in return the devil would fix it so Betsy could read the book without the accompanying nut-jobbery.

In addition to Laura’s weapons (stabbing weapons or a crossbow, which normally stay in hell unless she calls them up), she learned she can

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