The Demon Catchers of Milan

BOOK: The Demon Catchers of Milan
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EGMONT
We bring stories life

First published by Egmont USA, 2012
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016

Copyright © Kat Beyer, 2012
All rights reserved

www.egmontusa.com
www.katspaw.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Beyer, Kat.
The demon catchers of Milan / by Kat Beyer.
p. cm.
Summary: After surviving being possessed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Mia leaves her family in New York to stay with cousins in Milan, Italy, where she must study her family’s heritage of demon catching in order to stay alive.
eISBN: 978-1-60684-315-4
[1. Demonology–Fiction. 2. Demoniac possession–Fiction. 3. Americans–Italy–Fiction. 4. Family life–Italy–Fiction. 5. Milan (Italy)–Fiction. 6. Italy–Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.B46893Dem 2012

[Fic]–dc23
2011034348

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.

v3.1

To Ann Carlisle Beyer
and Karl Fritz Beyer
who gave me books to read
and eyes to read them.

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Della Torre Family Tree

1   
Before Milan
2   
La Sua Carne Rimarrà
3   
My Grandfather’s Choice
4   
The Journey East
5   
The Candle Shop
6   
La Famiglia
7   
Arguing Historians, Sighing Candles, Unexpected Visitors
8   
The Case of Signora Galeazzo
9   
Gas Roses
10   
How Little We Know
11   
In Which I Meet More Gorgeous Italian Men
12   
Alba
13   
The Return of Lucifero
14   
Hot Chocolate
15   
Enter Signora Negroponte
16   
Signora Negroponte and I Start to Untie a Knot
17   
The Festa di Sant’Ambrogio
18   
The Novena
19   
All Are Invited
20   
Il Caso della Famiglia Umberti
21   
On Guard
22   
La Befana
23   
A Soldier
24   
The Case
25   
The Bell
Acknowledgments
Author’s Note

ONE

Before Milan

I
used to be the kind of girl who would check under the bed and in the closet every night before going to sleep. Sometimes I would go so far as to slip out of my room, past my sister, past my parents snoring down the hall, and check every lock and catch in the house.

These days, when I walk into a house, I know at once who waits inside. I know who is quick and who is dead—and who among the dead does not want to leave. Even when I fear them, I know what to do. After Milan, I know.

I hated Milan when I first came here: principal city of the Italian north, huge, gray, industrial, possessed of polluted fogs and mad, narcissistic inhabitants. I could say I love it now, I suppose, but love is such a complicated idea. I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to figure that out.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months. I hope I get to live a few more and to keep learning. We’ll see.

At the moment, I am leaning my elbows on the table in our family candle shop, in the Via Fiori Oscuri, in the Brera neighborhood of Milan. As I sit here, the streets are still full of light. Today’s sun has a bit more than an hour left with us. In a few minutes, Nonno Giuliano will come back downstairs to check on me and ask if I have finished my studies, which I have, much to my surprise. He will reach into the battered wooden desk drawer, just like twelve generations of men before him, and pull out a large box of matches and begin to light some of the candles on our shelves. There are tall candles, short candles, candles the size of footstools with nine wicks, candles in the shape of Roman goddesses or antique columns. Some are already lit, the flames looking like fingertips beckoning to passersby.

Then he will go into the back room and return with a green bottle and three squat glasses. The bottle always seems to be half full. It never has a label, because we have friends as far away as the Veneto and Liguria who make their own wine and send us some. It’s always a rich red, a good, red table wine, and he has to pour carefully because of the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. The wine has its own story to tell, about one hillside covered in grapevines, a yeast that one family has been looking after for twenty, thirty, one hundred, two hundred years.

After Giuliano pours the wine, exactly six minutes pass. Then a young man with curly, blond hair turns the corner from the Via Brera, quickening his step a bit as he comes within reading
distance of the faded lettering on the window of our shop. He always loosens his tie just as he passes the big archway with the white moped parked outside, right across the street.

He always appears six minutes after the wine is poured, always. When he gets to the door, he pauses, resting his hand on the handle, as if he is asking permission. Giuliano looks up, not at the young man but at some place far away beyond the walls of the shop. He nods his head, pressing his lips together in the start of a smile—and the young man turns the handle and steps inside. The last words he says that can be heard on the street are, “
Buona sera, Nonno. Buona sera, Mia
.—Good evening, Grandfather. Good evening, Mia.”

Then he comes in and sits down at the table with us, and takes a long sip of his wine. The sight of him makes my lungs seize up and my heart spit and cough like the engine of a
motorino
, always, the same way every time.

There’s a sculpture in the Vatican Museum called the Apollo Belvedere. I want to go to Rome to see it, but I feel like I know it really well from the photographs. It’s a Roman copy of the ancient Greek statue of Apollo, the sun god, and it looks like how he must have looked in his days of power, a prince with hair like the rays of the sun. This young man drinking wine looks like him, and I have seen women follow him as if he were a god. He’s my cousin Emilio.

The first time I met him I was lying in a pool of my own urine.

I’ve never really gotten over that.

Here’s how it all started. It was a warm, muggy evening, in a town very far away from here: my hometown of Center Plains, lost in the forests and factories of upstate New York. It’s the kind of town that, if it got up tomorrow and decided not to exist, nobody would notice. School had just started, and the weather was unfairly reminding us of the best days of summer. I was doing my Algebra II homework. I hated algebra. I thought my life was hell. How wrong I was.

“I’m not good at anything,” I said.

“You will be after this,” said a voice.

“Who said that?” I asked. I looked around the room I shared with my sister, at the posters fading into the dusk, the stuffed animals leaning close together.

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“A friend,” said the voice at last, deep and gravelly, a man’s voice, but there was no man in the room. How could there be? My father would have killed him before he made it up the stairs.

I felt each individual hair stand up, one by one, on the back of my neck.

Hundreds of times have I wished I had left the room at that moment. Perhaps nothing would have happened if I had gotten up, left my desk with the math homework that was making me feel hopeless and stupid, and gone downstairs to the living room, where my parents were watching TV.

BOOK: The Demon Catchers of Milan
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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