“Man and …” I yelped. “No — that’s not …” And then I saw that Nergal was laughing.
His was an evil laugh.
“I just wanted to see if you were paying attention,” he said.
Whoa! Okay. Not married to a demon. Not married to a male demon. Maybe this night wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
And then I remembered that so far I’d plunged into a cardboard box to escape detection by the police, clawed my way out of the same box afraid I was going to die there, cut my hand, accidentally summoned a demon, and was now being played with by Hell’s Chief of Secret Police.
Not one of my better nights.
Still. Not married.
“You’re sure?” I said. “We’re not married.”
“Oh, Robert,” said a female voice beside me. I turned and found myself staring into the eyes of Tuesday Weld. “Are you saying you don’t want me?”
“Cut it out!”
Adramelech shifted back to his normal form, smiling. “Sorry,” he said. “Couldn’t help myself.”
“You’re a regular Kobal,” said Nergal to Adramelech.
“What’s a Kobal?” I asked.
“He’s the Entertainment Director of Hell and Patron of Comedians,” said Adramelech.
“Okay, now you’re just making stuff up,” I protested.
Nergal looked bored and threw the contract back at Adramelech.
“I’ve had enough. The contract is sound, so Adramelech is free to be in your employ until you decide to end it. Or –” he said, with that oily smile back on his face, “until you die.”
There was a puff of smoke and he was gone.
“He’s not a pleasant fellow, is he?” I said.
“No, and I’m afraid he’s really angry. He was angry at me because I didn’t trust his investigation into the disappearance of my sister. Now he’s angry at you because you made fun of him.” He shook his head. “He’ll be back, I guarantee it.”
There are some things you really want a guarantee for. This wasn’t one of them.
We got to our feet and I started thinking about what to do next. My original plan was to look into whatever paperwork I could find in the Church of Satanic Love’s office — assuming it was even in this building. Time was slipping away, however, and it was now almost 4:00 in the morning.
Plus, I now had a demon. A rather conspicuous one at that.
“Listen,” I said. “Can you become — uh, less demonish in appearance?”
“Not a problem,” he said. The demon transformed into a normal, if rather too handsome man with a short boxed beard and dressed in a stylish suit with grey jacket and vest, white shirt, burgundy tie and dark pants. The entire ensemble was topped by a brown fedora.
“Stylin’,” I said.
“Thank you. At some point, when things calm down, we’re going to have to see about your own wardrobe — or are those tatty clothes your burglar outfit?”
I looked down at myself, puzzled. I was wearing my good black jeans that were practically brand new. I’d just bought them last year. Could have been two years ago. And my shirt was a regular dark-grey cotton, maybe a bit worn around the cuffs.
Also a bit bloody, I noticed.
“Never mind that,” I said. “I still want to get into those offices down the hall.”
One thing Ms. Sanchez taught me that I actually excelled at was lock picking. The first door we tried turned out to be the office for the theatre company whose props were so prominent in the storage room. The next office was empty. The third, however, was the charm.
Whoever did the paperwork for The Church of Satanic Love wasn’t particularly neat. There were stacks all over the room: on the floor, spilling off the desk and piled on the visitor’s chair. I sorted through some of them, but nothing struck me as being incriminating. It didn’t help that I was conducting the search with only the aid of my tiny flashlight for fear that turning on a light could attract unwanted attention.
I looked at the computer.
Its light was blinking, but the screen was dark, so I figured it was asleep rather than being turned off. Digging through the mess on the desk I found a sticky note, tore off the sticky strip and put it over the camera lens on the monitor. Only then did I press the space key to wake it up.
“Why did you do that?” asked Adramelech.
“Some people set their computers to snap a picture of whoever wakes it up. I’m not taking any chances.”
Surprisingly, the computer itself wasn’t password protected, but the files were. I had no intention of trying to hack into them. Only in movies does the hero manage to deduce a password by looking around the room. What I wanted to do was take them with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a flash drive on me.
I dug through drawers, searched the top of the desk, and even looked around at the piles of paper. It was while searching a particularly crammed drawer for the second time that I got lucky.
I copied files to the stick, slipped it in my pocket, and put the computer back to sleep. I then removed the sticky tab from the camera and tossed it into the overflowing waste basket. After a moment’s thought, I shoved it down further so it couldn’t be seen.
“Okay,” I said to my new partner. “Now we leave.”
Adramelech had gone to the front and was looking out one of the narrow windows beside the double doors.
“There could be a problem,” he said.
“Oh, good. A problem. See, this night’s been going so smoothly I’d begun to worry. But now that there’s a problem, I feel ever so much better.”
“It’s the police. They’re sitting in their car across the street.”
Why hadn’t the screaming brought them barging in earlier? Not that I would have wanted that, but still. Thinking about it, though, I realised all the excitement had occurred more to the back of the building, so any escaping sounds would have been relatively quiet. Furthermore, Queen Street, which was a short block to the south, was always filled with bustle and noise, even late at night.
“We’ll have to go out the back way,” he said. “We’ll set off the alarm, but…”
“Nope,” I interrupted. “Something is wedging the door shut.”
“Oh. Not good.”
“No, not good. The opposite of good, in fact. Bad.”
I thought for a moment.
“Well,” I said, “this seems like an opportune time to put that invisibility to work.”
“You go invisible, open the door, and run outside. They’ll start heading for the door, but before they get here, go to their car and start honking the horn, slamming the doors and anything else to draw them back to the car. While they’re distracted I’ll take off up the street. With luck they won’t see me. Without luck, they’ll see me when I’ve got a good head start.”
He nodded. “It’s as good a plan as any.”
We unlocked the deadbolt and I stayed behind the one door while Adramelech opened the other. The alarm started blaring immediately, and as he stepped outside he was bathed in a spotlight from the police car. One of the cops called out, “You in the hat — stop where you are!”
“It’s like they can see me,” yelled Adramelech over the alarm.
“Well, I sure as hell can see you!” I yelled back.
“Plain as day,” I assured him.
Many people believe TV is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. As a long-time fan of Doctor Who, I knew exactly what to do in a situation like this.
“Run!” I shouted. And we did.
There are notes to this chapter, which can be found by hovering over the “Notes: Chapters 11 – 20” tab at the top of the page.
Warning — Read the chapter first, otherwise the notes may be an inadvertent spoiler.
This is my 14th entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III” (or 30M2DoW) issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.