“Okay,” I said after pouring my ritualistic drink. “So what does a wardrobe manager for Satan do?”
Adramelech shrugged. “Well, you’ve got to understand — in the supernatural realm it means a lot more than it does here. It’s not like I’m laying out his clothes for the day and buttoning his collar.”
“Now we know what it doesn’t mean — what does it mean?”
“It’s about — appearance. My job is to present him in the best light, so to speak. Satan is very — abstract. I clothe him in appearance. If you think of Satan as a book, I’m the guy who turns him into a film.”
I noticed him eyeing my drink. “Do you want some?”
“I wouldn’t say no. One of the best things God ever gave you guys was fermentation. We don’t get to imbibe much in Hell.”
I pulled out a second glass from the drawer and poured him a couple of fingers. “Funny,” I said, “I’d have thought alcohol would be a big thing there.”
He swirled the glass expertly, sniffed it, then took a sip. “Ah,” he said with his eyes closed, “that’s top-notch stuff. But no — Satan’s quite a prude. Think of him as the most self-righteous, repressed, legalistic-minded preacher or CEO you’ve ever met and you’ve got a fairly good idea of what he’s like.”
It struck me that I was sitting in my office on a nice summer morning discussing the personal characteristics of Satan with someone who knew him personally. My world reeled a little. The lack of sleep and mad dash to elude the police probably didn’t help. Also, the fumes from the extra glass of scotch were getting to me, so I poured mine back into the bottle.
“What does all this mean for what you can do here and now?”
“Obviously, it means I can’t turn invisible, although I would have thought that would be part of affecting appearance.”
“Maybe it’s because it’s the exact opposite of appearance?” I suggested.
“Could be. The fact is, I don’t really know how it translates here.”
“We know you can change your own appearance. Not just your clothes, but everything else about you. Why can’t you do that with me?”
Adramelech looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. Maybe I can.” He concentrated on me and then started to laugh.
“What’s so — ” I began, but before finishing noticed that I seemed to have acquired a blue robe. Looking down at myself I saw I also had a blue cape.
“I’m, uh — I’m Nagrinal, aren’t I?” I said.
“Nergal, yeah. Spittin’ image.”
“Not my favourite character. Would you mind changing me back?”
He did so and took another sip of his scotch.
“So now we know you can disguise both of us. Too bad we didn’t know that last night.
I heard creaking in the hallway. One great thing about this building was that it came complete with its own Nightingale floors — nobody could walk down the hall without announcing themselves through a very audible series of creaks and squeaks.
“I suspect that’s my ten o’clock appointment. I’ll introduce you as my assistant, uh — Adrian. Good enough?”
“Adrian? Not bad.”
There was a knock on my door. Through the frosted glass I could see the enormous bulk of Ignatius. His polite knock was a world apart from the intrusiveness of his first visit.
“Come on in,” I called out.
We did the introductions and I pulled a second chair over from a side wall. If any more people came they’d have to stand — which reminded me that I should be expecting a visit from the police either here or at my apartment in the not-too-distant future.
In turn, that reminded me that Adramelech was presently looking the same as he had when he’d been spotlighted by the police — right down to the hat.
“So what did you find out?” asked Iggy when we were all settled.
“A mixed bag,” I said. “First, your sister is definitely involved with a cult, but is it dangerous? That’s a bit hard to determine.” I proceeded to fill him in on everything that had occurred the night before — leaving out the bits about demons, of course.
All in all, he took it extremely well.
“She what?!” he screamed. “She was their altar?! She’s joined Satanists?!”
“They’re very nice Satanists,” I said.
“They’re Satanists!” he replied.
I couldn’t argue that.
“Yes, they’re Satanists. They also appear to visit the sick and hold picnics for underprivileged, inner-city children. To be honest, the people seem harmless at worst, and rather well-intentioned at best. It’s their leader who bothers me.”
“Why?” Iggy asked.
“Because. He bugs me.”
All right, not the most specific answer, but it was the best I could do. There was just something oily and unpleasant about him. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he kicked puppies and skinned cats in his spare time.
“I can’t say what it is, because I don’t have a reason,” I continued. “But I want to investigate further. We managed to grab some files off his computer and I’m hoping they may tell us something — providing I can crack the password.”
“Is that legal?” asked Iggy.
“Uh — well, no. Of course not. And anything I discovered wouldn’t hold up in court, but it could provide me with a line of investigation.”
Iggy looked pained. “I can’t condone it,” he said. “I just can’t. I’m an ordained deacon in the Anglican church and in another few months I’ll be ordained as a full-fledged priest.”
“You’re an Anglican priest?” I said.
Of course he was. And my partner was a demon from hell. The last 24 hours had gotten extremely complicated.
Just then the phone rang and I answered.
“Is this Robert Fielding?” asked a male voice on the other end.
“Yes,” I said.
“This is officer David Riley of the 11th Precinct. Do you own a white van…”
“Parked on Noble Street?” I interrupted.
“Yeah, that’s mine. I left it there overnight.”
“Would you mind if I talked to you for a couple of minutes?”
“Right now, if it’s convenient. I’m just coming up the elevator in your office building.”
Oh, good. They were coming straight to the office and Adramelech looked exactly the way he had last night.
“Sure, not a problem,” I said, and hung up.
“Leave!” I told Iggy.
“Get out — now! There’s a cop coming up and you don’t want to be involved in this. Just leave now and I’ll explain later.”
Iggy got up and hesitated before opening the door.
“Look, if I’ve got you in some kind of trouble…”
“I’ll be in way more trouble if you’re not walking down the hallway in five seconds. If you see the cop and he asks you anything, feel free to tell him you were just in my office, but leave it at that. Now go!”
Iggy walked out and as soon as the door was closed I turned to Adramelech/Adrian.
“Change!” I said. “I don’t care into what or who, but change so that you look as different as possible from the way you do right now.”
Before he could react there was a knock on the door and I went around the desk to answer it.
“Hi,” I said to the fresh-faced officer on the other side. “You’re officer Riley?”
“Yes,” he said without inflection. This was going to be a Jack Webb interview. “And you’re Robert Fielding?”
“I am. Come in.”
He entered, already asking questions.
“I just need to know a few things about your activities last…”
He stopped dead in his tracks and I turned to see what he was looking at.
He was looking at Kim Basinger sitting in the chair next to my desk.
For those interested, there are notes on this chapter which can be found HERE. Notes to previous chapters 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 16th 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.