Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Episode 10

Agent Prada was idly perusing a magazine article about the film star, Lavender Oakenberry's new film, Under the Wide Tibetan Sky, when the radio beeped and a panting Agent Mercury requested she bring the van to the old warehouses on Lamont.

Harold was running as fast as he had ever done in his life. He had crashed through the bathroom window (no time to open it) and had landed on the crumbling tarmac 12 feet below, broken glass descending all around him like falling leaves.

As he'd scrambled up, two shadow figures had resolved themselves into the forms of a man and a woman both running towards him out of the darkness, pointing some kind of weapon at him. As the woman had got closer, Harold had realised with a shock that she was the one that had helped him with the postcards at the station. He'd let out a yelp of surprise, and they would have caught him right then if the higher functions of his brain cortex had not over-ridden his impulse to stop and ask her what she was doing there. As it was, he had veered off just in time to avoid the crackling discharge of the male human's weapon.

Agent Mercury barely suppressed a curse as the darts of his Taser flashed harmlessly past the demon as it suddenly changed direction. Man, but this one was fast! He reached for his radio as he set off after his quarry.

Agent India was hot on his heels. She was filled with a mix of nerves and start of school-type excitement. You could say practice makes perfect all you liked, but practice was nothing like the real thing! Heck, if someone had told her a year ago that she'd be chasing demons in the dark, she'd have thought they belonged in a mental hospital.

Harold could hear the sound of the humans' pounding footsteps grow quieter as his superior speed began to tell. His vessel was not particularly strong, but his reflexes and stamina were demonically good.

Suddenly, a shocking question jumped into his mind: where was Teatime? In the excitement, he had left the little monkey behind! Dammit! The sprawl of warehouses was just ahead, maybe he could lose the humans in there and double back for his companion.

He raced round a corner and down an alley between two buildings – to a dead end. He looked around quickly for somewhere to hide: going back would run him into the humans again for sure. He ducked through a busted-in door into one of the warehouses. Luckily, there were old packing crates for him to hide in or behind. He chose a dark corner and slipped in behind a crate which once contained bottles of apple cider.

"Which way'd he go?" Mercury panted as he and India rounded a corner. The demon was nowhere in sight. "I'll call the others, we need everyone searching."

India nodded agreement. She switched on her torch and began to shine it around, looking for any clues as to where the demon had gone.

In the darkness, Harold was berating himself for being so useless. If he'd only practiced a bit of shape-shifting now and then over the years, he could have escaped this situation quite easily but, no, he had to go and waste his time re-working old Jazz tunes like Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey instead! Fat lot of good that was going to do him now! Who were these crazy humans, anyway?

India's torch played over the side of a particularly derelict-looking building, illuminating spray-painted gang symbols and startling a fat rat that was preparing to chow down on a discarded hamburger. Hmmm, she definitely had a feeling about this place...

The rest of Joshua squad had arrived by now with the van. One of the other agents, Othello, was carrying what appeared to be a pillowcase with something struggling inside it.

"What's that?" asked Mercury.

"Demon left his pet monkey behind." Othello explained, "Thought we could drop it off at the animal shelter after. It's not his fault his owner's a demon, after all"

"OK, put it in the van for now." sighed Mercury, "Did you clear out the room?"

The agent nodded then deposited the pillowcase containing Teatime into the arms of a startled Agent Prada.

"Ok, here's the plan..." said Mercury.

Harold counted four humans entering the warehouse, too many to even think about fighting with - not that he was much of a fighter, anyway. They spread out and began poking around the crates. It was only a matter of time before they found him unless he could sneak past them and out the door.

As quietly as he could, Harold began to edge towards a patch of shadow a bit closer to the door. So far so good: the humans did not appear to have noticed. He paused a moment to ensure no-one was looking in his direction, then carefully moved to the next hiding place. He took his time and his bare feet made no sound on the rough concrete. At last, the invitingly open doorway was just a few feet away and they still weren't looking his way.

Harold slipped out from behind the last crate and was through the door before they could even turn round. Now to get back and find Teatime!

As fast as he was, Harold was nowhere near quick enough to dodge the twin barbs of Agent India's taser as they stabbed into his back. He crashed twitching to the ground.

"It worked!" India called out, stepping out of the shadows by the door. She smiled down at Harold. Her first Spot and first catch, did it get any sweeter than this?

Episode 9

"I can't believe that the Christmas stuff is in the stores already!" shouted Agent Mercury above the racket of the van's engine. There was a grumble of agreement from the other members of Joshua squad in the back.

Agent India couldn't believe they were being so matter-of-fact. Here they all were, about to encounter a demon, for goodness sake and all they could talk about was bauble sales!

"Yeah," added a diminutive blonde agent, whose passion for fashion had earned her the nickname Agent Prada, "Where does it say in the Bible we should celebrate Christ's birth by buying a fake plastic evergreen and smothering it in tinsel, anyway!"

The others laughed, but India was too nervous to do more than smile wanly. This was her first time out as an active member of a squad rather than just an observer. Sure, she had participated in mock missions in training, but this was real and potentially dangerous: demons were not fans of the words of Binding and Dismissal and tended to make their objections known quite forcibly. Still, the squad was well-prepared. In addition to the centuries-old formula of the words, it had a few bespoke twenty-first century tricks up its sleeves too.

"OK," announced Agent Mercury as he turned the van onto a quiet side-street, "we'll stop here and approach on foot. Is everyone clear about what we're doing tonight?"

There was a chorus of yeses and the squad began to disembark. Agent Prada was detailed to remain with the van to bring it up when signalled, something to which she had agreed rather sullenly in India's opinion: the woman obviously wanted a more active role. There was a big part of India that wanted to trade places with her, but this was her "shout" – her first solo Spot, and she had earned her place on the team going in. Radio checks were quickly conducted and watches synchronised, and then it was time to go.

Harold was resting on the bed in his motel room. He and Teatime had been given a room on the second floor today and the sampler on the wall of this one was a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Harold had been pleased that there had been a different proverb in the room but had been disappointed to discover, on closer inspection, that the sampler wasn't actually embroidered at all, but was just a print. What a swizz! Like many things in this confusing world, the thing had not been what it seemed.

Teatime was curled up on the pillow beside Harold's head. It had been a frustrating day. None of the apartments they had seen had been any good. Harold would need to start job-hunting tomorrow or the two of them would be destined for a life on the streets.

Suddenly, Teatime sat bolt upright, startling Harold.

"Did you hear that?" he asked urgently.

"Hear what?" said Harold. A freight train had rattled past a few moments before, but somehow he didn't think the little monkey was referring to that.

"Shh!" hissed Teatime, "Listen!"

Sure enough, now that he was actively listening, Harold's ears picked up the sound of stealthy footsteps on the stairs leading up to the wide balcony which fronted all of the rooms on this level. He got to his feet and padded over to the window. Teatime was quickly there beside him.

"Here," he whispered, "Let me look." He stuck his tiny head up under the absurdly flowery curtain without disturbing it, and cautiously peeped over the windowsill.

"Listen, old biscuit," he said drawing his head quickly back out into the room, "I need you to do the very next thing I tell you without question, alright?"

"Er, OK," Harold replied doubtfully. Teatime was a very strange little fellow sometimes.

"Jump out of the bathroom window and run as far from here as you can." said Teatime.


"NOW!" screeched Teatime, as the motel room door crashed open.

Episode 8

Elroy Jackson, a.k.a. Mr Teeth, was not a happy man. For years now, the jazz club had been a sweet little number for him and now somebody had gone and burned it down. This was bad enough, but what worried him more was the fact that the club's owner, Baron Samedi, had vanished.

Now Mr Teeth may have looked like some steroid-enhanced gym-junkie whose IQ was about half what he could bench press in pounds, but underneath that shiny shaved head was a sharp mind, a wealth of street smarts and the predatory instincts of an alligator. He knew perfectly well that the Baron, one of the more powerful demons around, could not have been killed in the fire: fire would not have bothered him in the least.

Mr Teeth had toyed with the idea that the Baron might have set the fire himself, but that didn't make sense either – the club had been a sweet little number for him too. Who knew how many souls had been ensnared in the place over the years, what with the drink, the discreetly purveyed drugs and the other more personal services offered to the club's most favoured clients. No, the Baron wouldn't have torched his own place.

It was possible that a rival might have done it, but that still didn't explain the Baron's disappearance. Over the years, others had tried to make a move against the Baron but had quickly learned the error of their ways. Crossing him was tantamount to suicide. The Baron had enemies for sure, but none of them were that stupid. No, the only possibility that Mr Teeth could think of was that the Baron had been taken out by one of his own kind. He slid the picture of Harold that had been on the news and in the papers across the table to the man opposite.

"This is him,"

The other, one Edward Peck by name, reached out a slim, perfectly manicured hand and picked up the picture. Behind the twin discs of his steel-rimmed spectacles, a pair of keen blue eyes studied it carefully for a few moments before laying it carefully back down on the table.

"He was here in town yesterday, you say?" he asked. Mr Teeth nodded.

"I threw him out of the club at about three in the afternoon," he rumbled, "and told him to git by sunset or else. Looks like he had other ideas"

"Indeed," agreed Peck smoothly, "Now, when I find him, how do you wish to proceed: am I to bring him to you, beat him senseless, kill him or what?" Peck did not go in for euphemisms: a spade was most assuredly not a manually-actuated implement of horticultural excavation.

Mr Teeth knew that killing wasn't a likely option: the Baron had often boasted that he couldn't be killed by mortals, so it stood to reason that the young trumpet-playing punk in the picture couldn't be either. Truth to tell, he wasn't exactly sure what the most effective course of action would be. Best to keep it simple.

"Bring him here," He handed over a card. Peck quickly scanned the address printed on it and raised his eyebrows slightly.

"Mountainside Boulevard. Nice area," he commented, pocketing the card. He picked up the picture and dropped it into his Louis Vuitton briefcase. "Now, if you'll excuse me," he said, getting to his feet, "I really must be going, I need to call a few people in preparation. My fee will be the usual: fifteen hundred a day plus expenses, is that alright?"

"No problem," said Mr Teeth, getting up as well. He extended a huge hand and Peck shook it firmly. "I'll be in touch." he said, and with that he turned and walked out of the bar.

Mr Teeth watched Peck's Armani-suited form disappear into the crowd on the street. Fifteen hundred a day was a lot, but Mr Peck always delivered the goods.

Harold and Teatime wandered back out onto the street. The tiny cramped shoe-box of an apartment they had just viewed had been somewhat less than suitable: the wallpaper had been peeling and damp, the windows covered in enough dirt to grow a crop of carrots in and the carpet – if that's what the unpleasantly sticky brown and orange layer on the floor actually was, had been alive with vermin. The landlord, an unsavoury-looking slob in a filthy string vest had also been drunk – at just after nine in the morning.

"We could have fixed it up a bit," said Harold, "a good cleanup, some paint, some wallpaper..."

"I'm thinking more in terms of a gallon of petrol and a match," replied Teatime dryly. He scratched himself, "If that place has given me fleas, I'll..." As he was speaking, he was looking back over Harold's shoulder at the way they had come. "Great Ceasar's Ghost! There's that woman again!"

"What woman?"

"You know, the one at the station that helped you pick up the all postcards you so carelessly spilled over the place."

"Oh, good," said Harold, "Let's go and say hi." He turned and started back the way they had come.

"Let's not," suggested teatime, "she didn't seem that keen on you and we haven't time to lark about, we've another viewing in half an hour."

"Oh, come on, a few minutes won't hurt," said Harold, "Honestly, Teatime, you're such a slave to the clock sometimes!"

Sure enough, there she was, dressed differently today of course, but it was definitely her. She was apparently studying the objects in the window of a shop selling second-hand goods for some charitable cause - studying it very intently in fact.

Agent India was indeed looking in the shop window. She had been told in training that a good way to observe someone without looking at them directly and thereby giving oneself away, was to use reflective surfaces like shop windows, car door mirrors and so on. So it was with some annoyance – not to mention a touch of fear - that she observed Harold's reflection turn around and grow larger as he approached her.

"Hello again," said Harold brightly, charisma turned all the way up to number eleven. "You helped me clear up at the station, I think. I just wanted to say thanks."

It was a tribute to India's training and iron self-control that she managed to turn away from the window quite coolly, quite casually in fact, or so she thought. Inside she was buzzing: Apart from that brief encounter at the station, she'd never spoken with an AFO before: more senior agents had always dealt with them directly. Her job had always been simply to spot them and keep track of their movements until others could come and get rid of them. Now the wretched demon had seen her and wanted to make polite conversation it seemed, and she was on her own. Stupid, India, really stupid!

"Er, Hello," She hadn't been trained for this! "Er, it was no trouble, really." Surely it must be able to hear her heartbeat – it was louder than a propeller for goodness' sake! She needed to get out of here fast. Think, India, think! Getting a sudden idea, she made a show of checking her watch.

"Ooh, is that the time?" she practically squeaked in mock astonishment, "I have to go. Nice seeing you." With that she turned and hurried away down the street, leaving a bemused Harold staring after her.

"Am I that scary?" he asked.

"You're positively terrifying, old shoe," said Teatime wearily. "Positively terrifying."

Around the corner, Agent India had slowed to a walking pace. That had to be the lamest way of getting out of a tricky situation ever! Mind you, the look on the demon's face had been really good: surprise and then bewilderment. It had got mimicry of human expressions pretty much down pat, she'd give it that. If she had not had so much confidence in her gift of spotting demons, she could quite easily have believed that she had just rudely snubbed an ordinary human. Her gift was never wrong though and now she'd have to be much more careful about following her target. Still, not for much longer, she thought. The text she'd received half an hour before was unequivocal: JOSHUA SQD ETA 18:30. RV @ OGS 19:00 4 PLAN MTG.

Episode 7

Agent India scrolled her way through her email inbox and sighed. If someone could invent a machine that ran on spam, it would be the nearest thing to perpetual motion as the world could get. No, she wasn't embarrassed by her small member not pleasing the ladies. No, she didn't want a genuine submariner's watch, whatever that was. No, she didn't want to lose 10lb of weight in a week, and, no, she definitely didn't want to give her bank details to Mr Liberty Akubuntu, of the Nigerian Law Socity (sic!) so that he could transfer the residue of a late client's estate out of the country and split it with her.

After all that, there wasn't a single email worth reading. She shut down her email program and decided to surf the net instead while she finished off her morning coffee. It would soon be time to go and take over from Agent Carlisle, but first she would take a quick look at what was going on in the world.

She was just taking a slurp of coffee when the web browser finished loading the main page of her favourite news website. Her sudden indrawn gasp of breath when she saw the main news item caused her to splutter and choke on the hot liquid. Drat it, now she had coffee stains on her nice clean t-shirt and would have to change before going out. The news item was all about the devastating fire at Baron Samedi's jazz club, which was shocking enough, but what had caught her eye was what appeared to be a blown-up still image from some CCTV footage. It showed a young man walking towards the camera, a trumpet dangling from his right hand. The face, although rendered somewhat blurry by enlargement was still clearly recognisable as that of the AFO she had tagged the day before. "So, you're a fire-starter, are you?" she murmured as she read the rest of the article. Was there nothing these creatures wouldn't do? It was lucky no-one had been hurt.

Shaking her head, she drained the last of the coffee, dumped the mug in the sink and got changed. In a few minutes she was out the door.

She parked up and got out of the car, narrowly avoiding bashing the driver's door against a telephone pole (for a Spotter, you can be awfully unobservant at times she admonished herself). She walked briskly up to the side of Carlisle's VW and rapped on the window. His head whipped round and by the startled look on his face, it was clear he hadn't noticed her approach (not just me then, she thought). She dangled the brown paper bag containing one of Marvin's Marvellous Muffins in front of his face as he wound down the window. He eagerly snatched it out of her hand and looked inside.

"Sorry," she said as he examined the contents, "they ran out of Chocolate Sprinkle, so I got you Blueberry instead, is that OK?"

"Yeah, fine, fine, thanks," he replied, "Do you want to get in? I can hand over while I'm eating. Did you get me any coffee?"

India mutely handed over the lidded cup. She then went round the car and opened the passenger-side door. Pulling a moue of fastidious disgust, she quickly brushed the littler of candy bar wrappers and empty drink cans off the passenger's seat before climbing in.

"Sorry about the mess," Carlisle mumbled through a mouthful of muffin. He took a swig of coffee and cleared his throat. "Sorry. Anyway, our boy stayed put most of the night, but did something weird at about three-twenty. Have a look at this." He got out the Cicada and pressed the play button. The VW was instantly filled with sad, sweet music, albeit somewhat tinny-sounding on the recorder's little speakers.
"Pretty sweet, no?" said Carlisle, stopping the playback after a few minutes. "It's a pity we can't put it on YouTube or something. You ever see anything like that before?"

India hadn't, but then she hadn't been an OGS agent for much more than a year, so it didn't mean a lot. "So, it didn't go anywhere else or do anything else?" she asked.

"Nope," replied Carlisle, "it stayed put all night, apart from that one hour. I never lost sight of it at any time when it went for its music practice, and the Ladybird showed it staying put in the motel the rest of the time. Like I say: weird."

"Hmm, then I guess I must be wrong," she said.

"You? Wrong? I find that hard to believe!" laughed Carlisle. India blushed: she was aware that she had something of a reputation amongst the other agents as someone did not take correction or contradiction easily. Seeing her red cheeks, Carlisle's grim disappeared abruptly. "Sorry, India, wrong about what, anyway?"

India explained about the fire at the jazz club and her suspicions of Harold. "But," she concluded, "that demon can't have started the fire: it was here all night. Thing is" she continued thoughtfully, "the police are now looking for it. What should we do?"
"Nothing," said Carlisle. "If your demon didn't start the fire – as seems to be the case – then the police not finding him does no harm, and anyway," he paused for a gulp of coffee, "he'll be gone as soon as we can get a squad over here, won't he?"

"True," acknowledged India. "But in the meantime, they'll be wasting resources looking for the man in the CCTV pictures instead of whoever really started the fire."

"That's not really our concern. We can hardly go to the cops and give our boy over there a squeaky clean alibi, now can we?"

"I suppose not," India sighed. That was the trouble with OGS: it wasn't a government agency and had no more authority than any other group of private citizens being, as it was, essentially a religious order.

"What should we do?" asked Harold for the umpteenth time since he and Teatime had seen the news bulletin about the fire. He was pacing up and down the room.

"Oh, do sit still, old bean," grumbled Teatime, "I can't think with you tramping up and down like that." Harold flopped into the one dilapidated armchair the room possessed.

"Now, these humans are pretty stupid," began Teatime, "so it's my bet that even with your picture all over the news they'll not recognise you in the street so long as you don't do anything to draw attention to yourself."

"I could wear a baseball cap or something," suggested Harold, "shade my face. Maybe wear sunglasses?"

"That's good. That's good, "said Teatime approvingly, "Do you happen to have any of those things?".

"Er, no, just that old hat I was collecting money in." admitted Harold. Teatime rolled his eyes.

"And you're sure you can't change your physical appearance, not even a bit?"

"Sorry," apologised Harold, shrugging, "I was never any good at shapeshifting: it takes all my effort keeping up this one appearance."

"If you take my advice, old button," said Teatime, "You'll start practising: your self-preservation may very well depend upon it one day."

"I will," promised Harold, not really meaning a word of it. Shapeshifting was hard!

"Well, for want of anything better," said Teatime, "I think we're just going to have to rely on humanity's staggering capacity to overlook what's in front of their stupid faces. We can maybe get you a hat or something while we're out. Let's go, old sausage, I'm starving."

They found a pleasant-looking diner easily enough and spent a short time perusing the neatly alphabetical menu in the window before going in. Teatime had wanted to ensure there would be pancakes and maple syrup (there was) and proper English Breakfast Tea (there wasn't).

The Lovin' Spoonful diner was obviously one of those places that relied for the most part on the patronage of regular customers rather than passing trade. As Harold and Teatime jangled their way in through the door, all heads turned toward them and all conversation ceased abruptly. The proprietor – Hank, by name - had just been telling one of his regulars, a middle-aged lady, about his impending knee surgery, and didn't look especially pleased by the entrance of a stranger into his cosy domain. For form's sake, however, he plastered on a smile and asked Harold what he could get him.

Harold was just about to order a nice big plate of bacon, eggs, hash browns and all the trimmings for himself (plus pancakes for Teatime) when Hank registered Teatime's presence.

"Oh, I'm sorry, son," he said, not really sounding it. "This is a food service area. No animals allowed in here, you'll have to leave. Hygiene laws, you know?"

"Aw, lighten up Hank," said the erstwhile recipient of the knee surgery story, a rather blowsy middle-aged woman who could most kindly be described as 'handsome'. "He's only a little monkey and I think he's adorable."

So saying, she leaned her face in close to Teatime's and spoke in the sort of simpering high-pitched voice usually reserved for babies, halfwits and small dogs. "Yeshoo are, aren't you? You're adorable, you wittle monkey, you." She started tickling Teatime under the chin.

Harold felt Teatime tense. His companion's little body just radiated outrage at this violation of his personal space and dignity. Now, Harold didn't know if Teatime was preparing to spring at the woman's face, bite her hand or simply run off. Whichever way, it would not be conducive towards the acquisition of breakfast.

"Take it easy, Teatime," he said soothingly, "the nice lady's just being friendly." He turned to her apologetically, "I'm sorry, ma'am, he's not used to the attention of such a pretty lady – it makes him nervous."

Evidently pleased by this piece of outrageous flattery, the woman laughed but quickly drew back her hand.

"He doesn't bite, does he?" she asked.

"No," laughed Harold, "but he can be very sarcastic at times."

Even Hank laughed at that and grudgingly agreed that, yes, OK, the monkey could stay after all, so long as he behaved himself.

Outside, Agent India was watching the diner from the clean and tidy comfort of her own car. Her cell phone beeped.

"India." she said, not removing her gaze from the diner.

"India, this is Control. Joshua squad has become available earlier than expected and has been despatched to your location. They should reach you sometime this evening. Please liaise with Agent Mercury, the squad leader, from this point on."

"Will do, Control." she replied.

"Also," continued Control, "please upload any images you have of the target and we'll distribute them for you."

"Yes, I will, thanks."

Control ended the call. India allowed herself the luxury of a grin. At last!

Through the window of the diner, she could see the AFO eating a hearty breakfast and apparently laughing and chatting with the diner's owner and some of the other customers. Her grin disappeared. Enjoy your meal, Demon, she thought sourly, because you won't be eating many more.

Episode 6

It was three a.m. and Harold was wide awake. Beside him on the pillow, Teatime was curled up sound asleep, emitting tiny snores. Harold wondered what sleep was actually like since, as a demon, he did not – indeed, could not – sleep. The nearest thing to it for him was quiescence, a state of relaxation which allowed him to conserve some of the not inconsiderable energy required to maintain his corporeal form – his vessel – here on the Brightside.

From time to time, a car would drive by outside and its lights, shining through the absurdly cheerful flowery curtains of the drab motel room, would light up the framed sampler that someone had hung on the wall. Good fences make good neighbours it said. Harold wondered if all the rooms at the motel had the same embroidered aphorism on the wall or if they were all different. Somebody must have had a lot of time on their hands. He sighed: he was a million miles from the calm mental state needed to drift into quiescence.

They had not been able to find any suitable apartments for rent the previous evening, but had made a couple of appointments to see some the following day. A friendly gas station attendant had pointed them in the direction of the SleepEZ motel, situated, according to a leaflet he had given them, conveniently close to the city's major transport hub. This meant, of course, that it was right next to the busiest and noisiest railway tracks. When they had arrived, Teatime had been unimpressed to see that someone had removed the "P" from the motel's sign and had expressed the hope that the result was not going to be a too accurate description of the place.

Fortunately, the motel room had turned out to be clean and comfortable enough, if a little worn and threadbare-looking, and they had settled in for the night.

It had been, on the whole, a rather disconcerting day. At the start, Harold had had a job and place to stay, but just because of a stupid impulsive whim, he'd chucked all that away and ended up jobless and homeless in a strange city with very little money and nothing but a talking monkey for a companion. Was everybody else's life as confusing and disorganised as this? He wondered. Probably, if what he'd seen so far was anything to go by. Everywhere around on the Brightside, there was hunger, heroism, suffering, saintliness, greed and grace in various degrees. Back home in the Basement, life had been pretty straightforward compared to this.

Three twenty-one a.m. Harold sighed again, got up carefully so as not to wake Teatime, picked up his rucksack and slipped quietly out into the night.

"Three twenty-one," murmured Agent Carlisle into his voice-recorder, "Subject has left the motel. Am proceeding to follow on foot, as the car will be too conspicuous." He clicked off the recorder and, making sure the Ladybird tracker's handset was safely in his pocket, quietly got out and locked the dark blue WV he had spent the night in on Agent India's instructions.

Harold had no particular place to go, but for what he needed to do, he needed to be well away from people. He took a route that roughly paralleled the railway tracks. After a few minutes' walk, he found just the place. It was an old, abandoned warehouse – the derelict cliche of every gritty cop or gangster show – and as he seated himself on the crumbling loading bay platform, it made the perfect backdrop.

Agent Carlisle watched from the shadows as the AFO took a cloth-wrapped bundle from its backpack. He looked through the viewfinder of the Cicada night-vision camcorder to see if it was getting a good image – it was. It was a really cool piece of tech, but then agents always had the best kit that OGS's not insignificant resources could acquire. The War on Error, as he privately called it, was certainly making somebody rich.

Right now the image showed a strikingly good-looking young man who was carefully fitting together the pieces of something metallic and shiny.

"A trumpet?" breathed Carlisle,

Indeed it was. Harold began to play, completely unaware of his audience.

A series of long sad notes drifted up into the night. They spoke of sadness, they wailed of homesickness and wept unconsolably of loss. They soared to the heavens and floated down gently like a breeze. Now and then a passing train would drag them away to screeching, rattling oblivion, only for them to return, soft as a sigh.. In the shadows, Carlisle stood frozen, tears running down his face, all thoughts of observation and recording forgotten, totally caught up in the heartbreakingly magical moment.

Eventually, having played himself out, Harold lowered the trumpet to his lap and sat there in the darkness, eyes closed. He loved the feeling he got after playing his heart out: part exhaustion, part elation. If only they would just leave him alone with his music. What he had played tonight was a new piece that had come to him just as he had put the instrument to his lips. That was the best kind of music.

He decided he would call the piece We Were Angels Once. Then, laughing to himself at his own pretentiousness, he mentally scrubbed out that title. As he cleaned and put away the trumpet, another idea came to him. He'd just call it Missing You instead - more catchy, more likely to sell records – not that anyone would ever be likely to record it.

In the east, the sky was just beginning to show the first faint light of dawn. Harold got up and headed back to the motel, Teatime would not be pleased if he thought Harold was wandering off about the place without him.

When he got back to the room, Teatime was awake and irritatedly flipping back and forth between the channels on the battered TV set in the room.

"Where on earth have you been?" he demanded, "I was worried sick!"

"Sorry," replied Harold, dropping his backpack onto the bed, "I just went for a bit of a think and a walk. You were asleep, so I didn't want to disturb you."

"Fair enough, old sock," said Teatimre, somewhat mollified, "but you have to be careful out alone at night. Bad things can happen."

Harold laughed, "I'm a demon! I'm supposed to be the Bad Things That Happen', aren't I?"

"Yes," agreed Teatime, "but there are things out there which are a threat even to you."

"Like what?" scoffed Harold, "Ghosts? Brain-eating Zombies? Dragons? Here, give me that remote." He perched on the edge of the bed and began flipping channels himself.

"Don't dismiss the dragons so lightly," admonished Teatime, "Just because they have some silly agreement not to eat humans, doesn't mean they wouldn't – wait! Go back!"

Harold pressed the remote.

...coat the whole thing with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for twenty...

"Again!" commanded Teatime, "Hurry up!" Harold did as he was told.

..Sponge Bob is Nickelodeon's highest-rated show and, today, as we go behind the scenes to...

"No, not that one!" Teatime was fairly jumping up and down with impatience. Shrugging, Harold pressed again.

The screen now showed a news bulletin. The news anchorman was speaking over a piece of grainy CCTV footage which showed a young man apparently being thrown out of the main doors of a building by a very large black man. The first man, having landed in a heap, got up and walked away quickly.

"I was right!" gasped Teatime, "That is you! I thought it was."

"Unfortunately," said the newscaster as the film ended, "We don't have any better pictures that these as the rest of the footage was damaged in the fire. The Police Department is very keen to speak to the man you just saw, so if you know who he is or if indeed you are him, please contact them. Now we go live to Sherry Taylor at the scene. Sherry." He turned to the large screen beside him.

A pretty blonde reporter began speaking to camera from outside what Harold instantly recognised as Baron Samedi's club. Behind her, firefighters could be seen coming and going through the blackened main doors, their hoses trailing like fat snakes into the dark recesses of the building.

"Bill, the world-famous jazz club has been almost completely destroyed by the blaze." she said, "Fortunately, no-one appears to have been inside the club when the fire broke out. The Fire Department has yet to conduct a full investigation but, as you mentioned already, early indications are that the fire was started deliberately. We have still not been able to track down the club's owner, Baron Samedi, for comment. I do, however, have here with me the club's Head of Operations, Mr Elroy Jackson." She turned to a hugely-built black man. "Mr Jackson, do you have any idea who could have done this?"

Mr Teeth looked straight into the camera. Miles away in his hotel room, Harold gulped: Mr Teeth seemed to be looking right at him.

"Oh, yeah," he growled, "I got a pretty good idea."

Episode 5

"Right," declared Teatime, having polished off the last of the cheeseburger. "What we need now is to get you a job and a place to stay. Let's go and purchase ourselves a local newspaper and see what's about."

So saying, he hopped smartly up onto Harold the demon's shoulder as the latter got up from the table. Harold reached out to pick up the plastic tray containing their food wrappers and paper cup.

"Leave it there, old fruit, leave it there." whispered Teatime into Harold's ear.

"Why?" asked Harold.

"Because this is a self-clear eatery." Teatime explained.


"Look, if we leave the tray," the monkey continued, "it will cause annoyance to staff and patron alike, but most people are too polite to do anything about it so they'll just seethe inwardly. It'll put them in a bad mood and they'll probably take it out on their loved ones when they get home – which is a result for us."

"Well, OK, if you're sure..?" Harold quickly grabbed his rucksack and walked away from the table.

"It's the little things," sighed Teatime happily, as he looked back over Harold's shoulder at a young woman in a charcoal suit who was definitely glowering – and probably seething too if he was not mistaken.

Agent India was glowering. She had hoped to get close enough to her target to plant a Ladybird, but it (the target, not the Ladybird) had got up and left just that bit too soon. She let it move off a bit, so it wasn't too obvious that she was following, then casually walked after it.

Harold and Teatime wandered over to a newsstand. The little kiosk was piled high with colourful glossy magazines whose covers shouted things like: The Secrets of Cajun Cooking Revealed! Creationism Must Be Taught in Our Public School System! and Sun, Sex and Sangria – Get All the Gossip from the Soap Operas! (the exclamation mark was mandatory, it seemed).

Harold bought a paper and turned away from the counter, almost bumping into the young woman in the charcoal suit, who had come up close behind him whilst he had been making his purchase.

"Pardon me," said Harold, as the young woman skipped smartly back a couple of steps.

"It's OK," she replied, "You weren't to know I was there."

Harold flashed her a quick apologetic grin and made his way past her and a couple of other people who were waiting to buy something.

Drat it! Thought India furiously, missed my chance again! Planting trackers had been so easy in training, how come it was suddenly so hard? She took a calming breath. Well, if at first you don't succeed... She set off after the demon.

"We should have bought the paper first, then we could have read it at the table while we were eating," said Harold, "Now we'll have to find somewhere else to sit down since we can't go back to that place, thanks to you."

"Oh, pish, my dear fellow," replied Teatime airily, "it was worth it. Anyway, this is what you're supposed to be doing up here – it's not all about getting people to sign the Contract, you know?" He glanced around, "And, if I'm not mistaken, there's a new opportunity for you just over there." He pointed a tiny black finger across the concourse to where a girl – in her early teens, by the look of her - was just in the act of furtively trying to slip a cheap silver pendant from the station's jewellery stall into the pocket of her jacket.

Unfortunately for the girl, the concourse security guard had also spotted the theft and was starting to head her way.

"We need to distract him," said Teatime, "See that stand over there? Accidentally on purpose knock it over."

Harold did see, and walked purposefully over to one of those rotating displays of postcards - which just happened to be between the girl and the guard. As he walked past the stand, Harold turned suddenly, as if remembering something important in the other direction, and allowed his rucksack to clout it.

It had the desired effect: the display went down with a satisfying racket and suddenly there were bits of shiny card all over the floor. The guard was not to be put off his quarry that easily, but had perforce to go around the mess. Harold, meanwhile, was busy making a nuisance of himself, getting in the way by diving around and snatching up the scattered cards, all the while apologising noisily to everyone in sight. Several other people had also come forward to help clear up the mess, adding to the confusion.

Hearing the racket, the girl turned and saw the guard for the first time. A momentary look of blind panic flashed across her face, but seeing the guard somewhat hampered by the idiot with the rucksack, she seized her moment and was away on her toes before he could get anywhere near.

"Bravo!" crowed Teatime, as Harold righted the stand and started to replace as many of the cards as he could under the scowling eye of their owner. "Now that girl has had a taste of shoplifting and, buoyed by her success here today, is likely to try it again! Good work, old boy, good work!"

Suddenly, the woman in the charcoal suit was beside him, a bunch of postcards in her hand.

"Erm, I think this is the last of them," she said, offering them to Harold.

"Why, thank you, Miss," he replied, taking the cards, "that's very kind of you." He spread his hands in mock helplessness and grinned, "I'm such a klutz!" His twinkling blue eyes and perfect smile would melt any woman's heart.

"It's no trouble at all," she said coldly, and with that, turned and walked briskly away into the crowd.

"Obviously not your type, old boy," sniggered Teatime, "Come along. Let's see if we can find a low-rent apartment that isn't positively crawling with fleas. You have no idea what a torment they can be, no idea at all"

As demon and talking monkey headed out of the station concourse into the city proper, India fished in her bag and brought out a small hand-held device. To the casual observer, it looked like a typical modern cell phone. India touched a button and the device came to life. Its display brightened to reveal an aerial view of the railway station and its environs. In the very centre of this was a red dot, which was moving slowly along the street outside the station.

India smiled in satisfaction. It had been so easy to plant the Ladybird this time: the stupid demon had been so busy mucking about with the postcards and whatnot that it had totally failed to register her presence as she slid the little device into one of the pockets of its stupid rucksack. India knew that the technology was not exactly legal, but you simply couldn't have AFOs running around the place, free and easy. In the battle for men's souls, there were higher laws to be obeyed.

Previous <----- > Next

Episode 4

"Well, don't look so flabbergasted, old shoe," said Teatime, "Anyone would think you'd never seen a monkey before!"

"Well I've certainly never seen a talking monkey before, that's for sure," replied Harold the demon, "How in Hades did that happen?"

Teatime jumped nimbly off the table and onto Harold's shoulder, where he settled himself down quite comfortably.

"Well," he began, "there I was, deep in the forest, minding my own business – "

"- or throwing it at someone." interrupted Harold, chortling.

"Oh, charming!" moaned Teatime, "Why is it that that people only ever remember the poo-throwing? You know, we capuchins have a very rich repertoire of behaviours: nest-making, tool-using... Look it up in Wickedpedia sometime, why don't you? Anyway, where was I?"

"Deep in the forest." prompted Harold, still smirking a little.

"Yes, right." Teatime sniffed, "Anyway, there I was, minding my own business when, all of a sudden I felt this stinging sensation and the next thing I knew I was in this big white room, being prodded and poked by humans and injected with badness knows what, and generally in a pretty pickle altogether."

"So the humans made you into a talking monkey!" marvelled Harold, "What was it? A secret government experiment? Was it their military?"

"No, I'm afraid not," sighed Teatime, "Nothing as worthy as that, dear boy. I think they were probably just looking for a cure for dandruff or something." An angry glint suddenly appeared in the monkey's black eyes. "But of course I wouldn't know, would I? Because you'll be amazed to hear that for some reason THEY DIDN'T ACTUALLY BOTHER TO EXPLAIN IT TO ME!" This last part was delivered in a screech which, coming as it did from right next to Harold's ear, caused him to wince.

All over the carriage, heads turned towards the pair.

Harold smiled weakly at the heads and hastily started stroking Teatime as one would a pet.

"Calm down," he urged, "People are looking at us. I'm sorry if I upset you."

"No, No," replied Teatime, collecting himself with an effort. "I should be the one to apologise."

He produced a tiny white handkerchief and blew his nose delicately. "It's just that the thought of what those humans did - and still do - to creatures like me rather gets in amongst me. Please accept my most humble apologies for the outrageous display."

"Er, Ok, sure," said Harold, somewhat mentally wrongfooted by the monkey's rather mercurial temperament.

After another nose-blow, Teatime went on. "Anyway, things were looking decidedly sticky for me. Each day the humans would take one of us monkeys away somewhere, never to be seen again - and there weren't that many monkeys to start with, if you know what I mean."

"I do," cried Harold, "It means that –"

"The point was rhetorical, actually," said Teatime with some asperity. "Anyway, when we were down to just two monkeys, I decided that, whatever else happened, I was not going to end up the way the others had, so I made The Deal. That night, a lab assistant carelessly left a certain cage door unlocked and the rest, as they say, is history."

Harold pondered this for a few moments.

"So you escaped," he said, "I get that, but how did you get the ability to talk if the humans didn't give it to you?"

"Well, that was part of the bargain I made with your dear pater, you see," explained Teatime. "I needed more than just an open cage door to get away from the humans. I needed the tools to stay out of their clutches for good. I needed to have the sort of powers that my tormentors had: language, rational thought, education, culture and so on. Your father gave those to me."

"I see." said Harold. "But why are you here with me now instead of running around?"

"Well, I work for your father and he told me to come up here and keep an eye on you. Help you out a bit and whatnot."

"You work for my father while you're alive?" Harold was amazed: the Deal did not usually oblige the Signatory to do anything in life. "And he gets your soul when you die as well?" He shook his head in wonderment.

"Let's say you father drives a hard bargain." Teatime said dryly.

"Wow!" breathed Harold, "And to think I didn't even know animals had souls to trade."

"Now, that's exactly the way the humans think," said Teatime. "And I would have thought that you, as a demon, would know better. Didn't you pay any attention in Monday School?"

"Not really," admitted Harold, "it was just so boring. I mean, all those rules and regulations, stealing of heirlooms or birthrights or whatever, and those tedious genealogies! Who cares who begat who, anyway?"

"Whom," corrected Teatime, fussily. "who begat whom! I can see it wasn't just Bible Study you neglected."

"I fear it is so," grinned Harold, "Anyway, here's our stop, I think."

The train had indeed come to a halt. Harold and Teatime alighted and began to make their way through the crowded station.

"Righty-ho," declared Teatime, cheerily "Let's find something to eat, something to drink and then we'll see about getting you a job and a place to stay."

Harold surveyed the various fast food outlets on the station concourse.

"Hmm, I don't see any banana stalls here," he said doubtfully. Teatime rolled his eyes.

"My species is omnivorous, you doorknob. Just get a cheeseburger, and make sure there's none of that filthy mayonnaise stuff on it."

They got to the counter and the burger was duly ordered.

"What drink do you want?" Harold whispered as the smile behind the counter waited expectantly. "Let me guess, banana milkshake, right?"

"Don't make me throw poo at you," hissed Teatime, "An orange juice will do nicely, thank you so very much."

"You're the boss," grinned Harold, opening his wallet.

Across the concourse from the burger bar, a nondescript young woman in a smart charcoal business suit flipped open a cell phone and dialled a number. As the call went through, she brushed back her dark hair and lifted the instrument to her ear.

"Control?" she murmured, "India here. I think we have an incursion, can you send a squad?"

"Negative, India." came the reply, "All squads are currently engaged. Track and report the incursion until a squad becomes available."

"Understood, Control." She snapped the phone shut and sighed. Just her luck! The one time she actually managed to spot an Accursed Fallen One for herself, there were no squads available to wipe it out. Well this AFO was not going to get away from her! She dropped the phone into her shoulder bag, zipped it closed and stepped out onto the concourse.

As she walked towards the burger bar, the late afternoon sun glinted off the discreet gold pin in the left lapel of her jacket: a shepherd's crook bisected by two crossed keys. Underneath was inscribed a tiny motto: Dirigere et Defendere.

Meanwhile, the Accursed Fallen One in question was involved in the abominable machination of happily tucking into a bacon-double-cheese (hold the Mayo). From time to time its evil scheme involved passing bits of food to its pet monkey, thereby occasioning a certain amount of damnable saucer-eyed delight in three small children at a nearby table.

Previous <----- > Next

Monday, 28 September 2009

Episode 3

Harold was now at a loss. He had committed the humiliating blunder of attempting to poach souls in another more powerful demon’s territory. This was as close to sacrilege as a demon could get, given that their very existence was predicated on the doing of any kind of dirty deed. As a result, he now found himself having to get out of town before Baron Samedi sent Mr Teeth and his steroid-enhanced buddies after him.

He trudged into the railway station with a heavy heart. Most of his busking money would have to go on a train ticket; a plane would be faster of course, but he had not made anything like enough money to pay for a flight. He scanned the destination boards and picked one at random. After all, it didn’t actually matter where he was going, did it?

He found a quiet, mostly empty carriage and slumped down into a seat by the window. Some summer this was turning out to be! His father's voice echoed in his head Get your lazy backside up to the Brightside and get yourself some soul-snaring experience instead of wasting your time daydreaming down here.

It had been an experience all right.

After a while, another passenger plopped himself down in the seat opposite Harold’s. He was a small unshaven man in a crumpled, none too clean raincoat. His face had a lumpy, misshapen look to it that hinted at lorry tyre somewhere in his ancestry.

Harold was mildly irritated by the unwelcome intrusion: there were plenty of spare seats in the carriage and yet this fellow had to come and sit opposite him. He supposed he ought to engage the man in conversation, there might be a soul in it after all. This fellow definitely looked like he had needs that could be fulfilled – not the least of which was a good bath. The decision was made for him, however, when the man started to speak.

“So. Running away, eh, Kid?”

Harold was reluctant to start spilling out his private life to this rather malodorous stranger, and somewhat stung by the implication of cowardice in the man’s tone.

“Not exactly,” he replied somewhat defensively.

The man laughed nastily.

“Whatever, kid, whatever.” He lifted up a small suitcase that Harold hadn’t noticed before and placed it onto the crumbling formica of the table between them.

“Your father sent you this as a little token of his esteem.”

Harold was all bolt-upright attention now, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“My Dad and I don’t exactly get along," he growled, "why would he be sending me gifts?”

The stranger shrugged.

“Maybe things are starting to thaw between you and he wants to make a gesture. Don’t ask me, I’m just the messenger.”

With that, he flipped open the lid of the case and spun it around with a muttered master of ceremonies-style ta-daa! so that Harold could see its contents. Harold leaned forward.

“A toy monkey?” he cried incredulously. “I’m in it up to my ears and my ever-loving Dad sees fit to send me a toy monkey?”

“Ahem!” said the monkey, clambering out of the case. “I am not a toy! “

Indeed he was not. He was in fact a small golden capuchin-like creature with bright black eyes in a wizened little face, tiny delicate black hands and feet and long curling prehensile tail. He was clad in a little pin-striped waistcoat, (complete with watch-chain) and the whole ensemble was topped by a tiny perfect bowler hat.

“My card, Sir!” he announced. A tiny white rectangle appeared in his paw and he proffered it to Harold.

Harold squinted at the minute inscription on the card. “Mister A. Tay-ah-teem-ay”, he mouthed.

“It’s pronounced Teatime, you buffoon!” snapped the simian, snatching back the card. He drew himself up to his full eleven inches of height and bowed stiffly, “Augustus Teatime, at your service.”

“And what am I supposed to do with a talking monkey?” Harold demanded.

But there was no answer because, in best dramatic tradition, the stranger had vanished.

Previous <----- > Next

Episode 2

Finding his summer job at the bar more like hard labour than a quick fix, and the souls less easy to snare after that first easy trapping of Miss LaChaise, Harold the Demon turned his attentions to the lurid world of the jazz musician. He quit his job and, trumpet in hand, set off to try his luck busking outside Baron Samedi’s on Fletcher Street.

Now, in those days, Baron Samedi’s was the premier jazz club. All the jazz greats of the age began their career there, all of them, without exception. Harold figured if he could get invited to play at the club and become famous – as everyone who played there inevitably did – he'd be in a much better position to snare souls, after all, women love musicians, right?

Well Harold got himself all set up and started in with some seriously demonic improvisation, we’re talking exotic modes, blisteringly fast chromatic runs, daring interpretations and who-all knows what else. The dollars soon started plopping into his hat, making a sizeable contribution to his personal wealth and things were looking good for our boy.

After a couple of hours of this, Harold suddenly felt a heavy hand fall onto his shoulder. He broke off from a nice re-working of something or other by Thelonious Monk to look up, up, up into the face of the Baron’s chief enforcer, Mr Teeth.

“The Baron wants to see you, boy” rumbled Mr Teeth, wrapping a meaty paw around Harold’s skinny arm and propelling him towards the ornate doors of the club. Harold, although a demon, was one of the weedier sort and could not resist being pushed along by the gigantic henchman.

This is it, he thought, I'm in.

The Baron was waiting for them in a tastefully-lit room at the back of the club. The walls were lined with photos of all the greats who'd played there. There was a faint smell of cigars, expensive aftershave and something familiar that Harold could not quite put his finger on.

The Baron himself had his back to them as they entered the room.

“I brung ‘im, Boss” announced Mr Teeth, somewhat unnecessarily.

The Baron turned around. He was immaculately dressed and groomed but above his perfect smile, his eyes were as cold as gravestones.

"So," he drawled, "Another young hopeful wanting to make it big in my club."

"Yes, sir," replied Harold.

"And just how much are you prepared to give to obtain your dream?" He slid a piece of paper across the polished top of his desk towards Harold.

Harold looked at the paper and his heart sank. It was the standard Contract for Infernal Services.

"Er, I think there's something you should know about me." he said.

A few minutes later, Harold landed with a crunch on the sidewalk outside the club and his trumpet clattered out onto the street behind him. Mr Teeth paused in the doorway for a moment.

"Boss says to tell you this here's his turf. Be out of the city by sunset or there'll be trouble."

The club door slammed shut.

Harold picked himself up, dusted himself off and began walking.

Previous <----- > Next

Episode 1

So, after a few weeks' procrastination, Harold got himself a summer job at the Riverboat Inn. This came as a bit of a surprise to the rest of his fellow demons, as infernal folk generally did not do well in customer service jobs, preferring instead to make a living in the computer industry where their particular talent for tormenting mortals to distraction were richly rewarded (who do you think came up with the Microsoft paper-clip?) .

Harold, however, knew that many famous film stars drank at the inn and he was an avid follower of Lolita LaChaise, rising young starlet and heroine of the cult movie Invisible Candle. Sure enough, in she came one night.

Harold plastered on his friendliest smile.

"And what can I get for Madame tonight?" he asked.
"I'd give my very soul for a properly mixed vodka martini" she purred.

Harold's grin widened...


Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Story So Far

This post will be updated when each new episode is posted.

Harold is a demon who has never before been to Earth (or the Brightside, as it is known in the Basement where he and the other demons live).

He has been sent to earth to learn the demon's trade of ensnaring souls. The thing is, he'd much rather be playing jazz - he is a demon (sic!) on the trumpet.

Having made the mistake of crossing a much more powerful demon - one Baron Samedi, who runs a jazz club - by trespassing on his turf, Harold flees to the next city. On the train journey there, a mysterious stranger gives Harold a talking monkey, called Teatime - to "help and advise" him.

When he arrives at the next town, unbeknownst to him, Harold is "spotted" by India, a keen young agent of the Order of the Good Shepherd (OGS), whose mission is to rid the world of demons, to protect mankind.

In the meatime, the TV news reports that a fire has destroyed Baron Samedi's club and the Baron has gone missing.

India manages to plant a GPS tracker on Harold and, after a couple of frustrating days, she and a squad of other agents manage to capture him and Bind him using the ancient hallowed words. They are about to Dismiss him back to the Basement, but the untimely arrival of the police forces them to de-camp to the local OGS base.

Upon arrival, proceedings are delayed yet further when Agent Mercury, the squad leader is unexpectedly called into the Director's office. It turns out orders have been issued to take Harold to HQ, rather than dismiss him. As Harold, Teatime, India and Mercury go outside to get into the van, Teatime siezes his chance and makes a break for it.

Agent Mercury refuses to allow Harold to go after the monkey, insisting they all set off at once. About an hour into the journey, India, who is driving, spots a young couple with a baby and a broken down car at the roadside. They pull over to offer assistence, but the young couple, far from needing help, produce guns and insist that Mercury performs the ritual that will free Harold from the binding. The baby turns out to be none other than Teatime, who had run off to summon a couple of 'black sheep' to come and rescue Harold. They leave Agents India and Mercury trussed up in duct tape and repair to the young couple's palatial home.

Once there, Harold and Teatime are fussed over and treated like royalty by Ray and Nicole. Teatime gets Harold to ask for a bath as an excuse to go somewhere private and talk.

Meanwhile, Agent India discovers that the Ladybird tracker she planted in Harold's bag has not been recovered by OGS and is still working. Meanwhile Teatime tells Harold that he and Harold are really here on Earth to investigate the mysterious disappearance of demons which has started happening recently.

Enjoying the comforts of Ray and Nicole's fine house and hospitality, Harold wonders why he had to work in a bar and live in lousy accommodation when he could have taken his ease here. Teatime hasn't the heart to tell him that he was sent here because his father considers him the most expendible of his demons and therefore could serve as bait to lure out whatever or whoever is causing the disappearances.

Teatime decides that he and Harold should return to Baron Samedi's club and look for clues and Ray drives them. Meanwhile, India, Prada and the others prepare to go after them once more. Before they can move in, however, they are ordered to wait until someone from the Penthouse comes to meet them. Now, heavenly folk almost never involve themselves in earthly matters so this is hightly unusual.

Harold and Teatime find a fire door they can open at the back of Baron Samedi's club and are about to enter when they are accosted by a figure in shining armour wielding a flaming sword. The figure is Baruthiel the Reckoner, an angel. He informs Harold that angels are also disappearing. He manages to persuade Harold that it would be a good idea if he would work with OGS to help solve this mysery. Joshua squad arrives and the angel explains his proposal to them.

They reluctantly agree so long as Harold and Teatime base themselves at OGS HQ and are always accompanied everywhere by an OGS agent.

Next morning, after a quiet night, Harold is called to a meeting where it transpires that 3 angels and 5 demons have disappeared. The Agents and Harold pool what little information they have but are interrupted when Agent Mercury is called outside. When he returns, he informs the group that an OGS Agent has been found murdered. The group go to the dead agent's apartment to search for clues and find a piece of paper with three numbers on it, after a further search they find a chemistry book with a dedication in it, apparently from from Othello - who did not buy the book.

With the aid of Google, Harold and Prada discover that the three numbers are the atomic weights of Dysprosium, Sodium and Molybdenum. Discussing this with Othello, they discover that the chemical symbol names for the three elements spell DYNAMO, the name of an old OGS project. They arrange to meet one Reverend Box the next day who will be able to tell them something about it. They travel to Box's place and he invites them inside - down a deep dark hole.

It turns out he lives in an old cold war bunker. He tells them that someone else has been asking about Project Dynamo and that he shipped all his records of it to them. He promises to send them a copy of the shipping receipt as soon as he can dig it out. He explains that Dynamo was all about attempting to use technology to detect demons. His old partner on the project, one Agent Iris, might still have some. The agents and Harold return to base. Teatime mentions that he is convinced someone else had been in Box's place but had not shown themselves. Othello can find no trace of an Agent Iris in OGS's system. Later, upon seeing Harold and Prada chatting in the break room like normal folks, India's annoyance causes her to accidentally smash her favorite mug.

Next morning, there is still no word from Box so the agents decide to visit him once more.  They find his place deserted and his laptop gone.  They do, however, find the shipping receipt.  Harold repairs India's mug. Arriving at the address on the shipping receipt, the agents and Harold find what appears to be a deserted warehouse.  Poking around, Harold discovers a cardboard box concealing what appears to be a bomb.

Harold grabs the bomb and runs off with it to a safe distance, where it explodes, leaving the OGS agents mystified. Teatime explains what has happened and they set off to find Harold. The latter is very weak after the explosion. Hearing an engine approach and believing it to be the others, Harold staggers to his feet. The engine turns out to belong to a motorcycle. The rider orders Harold to jump on the back and, with the sound of police sirens getting uncomfortably close, he does so. His mysterious rescuer turns out to be Reverend Box, who takes him to a safe house.

Box tells Harold how he had been threatened and warned not to help the OGS team and so he had planted a fake Shipping Receipt to lead them (or the people threatening him if they found it first) to a building he'd known from an old case. There, he planned to either meet up with the OGS team, or follow whoever else turned up. Box instructs Harold to text the others, warning them of a traitor in their midst and giving them the address of the safe house.

Box provides Harold with some new clothes as his were ruined in the bomb-blast. The other OGS agents are spotted by agent Moon as they arrive back at Aunt Aggie's and he tells them Director Opal wants a full report. They do this and then set off for the address Harold sent them.

Mr Peck contacts Mr Teeth and informs him that his associates have tracked Harold to an address and can capture him there. Mr Teeth agrees to this. Meanwhile, Harold is surprised and delighted when a scowling India re-unites him with his beloved trumpet.

Discussing the case, the agents decide to consult the personal records of everyone at Aunt Aggie's to see if they contain any clues as to who the traitor might be. Othello hacks into OGS's system and downloads the records. Box notices a telephone company truck parked down the street - unusual at such an early hour - and it is agreed that a watch should be kept.

As it turns out, the telephone truck was nothing to worry about. The agents narrow their choice of possible traitor to five. Shortly after, a UPS delivery truck arrives and, believing the employee to be genuine, Othello opens the door to speak to him. The UPS guy has a gun and, with two companions, ties up the agents and Harold. The UPS guy then orders Harold to go with him, leaving the other two behind to guard their captives.

Believing the UPS guys might be working for whoever is behind the angel and demon disappearences, Teatime tries to make friends with them in the hope they will take him with them if they leave - to no avail. After an hour the two UPS guys suddenly walk out, leaving the OGS agents tied up but otherwise unharmed. Teatime is reluctantly persuaded to try and free them by gnawing through the plastic ties holding their wrists.

Harold, meanwhile, arrives at his destination and is surprised to be ushered into the presence of Mr Teeth, Baron Samedi's right-hand man, who wants to know what Harold has done with his boss. Harold protest his innocence and explains that, he too, is looking for the Baron amongst others.

The OGS agents are at a loss as to where to go next when Othello remembers Box mentioning that a Mark Rainbow had been involved in the Dynamo project. He asks Box if he they could contact him. Box says probably not, as he and Mark fell out when the project was temrinated. Recognising the name, Prada asks if Mark is connected to Rainbow Industries and Box tells her that he is the founder's younder brother.

Could he be the one behind the restart of project Dynamo, they wonder. Box thinks not as Mark was badly injured in a climbing accident and is totally paralysed from the neck down. Further discussion is curtailed by the doorbell ringing.

Elsewhere in the meantime, an employee of Rainbow Telecom, a mobile phone company, receives an unwelcome email from one RolexBoy99, requesting the details of all texts to and from the four OGS Agents' phones. He complies, risking his job, because RolexBoy - a former firend and colleague - knows that he once hit and killed someone with his car and never owned up and has threatened in the past to go to the police. RolexBoy now knows where Box's safe house is.

Harold retuns to the safe house in the comapny of Mr Teeth, who offers the team his help and his not inconsiderable resources. Elsewhere, RolexBoy makes a call and passes over the address of the safe house, advising the employees of 'Infinity Recycling' that there is a specimen there to be collected.

The OGS agents decide to let Mr Teeth help them and he offers them the use of his home. He departs to complete some other business, leaving them to pack up and leave.

Elsewhere, Dr Flowers reflects on her life and the strange research she is involved in.

The agents and Harold pack up and go, leaving Box to tidy up his friend's place a little bit before leaving himself. Just as he's finishing up, a truck and car, bearing the logo of Infinity Recycling, pulls up outside the house. A man and women get out and approach the house. The man goes round the back. Box hides out of sight in the kitchen, hoping the unwanted callers will go away. He is startled by the sound of the man first trying the handle on the french door and, upon finding them locked, breaking the glass to let himself in.

Meanwhile, the others arrive at Mr Teeth's place.

Box hears the intruder let in his female companion and they discuss scanning the house. The mention a 'field' that would prevent whatever they are scanning for from escaping.

Box manages to sneak into the garage undetected by the intruders. Once in there, he discovers a back door, through which he can push the motorcycle and escape. Just as he's in the process of doing this, the male intruder enters the garage. Box throws an old paint tin at him and escapes out the door.

He gets the bike going and roars off down the road, but one of the other Infitity Recycling people takes a pot shot at him. Injured, he heads for the hospital. Meanwhile, the others, settling into Mr teeth's place, are beginning to worry about him.

Eventually, Mercury sends India and Harold to look for Box. He, meanwhile, is told that he needs surgery. Unbeknownst to him, two Infitiy Recycling operatives have followed him to the hospital.

India and Harold arrive near to Box's friend's house. Teatime does a recce and informs them that a white van is parked outside the house. They decide to approach the house from the rear in case Box is in there waiting for the van to leave. They get to the back of the house and Harold stops moving or speaking, standing frozen and lifeless like a statue.

At the hospital. Box is taken down for surgery.

Eventually, the Infinity Recycling people turn off the field and drive away. Harold unfreezes but is disoriented. India drags him to the car.

Dr Flower arrives at the hospital and slips into Box's room where he is recovering from his operation. She drugs him.

India brings Harold back to Mr teeth's, where he recovers. Meanwhile, RolexBoy is informed of recent events.

Next morning, the OGS agents go over what they know and decide to set up a war-board. Othello prints out pictures of the five agents who were previously indentified as possible traitors, plus that of Agent Wood, who worked on project Dynamo with Box. Harold recognises a close resemblance between Agent Wood and Agent Moon. The team decide it might be useful to tail him and see who his contacts are. Meanwhile, Dr Flowers is informed that things are almost ready for the project to proceeed to the next stage.

That night, Harold, diguised, and with Teatime hidden in a sports bag, follows Moon into his apartment block. They wait for Moon to go to bed and Harold lets Teatime into the apartment.

Teatime hunts around for Moon's briefcase with the aim of planting a tracker inside it, but find it locked. His searches lead him to the kitchen where he starts looking in drawers. He is interrupted by Moon waking up for a midnight snack. Fearing discovery, Teatime takes refuge in the rubbish bin.

Moon's snack eventually finishes and Teatime makes his escape, having placed the tracker in Moon's jacket. He and Harold head back to Mr Teeth's with Othello. The humans all go to bed but Harold and Teatime stay up and Teatime reminds Harold that he will have to go back to the basement once the mission is over - which pleases Harold not one bit.

Next day Moon, having been called by Dr Flowers, goes to Infinity Recycling. There, Haynes, hooked up to some seriously hi-tech equipment apparently performs a miraculous healing on an injured monkey.

That night, Agents Mercury, Othello and Prada, plus Harold and Teatime, having tracked Moon to Infinity Recycling take a drive out there and start to look around the place.  Unbeknown to them, Harold's presence has triggered an alarm.

Guards in some kind of hi-tech camauflage suits suprise Harold and Prada. Teatime, however, manages to distract them sufficiently for Harold to make his escape. At the same time, Othello and Mercury are themselves captured. A mobile unit, complete with c-detctor and immobilisation field generator, is dispatched to pursue Harold, but he manages to escape over a high fence, having been chased by the truck into a dead-end.

Harold finds himself in a large area of open ground. He is heading across this towards a highway he can see in the distance when the truck comes thundering onto the field, having backed up and made good use of its driver's local knowledge to find a quick way round. The driver's knowledge is not as good as he thought, though, as the truck drives straight into a twenty foot deep drainage culvert, crashing spectacularly.

Harold wrestles with a dilemma: should he use the opportunity to escape, or go back and help the almost certainly badly injusred humans in the truck. He opts for the latter. He manages to rescue two of the truck's occupants and also acquires 2 cases containing some of the silver 'invisbility' suits.

Teatime makes it back to the car where it has previously been agreed that they should all meet up if they were to get searated.  Harold calls India and apprises her of the situation.  She tells him to return to Mr Teeth's.

Moon arrives at Infinity Recycling and tries to persuade the OGS agents to reveal India's and Harold's whereabouts. Meanwhile, Harold arrives back at Mr Teeth's house with the invisibility suits. India agrees they should try them out and they are all amazed to discover that, with his suit switched on, Harold is undetectable by India.

Teatime suggests this is a good thing as it probably means that the Ifinity Recycling people won't be able to use their detectors to locate Harold either, making a rescue operation more practical.

At Infinity Recycling, Moon eavesdrops on the OGS agents, but they are too savvy to give anything away. Perhaps Dr Flowers might be able to help, he thinks, and calls her up.

Harold has an idea, and he and India travel to the hospital where Box is rrecovering. Harold heals his foot and they head back to Mr Teth's. Meanwhile Dr Flowers remembers that she retrieved an address from the sleeping Box's notebook and tells Moon.

Mr Teeth is startled by his home security system informing him his gates have been opened. His cameras show him an Infinity Recycling van parked in front of them. Nothing is visible on his other cameras, so, shotgun in hand, he prepares to meet the intruders whome he suspects will be wearing invisibility suits.

Meanwhile, the others arrive back at Mr Teeth's and, seeing the Infinity van parked outside, drive past without stoppng. The park up in the next street and Teatime is dispatched on a reccie.

Mr Teeth fires his shotgun, as his patio doors seem to slide open of their own accord.

Teatime makes his way across the garden and quickly assesses the situation. Two intruders are visible, Mr Teeth's shotgun having damaged their invisibility suits.

In the car, the others hear the gunfire and Harold, concerned for Teatime's safety and ignoring the others' warnings not to, sets off after him to see if he's ok.  Exasperated, they follow and India prevents Harold from going after the little monkey by the simple expedient of using her taser.

Meanwhile, Teatime levels the playing field by activating Mr Teeth's sprinkler system, which outlines the invisible intruders in sparkling water.  Mr Teeth quickly downs the remaining intruders.

With the Infinity goons dealt with, Box, Mr Teeth, Harold and India formulate a rescue plan of sorts.  Soon, with Harold and India wearing the invisibility suits, they requisition the Infinity van and head off to Infinity's building.  Following them are some of Mr Teeth's associates.

They get into the Infinity building and begin to search for the others when a fire alarm goes off and the building's staff begin to evacuate.  The fire alarm has been triggered by Agent Prada, who found a couple of matches in a matchbook which has slipped into the lining of her coat and so was not found when the Infintity guards searched her.

Box and Mr teeth are forced to evacuate with the other Infinity staff or risk looking suspicious.  Meanwhile, Harold and India, still invisible, stay in the building and discover a set of huge steel doors, they slip through them as they begin to close.

Now read on.


This is a story that, as J R R Tolkien would say, grew in the telling. It started life as a weekly creative writing exercise, called a Wordzzle. Click Raven's Nest and look at Rave's Wordzzle posts to get the idea.

Anyway, it started out as a bit of Saturday silliness. I wrote one episode, then another and, before you know it, it demanded a real story with proper characters and plots - which I am now in the process of creating.

Because Wordzzles are, by nature quite brief, the early episodes are very short, but as we go on they get a bit longer and more detailed. Because I have to include Raven's set words each week, there are a few twists and contortions.

Anyhoo, please read the "Story so Far" post, if you want to get up to speed without reading the whole thing.

Comments are welcomed - even rude ones!