Tuesday, 29 September 2009

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.

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