Even as a child, growing in a small town in Pennsylvania, Agent India had never been afraid of monsters in the closet; as a teenager, she had yawned her way through countless movies about zombies attacking small towns in search of the inhabitants' brains. These things did not scare her because she had always had a firm idea about what was real and what was not. Zombies and closet-dwelling monsters were not real. Demons, on the other hand, very much were. For as long as she could remember, India had been able to sense them when they came near.
At first, she had had no idea what it had been about certain people that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She had asked her parents about it and they had not known what to tell her. Eventually, she had plucked up the courage to speak to the priest in her local church. He had explained her gift to her and had put her in touch with the Order of the Good Shepherd, who, he said, could make good use of it.
How right Father Nolan had been! India was full of elation as she and the other members of Joshua squad, along with their captive, bounced around in the back of the van which was now bowling along at a good clip away from the warehouses and back to base.
Harold, on the other hand, was decidedly not full of elation. He had fallen straight into the humans' trap. Honestly, even someone with the IQ of a bath brush would have realised that they had left the doorway so invitingly unguarded on purpose, but not him, oh no!
The paralysing effect of the taser had not had chance to wear off before the leader of the humans was standing over him, reciting the words of Binding. Few humans even knew these words and fewer still had enough faith to make them stick, but stick they did. Harold could feel the effect of them like a cocoon of barbed wire wrapping him from head to toe. At the moment, because he was sitting quietly and not causing any trouble, the wire was only loosely wrapped and he could only just feel it, but he knew that if he did anything out of line, the wire would tighten. No wonder Teatime had been so insistent that he put as much distance as possible between himself and these humans. Harold hoped Teatime was alright - the little monkey hadn't said a word since the female driver of the van had thrust the pillowcase with him in it roughly into Harold's arms with the stern injunction that he sit still and keep the monkey quiet, or else.
Agent Mercury had been about to begin the words of Dismissal to send this fiend back where it belonged when the approaching wail of a police siren had interrupted proceedings. Someone, it seemed, had heard the noise and had called the cops. OGS agents had no more powers than any other private citizen and it was unlikely that the police would be even remotely understanding if they were to come across a small group of people performing some strange ritual in a deserted warehouse. There had been nothing for it, therefore, but to de-camp to base and do the ritual there.
Agent Prada brought the van to a halt outside what looked for all the world like a small industrial unit in a nondescript business park just outside town. A fading sign on the unit even proclaimed that this was the home of Aunt Aggie's Mouth-Watering Family Cheesecake. Cheesecake production had ceased more than twenty years ago, however, and the unit now served as OGS's local base of operations.
Agent Mercury slid open the van's door and ordered Harold out with a jerk of his thumb. Cradling Teatime's pillowcase carefully, Harold complied. He desperately wanted to talk to Teatime, make sure he was alright. He didn't dare risk it yet though because, although he had not specifically been told he couldn't, he wasn't sure how much leeway the Binding permitted, if any (if only he'd paid more attention to his teachers!). Also, the humans might be suspicious if he started talking to his "pet" in Infernal, which was the language the two of them had always used.
The deserted reception area of Aunt Aggie's was much like any other: there was a counter, some fabulously uncomfortable seating, a coffee table bearing out-of-date magazines and on the wall, a picture of a bowl of African violets and butterflies which was a triumph of anodyne mediocrity. This was, of course, all a front and Harold was surprised to discover, upon passing through a set of double doors, that a bustling, brightly-lit operations room lay beyond.
"...was actually holding hands with her, can you believe it? I know! Oh, wait, I'll have to call you back." A fresh-faced young man quickly put down the phone as the small group passed his desk.
"Sir?" He called out, "Agent Mercury, Sir?"
Mercury turned to face the youngster, a look of irritation on his face.
"What is it?" he barked.
"Opal wants to see you in his office right away."
"Tell him I'm kind of busy." Mercury gestured vaguely in Harold's direction.
"He knows that, sir. That's what he wants to see you about."
Mercury sighed. More delays! Was he ever going to get rid of this demon?
"Ok," he said, addressing the squad, "Go and wait for me in the break room. You –" he said, turning to Harold, who had been gawking like a hick tourist at the bright lights, computers and whatnot, "Go with them and don't try any funny business".
Funny business was the farthest thing from Harold's mind as he sat in the OGS break room with Agents India and Othello, et al eyeing him in a less than friendly fashion. On top of the refrigerator next to him someone had left an old Pizza Hut menu and an unwashed mug with a cartoon of a weeping clown on it, along with the words laugh and the world laughs with you. They got that right, thought Harold.
Feeling Teatime stir, Harold loosened his grip on the pillowcase and the little monkey poked his head out and looked around.
"Excuse me, can I let him out now?" Harold asked Agent India, "He won't be any trouble."
"I suppose so," she replied. He's just a little monkey after all, where's the harm.