Saturday, 19 December 2009

Episode 21

India took a sip of water to wash down the last of her doughnut. Othello had grumpily fetched a box for them from a nearby store – anything to quiet Prada's rumbling stomach. For someone so image-conscious, she can certainly eat, thought India, watching Prada fussily wiping her hands with one of the frustratingly inadequate paper towels from the doughnut shop. In the front seat, even Mercury had resorted to doing a crossword by torchlight to pass the time. They had been here for hours - or so it felt.

"Woe is me, 4 letters." Mercury sighed.

"Alas," replied Othello, staring through the window at a deserted and windy street.

"Did Opal say when this guy was going to show up?" asked Prada.

"Nope." replied Mercury firmly, "What's another word for greed, beginning with 'a'?"

"Avarice," Othello could not keep the boredom from his voice. Like all of them, he just wanted to get in there and deal with the demon they had followed here, once and for all. Having to wait was maddening.

"Doesn't fit,"

Othello glanced over at Mercury's paper, "Spaghetti ends in an 'i' not an 'e'." he grunted.

"Oh yeah, thanks." Mercury's pen scratched the paper.

Outside in the street, nothing was still doing its best to happen.


The armoured figure facing Harold was like something come to life from one of those old mythology books. It topped Harold's six feet by a good head, and was broad of shoulder and narrow of hip. Its flowing golden hair framed a bronzed face of such surpassing beauty that, if it had smiled, it would have lit up the whole alleyway.

It was not smiling, however.

"You!" cried Harold in disbelief and not a little trepidation.

"They told me that one of the First Order was roaming around on Earth," said the armoured figure, "Imagine my surprise when they said it was you." He took a step closer and in so doing, brought the flaming tip of his sword close enough to make the front of Harold's jacket begin to smoke a little. "Do you not remember me warning you what would happen if our paths ever crossed again?" The perfect grey eyes were ablaze with anger.

"Of course I do," answered Harold, his voice calmer than he felt.

"And yet you still come up here to the world of men to make mischief."

"That's not what I'm doing here, Baruthiel," Harold protested.

"Oh?" the angel (for such it was) raised a perfect eyebrow, "So you got Lolita LaChaise to sign away her soul for her own good then, did you?" Even dripping sarcasm, the voice was lovely. "You are truly pathetic!"

Harold had no answer: he had indeed ensnared that young actress with a promise of a major part in All My Children, but that was before – and she had been drunk at the time, so even the best of the Basement's lawyers (and there were plenty to choose from) would probably not be able to get the Contract to stick. The Contract had to be signed knowingly and willingly. Harold doubted that would cut any ice with Baruthiel the Reckoner, though, and prepared himself for a swift and painful trip back home. It was a pity really, things were just getting interesting.

"I would love to deal with you as you deserve, Fallen," continued the angel, "but fortunately for you, there are more important matters at hand. I assume all this amateurish skulking in alleys is your way of investigating the disappearances?"

Harold was stung by the angel's scathing tone and, with the threat of imminent Dismissal having receded, somewhat irritated by his holier-than-thou (though technically quite true) manner.

"What's it to the Penthouse if there are a few less Fallen?" he retorted, "I would have thought you'd be pleased."

"Oh, we would be," Baruthiel assured him, "Except that some of the Loyal have also disappeared."
Even Teatime, who had been perfectly still and silent up to this point, gasped.

So Angels were disappearing too.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Episode 20

An obsequious waiter in a cummerbund brought the bill. Harold looked at it and gave a low whistle.

"I think that waiter should double as a mortgage advisor, these prices are crazy – they've even charged for the sugar in my coffee!" he said, aghast, "Good thing Ray gave me some money or I'd be washing dishes for a month!"

"Indeed," agreed Teatime, "And the fruit salad wasn't as fresh as it ought to have been. Still, time we were off, old bean, work to be done and all that. Make sure you don't leave a tip, that'll teach them."

"No tip?" cried Harold in mock horror, "Is there no end to your evil schemes?"

"None whatsoever," replied Teatime without a trace of humour.

The two made their way out of the Nirvana Cafe and into the gathering gloom of the evening city streets.

India felt as awkward and outlandish as a scarecrow on roller skates in her makeup, wig and heels. A picture in this get-up would definitely not be one for the photo album. She glanced at her watch: 20:34. How much longer would they have to wait?

"Target's on Fletcher Street, where that jazz club was," said Mercury, watching the GPS display. "Wonder why it's gone back there? It said it had nothing to do with the fire, yet here it is all the same."

"Well, we used to suspect that Baron Samedi was a demon, didn't we?" said Prada, "Maybe that's why."

"We never managed to get any proof, though," replied Mercury, "and now the Baron's vanished, so I guess we'll never know."

"Bit like the wild goose chase we were on before this." Othello chimed in, "Agent Domino swore there was a demon working in that soup kitchen, ensnaring down-and-outs, but when we got there, nothing."

"Well, I wouldn't be sorry if all the demons just disappeared. Good riddance!" declared Prada.

India was intrigued: when Demons managed to get to earth, they never left voluntarily, so had to be Dismissed. So far as she knew, only OGS agents had the necessary faith to do that. So if Baron Samedi and that other demon hadn't left on their own and hadn't been Dismissed....

Harold and Teatime were in the alley behind the club. It was the logical place to start - the front being far too public. There was a fire exit here with no lock or handle, one of those opened by a push-bar from inside. Harold did a quick survey of the area: there were no handy windows left open or inviting ventilation grilles like in the movies.

"You'll have to open the door yourself, old shoe," whispered Teatime, "You do remember how to do that kind of thing, don't you?"

"Yeah, I remember," sighed Harold, "I just haven't done it lately."

"You really ought to practise these things more," scolded Teatime, "It's like what I said about your shape-shifting. That could have been very useful – and still could be, if only you'd put some effort in."

"Ok, ok", Harold raised his hands in mock surrender, "I'll try harder. Now let me see if I can..."

He placed his hands against the door and concentrated. For a minute, nothing seemed to happen. He was about to give up when a disused circuit in his brain suddenly lit up and, yes, he could sense the push-bar. Now, just a little pull...

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" he breathed as the lock clunked.

"Well done, old fruit!" applauded Teatime, "I had every faith in you!"

"You're a terrible liar, Teatime," laughed Harold, really pleased with himself for having got something right at last. He pulled the door open. Inside, it was pitch black, but Harold could see perfectly well.

"Breaking and entering now is it?" said a deep melodious voice behind them.

Harold whirled round so quickly at the unexpected sound that Teatime was forced to grab a handful of hair or be summarily thrown off Harold's shoulder. He chittered sharply: sometimes only monkey expletives would do.

The owner of the voice was about 10 feet away, clad in radiantly shining armour, and held a huge flaming sword pointed directly at Harold.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Episode 19

Ray pulled the car over.

"Well, here we are, my Lord," he announced, somewhat unnecessarily. "And here are the things Mr Teatime asked for." He handed a carrier bag to Harold.

"Er, thanks," said the demon, "Well, it was nice meeting you and thanks for the lift."

"It was our pleasure, my Lord," said Nicole, "If you ever need us again, our number is in the phone."

Harold and Teatime got out of the car and watched for a few moments as it pulled away and disappeared into the traffic.

"Nice people," said Harold.

"Actually, old bean," Teatime corrected him, "they're not – at least by most people's standards. Now, let's find somewhere for a drink and a bite, after that long drive I'm feeling a bit frazzled, I don't mind telling you."

After the noise and bustle of the city street, Cafe Nirvana was a haven of cool and calm. In the corner, real live musicians were playing Beethoven's String Quartet No 1 in F major. While he and Teatime waited for the food and drink to arrive, Harold cocked an appreciative ear in their direction.

"The allegro in this is so joyful," he commented after a few minutes, "so sprightly, it's like a bright necklace of notes winding into your ear. You know, Ludwig has such a light touch here, compared to some of his other stuff. Why I remember - "

"Yes, yes. If you say so, old shoe," yawned Teatime, music appreciation not being one of his specialities, "Now let's have a look in Ray's goody bag."

Harold emptied the contents of the carrier bag onto the table. There was a mobile phone (a Rainbow Industries Edge-5100T, no less, with solar charger), a wallet full of money, some sunglasses and a baseball cap. Harold laughed at these last two items.

"The old disguise kit, eh?"

"Well, it pays to be circumspect, old fruit," said Teatime, "The human police are still looking for the man in the CCTV film, you know – which is you, in case you'd forgotten."

"I haven't forgotten," replied Harold, "But why don't I just talk to them and tell them I had nothing to do with the fire anyway? That way, the problem is removed altogether."

At that moment the food arrived – a nice juicy steak for Harold and a fresh fruit salad (and wedge of chocolate cake) for Teatime.

"Such naivete," sighed Teatime when the waitress had gone, "Just telling the police you weren't there won't be enough, there'll be questions and we'd be tied up for hours or days even. They might even try to take your fingerprints and we can't risk that."

This was true, for while Harold had been kitted out with a basic set of earthly credentials: Social Security number, birth certificate and driver's licence courtesy of the Black Sheep working in the SSA, IRS, DMV and so on, Harold did not have fingerprints or DNA. This was not a crime, of course, but was bound to raise questions if discovered as part of a police investigation.

"I think, " said Teatime, changing the subject, "we should wait until this evening and then take a look around Baron Samedi's then. I doubt we'll find anything, but we must be thorough."

"Indeed we must," agreed Harold happily. In the meantime, there was food, drink and glorious music.

Agent Mercury's phone rang. He picked it up, listened for a short while, grunted occasional acknowledgements and then hung up. He turned to the others.

"That was Opal," he said, "Someone's coming to meet us and we're to wait for him before moving in."

There was a collective groan of frustration from the other agents: they were so close to their target, just a block away in fact, and now they had to wait, maddening!

"So, who's coming?" asked Prada.

"Someone from the Penthouse, apparently," replied Mercury.

There was a stunned silence in the car. The Penthouse only ever involved itself directly with earthly affairs in the most exceptional of circumstances – and the apprehension of one rather puny demon didn't qualify as exceptional, surely!