Saturday, 30 January 2010

Episode 25

    The phone rang . Mr Teeth set down the scissors he had been using to open his morning sachet of protein drink (beef flavour today) and picked it up.
    “This is Peck. “ came the cultured voice of the private investigator . “Your boy is back in town. He was seen hanging around the club last night. Unfortunately, he left there in the company of some others – two men, two women. We have a licence plate though and my contacts are tracing the owners.”
    “Thanks,” grunted Mr Teeth, “I still want to speak to that boy, so keep on it, will you?”
    “Of course,” came the smooth reply, “I’ll let you know if anything changes.” The phone went dead. For 1500 dollars a day, the man might at least say goodbye occasionally, thought Mr Teeth.

    They had given Harold a tiny, hastily emptied-out office with no windows (to prevent opportunistic escape attempts, presumably). Someone had rustled up a camp bed and they had left a desk and chair in there too. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was better than nothing.
    Teatime was still delicately sawing logs when Harold woke from a pleasant night of quiescence, wondering what the day would bring. He dressed, opened the door and stepped out into the main operations room of OGS. This place had fascinated him on his last visit but he had not exactly had a chance to explore.
    Even at this early hour, the place was far from deserted: there were agents tapping reports into computers, agents on the phone, agents scouring the internet for information – a veritable hive of activity. A fresh-faced young agent at a nearby desk noticed Harold.
    “I don’t think you’re meant to be wandering about out here.” He said, rather timidly. Harold guessed that he had probably not been in the job long. It was wrong of him, he knew, but he could not resist having a little fun. He placed his hands on the desk in front of the agent and leaned over him, forcing him to lean back to maintain eye contact.
    “I was just looking for something to eat,” he said, bestowing upon the agent his most friendly grin. “Know where I can get hold of some nice fluffy kittens?”
    The young agent looked horrified.
    “Err, I don’t think we can do that.” He stammered, “I can get you something from the canteen. Will that do?”
    “That would be lovely.”
    “Stop that!” India snapped, having just arrived.
    “I’m sorry,” Harold said to the young agent, “I was just having a little fun. Some food would be nice though. Teatime will be hungry by now and he gets really grouchy when he’s hungry.”
    Relieved, the young agent scuttled off.
    “Do anything like that again and there’ll be trouble.” India said angrily, looking like she could have slapped him.
    Harold held up his palms apologetically, “I’m sorry. You idealistic types have a certain stereotypical view of us demons, so I was just living up to it. Won’t happen again.”
    The fried egg of his apology splatted against the Teflon coating of her cool stare and slid off, leaving no trace of humour in her eyes. Mind you, when Harold thought about it, he had been a bit mean to torment the young agent like that. The young fellow had been about as tough as a marshmallow and not really fair game. He sighed. Guess it was just his wicked fallen nature coming out.
    “Get your monkey-thing and come with me.” India ordered.
    She was back to being dark-haired again today for some reason which tickled Harold’s curiosity somewhat. He’d have to ask her about that at some point – after making sure her taser was well out of reach first, of course.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Episode 24

“Work with a demon?” cried Agent Mercury, “Are you serious?”
“Quite serious,” replied Baruthiel calmly. “The decision to combine forces was not made lightly, I assure you. Now I can’t put any pressure on you to do this, but I would strongly recommend it.”
The agents’ faces were so comically frozen in disbelief that Harold was tempted to whip out his phone and take a picture. He suspected that it would be a poor start to their working relationship though, so he forbore. What puzzled him was that the female agents had changed their appearances. The older one – Agent Gucci, was it - looked amazing (for a human). The younger one though looked faintly ridiculous and distinctly ill-at-ease in her blonde wig, make-up and heels. He felt a smile starting a tug-of-war with the corners of his mouth.
For her part, Agent India couldn’t believe her ears. She couldn’t have been more taken aback if the angel had suggested they team up with Gandalf and his pixies or Hobbits or whatever those little guys were. Surely Mercury would say no and then they could nail that – wait a minute – was that demon smirking? At her? The nerve! She felt the weight of the taser in her hand. Oh, If only…. Come on Mercury, just say no, she urged him silently. Just. Say. No.
“Does director Opal know about this?” asked Mercury, apparently impervious to India’s thought-beams boring into the back of his head .
“He has been informed, yes,” replied the angel. “He says that, as you’ll be the ones directly affected you should decide whether you want to work with a Fallen.“
“I vote no.” said India, straightaway.
“Oh, quelle surprise,” whispered Teatime, sarcastically.
“I would vote yes,” said Othello, “Except we can’t have demons running around unbound and I’m assuming,” and, here he turned to Harold, “that you wouldn’t agree to be Bound?”
“Correct” Replied Harold
“Since when do we ask demons for their permsision before Binding them?” said India, incredulously. “Surely, we should just do it and then the question doesn’t arise!”
“I think it would be more productive if all parties in this arrangement were willing rather than coerced.” Interjected Baruthiel. “But your point is well made.”
Othello thought for a moment then said to Harold, “Perhaps as a compromise, you could base yourself at our HQ and a member of OGS could accompany you at all times when out and about.”
“I’d be OK with that,” said Prada, “Besides, it’s about time we had some eye-candy about the place – no offence, gentlemen.” India shot her a scandalised look.
“I’d be OK with that too, I suppose,” said Mercury drily, “but probably not for the same reasons as Agent Prada.”
“Well?” Baruthiel was looking at Harold. The latter’s brain went into top gear as he tried to consider the ramifications of agreeing to this latest idea.
“Just a moment,” he said, walking a few paces away down the alley. “What do you think, Teatime?”
“I hate to badger you over this but I think you should never have agreed to work with these people in the first place,” replied the monkey sternly, “but that’s academic now. I suspect refusal to join their little party at this point would be unwise: these OGS lackeys on their own are dangerous enough but with Baruthiel as well.. No, we’d better make the best of it, old button.”
“OK,” said Harold, returning to the group. “I’m in.”
“Good,” approved the angel, “Now I must go.” He addressed Harold in Celestial, “The Penthouse has placed an unprecedented amount of trust in you, Fallen. Betray that trust and I will take it as a personal affront.”
And with that, he was gone.
“So, what now?” said Harold brightly.
“Back to HQ for you, then a good night’s sleep for the rest of us.” Said Mercury.”There’s just about room in the car I suppose, let’s go.”
“Will my room have an ensuite?” Harold asked India jokingly, in an attempt to break the ice.
“Hardly.” She replied sullenly, “It’s not like we’re going to roll out the barrel for the likes of you.”
“Could you at least run to a lovely cup of tea then?” Harold continued, “Only Teatime is rather partial to it.”
“Stop talking to me.” India snapped.
“Just being friendly,” Harold said, “We are going to be working together after all.”
“So? It doesn’t mean we have to do small-talk.”
Harold sighed. These humans were no fun.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Episode 23

“You can tell your pet it’s safe to come out of the shadows now.” said Baruthiel.

Teatime had obviously been listening the whole time because the words had barely left the angel’s mouth before he was once more upon Harold’s shoulder.

“Why in Hades’s name did you agree to that?” his voice was a furious frantic whisper.

“It’s not like I had a lot of choice, is it?” Harold replied, “And I don’t need a load of aggravation from you about it – the Basement and the Penthouse have a common interest for once and it might be useful to pool our resources.”

“Have I somehow fallen through a wormhole into an alternate reality?” Teatime was incredulous, “Those goody-two-shoes types will never trust us enough to share anything they find out and they’ll never believe anything we tell them. By Pluto, If you told them tomatoes were red, they’d still go to the nearest greengrocer and check for themselves. No, we can’t do this, old sock, we simply can’t.”

“We have to, “ insisted Harold, “I’ve already agreed to it.”

“But your Father will be furious!”

“He’s alwaysfurious!”

“Music to my ears,” commented Baruthiel, “A house divided….”

If looks could kill, Teatime’s glare would have had the local florists rubbing their hands and ordering extra lillies.

“Look Teatime,” said Harold patiently, “I’m not changing my mind on this now. I say we at least give it a try. If it doesn’t work out well…”

Teatime considered this. “Very well,” he sighed after some time, “but don’t come crying to me when these OGS lickspittles slap you with another Binding or worse – as they surely will.”

“They’re here,” announced Baruthiel, as four figures appeared at the end of the alleyway. He sheathed his sword and altered his appearance. Gone were the radiant armour and long flowing locks, to be replaced by a modern-looking army field uniform and a crew cut. Harold could only envy the angel’s mastery of his physical appearance – a skill he was really going to have to start working at one of these days – if he ever got the chance. If only you could get an instructional DVD or something – “Shapeshifting for Beginners” or “A New Face in 10 Easy Steps”. Maybe if he ever got the hang of it he would make that DVD himself. Yeah, right! His Father would be riding a snowmobile to work before these OGS types would leave him alone long enough to a) practice the art and b) stay here on the Brightside. Which rather begged the question: what was going to happen once all this was over. He was about to ask Baruthiel, but at that moment Joshua squad arrived.

This was India’s first encounter with an angel and, although she knew better, she was ever so slightly disappointed that he wasn’t more, well, angelic-looking. Oh, he was beautiful alright and contained within himself an inner light which was unmistakably not of this earth, but she had secretly hoped for wings. Big fluffy white wings – and maybe a halo. This isn’t It’s a Wonderful Life, she chided herself, and he’s not Clarence, so get a grip!

“Good evening, Agents,” said the angel, “Forgive the bizarre location of this meeting, it would have taken place in more salubrious surroundings at OGS HQ had someone not taken it into his head to go running off in the company of Black Sheep.” This last was, of course, directed at Harold but the latter just shrugged.

“Now,” he continued, “I have a very unusual request.”

Friday, 8 January 2010

Episode 22

“Well that’s rather put the kibosh on my pet theory,” murmured Teatime into the silence. “Still, a few less angels about the place? Bit of a silver lining, I’d say.”

Baruthiel seemed to notice the little monkey for the first time and the flaming tip of his sword moved to point at him.

“Begone, abomination,” the angel’s voice was melodious ice. “My business is not with you.”

Teatime bared his teeth in a brief show of defiance but, not wishing to be turned into monkey-chips, he quickly leapt down from Harold’s shoulder and scuttled away into the darkness.

“That wasn’t very kind, Baruthiel,” said Harold, “Teatime can’t help what he is,”

“Yes he can.” replied Baruthiel, “He made a choice – he entered into the Contract.”

“Some choice!” retorted Harold, “It was either that or die in some nameless human laboratory somewhere. No-one from the Penthouse was prepared to help him, were they? My Father offered him the deal and he took it – who wouldn’t under the circumstances?”

I wouldn’t!” declared the angel.

“How do you know?” cried Harold, becoming angry with Baruthiel’s relentless self-righteousness, “You’ve never been put in that position, have you? How can you possibly-”

“Enough!” roared Baruthiel, “I did not come here to debate morality with a Fallen One – especially you!”

“So why are you here?” demanded Harold.

“It has been decided” the angel replied, calming himself with an effort, “That you will assist us in finding out what is behind the disappearances.”

It took a moment for it to sink in then Harold burst out laughing.

"You have got to be kidding me!  The Penthouse and the Basement do not work together, you know that.  Never have, never will."

“True,” agreed Baruthiel, “so you will be assisting some of our human agents – that much is permitted.” A cellphone appeared in the hand not holding the sword, and he began to thumb its buttons.

"Oh, no." said Harold firmly, "I've met some of your agents and we didn't exactly get along. There's no way we'll be able to work together. There'll be what the humans call 'trust issues'. Anyway, why do you need my help when you can investigate perfectly well yourself?"

Baruthiel's thumb paused and he regarded Harold contemptuously..

"That's just like you, isn't it?" he sneered, "You're given the opportunity to do something that would really make a difference and you choose to walk away – again! I told them this was a bad idea, that you wouldn't have changed, and I was right."

"Now, wait a minute!" cried Harold, "I haven't decided either way yet, I just want to know what's going on. The Penthouse has never asked a Fallen for any kind of assistance before, so you can see why I might have questions."

Baruthiel considered this for a moment, then said.

"I can't tell you anything at this time. Just work with Joshua squad, that's all." He held up the phone, his thumb hovering over the green DIAL button. "Well?"

"Fine," sighed Harold, "I'll do it, but I suspect I'm not the only one who will need convincing." His hand tightened its grip on the wood of the club’s fire door: It would have to be Joshua squad, wouldn't it?

Baruthiel dialled.


“Darn it,” muttered Agent Prada, dabbing at her blouse with a paper towel, “This doughnut grease gets everywhere!”

“Try dabbing it with some perfume – the alcohol will act as a detergent,” suggested Othello.

“Really?” Prada rummaged in her bag and drew out a bottle of Mandala perfume.

“You’re such a space cadet, sometimes, Othello,” remarked Mercury, “Fancy knowing a thing like that. What’s next? A recipe for Turtle Soup, perhaps, or a lecture on the Architecture of the Minaret?”

“Maybe he’ll tell us about ceramic mug sales in prehistoric Mexico,” laughed Prada, joining in.

“Well, excuse me for having an education, I’m sure.” Othello replied with mock indignation. “At least I can spell spaghetti.”

Mercury’s phone rang, interrupting the laughter that followed. After he had finished the call, Mercury turned a grinning face to the rest of them. “That was our Penthouse contact. He wants us to meet him in the alley behind the club.”

“But isn’t that where…?” asked India.

“Yep!” replied Mercury, “Let’s roll, people. This should be interesting!”