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?
“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!”