Harold sighed. They’d been at this for what seemed like hours. Mercury, Prada, India and Othello had all departed for the night, leaving demon and monkey alone at Aunt Aggie’s – alone, that is, apart from a dozen or so OGS agents. To pass the time, Teatime had suggested that Harold should practise shape-shifting, a skill that all demons possessed but one which Harold had neglected over the years. He was, under Teatime’s critical eye, currently attempting to impersonate Agent Mercury. He’d got the eye colour fairly quickly and the rough shape of the face, but the finer details were proving difficult.
There came a knock on the door. Harold quickly allowed his usual form to snap back into place as the door opened and a young OGS agent entered the room bearing a pizza box and some cans of drink.
“Agent Mercury told me to get you some food,” he said, setting his burden down on the table, “They were all out of kittens, so I got pepperoni, hope it’s OK.” He let out a kind of high-pitched nervous giggle.
Harold was puzzled for a moment, kittens? Then he remembered: this was the young agent he had teased that morning. He laughed, “Very funny, agent -?”
“Moon,” replied the young man, “Agent Moon.”
“Well Moon-agent-moon, fancy sharing some of this pizza?”
Moon glanced at the door, “I’m not sure I should be hanging around in here. Agent India said –“
“Oh, come on,” interrupted Harold, “Where’s the harm in having a slice of pizza. Besides, wouldn’t it good experience for you in your career? Not many of you get the chance to study the enemy up close, now do they. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”
Moon pursed his lips, “I suppose I could stay for a short while.”
After the cool comfort of the car’s air-conditioning, the desert heat was an almost solid thing.
“So where’s this church then?” said Prada, slipping on an expensive pair of sunglasses.
“There.” Mercury pointed.
Just off the highway, Reverend Box’s “church” squatted, apparently deserted. It was a single-story structure built of wood the colour of bleached bone. It looked like it had once been used as some kind of large storage shed, although what on earth anyone would have wanted to store out here was anybody’s guess. On the side facing them some words had once been painted but these were now too faded to make out.
“Not exactly Notre Dame, is it?” murmured Teatime.
They trudged around the outside of the structure, looking for a way in. Eventually, they came across a metal door. Agent Mercury reached out to grasp the handle.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. This time of day, that handle gets pretty warm” Came a voice from behind them. They turned to see a little brown goblin of a man with a completely bald knobbly head, wearing a kindly smile on his sun-weathered face – and nothing else. Prada stifled a giggle while India immediately discovered that her shoes were possibly the most fascinating objects yet created.
“Aw, now you didn’t say anything about bringing female people with you,” Box complained, walking towards the group. “And,” he stopped directly in front of Harold and looked up at him, eyes narrowed, “Neither did you say you were bring a Fallen! You do know you have a demon tagging along with you, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes, we do.” Replied Mercury, “He’s working with us on something, don’t mind him.”
“Huh!” snorted Box, as he beckoned the group to follow him round the side of the building, “OGS working with Fallen now, and they say I’m mad.”
Round the back of the “church”, out of sight of the road, was a deep square hole in the ground about three feet on a side. When they reached it, they found a metal ladder descending into darkness. Box immediately started to climb down, agile as a spider.
“Well, come on,” he called, when he realised they were not instantly following him. “You can’t stay out here, Apollo’s pretty mean this time of day.”
Exchanging quizzical glances, the agents and Harold followed Box down into the dark.