Saturday, 26 June 2010

Episode 45

It was full daylight now and Box was pacing agitatedly up and down the living room. Even though it was still early, the heat was building up. Through the French doors that he had thrown open, the angry buzz of a neighbour’s lawn mover started up.

“Zeus’s beard,” he said, irritated, “It’s not even six-thirty. The only ones who’ll be sleeping through that racket are people who wear earphones to bed. Where are those agents?”

Harold glanced at his phone again just in case, but there were no missed calls and no new messages.

“I’m sure they’ll be here as soon as they can,” he said, “What are we going to do when they get here anyway?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure yet,” Box replied, “From what you and the others have told me, it looks like someone’s trying to get Project Dynamo up and running again. The thing is, if it’s not OGS - who have an obvious motive to get rid of demons at least - then who is it and why?”

“And how, don’t forget how.” Said Harold, “Demons like Baron Samedi aren’t that easy to overcome. Even if Dynamo is working somehow and Enigma – “

“Enigma?” Box gave Harold a quizzical look.

“It was quicker to say than ‘our mystery adversary’ all the time,” grinned Harold, “Personally, I think it’s a bit obvious and cliché, we should really have gone for something like the Congregation or something spooky like that. Point is: having located one of us, it’s not a simple matter to get the upper hand. Demons who’ve been on the Brightside as long as Samedi and co – and angels like Illyriel - are practised in exercising their various powers. You were an agent once, you know this stuff.”

“Yeah,” Box flopped into a chair, “Binding would work, of course, if you were quick enough - and the demon couldn’t get away before you finished the words.”

“Tell me about it,” said Harold ruefully, remembering the unpleasant barbed-wire prickling sensation of Mercury’s Binding.

Box raised an eyebrow. “You’re Bound?” He snacked his hand against his forehead, “Of course! So that’s why you’ve been helping OGS. I should have realised. Honest to goodness, if I were any dumber, I’d lose a battle of wits with a flower pot. Getting careless and stupid in my old age is what I am. Here’s me treating you like one of the team and all the time -”

“But, I’m not Bound,” interrupted Harold.

“What?” Box’s face was a picture of disbelief. Demons helping out? This was new.

“I’m helping of my own free will.” Harold went on. And the moon is made of green cheese, his inner voice finished for him. “Well, sort of, anyway. Look, the Basement and the Penthouse have come to an arrangement of sorts – until this is over at least, and I’m sort of assisting OGS.”
“I see.” Box pursed his lips, “Well, there’s a thing. There’s a thing indeed.” He lapsed into a thoughtful silence as he paced.

Harold stuck his hands into the pockets of his borrowed leather jacket and was surprised to discover they were not empty. Carefully, he withdrew the items and laid them on the coffee table – a box of matches, some cinnamon tic-tacs and a small bottle of antibiotics. Harold checked to make sure that no other personal property of the jacket’s real owner remained – it was only polite after all.

His phone beeped. He snatched it up quickly and read the message.

“It’s Othello, “ he said, “They’re on their way.”

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Episode 44

“You’ll be needing some clothes,” said Box. “Wait here a minute.”

As the little man went upstairs, Harold looked down at himself. The reverend was right: the bomb-blast had pretty much reduced what he had been wearing to rags and tatters, but with all the excitement, matters of a sartorial nature had been the last thing on his mind. Of course, more experienced demons than him would be just able to change their appearance to mimic any clothing they desired, but Harold had not developed his skills beyond maintaining a basic simulacrum of human form – hair had been the hardest thing to do and he hadn’t even bothered with details like a belly button. He sighed. He had such a lot to get to grips with.

Box reappeared. “Try these, they might be just about big enough.” He said, dumping an armload of clothes onto the living room sofa. Harold quickly picked through the stuff, rejecting a tee-shirt declaring Guaranteed Satisfaction! for one adorned with a spoof road sign ordering everyone to Stop in the Name of Love. The jeans were a little short in the leg but fitted well enough otherwise. A far-from cheap black leather jacket completed the ensemble.

“Whose things are these?” Harold asked wonderingly, carefully folding the items he’d rejected. They were clearly not the property of the five-foot-nothing Box.

“A friend’s.” replied Box, tersely, “Owes me a favour or two so lets me use this place on and off. Are they coming or not?”

Taking the sudden change of subject as a hint not to enquire further, Harold fished out his phone, “No reply as yet. “


“A traitor? In OGS? That’s not possible, surely?” said India, aghast.

Othello snapped his phone shut. “Well, it’s a rarity, but it has happened. When you get a chance, you should read up on Operations Swiss Cheese, Left Luggage and Black Saturday – so-called agent Cleopatra really did a number on us until she was found out. We lost a dozen good agents because of her.”

“How did she get into OGS, though?” India persisted, “When I joined, even my germs were background checked!”

“Well, we’re a lot more careful these days.”

“What happened to Cleopatra in the end?”

“She committed suicide, had some poison hidden in a perfume bottle.” Othello’s voice was grim.

“Ingenious,” commented Prada, “But what are we going to do now?”

“I think we should do as the demon suggests.” Said Othello. “Someone’s definitely been a step ahead of us. I vote we go to the address it gave us.”

“I agree,” said Mercury, “But I suggest we approach with caution in case the demon wasn’t the one who sent the message. Somebody else may have got hold of its cell phone.”

They were about to get back into the car when the door to Aunt Aggie’s opened and Agent Moon came trotting out.

“I thought I saw your car,” he cried, excitedly, “Thank goodness you’re safe! It was on the news, there was a big explosion near where you guys were going. Director Opal wants a full report right away.”

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Episode 43

“That’s quite a story,” said Box thoughtfully, as Harold finished relating the latest chapter in what was turning out to be one of the most bizarre phases of his long life. Weirdness, it seemed had become something of a universal constant, like gravity.

“It is,” the demon agreed, “And it’s all true. But what happened to you? We were worried.”

Box began to pace around the kitchen, his bike leathers creaking with each step.

“After Agent Othello called me to set up that first meeting, I had a visitor who warned me that if I was too helpful, there’d be consequences.”

“Ah,” said Harold, “Teatime said he thought someone else had been at your place before us – he smelt spearmint.”

“Very perceptive of him,” Box thought for a moment, “Wait, which one was he? I only remember two male agents: Mercury and Othello.”

“He was the monkey on my shoulder. Well, he’s a bit more than a monkey really. My father ‘upgraded’ him in return for his service.”

Box narrowed his eyes.

“So the Basement is messing with animals now.” He shook his head disgustedly.

“It’s not like the Penthouse hasn’t done it,” retorted Harold, feeling obliged to stand up for his own ‘team’ – he was, after all, a sort of charter member, having been one of the original Fallen - even if he was not one of its most vigorous ‘players’, “let’s not forget Balaam’s Ass.”

There was a pregnant pause and Harold could feel the tension building like static before a storm. He should say something and defuse the situation because, while he was not exactly planning to cut a rug with the strange little human, the man had helped him and that counted for something. He was about to say something when Box spoke.

“Ok, ok,” he said, spreading his hands in apology, “We could fling things at each other all night, but we’re wasting time. Where was I? “

“You had a visitor,” prompted Harold, glad to return to the matter at hand.

“Oh, yes, that was it. He made it clear I was not to give you any help or I’d pay for it.”

“But you helped us anyway. Wasn’t that a bit risky?”

“It was,” Box admitted, “But I will not be threatened. I’m not stupid though, I got out of there. ”

“And left the shipping receipt for us to find?”

“You, or whoever was threatening me. Took me a while to put it together on the computer, but I was quite pleased with the look of it in the end.”

“You mean it was a fake?”

“Yep.” Box looked pleased with himself, “I knew about the Osprey building from an old case from years ago, so I used the address.”

“I don’t understand,” said Harold. This was all a bit too cloak and dagger for him.

“I wanted to see who’d show up there,“ explained Box, “If it was you guys, I was going to make myself known. If it was the others, I was going to follow them and try to find out what was going on.”

“So you knew about the bomb? Why didn’t you warn us?”

“Zeus’s golden gonads!” cried Box, “Do you think I’d have let you all go walking in if I’d known there was a bomb in there? Of course I didn’t know about any bomb!”

“But if you were watching the place…?”

“Look, I saw that young blonde agent nosing around there, but she cleared off before I could approach. Then a bit later, some guy came along and went into the alleyway. From where I was, I couldn’t see what he was up to. He was in there about five minutes then he came back out. I thought he was just checking the place out, I never dreamed he might have a bomb with him.”

“Then we came along.”

“Then you came along. You went in. Next thing I know, you’re high-tailing it out of there. I went and got my bike to follow you and here we are. The question is: what now?”

“Well, I think I should find out if the others are OK,” said Harold, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Oh,” he said, reading the display, “Looks like Othello’s been trying to get in touch. Good!”

“Do you trust those agents?” asked Box. Harold stopped dialling and looked at Box enquiringly.

“Yes,” he said, “yes, I do.”

“Good,” said Box, “Text them and say this…”


Dawn was just breaking when Mercury, Othello, Prada and India reached Aunt Aggie’s. As they got out of the car, the sky was lightening to a clear blue apart from a few clouds the colour of whipped cream which were scattered sparingly about.

Othello’s phone beeped. He took it out at read the message.

“What is it?” asked Mercury.

“It’s the demon,” replied Othello, “It’s telling us not to come back here because there’s a traitor in OGS.”

Friday, 4 June 2010

Episode 42

“Well that’s where the bomb went off,” said Mercury as the car rounded the final corner. In the middle of a largish piece of waste ground, there was a large crater with piles of dirt, fallen masonry and other disturbed rubbish radiating out from it.

“So where’s the demon got to?” wondered Prada.

“I imagine he would have thought it prudent to conceal himself, pending our arrival,” replied Teatime, who was himself straining to see out of the car window into the darkness. “He’s a bit dim, but he would know enough to keep out of sight once the police sirens started up.”

“Speaking of which,” said Mercury, “I don’t think we can hang around here for too long. Stop the car, but keep the engine running. Maybe it’ll realise we’re here and come out.”

Prada brought the car to a halt and they all waited.

“You could try phoning him,” said Teatime. With an annoyed why-didn’t-I-think-of-that grunt, Othello dug out his mobile and dialled. “No answer,” he said after a while, “Maybe its phone got damaged in the blast.”

“Or maybe it’s decided that this would be a chance to give us the slip, once and for all.” Said India darkly.

“Now look here!” cried Teatime, annoyed by the woman’s constant insinuations. “I don’t think that’s a very fair thing to say, given that he just saved all our lives. If he’d really wanted to get rid of us for good, he could have just run off, but he didn’t.”

India had the good grace to look abashed.

“Monkey’s got a point,” admitted Othello, “Let’s keep an open mind, shall we? I’ll send a text message, you never know.”


They had been travelling for just a couple of minutes but already they were out in the suburbs and, although he couldn’t be sure over the roar of the bike’s engine, Harold was pretty sure the sirens had been safely left behind. He was delighted to discover that zipping along the road in the dark, with the wind streaming though his hair was actually very pleasant. He’d have to get himself one of these marvellous machines!

The mysterious rider turned off the main road into a side street which rejoiced in the name Goose Egg Drive. It was a street of unremarkable family residences such as could be found in just about any town. About half way down the street, the rider slowed the bike and piloted it up onto the driveway of one of the houses. Ahead, a garage door was already rolling upwards and they slid neatly inside. They came to a halt in a very ordinary-looking domestic garage, complete with a pegboard of rusty tools, half-full tins of paint, packets of chemicals for getting rid of carpenter ants and all the usual bric-a-brac. Harold climbed off the bike, followed by the rider, who thumbed a remote control, closing the door.

Now that the rider was standing up, rather than sitting astride the bike, Harold could see that he or she was quite short – the top of his (or her) head only coming up to Harold’s shoulder. The rider reached up and lifted off the all-concealing helmet, to reveal a familiar knobbly brown head.

“Reverend Box!” exclaimed Harold.

“No. Mickey Mouse, who’d you think?” retorted the strange little man, setting down his helmet. “Come on in.” He led Harold through a door into the main part of the house and flicked on the lights. Bright fluorescent light flooded a tidy modern kitchen. The room’s ceiling fan began to turn lazily. After the nights alarums and excursions it all seemed bizarrely normal.

“You’ll be needing energy, no doubt,” said Box, “There’s some cold pizza over there and some olive oil in the cupboard if you need a lot of calories quickly. Don’t touch the jelly beans though, they’re all mine.”

“Pizza sounds good, thanks.” Harold flipped open the box and grabbed a slice. His recovery was going well, but the extra energy would speed him well on his way to being good as new.

Box leaned against the kitchen counter, his bike leathers creaking faintly, and faced Harold.

“So,” he said, folding his arms.


“OK, let’s head back to Aunt Aggie’s,” sighed Mercury, “Doesn’t look like our friend is going to show up now.” There was a murmur of agreement from the others.

As the car began to make its way through the dark, litter-strewn streets, Teatime began to worry. The explosion wouldn’t have been fatal to Harold and he’d certainly had enough time to scamper up to the waiting car if he’d been skulking abut anywhere nearby, so where was he? Had he, as India had so mean-spiritedly suggested, made a bid for freedom? Teatime considered himself a good judge of character and this scenario struck him as extremely unlikely . Grabbing the bomb and removing it to a safe distance was the kind of altruistic nonsense that would have got Harold labelled a freak down in the Basement – actually, most other demons probably thought that about him already, what with his eternal reluctance to involve himself in his father’s diabolical affairs. No, he had been right to act as the demon’s champion, for what it was worth. So, if he had not run off, did this mean that he had disappeared like the other demons? Now that was an upsetting thought - not because Teatime had any huge amount of affection for Harold (although he was sort of vaguely likeable in his simpleminded way), but because it meant losing a useful asset. Harold’s father had always meant for Harold to serve as bait for whoever was behind the disappearances, but his intention had been that the circumstances should be more controlled and that Teatime should be able to report back in a little more detail than he just disappeared, my Lord. He shivered. Harold had better turn up soon or there’d be trouble.