“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.”