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Authors: Sam Cheever

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BOOK: 'Tween Heaven and Hell
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From the shadows beyond the gargoyle, a very large demon
stepped forward into the light. He was holding a leash made from a mesh of some
kind of sturdy-looking black metal in his basketball-sized fist. The other end
of the leash seemed to be attached to the ’goyle.

Abrine spoke again and the demon yanked on the leash. The
gargoyle gave a deep growl but kept on eating. The handler pulled a little
harder on the leash and the thing sprang. It leapt off the ground and seemed,
almost before my eyes could register movement, to attach itself to its handler’s
broad chest with all four sets of two-inch-long claws.

The demon handler cried out as the claws sunk home and
grabbed at the gargoyle’s thick, tick-like body to try to pull it off his
chest. The gargoyle held on with incredible strength and opened its snarling
mouth wider, all the while keeping up a blood-freezing growl that seemed to
vibrate the stone walls around us. Just as the gargoyle’s teeth flashed toward
the helpless handler’s throat, Abrine moved a hand and the thing flew away from
its hapless handler and slammed against the hard, cold stone of the nearest
wall with a sickly crunching sound. It slid to the ground and lay there
twitching.

Abrine spoke again to the handler, who was bleeding green
all over the place from the ’goyle’s claws. The demon, rather reluctantly I
thought, moved to dispose of the body.

As Abrine’s gaze returned to me, I gave myself a mental
shake and took the seat he’d indicated earlier. Mostly because my knees had
gone all wobbly on me and it was good cover. “I guess you won’t need to put it
back to sleep after all.” My voice was stronger than I would have expected
under the circumstances.

Abrine chuckled. “Do not be too sure of its death. I’ve seen
gargoyles survive much worse. They have been likened to the cockroach of the
human world. They are difficult to kill and they just seem to get larger and
stronger each time you try. Nasty creatures.”

On this point at least we could agree. I nodded, frowning.

Again Abrine seemed to read my thoughts. “I do find them
useful, however. And, although I cannot trust them completely, as you have
seen, I can control them.”

I wondered if the demon handler would completely agree with
that last statement.

He smiled at me. “I have heard from the demons and lesser
devils that you are a force to be reckoned with, Tweener Phelps.” He cocked a
snowy eyebrow at me and tipped his head. “Somehow I expected someone a little
more…shall we say, imposing?”

I nodded, “Me too. I’m always a little surprised when I look
in a mirror. I feel so much bigger and meaner to myself.”

Abrine laughed. “I will not make the mistake of
underestimating you, Tweener Phelps. I know you have the ear of the angels. It
is known that you have been protected by them from the time you were a very
small child. But it is also known that your blood is devil-tainted. Some have
said that you have powers you even now don’t know exist within you. Does that
not frighten you?”

Yeah, it scared the shit out of me. However, I gave my best
bad-girl shrug and kept my face disinterested. “If I had such powers I would
know it. Your sources obviously have too much time on their…claws.”

He cocked his snowy head again. I decided he’d developed the
affectation because he’d learned long ago that it was hard to project attitude
or feeling from a face that was basically a permanently blank canvas. “I wonder
if you don’t know, but are unwilling to face that side of yourself.”

I suddenly lost the last little bit of my patience, which
was never all that abundant to start with. “Look, I’m sure you didn’t lure me
here so that you could psychoanalyze me. I’m really not all that interesting. I
have a job and I’m just trying to do it.” I stood up and Abrine’s blank face
rose with me. “You have a lesser demon called Timmon, who is pursuing the
fair-haired daughter of one of my clients. I have been hired to vaporize him.
Do you wish to stand for him or will you allow me to do my job?”

Abrine stared at me for a long moment and then motioned to
the royal I’d recognized earlier. The devil stood and moved toward us with that
rolling, sexy walk I all too readily recognized. He stopped in front of Abrine
and bowed just slightly, though I thought it galled him to do it. “Your
majesty?”

“Benoir, bring the demon, Timmon to me.”

Benoir glided away, leaving me to wonder what Abrine had in
mind. It didn’t take long to find out. And it wasn’t a pleasant discovery.

 

Timmon was particularly revolting. No surprise there. In the
demon and devil worlds, the lower in the caste system the creature was, the
uglier. This situation fits nicely with the human concept of evil being ugly.
The only problem was that, with demons, they could mask their ugliness behind
pretty masks that humans accepted without question and with devils, the vilest
of them were the royals and they were by far the prettiest.

The demon was covered in black, grainy looking leather skin
that seemed to ooze some kind of oily substance which made him look all shiny
and wet. His flat, wide head was about eighty percent forehead. The rest of his
facial geography was squashed into the remaining twenty percent. The eyes under
the protruding, squarish brow were so tiny and deep set that they might as well
not have been there. The nose was bulbous, with huge nostrils that flared in
fear as Benoir pulled him across the room. Thick, clear fluid ran from the
demon’s nostrils and dripped off his tiny, pointed chin. Demon snot. They
tended to leak when they were scared. On the top of Timmon’s head, set widely
apart, were two thick, black horns, which curved away from each other like bug
antennae. Between the horns, hair, sparse and wiry looking like an elephant’s,
sprouted from his leathery skin.

Benoir had Timmon by one fat, scaly arm and was dragging the
eight-foot-tall demon forward with apparent ease. I made a mental note to
myself. Apparently, along with their ability to get into your mind, the royals
were also extremely strong. Demons, as you’ve probably figured out by now, are
generally very tall and very large. Their physical strength exceeds even their
size. Despite this, however, Benoir, who was well built but not very tall and
looked to be on the lean side, easily controlled the slavering, writhing,
struggling demon.

Benoir pushed the demon toward Abrine and Timmon fell to the
ground at the demon king’s bare white feet. Abrine gave a slight nod to Benoir
and that royal turned, rather sharply I thought, on his finely made heel and
returned to his seat. Where he flopped gracefully, crossing his slender legs in
preparation of the show to come.

I was still standing where I’d landed when I lost my very
limited patience and brought up the subject of Timmon in the first place.
Sensing that something horrendous was about to happen, I did not sit back down
like Benoir to enjoy the show.

With his head lowered so that he appeared to be staring at
the stones beneath his broad, white feet, Abrine slowly raised his arms over
his head, clenching his fists so that the long white nails, which were at least
an inch long and curved inward like talons, began to cut into the white flesh
of his palms and produce bright, green droplets of demon blood. I watched those
droplets of blood with fascination. They were all the more startling against
Abrine’s completely colorless form.

Closing his white eyes, Abrine began to chant in the
language of Hades. As he chanted, the demon Timmon, still prostrate before
Abrine on the floor, began to writhe and cry out. He didn’t try to get up off
the floor and run away. He just put his hands over his face and screamed.

As Abrine’s chanting grew in volume and intensity, so did
Timmon’s screams. The air in the room grew progressively colder and thicker,
pushing at me with an insistence that made me feel a little claustrophobic. I
forced myself to take deep breaths as I began inching backward toward the door.

Blood began to roll down the unfortunate demon’s grainy,
black cheeks from beneath that monstrous brow and his body started to thrash
wildly around. His screams pierced the heavy air and vibrated against my
eardrums, banging into my brain painfully, until all I wanted to do was cover
my ears with my hands and run from the room. But, something kept me from
leaving. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt, somehow, like I needed to see
the thing finished.

Reluctantly, I watched as the Demon’s leathery black flesh
began to split apart and spill out green blood and other stuff onto the floor.
I watched as his right arm and then his left exploded away from his body. I
watched as his chest opened up and dispensed a wriggling mass of what looked
like maggots before it too exploded into the room. Warm, rancid-smelling mush
hit my face and arms and I finally closed my eyes with revulsion.

My knees buckled and my head snapped back to slam against
the hard, cold surface of the wall behind me. I suddenly realized that I had
continued to back away from the scene even as I had been mesmerized by it.
Ignoring the throbbing pain at the back of my head, I reached up and scraped
what was left of Timmon off my face. I found my eyes being pulled toward
Benoir, who was still sitting in the chair looking like something from
Gentlemen’s
Quarterly
of Hades. The elegant devil smiled at me as if we’d shared a
particularly intimate secret. When he opened his mouth I realized I was afraid
of what he was going to say. There was a good reason for that.

“Now that we have done you a favor and taken care of your
little…problem,” he began, his beautiful lips curled in distaste as he glanced
briefly toward the mess that had been Timmon, “we know that you will represent
us well to Nerul and his court.”

I couldn’t even respond. I looked from the evilly beautiful
face before me to the frosty white countenance of the demon king and then,
Heaven help me because I couldn’t help myself, I looked again at the mess on
the floor of that foul-smelling dungeon room.

Then, shaking my head in disgust, I turned away and ascended
the stairs as quickly as I could without running, praying with all my might
that I would make it back out into the beautiful normalcy of my adopted human
world. And away from the disgusting lunacy that was this one.

Chapter
Ten

Back to School

The Maiden bent her fiery head o’er the learned texts
of God,

And studied how to best her foe, on ground the Angels
trod.

 

I was on my sixth cup of strong black coffee and still I
felt mushy-headed. The scene I’d witnessed the night before had stayed with me
through the night and left me with a horror hangover that no amount of sleep or
coffee seemed able to defeat.

I had showered no less than four times but I could still
feel the remains of Timmon on my skin. Even as I thought about it I shivered
and got up to pour myself another cup.

Moving to my information unit, I placed my palm over the
Identi-pad and said, “Power on.” The voice-activated unit sprang to life and I
sat before it gratefully, realizing that work was the only thing that would
take my mind off things.

Unfortunately, the first order of business was to contact my
client and tell him that Timmon had been taken care of. With a sour taste in my
mouth, I composed a note that basically evaded the details and told my client I
didn’t want to be paid for the job. I couldn’t in all good conscience take
money for what had been done to the demon.

I know what you’re thinking. I was gonna vaporize him anyway
right? Well yeah. But, as you know, vaporization is painless and quick. I was
only doing what both sides expected of me when I vaporized a demon that had
stepped outside the accepted boundaries of human/demon relationships. What I’d
witnessed last night was neither painless, nor quick and it certainly wasn’t
done in the spirit of justice being served, it was done to somehow tie me to
the royals and the scheme they wanted to involve me in.

That, I decided with a jolt of understanding, was what was
bothering me. Somehow they had made me feel complicit in the horrible cruelty
they’d perpetrated on Timmon. Somehow they had made me responsible for the way
he’d died. And I didn’t like it. Not one little bit.

My musings were interrupted by a small hissing sound that
announced the arrival of Myra or one of her kind. I raised my eyes from the
screen of my information unit and smiled at my angel and her companion, the
chubby, red-haired angel with the soft Southern twang who had spoken at the
council meeting I’d been “invited” to attend.

“Coffee, ladies?”

Myra’s eyes lit up and I looked at her companion with a
questioning lift of my eyebrow. The pretty red-haired angel gave a tiny nod and
then followed me into my food service area. As she hovered behind me I realized
she was probably hoping for something a bit more substantial than coffee. I
turned to her and asked, “Cream cake or chip cookies?”

Her pretty, peach colored lips spread in a soft grin. “Cream
cake please.”

I turned away with a smile. She had said the word “please”
with the most endearing lisp. I thought that I was going to like working with
this angel. And I’d already discovered her human vice. Just in case bribery was
ever called for. “Coming right up.”

Myra settled herself into her favorite chair and waited
expectantly for me to carry her coffee to her. She accepted it with the air of
royalty, even giving me the “you are dismissed” nod as I gave it over. I shook
my head and chuckled. Some things never changed.

As I carried the plate of cake in and set it on the holding
tray nearest my small suite of divans, Myra’s soft-spoken companion joined her
on the largest divan and smiled as Myra took her soft, white hand. “This is
Prevara. She will be giving you your first lesson on the Royal Court.”

BOOK: 'Tween Heaven and Hell
4.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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