And here, the first scene in another little demonic gem, just finished it a few minutes ago ...
In the kiosk, Roy sat with his bare legs propped up on the desk, staring at the gate.
For some reason, Roy had been switched to graveyard shift, and the normally-slow business at Hell’s South Gate on this shift was a crawl that made an advancing glacier seem like a bullet train.
Not that there were any advancing glaciers anywhere in the neighborhood these days; The Chief had scored a major mojo when he’d come up with global warming. Another couple million years, it would be as warm out there as it was in here–Venus would be a place to visit if you wanted to cool off ...
The portal itself was something with which he was most familiar, having observed it for a while. Ten feet tall, fifteen feet wide, straight across the bottom and with a stretched-out double-ess curve forming the top, the upright bars were as big around as Roy’s wrists and while it looked like iron and everybody called it that, it actually was cast of some alloy that made spun carbon fiber seem like tissue paper for relative strength. The bars were spaced about six inches apart. You could slam a herd of gigantosaurs at full gallop against it and the gate wouldn’t budge. Though it wasn’t proof against cat piss–which everybody knew, too.
To look at, the lock was nothing but an old-style spring-thing–the skeleton key that opened it was almost a foot long, but that was just its appearance. You were supposed to wear the damned thing on a thong around your neck, but most days, Roy hung it on a peg. Who was gonna come here and steal it? If Gate Management thought it was any safer around the gatekeeper’s neck than a few feet away, they were stupid.
The lock and key were stuffed with electronic doodads that ran through constantly-shifting encrypted UHF radio waves that had to match exactly or the gate wouldn’t open. Absolutely unpickable, according to the smith, and you could set off atomic bombs next to it all day and it wouldn’t break.
No matter how much rendered fat you used to oil the hinges, it always squeaked when you opened the thing, a nails-being-pulled-from-wet-wood skrinch! that set your fangs on edge every time. Not as loud as the Main Gate, but, still.
Part of the ambience. Just like the dead PC on his desk, and good luck on living long enough to see the IT imps drop by to fix the fucker.
Outside, the closest house, Mrs. Bentley’s, was dark. She’d be up at dawn, out in the garden, that fucking cat of hers dancing around, but for now, it was as quiet as a grave.
Quiet. Dull. Boring.
That was fine with him. Boring was good. Especially given all the other shit in his life since he’d hooked up with Larry’s group. And, um, hooked up with Larry’s mother, Lilith. There was a love-hate relationship. He loved the sex, there was nothing like it, the woman could tie a bowline knot in a cherry stem with her tongue; on the other hand, he hated the thought of what would happen to him if her husband found out and decided to take Roy to task for it.
Having the Most Low Ruler of Hell pissed off at you? That would be bad ...
Roy felt a rumble vibrate up into his ass from the chair in which he sat, as if there was a small earthquake shaking it. But it was a rhythmic thing, boom-boom-boom, that he knew wasn’t a quake, but somebody–or some thing large approaching.
He pulled his feet off the desk and sat up straight, trying for a professional demeanor.
Somebody plodded down the hall toward the kiosk. Two very large somebodies marching in step together.
Stan and Ollie lumbered into view.
At seven-and-a-half feet tall and three-fifty on a good day, Roy was a tad larger than the average demon. Stan and Ollie made him looked like a shrimp. Both of them were pushing ten feet in height, and an easy five hundred pounds, most of it in muscle. Both of them liked glow-in-the-dark tats, covering most of what skin was visible, which was all of it, since they never bothered with kilts. They even had tattoos on their dicks, designed to change with tumescence. Ollie was something of a wag, he was, and he’d had his penile art work designed after an old joke: Flaccid, it seemed to say “Wendy” on his male member. Erect, it was supposed to read: “Welcome to Jamaica, mon. Have a nice day ...”
Not that Roy had been close enough to read it that way, nor did he want to be.
Stan and Ollie were Larry’s bodyguards, and while they were blocking the passageway and he couldn’t see, that must mean Larry was right behind them ...
Stan and Ollie came to a halt next to the kiosk. They were alone.
“Where is Larry?”
“None of your fucking business,” Stan said. Despite his massive size, Stan had a voice than an opera soprano would envy–high, clear, feminine. The first time Roy had heard him speak, he’d almost laughed. Almost. But he had heard stories of those who’d laughed at Stan’s voice, and they were none of them pleasant tales ...
Roy shrugged. “Okay. Then why are you here?”
Ollie, who was a bit more congenial, if not convivial, and whose voice was a basso-profundo as deep as Stan’s was high, said, “Escort duty.”
Roy frowned. “For me?”
“Nah,” Ollie said. “We got a visitor coming in.”
Roy glanced down at the handwritten gate schedule. “Nobody on my list.”
“Off the books,” Stan said. “You got a problem with that?”
Stan would love for him to have a problem with it, Roy could tell.
“Not me,” Roy allowed.
His brain whirled. An off-the-books visitor? That usually meant somebody from On High, and if they were coming through the South Gate instead of the Main, without any pomp? Hmm. That put an interesting spin on things.
As if on cue, somebody arrived at the gate. Roy caught the motion and looked up.
A pair of seraphs stood there.
Roy blinked. He’d seen angels before, though usually from a distance. He hadn’t realized they came so big–these two were equal to Stan and Ollie in size, though the shining white robes they wore mostly hid their sexless bodies, you could tell from the veiny, muscular forearms peeking out from the three-quarter sleeves they weren’t carrying any fat.
Ollie leaned down toward Roy and in a stage-whisper, said, “That’s Martin and Lewis. Martin is three-time On High MMA champ; Lewis holds the record for clean-and-jerk, squat, and bench press.”
Roy blinked. Angelic bodyguards.
The seraphs moved apart, and revealed behind them a short human, five-and-a-half, six feet tall, kind of swarthy, big nose. Guy had a crewcut, wore a Godspell T-shirt, blue jeans, and Vibram Five-Fingers on his feet.
“Let them in,” Stan said. “And gatekeeper? This didn’t happen, you get it?”
He got it. Yeah, they weren’t in the book, but if Larry’s goons were here saying let somebody in, Roy wasn’t going to argue with them. He was still a gatekeeper, but he was working for Larry.
He stood and reached for the key.
The human smiled. “Save yourself the trip,” he said. “I got it.”
Roy raised an eyebrow. “You think?”
“No problem.” He waved one hand.
The gate’s super-duper-can’t-be-picked-bomb-proof-high-tech lock clicked. The gate swung open on its own.
Nary a whisper of a squeak from the hinges, either, the gate moved as smoothly as a drop of hot mercury rolling down a polished titanium plate.
Motherfucker. This guy, whoever he was, had a mojo out the fucking wazoo.
The trio stepped inside.
The seraphs and demons gave each other hard stares.
Stan said, “Martin. Lewis.”
“Stan. Ollie,” one of the seraphs replied.
The air practically reeked of testosterone. And whatever seraphimic equivalent it was that motivated angels. These four wanted to slam dance, a blind demon could tell that. Be something to see, too, that fight.
From a distance.
Roy moved, intending to close the gate. He didn’t need the key, it would latch automatically. Well, normally it would.
“Let me,” the human said. He waved his hand. The gate swung closed. Click.
Roy shook his head as he watched the five leave. Stan glanced back at him. Forget this happened, that look said.
Motherfucker. So that’s why they’d changed his shift.
So much for boring.