General Fiction posted August 9, 2021 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 5... 


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Joelcontinues his investigation

A chapter in the book Looking for Demons

Do you know Frank?

by snodlander

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.


Background
In a world where demons and gods are commonplace Joel has been commissioned to find a demon he only knows as Frank.
For the next couple of days Joel put the search for Frank on the back burner. He gave generous libations to Helios, made sure Sedit was well fed, woke up half an hour early in order to facetime Saul bright and bushy-tailed and pursued errant missing objects and people. It wouldn't make him rich, but scrying for better-than-minimum lost causes paid the rent.

On Thursday morning Sedit chimed halfway through Joel's third coffee. "A voice from the setting sun speaks to he who would hear."

Joel sighed. Having a spirit with voice recognition that would interface with much of the electronics in his apartment had seemed such a cool thing in the marketing literature. He should have got a more modern one.

"Sedit, do you mean there's a phone call?"

"A voice from the west --"

"Sedit, put it through."

"Command not recognised."

"Sedit, um, let me speak with the voice... Sedit?"

"Mr. Joel Carpenter?" The voice was male and had the sort of accent you only got with a private education.

"Who is this?"

"My name is Henry Cavill, of Godloves, Barebones and Smith. I represent Mr. Marco Vidavic."

"You're a lawyer?"

"I am a senior partner, yes."

"Representing who?" The solicitor's accent made Joel want to say whom, but his public education had been lax on the finer points of grammatical rules.

"I suspect you know my client better by the sobriquet 'The Croatian'?"

"Oh, right, sure. You're his brief?"

"Our firm represents him in certain matters, yes. I understand you have some questions for him."

"Yes, yes." Joel had written the Croatian off. "Can I meet him?"

"Sadly, his commitments do not allow time for an interview at this juncture. However, if you would forward me your questions, I will forward them onto him."

"Oh, right." Joel could feel the panic rising. Exactly what questions did he want asked? It was different in a face-to-face interview. You could bounce the next question off the interviewee's last answer. You could look for tell-tale signs of lying or evasion. You could improvise as you went along.

Not so when all you have is a phone call with his brief.

"The thing is, Mr. um..."

"Cavill."

"Mr. Cavill, the thing is, I'm not after The, um, your client. I don't want to know his business. I'm not pursuing him for unpaid bills, absolutely nothing like that. The thing is, I'm looking for a demon. A particular Assyrian demon who probably is in the business of, how shall I put it, persuading people with a minimum of words and a maximum of action? He's Assyrian, and he may have an alias of Frank."

"And Mr. Vidavic's connection?"

"Oh, I'm not saying there is any. It's just, I understand he summons demons like that from time to time, probably for perfectly lawful reasons. I also know he let a load of them go a few weeks back. So I'm wondering if one of them was my guy. Even a list of names would be helpful."

"Frank..." said the solicitor. "Violent... Assyrian."

In his mind's eye Joel imagined him carefully making notes with a fancy fountain pen that cost a year of Joel's income.

"I will certainly inform Mr. Vidavic of your concern. However, I am at liberty to tell you that Mr. Vidavic does not summon demons. Any supernatural business he conducts is purely legal and he has no truck with violence of any kind. And Mr. Carpenter?"

"Yes?"

"On a purely personal note, outside of my role as legal counsel for Mr. Vidavic, can I just suggest, no demon has ever been called Frank. Have a nice day."

The line went dead.

"Can I just suggest you stuff it up your arse?" snarled Joel at the wall. Well, that was a dead end, with a door firmly slammed in his face. He wasn't going to be able to get anything out of The Croatian now. He wasn't the sort of person you buttonholed and interrogated, not without a warrant and a small army. And that was the last of his clues. He was now, quite literally, clueless. He'd have to let the client know.

The phone offering cup was empty. He reached into the mouse tank, but that was also empty. He'd need to get some more. At least that would get him out of his apartment and put off calling Ms. Anderton for half an hour. He grabbed his coat and made for the door.

Joel got his supplies from a stall in Leadenhall Market. The stallholder gave him a nod of recognition as he arrived.

"Mice?"

"Yeah. Wait, no. You got anything else?"

"For sacrifice?"

Joel nodded.

"Well, we got pigeons. Bit more expensive 'cos we got to trap 'em. Breed the mice, you see. But you get more chi from a pigeon, on account of their size. I can get you a goat, but you got to order them. What's it power?

"My phone."

The stallholder shook his head. "Nah, overkill for a phone, a pigeon is. Mice are your best bet. Why change?"

Joel shrugged. "I don't know. Just a bit squeamish, I guess." He felt embarrassed to admit he shut his eyes when he needed to do it. This was the twenty-first century, for gods' sake. "I heard about a vegan. Uses a tomato. Could that work?"

"Ha. Been hearing that one for years. Tomato's a first though. Usually it's an apple or pear. Heard someone suggest blackberries once, 'cos of the colour of the juice." He started shovelling mice into a corrugated plastic box. "Nah, it's a fairy-tale, mate, one of them, whajamacallits. Urban myths. If you could sacrifice fruit and veg I'd be up in New Covent Garden. Mice is what you want. Half a dozen suit you?"

"Sure."

The stallholder chuckled. "Tomato. That's a new one. Tell you what, have seven, but I'll only charge you for six, because you made me laugh. Lucky for some, eh?"

Joel had cast his I Ching sticks earlier that week. His lucky number turned out to be pi. Given that you could never achieve pi, that seemed somehow apt for him at the moment.

He handed over the money, pocketed the change and picked up the box. "Thanks," he said. The stallholder grinned. Joel just knew that as soon as he was out of earshot, the stallholder would be nudging his neighbour and saying, "Here, you'll never guess what a punter just asked me."

He returned to his apartment. Opening the door, he noticed an odd smell. Not unpleasant, just unusual. He tried to place it and failed. Was a neighbour offering a fragrant sacrifice to a god on the balcony. The French windows were closed. He strode over to the windows and made sure anyway.

"Sedit."

Sedit made no reply.

"Sedit!" he said louder, in case he was deaf, sleeping or in the bathroom, if spirits ever needed to do that.

"He's gone."

Joel whirled round. Between him and the front door stood a demon. 'Stood' was an understatement. It was planted there, filling half the room. Joel couldn't help noticing the yellow fangs, paws bigger than his head with claws the size of rhino horns and a muscled body that suggested arm wrestling would be a waste of time.

While fear slammed him in his stomach hard enough to make him want to vomit, Joel's mind wondered how such a beast could have entered the room so silently. Indeed, how could it have fitted through the door? Materialisation?

"You're Joel Carpenter." Its voice didn't fit its body. It was far too cultured. Close your eyes and you might have thought you were talking to a man, albeit a bass tenor. Joel wasn't sure he could close his eyes, or even breathe. Paralysed with fear, said a voice in his head. That's what the phrase means. It means being so shit-scared you literally can't blink.

"I have a message from The Croatian." It flexed its claws and Joel heard the knuckles crack.

"Just a minute," he heard a voice say, then realised it was his own voice. What to say, what to say? "You don't happen to know a demon called Frank, do you?"

For a moment the creature just stood there, then with a roar it ran forward. The paralysis left Joel just enough for him to close his eyes and whimper. His arms were slammed into his sides and he felt himself lifted from the ground. The creature whirled him round and smacked him into a wall. He felt it's breath on his cheek and wished he's lived a better life. Or at least a more interesting one.

"Where did you hear that name?" the creature demanded.

"Uh?"

"That name. Where did you hear it?"

Joel had no breath in him. "Ms. Anderton," he managed to wheeze. He felt his hands going numb from the pressure on his arms, and his ribs felt as though they were digging into internal organs.

"Ms. Anderton? Is she all right?"

"Can't breathe."

"She can't breathe?"

"No, me." Spots danced behind his eyelids and he could feel consciousness slipping away from him. Would he know when he died? Would it be better to be unconscious when he was ripped to shreds?

"Is she all right?" roared the creature, shaking Joel as he sank into darkness.


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