Monday 15 June 2009



'You're way under your target, young Nicky,' the Project Manager said, shaking his head at her half-yearly figures. 'This'll have to improve or, no matter whose daughter you are...’
'I know,' Nicky replied with a grin. 'In for a roasting from Dad.'
'It's not funny.' The Project Manager frowned at her lightheartedness.
'There's lots of activity in the Middle East,’ Nicky pointed out. 'I've got loads of irons in the fire over there, bound to come up any day now, my interpreter says. How about taking a gamble - letting these figures pass on the promise of a huge return in a few months' time?' Her dark eyes closed and reopened slowly as she tried to win over the Project Manager by looking soulful. But he scoffed, knowingly. Soulful indeed! He closed the accounts book with a snap. ‘Last chance, then.’

Nicky worked overtime during the next few months persuading all manner of people to sign on the dotted line of her standard contract and slowly she gained ground, as more and more people became prepared to sell a certain item that she collected on behalf of the family firm. But by April and with the End-of-Year accounts looming, she was still one down and going frantic.
The Project Manager took pity on her. 'I've had this communication from a villain in London,' he said, holding out a transcript from one of the company’s spies for Nicky to read. 'He's begging for revenge. He’ll do anything. You could be the answer to his prayers, and he to yours.'
Nicky took the paper. The convicted drugs Dealer was obviously in deadly earnest when he swore he'd even do a deal with the devil to have the chance to murder the man who had double-crossed him and was knocking off his girlfriend and stealing his customers while he was a guest of Her Majesty. But he was banged up for twenty years and there was no earthly chance of him getting out to take revenge.
'Thanks, Boss.' She sighed with relief.

'Who the hell are you?' The drugs Dealer was alone in his cell when Nicky appeared to him in what the Good Book would describe as ‘a dream’. He was short, wiry, unshaven and, to Nicky's olfactory distress, extremely smelly. She’d gone Biblical for effect, dressed as the Avenging Angel.
'Oh, come on, you've been praying for me,' She waggled her huge wings so that he’d get the message, and waved the flaming sword around, leaving vapour and flame trails in fancy loops in the air. 'We were told you want out of here, to take revenge on someone. I can help. Let’s talk business.’ She plunged the sword into the stainless steel lavatory pan for lack of a better place to put it while she drove her bargain.
'Christ, that curry must have been off.' The Dealer belched and tried to go back to sleep, but Nicky wasn’t giving up.
'Come on, my friend,' she purred. 'You need me. I can get you out of here.'
The Dealer spat. He looked her up and down. Finally he said: 'What’s with the melodrama? Lousy costume, love, what is it - Avenging Angel?’
‘Oh, very good, well spotted.’ Nicky was quite relieved. She had started to feel a bit of a fool, overdressed and apparently unrecognised.
‘How much?'
'Money’s not what I’m after. You just sign on the dotted line and I’ll get you out. As a bonus, I could even help with the revenge.’ She tried not to sound too desperate. It would never do for this slime-ball to know how much she needed to help him and gain that signature.
The Dealer told her about his dreamed-of vengeance on his treacherous colleague and the faithless girlfriend. As he spoke, he repeatedly thumped his hammy hands into the mattress, demonstrating almost lunatic fury. Nicky thought he was a pretty scary individual and in exactly the place he ought to be – high security prison. She had slight qualms about letting him loose on the world, but reckoned she could probably arrange to get him locked up again once he’d done what he so desperately wanted to do. Once she had that contract signed …
'I still think you're just heartburn,' the Dealer muttered. 'But if you are real, get me out of here and then come and help me finish them off. I have no other contacts now, since he’s taken over my entire empire. But your firepower had better be good. Pete-the-Hood will be armed.'
'I'll bring the biggest firepower you ever saw,' she promised, spreading her contract out for him to check and sign. He snorted when he read the wording and then wrote his name at the bottom.
‘Excellent.’ Nicky smiled, tucking the contract into her bumbag and leaning over to grab the now sizzling sword from the lavatory pan. It immediately burst into flame again. The Dealer belched. ‘I’ll be seeing you, little lady,’ he said as he watched her wiggle her wings level on her shoulders. And in the blink of an eye she disappeared from his sight, leaving only the sound of boiling water behind her.

Within the week, Nicky had wangled the Dealer’s freedom, and they met up for the revenge part a few hours later, at the Dealer’s flat.
‘No sword today?’ he remarked.
‘In for repairs,’
The building was a soulless grey high-rise in the East End, due for demolition, half boarded up and stinking of urine and yesterday's cabbage (or maybe it was cabbage and yesterday’s urine). The Dealer’s own place was strong on tomcat and long-unwashed socks and weak on Dettol and fresh air.
'Disgusting,' he agreed, noting Nicky's twitching nostrils. 'And I know whose socks they are. Here, let me show you a photo.' He snatched a cheap frame from the bedside table. ' In my own bedroom! What disrespect!'
The man in the photo was hefty and dark and wore gold medallions that did battle with a forest of chest hair for possession of a very tanned torso. His arm was around the shoulders of a peroxide blonde.
'She called Tracey?' suggested Nicky. ‘From Essex?’ But the Dealer missed the joke, shook his head and corrected tersely, 'Sharon from Muswell Hill.'
He'd been drinking and he alternately wept over and cursed Sharon, but his feelings for his one-time friend Pete were unwaveringly full of hatred. In the course of the drunken monologue, he revealed just how many widows the pair of them had created by 'blowing away' rival drug barons and even Nicky’s hardened senses were troubled. This maniac and Pete-the-Hood really should not be let loose in the world. As it was, she was wondering if she had actually already fulfilled her side of the deal already by just getting him out. She couldn’t quite recall the exact terms of the contract. And then she remembered who she was and smiled: it didn’t really matter a damn either way …
Pete-the-Hood would be no loss to the world however, so she produced an impressive Russian-style bazooka for the Dealer to blow half the tenement block to hell if he felt like it. His eyes lit up at the sight of it. 'Now that's what I call firepower, my angel.' He took it from her with the air of a professional and crooned to it, stroking the black matt metal as though it were the coat of a favourite greyhound. 'I can't wait.' And then he looked sharply up at Nicky. 'You can get rid of this? No tracing it back to me?'
'The police will never know,' promised Nicky.
'Good. So now we wait.' He weaved his way to the back room out of sight of anyone coming in.
At last the key turned in the lock of the front door and a man and a woman, arguing amiably, came into the flat. The Dealer, fully alert now, stealthily reached for the bazooka. He nodded to Nicky and they rose together and sneaked through the flat to the bedroom where the couple had gone.
The Dealer kicked open the door and set the bazooka off. But instead of a flash, there was an enormous all-round explosion, like a gas main blasting and the entire flat and half the building disappeared into dust and smoke. And it was only then, floating in mid-air four storeys above London, that the Dealer took a good look at his victims.
'Damn!' He spat in disgust. Not pity, or remorse to redeem him, just overwhelming disgust. For the two people were not Sharon and Pete, in fact nothing like the people in the photograph at all. These were complete strangers. Nicky reached out and retrieved the bazooka. 'I'll have this checked,' she said. 'It's not meant to do that.'
Around the couple on the bed, a golden blaze of light appeared and suddenly glorious church organ music flooded the air. A sweeping white stairway led up to a beautiful clear blue sky. The couple, looking at one another in surprise, rose and, hand in hand with their new white garments rippling around them, smiled in heavenly peace and love and started to ascend the stairway to heaven.
'What the hell...?' said the Dealer, staring in confusion at the scene.
'They're going the other way; must've been goodies after all,’ Nicky explained.
'What's going on?' The Dealer had gone very white.
'One moment, please. Just want to report to my Project Manager.'
Nicky lifted a shattered mobile phone from the remains of the table. Somewhere far below, the sirens of police cars and fire tenders could be heard as they approached the exploded building.
'Hello, it's me.’ Nicky heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Just sending in my six hundred and sixty-sixth soul now.' She chucked the handset into the gaping sky, then leaned behind her and pulled at her trouser waistband: a long scaly tail appeared from her posterior. She snaked it about happily, enjoying the Dealer’s horrified expression.
'What the hell...?'
'My Boss will love you,' she said, tearing off the human hair wig to reveal a couple of small horns on either side of her bald scalp. She kicked off her shoes and bent down to remove some fluff from between the two slots of her cloven right hoof.
'You said you’d help me kill Pete-the-Hood!' The Dealer looked shocked, and also a bit green now, for he had realised there was nothing holding him in mid air. Far below, his body lay quite still in the wreck of the no-longer-high-rise block.
'I lied.’ Nicky shrugged. ‘It’s my job.’ Her eyes narrowed, as she added by way of explanation. 'I needed your damned soul, stupid. I got it. And my Dad isn't the Father of Lies for nothing, you know - the Deceiver, Old Nick, whatever you like to call him.'
'I never signed in blood! Isn't that part of the deal?' He was squealing like a pig now, all thoughts of revenge driven from his mind in the panic of discovering the reality of what he had done.
'Upgraded,' scorned Nicky. 'You can lose your soul over the internet these days.'
'So I'm dead, am I?'
'What does it look like?' Nicky spread her arms wide to indicate their impossible position above the destroyed building. The Dealer looked around, sickly, and had to accept the inevitable.
'So what happens now? What happens to my … my soul?' His voice was very unsteady as the terms of the contract filtered back into his brain.
'You sold it. To hell with you,' grinned Nicky. 'You'll probably be offered a job like mine, and I have no doubt that you'll be very good at it.'



C K Andrew lives on Exmoor and has published many short stories in various womens' magazines.

1 comment: