Thanks in advance for any review and comments/suggestions!
I parked down the street from the bail bond office and pretended to fuss with some papers on the passenger seat as I watched two boys race toward me out of the corner of my eye. They were hauling ass, and one darted across traffic in a daring effort to cut the other off.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” I muttered as they sped toward the car.
One, two, three, open. I flung the car door out to its full width and a wave of satisfaction rolled through me as I heard a thump and felt the door vibrate against my hand. The boy toward the outside had managed to dive out of the way, missing the door by inches and rolling expertly as he landed on the ground. The inside boy wasn’t so lucky. He’d bounced off the door with the thump I had felt and hit the cement sidewalk with a meaty thwack.
“Yeah,” yelled the outside boy as he hopped to his feet. He punctuated the word with an exuberant fist pump. I got out of the car and gave him a high five.
“All yours Roberto,” I told him.
I paid a twenty to any kid who watched my car while I took care of business. That normally wouldn’t have been a good deal. A Corvette in this neighborhood would attract a lot of attention, and a kid watcher wouldn’t necessarily deter theft. My car was well known though, and I was well known. All the kid needed to do was inform anyone looking to lift the tires that this was my vehicle, and let me know if anyone was stupid enough to do so anyway. Well worth the twenty.
I turned to the other kid who was staggering to his feet from the pavement and wiping a bloody nose.
“Maybe next time Dante,” I said. He nodded, pinching the bridge of his nose and staggered off.
I had a moment of panic as I shut the car door and thought that Dante may have dented it. Humans were soft and squishy, but he’d hit with a good bit of force. I lucked out this time though. No dent, just a bit of blood and snot that I wiped off with the side of my arm. ****, that was close. I don’t always think things through before I do them, and it would have really sucked if he’d dented my car.
“Are you going to evict Old Man Larson, Ms. Martin?” Roberto asked me.
“Nope, just collecting rents,” I replied.
Most people would rather have been home by the pool with a cold beer on a hot day like today, but I actually liked collecting rents. I’d spent the morning taking cash from those tenants who didn’t trust the mail system, or who found it impossible to obtain a checking account. This was my last visit of the day with one particular tenant who needed an in-person, see-the-light kind of call.
I’m a slum lord. Commercial, residential, it doesn’t matter as long as the building is cheap, squeaks by code and I can rent it. About seventy percent of my tenants pay promptly. I’ve been told that’s an incredible percentage with these types of properties. The others shove cash stuffed envelopes at me as soon as I ring the bell.
I’m also a demon, which is probably why I have such a high compliance rate on my rent collections. We demons usually live in another realm and pop over here to vacation. Low ranking demons save for centuries to pay someone for safe passage. Ones with status in the hierarchy come over whenever they feel like it. Of course, it is still risky trying to get through the gates undetected, and to hustle your ass back before your fun activities bring death down on your head. The more often you come over, the greater the chance is that you’ll be caught and killed.
I’ve been here over forty years on a sort of extended vacation, which is unheard of among my kind. I’ve managed to stay alive by laying low and posing as a human, with as little energy usage and bad behavior as possible for a demon. So far I’ve succeeded in remaining undetected.
I walked the block down to the apartment building feeling the heat from the broken sidewalk right through my shoes, and kicked an empty whisky pint out of the way to ring the doorbell. My tenant should have been waiting for me since I pulled some favors and had a friend arrange a drug buy. Otherwise he would most likely hide in the back and pretend he was not home. When that happens, I have to sneak around the place peering in windows and eventually breaking in to confront the tenant. I hate that. These houses are all over one hundred years old and the windows aren’t standard size. It’s very difficult to get them repaired. My tenant was expecting a buyer and not a landlord, so I hoped I didn’t have to break any windows to get in this time.
After a few moments, I heard some shuffling near the door and sensed someone looking out the peephole. I tried to look around nervously like I was a proper yuppie addict. I’m a terrible actress, so I was actually a bit surprised when he opened the door and ushered me quickly in. He looked me over and visibly relaxed. Humans are sometimes uncomfortable around me, but once they really look at me, and their eyes tell them I’m an average sized woman with average features, their brain squashes any fearful instincts. I go out of my way to look harmless. Not covered in tattoos, not pierced all over, no punk hairdo. No big warts, bulging muscles, glowing eyes, horns, etc. Just a nice normal, middle aged, rather plain woman.
“Are you Brad?” I asked him while looking around the place.
The inside looked like a frat house with old pizza boxes and beer cans carelessly tossed on coffee tables and stacked on the rather dirty beige carpet. I eyed it in distaste. I’d have to clean that carpet when their lease ended. I’d charge them double for it too. A plaid second hand couch sat in front of a huge flat screen TV on the wall. Two guys sprawled on the couch with pistols visible in their waistbands. They were big, but flabby with wrinkled dirty clothes and longish hair. They looked pretty stoned and rather unaware of my presence.
“Yeah,” he replied “what are you looking to take home?”
“The rent.” I gave that a moment to sink in. “I’m actually the landlord, not a buyer.”
That announcement was greeted with laughter from Brad. The guys on the couch didn’t budge, still slumped with their eyes fixed on the TV. At least they weren’t lunging at me with guns drawn at this point.
If the stoned guys on the couch manages to somehow achieve a miracle and hit me, I could repair almost any wound. It would hurt, and it might take a while, but I wouldn’t’ die. Or I could convert the bullets before they reached me. .
When demons convert, we dissect the molecules or atoms of something and rearrange them into something else. Transmutation, as the human alchemists called it. That is the big ‘magic’ of demons. Sometimes conversion works out neatly and you end up with all your atoms and molecules used and accounted for. Sometimes you have spare shit that you have to figure out what to do with. Some of that shit isn’t particularly stable on its own, leaving you to borrow atoms out of other things around you to stick together. All this has to occur in fractions of a second because that’s usually all you have before something explodes, or there is chlorine gas, or worse.
In the bullet scenario before me there were some troublesome atoms to deal with. You could do pretty much anything with carbon, but iron was the atom demanding attention when a bullet was speeding at you. Not a big deal when viewed on a world disaster scale, but kind of messy to deal with on the fly like this. And any conversion action on my part could possibly be messy enough to attract notice of the angels, who dedicated their existence to noticing these kinds of things and coming down with holy fury on our heads.
I could weld the steel triggers of the guns. Just shoot a blaze of energy across the room and melt the guns, burning half their pants off in the process. Back home, no one cared if you set the guys on fire welding triggers. Back home, no one would even bother with welding triggers, just shoot a big flashy burst of something and cook them all dead. Problem solved.
I couldn’t afford to be too flashy though since I was living under the radar as much as I could. I would bet that a small amount of energy from me wouldn’t send off alarm bells with the angels, but why take the chance? Plus I kind of got off on the risk of handling these situations without any energy usage at all. It was a real adrenaline rush. A bullet to the head or a vital organ would most likely kill me in this form, contrary to mythology.
“Oh please,” I told Brad. “You’re seriously going to have the cops all over this place, sniffing around your business dealings because you don’t want to pay the damned rent on time? This is the safest place in the city for you to do your deals. You’re going to jeopardize all that for a few months rent that you probably have stuffed under your couch there?”