The Art of the Deal
by Jason Andrew
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
“Yeah,” Joan replied. “Miles asked me if I wanted that family back. I said yes, and then he started asking me what I would give. That’s when I started getting worried.”
“Yeah, never trust someone that gives you a line like that,” Heller added.
“He came night after night and made me curious. He finally admitted that he was a minor demon and so I started researching him,” Joan explained.
“How did you find information on him?”
“E-bay,” Joan answered. “You’d be surprised what sort of books you can find on there. I found mention of Miles in one of the books and started to realize that it was the same person. I didn’t know why he was coming to me, but I swore I’d never sell my soul. Besides, he can only bring back the bodies of the dead. The souls move on.”
“So how did Johnny get the information?” Heller asked.
“He must have snuck into my room to steal a bit of cash. He was always sneaking into his big sister’s room,” Joan said, a little irritated. “I hid the books in plain sight, knowing my old man would never look at them. Johnny found the one with the summoning spell and then the rest is history.”
“It sounds like Johnny has always just been bait for you,” Heller theorized. “But why? You don’t seem like a bad person, just someone that made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
“You ever made a mistake that killed someone?” Joan said sharply.
“Yeah,” Heller admitted. “It wasn’t pretty. It still eats me up.”
“That why you aren’t freaked out by demons?” she asked.
“Someone was harming a boy in Kent. Thirteen. He couldn’t talk. The police thought the parents were hitting him. The parents were afraid; they didn’t know what was going on. Turned out the boy was possessed. I didn’t believe him when he told me,” Heller explained. “Turned out that the demon was possessing the boy and then performing some sort of voodoo ritual to get more of its friends into the material world.”
“I killed him,” the detective answered. “He was going to kill his baby sister with a razor blade and so I killed him. The parents and the police never found out why the kids went crazy, but I did. If I had believed him, I could have saved him.”
“You couldn’t have known,” Joan protested.
“That’s just it,” Heller admitted. “I did know. I knew he was telling the truth, but I just didn’t believe him. The kid paid the price. It’s why I have these gloves.”
“I was wondering why you were still wearing them,” said Joan.
Heller slipped off the gloves revealing his hands to be burned and scarred. “The demon set a fire,” the detective explained. “I had to put it out with my hands or the girl would have died.”
Joan gently put her soft hand on Heller’s scarred hand. It felt like touching sandpaper. “Can you still use it?”
“My left hand is still a little twitchy. Nerve damage. I can’t afford skin grafts,” said Heller, softly.
“Wow, I guess it sucks to be us,” Joan retorted.
Heller put his hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. Since leaving the hospital, no other human had ever touched him there. “The world is as it is. The best we can do is try to make it a little better. We’ll figure out what to do.”
“Why would you help me? she asked.”
Heller grinned. “I like the underdog, I suppose.”
Joan hugged Heller close. She was still crying, but this time she felt better. Heller wasn’t used to physical displays of affection so he was still for a moment, unsure of what to do. “What do we do?” she asked, letting him go.
“Well, let’s think about this a bit. We need to figure out what it is that Miles really wants. From the sound of it, your soul would garner a lot of prestige points for him. Why?”
Joan shrugged her shoulders. “I’m nothing really special.”
“What do you do?” Heller inquired.
“The old man left us a lot of cash when he died,” Joan explained. “I don’t really work. I paint a little bit.”
For the first time, Heller took a good look at the studio. There were painted canvases scattered across the room, mixed with various pieces of clothing, a prodigious collection of shoes, and junk-food wrappers. The paintings were thoughtful and frightening for their unflinching look at humanity, sin, and evil. A couple of them featured Miles tempting the innocent. “These are quite good... I mean these are painted well,” Heller said, awed.
“As you can see, I’ve been a little obsessive about demons since Miles decided to grace me with his presence,” Joan said.
“These paintings could scare the Hell out of Satan,” Heller muttered.
Joan’s smile turned crooked. “My agent said they give her nightmares,” she added.
Miles seemed to be very interested in the quality of the art. “I wonder if Miles is after these paintings?”
“Why would he? I can’t even seem to sell one of these,” Joan asked, perplexed.
“I don’t know. He suggested that I not talk about demons. Perhaps that is against their plans or something,” Heller answered.
“I didn’t start painting them until after he started bothering me,” Joan protested.
“Maybe he just thinks you’re cute or something,” Heller teased her.
Joan frowned. “Let’s hope not. So what is his deal with you?” she asked.
“As I understand it, if I provide your soul to Miles, I will receive a free wish that can be anything as long as it does not restrict anyone’s free will or do the logically impossible,” Heller answered.
“That doesn’t help me much,” Joan added.
“Maybe, but it never hurts to have all of the information laid out before us. When I’m on a case, I always make a list of the available information. Sometimes, the answer is right in front of me only I can’t see the forest for the trees,” Heller explained.
“This isn’t a case. This is my life!” Joan wailed.
“I know. Believe me I know. If there is anything I can do to help you, I will.”
“All I wanted to do was paint and maybe get famous after I died or went senile,” Joan grumbled
“You’re a little young to get senile,” Heller observed.
“I’m losing parts of my mind. The doctors say it’s a weird form of MS. It’s a family heirloom. I don’t have much longer before it starts really affecting me.”
Heller extended his arm around Joan. Suddenly being hired by a minor demon paled to Joan’s situation and it seemed okay to be close to her. Five years ago, Sergeant Heller battled an eternal war against the crime, poverty, and hate in Seattle as a beat cop. No matter what he did, there was always another layer of grime. So, he quit. Nothing devastating happened. No tragedy. Simple, sweet despair. The same ebony emotion that Joan had defeated. “You are an amazing woman,” Heller muttered, surprised.
“No, just a tired one. If we had met a year ago things might have been different.”
“Well, I wasn’t expecting to go at it here. I’m not exactly James Bond,” Heller declared sarcastically.
Heller knew as soon as the last syllable left his mouth that he had chosen the wrong words at the wrong time. It was the sudden noise that brought down the avalanche of emotion. “Why don’t you just make me go outside and get your wish! Hey! Maybe, Miles can make you look like a love god instead of a leper! I should have known you were just like Johnny! He can’t love anyone but himself!” Joan screamed, slapping Heller.
Startled, Heller cheered. Frightened, Joan’s eyes bulged like a deep ocean fish decompressing. “Ha! The art of the deal!” Heller roared, ignoring Joan.
“What are you talking about?”
“Miles forgot the fundamental basis of the art of the deal,” Heller explained.
“I don’t understand,” Joan complained.
“I don’t have time to explain and Miles might be able to hear this. Do you trust me?”
“Do you trust me?” Heller asked, again.
“I guess so. Sorry about losing my temper. Everything’s getting to me. Maybe the MS is hitting me early. Who knows? All I know is I just smacked the only guy who’s been halfway decent to me in like a thousand years.”
“I understand. I’m not exactly in the best frame of mind myself. Now for the hard part. Could you love me? Not do you love me, but could you love me?” Heller asked, frantic.
Stunned, Joan paused for a moment trying to decide if she had heard correctly. “What?”
“This is vital. This isn’t Beauty and the Beast. I’m not gonna turn into Prince Charming at the end of the story. Could you love me?”
“I don’t know you.”
“Every culture in the world has a story about love at first sight. Some believe that at that moment, a person can know if they might love someone. It’s simple logic. I am not asking you skip a couple of emotional steps. Do you think we would be happy living together and fall in love? Could you love me?” Heller demanded.
“Yes. God help me. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s because I’m desperate or there is a little spark,” Joan answered.
“I think I can help both of us. We have about an hour, and if we hurry we can take care of it today,” Heller replied.
It took Heller fifteen minutes to convince Ralph, his friend from City Hall, to do him the favor. “I can lose my job over this!” Ralph protested.
“I did find out who kidnapped your dachshund,” Heller replied. “And got her to promise to leave Fritz alone.”
“Alright, if it’s that important,” Ralph said bitterly. “But you could have just come into the office.”
By the time Ralph arrived with the paperwork, Heller’s other visitor arrived to complete his plan. By sunset, everything had been completed. “That’s it?” Joan asked.
“Hopefully,” Heller replied. “But there’s only one way to find out.”
Slowly, Joan and Heller exited the studio and left the church grounds. As soon as they were six hundred sixty-six feet from holy ground, Miles the Minor Demon materialized inside a musky cloud of sulfur, like a stage magician. “Mr. Heller, I must confess that I am extremely pleased. Perhaps we can do more business at a later date,” Miles cooed.
“First, show me the contract before I transfer Joan to you,” Heller said gruffly.
A ball of flame exploded into a scroll, which floated into Heller’s open hand. Heller opened the scroll to discover a contract already signed by Miles. “Before I sign this contract, I have a simple question,” Heller mentioned innocently.
“Please ask, Mr. Heller.”
“If I choose, I can use my wish to honor another contract? For example, if I have a contract to find a missing person you will help me if I wish?” Heller asked.
“We will honor the contract until the contract is complete. There is no time limit or a limit on the type of contract. However, I would suggest that you wish for a Succubus.”
“Never heard of a Succubus. What is it?”
“A demon of pleasure. If you wish for one, the Succubus will see to your every sexual pleasure whenever you want,” Miles explained.
Heller smiled and signed the scroll. “Okay, chickie-poo. You belong to the demon,” Heller informed her.
Surprised, Joan screamed. “What are you doing?”
“Trust me,” Heller whispered to Joan.
“Oh, the others will be so pleased.”
“Before you haul her to Hell, I want my wish,” Heller informed the minor demon.
“Oh, course,” Miles agreed.
“I wish for you to honor my last contract. I’m planning on going on a vacation and want to quit the P.I. business,” Heller wished.
“It is done,” Miles proclaimed.
“Okay, Joan, let’s go,” Heller told the artist.
“She is mine, Heller!”
Heller smiled and tossed a folder sheet of paper to the minor demon. Worried, the minor demon unfolded the paper and quickly scanned it. “What is this garbage?”
“That, friend, is a wedding contract. Joan and I agreed to merge our souls and to love, honor, and obey each other. You cannot take a soul who has not agreed to come with you. If you take Joan’s soul, you take mine, which will violate the rules,” Heller informed Miles.
“This is trickery!”
“I suspected that the marriage contract alone would not normally bar you from taking Joan. That is why I made the wish. You must honor the entire contract. You must love, protect, and obey both of us. You will do so, by ensuring that no other demons come after us,” Heller told the demon.
“No! No! It cannot be!” Miles cried as his own magic throttled him.
Slowly, the Hellfire faded from the eyes of Miles, the minor angel.
“Okay. What happened?” Joan asked, confused.
“Mr. Heller realized my mistake. I had not quantified my customer,” Miles answered pleasantly.
“In other words, Miles did not realize that my one wish was for love,” Heller added.
“So what happened to him?” Joan inquired.
“I activated the wish before I knew the exact details. In order for me to love, honor, and obey the both of you, my magic changed my fundamental nature, transforming me into a minor angel. You see despite my prior claims, evil can’t understand love.” Miles explained.
“I see! The wishes cannot impede mortal will, but as a minor demon Miles is not mortal. So when the magic took effect, it changed him to good,” the artist added.
“Madam, the situation is even better than you suspect. In order to protect you, I have healed the sickness inside of you. You shall both have a long life ahead of you. One that I will ensure is a happy one,” Miles announced.
“I won’t get sick?” Joan asked, crying.
“You won’t suffer through that illness. I’m afraid, Mr. Heller, that your wounds were caused by dark magic. That kind of magic always leaves a mark, but the sacrifice speaks highly of you,” said Miles.
“What will happen to you?” Heller asked, surprised he was concerned.
“I can’t return to Hell. The others would kill me. I’m not technically good, so I can’t ascend to Heaven. I was hoping we could go into business,” Miles revealed.
“Business?” Joan asked, confused. “But you aren’t evil any more.”
“Quite true, Mrs. Heller, but now I have a conscience, if not a soul. It will only last as long as the two of you live. And so, I feel compelled to make amends as long as I am able,” Miles explained.
:You want redemption. Maybe earn your new state,” Heller said, awed. “You want to join the detective agency.”
“Quite astute,” Miles said, complementing the detective. “I’ve done a lot of bad things over the centuries. I can undo some of it. We can help people. People no one else can.”
“Why do I feel like we’re being sold a pitch?” Joan asked, her crooked smile beaming.
“That’s because Miles figured out where he went wrong,” Heller explained. “The art of the deal is always knowing what your customers want.”
Copyright © 2005 by Jason Andrew