Chapter 1 - Screwed

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Before you read, this is book 2 of The Courier series.

The first 10 chapters of book 1, Call for Obstruction are available here to read or buy the book on Amazon.

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Hell's alarm clock goes off in my head at 4:40 A.M., like it has for the past four days. If this were a normal day, I'd rush off to my courier job from Hell, literally. Then I'd spend half my day pissing off my demon boss, although not on purpose.

What's different about today? The Gates of Hell sealed up last night, and everyone in Heaven and Hell thinks I foiled Satan's plan to take over Earth. What's worse, God thinks I sacrificed hundreds of the white warriors who fight against evil with angels' apprentices to get the job done. So here I am wondering what my future holds, if not eternal damnation in the worst level of Hell.

Once my brain snaps to attention, I remember I spent the night at a boarding house in Walsenberg, Colorado. I roll onto my back, sit up, and stretch my arms. My skater shoes slap against the hardwood floor.

From behind, the door creaks open. Pale light illuminates the room until the interior switch flips on. I freeze and focus on the window on the opposite wall, my only escape route if Satan's bounty hunters rush in.

A woman with a stern Spanish, or maybe Italian accent says, "Barry, you come to breakfast. I make you pancakes."

My body loosens, but my gut churns at the thought of any food besides a bag of Tootie Fruities. Sluggishly, I stand and brush my fingers through my curly, dark brown hair to get it out of my face. When I turn to tell her I don't eat pancakes, she's gone.

Footsteps echo in the hallway and fade in the distance. I rush to the door and close it, not wanting to be interrupted again by the pancake lady or anyone else whom happens to be lurking.

I need to get out of this place and find my girlfriend Nina, but Pete, the guy who brought me here last night will probably try to convince me to stay. He wants to help me, but who knows if the guy's legit. And there's no telling if he can get me out of the trouble I'm in.

I rush to the window and look out. This early in the morning it's still dark outside, but light from a window on the first floor illuminates bushes in a bed of river rocks below. If I jump from the second floor, it would hurt like hell, but I'm immortal. I could heal while I limp away. Then again, with Satan out for my ass, it's too risky.

Back at the door, I crack it open and peer into a long hallway with red and gold wallpaper. I count five doors. To my right, a staircase adorned with a carved wooden railing. Butterflies churn in my stomach when I remember that the front entryway is at the bottom of the stairs. There's no one outside in the hallway. If I descend quickly, there's a chance I can escape the house unnoticed and begin my search for Nina.

The floorboards creak as I make my way out of the bedroom and follow my escape route. I pause for a few seconds to listen for voices. It's quiet.

A doorknob clicks from behind. My heart skips. I squeeze tight on the banister and turn my head to find Pete approaching. My expression stiffens even though he smiles and seems happy to see me.

Get out of here. Nina needs me. The impulse to run causes my head to spin and my feet to take off at Mach speed. Until yesterday, when I acquired the ability to run like The Flash in the comic book, I thought it impossible for a human body to travel so fast. Then again, being immortal has redefined my existence in four short days.

My big feet trip over each other and send me flying through the air. All I know to do to stop is let my body go limp and roll into a somersault.

Something rigid breaks my fall. Pain erupts in my ribs. "Ugh," I say at the sight of a coat rack broken off into my torso. My breathing labors. On impulse I grab the protruding shard of wood and pull it out. I hold my palm to the wound and focus on the blood oozing between my fingers. My stomach turns and I gag.

Pete takes one slow downward step after another, descending to meet me in the entryway. He's more wrinkled than I remember from last night. His solid black hair keeps him from looking his age. He sweeps back one side of his tan, tweed jacket and puts a thumb in the front pocket of his jeans. The way he dresses, he could be a cowboy professor. "I was going to ask you how you feel this morning, but that hole in your side answers for you." He smiles and snickers.

I clench my jaw as heat from embarrassment rushes to my face. "Glad you think being impaled is somehow funny." I try to stand, but drop back down and let out a high pitched screech.

"Hold on, hold on," Pete rushes over and grabs my arm.

I gasp and let him help me up. With legs like Jello, I lean on him until I can stand firm. This close, he smells like shaving cream and tea tree oil.

Within seconds, the wound fuses back together, even though the pain will remain for hours. Rapid healing is one positive thing that comes from signing a contract to work for Satan. Well, that and endless cash flow, although I'm pretty sure deposits to my wallet from the Bank of Hell are a thing of the past now that I'm a wanted man.

A thirty-something woman with greasy blond hair and measuring as wide as she is tall enters the hallway from the nearby room. "Kissamyass," she says as if it's one word. "This the guy God created to save the world?" When she approaches her lime green Crocs slide on a trail of my blood. She grabs the post at the bottom of the staircase to stop her fall.

"Not now, Candy. Go tell the kitchen Barry's ready for his pancakes."

What is with the pancakes? "I appreciate the hospitality," I say, "but I've got to go."

"Leaving's not such a good idea," Pete says.

"I know, bounty hunters, but there's something I need to do." I reach for the doorknob and turn it.

"There's more at stake than being wanted by Satan," Pete says.

Again I tell him, "I'll be fine."

Pete sighs and shakes his head. He steps back and sweeps his hands toward the door.

Candy joins in and asks, "You're not going to let him leave, are you?"

"I can't stop him if he wants to do this the hard way."

"What if the rest of us don't want to do this the hard way?" Candy steps forward, still shuffling on the blood and reaches for my arm.

Pete pulls her back and the two tumble to the floor.

A second later, I'm out the door at Mach speed.

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