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I Didn't Do It

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September 1995,
Walsenberg, Colorado

My body lashes forward as my van is hit from behind. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel and snap my bulging eyes to the side-view mirror. A black pickup that's closer than it appears reflects back.

What the hell's his problem?

The drive north from Trinidad, Colorado has been quiet, but I'm a courier for Hell, and God's army can attack at any moment. Something about this guy is off though. I'm not carrying any of Hell's cargo, and they only chase us when our vans are full of evil energy. Plus, God's warriors always appear in white, while the truck on my tail is black.

My heart races as the pickup's engine revs. As he rams me again, my slick black hair falls forward and tickles my forehead.

On impulse, I floor the gas pedal and swerve into the right lane. "Margery, you there?" I call out to my demon boss.

Normally, her voice pipes in through a magical intercom in a matter of seconds. It allows her to talk to us drivers anytime, anywhere. When she fails to answer, my body tenses and I hold out hope for Hell's next level of support—a murder of giant crows that never fails to intervene. But the sky remains clear and blue.

I squirm in my seat as the truck moves in for the next hit. My voice shakes as I try Margery again. "Hey, I'm under attack. How about a little help here?"

"Pete?" she says in her usual gruff voice. "You've got a lot of nerve taking one of my vans after what you did."

"Nerve?" I stutter, then clear my throat. "What are you talking about? This is the van I drive every day."

"Those aren't white warriors on your ass, moron. They're mercenaries." She pauses, the sound of her inhaling a cigarette ends with an out-of-control cough. Phlegm gurgles in her throat as she adds, "I sent them to take off your head."

"Why?" My stomach drops and so does my mouth.

"Don't act stupid. I know you sabotaged my operation."

My thin lips start to tremble. "I swear, I didn't do anything?"

"We were only a few months away from opening the Gates of Hell." Her voice deepens. "Do you have any idea what's going to happen when Satan finds out about this?"

"I've been working for you for fifty year. Why would I turn on you now?" I smooth back my hair. This has got to be a set up, and any one of my co-workers could be responsible. But why blame it on me?

Instead of answering, she blows out a long exhale.

I gasp for breath, sweat building on my forehead and armpits as I call out, "C'mon. Please. Call them off. They'll flip the van."

"You're on your own," she says with a cackle. "And good luck. There's no protection on your van."

"Margery, listen to me!" The van jerks forward from another hit. The unopened twenty-ounce cola in the center console flies out of the holder and onto the passenger side floor. At the same time, my gut and chest smash into the steering wheel as I desperately choke out, "Margery."

No answer. She's gone.

What are you going to do now? Boss says in my head.

He's the demon who has possessed me for forty years. It's another reality for some of us couriers. Constant scrutinizing from a demon in one's thoughts keeps us serving Satan.

Boss adds, If you pull over, the mercenaries will take off my head.

"No shit." I shiver at the thought of it.

Even though you're short, gassy, and afraid of women, he says, I'm in no hurry to leave your body and go back to the demon pool.

"Boss, cut the insults," I bark back and push the gas pedal to the floor. "Help me figure out an escape route."

Take the next exit, he says. There's a gas station with a Purgalator connected.

"Oh yeah." It's a neutral coffee shop for eternals from Heaven, Hell, and Earth. They're hidden in gas stations all over the world, and right now, it's my only hope to keep my head.

A minute later, I swerve onto the Walsenberg off ramp and descend the hill.

The pickup follows, losing ground.

At the red light, I steer a hard left. The van tilts and screeches through the intersection, narrowly cutting in front of a semi. From behind, the trucker blares his horn.

The side-view mirror reflects nothing but open road. I slap the steering wheel. "Hot damn."

Where's my thank you?

"Where's the thanks for my Nasscar moves?" I tell Boss.

Once I'm under the overpass, the gas station comes into view. I press heavy on the gas pedal and the van jerks into gear. My heartbeat quickens, hoping the Purgalator is as safe as it promises.

I turn into the parking lot and skid to a stop beside the trash dumpster. The sound of an approaching engine catches my attention. It's the mercenaries, but they're too late. I take a deep breath, jump from the van, and race through a door disguised as a utility entry.

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