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Not So Safe

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While catching my breath, I scan the counter and service area of the coffee shop. A sign on the wall reads, 'Neutral Zone. Offenders will be ousted to their respective realms.' It doesn't ease my mind or Boss's when the door opens and two mercenaries rush in, both obvious in their black trench coats. One pulls back his coat to reveal a gold Egyptian style sword at his hip. The other snarls at me.

Boss is quick to holler, run.

I flinch and shuffle forward to comply at first.

No. Stop.

"Make up your mind," I mumble, then swallow hard.

A guy nearby wearing a Metallica t-shirt and a dirty apron stops wiping a table. "What'd you say?"

"Never mind," I grit my teeth and stand stiff with my fists out ready to fight for my life.

He continues to stare. "Can I get you something?"

Last rights, Boss says.

Ha, ha, I think while my eyes shift between him and the thugs after my head. "Is there a back door?"

A high-pitched female voice in the far-left corner says, "Don't worry about them."

She emits a glow that catches me off guard. I glide toward her, as if drawn in by a siren, while Boss screeches and whistles to regain control over me to no avail. Not until I run into her table do my eyes blink and refocus. Right away, I recognize her as Trisha. She's the angel's apprentice who oversees white warrior attacks on Margery's vans.

White warriors were once couriers like me, but they've turned against Margery to get out of their contracts with Satan. They fight a thousand years against evil with an angels' apprentices before they're transferred for an eternity of service in Purgatory's accounting department.

She's never caught me, and there's not a chance in Hell Boss would let me fight for God's army. Why is she here? I wonder.

Whatever it is, we are so fucked, Boss says.

I snap at Trisha. "What do you want?"

She cocks her head and crosses her arms. "Gee, Pete, I thought you'd be happier to see me, considering you're being hunted by those mercenaries over there." She points a long red fingernail at the men as they settle at a table at the opposite end of the Purgalator.

I hang my head and clear my throat. "I assume you also know about the hellhole closing?"

"Why'd you do it?" As she leans forward, her long, loose brown curls frame her face. "Not that I'm complaining. An obstructed hellhole makes my job easier. I'm just wondering why you, of all of Margery's minions, would go against her."

I sigh, reflecting on Margery's accusations. If I failed to convince a demon of my innocence, how do I persuade an angel's apprentice she's got the wrong guy?"

Tell her she's hot and you want to fuck her.

Screw you, I think, but am still tempted to ask, "Anyone ever tell you that you look like Jennifer Lopez?"

She rolls her eyes. "Only every time I recruit one of you idiot couriers." Her eyes pop and she pounds her fist down on the table. "Tell your demon to knock it off or I'll yank him out and castrate him."

Boss whimpers, then says, I think I'm in love.

"You think I have any control over him?" I turn up a crooked smile.

"How about both of you shut up and sit down." She points at the seat across the table from her.

I rush to comply, the legs of the chair screech across the floor and grates on my nerves.

"Hey, Harvey," Trisha says to the guy wearing the Metallica t-shirt. "Bring Pete a cup of coffee. We might be here a while."

Harvey wipes his hands on his dirty apron. "How you drink your brew?"

"Dark and black."

Going bitter to match my mood? Boss laughs at his own joke.

I glare at Trisha. "I didn't close the hellhole?"

"You're not very convincing"

"Go ask God," I say. "Doesn't he keep a record of our actions so he can use it against us."

"What?" She raises an eyebrow. "No, it doesn't work that way."

"The what proof do you have I did it?"

While she strokes her bare caramel shin, she says, "A few hours ago, Margery filed a warrant in Purgatory for those two goons to take off your head for closing the Gates of Hell. Why would she do that if you're as innocent as you profess?"

A sharp pain pierces my temple. It happens when Boss bounces off my skull to get his way. Again, he wants me to run, but where the hell does he expect me to go. I rub my forehead and lean over the table. "Go ask Margery because I didn't do it."

Don't' deliver your head to her.

My eyes widen and I snap back in my seat.

"At this point, it doesn't matter if you're guilty or innocent because something much worse happened when the hellhole closed." She purses her lips and flares her nostril.

Oh shit, what else is she going to blame on you?


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