I looked at the smear of charred soot and the other bits on the alley wall. Some melted gun metal had pooled on the mortar between the bricks. You almost couldn’t tell that there had been people. Almost.
Beala’s throaty voice sounded in my head, annoyingly ultra-feminine, and poutier than usual. Yes, I fried them – what was I supposed to do?
“There must have been an easier way to handle the situation, without killing them.”
Sam, they would have killed you. Besides, they were petty thieves – they won’t be missed.
“Oh, they’ll be missed – they were gang members.”
Is it my fault that you live in this crime-riddled neighborhood?
“No, of course not.”
That was why I had summoned a demon to begin with. I thought the two of us together could do some real feats of magic to work our way out of all the hole-in-the-wall venues. Schizo the Magnificent, the Multiple-Personality Magician was a good gimmick on paper, but it made it difficult to keep my career on the rails at times.
And that isn’t going to change if you can’t get control of your other voices.
“Me? Isn’t that part of your job?”
Isn’t that just like a man. You brought them to the party, Sam, not me. I could control them just fine, but that would require a renegotiation.
“But what about that time you wrangled Jimmy at the Bijou?”
I did that as a favor. Besides, I can’t stand the little creep and the way he talks to the ladies.
They weren’t exactly ladies, Jimmy cut in.
Think about who you’re talking to, Jimmy, Beala shot back. Keep him away from me, Sam, or I swear I’ll …
“That won’t be necessary.”
Demons are remarkably consistent about keeping their word, even if it takes a boatload of lawyers to figure out what they’ve sworn to. I didn’t like Jimmy, either, with all his crude humor, but his bad boy delivery is in demand in most of the places I’ve performed. I counted on him to liven things up, just like I counted on Benjamin to work out the inventions we needed to wow the audiences.
I believe that your daemon has made me somewhat superfluous, Benjamin said reasonably; he was always reasonable.
That’s right, genius, Beala gibed.
“No, Ben – I still need you.”
I’d coped for years with Jimmy and Benjamin – and they each played their parts to help me cope with the outside. I couldn’t afford to lose either of them to Beala’s moods.
Who are you calling moody?
That’s one of the unfortunate side effects of housing a demon – your thoughts are not your own.
“What have I told you about listening to me when I’m just thinking?”
How rude. After all I’ve done for you, you could show a little appreciation, instead of thinking about me behind my back.
“I’m sorry – you really weren’t supposed to hear that.”
Yes, and you don’t want me talking to your friends, either. Fine, I get it – I don’t like forcing myself on anyone. We wouldn’t be stuck with each other if you hadn’t summoned me, you know?
All this nagging is worse than being married, Jimmy said.
I heard that! Beala shrieked.
“Alright, alright. What can I do to make it up to you, Beala?”
You could lose the creep for starters. I’d make it worth your while, Sammy, she purred.
“That won’t be necessary – I control him just fine. Even when he shows up, people can’t tell it’s someone else.”
You’re not thinking long-term. If you want to make the big-time you have to keep him from working blue.
I’d almost forgotten about the muggers when I heard the sirens; someone had called the police. I looked up in time to see a third-floor window close above us.
“Now would be a good time for a disappearing act.”
Ours or theirs?
I started to say ours, but then I realized that wouldn’t do any good with witnesses to place me at the scene. But if there wasn’t any residue – no body, no evidence, no crime.
There was a loud pop, and the glass blew out from the third-floor window.
“What did you do?”
You said you wanted a disappearance.
“Not the witnesses – the evidence.”
You should have said so.
“I know you heard what I was thinking.”
And you told me not to listen to that.
A black and white pulled into the alley.
“There’s still time; get rid of it!”
There was another loud pop as air rushed into the empty space where the squad car used to be.
“Oh, come on! You know I didn’t mean that way.”
Maybe I should have stuck with my own voices; parsing terms with a demon may be a trick I can’t master.
You can connect with William Mangieri, see the full list of his works, his writing blog, and links to his current promotions on his WordPress writing page at https://williammangieri.wordpress.com/Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in