I was about to head to lunch when the demon called. I recognized the number and thought about letting it go to voicemail. I knew that the anticipation of having to listen to the message would sour my stomach anyway, so I picked up. He wasted no time.
“Mr. Reynolds, I’d like to draw your attention to the terms of our agreement. Although we normally don’t like to place performance guarantees into our contracts, your firm insisted. We covered the costs of arranging for the data feed. Your software engineers agreed that the code was satisfactory and met all of the agreed upon metrics. I fail to understand why you’ve ignored the payment terms. The code met the defined metrics, we submitted the invoice, and yet…”
“Samael, listen-” (I full-named him on purpose- I knew it would piss him off. Screw him. I didn’t have to take this from a demon.)
“Sam. Just Sam. I told you, I worked my way up to this job. Every time someone here says ‘Samael’ people start looking around for my uncle. You know that’s a cheap shot. Why are you being such a goddamn asshole?”
Never fails- these demons try to come across as being above the salt. Needle them just a little bit in the right spot and all that refinement falls away. I shouldn’t enjoy this so much but it was such an easy reaction. “Frankly Sam, I find it a little hard to believe that you’re actually going to call me up and begin cursing at me!”
“I’m sorry- that was unprofessional. Although technically, that wasn’t a curse. A curse would typically involve some magical aggressive act. That was really just a simple profanity-”
“So now I have to be lectured about how it’s fine for you to make a business call and begin cursing, swearing, offending my delicate sensibilities, whatever? Is that how your company operates? Maybe we should have gone with Gehenna Group after all!”
“Please… I am truly sorry. You’re right- I have no business using language like that to you. I assure you, your company made an excellent choice with Code Mongers. I just thought that as all of the feedback about the software was positive and you yourself pointed out last week that the project was ahead of schedule-”
Enough already. This was past the point of amusing me and all I could think about standing there holding the phone was that now I was making myself late for lunch. “Alright- listen. I told you- I don’t cut the checks. Our Controller’s office has to release the funds and they won’t do that until the government liaison has agreed that the install is complete.”
I kept going right over his interruption. Now I just wanted to get him off the phone and get to lunch. The Tap Room had a new dayshift waitress that seemed every bit as gullible as she looked. I’d been finessing that little piece for two weeks and I was confident that today was the day that I’d get her to agree to meet for drinks after she got off. Walters from Sales had bet me $100 that he’d nail her first and there was no way that I was going to listen to his crap for the next month. “I know I said that I thought we’d have the government approval this week. We don’t control that. Maybe you could give the federal inspectors a call to speed things up?”
Admittedly, another cheap shot. Congress had not been able to ban the offworld subcontracts (those lobbyists are worth every penny!) but the federal inspectors certainly weren’t going to go out of their way to help a wholly demon-owned firm in a payment dispute.
“Sam, this is how it works. You guys got the contract- good for you. The code was solid- good for us. Now you’ll wait until we pay you. You don’t like it? Take us to court- I’m sure you’ll find a lot of sympathy from the bench! I don’t have time for this- good bye!”
He knew better than to call back. I could blacklist his company and he’d be back to fishing change out of the hellfire pits. I grabbed my coat and took the stairs down, two at a time.
“Lucy! I swear- seeing you is the best part of my day!”
“Mr. Reynolds- I know, John- you’re so sweet! But I don’t think I’m the first girl that you’ve said that to.”
“Lucy,” I leaned forward and lowered my voice. She moved closer and I knew this was it. “Why not just agree to have a drink with me later? You know I’m a nice guy. One drink- how could that possibly hurt?”
She paused. I sat motionless. I knew I had her on the hook. Just another moment to set it…
“Well, okay. But I can’t drink here. My boss thinks it makes the place look sleazy. We could meet around the corner at The Fig. Say- 7:00?”
“7 it is.” I flashed my winning smile and eased back. Fuck Walters.
I didn’t get much done the rest of the day. I was in the midst of parlaying my success with the Code Mongers subcontract into my next move. We’d saved a bundle by going offworld and I was going to make damn sure that the boss remembered that it had been my proposal from the start. By all rights, I should head up the new contract work. Success on our next project and I’d be moving into the bigger office with the title, paycheck and perks to go along with it. I sat thinking about whether I could get Sam’s company to bid on another project by offering to call in some favors and expedite the governmental approval.
Today was my lucky day. As I closed my office door and turned toward the stairs, Walters passed me. “Hey there douche,” I smirked. “Mind stepping aside? I’ve got something to get to.”
The Fig was dim enough that I stopped just inside the door. I looked down the bar and saw Lucy waving both hands at me. This was almost too easy.
“John! Over here!” she squealed.
I stepped around a small cluster of post-workday revelers and eased up to the bar next to her, taking the opportunity to slide my hand down her ass as I moved next to her. There was no point in subtlety at this point. She surprised me by angling herself towards me and pressing in with her hips. Maybe this would move even faster than I thought. With luck, I could have a few drinks in her and get her back to my place in the next hour. One quick bang, send her home and still catch the end of the Knicks game. Add to that the satisfaction of telling Walters to pay up tomorrow and this was shaping up to be one hell of a week.
All progressed along the updated timetable. Lucy made only the faintest protest as the first drink became a second and didn’t even hesitate when I called for some shots. She nodded as I suggested a cab and perhaps another little drink at my place. I hustled her out and flagged a cab. “He shoots, he scores,” I mumbled as we fell into the backseat.
She started to piss me off a little bit when we got upstairs. Her hands were up at my chest as I was pulling her towards me.
“You said a little drink.” She was wiry for a little girl. She pushed me back on my heels.
“Okay- okay. I was just going to give you a little peck before I grabbed something from the fridge.” I raised one hand in mock surrender and slowly stepped closer to her. She seemed comfortable with that as my right hand slowly slid around her hips to the small of her back. “Just a little kiss,” I nuzzled her neck.
This seemed to put things back on track- a track that led to her falling back onto my couch, losing her shirt and the clasp on her bra just- about- open-
“Wait-” she pushed me back again. This was more than a little annoying at this point. “I don’t know about this,” she said as she started reaching behind her to check the bra clasp.
I was not about to lose this now. “It’s not like that,” I purred.”You know that I’m crazy for you. Whatever you want…”
I recaptured the progress I’d made and got that bra off. She seemed to have hit her limit for resistance and the rest of the exchange moved nicely.
As I approached my peak, she leaned forward and put her face up to mine. “Anything I want?” she breathed from atop me.
“Anything- ah!” That was how it was supposed to go. I settled back in the afterglow and gave her a playful swat on the ass. Good girl, that Lucy. Knows how to do a job right.
Except she wasn’t rolling off me. I certainly wasn’t interested in any pillow talk. Time for her to go.
All at once, I tensed as I felt the sensation of falling. It seemed like I was graying out as everything got dim and HOT! What was going on?
“That is really the cheapest labor contract I’ve picked up in years! That Lead Recruiter position is mine!” The softness in Lucy’s voice was gone and I swallowed hard as she leered at me. I didn’t remember the pointed teeth. “Used to be a soul took a lot more bargaining for. Thanks for letting me close this requisition out early!”
“R-requistion?” I stammered. “Me?”
“Of course- and I won’t lie to you. When my cousin told me how you were really screwing him on those contract terms, I thought that one good screwing deserved another. He had the req open anyway- so I bet him $100 that I could fill it with you. Sam is going to pay this bet with a smile, I guarantee you! ” She seemed to be moving us through the darkness towards the source of the heat. Below us I could make out slumped figures chained to computers in the midst of a blazing pit.
“I told them you could start today.”