I’m not saying you can’t cut a deal with demons. But you’d damned well better know what you’re doing. They don’t teach that in business school. You just can’t trust a monster.
Jerry wasn’t comfortable contracting with Gehenna Group. I talked him into it. He never had the vision, frankly. Brilliant engineer? Of course. Who’d argue against that? But as far as understanding how business really works… well, that was my job, wasn’t it?
People talk about business like it’s a sport. That’s a fallacy. Business is war. And you’d better use every weapon available. I knew our competitors — enemies, rather — were using demon labor. Which meant that regardless how he felt about it, keeping our operation entirely human wasn’t an option.
Once the worlds opened up and Hell approached us with their desire to simply TRADE with us… companies were tripping over each other just to get a meeting with a demon. Everyone set aside those Sunday-school horror stories. This is business, after all.
I was never talking about using Hellish innovation — like that’s a thing. When it came to designing our products, being an innovator in the marketplace — that’s always been the purview of humanity. Heaven (Not Them. Small-h-heaven.) knows that organized labor used every lobbyist they had to keep U.S. companies from doing business with demonic firms at all. Not that it mattered. I’m sure there were companies that figured magic was the cure for every flaw in their business plan. Those guys aren’t around today.
Do you think that if Hell had an original idea they would have been willing to offer terms this good? Listen, if you need raw labor, or even skewing the odds in your favor in any variable in your environment, then magic (and demons!) is probably something you should consider. Like I said, all of our enemies were using them. Which meant we needed to use them as well.
Anyway, nothing I’ve said is a secret. Jerry and I disagreed on the topic. (And neither one of us was ever shy about sharing our opinion.) If someone tells you that business partners never disagree, they’re trying to pull something over on you. I’ve always been clear about what was important to me. The firm. That’s what all of this has always been about.
At this point, we can talk freely, right? Nothing is going to change the outcome. I’m comfortable sharing my perspective. Posterity, however private it may be. Jerry and I disagreed about this topic — the use of magic in our business — on a fundamental level. And we each saw the future of the firm as something this question would settle.
We used demonic magic to hurt our enemies. Demons may not be creating works of art or developing an original thought but they can use magic to create chaos. A rival company’s logistics chain extends through the Pacific Ocean? Looks like this is going to be a tough hurricane season. Contract negotiations are delicate for an expansion? Looks like everyone is going to be in a bad mood that day. The future of a firm? Well, the potential for loss of key personnel is something that every business needs to think about.
If someone’s about to feel bad because of something, you can probably get a demon to do it. That’s not all they do. Their labor rates are cheaper than anyplace on Earth. But they’re just comfortable causing harm to humans. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a monster?
I promised you at the start of this that one day I’d tell you what happened. So here it is — jailhouse confessional and all. Did you ever think when I put you on retainer that one day we’d be talking through this safety glass or I’d be wearing this jumpsuit, courtesy of the county? Whatever. I paid you to represent me. You’ve done that. Bravo.
Let’s talk about undisputed facts. On a bright, sunny Saturday in June, our firm’s surveillance cameras captured both me and Jerry entering our company’s headquarters, him 17 minutes before me. And 14 minutes after I entered, those cameras showed me leaving the building. Jerry has not been seen since.
Jerry was every bit aware of the particulars of our contract with Gehenna Group as I was. We were partners. This wasn’t something I just did. WE — our company — contracted with them. And Jerry and I were partners. Equal partners.
What happened to him? That’s a bit abrupt, no? Isn’t the better question WHY did whatever happened to him occur? I’d point to our company’s recent contract with a demon firm. Don’t you think there are plenty of folks passionate enough about the whole “demon commerce” debate to want to take action against a high-profile company like ours that was willing to use magic? Or what about Gehenna Group itself? Shouldn’t they be subject to the same scrutiny as me?
Right now… who cares? If Jerry would’ve just gone along with what needed to be done, he’d be alive today. And I wouldn’t be sitting here in this ridiculous shade of orange.
What’s that? No. I do not care that my silence made your job harder during the trial. You work for me, remember? It’s not my concern whether I’m making things harder for you. That’s your job.
I’m going to remain silent — on the record. You’re going to push the “no body, no murder” angle on my appeal. And this very special deck of playing cards, right here, safe inside this Ziploc bag in my breast pocket, is going to remain right by my side. Wherever I go, it goes. Whoever looked at a pack of playing cards? Who would ever notice if the Joker looked familiar… or was trying to scream? Who’d expect to see Jerry’s face on a playing card?
Poor Jerry. Must have been those demons. You just can’t trust a monster.
I hope you enjoyed my entry into NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction challenge as mentioned here. The contest gives participants 48 hours to produce a piece of fiction under 1000 words in a specific genre, set in a given location and containing a specific object. I got Fantasy, a jail cell, and a plastic ziploc bag. I’ll know in a month or so how I placed and will (of course) share that feedback. In 2015 I want to write more fiction so I hope that you’ll be seeing more work like this!