The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
You Never Give Me Your Money
Al Bruno III
The entity was inscrutable and beyond time. It had no true name but Jason Magwier had taken to calling it a serendipity spirit.
When Magwier summoned the entity it came eagerly because his summonings were never boring or cruel. Angel to some, demon to others, it danced across the Seven Layers of Reality crafting a skein of luck and coincidence based off the grooves on a record album first pressed in 1969.
With practiced ease it drew the chosen individuals to the chosen location, placed ideas in their heads and scraps of lyric in their mouths. It bent reality back upon itself until it was able to hear the conversation that began it all...
Most potential clients are discouraged to learn that the deadliest assassin of the hidden world lives in a trailer park in Albany. Those that still seek him out find the trailer in question was not quite a meth lab and not quite a daycare.
This day, ten days before the lingering death of Constable Rhoden Lunt, a potential client stood knee deep in the piles of filthy toys and jars half-filled with chemical detritus and waited.
After nearly half an hour Dr. Flesh looked up from the tome of forbidden lore he was reading and glared at her from over his hexagon-rimmed glasses, “What do you want from me?”
“Death,” the potential client began, “the death and mutilation of an entire bloodline.”
“Any family in particular?”
Dr. Flesh folded over the corner of the page he was reading and set the grimoire atop an unopened box of baby wipes, “A big family. Powerful rich and spread across the world. That’s years of work. You can’t afford it.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Dr. Flesh made a big show of lighting a cigarette. He threw the match aside carelessly, it landed between an empty propane tank and an overflowing diaper genie.
The potential client sat down on a nearby pet carrier, snatched the cigarette from the deadly assassin’s mouth and inhaled smoke, “The Lunts in Olathoe are what concern me. One city. One night. One bloodline.”
Dr. Flesh nodded approvingly and took the half spent cigarette back, “Very old testament.”
“I'm told you’ve done this kind of thing before.”
“I have. I've also cured male pattern baldness but no one ever seems to mention that.”
An argument had begun in one of the neighboring trailers, a single shouting voice became two, then three. When the sound of smashing glass and crockery began Dr. Flesh chuckled “Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make.”
“I am aware of your standard rates of payment for an undertaking of this nature,” the potential client said.
“I damn well hope so.”
“And I am prepared to double it.”
“Double it?” Dr. Flesh’s pale eyebrows raised, “You really are royalty.”
The potential client offered a padded envelope only to have it waved away.
“You never give me your money.” Dr. Flesh said, “Not until the contract is complete. I’m a killer not a whore.”
“Very well,” the client nodded. “I know you haven’t been to Olathoe in some time so I brought along names and locations.”
“Unnecessary,” he kicked a path to the wide, slumping bed at the other end of the trailer and pulled a suitcase from beneath it.
“Then how will you find them?”
Unzipping the baggage revealed a tangle of old clothes. Inside one of the suit jackets was a phial made from dark red glass, “If your majesty wants the Lunts to die in droves on a particular night then why go to them when they can come to me?”
“I don’t understand.”
“What are they teaching you kids in school?” Dr. Flesh gave the phial a playful shake, something squirmed miserably inside, “This is a jultomten. Haven’t you heard of them?”
“You mean a Demon of If?” the client smiled with understanding.
“Is that what they’re calling them now?”
Demon of If.
The entity had been all of these things and more, it had been all of these places and none of them. It still ached from the way Jack Diamond had torn it roughly from the realms of dream and magic, it burned with anger over being imprisoned in a suitcase for fifteen years, it did this even as it shivered in time with the drumbeats of the third song on the second side of the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’.
In that moment that was forever it understood that there were going to be three red glass phials in the same room at the same time.
And it knew that one moment would change everything forever.