Tear The Roof Off, Part I

Warning: there’s some strong language in this one.  

“Yo, DJ!”  The call rang out from the door of my makeshift office.  “New track in for ya!”

I winced internally at the sound of that grating, obnoxious voice.  Titian, the club’s manager, sounded like someone had shoved a harmonica up his ass.  The joke being, of course, that he only talked out his ass.  The hushed rumor around the club was that he had blown out his nasal passages from all the blow, back in the day, and that horrible nasal overtone came from his ruined respiratory passages.

All that was before my time, though, and all I knew is that I hated the guy.  He treated me with the slightest modicum of respect, since I could drive out the patrons with a badly picked song or two, but he was merciless on the waitstaff.  The female bartenders and waitresses complained regularly about him whenever he was out of earshot.  But here he was, leaning against the frame of the modified closet that had been turned into my workspace, waving a CD in the air.

“What’s this one?” I asked.  “Nicki Minaj?  David Guetta?”  It had to be some big-name club beat producer, paying us to blast the song at least eight times a night, boost the promotion.  Nothing else would have Titian so excited.

Titian shook his head, the long, unnaturally straight blonde hair waving back and forth.  “Nope, some new label, out of South Beach.  ‘Destructus’, I think he said.  His money’s as green as anyone else’s, though, so we don’t discriminate!”  He tossed the disc at my head.

My hands were tangled up in the cords of my computer, laptop, and sound controls, but I managed to awkwardly field the projectile.  Titian smirked at me as he walked away.  Asshole.  Who decides to call himself something like Titian anyway?

I looked sourly down at the disc now in my lap.  I hated when we were given club tracks that we had to promote.  I might not be allowed to talk about selling out or integrity, with my high school GED so proudly displayed in my bedroom at home under my bed, but I had always had a feel for good music.  Back in high school, I had thrown together all the mixes for the popular kids’ parties, the rich kids’ parties, so they’d let me in.  Pretty soon, it came to be a thing.  If you were throwing a party, you had to get Alex to do the music, otherwise no one would bother showing up.  And with the dance clubs just a few blocks away, it wasn’t long until one of those mixes I did fell into the hands of a club owner.

I popped the disc into the reader, cued up the first few seconds of the song.  A synthesized voice broke in over the opening beat.  “We’re going to tear the roof off!” it cried with computer-manufactured enthusiasm.  I rolled my eyes and killed the track.  This was amateur hour.  Some idiot with an expensive synthesizer and a rich daddy had decided that they wanted to become the next music star, and daddy, if you don’t give it to me I won’t be happy, daddy, I’m going to scream, daddy, I want it, get it for me, you have to buy it for me, daddy, please, daddy, I want it.

Despite this, though, I knew better than to cross Titian’s desires openly, especially when it came to club profits.  That was one area where anybody was replaceable.  We could screw around as much as we wanted, as long as we didn’t hurt that bottom line.  I flipped the case over.  The sticky note on the back said “5X AT LEAST” in Titian’s childish block scrawl.

Man, when they first hired me, I thought it was the best job in the world.  They were talking about paying me thousands of dollars!  Thousands!  For a kid growing up with tattered clothes and hand-me-downs, this was wealth.  I hadn’t hesitated in dropping out of school, throwing away the Cs and Ds in favor of a pair of oversized headphones and a snazzy new computer, one that could handle a thousand tracks and splice them all together.  The first year had lived up to all my expectations, but then the shine had started to wear off, and I realized just for what I’d sold my soul.

I saw a few slots in my current lineup for the evening where I could slip the song in.  Places just after a heavy hitter, a big song that everyone knew, one that even the rich older dudes who were just there to keep a jealous eye on their younger gold-digging pieces of ass would recognize, ones that had such a strong bass beat that even the totally untalented white boys could grind their junk back and forth to it.  After those songs finished, it didn’t matter what came on next, everyone needed a break anyway.  And those breaks were important.  The DJs that thought they had to keep the energy at 10 for the whole night never lasted long.  That’s not what people want.

With the damnable “Tear the Roof Off” worked into my tracklist, I had the list set for the evening.  I threw the top down on my computer and headed out to find some food before my shift started.

Strolling out into the club before it heated up was always such a striking image.  The walls, normally shrouded in darkness and lit by colored spotlights from above during the night, were dingy and stained during the day.  The benches looked utilitarian, the bar looked burned-out and overexposed, and the gleaming chrome on the rails looked fake and shabby in the fading sunlight pouring in through the skylights.  The place was probably a metaphor for my life, I thought sourly, although how that works exactly I couldn’t tell you with a gun to my head.

Flash forward to a couple hours later, as the club was starting to heat up.  Sure, I could go back over how I got a burrito from one of the carts, shot the shit for a while with one of the newer bartenders at the club next block over, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s just filler, just passing the time until work, until I’m off, until I’m back at work, and so on for the rest of my life, or until I got too old to do it any more.  I don’t know what I’ll do then.

I was up at my booth, nodding my head in time to the beats, my insulated headphones blocking out the rumble of the club, streaming pure music into my head.  I have to admit, there’s a rush that comes with the booth.  Watching everyone down below me gyrating to my beats, seeing them speed up as I cranked up the speed, nodding in time with the sea of hands and heads, knowing that they were all moving to the sounds coming from the electronics below my hands… It’s a rush.  Right now, Rihanna was pumping out from my booth at a hundred and forty decibels, drowning out any effort at conscious thought.  All that was left in the bodies below me was an animalistic hunger, an addiction that brought them back night after night.  This was my tribe.

Rihanna was coming to an end; after thousands of plays, I know every beat in the song.  Up next was this new track, and I began to crank down the beat slightly to adjust.  Had to make the transitions smooth.  That synthesized voice broke in once more: “We’re going to tear the roof off!”, and the new track’s beat took over.  Whoever this Destructus is, they at least had the decency to pick up a top-of-the-line system, I noted.  That wasn’t the standard beat churned out by every aftermarket synthesizer.  It was shining through, well picked for the high-power club speakers, and was really making the club shake.  Maybe this wasn’t such a bad song after all.

And that, of course, is when it all went to hell.

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Fractals

As I entered the building, I always take note of the guard’s tone.  It is perfectly neutral, with no hint of any feeling behind it.  “Morning, Inspector,” he comments, his eyes making contact with mine for the very briefest of instants.

I give him a nod in return, stamping my feet inside the entrance and brushing the small piles of snow from my lapels.  After sucking in a couple of mercifully warm breaths, I make my way inside.

From my briefcase, I withdraw my clipboard, noting the date and time at the top of the form.  I scroll down the form to the man I was here to consult.  “Jauffe,” I pronounce the name aloud.  It’s vaguely familiar to me, but I can’t put a face to the emotion.

A young woman walks past in her uniform, her hair cut short to hang above her shoulders.  “Excuse me,” I interject, stepping ever so slightly into her path.  “Where can I find Dr. Jauffe?”

My eyes are on her eyes.  The flash of irritation, of anger at being interrupted in her work, is only present for a fraction of a second, but I still catch it.  There’s a reason I’m the head inspector.  “He’s already in one of the interrogation rooms,” she replies, pointing back down the hallway.  “He’s with the fractal guy.”

“Fractal guy?” I repeat back blankly.

She nods.  “Crazy one.  Well, that’s a given.  But this loony made over a hundred million on the stock market in the last six months, making wild bets on the futures.  A few days ago, he comes down here, insists on turning himself in.  Says he’s a danger to society, that he’ll lose control and destroy us all.”  Her eyes briefly unfocus.  “Man, a hundred million and he’s locked up in here.”

“What a world,” I reply back sympathetically.  The words don’t mean anything, but the tone is one of comforting agreement, and it serves its purpose.  She nods and continues on her errand.  I set off down the hallway, looking for Dr. Jauffe.

I find the room quickly enough – it’s not my first time here.  “Cold Harbor – Room 2B”, reads the sign.  I push down on the handle and step inside.

Inside the darkened room, I move to the large window that makes up the majority of one wall, looking down at the back of a man in a white coat.  Dr. Jauffe is talking to the man sitting across from him.  I briefly size up the subject.  He’s wearing a very expensive suit, clearly custom tailored, but it’s disheveled and dirty.  One of the sleeves is torn.  His hair is trimmed but mussed, and his eyes hold the slightest hint of panic.

“Now, you tell us that you’re afraid you will destroy the world,” the doctor says in a soothing, comforting tone.  I hate that tone.  It means he’s trying to play nice with the subject.  I can’t imagine that it would work on anyone but a head case.

The man nods, the hint of panic never leaving his eyes.  “Not destroy it, per se,” he corrects.  “Watch it destroy itself.  I mean, it’s pretty much inevitable at this point, the iterations just folding in on themselves.  We’ve already set the large strokes, now we’re just filling in the details.”

“The details of what?” presses Dr. Jauffe.  I approvingly note how he remains calm, despite the man’s disagreement with his statement, and make a corresponding note on the form.  Behind the glass, I am a silent observer.

In response, the man waves his hands around wildly.  “Fractals!” he states emphatically.  “I told this to the man at the front desk!  Fractals constantly form by folding in on themselves, growing ever smaller, each second adding more definition, making hypotheticals more real.  Once you can see them, you realize that all the big decisions are already made, we’re just debating over minutiae.  With each second, Mandlebrot grows more real, we can’t escape!”

I see the man change themes.  “That’s how I made all my money, you know,” he says.  “Once I realized that the fractals were fairly easy to trace, I saw how to take advantage of them.  Knowing the path made my bets a sure thing.  Money wasn’t a problem.  But then I realized that I’m making money off of our race’s destruction, and I just couldn’t stand it any more!”

The man’s finger stabs across the table at the doctor, who, to his credit, barely flinches.  I make another approving note.  “Your life is already decided,” he decrees.  “You may not have made all the little decisions yet, like whether you’ll have coffee or tea in the morning, but these aren’t of any consequence.  This is all predetermined!”

The doctor opens his mouth to ask another question, still calm and collected, but I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket.  I step out into the hallway to answer it.  “Yes, I’m already at the mental institution,” I tell the voice on the other end of the line.  “Yes, he’s checked in.”

I wait for a minute, listening to my instructions.  “Yes, sir,” I reply crisply.  “I’m inspecting his doctor today.  I’ll make sure that he’s steered towards a heavy medication dose.”

I hang up and walk back inside, waiting for the doctor to finish his interview.  So far, Dr. Jauffe is doing well on his inspection, I think to myself.  Calm, collected – and obedient.

LoveTracker(TM), patent pending, Part II

Part I can be found here.

I always love visiting the mall in a college town on a Saturday.  You see, I’ve found that while men usually want to get into and out of the store as fast as possible, women like to take their time and browse, walking back and forth from store to store.  This means that the women tend to stick around at least five times as long as the men.  And today, they were literally everywhere – gorgeous girls wherever I turned my head.

Of course, this fact was lost on most of my companions.  Spock was wearing the wide-eyed confused expression that appeared whenever he was thrust into unfamiliar social situations, and Mr. Chips was fairly indistinct in the background of our group.  Johnny must have been aware of the babes around him, but his attention was primarily focused on the machine we’d cobbled together.

I turned to Johnny.  “Okay, Mr. Genius, what now?”

Johnny was holding the modified voltmeter aloft, waving it around and watching the dial and display fluctuate.  “Now, this tracker ought to be able to trace the most compatible pheromones it can detect in relation to the sample loaded into it.  We just follow the signal to the most compatible female!”

I shuddered at this cold description of love.  “Who’s sample is loaded into it?”

“Mine, of course,” Johnny replied absently.  He began wandering off into the mall, and the rest of us hurried to follow.

Johnny took his time, meandering back and forth as the output from the device shifted, but we eventually ended up in front of Victoria’s Secret.  I stared up at the shop.  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said as we headed inside, looking incredibly conspicuous.

Once inside the store, the meter seemed to improve somewhat in accuracy, and I watched in disbelief as Johnny cut a path straight towards a dark-haired bombshell currently looking at the selection of lacy black thongs.  “There’s no way,” I muttered under my breath.  The girl in Johnny’s sights was at least an eight, and probably closer to a nine.  On his best days, with a few drinks in him, Johnny could maybe hit a five.  I winced in anticipation of the inevitable crash and burn.

A minute later, I opened my eyes again.  To my surprise, Johnny was holding his own!  The girl was responding to whatever he was saying, nodding and looking interested in him!  I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn’t asleep.

After another couple minutes, Johnny strolled back, looking overly nonchalant and waving a small scrap of paper at us.  “Proof!” he exulted.  “We totally hit things off!  My machine works!”

I snatched the tracker out of his hands.  “Hold on,” I said.  “We need a real test.  How do you switch out the sample loaded into this?”

Taking the device back from me, Johnny flipped it over and pulled open a small compartment on the back.  “It reads off any biological material in here,” he explained.  “Hair works fairly well.”

“Great,” I replied.  I reached out and yanked a hair out of Spock’s head, ignoring his wordless complaint.  I shoved the hair into the chamber.  “If this thing can find Spock a mate, we know that we’ve got a real winner on our hands.”

I closed the chamber and flipped the device back right-side-up.  Sure enough, an arrow appeared, fluctuating back and forth as it searched out the detected complementary pheromone signal.  I grabbed Spock’s arm and set off following the arrow.

Strangely, the device didn’t lead us to any store, but instead to the doors heading out of the mall.  I glanced back at Johnny as we reached the doors, but he looked as blank as I did, so we headed outside.  We looped around the building, eventually ending up in the back near the dumpsters.

“This really doesn’t seem to be working,” Spock commented as we walked past the rows of garbage receptacles.

“Hush,” I commanded as we pressed on.  “With the amount that this thing is fluctuating, we ought to be pretty close – wait!”  I came to a sudden halt as I heard rustling behind one of the large garbage bins.  Was it a homeless man?  Was this Spock’s perfect soulmate?  Was Spock gay?  I somehow doubted it – a gay man would have enough fashion sense to not tuck his shirt into his white underwear.

A moment later, the source of the rustling emerged – a large tabby slunk out from between the bins and looked up at us.  At the sight of the cat, I had to laugh.  “Johnny, I think your machine needs more work,” I chuckled, handing the voltmeter back to him.  “Either that, or the best that Spock’s going to score is a street cat, and I don’t think he feels that way about animals.”

“It should have worked,” Johnny complained as we headed back around the building.  “I mean, it did so for me!”

“Maybe that’s just the confidence it gave you?” I suggested.  “Who knows.  Wait a minute, where did Spock get off to, anyway?”  I turned and looked around.  Johnny was walking beside me, and Mr. Chips was contentedly munching on a snack he had pulled from somewhere, but of our super-geek there was no sign.  If I had known where he was, I might have been more concerned about Johnny’s device.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Spock was still in the back of the building.  He had squatted down on his knees and was beckoning to the cat.  “Here, puss puss,” he said, the words sounding strange in his mouth.  “Come here.”

The cat seemed reticent at first, but slowly crawled out of the crevice between the bins and moved into Spock’s arms, purring loudly as it realized that this strange human meant no harm and was offering scratches behind the ears.  Spock scooped up the purring cat, a smile breaking out on his face.  “Good kitty,” he murmured.  “Do you want to hear about Augmented Backus Naur metasyntaxes?”  The cat closed its eyes in contented agreement.

LoveTracker(TM), patent pending

It all began when Johnny came into lab, hair mussed and glasses askew, claiming that he could quantify love. We should have left it at that, laughed it off.  We definitely shouldn’t have built the tracking device.

Now, before I say anything more, let me add here that I don’t know much about biology.  You want some circuits programmed, maybe a specialized chip board designed?  I’m your guy.  But about the only thing I understand from biology is the fermentation process, and that’s just because I like the end products.

But Johnny, now, he’s a biologist through and through.  Studied pheromones, probably because they were about his only shot of landing a decent date.  I’d dragged him to the bars in our little college town before, introduced him to some properly sloshed ladies, but he never quite managed to pull it off.

He said he was looking for “the real thing.”  I think he just can’t control the verbal vomit that he spews.  Honestly, some chick who’s five shots to the wind at the watering hole doesn’t want to hear about breakthroughs in delayed neurotransmitter release.  She wants to hear, “Hey, I’m a scientist, I discover new things for humanity, that’s pretty sexy, now let’s get back to my place before your buzz wears off.”

But I’m getting off topic.  It was a Monday, and most of us in lab were nursing hangovers from the previous weekend.  I had made out pretty well with some Latin chick who was up visiting a friend at our college for the weekend.  In between winces from the tequila hangover, I was telling stories about how I scored her to a few other patrons of our laboratory.  Sitting across the cheap card table listening to me were Spock and Mr. Chips.

I think I might need to back up again.  Spock’s our resident geek.  Even among the geeks, he stands out as especially geeky.  He works in programming, like me, but he does software only, not bothering with hardware like me.  I’m pretty sure that he’s a programming genius, but he only thinks in the same terms, so he tends to be overly logical.  Teaching him something not related to computers is an act of pure misery because he just doesn’t get it.  It’s like attempting to teach a puppy how to do your taxes.  The damn creature is so earnest and tries so hard, but will never succeed.  I long since gave up on trying to show him how to pick up girls.  If he can hold a conversation with a chick for ten seconds without offending her, he’s having a good day.

As for Mr. Chips, he’s an odd egg too.  Always seems to be snacking on a bag of potato chips, hence the nickname.  The kicker is that he insists on calling them “crisps”, not chips.  I don’t claim to understand the guy, but he’s a good listener and that makes him okay in my book.

So back to the story.  I’m sitting on the edge of the table, explaining how this girl and I had to go back to her friend’s dorm room and make sure that no one else was there before we could get down to business, and Johnny comes running in through the door, totally cutting me off.  “I’ve got it!” he yelled.  “I know how to quantify love!  I can find my soulmate!”

I stopped talking as we stared at this apparition that had appeared.  “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Love!” he replied.  “It’s always been measured as a pheromone shift, but I know why the shift occurs!  It’s all complementary!  All it takes is a few molecules, and I can determine whether she’s your soulmate or not!” Johnny snapped his finger down to point at me.  “And I need your help!”

Now, I’ll admit that at first not even Spock was agreeing with him.  But it was a slow day, and any chance to delay work on my thesis is a chance I’ll gladly seize.  Johnny drew up some specs for a detector, and I worked out how to make the thing fit in the palm of one’s hand and started soldering together some parts I had lying around.  With uncharacteristic determination, Johnny bullied Spock into writing out the program code, and by the end of the day, we had a working love detector sitting in front of us.

“What now?” I asked, staring at the machine sitting on the table.  The thing looked like a voltmeter, mostly because I had used an old voltmeter casing to house the electronics.

Johnny scooped the detector up off the table.  “Now, we test it!” he cried dramatically, overly so in my opinion.  “We must find a high concentration of suitable females!  To the mall!”

To be continued….

The Coffee Shop of Vice and Iniquity

I fumed silently at the back of the unmoving line, shooting daggers from my eyes at the back of the tall bearded man currently arguing with the barista.  Clad against the angry stares of the other patron in his tattered sport jacket, knit cap, beard, and black plastic glasses, he continued to argue over whether Guatemala was considered “fair trade organic.”

Most of the other people in line had consigned themselves to being late to work, men in suits slumped over their briefcases as they waited for the daily dose of caffeine to get their joints moving again.  I, on the other hand, had a meeting with my thesis adviser in a mere twenty minutes, and was cursing every unkempt hair in the hipster’s beard.  Unfortunately, my curses seemed to be having no effect.  “I’d sell my soul for this line to hurry up,” I muttered in frustration.

“Would you now?  That’s quite an interesting offer,” spoke up a cultured voice behind me.

Confused, I turned around to find myself gazing down at a short but sharply dressed man.  My first impression was that a shark had mated with a Republican, and the resulting offspring had managed to find a black silk suit with a red tie.  The man looked as though he was already working out how to swindle me out of my social security.  “Excuse me?” I said stupidly.

“Trading your soul for a faster line,” he repeated back to me, smiling innocuously.  “I’ll need to jot it down for your signature, of course, but it sounds fairly binding to me.”  He withdrew a small pad of paper from an inside jacket pocket and began scrawling something.

“I’m sorry,” I broke in.  “Who are you?”

This time, the man’s grin seemed ever so slightly tinged with annoyance.  “I’m a devil, of course,” he said snidely.  He pushed back his black hair, and I saw two small, almost dainty horns emerging from his forehead.

I blinked a few times, but the horns didn’t revert back into hair.  “I didn’t realize the devil actually existed,” I said.

“Devils,” the man corrected.  “I mean, the Big Guy himself wouldn’t show up for a soul like you, no offense intended.”  I felt slightly offended despite this, but waited for him to continue.  “Name’s Mephisto, and I’m an upper executive in Hell’s legion.”  He paused in his scrawling and patted his pockets.  “I’m sure I have a card somewhere.  I always lose the damn things,” he complained.

I put up my hand reassuringly.  “I’ll believe you,” I soothed.  “But come on, I’m not going to give away my soul just for this one coffee line to go away.”  The hipster ahead of us had finally finished placing his insanely complicated drink order (I caught “half-caf, no foam, two soy creamers and I’ll know if it’s milk”) and the line had begun inching forward.  “See?  We’re moving already.”

Mephisto shook his head at me.  “I’m offering you an opportunity, here,” he insisted.  “It’s not what you get for the soul that matters.  I mean, come on.  Your soul’s barely worth that guy’s order.  I’m not exactly going to hand you the keys to my Corvette.”

“Figures that a devil drives a Vette,” I said sourly.  “Red, of course.”  But I had to admit that I was slightly intrigued.  “Okay, why should I hand over my immortal soul, then?”

Mephisto gestured around at the other people inside the coffee shop.  “Look, let’s be honest here, alright?  Every single person here is ending up in Hell.”  He swung his finger around as he spoke.  “Mixed fabrics.  Masturbated once to gay porn – that’s right, it only takes once.  Premarital sex.  That guy over there ate eel, that’s a no-no.”  He shrugged.  “Now, when they all get down to the fiery gates, they’re starting off at the entry level.  Basic torture, fire and brimstone, all that stuff you know and love.”  He turned the finger back to me.  “But you sell me your soul now, and assuming you don’t get run over today, you’ll have a chance to pick up some scores before you even set foot in the lobby.  You’ll be looking at a middle management position right away, easy.”  He winked salaciously.  “A few short eons and you might even have a shot at an executive gig!”

We had reached the front of the line, and I distractedly ordered my usual mocha.  Mephisto smirked at me, muttered “gay” audibly under his breath, and asked for a large black dark roast with the grounds dumped into the cup.  The perky barista’s eyes seemed to glaze over as he ordered, but she nodded and scurried off to prepare our drinks, pausing only to snatch the five dollar bill from my hand.

“So what sort of things do I need to do for these points?” I asked as we waited at the pick-up window.  “I’m not going to have to kill little children, am I?”

This provoked a snort from the demon as he held in his laughter.  “Oh, you humans are so dramatic!” he groaned.  “Nah, nothing so outright.  Just keep on being your usual self.  You all spread corruption around yourselves normally, so as long as you don’t make any drastic leaps to Jesus or anything stupid like that, you’ll be fine.  Think of it like a bank loan, where you’re giving us your soul up front, for us to invest, instead of forcing us to wait until the payment’s due.  When you’re dead,” he clarified.

I was torn.  On one hand, twelve years of Catholic school was telling me to start reciting the Lord’s prayer and building crosses out of any nearby pieces of wood.  On the other hand, this deal actually sounded fairly enticing.  I had long since harbored doubts about whether I was actually a good person, and this seemed to confirm my suspicions.  “How long do I have to think this over?” I asked, stalling for time.

Our drinks arrived at the window, and Mephisto took a long drag from his steaming cup.  I could smell the burnt grounds in his cup.  “Eh, I’ll give you till the end of the week,” he said generously.  “I’m here every morning this week, right around this time.  Just wave me over when you’re ready to sign the paperwork.”

I nodded towards his cup.  “Did you pay for that?”

Mephisto lowered his cup long enough to stare at me incredulously.  “I’m a god-damned devil,” he said.  “You think I have to pay for overpriced, addicting beverages?”  Still shaking his head, he snapped his fingers and vanished in a cloud of vile-smelling smoke.

I glanced around as the puff cleared, but no one else seemed to have noticed.  I lifted my own coffee mug to my mouth, but could smell the sulfur even before the liquid met my lips.  I sighed and tossed the full mug in the garbage.  I was already starting to consider ideas to sell Mephisto for increasing corruption; I wondered briefly if the Devil had ever considered a Ponzi scheme.  I would have to run to make it to my adviser’s meeting, but I felt less worried than before.  What’s the worst he would do, tell me to go to hell?

*                    *                    *
On the other side of the coffee shop, Azrael growled angrily as he watched the accursed demon vanish back to its foul dimension.  The mortal with which it had been conversing was still standing there, seemingly lost in thought, no doubt corrupted by the demon’s twisted mutterings.
Azrael gulped down the last of his chai tea and stood up, forcefully tugging his scarf around his neck as the mortal headed towards the door.  The mortal really should know better – had his Catholic upbringing been for naught?  
With one hand, Azrael closed the lid of his MacBook and scooped it up off the table, tucking it into his genuine imitation leather shoulder bag.  He really hadn’t been making any progress on his novel anyway.  Reaching into one pocket of his coat, he pulled out his halo, brushing off the crumbs before wedging it squarely above his head.  Divine accoutrement in place, he stormed after the mortal.  His wings were all up in a dander, and he was going to have words.