Callador, Minor Arch-Angel (3rd class), was stressed. And it showed.
As the angel hurried through the streets of downtown, weaving his way through the throngs of people huddled under their umbrellas and coats, his halo occasionally flickered briefly into existence like a failing lightbulb. The few mortals who had managed to find shelter, staring bleakly out into the rain from bus stops and awnings, cast curious glances after him.
Although his wings stayed invisible, several pedestrians felt something soft yet bony brush them aside, spinning them around as he speed-walked past. Fortunately, none of the other people were looking down as he passed. They might have realized that the angel was walking on top of the large puddles of water covering the sidewalks and streets.
Despite several angry cries as he pushed through the crowd, Callador’s thoughts were elsewhere. He was so distracted, he barely even bothered to apologize. What he was about to do filled him to the brim with distaste, but he could see no other option. “My back’s against the wall,” he muttered to himself as he turned and entered one of the large hotels, his feet splashing through the deep puddles.
Inside the hotel, the angel made a beeline for the main banquet hall, where a massive party was ensuing. Small clusters of elegantly dressed men and women wove conversations on the latest trends, filling the air with murmuring. A string quartet waxed classical in one corner, mainly to provide an acceptable level of background noise. High class was enjoying itself.
Callador made his way through the crowds, scanning the faces as he searched. Finally, he spotted his quarry, standing by the back buffet. He adjusted his course, slowing as he drew closer.
“I need to talk to you,” he said once he was at the other man’s shoulder.
The other fellow turned to face him, one hand still clutching half a dozen jumbo shrimp. “Well, hello there!” he exclaimed through a full mouth. “Not quite dressed for the occasion, are we?”
Glancing down, Callador realized that he was still wrapped up in an overcoat, bundled up against the cold outside. As the man slurped cocktail sauce from fat fingers, the angel snapped his own, transforming his clothes into a full tuxedo. He reached up and checked his bow tie – it was always summoned perfectly, impeccably crisp and straight, but Callador felt that checking it was still necessary. The other man didn’t appear unduly impressed.
“There, now I fit in at your little party here,” Callador hissed, as the man crammed another shrimp into his mouth. “Now, will you stop eating and help me here?”
Leering at the angel, the man finally swallowed his mouthful of food. “Okay, what?” he asked, once he could talk again. “Something’s gotta be up, to get a mighty archangel down here bothering a little devil like me.”
“Salamon, argh-” the angel’s hands almost reflexively rose into clenching motions as he glared at the impudent little minion of Hell, but he forced himself to remain calm. “Look. Have you noticed the weather outside?”
Salamon shrugged, scooping up another handful of shrimp. “Yeah, it’s been pretty wet the last few days,” he said. “Listen, you have to try these things. All the hippies are claiming genetic engineering is bad, but super-jumbo shrimp are totally worth the risk.”
“Yeah, it’s been more than just wet the last few days!” Callador persisted. “It’s flooding, Salamon! Flooding! As in ‘break out the ark’ flooding!”
Finally, the devil looked up from the buffet. “Wait, seriously?” he asked. “Wasn’t that all done with forever ago? I thought we had some sort of covenant thing?”
“We did, yes.” To Salamon’s utter surprise, the angel actually looked embarrassed. “Written out on stone tablets and everything. We just seem to have, er, misplaced them for the moment.”
The devil was now staring, open-mouthed, at the angel. “What!?” he exploded. “You lost them? And now you can’t stop this whole place from flooding? Man, you, you, bureaucrats!” He spat out the word like a curse.
Callador held up his hands defensively. “Wait, I know how to fix this! It’s okay! I just need your help for a little bit of it. Some of it may be, um, ever so slightly outside the lines.”
Salamon sighed. He should have guessed, the moment he laid eyes on the angel. “So you need me to come along, be the fall guy. I see how things are.”
“Well . . . ” the angel trailed off.
“No, it’s okay. Give me one second, here.” Salamon scooped up a double handful of the shrimp from the buffet and slid them into the pocket of his suit jacket. He reached for another helping, but then paused. “I suppose if there is a flood, there will at least be plenty of shrimp,” he mused. He turned to Callador. “Okay. Let’s go fix this screw-up of yours.”