As he followed the tall, bony form of the angel through the gala, Salamon wondered what he was getting himself into. He had managed to sneak into the party by posing, quite convincingly, as the under-duke of Southern Bohemia, and had even sold one especially wealthy guest on purchasing five hundred acres of what he assured the man were “only the highest grade oil sands, the next big thing in global energy.”
Of course, Southern Bohemia didn’t actually exist, much less have under-dukes, but Salamon was confident that he could have a down payment in hand before the man realized his error. Also, the food at this event was excellent. As he chased after Callador, he patted his pocket. The angel was a fool to turn down such an opportunity for free food. But that was angels for ya, always with their wings all ruffled over something, he mused to himself.
Callador dashed through one of the back doors, and Salamon only barely caught the handle before it swung shut. He pulled it all the way closed behind himself without a thought, and then looked up and stopped short.
“Whoa,” he said honestly. Rather than emerging into the bright light of the hotel’s kitchens, as he had expected, they had emerged into the bright lights of a museum exhibit.
“This is the National Museum of Ethnology, in Leiden,” Callador proclaimed, as Salamon cautiously opened the door he had just passed through. He stared at the mop and bucket inside the broom closet on the other side.
Callador noticed that his companion wasn’t listening to his proclamation. “Archangel, remember?” he said dryly, waggling his thin fingers. “Even though I’m only a minor class, I’ve got access to ephemeral gateways, as long as I fill out the paperwork later.”
Closing the door, Salamon shook his head. No wonder Hell was having such a rough time of things, he thought to himself. The angels were running around throwing open ephemeral gateways whenever they felt like it, and he was still waiting to be reimbursed for the last three months of public transport fares. Pulling his mind back to the present, he gazed around the museum. He withdrew a shrimp from his pocket, calming himself with the snack. “So why am I here?” he asked.
The archangel shrugged, looking both sad and slightly confused. “This is where the Covenant was last seen,” he explained. He gestured towards an empty podium. “Right there, in fact.”
Salamon examined the podium closely. There was definitely a distinct lack of tablet. The podium looked sad without anything to display. The devil helped alleviate this problem by depositing the shell of his shrimp on the empty space.
From behind him, he heard the angel sigh. “Look, I thought maybe you could figure out where the Covenant went,” Callador groused. “You’ll be saving your own skin just as much as mine. Clearly I was wrong.”
“Oh, you want me to find the thing?” Salamon retorted. “I thought you were just trying to seem like a sophisticated date.” As the angel sputtered incoherently, Salamon passed a grubby hand over the pedestal and muttered a few words under his breath.
Callador’s attempts at a comeback were cut short as he saw a ghostly image of a large stone tablet appear on top of the stand. “What did you do?” he gasped.
“Just tracing bad deeds,” Salamon said absently, focused on maintaining the image. “Just watch.”
As the two supernatural beings looked on, a figure dressed in black covertly approached the podium. The figure’s head was covered by a ski mask, concealing its identity. The figure looked both directions, and then reached out and lifted the stone carving off of its pedestal. After pausing for a second, listening for alarms, the figure straightened up, snapped its fingers, and vanished.
“Where did he go?” Callador gasped.
Salamon frowned at the once again empty podium. “He vanished, just like that,” he said. “That’s gotta be supernatural, right? One of your people?”
“Ours? Why would we want to bring about a flood?” scoffed Callador. “No, it has to be a devil! One of you lot out there, sowing discord and discontent!”
“We’re doing plenty of that without needing to start over, thank you!” the devil snapped back. “Your side is the one that would want another flood – we’re winning!”
“No, we’re winning!”
Salamon clearly wasn’t backing down from the argument, but Callador paused before yelling back once more. “Okay, so if it wasn’t either of our sides,” he wondered, “then who’s responsible?”
“And more importantly,” continued Salamon, with self-preservation close to heart, “Where’d they take the tablet?”
Ooooooh! Mystery! To be continued in Part III!