“I gotta say, in terms of being a scumbag, you’re actually doing really well.”
I started at those words, spinning around and nearly jumping a foot in the air. I could have sworn that I was alone! There was no one else in the building at this hour – I knew that the janitors wouldn’t be here for forty minutes, still, and I’d seen the last person leave the office a good two hours previously!
Yet nonetheless, there was a man sitting at one of the desks, two away from me, leaning back in the chair with his feet propped up on the faux wood in front of him. From under his hat’s brim, the man’s eyes looked curiously dark. Dressed in a dark charcoal suit, nearly black, and a black hat with a white ribbon around the brim, he grinned at me, briefly flashing his teeth.
“Wh-who are you?” For a moment, I couldn’t even find my own voice, but I managed to get the words out without sounding too strangled. As I spoke, I managed to get a slight hold on my surprise. “You don’t belong here!”
Indeed, I didn’t recognize him. And considering that I’m the boss of this corporate division, I ought to recognize anyone who has access to the building.
“How did you get in here?” I continued, the shock in my voice finally starting to be replaced by anger. “You know that you’re trespassing, don’t you? I could call Security!”
Instead of answering my questions, the man waved one hand towards the open drawer at the desk in front of me. “See, it’s a really great plan,” he said, not sounding especially concerned about my threat. “Maybe if someone was really looking for it, they might find some trace, but no one’s going to bother. Well done!”
This man knew what I was doing? No, he couldn’t. I stared back at him, blinking like a fish out of water, as I tried to readjust. I had too many questions in my brain, all of them shouting at once and drowning each other out.
As I tried to find some sort of mental line to grab, the man stood up, swinging his legs down from on top of the desk and strolling over to me. He reached past me, snagging one of the small candies out of the drawer open in front of me, unwrapping it with a surprisingly loud crinkle as the plastic came apart.
“I mean, unfortunate allergy plus sweet tooth is basically asking for disaster in the first place,” the man continued, popping the candy up into the air with a flick of his thumb and catching it perfectly in his mouth. “Everyone will assume that a couple peanut ones got mixed in at the factory. Probably won’t be an investigation at all.”
Outwardly, I was still keeping it together, but inside, I could feel myself folding, collapsing. This stranger, whoever he was, somehow knew all about my dark, twisted, evil plan! He would turn me in, and I’d go to prison, and probably be forced to be some burly inmate’s-
“Relax, I’m not going to turn you in!” the man called out, chuckling in a good-natured sort of manner. He leaned over, clapping me on the back, and I nearly choked. “Hell, I’m here to congratulate you!”
“Who are you?” I asked again, staring at him. There was something really off-putting about his eyes, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. “How do you know about my plan?”
Again, he chuckled at me, like a parent watching a small toddler fail to build a tower of blocks. “Why, I’m a devil, of course!” he said, as if this should be obvious.
I stared at him. “The Devil?”
“A devil,” he corrected. “Asmodeus is my actual name. Not as big as good ol’ Lucern himself, but pretty high up on the chain, if I do say so myself.” The man straightened his suit lapels, preening a bit.
I just stared back at him. Devils were real? And one of them was here talking to me? “Are, are you taking me to Hell?” I asked him, wondering if I should run away. Probably not. If this devil-man, Asmodeus, could appear in a secure building, he could probably catch an out-of-shape mid-level executive.
“Of course not!” Asmodeus replied happily. “But I’ve had my eye on you for a while, wondering how you were going to solve this dilemma. Sleeping with your underlings is great while it’s happening, but the endings are always just so messy.” The man emphasized that last word, drawing it out almost like a hiss.
“And killing her like this, using her food allergy, well, it’s really a stroke of brilliance!” he went on, full of energy, as if we were discussing a pep rally and not a murder. “I’m just here to shake your hand, as one respectable evil-doer to another!”
And the devil stuck out his hand towards me, still grinning.
I stared back at him, not reaching out for that offered hand. The man wasn’t threatening, but his eyes were staring at me, dark and deep. In fact, I realized as I stared back at him, his eyes were darker than any human’s eyes ought to be. There was no pupil, just two inky black irises gazing back at me.
After another minute, Asmodeus chuckled again, letting his hand fall back down to his side. “Well, that’s okay,” he said. “Hitler didn’t like shaking hands either.”
I looked down desperately at the candies that I was mixing in with the other treats in the woman’s desk drawer. “I could take the candies out?” I offered, my voice pleading.
But Asmodeus was shaking a finger at me, a naughty little “no-no” gesture. “Doesn’t work that way!” he said gaily. “It’s all about the intention. You’re already well and deep in it, now – might as well go through with it, so at least you don’t have two problems!”
The man looked as if he wanted to say more, but a beeping from his pocket made him start, and he pulled out a sleek black rectangle. “Oh, well, gotta go,” he said, sounding only slightly crestfallen. “Other sinners to see, you know. But hey, good luck with the murder!”
There was no gout of flame. I simply blinked, and he was gone. I was alone in the office once again.
For a long time, I stood there, no thoughts moving in my head, just staring down at the drawer in front of me.
It had seemed like the perfect answer. Hell, it still was. One little candy, and the insufferable woman would be gone from my life. No more blackmailing me for promotions, because in a moment of weakness I’d let her lead me up to her hotel room!
I could take the candies out, perhaps. I’d mixed them in, but I could just throw out the whole lot. It would be obvious that someone had been in her desk, but maybe it was just a janitor. She wouldn’t know the bullet she’d dodged.
Slowly, however, I pushed the drawer shut.
I knew that I was already a bad person. I’d gone too far to recover, slipped too far down that alluring path.
Maybe I should have shaken his hand after all.