A tale of Love, Deceit...and Frozen Dinners (in three parts)
The Underground, a little hole-in-the-wall joint on the corner of Brimstone and Infinity, has always been a storehouse for has-beens and never-weres. This night was no different; regulars clustered at the bar with drinks that the tender always had waiting for them when they came in, because their attendance was like clockwork. Sometimes, never-befores and never-agains littered the tables and booths that the Underground could call its own. A busted Juke-Box, that no one was sure had ever been whole, sat in the corner and only played one song: Highway to Hell
Uriel, the fire-headed fallen angel that could be found lurking in the Underground too often to be a casual and not often enough to be a regular, slid into the bar this night in a bad way; the flames of her locks swirling with her mood, boots, black jeans, leather jacket flapping open with her steps to reveal her crimson shirt.
Double lava, Tealeaves, She called out to the bar tender, And make it steamy. Crumpet McTealeaves turned to Uriel, he was your run-of-the-mill vampire, except he moonlighted as a shopkeeper up on the surface; some place he called New England. He had platinum blond hair that everyone knew he dyed, and often wore black nail polish that he thought made him look bad.
Boiling like always. he said in his signature Im coming on to you voice. He and Uriel had a thing a few years back; this was before he was Crumpet McTealeaves when he was known as Spyke. He changed the name after Uriel had broken up with him and it was an ongoing debate on whether he did it to annoy her or, if you believed his story, changed the name so hed have a good cover in the shop.
You know how I want it. Now can the tealeaves. Uriel barked at Crumpet, she wasnt in the mood to deal with his sad attempts to rehash a relationship that had gone the way of rancid milk. Crumpet wrinkled his nose and raised his eyebrows as if to say Oh well. He tuned around, mixed the drink and handed it to Uriel with a wink. Her hair moving rapidly now, Uriel opened her mouth to give him more than a piece of her mind.
Cool it down chicky babe, wouldnt want to burn down our grubby little bar now would we? The voice spoke from the darker end of the bar. Uriel turned around to see who had spoken to her and found a shadow demon sitting at the bar, holding a drink that looked like swirling smoke. A smile crept across Uriels lips when her eyes met those of the shadow demon that interrupted her plans to destroy Crumpet McTealeaves.
John Doe...never would have thought Id see you in here, sucking down drinks doled out by Tealeaves over there. Uriel moved towards her old friend, not remembering the last time the glowing amber of his eyes had peered out of his coal colored face and into hers.
Yeah? Well a lots happened since you and I crossed paths.... John spoke almost to himself as he took a sip of his drink.
Really now? Thats strange. Last I heard you were doing pretty well for yourself. Uriel took a seat next to John Doe.
Oh sure, best P.I. this side of Hades, John said while turning to Uriel, Even got myself a rep on the surface. Before long it became common belief that, if you wanted it done, John Doe was your man. But that was all before she walked into my office.
Eve Swanson... Disdain saturated Johns voice as he said the name.
The Siren? The one that sings up on the surface? All the humans go crazy for her. Out of all the names John could have said, Eve Swanson was the farthest from Uriels expectations.
Thats the one babe. John finished off his drink.
Well what happened? Uriel was too interested now to walk away, she remembered all to well what Eve Swanson was like from their days together at Limbo High.
She walked into my office one night, still wearing the necklace Lucifer gave her on prom night, and the job entails that I listen to anyones problem so I told her to take a seat....
She sat down in front of my desk, like a hundred other people had done before her, with this sad kind of look on her face. Of course, with Eve Swanson, I knew that look could be as sneaky and deadly as a king cobra. Wed all seen that look a thousand times at Limbo High, her lips pouting for Lucifer to do something any time she didnt get her way. Lucifer, being the class prez and captain of the football team, had the power to get her whatever she wanted. Funny that she kept that necklace, seeing as how she left his sorry ass an hour after he gave it to her.
Its about my mother... Eve was on the brink of tears, tears only for evoking sympathy, but tears nonetheless, She would have come down here herself to talk to you, but shes been so occupied with trying to keep herself in business that she hasnt had the chance. Thats why she sent me.
I might have known that it would have had something to do with her mother, Little Debbie. She and her sister, Grandma Cookies, had been battling each other for ages in the snack food business.
So whats going on that she would need me? I asked her, it wasnt often that snack ladies got a P.I. involved in their secrets, thats what the Keebler Elves were for; masters of snack food organization. This must have been big, if it was too secret for the elves to handle, Grandma Cookies must have done something colossal.
Well, you know, my mother has been the vanguard of the snack business for years...if you dont count those blasted Keebler Elves, no one can hold a candle to that family. But recently Grandma Cookies has been sending letters to my mother...letters claiming to have a new recipe for Devils Food Cake. The Elves have already been threatening to throw my mother out of business; the Devils Food Cake is all we have. We cant risk Grandma Cookies competing in that market. John you have to help us.... Her last words were full of helpless pleading that I had little to no sympathy for.
Hey sweetheart, I dont have the time to mess around with the affairs of the snack business...its too human for me. I lit a cigarette and leaned back in my chair.
John please, Eves voice got more desperate, I know the snack food business doesnt concern you...but its all my mother has. We need you to go see what Grandma Cookies is up to. I should have known then that this was some kind of magnificent ploy, Eve was huge on the surface...her mothers business meant nothing to her.
Whats in it for me? This is no regular job, I mess with the wrong elf and I could get myself in deep. On the other hand, I can send you packing and wait for any number of jobs to walk right into my lap. I took a drag on the cigarette in my mouth; it was funny to see Eve asking for help.
John, cant you do an old friend a favor? She leaned forward, trying her best to get me to do what she wanted.
You were never a friend Eve, My words were given shape from the smoke, You caused me to make the one mistake I actually regret back in Limbo...you think I should have any feeling for you?
Im sorry John...what do you want from me? My mother needs your help. If not for me, do it for her. Eve sat back in the chair and looked at the floor.
Eve, I stood up and looked out of my office window; Ill do the job, but dont think it has anything to do with you. This is simply because I have a code of honor, something you should look into.
Thank you John, my mother will be very grateful. Id stay, but I have a concert tonight on the surface. Eve made her way to my door.
I bet you do... I mumbled to myself as I heard her heels click down the hallway, Some things never change.
The first thing I decided to do was the most logical, head down to see Debbie and get some info on what was going down with the Devils Food and maybe figure out where I would find her sister. It wasnt that hard to find the place, she lived next door to a fire imp named the Muffin Man on Drury Lane. I knocked on the little wooden door with her logo painted on it.
Debbie? I called...no answer, Eve sent me over, are you in there? I knocked a few more times but no one came to the door. This was strange; Eve said that her mother was working too hard to even come down to my office, right? So why wasnt she answering? I tried the door. It was open. I knew something was horribly wrong the moment I walked into the place; black smoke, a lot of it, came billowing toward me from the kitchen.
I ran toward the source of the smoke, finding the kitchen filled with the stuff, I could barely see. I fumbled around, looking for the oven...bingo. Wrenching open the door, I pulled out the smoking tray and threw it toward the window. Glass shattered as the steel cookie sheet flew out of the fragile frame and the smoke began to flow out of the kitchen. Thats when I saw her.
As the smoke cleared out of the room her form began to take shape, Little Debbie laid out on her kitchen floor, traces of elfin magic around her wrists and ankles. Shed been bound to her own floor. A rainbow chip cookie rested over each of Little Debbies eyes, the calling card of the Keebler Elves, Grandma Cookies must have been working with them all along. There was only one thing left to do.
Grandma Cookies lived in a little gingerbread cottage just outside of the city. I figured that this would be the only place I would be able to bring her down. As the cab driver took the small roads that led out to her place I kept thinking of the cruelty of the crime committed against Little Debbie, her hands and feet bound with elfin magic, there was no way her witchcraft would have allowed her to escape while bound to the linoleum in her kitchen. No doubt Grandma Cookies would have known that, being a witch herself.
The cab came to a stop in front of the house, all decorated for Christmas, and I got out. Grandma Cookies answered her door when I knocked, I told her the news about her sister, and she broke down.
What do you mean Debbies dead!? She screamed, Debbie cant be dead!
You seem a little more shocked about this than I would have thought Grandma Cookies, I said with interest, From what I hear, you hated her.
Of course I hated her, Grandma Cookies spoke slowly, From the time that we were children it was always about Debbie. Debbie this, and Debbie that...I couldnt stand it. Ive bided my time for so long to make Debbie suffer, prove to everyone that Ive always been better than that little twit. Now I had my perfect chance and the little brat ends up dead!? It didnt take a genius to figure out that this Grandma was one sick cookie.
Ropes of licorice flew out of the gingerbread walls and Grandma Cookies wrapped them around me with a wave of her hand. Guess she didnt know just what a shadow demon is capable of. I sunk into the floor and arose in the womans shadow, taking a hold of Grandma Cookies wrist. Two gunshots rang out, the womans hand flew out of mine...bleeding.
I ask you to do one thing, Eve stepped into the room holding a smoking gun and looking at Grandma Cookies who lay on the floor with a gunshot wound in her heart, Investigate Grandma Cookies. It should have been simple. You find my mother dead, come arrest Grandma Cookies here, and let me have my happy ending!
Eve, I stuttered, What do you mean your happy ending? my mind reeled at everything that was going on. Obviously, none of it was making any sense.
My happy ending, you fool. You think I like being a starlet on the surface? Let me tell you something, John, starlets die. No matter how alluring my voice is to those stupid humans, a starlet will always die. Frozen dinners are forever!
A week later Eve Swansons frozen dinner products arrived on the shelves of all the human supermarkets. She wasnt singing anymore, Grandma Cookies and Little Debbie were gone, and Eve apparently had a good thing going with the Keebler Elves. That week they spread all the dirt they could think of on me and my work, and in a few days, I was out of a job.
That all happened about a month ago...I havent really been able to find much of a job since.
Crumpet came by John and Uriel, picking up their glasses as John finished his story. He placed the empty drink holders in the sink and walked back over to them to ask if either of them wanted a refill or something else.
John? He heard Uriel ask.
Yeah? John replied.
You said, somewhere in the beginning of your story, that Eve caused you to make the one mistake that you regretted back in Limbo...what was it? Crumpet felt like he was eavesdropping on something secret as Uriel asked her question.
Oh thats easy, John turned to look at her, You.
A month before prom I asked you to meet me a Lava Park, do you remember?
Of course...you never showed up. Uriel gave John a frown as Crumpet saw the look of memory wash over her. Crumpet felt anger flood into his veins, John was moving in on his girl.
That was Eve, Id had detention that day...but I knew Id be done with that in time to meet you. Eve had other plans; she was there for Drama and saw me rushing to leave. But she stopped me. She got Mr. Katz to make me help sweep out the theatre and stage. By the time I was done and had made it to Lava Park, you were gone. I was going to ask you to prom with me, but we didnt talk for a week and when you finally spoke to me again Spyke had asked you. John finished his story and looked away from Uriel.
Then I went with Spyke, we dated, it died. He ended up becoming Crumpet McTealeaves...and I ended up basically nowhere. Crumpet saw Uriel turn Johns face toward hers, You really regret not making it in time? She asked.
I do... John answered her and the spare glass in Crumpets hand shattered. They both looked at him as he gave a nervous laugh and began to clean the shards from the floor and rinsed off his hand. When Crumpet had finished cleaning up his mess, he looked back toward the two who were now locked in a kiss.
John, lets get out of here. He heard Uriel say so quietly it was almost a whisper.
Okay. John took Uriel by the hand and stood up, then he put his arm around her and they walked out of the Underground. Crumpet picked up a glass and threw it at the Juke-Box. It fell silent for a moment, and then did something it never did before, it changed tracks. The notes of Heartbreak Hotel danced out of the machine, and Crumpet stared angrily at it. He brought his fist down into the hard wood of the bar, leaving a dent and breaking a few bones in his hand.