This outtake used to be a lot longer, Then I cut it down. Now it’s out. I don’t think we’re gonna miss it since (a) it’s not very good writing and (b) it’s kind of all over the place. So 6500 words down (I cut some other stuff besides this), 8500 to go on Act Two. (Acts One, Three, and Four are done). Argh.
Nick opened the door to Rich’s cabin and let Nita go in before he flipped on the light switch by the door
The cabin sprang into sharp focus, which did it no favors, and Nick went over to the desk in the middle of the room and sat down.
Richiel was obviously not a demon of order. The desk was a mess of file folders, papers, ledgers, a couple of old paper coffee cups from Sandy’s, half a violently-colored jam pastry, and, as Nick sorted through the papers and dumped the cups and the pastry in the trash, underneath it all, a handgun.
“He wouldn’t keep anything important here,” Nita said. “This is public. He’d put whatever was evidence someplace private.” She opened a door in the back wall. “Like in here.”
Nick looked past her and saw an unmade bed and a table with a beer can on it. “Fine. You look in there.”
She disappeared into the bedroom, and Nick turned back to the papers and the ledgers and continued to sort things, which felt familiar and right and unemotional. He’d just about finished organizing everything including the contents of the desk, when he heard Nita call his name.
He went into the bedroom and found her on the floor by the bed, one arm reaching under it.
“I found an acamas box,” she said, so he stretched out on the floor beside her to see underneath the bed.
The box was there, just out of her reach.
“Hold on,” he said, and reached for it. He could touch it, but he couldn’t get a grip on it, so he rolled up on one elbow and bent to see better and found himself leaning over her.
I’ve been here before, he thought. But not with her. Not with those dark eyes looking up at him and–
“Can you get it?” She looked up to see him staring down at her. “What? What’s wrong?”
“This seems . . . familiar.”
“You looking down on a woman lying beside you?” Nita rolled her eyes. “Given that you were a rich, pretty, immoral playboy in the 1500s, I imagine it is.” She went up on one elbow, too, so their faces were level, noses almost touching. “You’re dead now, New Guy. Get the box.”
“Right,” Nick said, staring at her.
Her mouth was right there. It had always been right there, under her nose, the logical part of his brain said, sneering at him, but there was another part of his brain, a part he was pretty sure had been asleep for five hundred years, lurking beneath the surface, waking up now and saying, That mouth is yours, take it.
“What?” she said again.
“I’m losing my mind.”
“There’s a lot of that going around.” Nita looked back under the bed. “Can you get the box?”
Screw the box, his lizard brain said. Get her.
He bent closer to her, and her eyes widened, and then the door to the cabin opened and he heard Rab say, “Nick? You in here?”
Go away, or I will smite you.
He could hear Rab crossing the floor in the office, saying “Tell me Nita is, too, so we don’t have to put this baph in . . .”
Rab’s voice trailed off and Nick looked over his shoulder to see Rab staring at them from the doorway.
“We got the baph,” Rab said, sounding a little faint, and then Jeo showed up behind him and looked equally startled.
Nick got to his feet and dusted off his hands. “Richiel’s acamas box is under that bed. Get it out, please.”
He headed back into the office, not looking to see if Nita was following, and heard Rab whisper to Jeo, “Did he just say ‘please’?”
I really am losing my mind, he thought, and then felt a cold draft. He looked up to see a ninety-pound baph in the open doorway, looking as if it had been doped with not quite enough tranquilizer.
This never happens to me in Hell. It might be time to go back–
That mouth, his lizard brain said.
“Shut up,” he said to his lizard brain and went to pull the baph inside.
Nita followed the boys out of the bedroom, trying to make sense of what had just happened, and stopped when she saw a baph stuck in the doorway, its horns jammed between the frame.
“Knife,” Nick said to Rab.
Rab got out his pocket knife.
Nita went closer. “You are not going to sacrifice that goat.”
“I am not going to sacrifice that goat,” Nick said, taking the knife. “Flame.”
Rab handed him a lighter.
Nick opened the knife and ran the lighter up and down over the blade. Then he handed the lighter back and looked at the doped-up baph. “Sorry about this.” He took Nita’s left hand, slashed the knife across her palm as she screamed, and then smeared her bleeding palm down the forehead of the baph.
“Was that only way to get blood?” Nita said, holding her hand.
“I have disinfectant,” Rab said.
“There’s not enough Neosporin in the world.” Nita looked at the now bloody and confused baph. “Who knows where that goat has been?”
“Move,” Nick said to Rab, and when Rab stepped aside, he opened a hellgate into Niflheim in the doorframe and pushed the goat through backward.
“That hurt, you bastard,” Nita called through the door, but she didn’t sound that angry. “So is this going to make me warm now?”
“That’s the idea,” Jeo said, and then Thanatos appeared in the gate after the goat had gone through, thin and grey-green and ghostly as ever.
“I told you no more,” he began and then stopped. “Oh. Hello, Nick.”
“We need to talk about your business with Richiel,” Nick said, and Thanatos sighed.
“Hi, Grandpa.” Nita was still holding her bloody hand, but she smiled at Thanatos now.
“Amanita?” Thanatos blinked. “How nice to see you again.”
“You can see him?” Jeo said.
“Of course,” Nita said. “He’s right there. Why wouldn’t I see him?”
Because humans can’t see Hell, Nick thought. Not even if they’re the great-great-granddaughter of a demon and the daughter of a Devil. And Hell had pulled her back there for equilibrium, not Earth.
They were missing something.
“Never mind,” Jeo was saying. “Of course, you can see him.”
“So how’s the family?” Thanatos was saying to Nita.
You’re part of Rich’s demon exploitation, Nick thought. Don’t think you’re going to distract me from that.
“They’re good, good,” Nita was saying.
“Do you have pictures?” Thanatos said.
“Uh, sure.” Nita cupped her hand to stomach and fished her billfold out of her bag.
“Bandage her, Rab,” Nick said, but Nita stepped through the doorway into Hell first and took two photos out of her billfold, careful not to get blood on them. “This is Mitzi, my mother, your granddaughter. And this is Keres, my big sister. She’s wonderful.”
“Oh.” Thanatos held the photos carefully. “They look like good people.”
“They’re the best.” Nita hesitated. “Would you like to keep the pictures?”
“Yes,” Thanatos said, still looking at them. “Do you have others? Of the others? In my family?”
“I’ll get you some.” Nita went up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “It’s nice to see you again, Grandpa.”
Thanatos looked surprised and then he smiled.
In all the years Nick had known the old demon, he’d never seen him smile.
“Nita,” Nick said. “Get out of Hell, please. Thanatos, stay there. I want to know why you thought it was all right to exploit demons.”
“I didn’t exploit demons,” Thanatos said, his smile disappearing. “I would never do that.”
“And there goes a nice moment,” Rab said, frowning at Nick.
“I don’t do nice moments,” Nick said, feeling like himself again. “I’m dead.”
“Not as dead as you used to be,” Rab said, but he said it under his breath, so Nick ignored him and went into Hell.
At least in Hell, he wouldn’t lose his mind and lunge for Nita.
He looked at Nita as she passed him, smiling back at her demon grandpa.
I’m really not as dead as I used to be, he thought and went to yell at Thanatos.