Warning: Adult Language. Please enjoy this second part of Chapter 1. If you missed the first part, find it here! You can also pick up the book in our store as an ebook or a paperback.
Right. So there was this fancy envelope on my desk. The first wax seal was the Commission’s, a caduceus with the snake in an S around the rod to make a dollar sign. Occult wisdom and profit combined. Cute. The second seal was blank. I put my thumb up against it and both seals split neatly down the middle. The nicest thing that would have happened if someone else tried to open it was the envelope catching fire.
I read through the enclosed material quickly because the ink was going to fade, or the paper fall apart, in a minute or two. Could have scanned it with my phone, but probably that would have cursed the electronics, so I contented myself with making a few notes on a legal pad.
The whole first page was pretentious bullshit. Whoever it was at the Commission liked to pretend they were old-time British admiralty. “Wherefore fail you not in the execution of our commands except at your peril”. Et cetera. The meat of the case was distressingly thin, but it was my kind of work. Rogue demon. Broken contract. The creature somehow managed to sever or refute its binding, escaped from the secure sorcery floor of the Goldman Sachs headquarters building on West Street. Geomantic scrying had failed to narrow down its location, but the demon was thought to be in New York City somewhere. My job would be to track it down and then return it, banish it, or destroy it, in diminishing order of preference. My personal preferred order was the reverse. I hated infernals. I had a contact, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs, the creature’s supervisor, and that was it.
I’d just finished noting down Ms. Sakashvili’s contact info when I felt a sudden urge to turn away from the document. When I looked back it was a sudoku puzzle. It had always been a sudoku puzzle. Fucking Commission. I hated their little games.
When I called, she picked up on the first ring.
“Sakashvili.” Cool, clipped delivery, just a hint of an accent.
“This is Nora Simeon. I assume you’ve been informed who I am.”
“Ms. Simeon. Yes, I have.”
“I need to speak to you in person. How about in an hour, at your office?”
“Impossible. Staff meeting. I can give you a slot on Tuesday.”
Today was Thursday. For me this was one of the few joys of taking on a case from the Commission, pushing people around who normally wouldn’t give me the time of day.
“An hour from now will be fine,” I said. “Or if you like, I can mark you down as intransigent in my report to the board. And I don’t mean the board of Goldman Sachs.”
A pause. I imagined she was gritting her teeth, trying to control her breathing.
“Just as you say. I’ll see you at 2:30. Please don’t be late.”
I wasted ten minutes getting ready to face the outside world, always a problem for me. I didn’t say goodbye to Spark when I left; it was always with me wherever I went if I needed it for something. I didn’t smoke, though, so needing it was pretty rare.
It was a sunny autumn day in Manhattan. Not too bad. Ten minutes from my office to Penn Station. Thirty more on the #1 train down to Chamber Street. And another five minutes to walk the two blocks through the mix of tourists and bankers to the hulking, godawful Goldman Sachs HQ on West Street. Right on time. Except for having to pass security. Oh well.
Approaching the entrance plaza, I saw the shiny neo-brutalist skyscraper was practically festooned with security cameras. Lots of plate glass out front, with poster-color murals on the walls, but also lots of square corners and surprisingly simple decor. I suppose they must have made a conscious decision not to show off. I walked up to the front desk, because I knew getting through to Sakashvili wouldn’t be as simple as looking her up in a directory. And indeed, I went through two iterations of unenlightened security people before someone showed up who knew who I was, who she was, and was authorized to take me to her.
The man who finally arrived to meet me was 6’6″, wedge-shaped, buzz-cut, in a black business suit, and he had a curly wire connected to his earpiece. I was surprised he wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but the bulge beneath his lapel was certainly part of the costume. He didn’t say a word to me or the regular security guards, just nodded his head slightly, and I followed him into the elevators. We went up to the 25th floor, got out, walked past another security desk with no words exchanged, and entered an elevator for which access to the floor had to be unlocked with a passcard carried by my guy. I was thinking of him as my guy at this point, imagining what he’d be like in bed. Domineering at first, probably, but that wouldn’t last. By the time we got up to the executive floor, I’d already gotten to the point of our breakup in my little fantasy. It involved a romantic sunset on the High Line and an exchange of gunfire. I was just working out what I’d be wearing at the funeral when we got out and transferred to yet another elevator, this one requiring a key to enter. My guy left me then, and I left off daydreaming for the moment.
This elevator was obviously secured against etheric influences, with planetary amulets embedded in the walls and what looked like a silver hexagram engraved in the floor. But it was a little too shiny to be silver. I crouched and sniffed the metal. My nose tingled with negative ions. Stabilized azoth warding circle. Fancy and expensive. A demon who got into this elevator without a sorcerer escort would be banished and incinerated simultaneously.
I went down, down, down, with no indication of the passage of floors except a flashing arrow by the elevator control bank. At last the trip was over, the elevator door opened, and there I was in an underground atrium that practically reeked of magical wards. Sakashvili was waiting for me.