A devil sobbed on the bar counter, the contract in his hand. “Why was I so stupid? How did I manage to sell my soul to the human?”
Ilene nocked her head on her head, and minded the horns. It’d just be like the sheriff to ignore the situation and bitch her out about having to order another hat.
Then she walked through the saloon doors into Babel’s bar, her revolver heavy on her hip. Heads turned to look at her; a few of the stitched turned immediately back to their drinks and their mournful prayers, while a couple of convicts only half taken by devil’s rot eyed her.
Did they think they might look like her, with their sin seed’s fully sprouted, or did they know better than to assume their mortal shells would hold up that long?
Ilene took a seat at the bar and eyed the wavering form. Hot flecks of lantern oil rolled down his obsidian face, flecks of fire danced across his fingertips, charring the paper, but not letting a single bit of it be marred past readability.
“Who did you sign it with?” Ilene asked, carefully.
The devil’s head turned in defiance of the rest of his neck to stare at her wildly. No bones in that neck, just a reasonable facsimile, perfect for a brief flirtation with the mortal realms.
“A man named Carnegie,” The devil said.
Every head in the bar, regardless of how firmly it was attached in the case of the stitched turned and glared at the devil. The devil’s obsidian skin melted like hot wax under the attention until Ilene reached over and squeezed his shoulder.
Carnegie. Owner of the Leveled Railroad. Keeper of the gate between life and death, at this time of year.
Someone had wanted this devil ruined.
“Shit assignment, huh?” Ilene asked.
“Agh, I was going to be an arch-devil if I pulled this off!” The devil whined, pitifully. The bartender slid another glass across the bar; looping mixes of lantern oil and coal oil, trace amounts of human blood.
Ilene nodded at the tender and took a sip. Wasn’t too good on her human tongue, but it’d pass for ambrosia to the devil.
Ilene would have said he was farther from an arch-devil than most she’d seen out of the lower levels of the below, but Babel had a way of thinning out most lower devils, much as the desert eagle had ways of dealing with feather mites.
She didn’t say that out loud, though, that’d just be rude.
“So what are most of your skills, anyway? Swindling, obviously,” Ilene drawled, lazily. She leaned back in her chair, her horns keeping her hat attached.
“You’re a bit far from home yourself,” the devil said, evasively. “Aren’t you a fourth ranked demon of envy?”
“Covet, actually,” Ilene said. “Though I go by Ilene up here.”
She rummaged through her supplies and looked about for paper, before nudging the devil to take a drink. He did, and something slowly relaxed.
“And your name,” she asked, signing up the laziest employment contract she could muster. The sheriff might yell at her later for not giving a shit about loopholes, but she was feeling generous.
That and she was going to give the devil a job, and that was a hard enough punishment as is.
“Eleanor,” The devil blinked. “Wait, that’s not my name.” His tongue, long, like a hummingbird, flicked out of his mouth. Ilene lifted the drink up to it, and grabbed his hand to keep it steady.
“Your old name doesn’t matter, Eleanor,” Ilene said, as kindly as a demon of Envy could possibly manage (which given Ilene’s temperament, was especially little), writing his name down across the contract.
“I’ve extorted numerous things!” Eleanor said. “So yes, that is my experience.”
“Lovely, we have an opening at the bank.”
Eleanor’s smoky face blinked a few times. “The Bank?”
“It’s the pink building down the street, covered in the flayed skin of the stitched leaving their contracts. You won’t miss it,” Ilene mused, pointing. Then she presented the contract for him to sign.
He squinted down at it. “This… is just giving me a job. Are demons bad at contracts?”
“You already sold your soul to the owner, Eleanor,” Ilene said, stealing the rest of his drink and downing it. “I’m just here to make sure you follow the laws of the land.”
She set the drink to the side and clapped him on the back. “Welcome to Babel.”