General Fiction posted August 10, 2021 Chapters: 3 4 -5- 6... 

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Frank and Joel discuss things

A chapter in the book Looking for Demons


by snodlander

Joel has been contracted to track down a demon called Frank on behalf of Frank's friend. There might be a link to an underworld character called The Croatian. Frank appears in Joel's apartment and a
Joel lay on the floor.  He opened his eyes.  Immediately before him Frank stared back.  Joel screamed and tried to crawl backwards, but excruciating pain shot through his side.
“Is she all right?”  The creature was shaking.
“Ms. Anderton.  Is she all right?”  The voice had a pleading note, quite at odds to the huge bulk of the speaker.
“Yeah, yeah, she’s all right.  She’s fine.  Wish I was.  Can I get up?”
Frank leaned back.  Joel tried to lift himself up, but the pain in his side suggested that was a bad idea.
“On second thoughts, I’ll just lie here for a moment.”  A cracked rib for sure.  Maybe two.  And his arms felt bruised.  Was any contract worth this?  Behind Frank, the protection gewgaw still hung from the lintel.  “How did you get in past the spells?”
“I’m not a demon.  How do you know her?” Frank asked.
“Ms. Anderton?  She hired me.”
“What for?”
“To find you, what else do you think?”
“She wants to find me?  Why?”
“Why do you think?  She misses you.  She wants more chats about art and crap.”
Frank sat back on his haunches.  “I miss her too.  I’ve never conversed with someone the way we can converse.”
Joel couldn’t marry the voice with the body.  It was really irritating him.  A creature with so much brawn, with more teeth and claws than any creature had a right to, should be grunting in monosyllables.  No trace of an Assyrian accent, either, whatever an Assyrian accent sounded like.
“Yeah?  So go talk to her.  Phone her at least, for Christ’s sake.”
Frank shook his head.  “I can’t.”
“Yeah, guys always say that, but if you really miss her, you can swallow your pride.”
“No.  I mean I can’t.  I’m in servitude.  I am bound to his will.  I cannot disobey nor leave him without his command.”
“The Croatian?”
Frank nodded, staring at the ground.
“Tough break, Frank.”
“No!” roared Frank, shoving a talon millimetres from Joel’s face.  “You don’t call me that.  Only she calls me that.”
“Okay, okay.”  Joel raised his hands.  “No offence.  That’s the only name I got for you.”  His brain finally caught up with his ears.  “Wait!  You’re not a demon?  Seriously?  You want to borrow a mirror?”
“I am Ashur, Slayer of Tiamat, Creator of order from chaos, Father of Mankind!”
“Okay, okay, Ashur.  Now I know.”  The name seemed familiar.  Joel tried to recall his cursory study of Assyrian mythology from a few days ago.  “Hang on.  Ashur.  Ashur?  The god, Ashur?  King of all the other gods?  That Ashur?”
Ashur (aka Frank) drew himself up.  “There is no other.”
“Oh, okay.”  It wasn’t erudite, but he’d never addressed a god before.  Well, at least, never in person.  “And the Croatian, he’s put a spell on you?”
Ashur gave Joel a withering look.  “Spell?  I am a god.  Spells have no effect on me.  You think I serve mankind and your ointments and mutterings?”
“You said the Croatian bound you though.”
Ashur looked down at his feet.  “He knows my name.”
“So?  I mean, I know your name now too.  Does that make me the boss of you?”
Ashur growled and Joel reminded himself that the god in front of him had given him a couple of cracked ribs without thinking.
“Not that name.  The other name.”
“Sorry?  What, Fr – I mean, the name she calls you?”

“No.”  Ashur waved the suggestion away as though it were a fly.  “We have two names.  There is the name you know us by.  Sometimes it changes.  If we wish, we can hear you when you call on us, but it has no power.  I’m talking about my real name.  The name in here.”  Ashur thumped his chest so hard Joel felt the repercussion through the floorboards.  “My real name.  The name of my soul.”
“And the Croatian has that?”
Ashur nodded.
“So what if – wait one.  Let me get up.  Can’t think lying down.”
Wincing, Joel levered himself up onto his elbows.  Ashur grabbed him by an arm and lifted him to his feet.  Joel screamed as loud as his ribs allowed him, then hobbled over to the couch.  He let himself down gingerly.
“So, what if someone else had your name.  Say, Ms. Anderton.  Would you be bound to her will as well?”
“Not as well.  I can only be bound to one person.”
Joel spread his arms.  “There’s your answer then.  We’ll get her to bind you and job done.”
Ashur shook his head.  “No.  The Croatian would know straight away.  We are bound to each other.  All he would need to do is bind me to him again.  At best it would be a tug of war between them.”
“What if he met with an accident?”
“I am bound to him.  I must protect him.”
“Okay, okay, but there’s a plan there somewhere.  Let me work on it.  In the meantime, how about letting me know your Secret Squirrel name, so I can give it to Ms. Anderton?”
“I cannot.”
“Why not?”
Ashur sighed, as though explaining such simple things to an idiot was taxing.  “I cannot reveal my true name.  You must discover it.”
“And how do I do that?”
Ashur shook his head.  “In five thousand years, no human has discovered it.”
“Except the Croatian.  How did he find it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, who else knows it?”
“No one.”
“Help me out here, guy.  Someone must have known.”
“No one, only myself and –”
“No, she would not.”
“Who wouldn’t?”
“And she is?”
“My wife.”
“Oh, you don’t know married women very well, do you.  And now you’re bound to The Croatian, she gets the house and car.”
“Never mind.  Does she have this secret name thing as well?”
“Of course.”
“If I could get you and Ms. Anderton back to your book club meetings, would you trust me with your wife’s real name?”
Ashur stared through Joel, his lips moving silently.  Finally, he nodded.  He gave Joel a name that hurt Joel’s throat as he repeated it.
“Okay, leave it with me, big boy.  Give me a day or two, and I’ll see if I can’t get the pair of you back together again.  Okay?”
“Okay.”  Ashur nodded, then stepped towards Joel, towering over him.  “Now I must obey my master.”
“What do you mean?”
“He bound me to deliver a message.”  He pushed his face close to Joel’s.  Joel tried to sink back into the couch.  “Leave him alone.”  Ashur stood up straight again.
Relief flooded Joel’s system.  “That’s it?  Okay, cool.  Message received.”
“And he told me to break a leg.”
Ashur stepped past Joel, picked up a chair and stood in front of the terrified man.  “Sorry.  I am bound to obey him.  Break a leg were his exact words.”  He shrugged an apology.  “It’s exactly what he said.  He didn’t say which leg.”  He lifted the chair and snapped a chair leg in two as though it were a twig.  “Nor which chair.”
And then suddenly he wasn’t there.
Joel waited until the shaking stopped and the tears dried up.  Then he had things he had to do.  He reached for the phone, then remembered the empty offering cup.  He looked down at the floor.  The carry box that had the mice in lay on its side.  There were no mice to be seen.

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