"You trade people's dreams for other people's dirty laundry. No wonder you like it down here; you belong under a rock."
"I'm sorry you see it that way," Galvin sighed.
"You know I can't let you keep on doing this."
"What are you going to do? Kill us all? And our children, too?"
Angel said nothing.
"What we do isn't so different from what everyone in L.A. does," Galvin said. "We give people their dreams. And we exact a high price from those too weak to resist temptation."
"This town has enough people like you already,"Angel said darkly. "Maybe you should think about relocating. BeforeIdecide to squeezeyou."
"I see your point. Perhaps it's time to move on; wehavehad an offer on the building-"
"-which you intended to sell all along."
"Ah. I keep forgetting you're a detective. I see you know about our negotiations with Wolfram and Hart."
"Is that what this was all about? Negotiations?"
"One must always negotiate from a position of strength, particularly when dealing with a powerful opponent. We thank you; eliminating the Quake demons raised Wolfram and Hart's offer considerably."
Angel reached into his pocket and pulled out the check the Serpentene had given him. He handed it to Galvin. "I can't accept this."
"Why not? It's perfectly good, I assure you."
"You and I have different definitions of 'good.' "
Galvin shrugged and took the check. "Suit yourself."
"One more thing. Why do Wolfram and Hart want this property so bad?"
Galvin smiled. "Emilio Maldonado."
"Never heard of him."
"He's a geologist who lost his son a few years ago. At least, that's what happened in this reality; in another, it was Emilio who died and his son whogrieved. We arranged an introduction between the two; each fills the other's needs. Emilio has a very different view of us than you do. To him, we're saviors."
"Until it's time to pay the price. What did he do for you in return?"
"He convinced Wolfram and Hart that this property was a great deal more valuable than it would seem to be. As a result, they are now willing to pay us a great deal of money, far more than its actual value.
'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'-I'm sure you've heard that before? Well, Wolfram and Hart will shortly have good reason to hate us both- doesn't that make you happy?"
"Be glad it doesn't. And while I approve of anything that puts a crimp in Wolfram and Hart's plans, what happens to Maldonado when they find out?"
"I believe that falls into your area, not ours. 'Helping the helpless'-correct?"
"I'll do what I can."
"I'm sure you will. associate Rome, however . . . something tells me he's on his own."
"If you take his bosses for as much money as I think you will, associate Rome will wish he'd never been sp.a.w.ned."
Galvin put his hands behind his head. "Oh, theamount will be considerable; you can trust me on that."
"Just what do they think they're getting?"
"A massive deposit of crude oil."
"Right," Angel said. "Snake oil . . ."
And despite himself, Angel laughed.
About the Author.
Don DeBrandt writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, superheroes, cyberpunk, cyberfolk, and cyberanything else. Spider Robinson has compared DeBrandt's fiction to that of Larry Niven and John Varley; his first novel,The Quicksilver Screen,madeLocusmagazine's recommended reading list for 1992. He's also published horror fiction inPulphouse,and a novella in the SF magazineHorizons. His fiction has earned him Honorable Mentions in both theYear's Best SFand theYear's Best Fantasy and Horror.
He was written two stage plays for high schools,Heart of GlassandHappy Hour at the Secret Hideout,and has worked as a freelancer for Marvel Comics on such titles asspiderman 2099and2099 Unlimited. His other comics work include several stories for the anthology comicFreeflight. He has short stories in all three volumes of theDeadlandsgaming anthology.
DeBrandt lives in Burnaby, B.C. His hobbies include leather-tasting, naked laughing gas hot tubbing, stilting, and being thrown off roofs by irate hotel security. Despite rumors to the contrary, he does not have an evil twin.There are no such things as evil twins.
The Quake demon's tail swung at Angel again, knocking him to his knees. A rocky claw locked around his left wrist. Another gripped his right shoulder.
A shockwave rippled between the two points, slamming up his arm and across his chest. He could feel his bones begin to hum as his muscles convulsed. In another moment his teeth would explode like firecrackers. . . .
His right arm was still free. He reached up and grabbed the demon's wrist, wrenching its claw loose from its grip on Angel's shoulder. Now he had it by one wrist and it had him by the other.
Angel put every ounce of strength into a lunge to the side. He took the demon with him-and both its rocky paws plunged into the soft earth of the tunnel.
Angel's body stopped shaking itself apart, and the ground began to shudder instead. Something Angel had learned over the years was that it was generally a lot harder to turn off a mystical source of energy than it was to turn it on . . . and whatever force the demon was generating probably had a much greater affinity for rock and earth than undead flesh.
He was still congratulating himself on his ingenuity when the tunnel collapsed.