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Authors: Cynthia Cross

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor

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BOOK: The Devil and Danielle Webster
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“No, I just ignore you—“

“—
Some
things never change!—“

“—as much as I can with all your stupid jokes!”

“Doug,” I said, attempting to regain control of the
conversation.  “Are you sure this mythological blow job really happened?”

“I’m sure!  We were probably sleeping for awhile first,
though.”


Ohhhh
.
 
No.  Now I get it.”

“Get what?”

“That’s why Mr. Lucifer insisted on the night being defined
as 12 midnight to 6 AM.  I’ll bet
your
Numbers 3
and 4 happened after 6 AM.” 

He was outraged.  “That was the best part!”

I couldn’t help laughing, taking satisfaction in his
disappointment.  “Remember, Doug, I specifically told him I did not want
to relive all the one-sided doing-you I used to do.  That’s in the
contract.  So you can sit here and watch yourself sleep, but we’re done.”

“Signing off then.
  I guess my
two more hours of sleep can start now.”  And he was gone.

But I wasn’t alone.  The Devil, once again, had joined
me. 

“I presume,” he said suavely, “that you are now a satisfied
customer.”

“Well, you presume wrong,” I told him.  “What on earth
were you thinking?  And don’t you make hateful faces at me.  I’ve
raised three children, you can’t scare me.”

Daemon Lucifer schooled his features to polite urbanity once
again.  “What was wrong this time?” he inquired patiently. 

I made a discovery.  “Now I get it!  You’re a
misogynist!  That sounded just like something a man would say. ‘What did I
do now?’” I mimicked, complete with heavy sigh and eye roll.  “I’ve
already been told I’m a typical woman, whatever that means, so don’t you start.”

“Okay, we’ll talk.”  Was I imagining the grim edge to
the Devil’s tone?  Was I finally getting under his skin?  “But I’m
calling
loverboy
back again.”

“Doug won’t like that,” I assured him.  “We’re both
sick of each other by now.”

“Let me remind you, all sales are—“

“Final, yeah, you already told me.  You also guaranteed
satisfaction, and you haven’t given me any yet.”

“Are you asking for yet ANOTHER night?” he asked, lifting
his eyebrows superciliously.

“No, I’m not.  I’m telling you satisfying me
is
not possible this way.”

Once again Doug had arrived, tumbling in a heap on my bed,
in time to hear my last comment.  “I can’t get no…” he hummed, looking
quite pleased with himself.

“Shut up, Doug,” the Devil and I said in unison,
then
looked at each other.

“Doug, this woman is insatiable,” the Devil observed.

“That’s not it at all,” I objected.  “But you had to
get both of us on one contract, and just by doing that, you ruined it for me.”

“I don’t see why.  Please explain.”

“You’re not very astute, and that surprises me,” I told
him.  “Doug’s a creeper—“

“I am not!—“

“A creeper,” I emphasized.  “As long as I have to
relive any of this with him here in the present, it’s just going to be too icky
for words.  I mean, look at him!”

“Look at you, Danielle!”

“And he’s married to another icky person—“

“Tina is not icky!  You haven’t even met her!”

“She’s a stick-in-the-mud at best,” I argued.  “She
makes you go to church.  She won’t give you blow jobs—“

“Now you’re putting words into my mouth!  I never said
that!” 

“She calls all the shots and you’re scared of her. 
She’s an icky person.”  Case was closed, as far as I was concerned.

The Devil was looking at me in fascination.  “I can’t
believe I ever thought you had a pallid soul.  I think you’ll fry up to be
quite tasty. 
Piquant.”
    

“You’re not the first to underestimate me,” I said. 

“The thrill of the chase is becoming unexpectedly
pleasurable,” he agreed. 

“Whatever,” I said.  “I’m waiting for my boss to text
me back.  She’s my legal counsel.”

“Her?  I made sure she took
Ambien
tonight,” the Devil revealed.  “She’ll be out of the picture for awhile.”

“You don’t know how much she likes texting. 
She
texts in her sleep.  She may even drive up here in
her sleep.”

“I think we can handle this, just the three of us. 
We’re all mature adults,” said the Devil. 

“Well, I know a little about contracts.  You promised
me a night of passion with Doug Morris.  Look at the date on the
contract.”  I held it out to him and pointed.

“What is your point?  It’s today’s date.”

“My point is that you’re serving up 1995—“

“I think it was 1993,” Doug said helpfully. 

“Then my point’s that much stronger.  If you promise a
night of passion and date it 2015, you don’t serve up reheated 20-year-old
leftovers!”

“Hey, wait a minute!” Doug protested.  “What are you
calling reheated leftovers?  That was darn good
sex,
and I take offense at your choice of words!”

“Reheated,” I said again, flatly. 
“Leftovers.”

“You two sound like brother and sister squabbling,” said the
Devil in a reproving tone, but he was interrupted by the sounds of “
ewwww
” made by both of us. 

“Can he get any more offensive?” I asked Doug.  “Now
he’s talking incest.”

“That’s gross!” Doug agreed.

I could almost hear the gears in Daemon Lucifer’s brain
whirring.  He probably was beginning to see that the missteps he’d made
for his own spiteful pleasure could result in the escape of two tasty
souls.  His sudden conciliatory attitude was such a 180 degree turn that I
wanted to laugh.  “No worries,” he soothed.  “I have all eternity. 
I will make sure you are both satisfied customers.”  He looked at us
doubtfully.  “
Er
, I believe I’ve noticed that
you both rather like one another—no, let me finish,” he insisted as we both
started laughing.  “We can stay here while your feelings for each other
redevelop, all off the time grid, you understand.  Then—“

“Um, no,” I said.

“Ditto,” said Doug, never wanting to be outdone.  “You
can keep us here a million
years,
I’m telling you
right now, I will never redevelop feelings for her, not even if you paid
me.  That is over and done with.”

“What about this,” the Devil said hurriedly.  I could
tell he was trying not to lose the deal completely.  “I have never done
this before—you two would be my first.  I’ll put you both in your
20-year-old bodies tonight for just one night—off the time grid, you
understand—and you can have a night of passion as of today, but with your
younger selves.”  I had to laugh, he looked almost pleading.

“See her?” Doug asked the Devil rhetorically.  “She’s a
resentful bitch who hangs onto grudges for life and no man could get it up with
her if he tried.”

“Oh, now that’s grown up, Doug,” I mocked.

“Tell the truth, Danielle.  When’s the last time you
had any?  Was it Brian Panties-In-A-Bunch?  What was that, years
ago?”

“It’s none of your business, but no, it’s been more recent
than that.  Why don’t you go to hell?”

“I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction.”

“You never did give me any satisfaction, you asshole.” 
God, that
felt good to say.

“That’s it, this relationship is over,” Doug declared, and
walked out of the room.

I ran and locked the door.  “Wait for it,” I said to
the Devil.

Within half a minute, there was a scrabbling at the door,
followed by several fist pounds. 

“Let me in!  Danielle!  Mr. Lucifer!” 

I opened the door sweetly.

Doug wouldn’t look at me.  “I want to get back to
Schaumburg.  How do I get back to Schaumburg?” he asked the Devil.

“You can’t.”

“What?”

“You don’t get it.  You’re off the time grid. 
You’re off the grid until you and Danielle can get it right.  I guarantee
satisfaction, but I’m leaving it up to you how that
plays
out.  You have all the time you need.  You can let me know when
you’re satisfied.”

“That makes no sense!” I said, outraged.  “We can’t
even stand being in the same room!”

“Hey, I saw Groundhog Day,” Doug added.  “Bill Murray
stayed in the same day for years.”

“This is worse,” I told Doug.  “We seem to have just a
few hours,
then
we keep reverting back to 2 AM, when
everyone’s asleep.”  I appealed directly to the Devil again.  “This
won’t work.  We will just hate each other more.”

“Like I said, time is not an issue,” the Devil assured
me.  “We can take eons if we need it.  It’s all off the time grid.”

Doug’s face crumpled.  He looked near tears.  “I
want to say goodbye to Tina.”

“Just don’t sign any papers,” I warned him, “or Tina’s soul
will be up for grabs as well.”

The nondescript man looked offended.  “Nothing further
from my mind,” he insisted. 
“If you want your wife, no
problem!”

Chapter
5 – The Exorcist
 
 

“I guess that means I’ll be meeting the famous Tina,” I
said.

“Tina will get us out of this mess,” Doug said with
endearing, if misguided, faith.

“Let me just check my cell,” I said.  “Maybe Jill got
up to use the bathroom during the night.”

“Well, if she did, wouldn’t that all be erased now?”

“My cell says 5 AM.  Look, a text from Jill!”  But
as I looked, the text faded and disappeared.  My cell now said 2 AM. 
Same night.
 
Again.
 
What was this, night four?

The Devil looked apologetic.  “This has to stay off the
time grid,” he said.  “Trust me, you want it that way.  Otherwise
you’ll have relatives report you as missing persons, and kids being
unattended.”

“Must be something in it for you,” I said.  “And don’t
look at me with those reproachful eyes.  You know already that you’re not
to be trusted.”

“Where’s Tina?” Doug asked nervously.

“Slight delay, nothing to concern
yourself
with,” the Devil said.  “She’s packing, or taking care of the kids, I
believe.”

If there was going to be even a minute’s respite, I was
going to grab my chance.  “I’m getting dressed,” I announced.

“Please,” Doug said.  “Try to wear something without
food on it.”

I flounced into the bathroom of my hotel room with my
handbag and cell.  I tried texting Jill again.  The time was 2:15
AM.  When did I text her before, 2:00?  “Jill, just get up to pee,” I
said aloud.  I called Patty again.

“What are you doing calling me?” she said. 

“I thought you’d want an update.”

“Update on what?  It’s 2 in the morning.”

“Oh, no!
  This really is
Groundhog Day.  You don’t remember our conversation about the Devil taking
my soul?”

“What?”

“Patty, I don’t have much time.  I’m stuck in a time
warp or something, and I’ve sold my soul to the Devil. 
For
a night with Doug Morris.”

She was laughing. 
“Only you,
Danielle.
  So how’s the night with
Doogie
going?  I thought you hated his guts.”

“I do hate his guts.  This is going to be the fourth
night we’re stuck with each other, and we may be stuck forever.”

“So help me understand.  Has he been lusting for you,
lo these many years?”

“No,” I admitted, “I was the one who wished for him, but
just for tonight.  And it’s just the worst thing ever.”

“Danielle, do you need me to call the police or
something?” 

“That won’t help,” I said worriedly.  “I tell you what,
go back to sleep for now.  I might need you in a couple of hours, so get
some sleep while you can.”

“Does the Devil have your signature on paper?”

“Yes,” I admitted.


Geeeeez
.
 
Call Jill.”
 

“I’ve been texting her.”

“Call her.”

“I have more faith in texts, where Jill’s concerned. 
I’d better
go,
Doug’s wife will be here any minute.”

Patty started laughing again. 
“A
ménage à
trois
!
  Perfect!  Wish I
were there!”

“Really?
 
Because
I might be able to arrange that, but maybe not tonight.
  Time might
roll back and restart at 2 AM, and then you won’t know what I’m talking about,
again.”

“Don’t let that worry you, sis.  If you need me, I’m
here for you.  You can always explain when it’s convenient.  I’ve got
your back even if I don’t have the back story!”  She laughed at her wit
and we hung up. 

Patty.  I felt comforted having talked with her
again.  She was right.  She didn’t need the back story; she’d be
there for me.  But what could she do?  She’d threatened once to kick
a guy in the balls for me with her most pointed stiletto heels.  I
wondered how that would work on the Devil.

Freshening up took no time at all, mainly because I had
almost nothing with me.  After all, I hadn’t intended to stay.  Oh,
if only I’d left town at 4 PM and driven through.  No air
conditioning?  
Pfft
.  No sweat. 
Or at least, less sweat than I’d been sweating these past three nights.

 I left the bathroom and re-entered the hotel
bedroom.  A slender woman was holding Doug and saying, “There, there. 
We can fix this.”  She pulled away from Doug as she saw me, and looked at
me accusingly. 

“You must be Danielle.”

“Hi, Tina.”
  I started to
extend a hand, but Tina backed away.

“I understand this is
all your
fault,” she said conversationally.

I blinked.  “I don’t suppose that approach is very
helpful.”      

“I’m here to help, and I will help.  But don’t forget
that you put Doug’s soul in danger.  I certainly won’t.”

“Doug put his own soul in danger by being stupid and signing
a contract without reading it.  I had nothing to do with it.”

“Oh?  I understood that you had called Doug away in the
middle of the night to renew an old affair.  He had nothing to do with
that.”  She looked at me with her eyebrows raised. 

“All I wanted was to relive a night from my past.  I
didn’t want him here at all.”  I couldn’t entirely keep the loathing from
my voice. 

At my words, Tina seemed unsure whether to act the outraged
spouse to my
homewrecker
, or to take offense at my
disparaging her husband.  “I’ve heard about you for years,” she settled on
informing me.  “You’re the one who would stoop to anything to hang on to
my husband.”

“Yeah, maybe twenty or twenty-five years ago, and he wasn’t
anyone’s husband then.  Believe
me,
I have no
such intentions now.  You have nothing to worry about.”

She looked me over from head to foot.  “I can see that
I don’t,” she drawled.

If Patty had been here, I’m pretty sure she would have
kicked Tina in her waxed little shins for me.  But Patty wasn’t
there.  I looked Tina up and down and decided to do some drawling of my
own.  “Twenty-five years ago I just know you were having a hair-pulling
fight in the girls’ restroom with the school slut.  Are you really still
into that kind of high school drama?”

Doug looked horrified, but Daemon Lucifer smiled
happily. 

“I’ve never stooped to that level, and I’m not going to
now.  Especially before this creature,” she indicated Daemon Lucifer, “we
need to recall that we are ladies and Christians.”

“So what exactly are you here for, other than to soothe
Doug?  He IS frightened,” I said with spurious sympathy.

“I’ve brought holy water and my prayer book.  We are
going to conduct a lay exorcism.  Only those with a pure heart may
remain.”  She looked pointedly at me, and I looked back at her. 

“This is my motel room,” I informed her.  “I’m not
going anywhere.  I think my heart’s pure enough.  I certainly don’t
have to deal with issues of arrogance and pride, like some in the room.” 
I looked pointedly at her, and she looked back at me. 

The Devil looked thoroughly entertained.  “This is
fabulous!” he said.  “To think I could have missed this, if you hadn’t let
me out of the hot sauce bottle.  I really owe you,” he said, nodding to
me.  He could see me start to open my mouth, and hastened to add, “In a
manner of speaking, that is.”

Tina looked at me, horrified.  “Is this true?  He
was contained, and you loosed him on the world?”

“You’re being overly dramatic.  All I did was open a
hot sauce bottle to put some on my fries—“

“See, honey?
  I’m not the only
one who puts hot sauce on fries!”  Doug sounded so triumphant that I knew
this had been a sore spot for years.

“It’s disgusting, and just look what happened.  If
Danielle had used ketchup, none of this would have happened.”

Oh my god.  If that wasn’t the way
Evie
reasoned.  Was it possible Doug had married an Evil Eye
Evie
of his own?  Now that would be poetic
justice. 

Doug was saying, “What do you want me to do, honey?” 
He looked at her with blatant worship in his eyes. 
Disgusting.

“Hold this diaper bag,” she told him.  “Let me get my
prayer book out of my purse.”  She brought forth a well-thumbed maroon
book, and opened it to a page. 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Daemon Lucifer commanded, not looking
quite as nondescript as usual.  At his voice, Doug, Tina and I all looked
at him.  “If you want me to stick around for this, we all need to sign a
little hold harmless form.  Just limiting my liability, you know, in case
you burn the hotel down or some other disaster strikes.”  He held a thick
embossed piece of paper in his hand.  It looked much like the contract
Doug and I had signed.  

Tina looked at him appraisingly.

“It’s been known to happen,” he said.  “An exorcism is
a powerful thing.  It’s been known to knock out power grids.”

“My mother did that at a motel once just by plugging in an
electric frying pan,” I observed. 

“Oh, she had more in mind than cooking dinner,” said the
Devil.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked,
then
put a hand up to stop Tina’s approach to the Devil.  “Don’t sign
anything,” I cautioned. 

Tina looked at me with scorn.  “I am covered with the
blood of the lamb,” she said.  “Whatever I bind here on earth will be
bound in heaven.  Whatever I
loose
here on earth
will be loosed in heaven.  Give me that pen.  I’ll sign for all of
us.”

“You’ve
gotta
be—
“ Before
I had time to finish the thought, she signed the
form.  She handed it decisively to the Devil.  “Now, sir, cease with
the delays.”

“Forthwith,” I added,
then
looked
innocent as her eyes swept my face angrily.  “I don’t see any blood,” I
added helpfully. 

“Shut up, Danielle,” said Doug.

“Just for the record, I don’t think it was a good idea for
her to sign anything.  Mark my words, Doug.”

“Tina does what she wants to do,” he told me.

“So I notice.  She may have gotten more involved with
this than she bargained for.”

The Devil laughed noiselessly and winked at me.  Oh,
boy, Team Daemon against Team Charismatic.  I didn’t intend to be on
anyone’s team; he could wink all he wanted.  I would sit this one out.

“Let’s get started,” Tina said in a take-charge way. 
She held Doug’s hand and began singing:

Rank on rank the host of heaven

Spreads its vanguard on the way

As the light of light
descendeth

From the realms of endless day

That the powers of hell may vanish

As the shadows clear away.

   
I was impressed despite myself.  She had quite a voice.  “That was
really beautiful,” I said sincerely. 

The Devil was nodding.  “Third verse of
Let All
Mortal Flesh Keep
Silence
,
set to the tune
Picardy
.  It’s always been a favorite of
mine.”  I looked at him strangely, and he winked again.

“Doug, did you put the Holy Water in the silver bowl?” asked
Tina, holding out a hand.


It’s
right here, honey,” he said,
handing it to her.  

Tina began the ceremony by holding up a plain wooden
cross.  “The enemies of God are scattered and those who hate Him flee
before him!  As wax
melteth
before the fire, so
the wicked perish at the presence of God!”

“Praise
be
to thee, oh Lord,”
intoned Doug.  That’s right, I remembered his mom telling me with pride
that he used to be an altar boy.  Not only that, he’d sung in the
choir.  By the time I’d known him, he sang along to WRRL—“Rock and Roll
from the Loop!—” and that was about it.

“Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the
human race, persecute the Church, or torment God’s elect. “  She paused to
make the sign of the cross and sprinkle some holy water around. “God the Father
commands you
!“
 

“Praise
be
to thee, oh Lord,”
intoned Doug.  I think I liked him better singing, “I’d
Do
Anything for Love.”

She made a second sign of the cross and sprinkled some holy
water
around . 
“God the Son commands you!” 

“Praise
be
to thee, oh Lord,”
intoned Doug.  He was like a congregation of one, with officious Tina
officiating. 

She made a third sign of the cross, gesturing toward Daemon
Lucifer and sprinkling holy water his direction.  “God the Holy Ghost
commands you!” 

Cut to Doug, doing his thing. 

At this point, I figured she was done, but what do I know, I
grew up Lutheran.  Tina continued.  “The sacred Sign of the Cross
commands you!  The glorious Mother of God commands you!  The faith of
the holy apostles Peter and Paul command you! 
Begone
,
Satan, inventor and master of all deceit.  Give place to the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church!  Tremble and flee when we invoke the Holy
and terrible Name—“

At this point, Mr. Lucifer undid his tie and loosened his
collar, uttering several frightening groans.  Then, with the popping of
bones and tendons, his head rotated 360 degrees.  Doug and Tina
froze,
appalled looks on their faces.  Then, with
determination, Tina sprang forward and poured the remaining contents of the
holy water over the swiveling head of the Devil.  The water boiled and
turned into steam in a way most horrible to witness. 

As the not-so-nondescript head of the not-so-nondescript man
returned to its original position, he seemed to snap out of a trance,
retightening his tie.  “Danielle, does the hotel have ice?  I could
use a cold glass of water.”  I guessed he could, all right, given that his
face and neck were both lobster-read and remnants of steam still
wreathed
his head.

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