The Gaunt of Dennis Mallory
by Scott M. Roberts
Two weeks after we stole the Pearl of Great Price from Asmodeus, we got nicked.
Asmodeus's party boys caught me and Brick outside of Twila's Lounge. They didn't say
nothing, them square-jawed, perfectly dressed men and women. Just flashed the guns crouching
inside their jackets, and the runes that dwelt upon their eyelids. Them winking their runes at me
was more disturbing than their weaponry: it meant they knowed I could see what Asmodeus had
And every one of them was human. No ghasts, ghoulies, devils, nor nothing that wasn't mortal.
Which meant they'd also figured out what Brick could do. Rather, what he wouldn't do. A lot of
trouble could be avoided if the boy would just use his natural-born gift for violence against
flesh-and-blood people the way God intended.
I guess God don't got no say in it no more. 'Course He don't. But back when there was such a
thing as Sunday School, the one lesson Brick learnt was the one 'bout turning the other cheek.
He got no problem ripping apart any evil ol' spirit or whatever. But he won't so much as breathe
a crossways word against a human being.
The party boys hustled us into the back of a seatless van and slid the doors closed. Out came
their weapons. Ugly things -- half Hechler, half Faust. Bad for the body and soul both. They
pointed all that ugliness my way as they zip-tied my feet and hands.
Didn't none of them mind Brick.
"Hello, hello," Brick said. His big, dull voice boomed against the van's bare walls. "Hello and
hello! Hello, hello, hello!"
"Hi, Brick," I said, because that's what you do when someone says hello. And because Brick
looked right worried -- glancing here and there, his chin trembling, his eyes wide. Demons and
devils, he don't so much as blink. Bunch of well-dressed men and women with angry looks in
their eyes? He gets as nervous as a little kid with a full bladder.
"Hello, Dennis!" he said. "Hello, hello, hello!"
No one else answered him, so he said it again, faster, his voice pitching higher, "Hellohellohello
and hello! Please, hello!"
No response from them party boys. The van pulled away from the curb. "Easy, Brick, easy," said
I. I reached over to pat his leg, comforting-like, but one of the party boys pushed against my
shoulder with the barrel of his devil-gun. "He's going to keep saying hello until you greet him
back," I said.
One of them hit me. A girl, and a gorgeous one at that; red lips, blonde hair, green eyes. Cute
spattering of freckles 'cross her nose and cheeks. But weren't nothing cute 'bout the punch she
drove into my face. My daddy'd taught me to take a punch almost soon as I could walk. This
itsy bitsy party girl had more beat-down lessons in her fingers than my old man had in his
fingers, palms, knuckles, and belt.