(Note: This story takes place several months before the events of STAYING DEAD.)
by Laura Anne Gilman
"Breathe. Breathe, damn you!"
The pile of fur on the wooden table lay still, inanimate.
"Damn." A world of frustration in that one word, frustration, and anger directed both
outward, and in. The temptation was too great for the third figure in the room.
"This would be a bad time to say I told you so?"
"I shall refrain, then."
There might have been a faint smile on his face. Or perhaps not. "You are a pestilence
and a plague."
"As you say, master."
The man shook his head, reaching down and drawing a sheet over the motionless form.
"We'll try again tomorrow. Ensure that the blood is fresh, this time."
The other speaker looked down at the dark splatters on the leather apron wrapped
around his squat body. "Yes, master."
P.B. had woken that afternoon in a foul mood, the sheet tangled around his legs and his
thick white fur damp with sweat. Restless dreams he didn't want to remember mixed with the
sound of jackhammers hard at work on the sidewalk outside his one-room basement apartment.
The whites of his eyes were scratchy from exhaustion, and his claws ached from a lack of
calcium in his diet. Only the fact that he had two jobs pending and no payment due on either one
until he was done got him to consider moving at all. Life in the big city cost big bucks, even
living in a dive like this one. Time to get up and at 'em.
The demon dragged himself out of bed and went to rummage in the pantry for something
still edible. Nothing appealed. A note tacked to the empty, non-working fridge reminded him that
he had a third job that evening.
"And the excitement just never ends, does it?" His voice was harsh, raspy, and self-disgusted.
He poured a cup of cold coffee out of the coffee maker and washed it down with a
pumpernickel bagel, tearing chunks out of it with determined bites. A little dry, but not bad. He
really needed to go food shopping at some point. Or stop by Valere's and mooch off her. But for
now, the work. Or what he would be able to accomplish, seeing as how one client had been
avoiding him, and the other didn't seem to know his elbow from his teakettle when it came to
binding contracts . . .
Grabbing his grey trench coat and snappy-brimmed hat from the coat tree by the door,
P.B. slipped his sunglasses out of the pocket, adjusted the arms so that they would stay up on his
decidedly not-designed-for-sunglasses nose, and went out the door into the afternoon sunlight to
see a man about a package.