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Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device

Here is the first chapter for Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, the first book in the series. Available now on Amazon.

CHAPTER 1: Waiting for My Wee-Man

I reached into my jacket for a Lucky Dragon once the shakes began. The undead aren’t known for their dexterity, so I had a bit of fun getting that hellfire stick. I was like a drunken mummy trying to do jazz hands. I burned off half the skin on my left index finger lighting the damn thing. That made four fingers now that were practically nothing but bone. If this kept up, I’d end up a skeleton inside a cheap suit and fedora. I doubt anyone would notice.

Being a member of the great unwashed undead isn’t all bad, though. I was happy for my dulled sense of smell. The alleyway stunk like rotten cabbage and sour apples.

I took a deep drag on my hellfire stick. Smoke poured out from the hole in my right cheek. I sucked that thing halfway down and it barely made a difference. My hand trembled like a virgin at a satyr convention. I needed dust. Bad.

I had tried everyone in downtown ShadowShade but no one was holding. Out of desperation I came here to Irish Town, in search of Flanagan, my old dealer.

Without dust, the hunger becomes overpowering, and when I’m hungry no one’s safe. I’d eat my own mother.

I had been waiting in the alley behind Finn McCool’s for at least an hour before the leprechaun finally appeared.

Flanagan isn’t your typical lep. First off, he’s not that short. Maybe five-foot-two. He’s broad shouldered, barrel chested, and someone you don’t want to mess with. He also has the saltiest mouth in all the Five Cities of Pandemonium.

He sang, rather jauntily:

“There once was a fellow McSweeney
Who spilled some gin on his weenie…”

A large sack was slung over his shoulder as he swaggered into the alley.

“Just to be couth
He added vermouth
Then slipped his girlfriend a martini”

“Sorry to interrupt that charming little ditty,” I said, and slipped out of the shadows. Real bad-ass like.

The lep stopped deader than my libido. Like I’d caught him bathing naked in his pot of gold. (Leprechauns don’t really have pots of gold, by the way, but they are known to carry fairy dust.)

The sack jerked and he gripped it tighter.

“What’s in the sack, Flanny? Someone didn’t pay their vig?”

“None of your fookin business. Now if you wouldn’t be minding.” The lep took a step forward, but I blocked his way.

“Look, meat bag, I don’t want any trouble.”

“No trouble. I’m just looking for dust.”

The lep exploded into laughter. He actually placed his hand over his belly. A real guffaw.

“You fookin dust head. I thought maybe you were on a case.”

“Just a gram. The hunger is starting to eat through my innards.”

“You have innards? Figured it’s all just sludge inside ya by now.”

“The last time I went cold turkey, it ended real bad for some fairies. I’m still not welcome in The Red Garden.”

“You ain’t threatening now, are ya, ya dead dick?”

My hands trembled real bad as I held them up. It looked like I was trying to conjure a pixie spirit. “I’m desperate.”

“Then you’re out of luck. I don’t deal anymore. I have new opportunities.”

There was a clink, like a glass bell, and the sack flew up. Flanagan nearly lost his grip on it but was able to pull it back down.

“What’s in the sack, Flanny?”

“None of your fookin business, ya filthy corpse.”

He shoved me into the wall and headed down the alley.

Maybe the hunger had reached its apex or maybe I didn’t like the way he called me a filthy corpse. Either way I was on him like a werewolf on a moonpie. I don’t even remember eating him. I was in such a frenzy. Though I do remember him tasting damn delicious, like smoked sausage and sweet beer. The next thing I remembered was Oswald, Pandemonium’s most obnoxious creature and my associate.

I was sitting on the floor gnawing on a leg bone when the alley filled with a blinding light. I continued eating. The light went out and I saw the Studebaker, my Studebaker. Then the driver’s side door opened and out slid Oswald.

The little bugger stared at me, not saying a word. This was supposed to shame me. But I’m a revenant (which is a fancy way of saying zombie). I’m beyond shame.

I took a bite out of Flanagan’s calf. It was stringy but pretty tasty.

“Let me remind you that you’re eating a leprechaun in the middle of Irish Town.” Oswald tried to sound tough, but when you’re all of eight inches and nothing but a marshmallow with a mouth, the effect is underwhelming. No one knows what Oswald is or was. The best description I’ve come up with is a homunculus, which is another way for me to say I have no idea.

Just then the sack began to roll down the alley.

“What’s that?” Oswald said, and I finally came to my senses.

“Let’s see.” I sprang up…as best a zombie can spring up, which meant I awkwardly repositioned my bones into a standing position…and halted the sack’s progress. I opened the sack and wasn’t prepared to find what I did.

Mr. Obvious said, “Is that a naked baby inside a glass jar?”

“I’m sorry for ever calling you a terrible detective, Oswald. You figured it out on the first try.”

The dope smiled.

I stood the glass jar up. The baby was looking at us curiously. The fact that he didn’t cry should have alerted me, but I was still on a high from my leprechaun buffet.

The baby started pointing at the top of the jar.

The observant marshmallow said, “I think he wants you to remove the glass stopper and let him out.”

The fact that the baby didn’t pop off the glass stopper himself should have made me think, but Oswald was distracting me with his prattling.

I removed the stopper.

The hole certainly didn’t seem big enough for a baby to fit through, but that didn’t stop him.

He slid out of the bottle like a piece of taffy, but instead of falling onto the ground, he floated into the air. The large black wings that had unfurled from his back helped a lot with that. The now-winged baby stopped just out of reach, shot me a dirty look, gave me the finger, and disappeared into the blood-red sky of Pandemonium.

I wasn’t able to conjure up one of my famous ripostes, though, because at that moment two irate leprechauns were barreling towards us.

Copyright © 2016 James Aquilone

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