“Alright, everyone. Place your final bets. We’re about to begin.”
Goodnight Robicheaux sat relaxed on the fence, back to a post and legs stretched out on the rails before him. He kept a careful watch on the crowd, seeing mostly humans, although a few monsters were also placing their bets on who would win. Unsurprisingly, the monsters were betting on his Billy, and they would be the only ones to profit today.
In the corral itself, Billy Rocks stood quietly, that angelic calm seeming to unnerve his opponent ever so slightly. Angels were still something of a mystery to the human race, given that only angels of death like Billy walked the world with any kind of frequency. And even his dear one was an oddity, since he enjoyed spending his time with the youngest of Lucifer’s Antichrists.
Goodnight tuned out Eddy’s words; he’d heard them many a time when they stopped by this particular supply station and he could already feel death in the air. This Arcade Jones fellow was going to do something stupid, his Billy was going to pull one of his blessed knives out to quickly dispatch the fool, and his Adelaide was going to get herself some fresh man-flesh to dine on after all.
Another glance over the crowd showed him that a couple new faces had joined the group: a young halfling of some sort, probably no more than early to mid-twenties, and what appeared at first glance to be one of the Fae. A second, somewhat closer look showed that there was something more to this particular Fae, and he would not be disinclined to make the man’s acquaintance to try and discover what it was. For now, though, Goodnight tuned back in just enough to catch Billy draw faster—of course—and begin walking over to join him in collecting their winnings.
“Hold on one moment, my dear,” Goodnight said, using the mind-speak that monsters, demons, angels, and others of their ilk favored. “I have a feeling.”
“I hate your feelings, Goody,” Billy complained, but pausing just long enough to catch Arcade’s taunt and demand to go for real. “I was hoping not to kill anyone today.”
“What, you want Adelaide to go hungry?”
“Seriously. I hate your feelings, and sometimes I hate you, too,” Billy heaved a mental sigh, but there was enough fondness in his ‘voice’ to prove otherwise. He turned on his heel, and Goodnight caught just a hint of feathers as the angel resumed his position and tossed aside first his hat then his gun-and-knife belt.
“Ooh, you’re gonna use my favorite? I knew you loved me.”
“Shut up and let me work.”
Eddy, human as they come but familiar enough with the way of the world to know a monster when he saw one, heaved a sigh and asked if Billy was ready. He shot off his gun and didn’t even blink when Billy’s wings flared briefly in the shadows as he threw his hairpin blade straight to Arcade’s heart.
“Damn,” Goodnight remarked. “That was almost disappointing.”
“At least Addie gets to eat well today,” Billy replied, offering a small smirk as he moved to retrieve his belongings. “Go get our money, little demon.”
“So damn bossy, dear angel.”
Despite his complaint, Goodnight slipped from the fence and resisted the urge to kick the body on the ground. Mainly because Adelaide didn’t like her meat too tenderized, and he doted on that mare to a ridiculous degree. Rather, he set about collecting their winnings.
“I ain’t in the habit of paying cheaters,” one of the human bettors declared, gaze distant but somewhat focused on Arcade’s corpse. “I’ll be keeping my money.”
Goodnight stared at the man, gaze hard as his eyes shifted. No longer were they a shade of blue almost too pale for a human to possess, but the black he purposely shifted them to when he was angry but still in just enough control of himself to keep them from blazing to hellfire white. The human next to the fool noted the rage building and stepped in to diffuse the situation.
“Easy, Goodnight,” the old man said. “He’s drunk. He don’t know what he’s saying.”
The younger man abruptly straightened up, realizing the danger he’d stumbled into as he registered that the ‘man’ he’d talked back to was a demon. “Mister Robicheaux, sir,” he stammered. “If I’d realized that was your man, I wouldn’t have made such a disrespectful comment.”
Goodnight blinked, the black sclera clearing instantly to true blue. “That’s okay, son,” he said. “Just pay me double.”
Once that fool was dealt with and once he could hear Eddy allowing Adelaide into the corral for her treat, the demon moved to continue collecting his winnings. He noted that the Fae was still at the gate waiting, but he stepped past him to the next loser.
“Goodnight Robicheaux? Chisolm’s sent us.”
The demon turned and blinked at the Fae. “Really now?” he asked. “And who might you be, mon ami?”
“Faraday’s the name,” the Fae replied. “And Chisolm’s gathering an army of monsters to face an uppity witch.”
“Oh?” Goodnight blinked, somewhat surprised and a bit intrigued; he’d met Sam Chisolm only one time before, and that was during the final days of the war. He had had the man in his sights, and even to this day he wasn’t entirely sure why he didn’t pull the trigger and send the human straight to his daddy’s rooms. Instead, he’d frozen time for a few moments, long enough to walk up to the Yankee soldier, and restored it just in time to grin as the man jumped at finding black eyes locked with his own.
“You, sir, are interesting,” he had said way back when. “I find that I am disinclined to end your life today.”
“Much obliged,” Sam Chisolm had drawled, a note of amusement and annoyance both in his voice. “So what are we to do now, then, demon?”
“Let’s go have a drink and figure that out.”
And even now, Goodnight still thought rather fondly of Chisolm. Billy had reserved his judgment, having actually been present and directing his Reapers whilst that conversation took place, but ultimately figured that if Goody was fond of the man then he could let him keep on keeping on.
“Well, then, my friend,” the demon said, smiling sunnily at the Fae and his halfling companion, “let’s step into my office so we can discuss business.”
“You got an office?” Faraday asked, looking unimpressed.
“He means the saloon,” Billy replied quietly, and the demon nearly grinned at the small jump from the halfling.
Faraday smiled broadly. “My kind of office.”
The four of them went inside, Goodnight and Billy gravitating automatically to the corner near the barber station. On most days when they were passing through Volcano Springs, the demon would take advantage of the services provided and get a shave. Truth of the matter was, he could coax his appearance to any matter he wished, and fortunately today he’d opted to appear well-groomed before they set foot into the supply station’s borders. Meaning he and his angelic companion could simply seat themselves, backs to the wall, and observe the room while they talked.
“Should we go someplace quieter?” the halfling, Teddy Q if Faraday was to be believed—and Goodnight tended to trust that monsters were somewhat honest with other monsters—asked as he glanced about nervously.
It was a bit rowdy, true, but that was what made Goodnight so comfortable there. Hell, he’d grown up with his daddy, his momma, and nine-hundred ninety-eight older brothers and sisters; he and quiet were not fond acquaintances, and the louder a room was, the more at ease he could be.
“Nah,” the demon said evenly, “I like it here. You like it here, Billy?”
“You know I like it well enough wherever you feel safest, little demon,” Billy replied mentally. Aloud he simply said, “Here, Goody,” before passing him the flask he’d just taken a drink from.
Teddy looked a little annoyed, but that could be because he was uncomfortable with the noise level. “Where’d y’all meet, anyway?”
“I was serving a warrant on him from the Northern Pacific Railroad,” Goodnight immediately snarked, and Billy bit back a laugh.
Faraday did laugh. “No, but for real,” he asked. “How does a demon nicknamed the Angel of Death find an actual angel to hang about with?”
Billy shot the Fae a stern look, and Goodnight noted that the halfling gave a surprised blink. Ah, so one of their new companions hadn’t missed the flare of his angel’s wings earlier.
The demon grinned, letting his eyes flicker black for just a heartbeat before speaking. “We crossed paths ‘bout halfway through the War. I was bored and pretty randomly shooting anyone what annoyed me.”
“Even his fellow soldiers,” Billy chimed in, rolling his eyes lightly and leaning back against the wall again; Goodnight could sense him ruffling his feathers before letting them settle back into the spaces between once again.
“Is what it is,” Goody offered with a shrug. “At any rate, I was doing that, and this petite son of a bitch just comes storming up on me outta nowhere to tell me to, and I quote, knock it the fuck off, you are not making my life easier with this bullshit.” He chuckled at the eyeroll that got from his angel and grinned at Faraday’s appreciative snickering. “Decided that this was not a monster to aggravate much more, but rather one that it’d be wise to befriend.”
That wasn’t… entirely the truth. That was when they’d decided to stick together, true enough, but over the centuries they had met a time or two. Goodnight had started short jaunts to the humans’ domains when he was around four hundred fifty, and Billy’d long since been on the job by then. But a month or two here or there compared with the years of the War was nothing at all, and it had been nice to have someone of his own ilk around to keep him in line… or at least attempt that daunting task.
“Well…” Teddy sounded hesitant, and he gave the demon an apologetic look. “Mister Chisolm said to come get you, but I don’t think he knew about your friend. Didn’t say nothing about him.”
“Wherever I go,” the demon said, tone even, “Billy goes.”
Faraday turned to look at the halfling, who honestly didn’t look like he wanted to argue the point. Instead of pushing or folding under the pressure, Teddy simply shrugged and knocked back his own drink.
Goodnight felt a smile cross his face. “We understand each other,” he remarked.
“So, since we have a day and a half’s ride to Junction City,” the Fae remarked, “but two days to kill, I say we spend a half day sharing drinks and trading tales.”
“And what manner of tales do you suggest, Mister Faraday?” Goodnight asked, leaning forward to lean on the table.
Faraday likewise leaned forward. “Oh, I dunno. Tales about the War, tales about things you saw in the world before the War, tales about deals you’ve made with humans, that sort of thing.”
The demon snorted indelicately. “I ain’t no crossroads demon, mon ami,” he retorted. “Ain’t really spent much time out in the world, neither. My life was somewhat… sheltered.”
“Are you telling me,” the Fae said, sitting up straight, “that you’ve only been above ground for a total of twenty years?”
“I spent a month or two here and there,” Goodnight replied, “but nothing of matter until the onset of the War.”
Faraday blinked then started laughing brightly. “Whatever you say, baby demon.”
That made Goodnight bristle, annoyance flowing over him. He was the youngest of the family, yes, and his favorite brother had feuded with Daddy over allowing him to fight, but he was a full-grown demon in his own right now. He had been when Ezekiel and Daddy had fallen out, and he had been when he and Ezekiel parted ways upon arriving on the surface. He didn’t even know what form his brother had chosen; they’d not even shifted from their true forms until separating on the surface.
But he was six hundred years old, for the gods’ sake. He was not a child.
“And what are you, exactly, Mister Faraday?” he asked icily; given the way the Fae stopped laughing to stare at him wide-eyed, his annoyance was coming through loud and clear.
“Oh,” Faraday said smoothly, “a little of this, a little of that. But what kind of demon are you if you ain’t one of them soul traders?”
“Something a mite different,” was all he would offer.
Next to him, Billy gave his you are being a little shit sigh. Goodnight ignored it. He was willing to go with this Fae to meet up with Sam, see what was what, but there was little chance of him actually trusting the older monster any time soon.
Baby demon. What a crock of shit.