Satan showed up before the shop opened.
He acknowledged Lucy with a nod and walked into Alex’s office. He was dressed casually in slacks, a knit shirt and sneakers with a red cape draped across his shoulders. Satan reserved the red suit, horns, tail and pitchfork for formal occasions like the meetings with Heaven. Tall and well-built, he looked ordinary except for his eyes that frequently acted like miniature black holes, sucking up light. When in a good mood like now, his face was visible, but when his anger grew so did the darkness. Enraged, his head and upper torso would be hidden in a black cloud.
She followed him into the office.
“I’m glad you’re here, Master,” Alex said. “My loan store is a unqualified success.”
“Really?” Satan chuckled. “With your record, claims of success make me nervous.”
Lucy sighed. Her father always played the sycophant.
“Look at this.” Alex picked up a sheath of papers. “Thirty signed contracts. I’ll wager not one of them makes all the payments on time.”
“Hmm. Most surprising. I suppose Lucy is responsible for this success?”
Alex almost choked. “She’s nothing but a clerk. I tell you, my business plan is brilliantly coming to fruition.” A red-faced Alex picked up his putter and ran his hand down the shaft.
All three jumped when the front window shattered inward and four sticks of dynamite with burning fuses rolled across the floor.
“That’s an awfully big firecracker,” Alex said just before the dynamite exploded.
Once the smoke cleared, Lucy saw the blast had destroyed the office.
Alex sobbed. His white cassock was a smoldering rag and the contracts were ashes. His putter was wrapped around a lamp stand. He picked it up and tried to straighten it. He threw it to the ground in disgust. “My favorite putter.” He looked crest-fallen
Satan stared at Alex for a few moments. “I think the pressure of the job is getting to you, Alex. Why don’t you go play a few rounds of golf?”
“You’re right. These times are treacherous compared to the simple days in Rome.” Alex cheered up. “Lucy can clean up.” He disappeared.
Sirens sounded in the distance.
Lucy noticed that the explosion had ripped off her clothes. She was naked while Satan’s clothes were untouched. “A gentleman would offer me his cape until I can get more clothes.”
“What happened here.” Satan handed her the cape.
“Michael did this.”
“Michael? Why would that underachiever do this?”
“Heaven hates Alex for all the wicked things he did while he was Pope. It ordered Michael to sabotage anything Alex does on earth.”
“I don’t believe it. Heaven is migrating towards lawlessness while we’re moving into legitimate businesses . . . well, semi-legitimate businesses.”
“I’ll be right back,” Lucy said. “Don’t go away. We have to talk about this loan business.”
When she returned in slacks and a blouse, she said, “All of Alex’s contracts were useless. Those people would have ended up in your domain anyway. I know how to make this loan business impact on your market share.”
“You always were a lot smarter than your father.” Satan paced the office, kicking debris out of his way. “All right. I’ll send somebody else up here. You fill him in.”
“No.” She held her breath.
“No?” Satan was so shocked he stopped pacing and stared at her with his mouth open.
“It’s my plan.” Lucy stood with her hands on her hips. “I want to run it.”
“You’re a woman.”
“It’s the twenty-first century. Women run corporations now. Women are judges, police officers, lawyers, soldiers, politicians. Women can do anything they want and I want to run a business. This business.”
“Well?” Lucy could barely contain her excitement. She almost bounced on her toes. Satan hadn’t rejected her plan.
“Convince me you’ll do things differently than Alex.”
“I’ll open up in neighborhoods where people go to church. Most of them end up in Heaven. But I’ll be looking for a neighborhood where the folks experience financial problems. Lower middle-class in other words. They’ll be desperate for low interest loans. But, you have to keep Alex in Hell.”
“I’ll give you a year.”
“That won’t do any good. To put a dent in Heaven’s market share, I’ll need franchises everywhere and it’ll take years to get them up and running. That’ll take at least forty years.” She started making a mental list of things to do.
“Lucy!” Vinny ran into the office. “Are you all right?”
Satan faded from human view.
“Yeah. I’m fine. I was upstairs.”
Vinny looked around the at the damage. “I heard about the blast at the station house and drove over to see if you were okay.”
“How sweet.” Lucy patted his cheek. “Listen, I’m tied up right now. How about dinner tonight? I’ll need a strong shoulder to help me through this mess.”
Lucy nodded just as the NYFD trucks pulled up in swirl of noise and yelling.
“The bomb squad will ask a lot of questions.” Vinny raised an eyebrow as if he had a few of his own.
“I’ll explain tonight.”
“Who’s that?” Satan asked.
“He doesn’t know it yet, but next month he’ll be my chief of security.”
“Is it serious?”
“Very serious.” Lucy smiled at Satan.
“That explains why you’re so anxious to stay and run a business. When you get back to Hell, someone else will be my secretary.”
“When I come back to Hell, maybe I’ll fight to get my old job back.”
“I look forward to seeing that.” He patted her shoulder. “Good luck, girl.” He disappeared.