Tag Archives: Mr. Drake

Heaven’s Gate, part 4 (Chapter 2)

7 Feb

The Devil’s antique shop, located on the corner of 3rd and Main, was something of a curiosity. It was called Unnecessary Things, so named as a bit of an inside joke, after an antique shop in a Stephen King book he picked up one day from a man missing two fingers on his right hand and whose dog almost sounded like it could talk. Odd chap, Mr. Drake felt, a bit too-serious, but the book was quite excellent and he had made a wonderful effort at having a conversation with the dog. It had ended in failure, as anyone who has made such attempts might tell you it would, but it had been a terrific attempt, and Mr. Drake thought if perhaps given more time he might have actually managed it.

The shop itself wasn’t particularly large, at least as far as antique shops go, being about large enough for two elephants to bed down sideways next to one another. This was, in fact, how Mr. Drake had performed his measurements, to the profound consternation and confusion of the real estate agent who had leased him the plot. Thankfully however, as real estate agents are discernibly unaccustomed to seeing elephants used as measuring tools, the man had passed it off as the consequence of drinking too much coffee that morning.

He had, but that didn’t change the bit about the elephants.

The inside of the shop was rather cozy all told, and the items thoughtfully laid out with short, informative labels so that customers might know what it is they were supposed to be impressed by, while the small white price tags told them how much they were supposed to be impressed by it.

The variety of the items present in the shop was, in a word, staggering.

There were teacups from 16th century China, tribal garments from central Africa along with gold scarabs recovered from pyramids. There were Viking helmets, renaissance paintings, a pebble reputedly owned by Genghis Khan—it had gotten stuck in his boot and had been fished out and summarily thrown away…”owned” is such a vague term—one of George Washington’s teeth, and a set of candlesticks bought from a flea market by Marie Curie which still emitted startling amounts of radiation, greatly confusing anyone who happened to possess a Geiger counter and who happened to walk by the store while using it. The shop was full of interesting things, and Mr. Drake loved nothing more than taking inventory and seeing just how many wondrous things he had come by over the centuries.

Business in the antique shop was much as it was for all such small independently owned runs stores: slow. But seeing as generating income was hardly an issue, Mr. Drake could otherwise be said to be doing excellent business. He sold things as often as he wished to, which was rarely, but as this hardly differed from the practices of most antique shop owners, it can hardly be said to be noteworthy.

His last sale, for instance, had been two weeks previous, when a pair of young children, twins by the look of them, one boy and one girl of perhaps ten years of age, had entered the shop looking for something to entertain them—though the day had been quite lovely and any sensible person would be out enjoying it; that’s children for you of course, no sense when it came to such things, not knowing what they would be missing in their eventual age. The boy, a sandy-haired lad with wide cheek bones and the sort of bearing that suggested he was quite excellent at kickball, had expressed a studied disinterest in a pair of wooden soldiers that had, incidentally, been carved from a tree which Robin Hood had once used for target practice, and which had been likewise used by Jonathan Douglas, a woodsman, for storing his sack lunches while he took naps beneath it on alternate Sundays.

The young lady, for her part, idly ran her fingers through her curly brown hair while gazing curiously at a puzzle box whose shape appeared, and in fact, was, geometrically and physically impossible. Thinking he might wish to keep the item a little longer—Mr. Drake liked using it as a coaster—the proprietor strode smartly forward holding a small box in the crook of his arm.

“Hello there young lady,” he said cordially, offering a somewhat ridiculous bow and tipping an altogether imaginary hat.

The girl giggled, then tipped an imaginary hat right back. “Hello there middle-aged man.”

At this, Mr. Drake laughed uproariously, his handsome face slowly turning red from the lack of incoming oxygen. After a moment, he managed to regain control of himself, then wagged a playful finger at the little girl.

“You shouldn’t make an old man laugh so hard!” he chastened. “I’m likely to forget myself altogether and spend the rest of the day laughing and not making sales.”

The child looked at him speculatively, then spoke abruptly. “I’m Susan. My brother’s name is Mikey. We were bored and want something interesting.”

“Hmmmm. Well, Susan, my name is Mr. Drake, and as for Mikey, I think he may have already found something.” Indeed, the young man had scarcely moved since picking up the soldiers. One could only imagine what he was thinking, but it was more likely than not something along the lines of whether or not the soldiers might be capable of being catapulted. Mr. Drake, a noted expert in such things, was of the opinion they might make less than ideal projectiles. But, wise old—well, old in the eyes of children—shopkeeper that he was, he took care not to express this opinion to his potential customer.

“Mikey always finds interesting things.” Susan’s voice was flat, suggesting it had been her long experience of having her brother encounter the interesting things while she proved less lucky. “I want something special.”

Thinking for a moment, and wearing a curious expression on his face, one somewhere between nostalgia and sympathy, Mr. Drake nodded. “I understand exactly, Miss Susan. I think I may have just the thing.” So saying, he rummaged around behind his desk, and at length drew forth an odd marble.

“This…” he began, “is something quite special indeed.” He rolled the marble around in his dexterous, long-fingered hands, careful to keep it out of the sunlight streaming through the window so as not to spoil the surprise.

“Watch closely.”

“I’m watching. Nothing is happening.”

Mr. Drake smiled in anticipation, and lightly flipped the marble into the air, where it caught the light and veritably exploded into colors, beams of multi-colored light poring out of it at every angle. He caught it handily, ending the effect.

Susan’s eyes were the size of plates. “WOW! Do it again! Do it again!”

Mr. Drake shook his head, causing the poor little thing to frown.

“Why not?” Her voice quivered, and she made a face very much like a bedraggled kitten’s. Mr. Drake wasn’t exactly ordinary, but even he couldn’t resist that one.

He sighed, and his shoulders sagged. “I can’t…”

And here Susan looked even sadder, if such a thing were possible.

“…But how about you try?” he grinned, passing her the marble.

Say what you will, the Devil is one hell of a salesman.

Heaven’s Gate, part 3

27 Jan

Some twenty minutes later, during which time the pair had unsuccessfully attempted to induce Marmalade to perform some sort of trick, Mr. Edgewick and Mr. Drake found themselves seated across from one another at the small round table located in Mr. Edgewick’s living room.

The living room itself was more or less like living rooms everywhere. On one side of the room rested a rather large bookshelf, upon which rested books on topics ranging from gardening to classical literature to ornithology. The shelf, made of a dark, smooth wood had the sort of sturdy look one tends to associate with a university library.

Or dwarves.*

Opposite the bookshelf was the mantle, bearing the sort of knickknacks that one expects to see in the house of a middle-aged bachelor: a mounted fish, a golf ball, a pipe of apparently Middle Eastern origin, two small figurines from Mr. Edgewick’s travels in China and Africa, and a photograph of Mr. Edgewick in his study.

On the left-hand side of the room were two broad windows, strategically placed to allow the maximum amount of sunlight to enter the room at any given time, lending a cheery, but not forced, sense of comfort to the whole affair.

Mr. Drake picked up his teacup, made of pure white porcelain, and sipped at it contentedly. One thing you could say about Mr. Edgewick, he made a lovely cup of tea. As he enjoyed said tea—which, Mr. Drake noted to his satisfaction, contained the slightest hint, the merest suggestion, of peaches—he quietly contemplated the man seated across from him, reflecting on the strange confluence of events that had led them to their current situation.

Things were so much simpler back then, Mr. Drake thought wistfully. It was all so clean, so neat and tidy. He did his work, I mine, and that was that and Bob’s my uncle. He didn’t have an uncle, of course—or parents for that matter—but it sounded right, and so that’s what the Devil thought without the slightest bit of irony. It was a rare day when the Enemy of All That Is Good was glum, but that’s the way things work out sometimes, and glum he was, sitting there sipping at his tea—though he did enjoy that bit at least—listening to Mr. Edgewick talk about how his morning had been going, and how he’d have to try harder to get Marmalade and Doctor Tattersail to overcome their stage-fright so they could show Mr. Drake their tricks.

The Devil drew a pair of cigarettes out of his coat pocket, offering one to his companion, which Mr. Edgewick declined.

“You know me,” he grinned somewhat sheepishly, pointing to pipe on the mantle. “I’m a pipe man myself.”

“Well suit yourself.” Mr. Drake, out of habit, very nearly lifted a finger to summon a lick of flame with which to light his cigarette, but at the last second remembered how very terrible such an idea might be, and so, working to mentally calm himself, he reached into his pants pocket and summoned a lighter. Withdrawing the lighter, Mr. Drake switched it on, used it to set his cigarette alight, and promptly returned it to the nothingness from which it was drawn (taking care to avoid letting Mr. Edgewick notice its dismissal).

Stress showed clearly on Mr. Drake’s face, and his host, perceptive man that he was, immediately remarked upon it.

“Are you alright Stanley? You seem quite worked up about something. If so, you know you can talk to me about it. Always better to talk about such things, I always say.” Mr. Edgewick’s slightly wrinkled face reflected deep concern, his silver-gray eyes full of empathy as they looked at the emerald-brown eyes of his guest.

The Devil sighed. He just wasn’t used to this sort of thing. Not used to this sort of thing at all.

“It’s alright Tim. Just thinking about a work-related matter. You know how it is when one has a business to run. The antique shop can’t manage itself you know.” He injected his words with all the sincerity he could muster, which was a very very great deal. If there was a better liar in all of creation, the Devil didn’t know about him, and he kept himself abreast of such matters with the keenness of a gambler keeping himself in the know about the horses down at the track.

Mr. Edgewick nodded understandingly. “Not enough people appreciate old things these days. It’s all about what’s “new”…people just throw away the old stuff when it outlives its usefulness.”

Rather like us, the Devil reflected silently. Rather like us.

The thought was a sobering one, but Mr. Drake had never been much of a drinker so it wasn’t a significant shift from his normal state anyway.

Taking a draw on his cigarette, he studied his host’s face, and, after a long period of quiet, responded. “You’re right of course, but there are still men and women who have an appreciation for old things. Things that represent days gone by.”

He paused again.

“I still profit though,” he said brightly, with an enthusiasm he didn’t feel. If Mr. Edgewick noticed, he gave no sign.

The Devil stood, and absently brushed the right shoulder of his smoking jacket.

“Leaving already?”

“You know how things are. Work to do, money to be made, lonely women to seduce.”

“You’re such a…” God trailed off, a faint, gentle smile on his face.

The two men shook hands. No more needed to be said.

“I know,” the Devil grinned, speaking anyway, never one for propriety.

And with that, the Devil tipped his head to God, his companion, and with a broad-toothed smile still plastered across his features—but not at all reflected by a pair of sad, green eyes—made his exit.

– – –

Mr. Drake found himself walking down the sidewalk some three blocks from Mr. Edgewick’s house, thinking about the year or so he had spent in Heaven’s Gate, wondering if his purpose here was worthwhile. He thought it was, and the idea of leaving raised a number of confusing feelings in a being widely regarded as pure evil.

The characterization, incidentally, was wrong. You didn’t have to be a bastard to be the Devil. Well technically you didn’t need to be anything, you were either the Devil or you weren’t—no middle ground there—but the point is that Mr. Drake was actually a rather normal fellow. Sometimes he did nice things, and sometimes he did mean things, but for the most part he operated in the moral gray area that makes up the majority of human action. It wasn’t his job to perform acts of unspeakable evil, whatever the Bible may have had to say about the matter.

If there was a book Mr. Drake disliked more than the Bible it was The Complete Guide to Fungi: A Victorian Love Story, and that only be the narrowest of margins.

The point, anyway, was that the Devil was more or less a regular guy, with many of the same problems as anyone else—work, taxes…telemarketers—and quite a few that most people didn’t. In particular, he had a problem that was, as far as such things go, wholly unique in the history of the known universe.

The real reason he had come to live among mortals was, surprisingly, relatively simple. Unfortunately, its consequences and side effects were anything but. It was this: God didn’t know who He was.

*Contrary to popular thought, dwarves did indeed exist for a five year period between 1124-1129 BCE. In June of 1129, they had decided Earth was not to their liking and asked if they might be relocated. They now live in an alternate reality in which the world is one enormous mine system, and all water spontaneously becomes alcohol when exposed to air. Elves, of course, are utter nonsense.