27 May 2005
The sunset had not changed in human memory. A constant red sky, with a warm and welcoming sun blazing directly opposite the coastline, hovered over a wine-dark sea. Waves beat loudly against an unchanging cliff face, keeping a steady rhythm that gave structure to the sirens singing on the rocks at the base of the cliff. Rocky crags and cave openings dotted the cliff face, each decorated with nests made from the remains of ships spanning centuries and cultures and inhabited by water spirits and things that almost resembled sea birds; at a distance one could nearly mistake them for albatross and pelicans, but up close they had a form best described as assorted sea birds drawn by an alien armed with third-hand references and an unhealthy exposure to the works of Boris Groh and the book of Ezekiel. The creatures of the sea scattered from a portion of the coast as the water began to swirl and rise, forming a column that stretched nearly ten feet above the top of the cliff and licked against the grass at the very edge. Jeremiah stepped out from within the tower, adjusting his dry suit jacket as he walked over to a shuddering imp and the water collapsed into the sea.
"You're late," Jeremiah said, stopping in front of the two-foot-tall creature. The imp huffed and put its fists to its hips in an attempt to look defiant. A manilla folder was tucked under its arm.
"Well, I had to walk. The things here hunt anything in the sky or sea, you know."
"You poor thing."
"Perhaps if you want speedy favors, you should come to the office next time."
"Perhaps your boss should send creatures that know when to stop next time." Jeremiah held out his hand as the imp snorted. "Is that for me?"
"Yes," the imp replied, jamming the folder into his hand, "but you hardly seem like you deserve it." Jeremiah took the folder and opened it, flipping absently through.
"Your behavior is hardly the sort of professional air I would expect from someone in your position. Your disrespect will be noted."
"And what are you gonna do about it, mortal? You think walking on our side overrides the fact that you're just animated meat?" Jeremiah glared at the imp over the paperwork, then pulled out a copy of John Matteson's birth certificate and began looking it over.
"This folder has everything on the target?"
"That's right. Known addresses, associates, travel history, the whole deal." Jeremiah nodded. "Now, are we done? Or are you gonna ask us to handle this human for you?" the imp asked, sneering.
"No. This is a family affair." The column of water rose again over the edge of the cliff as Jeremiah continued to read. The imp waved his hand dismissively and turned to leave, when the top of the column formed into a massive hand and reached forward. It grabbed the imp and, in one swift movement, dragged it back to the edge of the cliff and threw it over. Jeremiah ignored the sounds of screeching, screams, and tearing as he flipped through the pages. When the air again returned to its normal sound, he took a deep breath and pulled out a driver's license picture of John. "Now. Let's look into what kind of a man Henry managed to raise."