Black Book

A lone man dedicates his life to hunting down the Devil. He is not a hero making the world a better place, just a hard man seeking revenge for his terrible loss.


1. Devil

I think its best if I start by telling you about the day I met the Devil outside a saloon in Nebraska.

I stepped out of the musty drinking hole, my eyes adjusting to the white midday sky.  I clipped my watch shut and dropped it back inside my jacket. 

Cupping a splintered match in my hands, I lit up another smoke. I had a three day shadow on my face and was exhausted. Still sober though, and that was a start for now. I squinted down the high street, left then right. Not a soul. I shivered. My hand fell to my side out of habit and rested on my gun. 

Across the street, above the store, a shutter slammed shut. There was a time when I'd have done the same. Back when I was just another ordinary man, before I knew the truth of the world. I patted my left chest pocket, felt the bulge and clink of bullets. Comforting. Not as comforting as two pockets full, but there was no more time.

There was no fanfare, no cloud of dust, and no clap of thunder. When I first met the Devil himself (notice the capital D ladies and gentlemen) he was just sitting on the saloon porch behind me. Been there all along I guess, watching me check my gun and ammo. If he saw me flinch at all he was polite enough not to show it. And isn't that just a hoot.

'Marvellous day for a matrimony. Wouldn't you say chief?' He wore a white fitted tuxedo, and dabbed at his moist forehead with a black silken rag.

I grimaced at the sound of his voice. It wasn't raspy or evil like you'd expect, and the tone was pleasant enough, but it was wrong all the way to the end of the dial.

'Pearse Slake. Delighted to meet you.' He snaked out a long thin hand, and I noticed yellow dirty nails, tuxedo or not. When Old Handsome spoke for the second time I had cleared the fog enough to at least answer him. Incredible how quickly we can adapt.

'You may have the wrong impression of me even before we start.' I said calmly. There was no way in hell that I would voluntarily shake that hand. He didn't pause even for a second, and his hand was back in his lap as if it had never left.  A town sheriff back in those days had very little in the way of perks, but refusing to shake the hand of a stranger was one of them, and thank the good Lord for that. I looked away and over the dusty horizon for a merciful couple of seconds. Anything but those eyes.

'Apologies for the unannounced intrusion chief, but I come seeking only a little water for myself and perhaps a bed for the evening. Then I shall get on with my business.'  His skin rippled as he spoke. 

'As I said, you may have me mistaken for someone else. I'll be polite right back to you, and there's no harm in that. But I'm not your friend stranger, and you certainly aren't welcome here.'

For a moment I thought he would end it right there. Just cut the pretense, string me up, and try and make me drink my own wine. But he stood up quietly, quite the gentleman, adjusted his hat, and gave me a wink.

'Nevertheless , it has been my pleasure to finally meet you Chief.' and with that he walked away, smiling. 

My head throbbed. I stood my ground until he was well over the rise and out of sight and then I sat down hard onto the wooden stoop. 

'Jesus wept.' I exhaled hoarsely, beads of sweat drew icy fingers down my back. I dabbed a shirt sleeve onto my forehead and it came away darker.  I felt the nausea almost pass, but before I knew it, I had spilled my breakfast all over my boots. Right then I would have killed a man for his whisky.

When I was eight years old I spent the summer at old uncle Ned's farm in Ohio. He called me to the sty one morning and asked me to help him lift out one of the pigs. I could see one of its hind legs had been gnawed down to the bone by something, another stronger pig maybe, or a wild dog, he didn't know. What he did know, he winked at me, was that we were going to eat well that week. Being eight years old and a man of the world, I knew full well what good old uncle Ned meant to do, and my stomach dropped down a few floors. 

When Ned carved up that poor pig's throat he bled out quietly, without any of that squealing they do. What he did do however was feverishly lick up that pool of blood that was gushing out of him. He did that right until the end came. I guess it could be that pigs will simply eat when they're hungry, and he dint know enough to worry that it was his own blood. But in my heart I knew he was trying to keep that blood inside himself where it belonged.

When I heard the Devil talk to me, that's what came to my mind. That desperate strung up animal, clutching at the very last chance of life. The damned, lapping up its own blood.

You may think that I imagined a strange man to be something that he wasn't. I only wish it were so. There's no doubt as to who he was because I have met him many times since. 

Besides, on that dark day in Nebraska, what the Devil didn't know was that it was I and not he who had orchestrated our little meeting, and had planned it for well over a year at that...

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