When the Devil Drives
by Melinda Snodgrass
Art copyright © 2017 by John Picacio
“There was a guy in the building we brought down, boss.”
It was my demolition foreman Sam Karol bringing me this particular bit of unwelcome news. I sat with it for a moment then asked the obvious next question. “Do we know who it is?”
“Not yet, Mister Matthews. I wanted to let you know right away. Auntie Gravity did her teke thing, lifted a block of concrete and there was all this blood and bones and stuff. I pulled everybody off the site.”
“Well done. Have you done anything else?”
“No, sir, I haven’t even called the cops yet.”
That was a relief. “Good man.” I stood, grabbed my black leather jacket off the coat racket and shrugged into it. New York was having an unusually cold autumn.
“Auntie’s real upset, sir. I wanted to send her home, but figured you should talk to her first.”
“You would be correct. Have you told Rusty?” I was concerned that big, slow, stupid and very kindly ace, the actual agent who brought down buildings, had been informed. Rusty would have immediately told the police. Which was not something I wanted.
“No, sir. Figured it would upset the big doofus.”
“And you would be right.” I clapped Sam on the shoulder. “Let’s go take a look at this body.”
“It’s bound to be ugly, boss. All that blood. It’s all crushed and smashed. Eeoch.” He gave a shudder, then looked embarrassed.
“I expect I’ll survive,” I drawled.
Sam gave me an “it’s-your-funeral” look. At first and even second glance I’m your typical Englishman. A bit too skinny, rather horse faced, and I’ve got that prissy BBC accent thanks to the fact my mother is a Cambridge don. Sam also knew that in addition to running Aces in Hand I’m a rather famous stage magician. It was no wonder he’d concluded I was a delicate snowflake.
What none of my employees knew is that the magic show had merely been a cover. My real career was as an ace assassin for MI-7, the British equivalent to the American CIA. To be more exact, I killed for the ace division of MI-7 known as the Order of the Silver Helix. Dead bodies bothered me not in the least. Most of the ones I’d seen I’d ushered into that state.
But those days were in the past. I’d parted company with my former employers, and it hadn’t been particularly amicable. They tried to hurt people I cared about so I stole a number of their dirty little secrets. They know I’ll release them if they fuck with me or mine. Hence we have each other nicely by the short hairs.
After the birth of my son I curtailed my performance schedule, but worries about money—I wanted Jasper to have the best of everything—and my basic restless nature had begun to set in and I walked out on my wife and child. At times I wished I still had access to the shrink who counseled MI-7 agents. I love Niobe and adore my son, but I had left them, and was filling the void I’d left in their lives with money instead of the husband and father. Why? In my more reflective moments I suspected it was because I didn’t want Jasper to learn about the less savory parts of his dad’s resume. If he knew my true nature would the adoration in those big eyes turn to disgust?
“When the Devil Drives” copyright © 2017 by Melinda SnodgrassOriginal Fiction from Tor.com • Illustrated by Art copyright © 2017 by John Picacio