The secretary glared at Max as he entered the building. He smiled faintly, though not at her. Instead, he smiled because he knew how little she truly mattered, in the grand scheme of things, and found her anger fascinating. If she understood the true enormity of her littleness, she probably wouldn’t even bother. Max wouldn’t have. But then, he was one of the important people. He’d figured it all out. The secretary could rise as far as he would too, Max knew. But she wouldn’t figure it out. Even if she did, a woman as small as her would be too afraid to try.
He sat heavily in his office’s chair and swung his feet upon his desk. He was screwing around on his phone when his boss walked in.
“Max,” the man said, his large face flushed a little red with the task of walking all the way here from his own office. Not all that far away, but then, if Steve had ever been fit, Max would have to see pictures to believe it.
Annoyed, Max put his feet back on the ground and put the phone on the table. He didn’t turn it off though. His gaze drifted between screen and portly boss while the larger man sat down across from him with a grunt.
“What’s up Max?”
Max raised an eyebrow.
“With the Nettleman account? I’ve been told you’ve barely done anything with it and the deadline is coming up.”
“I’ve got it under control,” Max said. He did. It was a small account anyways. Well, it would be small compared to the accounts he was going to get soon enough. It’s not like it took his full attention, or even half of it, to deal with.
“Your work’s been…,” Steve waved a hand while trying to think of the right words. Max knew he was used to dealing with people who were full of themselves. People who, when their egos were challenged, dug their heels in. He didn’t need to give him the same treatment. Max didn’t just think he was good, he knew it. He already knew what Steve’s complaint was, and was dealing with it. Besides, if he was his boss…, and he’d be far above him before long, he wouldn’t mince words with his underlings, he’d tell them what was what. Or they’d be fired. Simple as that.
“Not up to your usual standard,” the large man finished.
Max blew a breath out and put his phone down again, “you don't have anything to worry about, Mr. Smith. The Nettleman account will be on your desk and of acceptable quality on time. Possibly early.”
“Are we not giving you challenging enough projects, Max? I know you’re intelligent. If the work is too easy, it’s not hard to get bored. I know how it is.”
Through other people, Max thought.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Max said again, picking his phone back up, “I’m just wrapping up some personal business keeping me from focusing. Once it’s done, I’ll be better than you can even imagine.”
“Well alright then,” Mr. Smith gave the tall, slender businessman a sideways look, “but if there is anything you need, you let me know. You’re good at this. I’d hate to see anything happen. People go weird in this business, you know.”
“I’m sure,” Max said,
“Right…, well then.”
When his boss closed the door, Max started to swing his feet back up, but decided, instead, to take an early lunch. Feeling generous, he smiled at the secretary when he passed her this time. Not necessarily a nice smile, but then she really didn't deserve any attention from him. It was just a whim. She sneered at him as the elevator door closed.
It opened and he strolled out of the building, past the doorman, who he neither smiled at or even observed. That man never gave a reaction. He knew there was no point. Admirable. He walked a block with the crowd, wondering if any of them knew how lucky they were to be traveling in the company of the next big billionaire in the world. A few probably expected. Even the lowly could be discerning.
After a few blocks, the crowds started to thin. The streets grew a bit dirtier…, or at any rate, he could see the dirt now that they were empty.
“Phone,” he said into the device, “find me the nearest alley.”
A small map popped up. He selected one he considered to be the least shady and headed towards it. Finding it deserted, he walked to the end and took a small piece of chalk from his inner pocket. It sat in a small bag to keep it from getting all over his expensive suit. With it, he drew a small circle on the brick wall, surrounded by small symbols and a larger circle. He’d practiced it a few times with a pen and found his present work to be far more than acceptable. Max carefully put the chalk back in its bag, then his pocket and wiped his fingers on a silk handkerchief.
“I know you can hear me,” he said to no one, “can we dispense with the formalities? It’s not the middle ages anymore.”
The side of the building appeared to ripple and distort as Max looked at it. It grew hot and small flames danced in and among the circled symbols. Max didn’t bother taking a step back. It was a business transaction. You tried to impress the client, but killing or wounding them would be stupid. Max wasn’t impressed. If you were showy, you were compensating for lack of skill.
With a great sigh, a red, heavily muscled demon a foot shorter than Max himself pushed through the undulating brick wall to stand before him. He was naked, which didn’t bother Max, had large goat horns protruding from his bald head, and large bat wings furled at his back. Max expected him to flare them open in a dramatic display, but the apparition apparently restrained itself.
“It’s pretty straight forward,” Max said before the hell spawn could talk, “I want to be the greatest businessman in the world, and in return you get my soul.”
The demon just stared at him.
“I know I didn't say all the words,” Max said with annoyance, “but we don't need that. Or some complicated contract. How do we seal this? A handshake? I suppose I can cut myself if I have to.”
The demon just sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache, “why do you people keep bothering me?”
“Excuse me?” Max said.
“You think you can just use some chalk and say a couple words and bada bing, bada boom be king? Don’t… don’t correct me, I don’t give a damn. No. You want to sell me your soul?”
The demon put his hand out and rubbed his middle and pointer finger against his thumb, “then give me something worth buying! You’re a miserable shit of a person, Maxwell Gamis. You’re an arrogant, conceited, selfish, greedy, destructive little megalomaniac.”
The hell spawn gave a great big smile and clapped a stunned Max on the shoulder, “Which personally I have no problem with. You’re just how I like ‘em. But you’re already going to Hell, buddy boy. You’re damned and roasted, you just don’t know it yet. You’ve got nothing to bargain with. Now, if you were some nice little fucker, you know, kind to animals, never hits his girlfriend, if you can even keep one for long, am I right? Some kind of goody two shoes who wanted to sell it to me, then we could bargain. Bloody hell, if you prayed three times a day and always gave at the collection, I’d throw in a few freebies. Bigger dick, nice hair. I’m generous like that. But you? Nah. Don’t buy what you already own. Not good business. See ya!”
The demon shoved himself back in the wall, which waved gently for a few minutes before solidifying again, leaving the chalk outline seared into the brick.
Max just stood there, stunned for a long time. When he finally put his hand in his pocket and pulled his phone out, it was shaking so much he couldn't even unlock the screen. Somehow, he got it opened and to his lips.
“Phone,” he said in almost a whisper, “find me the nearest church.”