I've heard a lot of weird things in my brief time on this planet, but having a nun tell me no one's getting out of my bar alive was a first, and the only reaction open to me was…
"Huh?" Hey, when it's you, you can be as eloquent as you like.
Sister Sociable pulled a face. "Well that's putting it a bit harshly, dear, but it does describe the situation and its urgency. No offense to you was intended."
"Yeah, no offense," this from Sister Sequoia; it didn't comfort me.
"Seems to me I sort of have to take offense, seeing as how you're telling me you plan to exterminate my clientele. Now I don't know who you people really are, but I run a friendly neighborhood bar here, and I do not want or need any trouble. So if we can talk this over…"
"Won't do any good," Sequoia cut in. "What has to be has to be."
I was getting a little riled here, and I thought it was time I let it show. "Okay, you do understand I'm not gonna just stand here and let you trash my livelihood, much less kill people, right? If this is some kind of terrorist thing I'm telling you right now we'll go down fighting if we have to."
Sister Sociable held up her hands to ward off the notion. "I apologize, Anthony; we should have started at the beginning and explained matters to you."
"I'd have to agree, sister."
"Well, then. First, I must tell you that you are going to find what we have to tell you rather… difficult to believe, but I assure you we can and will prove to you that we are being completely honest with you.
"Stan was always one to want something for nothing and he would go to great lengths to get it, except to actually put some honest labor into the effort. He took shortcuts, made less than wise choices… and started consorting with demons. Yes, I know how it sounds, but please hear me out.
"Stan made a deal. In return for wealth and worldly goods, he would provide a place where minions of the underworld could come together and plot the downfall of Humanity; he hid the place in plain sight, where he thought he would never be noticed, much less found out."
"Let me guess," I cut in. "The Moonlighter."
"Yes, and he was quite successful at keeping under the radar, so to speak. He operated this establishment for three years before we found him out."
"And that's when he sold out and got out of Dodge?"
"Correct. He left this place unguarded and unchecked. You see, Stan functioned as a safety valve; with him in residence, the demons who frequented the bar had to behave and not run amok amongst the populace – they have no self-control, really, and require constant supervision. Now that supervision is gone, and if we can't have Stan, we can at least close this place to them."
"Let's be wacky here a minute and assume I buy into this. Where does all the killing you mentioned come in?"
"Hopefully it doesn't, Anthony, but you must understand; demons are ravaging, conscienceless devils with the instincts of wild beasts. If threatened they will strike out in a violent, bloody and, most often, fatal manner. They must be brought down by any means necessary."
I tried, I really tried, but that story was just too ludicrous to get a grip on. "Seriously, you expect me to buy into this?"
Sequoia placed both hands flat on the bar top and leaned toward me like a cat that's tired of playing with the mouse. "Yes," she said in a voice as tight as a fully drawn bowstring, "we do."
It took me a minute to see it because those eyes locked mine into place and wouldn't let go until it was her idea. After a stare-down of that magnitude I naturally lowered my eyes; that's when I so what was going on with her hands.
Like I said, they lay flat, palms down on the bar in front of her, but the thing that grabbed my full attention was all the smoke they were giving off. There was this faint hissing sound, and I swear I could see heat ripples rising from her fingers. Even as I registered all this, she leaned back and took her hands off the bar.
What remained were two handprints, a pair of blackened, still-smoldering images that had been burned about an eighth of an inch into the solid oak of the bar top. I looked back up at Sister Sequoia and the little smirk that had crept onto her face; it was even more disturbing than her scowl.
"I am sorry about your countertop," Sister Sociable's voice drifted to me, "but we had to make our point. Demons do exist, Anthony; you're looking at one right now."
-To Be Continued