Home > Kill City Blues (Sandman Slim #5)

Kill City Blues (Sandman Slim #5)
Richard Kadrey

I’M IN A window seat at Donut Universe eating heart-crippling lumps of deep-fried dough with the Devil. Ex-Devil technically, but then technically we’re both ex-Devils. He was Lucifer before I was. Now he’s Samael and I’m back to just plain Stark.

I take a bite of an apple fritter.

“How’s your donut?”

Samael eyes his glazed old-fashioned suspiciously, like maybe it’s haunted.

“Charming. Did I invent these? They taste like something designed to destroy mortals from the inside out.”

Candy says, “Nope. We came up with them all on our own.”

“How wonderfully suicidal you people are. Donuts must be the very essence of free will.”

As for the Devil job, I stuck another poor son of a bitch with that. Mr. Muninn. Some days I feel bad about it. Some days I don’t. Today the sun is out, I’m eating donuts with my girl and another ex-Devil, and it’s all pretty goddamn heartwarming.

Samael says, “That blond woman buying coffee. She sold me her soul for a 1956 Les Paul Goldtop. I don’t think she ever learned to play it. The man behind must be a pious bore. He’s virtually free of sin sign.”

The Devil can see people’s sins. They’re like streaks of black tar on skin. Since I quit the damnation biz, I can’t see sin sign, but as an angel, Samael can still pull that rabbit out of the hat. I don’t miss doing that trick.

I say, “This is why I don’t take you to Bamboo House. I don’t want you taking an inventory of my friends.”

“Sorry. It’s a hard habit to break.”

Candy is sitting next to Samael, trying not to let on how thrilled she is to meet the original Devil. I haven’t seen her this excited since we met a furry, six-foot-tall Pikachu at the Lollipop Dolls store in Beverly Hills.

She has her pink laptop on the table, open to Wikipedia. She’s updating the Sandman Slim page. And by “updating,” I mean taking out all the dumbest rumors about me.

“Does it say anything about me being Lucifer?”

She nods.

“Sort of. It says you were always Lucifer and that Sandman Slim doesn’t exist. He’s just one of the Devil’s fronts.”

“You might want to take that out,” says Samael. “You don’t want any demon hunters or aspiring crusaders taking potshots at you.”

“Yeah. Delete it all.”

Candy types something over the Devil stuff.

“Is there a picture of me?”

“A drawing. It’s pretty dumb. Kind of like a police composite sketch in a movie.”

“Delete it, please.”

“You got it, Chief,” she says, channeling Jimmy Olsen.

A police sketch. I’m not surprised. They’ve known who I am for a while now. So why aren’t there fifty patrol cars outside? Why isn’t there a SWAT team waiting for me at the Chateau Marmont? I’m not lucky enough that they’d lose my paperwork and all the surveillance photos. That means somebody doesn’t want me taken in, which means I have a secret benefactor. I don’t think Blackburn would do it, even if I did save his wife’s soul. The head of the Sub Rosa is too political to be sentimental. That means it’s someone I don’t know about. I don’t like that. Secret friends can turn into full frontal enemies without you even knowing about it.

“I was down in Hell yesterday. Father—Mr. Muninn—sends his regards.”

I smile at the image. Mr. Muninn is God. A piece of him anyway. A while back, when God finally admitted he didn’t know how to run the universe, he had a nervous breakdown. He broke into five smaller Gods. The good news is that the God brothers don’t like each other very much. The bad news is that the God brothers don’t like each other very much. It’s not doing creation any good being run by a B team that can’t stand the sight of each other.

“He looks a little funny in his Lucifer armor, doesn’t he? Like a beach ball in a tin can. He doesn’t have what you’d call a classic warrior’s physique.”

Samael pushes away his donut with his fingertips.

“Are you going to eat that?” says Candy.

“It’s yours,” he says.

Smiling, she wraps the donut in a napkin and drops it into her bag. Samael looks puzzled before he realizes she’s going to keep it as a souvenir.

“Did Mr. Muninn fix up the armor any?” I ask.

Samael gives me a look.

“Of course not. The damage is part of the mystique. I notice that you added more than a few burns and scrapes in a very short time.”

“Then you should thank me. I mystiqued it even more.”

Candy says, “He was cute playing Iron Man and it was fun pretending I was f**king Tony Stark, but the armor froze my boobs at night, so I’m kind of glad it’s gone.”

“No, we wouldn’t want one of the few intact holy remnants of the War in Heaven inconveniencing . . . your boobs,” Samael says.

Candy smiles at him.

“Would you like me to update your Wikipedia page?”

He frowns.

“I have a page? I don’t like that. Please remove it.”

“I can’t. But don’t worry about it. It’s mostly old Bible stories and folktales. There isn’t anything about your nice suits.”

“Still.”

“By the way, thanks for all the swell help when I was Downtown,” I say. “It took me three months to find your stupid clues in the library and escape.”

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