The next few days were spent packing everything that belonged to them that was in Homestead. It became clear that they were moving on, and wouldn't be coming back for some time. Two mornings later, Dragon said his good byes again and they all got on the Vagabond.
From Los Angeles to Chicago in the Vagabond was a quick jaunt. Dragon had visited Brimstone before to talk over cases, so he knew where the office was. He got Kim and Mary set up in a local hotel and let Dave and the Teacher work out their own arrangements. Then he got a cab and went over to Brimstone's office.
Brimstone was in the second floor of a small brownstone in the business district. Dragon went up and looked in through the frosted glass, which was glowing red. He opened the door and was greeted by a tiny office, holding only a desk and a young blonde secretary wearing horn-rimmed glasses and an outdated dress.
"Hi, Dolores," Dragon said.
Dolores looked up and smacked her gum, then answered in a Chicago accent, "Oh, hiya, Dragon. You here to see the boss? He's in Hell."
She jerked her thumb behind her at the red glow that was emanating from the wall. Dragon walked through the glow and was standing in Hell.
The walls were red rock, and outside of the ten foot circle that looked like a normal office, demons were running around and filing contracts in filing cabinets placed everywhere. Screams were echoing off the walls the way muzak played in an elevator.
Inside the ten foot area was a fine ebony desk and pictures mounted on the walls with various headlines from the 1930s. A well-stocked bookshelf showcased the works of Spillane, Christie and Conan Doyle. Behind the desk there was a demon. His skin was a deep red, and his eyes were black. His feet were up on the desk, but they didn't end in cloven hooves. They ended in black and white penny loafers.
The demon was dressed in a pinstripe suit and vest, with the jacket hung on a wooden coat rack next to the entrance. He had a matching gray fedora on his head and a cigar in his mouth. He pulled the cigar out and said, "Hey, Dragon! What brings you here?"
"Your dimensional gateway," Dragon joked. He sat down in the overstuffed leather chair opposite the desk and said, "Actually, I need your help, Brimstone."
"Hey, you know I'll help you. Cash or charge?"
"How about if I owe you one?"
Brimstone looked at him doubtfully and said, "How big a favor we talking here?"
"I need to relearn my detective skills," Dragon answered, "and you've got the knowledge. Plus I know I can work with you. In return, I'll owe you a favor."
Brimstone stood up and took his hat off, revealing red horns. He tossed it to land on the coat rack and said, "Dragon, you're a big guy. Having a favor from you could be helpful. But I need more."
"I can't pay you," Dragon began, but Brimstone cut him off.
"Not money. I have a case right now and if you'll help as you learn, you got a deal."
Dragon stood up and shook his hand. Then he coughed and said, "Brimstone, how do you stand the sulfur smell in this place? It must kill your other clients."
Brimstone frowned as he put on his suit coat. "Does it smell? I didn't notice. Damn force fields."
He slammed the wall and a humming sound kicked in. The smell of sulfur slowly leached away. "There we go," he said, putting his fedora on. "Let's get some breakfast."
They walked out into the real office and Brimstone said, "Dolores, if Rosen and Stanford call, tell them I'm on the case."
Dolores cracked her gum and smiled, showing all her teeth. "You got it, boss."
They walked out of the office and into a 24-hour restaurant across the street. It was marked, "Ziggy's."
Dragon opened the glass door and went in. The place looked like a diner out of the fifties. It was decorated in blue and white tile and vinyl, and had a white porcelain bar across the back wall. A large grill was sending up flames behind the bar, and Dragon could smell bacon cooking.
Brimstone sat down next to an older man in a brown sport coat and said, "Hey, Frank. How's it going?"
The man turned and answered, in a thick Brooklyn accent, "How's it going, he asks! It's mid-morning and the thirst is upon me! At least the sun is shining."
Dragon looked and saw that the man had sharp white fangs. He looked through the windows at the sunlight streaming in and sat down next to Brimstone on a stool.
"He's a vampire," Dragon whispered.
"Yes, I'm a vampire, and you are a very large Japanese man," Frank answered. "It's not polite to talk about people behind their backs."
"But, how do you survive the sun?" Dragon asked.
"The sun? Sonny, I love the sun. I hate the darkness. When night falls, if I'm outside, I'll be sorry. Go up like a roman candle. Hey, Ziggy, I said the thirst is on me over here!"
A very fat bearded albino at the grill turned and waved his third arm at Frank. "Then get it yourself! By now, you know where it is!"
Dragon looked horrified as Frank stood up and went behind the counter. He looked over at Brimstone.
"Is he going to drink his blood?"
"Blood? Sonny, where were you raised? You drink blood? I need coffee, black, and lots of it." Frank lifted up the pot and plunged his teeth into it as Ziggy yelled in protest. Frank pulled his brown stained fangs free and groaned. "Ah, that was good."
The door opened and a rugged looking man in his mid-forties walked in with a gorgeous brunette in her early twenties. They both waved at Brimstone and sat down on stools next to him.
"Hey, Mark, Cleo. How's the freelance exorcism business?"
The woman said, "Eh. So-so. We haven't had a call in a week. You got anything?"
Brimstone shook his head and said, "Hey, have you guys met Dragon? Dragon, this is Mark and Cleo Antony."
Dragon did a double-take and then realized that Brimstone wasn't kidding. He shook both their hands and noticed the wedding rings. He heard Brimstone say, "Yeah, Cleo's an ex-nun, Mark's an ex-cop. Neither one of them could hold down a job."
There was a general laugh among the patrons, and Dragon looked at Brimstone. "Ex-nun? She's married to him, and they do freelance exorcisms? Frank over there is a vampire who can't stand the night and drinks coffee to survive? Ziggy's a large albino with three arms? Even your secretary is a reincarnated spirit! Don't you know any normal people?"
Brimstone reached for the cup of coffee that Frank reluctantly handed him and said, "I know you."
"Thank you. You just answered my question." Dragon took a sip of his coffee that Frank had poured him and saw Brimstone's face freeze. He was staring out the window.
Dragon looked and saw about four Cadillacs parked outside. Sixteen men in incredibly bad suits and cheap ties were walking towards the restaurant with their briefcases in hand.
"What's going on? Is that DEMON?" Dragon asked.
"Worse," Brimstone answered, "those are some of the people I owe money to."
* * * * *
The old man rushed through the forest in front of him. He could hear the chants of the tribal warriors closing in. He clasped his prize, wrapped in black cloth, to his chest.
He stumbled over a twisted root in the ground and cried out in Japanese. He pulled himself up and kept running, favoring his now-injured ankle. He realized that he was going to be caught, so he did the only thing he could do.
He hid the prize. He shoved the bundle into the roots beneath him, covering them over with some of the available vegetation. A flash of red erupted as the sun hit the prize, and he threw the black cloth over it to block it. He covered that over with more vegetation and turned to face his captors.
* * * * *
"Some of the people you owe money to?" Dragon yelled.
Brimstone was already out the back door and into the alley. Dragon followed him and saw him getting into a rusted pink Cadillac convertible. A brown German Sheppard walked by and said, "Hey, buddy."
Brimstone waved at him and said, "Hi, pal. Dragon, get in!"
Dragon hopped in the passenger seat of the convertible as Brimstone slammed it into reverse.
"You know a talking dog, too?" Dragon asked.
"Nope. Never seen him before in my life. He's new."
The car roared out of the alley and out onto the street, its tires screaming in protest as Brimstone shifted the car into first and peeled out away from the restaurant. Brimstone's creditors yelled and got back into their cars.
It didn't take long for Brimstone to lose their pursuers. He was a good driver. Once they were clear, he drove off to the harbor.
"So, where are we going?" Dragon asked him.
"We're on a case. Local insurance company had one of their properties torched. They thought it was arson, so they sent an investigator."
"I thought you handled occult cases," Dragon said.
"I do. The investigator came back and all he could say was The Lord's Prayer, over and over again. He's been at it for two days now. They figured it sounds like a demon and called me. Personally, I don't think it's a demon, but something weird is going on."
"Why would a demon make someone recite the Lord's Prayer?" Dragon muttered.
"Bingo," Brimstone answered. He looked at Dragon and punched him on the shoulder. "Hey, you still got some of your instincts."
"That was a no-brainer, Brimstone, and you know it."
"Yeah, but I was trying to be nice."
"Don't worry about it. My other teacher isn't."
They arrived at a burnt out warehouse surrounded by police tape. One squad car was parked there. Brimstone and Dragon got out and walked over to the car.
"Hey, can we look around?" Brimstone asked.
The officer who was awake looked up lazily and froze when he saw a demon and a seven and a half foot tall Japanese man standing next to his car. He just nodded dumbly.
Brimstone shrugged and walked into the ashes of the warehouse. "It's been two days, so all the good stuff is probably gone. But it can't hurt to check."
"Okay," Brimstone said, sifting through the ashes. "What is the first rule of forensics?"
"Don't touch anything," Dragon said.
"Very good," Brimstone replied without turning around. He picked up and handful of ashes and let it drift through his fingers and onto the ground.
"And what is the first rule of detective work?"
"Grab as much as you can before the cops arrive."
"Good. Now, we're a bit late on this one, but something tells me this guy is gonna hit again, and we'll be there when he does."
It took them an hour to carefully go over the warehouse, and when they were done, Dragon said, "I can't figure anything, Brimstone."
"Okay, Dragon. Here's what I got. No traces of gasoline anywhere, except a spot that might have been a forklift. No explosives. What solid wood I found looks like it burned from the inside out. This tells me that the fire was definitely supernatural in origin. Now, I'm going to show you, step-by-step, how I figured that out."