I was sitting next to Satan at the BnB
in Kodiak in the winter of 1992
when those two federal agents fell through the front door.
That was their first mistake: always enter the BnB through the side door.
Satan was spinning a quarter on the bar and a williwaw whirled across the street. The tiny tornado snatched up slate dust and coffee cups and crows as it rose up behind the feds and shoved them through the doorway. Their awkward entrance caused one of them to jostle the elbow of the dangerously crystallized Crabber Mike as he was lining up a shot on the eight ball.
The quarter hummed and jumped and seemed solid as it settled into a saddle in the red mahogany. The Devil arched his eyebrow and smiled like the Yukon border: long and cold and crooked. I knew those federal boys were in for a whole lot of trouble.
“Why don’t you just leave those fellas be?’ I asked.
“Oh you know me.” Said Satan, sipping his Sauza as he tipped his head toward them, “It’s you they‘re looking for, of course.” The corner of his smile poked me in the ribs.
“I know.” I said, pulling the Tilley hat down over my eyes, “I know.”
Satan scooted down as the agents approached. They sat on either side of me. I slumped over my liquid sunshine.
I sat up. “Yes I am. And you are?” I stuck out my hand.
“Ahm.” He shook my hand- soft and droopy. “I am Agent Breitz. This is Agent Dobromowitz. ” Red lettered FBI badges flopped open. Behind us we heard a short laugh, a cry of alarm and the sound of a sack of potatoes hitting the floor from a height of three feet.
“Two Liquid Sunshines for Cool Breeze and Dobro, please Bernie.”
“No beers sir. This is official business.” he waved off Bernie who went on filling the pints anyway.
Crabber Mike, who had been looming, stepped up. “Who's your friends, Terry?”
“Oh- Crabber Mike, this Is Cool Breeze and this is Dobro.”
“You.” He pointed a kielbasa sized finger at Agent Dobromowitz “You made me miss.”
“Maybe you two should play a game” I suggested. “Looks like Louie's taking a break.” Louie was laying on the floor. His hat was a couple of feet away.
“Go ahead Tom.” Agent Breitz handed his partner the pint of Sunshine. “Blend in. But be on your guard.” He looked around the dark old bar- (not much more than a converted cabin, really)- “There is something about this place...” His eyes rested momentarily on the Devil. “Something...” He took a slug of the Sunshine. Crabber Mike seemed to smile behind his impenetrable blond beard which run high up his red cheeks like wild salmonberry bushes. He even has a streak of blond hair that runs across the bridge of his nose and reaches up for his eyebrows.
“Terry." Agent Breitz turned to me.
”You are not an easy person to put your finger on in a town of only six thousand residents, and that is saying something, considering our training and resources. Everywhere we went you had just left.”
It was true. My crabber senses had been making me move all day. I didn't know what was making them go off, but when I saw Satan sitting at the B holding an icy Bloody Mary to his forehead I just sat next to him and waited. When you see Satan you may as well walk right up to him. The Devil is, if anything, more dangerous from a distance. One Sunshine later the FBI was sniffing up the stairway.
Why me? What did I do?
Did they know about the doorway under my house? That Pillar mountain was a spongecake of secret tunnels and chambers, chock full of whacked out delusional nutjobs with bears and blowtorches and massive Tesla coils? That ghosts of whalers and longliners past sat at the bar beside us??
“You were born, were you not, at Bunker Hill Air Force Base in Peru, Indiana?”
“Yeah...my Dad was in the Air Force.”
“Your parents were unwitting participants in a genetic manipulation experiment. In 1961 the Department of Defense embarked on a program using irradiated prune juice and a specially designed forceps in an attempt to create a supersoldier. You are the result.”
“I'm a Supersoldier?”
“No. The experiment was a spectacular failure and a humiliating black stain on the nation's entire secret genetic manipulation program, sadly.
You see, scientists had long been aware that certain individuals have “Rainman” type abilities: fantastic cognitive and memory powers combined with a fractured and asocial mentality. We hoped select American children could be carefully damaged to create the perfect soldier: ruthless, relentless and with a computer like ability to remember mission parameters and details as well as rules of engagement, ahhh anniversaries, phone numbers...”
“I'm a Super Rolodex?”
“No. One by one the participants have all died in remarkably stupid ways. Number Four stepped in front of a bus while buttering a bagel. Number thirty two simply forgot he was in the bathtub. Etcetera.”
“I'm a Super moron?”
“Yes. The only remarkable thing about you is that you are still alive. However, since the government has spent so much time and effort on you we have decided to present you with a unique opportunity to serve your country.
Satan elbowed me. Crabber Mike was physically pouring a shot of Jagermeister down Dobro's throat.
Over the years Satan and I have gotten pretty well acquainted, I’m sorry to say.
And I’m not going to tell you he’s misunderstood. He’s understood pretty well, actually, except for the part about the souls.
And the part about who he is and where he came from.
But he really hates the humans.
He despises us.
The Angels took his wings away impossibly long ago, and the time has tightened around the Devil like a Moebius anaconda. It has crushed and swallowed him. In its belly the acid of the ages has left him stripped and diminished. He has become a shard of sharpened bone, a hard evil speck with a single flickering pilot light in his head that won't go out:
He wants to see the human race burned down to cosmic ash and blown across the expanse of this entirely too unlikely universe. The looping and repeating laughtrack behind the human comedy has driven the Devil mad. He wants us gone, gone, gone, finally gone. And if that means he is destroyed too, along with all the Angels and everything else that ever has been, or will ever be, well, that’s OK with Mr. Scratch.
He just wants out.
Chapter One: Dogs Playing Poker
Set out running but I take my time…
A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine…
I first met the Devil in Dutch Harbor, which may come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time on that island paradise. It was 1989, before the crab was rationalized and the dire one thousand were sent back to Kodiak and Seattle to gnaw through their long winter months standing on dirt.