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So far, Barry has signed his soul into servitude to Satan on Earth. He desperately wants out of his contract, but Margery, his demon boss, tortures him with her magical cigarettes when he refuses to follow orders. She’s forcing him to transport concentrated evil energy from Denver to Trinidad, Colorado, where demons dump the substance down air shafts into an abandoned coal mine. It’s forming a rift that will soon open The Gates of Hell and spill Hell’s refugee camp onto Earth.
Knowing how bad life will be for both humans and demons once the gates open, Margery and senior driver Vern ask Barry to help plug up the air shafts. He agrees until he finds out they plan to sacrifice innocent children down into the hell hole. To get Barry back on board, Margery contracts Nina, his love interest. She promises to release Nina from servitude and give her to Barry if he follows through on the plan. Otherwise, Nina will suffer.
Barry has no choice but to transport a box truck full of kids to Trinidad. On the way, Trisha, an Angel’s Apprentice seizes the truck and agrees not to kill Barry if he turns informant for the angels. Barry agrees, but Vern was not so cooperative and Trisha kills him. At the Trinidad warehouse, Trisha calls Barry outside and tells him there were no kids in the truck. They believe Vern and Barry were decoys and the kids were transported in the vans. Since Margery’s plan to sacrifice the kids to close the Gates of Hell is back on, Barry has to find a way for Trisha and the White Warriors to get on the Bellow’s Ranch and save the kids.
The Courier Series is about Barry White, a twenty-something computer geek with an overbearing mother, no prospects of finding a girlfriend, and an unemployment record that’s made him pessimistic he’ll ever be happy.
In Call for Obstruction, Barry has just lost his fourth jobs in the past year due to corporate downsizing. Desperate for employment, he jumps at the first position he’s offered over the phone, driver for OTG Courier Services. Shortly after meeting his new boss, a tiny yet fiery old lady named Margery, she coerces him into signing a questionable employment contract he soon regrets.
The Courier was originally written as a twitter novel @TheCourierNovel in 2009, and the same year it won the Annual Textnovel Writing Contest. Later parts of the story are still tweeting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
W. J. Howard lives near Denver and writes horror, fantasy and sci-fi with a bit of comedy mixed in. Wendy is also the Co-op Manager for Visionary Press Cooperative, leading an innovative way to publish.
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I exit the women’s restroom at the same time Oscar comes out of the men’s. We both pause and stare each other down.
“At least you know your place,” he says with his usual scowl.
I roll my eyes and scan up and down the hallway. “Where’s Margery?”
“Hell.” He turns to go back toward the garage.
“Hey, Oscar.” I shuffle to catch up. “You been out at the Bellow’s Ranch?”
“Many times. Why you ask?”
“I might have to go out there tonight. Wondering what to expect.”
“Stay clear of the demons and hellhounds, and you’ll be fine.” Oscar keeps forward, as if he’s hoping I’ll go away.
I’m not giving up though. “Demons and hellhounds?”
“Mean bastards. Sometimes Margery sends drivers out there just to get rid of them. Not that she wants to get rid of you.” Oscar sniggers.
I pause, swallow hard, and think how Margery’s been threatening to send Nina to the ranch. And what about Trisha. Surely she know what she’s getting the white warriors into?
Oscar turns into the garage and I follow, calling out, “How do you get on and off the ranch?”
“You mean there’s nothing to stop people from wandering onto the ranch?” I ask.
“Not if they’re mortal.”
“What if someone sees what’s going on out there?”
“They’d never get past the hellhounds.”
“Is there some other way to get on and off the ranch?”
Oscar turns and glares at me. “Why you asking so many questions?”
I don’t know what to say at first, then stumble over my words. “If I go out there tonight. I mean, what if something happens. I don’t want any trouble.”
“Tunnels.” Oscar reaches into a tool chest, pulls out a hammer, and holds it up like he might use it on my head. “No more questions.”
* * *
Back at the lobby I stand over Margery’s table, scanning the papers strewn across the top. Tunnels. Where are the tunnels? How do I find the tunnels? As much paper as Margery keeps around here, there have to be records or maps detailing the underground, especially the coal mine’s air shafts. At least I’m optimistic there is.
Nina pokes her head out of a door off the kitchen, where I’ve only seen Margery go in and out. It’s the same door she disappeared through the day I signed my life away. I had assumed the door was off limits to drivers.
“What you doing, Bear?” Nina’s got this forced grin she gets when she’s about to ask for a favor.
“Looking for something,” I tell her while shuffling through what appear to be the new drivers’ contracts. “What are you doing?”
“Filing.” Nina rolls her eyes. “What are you looking for?”
“I probably shouldn’t tell you. I’ve already gotten you in enough trouble.”
“There’s a lot more paperwork in there.” Nina points to the door where she had exited. “More documents than a world full of trees could provide.”
I look at her confused.
“C’mon, I’ll show you.”
Inside the room, we weave through a maze of stacked papers, some of the piles towering out of reach. Overhead, naked lightbulbs are suspended in a black void, and there’s no telling the size of the room, because there are no walls in sight. One grey, metal file cabinets sits in the midst of it all. It’s old and dented, as if it’s been there for years.
“You weren’t kidding, Nina. Margery must be a hundred years behind on filing.”
“Get this. I have to file all this paperwork into that one file cabinet, and it’s already full.” Nina’s lower lip quivers. “This isn’t working for Satan, Bear. This is Hell.”
I pull out the second drawer from the top and examine the contents. Appears no different than any other filing system, completely packed with overstuffed manila folders. “When do you have to have it done?” I’m afraid to ask.
“She didn’t say.” Nina’s voice is squeaky now. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Hand me one of those contracts,” I say to Nina.
She gives me a two inch stack of legal sized paper with the name “Abe Templeton” on it. I close the second drawer and open the bottom one, marked for files at the end of the alphabet. It’s also filled to capacity. A tab for the letter ’T’ is up front, and no surprise, so is a folder for Abe. I can barley slip a finger inside the folder though.
“Good luck getting it in there,” Nina says.
“You forget that nothing’s as it seems around here.” I slowly lower the contract and jerk when every last page is sucked into the file cabinet as if the thing’s part vacuum.
Nina claps. “Brilliant. You’re a magician.”
“Now that we know how to put files in,” I say, “how do they come out?”
Nina pushes me out of the way. “What are you trying to find?”
“Like I said, you’re better off not knowing. Besides, Margery can’t know about this.”
“Bear, you help me out all the time. Let me help you for once.”
“Okay. I need a map to a tunnel system. Below the Bellow’s ranch.”
“Well, let’s look under maps and tunnels,” Nina says. Only there’s nothing under either.
“Let me check Bellows,” I tell her and cross my fingers it’s in there, and it is, taking up half the drawer. I flip through the file, searching for anything that looks like a map, but nothing even close to a drawing exists.
“Barry.” Nina’s voice is muffled and in the distance, but still sounds frantic about something.
What is she into now?
“Barry! Hurry!” she calls out a second time.
“Hang on!” I sigh and jog further into the maze, ready to save her ass yet again.
She’s standing in front of blueprints, stacked up into the darkness, holding one partially unrolled, and pointing at the legend. “I found it. I can’t believe I found it!”
I take it from her and spread it out on the floor. There are three maps in the roll: one of the warehouse, one of the ranch, and one of the tunnels connecting the two. Nothing detailing the air shafts though. I’m just about the kiss her when we hear the door slam closed.
“Hey! Girlie! Where are you? I said no breaks.”
We both freeze, our eyes widen, then Nina holds her finger up to her lips to shush me. “Coming!” she calls out, then whispers to me, “I’ll get rid of her.”
I shake my head frantically and reach to grab her wrist, but she’s already gotten away.
“I’m sorry,” Nina says. “I’m just so tired, I must have nodded off.”
“You worthless little whore,” Margery’s voice deepens as she speaks.
“Really, Marge. You sound like my mother.”
Oh, no. Did Nina just say that?
“You want a mother figure? Come here. I’ll give you a mother figure.” By the sound of Margery’s tone, she’s full demon.
Nina’s screams fade into the distance and are lost behind the door slamming again.
Shit! I jump up in a hurry to go after Nina, but a voice in my head tells me different. Get the map to Trisha first.
* * *
On my way to the thorn bush, where I last met Trisha, I decide to take a shortcut through the garage and run into Oscar again, literally. He’s like hitting a rock and knocks me off my feet. The rolled up blueprint flies up into the air and Oscar catches it.
He leans over and hands the blueprint back to me. “Where you headed so fast?”
“Fresh air.” Before he can ask me any more questions, I’m on my feet and running out the door. Outside, I dive under branches and out of sight.
“Trisha,” I whisper, “I’ve got something for you.”
Tricia appears out of thin air, up close to my face. “What you got?”
I jerk backward into a hundred or more thorns. “Damn. Warn a guy a little slower next time.”
“Pshaw,” Trisha utters. She’s in the middle of filing her nails and her hair is all messy again, like the time we first met. “You’re getting back to me awfully quickly. This better not be a waste of my time.”
I hold out the blueprints. “Drawings of the warehouse, ranch, and tunnels between both.”
She grins and snatches it out of my hand. “Tunnels, huh.” She unrolls it partially and studies the layout.
“Yeah, tunnels,” I say. “There’s one right under us that leads west to the Bellow’s Ranch. You think you can use it?”
“Use it? Barry, you have no idea how valuable a find this is.”
Finally I’ve done something right. I wonder if it’s enough for Trisha to help me out of my contract. And, considering Nina was first to find it, maybe she’ll score a few brownie points too. Still, it’s probably not the right time to bug Trisha about what I want. So instead I ask, “What now?”
“Go back inside,” Trisha rolls the print back up in a hurry. “Do whatever Margery tells you to do, and I mean anything.”
“Oh, no. I’m not getting myself in any more trouble. Plus, I’ve got Nina to take care of.”
“I’m telling you not to worry about any of that. You have to make it look like you’re on Margery’s side, or she might get wise to us.”
“And . . . if I do something against one of those Ten Commandments your side is always preaching about, you’re not going to hold it against me?”
“Don’t be stupid,” she says. “Now go. If I need you, I’ll find you.” Then Trisha’s gone, taking the blueprint with her.
I crawl out from under the bush, feeling a lot uneasy about a wanna be angel telling me to be bad.
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