Black’s mansion made all the other houses in the immediate surroundings look cheap by comparison. Its vast Ionic-columned porch was topped with a pediment complete with marble sculptures depicting the moment the Faeries took over Devilsgate and behind it sat a huge golden dome that dazzled like the sun. Not that the sun had shone in Devilsgate for a very long time.
Drake and Gizmo climbed the marble steps up to the red lacquered front doors. Gizmo grabbed the gold doorknocker and paused to look over his shoulder at Drake, ’For some reason Willow trusts you, don’t blow it, a lot is riding on this.’ He turned back to the door and rapped the knocker twice.
‘Okay,’ sighed Drake, ’but I’ve already told you, I can’t promise anything.’
Moments later the sound of shuffling feet could be heard behind the over-sized doors. There was a brief pause before the doors slowly opened.
Drake took a step back and shuddered.
A grey hunched-back demon, dressed in a white shirt and pique vest, appeared from behind the door. He bowed low, so low in fact that he nearly scraped his rather long nose on the marble floor. ‘Good afternoon.’
Drake cringed. Demons; he hated demons. They were the lowest, selling their souls to anyone that would have it them off them.
‘Hello, it’s Lomax isn’t it?’ asked Gizmo.
‘Ah, Mr Chetana. I do apologise, I didn’t recognise you in present company.’ The Demon eyed Drake up and down suspiciously, his nostrils flared in disgust.
Drake squeezed his hands into fists. That demon had some nerve.
‘We have an appointment with Mr Black at three,’ said Gizmo.
Lomax’s green eyes traced over the marking on Drake’s face. ‘Are you sure you have an appointment? Mr Black is very busy with guests at the moment,’ he said, speaking to Gizmo but not taking his eyes off Drake.
‘Could you please just check for us?’ snapped Drake. This Demon was starting to do his head in.
Gizmo glared at Drake before turning back to Lomax. ‘Please Lomax? I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important and we do have an appointment, I booked it with Funestus myself.’
Lomax sighed. ‘Alright. You may come in and wait.’ He bowed low again and backed into the hallway whilst gesturing for Drake and Gizmo to follow.
The hallway was huge, probably half the size of a small house. A large staircase, carpeted in unicorn hair that had been dyed crimson, dominated the back wall, its large oak bannisters, dripping with carved grapes and vines, twisted elegantly up to the next floor. And from the domed ceiling hung a diamond chandelier the size of a medium sized dining table.
Lomax knocked on black double doors to the right of the hallway. A muffled voice told him to enter and he disappeared into the room.
A few moments passed, in which there were raised voices and a thumping sound, before Lomax shuffled out of the room, pulling the doors closed behind him.
‘Mr. Black will be out to see you in a short while, if you would like to wait in his study.’ Lomax led them through double doors on the opposite side of the hallway and into Funestus Black’s study. He motioned for them to sit down on two antique chairs, bowed low, and backed out of the room.
‘Nice pad,’ said Drake, running his hand over the top rail of one of the mahogany chairs. His eyes lingered on Funestus’ uncluttered walnut desk and then to the bookshelves behind it stuffed full of books, both old and new, on a vast array of subjects from the antique leather-bound “Approaching the Ars Magica”, to “Demons: Techniques in Domination and Detention” and the new paperback by Zion Collins, “Zoning into Zoroastrianism”.
Drake turned as the mahogany Grandfather Clock in the corner of the room struck three. Rare piece, thought Drake, not many human clocks of such size or decoration survived the Appropriation Riots as the Faeries seemed to like chopping them up for firewood. That clock, sold on the black market, would feed the Lost Souls for a while and would get him off the hook. Would be a bit of a problem getting it out of the house though.
He smiled, shook his head and walked over to the walnut bureau sitting beside the clock. It was adorned with photographs of a blonde haired man shaking hands or accepting gifts and accolades from various celebrities including Stud Buchanan, the lead singer of Drake’s favourite band, The Skulls of Destiny, Daniel Powell from The Witch Factor and Gizmo’s actor father Yash.
Gizmo coughed and fidgeted in his chair.
‘Relax,’ said Drake spinning around, his boots squeaking on the parquet floor, ‘I’m not going to touch anything, mind you, this whole room would probably keep the Lost Souls going for a good few-’ But Drake stopped as he caught sight of an oil painting, with a thick gilt frame, hanging over the great baroque pavonazza fireplace on the far wall.
Drake swept over to it.
‘What’s up?’ asked Gizmo, as he turned in his chair to get a better look.
‘Look at this,’ said Drake, ‘I’ve…I’ve never seen anything like it before-’
‘Yes, it is exquisite, isn’t it?’ came a silky voice from behind them.
Drake turned his head to see a slight man, dressed in a ruby red silk smoking jacket, standing in the doorway, his aftershave filling the room with the fragrant smell of crushed orchids from Shangri-La and the aromatic teardrops of the weeping blossom tree that blooms only once every fifty years.
‘That is the legendary Fiery-death, the dragon fashioned out of pure copper by Vulcan at the behest of the Gods. It is supposed to inhabit the bowels of Hell, if you believe in such things.’
‘It’s so…vivid. It looks so real.’
‘Yes, the artist, Joseph Banks, was very talented. See how he has blended the gold, reds and oranges over there,’ said Funestus, coming to stand right behind Drake, his slender hand pointing to the bottom of the painting, ‘it actually seems as though the flames are projecting out at you and look here at the eyes, the eyes of the beast blaze with such a ferocity that you can feel its hatred.’ Funestus turned and extended his pale hand from under his silk jacket to Gizmo. ‘Ah Gizmo, how nice to see you again. How is your father?’
‘He’s good thank you, busy filming in the Honduras, and you?’
‘Oh, you know how it is, busy, busy, busy, and this is?’ he said, turning to Drake, his one eyebrow arched high, hidden under his floppy blond fringe.
‘This is Drake Blackthorn,’ said Gizmo.
‘So you are the young man that Gizmo and Willow have told me about. Pleased to meet you.’ He shook Drake’s hand loosely, his cold hand barely touching Drake’s skin.
Drake remained silent and unrelenting as he watched Funestus’ blue eyes lingering on his own face, on his tattoo. He was almost immune to the stares now but this guy, this guy made him feel weird, unclean even.
‘To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you.’ Funestus swept behind his desk and perched himself upon the arm of his red leather chair. ‘I didn’t think that they’d be able to persuade you to come.’
‘Well, as Willow explained-‘ started Gizmo.
Funestus held a pale hand up to silence him and turned his gaze to Drake. ‘Now, now Gizmo, let me talk to the young man that I’ve heard so much about.’
‘So talk,’ said Drake, his eyes not faltering under Funestus’ scrutiny. He could feel Gizmo cringing beside him, but he didn’t care. He disliked Funestus already; he was clearly playing games and Drake hated games. The guy was asking for all he got.