Though it is a tired complaint, Noah was certain that if Cleatus hadn’t been perfectly willing to wage war on humanity just for the heck of it, the airline system would have convinced him. One would think that with all the inane inventions humans came up with (like marshmallows, or those little bright-lit boxes that sent pornography to one another), they could at least arrange a flight to America that didn’t require a six-hour stopover in Heathrow, but apparently that was too much to hope for. Noah had considered having one of his acquaintances check him as luggage so he might sleep through the whole affair, but upon further consideration he decided that was probably the option least likely to get him to him intended destination. Instead he pulled some strings and arranged a first class ticket, which meant the food was just as inedible but at least the seats were spacious.
Noah rattled the ice in his drink and looked around the airport bar. Solitary travelers like himself littered the tables, leaning over each other to flirt over cocktails or drink away the inevitable jetlag. He turned away, inexplicably irritated at the display, and found at his side a dark-haired man who hadn’t been there a moment before. The man smiled, all straight white teeth and predatory charm. “Should keep them covered, eyes like that,” he drawled, “people are starting to stare.”
“You’re the one wearing sunglasses indoors in the middle of the night,” Noah bit back, trying to shift away from the stranger. He may not have been an aficionado of human culture, but he knew enough to notice the odd behaviour.
The man laughed, a low hiss. “I’d get more attention if I took them off,” he said, leaning forward, showing Noah a glint of gold iris over the rim of his glasses. Noah started. An Ace? It couldn’t be. He would have been able to sense him.
The man leaned back on his stool and looked Noah up and down. “I know you’re not a demon,” he said, “so you must be one of Hers. I haven’t come across many of you before. And a snake, too, by the looks of it. Weren’t you all in a spot of trouble a while back for trying to commit mass genocide? My boss was quite impressed. He had a notion to call you guys in to wreak some havoc when Armageddon didn’t work out, but of course She would never let him anyway so it doesn’t really matter.”
Noah sipped cautiously at his drink, trying not to betray his interest. “You’re crazy,” he said, “Armageddon hasn’t happened.”
“Of course not, weren’t you listening? An eleven-year-old boy and his friends thwarted it a few years back. The Angel and I tried to help but ended up being completely incompetent, which ironically was the best thing for it.” The man paused. “I suppose I ought to introduce myself properly.” He held his hand out. “Crowley, formerly an Angel who happened to hang about with the wrong crowd, now a minion of darkness, or so the business card says.”
Noah stared at Crowley’s outstretched hand for a moment trying to remember what exactly he was supposed to do with it, but then it came to him and he took it in his own and let Crowley shake them up and down. “Noah,” he said, “Ace of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes.” He paused, then added, “Intrigued.”
Crowley’s feral grin grew wider.