Jake Stowe’s eyes lit up at the sight of the satchel John carried into his garage. The old man clapped his hands together in celebration and instructed John to place the bag on the wooden counter than ran the length of the garage wall.
“Your task appears to be accomplished.”
John thought back to whacking J. Lewis Wasserman in the back of the head with a vase while he was in the process of getting naked. Jenny had quickly put her clothes back on while John hog-tied Wasserman and started searching his ten million dollar mansion. It didn’t take long to find it. John had the Sight to guide him so it was easy. The typewriter had more than enough bad mojo on it for John to walk right to it. He nicked the typewriter and a few other mystical goodies for his own personal use before slipping out of the house and into the LA night.
“Easy enough,” said John. "Even the most shrewd man in the world still thinks with his cock."
He unzipped the satchel and placed the typewriter on the counter. From far enough away in the dim lighting it looked just like any other old typing machine. Upon closer look you could see the crimson bloodstains that had faded over time. Their color may have faded, but their effects had not. John hated to touch the thing. Wasserman had never had the Sight so he had no idea what it was doing. He couldn’t feel the pain and horror that it oozed. In John’s eyes, a cloud of twisting black and crimson energy hovered over the thing. From the way Stowe looked at it, John knew he was also unaware of the poison that the typewriter carried.
“Beautiful,” Stowe said as he limped towards it. “So tragically beautiful.”
Stowe ran his twisted hands along the blood-spattered surface of the machine before he looked up at John, his eyes shining with emotion.
“Well done, Mr. Constantine.”
John lit up a fresh cigarette and waited until he had exhaled his first drag before speaking again. Meanwhile Stowe was lovingly inspecting the typewriter.
“Now you said there would be an ample reward.”
“Yes,” said Stowe not bothering to look up from the typewriter. “My next book will be dedicated solely to you, Mr. Constantine. A great honor, indeed”
“Er.. that’s not exactly the same as cash, squire.”
“I thought your type didn’t fool with money.”
“Most don’t, but I bloody well do.”
“Well,” Stowe looked back up at John. The adoration that had been in his eyes a few moments ago was now gone. “You will have to settle with the reward of joining Hollywood folklore. For, it is with this very typewriter that I plan to write my next book on the horrors of Hollywood. Think of the poetry, Mr. Constantine. The very item of which I will write about being used to tell its own story.”
“Not a good idea,” said John.
“What do you know?” Stowe asked with a scowl.
“I’m only the bleeding expert in the occult, and--”
John stopped mid-sentence. He smiled and bowed his head.
“And what am I saying? You are the expert when it comes to Hollywood myths and legends.”
Stowe leaned forward and started to try out the keys of the typewriter. The smile on his face quickly disappeared when he recoiled from the machine, a cut on his forefinger.
“Ow. Something sharp on the keys, it would seem.”
His hands went back to the keys, a concerned look on his face as he continued to type. The loud clacking of the keys filling the garage.
“What is happening?” He asked with a frantic look towards Constantine.
“Tried to warn you,” said John.
Now, Stowe’s blood was flowing freely from the cut on his finger and dripping across the surface of the keys. The crusted blood on the typewriter glowed a deep, dark crimson as Stowe continued to type.
“The story you told me the other day didn’t end like you thought it did,” John said as he blew smoke rings into the air. “You see, I have that nifty condition that lets me see the shite that people like you can’t. And when I touched the typewriter, it told me the rest of the story.”
Frederick Waltham snorted a line of cocaine off the surface of his desk. He sighed and rubbed his nostril, doing his best to get the coke into his system faster. He needed it to pull the all-nighter. Waltham turned to his typewriter. Fifty years on and he still used the same old typewriter with the blood-stained keys. A reminder of where he’d started. And the big office filled with awards was a reminder of where the typewriter had taken him. Even still, approaching eighty years old, he was still pushing forward. That’s what the coke was for. A little bump to keep him going. It was the middle of the night and Waltham was the only one in the building, dedicated to finishing the latest draft of his next big movie.
Science fiction pictures were all the rage now thanks to that movie last year, the goofy as fuck one Waltham only half-watched. It was stupid and the dialogue was tin-earned, but people lined up around the block to see it. Frank Waltham would be damned if he missed a chance to make that kind of money, to have that many people watching his movies. But nothing was coming to him. His first draft hadn’t been perfect, but he was able to muscle out one hundred and ten pages of rough draft. But now? Going back through the draft he just couldn’t think of anything. It was a complete and total blank.
The cheery voice made Waltham jump in his seat. He looked away from the typewriter and saw him standing in front of his desk. The same gentile smile on his smooth face, the same perfectly round pitch black sunglasses, and the same straw boater that had fallen out of fashion around the time of the stock market crash. He hadn’t aged a day. Waltham recoiled back at the sight of the man.
“I have to blame myself,” he said. “As of midnight, the covenant we signed fifty years ago has come due, Mr. Waltham. I am running a little behind, so I apologize.”
“No,” said Waltham. He balled his wrinkled fist and slammed it on the desk. “You can’t do this! That agreement or whatever it was, was bullshit. Everything I built was by my own hands, and nothing to do with you.”
“Mmm,” the man said. He had wandered off into a corner of Waltham’s office. He inspected the rows and rows of Academy Awards and other trophies on the shelves. “You doubt my powers, Mr. Waltham?”
“Yes,” said Waltham, pounding the desk again. “Yes I fucking do.”
The man turned around, a large smile on his face. He flashed those razor-sharp teeth that had been the subject of Waltham’s nightmares for thirty years.
“This is always my least favorite part of the deal,” he said with no trace of sadness or remorse in his voice. “But we must get to it. You've have had fifty years of uninterrupted success in your profession. You are a giant who straddles Hollywood like a colossus. Everything I promised all those years ago has come to pass. I have kept up my end of the bargain, now you must keep up yours.”
“But nothing,” said the man, his jovial nature suddenly evaporated. The fact that greeted him was made of stone. Or ice, more likely. “We made an agreement, one you entered into willingly, and consecrated in your blood. It has been bonded and nothing can break that bond.”
“I want an extension,” Waltham said, standing and rushing around the desk. “Can you give me that?”
Waltham fell at the man’s feet and wrapped his arms around his ankles.
“Please, more time. Just more.”
“I cannot extend your time,” the man said as he stepped out of Waltham’s grasp. Suddenly, a smile was back on his face. “But I can offer you something else… an escape clause.”
Waltham stood up slowly. He couldn’t get up and down like he used to, but the offer the man was dangling in front of him seemed like a lifeline so he jumped up as fast as he could to grab it.
“What escape clause?”
The man sighed and looked at Waltham, his fiery eyes hidden behind the sunglasses.
“If you can prove that the talent that I bestowed upon you is still there, even after the covenant has come due, then that means you had the ability all along. That will be considered a breach of contract on my part and our deal will be null and void. You get to keep your soul.”
“Yes,” said Waltham. “Yes-yes-yes. How do I prove it?”
“Go back to your typewriter and write me a screenplay, Mr. Waltham.”
Waltham hurried over to the desk and slid into his chair. He pulled himself up in front of the typewriter while the man sat on the edge of the desk, watching Waltham through his sunglasses.
“Meta-fiction on film won’t really take off for another few decades, but write me a story about a man beating the devil. I think that's very apropos.”
Waltham started to type furiously. For the first time tonight, the ideas were coming to him. He set the scene on an English moor, a nobleman in the grips of depression. He was madly in love with a woman he couldn’t have. He would give anything to be with her. He cried to the heavens to help him. But what answered his cry wasn't from the heavens at all.
“Ow,” Waltham said under his breath. He looked at his index finger and saw a few drops of blood. One of the keys on the typewriter must have been loose and pinched him hard enough to draw blood. He could power through it.
The Devil appeared on the moor, breathing out brimstone as he laughed ruefully. He could see the scene clearly in his mind's eye. He had ideas for shots and how to block the scene and…
“That’s a lot of blood, Mr. Waltham,” the man said as he leaned forward and looked at the typewriter.
Waltham looked down at the keys. He was right. His fingers and the whole machine had been covered in blood, his blood.
“Keep going,” said the man. “The only way you can win is to finish it before time runs out.”
Waltham pressed on. The devil in the screenplay towered over the nobleman, heat radiating off his damned body as he asked the English lord what it meant to truly bargain with his soul. Asking the lord if he were prepared for the consequences of failure. No, the lord had responded. He wasn’t prepared because he knew he would not fail.
He stopped and looked up from his writing. His vision was dimming and he could see black spots floating just ahead.
“The cocaine isn’t doing any favors,” said the man. “It has your heart racing, that’s making the blood flow faster and faster.”
Waltham blinked slowly and looked down. Blood was pouring from the cut in his hands as if he had nicked an artery instead of an appendage. He could now see it wasn’t a tiny cut but a massive gash. Then he remembered that was the same finger he had cut open fifty years ago when he made the deal.
“There’s no escape clause, Mr. Waltham,” the man said with a grin. “I just wanted to have a little fun.”
Waltham, his face now white and deathly pale, fell over on to his desk, the blood pouring from his open wound and covering the desk in the warm, sticky liquid. The man looked on with a bored expression as Frederick Waltham, pillar of Hollywood and the greatest filmmaker of his generation, died right there on the desk. He did not have to worry after his death. Waltham’s soul would arrive at the place it had been destined to for the last fifty years: Right inside the typewriter.
“A half century of success, wealth, and power the likes of which few could imagine,” the man said as he stood over Waltham’s now dead body.
“And still, you wanted more. Always more. Humans.”
The man gently patted the blood-covered typewriter and sighed. He checked his watch before he disappeared into the ether, nothing but wasps of smoke left behind where he once stood.
“No,” screamed Stowe. Now, his face was pale and his immaculate suit sleeves were stained with his own blood. Still, his hands continued to type and the blood continued to freely flow.
“Yes,” hissed John.
“Help me,” cried Stowe. “For God’s sake, you have to help me! Lucifer asked you to help me on his behalf! What would he do if he found out you let me die!”
“Lucy is a man of his word,” said John. “But he’s also a fickler for language. He wanted me to help you find the typewriter, nothing less and nothing more. I fulfilled my obligation, Stowe.” A smirk crept onto John’s face. “The devil is in the details, isn’t it?”
The typewriter began to shake and shimmy. Stowe tried to pull away, but his fingers wouldn't’ budge to do anything but hit another key. He screamed and kept trying to pull away, the typewriter furiously shaking each time.
“He’s getting antsy,” said John. “But of course he would be. He’s been in that bloody typewriter for forty years now. He wants a friend.”
“Waltham?” asked Stowe. “No. His body is interred at the Fallen Stars Memorial--
“Not his body, you git,” John snapped. “It’s his soul. Trapped in there since he died. And he’s about to have company. You should feel honored, Jake. You're about to go from grubby little C-Film producer and gossip monger to a genuine Hollywood urban legend.”
Stowe’s eyes went wide, his head snapped back, and he lurched forward on to the typewriter, a pool of blood covering the counter and dripping on to the concrete floor of the garage. John put his nub of a cigarette on the counter beside Stowe’s body and turned away from him.
He felt anger at the sight of the garage before him. These testaments to suffering and pain. It wasn’t being naive. He knew that power in the magical sense often came from pain and suffering. But Stowe, and Wasserman to a lesser degree, had no interest in the magical properties of pain. They collected and showcased these horrors because it got them off. And that’s what pissed John off. He started through the garage in search of something. He stopped a few minutes later when he found a few cans of paint thinner. A smile crept on to his face as he started to pour the cans through the garage.
John watched the house going up from atop Laurel Canyon. The fire brigade would soon be there, but it was far too late to salvage anything in the garage, the spot where the fire had started. He sat and smoked, watching the flames grow higher as the smoke curled up into the sky. He could see the evil energy from the garage dissipating as all the horrible objects in Stowe's collection turned to ash.
By his feet was the typewriter, the only thing from the house he had salvaged. He stood once he started to hear the fire engine sirens off in the distance. He looked down at the typewriter and kicked it down the hill. It was dark, but he saw it tumble down and land into some thick patch of underbrush, a place where it would be hidden from the world but exposed to the element. He wanted it to rust and decay and fall apart… but not for a few decades at the least. Let Stowe enjoy the Hell he had so justly earned.
With a last look at the flames, John turned away and started back to the road that would lead him as far away from the place as humanly possible.