Sloan rolled his eyes while he listened to the frightened
"Who the hell gave you this number?" he snapped as he grabbed his cigarette case and lighter from the nightstand. Thumbing open the case, he cursed under his breath when he found he was out.
"The lady at the bar..."
"She said you're good and I really need your help! I already wired her the money!"
"I'll get to it later then," Sloan grumbled. "Now let me sleep. I had a hard night!"
"Who sleeps in at three in the afternoon?"
"I work at night, dig?" Sloan slammed the receiver into the cradle and left the bed, kicking up his jeans to pull into them. He was more annoyed than upset the bartender gave out his unlisted number. He didn't even bother with cellular phones - too many crazies calling him up for nonexistent problems. On his way to the small motel bathroom, a knock resonated at the door.
"I said no room service!" he called as he kicked the bathroom door shut. The door opened anyway and Sloan grabbed for his high-powered pistol he kept on top of the toilet. He aimed the gun at the door with one hand while the other held up his loose jeans and the door opened, revealing a middle-aged man in a dark suit.
"The hell?" the man cried, putting up his hands.
"You got three seconds," Sloan spat. "This thing's hot."
"You left the door unlocked," the stranger said, "and since I found you, I can give you this."
"Easy," Sloan growled when the middle-aged man reached into his suit pocket and withdrew a small yellow envelope. "Open it for me." The stranger nodded and opened the envelope, shaking out its contents. Several one-thousand dollar bills fell to the floor. "Shit!" Sloan said, stunned and lowered his pistol. "Tell me that's fake!"
"It's very much real," the stranger said. "Would you like to verify?"
"Maybe later," Sloan murmured. "So why pay me so much?"
"Boss is bothered by weird stuff and we heard you deal with it."
"Who told you that jive?"
"Some guy at the bar."
"I bet I know who that son of a bitch is that told ya too!" Sloan grunted. "All right, lemme get my shirt on and I'll check it out." He waved the man out and once he took a seat on the edge of the bed, Sloan kicked shut the door. He sat on the edge of the toilet in disbelief. There was no way that cash could be real. He never saw anything higher than a hundred. Sloan ran a hand through his hair, glancing at the money on the floor. That money was enough for several days work. He'd hit up the bank later, make change and probably make a break to somewhere nice. After buttoning his jeans and putting the safety back on, he tucked the pistol into his waistband and grabbed his shirt he had hanging from the shower rod. After pulling it over his head, Sloan snatched up the bills to pocket them and exited the bathroom to see the man pacing the floor.
"Do you need your tools or anything?" the man asked when Sloan picked up his jacket draped over chair near the door and his holster that held his secondary pistol. Slipping into the heavy denim, he extracted the sunglasses in the pocket and placed them on.
"I'm good," Sloan answered. "So where it's at?"
Pulling up onto a large seven-room house with white siding and green shuttered windows, Sloan immediately felt uneasy as he stepped out the car. He turned to the man in the suit that stayed behind as he put the vehicle in park. He reached into his inside blazer pocket and withdrew a small novel.
"You comin'?" Sloan asked.
"I'll wait," he answered coolly. Sloan shrugged his shoulders and headed up the steps. As he got closer, the uneasiness turned to ice in his guts and his hands burned. Reaching for his side holster, Sloan kicked open the door and quickly ducked behind the wall when heavy pots and pans came sailing out, crashing onto the steps where he once stood.
"Please help!" a terrified voice wailed from inside. "It's going nuts!" Sloan blew a hard sigh as he withdrew his pistol and shouldered his way inside the house that had books and other objects not weighed down floating around a young man curled inside the empty fireplace. He swiftly sidestepped a stoker that pierced the floor near his foot and jumped aside the large hardbound dictionary aimed for his head.
"What the hell, man?" Sloan cried. The hairs on his arms quickly stood on end and Sloan turned and fired, forcing a shadowy being to come into view.
"Next time," a voice growled and all the items in the house that were suspended in air came crashing to the floor.
"Now who did you piss off?" Sloan snapped as he kicked aside broken dishes and books. "You're lucky I got here in time before it tried to kill you!"
"I didn't do it, I swear!" the young man wailed. "I wish I never got that damn thing!"
"What damn thing?" Sloan perched down and grabbed the young man by the arm to yank him out. He winced and Sloan zeroed in on the glowing silver band with etched ivies around the circumference he wore on his ring finger that had a glittering sapphire stone in the center. "It's this, huh?"
"My wife wanted it..."
"Why do you idiots keep shit like this?" Sloan yanked at the young man's finger and he cried out as the ring refused to come off. Sloan grunted once socked in the jaw.
"You're going to break my hand!" the young man cried, shoving him away.
"Does your old lady have more rings like this?" Sloan snapped as he made his way for the staircase that wound upstairs.
"She does, seven more really..."
"She wanted the entire collection, right?"
"How did you know?" Sloan felt his hands burn as he hurried up the carpeted steps two at a time, following the dreadful sensation to a room at the end of the hall, approaching a single cheery door with a brass handle. He tried the knob and the handle refused to turn. Sloan kicked at the door and it creaked from the pressure. "Hey, what are you doing?" the young man cried as he caught up.
"Open this thing or I'm blowing it up!" Sloan snapped. The young man shook his head.
"I don't have the key to that."
"Screw that shit, you got money." Sloan shot off the handle, then shoved the door open, revealing a dimly lit room with dark purple and black curtains covering the windows, in the center of the room stood an altar of black marble, surrounded by flickering red candles that burned, releasing a sweet scent. Entering the room, Sloan saw the seven other rings on the altar, all glittering dimly in gold light.
"What's all this?" the young man cried.
"Hey, back away, man," Sloan barked, whirling around. Suddenly thunder rumbled and the candles blew out as a sharp frigid wind blew into the room. The young man screamed when a large dark shadow appeared between them, quickly gaining form. "Shit..." Sloan quickly withdrew his other pistol as a tall dark violet-skinned scaled devil appeared with ivory ram's horns on the side of its bald head, wearing a black kilt. The young man fainted from fright and Sloan discharged a round, only to have his bullets pass through the demon's skin. The devil laughed as it picked up the young man's body and ripped off his hand at the wrist.
"It's useless, demon slayer," the demon retorted as it burned the hand with a sphere of green flame, leaving only the ring behind. "You've met your match!"
"Nah, I just didn't bring all my stuff," Sloan snapped as he holstered his guns. He scooped up the remaining rings off the altar and tossed them in hand. "You lookin' for the rest of this junk, yeah?" The demon rushed forward and Sloan quickly turned out the way and threw a punch with a charged fist, sending the demon sailing back crashing against the wall. He quickly hustled for the stairs, slipping the rings on his fingers and came to a dead stop as the demon appeared at the door.
"You're not leaving with what belongs to me!" the devil roared!"
"Do I look scared?" Sloan spat. "Look at this mug, man, I ain't scared of shit!" The demon formed a green fireball and hurled it at Sloan. He coughed up black bile as the force of the blow struck him in the guts, making him double over.
"You're lucky you're wearing the Ring of Stone," the demon snarled as it faded from sight. "I will return to get what's mine."
"I had to take a chance," Sloan moaned from his place on the floor. Staggering to his feet, Sloan seethed as his right hand flared intensely in pain and he looked down, finding a black numeral '7' burned in the skin. "What the hell?" he muttered. Sloan stepped outside and approached the sedan. He knocked on the window to gain the driver's attention.
"How did it go?" the middle-aged man asked as he opened the door for Sloan. Sloan blew a hard sigh.
"He's dead," he murmured. "Dumb ass wouldn't listen to me."
"Boss will be very upset," the driver said softly as he tossed his novel aside on the dashboard and started the vehicle.
"Wait, so your boss was his old lady?" Sloan said, stunned.
"So, do she know bout them rings being cursed and whatever?" The middle-aged man said nothing and Sloan sank into his seat, cursing to himself.
"I am so fucked right now," he muttered.
"Back to your home?"
"Naw, man, I need to get drunk."
"Is it at that particular bar?"
"Yeah." The driver continued on his way in silence and Sloan shut his eyes, dreading the rest of the afternoon ahead.
Sloan rolled his eyes while he listened to the frightened