Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium
LUCKY LUCIFER SMILED sardonically as the signature was placed on the contract.
Another one bites the proverbial dust.
It would only be a matter of time before another soul was added to his collection. His pool was getting quite large these days, with all the lost hope and despair going around. He loved it when the conditions came together just right for "business." His advertising gimmick for the nineties had paid off in dividends that even he couldn't have imagined. Creative Marketing was how he liked to think of it.
Tired of your life? Need a change? Drive on over to Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium and step into a new car that will put the fire back into your life. Not only will you leave with the car of your dreams, you can even trade your tired old soul in on a new one. No down payment required. No credit check; bankruptcy not a problem. Everything is negotiable as long as you can sign on the dotted line.
Lucky Lucifer had just wrapped up a sweet deal with a business executive from the city. He was the typical, worn thin and burnt-out type who needed a little lift to keep him on the razor's edge. Lucky cajoled him into a hot red Ferrari and sweetened the deal by throwing in the degenerate soul he had taken on a trade in. The guy left burning rubber and couldn't wait to get back to work so he could put the screws to some poor unsuspecting bastard. Yes...Lucky felt quite fulfilled.
GABE DROVE DOWN the dark and dreary highway, not going anywhere in particular. He was frustrated and fed up with everyone and everything around him lately. He decided to go out for a long drive tonight to get out of the house. He was tired of the work thing, always in a rush going here or there. It seemed like everyone tried to beat out somebody for something. His job seemed full of disgruntled employees moaning and groaning because one person took an extra fifteen minutes for lunch one day, or because one employee had a nicer computer than someone else, or because someone needed to complain about something in order for the union to have something to do.
Gabe remembered a time when people were grateful just to have a job. It seemed funny that when people had less, they appreciated it a lot more. He shook his head, thinking that everyone today had so much, yet all they wanted was more.
His car continued to sputter on, running on only three of its four cylinders, making its way down the dark road. The radio squawked out yet another advertisement. Gabe didn't usually pay much attention to them, but this one had such a unique voice to it. He could almost swear he'd heard it before, a long time ago.
"Tired...feeling left behind?" the voice blared. "Just don't have that 'get-up-and-go' anymore? Well, come on down to Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium. Lucky Lucifer has a car with 'soul.' It'll snap you right out of your mundane little life. He guarantees that you will leave his lot with revitalized enthusiasm and even a whole new outlook. Financing not a problem...Lucky is sure you have something for collateral. Come barter with us and get the best deal of your life. Everyone rides to-day at Lucky's and that's a promise burnt in stone! Located at the corner of Lost Souls Road. Remember our motto: After you've been to Lucky's Car Emporium, you can go straight to H-E-double L, and even they can't beat Lucky's prices!"
The distraction of the ad oddly pleased Gabe. He chuckled. "Lucky Lucifer sure sounds like the hokiest car salesman I've ever heard. Although it might be kind of amusing to see his 'show.' Might even take my mind off the other stuff for a while and it wouldn't hurt to shop around a little either. Old Betsy here is on her last leg."
Gabe happened to be near Lucky's anyway, so he turned in that general direction, still chuckling as he remembered the radio ad.
He read the street signs as he peered through the windshield, trying to get his bearing. Lost Souls Road. Damnation Alley. Purgatory Road. He smiled. "Wonder how he got them to do that? I mean how the heck did he get the city to name these streets? Well, however he did, Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium seems to fit right into the scheme of things."
As he continued to drive, Gabe noticed that there really wasn't anything out in this area. It was pretty desolate and seemingly uninhabited, all in all. But soon, lights glowed out on the horizon. He drove toward them until, finally, there he saw it: Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium. Bright lights, spotlights, balloons, the whole works.
The first sign screamed: FIRE AND BRIMSTONE SALE...GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT!" There were scads of people walking about everywhere. Apparently, Lucky's advertising scheme was working well, because he sure wasn't hurting for business.
Gabe parked his old car and got out as it continued to sputter and wheeze as if having the final seizure of a long illness. He stood and stared at the large, red neon sign that stood on top of the main building flashing LUCKY LUCIFER'S CAR EMPORIUM. It also included, of course, the standard emblem of Satan himself in red with the typical horns and pitchfork. But the face was superimposed with that of, Gabe assumed, Lucky Lucifer's. The caption below read: At the price I sell cars for, I'm going to end up you-know-where.
Gabe shook his head and made his way toward the new car section. This is going to be interesting.
Everywhere he looked, people were milling about, peering at the cars. Salesmen seemed to materialize, always right on the spot, helping those who had questions and doubts about affording a new vehicle. Gabe overheard one conversation between a young couple and a salesman.
"We really love the car, but the price is just too high, and you know, with a baby on the way and all..." the young husband said innocently.
The salesman replied smoothly, "Don't you kids worry about what that little piece of paper says on the window. Everything is negotiable here at Lucky Lucifer's." The salesman eyed the swollen stomach of the woman. "Everything. You kids just go on up to the office and ask to see Lucky. He'll be able to reach some kind of deal just for y-o-u."
The young couple walked enthusiastically up to the office, smiling at each other.
Gabe just shook his head and wondered how gullible could people be. He strode along inspecting the large selection of vehicles, noticing there were a lot of red ones in models to accommodate everyone. There were conservative vehicles for families, mid-range stuff for those "up and coming" executives and, of course, the racy-type power cars for those trying to prove something.
"Now, there's something I like," Gabe said as he honed in on a car. It was a mid-size vehicle, yet it offered some sports appeal for his ego. "Very nice." He nodded and ran his fingers over the shiny paint job. Then he circled the vehicle like a vulture quarrying its prey, as if he were performing some type of sacred male ritual.
The salesman must have caught a whiff of those male car buying hormones in the breeze. "That vehicle is made for y-o-u. Yes, sir...been waiting right here just for you."
Gabe turned toward the source of the voice. The man was tall, with a dark complexion, jet-black hair, and of course he was wearing a leisure suit. His chin was sharp, and his nose almost hawklike. Gabe glanced at the nametag, but he didn't need to. He already knew that this was none other than Lucky Lucifer himself, in the flesh.
The man stepped forward and extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you there, Gabe. I'm Lucky Lucifer. My friends call me 'Luce' for short."
Gabe returned the gesture and immediately noticed how warm Luce's hand was.
"Please to meet you, too, Luce. How do you know my name?" Gabe asked warily.
"It's my business to know these things, Gabe, and I am very good at my business." Lucky stared him directly in the eye. Gabe almost thought he saw a red light there for a minute. Must have been the reflection from the red neon.
"Well...uh...I was just...uh...in your neighborhood," Gabe stuttered. "I thought I would stop by to take a look around. Nice place you have here."
"Thank you. I'm so glad you could drop in and visit my humble establishment." Lucky grinned so wide that Gabe almost thought he could hear skin ripping. Lucky continued on. "I was quite serious about that little gem you were looking at. She's a beauty and was made just for you. You belong in it."
Gabe glanced longingly at the vehicle. What a sweet piece of machinery. It appeared even more enticing than it had earlier, almost like it was beckoning to him. He suddenly had the overwhelming desire to sit in it. Lucky Lucifer obviously anticipated this craving and moved to stand next to the car. He held the door open, inviting Gabe in.
Without hesitation, Gabe slid into the vehicle's seat. He sighed with pleasure. The black leather warmed immediately to his body and the seat conformed to his every move. He'd never felt such comfort before. He gripped the steering wheel and placed his other hand on the shifter, liking the feel. He closed his eyes and breathed in the new car aroma. The car seemed to have a personality all of its own.
"She likes you. I can tell." Lucky smiled charmingly.
Waking out of his dreamy daze, Gabe blinked and reluctantly got out of the car.
"She sure is a nice car." He stroked his chin as he walked around looking for the price sticker. Always wanted one of these babies.
Before he could reach the sticker, Lucky leapt in front of him like a mad magician.
"Now, hold on a minute there, Gabe!" Lucky held up a hand. "Let's think on this for a spell. How much does that number on the window really matter, anyway? I've seen so many read that number and get depressed, seen the want disappear from their eyes." Lucky put his hand on his sharp chin. "I tell you what, Gabe. I can tell that you are a man of your word. If you say 'yes,' everyone knows you mean business. You make me an offer without even looking at the sticker. Come on, now!"
Gabe just stood there watching Lucky in action, somewhat amused. Boy this guy is good. Good and fast, that is.
He decided to play the dufus car buyer for a little while longer. He wanted to see just how far Lucky was going to play his game.
"You want me to make an offer?" Gabe smiled innocently, placing a finger on his chest. "Hmmm," he said without waiting for Lucky's response. "Okay, let's say fifteen thousand dollars." He fully realized the offer was far below the dealer's price.
Lucky's eyes got big and he roared with laughter. "I said make me an offer...not tell me a joke, my young friend. This is a vehicle of distinction and style and is worth three times as much of that minuscule sum you just mentioned."
"What's the point, then? I can't afford it anyway, can I now?" Gabe shrugged and then said innocently, "Why dicker over money that I don't even have?" He turned, chuckling to himself, and began to walk away.
"Well, my new-found friend," Lucky began, clasping Gabe on the shoulder. "I guess I am a bit of a hothead when it comes to selling my cars. They are like my children. You know what I mean? I can't just let them go for a mere fraction of their worth."
Gabe thought he saw that red gleam in Lucky's eyes again as he continued. "I tell you what, Gabe, let's go on up to the office and have a cup of hot coffee. We can discuss terms. I'm a reasonable man. I'm sure that we can work something out."
Gabe turned around and looked at Lucky skeptically. "Sure, I'll entertain what you have to say. Just don't treat me like one of your sappy customers. I wasn't born yesterday, you know? I know that you're out to make a big buck just like the rest of us," he said, feeling like he was in control. "Let's be up front with each other, Lucky old boy. I may want the car but it's not like I am going to sell you my soul for it."
Lucky's disposition suddenly changed. His face became menacing.
Gabe continued on as he chuckled. "Hey, Lucky you get it? It's a joke. You know, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness. You know the soul thing? Get it?"
Lucky's face, however, had returned to its previous sardonic smile. "Ah, yes, a joke. I get it. Selling of the soul. Very funny. You're good with words, Gabe. Perhaps you missed your calling in life. Maybe you should have been the car salesman instead of me. How about that cup of coffee?"
The two men walked toward the office. Gabe was quite pleased with himself as he imagined sitting in the driver's seat of the new car. They walked into the building and passed through the showroom. Gabe noticed there were a lot of people in the little cubicle offices conducting business. He caught bits and pieces of their conversations as he walked by.
"Just sign right there on the line and you'll be out of here with that new car before the ink dries."
"Our financing arrangements are the easiest and simplest in this world. Don't worry about the small print, it's just standard stuff."
"Yes, we do all of our business in red ink."
"Exactly how long is eternity?" What a strange question. "Would you like another cup of coffee?"
"Death clause? Yes, that is common practice. Other places just keep that stuff buried."
"Just sign right here... Just sign right here... Just sign right here..."
Lucky ushered Gabe into his private office. Gabe had the feeling that only special customers made it this far. Lucky placed a cup of coffee in front of him and got another for himself. The cups were all the same design—black with red flames licking the sides. Lucky then reached into his lower desk drawer and retrieved a bottle of EL Diablo Whiskey.
"Would you like me to warm up that coffee for you there, Gabe?" Lucky said, waving the bottle in front of him.
"No thanks, unleaded is just fine." Gabe watched in amusement as Lucky filled half his cup with the liquor and quickly downed it one large gulp. The devil's brew they say.
After relinquishing a rather loud, "Ahhh," Lucky put down the cup and looked squarely at him.
"You know, Gabe," Lucky's swivel chair creaked like old bones as he leaned back, "we didn't really talk about options. I can sweeten this deal up even more for you. What do you say to a new outlook? Not just from the car. How about a fresh new soul? It's becoming the biggest rage you know."
"Cute, Lucky. Very amusing," Gabe said wryly. "How about we stick with the straight car thing and just cut to the chase."
"As you wish ," Lucky said seriously. "Let's get down under shall we?" His face almost seemed to glow as he continued. "I have a car that you desire. Yes?"
Gabe nodded in agreement.
"You can't really afford that car, though can you, Gabe?"
Gabe shook his head, sensing that the temperature in the office was getting a little warm. He loosened his collar as he felt the perspiration starting to ebb its way from his armpits.
"Okay, Gabe, I'm not exactly what you would call your down to earth car salesman. I can help you get into her, but you have to work with me on this. Are you willing?"
Gabe nodded, mesmerized by the gleam in the man's eyes. The longer he listened to Lucky, the more comfortable he felt.
"So, here's my best and final offer." Lucky put his fingers in church steeple fashion under his chin. "I will let you have the car for the fifteen thousand dollars that you offered me earlier. But, I will need a little additional collateral to make sure you don't change your mind or try to pull one over on old Lucky."
"Exactly what kind of additional collateral did you have in mind? I don't have a lot to offer," Gabe said skeptically as he thought, here it comes.
Lucky smiled. "You have just as much as anyone else who's sat in that chair. All I want from you is a promise that I get your mortal soul when you die. It's just that easy. You won't need it anymore, so what the hell? That's all I want."
Gabe tried his best to keep from laughing. "Okay, Lucky, aren't you taking this Lucifer thing just a little too far? Come on now...my soul? Let me guess, you just happen to have some type of contract that I have to sign in blood..."
"Not blood. Red ink will do." Lucky set a long document in front of Gabe. In bold letters across the top: STANDARD SOUL CONTRACT (FORM 666).
This time Gabe did laugh out loud. "Boy, I tell you what, you can sure play this Satan deal up right." He then continued in a serious tone. "Look, you have the car of my dreams and I'm willing to pay you a fair price. If you agree to that, I'll sign any damn thing you want. I don't believe in this 'devil gets your soul' mumbo-jumbo. So what's it going to be, Lucky?"
Lucky smiled smugly, sliding the paperwork in front of him again and offering him a pen.
"You sure drive a hard bargain. But, I guess you showed me, huh? You got exactly what you wanted," Lucky said, with the gleam still in his eye.
Gabe distractedly listened to Lucky as he looked over the paperwork. He made sure the bottom line price was the fifteen thousand he'd agreed to pay. He didn't really pay much attention to the rest of the fine print that dealt with the soul thing.
As soon as Gabe signed the contract, Lucky plucked it from his hands and handed him the keys, which were quite warm to the touch.
"Hey, Luce what's with the high body temp, there buddy? You really should have that looked at. Never know, you might just fall the hell over one day."
"It was nice doing business with you, Gabe. Enjoy the ride. I'll see you soon to collect the balance of what you owe," Lucky said waving a finger, his eyes shining.
"Jeez. Give it a rest already. You sold the car, and I'm on the hook for the Fifteen-K. What more could you ask for?" Gabe jingled the keys, recalling how the leather had felt. "I know—just my soul. I'm outta here, my friend."
LUCKY WATCHED AND snickered as Gabe sauntered toward his new car. "Think you know it all, don't you? Got a real sweet deal there buddy, didn't you? Taught old Lucky a thing or two. Well I'll be collecting in the end, Gabe, don't you forget that. Our contract is an old one."
GABE FELT LIKE he was in heaven driving his new vehicle home. She sure rode smooth, he thought as he snuggled down into the leather seat.
The radio blared, "Come on down to Lucky Lucifer's Car Emporium... We'll turn and burn to get you the best deal this side of eternity."
Gabe chuckled as he glanced at the bold print on his copy of his contract.
Payable in full upon death. No redemption allowed.
"Gotta love this stuff. One thing about old Lucky, he never learns." He balled up the contract in his hand and tossed it out the window into the evening air, laughing.
Moments later, the red and blue lights from a police car flickered into life behind Gabe's new car. Glancing at his speedometer, he realized he was traveling about ten miles over the speed limit. He pulled over to the shoulder and waited for the police officer.
"Not again," he muttered under his breath.
"Going a little fast there, sir, weren't we? And littering?" The officer said to Gabe, as he peered into the window.
"Uh, sorry officer. You know how it is. It's a new car and all. I must have gotten caught up in the moment." Gabe smiled.
"Can I please see your license and registration," the officer asked, obviously not impressed.
Gabe retrieved the documents from his wallet and handed them to the officer, who then walked back to the police cruiser.
After several minutes, the officer returned.
"Here you go, Mr. Gabriel. I'm going to let you off with a warning because you have no previous violations. Which is strange, because I could have sworn I've seen you somewhere before. But please, try to be more careful. And watch that littering."
"I shall, and thank you, officer."
"Mr. Gabriel, I do have a question about your driver's license, though." The officer's tone sounded somewhat perplexed. "I noticed that you only have the initials A.A. in front of your last name. That's unusual. DMV usually requires a full name and birth certificate."
"Well, my young friend, it just makes things somewhat easier," Gabe said with a saintly grin. "The initials aren't as conspicuous or intimidating as saying 'Arch Angel,' which is a little too obvious even in this day and age. Wouldn't you agree?"
"How's that?" the officer asked.
His eyes widened and Gabe knew the man saw the glowing white light around him.
"Er...yeah. I mean, I guess so," the officer said.
Gabe neatly folded his wings into the contour of the Corinthian leather seat. "Have a nice evening officer and God Bless."
*This story is from Aliens and Satanic Creatures Wanted: Humans Need Not Apply. Copyright Tony Ruggiero. For more information, please visit http://www.tonyruggiero.com/.
*The audio version of this book is also available for FREE via podcast at podiobooks.com and Itunes.
Also by Tony Ruggiero:
Operation Immortal Servitude--Vampires in the Military! Described as Anne Rice and Tom Clancy having a baby!
Alien Deception-Aliens in the White House! Space Opera with a Stanley Kubrick twist!
Coming July 2007: