Excerpt for Bar Joke (Cult of the Butterfly 11) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





Bar Joke (Cult of the Butterfly 11)


By Paul Smith.


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Bar Joke (Cult of the Butterfly 11)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2017 Paul Smith

Smashwords Edition.


This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.


ISBN: 9781370180769


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'For the Faithful.'


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Thomas was also thinking of how this had all started. Coincidentally whilst cleaning the nave ready for the MU meeting later that day. May Emerson and her pose thought the youth theatre crew did it as part of their tenancy agreement, whilst the people from Dawn Voices (apart from Adisa, who was busy scrubbing down the far end of the pews right now) were under the impression the MU looked after the church’s upkeep.

It was a little bit of misdirection that allowed him to do a good deed for both parties in sparing them the time and effort involved (something he felt would have been particularly unfair to ask of the MU women, given the age of several of its members), whilst also pandering to his fetish for cleanliness.

Adisa, of course, thought he was insane. But then Tom’s verger seemed to harbour something of an aversion to manual labour, if what the young man’s mother said was true. Tom found this odd given the amount of time the boy put in at the gym (he had the sort of physique normally found on underwear models), and had pointed this out only to be informed rather curtly that that was different.

So here they were, indulging in their weekly ritual, which inevitably left time for Thomas’ mind to wander.

On this occasion that wandering was taking him back to a certain bar, and the unlikely group that had walked in through it’s door…



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He’d been first to arrive of course.

It’s a simple matter of pride, he told himself, as his second double whisky arrived courtesy of the bartender.

They weren’t helping another part of him observed, looking at the way his hand shook when he reached for the glass.

He glanced about the place, taking in the décor. The Circle was a rather posh joint, as evidenced by the already hefty dent in his pocket change. Fiscal considerations, if nothing else, would prevent him from becoming completely insensate before the others arrived.

The decor was all dark wood panelling and plush red velvet furnishings. The mirrors and light fittings were gilt-work, off set against the solid marble of the bar itself. A stage stood at the opposite end of the room, empty at present, the floor peopled with tables. Discreet booths lined the walls, for those requiring a little more privacy. The usual early evening crowd had been swollen by those keen to escape from the rain outside. Low conversations played to a jazz accompaniment that just about managed to avoid entering the realms of cliché, though in Tom’s opinion it was close. Dress was strictly business attire (unsurprising given the proximity of Summer Heights), though with the city’s bohemian leanings that didn’t necessarily mean suits and pencil skirts. Several of the guys he spotted looked like they should be fronting rock bands. He’d been wondering whether the dog collar was a good idea, but it seemed to be drawing little more than passing comment from those gathered. Perhaps they assumed he was on his way to a theme party.

He glanced up as the sounds of the street grew briefly louder. Devan raised a hand from the doorway, pausing to say a few words to the gorilla in a suit that was standing security before strutting the length of the bar towards where Tom was perched on his stool. The reason for this ridiculous show of masculinity became evident as he drew up and Tom got a look at the boots he was sporting.

Definitely an adherent to the frontman school of fashion, Tom decided, eyeing the plum silk shirt and tasteful silver jewellery. Devan shrugged out of a trench coat that belonged in some old Noir flick, spare hand pinching at the fabric of trousers that had been tailored to within an inch of their life.

I see you’ve started without me.”

Tom started, realising belatedly he’d been starring. Offered Devan a questioning look. The other man gestured to his glass, grinning.

Want another?”

Yes. “No, thank you. Have you seen the prices in here? I almost expected them to ask me to mortgage my soul as down payment for a seat.”

I wouldn’t speak to soon,” Devan offered, flagging down one of the barmen, “the night is still young.”

Tom pulled a face. Devan simply smiled, leaning forward to deliver his order. The man returned with a pair of glasses, one of which Devan placed in front of him.

But I said...”

Your face tells a different story Father. Drink up, we’re decamping.”

Thomas offered a silent prayer of apology before downing his existing drink, shuddering at the burn as he stood. Retrieving his jacket, he followed Devan across the room towards one of the booths. The witch flopped into the side facing the bar, leaving Tom to slide in opposite. The booth was easily wide enough to accommodate three a side, yet Devan seemed to comfortably occupy the entirety of his own, where Tom felt like the last man huddled waiting for the executioners block on his.

All a matter of perspective, he supposed.

So, how’s your week been?”

Tom glanced up, raising an eyebrow. “Really Devan, small talk?”

Devan shrugged. “There can be uncomfortable silence if you prefer. Or, I could fill you in on mine...”

Thomas held up a forestalling hand. “That won’t be necessary. And my week’s been fine thank you. The fund raiser went well.”

Gig, wasn’t it?”

Concert. Put on by the local theatre group’s junior members. They did the Fox Catcher, went down quite well.”

Way to push the religious subtext.”

Thomas narrowed his eyes. “I believe the phrase you’re looking for is ‘preaching to the converted’. Though for your information De Laurent never confirmed the apparent spiritual content.”

Oh please! It couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d had Marco’s return fêted by angels.”

Tom scowled, eyes downcast. “The children produced a very touching rendition.”

Devan sighed, casting a look heavenward. “Just… drink your drink man. He’ll be here in a minute.” He glanced to Thomas’ left. “Speak of the devil...”

Thomas jumped, head snapping round in time to see the last of the mists that had birthed their companion dissipating in a cloud of diminished fifths. Given the musical ambiance this did not attract the sort of attention it might have otherwise. His scowl deepened as he shot Devan an accusatory look, but the witch only shrugged.

Of course the daemon chooses to sit next to the Priest.

Tom shifted up as Devan flagged down a waitress, glancing at the infernal before ordering a Bloody Mary. Something that sounded like rubble settling but was probably intended to be a chuckle emanated from the corner, the daemon fussing prissily with the lapels of his frock coat before placing it’s tricorn on the table. Thomas took a fresh swig from his glass and concentrated on not looking sour.

It wouldn’t do to concede the first point to the Opposition (with a capital ‘O’).

Admiral.”

Father.”

On the other side of the table Devan was sniggering. Thomas raised an eyebrow, finding with something like surprise that strength in adversity was a thing.

The witch made an apparently monumental effort to collect himself. “A Priest, a witch and a daemon walk into a bar...”

Thomas rolled his eyes as the other man descended once more into uncontrollable mirth. He shot the infernal a look, surprised to see his own admonishment mirrored on its beautiful face. It raised an eyebrow at his scrutiny, lips pursing slightly as it gestured at the witch. “While I concede his point, I must also agree that the gravity of the situation demands a tad more decorum.”

Devan looked up from where he’d buried his head in his arms. “Seriously, you’re on his side?”

The daemon shrugged, nodding his thanks to the waitress as she delivered his condensation-jewelled glass.

Under the circumstances, yes.” He glanced at Thomas, fingering the drink’s straw with nails painted the deep blue of glacial ice, before leaning forward to sip from the thick concoction. “Bridge building seems prudent, under the circumstances.”

Thomas and Devan exchanged looks. Evidently the witch had shared his misgivings about who would be the ‘difficult’ party at these negotiations.

Okay then...” Devan rubbed his hands together. “So, we’re doing this then?”

What of the fourth component?” the daemon asked.

Tom straightened, having expected this. “My… superiors…? are on board. But as you must understand they cannot show their hand. Not at this juncture anyway.”

Hmm, and we can all see how happy you are about that,” Devan offered. The words were acerbic, but Tom fancied he caught a glimmer of understanding in the other man’s eyes.

Thomas shrugged. “It is what it is. Take it or leave it.”

We expected nothing less,” the daemon offered, a faint smile playing at the corner of its lips. “Let us assume for now that all is in order.”

Devan nodded. “Excellent. See, we can all play nicely together.”

I wouldn’t go that far. But Tom kept his thoughts to himself, covering with a sip of his bourbon. It was the good stuff, he could tell because he could actually taste it past the fire it painted down his gullet. Either Devan’s feeling guilty, or he really wants this to work.

So you’ve made contact?” the daemon asked.

Devan nodded, smile sly. “You might say that.”

Oh God. Resisting the urge to roll his eyes Tom asked instead: “Do I sense a ‘but’?”

I was caught,‘red handed’ shall we say? By Fistral.”

He’s the club’s owner right?” Tom asked.

Her foundation,” the daemon offered quietly. “Both fiscal and emotional...”

Yeah, I wouldn’t even bother with those options,” Devan cut in. “He’s too shrewd to be financially manipulated, and given the nature of their relationship you’d be hard pushed to drive a wedge in.”

He’s unfaithful?”

No more than she.” Devan shook his head, smiling. “You religious boys really need to wake up to the post-modern world. Monogamy exists, but it’s not the institution it once was.”

How about you?” Tom asked turning to the daemon. “Do you think he’s got what it takes?”

The passion is there, and the seed that was planted has blossomed as you might expect.” It inclined its head, one hand fingering the ridiculous ruffs that lined its cuffs. “Your predecessor did well to pick him out of the crowd.”

Yes, well...” Tom was still a little uncomfortable with Father Makri’s involvement in all this. It was always a hard lesson, discovering one’s heroes are only human. “...You think he’s fit to the task then?”

Some guidance will likely be necessary towards the end, but for now I think we can let him have his head.” The daemon sat back with his glass clasped in both hands, slurping at his drink through the straw. “That is of course, if Devan has finished with it?”

The witch laughed, waving a hand at Thomas’ sour look. “Please, what did you expect me to do? You’ve seen him...”

And what’s that supposed to mean?!”

The witch grinned wickedly, swigging the last of his own drink. “I think you know exactly what it’s supposed to mean...”

Do hush now,” the daemon admonished, raising a hand to flag down a waitress. “Another round please, my friends and I have a toast to make.”

The girl nodded, returning the infernal’s smile before disappearing through the crowd. Tom wondered idly what she saw when she looked at it. Certainly not the cadaver with the smoking eyes that he did. Was it him or did the daemon’s corner of the booth seem to be darker than it should? And what was with the faint glow of it’s skin, it was like he stood constantly illuminated by a black light. It made the triple slashes marking each cheek stand out even more.

Devan offered him a weak smile of apology, and Tom realised with a start that the man was drunk. Which meant (given what he knew from the man’s confessionals) that he had to have been at it for most of the afternoon. It also suggested something Thomas would never have suspected without evidence: the fact that the witch was at least as nervous as him.

A silence descended between them that, whilst not companionable, might at least have been labelled civil. The waitress returned with their drinks, the daemon tipping generously before raising his own glass, prompting the other two to follow suit.

To the Cult of the Butterfly. May our accord find fruition in blood.” Glass touched glass, eyes (or the smoking pits that passed for them in the infernal’s case) meeting over their rims. Then the others were knocking theirs back. Quashing his distaste, Thomas said a silent prayer and followed suit, reminding himself this was hardly the foulest thing that had been done in the name of the Church’s will.

The greater good, he reminded himself, standing silently with Devan, the witch nodding to the daemon, who appeared to be remaining. They headed for the door, stepping out into the drizzle. Tom pulled the collar of his bomber up as Devan shrugged into his own coat.

Their eyes met in the neon flicker of the sign overhead.

Sighing, Tom nodded, stuffing his hands into his pockets and hunching his shoulders as they stepped out into the rain together, eyes on the reflected lights of the city as they shimmering in the slick pavement beneath their feet.


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