021 Orders From Above: Episode 21 ‘satan’s whiskers, anyone?’

to read from the beginning click here: 001 Orders From Above: Episode 1 ‘discovery’

satan's whiskers

By 8 o’clock Friday evening, Nigel had had enough of going over the building plans for the mill and decided he’d earned himself a pint. With each step down the staircase from his room, the noise from the bar grew louder and louder. Bracing himself, he opened the door and walked into Cynthia’s first Theme Night.

Freddie Fordingbridge, in his debut as barman, was at the far end of the bar, rooting through a large ceramic bowl piled high with exotic fruits. Debbie, perched on a bar stool, watched his every move with rapt attention.

Skinny Freddie, whose skin still showed the signs of the acne that had plagued him since he entered his teens, had been dressed by Cynthia in a frilled red shirt, unbuttoned to show a white, hairless chest and an over-large gold medallion on a chain. The shirt was tucked into tight, shiny black trousers with a high waistband. Seeing this ensemble, Nigel couldn’t help thinking that Freddie’s legs resembled two strings of liquorice. He had to fight to control his facial muscles as Freddie greeted him.

“Hello Freddie! What’s with the fancy gear then?”

“Um, well, it’s cocktail night, Mr Nigel. What sort would you like?”

Nigel had asked everyone to call him by his first name, but young Freddie always addressed adults by putting the Mister, Missus or Miss in front of their names to be polite and respectful, as his parents had brought him up to be. Nigel really wanted that pint of real ale, so replied, “I don’t know anything about cocktails, Freddie.”

“Gosh, neither did I, Mr Nigel! It’s called mixology, you know, and Miss Cynthia gave me books about it and cocktail recipes, and I read them, and memorised them, and Miss Cynthia got loads of bottles of stuff, and now I can make anything.”

“You memorised them? But there must be hundreds of cocktails, surely?”

Debbie swivelled to face Nigel and gushed, “Oh yes there are simply hundreds of cocktails with all sorts of weird names and ingredients like vermouth and schnapps and sambuca and creme de cassis but Freddie only has to read things once and he remembers everything cos he’s got a photographic memory isn’t that right Freddie and he’s promised to invent one just for me.”

Nigel marvelled as he always did at Debbie’s ability to speak without punctuation. Freddie blushed and muttered that he was trying to think of a suitable name.

“How about ‘Debbie’s Delight’?” laughed Nigel, making Freddie’s blush flare to a painful crimson that could toast marshmallows. “I’ll have my usual pint, please, Freddie.”

“But you won’t try something a little different, just this once? Tell you what, I know you like gin, so how about a Singapore Sling? Or a Blue Lady? Much nicer names, I think than what Mr Nick over there is drinking.”

Feeling the skin on the back of neck crawl, Nigel turned and scanned the crowded room to locate the angels. He hadn’t known they’d be in the pub tonight, and didn’t have a particularly good feeling about it. “What is it?” he asked Freddie.

“Exorcist! Tequila, blue curacao, lime juice. Mr. Nick tried a Rob Roy and a Bloody Mary, but he says he says the Exorcist is the best so far.”

“I bet he does. And what is the other Mr De Angelo drinking, Freddie?”

“Um, well Mr Gabe, he’s got a Pina Colada now, but he’s had a mint julep, a Manhattan and a tequila sunrise, which he says he likes especially because they’re pretty. They’re my best customers so far, I must say. Everyone else just wants their usual, like you. Are you sure you won’t just try something?”

Debbie held up her large glass, half-full with something resembling custard. Sticking out of it was a small green and yellow paper umbrella. “I’ve got a Snowball it’s got lemonade in it and a squeeze of lime juice and it’s really nice and fizzy and sweet why don’t you try one?” She removed the umbrella to show Nigel the maraschino cherry skewered on it. “This is to stir it with but I like the way they taste and I keep eating them so Freddie has to keep giving me more.” The plump red cherry disappeared into her mouth and Nigel wondered if she realised how provocative it was. It seemed lost on Freddie, though, whose hopeful eyes were still fixed on Nigel, awaiting his order.

Nigel tapped the beer pump, making Freddie sigh in submission as he dutifully pulled a pint exactly to the marker on the tall glass and set it in front of Nigel. He took a welcome sip, then asked Freddie what time the De Angelos had come in.

“Oh, about 6 o’clock. Said they’d noticed the blackboard out front announcing our first Theme Night.”

“And they’ve had, what, four cocktails each in the space of two hours?”

Freddie scratched his head. “Well, Mr Gabe has had five, actually.”

Nigel shook his head, and observed that the locals, though chatting animatedly amongst themselves, kept throwing surreptitious glances at the brothers. “It’s certainly packed in here tonight, Cynthia must be delighted.”

“Well, yes, Mr Nigel, I suppose she is. It was quiet to start with, but when the Misters De Angelos arrived, Miss Cynthia said that everyone was always interested in what they did, so she put the word out that they were here, and, well, you know, enjoying the cocktails, and people came flocking in.” He leaned on the bar, looking for all the world like a seasoned barman, except for his youth and frilly shirt, and said, “Mr Gabe told me something interesting. Did you know that the older the whisky is, the more it will evaporate in the cask, and the evaporated stuff is called ‘the angels’ share’? Mr Gabe says it tastes wonderful, though I’m not sure how you taste evaporation.”

Agreeing with Freddie’s astute observation, Nigel paid for his drink, and walked over to join Gabe and Nick at their table. They were draining the last drops of their cocktails and discussing what to try next.

“Hey, Nigel, my man!” Slurring his words, Nick greeted Nigel with a hearty slap on the back, almost knocking him to the floor. “We’re just about to have another li’l ol’ drinkie. What’ll y’have?”

Nigel wouldn’t have believed it, but it seemed the evidence was before him: angels could get drunk! He indicated his glass of beer and declined Nick’s offer.

“Oh, tame, tame,” sneered Nick.

Gabe, his eyes bloodshot and unfocused, tapped Nick’s arm to get his attention, and slurred, “Never mind him, brother dear. He can have his borin’ old beer! What d’you wanna try next, eh?”

Nick furrowed his dark brows in concentration, ignoring the fact that all eyes in the bar were fixed upon him, and all ears attentively listening to hear what he would choose to drink next. Wow, these De Angelos could knock back the booze!

“I’ll have a, er, um, what d’yer call it, um…” Nick clumsily clicked his fingers, trying to remember.

“Oh, get on with it,” drawled Gabe, leaning into Nigel , rolling his eyes and tutting with a ‘he’s an idiot’ expression.

Nick’s face cleared and he rose a couple of inches of his seat as he yelled, “SATAN’S WHISKERS!”

Everyone jumped at the volume of Nick’s voice, then all eyes swivelled to Freddie.

“The man wants a Satan’s Whiskers, Freddie, can you do that one without cribbing from the book?” challenged Arnold Capsby.

Freddie raised his eyes to the ceiling and tapped his forefinger on his cheek in concentration. “Hmm, Satan’s Whiskers, well now… Oh yes, I’ve got it!”

He grabbed the cocktail shaker and called off the ingredients as he added them one by one: gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, Grand Marnier, orange juice and… three dashes of orange bitters. He added ice cubes and the silver shaker rattled as Freddie performed a manic dance, the way he imagined a professional cocktail maker would. In one deft movement, he whipped off the top of the shaker, placed the cocktail sieve in its place, whisked a cocktail glass off the shelf, and poured the mixture from a great height, like a true showman. He selected a paper umbrella but decided against it, finishing his creation instead with a thin, twirled slice of orange peel decoratively draped over the rim of the glass. He held it up, and sang ‘tah-daah’, as if expecting everyone to burst into applause.

But his effort was met with silence as the locals stared at the orange-coloured concoction before they turned back to the brothers. Gabe lurched up from the table and staggered to the bar.

“Ooh, tha’ smells nice,” he said, “Orangey-ee. Bu’ I wan’ somethin’ diff’r’nt. Wha’ d’you suggest, young Freddie?”

“How about a Bentley, Mr Gabe, sir?”

“Hmm. Car. Big thing. Posh,” said Gabe, “Too ‘xpensive for the likes of you, young Fr, Fre, Fr’ddie, m’lad!”

“I meant a Bentley cocktail, Mr Gabe, sir.”

“Ah, cockt’l, tha’s more like it. What colour is’t?”

“Um, it’s Calvados and Dubonnet, so it’s pinkish.”

“Pink!” Gabe clapped his hands in delight, and Freddie got to work again with his shaker.

The locals and Nigel, who by now had come up to the bar because he had serious doubts that Gabe could carry the two cocktails without significant spillage, once again marvelled at Freddie’s fine performance. Nigel picked up the full glasses and returned to the table, followed by a weaving, giggling, hiccupping Gabe.

Once they’d sat down, the brothers immediately picked up and clinked their glasses, and each took a delicate sip of their cocktail, eyes closed to better savour the taste. Gabe held the brew in his mouth, pursing his lips and swishing it around as if he were at a wine tasting. Nigel half expected him to spit it out, but of course he swallowed it. He pronounced it delicious and smiled a beatific smile that reached from ear to ear.

Nick gargled his drink as if it was a mouthwash before swallowing it, and it almost choked him. But he recovered, blinked his streaming eyes in ecstasy, then with them open wide, slapped the table with his free hand, and gasped, “Oh, you beauty!” before taking another, deeper drink.

The spectators were spellbound.

Reverend Hartley Cordwell chose this moment to enter The Blacksmith’s Anvil for his customary half pint of bitter. He stopped in the doorway, perplexed to see so many of his flock gathered there. Capsby was the first to sidle up to Hartley and put him in the picture.

“He’s had what cocktails?” he said incredulously.

Capsby relished telling the vicar again that Nick De Angelo had been enjoying drinks by the name of Exorcist and Satan’s Whiskers.

“Good Lord,” said Hartley, gripping more tightly the pocket Bible he always carried in his jacket.

Freddie called out “Good evening, Reverend Cordwell, sir,” and placed his half pint on the bar, not holding any hope that the vicar would be so adventurous as to order an exotic drink.

Nigel wondered if he should invite the vicar to join them, as he’d spent time with him that afternoon, but couldn’t help a little shiver at the irony – not to say risk – of inviting the parish vicar to sup with Lucifer! If only Hartley knew, thought Nigel, smiling weakly as he caught the vicar’s eye, just who he was standing a mere few feet away from.

At that point Gabe suddenly had a serious attack of hiccups, and Nigel decided it was time to sort them out. “Gentlemen,” he said quietly, “is this wise? I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you don’t seem to be used to alcohol.”

“Oh, tush,” said Gabe, “Of course we’re us’d to alco’l. Nick has the finest cellar in, in, in …”

“The cosmos!” finished Nick, sticking his chest out with pride.

“Yup, s’right, you better believe it, s’best cellar in the cosm’s.”

“And we can certainly handle these,” said Nick belligerently, “We’re angels, ain’t we?”

“Shh,” hissed Nigel, “Keep your voices down, you don’t want anyone to hear you, do you?” He indicated the other people, who fortunately were now losing interest and were conversing happily with each other over pints, half pints and only one or two strangely coloured drinks with paper umbrellas. Only the gold-flecked eyes of Stanley’s dog Digby continued to regard them with his steady, intelligent gaze.

“We don’t have to shhhhhhhh,” said Gabe, spraying spittle onto Nigel’s sleeve as he swept the expanse of the bar with his arm. “’s’no probl’m, we c’n make ’em deaf if we want to!”

“Even better,” said Nick maliciously, “We can make ’em freeze.” He snapped his fingers and the pub suddenly fell utterly silent.

Everyone but the De Angelo brothers and Nigel went still. Stock-still. Glen Perkins had a glass halfway to his lips. Freddie was in the middle of putting an olive into a martini glass. Debbie’s mouth, rimmed with pink lipstick, was open, poised to receive yet another maraschino cherry. Stanley was scratching himself where he shouldn’t and Digby resembled a poor example of taxidermy.

“What have you done?” Nigel squeaked, surveying the strange and, in some cases, embarrassing postures of all the customers.

Nick clicked his fingers again, and everyone moved as if nothing had happened. His narrowed eyes hard and graphite grey, there was no trace of a slur when he hissed, “Just to remind you, Nigel, that we are capable of doing many things if we so choose.”

Gabe hiccupped.

Nick swallowed the rest of his cocktail in one go, went white, then pink, then white again before pitching forward, striking the dimpled, copper-topped table with a hard wallop. His arms dangled to the floor, and it was plain to see that Nick, a.k.a the Devil, was out for the count.

next episode coming soon

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020 Orders From Above: Episode 20 ‘the master craftsman’

To read from the beginning click here: Episode 1

master craftsman.jpg

It was yet again time to visit Ham-Under-Lymfold and Nigel set off with his usual reluctance. Since that horrible meeting about Sins and Virtues, he particularly dreaded an encounter with Lorelei Dove in case the angels had succeeded in with their horrible plan.

But he had to keep a regular check on what was happening at the mill. When the angels had demanded the work be done to ridiculous deadlines, Nigel had retorted that if anyone in the building trade could start within days of asking it could only be because they were cowboys. This had been met with one of Nick’s insufferable grins, and sure enough, as Nigel had found telephone numbers and made calls from his secret behind-the-wall space in his London office, everybody but everybody had said they were available to start on the date he specified. And for very reasonable rates too. Nigel hadn’t missed how surprised they sounded by their own promises.

The old stone bridge had been widened and strengthened to make it suitable for vehicles as well as people on foot, and Nigel drove across and parked to the right of the mill, next to a white van. He could see on the dashboard two empty plastic cups stained with strong, orange-coloured tea, and a newspaper, carelessly folded to the sports pages.

Scaffolding surrounded the building, men in hard hats milled around, and a large skip was fast filling up. The clear, cold air rang with the sounds of hammering, sawing, drilling, whistling, occasional swearing and a commercial radio station that bellowed out appallingly bad local adverts after every third song.

Nigel put on his own hard hat and high-vis yellow jacket and looked up with approval at the reclaimed slate tiles that covered the roof and then strolled inside, trying not to remember the day he had stepped through the portal to the other, immaculate interior that Nick and Gabe inhabited.

He had a good look around and spoke to some of the builders, satisfied to find that all was going to plan and the work was being done to an extremely high standard. It was all going so well, in fact, he felt confident that he could get some more tradesmen lined up so there would be no hiatus in the mill’s progress.

Needing a quiet place to consult the plans and make some notes, he decided to leave his car and take a walk to the cafe.

Gwen Perkins carried over Nigel’s order of coffee and chocolate cake. On the plate was a generous slice of a rich, dark sponge, its top smothered with deep swirls of chocolate frosting. “A new recipe Glen came up with. He’s trying to come up with a name for it,” Gwen said, “It’s got chilli in it, would you believe, but I promise you, it’s absolutely divine.” She asked him if Amelia was well and if she’d be visiting the village again soon, and then, indicating his laptop and the papers he’d spread on the table, said she’d leave him in peace.

Nigel forked in a generous mouthful of the cake and almost swooned at how wonderful and delicious it tasted. He had an idea and called out to Mrs. Perkins: “Why don’t you have a little competition for someone to find a name for it?”

“What a wonderful idea! We could get a few leaflets printed and put a box here on the counter for customers to post their suggestions.”

“And maybe the prize could be a whole cake to take home?”

“Oh, Nigel, thank you! And I’ll ask Debbie to go and talk to Freddie about producing a poster or two to put in the window here and in the pub. He’s very good with computers.” Gwen looked over her shoulder to check no-one else was in earshot, then lowering her voice, confided with a wink:  “Between you and me, I think my Debbie is a bit sweet on him.”

As she bustled off to put the suggestion to Glen, Nigel switched on his laptop and called up the section dealing with the restaurant’s décor. Amelia had adored putting it all together, everything from the plaster finishes, the colour schemes, tables and chairs, soft furnishings, lighting, flooring, et cetera. The only thing she had not had any say in was the front decoration of the bar, for this was to be three panels of hand-carved ebony, designed by Nick.

Nick had provided Nigel with several detailed drawings, and he and Amelia had agreed that it was a fantastic design. Very intricate, very delicate, it took a lot of concentration, and not a little insider knowledge, to see that its four sections were actually a metaphorical depiction of The Fall, as it had been shown to Nigel on that extraordinary film. The far left section showed a host of winged and robed angels surrounded by sunbeams. The next section showed Gabriel and Lucifer standing side by side, clutching each other’s sleeve, staring down into a smoking pit. The third part was mostly a complicated pattern of loops and whorls, but, in its centre, there was a large disc, engraved with flowers. The far right section was of flames and writhing human figures being tormented by behorned imps with pitchforks.

It reminded him of those puzzles that have to be looked at in a cross-eyed way in order to see a black and white 3-D picture emerge from a mass of coloured dots, and Nigel knew that it would only take a couple of people to work out the carving and it would quickly become a major talking point which would, very probably, bring in more people who wanted to see it for themselves.

Only Uri was good enough to create such a thing, and Nigel was looking forward to seeing him to deliver the drawings as soon as he’d finished the wonderful cake. In fact, it was so wonderful he contemplated having a second slice, but his stomach was full and the teapot was empty, so he reluctantly got up to leave. As he paid Gwen Perkins she said, “We’d like to thank you for your idea, so next time Amelia is with you please come and have tea and cake on the house.”

It was drizzling with rain by the time he arrived at the old grey vicarage. Uri’s tiny cottage could only be reached through a side gate into the garden, but this was locked so Nigel knocked on the vicarage door. Hartley, wiping his hands on a striped tea towel, beamed a very warm welcome when he saw Nigel on his doorstep.

“You’re back with us, then? How are you?”

“I’m very well, thank you. Can you tell me how I can get to Uri’s place, please? The gate is locked.”

Hartley stepped away from the door and bid Nigel to come in out of the increasing rain. “Ah, well now, Uri, yes, actually he’s in the garden, tackling the rhododendrons which have gone rather wild, but Heaven knows why he wants to be out in this weather. Why don’t you go through to the kitchen and I’ll call him in. Would you like some tea?”

“Er, thank you, but I don’t want to put you to any trouble. I’ll just go and find Uri, if you’ll point the way?”

Hartley’s blue eyes twinkled. “Heavens, there’s no need for that! It’s time he had a break and you can talk to him here, in the warm and dry.” He lowered his voice, “I happen to know that Uri does not bother with heating, hardly comfortable for a chat. No, much better in here, beside my Aga.”

Nigel followed the vicar across the black and white tiled floor of the gloomy, high-ceilinged entrance hall to a very large kitchen that hadn’t been updated since about 1958. There were no fitted units, just a miscellany of cupboards and drawers and a big, very scratched pine table. The only modern thing in there, looking very conspicuous, was a huge, American-style double-door fridge. The lino on the floor was cracked and worn right through in places, it’s original sky-blue only visible in one or two spots under the table. The porcelain sink had a line of rust running down from the cold tap, and an old boiler fixed to the wall spat hot water through a long, lime-covered spout. But it was homely and the Aga threw out a welcome warmth.

Hartley gestured to him to take a chair, saying, “I think you know my niece, Lorelei? And this is her fiancé, Dr. Stephen George. I’ll just go and give Uri a call, then I’ll make a fresh pot of tea.”

Startled at coming into contact with Lorelei unprepared and so soon, Nigel took a moment to recover his wits and say hello; she didn’t look any different and he dared to hope that the angels had decided to leave her alone after all.

Hartley, having yelled at the top of his lungs to Uri, who was working somewhere deep in the bushes that lined the long garden, asked Nigel, “Have you heard about the coin?”

“The one found in the graveyard? No, I haven’t heard anything.”

“Well, it’s fantastic news! Stephen here took it to a coin expert, and it turns out be rare and worth quite a lot of money.”

“More than quite a lot, Hartley,” said Stephen, “Several thousand is the estimate.”

“Really?” said Nigel, “That’s fantastic. Does the money come to you or to the diocese?”

“Oh, to the diocese I should think, but the village church will get a large chunk of it as the coin was found here. There’s an auction fee, of course, but whatever we get it will be very welcome. The coin is going be sold in London, but not for a month or so as it’s still being examined by various other experts. Stephen has kindly offered to take us to the sale rooms and watch it go under the hammer.”

Nigel noticed that Lorelei never took her eyes from her fiancé, and Stephen George clasped her hand as if their palms were super-glued together. It was delightful to see two people so very much in love.

The handyman arrived at the door and removed his damp cloth cap, before unlacing and removing his muddy boots.

“Come on in, my good fellow, sit down with Lorelei and Stephen and get yourself warm. Here’s Mr. Hellion-Rees to see you.” As he talked, Hartley put a huge blackened kettle onto the Aga and dropped teabags into a battered metal teapot.

Uri didn’t take Nigel’s proffered hand, but held both of his up to show that they were very dirty and he needed to wash them. He scrubbed them well in the kitchen sink, and dried them on a small pink towel. Nigel surreptitiously watched him, wondering what the others would think if they were ever to discover Uri’s true identity. And Gabe’s and Nick’s, of course.

There was a smaller table to the left of the Aga, with a wheelback chair on one side and a three-legged stool on the other. On the table a game of chess was in progress. Uri studied the board as he dried his hands, then moved one of the pieces.

“Oh, Uri, not the bishop, I hoped you wouldn’t spot that!” cried Hartley, bumbling around with cups and saucers. He tipped an assortment of biscuits from a large tin onto a plate, then said to Nigel, “After tea you can use my office, if you’d like to talk in private.”

“Oh no,” protested Nigel, “that’s very kind of you, but I’m only here to ask Uri if he’ll do a piece of work for the mill, a carving designed by Nick De Angelo for the bar. I’ve brought the drawings.”

“Oh, how exciting!” said the vicar, “Have you seen everything Uri’s made since he’s been here? Bird tables, fruit bowls, walking sticks, even a garden bench, and they’re all magnificent.”

Uri gave a gracious bow of his head at the compliment. “Thank you, Hartley.” He took the drawings Nigel handed him, pulling off the elastic band holding them in a tight roll.

“Shall we make space on the table?” asked Lorelei, the first time she’d spoken since Nigel’s arrival, apart from saying hello.

Nigel glanced at her. Beside her, Stephen was helping himself to the chocolate-covered biscuits, but Lorelei didn’t so much as look at them. Surely a good sign that she hadn’t been blighted with Gluttony, Nigel thought.

Uri used their mugs to keep the corners from curling up, and they all studied the drawing.

“It’s a very intricate pattern,” observed Stephen, “and, looking at the measurements, rather big! That’ll take some doing, I should think?”

Uri suddenly laughed, a deep belly laugh that resounded off the kitchen walls. “It’s not just a pattern! Can’t any of you see what it is?”

Hartley, Lorelei and Stephen all dipped their heads for a closer inspection. After a couple of minutes of deep silence, Hartley straightened up and admitted, “Um, I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Each panel tells part of one  well-known story,” answered Uri, “And right up your street, I should say, Hartley!”

Nigel, remembering how long it had taken him to see it, watched the other three and wondered which of them would be first to recognise what the design depicted. He smiled to himself as they traced the drawings with their figures and muttered amongst themselves.

Suddenly Hartley yelped with excitement and slapped his hand on the table, making the mugs jump. “Good heavens!” he exclaimed, “You don’t see it at first, but it’s the Fall of Lucifer, isn’t it! My word, this is beautiful, just beautiful.”

Now the other two could see it as well and Lorelei exclaimed, “It takes you ages to see it, but once you do it’s so clear. That’s so clever!”

Uri drained his mug and went to the Aga to have another fill of the strong tea from the pot. Nigel could sense he was deep in thought and wondered what he thought of Nick’s design. Would he want to make it?

Hartley offered Nigel the plate of biscuits and said, “So this is for the restaurant in the mill? Oh, I’m so glad the De Angelos decided to come here, they’ve sparked new life into the place. Gabe, now, he’s a really nice chap, very pleasant indeed. He wanted to know about my ministries, you know, where I was before coming here, the history of the church, things like that, and we talked about some of the Bible stories. He’s very knowledgeable about all religions, in fact. Just like you, Uri.”

Uri merely inclined his head again in acknowledgement.

Hartley carried on, “I’m not so sure about the other one, though, that Nick. I’m a Christian man, of course, and I know I shouldn’t judge, but there’s something about him…” He trailed off, his cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment, and hurriedly turned away to pour out more biscuits.

Nigel wondered what Uri’s expression was behind his blue-lensed glasses, but his face was inscrutable as he took another gingernut and dipped it in his tea. When he’d swallowed the biscuit, he indicated the drawing and said to Nigel, “I’ll need some new tools for such delicate work.”

“That’s no problem, just tell me what you need.”

“And I like to keep myself to myself when I’m working, mind. My workshop’s private.”

Hartley said, “No-one ever disturbs you over there anyway, do they Uri?”

“True, Hartley, true. Forget I said anything.” Uri took a lump of wood and a small knife from his pocket. Within minutes, the lump had been transformed to a ballerina en pointe, her pretty head tilted to one side, her hands held delicately beneath her chin, her eyes closed in the ecstasy of the dance.

“Gosh, that’s really beautiful,” Nigel said, “my youngest niece dreams of being a ballet dancer and insists on wearing her tutu absolutely everywhere.”

“Then please take it and give it to her,” said Uri.

“Oh no, really, I didn’t mean …”

“Please, I’d be glad for your niece to have it if it will give pleasure to her.”

Nigel stammered a thank you and placed the figurine on the table so he wouldn’t forget to take it when he left. “So, I can’t think of anything else at the moment, Uri. We’ll just need to get you the tools you need, and the wood. Nick suggested ebony.”

Uri nodded, “That’d be right. I know where to get quality stuff.” He rolled up the drawings and replaced the elastic band. “I’ll leave these here for now, Hartley, if you don’t mind, and collect them when I’ve finished in the garden.”

“My dear chap, it’s absolutely pouring out there now. Why don’t you call it a day?”

“Thank you, but I’ll not stop yet. A bit of rain never did me any harm. Besides, I don’t think it’ll last.”

And as he said it, the rain stopped and a glorious rainbow arced across the sky outside the kitchen window.

Once Uri had gone, the vicar offered Nigel more tea, but Nigel said he had to be on his way. He put on his jacket and picked up the ballerina.

Hartley said, “That is an amazing little carving, isn’t it? He did one for Lorelei of a dove, for her name, of course, and it’s absolutely wonderful. I’m delighted that you’ve asked him to do The Fall of Lucifer for the restaurant, he’ll do an excellent job.”

Nigel said his goodbyes, noticing for the first time the unusual ring with a purple stone on Lorelei’s left hand. Maybe because she and Stephen George had got engaged so recently, the angels had not tried to do anything to her. Maybe they’d picked on someone else. But that thought didn’t cheer him up, not really, because it meant some other very nice person was about to have their world turned upside down. If it hadn’t been turned upside down already.

On the doorstep, he pulled up his collar and prepared to dash through the rain, but Uri was waiting for him.

“Well done, Nigel,” he said, “It wouldn’t have done for the vicar to realise that we know each other so well.”

“So you’ll start on the carving soon?”

Uri grinned, “Oh yes, and with pleasure. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Then you’d better give me a list of tools – or, I suppose it would it be better for you to go and get what you need?”

Uri laughed. “I’m an angel, Nigel, I already have everything I need. I was just pretending for Hartley’s benefit.”

“Ah, yes,” said Nigel, “speaking of Hartley, do you know if anything has been done to Lorelei? I didn’t see any sign of gluttony in there, and I was rather hoping…”

Uri laid a hand on Nigel’s shoulder, “I know what you were hoping, but I’m afraid she’s still firmly in their sights. Gabe has had a go at leading her into temptation, but failed. He’s just biding his time to have another go, but Nick is getting impatient. He hasn’t had any luck with Violet, either.” He removed his glasses and fixed Nigel with his clear grey eyes. “It will be done, Nigel, because it must be done.”

Next episode: 021 Orders From Above: Episode 21 ‘satan’s whiskers, anyone?’

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