Apparently this guy could identify me as the new Devil before I’d even introduced myself.
I tried to speak like I knew what I was doing. “Uh, yes, Gus here is giving me a little tour of my new…um…kingdom so I can get acquainted with my, um…rule.”
The man smiled wanly. “You’re not fooling anyone, sir,” he told me. “Don’t try acting like the big boss in charge until you get your bearings.”
My eyes flicked to Gus. He gave me a look that seemed to be the eye-equivalent of a shrug. I looked back at the man at the desk. “Uh, right,” I said awkwardly. “Well, then help me get my bearings. Who are you?”
“Winston Phelps,” he introduced himself blandly. “Former criminal defense attorney in Dallas, current Director of Assignment in Hell.” He spread his arms wide, palms facing me and added a sarcastic, “At your service.”
Gus nudged me. “Most of your department directors are demons, but Winston here is an exception. He was a master at manipulating the justice system and when he died an opening in this position had just become available, so your predecessor decided that his eternal torment would be to choose people’s fates. He’d have to be the system instead of manipulating it. It’s proven quite effective, too, hasn’t it, Winston?”
“Winston has become far more acquainted with anxiety and guilt during his tenure in the pit,” Gus said with a gleeful smile. “You should’ve seen him when he got here. Sharp as a whip, stubborn as a mule, and as dangerous as a rabid wolverine. Now he’s tired, weary and depressed. He’s the only guy I’ve actually seen go bald in Hell.” He pretended to think for a moment. “Well, other than the guys who get their hair pulled out on a daily basis as part of their torment.” He smiled.
“I wish I could have seen you do stand-up when we were alive,” Winston murmured sourly. “So I could have thrown a goddamn watermelon at you onstage.”
“Love you too, Winny,” Gus beamed.