Varsha 2019 Issue, Stories - Renée Henning



Rendezvous with Luc

By Renée Henning


Can you trust the devil? Deborah Nash no longer had time to ponder the question. Lucifer, whom she had called up, had arrived. He had glowing eyes and was handsome in a creepy way. If he had horns, a tail, and hooves, his jaunty hat, tailored British suit, and handmade Italian shoes concealed them.


“Hello, Lucifer,” she said in a shaky voice.


“Call me Luc, darling,” Satan answered with a French accent. “After all, we have met before, though not in person.” Deborah winced at the thought of some of those occasions.


“I understand you want to make a deal,” he added.


“Only if the terms are acceptable to me,” she replied airily, to avoid appearing desperate. (Deborah was an American businesswoman who prided herself on her negotiating skills.)

In reality, she needed money badly. She and her company were days away from bankruptcy, and she had vowed never to return to the poverty of her youth.


“I daresay we can work out a mutually agreeable arrangement,” the devil answered. Then the negotiations over Deborah’s soul began in earnest.


She started by demanding $2 billion and 100 more years of life. Deborah figured, correctly, that she and Satan would compromise by splitting the amounts in half. She also wanted the guaranteed years to be good ones. However, she had to drop this condition. It turns out that the devil, who entices people with short-term delights, lacks the power to grant long-lasting happiness.


“You make your own happiness in life,” Luc said.


For the first time in the meeting Deborah laughed. “I didn’t expect to hear self-help platitudes from Beelzebub,” she said.


“You also didn’t expect the devil to be real. Yet here I am,” he retorted. “Anyway, whether you get many good years or many bad years in your guaranteed half century is not mine to decide. But if you’re worried about life becoming intolerable someday, there is a solution. You could include in our contract a clause allowing you to arrange your own death.”


“I’m not interested in suicide, assisted or otherwise,” the woman replied. “Still, there might be medical reasons to commit suicide before the fifty years are up. I could get in a car accident and be paralyzed for decades.” She decided to add the clause. She also decided never to activate it before atoning sufficiently for committing the terrible act Luc wanted. The devil’s price for her demands was indeed horrendous. Deborah had to give him the order to murder someone, who would die that night. She knew the murder would endanger her soul. Yet, taking into account fifty years to repent for issuing the command, she was willing to accept the risk.


However, there was a problem with the murder plot. Deborah felt somewhat squeamish about picking the target personally but did not trust Satan to make the selection. They haggled for hours over the issue. Finally they worked out a compromise. Luc would choose, but the “murderee,” the contract’s term for the dead person, had to be a child molester, a violent rapist, a cold-blooded killer, or a torturer.


Afterward Deborah reviewed the proposed agreement for traps and tricks that might hurt her or her loved ones. To her knowledge, her children, all from her first marriage, and grandchild had never molested, raped, killed, or tortured anyone. Nevertheless, to shield them, she demanded a clause stating that nobody with the Stanton name could be the murderee. She also insisted on two other clauses. One required her additional fifty years of life to be calculated using the ancient Julian calendar rather than the customary Gregorian calendar. (This change added nine hours to the agreed-upon half-century and prevented Satan from using some antique calendar with short years. Deborah’s reason for the change was to cheat the devil before he could cheat her.) The other clause made her billion dollars payable in United States currency (to stop Luc from shortchanging her with Canadian dollars).


Once the woman was sure she had analyzed every contingency and plugged every loophole harmful to her, a bargain was reached. She was elated. However, it did concern her that Satan seemed satisfied.


She told herself, “Luc expects the money to corrupt me and, along with the death I’m causing, land me in hell. That’s what he wants from the agreement. But he’s wrong!

Becoming ultra rich won’t change me. I’ll give my three kids $100 million apiece and my grandchild $50 million, and I’ll have over half a billion left to spend on philanthropy and on myself. Fifty years of devoting money and some time to charity will be more than enough to avoid going to hell for the murder of some degenerate.”


The devil interrupted Deborah’s thoughts by offering to shake hands to seal the deal. She declined. She did not fully trust him - and she was afraid of his touch. Instead they signed a contract. Luc’s signature left scorch marks on the paper. Next he transferred $1 billion to the foreign bank account she had set up a week earlier.


Then the woman said in a firm voice, “I command you to murder someone tonight. The murderee must be a child molester, a violent rapist, a cold-blooded killer, or a torturer.”


Satan gave a slight smile. “Did it bother you,” he asked, “to order the death of a human being you may not even know?”

“It didn’t bother me a bit,” she answered. “Why should it? I’m eliminating a monster who deserves to die and whose exit will leave the world a better place. But I am a little curious. Is there a way in advance to see the murderee’s face?”


“Of course,” Luc replied. “I can make it appear in flames, smoke, or water. Let me show you. Just walk over there,” he said, pointing to a nearby puddle.


Deborah followed his direction. When she leaned over the water, she screamed. To her shock, she was looking at the reflection of her face! Luc was observing closely.


“No doubt you expected to see a geyser or something similar erupt from the puddle and to watch the drops merge to form the image of a male face,” he said, gloating.


Deborah could barely restrain herself from hitting Satan over the head with her briefcase. “Not really,” she replied coolly. “No doubt you expected me to become hysterical after seeing myself in the puddle.”


He appeared disappointed. Bullies like their victims to be scared. “Deep down, you’re terrified,” he said. “If so, I’m not aware of it,” the woman answered. In fact, she was terrified. Meanwhile, she struggled to understand how she could be the murder victim when she had fifty years of life left. Then it struck her. She had arranged her own death and thus, under the murder contract, forfeited the fifty years. She had delegated to the devil the choice of the target for the assassination, and he had picked her.


Deborah had long known about the contract killing statute in her state. By law the person giving the kill order and the hitman were both considered murderers once the murder was completed. She raised the subject now. “I can’t be your target,” she declared, “because I’m not a murderer yet and none of the four criminal categories in our agreement apply to me.”


“You’re overlooking a key part of the contract,” Luc replied with a smirk.


Suddenly she realized certain facts. Their agreement allowed him to select anyone as the target for the planned execution; only the dead person had to fall within a criminal category. Satan, having observed her callous attitude toward the killing of child molesters, violent rapists, cold-blooded killers, and torturers, had recognized that Deborah dead would fit in the killer group. By slaying her he would complete the murder and transform her into a murderer.


The woman shuddered. Then she had a cheery thought. Deborah told herself, “To Satan, I’m a greedy, calculating, cold-blooded killer. However, I’m also a company’s president. Tonight I’ll join hard-core evildoers in hell, but I’ll become their ringleader. The devil was toying with me all along. Now it’s my turn to make his life hell!”


Based in US, Renée Henning is an attorney and an international author. She has written the book Mystery and the Adopted Child and her work has appeared in other publications such as The Washington Post, Oslo Times, News Lens, Modern Ghana, and Oceania.


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