‘Santa’s Sweat Shop, Nick speaking.’
‘Nick, it’s Luc.’
‘Luuuc! Wassgoin’ down…’
‘Nick, don’t be a jerk.’
‘…down there in Hades?’
‘Nick, for crying out loud, I’m calling on business.’
‘Luc, I’m in the ‘nice’ business, you’re in the ‘naughty’ business, I’m not sure it’s ‘good’ business to take what you’re selling.’
‘For crying out loud, I’ll hang up, and you won’t know how your ridiculous new app is going to screw everything for you on the 25th!’
‘What do you mean?’
‘And all those piddly little brats will miss out!’
‘Miss out on what?’ demanded Nick.
‘Your app’s stuffed, Nick.’
‘And how does the Lord of the Underworld know about my app?’
The line went dead.
Probably too far, Nick admitted to himself, settling back down in his chair to call Luc back. Thing is, he never could resist winding him up. Patiently he tried to redial but no luck. He put the receiver down and began to flip through the papers on his desk, looking for Luc’s number. ‘Rudy!?’ he called out, moving books, sifting through drawers. ‘Rudy, have you got a minute?’ he called again, a little louder.
Still no answer. He pushed up from his desk and walked to the doorway, and shouted ‘RUDY!!” at the top of his lungs. At almost the same moment, Rudy appeared in the doorway, right under Nick’s nose, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of his mobile. He glared darkly at Nick.
‘If you call me by the name of that stupid red-nosed git of a reindeer of yours one more time, I’ll–’
‘I’m sorry,’ Nick said, and managed to look contrite and sound sincere at the same time.
The elf handed him the phone and said, ‘it’s Luc. There’s some problem with our code.’
Nick took the mobile. ‘Thanks, Rudy,’ he said innocently, and closed the door on the frustrated tantrum of his 2IC.
Nick sat back own. ‘Ok, Luc, sorry about before.’
‘Are you going to listen to me?’
‘Without being a jerk?’
‘I … Luc, you take all the fun out of things.’
‘You know, you treat your staff like shit.’
‘Rudy? He’ll get over it.’
‘Fair warning, Nick. He’d jump ship if I offered him a job.’
‘He–’ sputtered Nick.
‘Warmer climate, better hours–’
‘Luc! Shut up! What’s wrong with the app?’
‘Ah, so now you want to focus.’
‘Just tell me what’s going on.’
‘I’m not done having fun with this.’
Luc laughed down the phone.
‘I will hang up on you, now, dammit!’ Nick cried, frustrated.
‘No you won’t. Not until you know what it’s about.’
Luc’s tone changed slightly. ‘Just remember – what I tell you, I tell you only on the condition that you keep me out of this.’
‘“Keep you out of this”?’
‘Yeh. My name is not to be mentioned in any connection with this.’
Nick stifled a laugh. ‘Ok,’ he managed.
‘This is not about me doing good.’
‘It’ll ruin my reputation!’
‘I’ve got your back.’
‘I need your word!’
‘Okay, Luc, I promise! It will be my official line: the Prince of Darkness had nothing to do with saving Chris–’
‘All right, all right, I’ll stop, I’ll stop.’
‘You have to be the most frustrating human being of all time!!’
‘After the Mansons, though, surely.’
‘I want to speak to Rudy again!’ Luc yelled.
‘His name’s not Rudy,’ said Nick, feigning hurt and offense on Rudy’s behalf.
‘I don’t care WHAT his name is, he’s the coder, you need him to fix this!’
‘The code in your ridiculous ‘Xmas Wish’ app, Nick, or whatever the hell you’ve called it. It’s not working.’
‘The app the kids are using? How do you know it’s not working?’
‘Because all the data, all the wishes from the kids are re-routing to my server. I traced it back to the code in your stupid app.’
‘Your server?’ Nick asked, unbelieving.
‘Yes. My server. The Hades server.’
Nick smiled. ‘And you’re worried about this because…?’ although it had already dawned on him that he knew the answer.
‘Because the kids won’t get their pr–’ Luc started shouting, before abruptly strangling himself into silence.
Nick laughed loudly down the phone line. ‘So!’ he shouted gleefully. The Hedon of Hades has a soft-spot for kids at Christmas!’
‘NICK, you bast- ‘
‘Now, now, Luc, we should keep this PG. We are talking about the kids, after all.’
‘You annoying jerk, you–’
‘“The Devil, making sure kids get their gifts at Christmas”,’ Nick laughed even harder.
‘Just remember you promised you’d keep me out of this!’
‘I – I know,’ Nick wheezed, tears streaming down his face. ‘I can’t believe I did that.’
‘I did,’ Nick grinned. ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone that you were involved in this.’
There was a pause, and then Luc said, ‘thanks, Nick.’
‘I’ll keep your ironic beard and topknot out of it, too.’
And somewhere in Hades, a mobile phone smashed against the floor before landing in the eternal embers of damnation.