The service station was diagonal on the corner lot. It looked like a relic that would be more at home on Route 66 than in the middle of an urban area. Newly painted in white with blue trim and lettering, if it had a neon sign it had long since been removed. The pumps had been removed, but the island was still there. We pulled into the driveway and I looked down the sidewalk median at weeds and unkempt lawns in front of small houses. The sun was heading down in the west, reflecting across the downtown skyscrapers below the highlands.

We stepped out of the car and looked at the station. It had a big pull through bay and an office in the back. We went across the front to look at the other side of it. Out of the corner my eye, I saw a couple short black outlines walking down the street toward the car. When we turned to look at the gas station, the car was out of sight. I couldn't tell if the shadowy figures had continued walking down the street or stopped at the car.

Out of suspicion, I activated the remote to lock the car. I couldn't tell in the dusk city light if it had worked so I hit the unlock and lock again. I thought I heard exclamations, looked at Kathleen and motioned for her to wait. I went toward the corner of the building, but then caught a bit of movement peek through the bays. I thought about heading straight for them, but instead walked to the near corner of the building, and waited behind where one of the bay doors was. I peeked through the hinges and saw them running through, thinking I was coming around the outside of the building.

I stepped up to match speed, and caught the first one coming out through the doors. The inertia brought me back close to where Kathleen was standing. The result was not the midget-sized shadow I'd seen lurking, but a 5"-ish woman. Her companion stopped behind her. He was shorter than me, perhaps 5' 10". Both were a rich shade of brown.

"Run, master," the woman said.

"Wait," I said. "I just want to know if you did anything to our car." I let the woman go to stand across from me next to her "master".

His voice emerged with an elegant British accent. "We'd paid for some work on our car earlier, but it wasn't done correctly. We think it may have been done to your car instead," said the man.

I looked at Kathleen, then back at him. "So, you found our car, then followed us here from our house, to... what? Un-fix our car? We did have some work done on it today."

"No, no. We just wanted to see that it was indeed done to your car. Then we would take ours back tomorrow."

"Well, certainly we can check our car, and if you had to pay for some of our work, we can help straighten it out at the repair place tomorrow. My girlfriend has an appointment, but we can make arrangements to get it there as soon possible in the morning. We wouldn't want you get ripped off."

"Thank you."

I nodded. Then asked, "Oh, which place did you say you got your car repaired at?" I looked from the gentleman to his lady friend. Her eyes were captivating. Gold, set in perfect light brown skin. I missed his answer somehow, but it seemed to match with where we'd been. Certainly Kathleen didn't say anything about it not matching.

[The man was carrying two more people in his arms, perhaps a foot tall, and skinny. One entreated him not to trust me at some point, but as part of the glamor from the girl, or because it was in a dream, it didn't stick in my mind that there was anything unusual about them.]

We made our way back to the car, a bit punchy coming down from the adrenaline rush of catching and confronting people. We got in the car. Maybe we started making out. I don't quite remember. I woke to...

Realizing I was dreaming in bed. What a cool story that would make. I got up and headed down the hall. It was a mid-length office hallway, and I turned into a door most of the way down. This room was divided with a couple smaller offices on the left, and a reception/work area on the right. I chose the far office, turned in, and I was in the office at the gas station. What better place to write this story, I thought, than where it happened. I started sorting through stacks of 45s, trying to decide what I wanted to listen to. The Biggest Stack of Records in Minesota, I thought. Then I looked out the window to where the car was parked, still in the NE corner.

There was a round hole under it, about 5 feet across, oozing a light that seemed bright yellow and sickly green at the same time. That man, and his djinni... They didn't care about our car at all. They were trying to protect that portal we'd parked on top of. And now it's open and something uncomprehendingly and otherworldly evil is coming out of.

Cut to:

A small room with a couple of long tables in it. On it are scattered small torn pieces of cloth, and similarly small torn pieces of skin. Enter two demons, one in a work suit, the other in nice plain clothes.

The suited one asks, "Did we figure out which of these bits has the soul fragment? Which one is talking?"

"Not yet," hisses the other. "We're still working on it, though."

"If we don't figure out where the other end of that portal was or what kind of Elder was unleashed, there's going to be Hell to pay. Satan's still got a vested interest in this plane."


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