Steve Cullis watched the three newcomers enter McHooligans pub. Students, was his initial thought. He finished cleaning a pint glass and put it on the rack above the bar.

What were they doing here? Were they lost? Did they pay any attention to the local news at all?

The three of them were dressed in fancy dress costumes for Halloween. Well two of them were, the third, a skinny blond kid, looked like any other student. He wore baggy blue jeans and a white T-shirt with a cartoon of a sheep striking up a Kung Fu pose on the front. An oversize pair of headphones hung around his neck and led down to an iPod clipped to his waist.

Cullis shook his head. Didn’t they know where they were? You didn’t show off your expensive gadgets around here. Not if you wanted to keep them.

The kid’s blond hair was gelled up in crazy spikes. Maybe he was supposed to be a character from a Japanese anime series.

The other kid was wearing a tatty old black robe. What was he supposed to be? A Jedi? A monk? Either way it looked like someone with rudimentary sewing skills had been let loose on a piece of old sackcloth.

Cullis wasn’t that interested in the two blokes anyway. It was the girl in the middle that caught his attention.

Wow, what a hottie.

She was smoking. Slim and long-legged like a fashion model, but with a pair of boobs a Page 3 girl would die for. Her face looked sweet and innocent, like the typical girl next door, but her large blue eyes, hidden behind a pair of spectacles, told a different story. Cullis was glad his significant other wasn’t here tonight. He’d get an ear bashing for sure over the way he was staring at this scorching hot redhead.

The girl was dressed in a devil girl outfit — complete with horns, wings and tail — that suited her perfectly. The costume was really good. Cullis wondered if they were art students. The horns and wings looked as good as any prosthetics he’d seen in films.

This was no place for art students.


Phil Rowling felt uncomfortable as soon as he walked through the door. There was a real atmosphere about the pub, and not a good one. Groups of sallow youths clustered around a couple of pool tables or in booths on the far side of the room. Phil felt beady eyes follow them all the way to the bar, like those of nocturnal predators.

This place was trouble.

Rosa and Carny didn’t seem to notice at all. They walked up to the bar with the breezy smiles of lost tourists. Which was what they were, Phil supposed.

Phil also noticed there were no women in the bar. Rosa was the only female present. Unsurprisingly all eyes, very hungry eyes, were fixed on her. Phil felt a momentary tinge of concern for her, then chided himself for being silly.

“Hi, nice little quiet place you’ve got here,” Carny said to the barman.

Phil put the barman as maybe a few years older than his own eighteen years. The man behind the bar didn’t look like he belonged here. Phil guessed he was a mature student looking to top up his funds with a bit of extra work on the side.

“Quiet now,” the barman replied. “But it can get a little rough later on. You want to be careful.”


Cullis wanted to tell them to get the hell out of here right now for their own good, but that witch Harriet Diamond had ears everywhere. If she found out he’d turned paying customers away she’d have his guts.

“We’ll be fine,” the girl in the devil costume said. “We’ve got Phil to protect us.” She hugged the robed guy’s head, squashing it against the side of her ample breast.

Were they on something? Cullis thought. The kid in the white T-shirt and the girl looked completely clueless. At least the one in robes, Phil, had the sense to look uncomfortable. Cullis didn’t have much faith in the kid’s abilities as protector. Underneath the robes he looked as skinny as a rake.

“What’ll you be having?” he asked.

Maybe they’d notice the poisonous atmosphere choking the place and leave after one drink.

“A pint of lager please,” Phil said.

“Bloody Mary,” the redhead said.

“Just a bottle of water,” the kid in the white T-shirt said.


Phil had got maybe a third of the way through his pint when the front door slammed open and a crowd of shaven headed men with football scarves tramped in.

“Fucking joke. No way was that a penalty,” the lead man said.

“That ref’s always been a cunt,” a second man said.

The two looked like they could be brothers, Phil thought. They were both tall with similar pudgy features. Despite their height they both had thickset builds with fists the size of hams. Though they didn’t have the sharply defined figures of body-builders, it was obvious there was plenty of muscle hiding beneath their slabs of fat. Slap a coat of green paint on them and they’d make good orcs or ogres for a fantasy film, Phil thought.

As the crowd of football supporters entered Phil noticed one of the groups of youths slinking out of the side entrance. A pack of hyena’s ceding ground to a pride of lions was his thought. He would have liked to have done the same but it was too late, the lead brother had already spotted them.


Fuck, the Lions had lost, Cullis thought as he watched the Diamond brothers and their firm enter the pub, and in dodgy circumstances by the sounds of things. That was bad. Lennie and Johnny would be in an ugly mood.

Lennie noticed the students immediately.

“What you fuckers doing here dressed up like that?” he demanded.

The kid in the robes pointed to a sorry looking plastic skull mask hanging above the bar. “We’re in fancy dress,” he said. “For Halloween.” He flashed the man a nervous smile, the kind that said ‘we don’t want any trouble’.

The kid looked shit-scared. Cullis didn’t blame him. Lennie, and his brother, were the type that relished being trouble.

“What’s with the robes?” Lennie continued. “You a flasher or something.”

“He’s a warlock,” Rosa said, flashing them a bright smile.

“You his pet then?” a younger member of the crew, a short kid with a weaselly looking face Cullis couldn’t remember the name of, asked. “Like off WoW?”

“I’m a librarian,” the girl said with put upon haughtiness. She pointed to her bookish spectacles.

“Librarian?” Lennie said, doubtful.

Her friend prodded her and pointed to the horns on her head.

“Demon librarian,” the girl added.

She was either kooky or completely cuckoo. Cullis couldn’t decide which. Absolute killer body though.

“Hey look,” the weaselly-faced kid said, pointing to the miniature pair of bat wings the girl was wearing on her head. “Innit cool how she makes them move.”

Wow, that was pretty good, Cullis thought, watching as the girl gave them a sweet smile and the little wings on the side of her head flapped of their own accord. What was it, some kind of hidden air pump? Or strings? Either way she’d really made an effort on her costume.

“Where’s your costume?” Lennie asked the kid in the white T-shirt.

The kid looked crestfallen. He looked down at his clothes.

“And I made such an effort,” he said.

He was just as barmy as the girl, Cullis thought. Nuts, both of them.

It worked though, or maybe because the girl had such a sweet smile. Either way Lennie left them alone and continued to the bar. Cullis suddenly had his hands full pouring drinks for the thirsty firm as they continued to swear and grumble about the refereeing decisions in tonight’s game.


Phil rushed his pint, wanting to down it and get out of here as fast as possible. They were outsiders here and the new arrivals looked like the type of men that didn’t think a night was complete until they’d kicked the teeth out of somebody they didn’t like the look of. He’d just finished his drink when Rosa plonked a fresh one down next to his empty glass.

“Come on slow coach,” she cajoled.

“I thought we were leaving after one drink,” Phil said.

“We like it here,” Carny said. “Very authentic.”

They were both crazy. Those ‘authentic’ locals were currently staring at them with ‘authentic’ open hostility.

Well, except for Rosa. They leered at her with open lust.

“Mmm, all this testosterone,” Rosa murmured. “My pussy is positively salivating.” She crossed and uncrossed her legs.

“Hungry?” Carny asked.


“Are you sure?” Cullis asked in disbelief as the girl ordered a second round.

“We’ll be fine,” the girl replied with a breezy smile.

Were they mad or just dumb? Cullis thought. Couldn’t they sense the tangible threat of violence rippling through the air. The Diamond brothers were bad enough sober. With beers they were animals.

The students seemed totally oblivious. Middle class twits without a clue how the real world worked, Cullis thought.

Then, right in front of everyone in the pub, the girl put her arms around the kid in the robes and leaned in for a very sloppy and passionate kiss.

Cullis was flabbergasted.

And also a little turned on.

Did they want to get to hurt? This was no place for a full-on Public Show of Affection. Especially not with your super hot girlfriend in front of a whole pub full of blokes that would really like to fuck her. That was like getting your tackle out and rubbing it right in their faces. Look what I’m getting tonight lads.

Lucky bastard.

To be fair the kid seemed as surprised about it as everybody else, not that it took him long to get into the mood once she pressed her lips against his. Cullis couldn’t believe what he was seeing as the pair noisily made out against the bar. They didn’t seem aware of anyone else in the room or maybe they didn’t care. If they carried on like this it wouldn’t be long before they were ripping off each other’s clothes and fucking on the floor. He wondered if he should spray them with the soda fountain before they got that far.

Cullis’s jocular mood evaporated as soon as he glanced over at the firm. Envious glances had turned to dark, hateful glances. Men with faces like quarry cliffs muttered to each other and nodded their heads. Lennie slammed his glass down on the counter and started to walk towards the students.

Fuck. It was going to kick off.

An image jumped, unbidden, into his mind.

On his knees, ambulance sirens in the distance, audible yet still too far away. The kid coughing and spluttering, his girlfriend weeping and wailing. Cullis’s hands over the kid’s throat, trying in vain to hold it together, hot blood gushing through his fingers in steady spurts, forming a growing pool around his feet.

He was never going to get rid of that one.


Phil was still reeling from Rosa’s kiss when he noticed the lead hooligan staring at him, his face red and blotchy with anger. He looked like a pissed off bulldog. Phil fell back to earth with a crash.

Uh oh.

“Oi, loverboy,” Bulldog-face said. He beckoned Phil with a chubby finger.

Double uh oh.


Fuck Harriet, Cullis thought. She wasn’t the one who had to ring for the damn ambulance.

He went up to the girl and the art student with the fancy headphones.

“Look, don’t think I’m being a dick or anything, but you really need to leave now and take your friend with you.”

“Why?” the girl asked, a disappointed pout on her full red lips.

“See those two…” Cullis motioned with his eyes to Lennie and Johnny. “That’s the Diamond brothers, Lennie and Johnny. They run the main firm around here.”

“They do look a little intimidating,” the art student with the headphones commented.

Intimidating. Where was this kid from, Silver Spoon land?

“They’re far worse than that,” Cullis said. “Both have been in and out of prison for GBH and Aggravated Assault. Their aunt owns this pub so they think that means they can do whatever the fuck they like here.”

He leant in closer.

“That includes kicking the shit out of random people they don’t like the look of. I don’t want to have to ring for an ambulance for you and your friend.”

Once was fucking enough.

The two students looked at each other, sharing a secret smile.

Were they on something? Cullis thought. Were they even listening?

The hot girl looked back at Cullis and stared straight into his eyes. There were flames flickering in those blue eyes.

Cullis’s spine froze solid. It felt like a bucket of ice water had been poured down his back. Even now it felt like the chill was spreading out along his blood vessels, sending crystalline tendrils of ice right into his bowels. He couldn’t look away. Hidden in her eyes was an endless black abyss filled with raging fires and countless lost souls screaming in eternal torment. He couldn’t look away. Her gaze held him and dragged him closer, ever closer to the edge of that precipice.

The corners of her mouth twisted up in a cruel smile. It was the kind of smile a cat might give a mouse before tearing it to bloody ribbons.

“Your concern for us is touching, but misplaced,” she said.

Cullis trembled as she ran a hand along the side of his face. Those weren’t fingernails; they were claws.

There was a reason her costume looked so good. It wasn’t a costume.

O Lord, please save my soul.

Violent tremors ran through his body as he tried to fight the unbreakable hold her gaze had on him. He was paralysed, frozen in place by terror. She leaned close to him, close enough to whisper in his ear.

“Some very bad things are about to happen in this place,” she whispered, words sweet like poison. “I think now would be a very good time for you to take your break. A very long break.”

The paralysis rooting him to the spot ended. Cullis didn’t hesitate. He ran straight for the door as if his life — and soul — depending on it. Which it did.

Lennie Diamond, what had you brought down on yourself?


That was very uncharacteristic of you,” Carny commented.

Rosa sucked up the last of her drink and then motioned to Phil with her head.

“Ah,” Carny said, nodding his head.


“So what is it?” Bulldog-face asked, jabbing a thick finger at Phil’s chest.

“What’s what?” Phil replied. He didn’t like how the other gang members had arranged themselves around him in a menacing semi-circle.

“What’s the big secret loverboy?” Bulldog-face said, nodding his shaven head towards Rosa. “Money? Big dick?”

“Maybe he’s just more of a man,” Rosa called out.

Phil winced internally. Not now Rosa, he thought.

“Is that so?” Bulldog-face said, his voice quiet and laden with menace. “Your girl’s got a mouth on her. Maybe you should gag her, before I do… with my dick.”

“Look, we don’t want any trouble,” Phil said, holding up his hands.

“I’d be careful if I were you,” Rosa called out. “That’s a warlock you’re messing with.”

Bulldog-face and the rest of his gang looked puzzled for a moment, then they burst out laughing.

“Woo, show us your magic Harry Potter,” Bulldog-face said, waving his fingers in Phil’s face.

“Burn this oaf’s skin off,” Rosa said, her voice sharp.

Rosa! Phil thought, glancing in her direction. He was trying not to provoke anything here. As he turned his head he noticed the barman running through the side exit. The man looked as white as if he’d seen his own ghost.

What was that about?

He turned back just in time to see a fist the size and approximate weight of a small ham hurtling towards his face like a high-speed train.


Earlier that same evening…

“Come on, come on,” Rosa said, rushing around Phil’s bedroom with giddy excitement. “We’ll be late.”

“Late for what?” Phil asked. He’d only just woken up.

“Our Halloween trip to Earth,” Rosa said.

“Halloween?” Phil said. “I thought daemons and other creatures of the night didn’t care much for Halloween. Like it was a cliché or something.”

Rosa paused and stared at Phil with her bright blue eyes.

“Whatever gave you that foolish notion,” she said. “Halloween is one of the few nights where it’s easy for my kind to travel to the human world.”

Rosa was a succubus. The human parts of her resembled a gorgeous college cheerleader. She had a lithe figure with a pair of large breasts. She also had horns, wings and a pointed tail. Currently she was wearing a short pair of glossy red pants and a matching top that was scarcely bigger than a bra. For Rosa it could be considered overdressed.

“Now come on,” Rosa said, grabbing his hand and pulling him off the bed.

“I can’t go like this,” Phil said.

He was completely naked. The succubi of the castle regarded clothes as an annoyance.

The world was temporarily blotted out as a shapeless black mass wrapped around his face. Rosa had thrown an old pair of black robes at him. They smelt a little musty.

“One of your predecessor’s,” Rosa said.

Phil was a warlock and in theory the master of Rosa and the other succubi of the castle. In practise he was fairly certain that word did not mean what he thought it meant.

“Um, are these burn marks?” Phil asked, after putting on the robes and noticing scorch marks on the hem and arms.

“The last owner asked too many annoying questions and I set him on fire,” Rosa said. “Now come on!”

She grabbed his arm and bodily yanked him out of the bedroom. A few steps down the corridor and she muttered some arcane words of magic. Phil felt a strange dislocation and realised they were no longer in the castle.


No. They were somewhere else in Hell. He could hear screams off in the distance. Barely audible, but screams nonetheless.

A lot of screams.

They were standing in a small room with a simple cot-like bed. Rows of bookcases lined the plain grey walls. At the far corner a skinny young man was drawing an arcane circle on the floor in white chalk. He stopped to look up at them as soon as they materialised in the room.

“Hello Rosa,” he said.

“Hi Carny,” Rosa said. “This is the new master,” she said, introducing Phil. “Master, this is Carnivrillarofax. He’s a Kullockian rage daemon.”

Carnivrillarofax? That name was familiar to Phil, but he couldn’t remember from where.

“Call me Carny,” Carnivrillarofax said, offering his hand.

“Phil,” Phil said.

“The new master, eh,” Carny said. “I hope the girls aren’t exerting you too hard.”

Nope, they’d only kidnapped him from Earth and nearly fucked him to death on multiple occasions.

“You seem quite mellow for a rage daemon,” Phil commented.

He’d read about them back at Wargsnouts College for Warlocks. They were meant to be one of the more terrifying daemons. Carny didn’t look terrifying. He didn’t even look like a daemon. He looked more like a hip university student. He wore a white T-shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. His blond hair was gelled up in spikes that resembled a Japanese videogame character. An iPod was clipped to his waist and an oversize pair of headphones hung loosely around his neck.

“I listen to Slayer,” Carny said. “Keeps me chilled.”

He bent down and finished the last line on the arcane circle.

“Ready to go?” he asked.

Rosa daintily stepped over the threshold. She turned round, grabbed Phil’s hands and yanked him into the circle. Phil overbalanced and she drew him into a tight embrace, not missing the opportunity to press her large boobs against his chest.

Carny followed them into the circle. He intoned some words in an alien tongue that slipped past Phil’s ears without him being able to distinguish the words. The lines of the circle lit up with a bright blue light and they were surrounded by a swirling cloud of black smoke. Phil felt a similar sense of dislocation as earlier, but a lot stronger this time.

The smoke cleared and Phil was standing in a back alley. Stars twinkled in the dark blue sky above them.

Earth, Phil thought. It was refreshing to breathe in air untainted by the musks and perfumes that pervaded the succubi’s castle, even if this air carried its own taints: car exhausts and the other grey scents of the city.