Unsurprisingly, I got Jerome's voice mail. I left him a message and made no attempt to hide my urgency . . . or irritation. That kind of attitude wasn't going to endear me to him, but I was too pissed off to care. This transfer was a big deal. If there was any chance of its legitimacy, he really should have given me a greater heads-up.
Back at my place, my cats Aubrey and Godiva were happy to see me. Actually, I think they were just happy to see anyone who could feed them. They were lying in front of Roman's closed bedroom door when I walked in and immediately jumped up. They pranced over to me, snaking around my ankles and bombarding me with piteous meows until I refilled their food dishes. After that, I was old news.
I toyed with the idea of waking up Roman. I really, really wanted to talk out this transfer news with someone, and Seth hadn't been an option this morning. Roman, unfortunately, shared his father's "fondness" for mornings, and I wasn't entirely sure I'd have the most productive conversation if I woke him against his will. So, instead, I took my time showering and getting ready for the day, hoping that Roman would get up on his own. No such luck. When ten rolled around, I left another voice mail message for Jerome and finally gave up on Roman. A new idea had hit me, and I went to go check it out first, setting the mental condition that if Roman wasn't up when I returned, I'd wake him then.
The Cellar was a favorite bar for immortals, especially Jerome and Carter. It was an old dive of a place down in historic Pioneer Square. The bar didn't generally do a lot of business this time of day, but angels and demons were hardly the types to care about propriety. Jerome might not be answering his phone, but there was a very good chance he was out and about for a morning drink.
And, as I came down the steps that led into the establishment, I did indeed feel the wash of a greater immortal signature over me. Only, it wasn't Jerome's. It wasn't even demonic. Carter was sitting alone at the bar, nursing a glass of whiskey while the bartender punched in 1970s songs on the jukebox. Carter would've sensed me too, so there was no point in trying to sneak off. I sat on a stool beside him.
"Daughter of Lilith," he said, waving the bartender back. "Didn't expect to see you out and about so early."
"I've had kind of a weird morning," I told him. "Coffee, please." The bartender nodded and poured me a mug from a pot that had probably been sitting there since yesterday. I grimaced, recalling the espresso shops I'd passed on the way here. Of course, Ian would probably love this stuff for its "authenticity."
"Do you have any idea where Jerome's at?" I asked, once Carter and I were in relative privacy again.
"Probably in bed." Carter's gray gaze was focused on the glass as he spoke, carefully studying the play of light off of the amber liquid.
"I don't suppose you'd take me there?" I asked. Carter had teleported me once before in a crisis, but otherwise, I had no clue where my boss hung his boots.
Carter gave me a small smile. "I may be immortal, but there are still some things I fear. Showing up at Jerome's this early in the morning with you in tow is one of them. What's so important? Did you come up with a name for the bowling team?"
I held out the memo I'd received. Even before he looked at it closely, Carter's smile fell. I didn't doubt that the paper had some type of Hellish residue that my senses couldn't pick up. When he didn't take the note, I simply set it down in front of him to read.
"A transfer, huh?" His tone was odd, almost like he wasn't surprised.
"Allegedly. But I have to assume there's some kind of mistake. Jerome is supposed to meet with me first, you know? And you saw him last night. There was no indication that anything weird was going. Well. Weirder than usual." I tapped the paper angrily. "Someone in HR messed up and sent this on accident."
"You think so?" asked Carter sadly.
"Well, I certainly don't think Hell's infallible. And I don't see any reason why I would be transferred." Carter didn't answer, and I studied him carefully. "Why? Do you know of some reason?"
Carter still didn't reply right away and instead downed his drink. "I know Hell well enough to know they don't need a reason."
A strange feeling settled over me. "But you do know of one, don't you? You aren't that shocked by this."
"Hell doesn't really surprise me anymore either."
"Damn it, Carter!" I exclaimed. "You're not answering my questions. You're doing that stupid half-truth thing angels do."
"We can't lie, Georgina. But we can't always tell you everything either. There are rules in the universe that even we can't break. Can I have another?" he called to the bartender. "A double this time."
The bartender strolled over, arching an eyebrow at Carter's request. "Kind of early for that, don't you think?"
"It's turning into one of those days," said Carter.
The bartender nodded sagely and liberally refilled the glass before leaving us alone again.
"Carter," I hissed. "What do you know? Is this transfer real? Do you know why I got it?"
Carter pretended to be intrigued by the light sparkling on his whiskey again. But when he suddenly turned the full force of his gaze on me, I gasped. It was this thing he did sometimes, like he was peering into my soul. Only, there was more to it this time. It was as though for a brief moment, his eyes held all the sadness in the world.
"I don't know if it was a mistake," he said. "Maybe it is. Your people certainly get their wires crossed often enough. If it's legitimate . . . if it is, then no, I'm not surprised. I can think of a million reasons, some better than others, for why they would want to move you out of Seattle. None of which I can tell you," he added sharply, seeing me start to interrogate him. "Like I said, there are rules to this game, and I have to obey them."
"It's not a game!" I exclaimed. "It's my life."
A rueful smile played over the angel's lips. "Same difference, as far as Hell's concerned."
Within me, I began to feel an echo of that terrible sadness I'd briefly seen in his eyes. "What do I do?" I asked quietly.
That seemed to catch Carter off guard. I demanded answers from him all the time, clues to figuring out the many puzzles that seemed to follow me around. I was pretty sure, however, that this was the first time I'd simply asked for such open-ended life advice.
"Let me guess," I said, seeing him gape. "You can't tell me."
His expression softened. "Not in specifics, no. First, you need to find out if this was an error. If it was, then that'll make everyone's life easier."
"I need Jerome for that," I said. "Maybe Hugh or Mei would know."
"Maybe," said Carter, though it didn't sound like he believed it. "Eventually, Jerome will pick up his phone. Then you'll know."
"And if it is real?" I asked. "Then what?"
"Then, you may have to start packing."
"That's it? That's all I can do?" Even as I said the words, I knew they were true. You couldn't refuse something like this. I'd had dozens of transfers to prove it.
"Yes," said Carter. "We both know you don't have a choice there. The question is, how are you going to let this affect your future?"
I frowned, starting to get lost in angel logic. "What do you mean?"
He hesitated, as though reconsidering what he was about to say. At last, he rushed forward with it, leaning close to me. "Here's what I can tell you. If this is real, then there's a reason for it, absolutely. Not some random re-org. And if there's a reason, it's because you've been doing something Hell doesn't want you to do. So, the question becomes, Georgina, are you going to keep doing whatever it is they don't want you to do?"
"But I don't know what it is I'm doing!" I cried. "Do you?"
"I've told you all I can for now," said Carter, that sadness returning. "The most I can do now is buy you a drink."
I shook my head. "I don't think there's enough whiskey in the world."
"There isn't," he said bleakly. "There isn't."
Despite Carter's pessimism, I still tried calling Hugh to see if he knew anything. He didn't, but his incredulity was so similar to mine that I took some comfort in it.
"What? That's ridiculous," he told me. "It was a mistake. It has to be."