Souls for Sale

"Sorry, sweetie, not gonna happen." Estelle tried to lose him as she wove through the sea of her suit-clad worker ants—okay, employees—but he followed her like a puppy dog. A whiny, pathetic puppy dog.

"I'm offering you my soul here, what more do you want? You're an evil, soul-taking sorceress! How can you not want it?"

Waving away several papers and accepting a latte, she turned back to face him. "I appreciate the compliments, but, darling, this is a business. Frankly, the whole soul-contract-in-exchange-for-your-desire thing is more of pain than it's worth. Everyone thinks they can just sell their soul like it's no biggie, but when it's time to collect? They have plenty of reasons why they can't pay up. It's a money-waster."

She tried to escape within the crowd again, but her newest assistant was making a beeline for her. What was his name again? John? Jack? Earl? She should really consider conjuring up some nametags next time she got a minute. "Excuse me, Your Greatness," he said, "but there's been another break-in. A group on the ninth floor is demanding to see you."

Estelle rolled her eyes and took a sip of her latte. "See what I mean? Everyone always thinks they're special." Potential Soul-Seller Puppy Dog started to say something, but she ignored him. "We get people shoving their way in here three times a day, demanding release from their contracts before I'm supposed to collect. Oh, but I've found true love," she mimicked. "I need my soul so I can save the world! I've realized that whatever I was stupid enough to trade my soul for wasn't that great after all! It's ridiculous. One man once tried to tell me I couldn't have his soul because he couldn't get out of his next shift at Taco Hut. Taco Hut! Like half of Taco Hut's employees even have souls to begin with."

"I'm sorry, Your Greatness, but the situation is rather urgent," said John-Jack-Earl. "They were torturing some accountants to attract you down there, last I heard."

"Wonderful," she said. "Just freakin' wonderful. Everybody's so damn touchy. It's always a great personal offense if I get someone else to deal with it for me. There had better not be blood on the carpets again. I don't care if they're the leaders of a crusade; if they stain the carpet, they're paying for it." She pushed her way towards the elevators, barking directions at several more employees as she pushed the little down arrow. Potential Soul-Seller Puppy Dog and John-Jack-Earl followed her into the marble-lined mechanism, which, despite its generous size, now felt much too cramped. Estelle so needed a holiday.

"Please," said Potential Soul-Seller Puppy Dog, still not giving up. "I promise I'll pay up without any trouble when my term ends. I really need this."

"Honey, everyone promises they'll pay up. Do you think I would have given them the contract in the first place if they just said, 'Oh, I'll most likely give you my soul. You know, probably.' How stupid do you think I am?"

The elevator dinged as they reached the ninth floor, and Estelle stepped out at a brisk pace, her robes flapping behind her. She spotted them immediately—they were, of course, holding their little throw-down on the carpeted area. A knight, fully suited in all his shining armor, held an accountant by the ankle. A surly-looking girl with dark hair and darker eyes stood next to him with one hand on her hip, and a black cat perched on a nearby filing cabinet. Of course there was always a cat or far-too-intelligent animal of some kind. No one gave a damn about her allergies.

"Okay, so who do you represent?" she asked, handing her latte to a passing assistant.

"Halt, vile sorceress! We have come to avenge the wronged and win back the souls you have unjustly stolen. We will fight for justice and—"

"Right, that's great and all. It'd be even more fear-inspiring if I hadn't heard it twice today already. But whose soul are you fighting for, specifically? I have a prior engagement in ten, and I really don't have time for this."

"We are fighting to avenge the wronged—"

"I heard just fine the first time, sweetie-pie. Can we please get on with this?"

The knight dropped to one knee. "I fight for the kind, fair, beauteous, well-dressed Emily Laundry. Her beauty shines to even the darkest corners of the—"

"Great. Emily Laundry, you said?" With a wave of her wand, Emily's file folder hovered before her. "Spectacles, please," she shouted, and a hand thrust them in her direction.

Emily Laundry: standard five year contract; one soul in exchange for…now that was interesting. Estelle removed her bejeweled spectacles and looked up. "Is Emily actually here?"

A blonde woman stepped out from behind a potted fern. "Don't get too close, my lady," warned the knight. He exchanged a look with the surly girl, and together they moved to flank Emily on either side.

"Emily, my dear, does your white knight here know what you traded your soul for? Because he will real soon if you don't disband this little party and return on your proper date of expiration."

Emily's eyes grew wide, but it was her knight who spoke. "The fair lady Emily was wrongly forced to sell her soul to ensure the survival of many innocent—"

"Shut up already, will you? And put my employee down, please," said Estelle, remembering the upside-down accountant. The knight let go of his ankle, and he tumbled to the floor with a moan. "And that's not quite what she sold it for. In fact, what she really wanted was—"

"Okay, okay!" shouted Emily. "We'll leave and I'll fulfill my end of the deal."

"That's a girl, Em," said Estelle. "Please arrive at the Soul-Sucking Department promptly at nine o'clock on Friday. It'll be in the third floor East Wing. Now, please, get your little band of misfit heroes and go."

The four of them allowed themselves to be escorted out by security, excluding the cat, who followed at his own damnably leisurely pace. Once they were gone, Estelle finally let out the stream of sneezes she'd been holding in, accepting several tissues from offering hands. God, she hated this job sometimes.

"Please, I won't do anything like that, I swear."

Estelle turned to face Potential Soul-Seller Puppy Dog, who, as it seemed, was still there.

"Look, if I give you a special deal, will you leave me alone? We're hoping to open up a new branch of the company to specialize in Dream-Dealing next fall. Most of the paperwork isn't finalized yet, but I could probably pull some strings, seeing as I am both the head of the cooperation and an all-powerful sorceress. If you're interested in selling your dreams rather than your soul, that is."

He nodded vigorously, so Estelle snapped her fingers to summon Jack-John-Earl. Thank God something had worked to shut him up. "Schedule this man an appointment for a Dream-Deal negotiation. Oh, and what was my one o'clock again?"

"There was a complaint filed about a desire wrongly fulfilled. Mr. Stevenson asked for a red car."

"I gave him a red car," she protested. It had been a damn nice one, too.

John-Jack-Earl gave an apologetic smile. "He wanted fire engine red. You gave him tomato."

Estelle let out a small scream of frustration. "Fine! I'm so going on my lunch break after this; I'll expect to see you in my office in an hour, Earl." She stormed off towards the Department of Automobilic Desires, stopping only to whack her head on a clipboard after Jack-John-Earl cleared his throat.

"I'm sorry, Your Greatness, but my name is actually Bradford."

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A/N: I'm toying with the idea of someday writing a full-length story with Estelle, but for now, that's it. Reviews are greatly appreciated, of course, even if only to tell me I suck. Thanks for reading. =]