Blarneys Bar and Grill was a favorite hangout frequented by people of mostly Irish decent. Next to its long bar was a juke box. A pool table was located to one side of it. Toward the back were five tables and a postage stamp sized dance area. Most mornings, the regulars came in for their pick-me-up. On Friday and Saturday nights, a local band played. On those nights the place was mobbed. The smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife, and the volume of noise made conversation a shouting match. It was on such a Friday evening that Patrick O'Brien, a divorced man in his thirties and a regular, swaggered in and sat at the bar.
"What'll it be, Paddy?" asked O'Shaunnessy, the six-foot-five hulk of a bartender.
"The usual, fire and brimstone." Fire and brimstone was Paddy's name for a shot of whiskey and a pint of Guinness.
O'Shaunnessy poured out a shot of rye, drew a pint of Guinness and set them in front of Paddy. Paddy picked up the whiskey, held it up, cried, "Satan get behind me," and downed it in one swallow.
"Speak o' the devil," said O'Shaunnessy. "If it ain't Miss Anysbryd. Ain't seen you in a month of Sundays."
Paddy glanced over his shoulder, and his mouth dropped open. Standing behind him, preparing to take the empty stool next to his was the most knockout gorgeous woman he had ever seen. Her low cut cocktail dress revealed cleavage so deep it was like staring into the bottomless pit. Her waist was narrow; her hip flaring. Her ivory sculptured face was capped by flaming hair. Her full lips were a devilish carmine, and the mascara on her green catlike eyes seemed to make them glow mysteriously.
"Oh O'Shaunnessy, don't be so formal. I thought we were old friends. Call me Scarlet."
The bartender grinned and said, "So, what'll be tonight, Scarlet?"
"A brandy, I think."
Paddy, after recovering from shock at having such a lovely woman take a seat next to him, although his heart still thumped wildly, asked, "May I pay for that, Scarlet?"
Scarlet turned and stared into his eyes. A Mona Lisa smile played on her lips. He gazed back, mesmerized. Her smile widened. "I never refuse a drink from a gentleman." She turned back to the bartender. "Please introduce me to this fine man."
O'Shaunnessy winked and introduced Paddy. Scarlet held out her hand. As Paddy brought it to his lips, he noticed that her fiery red fingernails were extremely long and pointed, like small daggers. "It's always a pleasure to meet a lovely woman such as I find you to be, Scarlet."
They clinked glasses and made small talk. "How is it that I haven't seen you in here before?" asked Paddy. "O'Shaunnessy seems to know you well enough."
"I've been away. Far away."
The Irish band began a waltz, and several couples moved on to the dance floor.
"How about a bit of terpsichore?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Paddy led Scarlet to the dance floor, grasped her firmly and whirled her around in three-quarter time. When the music slowed as the band played a plaintiff love song, Scarlet laid her head against his chest, and they moved as one. After that they danced almost every set, stopping only to refresh themselves with O'Shaunnessy's fine whisky and beer. Paddy was quite adept at all the different figures. He even did an Irish jig for Scarlet's admiring eyes. Although the band play many Irish tunes, it also had a repertoire that included rock-and-roll, tangos, salsa, rumba, polkas and fox trots.
Paddy was delighted that this beauty seemed to enjoy his company. Since he divorced Mary, he had not been having much luck with the ladies. And her name, Scarlet, was unique in this neighborhood of Marys, Bridgets, Colleens and Kathleens. In Paddy's eyes this enhanced her image as an exotic, mysterious sort of woman.
At the end of the evening, sweating, exhausted and a bit tipsy, Paddy offered to take Scarlet home.
"It's aways," she replied as they exited Blarney's arm in arm.
"I'll call a cab."
"It's easier to reach by subway."
"Sure. Why not?" Paddy was agreeable, figuring he'd saved himself the cost of taxi.
They rode the subway downtown.
"We can enter my hotel right down here," Scarlet said, taking Paddy's hand to show him the way.
Strangely enough, instead riding an escalator up to the station entrance, they rode down. This confused Paddy, but he'd had enough Guinness in his system for him not to worry. At the bottom of the escalator was a doorway with a sign above it that said, "Welcome to Hotel Hades. Lowest rates in the city. Always a vacancy."
The lobby was dark except for the light of roaring fireplace and a few well-placed stanchions with scented oil burning in cups on their tops. The place reminded Paddy of pictures that he'd seen in National Geographic of the inside of Egyptian pyramids. There was also a slight odor of rotten eggs. Paddy shuddered. There was something evil about the place that gave him a strong desire to leave. But Scarlet's soft body next to his, as her arm encircled his waist, drove such thoughts from his mind. Nonetheless, Paddy was glad to enter the elevator to escape the ominous suffocating lobby atmosphere.
"What floor, Darlin'?"
But when Paddy gazed at the controls, all the buttons were marked "Thirteen." He pressed one a random and was surprised when the elevator descended, very fast and a long way. He scratched his head. Paddy, you may be drunk, he thought, but something ain't right here. First the escalator goes down from the station and now this elevator is going down. I've never heard of no hotel what's mostly underground.
Nonetheless, when it stopped, he and Scarlet exited, and she led him to her room. They stopped in front of her door, and Paddy stole a kiss. It was returned quite ardently, so he moved his hand over parts of her body. Her breathing became heavy, and her tongue, which was sort of strange, since it was forked, entered his mouth. Another thing Paddy noticed as his hands tangled in her hair, she had a pointed knob on each side, like tiny horns. When they came up for air after heavy petting, she asked, "Would you like to come in for a nightcap, Paddy?"
After they entered, Paddy was a bit taken back by the decor. Everything was in shades of red and black and very plush. Since the hotel was billed as cheap, he figured that the rooms would be tiny and stark. He gazed around at the paintings on the wall, which were of nudes being chased by satyrs.
Scarlet went to the bar and mixed a purple concoction that steamed and boiled. Paddy sipped his slowly. It was bitter and strongly intoxicating. The room began to spin. It also had the same effect on a part of his anatomy as Viagra. Scarlet pushed him onto the sofa and said, "Be right back, Sweetie. I want to change into something more comfortable."
After a few moments, she returned, stark naked. Although Paddy was well pleased by her gorgeous figure, he was a bit surprised to notice that she had a short tail with a barb at the end that wagged as she sashayed toward him. Moments later, she swept him up in her arms and carried him to her bedroom. On red velvet sheets, they had hellishly wild sex. So wild sometimes that they seemed to be floating around the room at times. Something happened that Paddy had never experienced before, multiple orgasms. He had always thought that such a thing was impossible for men. The entire experience made him fall head over heels in love with Scarlet.
When they were both exhausted, Paddy fell asleep. Sometime during the night, he awoke to the sound of chanting outside his door. He tiptoed to the door and glanced out. A dozen or so monks in ankle-length robes and cowls that hid their faces slowly paraded down the hall, holding candles and chanting in Latin. The word Diablo was prevalent in their chant. A faint stench of musty decay came from them that reminded Paddy of ancient corpses. Paddy shuddered and wondered, What kind of damned hotel is this, anyway?
He slipped back under the sheets and put his arm around Scarlet for comfort. Still exhausted from his earlier exercise with her, he fell back to sleep quickly. A few minutes later, however, he was awakened by a great thumping and growling in the room next door. He shook Scarlet awake. "What's that?"
Scarlet patted him on the cheek and said sleepily, "It's nothing. Just The Beast. It's keepers will calm it down soon. They'll feed it the sacrifice"
The Beast? Paddy thought and felt like running out that room and keep on running, but he was too frightened to move. Scarlet kissed him and soothed him until he finally returned to slumber land.
About noon Paddy awoke with a horrible hangover. He opened one eye to realize that he was back in his own bedroom. He ran to the bathroom and vomited. After he emptied his stomach, he took Alka-Seltzer and four aspirin. He sat on the edge of his bed and went over his mind the events of the night. Some things that happened were too weird to have been real. He wondered whether that lovely woman, Scarlet, had slipped him a mickey, perhaps a hallucinogenic drug. But why did she bring him back to his own room, he wondered. In fact, how did she know where he lived. His head still hurt. Nothing made sense about the entire evening.
He checked his wallet. Most of the money he'd started the evening out was still there, and none of his credit cards were missing. He concluded that Scarlet was not a thieving prostitute.
He showered, shaved and slipped into his old jeans and a tee shirt. By that time, his hangover abated, and he went down to the diner, where he had a breakfast of pancakes and eggs. After a second cup of coffee, he actually felt good. His thoughts turned to Scarlet, and the night that they'd had together. But what was real and what was dream? he wondered.
He wandered over to Blarneys. The bar was empty except for usual morning sots. O'Shaunnessy was leaning against the bar, waiting for the day man to count the register so that he could leave. "Say O'Shaunnessy, me memory's a bit hazy about last night. Can you fill me in on what I was up to?"
The bartender chuckled. "You did have a few, especially after you picked up that woman, Scarlet Anysbryd. You two sure danced up a storm. I didn't know you had it in you. You left with about two in the mornin'" He winked. "Can't say what you did after that. Maybe you want to tell me all about it."
Paddy winked back. "A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell. But O'Shaunnessy, old pal, you and the lady seemed to be old friends. What can you tell me about her?"
"We ain't really friends, or anything else if that's what you're thinkin'. A couple of years ago, she was a regular. She flirted with a lots of guys. I think she went home with some that struck her fancy. I take her for a man eater."
"Man eater? What do you mean?"
"Y'know. The kind of woman what takes up with a gent for a while and drops him like a hot potato when she tires of him. If I were you, I'd forget her. She'll tear your heart out." He dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "To tell the truth, I'm not sure she's human. There's something fae about her that make me think she's a witch or somethin' the way she bewitches men."
Paddy nodded. But he knew it was too late; she'd already cast her spell on him. He couldn't get her out his mind.
As Paddy strolled home, he wondered whether to come back to the bar that evening to see whether Scarlet would show up. When he went to the night stand to fetch his cigarettes, he noticed a business card. In blood colored script was Scarlet's name and phone number. Scribbled below it were the words, "I'd like to see you again, Paddy Dear."
Paddy's heart leaped for joy. He almost picked up the phone immediately, but thought the better of it. After the night they'd had, she might still be sleeping. Jumpy as a cat, he wandered about the apartment, watched TV for a few minutes, went to kitchen and made a sandwich, paced back and forth and so forth, unable to settle on any one thing to keep busy. When the kitchen clock said one, he felt that was late enough. He dialed her number, six-six-six thirteen-thirteen.
"Hello," she answered in a husky contralto that sent shivers up Paddy's spine.
"Hi. It's me. Paddy."
She sounded genuinely pleased, which gave Paddy a warm glow. "Oh, I'm so glad you called, you little imp. I had a wonderful time last night."
"Me too. I was wondering whether I could take you out to dinner."
"I'd love to go out with you. What time can you pick me up?"
Paddy hesitated. The thought of returning to that weird hotel was daunting. "Perhaps we could meet somewhere."
"Better yet. Let me pick you up. I've got a car."
"Okay. Let me give you the address of my building."
"No need. I know where it is."
Of course. She's brought me home somehow and left that card. Again, he wondered whether there wasn't something supernatural about the whole business. Maybe she was a witch like O'Shaunnessy had said. Or worse.
When he didn't reply immediately, she said, "Sevenish?"
"Yeah. Great. Ring the bell under my mailbox."
The next several hours were agony for Paddy. His desire to be with Scarlet again was like an unscratchable itch. By six, he was dressed in his best suit, tie tight against his Adam's apple, pants pressed to a perfect crease. He even cleaned the apartment and bought an expensive bottle of wine.
The ringing of the bell made him leap out of his seat like a man whose pants were on fire. He buzzed her in and waited by the open hall door. When she appeared, she was more luscious than he'd remembered. They kissed, sending him into a tailspin.
"Would you like a glass of wine before we head out to the restaurant?" he asked.
"Sure." While he poured two glasses, she plopped down on his worn sofa and crossed her legs. They toasted each other and made small talk.
After a few minutes he said, "I made reservations at the Amor for eight. We'd better leave now." A friend had told Paddy that The Amor was very fancy French restaurant.
When they went down to where she had parked her car, Paddy was taken aback. Her fire engine red Porsche convertible was sleek with white leather seats. By golly, the lady's rich as well as beautiful, he thought.
As soon as he clicked the seat belt, Scarlet put the pedal to the medal. They screeched away from her parking spot, leaving a cloud of smoke and debris flying out behind them. The speed limit on the city streets was twenty-five. She had the machine up to seventy in minutes. They careened like crazy, in and out of traffic, going through stop signs and red lights like they didn't exist. At one point, Paddy swore that they were flying. Before he could catch his breath to tell her to slow down a little, the sirens and flashing of a police car was behind them.
Scarlet turned to Paddy and winked. "Should we have some fun. This machine can easily outrun that cop. I've had it up to one seventy five."
"No!! Please. Just pull over."
She curled her lip into a pout, but pulled over to the curb. The cop stuck his head in the window. "Hey lady. Not only were you doing fifty miles over the speed limit, but you completely ignored every traffic signal. Are you nuts or what?"
She turned to him and smiled sweetly. "Oh dear, did I do something wrong?" She stared into the cop's eyes for a few moments. Slowly, as though he were in a trance, he put away his book, tipped his hat, said, "Try to be a little more careful next time," and walked back to his patrol car.
Paddy watched in wonder. He said, "Uh, no need to rush. We're almost at the restaurant."
She drove the rest of the way at a reasonable rate of speed, obeying all traffic rules.
They had a pleasant evening at the Amor, stretching out the meal for a couple of hours. The place was expensive, taking most of a week's pay for Paddy. The food wasn't terribly good nor were the portions large, but the waiter had the proper amount of haughtiness, and the atmosphere was dark and romantic. Paddy didn't care. It was enough that he was with Scarlet. He enjoyed simply staring at her lovely face and bare shoulders as she talked.
After dinner and coffee, Scarlet asked, "Should we go back to my place?" She arched her eyebrows enticingly.
Recalling the previous night, Paddy said, "How about if we go to my apartment tonight? We could finish that bottle of wine we started."
"If you like."
Scarlet drove like a maniac through the almost empty streets and had them home in ten minutes. They began to neck and pet in the hallway. Shortly afterwards, they had torn each others clothes off. They didn't bother with the bed, but did it right on the living room carpet.
Afterwards, Paddy stared into her eyes and said, "Y'know Scarlet, sometimes you scare me. Some very odd things happen when you're around. O'Shaunnessy said that he thought you were a witch. And the way that cop left you off without giving you a ticket was strange. Tell me the truth. Are you human?"
She looked down. "I may as well tell you the truth. I'm not."
"What are you?"
"An angel. Do you want to see my wings?"
This wasn't what Paddy expected her to say. An angel? Really? "Yes. Show them to me."
She stood up, and two enormous bat-like wings unfolded from her back.
"I thought angel's wings were white and feathery."
"They used to be like that. But I'm a dark angel; one of the rebels. When we were thrown out of heaven into the void, they turned black and leathery. I guess it was part of our punishment."
"You're a demon then, one of Satan's minions."
She looked downcast. "Yes. But some of us are not as bad as you've been told. Oh Paddy, I really like you an awful lot. But, I suppose as a good Catholic, you couldn't have a girl friend who's damned."
Paddy's heart thumped in his chest. She wants to be my girl friend. He felt like he'd found a four-leaf-clover, kissed the Blarney Stone and met a leprechaun all in the same day. "Well, I ain't exactly a saint, meself. I even missed Easter mass this year. And a demoness ain't so bad. It ain't like you were a Protestant."
They kissed and did the other thing. Paddy asked her to move in with him. She agreed. "I never did like that hellhole of a hotel anyway."
So Scarlet moved into Paddy's bachelor pad. He found that having a demon for a girl friend had several advantages. For one thing, their sex life was unimaginable. In addition, she was a great cook, although most of what she made was on the spicy side. Best of all, she could do magic. She'd snap her fingers, and the apartment was clean. She entertained their friends by performing what the friend thought were sleight-of-hand, but was real magic. She was always giving Paddy expensive presents that she produced out of thin air.
The couple were deeply in love. Their life was idyllic ... until the day his mother called.
"Patrick, you're breaking your poor mother's heart. You haven't called or visited in months. And now I hear that you're living in sin with some floozy."
Paddy flushed with the awful guilt that only a Catholic boy who'd neglected his mother could feel. "I'm sorry, Mom. But I'm very busy lately. And Scarlet is no floozy. I'd like you to meet her."
"Scarlet? What kind of name is that? She's not one of those Hungarians, is she? Why can't you meet another Irish girl? You know you've sinned by divorcing that nice Mary O'Dary."
Mary nice? She was as a big mouthed shrewish woman as I'd ever met. Nonetheless, he kept this thought to himself. "Scarlet is Irish," he said weakly.
"Oh. Very well, bring her to dinner tomorrow night. We're having your favorite, corned beef and cabbage." Paddy hated corned beef and cabbage.
After he hung up, he said to Scarlet, "Uh, I'm bringing you to meet my parents tomorrow evening. We're invited for dinner."
"How lovely. We're like a real human couple now."
Paddy dreaded the encounter, but didn't see anyway out it. His family would need to meet Scarlet sooner or later. "Uh Scarlet. I ... uh ... told them that you were of Irish decent."
"That's okay. I've always felt Gaelic. Back in the old days, the druids used to worship me."
Paddy smiled weakly. He didn't want to think of all the centuries that she'd been in existence. It made him feel like a teenager with a crush on an older woman.
Paddy had awful premonitions of absolute disaster as he rang the doorbell that faithful evening. His fifteen-year-old brother, Michael, answered the door. Mike took one look at Scarlet, cried, "Wow. What a hotty!" and licked his chops like a dog who'd just been given a sirloin. Paddy ruffled his hair and said, "And she's all my mine, Mikey."
Scarlet followed his lead and ruffled Mikey's hair too, which made the teenager grin from ear to ear. "Hi Mikey. You're almost as handsome as your big brother."
Paddy's father had been sitting in an easy chair, reading the newspaper. He peered over the edge, got a silly grin on his face and stood up.
"Pop, I'd like you to meet my friend, Scarlet Anysbyrd."
His father took Scarlet's hand. "It's a great pleasure to meet such a fair lass. I never in my born days would've thought Paddy would've hooked such a beauty."
"Thank you, Mister O'Brien. Now I know where Paddy gets his blarney."
His mother came from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel. "Mom, this Scarlet, Scarlet Anysbyrd."
His mother's eyes went wide. She cried, "Anysbyrd is it." She crossed herself. "Jesus, Joseph and Mary, Heaven save us."
"What's the matter, Mom?"
"Don't you know that Anysbyrd means evil spirit in Gaelic? How did you come by such an awful name?"
Paddy and Scarlet looked at each other guiltily for several seconds. Finally, Scarlet spoke up. "I was orphaned at earlier age. The nuns at the orphanage called me that. I suppose because I was a mischievous child."
"Oh you poor dear." Paddy's mother came over and hugged Scarlet.
During dinner, things went well. Among Scarlet's many assets was that she was a good conversationalist. She knew several jokes about priests, the devil, the saints, the Catholic faith in general and the Irish, which the family enjoyed enormously. Afterwards, Paddy's mother took him to the side and said, "She's seem like a very nice Irish girl. You must make an honest woman of her."
"I'll ask her soon."
"Why not tonight?"
"I need to buy a ring."
True to his word, Paddy bought a diamond ring the very next day. A week later he got up the courage to ask Scarlet for her hand. After a candle lit dinner, he got down on one knee and proposed.
"You want to marry me, a demon, a succubus? Oh darling, ...." She began to weep.
"What you are doesn't matter to me. I love you." His eyes filled too. He was afraid that she was going to turn him down.
"I love you too. I know such beings as I am aren't supposed to be able to feel love. But you've been so good to me, I couldn't help myself." She paused for several moments. "Yes Paddy, My Darling. I'll marry you."
They both started bawling and crying and hugging. Paddy was delirious with happiness.
Of course, Paddy's mom insisted that the couple have a grandiose wedding within The Church. She met with Scarlet many times to plan the wedding. She picked out her wedding gown, her bridesmaids and their gowns, rented the hall for the reception, hired a band, ordered flowers, made out invitations and did everything else that needed to be done to make the wedding perfect. Scarlet merely had to nod her agreement with Paddy's mother's choices. Paddy rented a tux and hired a limousine. His best man planned a bachelor party at a strip club.
Two nights before the wedding, Scarlet came to Paddy with a worried expression. "Y'know Paddy, I've never been in a church in all of my long existence, unless you want to call Stonehenge a church. I don't know whether I'll know how to act."
Paddy placed an arm around her. "Don't worry. Simply walk slowly up the aisle. When you come up to the priest, just follow my lead. Do what I do or what the priest tells you. There's nothing to worry about."
Finally the great day came. First Paddy and the best man arrived and took their places by the altar. Next the church filled with Paddy's relatives, friends and neighbors. The bride and her entourage arrived. As the great organ played The Wedding March, the flower girl sprinkled petals as she made her up the aisle,. Next came the ring bearer, followed by the bridesmaids. In pure white gown, her coiffured hair partially covered by her veil, Scarlet solemnly paraded up the aisle.
But something happened as she passed the last pew at the back of the church. A rumbling sound came from below, like the start of an earthquake. Next Scarlet's pure white dress turned black. Smoke curled out of Scarlet's ears. Before she reached the center of the church, she burst into flames and disappeared in a horrendous cloud of sulfurous smoke. A thunderous evil voice said, "She's one of mine. Thou shalt not have her."
Everyone in the church started screaming and running about. The scene turned to chaos.
Nobody was more stunned than poor Paddy. His lady love had gone all to Hell. And they hadn't even gotten married.