The Devil doesn’t wear Prada. He actually prefers Dolce & Gabbana.
Satan, The Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, or whatever you want to call him, was sitting in the Tasty Brew Café, sipping a latte and keeping a close eye on one Emerson Fyvush.
Emerson was a curious fellow, tall but hunched over, as if ashamed of his six-foot-five-inch frame. A thick unruly mane of yellowish hair sat atop his head, he had a pasty complexion, and his skin was always covered in a thin sheen of sweat. This whole pale, death look had a tendency to scare small children and adults alike.
Emerson was sitting in the food court at Carrington Mall, back by Wang’s Chinese and American Food. It was a great place to observe people without also being observed. He was watching Judy Hightower, manager of the Chic Boutique, a clothing store for the full-figured gal. Emerson had been tracking her movements for weeks. He had to. I mean, how else could he plot her demise?
And this brings us to the reason why Lucifer decided to pay a visit to this realm. Why he was in a café, pretending to be a dapper gentleman simply enjoying a latte and reading the paper. The devil doesn’t leave the underworld for just any old reason. Oh no, he only makes an appearance when there’s the potential for mass destruction, to scope out a potential candidate that could help spread his brand of chaos. And Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, or whatever thought that Emerson Fyvush just might be the one.
“I’ll take a double latte, no foam,” the Devil said to the barista.
Emerson met Judy Hightower when she came into the funeral home he owned to make arrangements for her dearly departed father. Even in her grief, Judy entranced him. It only took that one visit, and Emerson was in love. At least, it was a reasonable facsimile of love.
Each time Judy came by, or they talked on the phone finalizing arrangements, his heart did a little pitter-patter as if he were some young lovestruck teenager. Emerson made sure Judy’s father was well taken care of, and he was right by her side at the gravesite.
After the service, she made the mistake of gently touching Emerson’s arm when she said, “Thank you for all you’ve done.” A simple gesture to you and me, but to a pathetic soul like Emerson Fyvush, this meant they were practically going steady.
He let a respectable amount of time pass before paying Judy a visit. Emerson had no idea how to pursue a woman, but he gave it the old college try.
Judy seemed surprised to see him standing at her door — well, anyone would be, if the mortician who buried their father showed up unexpectedly at their home weeks later.
Judy was polite, however, and grateful for Emerson’s kindness, so she invited him in. They had tea and these delightful cookies with a lemon glaze on top. Before leaving, Emerson said, “I had a lovely time.”
Judy nodded, which in Emerson’s mind meant that she had a great time as well, and was ready to take their relationship to the next step. So when he asked her to dinner the following week, imagine his surprise when she declined the invitation.
“But why?” he asked. “I thought we’d gotten on so well.”
“We did, Emerson, and I really think you’re a nice man.” Emerson winced at that phrase; even he knew it meant he had no chance with her.
“Emerson, I … I’m seeing someone,” Judy continued. “It’s only been a short time, but I really like him.” She touched Emerson’s arm again and said, “I am truly sorry for any misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstanding?” Emerson said to his neighbor Deaf Ed, who was called this because he refused to wear his hearing aid. Ed was sixty-seven, specialized in homemade whiskey, and was the silent sounding board Emerson needed.
“Misunderstanding,” Emerson spat out. Each time he said the word, it left a bad taste in his mouth. “Does she think I’m a fool? After all I did for her, she goes off and whores around with some other man. She used me in order to get a good deal on her father’s funeral, that’s what she did, I know it. Well, she’ll pay for this.”
Ed nodded. His lip reading was sub-par and he thought Emerson said, How much should I pay for this? As in the whiskey.
“No worries, neighbor,” Deaf Ed yelled. “The whiskey’s on me.”
“They’re weak, Malphas,” Lucifer said to his loyal servant.
As usual, Malphas nodded, but he couldn’t do much else since Lucifer removed his tongue centuries ago.
“I have no idea why God saw fit to save these wretched creatures. Then again I have never understood Him.”
Malphas listened and nodded again. He hated the upper realm and would be happy, well, he’d be less miserable, anyway, once they were back home.
“Let’s give our Emerson a little push over the edge, shall we? I’m in the mood for some good old-fashioned mayhem,” the Devil said.
It was more of a nudge than a push, but Emerson didn’t need much coaxing to go from a jealous rage to a murderous one.
He sat in the dark recesses of the food court and saw Judy holding hands with a man named Carl Duncan — a man he thought wasn’t good enough for “his” Judy, because that’s how he thought of her, as “his” Judy. Emerson watched in horror as she kissed this Carl person directly on the lips before heading back to the Boutique.
“She chose him over me,” Emerson whispered, clenching his fists so tightly that the nails bit into the palms of his hands.
And as Lucifer sat in his usual spot at the café, with his usual latte and the always miserable Malphas by his side, he smiled a devilish smile.
Judy and Carl were having a quiet dinner at Monty’s on 5th. Emerson had been sitting outside of Judy’s house like he had every night for weeks, and followed them to the restaurant.
Once they were done, Emerson timed it perfectly so that he would run into the happy couple on their way out.
“Oh, hello, Emerson,” Judy said, her arm casually laced through Carl’s. “Nice to see you again.”
Emerson knew she didn’t mean it but put on his best face, which wasn’t that great, let me tell you, and said, “Lovely to see you too, Judy.”
Carl stood by, looking from Judy to Emerson and back again, sensing some tension but not sure why. “Hi. I’m Carl Duncan. Nice to meet you,” he said and held out his hand.
Emerson shook it, and Carl instantly regretted it. Emerson’s grasp was limp and moist, and poor old Carl did his best not to wince. Then he discreetly wiped his hand on his pant leg.
“Well, it was nice seeing you again, Emerson, but we have to go,” Judy said, eager to leave.
“Oh, of course, I won’t keep you. Nice meeting you Carl.”
Carl nodded, making sure he did not reach out to shake Emerson’s hand again.
The lovebirds left, and Emerson heard them laughing as they walked off. He was certain that they were laughing at him — they weren’t, but when you were a self-absorbed looney tunes like Emerson, you often saw offenses where there were none.
As he headed to his car Emerson said, “I gave Judy one final chance to make this right, but she didn’t. She won’t be laughing when all is said and done.”
“All the pieces are in place,” the Devil said to Malphas. “Now all we have to do is sit back and wait for the fireworks to begin.”
The fireworks, as the Devil so succinctly put it, occurred just a few weeks later. Emerson brought Deaf Ed with him to the mall. He wanted some company so he wouldn’t look so suspicious after it was all over. He wanted to see firsthand the destruction his handiwork would cause.
“They’re all disgusting,” he ranted to Ed. “These mindless fools who waste their money on things they don’t need, smiling like idiots as they spend their way into more and more debt. Look at them,” Emerson continued. “Mothers dragging along their little brats, worthless teenagers with no purpose in life except to wear the latest trends. All of them make me sick.”
Ed was sipping on a cup of black coffee. He added a little of his homemade hooch to kick it up a notch.
Emerson went on. “None of them appreciate all they have — friends, love, happiness. It just comes so easily to them.”
Emerson was setting the stage, rationalizing what he was about to do. What began as an act of revenge against Judy turned into an act of retribution on the whole world, the world that rejected him, laughed at him, treated him like he didn’t deserve to be among them.
Emerson had always had one foot in the land of the sanity, and the other firmly planted in Nutburger Town, USA. I could give you some sob story about his horrible upbringing, but none of it would be true. Some people are just born with the propensity to do evil. He had a normal childhood, a loving mother and father. This was the path he chose. Of course, he was urged on by the Devil himself.
“I believe it’s time, my good friend,” Emerson said, and Deaf Ed smiled.
The sound was deafening.
Emerson didn’t expect it to be so loud. Just after the explosion, all he heard was a high pitched tone ringing in his head. Then it abated, and was replaced by the shrieks and wails of the injured and uninjured alike.
Police cordoned off the area. Yellow crime tape was splayed across what used to be the Red Robin burger joint.
For weeks Emerson had watched Judy and her beau eat lunch at that particular establishment, every Wednesday and Friday. “People are so predictable,” he told Deaf Ed.
Emerson chose Friday to wreak his havoc. “We’ll start the weekend off right for a change,” he said. He and Deaf Ed ate their lunch, then Emerson discretely placed the device under a table in a centrally located booth. He paid the check and made his way to The Tasty Brew to watch things unfold from the same coffee shop where Lucifer had kept an eye on him.
“It’s amazing what you can find online,” Emerson told Deaf Ed. “Building a bomb isn’t as hard as you might think.”
At approximately 1:15, when Carl and Judy had snuggled into their favorite booth, holding hands as they waited for an order that would never arrive, an explosion ripped through the restaurant, sending shockwaves throughout the entire mall.
Lucifer smiled, but Malphas merely shrugged. He witnessed the deaths of hundreds of thousands during the battle of Platea and was front and center during the Inquisition, as well as the carnage at Auschwitz. So some lovesick idiot who looked up how to build a bomb on YouTube wasn’t impressive to him at all.
Emerson, however, was thrilled. He shook with excitement, nearly orgasmed at the sight of the bloody patrons who managed to make their way out of the chaos. He had to bite his lip to stop himself from laughing, and Satan took notice of this.
There were people running everywhere, and in the distance, Emerson, who was already experiencing a high like never before, saw a woman in a purple dress and long dark hair stagger out of the mess.
It was Judy, half of her face blown off, her one good eye searching for someone, anyone to help her.
Emerson watched as she collapsed into the arms of an EMT. He smiled when the man shook his head and mouthed the words, “This one’s dead.”
It’s done, Emerson thought, mesmerized by the power he exuded over these worthless mall dwellers. But he was brought out of his reverie when Deaf Ed laid a hand on his and said, “Let’s talk my friend.”
The Devil is a trickster. When he visits our realm, he could be anyone. He could be a suave gentleman at a coffee shop wearing a designer suit, or a deaf neighbor who was a sounding board for Emerson Fyvush’s sadistic plans. This time around he was both.
Emerson stared at the old man in disbelief.
“Don’t look so surprised, Em. I’ve been watching you for a long time, and I must say,” Deaf Ed, or Lucifer, or the Prince of Darkness, or whatever name you choose to call him, leaned in conspiratorially and said to Emerson, “I could use a man like you in my organization.”
“Oh, don’t be so obtuse,” Ed/the Devil said. “You know exactly who I am.”
Emerson did indeed know. He also knew, felt in his bones to be exact, that he’d been helped all along in his act of revenge by this being who pretended to be his elderly neighbor.
“I have a proposition for you, Emerson,” the Devil said. “One that you can’t refuse. I mean, literally, you can’t refuse it.” The Devil laughed.
Seeing Emerson’s shocked expression he said, “I’m just kidding, Emerson. Lighten up.”
“What if I say no to your proposition?”
“Why would you? I mean, a man who killed dozens of people in a bombing doesn’t really have a moral leg to stand, does he?”
Emerson sat stone-faced, pretending to think the offer over. But knew he would take it. Not so much because he was afraid of the Devil, which he was, but because he enjoyed killing more than he ever thought he would.
They sat in silence for a few more moments, watching bodies being carried out on stretchers, some alive, some dead.
Emerson said, “When do I start?”
The Devil laughed. “You already have, my friend. You already have.”