Janet looked out the plate glass window, over the snack cakes and through the neon sign for the lottery, and stared at the two idiots outside. From one of the many pockets in his long black coat BJ had produced a butterfly knife, and he was attempting to spin it around his fingers. It was going about as well as Janet would have guessed. Must be a practice blade, she thought, just as the knife closed on the meaty edge of BJ’s palm. He yelled out and dropped the butterfly knife, putting his bleeding hand to his mouth.
“Psht, you suck. Let me show you how to use that thing.”
Kevin picked it up from the dark puddle it had fallen into and shook it to get the water off, all the while giving BJ a smug learn from the pros face while BJ flipped him off with the hand that wasn’t bleeding. He managed to spin it exactly twice before the blade of the knife lodged itself into the side of his first finger.
He pulled the knife free from his finger and whipped it at the ground. Bouncing between one foot, then the other, he loosed a wild parade of cursing that would have made a sailor cry. All while BJ held onto his own wound and laughed so hard he had to bend down and hold his knees to keep from falling over.
“It’s not funny, BJ! You cut yourself, too!”
But BJ was still laughing, even as he went to pick up the knife to try it again.
Janet turned back to Freddy. Standing on the other side of the box of snack cakes she was still trying to unpack, his face was still flushed red and he was panting. Sometimes when Freddy got excited by something he needed to tell someone else. Sometimes that someone else was blocks or even miles away. Sometimes Freddy forgot that he had a Vespa and ran the entire way. She’d have to give him a ride after her shift was over. But that wasn’t the important thing right now.
“Imps?” she asked, hoping that just by hearing the word from someone else he’d realized how ridiculous he was being. Instead he nodded.
“Imps? Imps. Like…I don’t even know what an imp is.”
“The book I read said they are low level demons-”
She asked it far too loudly, the word slipping out like a beer belch. The few customers in the store looked up at her sharply. An old lady with a floral hanky wrapped around her head crossed herself. No one else seemed to care as they went back to their shopping. Still, Janet ducked down below the shelves. She had to put the cupcakes away, anyway.
“What were you doing looking at a book about demons?” she asked, her voice now too quiet. Freddy had ducked down with her though, and he plucked one of the cupcakes out of her hand.
“Well, after…you-know-what happened,” he said, seeing her face. Janet didn’t want to talk about that. Janet didn’t even want to think about that, and the cutesy you-know-what shit wasn’t helping. “I thought, what if there’s other stuff out there? There’s lots more stories, you know? So maybe something else was real. So I was looking through some books at the library and I read this thing on imps and I immediately thought of Kevin and BJ.”
“I’ve known those two for years,” Janet said, taking back the cupcake and putting it away. “They’re morons but they’re harmless.”
“That’s the thing about imps. They’re, like, low level demons. Entry-level. They don’t kill people, or set fires or nothing. They don’t even seem like they try to collect souls.”
“They’re just annoying. Cause mischief. Let air out of your tires, play their music too loud, be a bad influence on kids. You know, little stuff.”
They did bring that boom box around to play that awful, grinding metal music a lot. It always set Mr. Vellenti off, and he’d go out there screaming and cussing and run them off the parking lot. Actually…did they only do it on days Mr. Vellenti was working? She tried to remember a day with the boombox and a different manager on duty and couldn’t.
Janet shook her head and stood, picking up the now empty box. As she walked to the counter Freddy was quick on her heels.
“They’re just idiots.”
“Okay, fine. Just idiots. You’ve known them for years. Ever since you started working here, right? They were already there?”
“Okay, so where do they live? They have to live somewhere.”
“If you think I ever want to know where they live you have seriously lost your mind.”
“What about a job. Have they ever mentioned a job? Have you ever seen them at a job?”
“Well…no…but I’m always here.”
“Do they even pay with money?”
“Yes, Freddy. They pay with money,” she said, relieved she could answer a question. How could they be imps if they pay with money?
“Cash every time, right? No bank cards?”
Fuck. Yes. Cash every time. And…oh.
“Two dollar bills and dollar coins,” she said. “Every time.”
Freddy stood back from where he had been leaning on the front counter and held his palms out like she had just answered the riddle of the universe.
Janet huffed. “That doesn’t mean they’re…that! They probably just…I don’t know. Robbed the mint, or something.”
Freddy looked back out the window, and Janet unwillingly followed this gaze. Kevin and BJ had each other in headlocks and were attempting to wrestle the other to the ground. The butterfly knife was sticking out of Kevin’s shoulder.
“Yeah, they seem capable of that.”