The Ultimate Compliment

Earl Heathcliff got exactly what he was promised — but was it what he really wanted?

The Ultimate Compliment
Deals With the Devil
DAW Books • 1996

“A solid collection of extremely well-written and accessible tales about the oldest villain in the game: Satan. The takes some people have on him are numerous and colorful.”

Scott Woods,

Read an Excerpt….

A needle-sharp dart struck Fiona Gray’s aristocratic nose with a satisfying thwack.  For at least the ninety-eighth time, Earl wished it had struck her real nose instead of the picture on his study wall.  He tossed another dart after the first, scoring a hit in the knot of her silver-white hair, conservatively styled to match its owner’s sixty-some years.

“What is it with you?” he asked the clipped-out newspaper photo bitterly.  “Nobody else does it, not all the time.  Not Analog, not Asimov’s, not even Aboriginal or Dragon.  You, you go out of your way to slam every damn book.”

He shifted his gaze to the computer screen on his desk.  “Just once,” he muttered, also for at least the ninety-eighth time, “I wish she’d give me a good review.  Just once.  Hell,” he added, “I’d sell my soul to get a rave out of her.”

“I expect we can arrange that.”

Earl’s head whipped around.  The man standing in the doorway grinned, flicked a speck of brimstone out of his pencil-thin black mustache, and expertly flipped open the legal portfolio in his other hand.  “Now then, what were those contract terms again?”

“How’d you get in here?” Earl demanded.  The alarm system hadn’t gone off, and a quick glance out the window told him he hadn’t left the front gate open.  Unobtrusively, he closed his fingers around the third and last dart lying on his desk.  “Anyway, you got a contract, you talk to my agent.”

“Not this one,” said the man in the doorway.  “How would you go about sending your agent fifteen percent of a rave review from Fiona Gray?  Oh, and I wouldn’t try that if I were you — we subscribe to the Old Testament brand of retribution.  Hit me in the groin with that dart and you’ll be the soprano.  I have a better health plan than you do.”