(500 words) [original publication date 29th July 2016]
Jason Christopher Smith regarded the text message. ‘Jason, please to come EXACTLY 30 minutes early for a special preview! Lucifer.‘
His phone indicated 7.29 p.m. Perfect! He pressed the lift button.
Lucifer was the nickname of his brother-in-law, Luciano De Ville. Lately the zany chef had gained some notoriety on breakfast TV.
Jason examined a card inviting him to ‘The Grand Opening of Lucifer’s Kitchen at 8 p.m … in the basement of Spark’s department store…’
He examined the other passengers. A lady whose ample form protested against her red trouser suit was accompanied by a younger man, occupied with caressing her bottom. He wore a neat goatee beard.
An aged skinhead sporting a faded tattoo, ‘WAR’, on his forehead stood with an equally aged punk woman with spiky pink hair and lime green leggings.
Finally there was a shifty-looking fellow in green tweed and an elderly lady in grey, wearing an inverted crucifix.
The doors opened onto his sister Bernadette, sparkling in silver, and Luciano in gold lamé.
“Welcome all!” exclaimed Luciano, enjoying his catch phrase.
To Jason’s surprise they both entered the lift. The doors closed again.
Luciano handed out cards with Inferno emblazoned on them. “Ladies and gentlemen, I change the restaurant’s name!”
He continued, “I study literature in university of Milano – The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri! So I invite seven special friends here today. Let us regard this lift as ‘limbo’!”
Bernadette showed amazement.
Luciano indicated the plump lady, “Henrietta has much fondness for the pastries so she represents ‘gluttony’.”
“Whilst Adam,” he gestured towards her companion, “you represent ‘lust’!” Adam blushed.
“Mark,” indicating the skinhead, “you were always quick with your fists and boots, and Matilda, your language would make a soldier blush! So ‘violence’ and ‘anger’!”
–“I admit I am a greedy man, greedy for money and fame!” Luciano laughed. “So I represent ‘greed’.” He indicated inverted-crucifix-lady and green-tweed-man. “Now my dear Jason, who d’you think these two represent?”
“Well, presumably ‘heresy’.” He indicated the former, his face flushing. “So this gentleman represents, er, either ‘fraud’ or ‘treachery’..”
“Al Contrario,” Luciano exclaimed, “yes, Susan worships my namesake, but Harold is actually a private detective who has discovered, ah, a little family deceit! So I declare that you, Jason, represent ‘fraud’ and Bernadette, my dear wife, ‘treachery’!”
A gasp of astonishment went up.
“Please, all to exit the lift,” announced Luciano.
“Lucifer, this is a mistake!” Jason protested.
Luciano laughed. “I toss a coin. First you enjoy my delicious food, then ‘heads’ you go two minutes with Mark, ‘no holds being barred’ as they say!”
Mark, grinning, made a head-butting gesture.
“Tails you go with Susan.”
Susan chuckled. “We need blood, much blood, taken against the will, for a ritual.”
–Luciano threw a coin up which clattered onto the lift floor. All stood aside, mesmerized. Jason peered down at it. “Just call the police!”