Hugh leaned out of his truck window and spoke into the intercom in front of the gate.
"Hello, this is Hugh with Great Lay Masonry."
"Good, good!" said a crackly voice on the intercom. "This is the residence of Ludwig von Ludwig! I called your company yesterday!"
Hugh's eyes drifted onto the letters "LvL" emblazoned in the center of the wrought iron gate. Copses of trees and fountains interrupted the grand lawn beyond the gate. A peacock watched him for a moment. When the gates swung open, the peacock flared its feathers.
"Yes, where should I drive to?"
"Just follow the path to the back entrance."
Hugh drove his truck up to the back entrance of the enormous mansion. A tiny man bounced along the cobbles. His hair dripped with pomade and he was as bronze and organic looking as a statue. Hugh took his soft, manicured hand in one of his rough ones and felt a powerful strength in the supple fingers.
"Ludwig," said the tiny man. "Would you like a cup of coffee? Tea? Sparkling water? Soda water? A spritz of antioxidant lotion?"
"No, thank you," Hugh said. "The work order said that you'd like a quote on wall repair."
"Er, yes," Ludwig replied. "Actually, I was hoping that you could get started today. The problem seems to have worsened rather dramatically."
"I can't make any promises, but let's take a look and we'll see what we can see, okay?"
Ludwig led them back down the asphalt path that Hugh had drove in on. They struck out into the lawn beneath an ancient oak tree and soon had passed over a hillock, lost sight of the house, and had dropped into a valley. Hugh hadn't noticed the array of decaying stone ruins that dotted the landscape. The closest thing that he'd seen before was the gigantic mausoleum that his Aunt Betsy had built to deplete her massive fortune in order to screw over her heirs.
Ludwig stopped among several broken columns next to a hill. Moss grew over fallen stones and mottled their surfaces. Hugh's eye was drawn to a massive, black hole in the side of the hill. His skin attempted to crawl off of his body and hide under a stone.
"This appeared last week and ate several of my party guests," Ludwig said. He stooped and picked up a cufflink. "Do you think that you could brick it up?"
"I wouldn't be an employee of Great Lay Masonry if I couldn't deal with a hole."
"Do you think that you can have it fixed today? I've planned a dinner party this weekend and I'm afraid that Mrs. Reginald Hoobers has told everyone in our set about what happened to her husband."
"Damn straight I can have it fixed today."
"Can I pull my truck onto the lawn?"
"Of course, just be careful not to draw Percy the peacock's ire. He's a touch skittish around new people."
"I'll try not to," Hugh said.
He went to his truck and pulled it up to the crest of the hill and began unloading bricks. The last job that he'd completed had required aged stone blocks, so he had plenty in the truck. As he began to place the bottom row he had to fight the sense of falling into the hole. A ringing filled his ears that sounded like it came from within his skull and from the hole at the same time.
By time he'd laid bricks up waist-level, the ringing became so bad that he felt like he was working inside of a bell.
Then a breeze began to flow out of the hole, and that breeze became a stiff wind and finally a gale. Hugh continued to lay courses of stone. As he got up to chest level, he heard a screaming come from the hole.
He ducked in time to avoid a well-dressed gentleman in coattails come sailing out of the hole and thud against the grass of the hill. The ringing grew louder still, and he began to grow dizzy.
"I say," the gentleman mouthed.
"Mr. Reginald Hoobers?!" Hugh shouted over the noise.
"Yes! Don't brick it up yet! A certain Doctor Mortimer Buchamp is still in there!" Mr. Hoobers yelled.
"What?! There's more people in there?!"
"Yes, it's Ludwig's fault! Speak of the devil!"
Ludwig ran down the hill, waving his arms and yelling.
"You idiot! You didn't brick it up fast enough!"
"Oh, come for a stroll in the garden, you said! It's a lovely evening for a walk, you said!"
Percy the peacock appeared on the ridge behind Ludwig.
"I'll do this the old-fashioned way! Attack!"
The peacock leapt into the air, but not Mr. Hoobers. It leapt onto Ludwig's back and, to Hugh's horror, pulled off all of the skin on his head like a mask. Beneath was the face of the devil. Hugh was sure of it despite the face of the devil looking identical to Ludwig except with a deeper frown.
The devil hissed and swatted away the peacock.
The hole rumbled and spat out a rumbled doctor, who landed next to Doctor Buchamp.
"We'll ruin you!"
"You can ruin Ludwig von Ludwig, but you'll never ruin me!" the devil shouted, running and leaping past Hugh into the hole and pulling it shut behind him. The ringing stopped and Hugh stopped feeling dizzy.
"So, uh, do I send the bill to Hell or what?"
"The address is 'Devil's Fortress, 238 Wretched Souls Lane, Pandemonium, Hell'" said Dr. Buchamp.
"Oh. Lame. I was hoping for a 666 somewhere."
"A common mistake, but no. That's where we went looking for the devil after we got sucked into the hole but that's just the address of a hell-hound breeder. Nice folks, gave us some good tea that only tasted a little bit like sulphur."
The Moral: It's good to work slow if your boss is the devil.