It was the pratfall to end them all.
Time seemed to run slowly, thick like honey, while Rasputin's feet slipped from under him. The banana peel, its function in history complete, shot off the edge with a little squelch. Apart from that, all was silent.
Rasputin hung in the air, arms flailing impotently. Thinking back, Bob could even remember the expression on the monk's face; utter surprise, mixed with incomprehension and rage. It was one of those moments as if preserved in amber, still, quiet, perfect for all eternity.
Normal temporal service resumed suddenly.
Rasputin landed on his back at an angle, with a loud and final crack
And that was very nearly it.
Taken aback, Bob could only stare. Several seconds passed. The fiery light from the pit played on the walls of the cavern like an ambient mood in a fancy restaurant. Across the precipice, Heddingly cleared his throat. It was one of those moments, like after a really good party, when you pause, take a deep breath and take stock of the damage.
Jill was staring at the point where the steady expanding concentric ripples marked Gonzaroolio's exit from this world.
Richter bit his fist and squinted at the still figures across the lava. He was worried. He was always worried.
Guy was chuckling loudly. Jaded as he was, banana peel jokes just cracked him up.
Bob leaned forward a little bit, peering at the tangle of cloth and hairy limbs. Some of the latter were at rather strange angles, he noted quesily.
Annabel, still trussed up on the altar, jerked around in her bonds and wished someone would say something explanatory, as she couldn't see a thing.
Rasputin did nothing, not even breathe. He was dead.
This was a conclusion Bob had just arrived at. He gave a short, breathless laugh, and raised his eyebrows as high as they would go, and scratched his head.
"Wonder if I get the credit for this...?" he mused.
He reached out cautiously and poked Rasputin's knee. The leg flopped down. He giggled, a little frantically.
Turning on his heel, he waved to the Agents clustered on the opposite side of the chasm.
Guy and Heddingly did a high-five, and Jill shot him an appreciative look. Ignoring Richter's frantic hand gestures, he turned back to the corpse.
Rasputin's face, though laced with blood and bruised, looked almost peaceful in death. He had something tucked into his collar, and Bob leaned in to look...
Richter winced, and bit through the brim of his bowler. He could see where this was going...
...the mad eyes shot open, and before Bob could even gasp he was staggering back seeing flashes on a black background, clutching at his throbbing head, and wishing he had stayed out of headbutt-range.
When Bob painfully opened his eyes, Rasputin was back on his feet, shaking his head groggily, wiping blood from his eyes, not grinning now.
"Oh, da," he snarled "Ha bluddy ha. You sink me fallink is jolly funny, eh? Vell, let me show you MY idea of a choke..."
He slipped yet another dagger from the recesses of his robe, and spun it in his fingers.
"Vot do you get, ven you cross a bluddy stupid Henglishman, vis eight hinches of stainless steel? Take your time, sink about it..."
"But... but... you were dead..." stammered Bob.
The monk gave him a wry, sideways look.
"I get zat a lot"
Without further conversation, he lunged.
By sheer luck, Bob caught the monk's arm as it swung down, and tried to prise the dagger from his grip. Rasputin growled, and scrabbled and tugged at Bob's hand. Locked together by the dagger that tottered over their heads, the pair staggered about the altar, inches from the chasm, Rasputin spitting and hissing, Bob absently dreaming of microwave dinners and primetime TV.
'There was something he should remember', he thought distantly, as the dagger slipped in his grasp and the monk tried to edge him over the precipice.' Was it something important?', his body enquired; it was rather busy at the moment. 'Yes', his psyche assured him, 'this was very important indeed, vital, in fact. No, it wasn't about Ready, Steady, Cook. He had to think.'
'Ah yes'. After all, he was the Divine Champion.
"Nnngh... vot? You bloody Henglishman... you vant to TALK? Hnnnghhh... let me see that dagger..."
He needed a distraction. A witty off-the-cuff remark would have been perfect.
Bob had never been very good at witty remarks, but the occasion seemed to call for one.
"your shirt's on fire."
Well try coming up with one at short notice. We can't all be Bruce Willis.
And with that, he brought up the third arm, which he had quite forgotten about in the exitement, two forefingers extended, and poked the Beast in the eyes.
Howling, Rasputin clutched at his face, letting the dagger drop, and stepped back -
And that really was it.
A few moments later, there was a high lick of flame and a pleasant barbecue smell, redolent of summer days and patios.
Meanwhile back in Switzerland.
Armin was trying to kill himself by repeatedly beating his head on the table. Aside from a bit of bruising ranging to mild concussion he was enjoying little success.
God and Satan were keeping time by the rythmic beating of his forehead against the wood.
1 thunk..... 2 thunk.... -
"What was that?" said God, looking up.
This time the noise broke out into a tinny rendition of "The Macarena."
Hmm? - oh - it's my mobile!" said The Devil
"You have a mobile phone?" said God.
Oh yes very useful things. We get all the venture capitalists so naturally we also get all the latest gadgets." beamed Satan.
Not to mention that one of these babies in Fifty years time will do for radiation sickness what one of the old ICBM's would do back in the eighties. You gotta love progress..." he mused as he acessesed his text messages.
Oh yes!" Lucifer exclaimed. "
We got 'im! We got that little sneak damn grease stain of a monk. He's mine."
"Rasputin is dead then."
Yup." said the demon tossing on his jacket. "
Heard it was a laugh-riot too."
I know the banana - "
- skin, yes." chuckled Satan to himself.
God turned to Armin.
"You may go now." and clicked his fingers. There was a flash of light and Armin vanished - transported off someplace to recover.
I" God said standing up and dusting of his tunic " have some business to attend to - if you'll excuse me." and with that he vanished.
The Devil was just putting on his painfully stylish sunglasses and retrieving his pitchfork from the umbrella stand which had partially melted into the floor.
Hey - come back here!" he stamped a hoof - there was a lick of flame and a whiff of sulphur and the flat was empty.