I got her back a few days ago. I sat the board of directors of the firm round the table (a good Redwood round table I got for a song at the Kamisole Karaoke Klub somewhere near Bond street; while I was singing and people were wincing, a couple of my guys were taking the table out the back way), manacled their ankles to the legs of the chairs (upholstered with genuine penguin skin), and put a Ouija board on the table on front of them. We were going to hold a seance.
The Ouija board was one I'd bought specially for the occasion. I did have a small stock of cedar-wood boards I've been selling through eBay, but as the wood was made from the exhumed coffins of unbaptised children (you just need to know the right hospital morgue) I was aware that there was anecdotal evidence that they tended to invoke vengeful spirits. The board was matte and unimpressive, even the font used for the alphabet was boring old Helvetica. The planchette, which I'd coated with adhesive to make sure that the board couldn't take their fingers off it, didn't even sparkle in the brightest of lights.
I checked that the board all had a finger each on the planchette, and sat back from the table, and began the session with the typical invocation,
"Is there anybody there?"
The planchette duly trundled over to the word Yes. I raised an eyebrow, wondering if the board were playing games with me.
"Can you speak?" I said.
Yes indicated the planchette again, but no-one did. My eyebrow stayed raised, and I took a dull brown stone out of my pocket and laid it on the table. I was pleased to see that the planchette seemed to flinch.
"Do you know what this is?" I said.
"Tell me, then."
An Auquiwak exorcism stone indicated the planchette, hurrying from one letter to another fast enough that the board members were grunting in pain.
"Yes," I said. "Used to inflict a lot of pain on the spirit that's misbehaving. Fetch me my secretary and have her manifest herself. Now."
There was a sensation of tension leaving the room, and the board of directors seemed to slump slightly in unison. One or two tried to let go of the planchette at that point and discovered the adhesive. The bravest of them opened his mouth, but before he could speak I pointed at the exorcism stone.
"It works on the living too," I said, and he closed his mouth again and stayed quiet. It was sort of true -- it was surprisingly heavy for its size and would certainly have hurt him when I threw it at him. And I would have kept throwing it at him.
My secretary appeared silently behind one of the older, greyer members of the board, who had a soul-patch that belonged on a man thirty years younger than him. She seemed more silvery that when I'd last seen her alive, and her jaw had been reattached which was quite a relief. She looked at me calmly, the same way she did when I was trying to remember which set of income tax papers to submit.
"I need you back," I said without preamble.
"I've been called to a higher task," she said. "God himself needs a secretary, and I have been chosen."
"He gave you cancer of the jaw in order to summon you into his office?" I said, surprise causing my mouth to gape like a yokel. "What was wrong with the rapture? Hell, Jehova's Witnesses don't get to suffer for six months before they go, and they deserve it!" I didn't mean that last bit, I use the JWs a lot to sell my japanese pornographic manga bible to schoolkids. They never bother to open it to find out what kind of bible it is.
"Well," said my secretary looking a little bit startled, "I hadn't thought of it like that..."
"And is it really fun? Heaven's supposed to be perfect. What do you do all day? Do you have to handle irate customers coming in and voiding their warranty all over the shop-floor? Or do you just make the tea and compliment the angels on their wings?"
"A little bit dull, compared with working for you..." she was wavering now, and I pounced.
"Then come back and keep working for me, at least for a little bit. I can't cope without you, you know!"
"I had noticed that you seemed to be having a hard time hiring my replacement," she said, smiling at last.
"Come back then!" I said.
I had to watch her face like a hawk at this point, and the instant she relaxed her smile, showing that she really did like the sound of the idea, I picked up the exorcism stone and hurled it at the youngest board member. It bounced off his forehead onto the table, and something off-white spilled backwards out of his head. It billowed in the air for a few seconds, trying to find a shape. My secretary was simultaneously sucked forwards by the sudden spiritual vacuum left in his body, and was absorbed. The board member's body collapsed, and I watched anxiously.
"I say," said the newly homeless spirit. "What happened there?"
"You've been made redundant," I said. "Good luck with the rest of your existence."
My secretary sat up slowly, stretching her new body and glaring at me. When she started swearing in three languages I knew that I had her back, body and soul.
There have been some oddities since then though, strange little sick miracles, that make me think that God is on the look-out for where my secretary has gone. I came in one morning to find that one of the mechanics had developed a kind of Midas touch, and everything he touches turns to mould. I have him in cold storage while I figure out the selling angle on this one. Another morning we had a rain of dogs, so I have a corral full of large hairy woof-ing things with assorted broken limbs. At least I don't have to worry about a sell-by date there.
But business is back to normal, at least for a little while!