Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chapter Fourteen

Over the previous week, things had gone downhill for Death.  Currently she was averaging about 50% for people actually showing up for their deaths.  She’d been able to hunt down several of them and finish the job, but there were a few more wandering around out there somewhere, annoyingly alive.
She had just dropped off a soul, and turned over the page on her notepad, to discover a blank page. Odd.  She didn’t usually leave blank pages in her notes.  Accidents happen though. She flipped the page.
The next page was also blank.  As was the next, and the next.  The rest of her notebook was blank.
“Oh shit,” Death said.
She was going to have to rely on her phone to notify her of each death, moments before the death happened, until she was able to get back to her apartment and make new copies of her notes.  Things were going to be chaotic for a while.
Speaking of chaos, her phone rang to alert her to a new death.  It looked like she had one minute until Brendan Pearson died of a heart attack.
Thomas had managed to get in touch with everyone in the copies of Death’s notes that he had.  He’d visited the people he was able to get to in person.  Everyone else had gotten a phone call.  
A lot of people he’d called had dismissed him as either a telemarketer or a prank-caller and hung up on him.  So he sent those people letters.  One way or another, they’d all gotten the word.
He was, so far as he could figure, a hero.
Of course, now that he’d finished that project, he was going to have to find something else to keep his time occupied.
Hep and Scroat were in a rough bar, drinking enough to paralyze most of the other patrons.  When Death appeared at their table, it took the two of them a moment to notice she was there.
“So there I was, elbow deep in this guy’s sister, and,” Scroat said before he noticed Death.  “Oh. Hey, you missed the first half of the story, I’d better start over.  So there was this guy back home and...”
“I didn’t come to hear about the time you screwed some guy’s sister,” Death said, interrupting him.
“Actually, I was telling the story about the time I got kidnapped and held for ransom, only no one would pay the ransom.  I’ve got so many stories about fucking a guy’s sister that they aren’t even interesting anymore.  Now, the times I fucked some guy’s mom, those are interesting stories.  This one time...”
Death interrupted him again.  “Yeah, look Scroat, I don’t have time to hear it today.  Raincheck?”
“If you’re lucky.  So if you’re not here to hang out, what the fuck do you want?” Scroat said.  “Hep and I, after all, are having a serious philosophical debate, and I’m worried we might lose our trains of thought if we get interrupted for too long.”
“So what are you here to talk to us about?” Hep said.  “ We’re kind of tore up right now. We weren’t really expecting you today.  Not that we mind a visit, but, you know, we can’t be at your beck and call all the time.”
“Right, I don’t expect you to be.  Look, this is kind of urgent.  Is there anything we can do to search for Thomas?  He’s interfering in other people’s deaths now.”
Hep and Scroat stared at her.
“Um, I don’t know exactly what you expect us to suggest,” Hep said.  “I’m a builder, not a detective.  Have you got any more information we can go off of?”
“No,” Death said.  She brightened a bit, “Could you go and collect souls for me while I search for Thomas?”
Hep and Scroat looked at each other, and burst out laughing.  Death watched, bemused, until they’d gathered their composure enough to speak.
“Did you forget what happened the last time we stood in for you?  It was kind of a total disaster,” Hep said.  “I can’t travel like you do unless I’m willing to suffer a massive hangover each time, which kind of gets in the way, and Scroat can’t travel by thought at all.  Our bikes are only so fast, you know.”
“Right, OK,” Death said.  “Look, my notes have all gone blank, and I’m never going to know when I’m going to get called again until I go back to my apartment and find my master copies to create a new deck of notes.”
“I’d suggest you go do that rather than sit here talking to us,” Hep said.  “If you can think of something we can do to help, give us a call.”
Death had to admit to herself that Hep had a point. 
“OK, you’re probably right.  I’ve got to run.  I’ll talk to you soon,” Death said, and vanished.
Hep and Scroat sat in silence for a moment.
“So, where was I?” Scroat said.
“Elbow deep in some guy’s sister.” Hep said.
Death had just gotten in to her apartment when her phone beeped at her, alerting her to another death she had to see to.  Adrian M. Clark, 19, was about to meet the business end of a combine harvester.  She had four minutes this time.
She decided she could spare a moment to make sure her notes were still in order.  She went to her desk, and saw that someone had tried, unsuccessfully, to break in to the drawer where she kept her original copies.  There were ugly scratched gouged in to the wood around the lock, but the lock itself was undamaged and still keeping her secrets safe.  Equal measures of anger and horror swept over her.  
It would be very, very bad if the wrong person got access to her private files.  There were things in there that only she was meant to know.
Her phone beeped at her again.  Two minutes to go.  She was going to have to see to this death, then hustle back and re-secure her documents.

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