Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chapter Nine

Robert Stein, 26, was going to be shot and killed in a liquor store robbery in a relatively nice part of Los Angeles.  Death checked her notes, and saw that Robert had four minutes and forty eight seconds left to live.
She waited in the liquor store in a spot with a fairly good view of the cash register, which is where the shooting would occur.
There was a chinese buffet a little further down the road.  If she had enough time after this, she planned on stopping by there to get some discount priced egg rolls, sweet and sour pork and fried rice to go.
Robert stood behind the register.  He looked like a man who was counting the minutes until he could leave.  He didn’t notice Death watching him.
The robber (meth lab explosion) walked in to the store two minutes later.  He was wearing a ratty jean jacket and a stocking cap.
“Welcome to Angel’s Liquor,” Robert said, without much enthusiasm.
“Yeah,” the robber said.  He wandered to the back of the store.
A woman who looked to be about sixty seven (cirrhosis) came to the counter with a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey.
“How are you doing today, Mrs. Stevens?” Robert said.
“Same as yesterday, Robert,” Mrs. Stevens said.
“Anything else for you today?” 
“Just this.”
Robert put the bottle of Canadian Club in a bag and handed it to Mrs. Stephens.  He wished her a good day.  As soon as she’d left the building, he resumed leaning against the back of the counter and looking supremely bored.
The robber came up to the register with his hands in the pocket of his jean jacket.
“What can I do for you, man?” Robert asked.
The robber pulled a small pistol out of the pocket of his jacket and said, “Give me all the money in the register.”
“Oh, fucking hell,” Robert said, as he opened the till.  “You know, man, we’ve got cameras trained on the register, and we don’t keep more than a hundred bucks in here at a time.”
“Just give me the money, asshole,” the robber said.  He looked extremely agitated.
“Yeah yeah.  You want a bag for that?  You know we’ve got cameras outside too.  We’ve got pictures of your face and we’re gonna know which way you went.”
As the two of them continued bickering, Death was distracted by something she’d spotted out of the corner of her eye.  Just outside was one of the missing deceased Naughty Gnostics.  He had obviously seen her and was doing his best to avoid being noticed.  Which, incidentally, made him more noticeable to Death than if he’d just continued going about his business. 
“Here,” Robert said as he handed the robber a paper bag full of cash. “Spend it quick, and hope the cops catch you before the owner’s boys do.  He doesn’t like it when other people take his money much.”
“Shut the fuck up, man.  I think you forgot which one of us has the gun here.”
“Nah, I’ve just been robbed by your type before.  You’re too much of a pussy to actually shoot.  Better run on out of town now, before the boss’s crew can find you.  I’d guess you’re going to have about thirty minutes after I’ve called them.”
Death was still paying more attention to the Naughty Gnostic that was trying to hide than the robbery going on in front of her, so she jumped a little bit when the gunshots started.
Robert was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the forehead.  His body fell forward and slumped over the register.
“Shit.  I guess I called that one wrong,” Robert’s soul said.
“I guess so,” Death said.  “Wait there just a second.”
“Are you kidding me?  I’m dead and I’ve got to stay here in this fucking store?”
“If you like you can come with me, but hurry up,” Death said.  She was already headed for the entrance of the store.  She went through the door without opening it, turned the corner and grabbed a very surprised Naughty Gnostic by the collar.
“Hey pal, how’s the afterlife treating you?” Death said.
“I wasn’t spying on you, I swear” the ghost said.
Robert’s soul stood just behind her, watching all this with a mixture of shock and delight.  Death grabbed the Gnostic with her other hand and well.
“OK.  I hadn’t asked.  Why would you think I’d think you were spying on me as opposed to just avoiding me?”
“Um.  No reason.  I was just avoiding you.  I used to peek in windows sometimes, it was just an old habit is all.”
Death gave the Gnostic a hard shake.
“Bull.  Why are you spying on me?  And before you answer, I suggest you consider how long I’ve been doing this job, and how much practice I might have inspiring cooperation in uncooperative souls.”
The Gnostic swallowed and stammered slightly when he said, “OK, I’ve been keeping an eye out for you.  Someone told me to, I don’t know who.  I couldn’t see who it was.  They said I needed to see what you were up to and report back, or they’d hurt my family.”
“Well, I guess you’re going to have to assume they were bluffing, because you’re coming with me now.”
“Where are you going to take me?”
“To the afterlife, like I was originally.  It’s my job, remember?”
“No!” the Gnostic said.  He started flailing and trying to get free of Death’s grip, with no success.  “I gotta protect my people.”
“Your people are going to be fine.  There’s no reason to kill them if you’ve been brought to the afterlife.”
“No! They said no matter what, if I failed they’d hurt everyone I knew.  I can’t go with you!” He struggled all the harder.  Death held tight to his collar with one hand.  The gnostic hit and pulled and pried as hard as he could at her arm with no effect.
Death quickly became fed up with this and, quick as a striking snake, let go of his collar and seized him by the nose.
“Anyone who’d want to spy on me would know that going after your family after I’ve collected you and brought you to the other side is a waste of effort.  Now, either way you’re going to come along with me.  I can either walk you with a firm grip on your jacket, or I can drag you along by your nose.  Your choice.”
The Gnostic continued to struggle against her.  “OK, by the nose it is.”
She turned to Robert and held out her free hand.  “Would you walk with me as well?”
Robert looked at the Gnostic’s ineffectual struggle, and decided amicability was the best option.  “Sure, why not?”  
He took her hand, and the three of them stepped out of this world.
The gateway appeared after a few moments, and Death heaved the Naughty Gnostic through it the moment it opened.  He protested the entire way, until his protests were abruptly cut off.
“Is his family really going to be safe?” Robert asked.
“Yes, they’ll be fine.  It’s kind of an empty threat to make to a ghost anyway. Killing off someone’s family is something you do to make an example of them.  Who’s going to pay attention to the example when the person who screwed up was already dead?  It would be pointless.”
“That’s a relief,” Robert said.  “What now?”
“Now you step through the gateway and go on to whatever awaits you.”

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