Death was in Los Angeles again, with a whole hour to herself before the next death. She could spend some time trying to track down a few of the missing Naughty Gnostics, if she wanted.
But then, they’d decided to run off on their own, and the fact of the matter was, she had a serious craving for a taco. Or a bacon cheeseburger. Whichever she came across first. The Naughty Gnostics could linger a while longer.
She rolled to a stop at an intersection, and realized she was faced with a difficult and important decision.
One one side of the road was a burger joint. On the other side, tacos. She decided it was a taco kind of day, and turned in to the taco shop’s parking lot.
She was stunned, when she got inside, to see Ares and Eris were already there, seated at a table. Ares looked decidedly uncomfortable, while Eris seemed to be having the time of her life. At least, until she saw Death. Ares noticed a sudden chill coming from the general Eris area, and looked around to see Death. He brightened up immediately.
“Hey! What are the odds of running in to you here?”
“Yeah, what a coincidence,” Death said. So much for a quick and painless lunch.
“You’ve got to join us!” Ares said. Eris looked at him in a way that would kill mere mortals, but Ares didn’t notice.
“Well, I don’t want to interrupt you. I was just going to grab something quick and keep moving,” Death said.
“Nonsense! Come sit with us,” Ares said. He stood up and pulled out a chair for her.
Death sat down and did her best to ignore the way Eris was staring at her. She wasn’t sure what Eris’s problem was. She was, however, sure that she didn’t care to find out. It wasn’t that she had a problem with Eris, but constant chaos wasn’t really her style.
“So I’ve been having the weirdest thing happen over the last several days,” Ares said, apparently oblivious to the cold war going on at his table. “I was walking down the street the other day, and I saw this guy, and I was just certain that he should have been killed already.”
“How is that weird? Don’t you think everyone should have been killed already?”
“Not at all. Mostly I think that people need to be killed. There’s a subtle difference there.”
Death wasn’t so sure. “OK, if you say so. So how is that a weird experience, anyhow?”
“Well, if it had happened just once, I’d just think it was an odd day and ignore it. But there have been three or four people I’ve seen on the street that really seemed like they should have been dead already.”
“I see,” Death said. That was troubling. She wondered if Thomas was already having that widespread of an effect. She really needed to find him before things got out of hand.
“Yeah, it was the craziest thing.”
“So why didn’t you just kill them,” Eris said to Ares.
“Well, they didn’t do anything to deserve it, apart from being there. I mean, I can’t just kill people all willy-nilly.”
Death wondered if it would be impolite to point out that killing people all willy-nilly was almost exactly what Ares did all the time. She decided it would be best to keep her mouth shut.
“Fair enough. I’m sure they’ll cause plenty of trouble while they’re still walking around, and that’s fine with me,” Eris said.
Just then the waiter arrived with their food. It smelled delicious.
Death was about to take a bite, when she saw one of the Naughty Gnostics staring through a nearby window at them. Shit.
Just before she could say “Hey, I think we’ve got company,” the front door burst open and a bunch of very much still alive Naughty Gnostics came in.
“Hey, it’s those bikers that keyed my car,” Ares said. “And now they’re spoiling my lunch. That’s just great.” He slammed his hands down on the table. “What is it with you assholes?”
One of the Naughty Gnostics, apparently the leader, stepped forward and pointed at Ares.
“You killed several of our brothers, and we can’t let that stand,” he said.
Ares grinned widely, and stood up. “You’d better watch where you point that finger. You’re likely to lose it.”
Eris’ eyes twinkled. Death put her head in her hands. How come her lunches always got interrupted like this?
One of the Naughty Gnostics charged at Ares, who caught him easily and slammed him down on top of the table. Crushing all of the food, Death noticed. She looked at her watch, and realized she needed to get moving to take care of the next Death.
“Well, I’ve got to be running,” she said. “I’ll catch you two later.”
Eris said nothing, just looked blankly at her. Ares, however, looked disappointed and said, “Aw, you’re going to miss all the fun again.”
“Maybe next time,” Death said. “See you later.”
According to her notes, the next appointment was the death of John Statler, 48, Construction Accident. Death arrived at the scene. She stood near the base of a new office building under construction. There was a great deal of rebar sticking up out of the concrete nearby. Assuming everything went to plan, in two minutes John was going to fall from two stories up and impale himself on the rebar.
No one noticed her waiting there. She could hear the workers shouting to each other, along with the hammering and noise of power tools common to any construction site. Soon, it was fifteen seconds to showtime. Death looked up to where John was supposed to fall from, and counted down.
She’d reached negative thirty before coming to the conclusion that something wasn’t right. After another minute with no sign of John, she decided it was time to go looking for him.
Upstairs, she wandered through the floor he was supposed to be working on, but there wasn’t a sign of him anywhere. She checked the other floors before she decided it might be good to ask and see if anyone knew where John was.
She allowed herself to be seen, and the first thing she heard was “Hey, you can’t be in here without a hard hat, lady!”
She turned to see who the voice belonged to. It was another man who looked to be about fifty, with steel grey hair. Death guessed he was in a position of some authority.
“Sorry, I’m just looking for John Statler. Have you seen him?”
“No, John didn’t come in today. I think he’s home sick. Now you’ve got to get out of here. This is a dangerous place, and you don’t even have a hard hat on.”
“OK,” Death said pleasantly. “Thanks, have a nice day.”
Where the hell is he, Death thought. I showed up, couldn’t he do me a favor and not stand me up? Now I’ve got to go find him, make sure he passes, and get that all wrapped up before the next client.
Since the man she’d talked to said he thought John was at home, sick with something, Death decided that visiting John’s house would be an excellent start.
Death arrived at John’s house moments later. She let herself in, and wandered through the house looking for John.
She found him on the couch, watching TV. She was trying to come up with a death that could visit John on the couch, when he got up and started walking toward the kitchen. Death followed behind him.
John dug around in the fridge for a bit, and pulled out most of the makings for a sandwich, and a bunch of grapes.
Choking, easy, Death thought. John went back to the couch with his sandwich and grapes. He tossed one of the grapes in the air, and caught it in his mouth. Unfortunately, it lodged itself in his throat.
John looked puzzled for a moment, then worried. He tried pounding on his chest to knock the grape loose, with no luck. He was starting to change colors. He got up off of the couch, and hustled to the kitchen again, where he threw himself, gut first, at the back of one of the kitchen chairs. The back of the chair was driven into his stomach, and the grape came flying out of his mouth. He immediately started gasping for air, and fell to sit on the floor as he got his composure back.
Rats, Death thought.
After he’d calmed down, he went back to the couch and ate his sandwich, without much joy. When he’d finished eating, and the show he was watching was over, he put on his shoes and went to get in his car. Death, naturally, followed along. He started the car and pulled out on to the street. Death rode shotgun.
As they approached a busy intersection, one of the front tires on John’s car blew out. He lost control almost immediately, and the car spun into traffic. Miraculously, none of the other cars hit it. It came to a reasonably safe stop on the far side of the intersection.
“Man, I’m having some kind of day,” John said to himself.
Tell me about it, Death thought.
John put the spare on, narrowly escaping being run over four times, and drove back home after picking up a carton of cigarettes.
Once there, he decided a shower would be just the thing to soothe his jangled nerves. He started the water running, and when it was hot, got in to the shower. Death was getting fed up. She looked around the bathroom, noticed the hair dryer, plugged it in, turned it on, and tossed it into the shower with John.
The power in the bathroom went out, seconds before John collapsed in the shower. His ghost looked a bit freaked out.
“I guess it was my day, huh?”
“Sure was. Let’s go,” Death said, and held out her hand to him.