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Dead in DC Chapter 4

rain
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3


Chapter 4

“Not all of my reaps are so easy.” Vince told me as we headed for Mack’s place. “And chances are, most of yours won’t be. I just happen to have the perfect day job for a lot of this.”

“Uh, yeah I’d guess so. How, how’d you get into…”

“What the mob? I knew the ins and outs from before.”

“Oh. Uh okay. Is that how you died?”

Vince gave me a look. “Free bit of etiquette advice for you kid. Never ask a Reaper that question. I personally don’t mind, but some don’t like discussing it. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly like your death story to get around would you?”

“Eeesh,” I said with a wince. “Good point. Sorry.”

“Sokay.” He sighed. “Like I said, I don’t mind. Ever hear the phrase, live by the sword die by the sword? Well it’s the same thing with guns.”

“You were a hit man?”

“Yep. One of my jobs was better than me, and viola, here I am.”

“Doing, pretty much the same thing.”

“Look kid,” he scowled again. “Don’t get all high and mighty guilt ridden on us all right? We don’t kill anyone. People die. It’s sad sometimes but sometimes it’s beautiful, and either way it has to happen. That guy? Dead whether I was there or not. He didn’t feel any pain when he went and he had someone there to ease the journey. We perform a public service, a good one. We’re not murderers. I won’t deny that my old job gave me a unique perspective that helped me adjust to this pretty quickly though.”

“Yeah I guess it would.” I said, still pretty creeped out by him.

“So wh-“

“1929, Chicago.” He shot me another glare. “Susie was the one to greet me.”

We didn’t talk anymore after that. Which was fine with me because I found Vince, well, creepy.

*****

Well we talked briefly when we go to the store.

“Lemme guess, Susie’s favorite liquor and plenty of it?”

“No you dipshit.” He said derisively. “Everyone’s favorite ice cream and plenty of it. What’s yours?”

For such an irascible guy, he sure seemed to remember everyone’s favorite flavors of ice cream. Ashley: Coffee. T’ing, Rocky Road. Mack, Cookies and Cream, Walt: Cherry Garcia. Vince was partial to Raspberry Sherbet. I’m lactose intolerant.

“What’s it gonna do, kill ya?”

*****

Mack had a nice, small house just where Bethesda bordered DC. I recognized Ashley’s car parked out front, and two more. Vince shoved the grocery bag into my arms the minute we were out of the car. “I paid, you carry.”

Vince didn’t bother with the doorbell, he just walked in. And was almost bowled over by two kids.

“Guess it pays to announce your approach sometimes after all huh?” asked a middle aged guy with sandy blond hair. He smirked at Vince, then turned to me, divesting me of the bag. “I’ll go put these in the freezer, you bring enough for everybody?”

“Didn’t know you three were gonna be here.” Vince growled. “Guess I should’ve guessed.”

“Yeah you really should have. The others are out back.” He turned to me. “You the new kid?”

“Yep. John Hancock.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I’m not.”

“How many times you have to tell people that?”

“That I’m not shitting them about my name? I’ve lost count.”

“Heh. Well pleased t’ meet you John, I’m Charlie. Go grab a burger from the grill. T’ings cookin’ and you can’t go wrong there.” He lowered his voice. “Treat ‘er real nice and she’ll treat you nice hey? She’s got a thing for the younger guys know what I’m sayin’?” he smirked.

I wasn’t sure I did. He was talking kinda fast like one of those tv lawyers or something.

I should probably take this opportunity to explain a few things about Reapers in general, and this group specifically. Reapers are assigned to different divisions. Myself, Vince, T’ing, Ashley, Mack and Walt are the External Causes Division for instance. Now within that division, sometimes people specialize. Vince naturally tends to get the organized crime reaps, while Mack usually gets the upscale politicians and businessmen. Because they come from that background and know how to get around.

Typically you stick with the division you were `born` into. Since I died in an accident, I’m in the division I’m in. But apparently if you ask really really nicely, you can get transferred.

Charlie here, works in Infectious diseases. And the kids? They reap animals. Do the divisions usually fraternize like this? On occasion yeah. And this? Was an occasion.

*****

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mack said. “Recently, our fellow reaper, our friend, Susan Chase, moved on from this world.” One of the kids, a little girl, looked particularly grieved, as Ashley held her. What was weird was, both the girl, and the little boy, had the look in their eyes, of someone much older. Of course for all I knew they’d been Reapers for over a hundred years.

“Susan was born in Arlington Virginia, in 1890. She never spoke much about her life to me, but I know that she died in a boating accident on the Potomac, in 1910. She was a reaper for a little over 90 years. Almost a century. Those are the facts as I know them, though we worked together for many years, we were never exactly close, merely colleagues. But some of you here were her close friends. It’s for you that we’re really gathered tonight.”

“Ms. Susie took care of us.” The little girl spoke up. “Her and Charlie. Most, most of us live on the streets, cause we can’t get jobs and, and it’s hard to, to reap when you have to dodge foster parents.”

Ashley stroked the girl’s hair as she began to cry, and the little boy took the girl’s hand.

“She tended to get the little kid reaps.” Charlie piped up. “She never said, but I got the feeling, watching her with the kids, that she must have had a few rug rats back in her living days. Way she looked at ‘em, either these two,” he indicated the nino-reapers. “When she put ‘em to bed, or the kids she reaped, when they were goin’ on to wherever we go, you could tell. She was missin’ somebody.”

“She loved kids.” Ashley agreed. “And, adults. She could sometimes go overboard with her affection for adults.” She smirked at me. Vince scowled.

“She did have kids.” Vince said. “A boy and a girl. They died in the fire that killed her.”

I kept myself to myself during most of that night. This was a night for them. For Susie’s friends and co-workers and Jesus! How long was that kid sitting there staring at me?!

“Hi.” He said.

“Uh, hi.”

“You’re the guy Ms. Susie got to take her place right? I’m Tim.”

“Yeah. Name’s John.”

“Ms. Susie was nice.”

“So I hear.”

“Wonder what she’s doing now?”

The kid seemed to have grasped something that, I wasn’t sure I’d gotten yet. Susie didn’t die. She left. And even when they do die, they just, leave. The problem is you don’t get to say good bye all the time.

“Off hand, I’d say hanging out with her kids.”

“I didn’t know she had kids. No one knew that.”

“Vince did.”

“Yeah.” There was a pause. “She and Vince were boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“I figured as much yeah.” So was he glaring at me all the time because I was taking his girl’s place? Or because she’d kissed me? “So you’re a reaper?”

“Yuhuh! Me’n Izzy reap animals when they die.”

“All animals? Don’t, hundreds of insects die every day?”

“…Idano.”

*****

Charlie and the kids’re gone, Walt and Vince are reading the obituaries playing who reaped who, and Ashley and T’ing are watching TV. And I’m sulking on the patio. No, not sulking. Brooding. No, wait, better yet, contemplating. Yeah, contemplating.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Mack asked, coming outside.

“I don’t have change for that.”

Mack smiled slightly. “You don’t have to stand outside you know, you’re one of us now. This party should be as much for you as anyone else.”

“Except I didn’t know Susie. First time I met her was when she *ahem*. Say, since she er, reaped me before I got to my girlfriend’s place, is that why I had clothes on after I was dead?”

Mack’s smile widened. “Oh, yes I think that’s why. Incidentally you’re not the only one out there with an embarrassing death story. I’ve heard tell of a young lady out in the pacific northwest who was beaned by a toilet seat falling from orbit.”

Wait, that sounded familiar. My friend Barry loved weird shit like that. “I think I’ve heard about that. She’s a Reaper?”

“Oh yes.” There was a bit of silence. “It takes some getting used to.” He said. “Being a Reaper. But try to remember that we’re performing an act of mercy, not murder. Remember, if Susie hadn’t been there for you, you’d have died anyway, and felt it. And then you’dve been stuck inside your body.”

“Yeah that would have sucked.”

“Indeed.”

“So, I need to go find myself someplace to live now right?”

“That’s tomorrow. Walt’ll take you out to get a new identity, hopefully find you a place to live. As for a job, you’re on your own there I’m afraid. For tonight, I’m told my couch is very comfortable.”

It was.


To be continued...