Authors: Amanda M. Lee
Tags: #Fluffer Nutter, #dpgroup.org
An Aisling Grimlock Mystery
By Amanda M. Lee
Text copyright © 2014 Amanda M. Lee
All Rights Reserved
“Bow down before the harvester of your doom
I rolled my eyes, glancing over at my brother, Aidan, as he stood before the cowering spirit in the corner with a devilish grin on his face.
“Really? That’s how you do it?”
’s dimples deepened as he sent me a wink, while ignoring the middle-aged man and his pitiful whining as he kept trying to convince himself that he was dreaming.
“It’s just a nightmare,” the man tried to soothe himself.
“Do you have another idea?” Aidan asked.
“Have you tried talking to him?”
“That never works,” Aidan replied. “They never want to believe they’re dead. And, if they do, it’s usually because they’re depressed and they offed themselves because they were looking forward to the hereafter.”
I ignored Aidan’s blasé attitude and glanced down at the list in my hand. “Stan Parker, 54, accountant for Thompson and Hopkins.”
“See, he’s evil,” Aidan said. “He’s an accountant for a big law firm. You can’t get slimier than that.”
It’s an environmental law firm,” I replied.
Aidan merely shrugged in response. He was clearly enjoying himself, if his flushed skin and gleaming eyes were any indication. I had a feeling it was because he had been put in charge of my “training,” something I wasn’t convinced I needed.
“It says here he’s a Catholic,” I said, reading further into Stan Parker’s file. “I think I know how to handle this.” I took a step toward Stan, squatting down so I was at eye level with him. “Mr. Parker, my name is Aisling Grimlock, and I’m here because there’s been an … incident.”
Aidan arched a dark eyebrow.
I ignored him. “Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done and you’ve … um … passed on.”
Stan Parker glanced up at me, finally focusing on something other than his own feet – and the uneven tile pattern in his bedroom – and fixed me with a bleak stare. “Are you an angel?”
“You’ve obviously never seen her in the morning before she’s had three cups of coffee,” Aidan scoffed.
I waved him off. “I’m not an angel,” I said. “I’m a reaper.”
Stan Parker looked confused. “Like a grim reaper?”
“Exactly,” I replied, sending him my most encouraging smile as I brushed my long black hair – shot through with enough white streaks to give my father a coronary when he saw them – out of my face. “I’m here to help you get to your final destination.”
“I don’t know what that means,”
Parker replied, his voice dull and his eyes lifeless -- OK, no pun intended. “You make it sound like you’re a travel agent.”
Aidan snorted. “Yes, we’re here to take you on a fabulous vacation to Greece.”
“I am kind of like a travel agent,” I said, shooting Aidan a withering glare. “I’ve got all your arrangements right here.” I tapped the file in my hand for emphasis.
“That’s a file on me?”
“It is,” I replied. “It’s all about your life.”
“It’s kind of thin.”
“It sure is,” Aidan agreed.
I kept my violet eyes trained on Stan’s face. “It’s not your whole life,” I said
, “just the highlights.”
“And lowlights,” Aidan added.
He was starting to grate, which I suppose is a brother’s job. Since Aidan and I were closer than normal siblings – that whole twin thing had bonded us a little too closely – our new working relationship was starting to strain the easygoing thing we’d had going for the twenty-five years since our birth.
“What lowlights?” Stan asked, his lower lip trembling.
“I don’t think they’re important,” I lied.
“I really like the one about you sleeping with your best friend’s wife,” Aidan said. “Then, when he confided his problems with the marriage, you pretended that he was imagining things until he started seeing a shrink.” He’d moved away from Stan and was busy studying his bedroom
, opening drawers and poking through the contents, something that was making Stan decidedly nervous.
“What are you doing? What is he doing?”
“Ignore him,” I said. “We should really get going, though. Aidan, bring the scepter over here.”
Stan’s eyes widened. “Is that like a magic stick to beat me with?”
“Why would you ask that?” Aidan seemed genuinely curious, until his bright purple eyes narrowed under the weight of sudden knowledge. “Is that what you’re into?”
“No! Who told you that? That’s not on the list, is it?” Stan tried to peer over my hand to see what had been written into his file.
“No,” I replied, although now I was curious
about what was buried in his file. I had read only the highlights. “Mr. Parker.”
“Call me Stan. We should be on a first-name basis, after all.”
“Stan,” I said, forcing myself to keep my voice pleasant. “We really need to get going. We’re kind of on a tight schedule today.”
“Collecting souls,” I explained, standing back up to my full five feet, six inches. My knees were beginning to ache from crouching.
“And this is your job?”
“It is now,” I said. “Unfortunately.”
Aidan grinned at me. “It’s not as easy as you thought, is it? It’s a lot harder than you gave us credit for.”
“I never said it was an easy job,” I argued. “I just didn’t think it was as action-packed as you made it out to be.” I glanced back down at Stan. “And I was clearly right.”
“They’re usually not this … whiny.”
“I am not whiny,” Stan said. “I’m going through a shock. I just found out I’m dead, and it wasn’t even a good death.”
“What’s a good death?” I asked.
“You know, running into a burning building and saving children from a fiery death,” Stan said. “Or pushing an old lady out of the path of a speeding bus. Or riding a supermodel until your heart just gives out.”
I glanced at Stan’s paunchy stomach and thinning hair and couldn’t help but think that all three of those scenarios were
very likely outside of his wheelhouse. “You can’t control your death – unless you want to kill yourself,” I explained. “And, if you do that, you don’t go to one of the better final resting places.”
Stan looked momentarily hopeful. “Am I going to Heaven?”
“Yes,” I said, glancing at his file again for confirmation. I frowned, though, when I saw where he was really going.
“That doesn’t look like I’m going to Heaven,” Stan said, his voice
rising an octave. “That looks like I’m going to the other place.”
Aidan leaned back on Stan’s bed
-- blocking my view of Stan’s body, which was thankfully buried beneath his plaid bedspread covers -- and waited for me to handle the situation.
“Define the other place,” I said
, taking a step so that I could again make eye contact with Stan.
“Define the other place? Define the other place? I don’t want to go to Hell
“Well, good news,” I replied, using my best faux tour director voice. “You’re not going to Hell.”
“I’m not?” Relief washed over Stan’s shaking body.
“Nope,” I shook my head emphatically. “You’re going to Purgatory. It’s an entirely different place.”
Stan looked shocked. “Purgatory? Isn’t that like limbo? Is that better than Hell? It certainly doesn’t sound as good as Heaven.”
He wasn’t wrong. “The good news is
, your file says you’ll only be there for fifty years.”
“Your file says you have a few things to work out,” I offered, hoping that my explanation didn’t sound as lame to Stan as it did to me.
“What does that mean exactly?” Stan pushed himself to his ethereal feet and placed his hands on his hips. I think I was getting a glimpse of his courtroom persona
, which was one of the reasons he was going to Purgatory.
… ,” I hedged.
“I want to know exactly what that file says about me,” Stan ordered.
“I’m not sure I’m supposed to tell you that.”
Aidan groaned from his spot on the bed. “Oh, just tell him. Otherwise we’re going to be here forever
, and I’m ready for lunch.”
I didn’t know how he could think about lunch with a dead body – and the traumatized spirit that belonged to that body – in the room. “Well, under your transgressions list you have quite a few entries.”
“Well, it says here you put fifteen witnesses on the stand even though you knew they were going to perjure themselves,” I replied.
Stan looked incensed. “I did no such thing!”
“Then there’s that whole sleeping with your best friend’s wife.”
“I went to confession for that!”
Aidan asked. “You have to go each time.”
Stan worried his lower lip with his teeth. “That wasn’t made clear to me. That’s not fair. I thought going once was a blanket confession that would absolve me of all of my sins.”
“Did you do the required penance?” Aidan pressed.
“Of course I did.” Stan was scandalized.
“That’s not what the file says. The file says you were supposed to say fifty Hail Marys, but that you didn’t say any of them.”
“The priest still absolved me of my sins,” Stan argued. “You can’t possibly be telling me that fifty Hail
Marys are standing between me and Heaven. I’ll do them right now, if that’s the case.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” I said.
“It also doesn’t count if you don’t do the penance,” Aidan shot back. “While you’re still alive, that is. Aisling, seriously, enough with this crap. Let’s just absorb him and go.”
“I want to speak to your superior,” Stan said. “You can’t be the last word on where my fate lies.”
“We’re not even the first word,” I answered. “We’re just grunts. The list comes from higher up and we just follow it. We’re really just the last word.”
“Higher up where?” Stan didn’t look convinced.
That was too long of a conversation for this particular moment. “Just higher up.”
“Well, I still want to speak to your superior.” Stan was adamant.
“We can arrange that,” Aidan said, getting to his feet. “You have to come with us, though, and then we’ll have to make an appointment for you.”
“And how soon can I get this appointment?” Stan asked, new hope flitting across his face.
“I think the current wait time is seventy-five years,” Aidan said. I had no idea whether he was telling the truth.
“Well, that’s not fair,” Stan complained. “I demand an immediate appeal.”
I glanced at Aidan, waiting for his response. His world-class charm obviously wasn’t working today.
“We can arrange that.”
“And how soon will my argument be heard?”
“I think the current time frame is eighty-five years,” Aidan replied. He was clearly bored with the direction of the conversation, his mind already focused on the hamburger in his future.
Stan’s mouth dropped open in horror. “So, you’re saying my only options are to go with you, climbing into some weird scepter of death and spending fifty years in Purgatory making up for my crimes or wait seventy-five years to plead my case?”
“Pretty much,” Aidan said, nonplussed
, “although, you don’t climb into the scepter.”
“That’s something, I guess,” Stan said, shuffling uncomfortably.
“The scepter just absorbs your soul,” Aidan added.
Terror flitted across Stan’s bland features. “Absorbs?”
“It’s not as gross as it sounds,” I offered.
“Oh, okay,” Stan said. “Um, just give me a second to get ready. It’s going to be fine. I’ll wake up in a few minutes and everything will be fine.”
“Of course.” Clearly my approach was getting us nowhere.
Stan started pacing
his apartment, stopping at each photo frame to give it a long gaze. I thought it was kind of sweet. He wanted to get a last look at his loved ones. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all?
Stan was completing his circuit, moving back toward the open bedroom door when he suddenly disappeared into the living room. I glanced at Aidan worriedly. “What do you think he’s doing?”
“He’s probably running,” Aidan replied, his disinterest evident.
“Shouldn’t we stop him?”
“He’s your charge,” Aidan reminded me. “I’m just here to supervise.”
“This sucks,” I grumbled, moving into the living room to make sure Stan didn’t try to run. I shouldn’t have worried. He was standing at the door of his apartment, trying to turn the door handle so he could escape into the hallway. He clearly didn’t realize that he could
simply walk through the door because he was stymied by the fact that his hand just kept moving through the handle harmlessly. That was a small favor.
I opened my mouth
in an attempt to talk him down once more, but Aidan shook his head to dissuade me. He was right – and I knew it. I sighed, pulling the sterling silver scepter – shaped like a snake with ruby red eyes (don’t ask) – out of my jacket pocket and pointed it at Stan.