“Deal?” he questioned extending his dirty hand toward me. I reached out slowly waiting to see if he would take the hand back. Frank thought he had the upper hand, and in a sense he did. Until the final shake. What he did not know was that he was making a deal with the actual devil. Well, devil’s daughter. I took over the “family business” about two years ago. It was a little hectic at first, but I think I got the hang of it now. He gave me the final shake and looked around.
“That’s it?” Frank smiled a grossly yellow smile and took the disgustingly sweaty hand back taking one more look around the bar before finding my eyes again. When he let go I wiped my hand on my jeans and took in every filthy inch of him.
“I mean, yeah. We shook and the deal was made.” I turned to my half-empty glass of whiskey on the table and took a fairly large drink.
Before I could swallow Frank leaned on the table and asked, “You want to get out of here?” I almost choked on my drink and struggled to swallow before letting out a large and awkwardly loud laugh.
“Awe, Frank. That’s sweet, but… I’m already getting your soul. I don’t have any other reason to deal with you.” He stormed off and I signaled the bartender for one more. He brought it over to me smiling, and I gave him a wink.
“You’re bad for business.” He looked right at me and his silver eyes captivated mine for a moment before he turned back to the bar.
“I’m great for business.” I slammed the amber liquid and set the empty glass back down. “Just not yours.” He let out a low chuckle as I threw a hundred-dollar bill on the sticky wooden table, grabbed my things, and straightened my jacket. I blew him a kiss as I backed out the door. “See you Friday, Jer.”
The fresh air hit me like a ton of bricks bringing me back to reality, and then it hit me. I crinkled my nose at the smell of smoke that was coming from everywhere, and nowhere, at the same time. A piece of paper materialized right in front of me with the name Madeline Everness written on it. Her face flashed across my vision quickly. Blonde hair, blue eyes, thin cheeks, and sadness.
She knew I was coming.
I closed my eyes and pictured her again. I felt my body shift and transform, moving along the open air. I opened them as I was materializing and surrounded by smoke waiting for her to realize I had come to collect.
“I tried to be good.” She looked more broken than any soul I had come for before.
“I can tell.” The apartment had been lined with crosses. Bibles had been placed upon every shelf. She had tried to reclaim her soul. She had tried to get the piece back, but it had been broken away for keeping. The problem was that it was a part of the deal.
A piece of you for the wish.
In the end, there is no getting it back. Just surrendering the rest of yourself.
“I shouldn’t have done it.” A small sob left her as she lay on the floor looking up. Through me. She was speaking to my grandfather.
Something in me tugged tightly urging me to take her hand.
“One day, you will be free. You’ll find that freedom.” She finally saw me. Her eyes went ice cold upon direct impact with mine. “You could have more time on Earth you know. It won’t be like it was, and you cannot stay here, not the life you know now. I can give you a job.”
“A job?” Her voice cut through me with the harshness.
“I always need another reaper.” She did not say anything so I pushed a little further. “Help other souls get to where they need to be. Help you get that freedom.” Tears had begun to fall from her eyes as the weight of my offer hit her.
“Earn it, you mean.”
“Yes. Earn it.” She scoffed at the honesty I presented to her. She stared for what felt like hours before nodding. I put my hand over her heart and her new form stood next to me. Her body cooling on the floor.
“You are not like the man I made the deal with.” She eyed me warily.
“I am more like him than you know. I am definitely going to have to answer for this one though.” Her eyebrow quirked up silently asking questions. “Go.” Her mouth snapped shut. “You’ve got work to do.” She disappeared in a small spark and I cracked my neck needing to release the tension.
Not a minute after Madeline left the seal on my shoulder began to burn. I was being summoned home.
“Can’t right now dad.” I could feel the anger rippling through me when he sent it to my seal. My entire body shook with anticipation of the hellfire awaiting me when I returned home. The smell of smoke burned my nostrils and a paper appeared once again. “Duty calls.” I read the paper and felt myself mirror my father’s smirk. “Allison Page. I’ve been waiting two long years for this day.” A bit of excitement grew within me, and I snapped my fingers needing a more dramatic entrance for this quick and painless grab.
“The greed finally got to you Allison.” She sat there with a bullet through her chest and she let out that last breath. Looking at her and thinking of Madeline, I noticed there were no similarities whatsoever. Madeline had this innate good within her that I was not used to seeing. Something in her made me feel almost human for a moment. I felt the grief of someone losing themselves so deeply, but with Allison there was no feeling like that. I touched her wrist and took the spirit form of her arm throwing it through the floor and straight to Hell. I smiled feeling the burn of my seal lessen. Everything Allison had done to people like Madeline her entire life had me feeling a sense of duty and loyalty to the good ones. I did not ever think that I would sympathize with humans.
Dad never did.
Yet, I get it now.
Why emotions can be dangerous.
The next few days went on more like Allison and very far from the experience with Madeline. I was in my weekly routine when Friday rolled around. I pulled up to the Labyrinth feeling a small sense of relief. I had avoided going home since Madeline and have been working overtime to try and appease my father’s demands as his heir.
I walked up to the door and let the music take over my thoughts and I let it flow through me.
Jer smiled when I walked in and he moved around the hug for a quick hug. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and felt satisfaction in the jealous scoff from the random broad at the end of the bar.
“Trying to give someone a hint already? It’s not even ten o’clock.” He laughed and kissed my head before walking us to the corner of the bar top. He slid me my usual and pointed to the end of the bar where Frank was almost passed out.
The smell of smoke filled my nostrils and the paper appeared under my glass.
Jer looked through the glass and saw the name. His smile disappeared and he shook his head at me.
“Not in here.” I looked down at Frank and he was still breathing. I let my senses tune into the drunkard. Alcohol was filling every ounce of air he let out. I could smell it from where I stood. This man was not long for this world. He would do without a soul. He did not seem to possess one even with it. This was the type that dear old dad would love collecting. Simple. Stupid. Ready to be put to work. Frank was all of those things.
“No. Whatever happens will be soon, but it is not going to be in here.” Jer let out a slow breath and walked down to him. He was trying to kick him out and he had started a scene. Jer dragged him out knocking over stools and bumping into other customers apologetically on his way to the door. Frank let Jer direct him without much fight. Just a lot of clumsy drunkenness. When Frank got there his eyes hit me and he started screaming.
“You! You did this!” Everyone turned to look at me, and I got up to meet them outside. He was standing somewhat straight up. He was still yelling at me. Mostly nonsensical things. I turned and waved my hand turning off the cameras out front. I nodded to Jer and he lifted his hand holding it to his chest. The pure terror ran through the dirty drunk as the burning began and continued. Frank finally stopped screaming when he began to dissolve right in front of us. He no longer felt pain.
Well, not of the earthly variety anyway.
Once Frank was completely gone Jer turned back to me and gave me an irritated look. “Like I said bad for business.”
“Only for you.” He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and walked to the door holding it open.
“After you, boss.” I smiled as he walked me in, and everyone was back to normal within the walls as if nothing had happened. Jer did not make eye contact with me for a while. He was angry that I did not just bring my bargains to his door but my collections as well. He did not like to get his hands dirty unless it directly involved him. I sat there wondering why he always did what I needed without a fight. He used to pass things off when my father was up here. For me, he does anything.
It intrigued me. His being angry with me intrigued me.
I sat running through my thoughts of every moment in this bar with my favorite companion for a few hours. The crowd had eventually died down just before close except for a few lost souls.
My favorite kind.
“Girl at the end of the bar.” I pulled my attention from the lights meeting the condensation on my glass with the sound of Jer’s voice and thoughts. “You good, D?”
“Yeah.” I cleared my throat. “Yeah. Give me twenty minutes and we can get out of here.” He sent me a wink and gave me an extra shot to pass along. He was no longer upset with me. Just back to the Jer I knew so well.
“You look like you could use one of these.” The girl looked up and shrugged as I set the shot down. “It’s just tequila. My friend told me it has been your drink of choice tonight.”
“Thanks.” She took the shot, and I finished my whiskey. “I’m Lila.”
“Devia. Nice to meet you.” I shook her hand and spent the next fifteen minutes listening to her problems. She finally told me what she wanted. I did not hesitate to let her know I could make it happen. If she wanted to make a deal. Her hand shot out eagerly and a smile finally graced her features. Jer smiled and watched me with a small twinkle of pride in his eye.
“Deal.” With a shake of the hand, I knew I would see her again.
Author’s note: This piece is going to be part of a new story/novel! Just wait until you see what these characters have coming for them!