I folded both wings in tight and caught my reflection in The Reaper’s office door. Cherry red hair, dark skin, horns, scaly wings, and a smirk shone back at me. The gray pinstriped blazer and crimson blouse I wore hung off me like a sweaty martial artist’s uniform, the way they always did after a shift. I needed a change of clothes and a Sin and Tonic, but when The Reaper calls for you...
Shoving the door open, I strode in and crossed a dimly lit, ultra-modern office with deep wood flooring and file cabinets along the walls. Bay windows at the back let the city’s lights fall on the being facing me in the middle of the office, a being composed completely of shadows. His skull, hands, feet, and his ram’s horns were the kind of black that rippled behind you in a nightmare. The hood of his brown robe was down, and his voice was the grinding of stones when he spoke. “Ava Vasaga. You stuck to the plan and unloaded the souls from today’s shift early.”
I crossed my arms. “It might be Monday, but I plan to kick demons‘ asses every day. They try to steal your souls, they get dead, courtesy of me. Do you need me for more than martial arts and magic?”
The Reaper tilted his head and said, “Are you ready to search my memory?”
“Ah, so you want to bounce some ideas around.”
He waved a bony hand toward the glass-topped desk behind him, where three chairs stood facing a fourth with a high back and carvings around the edges. The Reaper rounded the desk and seated himself in the carved-out chair, then produced a moleskin journal and a pen from a drawer.
I pulled out the middle seat across from him and raised one eyebrow. “A set of files would be easier. Haven’t you written before?”
The Reaper drummed his bone fingers against the desktop.
I snorted. For him, harvesting souls with an iconic scythe was easier than gripping a pen. In two strides I was digging in a file cabinet, and in two more I was sitting in the middle chair, holding blank writing paper, a stamp, and a stack of manila folders. “I’m not a journalist. Are you sure you don’t want this done by a professional?”
He pointed at me. “You are one. A bodyguard’s perspective will help me dig up what I want.”
Snagging the pen and clicking it, I said, “Which is?”
“What I want is for you to start writing. The scythe is locked away for now, and the other bodyguards will arrive soon. Every day after your shift, we meet here. I speak, and you write.”
So he didn’t want his other bodyguards to know. Know what? That he was writing an autobiography? That he was meeting me in secret? That he had a senior’s memory?
The Reaper leaned forward in his carved-out chair. “We may need to leave here on occasion and meet at a more private location. One I am not known to frequent. Do you know of such a place?”
I brushed back some hair with one hand. “A few. Sounds like you’ve got something sneaky in mind.”
“Obfuscation is always a benefit when it comes to our job.”
That was true enough. When it came to harvesting souls, we rotated schedules and wove different magic into each shift. Hence the need for multiple bodyguards. The less The Reaper’s enemies could expect, the better.
“I will cast around for different memories I feel are crucial,” The Reaper rasped. “They won’t be in order.”
“Good thing I’m not writing your biography then.”
“The case notes don’t need to be grammatically correct, nor from my point of view.”
I bit back a joke about calling me ‘Professor Ava’ and said, “The facts matter most.”
“So do my enemies and their movements, among a great many things. Can you do this?”
Better not let The Reaper down. I twirled the pen between my fingers. “Whenever you’re ready, I’m listening.”