|A World For A Secret by Beki Yopek|
I eyeballed The Reaper the way a death-fearing human wouldn’t. “What about your leg during The Battle of Amiens? You never mentioned you had surgery either.”
We entered The Reaper’s re-built office and he sat behind his new glass-topped desk. “I went to Abel Memorial Hospital in Eden. Bones are easier for them to rejuvenate than the whole flesh package.”
His modern vernacular was getting better. Or worse depending on whether you saw the obvious joke or not. I tossed my crimson hair, then wiggled my toes in their chemical-toed boots. “One toe is a lot easier to rejuvenate. How’d you get your leg back?”
“Myth Medicine. You?”
“I sat on my ass and chugged life force from motes for two weeks so it’d heal on its own. Didn’t you ever wonder why Contressa ran double shifts after Madrid?”
When The Reaper shook his head, the firelight LEDs overhead flickered and lent his shadowy skull even more shadows. “You are a responsible demon. I presumed Niariel helped you or you’d gotten surgery on your own.”
The old bag of bones respected independence. One reason I enjoyed working for him. I smirked. “I’ve only been to Heaven recently. Something about self-righteous angels and the SPD’s snobby attitude keeps me away usually.”
“Ah,” Reap replied. “Your new angel with benefits.”
Yep, his modern sensibilities were getting too fine-tuned. Reading subtext was now on his list of powers. I strolled over to the filing cabinets that lined both sides of his office and opened a drawer. Removing pen, paper, and folders, I took the bundle to the desk and sat in one of the chairs in front of it. “You and Nia are way too interested in him. What’s the deal?”
The Reaper waved the ebony bones of one hand at the bay windows behind him, where dozens of usher angels and banker demons ran fresh souls through The Soul Fountains below. “To use your own words, ‘There is only one angel I trust.’ Now there are apparently two.”
“Reap,” I drawled, dragging out the “e” sound for a couple seconds. “It’s Thursday. We just harvested from a million-plus city. You sure you aren’t strung out after Sydney?”
“Who are you talking to right now?”
Maybe having the old job-obsessed Reaper back would be better than the Reaper that’s come out since we started writing these Case Notes. I rolled my eyes. “Okay, okay. Maybe you’ll meet Terrence after we get done writing these things. Nia's got a surprise for you tomorrow, so don't wear yourself out too much."
I dropped the big point like a word bomb. "Seems to me you’re looking for whoever plots things out for The Pneuma Coalition.”
When The freaking Reaper stared at you with his mandible hanging low, it meant you’d genuinely stunned him. I pressed on. “You said The Motery Center or someone plots our cities and when to harvest from them. Last night you asked me to recall Madrid, and that was the night we discussed route plotting before Avarice sicced Jack Te-Konos and his infinite rifle spell on us.”
Nodding his skull, The Reaper rasped a dragon’s whisper. “Yes, Avaline, that is on my agenda, but do NOT write that. In fact, I confess I threw away your final page from last evening. Musings that seem true will mis-direct any Coalition members who catch onto what we’re seeking. I left those in.”
I cocked an eyebrow at him. “So you’re an editor now?”
The Reaper raised five black phalanges and counted off on them. “It is public knowledge that you detest cellular phones.”
“For a damn good reason, yes.”
“Rumor has spread at The Down South Lounge that we are training new bodyguards.”
“We shouted that one out to the whole floor of gamers there.”
He ticked off his last three bone digits. “We’ve been seen in a destroyed office more than once. It is known we don’t like being interrupted while you and I are alone here. And finally, no Seraphs have been seen here at the Motery Center since we began.”
I did the mental math and came up with an equation I hadn’t known The Reaper was balancing this whole time. “You conniving genius. We’re luring The Pneuma Coalition here. That’s why you wanted me and Nia to sneak in the ingredients last time. Once the mastermind in their ranks sees we’re ‘weak and vulnerable,’ they’ll come to this office themselves to try and end us while the SPD is ‘gone’ and no one’s paying attention.”
If The Reaper had lips, they’d be sliding up into a cheshire smirk. He purred, “And you thought your boss was angry yesterday for no reason.”
I snorted a laugh. “Hey, you got a hug from Nia. She’s genuine with those who are genuine with her. You were actually pissed.”
“Of course I was. I remain as angry as ever. If I had more time among harvests and writing with you, I’d be plotting a better system for harvesting souls."
It was the chilly office that made me shiver.
It wasn't the guilt digging itself up from the mental grave I'd buried it in.
The Reaper didn't seem to notice and he continued. "A system where the Seraph Police Department could keep The Coalition away from our souls indefinitely.”
Crossing my arms, I said, “Do you even want the brimvisibility for your own protection?”
The Reaper waggled his carpals in a yes-and-no gesture. “It is also a trap we may need to spring at a moment’s notice. Have the vials mixed and completed as soon as you are able. Now let us discuss November 9th and 10th, 1938.”
I raised the pen. “So we’re going over the Convictionists again, huh?”
“They gave rise to The Coalition according to you. This next historical event requires the eyes of someone who’s experienced in how they worked before The Industrial Revolution shook The Three Domains.”
Fear and embarrassment sparked a fire in me and I flinched. The Reaper had just proven he was an excellent planner. Had he read into my lies and reviewed the Case Notes when our shifts were over?
G-O-double-D I hoped not. No way was I going back to what I was before The Industrial Revolution. I’d die before that happened.