October 26th: By the time my employer and landlady Mrs. Vinchenzo got me out of the county clink it was after midnight. As always the penalty for needing to be bailed out was working a double shift at the pawn shop the next day. It should be noted that there is no depression that can't be made infinitely worse by spending your day helping folks hock their family heirlooms just so they can keep the power on.
Every hour or so I called the hospital to check up on Sara but there was nothing new regarding her condition. I was glad to hear that her family had shown up; her mother, father, aunt and two brothers were all taking turns at her bedside. It bothered me that I couldn’t be there too but by the time my double shift had ended visiting hours at Albany Medical Center were over.
I had no problems getting to Sara’s room the next day but my first meeting with her family didn’t go very well and by didn’t go very well I mean that her brothers beat the crap out of me. It turns out that Detective Bradshaw had stopped by to tell the Bishop clan all about yours truly.
Still though, if you’re going to get pummeled I can’t think of a better place to do it than a hospital. Since Sara’s room was off limits I stayed in the lobby holding an ice pack to my aching head. Sitting there I wondered what the Devil I was going to do next.
All things considered, it shouldn’t have been any surprise when Ashley Fowler showed up and asked me to follow her...
THE NIGHT BLOGGER:
The Graveyard Game
And Other Cemetery Plots
Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him
Al Bruno III
...even for a crazy redhead Ashley Folwer seemed dangerous that night. Was it the mostly black ensemble? Was it the fact she insisted to anyone that would listen she was Old Scratch? Or was it that she was having me follow her to the morgue?
As far as morgues go the one in the basement of Albany Medical Center was average, not too big, not too small and clean enough, if a little cluttered. It smelled like all morgues do- imagine the inside of a freezer packed with food that was just starting to spoil.
A security guard watched over the wide, chilly room; Ashely Fowler dismissed him with a wink and a fifty dollar bill. Then it was just me, ‘the Devil’ and a room full of chilled bodies. I decided it was best that I took the offensive, “You owe me an explanation.”
She grabbed the handle of one of the refrigerated cabinets, threw it open and slid out the table that held the body. “Check it out. Drunk driver, hit and run. Never caught.”
I stared at the body bag on the slab, it was pale white with a d-shaped zipper and convenient carrying handles. Modern body bags, like every other aspect of the mortuary industry, do their best to shield the viewer from the realization they’re seeing the one great inevitability of life. The damn things make it look like they’re full of dry cleaning instead of death.
Ashley Fowler pulled open another cabinet, frowned, then shut it again, “That one was a goody two shoes.”
“What are you doing?”
“Getting some deserving souls ready for the Mortician.”
“What mortician is going to show up at this hour?”
“Not A mortician,” she corrected. “THE Mortician. Capital M. Trust me you really don’t want to know.”
She was right, I didn’t. “What are we going to do about Sara?”
“We? We?” She rolled her eyes, “My instructions were simple, page under the idol, then apply flame, then run away. You screwed up that last one buddy boy.”
“That’s one-third of the thousand-faced moon still up and kicking. That’s like what? Three hundred and thirty-four moons? Rounding up of course,” she dithered a moment then opened a lower cabinet and slid out the drawer. She puzzled over the shape, running her fingers over the thick plastic.
“Do you have to-” I began.
“Police officer. Retired. On the take,” her grin became a frown, “Oh wait... She’s an atheist.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“She has to go to Atheist Hell.”
Of course I had to ask, “What’s Atheist Hell?”
“Heaven of course,” she slammed the cabinet door closed, “can you imagine it? An eternity of the Chosen and the Saved being smug to you. Give me fire and brimstone any day.”
“So,” I asked, “what do I do now?”
“Do? We do nothing. It’s out of our hands.” She pulled open another drawer and grinned, “A serial killer! I knew it. You know the best ones never get caught. This is a keeper.”
“It may be out of your hands but it isn’t out of mine. There has to be something I can do.”
“Nope,” she flung open another drawer and winced at what she found, “Ew! A Nickelback fan...”
Throwing all chivalry aside, I grabbed her and gave her a shake, “This is serious! I’m serious! Help me! You say you’re Satan? Fine. You want my soul? Fine. Let’s make a deal.”
There was pity in her eyes, “You know I can’t take what’s already spoken for. Sorry Brian, all you’ve got is sympathy from the Devil.”
“Fuck you,” I pushed her away. She blundered back against a metal gurney, “Fuck your bullshit.”
Then I turned around and stomped out of the morgue...
Dramatic exits aren’t my specialty and this one was no better than any of my others because it ended with me breaking into a run.
But what would you do if you suddenly heard the sound of bodies beginning to shift and squirm against thick plastic? If the cold air began to fill with breathless choking cries?
And lastly let me apologize to any Nickelback fans out there.
I'm sure the Devil listens to their music all the time.