“I’m afraid things don’t look good,” I said, laying out the paperwork on the glass of the low table. Death sat across from me, stolid, leaned back in the leather chair. Smoke poured out from the dark depths of his cloak’s hood from the Malboro he was smoking.
“I hired you because you’re the best,” said The Reaper. “You gotta fix this for me. I’m busy. I’ve got work to do. I don’t have time to put up with this bullshit.” His voice was low and dark. He scared the shit out of me but I knew what I was getting into when I took this job – and the payoff was going to be tremendous if I could pull it off.
“I’m aware,” I said. I took my pen out of my jacket’s inner pocket and clicked it. “But they have a strong case against you. They have all your paperwork, your tapped emails from after they got the warrant, and record of all your phone calls – including the 2 AM ones with your insurance agent and those with your ahem associate from uptown New York.”
“Those could be anything.” Death ashed his cigarette in the brass tray on the table. “How is that a strong case?” He leaned back in the chair again.
“Are you even listening to me?” Careful, Morris. Think about who you’re dealing with. “Death, think about how these things look. You know, not just evil but the appearance of evil? It all looks fishy. If they get the legal clearance to get the recordings of your phone conversations we’re dead in the water.”
“Whatever,” Death said dismissively. He lit another cigarette and it disappeared into the blackness of his cowl in his bony hand. I could see the red ember glowing in the darkness.
“Those things will kill you, you know. ” He blew smoke across the table and into my face. “Death, this is serious. You’re on trial for insurance fraud.”
“I’m aware,” his voice became harder. Another cloud of smoke from beneath the hood. “It’s a white collar crime. Even if they prove I’m guilty, what are they going to do? Slap me with a fine? 5 years probation?”
“Death,” I was becoming agitated. My neck felt hot beneath my tie. “We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars here. You took out insurance policies on thousands of people and then were the instrument of their demise by the ways that paid you out the most. How could you be so reckless? If we don’t get a not guily verdict they’re going to throw the book at you.”
He chuckled. “Let them try.”
“Death, you will go to prison,” I said, trying to impress the gravity of the situation on him. He was such a child. So impetuous. So careless. “For life.”
“I doubt it.” More smoke from beneath the hood.
“You will. And do you know what that is for you?”
“What?” I heard concern in The Reaper’s voice for the first time.
“Eternity. You’re immortal. You’ll be in prison for the rest of time. Who will keep humanity in order? Who will collect the souls of the dead?”
“They won’t convict me,” Death said, assured of himself. “They wouldn’t dare. And it doesn’t even matter if they do. I got a guy to cover for me.”
The stupid ghoul wasn’t even looking at the paperwork. I gathered it up into my attaché.
“Look, if you’re not going to take this seriously, I’m going to go. My time is valuable too you know.” I got up from the seat, fuming.
“Suit yourself,” Death blew more smoke into the cold air of the room. “I’ve got other lawyers.”
I left the room, my mind spinning. Death was the hardest client I’d ever worked with. I took the elevator down to the open high-ceilinged lobby and walked out toward the revolving door. My phone vibrated in my pocket. As I walked through the door, I saw my new text message:
DEATH: Pleasure working with you
I felt cold. I stepped out of the door and looked up straight above me, just in time to see the falling piano.