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Soul Collector, Episode 22, the Boss Has a Message for Mort

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

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Oscar's got to go

“Oscar is a four-star son-of-a-B,” Gabe said. “His long-suffering wife is so afraid of him; she doesn’t dare go to the authorities. Old Oscar, he gets his jollies beating her half senseless and then raping her.”

“How did we get involved?” Susan asked. “Do we go around collecting every wife-beating husband we can find? If we did, we’d never lack for work.”

“Millie’s a special case,” Gabe explained. “She used to pray that Oscar would change. Then she prayed that he’d leave or die. Now she’s praying that she dies the next time he starts in on her. Sam decided if it stops her from damning herself by taking her own life, Oscar must go.”

“Then let’s go get him,” Susan said as she rose from her seat. “What are we waiting for?”

“Run Through the Jungle” faded even as the gray-white light that signaled a transition filled Mort’s bar. As John Fogerty’s dulcet tones gave way to the sound of waves washing lazily onto the packed sand Susan found under her feet as the fog cleared, the Apprentice Collector recalled Gabriel’s instructions concerning her first mission for Sam.

“To save Millie’s eternal soul, Oscar has got to go. Sort of poetic, wouldn’t you say Mort?”

Mort nodded but remained silent.

The fog cleared, but darkness remained. A salt tang in the air and the gentle spray blown from the waves against Susan’s skin confirmed what her ears and feet told her, she and Mort were walking on a beach. As Susan’s eyes adjusted to the dark, she could make out the lights of a pier just up the coast from where they’d come through.

Mort nudged her with his elbow. “Oscar is up there fishing.”

Susan wiped her hand on her cheek and, feeling the wetness there, realized it wasn’t just the spray. “It’s starting to rain. Will he stay out there if it keeps raining?”

Having noted the rain, and with the chill wind raising goosebumps on her arms, Susan thought it would be nice to have one of those yellow raincoats like the fisherman wear to keep her warm and dry. She’d not gone an additional step when she felt just such a coat wrap itself around her.

“How long will it take me to get used to that?” Susan asked Mort.

Mort looked at her, spotted the raincoat, and shrugged. “It’ll become second nature before you know it. As for Oscar, he’ll stay out there until his shift starts. He works third shift when he stays sober enough to remember to go to work.”

They reached the concrete steps leading up to the pier house.

“This must be a new pier,” Susan observed. “Aren’t most pier made of wood?”

“It got rebuilt after a hurricane knocked the wooden one into the ocean,” Mort replied.

Susan makes a splash

Susan stopped, sand grinding against the cement step under her Sketchers, and turned to ask Mort, “How’d you know that?”

Mort shook his head. “Remember who we work for, Susan. You could have gotten the answer to your question the same way you got your raincoat.”

“Oh,” Susan said, chagrined. She turned and continued up the steps.

Raw shrimp, hamburgers, coffee, and seawater assaulted Susan’s nose as she stepped through the door into the pier house. They didn’t linger long inside and were soon out on the pier itself.

Susan pulled the yellow rain slicker tighter across her chest. While it kept out most of the rain, the wind seemed unperturbed by the plastic-coated fabric and cut right through it. She looked at Mort in his black leather duster and thought, this weather doesn’t seem to bother him any. He did say that eventually, such things as hot and cold will stop bothering me, too.

Squinting through the rain, Susan spotted their objective. He was a large man. Even sitting on the bench, he looked to be at least six feet tall and well over two hundred pounds. Susan bit her lip as she contemplated why she and Mort were on the pier.

“Sam says he’s out of chances?” Susan asked Mort one more time.

“That’s why we’re here,” Mort replied evenly. “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready,” Susan said.

Holding the foam coffee cup steady in her hand, Susan walked up to Oscar and said, “Hi. I work in the snack bar and saw you sitting out here and thought you could use a cup of coffee.”

The man turned his head just enough to see Susan out of the corner of his eye. “I didn’t order no coffee.”

“It’s on the house,” Susan said. “Things are kind of slow right now,” she added, holding her hand up to the rain.

“Fine,” Oscar said, taking the cup. He lifted the lid and took a tentative sip. “Not bad. Now leave me alone and let me fish.”

Susan never understood why anyone would want to fish on a cold, miserable night like that, but by the time she and Mort disappeared into the pier house, the fish had one less fisherman to worry about.

Just as they reached the door to the pier house, the gray of transition enveloped them. A moment before they left Earth for Mort’s bar, Susan thought she heard a heavy splash.

A special message for Mort

Back at Mort’s bar, Susan and Mort clinked their bottles together to toast the successful completion of Susan’s first mission. Their celebration was interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected guest.

Mort’s eyes went wide when he saw who it was. “Alyssa, what are you doing here? Not that it’s not good to see you, but I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I’m here to see you, Mort,” Alyssa informed the Collector. “I’ve got a message for you from the Boss.”

Mort blinked and shook his head. “My boss or your boss?”

“Their Boss,” Alyssa answered. “The message is waiting for you outside the door. Why don’t you go see what it is?”

Mort looked at Susan, who shrugged and then at Ahn Su, who shook her head and pointed at the door.

Mort pushed back his chair, stood up, and walked to the door. In all his time in the bar, he’d never once opened that door himself. This time he did, and he was greeted by a child’s voice, a little girl’s voice.

“Hi, daddy! Mommy and I have been waiting for you!”

Mort stepped out the door and lifted Shannon off the ground. Lori stepped forward and put her arms around them.

“We’ve missed you, honey,” Lori said with tears in her eyes. “We’re so glad you’re coming home.”

The door closed, leaving Alyssa, Susan, and Ahn Su staring at it. When they looked away from the door, they found Samael standing at the bar with a green bottle in his hand.

“I’ve always been fond of Sam Adam’s Lager, but Mort was right, Molson Ale is a find drink, too.” He pointed his bottle at Alyssa. “Was he surprised?”

“Was he ever,” Alyssa said. “I’m sure Mort thought he’d be hanging out in this bar for a long time to come.”

“Once that little girl of his decided to go straight to the Boss’s Son and plead her case in person,” Samael said. “Well, who could say no to that face.”

Sam slid his gaze over to Susan. “Are you ready to take over this place?”

Susan came to attention and said, “Yes, sir, I am.”

Sam waved her back to her seat. “We don’t stand on ceremony around here, Susan. I imagine you’ll want to make some changes. I can’t imagine a dingy Boston corner bar is where you want to spend the next however long it’s going to be.”

“To tell you the truth, this place has kind of grown on me,” Susan said. “I don’t think I’ll change a thing.”

She walked over to the jukebox, and soon, John Fogarty’s “Centerfield” filled the bar.

“Put me in coach,” Susan said to Sam. “I’m ready.”

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© 2021 DW Davis

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