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Soul Collector, Episode 14, A Tricky Mission


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.


Gabriel walked into Mort’s bar and took a seat at the only table.

“You want something to drink, Gabe?” Ahn Su asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Gabriel replied.

Ahn Su didn’t have to ask what Gabriel wanted to drink, nor did Gabriel have to tell her. The green, unlabeled beer bottle would contain whatever beverage Gabriel desired most at that moment. Usually, it would contain tea, Earl Gray, hot. Not this day.

Mort appeared at the bar about the time Ahn Su set Gabriel’s bottle on the table.

“What have you got for me this time, Gabe?”

Gabriel took a long pull from his bottle. Mort’s eyes went wide watching Gabriel drink.

Gabriel set the bottle down and said, “Guinness Stout, not Earl Gray. I’ve got a strange one for you this time.”

Taking the bottle Ahn Su handed him, Mort joined Gabriel at the table.

“What’s so strange about it?”

“The target is a high school teacher who’s been selling drugs to his students. He’s married, with a son in college and a daughter in private school. They have no idea he’s been selling dope to his students. Needless to say, the private school the daughter attends isn’t the one where this teacher works and deals.”

“What kind of dope is he selling that he’s a target?”

“Crack, mostly. But it’s how he’s cutting it that’s the problem. Three kids have already died from it. In a school of over two thousand students, most of whom are inner city, from the projects, that type of background, three dead junkies among the student population doesn’t raise many eyebrows. The thing is, this jerk is poisoning some of his product on purpose.”

“So, he gets the kids hooked, and then he treats them to a one-way trip.”

Gabriel took one last swallow of his drink. “This might be a long-term mission, Mort. It can’t be a go in, take him out, and come home deal. Sam wants you to make sure this guy is really so far gone he doesn’t deserve a chance to make it back.”

Mort stared at his bottle as if looking for an answer in the green glass. “Since when doesn’t Sam know for sure before he sends one of us down?”

“There’s a first time for everything, Mort. And Sam must trust your judgment if he’s sending you down to decide for yourself.”

“I’m flattered,” Mort quipped. “What if I get it wrong?”

“You won’t,” Gabriel assured him. “When decision time comes, you’ll know.”

“Yeah. I hope you’re right about that. We’re talking about the guy’s eternal soul here.”

“Look on the bright side,” Gabriel said. “If you’re wrong, he’ll just wind up here with us.”

“I’m sure that’ll be great news for his widow and orphans.”

Custodial Advantage

When Mort’s eyes cleared, he found himself in a mop closet. Instead of his trusty duster and boots, he was wearing a blue coverall and steel toed work boots. He glanced down and saw an ID card hanging on a lanyard around his neck. It identified him as a custodian at South Central High School.

Mort glanced at the door and saw a list of daily assignments. Apparently, Mort was assigned to the wing of the school his target taught in. Attached to the list of assignments was a note with his name on it.

Mort, as you may have noticed, you're a high school custodian for this mission. I forgot to mention that. The advantages of being a custodian are many. Access to all parts of the school at nearly any hour is one of them. The chance to work at after school events and games is another. Mostly, a custodian is practically invisible. Keep your eyes and ears open. You might be surprised what students tell each other in the halls and bathrooms.

Mort looked over the equipment and supplies in the closet. As he examined each item the knowledge of where, when, and how to use it came known to him. Such were the perks of working for an angel two steps removed from the throne.

The first item on Mort's list of chores was to check the Boys and Girls Restrooms for Cleanliness and completeness of supplies. Mort examined the contents of his custodial cart and noted that everything he should need to accomplish his first chore was already on the cart.

"I wonder if I'll have to resupply or if the stuff I need will just appear on the cart when I need it."

The list of chores showed Mort he was to start his first at six in the morning. Mort looked at his wrist. The low-cost digital watch that appeared there showed 5:58.

"No time like the present," Mort said aloud before opening the closet door and pushing his cart into the hallway

Girls Restroom

The student restrooms were conveniently located immediately to the left of the custodians' closet-halfway along the hall. Across the hall from the student restrooms a short side-hall led to the teachers' workroom and staff bathrooms. This floor of this wing was the Humanities hall. There were English classrooms, Social Studies classrooms, and a foreign language classroom.

Though the school was only five-years-old it already wore a dinghy, rundown, uncared-for patina. Only half of the lockers sported locks. Several were zip-tied closed. One many others the handles hung at odd angles and on some the doors wouldn't close correctly. More than a few sported graffiti and gang sign.

Mort shook his head and wheeled his cart into the Girls Bathroom. Of the three sinks, one was cracked, one was pulled away from the wall, and the drain on the third was stuffed with paper towels. There were no mirrors. There were holes in the wall showing where mirrors once hung.

The stalls, there were five of them, had no doors. Mort didn't want to think about why the stall doors had been removed. Two of the toilets had duct tape crossed over the bowls and Out-of-Order signs posted on the back wall. One of those toilets was completely disconnected from the inflow pipe. Mort looked up and noted several of the drop ceiling panels over that stall were missing.

The three operating stalls looked like they hadn't been properly cleaned in a long time. Mort pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and went to work.


Boys Restroom, Staff Room

The Boys Bathroom wasn't in any better shape than the Girls Bathroom. The difference was the smell. It was a smell long familiar to Mort. Every Men’s Room in every seedy bar Mort had been in around the world smelled basically the same-a stale mix of crap, pee, vomit, and cigarette smoke. The faint tinge of cigarette smoke in the high school Boys Room didn't surprise Mort. Neither did the unmistakable odor of marijuana. He'd noticed both smells in the Girls Room, too.

As he had in the Girls Bathroom, Mort cleaned the Boys Room as best he could. His best was better than most. Then again, he could draw on resources not found in your average custodial supply catalog.

Mort's second task of the morning was to clean the staff bathrooms and workroom. He was grateful to find the staff bathrooms much cleaner than the student bathrooms. Cleaning them didn't take long.

The staff workroom doubled as a staff lunchroom. The coffeemaker, toaster oven, and microwave were clean and well maintained. The refrigerator, while very possibly an antique, was also clean inside and out. All Mort had to do was sweep and mop the floor and empty the trash.

While he was cleaning the workroom, Mort looked through the contents of the fridge and the cabinets for anything belonging to his target. He found nothing out of the ordinary. He hadn't expected to. Mort's memory of his years as a detective on the Boston PD wouldn't let him leave the workroom without checking despite being sure he'd find nothing.

Mort's story continues in Episode 15.

© 2021 DW Davis

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