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.
Tangler is Who You Want
Calvin looked up from the floor and nodded his head. "It wasn't my idea, though. Tangler made me do it."
"This Tangler runs your gang?"
Calvin hauled himself into a sitting position against the back wall. "We ain't so much a gang as a business. Yeah, Tangler runs the business."
"Where can I find Tangler?"
Calvin looked around the bathroom as though expecting help to appear. When it became obvious none was coming, he sighed and said, "Tangler don't never get up before noon, but when he do finally get up, you can find him at the burger joint at the corner of Elm and Slocumb. He distributes from there. Even the popo don't go down there unless someone calls, and no one ever does. We deal with our own trouble."
Mort helped Calvin to his feet. "You've been most cooperative, CVR. There's only one more thing I need you to do for me."
Calvin swallowed hard and asked, "What's that?"
Mort pointed at one of the working toilets. "Flush all the product you have on you and stay away from Tangler for a couple of days."
Calvin stared at the prod Mort still held at the ready. Then he reached into his pockets and emptied all the dope he had into the toilet before pushing the handle. "Tangler's gonna kill me dead," Calvin moaned as he watched several hundred dollars’ worth of drugs disappear into the plumbing.
"Stay out of sight until tomorrow, and you'll never have to worry about Tangler again," promised Mort.
A Shot in the Back
Finding Tangler was easy. Talking to him wasn't going to be so easy. A posse of six to eight thugs constantly circulated around him keeping the curious away.
Tangler was a big man. He looked to be about six-one and at least three hundred pounds, none of it muscle. The big man definitely loved his burgers and fries. Mort watched him for four hours and his gopher - a scrawny young lady who looked thirty but was probably not a day over thirteen - ran into the restaurant at least three times to bring Tangler some food and drink.
After watching countless boys and girls Calvin's age and younger approach Tangler's high-end SUV to exchange brown bags full of money for similar bags full of product, with no effort made to try and hide what they were doing, Mort decided the bold approach would be the best approach. He left his perch on the roof of a nearby building and walked right up to Tangler's SUV. Two of his thugs tried to stop Mort and wound up Tased and unconscious on the asphalt. A third drew his gun and met the same fate.
"Call off your muscle Tangler. I just want to talk for now."
Tangler waved his hand at his remaining guards and they holstered their weapons.
"Do I know you, white man? Are you a cop? Or do you just have a death wish?"
Mort smiled as he stepped closer to the big man. "A death wish, now that's funny."
"I'm glad you appreciate my sense of humor," Tangler said. "Now explain to me why I shouldn't just have my men shoot you."
Mort stood very close to Tangler. "By all means, tell them to open fire. Or better yet, tell the man standing behind me to go ahead and shoot me in the back."
Tangler looked over Mort's shoulder. "Here's your chance Lil Lou. Pop a cap in this white man for me."
Lil Lou's gun went off. Mort felt the weird sensation he always felt when bullets or shrapnel passed through him. Tangler was still laughing as the bullet struck him in the chest just left of the sternum between the fourth and fifth ribs. As he watched the life leave Tangler's eyes the world around Mort started to go gray.
Mort Gets Sent to the Office
When his vision cleared, Mort found himself sitting in an office waiting room. An androgynous person sat behind the receptionist desk. The nameplate on the desk identified him/her/it as Bailey.
"Excuse me, Bailey, where am I and why am I here?"
Bailey didn't look up from whatever it was on the desk that had his/her/its attention. "He'll be ready to see you in just a moment, Mr. Talley."
Mort slid forward in his seat. "Who will be ready to see me and about what?"
Bailey rolled his/her/its eyes. "Is this your first time in the office, Mr. Tally?"
"Until this moment I had no idea we even had an office," Mort admitted. He sat back in his chair. "I should have expected we did though. Every organization has someone sitting in an office somewhere making decisions."
Bailey replied in his annoyingly even tone. "I'm not an expert on cynicism. We don't entertain such frivolities."
"Who is we, anyway, Bailey? I take it you're not one of us. Who, or what, are you?"
Before Bailey could answer Mort's query a strange look came over his/her/its face. He/She/It turned his/her/its head to stare at Mort and said, “You may go in now."
Mort rose from his chair and met Bailey's stare. There was no recognition in the other's eyes. In the wall behind Bailey a door opened. Mort moved around Bailey and through the door.
Mort didn't know what to expect when he walked in the door to whoever’s office it was he'd been summoned to. The waiting room reminded Mort of a Department of Motor Vehicles office waiting room. The office he walked into resembled a private detective's office as depicted by Hollywood in an old black and white Sam Spade movie.
The person behind the desk looked up when Mort walked in. "Have a seat Mort. I don't stand on ceremony."
An Angel and a Dead Man Walk into a Bar
The nameplate on the desk simply read - Samael, AOD.
Mort looked at the two chairs in the room. Both were laden with file folders.
"Just brush those off on the floor," Samael said, waving a hand at the chairs. “There's not anything in those files anyhow. They've just for show." He held both hands out to take in the office. "What do you think of the place? Does it make you want to go in search of the Maltese Falcon?"
Mort cleared off a chair and sat down. "If Sam Spade's office is what you were going for, then you nailed it. Is it always like this, or did you do it up special for me?"
Samael cleared his throat. "Believe it or not, I'm a big fan of earthly film noir."
A chuckle escaped Mort's lips. "You are the Angel of Death, right? Samael?"
Samael grew serious. "Yes. I am he. That doesn't mean I'm bloodthirsty. I'd love nothing more than only to escort those who die of old age and natural causes from earth to Purgatory. Did you ever see the movie about me called MEET JOE BLACK? That's the kind of Angel of Death I'd rather be. I never will be, though, not while those people down there have free will and want to use it to condemn themselves from moving up. Nope, as long as they keep doing what they're doing, you and I will have to keep doing what we're doing."
Samael rose to his feet and came around to the front of his desk. "What do you say we get out of here? We've got a lot to talk about, you and me, and this isn't the place to do it?"
Mort followed Sam out the door into the waiting room, only it wasn't a waiting room any longer. The two beings, one the Angel of Death and the other a soul doing his time in Purgatory, walked into a bar. Mort stopped just inside the door and scanned the place. There was something eerily familiar about it, yet Mort was sure he'd never set foot in the place before. Judging by the sports paraphernalia on the walls, Mort guessed it was a bar somewhere in Boston.
Samael took a seat at the near corner of the bar and motioned for Mort to take the stool just around the corner. Mort chanced one more look around before joining his boss.
"What are you drinking?" an aged bartender who looked suspiciously familiar to Mort asked the two of them.
"Make mine a Sam Adams Lager, Coach," Samael said. "How about you, Mort?"
"Make mine a Molson Golden," Mort requested.
Once the bartender left to get their drinks, Samael lightly punched Mort on the shoulder and said, "What do you think of the place? It's just like the bar in the show, right?"
At Samael's mention of a show, it dawned on Mort where they were. "So, a guy named Sam drinks a beer named after a guy named Sam in a fictitious bar fictitiously owned by an old ballplayer named Sam."
Samael laughed. "I always thought it poetic."
The bartender returned with their drinks. Mort tried a sip of his. Sure enough, it tasted like Molson Golden Ale.
Samael took a long pull from his bottle and then set the bottle lovingly on the bar before saying, "Enough small talk Talley. Let's discuss your last mission, or, more importantly, your next."
Mort's story continues in Episode 17
- Soul Collector, Episode 17, Rescue and Recruitment
Mort is sent to recruit a new collector, but to do so, he must rescue her friends.
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