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.
Susan arrives at Mort's bar
The incessant buzzing in her ears began to fade even as Susan started to detect some light on the other side of her lids. As consciousness reasserted itself, so did memory. Susan wasn’t ready to remember the pain of what she’d been through at Esteban’s house. She squeezed her eyes tight against the encroaching light.
“You might as well open your eyes, Susan,” she heard Mort’s voice say. “We’re not at Estefan’s house anymore.”
Turning her face toward the sound of Mort’s voice, without opening her eyes, Susan asked, “Are we in a hospital? What hospital? Where?”
“We’re not in a hospital,” Mort replied with a tired chuckle. “If you’d go ahead and open your eyes, you’d see that you're sitting at a table in my bar.”
More of Susan’s awareness returned, and she realized she was indeed sitting in a hard chair rather than propped up in a hospital bed. She did a slow mental inventory of herself, searching for pain or some reminder of the wounds she knew she’d suffered in the fight to take down Esteban and free her friends. Susan felt nothing but the chair's hardwood under her butt and the leather-covered padding of the chair’s arms under her elbows. With great reluctance, she opened her eyes.
“Why am I in a bar and not in a hospital?” Susan asked. “The last I remember, I was shot up pretty badly.”
“I hate to break the news to you, Susan,” Mort said as he handed her the green bottle Ahn Su gave him, “but you died in the fight to collect Esteban and his men.”
Susan took the bottle. “Well, I expected to be dead, and I fully expected to go to hell after what we did, but I never expected hell to look like a corner bar.”
Mort shook his head, and Ahn Su laughed.
“Poor girl thinks she in hell, Mort. You better set her straight.”
Susan turned to look at Ahn Su. “Excuse me, but who are you?”
“I’m the bartender,” Ahn Su said. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“I’m sorry,” Susan replied. “Nothing is obvious right now. Am I having some sort of near-death delusion?”
Mort took the bottle Ahn Su offered him and sat down across the table from Susan.
“No, you’re having a post-death experience. You’ve been dead for quite a while. Your body was already flown back to the states. After your friends testified to how you helped them escape, the Texas Rangers made you an honorary Ranger and buried you with full honors.”
“You’re f…, f…, kidding me,” Susan said. “So, where are we exactly? From what your bartender said, I take it we’re not in hell. I seem to remember you saying you didn’t work for the, uh, person who runs hell.”
“Take a drink, Susan,” Mort encouraged the young lady. “Take a drink, and I’ll try to explain.”
“I don’t drink beer,” Susan complained, pushing the bottle away.
“What you want to drink?” Ahn Su asked as she wiped the bar.
Susan gnawed at her lower lip. “Right now, a nice glass of sweet tea would hit the spot.”
“You pick up the bottle and try it,” Ahn Su instructed Susan. “It’ll be the best sweet tea you ever tasted.”
Mort pushed the bottle back in her direction. “Try it. You might be surprised.”
Try it, you'll like it
Susan picked up the bottle and took a tentative sip. As the taste of the sweet tea hit her tongue, she nearly dropped the bottle.
“How?” she asked but didn’t wait for an answer. Susan upended the bottle and drained it.
“May I have another?” she asked.
“The one you have will never be empty,” Ahn Su told her. “Makes my job a boring job.”
Susan put the bottle to her lips once more and took a sip.
“Huh, I don’t know what to say.”
Mort said, “You just keep enjoying your tea, and I’ll try to fill you in on where we are and what we do here.”
When he finished, Susan was shaking her head. “Let me see if I have this straight. The life threads of my friends and me were going to end there in Mexico, so the Angel of Death sent you down to keep that from happening, but I still died because I decided to fight alongside you instead of leaving with my friends. Do I have that right?”
Mort shook his head. “Only your thread was going to end. You would have died trying to free your friends. They would have wound up being sold to the highest bidder and wound up as sex toys for cartel bosses until the bosses got tired of them and gave them to their men. Sam sent me down to make sure your friends escaped, Esteban and his men all went to hell for their sins, and to guide you here when it was over.”
Susan nodded. “So, you helped me save my friends, and now I’m here with you in your bar, and…what’s next?”
“As I explained, “Mort said patiently, “we will spend most of our time in prayer limbo repenting of our sins on Earth until we’ve put in enough time to go on to what most people down there call Heaven. You and I, however, have a chance to do some good on Earth by working for Samael and removing certain people determined to be beyond repentance.”
“People like Esteban,” Susan said. She took another drink from her bottle. “If I’m really dead, and this is really Purgatory, and I can work off my time here making things better down there by taking out the garbage, I’m all in.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Mort told her as he turned towards the door. “Because it’s time for your first mission.”
Gabriel came through the door just as Mort stopped talking.
“Ah, good,” Gabe said when he saw Susan sitting at the table. “You’ve decided to join us.”
Mort waved Gabe to a chair, and Ahn Su handed Gabe a bottle as he made his way to the table.
“Susan, this is Gabe,” Mort said by way of introduction. “He briefs us on our missions and lets us know why the target is a target.”
Gabe sat down and took a sip from his bottle. Mort looked at him and raised a brow.
“Sherry,” Gabe said. “Now, let me tell you about this mission.
Mort's story concludes in Chapter 22
- Soul Collector, Episode 22, the Boss Has a Message for Mort
Allysa greets Susan and Mort at the end of Susan's first mission with a message for Mort from the BOSS.
© 2021 DW Davis