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Soul Collectors Episode 11, A Cozy Bar in Boston

Author:

DW, an Army vet, has published 9 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.

The Soul Collector, because some people don't deserve a chance at redemption.

The Soul Collector, because some people don't deserve a chance at redemption.

A Cozy Bar in Boston

As the door closed behind Hank, the interior of the one-room cabin went out of focus. Mort felt disoriented for a moment until the room began to reappear. When it did, Mort discovered he was no longer in Hank’s one-room cabin. Instead, he was sitting at a table in the little neighborhood bar back in Boston he’d always thought about buying someday when he retired from the police force.

The bar was complete, right down to the pinball machine and shuffle bowl game in the corner. In his hand, where he’d been holding Hank’s whiskey bottle, Mort found a green beer bottle instead. The bottle had no label, but Mort knew what it was supposed to be.

A door behind the bar swung open, and a middle-aged Asian woman came out and stood behind the bar.

“How do you like the place?” she asked Mort.

“If this is where I’ll spend my time in Purgatory, I can live with that,” Mort told her. “In a manner of speaking.”

The woman laughed. “I’m Ahn Su. I get to spend my time in Purgatory as your bartender. Hah, I was a bartender in life, too. I hope I don’t wind up tending bar in heaven. That would be hell.”

“You probably just earned yourself a little extra time here for that,” Mort scolded.

Ahn Su snorted. “Maybe I did. Maybe not. I’ve heard the boss has a sense of humor.”

The bar started to go out of focus.

“Looks like you got no missions right now, odoshi. Back to limbo, we go.”

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Several Missions Later

Mort’s vision cleared, and he was slowly able to focus on the green beer bottle on the table in front of him. As had become his habit, he lifted the bottle and took a long drink of the elixir it contained. Hank had explained to him that it was just water - Holy Water according to Hank - but to Mort, it tasted like ice cold Molson Ale.

“Looks like you got another job,” Ahn Su said from behind the bar. “Wonder where you gonna go this time?”

Mort turned around and watched Ahn Su polishing the bar. After at least a dozen missions it was all she’d ever done. No one ever came into the bar except Gabriel, and he never took a drink while he was there. Mort’s bottle never came up empty, so Ahn Su never had much else to do.

Maybe having a boring job is part of her penance, Mort thought to himself.

Every time he tried to get her to open up about herself, Ahn Su would just tell him she’d had a dull life, and it wasn’t worth the telling. He’d given up after the first few tries.

“I hope it’s nothing like your last job. You came back pretty upset from that one,” Ahn Su noted. “You never tell me who you send down that time.”

“And I probably never will,” Mort said, standing and walking to the bar. “Or maybe I will when you tell me your story.”

“Ha! Then I guess I never get to hear about it,” Ahn Su said. “You need another beer?”

Ahn Su asking Mort if he needed another beer had become an ongoing joke between them.

“Nah, I’m still working on this one,” Mort replied with a grin.

“You let me know when you need another, and I’ll set you right up.”

Mort laughed, as he always did. As far as he knew there were no more bottles in the beer cooler behind the bar, nor kegs attached to the taps. Mort had never even seen Ahn Su take a drink of any kind. The more he thought about that, the more curious he became.

“Why don’t you help yourself to one?” Mort gestured around the empty room. “And I’m sure the manager won’t object.”

“About time you offered,” Ahn Su said. She reached into the beer cooler and pulled out another green bottle. “I hope this don’t taste like maekju.”

She popped the top, flicked the bottle toward the sink so that the top bit of liquid in the bottle flew out, and took a tentative sip. A smile spread across her face. Ahn Su took a longer drink.

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Grape Oscar and a Visit from Gabriel

“Ah,” sighed Ahn Su, “grape Oscar, my favorite.”

“Grape Oscar, the Korean wine?”

“You know about Grape Oscar? Then why you drink that pi…maekju, beer.”

“This isn’t beer, it’s an ale,” Mort said as he held his bottle up to the light. He set his bottle on the bar. “Did you have to wait until I offered you a drink before you could have one?”

“No, but I wanted to wait and see how long it took you to ask. You took lot longer than my last boss.”

Mort rubbed his chin. “So, this isn’t the first bar you’ve worked in?”

Ahn Su took another long pull from her bottle. “Ah, that’s good.” She looked at Mort. “I been here a while. Had a couple of other jobs. The last guy, he a collector, too, but he works for Michael. His job was to go down when someone thread about to end in very painful way. He takes soul before pain of death set in. Sometimes he come back very upset. I think his job may be harder than yours.”

Before Mort could ask any more questions, the door to the bar opened, and Gabriel came in. He was wearing the same white Panama suit and hat Mort had always seen him in. Mort looked down at his own attire. It was the same black jeans, dark red and black flannel shirt, and biker boots he’d been wearing the night he crossed over. He knew his hat and duster would appear as soon as he arrived on site for his mission.

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Mort’s Next Mission

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

Gabriel looked worriedly at Mort. “Why don’t we sit down?” He took off his hat and looked at Ahn Su. “I would like a drink, if I may.”

Mort and Ahn Su exchanged a puzzled look. “Get the man a drink, Ahn.”

Ahn Su pulled another unlabeled bottle out of the beer cooler and handed it to Mort. Mort walked over to the table, gave the bottle to Gabriel, and sat down.

“I’m guessing there’s something different about this mission,” Mort conjectured as he sat down.

Gabriel picked up the green bottle and took a careful sip. Mort observed as Gabriel seemed to return to his usual detached state.

“Early Gray, hot, as one of your television actors used to say,” Gabriel commented as he set the bottle down.

“Is that what you get when you drink from the bottle?” Mort asked. “Hot tea?”

“When it’s what I need. Sometimes it sherry.”

Mort tilted his head and considered Gabriel carefully. “It’s always been the same for me.”

“Have you ever wanted something different, or had you begun to anticipate what you were going to taste each time?”

“I guess I hadn’t thought about it. You’re right. I just began to anticipate getting an ale.”

Gabriel gave a superior nod in Mort’s direction. “There you have it then.”

Mort tapped impatiently on the table. “What’s special about this mission?”

“Did you know your sister’s youngest son had joined your United States Marines?”

Mort’s eyes narrowed. “No, how can he be old enough? I haven’t been here that long, have I?”

After another careful sip of his tea, Gabriel told Mort, “Time doesn’t work up here as it does down there, you understand that, do you not?”

“Yeah, I guess I do. But what does that have to do with my nephew?”

“Your nephew is in Iraq. I am sorry to have to tell you, but his threads are about to terminate.”

Mort flinched as if someone had stabbed him. “And there’s not a da…a thing I can do about it, so why tell me?”

“You are being assigned to collect him,” Gabriel informed Mort.

Mort started to get out of his seat. “Are you telling me Sam has decided my nephew…”

“Calm down, Mort. That is not the situation at all.”

Soul Collectors continues in Episode 12

© 2019 DW Davis