Alvia lived in a two story suburban house with a manicured garden, and walls recently painted white. It was the kind of house a person would raise 2.5 kids in with a medium sized dog, and a husband with a boring managerial job.
It was the kind of house where the husband would come home after a long day of work, and finds his wife cheating –
“It’s not going to be a husband; she doesn’t have one,” Anna said.
“Plenty but she schedules them well.”
“We wouldn’t be here for a gas leak.”
“Come on help me figure out this murderdeathkill,” I ask.
“Your goal is within your grasp if you have the courage to reach for it,” she replied.
“What?” I ask looking over to see she had just read a fortune cookie, “Oh you are useless.”
“Yeah, and this slip has the foxes symbol on the back. I think they run the Chinese place.” Anna replies, “so much for avoiding them at the Japanese place.”
“Don’t resturants order those in bulk, the foxes probably own the company that makes them,” I say.
“That thought is going to nag at you isn’t it?” Anna asked.
I decide to ignore her, and go back to watching the house across the street, almost time for Alvia to die, and nothing was happening, unless it was going to happen tomorrow night.
Light in what I assumed the bedroom window made me think she was still up and reading or something.
“Oh hey, it’s Erik,” Anna said looking down the street.
I followed her gaze and saw only a large shaggy dog walking down the sidewalk. It looked up at us, and I recognized it as the dog from earlier burning red eyes and all.
“What is Erik?” I asked.
“A red-eyed-dog, psychopomp. They specialize in the souls of those who’s eyes are too big for their own good.” She answered, “his human form is cute, bit older than me.”
“Is he the guy you went to meet earlier?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she answered.
“Should I -”
“Don’t you dare talk to him, he’s nice,” Anna growls.
As much as I might have enjoyed threatening any boys that went near Anna, I didn’t know what to threaten the kinds of boys that could interact with her with. They all would even have stable jobs, even if those jobs involved the souls of the dead.
Erik for his part seemed to go to sleep on Alvia’s porch with a sigh. Leaving everything still and silent again. I figured with Erik here we probably had the right night, but I still couldn’t see a cause of death.
“In seriousness Anna, nothing is happening. Do psychopomps even bother with heart attacks, because that’s the only threat I see to her right now,” I ask.
“Heart attacks can be violent so sometimes, but she’s going to die, and one of us will need to be there. Any one of us could smell it around the block,” Anna answers.
“You can smell an upcoming death?”
“Yeah, it’s weird something unusual is going to happen.”
“Well, it has seven minutes to do its thing.”
“That it does,” Anna said looking at me, I felt something click in the back of her head as she figured it out, taking a minute I figured it out too.
“Hey, Anna you said she was a murderer right?”
“You died about four weeks ago?”
“You were something of a rising star, probably would have gained a lot of power, potentially taking it away from the main family,” I ask.
“Something like that,” she answered.
“Wait for a couple of minutes and follow me in will you?”
“Sure Corvid, I’ll follow you.”
I grabbed a roll of duct tape from the glove compartment before getting out of my car. I had been setup; Santa had apparently lied there was no way he didn’t know what was about to happen. Anna oddly enough hadn’t known, the only other person in on it might have been V who’s car I saw parked at the end of the block.
I stepped over Erik to get to the door; it was one of the ones with a bunch of small glass panels. Covering over one with duct tape I was about to break it when Erik spoke up.
“You go in like that she’ll hear you coming.”
I circled the top button of my jacket, “thanks, you were in on this?”
“Well no, but we all knew it was going to happen. Anna seems nice, so I figured I’d stick around to see how things turn out,” he answered.
I broke through the glass pane with the butt of my shotgun using it to break away any residual glass I reached through to open the door. It was a beautiful place hardwood floors modestly decorated.
Alvia didn’t seem to believe in clutter, or grime as the faint smell of cleaning chemical indicated. The living room I entered just reeked of control, nothing placed organically it was all planned and coordinated.
One wall had awards, champion this, valedictorian that, debate club, even a chess trophy. I didn’t see any pictures of them won or even their owners. There were no pictures at all in the room.
The paintings in the hall and stairwell were renderings of battles won, demon defeated, dragons slain, all images of glory. I passed an office just as ordered as every other room in the house,
She saw me as soon as I entered the room, no amount of magical suggestions to ignore me would change that I was a gunman in her room. A proper invisibility and silence combo would have worked, but I didn’t have either of those.
“You’re Corvid, what the hell are you doing here,” she asked not yet sounding afraid.
“Honestly? Not sure myself, I think I was set up to kill you.” I said hefting my shotgun, “this isn’t personal, at least not for me it is for her, I think.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” she said confidence dripping from every word.
“What because I bypassed your wards with a concealment spell? A spell that had to cover all of my belongings including the bullets in this gun? I don’t care,” I reply.
“Patchwork,” she hissed confidence waning.
“Do you know why we go insane if we kill with magic? It’s because magic contains bits of our souls, it comes back to us eventually but if we kill our soul goes with them. That’s why we prefer things like cars, like what you did to poor Anna.” I pause, “I would argue that anyone who can kill a child is just as insane as any patchwork.”
“How?” She asked.
“About Anna? The pieces fit, she implied others sent me here honestly I don’t think it even matters. Or do you mean the bit about souls? Death told me, can you believe that an actual aspect of one of the three gods who made this world.” I laughed, “I work for him now, and Life she’s got me on the payroll as well. I wonder if I could get Time to hire me just for the trifecta.”
“I’m beginning to suspect that myself, I can kill without remorse for some reason. I probably couldn’t before, but that’s what you get for dealing with demons, didn’t I mention that I made a deal with a succubus. I even knew it at the time and signed anyways, wow it feels good just to say all this. I don’t have anyone to talk to, apart from my familiar anyone would think I was insane, and she’s got some nihilistic attitudes,” I say.
“You need help,” she says.
“Probably, but back to why I’m not worried about shooting you. Even if bits of my soul die, I still get them back.” I raise the shotgun pulling the trigger; shotguns don’t leave beautiful corpses.
I pass Anna on the way out; she’s halfway between forms her skateboard in its actual shape of a wicked scythe. Shadows practically boiling out of her clothes, dragging behind her like mist.
V was waiting on the porch with Erik; she was wearing an odd combination of leathers, chainmail, plates of armor, and a modern assault rifle. A spear a good foot taller than she leaned on the wall.
“What the hell was that about, and what are you wearing?”
V looked down almost embarrassed, “I was at my Dad’s, it’s traditional also not important. We always get to take the soul of the one who killed us; it’s a sort of unofficial payment. We can’t order you to kill anyone not approved, and Anna apparently didn’t want to ask.”
“So I was just sent, and you hoped for murder?” I ask.
“We did know she was going to die, and it would be odd. So we made sure you were close enough for that oddity” Erik answered.
There was a crash above us as a window broke outward, glass rained down. The sounds of fighting continued, getting louder.
“Doesn’t that only happen with a patchwork?” I ask.
“It happens with any soul that can and does fight back, or if we’re feeling in a gratuitous mood,” V says.
“She means Anna is currently beating and cutting Alvia’s soul into oblivion before ferrying it to its final destination,” Erik clarifies.
“You just head home Corvid; I’m going to spend all night finding the worst hell to cram her in,” Anna shouts from the broken window.
“That seems excessive,” I shout back.
“Fine, just for you I’ll stick her in the second worst place in the afterlife,” she answered.
“Between the three of us, it’s creepy how much she’s enjoying this,” I say to V, and Erik. “I’m going to get out of here before I have to ask if I’m one of the baddies.”
“We’re a morally neutral organization,” Erik replies.
“Holy shit does that not help, that’s the opposite of help, just for that I’m not going to buy you a drink,” I say.
“Were you before?”
“Yes, I was going to head to a bar, because tonight was weird and I need a drink. V want to get drunk with me?” I ask.
“Boy I’ve spent millennia visiting my father’s hall where spirits flow like water, and we feast on the flesh of monsters. You think you can get me drunk?” V answers grinning.
“Going to me honest, that sounds like a challenge. Worst case you have to drive my unconscious ass home. It’s not like I have to worry about alcohol poisoning with my health insurance.” I say.
Just then a char went through an unbroken bedroom window shattering it, and itself on the pavement. Lights went on in several of the surrounding houses; I could see at least one person moving inside.
“Well as the only one here who could get arrested I’m going to get the hell out of dodge. Meet you at the Irish pub on eight?” I ask heading to my car.
“I’ll see you there,” V replies heading to her vehichle. Erik heads down the road as well, apparently deciding nothing more of interest would be happening tonight.
Not a whole lot more did happen that night, I did get V drunk but passed out in the process. According to a note, she left an ambulance was nearly called before she carried me out. Anna appeared in the morning looking way to cheerful, and practically crammed aspirin down my throat before I passed out again.
For the rest of the weekend nothing happened, no Dullahan’s showed up to kill me. No one knocked on my door to ask questions; I didn’t receive any calls. The only thing of note to happen was Matilda sending me an embarrassing photo from when I was blackout drunk. According to tequila, I can dance.