The 4th Floor's Podcast

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bureau of After Life Affairs

People wait their whole life wondering what happens when you die.  I’m fortunate, perhaps even unfortunate if you look at it one way, to know what happens. You can forget Saint Peter, pearly gates, and angels.  Dying is just like sleeping; you wake up in a place you aren’t sure of; you’re in pain; and everything is hazed over.  “Waking up” is what we call it here in our little city.

                There’s no Heaven or Hell.  It’s just one big city; some areas better than others.  The worse areas of town are where all the deadly sins collide into one big ball of anarchy.  My job is to try and rescue souls who have wandered from the order.  I work for “Management” I’m a bureaucrat in the Bureau of After Life Affairs.  My typical day is peering through television screens all day keeping reports on those who have followed a petition for a reassignment in living conditions.

                A resident may apply for reassignment when they have managed to be clean from their vice for a time equal to their total time among the living.  Sometimes a resident can ask for a reassignment for another resident, in either direction based on what they know about the person from their time amongst the living or amongst their fellow residents.  Due to the increase in human population over our existence, Management isn’t capable of keeping tabs on every person.  We just don’t have the necessary staff to perform this function adequately.

                Every once and a while a resident is able to slip through the cracks, and the registration process fails.  We end up losing track of these residents and have no way of tracking them.  We normally only know they haven’t been registered properly when their family joins them in the after life.  The family will usually ask to see where their loved one is to be joined together.  Part of my job is to find them, and if they aren’t registered, then I have to hit the streets.  This is exactly why I am currently standing outside this run down bar; I’m waiting for the tracker.

                The rain kept most of the residents who had lost their way inside the bar.  The sound system was pounding out some obnoxious heavy metal song, and the residents had already taken to betting on a fight between two men.  I could hear the thuds and cracks as flesh met flesh.  There was an obvious victor, the man with short cropped blonde hair stood easily 6’8 and weighed 300 pounds of pure muscle.  He must have been a soldier in his living life, and he obviously enjoyed it.  The other man was short in comparison, with long black hair, and on any given day could take out any one of the other residents.  He was however, untrained and the blonde took his time dismantling his foe.

                The fight ended with good solid punch to the chin of the man with long hair. He hit the floor with a solid thud and blood spilled out of his mouth from the man biting his tongue off.  The blonde raised in hands to celebratory cheers from those who had made the right bet. The man grabbed up his own winnings, placed a long coat over his shoulder, and calmly lit a cigar.  There was a drink waiting for him at the bar, he downed it in three gulps and headed in my direction.

                “You Anton?” his voice was gravelly and his breathe reeked of liquor and cigar smoke.  His eyes were a bright blue, and he had a scar running from one his left ear to his nose.  This man had seen his fair share of violence.

                “I assume that you are Mr. Keller?” it was always best with the trackers, to establish that you were the authority, and that they worked for you.  If you didn’t handle the situation right, you could end up with more than enough paperwork to last you 5 years.

                “No reason to get all formal, who are we looking for?”

                “The resident desired to be located, is a Ms. Powell. She died 10 years ago at the age of 19, and her parents recently deceased after a plane crash over the Atlantic.  They want us to locate her.  We have only a brief file on Ms. Powell from her life, she got lost when the office in charge of those with mental illness experienced a sudden increase of suicides after September 11th 2001.  She was diagnosed schizophrenic with an addiction to pain killers, around that time.  Based on the information the parents gave us during the location request, they explained to us that she overdosed on painkillers and alcohol on the night of Halloween in 2001.  Based on this information, and given that she was not properly registered, we have reason to believe that she would have ventured into this area to maintain her addiction. Management wants her found and reunited with her family.”

                I showed him a picture of Ms. Powell.  She was a heavy set brunette, with long curly hair and a dead stare on her face.  Her eyebrow, upper lip, and nose were pierced with tiny studs and her green eyes showed an age not usually seen in someone so young. His mouth gave away the look of lust in his eyes. 

                “She’s cute, and I’ve heard of an unregistered matching these features working the streets at Sherrie’s Showroom, a few blocks over.  I’ve dealt with girls like her before though the chances that she’s working there still are slim to none.  They scatter every few weeks.  I can guarantee that she owes someone money.” He grabbed the picture from my hands folded it up into a tiny square and placed it forcefully into his pocket.  “Give me three days. I’ll give you a ring when your resident is found, and I’ll gladly hand her over.  Your department will receive a bill when your resident is found.”

                He began to turn away, “I’m sorry that won’t work.”

                “That’s too bad, I work alone, and I’m not about to be held back by some paper pusher who will want to follow the rules. I go alone or you find another tracker, of course by the time you find one she’ll be gone again.”

                His ignorance and pride were too much for me to handle, I gave him a soft chuckle. “You’re the last tracker we have tried, and her family is getting impatient.  To top it off Mr. Keller, her family is political, they are tied to Management.  By not complying in joining this investigation, or the regulations that follow with this investigation, you are at serious risk for losing your assignment.  A tracker is a good place to be in Mr. Keller, you get the freedom to do as you see fit to further Management’s goals, and that comes with the perks of being in their good graces.  We can always set you back to reassignment of a recently deceased.” His look said it all, he was going to comply but it would be on his terms.

                “Then follow me, but stand in my way, and Ms. Powell never gets found, and need I remind you it’s her choice on whether she goes to be with her family.  Lest you not forget as well, that if I shall determine that she is not to be found in compliance with Management’s request that as a tracker I am to terminate her contract with Management.” It was a threat, and a weak one at that, a tracker hasn’t eliminated a resident in over 300 years.
                “Very well Mr. Keller, you lead the way.” He seemed satisfied with my response and offered no further resistance.  We headed for Sherrie’s Showroom, the areas on the way are dangerous for those in the Bureau; the residents in these areas don’t hold someone in my position with great regard.  They have been turned down time and time again, and every time they go further and further into their vices.  Luckily for us the worst vices were tied to prostitution; revenge killings and robberies were the call of the day usually. Seeing as how I didn’t owe anyone money, I had nothing to fear. 

                Sherries Showroom is the absolute definition of a rundown shady strip club.  Prostitutes and one guy dressed in a fine silk shirt and pair of pants stood around the Showroom for those who can’t afford the girls inside the club, while the girls inside the club turn their tricks for those with money.  Mr. Keller spotted the man and nodded in his direction.

                “He’ll know if Ms. Powell was here.  These ladies here work for him.  If he doesn’t know anything then we’ll have to try another place. Stay here, he’s more apt to talk if Management’s representative isn’t staring him down.” Mr. Keller ventured towards the man, putting his hand under his coat.  I knew he had a gun on there, I just hoped that my report wouldn’t include any violence.  I wasn’t comfortable not being there to question the reside Mr. Keller pointed out.  But given the need to resolve this investigation at an accelerated pace I didn’t follow.

                Mr. Keller walked up to the man in silk. I watched as he pulled his hand out of his jacket and flashed his gun in the resident’s direction. Panic struck me at once.  Within 30 seconds of pulling out the gun Mr. Keller had shot the man twice in the leg.  The man was screaming.  Mr. Keller picked him up from the street and slammed him into the wall. He shoved the picture of Ms. Powell in his face.  The man shook his head and urinated himself. 

                Mr. Keller the man twice in the head with the butt of his gun, and shoved the picture back in the man’s face.  The man said something else and Mr. Keller threw him to the ground.  The blood was everywhere.  I ran across the street.  It was too late and I was going to have to include a violence report as part of the final report.  It was too late.  I gathered myself and walked across the street.

                “That was entirely unnecessary Mr. Keller.  I hope it lead to good information.”  I gave a look to the man who was unconscious, he would probably die.  Again either a good or bad thing depending on how Management handled his case.  I imagine if it lead to the retrieval of Ms. Powell that he would garner some kind of credit for his death.

                “I got an address, and it is legitimate. It’s a house that that addicts and prostitutes stay when they are hiding from deranged clients and dealers. 1746 Springvale Dr.  It’s not the best area, and assuming that she isn’t too far gone in her addiction and disease we should be able to retrieve your resident Anton.”

                “Very good Mr. Keller, you lead the way.”  He placed his pistol back in its holster and motioned towards me due north. 

                “Springvale Dr. is three blocks that way.”  We walked the three blocks.  Springvale Dr. was a road where people hid, and the boards on the doors and windows showed that. The houses were run down, even with the boards and bars there were plenty of ways for those trying to hide to find a place to live.  Mr. Keller stopped outside a red brick building.  The door was made of plywood and had a small 3 foot by 3 foot hole cut out of it.  He raised a finger to his lips to remind me to be quiet and as quietly as possible removed the door from the doorway.

                The inside of the building was sectioned off with refuse and fabric to provide a sense of privacy for the residents.  We were in luck, everyone else had moved on for the day.  Alone in the corner we made out a female silhouette and approached cautiously.  Mr. Keller leaned in close to me.

                “You stay here,” he whispered.  “There is still a possibility that this is not the resident, she may also be dangerous.  It would be better if you stay here until I can figure out her identity.”  I saw nothing unreasonable with his statement.

                “Mr. Keller as long as you, do not turn this into a trail of blood looking for one girl, then I see no reason to object. Give me your gun.  I will not tolerate another scene like last time.”  He didn’t hesitate to hand over the gun. There was no sign of any kind of objection either.  It made me slightly nervous, but he agreed, and that calmed my nerves to an extent.

                He pulled back the curtain and stepped inside.  I could see the silhouette of him and the resident. His shadow showed him hunched over the girl. We was positioned in such a way that all I could see was his back and her legs.  The image looked awkward, the big hulking mass of a man cut at a 90 degree angle with these short plump legs.  I heard him whispering, but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

                There was some movement from the girl, she sat up and there was just Mr. Keller’s shadow.  I heard some more whispering.  There was some movement on Mr. Keller’s right side, and then a noise I didn’t want to hear.  The sound of sinews snapping and tearing, as well as a gurgled scream.  I stared in horror as the shadow turned into a black spray and blood washed over me like a wave in the ocean.

                Mr. Keller pulled back the curtain, I was still in shock.  I peeked into the room and there was the head of Ms. Powell laying on its side in a pool of her blood.  Mr. Keller exited the room; blood soaked with a hunting knife in hand. He looked at me, I looked at him. The look of recognition in his eyes, he smiled walked up to me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

                “She failed to comply. The bill will be in the mail.” 

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