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December 05, 2022

After Life 16

By Sand Pilarski

Chapter Sixteen: Fire and Rain

"They didn't really investigate my death, did they, Desai?"

"Your death was under investigation, officially, but it's true, no one is currently trying to find the man who murdered you."

"And Matt's been too drunk to push for it."

"He has been, and being under psychiatric care, his testimony, even should he sober up, will be suspect."

"But he saw Max, and that goon in the parking garage, and ... there was another one, but I myself wouldn't recognize him. Max is going to kill him, isn't he?"

"I do not know. I have told you -- "

"You don't see the future, right, I remember. But you don't even consider what's going to happen?"


"Why not?"

"What will be, will be. It will be part of the completion of Creation."

Roj sat on the roof of Garrison's house and tried to understand what Desai was trying to explain to her. It seemed to her to say that she shouldn't worry about what was going to come, but she did worry -- Max was not going to allow Matt to have a chance of identifying him as her killer. Sure, Matt was, at this point, a total drunken nutcase, but that wouldn't last forever. Probably Max was wondering why Matt hadn't killed himself already.

"He's just biding his time," Roj said. "Max is going to try to kill Matt -- not just because Garrison wants him dead, but because he's the only witness to my murder."

"It's likely, but not certain."

"I've been very selfish about my death," she decided. "I've looked at it from my standpoint, and been pissed off by it, and I've looked at it from Matt's view, and been grossed out by my brain being splattered all over him, but I hadn't thought until just now that Max himself has a murder to cover up. He has a problem, a witness to his crime staggering around drunk, and a chief of police who knows he did it."

"This is true."

"But I don't even think Garrison anticipated it happening in the precinct building. That's probably why he's been so edgy."

"Yes, that would explain his mood, that and your repeatedly destroying his office."

"He needs to be edgy, Desai, because Max is going to kill him, too. I see now Garrison is too dumb to keep all the secrets. And once Garrison is dead, the force is going to scramble off to other jobs like roaches from a Raid can."

"And so you believe that Max will have both Matt and Garrison murdered."

"Yeah! That's what I'm thinking at this point. And that makes me worried about where Garrison is at this moment. Is he off partying at his club? Is he stuffed in someone's trunk being carried off to be killed in some remote location, hands and feet and mouth bound with duct tape?"

"Your imagination is vivid."

"Go ahead."


"You're going to tell me that you don't have an imagination, because all that you know is what was, and what is, and you don't worry about the future."

"I was not going to tell you that, but what you say is true. Your imagination is a human function, a process that depends upon your journey through the medium of Time. It helps you try to decide what to do in your present, to decide what is right and what is wrong for your future."

"But I no longer have a brain or a body, now do I, so why do I still imagine?"

Desai was untroubled. "It is because you are human. Being dead does not make you non-human."

"So I'm never going to be like you, you're never really going to understand how I think, and I'm never going to understand how you think."

"Not without a lot more conversation, no, but I would not say 'never.'"

"Because you don't know the future, right, Desai, got it. Do you have any clue as to where Garrison is right now?" Roj was feeling as though sand was running through an hourglass, pouring away her time, her chance to make a difference.

"He is ... in an Italian cafe between Stockton and Lodi, meeting with a person who has an athletic duffle beside her chair. And he is, as your ketchup message informs, being tailed by an agent of Max Duchamps."

"Desai, why didn't you just tell me that in the first place?" Roj was irritated by the literalism of the afterlife.

"You did not ask."

"I ask this: can we just go there, or do I have to go steal a map from some gas station and try to track my way along Highway 99?"

"This way," Desai replied, and flew away to the north.

Roj pushed herself off the roof and followed him.

They were near Lodi in less than a matter of seconds, in an instant. Obviously there is some advantage to following an angel, Roj thought. The cafe was before them, Garrison within, and a person sharing a table with him who had an athletic bag at her feet. "It is filled with money," Desai said.

"Lovely," Roj replied. "Did he give it to her, or did she give it to him?"

"She has brought it to him," Desai answered.

"She smokes. I can see the smell on her. She must have a lighter on her somewhere." Roj floated about the woman, sniffing, sensing, even without her senses, sensing. With gentle surreptitiousness, she eased a butane lighter from a side pocket of the woman's purse, and then began to slowly, oh, so slowly, to unzip the bag to expose the money, quietly so that the woman and Garrison would not notice.

"You'll keep that Pest off our shipments," the woman said in a commanding tone of voice to Garrison. "We still think he ought to be under ground, you know."

"He's off the force," Garrison said. "Totally off the deep end. Nothing he can say will hold in a court of law, the psychiatrist assured us of that. And we have a couple people making sure he has plenty to drink, at the bar he likes, and at home."

"You bastard," Roj snarled. "I've been too easy on you."

"Roj. Garrison's people have been giving Matt liquor to keep him from being killed. Listen to that."

"Why would Garrison change his mind? Because Max was getting too strong for him? I don't care why. Watch this."

The athletic bag full of money was open. When Garrison and his contact looked out the windows of the restaurant to the west, Roj took a bottle of olive oil from the setting of the empty table next to them and upended it into the bag.

Near the windows, a woman in an expensive tweed suit knocked over a carafe of red wine with an inadvertent wave of her arm.

Roj took the opportunity of the convergence of waiters at the window table to quietly drag the bag of money several yards away, give the oily packs of bills a quick toss like a salad, and then light the mass on fire.

At another table, a woman screeched as she saw the flames, drawing gazes back from the broken glass and red wine and clumsily mopping waiters. Both Garrison and the woman gaped at the burning athletic bag for nearly five seconds before shouting, "NOOOO!" in an impromptu duet. While Garrison dragged off his jacket and began flogging the bag, Roj flew to the ceiling and plied the lighter on the sprinkler system sensor.

The waterworks came on, diners squealed and ran for doors, and the manager ran into the room calling 9-1-1, pointing at Garrison trying to put out the flames, and his lady friend, who simply stared, her lower jaw dropped in disbelief.

A police car, conveniently patrolling the road that led past the restaurant (How convenient could this be? Roj thought.) screamed into the parking lot, lights blazing. Two officers ran towards the front doors. "God dammit!" shouted the woman and sprinted, even in her high heels, for the kitchen.

"Stop her!" shrieked the manager.

One of the waiters slung a wooden chair into her path, smacking her in the shins and slowing her progress, though not her cursing. Limping, she shoved open the kitchen doors and ran through. Another police car pulled into the parking lot. "She's going for the back door!" the manager shouted to the police. A cook burst out of the kitchen. "She has a gun! She has a gun!" she shrilled hysterically.

The police officer nearest the door radioed a message; the second police car disgorged an officer with a drawn weapon and a German shepherd while the partner in the car roared around the side of the restaurant.

Inside, one of the dripping officers was informing Garrison that he was not to leave under any circumstances. A fire truck and a EMT ambulance entered the parking lot, hampered by people leaving the scene. Air horns blared deafeningly. Garrison left off trying to stifle the smoking money, and stepped back, draping his ruined suit coat over the back of a chair in the splash of the sprinklers. His expression made his face sag in disgust and resignation as he informed the police officer that he had no identification on him, not even his badge.

Roj slipped the lighter back into the woman's purse, taking advantage of the pandemonium as the firefighters burst in the front door.

There was a shouted conversation between the police and the firemen, who trudged back out the door and out of sight around the side of the restaurant. The sprinklers stopped, leaking a few drops, creating a sudden silence, in which the woman in the tweed suit could be heard sobbing into a wad of tissues. "That's not right," Roj told Desai. "If she hadn't knocked over that carafe of wine, I might not have been able to set the money on fire, at least not as secretly."

"Some day she will understand. Right now she is embarrassed, and fears that she is to blame for the lights and sirens."

"Ah, I wish I could tell her thank you, and not to worry."

"I shall pass on your thanks to Moquoi, who accentuated the arm of that woman."

"What? Moquoi?"

"She is in Moquoi's charge. Moquoi is assigned to her, as I am to you. Moquoi gave her arm a little more strength to help her reach the carafe."

"I can't meet Moquoi, can I?" Roj asked, already knowing the answer was no. Desai did not respond to her, but instead, looked out the front windows.

The woman who had been meeting with Garrison was hobbling, cuffed, ahead of a policeman and his K-9, whose face was split in a happy panting grin, tongue lolling out. There was a big rip on the backside of the woman's skirt. "She was armed and fleeing; Garrison still hasn't found his wallet and is associated with a flaming bag of money. If I had my body back, and a martini, I'd be rolling on the floor laughing. These aren't Garrison's cops, they're San Joaquin County, not City of Modesto. He's in big shit now, and so is she, from the way she tore out of here." She turned to Desai. "I'm done here, aren't I?"

"Are you?"

"I don't know, that's why I'm asking you -- hey, I hate it when you just disappear like that, it's rude. Why do you get away with being rude?" Roj directed her attention back to the mayhem. The officer with the dog was entering the building. The dog woofed in a low voice when he saw the smoldering money bag, but then his gaze was riveted to Roj. The dog sees me, just like those kids did, just like that yappy little mutt did. Roj dropped from her ceiling perch to stand behind Garrison.

The dog started forward to see where she had gone, but was called in check by the officer, who noticed his dog's attention. He began to approach Garrison, the dog intently staring just over Garrison's collarbone, over which Roj peered. Good dog, she thought. You've just called more attention to Mr. Garrison than I ever could have. And called more suspicion upon him than even that bag of money could have.

Not wanting to call the dog's attention to the ceiling again, Roj dove into the floor, streaming herself through the earth. It was a different sensation than flying through the clouds -- she felt it was like swimming through a chocolate concoction, not more difficult, but -- of course -- more earthy, with a heaping of flavor and texture. She encountered a part of a skeleton, which was distracting, and a layer of macadam, and then a lot of dirt that was obviously river sediment. She popped out into the air again, feeling disoriented. The afternoon was fading, so she launched herself into the air again, into the glowing orange clouds of sunset.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-02-12
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
Ralph Bland
05:18:57 PM
I do like the sense of urgency Roj is beginning to feel about trying to bring a resolution to her murder and Max's pursuit of helpless Matt. She is getting wiser about her status as a newly-dead person, but is having to stretch her resources to figure out the best way to solve the puzzle. The confrontation between her and Max should be a dynamic scene. And I'm still not sold completely on Desai as an ally/ guardian angel. Guess I've read too many spy novels where somebody's working as a double.
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