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|20-05-2013, 05:34 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Last Online: 10-04-2014 04:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: ENGLAND, QATAR, THE PHILIPPINES.
Don't Speak Ill of the Dead.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum
Chapter 1: Introduction.
For those that are partial to a drink; sitting at The Chesterfield Bar on a quiet afternoon in May is an experience somewhat akin to a fervent Catholic watching Pope Francis saying High Mass in St Peters. Not that either of the bar maids bore the slightest resemblance to the Holy Father, for Mandy and Brandy were respectively; lithe in tight jeans and full chested with a plunging neck line.
Outside on the sidewalks, at the more popular end of Main Street, it was clear, hot and humid with only a light breeze to relieve the oppression of those exposed to the urban Dallas elements.
But inside it was cool and Desmond Burke, by now on his third drink was viewing the altar of glistening bottles that stretched the full length of the bar shelf upon sacred shelf before him. He was from Boston originally, but by a series of indifferent marriages and lucrative jobs had somehow gravitated towards this Lone Star State.
Today he was in an exceptionally amiable mood and planned to while away the whole afternoon imbibing various long and cool beverages. And Desmond was always happy when the immediate future held the prospect of a drink.
When he had initially stridden in an hour ago, Mandy had already set up his usual and with knowledge born of experience, soon began the preparation of a second.
“You want to try the Oswald, Des?” she enquired. “You really should eat something when you drink. It’s ham, pork belly and bacon on a Panini.”
“Thanks Mandy, but I have no idea what a “Panini” is, and I suppose you would not believe me if I told you I was Jewish?”
She laughed and went down the bar to gossip with Brandy, busy polishing glasses.
Desmond sipped, rattled the ice against the sides and relaxed, lazily contented, his brain slowing to about one revolution per minute.
Finally he happened to glance round at the tables behind him and noticed a dimutive, dapper individual in a black suit watching him closely.
It was a look he was not familiar with in his experience, drunk or sober. It encapsulated neither; complicity, threat, recognition or even desire. His heart rate seemed to accelerate, there was numbness in his hands and fingers and breathing difficulties rose in his chest. The unknown has always acted as a stimulus to fervid imaginations and this was no exception. To be quietly drinking one moment and then feel like this would shake any man. He coughed nervously and looked at the man at the table again and unwaveringly, the stranger met his look.
By now he felt that if he did not move he would collapse. Throwing a bill on the counter he stumbled off the stool and chest pains became apparent along with a dread of losing control. Feeling weak and dizzy he headed for the entrance. He collided heavily with a small figure.
"I'm sorry," he stammered. "I'm in a bit of a hurry."
He turned and started away, but he had barely taken three strides when he jerked to a stop. An expression of dazed amazement entered his face.
Wheeling suddenly he stared back at the small figure he had collided with. The man was still standing in the foyer that led from the bar, regarding Desmond with a fixed, thoughtful stare.
And he was the same dark little man Desmond had left inside the bar room seconds before.
How had the stranger gotten out of the bar ahead of him?
With one last incredulous look over his shoulder he descended the steps, through the bar’s swing doors and into the street.
He walked swiftly, mopping his forehead with his handkerchief and hailed a cab.
The experience had been an unnerving one, but once cocooned inside the rear of the cab, he gradually became more under control. Whatever it was associated with the stranger was now receding as he was driven to another bar, DD’s Corner located at the far end of Maple Avenue's industrial area at the corner of Maple and Hawes, one block north of Mockingbird. Evening was drawing in.
This establishment was the other end of the spectrum from the plush surroundings of The Chesterfield Bar. The outside was deceptive. Green brickwork adorned with a floral wreath and the Stars and Stripes do not exactly go with a soft pink overhang entrance and a brassy neon sign. To an impartial observer it resembled at first impressions, a cross between a Dolly Parton’s fan club and a Bangkok massage parlour. But inside it was a warm little bar that he had been to once or twice before; a watering hole generally populated by groups of construction workers, servers or factory hands looking to drink without disturbance. With a few tables, several slot machines and a jukebox that won't quit, the converted little house held a small staff that knew its customers by name.
“Hi Desmond, you look terrible!” was the initial greeting from the gregarious owner Dick Gregory.
Desmond reflected that if it had not been for the disturbing experience at the other place, he would have been feeling very, very fine indeed.
Inside the smoky, dimly lighted den of din and discord Desmond forgot his troubles long enough to order a drink, a large one and his fourth of the day. He was conscious now of a vague buzzing between his ears and there was a pleasant mellow glow in the region of his solar plexus. The sense of terror, of impending doom, of loss of control was subsiding.
He looked around to view the crowd enjoying themselves and then again spotted him seated at the other end of the room. He called Dick across.
“I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I think I’m being tailed.”
Dick looked at him sympathetically.
“Ah ha, and who exactly might that be Des?”
“You see the small man in the dark suit over there on the stool between the fat old man and the red-haired girl” he said.
“Des,” the reply came softly in the patient voice of a man instructing a very young child, "The stool between the fat old man and the red-haired girl is completely unoccupied. Let me call you a cab before the pink elephants start appearing.”
He left the crowded bar by a back entrance. People hurried past him, traffic surged in the streets, and everything seemed quite normal. He sighed almost as an expression of release and hailed his second cab of the day, giving the driver the address of his apartment.
Sleep was all he needed. That was all.
When he reached his apartment he had almost succeeded in convincing himself that his peculiar experiences of the afternoon were only products of a combination of too much of the juice and a fevered imagination.
Arriving, he closed and locked the door behind him and switched on the lights.
The first thing he saw when he walked into the room was the little dark man whom he'd seen at the Club and at the bar about twenty minutes previously.
He was sitting in a straight chair, his hands resting on his knees. There was a faint smile on his face as he studied Desmond calmly.
"How did you get in here?" Desmond gasped.
The figure rose up and smiled.
"Is that important?" he asked softly. "I am here and that is all that matters."
Desmond swallowed. There was something disturbing about the calm ambiguity of the man's statement. He rubbed his damp palms together nervously.
"Can I get you a drink?" he blurted irrationally.
The man shook his head slowly.
Desmond looked at him uneasily, noticing him in detail for the first time. He was small, hardly more than five feet two and slenderly built. His hair was jet black and it combed straight back from a high, delicate forehead. He wore severely tailored black clothes that fitted his small frame without a wrinkle. But his eyes dominated his entire personality.
The dark little man said quietly, "I must talk with you."
"My name," he said, "is," he paused and smiled cryptically, "Demise."
"Glad to know you," Desmond said. "My name is—"
"I know your name," Mr. Demise said. "I know everything about you, Desmond Burke. I know things about you that you don't know yourself."
"Do you now?" Desmond said, becoming interested in spite of himself. "For instance?"
"I know that you are about to take a long trip," Mr. Demise said.
"I don't know about that," replied Desmond. He was beginning really to worry. There was something damnably inevitable about Mr. Demise's calm statements. “I think we'd just better forget the whole idea."
"That is impossible," Mr. Demise said.
Desmond rubbed his moist palms again.
"Who are you?" he asked hesitantly. "Have you been following me around all day just to sell me on the idea of a trip? Are you from Cook's tours?"
Mr. Demise smiled and shook his head.
"I am not interested in selling you the idea of a trip. I am simply telling you that you are going on a trip. I have already made all the arrangements. There is nothing that can possibly change them."
"Where am I going?" Desmond asked. His voice was a whisper.
"With me," Mr. Demise said.
"That's no answer," Desmond said. "Who are you? Where are you going?"
Mr. Demise smiled again, very faintly. He walked slowly to the table and touched one of the flowers in a vase.
"Perhaps this will answer your questions," he said softly.
Desmond looked. The flower had wilted and hung listlessly over the ceramic edge.
"It's dead," he said incredulously. "It withered at the touch of your hand."
Mr. Demise nodded slowly and there was sadness in his face.
"All living things die at my touch," he said. "I assure you it is not a gag. Your time is near at hand and I have been sent to take you to the land of Darkness."
"Think again, chum," Desmond said emphatically, rallying at the suggestion. "I'm not going to any Dallas Harlem with you or anyone else and that's final."
"It is useless to protest," Mr. Demise said. "Your destiny is sealed. You must come with me."
"You are plain mad," Desmond said. "So you're Death, are you?"
Mr. Demise nodded. "I am one of his agents."
"Changing your story a little, aren't you?" Desmond said with a touch of bravado. "Well, since when has Death been announced by personal messengers? A man steps in front of a car. He's killed. That's all there is to it. There aren't little men standing on the curb pushing him into the street, are there? And they don't come around a couple of hours in advance tipping him off, do they? No!"
"When a mortal passes over," Mr. Demise said, "there is always an agent of Death present superintending the details. But he is not always visible to his charge."
Desmond poured himself a drink and lit a cigarette.
"Well, thanks just the same," he said, "but I don't want any special effects when I pass over. If there's a messenger of Death around I don't want to see him. Just let him stay invisible. That's the way I want it."
Mr. Demise looked slightly pained. There was an embarrassed look on his normally expressionless features.
"Usually the agent of Death is invisible," he said. "In fact his orders are to remain invisible under all circumstances."
"Okay then," Desmond said. "You're breaking orders. Be a nice obedient chum now and fade away."
Mr. Demise shrugged and stepped backward—and suddenly he was gone! He had disappeared soundlessly and instantaneously.
"Mr. Demise!" he cried. "Come back! Where are you?"
"I am here before you," the voice sounded in the air. "Are you convinced now?"
Desmond mopped his forehead weakly.
"Yes," he gasped. "I'm convinced."
"You see," Mr. Demise explained miserably, "you happened to be my first assignment. I've had no experience at all in this work and I was curious to see what kind of person I was going to take back with me. And I wanted to get a first-hand reaction from you."
Desmond mixed himself another drink. His belligerency was beginning to assert itself again.
"So?" he cried. "They sent an amateur down to get me, did they? I suppose I don't rate an experienced escort. So they sent you. I'm surprised they didn't just tell the tea lady to do the job."
"I'm sorry you're taking this attitude," he replied. "I had hoped we could be friends."
"Friends!" Desmond shrieked. "Am I expected to be friendly with some ghoul who comes prowling around threatening to whisk me off to Eternity? What more do they expect of me? To pay my own way too, I suppose."
"Your passage will be taken care of at the other end," Mr. Demise said. "Since you have taken such an ungracious stand we will not dally further."
"Now wait a minute," Desmond said. He felt his throat getting dry. The prospects of death were not pleasant. He didn't want to die right now. He had things to do. There was a bar maid he was looking to roger remorselessly next week after a candle lit dinner.
"Can't we put this thing off a while?" he asked hopefully. "There's no sense in rushing things, I always say. Why don't you go off and get yourself a lot of experience and then come back for me?"
Resignedly he tried his last card. There was no point in arguing with this inhuman icicle. "But let's have a drink before we get down to—er—business."
"I am not allowed to drink while on duty," Mr. Demise said primly.
"In the name of all that’s sacred," Desmond said disgustedly, "You weren't thinking about your precious orders and regulations when you followed me around, scaring the hell out of me. Oh no! That was all right. But when I ask you to do a little something outside the letter of your instructions it's no deal. If there's anything fair in that I can't see it."
Mr. Demise shuffled uncomfortably.
"It was indiscreet of me to allow you to see me," he said thoughtfully. "Perhaps your objection is justifiable. It might square things a bit if I would take a drink with you.
"Fine," Desmond said.
He mixed two drinks in somber silence. Because he realized that it was probably the last time he would ever perform that pleasant chore, he put his heart and soul into the task and when he finally handed Mr. Demise his drink it was the product of a Master.
Mr. Demise drank the drink—it was a “Rusty Nail,” two parts best Scotch mixed with one part Drambuie, straight. He set the glass down and sighed contentedly.
"Another?" Desmond suggested hopefully.
"No," Mr. Demise said, "one is plenty. As a matter of fact," he said, "that's the first drink I ever had. Alcohol is one of our finest helpers but we aren't supposed to touch it. Personally I think its intoxicating effect is greatly overrated."
Desmond leaned forward and there was a peculiar gleam in his eyes.
"So that was your first drink, eh?" he asked. "And you don't feel anything?"
"Not a thing," said Mr. Demise. "Of course I notice a certain glow, but that's all."
"Just a certain glow, eh?" Desmond said.
"Thash all," Mr. Demise said. He sat down suddenly. "And my tongue ish a lil' thick."
"Well, that's only natural," Desmond said. He mixed another drink and there was a cryptic smile on his lips. "Alcohol is a peculiar thing. One drink will addle a person's wits and the second will act as an antidote. Strange, isn't it?"
Mr. Demise rocked slightly in the chair. His coal-black eyes were a bit glazed. "Ish very strange," he conceded.
"Possibly you'd like to try the antidote?" Desmond said casually.
"Might not be a bad idea," said Mr. Demise.
Reggie handed him the second drink and watched contentedly as he drank it down, setting down the glass unsteadily on the very edge of the table.
"You wush right," he said, slumping against the back of the chair. "Absolutely right. Second drink ish an antidote. Jush what I needed."
"Absolutely," Desmond agreed solemnly.
Mr. Demise closed his eyes but he opened them almost immediately. He struggled up to a sitting position.
"I hash something to do," he muttered. His hand groped into the inside of his coat, returned with a slim black book. "Very important," he mumbled. "First assignment. Can't have any slip ups."
Desmond moistened his lips nervously. He eyed the little black book carefully. That might be the way....
"How about another drink, old boy," he said heartily. He mixed one quickly, handed it to Mr. Demise. Mr. Demise took it in his left hand and Desmond deftly plucked the black book from his right hand. Mr. Demise appeared not to notice the exchange. He drank the drink methodically.
Desmond tossed the book under a coffee table as his guest climbed unsteadily to his feet.
Desmond took him by the arm. "What say we go out and have a few quick antidotes?"
|20-05-2013, 06:46 AM||#5 (permalink)|
Last Online: 03-02-2017 07:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Good stuff ,far far too long to read , but fortunately I have a new girlfriend , Ivona Amy ( text to speech prog British voice ) to read it out to me .
Hope Mr Demise enjoys his liquor .
|26-05-2013, 07:29 AM||#8 (permalink)|
Last Online: 10-04-2014 04:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: ENGLAND, QATAR, THE PHILIPPINES.
Mr. Demise nodded stupidly. He mumbled something unintelligible and allowed himself to be led him to the door." Desmond found a cab, shoved his companion inside and ordered the driver to one of the dozens of friendly bars with which he was familiar. At the first stop Mr. Demise had two more drinks. When he had drained the second, Desmond hauled him to his feet and started for another joint. His object was to keep Mr. Demise so bewildered and drunk that he would forget his job.
For a while he succeeded. Mr. Demise followed him helplessly from bar to bar and sat tottering on high stools happily pouring fiery booze into his already overburdened constitution.
“What say we forget the whole thing?’ asked Desmond.
“That is impossible," Mr. Demise said flatly. “According to my book, you are first on my list and I must carry out my orders to the letter. All the information as to person, place and method is contained in this book and it would be impossible to change it."
"Place and method, eh?" Desmond said weakly. "You mean you've got the dope on how it's going to happen and when it's going to happen?"
"Certainly," Mr. Demise replied. "We don't use a hit-or-miss method. Everything is worked out to a science. You, for instance, are—" Mr. Demise paused and shook his head. "No," he continued, "I can't tell you. That is also against instructions."
"You haven't paid much attention to instructions so far," Desmond said sulkily. "Can't you give me a hint as to how I'm going to get it?"
Mr. Demise shook his head firmly.
"That would be an unthinkable breach of conduct," he said, shaking his head severely and frowning. "Absolutely unthinkable."
Desmond’s brain was working at full speed. If he could just ditch Mr. Demise and get back to the book everything might be saved.
However when he looked this character that had come into his mortal existence so unexpectedly, was now reaching the state of saturation where the liquor produced a steadily diminishing effect. Desmond watched him worriedly and ordered more and more drinks. In spite of the enormous quantities of liquor he had consumed, Mr. Demise was slowly sobering up. His face was losing its blank expression and an intelligent gleam was creeping back into his eyes.
He began to fumble uncertainly through his pockets, a worried expression settling over his features.
Desmond slapped him on the back resoundingly.
"Have a drink!" he shouted into his ear.
Mr. Demise shook his head stubbornly.
"Got a job to do," he muttered. He went slowly through his pockets and an expression of horror replaced the worried look on his face.
"Where's my book?" he gasped. "I've lost my book! This is terrible. I've got to find it!"
"What book?" Desmond asked innocently.
"The book with all the names and places and dates and methods. I've lost it."
Desmond shrugged philosophically.
"Too bad," he said. "But things are never as black as they seem. Maybe it'll turn up somewhere. The thing to do is just sit tight until someone finds it and reports it."
"I can't wait," wailed Mr. Demise. "These things have to happen on schedule. There'd be an awful rumpus in the complaint department if I started sending people up there haphazardly. And I don't even remember whom I've got on the list. You're the only one I'm sure of."
Desmond choked on his drink.
"Yes," Mr. Demise went on obliviously, "you're the first. I'm sure of that much. And I'd better send you along right away. I'll do that much correctly, at least."
"Now, just a minute," Desmond said, "how're you sure you've got me right? I looked at that book and I don't think I'm the man you want at all."
"You looked at the book!" cried Mr. Demise with sudden suspicion. "So that's where it went. That's why you got me drunk. You stole my book, hoping to evade your destiny, didn't you?"
"Nothing of the sort," Desmond replied, forcing a note of outraged indignation into his voice.
"Yes you did," Mr. Demise said. "I'm not going to wait a second longer in your case. Mr. Burke, prepare yourself for a long trip and don't plan on coming back."
|09-06-2013, 04:51 AM||#9 (permalink)|
Last Online: 10-04-2014 04:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: ENGLAND, QATAR, THE PHILIPPINES.
Mr. Demise had a grim business-like note in his voice and there was no hope of prolonging things further. Drastic action was needed, not discussion.
With a leap Desmond left his stool and bounded for the door. Before Mr. Demise could turn around, he was in the street, shouting frantically for a cab.
One pulled up to the curb and he leaped into its dark interior. Over his shoulder he saw his adversary stagger from the bar, and clamber into another cab.
"Hurry!" Desmond shouted to his driver giving him his address.
"Life or death, eh?" the cabby said conversationally.
Desmond winced. "You said it."
At the apartment building he quickly threw a bill at the driver telling him to keep the change, and rushed for the lift. It stopped at his floor and just as he opened the door and stepped out, the entire cage suddenly dropped back down the shaft. One of his legs dangled down. With a startled gasp he pulled himself onto the floor landing.
Mr. Demise obviously meant business.
As it was he still had a chance, and letting himself into his apartment he switched on the light and scrambled underneath the coffee table. The black book of doom was still there. Frantically he opened it at the first page, and found his own name.
He jerked a pencil from his pocket....
He was still scribbling furiously when the door of the apartment banged open and Mr. Demise strode into the room, his face black as a thundercloud.
"So!" Mr. Demise cried. "You would try to escape?"
"Just a minute," Desmond shrieked while holding out the slim black book. "I was sure a mistake had been made. Here! Look for yourself."
"I want no more of your tricks," Mr. Demise warned ominously.
"This is no trick," he replied. "You should be grateful to me for catching the error in time."
Mr. Demise took the book and examined it carefully. The frown gradually faded from his face as his eyes lingered on the page. He shuffled his feet awkwardly and cleared his throat.
"It seems," he said in a small, chastened voice, "that a mistake has been made."
Desmond’s heart pounded with hope.
"It certainly has," he said. "This entire affair should be reported to someone. That's what happens when you put inexperienced men on the job. You wind up with a bungled mess."
"I don't know how it happened," Mr. Demise said miserably. "All I can say is I'm sorry."
"Fine thing," Reggie said stuffily. "Mess up your job like this and then say you're sorry. I'd advise, Demise, that you lay off the liquor when you're supposed to be working."
"I will in the future," Mr. Demise said humbly.
"See that you do," Reggie said sternly. "Now I'd say you'd better get to work on that first assignment."
"Yes, I will," Mr. Demise said.
With drooping shoulders he moved slowly to the door. With his hand on the knob he turned again to Desmond.
"I hate to be a pest," he said, "but I'm afraid I don't know how to go about this job. Maybe you could help me. Where can I find this fellow?"
"I'd advise you to try a compound in Pakistan’s Swat Valley 2.5 miles north east of Abbottabad.
Bearded chap, 6 feet 4 inches in height. Goes under the name of Osama Bin Laden.
"Thank you," Mr. Demise said gratefully. "I won't slip up on this one."
Last edited by MANICHAEAN : 09-06-2013 at 04:57 AM.
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