I liked the picture. It brought to mind The Thin Man and the Maltese Falcon, and the colorful characters created by Dashiell Hammett. The language used by his hard-boiled detectives I find delightfully crass, but ingenious. Lines like: “He felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him see the works.” (The Maltese Falcon) and “I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit.”(The Red Harvest) make me positively giddy.
So when I saw the picture, the first thing that sprang to mind was: She had legs that went all the way to the floor. I needed a "she" to go with that phrase.
I'd like to return to Essie Dorely. She's just been hired as a reaper of souls.
I offer the following in response: A New Partner
Reaper walked Essie down a long, star-lit hallway. She tried not to feel like she was headed for the principal’s office. She also tried not to stare at his silent flip-flops. “So we help with the transitioning to this new life. Do we ever have difficult customers?”
“All the time,” he turned and continued through a marble archway. “Not all souls transfer as easily as you did. Some experience extreme regret and disbelief, and they never really let go of their earthly existence.”
“What happens to them?”
“Oh eventually they come around to the idea, realize they’ve been scared of the change and embrace their new lives with euphoria. Until then, they wait.”
She chewed on her thoughts for a moment. “Like purgatory?”
“Like purgatory is a strong analogy to draw, but I suppose if you don’t have anything else to compare it to, it’ll do.” He stopped at the end of the hall where another magnificent archway framed a door. Stocks and Bonds was etched into the frosted glass and filled with flaking gold paint. His hand hovered at the door knob. “Sometimes, though, our...partners...claim the reaped soul, and custody battles ensue.”
His look worried her. “Partners? Fights?"
“Reaping isn’t an easy profession, Essie, but you needn’t fret. I am confident you are well up for the task.” He opened the door and she followed him inside.
They stood on a platform that seemed to float above a chaotic gallery where a thousand people worked dizzying circles around each other. Hundreds of ticker-tape celebrations broke out with the constant clamor of a myriad bells and alarms. In the center of the sunken room spun a crystalline replica of Earth that reflected lights like a disco ball. Reaper leaned against the railing with a wistful expression adorning his perfect face. “This is where the struggles of the Adversary and our Architect are witnessed. We share in man’s brightest achievements and we weep in his darkest hours.”
“It’s so lovely.” The excitement in the room enchanted her, filling her heart until it bubbled over.
Reaper tapped her shoulder, turning her attention to the opposite end of the platform. “Here she comes, late as usual.”
“Who?” Essie spun around.
“Your partner. We usually go in teams of two, you see. One of their's and one of ours.”
A young woman stepped off the elevator in a puff of smoke. Red hair curled about her face like flames licking at porcelain in a kiln. She slinked towards them, her stride limited by a pencil skirt and stiletto heels. A black mink stole snaked around her neck. Her ruby lips parted, revealing pristine fangs. “Reaper, darling.”
“Miss Essie Dorely, Miss Abilene Fortesque.”
“Enchantez,” Abilene’s tongue traced her mouth.
Essie never associated with this type of woman during her earthly existence. She reached for anything to say. “The pleasure is mine, surely.”
“You’re so sweet, I could just devour you. We’ll be the best of friends, you and I.”
Somehow, Essie didn’t think so.