One Fateful Evening
It was a warm summer evening in the suburbs. The day thus far had been relatively uneventful. The worldwide death toll had been the lowest for me in recent memory. This gave me a chance to stop and enjoy the nuances of humanity I found so fascinating. I arrived at the home of one Mrs. Norma Bibby. She was a kind eighty-seven-year-old lady. Her body was still strong despite her age, and she likely would have remained healthy for years to come.
However, that was not my first visit to that house. I had come for her husband, Jerry, about seven months before. His passing changed everything for her. She had become more and more depressed ever since I had come to collect Jerry. Until I had arrived, her whole world had revolved around their wonderful life together. But Jerry was a smoker and his fondness for red meat had raised his cholesterol and blood pressure, which in time took its toll on his heart and earned him a visit from me.
Norma had been a very active woman all her life before losing him. She had deteriorated a great deal since last I had seen her. The loss of her beloved had been more than she could handle, and she had relegated herself to the misery of being alone. Her eating habits had grown worse and she no longer kept active. Their children and grandchildren tried to be supportive, but she couldn’t get herself past it. And so it was time for her to have what she wanted: a visit from me and a happy reunion with Jerry on the other side.
I stepped into the living room where Norma was curled up on the couch. I could almost see the shards of her broken heart attached to the wadded-up tissues strewn across the floor by the couch. She was trying desperately to move on, but that strong body of hers fought her every inch of the way, forcing her to live on through her tears and heartache. Then it happened. The best description I can give is, it’s like watching a guitar string break. She forced the last ounce of strength out of her body and sank into what would be her last sleep.
I tapped her on the shoulder and she awoke.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Cyrus,” I replied, “and I’m here to take you away.”
She wasn’t afraid. Maybe a little confused. There was only one thing on her mind. And so, she asked.
“Will Jerry be there?” A look of hope sparkled in her eyes. It was something I didn’t see very often. People are usually very shocked and afraid when I take them, but she knew from the moment I said my name that it was finally over.
“Yes, he will,” I said. I was telling the truth, in a strange sort of way. “You will be able to see him soon.” If spirits could cry, she likely would have as I said those words. I sat with her for a moment, like I usually do, until she was ready to leave. Most people sit in silence, trying to accept the situation they’re in. Some have small breakdowns and I need to help them relax. On occasion, we have those that completely lose it. Those people require a little more aggressive handling. Norma had none of the negative reactions I was accustomed to seeing. She was excited and wanted to know as much as she could about the afterlife.
She asked me what it was like, where she would go next—the standard stuff people think about—but mostly she wanted to know about Jerry and what he had been up to. I usually don’t check up on those I collect. However, Jerry had been a special case, and luckily, he had stuck in my memory. I was able to answer some of her questions, and she gave me a hug. It was a rare moment of satisfaction in my job.
When we were done, we stood, and I tried to prepare her for the trip. I travel by means of what I call “impression.” I’ve been here a long time, meaning I know this world inside and out. The best I can explain it is that I can connect with any place on earth and be there. And to a lesser extent I can do the same on the other side. Now, it’s not like teleporting; I don’t actually leave the area of my primary consciousness. It’s more like I’m able to break myself into pieces and be where I imagine myself being. Given the intensity of my job—handling about a hundred and fifty thousand people a day—I am almost always doing it, many times over. It’s the only way I can be all around the world at once. I explained this to Norma, and we got ready to go.
I took Norma’s hand and told her to be ready for a jolt. I closed my eyes and began to think of where she needed to be. When I begin to do an impression, it is as if time stands still. The wave passed over us and she was gone, across the infinite expanse between our world and that of the spirits. She passed through what I call The Veil, the barrier that separates the physical world and the other. Just her and that sliver of me I had charged with taking her to her beloved. I opened my eyes and looked around the now cold and empty house that used to belong to Norma. It was a peaceful place, but sad; just an empty house.
I prepared to take my leave, giving only one final glance at Norma’s now empty remains. Every time I leave someone I think about the person they had been and what they are leaving behind. The impact people have on one another is profound, and many of them don’t know how important their connections are until someone is gone, even if they aren’t very close. I thought about how Norma being gone would affect those she knew and took a little comfort in the idea that she had been a positive influence in the lives of so many.
When I was done, I walked to the window and looked out across the darkness that blanketed the quiet neighborhood. The next day would bring a change, as one of their own had moved on. Such a small change, creating such a profound reaction. I admire humans for that, how they value one another. Since that moment so many years ago when they buried Rohg, I have always seen it bring out the best in them. And I would like to think that it always will.
I turned to step away and move on with my evening, when I saw it—a shadow against the black. Then another. And another. Something was happening across the street, and it didn’t look good. I’m usually not one to be nosy—usually far too busy to for that. But tonight was special—a rare, slow night—so I moved through the wall and out onto the grass of the yard. Across the street, the shadows moved swiftly across the walls of the house and inside. I could see the outlines of the figures and knew what I was seeing.
I see things like this every once in a while, usually just remnants of things that don’t accept their own passing and choose to remain in the spirit realm. Humans almost always come to their senses and let me complete my task, but those that don’t are allowed to stay behind as ghosts, at least for a time. These, however, are quite different. They aren’t creatures or spirits wandering until they are ready for me to take them. These are darker, hungrier. I’m not sure exactly where they come from, but every once in a while, something bleeds through from the other side. These things.
I call them Hexen; not sure why, but it just sounds right. They are, for lack of a better term, soul suckers. I come across them so infrequently that I’ve never really bothered to find out what they really are. And though I was curious, I was too busy to go looking for them. What I did know about them was that they feed on the vitality of living things. Usually they take something small, a few minutes of one’s life. Every once in a while, though, one of them would do some real damage. You hear stories of perfectly healthy people getting cancer or having a heart attack in their early twenties. Any story you can think of resembling that, was a Hexen going a little overboard.
I had been down this road before, watched the Hexen feed. But I had never seen more than one at a time, and never ones this large. My interest was piqued. And so, I moved closer to the house to get a better look.
The home belonged to a young couple, Adrian and Ana Harmond. I passed through the wall and moved into their living room. There were pictures of them throughout the house. I wondered what made them special as I watched the shadowy figures move across the walls of the house. There were even more of them than I had originally thought, perhaps a dozen. Whatever they were doing there, it was something I had never seen before. I had a very bad feeling about it.
Bad feeling or not, I was interested to see what was going to happen. I passed through the bedroom wall and emerged near the foot of the bed. The young couple was lying in it. The flickering blue haze of the television clashed with the orange light from the nightstand lamp. I could see the time on the alarm clock next to it. It was 8:43 and, by all appearances, everything seemed normal. The sound of laughter from the television was met by the same sound from the couple. They were watching the evening news, just as millions of other couples might have been doing that night.
The Hexen moved in through the doorway and crept to the corners of the ceiling. I counted them as they did: thirteen. Like the couple, they began to settle in, and just waited. That behavior was something I had seen before. They would keep their positions and wait until the two were asleep before feeding, which would be quite a sight to see, given the amount of them. I pondered for a moment if I should intervene, as the situation would likely result in a life-altering experience for the couple. But I decided against it; curiosity had won.
The two readied themselves for bed. Adrian went to the bathroom while Ana placed her shoes into the closet along with the thirty other pairs and changed into her nightgown. At 9:13 the lights went out. I waited in anticipation for the couple to sleep so the soul suckers could move in and do what they do. Then came the crash of cracking wood. The bedroom door flew violently off its hinges as the steel battering ram careened into it. Jagged remnants of the frame flew across the room and scattered on the floor.
Men dressed head to toe in black tactical gear and wielding automatic weapons came swiftly through the decimated door frame. The Harmonds had pressed themselves up against the headboard of the bed and stared in shock at the men flooding into their bedroom. Ana was screaming, but it was like there was no sound at all. Adrian reached down toward the top drawer of his nightstand where his .38 revolver was.
One of the men raised his rifle and fired twice, hitting Adrian in the chest with both rounds and knocking him back into the headboard. He slumped over and reached for Ana. The light-colored bedding quickly began to turn crimson as his lifeblood poured onto it. I could see the fear in his eyes as the lights in them slowly went out. Ana became silent as she reached for him, at a loss for what she should do. One of the men grabbed her and pulled her off the bed as she screamed back toward the now lifeless body that used to be her husband.
She struggled against the men, but there was nothing she could do. They bound, gagged, and hooded her before sitting her in the corner. They then proceeded to tear the room apart. She sat lost in her terror and drowning in her own tears under the black cowl.
“It’s not here,” said one of the men as he touched his earpiece.
“Where is it?” yelled another at Ana as he plucked the bag from her head. She continued to cry. “Point to where it’s hidden, or you get to go next,” the man said to her as he drew his sidearm and pressed it against her cheek. The look of confusion on her face, along with the sheer horror of what she had just been through, told the man that he would get nothing. “Let’s go,” he said. “Bag the bitch and bring her.”
One of the men grabbed her and tried to lift her. She fought as hard as she could to stop them, but there was nothing she could do. She managed to slip a single hand free of her restraints and dug her nails into the carpet, but it was all for nothing. Then, just as she was about to be dragged from the room, it happened. She looked up at me, her desperation pouring out of her like a river and flowing into me. Her eyes met mine and I knew she could see me. Worse, I could hear her spirit crying out to me: Help! It was as if one of the men had just placed another two rounds into my chest.
She could see me. I don’t know how, but she could; I was absolutely sure of it. I reached out for her, lost in the moment and in awe of the words she hadn’t actually spoken. Then, just as quickly as the men had entered, they were gone. I snapped myself out of it and passed through the wall back into the living room. There was nothing there. It was almost as if they had never been there in the first place. I continued outside and looked around, again, nothing. They were just gone. I turned around and went back into the house. I looked back toward the bedroom where the excitement had just happened. The door that had been torn off its hinges not sixty seconds before, was once again where it had begun the night.
I stood in shock and confusion—at least that’s what I thought it was. It had to be, judging by how humans react in similar situations. It was not because of the door’s magical reassembly, though that was something that was indeed bothering me, but because the two events were things I had never seen before. Ana Harmond, through some method I did not understand, was able to see me while she was alive. The other, more disturbing thing was that I didn’t see any of it coming. Someone had died right in front of me, and I hadn’t felt it coming! Never in my entire existence had I not felt someone’s death coming and been there waiting for it. Something was very, very wrong here, and I needed to know what.
I stood, unable to move for a moment, and then I remembered the Hexen. I had left them skulking on the roof, waiting for the soul of Adrian Harmond. I rushed through the miraculously reconstructed door. As I moved through it, there was a faint shimmer, I paid it no attention and emerged into the bedroom. The shadows from the walls had descended and were swarming around the corpse. I didn’t know what to do; it was all so new to me. Never had I seen the Hexen go after anyone so viciously. All I knew was that that soul was my responsibility. And I needed to make sure he was safe.
I felt a wave of power flood into me. Then, almost as if a second part of me awakened, I felt like the images man had assigned me: the reaper in black. My hands felt like blades and I began to cast the Hexen aside one by one as the soul of the recently departed man flailed beneath the swarm. I had never felt so empowered or helpless at the same time. Then, before I knew it, the shadows were all gone, dispatched by my own hand.
The soul of Adrian Harmond was not in good shape. I felt myself relax and become what I can only describe as my “normal” self. I reached down and took him by the arm and helped him sit up. As he did, I could see the body he had left behind. It was mangled, like it had been attacked by wild animals. The Hexen were here not to feed, but to destroy. Something about Adrian had made him a target. The strangeness just kept escalating, and I was lost inside it.
“Who are you?” Adrian asked weakly.
“I’m Cyrus,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“I think so. What were those things?”
“Hexen,” I said.
“Uh, okay, and those are . . .?”
I didn’t know how to answer. He was already weak, and with the shock of his own death, I was afraid it would be too much. I needed to do this slowly. “I’ll tell you later,” I replied. “First let’s make sure you’re all right.”
“Cyrus,” he interrupted, “I know that I’m dead. I remember getting shot, so just tell me. What the hell were those things?”
I paused for a moment. Like Norma, it was not often someone understood their own death so easily.
“They are remnants,” I said.
“Of what?” he asked.
“Not really sure,” I replied. “Spirits that wander the world. They feed on the souls of others, and in this case, they wanted yours. Do you know why?”
“I don’t, I’m sorry,” he said.
“What about the men?” I asked. “Do you know who they are?” He shook his head.
“What about your wife, why could she see me?” No response.
I sat for a moment. The strangeness of the events was grating on me. I had not been this interested in anything in a very long time. It was exciting, and a bit overwhelming all at the same time. But it had pulled me out of myself. I could feel the passing of people around the world. I had neglected my duty and it was something that needed to be done. I didn’t want to go, but I had to. The curiosity would have to wait (for the moment at least).
“Adrian, I need you to give me a moment, is that okay?” He nodded, and I proceeded to do what I needed to. I felt the shards of my being leave and imprint to the places I needed to be. I did it as quickly as I could. Each soul was important, but so was this. I needed to be able to focus if it was something that I was going to pursue. I scratched the itch and did what I had to. When I was done, I turned back to him.
Adrian spoke before I had a chance to. “Cyrus, I think I know who you are.” It was not what I wanted to hear. What if he lost it?
“And who is that?” I asked, biting my lip.
“You’re my guardian angel. God sent you here to watch over me,” he said.
I simply smiled, trying not to show my relief. For the moment I was going to be able to avoid an awkward conversation. I decided to move on and let him believe what he wanted to.
“Adrian is there anything you can tell me that might help this make sense?” I asked.
Again, he just shook his head. I wanted to know what had happened to Ana, the girl who had seen me, but there was nothing to follow. As much as I wanted to know what was going on, there was nothing else here for me to go on. There was nothing left for me to do but my job, and Adrian was part of it. And so, I prepared him for his trip, explaining where we would be going and all that it entailed. He acknowledged and understood. I walked him through the house and into the street. I could hear the sounds of sirens in the distance; someone had heard what had happened and called the authorities.
“The police are coming,” he said. “That’s good; they can find Ana.”
He was right that it was a good thing. When I was done, I could come back and use them to find the girl.
“They will find her, Adrian, don’t worry. That’s their job.”
“Aren’t you going to help them?” I looked over at him. He was still very weak.
“I’m sorry, that’s not what I do,” I replied.
He looked at me in disappointment. I would guess that what I was feeling in that moment was guilt. I had every intention of finding her in my own time. Not to save her, but to satisfy my curiosity. She had seen me in life, when I was usually seen only by those that have passed. Her fate was none of my concern. The police would do their thing, and they would find her alive, or they would not, and I would collect her soul. Either way, I would speak to her and get my answers. The only thing that would change was the timetable.
“Why won’t you help?” he asked, taking a seat on the curb.
I wanted to tell him the truth. I am death, I don’t pick sides. Yet this man, himself ordinary, but at the moment part of something special, was asking me to. I thought about what I would tell him. My job is too important, I would say. I can’t sacrifice it for one girl. Who knows what would happen? But the look on his face was unbearable. And so was the itch to know what had happened. Screw the timetable. How had I been tricked? It was something that I wanted the answer to, sooner rather than later. And, who knew? Putting the countless skills I had developed through my eons on earth might be fun. I looked at him. He was still waiting for an answer, and his fragile state was making him even more convincing. It was enough of an excuse. I agreed and helped him back up before walking him to the corner where we watched as the police arrived.
“Wait here,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”
Adrian nodded and again took a seat beneath the streetlight.
As I walked across the street I began to think about how best to approach this. What would a detective look like? I thought. I knew the answer. I had been at many murder scenes. I walked out of sight around the corner. Then I did something I hadn’t done in a long time: took on corporeal form. I have to say, I looked sharp. The feel of real clothes on me was different, and the warmth of the blood in my veins and wool of the pin-striped suit on my skin was soothing. I could feel the cool night breeze on my face and took a deep breath. Boy, it felt good to feel alive, even if it was just for a moment.
The officers had already entered the house and found what was left of Adrian’s corpse. I walked into sight, an overhead streetlight at the corner punctuating my reveal to those whose job it was to protect the people of this city. The officer stringing the yellow tape marked POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS gave me a look. I held out my fake badge and he let me pass. I laughed a little as I felt the human persona I had adopted cause me to shake my head at the lack of punctuation on said yellow tape. It was no doubt made that way to reduce the manufacturing cost. Something before that moment I wouldn’t have noticed nor should I have, due to its irrelevancy. But I was a detective in this moment; it was my job to notice the little things.
I walked into the house where two other men, in all probability detectives themselves, stood. They were discussing the condition of Adrian’s mangled body. I moved closer to them to introduce myself. They stopped me before I could.
“And who the fuck are you?” asked the short, plump one.
I produced my faux credentials and replied, “Detective First Grade Cyrus Grimm, on loan from the NYPD. Who the fuck are you?” The look on the two men’s faces told me that they liked my retort.
“I’m Detective Aaron, and this lanky fuck is Detective Marx.”
“Who you calling a lanky fuck, Oompa Loompa?” They both laughed under their breath and turned to me.
“So, New York, why are you way the hell out here?” Aaron asked. Here was my chance to test my skills. They both had stubble that was at least a few days’ grown, meaning that they were blue-collar chaps, more concerned with catching bad guys than their image. This was confirmed by the fact that neither wore a tie and both had sweat stains on their collars and armpits—and, of course, the colorful language. Neither wore a wedding band; they were married to the jobs and each other. The fingernails on their hands were dirty, completely ungroomed—hell, for all I knew neither of them had showered in days. Which very well may have been the case since they were both drenched in a very intense and terrible cologne. All in all, it gave me a pretty good picture of what I needed: two lazy detectives who wanted the glory, didn’t care how they got it, and weren’t really willing to do the work.
“Let’s just say I dealt with something in a way that the lieutenant didn’t exactly care for,” I said, knowing that neither of them would bother to vet the story.
“Good to have you, then,” Marx said. “Care to see the body?” I nodded and walked into the room, knowing what I would find. I felt like an idiot when I tried to walk through the wall like I had done so many times before.
“You okay?” Aaron asked, giving me a strange look.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Had a little bit to drink before I came out,” I lied.
“Nice,” he replied. “Hope you saved some for us.” We all chuckled and moved into the bedroom, this time through the door. Everything was how I remembered it. The mutilated remains of the man I had left sitting on the street corner outside were bleeding into the bed and the sound of dripping blood where it had soaked through the mattress and come out the bottom churned my stomach—which reminded me that I needed to eat. I needed to steer them toward Ana’s abduction and away from the brutality of Adrian’s demise.
“Where’s the wife?” I asked.
“What wife?” Marx asked.
“The one that was taken,” I said. They both looked at me in confusion. “C’mon, guys, seriously? What guy buys thousand-thread-count sheets? Two nightstands, two lamps, two alarm clocks. I bet you in the bathroom you’ll find two toothbrushes, feminine care products, and pictures with the two of them in it.”
They both nodded as I laid it out in front of them. They were not very good at what they did. The help I hoped to find here was not going to be substantial. Then I felt a twinge. Two clocks. I picked up the clock that had been knocked from the nightstand on Adrian’s side. Stopped at 9:13, a shard of wood lodged in it. It was from the door that had been destroyed as the men entered.
I took a second look and couldn’t place what was off with how it looked. I dismissed it a second time, more concerned with the woman who had seen me. I did not imagine that part, her seeing me was very real, not an illusion. I placed the clock back down as I refocused on the two men looking about the room.
“Aaron, Marx, come here,” I yelled at them. They ran over like puppies to a new owner. “Okay, guys, let the unis deal with the guy. Focus on the girl. It looks like she’s still alive; let’s try to keep it that way. Got it?”
“Yeah, we got it,” Aaron said.
“Good. I’ll see what I can dig up to give us more to go on. I’ll be in touch.”
“How do we contact you?” Marx asked.
“I’ll contact you,” I replied. “I’m not exactly supposed to be investigating anything right now, if you know what I mean.” They looked at each other and nodded like I had just told them the biggest secret in the world. If they only knew.
I left the house and walked back toward the corner where I had left the soul of Adrian Harmond. He wasn’t there. He had moved closer and was standing at the edge of the punctuation-free yellow police tape. He was stuck in the habits of his life, knowing he shouldn’t pass it. Forgetting no one could see him, and even if they could, they couldn’t stop him. I walked past him and gave a gesture to follow, which he did.
“You do realize that no one can see you and that you can walk through solid objects, right?”
“Yeah. I saw you try, through the window,” he said with a smile on his face.
“Don’t give me that look,” I said. When we were out of sight I reverted back to my much less hindered spectral state. It felt good to be light again. I explained to Adrian that I had no new information.
“Now what?” he asked.
“Now I take you to where you need to be, then I will continue doing my job, and do what I can to save Ana,” I replied.
“Thank you,” he said. I nodded and raised my hand, so he would stop walking. I could feel the buzz again. I needed to get back to the job. I closed my eyes and went to those who had died and were dying, to get them to where they needed to be. I was still in the middle of it when I heard it:
“I’m glad I found you before you disappeared on me,” came from down the street.
My eyes sprung open. Before us stood a woman dressed in all black with a wide-brimmed hat. She had medium-length blond hair, and her shirt had a clerical collar. Adrian would have said she was pretty. I stood silent until she spoke again.
“Well? Are neither of you going to say anything?” Adrian and I looked at each other, then back at her.
“You can see us?” I asked.
“Yes, I can,” she replied. “And before you ask, my name is Vera Essalte. I am a priest of the Church of Saint Ordanis.”
“Never heard of it.”
“I’d like to say it’s nice to meet you, but it’s not,” I replied and looked at Adrian, who stood motionless, staring at her.
“Given your experience tonight, I don’t blame you,” Vera said.
“Why can you see us?” I asked, now very intrigued by this person standing before me.
“Good question to start with,” she replied. “I can see you because I am one of a select few that has True Sight. I can see the world beneath the world.”
“So, psychic,” I said.
“Close enough. I’ll explain more later. Right now, we need to go, Mr. Grimm.”
If I had a physical spine, a chill would have run down it. “How do you know my name?” I asked.
“I know both of you,” she replied. “Adrian, you look well. Well, I guess as well as I could expect you to look.” I glanced over at him; a look of disbelief was on his face.
“Do you know her?” I asked him. He didn’t answer. “Adrian!” I barked, snapping him out of his trance. “Do you know her?”
“Yeah, I do,” he said. I waited for him to continue, but he was once more stuck in a daze. I rolled my eyes and continued to press.
“Focus, Adrian! How?”
“She’s my boss. From work.”
“Another time, gentlemen. Let’s go,” Vera said.
“I think now is a good time,” I said, trying to show impatience. “What do you want?”
“I want what you want: to find out what happened to Ana.”
“Because she is one of us,” she said. “One of the chosen.”
“Chosen to do what?” I asked.
“Chosen by God to protect the world from the forces of hell.”
“This is ridiculous,” I replied. “I have walked this world for millions of years, and never once has there ever been anything to show me that God exists. Hell, I was here long before the idea of God even existed. So, don’t come in here and tell me that God gave you this. There is no God. There’s just me, the garbage man!”
Adrian looked at me, confused, not quite sure what to make of me. I remembered that he said he thought I was an angel. It was not the first time I had seen that mistake. For a moment I felt bad that I had just shattered his belief system. But he was about to find out the truth, anyway. I just hoped he took it well. Then Vera spoke.
“You can choose to believe what you want, but I’m asking you both for your help,” she said.
“Wait,” Adrian said. “Who are you?” he asked me. Vera realized in that moment that Adrian didn’t know the truth. I looked at her and tilted my head, letting her know it was her decision to make. She looked at him and spoke.
“Adrian, what do you believe he is? An angel maybe?”
“Isn’t he?” he asked, his still-weak soul struggling with the emotional roller coaster he had been on this evening. She walked up to him and stood close, then looked at me before speaking.
“Yes, Adrian, he is your guardian angel. He’s everyone’s guardian angel, left here to guard the earth long before man walked on it; for he is the Angel of Death, the Reaper of Souls. Armies kneel at his feet, and even the mightiest man counts himself lucky to have him standing over him. And you and he are going to help me find your wife, aren’t you?”
Adrian fell to his knees, completely exhausted. At least he didn’t have the energy to lose it over finding out who I really was. He looked up at me, as if God was real and sitting on my shoulder. As Vera knelt down beside him, she knew she had Adrian’s answer. And though it was a lie, I had a small piece of mine. Vera had given me the reason as to why I had been seen. And supposedly it was because a divine being had given her that gift. Not exactly what I had hoped for, but, then again, you don’t always like the answers you get.
My curiosity felt strangely satisfied. I had every opportunity to walk away at that very moment, drop Adrian off, and move on with my existence, ignorant to the actions of men. But as I looked down at that broken soul and the priest kneeling with him, I learned something very important about humanity. Hope is never dead. I guess I already knew that. I had seen it earlier that night with Norma. So once again I made the excuse. If the taking of Ana Harmond was indeed going to bring about the end of the world—as highly improbably as that was—then that was a whole lot of work that I really didn’t want to deal with. And so, I answered Vera’s question.
“How can I help?”