The crime scene was over near Ave C and East 5th, and the nearest Downtown Hospital was the one closer to Pace U. It would take a bit for the ambulance to get there, but not for us. The spirit world of the Earth is a lot like the living world of the Earth; it is flooded with lost souls. Lots of souls go to Heaven or Hell when they die, but the vast majority end up here in purgatory, the netherworld of Earth. They spend the majority of their afterlife doing their best to move in one direction or the other, up or down. It is where souls hang out until they get sentenced to Heaven or Hell. They say one of the reasons the DBI was created was that Purgatory needed to be policed, and none of the real Angels wanted to be stuck with job of slumming it down on Earth for all of eternity. So, lucky us, we have the job. I guess it makes sense; since we came from here, we are more comfortable here. Or at least, that’s what they tell us in orientation. Truth is some DBI Agents can’t stand coming back down here. Some agents volunteer for the DBI, but want to stay up in Heaven as Lab Rats, or Pencil Pushers, never really getting out in the field. They figure they lived their whole lives trying to get away from here, and the last thing they want to do is go back. And to be honest, I don’t blame them.
“Come on MB, let’s get to the Hospital. I have a bad feeling about leaving Chike alone.” MB unfurled her wings and took off with me, for once not making a comment at all. She really was pushing herself, and I didn’t know what her limits where. That’s why I always hated taking rookies on tough cases; they pushed themselves too hard, which sounds great, but a cop who’s exhausted or past his limits make mistakes. And mistakes get people hurt.
“MB, are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, why do you ask?”
“Because you’re not and I need to know how not ok you are.”
Angels, by our nature move fast, especially when we wing it, so we were already at the hospital. I was used to walking, talking, and checking out an area for suspicious characters at the same time, which is no mean feat when you are checking out a hospital in the Spirit world. They are warehouses for suspicious characters, and netherworld hospitals are three times as bad. Tons of unscrupulous ghosts hover around hospitals looking to take advantage of the newly dead who don’t receive an immediate sentence to Heaven or Hell. Basically every hospital is its own version of the Port Authority Bus Station. I moved through the ER swiftly, seeing people moving closer and farther away from Death on beds everywhere. Lost souls crowded the corridors, looking after loved ones, urging them one way or the other. One of the biggest inaccuracies the living believe is that “the voice” they hear is the voice of God or of Angels, or even of loved ones. It could be none of the above. It could be some guy who’s working for a demon, enticing people to die so that he can collect their soul upon arrival and sell it to Demons in order to curry their favor. Not all of these people are bad guys though; some are honestly trying to do good work, urging people to hold on, and trying to build up good karma in order to push their own cases a lil closer to getting towards the Pearly Gates. Good luck trying to tell one kind from the other though.
“MB, look at me. I’m not kidding here, I need to know that you’re 100% or not, because this has gone from being a CSI to an ongoing crime, and if you’re wiped then you have to tell me.”
Mary Beth followed close behind Joe. She was lost in thought; she had in fact been thinking very intently on the very subject Joe was asking her about. This was her first real field mission, and she did very much want to impress Joe and Chike. But she was also very exhausted, and her Angelic energies were mostly spent. She would be damned, however, if she was going to let Joe know that. She didn’t come this far to flake out now.
“I’m fine Ruffino. You cover your side of the street and I’ll cover mine ok? I wish you would get out of my way so I could work.” As she said this she pushed ahead of him and went further into the ER. She did not know where she was going, but she knew she had a job to do, and she was determined to do it. Joe, for his part, responded thusly;
“Well, well, look whose wearin her big girl pants today. Look, you can be I am Woman Hear Me Roar all you want, just make sure you can back it up.” Joe had caught up to Mary Beth to look her in the eyes. He saw her determination, but he also saw the truth she was trying to hide. He had been a rookie once, and he was sure he had that look in his eyes once as well, “especially with the ton of ego that I used to carry around” he thought. Dying had humbled him though, and made him a little wiser. “Just be careful, I…”
“Hey. Hey you. Angels.”
Joe and Mary Beth looked around, but didn’t see anything. They weren’t used to disembodied voices; they were disembodied voices.
“Down here geniuses.”
They both looked down and saw a small, gnarled green man wearing a garishly tasteless orange suite and an even more tasteless expression. Mary Beth tried to hide the revulsion she felt as she took in the whole scene below her; Joe did not.
“Who are you and what the hell do you want.”
“Well, I see you have all the people skills you fuckin angels are known for. I need your help. I was fuckin robbed, and I need you pigeons to do sumthin about it!”
Mary Beth was initially at a loss for words. Then she shook her head and quickly developed an exit strategy from this conversation, “Joe you handle this, I’m going to finish checking out the hospital. I’ll call you if I need you.” And literally, in a flash she was gone. “Why that bitch”, Joe thought, “just ditched me with this little…”
“Hey you payin attention shit for brains? I’m talkin to you! Now I had scored three perfectly good souls in the last week, and just as I was about to sell em, these three toughs rolled me in an alley and stole em from me!”
Joe just stared at the gnome-ish being at his feet in horror and disbelief. “What are you?!”
“I’m a gnome numb-nuts, the name’s Derlun. And some would call me a soul-slaver, pimp, or middleman for Demons, but I prefer the title Afterlife Entrepreneur.”
Joe’s mental circuit-breakers all blew at the same time. “So… you want me, an Angel…”
“An Agent of Heaven entrusted with the duty of upholding Celestial Law…”
“To help you, an admitted slave trader and outlaw who openly deals with demons…”
“Recover the souls that you stole, and will most likely sell to the aforementioned demons so that they can be taken to Hell.”
“I’m glad you’ve been paying attention you greasy Wop, now are you gonna help me or not?”
Joe had seen a lot when he was alive, and he had seen even more since he had died, but never had he seen anyone like Derlun.
“I can’t deal with this right now.” In one swift motion Joe pulled back and punted Derlun as hard as he could, right in the stomach. The little orange ball of nastiness sailed across the ER like a mutant soccer ball, right through the ER doors. “Ugly little fuck”, Joe thought, “He’s lucky I didn’t use my sword on him like a 9-iron. Now I’ve gotta go find Chike My bad feeling is at a 9 out of 10 right now.”