Small MerciesMature

Name: Beatrice Tanner (alias: Sixpence)
Year of Death: 2014

Total Reaps: 0
Place of Residence: None
Day Job: ???

***

Only after I'd bought ice for my face (with a lot of odd looks from the cashier) did it occur to me that I ought to feel bad about stealing someone's wallet. They'd dropped it, and I'd picked it up to give it back, but they didn't seem to notice, and I didn't much want to draw attention to myself.

I told myself it wasn't stealing if I'd tried to give it back, but that was spoiled by the fact that I couldn't convince myself that I had tried all that hard.

Once the swelling had gone down a bit, I realised time was getting on and I had nowhere to sleep.

I couldn't very well go back to my house - my old house, as I was increasingly trying to get used to saying - and I didn't want to go back to Stepford Way.

I found a huge shopping complex and wandered around until after it got dark, until an assistant politely told me it was past closing time and I had to leave. Then I spent the rest of the night discovering just how long nine hours is when you're outside and can't sit down.

My phone buzzed at around five in the morning. I pulled it out of my pocket, surprised that I still had it, and confused as to who on earth could be texting a dead girl.

"Meet at Heartland Café, 9:00 AM sharp."

The number wasn't one I knew, but the text could only be from Hekate, which lead me to wonder how on earth she'd got my number. Well, stranger things had happened, I supposed.

By the time I found my bleary way to the café, it was ten past nine. I was absolutely shattered. I could feel the bags under my eyes already. Not that it would show under all the bruising. Small mercies.

Everyone else was there - except Rouge - and they all had coffee. Someone seemed to have ordered tea for me, which was nice. It was blessedly strong and hot, and eased my dropping eyelids a little.

I must've nodded off anyway, because Rouge startled me by collapsing lazily into a chair. I hadn't noticed her come in.

"What the hell is this?" she exclaimed shortly, waving her pocket dictionary.

"That, is what you get for shirking your responsibilities," Hekate replied curtly.

"I don't remember you telling me to babysit."

"Do I have to spell it out for you? You're being punished. Arguing is only going to make it worse."

Rouge slammed her fist on the table, making me jump again and spill tea on my hands.

"I don't give a damn about your punishments. You can take them and shove them up your ass, for all I care. But don't pretend you have any control over me, or what I choose to do."

"Do you know who you're talking to?" Hekate asked coldly.

"Yeah, some tramp with control issues," Rouge spat. She turned heel and strode out purposefully.

As if the stabbing pain that dominated my awareness of my face wasn't enough, I had the distinct feeling that Rouge - Charlotte, rather, now I'd woken up just enough to remember - hated me.

I glanced over at Hekate, really, really hoping she wasn't going to tell me to go after Charlotte and fetch her back. She looked like she might physically explode at any moment.

She reached forwards, palm up like she was waiting to be given something, and then flicked it back.

Charlotte stopped in the doorway, slowly turned and walked back to the table with a face like a thunderstorm.

Hekate's expression, on the other hand, looked like it could have been carved out of ice.

"How dare you," Charlotte said through gritted teeth as she sat down. Her entire body looked tensed up, as if she was fighting against her own movement. Which she probably was, I realised, looking between her and Hekate. The goddess - which she must have been, because there wasn't a better explanation - suddenly looked a lot more terrifying to me.

"How dare you," Hekate hissed. "I don't care how long you've been doing this job alone, I am your boss now and you will answer to me, whether you like it or not."

"I've told you, I don't give a damn about your punishments."

"Then I'll keep punishing you until you do. And it won't be just extra reaps either."

"You won't scare me. I'm not going to prance around on the whims of some prissy little git like you."

"I'll ask again, do you have any idea who you're saying that to?"

"I couldn't care less."

"Don't you want to get out of purgatory? Is that why you've put yourself in the red so much? Do you want to see the underworld, you little shit?"

Charlotte opened her mouth and closed it again. She seemed to have realised that this particular argument was not going to go in her favour.

"Alright, I'll babysit for today," she said finally, with what looked like a lot of effort.

"Yes, you will. And you will "babysit" until Beatrice here can manage in her own. Now, I make it half past nine which gives you, ooh, half an hour until your first reap? And you'd better get all of them today."

Charlotte stood up, scowling.

"Alright, all of you, go on! Since we've got two newbies, you'll all watch Charlotte here's reaps to get the hang of it, okay?"
Hekate made a flicking motion like she wanted us to leave.

No one argued.

***

We ended up in a subway station. Charlotte looked pissed off and uncharacteristically worried. I guessed Hekate's yelling must've taken a bigger toll than I'd thought.

"Um-" I started to ask Charlotte what actually happened in a reap, because I didn't have a clue.

"Shut up," she snapped. She was scanning the people around intently. I had no idea what she was looking for. I looked at the other reapers, but the punkish looking guy didn't say anything either, and the bearded one looked only a little less confused than me. I really needed to get the hang of remembering people's names...

"Train approaching. Please stand back from the edge of the platform. Train approaching. Please stand back..."

The announcement repeated a few more times, and then Charlotte pulled a gun out of her coat.

"What are you-" I tried. This time she just hit me in the face, which shut me up quite effectively.

There was a rush of air from the train, and then -

Charlotte fired.

The man she'd shot had thrown himself into the path of the train.

And then there was a very unpleasant bang and a lot of screaming.

The End

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