Chapter 5: Rumors Abound

It really didn't make a difference what time of year it was, every season was a tourist season in Las Vegas. From the wealthy to the poor, famous to everyday Joe they arrived in droves like moths to the lights of the REAL city that never slept. Since its inception, Vegas was like a wonderland that was created specifically to examine vice. A study in human nature without peer. Whether your particular vice was sex, food, gambling, all night parties or a combination of all of the above, Las Vegas had it in spades.

Since his arrival, Flick had been too busy learning biology to even think about his real reason for coming here in the first place....to study about modern human culture.

He had taken his leave of Glimmer for the moment to allow himself a breath of fresh air and, more importantly, time to reflect on the events of the past two days. Glimmer had reacted strangely when he told her that he wanted some time alone but since he had no real experience of his own in matters of the heart, he took this in stride as just one more lesson he had to learn about his kind and...himself. Each of these past 48 hours had been a revelation to him and he paid little attention to his studies as he puzzled out some of the many questions that plagued him.

In his mind, Flick attempted to put some of the missing pieces into place.

"I was always told that I was CREATED....not part of a species."

Was he pissed that his sense of individuality had been taken away? That he was no longer special and hence, not unique?

"No. Of course not! That would be stupid of me. I am still an individual. I exist, therefore, I am!"

The more he tried to convince himself....the more like bullshit it had sounded. Why was he so angry all of the sudden?

"Was I just being nieve all this time? Thinking that I was special and....alone....in the universe?"

There it was. That little thing that had began to chew its way through his innards the moment he saw Glimmer. Alone. The worst five letter word in all the languages in the world.

"Have I gotten so used to being...alone....that I actually came to enjoy it?"

Ding ding ding ding! He half expected to see Wink Martindale appear out of nowhere and hand him an armload of prizes and a version of the home game for being today's winner. Amazing that individuals pay $300.00 for therapy when half the time they could be doing it for themselves simply by taking a walk and having some alone time.

"Freud....eat your heart out!" Flick said aloud as he turned and headed back to the hotel. ******************

Socrates and I spent a few hours revewing the job requirements and My personal expectations of an assistant, which were few. We toured various areas and sooner than I had expected, it was time for our monthly staff meeting with My two favorite entities in the whole universe, Death and Satan.

Since the Nexus encounter, the two cohorts seemed properly back in their place. One thing that I would never take for granted again was that whatever seemed to be in place, usually wasn't and somewhere in the back of My mind, several alarm bells were warming up to go off.

As had become our custom since My arrival here, we met on neutral ground. Purgatory seemed the appropriate place since part of the job we all shared was a monthly intake of souls from this place. For matters of convenience and expediency, we opted to combine the two tasks into one meeting. Flick's idea actually and it was another good example of how lucky I was to have him.

We arrived a few minutes early on a bluff overlooking the Purgatorial Territories. As Socrates and I moved to sit a familliar voice sounded.

"I have cordoned off all paths leading to the meeting place as per Your request Sir."

"Well done Peeper! If you look in front of you, you will see the new Metallica cd as My gift for your services and the use of your fine facilities."

"Oh DUDE! This is primo fantastico! Thank you Sir!"

"No problemo me amigo!" Mother Nature was gonna strangle Me for giving that to him since she was his closest neighbor.

A waft of brimstone and the distince odor of sulfur was the usual calling card of Satan. It generally arrived about five seconds before he did. Four, three, two, one...

"BAMPH!"

Satan arrived without his usual posse which was odd. Death usually arrived at his side but this time....he was nowhere to be found.

"Socrates! So nice to see you again."

"Satan! So nice to smell you again." He replied. I couldn't help but to supress a slight grin.

"So where might your lascivious counterpart be when we are supposed to be having a meeting hmmm?"

Satan simply grinned his "eat shit and die" grin at Socrates.

"MY Grandma.....what big teeth you have!"

"Still using those big words huh Socrates?"

This time it was Socrates' turn to grin. "All the better to confuse you with my dear Satan." He replied elongating the S as he spat the name.

"As much as I enjoy the Dean and Jerry comedy here gentlemen I would like to know where the fourth member of our party might be?"

"Well I could be number four....or perhaps five!" Said a distinctly female voice appearing suddenly beside Me.

I could only look at her for a moment before I could speak. As I opened My mouth to say something she said: "I am a member of this staff aren't I?"

"Well..." I stammered. "Yes.....yes you are! It's just that you never seemed interested in the past with these matters."

She didn't miss a beat before saying: "If I leave you all alone for too long, strange things start happening behind my back. I want to be kept in the loop from now on AND I want minutes of each meeting I don't attend to be sent to me afterwards."

"But I..."

"Ahem....consider it done Mother." Socrates cut Me off. I just looked at him with wide eyes. He returned my stare with his "I will explain later" look. It would have to do...for now.

Tired of waiting, I reached out My arm and made a pinching motion with my hand, lifted My arm in the air and let go My fingers towards the empty chair. Death appeared....and someone was sitting astride his lap.

"Well...Marylin! I see you wasted no time finding a new consort!"

The look on Deaths face was....to die for! He quickly looked at the assembled staff members, looked at Marylin and said: "We will continue the.....um....dictation later Marylin." And she promptly vanished.

Death just looked at us as though nothing had happened.

"So...." He said. "Did I miss anything?"

"That depends." Said Satan. "Do you intend on continuing this meeting in the nude or are you at least going to put on some jogging shoes?"

An hour later, after getting the routine reports of the goings on in the various territories, it was time to weigh ten souls from Purgatory for their eternal reward.....or damnation.

It really didn't matter how long a soul had been in Purgatory to come to this point. Most of the souls that arrived here were nearly in a perfect balance between good and evil. There were several factors which determined a hearing before this assembly. One, was a 500 year time limit. Another was performance of afterlife assignments and the last, was negative behavior based. Nine times out of ten, those souls were greeted with open claws by Satan.

These meetings were very similar to a prison parole hearing. A list of the ten names as well as files on each appeared before us. As this was a matter of some importance, each of us took time to review the first file carefully. After a few moments had passed, Socrates called off the first name.

"Called now before this tribunal....Marie Antoinette....Former Queen of France!"

A cloud of vapor revealed a woman who, despite her common dress, bore the look of aristocracy. She wore a simple garment with none of the frills of her former office. She looked at the assembled panel only briefly before lowering her eyes and awaiting her fate.

"According to your file Marie, you have been in Purgatory for 210 years." Said Satan. "This also indicates that you failed in your first assignment of redemption."

Marie would not meet his gaze but answered meekly. "Yes. I did."

"However she succeeded in her second assignment Lucifer." I indicated.

"Please don't call me that! You know I don't like it."

"Gentlemen....." Interjected Mother Nature. "Lets keep to the subject at hand shall we?"

"Marie? Your first assignment was to stop a war between England and its colonies. Someone in the Department of Revenants gave you the body of an advisor to King George yet you still failed to stop this travesty. Please explain yourself." It was clear to Me that Satan was not going to let this go. It was a valid question however and thus, I remained silent for now to see where this was headed.

"Begging your pardon Sir....but I was given the body of a servant. Not an advisor."

"Oops! Looks as though we have a clerical error here folks......PEEPER!"

Peeper answered through some unseen speaker. "Uh....Yes Sir?"

"Check the Dept. Of Revenants file on Marie and report back to us as quickly as you can please. In the meantime we will adjourn briefly for coffee."

********************

Flick was in the process of returning to his hotel room to meet up with Glimmer when he noticed someone familliar playing a slot machine. As he drew nearer he realized that it was Thomas Aquinas from the Deptartment of Revenants.

"Well.....hello there Thomas! Didn't expect to see you here!"

"Flick! Wow! Yes...I am taking a few days off to recharge the old batteries! So...um...how are you getting along?"

"Interesting you should ask that Thomas." Flick said with a roll of his eyes about to spill the whole story.

"I mean with you being replaced and all...."

"I met this really wonderful girl and she......uh.....what did you say?"

"You mean....you dont....know?"

"KNOW WHAT?" Flick said a bit too loudly.

"That He.." He indicated by pointing upwards. "He replaced you with Socrates as His assistant."

Flicks face elongated and his jaw literally hit the floor with a "clang" that sounded like something out of a cartoon.

"Im sorry to be the one to have to tell you this Flick....I thought....perhaps that you knew!" Thomas said as Flick floated towards the elevator.

Somewhere in the back of his mind a black cloud was beginning to form.....and he was standing in the middle of it....alone. ****************