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Jump to the Prelude
The occultist told Charlie that Gus Shevlin had indeed been found loitering in the murk. He confirmed that the people who’d found Shevlin were indeed Flapper-Flip and Zach in the half-face mask. And he said that Shevlin had come to the hotel in the same boat as all of them.
Some doubt still seemed to linger, but Charlie’s reason won over his suspicion. Why would a guest lie for a pair of reapers, and why to this extent?
So, there they stood. Charlie behind the front desk; Flip, Zach, Shevlin, the occultist, and his lawyer on the opposite side. Other lawyers in white, reapers in black, and dead people in every imaginable wardrobe—all stared at them, openly or surreptitiously.
Charlie’s last step in exercising due diligence was: “And do you recall any of this, sir?”—directed at Shevlin.
“Me, what? No,” Shevlin said, grinning. He scooped up his twentieth or thirtieth serving of cookies from the nearest silver tray carried by a valet.
“Do you recall your name?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, that I do. Yes, Gus Shevlin. That’s my name. That’s correct.”
Saying this, Shevlin browsed the open page of the guestbook as if he saw his name written there.
Charlie stared at Zach and Flip. “He’s very confused.”
“We’ve been trying to tell you,” Flip said.
Charlie shrugged. “Okay,” he said.
And having come to the logical conclusion that Shevlin was indeed a lost soul, he promptly wrote in the only black letters in the sea of red:
Gus Shevlin. Lost Soul.
A bell rang from behind Charlie. He glanced back at the black curtain that separated him from the private staff area, off-limits to the public.
“One moment,” he said.
He lifted the curtain just enough to enter without revealing anything inside. Within seconds, he reemerged.
“You learn every day,” he said, seeming unpleasantly surprised. He addressed Shevlin: “Your boat is waiting for you, sir.”
© 2022 Ithaka O.
All rights reserved.This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author.