Thompson showed up late, sporting his dark blue tie that Joan had bought him. In the fourteen years of marriage, she always bought him a tie for his birthday and a dark blue tie for that matter. He stopped at the door of auction room, fiddled with the tie.
“I'm not even sure this tie goes with light pink shirt,” He said and sighed.
From the door he could hear the auctioneer's booming voice, asking for asking for another bid. No takers. Then the gavel banged and he announced that Smith had won the bid.
Thompson made a noise from his throat. “I hope that bastard isn't here,” Thompson ran a hand up and down his face.
He was tired.
If he wasn't out chasing a soul to take to the Otherside, then he was at auctions all over the world buying souls for the agency. Everyone thinks it's only one spirit in a robe and holding a scythe that's Death. Actually there is several agencies out collecting. And there's two things every agent of death hates: one, is for a soul recently deceased to run or go missing. Two: for another agent to steal a soul from underneath an agent.
The last thing is what Floyd Smith was famous for. He hated him, even though they both had worked for Axel agency as partners until Smith started his own agency.
Thompson opened the door to the auction room with an audience of twenty or so agents laughing, clapping, some thumbing their nose, and the auctioneer announcing his presence.
Thompson waved at the other agents, smiled big as if he were a celebrity. He looked around, Smith wasn't there.
“How nice of you to join us, Mr. Thompson. Your seat has only been empty for three hours.” The auctioneer said through the microphone.
“Oh, come on, Gimble,” Thompson yelled out. “I only bid on the best souls.”
Thompson found his seat beside a nervous Calvin, his partner.
“Thank God your here, Stevo,” Calvin was wearing that horrible chex-mix suit, the squares of red and white always made Thompson feel nauseous. “You heard what Ford said on Monday. If we don't snag a good soul he can sell, we're out of a job.”
“You worry too much, Calvin,” Thompson pushed his glasses off the tip of his nose, brushed back a strand on his balding head. “We'll get one. By the way, if you loose this job, you can go back to being a gym coach. Oh, but your wife still thinks you do that, eh?”
“What do you tell your wife, Stevo?” Calvin said in mocking voice.
Thompson turned to auctioneer, tried to pay closer attention to the event. “None of you’re fucking business, is what I tell her.” Thompson smiled to himself.
“Just don't let Smith outbid you,” Calvin whispered.
“He's not here.” Thompson saw the picture of a Senator placed on an easel.
The agent next to them whispered to them,”Smith was here. He was called away for something urgent.”
“Oh, great, what luck, eh Stevo?” Calvin placed his huge hand on Thompson shoulder. Thompson jerked away. The man was a giant, played three years as a center for the Bronco's before blowing out a knee. Now he was an agent of death for the Axel agency, and not a very good one. He and Thompson has had too many lost souls. They slip away and haunt someone or some building, or even an object. Once a deadline to exit the souls to the Otherside is missed they are gone for eternity.
For the Senator, Thompson bid 450, it jumped to 500 credits. Thompson raised his hand. 600 credits. Burke from Denholm agency bid 1,000 credits. Thompson screamed, “1, 500!”
Calvin jabbed Thompson in the ribs with an elbow. Thompson gave him a look, daggers in his eyes. “The agency only gave us 1800 credits!”
“Back off,” Thompson growled.. “I know what I'm doing.”
Thompson heard the bidding close at 2500 credits. His jaw dropped to the floor. “What---what happened?” He cried out.
“The bid closed on you while you were talking,” One of the agents said.
“Which one of you bastards----” Thompson stood, his face beat red with anger.
“It was Smith,” Someone said. “By phone.”
Thompson kicked his chair, cursed under his breath. Thompson placed a hand over his worried face. He was done for. He would surely loose his job, or worse. Be RETIRED.
“This young lady was recently deceased,” The auctioneer said. “As a matter of fact, this last acquirement only died twenty minutes ago.”
Thompson sat in his chair, barely looked up. He crossed his arms, shook his head. They removed the Senator's picture from the easel, and replaced it with a beautiful dark haired woman smiling as if there were no cares in the world.
“This is Jenna Smith. Died from a car accident,” the auctioneer said.
Thompson eyes lit up. He moved his lips to say the woman's name. “That's Smith's wife...” He whispered to Calvin.
Calvin stopped picking his nose and looked up. “Don't do it,” Calvin whispered back. “Please don't bid on her, Stevo.”
“He can't bid on the soul of a loved one, Calvin. If he does, he could be Retired. Those are the rules.”
“Let one of these other jerks do this. For God's sake, Steve. Smith used to be a friend.”
Thompson wrinkled his nose. “Screw him,” he said and topped out the bid.
The auction room went silent.
“That was all the credits we were allotted for the year...Steve...” Calvin buried his head in his hands.
“If,” Thompson pulled out the company credit card and slammed it on the auction treasurer's desk. “I'm going out, Calvin, I wanna go out with style.”
“But, if you loose this soul, you'll be RETIRED.” Calvin shook his head. “And I will, too.”
“No,” Thompson watched the treasurer swipe his card. “You are no longer my partner. I'll get the paperwork drawn up after I do this.” The treasurer handed Thompson the credit card. With the other hand he signed for the sale. “You wont be RETIRED.” Thompson tried to smile, but it turned into a smirk.
This was Thompson's justice.
He was sick of the business. Taking souls across, into the light or the darkness, it wears on a person's mind. Sometime you even dream about it. He hated Smith so much, he was willing to be RETIRED. Who were they kidding. The committee doesn't RETIRE you, they incinerate you and your soul becomes one those whispering voices in the winds during a storm. Lousy way to go. Well, if he made up something, showed what a jerk Smith was, how many souls he'd stolen from him, they would understand how letting the man's wife become a lost soul was a just cause for revenge. They might let him go and wait for him to die, then his soul would become a whispering voice.
That would never happen.
The auction had given him info on where Smith's wife may be. He tried the hospital. No dice. He tried the school where she had taught first grade. No spirit wandering the school's halls. The last place was a summer home on a Maine beach.
Thompson arrived just in time for sundown. The sun illuminated the overcast sky----bright reds and oranges in a wild pink and blue beyond the horizon. He saw a woman standing at the edge of the pier, quietly watching the waves dance across the elegant river.
She was nearly transparent in her sundress. Her dark hair whipped around her face courtesy of the rolling wind.
“Jenna,” Thompson called out to the woman.
She turned quickly. There was a crease between her eyes to show her confusion. She looked at Thompson as if she only heard a voice and saw no one. Then she smiled slightly after recognizing a person belonged to the voice.
“Oh,” Jenna said. “Your here take me.”
“More or less,” Thompson nodded.
Jenna laughed. “Men are always so vague,” She looked at him. “I was hoping I could get a chance to say goodbye to Floyd.”
“Did you love your husband?” Thompson approached her cautiously. If ran to her, she might jump into the river. But maybe he wanted her to. He couldn't make up his mind.
“Yes,” She said without hesitation.
If Thompson let her go, she would haunt Smith until he died.
“Would you like to go for a walk?” Thompson put his hand out.
Jenna bit her lip, reached out for Thompson.
From a distance, a voice called out for her. She pulled back her hand. Thompson turned, saw it was Smith running up the pier.
“Jenna! No! Don't take his hand!” He was coming up fast, waving his hands.
“Please Jenna! I'll taker her across Thompson, you bastard!”
Jenna stepped backwards. All she saw was a blur of a body coming towards her and a muffled voice screaming at her. She looked like a deer caught in headlights. Fear ran across her face. Jenna turned toward the waves crashing against the pier.
“Stay back,Smith! What are you doing! You know you'll scare her away---”
No sooner had Thompson caught Smith by the arms, Jenna was gone.
The current had taken her, enveloped her in it's white underbelly.
Smith and Thompson stood, both at a loss for words. Smith burst into tears.
Thompson, closed his eyes, let go of Smith.
Thompson walked away.