‘I have the Book of the Dead to help me,’ said Joe.
‘That’s not going to help you, Joe, that’s written for dead people.‘
‘Well, it’s got me this far.’
‘Except, that’s not very far at all,’ said Hel.
Silence fell upon the room. He didn’t know why but suddenly Joe was feeling really grumpy. He grabbed at the Book of the Dead from where he’d dropped it on the floor. He opened the front cover and looked down the contents page. He found the section he was looking for, called The Valley of the Dead. ‘Page two-hundred and eleven,’ he said to himself as he flicked to the section.
The Valley of the Dead
The Valley of the Dead is full of dead people. Listen to the fucking witch or you’ll be joining them.
Helpful, though Joe, very fucking helpful. Why had Mrs Crow given him the sodding thing if it was this bloody useless? It even fucking sounded like her, for Christ sakes!
He slammed the book shut.
Hel spoke first. ‘What did it say?’
Joe noticed his legs were bouncing up and down and his left hand was balled into a tight little fist.
‘It’s got to have -‘
‘It said nothing,’ he said through clenched teeth.
‘Never mind,’ said the witch, ‘I can help you if you want?’
Joe looked up at her. Agnes was looking all sweetness and light but he knew, yes he damn well knew she’d want something in return. Probably my balls on a golden platter, he thought to himself.
‘And why would you do that?’
‘Because I know I can get you through the Valley of the Dead. I travel through the valley all the time to pick up supplies -‘
‘And what would you require in return?’
Agnes smiled a wide smile that showed all of her pearly white teeth in a perfect line. It was a smile that could probably move mountains or thaw glaciers, and, maybe, just maybe, the grumpiness in Joe’s heart.
‘I have a small problem,’ said Agnes with a flutter of eyelashes.
‘What?’ Joe really doubted it would be a small problem. They never usually were. He’d learnt that off his Shitdad.
‘Son,’ his Shitdad would say, ‘I have a little problem, but don’t tell ya Ma.’ As soon as his Shitdad called him “son” he knew it was all over. He was only ever his son when he was in trouble and he needed help to get out of whatever it was, or to cover up whatever it was. Like the time his Shitdad had lost all of his mom’s bingo winnings at the bookies.
‘I have lost my heart.’
‘Lost your heart? Like, it’s been broken or something? You want me to beat someone up? Because if you do,’ said Joe putting his palms up in the air, ‘I’m not your man. I’m no good in fights, never have been.’
‘No, I’ve lost my heart,’ she said, pulling down her top ever so slightly to reveal the top of a very nasty red scar that had been crudely sewn together with thick black thread.
Joe recoiled in horror. ‘What the…? How are you…?’ Joe stood up quickly. ‘How did….?’ But he couldn’t finish his sentence because blackness took hold of his vision and he crashed to the floor.