Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Seven

The door creaked on its hinges as Joe pushed it open. A cool breeze blew in from the open doorway. Joe took a tentative step forwards but stopped because he could see nothing but black. A vast open expanse of black.

‘Go on then,’ said Mrs Crow.

‘But there’s nothing there,’ said Joe, taking a step backwards.

‘There is,’ said Mrs Crow, and with a sharp jab to his back she added, ‘now stop piddling about here and get on with it.’

Joe staggered through the door and into the black.

‘It’s been nice knowing you,’ said Mrs Crow to his back, ‘you know if the worse happens.’

He turned as the door slammed behind him.

‘Great,’ he said. The word echoed through the darkness. ‘Brilliant. Just brilliant.’

He stood still, not knowing what to do. Did he go back? The prank had surely gone far enough, hadn’t it? He couldn’t play this stupid charade forever, could he? No. Time to go back. Things had gone far enough.

Joe spun on his heels. He’d had enough. He’d go back through the door, have a good laugh with whoever had set this up but now it was time to finish it. Except…

The door had disappeared.

‘Very funny!’ he shouted to no one in particular. ‘You can stop now!’

‘Stop what?’ The voice made him jump. He swung around to see a figure swathed in black, lit by a small lamp held by a skeletal hand.’

‘Fuck! Who are you?’

‘Pleasure to meet you too!’

‘Yeah, erm.. sorry…I…you made me jump.’

‘Well, who else did you expect to be here?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Joe, he flung his arms in the air, nearly losing the book in his hand, ‘I’ve never been here before.’

‘Of course, you haven’t. You only die once.’

‘I’m not dead.’

‘Not dead? Don’t be stupid! Of course -‘

‘I’m not. I’m still alive and kicking and not falling for this shit anymore.’

The figure rushed over to him and grabbed Joe’s wrist. It held it in icy cold hands.

‘Wow!’ the figure exclaimed. ‘You have a pulse! You’re an actual live person. Well, this is very irregular.’ The figure dropped Joe’s hand and held up the lamp to Joe’s face. Its hood dropped from its head, revealing a man’s skeletal face. He had a patch over one eye and long straggly grey hair. Joe thought he could smell ammonia. The man reached up with his free hand and run it across Joe’s face. Joe cringed inside.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. This is too much, isn’t it? It’s just…it’s just I only ever see the dead ones and to find a live one standing right before me, well, it’s nothing short of a miracle.’ The man reached inside his cloak and scratched his armpit. ‘I’m Charon, by the way,’ he said, offering Joe the hand he’d just scratched his armpit with, ‘and I’m your guide across the River Styx.’

Advertisements

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Five

‘You’ll be fine,’ said Mrs Crow.

‘Fine? Fine? I haven’t even been out of Bloxwich,’ said Joe. His heart was beating hard in his chest. Sweat was pooling in the small of his back. Please, please, he thought, let me wake up. Let me wake up!

‘Are you sure about this?’ asked Morana. ‘He doesn’t look too well -‘

‘He’s all we’ve got,’ said Mr Crow, with a shrug. Mrs Crow gave her husband a sharp kick under the table.

‘I’ll go with him,’ said Lucifer.

‘And me,’ said Marcus, ‘I am the War Horseman. And I do know my way around the Under-‘

Mrs Crwo shot out of her seat waving her arms around maniacally. ‘No, no, no!’

‘But -‘

‘DON’T. BE. STUPID! She knows who you are you moron.’

‘Well,’ said Marcus, his face like thunder, ‘I’ve never -‘

‘Okay, okay,’ said Morana, her hands spread in supplication, ‘let’s all take it down a notch. Let’s all calm down -‘

‘When, in the whole history of calming down, has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down?’ asked Mrs Crow. At that moment, Joe couldn’t decide if he hated her or admired her because she did have a point.

Morana sighed heavily. She closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

‘She has a point you know,’ said Febris, moving her mask aside to speak.

‘Okayyy. Who’s in favour of sending Joe down into the underworld?’

‘Just fucking do it and let let me get on with getting my scythe back,’ snapped Mrs Crow.

Everyone except Joe raised their hands.

‘That’s eleven for. Okay, motion -‘

‘Do I not get a say?’ Joe could feel his insides shaking. This was so typical of any adult that he’d ever met. They never fucking asked. Always telling. Always moaning at him. Always yelling.

‘What?’ asked Mrs Crow. ‘You want to go back to your miserable existence? Go on then, Joe.’ She pointed at the door. ‘There’s the door. Use it.’

‘Corvina!’ Morana slapped her hands on the desk. ‘Stop!’

‘Go on Joe, run back to the stepdad that hates your guts. And your mother who wishes you’d never been born.’

‘CORVINA!’ Morana jumped up. Her chair fell backwards and hit the floor with a thud.

‘So? What are you waiting for Joe? Go on. Leave. Leave like you always do.’

The anger was boiling inside him. He could feel it burning in his chest.

‘I’ll do it,’ he said.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Two

Joe followed Mrs Crow through the door at the back and down the long corridor that seemed to grow darker the further we went. Mr Crow, the fat man, and the tall man all followed behind. Lola, who hadn’t wanted to enter the first time I’d entered the home, was now trotting beside Mrs Crow quite happily. Joe, although he loved Lola with all his heart, couldn’t help feeling a little bit betrayed.

Mrs Crow entered an open doorway at the end of the corridor. Joe followed but stopped still in the doorway frozen not by fear but by a strange sense of foreboding which he couldn’t quite explain.

There was a large oval oak table polished to within an inch of its life with a large skull etched into its surface. A long scythe ran along the back of it which reminded Joe of the table used in one of his favourite programs, Sons of Anarchy. There were thirteen chairs arranged around the table.

‘Hello,’ said Mrs Crow to the room. She turned to Joe and said, pointing to an old woman wearing an oxygen mask, ‘Joe, this is Febris.’

Febris nodded.

Joe said hello to the old woman who looked like she was only inches from dying.

‘Next to her is Limos.’

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

Limos looked up, said hi, then went back to playing with his belt over which his large belly hung. Joe could see his stomach poking out from under his Metallica t-shirt. Joe couldn’t tell you why but he really took a liking to Limos.

‘And this is Marcus.’

Marcus stood up, shook his blonde hair and held out a hand to Joe. Joe took his hand in his and shook it. Marcus’ handshake was loose and his hands were very soft.

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

‘And I’m Lucifer,’ said a husky voice.

‘Lucifer?’ asked Joe, turning to where the voice had come from. He was sure that somehow all of this was a big fat joke and that at some point someone was going to jump out at him and shout “Surprise! Got you!”

Lucifer, if that was who he was (and Joe doubted this very much), was huge, both in width and height and he had a great mane of orange hair with a bushy beard and moustache. When he took Joe’s hand in his, Joe thought he was going to crush his hand to dust.

‘Yes. Pleased to meet you. And you are..?’

‘The answer to our problems. Hopefully,’ said Mrs Crow. Joe also doubted this very much. At no point in his life had he ever been the answer to anyone’s problems.

‘Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that,’ said Marcus taking his seat.

‘Come and sit down, Joe,’ said Mrs Crow pointing to the seat at the side of her.

Joe did as he was told.

Dragon Rider

I’m probably getting really boring now but I’m going to start serialising the first novel I ever wrote, Dragon Rider, on here. In some ways, it’s my favourite book I’ve written; it was my first baby and took nearly ten years to write. So why am I sharing it? Well, it’s a good book (I know, I’m biased!) and it’s languishing at the bottom of Amazon’s rankings and I thought, sharing it here will mean a few more reads (hopefully).

Also, I thought it would be good to use it as a case study, so we can maybe discuss what is good about it, the bad points, the weak points. Let’s rip it apart and see what happens. As I’m sharing it, I thought I could also add some helpful tips for when you’re writing and also discuss method and character development and other things like that. So, let’s see where this journey take us (corny, I know :)).

I’m going to share it in cut up chunks, but not whole chapters. I thought it would be easier to break it up into easily digestible pieces.

Dragon Rider

It is said that a man with revenge in his heart should dig two graves; one for his enemy and one for himself.  Perhaps this is true, but I’m not ready to take to my grave.  Not yet.

I ask you; what do you do if there is no justice?  If the law itself is rotten and corrupt.  What then?  Should we let those who do wrong get away with it, turn the other cheek to their crimes?

Chapter One

Hunting Dwarves

A scream exploded somewhere in the distance but broke off before it reached its terrifying conclusion.  Another life sucked dry, thought Drake, as the bitter smell of blood rolled in on the mist, along with the dead leaves and the smell of decay.  He pulled his black hood over his head and slunk back into the shadows like a black panther stalking its prey, his vivid green eyes alert, his body pumped for action.

There was movement in the alleyway opposite, a slight rustle of paper, a scraping sound.  He stopped breathing momentarily, his hands curling into tight balls at his side as he listened harder.  Had his senses failed him, were the Shadow Walkers really that close?

A rat emerged from the darkness and scuttled across the road.  It ran halfway, stopped, sat up on its back legs and sniffed the air.  Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it fled back to where it had come from.

Drake silently exhaled and allowed his body to relax, but only a little; no, his instincts hadn’t diminished, they were as sharp as the tip of a dragon’s tail; the full-bodied stench of the blood told him the Shadow Walkers were about four blocks away.  And if he stayed here much longer they would smell him too.

A distant clock chimed midnight.

The witching hour.  His informant should’ve been here half an hour ago.

He searched the shadows, tracing his eyes along the graffiti-covered wall and the overflowing bins that ran down the length of the narrow street.  It had started to drizzle; he could see it falling at an angle in the light pooling around the streetlamps, like tiny shards of sparkling glass.

It was then he noticed a cloaked figure step into the light at the foot of one of the lamps.  The figure stopped, glance behind briefly, then turned and walked towards Drake, the tip-tapping of their hurried footsteps on the wet pavement cutting through the silence of the brooding city.

Drake stepped forward, emerging from the shadow.

The footsteps stopped.  ‘Drake, is that you?’ asked the figure.

Drake removed his hood and nodded.

The figure hurried forward, greeting Drake with a smile as she came to rest beside him.  He could smell the floral notes of her perfume, it was fresh, only recently applied.  He smiled to himself.

The woman removed her midnight blue hood, letting her auburn hair cascade down around her shoulders, the drizzle catching in it like diamonds.  ‘Sorry I’m late, couldn’t get away,’ she said, taking a small white envelope from her silver handbag and giving it to him.  ‘This is what you wanted.’

‘Thank you,’ he replied, taking the envelope from her and placing it in his coat pocket.  He fetched out a small roll of green notes and handed it to the woman.

She took the notes and placed them in her bag, before clicking it shut.  ‘I thought that you might like to know that the dwarves are out looking for the offender too,’ she said, through thick red lips, her pale blue eyes scrutinizing his every move.

‘Well, we’ll have to make sure we get Pyro first then, won’t we?’ he said smiling; a cool smile that said he’d had enough of talking.

‘Nice doing business with you,’ she said, placing the velvet hood carefully back over her head, ‘until next time.’  The woman nodded once, turned, and headed back into the night.

Drake waited until she had disappeared from sight and her footsteps had finally faded away, before he took the envelope back out from his pocket.  He tore it open, took out the piece of thin copier paper and unfolded it carefully.  Inside lay a small silver dot, no bigger than the head of a drawing pin, which Drake carefully peeled off the paper before placing it on his forehead.

Immediately the picture of a familiar djinn rotated in front of him, a crooked smile upon his brown face, as he turned, again and again, holding an Enforcerer’s crime number under his chin.

A recording of the woman’s voice began to speak to him from the Memory Spot on his head.  ‘This is Pyro,’ she whispered, as though she were recording the message in secret, ‘our intell is telling us that he is hitting the Museum of Magickal Artefacts this morning, at around one o’ clock.  Be safe.’  Then suddenly the voice and the image of Pyro disappeared along with the Memory Spot that had dissolved into Drake’s skin.

Drake grinned; he knew this job was going to be easy as he’d took Pyro into the Law Department on two other occasions already in the short while he’d been back in Devilsgate.  The guy was a nuisance; a pyromaniacal low-life, but he was no criminal mastermind.  The intelligence was strangely specific  – but Drake put this down to the djinn’s stupidity; he wasn’t the brightest spark in the box and he had a tendency to spout his mouth off so it wouldn’t have surprised Drake if one of his associates had dropped him in it.

For once it was all good news, the specific timing of the intelligence meant that there was plenty of time to put the dwarves out of action before he picked Pyro up.  He hated the dwarves and one day they would pay for their crimes, but for now, he’d have to be content with outsmarting them and claiming the bounty on Pyro’s head before they did, for he had other, greater, things on his mind at this precise moment. Their time would come, of this he was sure.

Drake cupped his hands around his mouth and called once into the night, a short deep rumbling call, like that of a lion marking its territory, and then he waited.

Within seconds an identical call answered him and Falkor broke his cover, swooping out of the thick cloud that had been asphyxiating the City for as many years as Drake could remember.  Just like Fenrik.  The dragon silently landed on the pavement beside Drake, shook his huge head to dispel the beads of water clinging to his thick turquoise beard, and snorted.

Drake found a tight grip in Falkor’s shaggy crest fur and hauled himself up onto his bare back, tucking his legs in either side of the dragon’s body, just behind his wings.

Falkor stretched out his azure wings and the light from the street lamps diffused through his paper-thin skin, highlighting the network of dark blue veins and bones that knitted them together.  He arched his muscular tail, pushed his back legs hard into the ground and propelled himself into the night.

It was time to hunt.

For now, Falkor would keep low to the ground:  The rain had sent the Shadow Walkers fleeing for cover and the smell of blood was fading fast as the rain washed the streets clean.  For a while, at least, Devilsgate would be a little safer.

They glided over the sleeping streets full of the remnants of the day’s festivities; brightly coloured confetti, Devil’s masks and fat orange pumpkins with grotesque faces carved into them; the people’s attempt to appease the evil forces that had Devilsgate on its knees.

Suddenly Falkor gave a short warning growl and Drake felt the dragon’s body tense under him.  Drake flicked his eyes over the area below and immediately he was drawn to the sight of two dwarves standing beside a racing-green motorbike with a sidecar.  A third dwarf, slightly taller and far uglier than the other two, straddled a gleaming Harley Davidson his squat body struggling to keep the bike upright.

As Drake drew nearer, he could see the smaller dwarves were huddled around a small black box from which a sharp female voice was screaming at them to turn right.

‘Stupid box!’ snapped the dwarf with fuzzy grey hair and a red Rock City t-shirt.

‘Give it ’ere,’ said the other dwarf snatching it out of his hands and giving it a good shake.  ’Nah, it’s no good.  I can hear something rattling inside it.  We’re gonna have to get another one Scarface -’

‘I don’t think so,’ cut in the dwarf on the Harley.  He looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger but in miniature, with the addition of long fuzzy hair and a blonde beard.

‘Look, Boss, it’s telling us to go right but as you can see there’s a blinking great big canal there!’

Drake tightened his hand in Falkor’s crest fur and the dragon shifted position; his head pointing towards his target, wings folded back.  Drake leaned into him, their bodies forming a living bullet hurtling towards the dwarves.  Then, just before impact, Falkor extended his back legs, opened his azure wings and silently landed behind them.

‘Still using Satellite technology?  I would’ve thought that with all your successful bounty hunting you could afford to buy something a little more up to date?’ asked Drake.

Scarface ran a leather gloved hand over his garnet studded beard.  ‘Look what’s just turned up boys,’ he spat, ‘I thought I could smell something rotten.’  He put his hand up to his nose as if to emphasise the point.

Ozzy and Elvis, the two dwarves with the GPS, were now staring at Falkor with hungry eyes.

‘Better watch your dragon,’ said Elvis fingering the dragons’ teeth strung around his neck on a black cord, ‘we lost him once and we won’t do that again.’

Ozzy, his pot belly bulging over his scuffed leather trousers, looked at their battered motorbike and then back to Falkor, his eyes wide with longing.

‘Looking for Pyro?’ asked Drake.

Scarface sat motionless on his bike, his face cold and passive.

‘Pity you haven’t got wings!’ said Drake, digging his heels into Falkor’s scaly side.  The dragon responded by launching himself rapidly into the inky sky.  ‘See yah!’ shouted Drake over his shoulder as they glided over the canal’s murky water.

Behind him, Drake could hear swearing as the dwarves raced to get their bikes started.  ‘I don’t know why they bother,’ said Drake, shaking his head, ‘they don’t stand a chance.  Falkor, let’s play!’

The dragon tilted right, turning into a square lined with smart Victorian buildings.  He stopped mid-air, his wings beating slowly, silently, like a Hover-copter.

Drake scanned the area for their quarry.

But he wasn’t searching for Pyro.  Not yet.

A dull throbbing sound began to draw nearer.  ‘Any second now Falkor…GO!’ shouted Drake, as Scarface, closely followed by Ozzy and Elvis, shrouded in a cloud of smoke, burst into the square below them.

‘YOU WON’T WIN FAERY-BOY,’ bellowed Scarface to the sky, ‘THIS ONE’S OURS!’

Drake dug his heels into Falkor’s side and the dragon swept out of the square, the growling of the motorbikes a few seconds behind.

Falkor tore down the broad streets lined with towering apartment blocks and glass-fronted offices, he flew so low that his three-inch claws brushed the tops of the bare-branched trees that decorated the sides of the road.  Drake could see the lamplight bouncing off the pavement like millions of little diamonds, the day’s newspapers and confetti clogging up the stinking drains.

Drake gently pulled on Falkor’s fur so that the dragon swept right onto New Street.  He knew that the dwarves were following them as planned; he could hear the low drone of their machines, but now he was getting bored of his parasites.

Falkor knew the drill; he threw himself at the end of the road and straight towards the Council House sitting directly at the end of it.  Then, just when it looked as if he would collide with the building, Falkor extended his azure wings and stretched out his feet in front of him like brakes.  The dragon stopped for a quarter of a second before tucking his wings back into his body then propelling himself skywards like a missile.

There was the screeching of brakes, the smell of burnt rubber and the usual thick clouds of smoke.

Drake chuckled.  Yes, dwarves were really that stupid.

Falkor turned a sharp right into a small square, surrounded by the extravagant architecture of the University, and dived towards the ground, heading for the narrow road on the other side.  At the end of this short road the dragon banked left and then, almost immediately, he turned right and headed straight for the multi-storied car park.

As they drew closer Falkor folded his wings into his body and aimed for the small mouth of the car park.  They burst through the entrance, Falkor’s azure head narrowly missing a chunky concrete support, and over the roofs of the expensive cars and ultra-fast motorbikes, until suddenly they were exploding over the top of the concrete barrier at the end of the building and flying into the open space beyond.

Time seemed to stop as Drake and Falkor hung in the air before the dragon flicked his agile body around and reared up like a horse.

Drake saw Scarface jumping from his bike and then racing over to the barrier, his face as red as the blood-soaked mouths of the Shadow Walkers.  ‘YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH THIS FAERY-BOY!’ he shouted.

‘Pardon?’ said Drake, holding his hand to his ear, ‘I can’t stop to talk, need to find Pyro before he causes too much damage and as you’re not going to get there in time…’  Drake shrugged, his broad smile clearly visible.

‘Come on Falkor, let’s stop teasing the little mice,’ he said turning back to the dragon and patting the side of his head.

Falkor snorted his approval and took off again into the black sky.  But this time he climbed higher so that they could scan a wider area.  Not that they would have to look too hard; Pyro was usually easy to spot whenever he was up to no good.

Drake could make out the outline of the Museum in the distance; its grand burnished copper dome, the clock tower that adorned the west wing and the luscious gardens that surrounded it.

And there, in the gardens, a speck of orange glowed in the darkness.

Pyro.

 

Wanna buy Dragon Rider for £1.99? Buy it here. Or read it on Kindle Unlimited for Free here.

 

 

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part Fourteen

‘Can I help you, Sir?’

Joe wasn’t sure who had asked the question but he thought he knew the voice from somewhere but he couldn’t quite place where. He could just make out a new figure that had appeared next to the big guy that was questioning him. He didn’t think it was Azrail because Azrail was tall and thin and scraggly looking. This new figure seemed more ethereal like it had stepped out of the darkness itself.

Joe shook his head. Stepped out of the darkness itself? He really needed to get a grip of his nerves. Midnight digging in the cemetery seemed to have frayed his nerves.

The big guy wheeled around, and a streak of torchlight swept across the tombs and tombstones.

‘Who are you?’asked the big guy.

‘I’m Death,’ said the figure cloaked in black.

‘Very funny,’ said the guy. He reached down for something hanging at the side of his waist. It seemed to Joe like it was a walky-talky or something. The guy was a security guard.

Still holding the torch and pointing it at the figure in black, the guy pressed a button on the walky-talky and held it to his mouth. ‘Tom,’ he said, ‘we’ve got another bunch of weirdos….’ But he stopped talking and fell the wet grass with a heavy thump. The walky-talky and the torch were thrown from his hands. The torch tumbled onto the mud, it’s light coming to rest on the mysterious figure cloaked in black.

‘Harry! Harry!’ came a crackly voice from the walky-talky.

‘We haven’t got much time,’ said the figure stepping out of the black. ‘Where’s Azrail?’

‘I’m here, ma’am. I’m here!’ Azrail came running up from behind the mysterious figure, clutching at his wheezing chest.

‘I thought,’ said the figure, removing her hood, ‘you were supposed to keep an eye on him?’

‘I was. I just -‘

‘Mrs Crow?’ said Joe. He was very confused. Why was Mrs Crow in Angel Gate Cemetery at midnight? And why was she dressed in a black cloak like something out of a Victorian horror movie? And what had happened to the security guy?

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twelve

He thrust his spade in again and again ripping up more of the grave. And then…

Then he hit something hard. Rock solid. Like a coffin hard.

Eugh. His skin prickled, his stomach rolled. He picked up the candle lamp and held it over the grave with a shaky hand. He wanted to know what it was but by the same token, he didn’t. He swallowed the lump at the back of his throat and forced himself to take another look.

Yes. Yes. It was a coffin. He turned away disgusted with himself. Joe Bones was now the desecrator of graves as well as belonging to the most reviled family in Bloxwich.

‘Get out then,’ said Azrail, making Joe jump.

‘Do you think,’ he said, feeling the pounding of his heart inside his ribcage, ‘you could not sneak up on me?’

‘I didn’t,’ replied the old man, ‘what’s a matter? You not got the stomach for this line of work?’

It was only then that Joe noticed the long black package resting at Azrail’s feet. It was very long, probably as tall as the old man himself, and it was wrapped in what looked like black bags that had been stuck together with grey duck tape. It had a small part on top of it that looked like a…no, it couldn’t be a head? Could it?

It looked to Joe suspiciously like a dead body. And he’d seen lots of dead bodies. Not real bodies of course, but in the movies. He’d seen loads in the movies and they all looked like that; long and body shaped covered in bin liners and duck tape or brown tape, depending on what was available.

‘Is that…?’ Joe said pointing his shaky hand at the package. He noticed that his hand shaking. That was not a good look, so he quickly lowered it hoping that Azrail hadn’t seen his nerves.

‘What? A dead body?’ asked Azrail, with a smirk that made him look quite evil in the sickly orange glow of the candlelight.

Joe waited patiently for him to answer but it didn’t look like he wasn’t going to get one so he said, ‘So, is it?’

‘What do you think?’

Joe didn’t know what to think anymore so he said nothing and instead placed the lamp at the side of the grave, slung the spade beside it and began to pull himself out of the quite substantial hole. He dug his fingers into the side of the opening. The earth was wet and claggy beneath his fingers. He held on and pulled himself up whilst jabbing his knee into the side of the grave. He finally emerged covered from head to toe in black, sticky mud. His mother was going to kill him.

‘Grab that end then,’ said Azrail, bending down and grabbing the feet end of the body.

Joe bent down and…could he feel ears beneath the layers of black plastic and tape? The head felt squishy and…no he couldn’t think about it anymore else he was going to be sick.

On the count of three they hoisted the body into the air and with a fluid movement, they threw the body into the gaping hole.

It landed with a thump.

‘Off you go then,’ said Azrail, pointing at the hole.

‘What?’ asked Joe, worried that Azrail wanted him to get back in the hole. With the dead body. ‘You want me to get in?’

The old man hissed through his yellow jagged teeth. ‘No you moron, I want you to fill it back up.’

Wow,thought Joe, he leaves me to do all the work then calls me a moron. It’s a good job I need this work or I’d show him who’s the moron.

Joe swallowed his anger and grabbed the spade. The handle was sticky and black and caked in mud. He looked up at Azrail and said, ‘You gonna stand there and watch or…?’

‘No, I’ve got other matters to attend to,’ he replied. He spun on his heels, the tails of his coat swishing through the air and then he was gone into the black.

Joe looked at the pile of dirt and the spade in his hand. Great, he thought, just what he needed. And to think he could be lying in bed at home listening to his music or playing on his Xbox.

He dug his spade into the earth and began to shovel it back over the body.

Death’s Apprentice – Part six

Mr Crow had a slight limp which I found myself replicating as I followed him. We walked past a room with two cream sofas, and a half-dead pot plant on a small coffee table, and down a long corridor that seemed to get increasingly darker the further we went. There were lots of closed doors with small plaques tacked on to them, saying intriguing things like; embalming room, coffin workshop, and Place of Rest. We turned right into another even darker corridor lit by lamps that looked like they belonged in the last century. The air was hot and humid and smelled of paraffin and mint imperials.

Finally, we came to a square waiting room lined with wood panelling. Mr Crow directed me to sit down on one of the mahogany chairs. It sounded as if I’d farted when I sat down.

‘I’ll be back presently,’ he said, with a quick nod of the head before he disappeared behind of the two doors in front of me.

I looked up at the large chandelier hanging low above my head. It clearly hadn’t been dusted in a long while as a grey spider’s web trailed from it onto the far wall. I followed the trail with my eyes to where it reached the top of the left door frame. The mahogany door had a plaque which read; Hell. I smiled. They sure had a sense of humour.

Despite the fact I was there for an interview, I felt calm, although I wish I’d had more time to make myself look presentable as the big hole in the toe of my trainer wasn’t the greatest look.

Mr Crow emerged from the door which read; Mrs and Mr Crow.

‘If you’d like to come this way,’ he said, standing by the door and gesturing for me to enter.

‘Josiah,’ screeched a female voice from behind the door, ‘stop acting like a prick and get the boy in here.’

I watched as Mr Crow’s eyes narrowed, and his lips pursed.

‘Shut up woman, will you,’ he shouted back to her.

‘You better come in before she loses her head,’ he said.

I did as I was told.

I entered the office of Mr and Mrs Crow. The room was quite small but I guessed it would be a lot bigger if it wasn’t for the stacks of paperwork overflowing from every surface. There was a large desk in front of me, covered in ledgers and piles of paper that looked like it had come from a historical movie set. There was a rotary dial phone in black, an ink well, a quill and a wooden blotter. There was a wooden chair behind the desk, and behind that, the wall was covered floor to ceiling with a mahogany filing cabinet. From the few open drawers, it looked like it contained index cards, rows upon rows of yellowing index cards arranged in alphabetical order. In the left corner, just in front of the cabinet, sat an old woman in a rocking chair. She looked like she’d died because her mouth was gaping open and her bottom set of false teeth were producing from her mouth. She was dressed all in black and her grey hair was arranged in a neat bun on the top of her head.

‘Is she okay?’ I asked, pointing at the lady. She reminded me of nanna the day she’d passed away.

‘Depends,’ said Mr Crow, sliding in behind the desk. He opened the ledger before him, picked up the quill, licked the nib before plunging it into the thick black ink.

‘Name?’

‘Joe Bones.’

‘Okay,’ said Mr Crow, sticking out his tongue as he wrote my name onto the ledger in beautiful cursive script.

‘Age?’

’17.’

He looked at me over the top of his glasses. ’17, eh?’ He nodded as if answering some internally asked question.

‘Address?’

’51 Moon Lane,’ I said, in little more than a whisper, knowing that this information alone would make them not want to give me the job.

‘Mmmm,’ he said, looking at me over the top of his thick-framed glasses, ‘Moon Lane, eh?’

I jumped as the old lady, who looked like she’d been dead only a few minutes early, was now standing by my side.

She grabbed my arm and began feeling it.