Present day, December 21, 2312...
I returned home after the ribbon cutting ceremony of our new department, and the party after that. After hundreds of years, and millions of cold cases piling up to the ceiling, the police of a unified Earth decided to look at the increasing number of unexplained deaths of murder-suicide survivors.
I served myself a glass of vodka with a twist of lime and lit a cigarette. I removed my dress blues and placed my gun and badge on my dresser. My home was up for sale, and I would not return to it or to the reminders of Cain.
My new home was on the opposite side of town, new furnishing, new clothing, and more important, a new outlook on life. My nights were quiet as pain medications were my only relief. I was still on the mend, and sleep was often hard to find. But tonight, like every night since I died, my mind would be filled with images of disembodied souls calling out to me, at least until the meds kicked in.
I felt my body drift, as Cain's face came to mind and a memory of my last moments. He was smiling though I couldn't make out what he was saying at first. “I'll hold you to your promise...Jake.” There was a strangeness to his soft-spoken voice, and it ran a chill down my spine. I walked as if in a dream, with no sense of direction. You slipped from my grasp, Cain, and then there was nothing...
In the morning, I rose to the quiet sounds of my Japanese bamboo water fountain bubbling in the living room. It was a gift from my therapist, who claimed it would sooth my nerves. I laughed, sure. I showered, and shaved, dressed and made my way downstairs to find a bite to eat before leaving for work. Finding only cold pizza in the fridge, I decided get something on the way in. I looked around for my badge and gun, that's right, I left them on the dresser.
I went upstairs to find they were not there. I decided to retrace my steps, maybe I had celebrated a bit too much at the party, and only thought I took them upstairs. As I crossed the living room, there was something reflecting in the morning sun. It was my badge on the coffee table.
“What the hell?” I looked at my gun. “Where the hell did you come from?”
I looked at the gun, then picked it up. It had some weight to it, and then there was a bluish glow coming from the ammo clip.
“Where is my gun, Asar?” I looked around, not finding it anywhere in sight.
“A simple thank you will suffice, detective.” Asar smiled. His voice was like the sound of two men. It was not the same as the first time we spoke.
“A man who has returned from the dead, needs a special weapon if he's going to make a difference in both our realms. I took the liberty of having it engraved.”
I felt my knees buckle, and the next thing I knew Asar was looking down at me.
“Sorry about that, Jake. This conversation will have the squirrels running circles in that metal-plate-covered-brain of yours.”
I sat up and noticed I was not in my home, or at least it didn't look like my home. The colors were muted and almost gray in appearance, and I felt as if I were standing in a cloud of fog.
“You're still ugly as hell, Asar.” I rubbed my head.
“Ha, ha, hilarious.” Asar grumbled. “But it was necessary for you to see this realm between here and there. Here, being our realm, and there, being yours.”
“You were saying something about an engraving?” I asked.
“Yes, take a look.” Asar pointed to the gun, and helped me to a chair. I looked at the beautifully, hand-crafted ivory colored gun, and what was written on the barrel:
“One foot in Heaven, knee deep in Hell.”
“What are you, a poet? I didn't know you had it in you.” I smirked. “And just how is this going to work? I see only seven bullets, where the hell am I going to get glow-in-the-dark blue shells?”
“Funny you should say that since there is no factory capable of making these bullets. As I said, this gun is special. For one thing, this gun will shoot an endless number of regular shots. No refill required, my gift to you.”
“Yeah right, so it's cursed now?” I wasn't buying it. “And what's up with your voice?”
Asar ignored my comment. “This weapon was created for the capture of criminal ghosts who've returned to finish what they started. Some of these perps as you call them, have waited through the reincarnation process of those who did not survive, and went to heaven.”
“Then why bring them back? I mean, personally? I think it's the goal of every God-fearing man to be found worthy of walking through those pearly gates. Am I wrong?”
“Yes, it is. But that is not his department.” Asar's voice changed, and then he seemed to separate in two, and there appeared a man, with stunning features, dressed in modern clothing. A contrast to Asar, who dressed in clothing of the early 1800's.
“For this particular day, I was merged with Asar, but since you can clearly see this realm, I can show myself. I am the angel, Gabriel, liaison between men and the heavens.”
“You're an errand boy, just say it,” Asar mumbled.
Gabriel gave him a pointed look. “This was arranged so that both realms are represented, saving us both from repeating ourselves. “So where there is one, there is the other,” Gabriel spoke.
Asar walked around me. “Meaning that I am the gatekeeper for those who belong in Hell, preventing them from slithering back into humanity.” He bowed, “And he is the one who keeps tabs on those who will find their way to Heaven.”
“But even the best of men, have elements that would bring them to Asar's doorstep. Like you for example.” Gabriel spoke, “You are a man who has taken a vow to uphold the law of the land; to serve and protect. Having said that, you have to realize that the lives you take, add up nevertheless.”
“Yet you did not let me cross that bridge.” I looked at them both, as I pulled the clip out of the gun and inspected the bullets. There was something strange about the bullets and took one out of the clip to take a closer look. There appeared to be a small man with goggles and a weapon. There was a glowing blue liquid that could be seen through the glasses. Then the little man holding the gun waved at me.
“Gah!” I dropped the bullet. “The hell?!”
“Careful, they are lively little suckers.” Asar laughed, “But they will never fail you because there are those who in your time, have been searching and haunting the survivors of their murderous plots.’’
Asar watched my reaction, as I looked at the other six bullets.
“And for those in your time, this gun was created to fire these unusual shots. Seven, yes, because seven is the perfect number in the heavenly realms.” Gabriel spoke.
“Just as six, is the perfect number of the underworld.” Asar walked up to the bullet, and picked it up off the ground. “There is no magic here, just right and wrong. I know that is an odd thing to say. What is wrong, what is right? That is the question, is it not? If we go by the Golden Rule of ancient beliefs, then 'Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,' would set the bar raised by this gun.”
“You have got to be kidding me! How in the world will I even know who's who?"
“The same thing that keeps you behind a badge. Doing what is right, isn't always what is best, nor is it easy. But you, Jake, have an insight as to this golden rule. How do I know this? You just proved it. By handling the Reaper, the gun has chosen you to wage its war against evil. And believe me, Jake, you will see such evil, only a man whose soul has tasted hell, can handle.”
“I don't know about all that.” I gave them a sideways glance. “What I do know, is that in working for the Janus Corporation as a consultant, much has been overlooked in the past. In the cold case department, I've learned that there was a definite variable that has found many survivors of violent crimes. And that is that they are dying under mysterious circumstances. But this does not mean, that I believe all of what you two just said."
“We understand, Jake,” Gabriel spoke, “But you will soon come to realize, that you have what it takes, and you will make a difference. As for the funny bullets, all you need to do is walk into any house of worship, church, or synagogue and your gun will recharge."
“Wait, what?” I was confused. “Endless bullets that materialize, but I have to recharge the ghost gun?”
“Reaper,” Asar corrected. “The Reaper will send these souls to my gate, but only the house of God can validate the kill. You need to understand that even in death, a perp may feel justified in their actions. Crazy just doesn't go away. If I had it my way, they'd all be dropped kicked over my gates.”
“That's why you need to be on holy ground.” Gabriel stared into my eyes. “Your own soul will also need to be infused, Jake. You were chosen to bring balance and justice for those victims like yourself, who were brought back to the living either by divine intervention or reincarnation. But it comes with a price.”
Asar nodded, “You have your human heart or gut instinct as a detective. Whereas my heart is black, and Gabriel's is white. Sometimes right and wrong is the gray area you will stand in. You will bring the human condition as a buffer.”
“This is way too deep for me, but hell, I was dead a few weeks ago, so stranger things can happen.”
“Let me sum it up this way,” Gabriel spoke, “The Reaper will not fire the blue bullets if the ghost is an innocent, who is just lost. If righteous, they will be called to the heavens, and if not, the gun will fire and do its job.”
“Yes, and they will come to me.” Asar laughed. “This will save me loads of time.”
“Asar, the two times I've seen you, you were taking a nap! How busy can you possibly be?” I teased.
“My realm is far busier than the heavens, Jake. Men tend to do what feels good, over what is right. And I don't have time to deal with assholes killing innocent people when I have bigger fish to fry. Pardon, my pun.”
“Jake, trust the people you work with. They will soon see that you are not just back from the dead with stories of being there. You will carry the proof.”
“OK, time to go to work!” Asar gripped my face, I tried jerking backwards, but he was so strong. Much stronger than he should be, and he kissed me. Wet, and sloppy and right on the lips.
My arms were flying in the air, as I tried to push away from Asar. “Why the hell did you do that for?!” I scowled, wiping my mouth.
“I'm the devil, I have my reputation to keep.” Asar winked at me and vanished.
I found myself sitting in a chair, looking at the wall. Asar, the devil? I looked at my watch and discovered I had lost no time at all. My regular gun was back in my hand, without the special effects. The only thing that was different was the engraving.
Even though much of my life had changed, some of my old habits had not. I stopped in front of my building, spying the lunch truck and ordering a breakfast burrito, with coffee. My regular. Even in the twenty-fourth century, the national staple of the roach coach could not be killed off. I was humming as I walked into work, and this made people stop and stare. I'd been so depressed in the months since my attack, and many thought I'd never get over it.
They weren't wrong, I was still shaken up by it all, but today I felt like a totally different person. I sat down and logged into my station, surprised to find the first official cold case online archives. The Janus Corporation's database went back over three hundred years, and many wondered why it needed to go so far back. But there was a reason for their collection.
It went back to the original cold case seven years ago, or “The Lazarus Effect, Case 0.” The man who was found dead, once existed in the year 2012. He was the victim of a murder-suicide once before. The archives pointed to old witness statements where they claimed the man spoke of hearing his lover whisper in his ear all the time. Johnathan Pearson was born February 2, 1959 and was killed by his lover, Ted Forbes on April 3rd, 2012. He was fifty-three years old.
Janus discovered that Johnathan Pearson was re-born as John Pierce, on April 3rd, 2152, and killed by a Theo F. Orb on May 2, 2205. In both lifetimes, he died at a young fifty-three years of age. This was the itch that made Janus Corporation scratch.
Since then, the database for murder-suicides with the additional variable of near-death survivors was calculated, and it warranted investigations into those cases with the new database. The coincidence was too much to overlook, and this made the global security forces investigate their cold cases of the last twenty years. Many red flags were beginning to fly, with the increase in mysterious deaths. So the Near Death Experience Department (N.D.E.D.) was created within the universal justice system to go hand in hand with the Statue Of Universal Limitations (S.O.U.L.)
It was a team of detectives, psychologists, psychiatrists, and professional consultants in the paranormal, and the occult. And then there was Chaplain Blackcoat, and his entourage of Warriors for God. Keeping these individual variables from killing each other, or tossing a curse at the unbelievers was a job in and of itself. The best way to deal with them and their giant egos was to deputize them as Consultants. No guns.
We were called into our first briefing as a department, however, my mind was still preoccupied elsewhere. Though the Lieutenant's words registered, I knew some of these detectives felt out of their element alongside the new “Specialists” in our department.
“And that gentlemen and ladies is what the N.D.E.D. is all about. This is a new take, on an old and truly timeless question, of which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Lieutenant Garrett spoke, as he turned off the video feed. “Now we know that this is reaching for some of you, as you may wonder who in the world you pissed off, in order to get tossed into my little sandbox. I assure you that each of you was picked because of the contribution you will bring to this team.”
Lt. Garrett noticed that I was getting strange looks, hell, I noticed I was getting strange looks. No doubt they've all heard of my famous return from the dead, so if anything, my presence gave the team reason to believe this was all on the up and up.
The meeting came to an end, and everyone began to mingle. The new office smell was quickly being overtaken by the scent of burning coffee, and pastries that made hands sticky. Lt. Garrett gave me a nod to follow him.
“Yes, Lieutenant?” I walked into his office. He lit a cigarette and sat down.
“I couldn't help but notice that you were distracting to some of our new team members. How are you handling the attention?”
“You asked me to return, despite my request to turn in my badge and gun. I came back because I am going to become a cold case someday, and this department will know it first.”
“What happened to you, Jake? Garrett looked at my eyes, which made me remember my long sessions with the shrink.
“Look, Lt., my reports are in my file, along with the shrink's notes, doctor's notes, even my infamous coroner's report. What more do you need to know?” I took a drag from my cigarette.
“I've read the reports. But I'd like to hear your thoughts. What does this new department mean to you?”
“It means, that death is only the beginning. That death has an agenda, with angel's and demons each holding one of my hands. It's being rejected from Hell, and given a gift card from Heaven.” I laughed despite himself.
“Easy there, son, don't give out the family secrets,” Asar laughed, as he whispered from behind my chair. Of course, he was invisible.
“Well, at least your sense of humor is intact.” Garrett laughed. “Keep your outlook positive, Jake. We're about to bring closure to lives lost, and hopefully save a few souls in the process.”
“It's all one has left, is this not true?” I put out my cigarette in the ashtray, left his office and returned to my desk. I was looking at the birth-to-death data of murder-suicides.
Case 002-Robert Shipley, a twenty-five-year-old art major. The victim of an attempted murder-suicide living in Los Angeles. A local boy. As I read the case, the gun in my holster began to vibrate. I pulled out my gun, and it felt as cold as ice. Not to mention, it was now back to its ivory tone, with glowing blue bullets.
“O...kay.” I looked around to see if anyone noticed. “Nope. I guess it's only me then. I suppose that you are trying to tell me something, eh Reaper?”