This was submitted to The First Line Literary Journal
Mrs. Morrison was too busy to die.
Stacks of books laid everywhere; papers from the last sixty years were strewn across her desk. Her old green eyes scanned the clutter in front of her. Where was it?
The only sound that accompanied her was the sound of rummaging–and the occasional tea sip coming from a tall and thin young man stationed right by her desk.
“Found it yet?” the man questioned before taking another sip of tea.
Mrs. Morrison could only glare as she sifted through boxes and boxes of ancient, wonderful memories. Anyone would stop to reminisce on the days of old, but not her: she had a job to do.
“You know, it would be beneficial if you could lend me a hand,” she said.
“A hand, hmm?” He tapped his chin before shaking his head. “You’re on your own, Emily.”
Mrs. Morrison sighed. She knew that would be his answer. It had been his answer for the last fifty years. No amount of pleading seemed to persuade him.
But what could she expect from someone who was supposed to harvest her soul?
Yes, Mrs. Morrison was indeed too busy to die. So busy that when they laid her down in the ground, she managed to crawl her way back up, completely unscatched. No one could explain it; several of her siblings had thought they had gone absolutely mad.
Of course, that was only for the first couple of times.
Mrs. Morrison had come back from the dead seventy-three times in the duration of fifty years since her initial heart attack. It had gotten to the point where her relatives just put her in a casket and left the lid open. Her funerals costed way too much and they were sick of burying her six feet deep only to have her appear at the dinner table three days later.
Mrs. Morrison was tired of it herself. All she wanted was to sleep and never wake up. She didn’t get today’s world: smartphones, tvs that were impossibly thin and showed vivid colored pictures, etc…
But she promised herself she wouldn’t rest until the 1956 murder of eleven-year-old Charlie Finley was solved. As a private investigator for the victim’s family, and a close friend, it was her job to do so. Her determination was so strong that even a grim reaper couldn’t harvest her soul until she had fulfilled that promise. She was truly a one in a million.
The reaper next to her, who preferred to be called Tim, was irritated that he’d been stuck trying to collect her soul for the past fifty years. Unfortunately, as a reaper, he couldn’t help her with the case, but he prayed that she would soon get a lead or something.
The old woman rose to her feet, clutching her side as she did so. “Ow, think I’m gonna go again soon…”
Tim raised an eyebrow before nodding. “Side pains always occur in you the week before your demise. Never fails. What were you looking for anyway?”
“That old picture of the Finleys taken right before Charlie was kidnapped. Thought for sure I had it stashed in that old stack of papers. Charlie’s sister wants it back, but it seems that it’s not in–”
Both the reaper and Mrs. Morrison turned their heads towards the phone. The old woman picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hello? Is this Mrs, Morrison?”
“Yes, it is. Who am I speaking to right now?”
“This is Amy White from Blake Street. I’ve been following your case ever since I was a little girl and just wanted to say that I think I might have come across something for that case of yours.”
Mrs. Morrison’s grip on the phone tightened. “Really? What is it?”
“I just moved into a new home and it used to be some sort of sweet shop or something. When I went upstairs to explore the attic, I found a pair of patched blue overalls with the name ‘Charlie’ on them along with a diary and a sewing kit with the name ‘Ethan’ written on it.”
Mrs. Morrison’s heart jumped. She knew exactly where Amy was.
“Hold on, I’ll be right there!” she shouted into the receiver before hanging up and grabbing her coat. “Someone has found what could potentially be new evidence.”
“You’re not going to call the police first?”
“No. Chances are, they’ll just make things worse.”
Tim shrugged his shoulders. “Alright then. I’m going to go out. Got a few deaths scheduled for today so I can’t stick around.”
Mrs. Morrison feigned sadness. “Aw, what a tragedy.” And with that remark, she was off.
The old house on Blake Street used to be a candy shop named Williams’s, named after Ethan Williams the owner. In the past, children would beg to go there with their parents for a jawbreaker or a piece of chocolate. Now, it was the only thing that remained from that era on Blake street. Every other building on the block had been demolished and replaced with fancy new homes for newly wedded couples.
Even so, as Mrs. Morrison pulled up to the driveway, she barely recognized the place: the brilliant white wood that the store had prided itself on was replaced by red brick. The yard had been expanded on and a wooden fence had been put up.
The inside of the home was worse: the only remaining evidence that it had ever been a candy store was the old wooden clock hanging up on the wall in the small living room. Mrs. Morrison frowned. Progress had changed everything she knew from that old world. Even as Amy gushed about how it was a pleasure to finally meet her, she couldn’t focus on the task at hand. If the evidence was legitimate, she’d finally rest in pea–
“And here we are,” Amy said, opening the door to the cozy, but crowded attic. In a way, it reminded Mrs. Morrison of her office: stacks of boxes were everywhere–though they were probably filled with more things than just paper. That proved to be true when Amy showed her a box with overalls, a diary, and a sewing kit.
“I tried not to touch them much,” Amy said as Mrs. Morrison put on her gloves and carefully inspected the small overalls. There was no doubt about it: these were Charlie’s, just all patched up. After years of zero evidence, here was a whole box full of it.
She picked up the diary, skimming the content. It definitely belonged to Ethan Williams–he had signed his name after every entry. As she neared the end of the diary, a paper hit the ground to which she quickly picked up and read:
To whom it may concern,
Today’s date is August 21st, 1986. I’m sick with an illness and doubt that it’ll get any better. Because I have nothing to lose now, I think I can go about saying that I murdered the young Charlie Finley then threw his body in the river. Will I go to Hell for it? I don’t know. Either way, when I die, it’s up to the respected authorities to find this letter.
Mrs. Morrison watched the flashing red and blue lights surround Amy’s house from a safe distance with her arms folded. Tim soon appeared right by her side.
“Sorry, that took a lot longer than I thought. So, it seemed whatever that person had to show you was the jackpot, right?” For once, his dark eyes shined with hope.
“So it would seem,” she muttered, her lips pulled down in disappointment. “Found his confession and everything. The police want to do a DNA test on those overalls, but there’s no need: he did it. At the time of his disappearance, Charlie had torn overalls. His parents could not afford to repair them. Ethan knew how to sew. In his diaries, he mentioned that every other page. He loved sewing–particularly the clothing of those who couldn’t afford to buy new clothes. He might have saw Charlie playing outside the shop with torn clothing and probably couldn’t resist fixing them. He invited him in, and the rest is history.”
“Then why do you look so defeated?” the reaper questioned.
“A confession in writing from a man who had been dead for a long time now,” she muttered, “Not quite the ending I was hoping for. Thirty years of eluding justice, and he got to pass away peacefully. If only those overalls had been found sooner…”
The reaper patted the woman’s back, his cold touch sending shivers down her spine. “Well, think of it this way: you’ll never have to rise from the dead again and you’ll finally be with your husband. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Yes, hopefully. After all, I did promise that I would find that boy’s murderer and close the case.” Her frowned deepened. “But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that I’ve spent way too long on this case. He didn’t even put in a motive for that boy’s murder. Something just doesn’t sound right.”
“Most closed cases that get solved years later don’t sound right, but they are,” Tim assured. “Try not to dwell on it too much or you’ll worry yourself to death.”
A week later, Mrs. Morrison was pronounced dead again.
The Morrison family was a little hesitant to bury her considering her past history with death. But, the case that had haunted her was closed, so they thought maybe they could bury her for good and right next to her husband like she always wanted.
After some hesitation, the family agreed it was for the best and laid her in the ground for the first time in forty years. The case had been the only thing stopping her from resting eternally, and now it was all said and done.
However, later that night, the air became chilled around the cemetery. The wind howled as a black car crept up next to her grave. The car door slowly opened, revealing Tim. In his hands was shovel, in his eyes, somber.
He breathed out a sigh before beginning to dig into Mrs. Morrison’s grave.
Mrs. Morrison’s eyes snapped open.
She was too busy to die.