pt. I

ROCK STAR FOUND DEAD IN HOTEL - New York Times, 25th April



WHO ASSASSINATED HELLBLAZE? - New York Times, 27th April


The man stared at the mirror, gawping at the reflection. Or rather the absence of one. Oh, there was an image alright. He could see all the furniture reflected neatly in the mirror. He just couldn't see himself.

Tentatively, he raised a hand and waved at the mirror. He could see it in front of his face, but there was nothing in the mirror.

"What the...?"

He stared at his hand in amazement and tried to remember what he had been doing last night. It sure must have been a wild party. So wild that he couldn't remember anything about it at all. Now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember anything.

He stepped back from the mirror, alarmed, and sat down on the edge of the bed. He clutched his head, straining to remember his name, his past. But nothing came. His memory was just a blank, and he found himself whimpering in frustration and fright.

He looked up and glanced around the room, recognising it as a hotel room. The furniture was sparse and the decor unexciting. It was probably a fairly low cost hotel. The only thing spoiling the view was a reddish stain on the carpet near the bed.

For some reason, his eyes were drawn to that mark and he felt a shudder go through his body.

No, this was silly. He was just tripping out on something. He'd taken something illegal the night before and now he was hallucinating. That was all.

Resolving to not look at the mirror and the disturbing image, he stood up and went to the door, grabbing the handle to open it.

His hand went straight through the handle. He snatched his hand back towards himself and clutched it as if he had burntit. Slowly he reached out again, feeling with his fingers, his hand shaking, but again it went through what should be a solid object.

He stepped backwards quickly, tripping over his feet, falling to the floor.

"Help!" he cried out, panicked and frightened. He started pleading, even though he was alone in the room: "Can anyone hear me? Can anyone help me? Please help me!"

But there was silence. No one responded to his cries. The only sound was in his head, as some song lyrics repeated themselves over and over again in his mind.

I cried for you, lied for you,
I even said I'd die for you,
And now you're gone, I can't go on,
But I'm dead, yesterday.

The words and tune seemed familiar to him, but also discomforting as the meaning became clear to him. He lay there on the hotel floor, his head only inches away from that stain.

Was he dead? Was that what had happened? But how?

"Good question."

He sat up in surprise, twisting round to face the voice. Another person was in the room with him. A figure, slightly shorter than he was, dressed in a deep full length black hooded robe. The face couldn't be seen, hidden in the shadows of the hood. He hadn't heard the door open, and he scrambled to his feet.

He goggled at the new arrival for a moment. "Where's the scythe?" he said finally, and despite everything he couldn't stop himself sniggering slightly.

"No need for them anymore." The robed figure walked towards him, passing straight through the bed, causing his jaw to drop. "But I'm still the Reaper. And you are Jack Lee, otherwise known as..." The figure paused momentarily. "HellBlaze."

Something about the Reaper's tone of voice was mocking as it said Jack's stage-name, but Jack could only feel relief.

Yes, he was HellBlaze. He was the lead signer and guitarist in a rock band, Faust's Minions. The band had been hugely successful, playing at packed stadiums around the world. The song Dead Yesterday had been their biggest hit.

Recently however, sales had been dropping as the band's popularity had fallen, and the last album had been a flop.

But now he, Jack Lee, was dead. He stared at the Reaper.

"What happened?" he asked weakly, staring down at his trembling hands.

"You were shot," replied the Reaper tonelessly. "The bullets ripped into your body, tearing your flesh, allowing your life fluid to drain away."

Shot? Jack closed his eyes, straining to remember.

Yes... he was here, in this room. He had been getting ready to go... somewhere. He couldn't remember where. But he had been standing in front of the mirror, when something odd in the reflection had caught his attention.

He had spun round, turned to see what was there, and something had slammed into his chest. Then another, then another.

He remembered the floor coming up to meet him, warm liquid oozing onto his hands. But he didn't remember the sound of the shots themselves.

"A silenced revolver," said the Reaper, seeming to read his mind.

"Who did it?" whispered Jack. "Who killed me?"

The black robe shrugged. An uncomfortable silence fell on the room.

Eventually Jack spoke. "So, what happens now?"

The Reaper shrugged again. "You resolve your issues then go on to whatever you believed in. Were you religious?"

"Not really," answered Jack. "What do you mean, resolve my issues?"

"Exactly that. You find out what is keeping you here and deal with it as you see fit."

"So, what is keeping me here?" asked Jack. It seemed easier to focus on that than the possibility of some unknown afterlife or lack thereof.

But the Reaper just shrugged again. "That's for you to answer."

"Oh." Frowning, Jack thought about it. He still couldn't remember anything about his life other than dying. "Well... I guess I want to find out who killed me," he said finally, feeling a jolt as he realised that he did really want to know.

The Reaper nodded. "Then let us proceed. Where do you think we should begin?"

Jack considered it. "Well, if I was murdered, then I guess it will be investigated by the Police. So perhaps we should go to the police station."

"Very well," said the Reaper. "Let's go."

The robed figure turned and walked out straight through the closed door. Jack stared, then gritted his teeth, closed his eyes and followed, running through the door.