pt. III

Marvin's house was still and silent, criss-crossed with police crime scene tape. Jack just stepped right through it, now getting used to this strange new existence.

Inside the house was dark and silent, the only signs of violence being a broken chair and a reddish stain on the kitchen floor. Jack stared at the mark. It looked eerily like the same one on the hotel room earlier.

The Reaper stood and watched, but suddenly broke the silence. "I have been here before."

Jack glanced over at the hooded figure. "Really?" he asked. "What happened?"

"Drugs," answered the Reaper, speaking for the first time with some faint touch of emotion. "The kids take the drugs, knowing that they will kill them, but they don't believe that they will. And yet they die anyway."

Jack watched his companion for a moment in surprise, but just nodded. "I suppose you're right," he said thoughtfully. "I took loads of drugs. Never expected to die from them. Still, that's not what killed me, is it?"

But the Reaper just watched, impassively. Jack resumed his search of the house. "Would Marvin have... umm... come across too after he died?" he asked after a while.

The Reaper shrugged. "Not everybody does."

"Shame," muttered Jack. "I could really have used some answers off him round about now."

He wandered into the study. This was a small and cluttered room, designed to give off an aura of respectability and lawfulness, despite the illicit deals that must have gone on here. Jack suddenly closed his eyes as he remembered something else.

He had been standing here, in this room. Marvin had been sat down at the desk in front of the computer holding his forehead, looking tired.

"Fine Jack," Marvin had said, a touch of anger in his voice. "If that's what you really want to do, then I'll put you in touch. But I want nothing to do with it, understood?"

Jack had grinned. "Sure thing," he had said. "Nothing goes further than this office, right?"

"Nothing," Marvin had said firmly. "You keep your side and I'll keep mine. You have my word on that."

He had sighed, then scribbled something down on a notepad. "Here," he had said, ripping out the page and handing it to Jack. "As reliable as they come."

He had then turned back to the desk and signed another document, folding it up and placing it into an envelope, which he had also given to Jack.

And then the memory faded. Jack gazed at the desk. What had Marvin given him? How much more complex could this get?

He stared around the room looking for more clues, but there was nothing. It looked like the police had thoroughly searched everything already. He turned and walked back into the passage.

"Let's go," he said to the Reaper, and headed back out through the door, lost in thought, straining to remember it all. The Reaper followed him silently.


The day was starting to draw to a close, and nightfall approached. The street-lamps started to light up, casting even more shadows.

"Does everyone go through this?" Jack asked after a while. "I mean is it this complex for everyone?"

"Not usually," answered the Reaper, resuming the normal toneless mannerism of speech. "Most people's deaths are fairly straightforward. Crash or bang and that's it."

"Heh." Jack suddenly chuckled to himself. "Guess I'm special, huh?"

The Reaper did not respond.

"What do you think I should do now then?" asked Jack breaking the silence again.

"Solve the mystery," replied the Reaper. "Move on."

"Yeah." But Jack hesitated. Move on where? He still wasn't sure about that one. Nor did he really want to think about it.

He stared down the street, realising that he had been heading towards his own house. He supposed it was as good enough a place to go as any.


Jack's house had surprised many visitors in the past. It was small. Very small. People had asked him where all the money was, but Jack had just shrugged. "Savings," he had said, not wanting to admit to having blown most of it on drink, drugs and gambling.

Jack paused. But there had been savings. Despite the greatly reduced income, he had been saving since Matthew had been born. He had wanted to marry Cassie, perhaps have more kids, and put them through college.

He stood in front of the familiar house, staring at the lit windows. But that had been before the arguments. Cassie had said she had had enough of Jack being away all the time.

He had argued back, saying that touring with the band was the only way to make any money these days. Cassie had accused him of sleeping with other women, with fans, young girls. Jack winced, recalling that she had been correct, although he had denied it repeatedly.

Eventually, Jack started to walk closer towards the house, glancing at the police car parked in the driveway before walking through the door. The Reaper followed him.

Inside, the house was largely still and silent, even though he could hear the sounds of the television, of Matthew playing with some toy, of murmured voices in the lounge.

Jack peeked into the lounge and spotted Cassie and Detective Marshall having a conversation. Not wanting to spy or intrude, Jack headed straight for his Den.

The Den was small and cosy, furnished with a few elderly but familiar chairs. An expensive sound system took pride of place, and tour photos and band memorabilia had been hung on the walls. A collection of guitars and an amp were stacked up in one corner.

A number of candles were dotted about the room. It was here that Jack wrote his music by candlelight. It didn't seem that anything had been disturbed here, but he assumed Cassie would clear it out at some point. She had never liked the Den, claming that Jack had spent more time in it than he had with her and Matthew. Nonetheless a few candles were currently lit, presumably by Cassie.

Jack sunk down into his favourite chair. The Reaper stood awkwardly in the centre of the room, watching. Jack stared at the wall at one of the items on the wall. A framed piece of notepad paper with some words scribbled onto it in Jack's appalling handwriting. The original written version of Dead Yesterday.

Jack remembered sitting in here recently, staring at that document, planning his suicide.

Suddenly Jack sat up straight. Yes! He had been planning suicide! At last, all his memories started flowing back and he gasped, holding his head in his hands.

The Reaper watched him, and eventually spoke "Are you alright?"

Jack looked up, his eyes wide in horror. "I remember," he whispered weakly. "I remember what happened. What I did."

There was a pause. "Tell me," said the Reaper, sounding vaguely concerned despite the emotionless tone of voice.

Jack hesitated, then started speaking, his voice choking.


"It was after the meeting with the record executives. They had said they were going to drop the band from the label after the last album had flopped. I was so depressed, and I came back here. But Cassie was here, she was really mad with me. She had found out that I had been sleeping with one of the fans. She... she threatened to leave, taking Matthew with her.

"We... we argued, shouted, screamed at each other. And then she started going on at me about the money. She said that Marvin had told her how much I had spent on drugs.

"I protested. I said that I had been clean since Matthew had been born. But she just cried, saying I had told her that I had quit drugs years before." Jack sighed. "She was right, I had lied to her. But I swear I hadn't taken anything for two years." He directed this comment at the Reaper who was managing to look disapproving despite the hidden face.

Jack rubbed his eyes again.

"It ended up with me walking out. I went to Marvin's. I got some drugs, got high, just like old times.

"But morning came. The drugs and drink wore off and I just didn't know what to do. I crept back into the house. I was alone, Cassie had gone to work and Matthew was at kindergarten. I sat here, in this chair. Listening to my song." Jack pointed at the handwritten lyrics on the wall, then softly sang the chorus.

"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 Reaper stood still, watching and listening. "Go on,"

Jack nodded. "I... I just wanted it to end. My career was over and Cassie hated me. The anti-depressants weren't working. I found the gun; we kept one in the house. I nearly pulled the trigger."

The Reaper nodded. "But you didn't?"

"No." Jack shook his head. "I couldn't go through with it."

"Because of Cassie? Matthew?" asked the Reaper.

There was a pause, then Jack shook his head again. "No. Because I didn't want to be a copycat."

The Reaper gazed at Jack waiting for him to explain.

"So many rock stars commit suicide," said Jack. "Just look at Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, loads of them. I... I didn't want to be like that."

Jack hesitated. "I... I figured if I was going to die, I wanted it to be in a way that was different to everyone else. I wanted people to start buying my records again, because I was so famous for dying. It's like artists, you know? They only do well after they die. I wanted to be like that, I wanted people to be talking about me, playing my records decades after my death."

"So what happened?" asked the Reaper.

"I... I staged my own murder. I had some dirt on Marvin's drug dealing, forced him to co-operate. I made him tell me how to hire his hitman, Phoenix Calledro. In return I promised not to go to the police."

Jack frowned. Something still seemed to be missing, but he carried on. "And then..."

The Reaper watched patiently, waiting for Jack to continue.

"I hired Calledro. I took out a contract on myself." Jack sobbed suddenly, but carried on. "Hitmen don't come cheap. It cost me half of my savings. That's where that money went, I remember now. And then I went to the hotel. And I waited. I... I waited for three days. I had just about given up, I thought that Calledro had conned me. But... he didn't. And so I died."

The Reaper nodded. And then spoke. "You say music artists committing suicide are common. But so are murdered ones. I have reaped many. John Lennon, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur... the list could go on for ever. What makes yours different?"

Jack thought about it. And then remembered the rest. "Yes, you're right. I did more. I... I confessed!"

Jack stood up, walked over to the framed song lyrics and stared at the words.

"I wrote down what I had done in a letter. And then I made Marvin sign it. I hid it. Behind my song. I... I wanted the letter to get found, after my death, and the whole story to go to the newspapers. That was what I was going to be known as. The rock star who paid for a hit on himself."

Jack frowned, looking at the frame still hanging on the wall. "I guess Cassie hasn't found it yet."

Jack stared at the Reaper then back at the lyrics. "But, that's not all. I also hid a CD."

"What's on the CD?" asked the Reaper.

"I recorded my conversations with Marvin and Calledro. I left the CD as evidence. I wanted them to go to prison."

"But Marvin got killed," said the Reaper.

Jack nodded. "I remember. I changed my mind. I didn't want Marvin claiming any of my glory. And I was mad at him, real mad for turning Cassie against me. So I paid Calledro the rest of my savings to kill Marvin."

He turned to the Reaper. "Oh God, I'm going to hell aren't I?"

The Reaper shrugged. "I'm not God."

"What have I done?" mumbled Jack staring into the flickering candle.


There was a pause and then the Reaper answered. "What you have done is inconsequential. The question should be, 'What are you going to do?'"

Jack thought about it. "Well, Cassie's right. There is life insurance, they should be adequately covered." He gazed back at the framed song sheet with its hidden treasure behind it. "No...."

"No?" asked the Reaper.

"Oh f*ck," said Jack suddenly, turning round and pacing across the room. "No, no there isn't. Oh God!"

The Reaper's hooded face followed Jack as he marched back and forth across the room.

"The insurance won't pay out for suicide will it?" said Jack desperately, thinking it through. "Or if I get implicated in the death of Marvin. I... I hadn't thought of that. Cassie won't get any money!"

He stopped pacing and stared at the Reaper. "I scr*wed up! I've left Cassie and Matthew bankrupt!"

Jack perched back down on the edge of his chair. The Reaper watched impassively.

"No, no, wait," continued Jack. "That only happens if my confession gets out. And the CD."

He looked back towards the framed song. "Cassie hasn't found it yet. Maybe she won't."

"But then, maybe she will," said the Reaper. "Perhaps you have now found out why you are still here?"

"Yes!" said Jack standing up again and running over to the song. "Yes, I just need to destroy the evidence. Then Cassie and Matthew will be fine!"

He reached for the frame to grab the envelope behind it, but his hand passed straight through.

Jack screamed out and ran back to the Reaper, grabbing onto the robes.

"How?" he yelled desperately, staring into the shadowed face. "How do I destroy it when I can't touch it?"

The Reaper slowly and calmly reached out and took hold of Jack's hands, removing them from the robes. "There's always a way."

Jack shivered at the coldness of the Reaper's touch, but felt the desperation fading, and he began to think more rationally again. "Yes," he said. "There must be a way."

He sat back down in his chair, clutching his head, trying to think. "There has to be a way," he said softly to himself.

He started to hum Dead Yesterday again, letting the music soothe him as it had done so many times in the past. The strategy worked. Jack suddenly leapt out of his chair.

"There is a way!" he cried out and ran out of the room towards the lounge.


Detective Marshall watched the other woman, feeling sympathy for her as Cassie described the break-up of her and Jack's relationship. Keelie had seen too much crime and violence associated with drugs in her job. She glanced towards Matthew, playing with toy cars on the floor in front of them.

"Dad-da!" said Matthew suddenly, staring at something. He climbed to his feet and toddled off out of the room.

Keelie glanced over at Cassie who didn't seem to have noticed. She was dabbing her eyes with tissues, lost in her own bereavement. She picked up the box of tissues from the table and handed it to Cassie, and then stood up.

"I'll check on Matthew for you," she said softly and walked out of the room, looking for the child.

"Dad-da!" cried Matthew happily as he waddled into the Den. Keelie followed, pulling open the door, just in time to see Matthew pick up one of the candles.

Keelie gasped. "Matthew!" She hurled herself towards the infant to grab the candle from him, but it was too late.

Matthew dropped the flaming candle into the waste paper bin. The dry papers in the bin immediately caught fire.

"Matthew!" Keelie picked up the child who had started crying and looked around for a fire extinguisher. But she couldn't see one.

The fire in the bin flared up, setting alight some of the old brittle papers on the walls. Rapidly the fire began to spread, and thick black smoke started to pour over the room.

Keelie backed out of the room quickly. Her last view was of a framed paper on the wall catching fire, and a burning envelope dropping down from behind it.

She turned and fled, carrying Matthew, calling for Cassie.


Two hours later, Jack watched the fire service start packing their equipment away. The fire had been put out, but the house had been gutted. Jack had been in to check. All that was left of the envelope of evidence was a molten charred disc that might have once been a CD.

He turned to the Reaper. "Well there goes my fame," he said sadly, but as he glanced over at Cassie and Matthew, being comforted by Keelie and the neighbours, he smiled.

"Will they be alright now?" he asked.

"It is up to them." the Reaper answered. "Destiny can only be chosen. You gave them that choice."

Jack nodded. "The house can be rebuilt and refurbished. And I guess Cassie is right. She deserves someone better than an old drug addict."

He felt a bit light-headed, and he realised that the world was slowly beginning to fade away from his vision. He felt no fear, just curiosity at what would happen next.

"Take care, Jack," said the Reaper holding out a cold hand.

Jack smiled and shook the hand.

"Thank you," he whispered as the world faded away completely.

New York Times - April 30th.


Police have ruled out the possibility that Faust's Minions singer HellBlaze (real name Jack Lee) had arranged his own murder by taking out a contract on himself. The theory had been put forward by several conspiracy theorists. "There is no evidence to suggest anything of the kind," stated Detective Keelie Marshall of the NYPD. "A homicide investigation is still in progress."

One man had been arrested in association with the murder, but had later been released. Lee's house caught fire and burnt down a few days after the murder, however the Police have ruled out any connection. "Foul play is not suspected," reported Marshall.

Nonetheless, sales of Faust's Minions albums have reached record heights after the murder, reviving the flagging careers of the remaining band members. The song
Dead Yesterday re-entered the charts straight in at Number One.

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