Janine showed Randall the map and the clean room in the back attached to a kind of library. “You’ll collect the mail and bring it back here; put the protective gear on, take a first look to see if the address is clear on each thing, and record it here – in the ledger.” “Uh,” Randall said, “isn’t this normal mail? Why all of this extra stuff?” Janine sighed. “No, it’s not normal mail,” she said carefully. “The mailboxes by cemeteries get a lot of … special mail … on Halloween. Some of the dead use snail mail to get their messages to the living.” Randall’s mouth fell open. “You’ll get hankerchiefs with poems written on them, parchment scrolls, pouches with jewelry, even carvings. If the address isn’t obvious, we have an archive of who’s buried where and the last known address of a relative. ” “We’re expected to deliver that stuff?” Randall asked, incredulous. Janine predicted the guy would last a week and she’d be doing the Dead Drop for another year. “Yes, of course,” she replied flatly. “We’re the Post Office.”
Mr Ramanandi made his way carefully down the alley from his shop. Winter was coming on and the right knee was already complaining; it was going to be a long, damp season. A shadow detached itself from the bricks behind the dumpster; Mr Ramanandi felt the person lunge before he saw it, and went down into a tight crouch. He grabbed the assailant’s foot as the person fell over him, holding it fast and letting the would-be robber’s own weight transfer break the ankle; the man was screaming before he hit the ground. Tucking the till money into his jacket pocket, Mr Ramanandi kicked away the knife the man had dropped and then centered himself with a deep breath. “Perhaps, it is time for a different job – something with good karma,” Mr Ramanandi said to the man and then bowed. “Namaste.” He walked off in his original direction as carefully as before.
“That one?” she asked, pointing to the child playing in the fountain. “No,” he responded flatly. “Too giggly.” “Hmm,” she said, nodding that she understood. “What about that one?” “The jogger? Oh, hell, no,” he said with a snort. “Too … grounded and irritating.” She laughed. “Maybe her,” he said, distracted by a woman yelling into a cell phone, her shoulders hunched, her hair undone and face scrunched. “Really?” she asked, intrigued. “Overwrought. Angry. Maybe bitter. Possibly hateful,” he said smiling. “All of that acid tenderizes the meat.” The two cannibals marked their location and agreed to meet back on the corner with the van after 5pm.
To top last year’s seasonal frights, he’d made arrangements for them to work at a temp job for the week – dressing like normals and eating at McDonald’s for lunch. On Halloween, he’d surprise her with a romantic stroll through the catacombs to relax and midnight cocktails in the lab. Gomez rubbed his hands together with glee; it was going to be perfect.
Stark turned off the light and marveled at the liquid, which glowed a soft, leafy green. “There are only 4 bottles of this stuff in existence,” Banner had written. “The best gin on the planet, made with a rare plant essence that makes it phosphorescent. For you … for helping to save the world … and for your friendship. Hopefully, it won’t stop your jumper cable heart.” Deeply touched, Stark affectionately mumbled, “Whatever, Shrek.” There, in tiny letters below the signature, Banner revealed how well he knew his friend by adding, “Whatever, Tin Man.”
“There was an ending? A breakup?” the psychic asked them. “Yes,” came the answer. “Ah,” the psychic said. “He got his helmet on and rode away.” A look was exchanged. “Yes,” said the man, “he left a note for his landlord to call us to take the dogs and look after them – said he’d be gone for a while, but it’s been almost a year.” “He is alive,” the psychic reported and then paused for the parents to sigh in relief. “But he has ridden past the open door at the boundary of a dead end street and found other dark and lonely places to explore. The journey heals him and also takes from him.” “Uh … okay,” said the woman. “But he’s alive?” “Yes, he’s alive,” the psychic repeated, looking out of the window. They did not understand and that was, perhaps, for the best.
“Mrs Deebles wants her bed turned down for an afternoon nap,” Helen said out loud at the aides’ station. “I’ll just return these trays and then I’ll do it.” “No need, dear,” Wanda replied. “Why don’t you check in on Mr Peabody and then we can do snack rounds.” “Oh, I don’t mind; it’ll take five seconds,” Helen replied. “She’s not really there, Helen. Mrs Deebles died two months ago,” Wanda said softly. Helen froze. “It happens; this is a great place to be, so … some linger a bit,” Wanda comforted her friend. “The sun is starting to shine in on this side; she’ll disappear in the beams sure enough. That’s how you know.” “Oh my God,” Helen whispered, trying to take it all in, suddenly afraid of how much the light could reveal.
They talked for hours in the back room of Lobo Rito, eating enchiladas and working through whether or not it would be a good idea to introduce Dwayne to Denise. “On the one hand, we’d save untold others from heartbreak and distress,” George said, imagining what it would be like to go a whole week without a 2am tearful drunk dial. “On the other, we don’t know if: a) they’ll even like each other (being so much the same), or b) their ultimate success as a couple would bring about the end times,” Margaret added, only half joking about “b”. By the time the fried ice creams arrived, all were in agreement that the incubus and the succubus should meet, caution consciously tossed to the wind, and Fate be damned.
“Terhooligan was a masterpiece,” Becky began slowly. “An impeccably dressed gentleman with the most amazing eyes – black, with a red and gray highlight. A beautiful Muppet, really; everyone wanted to be his operator.” “But?” Mark asked, intrigued. “But … well … Jim said that creating the Muppet was an invite for the greater work of being that piece and Terhooligan … it seemed to draw out really cold and calculating stuff – scary stuff. Over a surprisingly short time, the operator would start to shift and change themselves, getting distant at first and darker as time went on.” “So Henson retired it? The evil Muppet?” Mark probed. “Buried it and never told anybody where,” Becky replied with a sigh. “That seems a little extreme,” Mark laughed. “It’s not,” Becky said, turning to him with a distressed look. “Because we want to find Terhooligan; it’s almost like we need to, like he’s calling to us.” A chill moved down Mark’s spine raising the hair on both of his arms.
“Ayuh,” Phil began slowly, pointing to the stain on the concrete, “this here’s where it happened.” Zac whistled. “Push that manhole cover up and come outta there like a shot, dragging down some yuppie talkin’ on his cell,” Phil continued. Zac knelt to examine the cover carefully. “Thing apparently spit out the skin farther up, on 17th; current thinkin’ is that it don’t like a lot of hair follicles,” he concluded, eyes searching the face of the other man carefully for a reaction. “Jeeeeeeesus,” Zac said, standing up and shuddering. “Don’t know what the thing is,” Phil added with a wry grin, “but I’m pretty sure it ain’t Jesus.”