They found him leering through the bullet hole his latest kill had torn in the windshield of a dereclict car. A lit cherry was clenched between skeletal teeth hidden only half-heartedly beneath a hood; with no nose and no lungs, there was no way he could have enjoyed it.

Unless, that is, he just enjoyed watching things burn.

“Well, we had quite a time finding you,” said Alicia, boldly opening the passenger side door. She cleared a pair of still-smoking brass shells off the seat and took a seat next to the Hecate anti-material sniper rifle that had fired them. “And I won’t waste your time: we have a job for you.”

“Job for me? You don’t even know me.” The voice was sepulcher and stone, issued from no voice box but just precipitating from an empty rub cage like vile precipitation.

“Nobody does, but you’ve done jobs all over regardless. Unless you’re going to tell me someone else has been precision reaping around here lately, which I doubt.” Alicia withdrew a short stack of photos from her messenger bag and laid them on the Hecate. Each was a simple, brilliant, and bloody reaping of a mortal soul, usually with a single bullet.

“Fair enough. What do you want, and what can you pay?”

Alicia had that ready in her messenger bag, too. A full dossier, with wherebouts, movement patterns, and of course a name. “Juan Ramirez, ex-military, now working as a mercenary on the East Side.”

“Surely you have your own people for such a thing. Why a reaping where a simple murder would do?”

“Because it’s not Juan Ramirez we want,” said Alicia, her foundation and mascara cracking a bit as she grinned. “That’s what our firm specializes in, you see. Since there aren’t natural deaths anymore, it becomes a numbers game: who can we remove to make all the great chains move, for people to slither into new positions?”

“It’s that same lack of natural death that has me out on the street accepting table scraps.” The reaper’s stub flickered orange in the car. “I’ll do it, and I’ll do it clean, but it won’t be cheap.”

“Name your price,” said Alicia. “His soul? It’s yours.”

“Don’t want his soul,” the reaper said. “Not interested.”

“Well, then, tell me what would interest you.”

The reaper, long out of work with bones worn in pursuit of a hard career, cast back his hood. “Your soul,” he said, the shadows falling in such a way as to suggest a smile. “I’ll do it for your soul.”

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