David Sayer was a huge man in heavy boots and a long, tan duster. His hair was shoulder-length and blond. His chin was rough with stubble. He looked to be in his late thirties or early forties, but, as I'd learned, that meant almost nothing here. He must have been closer to seven feet tall than six, and his shoulders looked every bit of three feet wide.
"Al?" he said, walking in.
"Yes, Al Hall," I answered, standing from where I had been sitting on the side of the bed.
He didn't approach. He stayed just inside the door. "My name is David," he said. "Your dad and I are good friends."
"So I've heard."
"Right," he said. "I know he'd be here if he could be." Then he fell silent and seemed uncomfortable.
"I'm sure." I didn't know how to feel about this guy. We stood in awkward silence for a second.
"Look," he said finally, "let's get out of this funeral home and get outside. What do you say?"
"Uh," I paused. Getting outside sounded pretty good, though, so I said, "Sure."
"Great." He turned to go. "I'll wait out here while you lose the choir robe." He closed the door behind him.
The clothes Carey had left fit perfectly, and I felt much better in them. They had a plain, generic feel about them, well-made with no tags or brands. Something about them excited me about this new place in which I found myself. I left the robe on the bed and opened the door to go. As I did, I wondered if I'd ever return to this little room.
A felt a brief panic that I was leaving something behind. Looking back, however, there was nothing there that belonged to me. There was the robe, but I didn't want it. I was overcome with a sense of freedom, having, quite literally, only the clothes on my back.
"That's much better," David said as I came out. "This place gives me the creeps. Let's get out of here."
"Why?" I asked. "Everyone here has been very nice to me."
"Nice?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow. "Yeah, that sounds about right."
He walked quickly for the door and I followed him. We walked out of the clothes area and back into the big hall where I'd met Daniel. As we went I looked around for Naomi, but I didn't see her.
"So, Al," he said, "You're the cop son, right?"
"I'm a Detective," I said.
"Like your Dad," said David, walking out of the huge desk room into the foyer of the building and heading for the front doors.
'No,' I thought. "Yes, like Dad," I said. "But he was a patrol officer."
"Oh, right," he said. "I suppose they've told you that he was the Sheriff here."
"That's what they said."
We reached the front doors and stepped out into the bright light. I could see people, many in robes, standing in small groups and talking. They all had their backs to the Lightstone off to the left. Many of them had on the shades. David and I walked off to the right. He seemed to be heading somewhere.
"So, where are we off to?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "I need to stop and see a man for a minute. He's living right around here. Just arrived a few days ago."
"Oh," I said.
"You can come with me and then I'll show you around a bit and give you the scoop on things."
"Okay," I said. "Is there some business I need to complete here?"
"Here?" he said, nodding over at the building with a scowl. "No, nothing really. They're just here to make sure people don't go nuts when they get here. You don't need them."
"Well, I think it would have been a lot rougher without them." I thought about Naomi's face in those silly glasses. I thought about weeping on the hill with her. Somehow I didn't think David would relate to that story.
"I guess," David said.
"Didn't you find them comforting when you arrived?"
"Me?" he laughed. "If I recall they just screamed after me that I needed to put on the robe as I walked off to find Séamas and get my clothes."
"A friend," he said.
"And he had your clothes?"
"Yes he did," David said.
"I don't understand," I said. "I didn't have a clue where I was or what was going on. It took me a few minutes even to realize that I had died."
"Oh, that's normal," said David, turning down a path to the right toward some small buildings that looked like town homes. "Have you remembered yet how you got here?"
"Well," I said, ignoring his question, "how is it that you hit the ground running?"
"Well, I already knew what to expect, you see."
"I see," I said. And then, "No, I don't see actually."
"I had been here before," David said. "It's part of what I want to talk to you about, Al. It will help you understand where your father is."
"But, it's too much to get into right now. We'll talk after I see this guy. We're almost at his place."
"Oh," I said.
"So," he went on, casually, "do you remember how you got here?"
"No," I said, and I got an uneasy feeling in my stomach at the thought. "They told me not to think too much about it."
"Daniel," I said, "back there."
"Oh. Well, there's no hurry."
"I think," I went on, "that I might have died violently. It's a feeling I have."
"Well," David replied, "you're probably right. It'll come to you. I hope it wasn't too bad, but it's no worry now."
"Right," I said.
"Here we are," said David, and we walked up the path toward the front door of one of the small town homes. "According to the Sheriff, this should be the temporary home of a Romeo di Marti. I need to ask him a couple of questions."
David knocked on the door. I stood beside and slightly behind him, anxious to finish this visit and hear what he had to tell me. I heard the doorknob rattle and the door swung open.
All at once, it was like a hand tightened around my heart as I stared into the face of the man at the door. I saw his expression change from courteous curiosity to terror as I lunged for his throat with my hands. Once again, like in the memories that were flooding back into my mind, everything was in slow motion. I was pushing past David and grabbing Johnny by the throat. Johnny was falling backwards and trying to fend me off. David was yelling and reaching to restrain me. We all tumbled together through the front door. I could hear myself screaming and cursing.
The next thing I knew, Johnny was lying on the floor in front of me. "What's wrong with you?" he screamed.
David was holding me back with a huge arm around my neck and a giant hand pressed into my chest. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked in a strangely calm voice.
I was like an animal, fighting in vain against the big man, trying to get at the terrified man on the floor. "You shot me!" I screamed. "You killed me, you bastard!"
"I've never seen you before in my life!" he gasped, scrambling to his feet and backing away.