TO DIE FOR INTERLUDE: DEAD RECKONING
This Time Round's Proprietor was just sitting down to count up
the evening's take, when he felt a chilly shadow fall across him.
"PROPRIETOR, I HAVE COME TO YOU..."
The publican's face went the color of old ashes. That voice.
_That_ voice. He looked up, hoping against hope that he some-
how wouldn't see what he knew would be there.
"I AM DEATH," the skull-faced shadow said rather redundantly.
Wetness prickled at the edges of the Proprietor's eyes. "No," he
whispered. "No. This can't be. I-- I'm too young. I can't just...
I can't leave..." His eyes fell upon the stacks of currency on his
desk, and his weeping became open and voluble. He fell to his
knees, clutching pathetically at the semi-substantial hem of
Death's robe. "Please! Not that!" he wailed as he grovelled.
"I'm too young to die! There's so much I haven't done! So much
money I haven't made! So many drinks I haven't sampled! So
many stories I haven't had cameos in! WAAAAHH! Don't kill
me, Mr. Death! I don't want to go to my Eternal Judgment!"
"ER, EXCUSE ME..." Death said. He tried without much success
to pull his robe out of the Proprietor's grasp. Had there been any
skin on his face, it would've probably been red with embarrass-
The door behind him opened, and Francois stuck his shaggy head
into the office. "Francois hearing much noise," the Ogron grunted.
As the Proprietor went on crying and begging, Death gave a
puzzled shrug. "I JUST WANTED TO ASK HIM FOR A FAVOR."
The pub was a bustling hive of activity as various employees and
other volunteers set about the task of making the place look more
presentable. Chang Lee was removing all the various pin-up
centerfolds that certain areas seemed to have accumulated and
stashing all the issues of Playgelf Magazine that had found their
way onto the bar. Katarina took down their Mary Whitehouse
dartboard and the punching bag with John Nathan-Turner's face
on it. Still others swept and mopped and polished and set out
potted plants to conceal some of the more difficult stains. And
all to help out one patron, a patron who might not have been
considered a friend, but who was still someone they all wanted
to stay on the right side of.
"You're being auditted?" Adric demanded as he smoothed out
a tablecloth that would cover the rather pungent and colorful
graffiti carved into the tabletop. "You?"
"THAT IS CORRECT," the Gatherer of Souls said, nodding.
"Wow. I'd heard the phrase 'death and taxes' before, but I never
"NOT THAT SORT OF AUDIT. I'M ACTUALLY TAX-EXEMPT
UNDER THE ALLEGORICAL BEINGS SECTION OF THE TAX
CODE. NO, THIS IS A DEPARTMENTAL AUDIT. A FIELD
SUPERVISOR FROM THE MORTALITY DEFERMENT OFFICE
IS COMING TO CHECK MY RECORDS." Death paused for a
bracing gulp of scumble. "IT'S ACTUALLY SCARIER, IN A
Adric was somewhat overawed by the thought that something
could actually make _Death_ nervous. Wide-eyed, he asked, "So,
what is one of these audits like? What will they do to you?"
Death's empty sockets fixed on the boy's eyes. "I'VE NO IDEA,"
he said flatly.
"I'VE NEVER BEEN AUDITTED BEFORE," the bony demigod
sighed. "AS FAR AS I KNOW, THEY'VE NEVER DONE THEM
BEFORE. THE FIRST I KNEW OF IT WAS WHEN I RECEIVED
A NOTICE YESTERDAY SAYING THAT, DUE TO A LARGE-
SCALE REORGANIZATION AT THE MDO, FIELD SUPERVI-
SORS WOULD BE CONDUCTING ON-SITE CHECKS OF ALL
RECORDS, AND THAT MY AUDIT WOULD BE CONDUCTED
AT MY USUAL BUSINESS LOCATION AT TWO PM. SO..."
He gestured at the stack of leather-bound accounts ledgers next
to him. "...HERE I AM. I'M GRATEFUL THAT THE PROPRI-
ETOR WAS SO EAGER TO HELP OUT."
Adric glanced at the staircase. For whatever reason, the Proprietor
had locked himself in the upstairs suite the night before with a
case of Irish whiskey, a rack of roast lamb, and a heavily made-up
young woman named 'Mad Sheila', or so Francois had reported.
Adric had only seen him once all day, when he'd come down
dressed only in a strategically-placed pillowcase. Adric had
attempted to speak with him, but the man was too intent on gath-
ering up fish sticks and vitamin pills to say anything beyond a
cryptic, "I'm going to live! Tee-hee-hee!" before returning up-
Death glanced at the clock. "IT'S ALMOST TWO. I'M SO
NERVOUS." He turned back to Adric. "DO I LOOK NERVOUS?
HOW'S MY COLOR?"
The clock was just on its second chime when the door opened
and a most amazing thing entered.
At the end of the bar, Chris Cwej's mouth went dry and he instinc-
tively started straightening his clothes. Fitz put a restraining hand
on his shoulder.
"Hey, Chris," he whispered, "remember what's happened every
other time you've moved on a strange babe lately."
The memory of repeated impacts about the head caused the blond
to cool his jets somewhat. "Yeah," he sighed. "But, if she's here
for Adric, I'm going to scream!"
In the doorway stood one of the most remarkably beautiful women
that any of the patrons had ever set eyes on. She was tall and
perfectly formed, with a great mass of artfully-disshevelled hair
so golden that it would've made a Cyberman jumpy. Her skin was
very pale and fair, and largely exposed by her outfit, which might
be described as a form of bikini, but with less surface area and
more gemstones sewn into it than bikinis normally have. Rather
incongruously, she was also carrying a briefcase.
Behind the bar, Adric couldn't shake the feeling that he knew
her, for some reason. He blinked, then tilted his head to one
side. Oh. He remembered now. He swallowed hard and tried
to look inconspicuous.
The woman gave the room a short glancing-over, and the patrons
couldn't help but feel as if they'd just been judged and found
wanting. She gave a little sniff that managed to convey more
scorn than any mere words ever could, and stepped inside,
walking with the sort of studied arrogance that only a lifetime
of upper-class snobbery can produce. Closer up, it could be
seen that she had a small nametag fastened to one of the tiny
straps that covered her breast. It read, 'Phaidor', and under that,
Taking not the least notice of any of the stares she was getting,
she walked directly over to Death's table.
That was when Death did a strange thing. As the woman came
to him, he stood with (excuse the pun) grave dignity, then knelt
before her, placing his scythe on the floor at her feet.
"MY BLADE IS YOURS TO COMMAND, O DAUGHTER OF
THE HOLY HEKKADOR," he intoned.
The woman seemed taken aback for a moment. Then, with great
solemnity, she picked up the weapon and handed it back to Death,
handle-first. "It is received most gladly," she replied in a soft,
musical voice. Then she smiled, and if anything it made her seem
even lovelier, as it drove some of the cool arrogance from her
face. "You remembered me!" she exclaimed wonderingly.
"OF COURSE." Death started to add something to that, but
"You and I have spoken but little since the days after you
retrieved me from the snow-fields of Kadabra," she said as the
two sat down. "I had assumed you had forgotten me among the
countless thousands you gathered after the battle."
"I DIDN'T FORGET, BUT I'VE ONLY VISITED THE DEFERMENT
OFFICE A FEW TIMES, AND YOU WERE ALWAYS SO BUSY.
I'M GLAD TO SEE YOU'RE, AH, LOOKING WELL." He gestured
toward the region of her neck.
"Oh, that?" she asked, tilting her head from side to side. "What
good were a promotion, if it did not have a few perks? Besides
which, a lolling head does naught for inspiring confidence in
one's managerial skills."
Death nodded. "I MUST ADMIT, I HAD NO IDEA THAT YOU
WOULD BE MY AUDITOR. IF I MAY ASK, HOW DID YOU
MANAGE A PROMOTION? AFTERWORLD CIVIL SERVICE
JOBS ARE USUALLY ETERNAL, ARE THEY NOT?"
Phaidor's face took on a hard look, which was surprisingly frigh-
tening on such an angelic face. "Normally, this is the case. How-
ever, there was an 'incident' at the office involving a colleague
of yours from the 'Preacher' universe." Here, she cast a baleful
look at Adric, who slunk away to the other end of the bar.
"OH, DEAR," said Death, who knew the Saint of Killers and his
habits all too well.
"Yes. In the space of about five minutes, the Saint managed to
reduce the Office's workforce from two hundred-twenty to four.
Fortunately, it was far from my first massacre, and I had the
presence of mind to hide behind a stack of Deferment Benefit
Change-of-Address forms. After that, there were vacancies in
mid-level management, so I was first promoted to Deputy Assist-
ant Director, then to Field Supervisor when we realized that the
entire records division would need restructuring." She shrugged
elaborately. "The status of bean-counter is ill-suited to one of my
lineage, but opportunities must be siezed where they are found.
Besides, it gets me out from behind that horrid desk. I had feared
lest I develop the 'secretarial spread'." She turned and looked
rather worriedly at her backside.
Francois brought them tea as the two got caught up on what each
had been up to for the past century and traded the latest gossip
from the Other Side. It seemed that the Saint of Killers was no
longer responding to any Management directives, it being rumored
that he had set out to slay the God of his universe. Anubis was
supposedly carrying-on with a Greek Goddess of Wisdom. The
'Slayers' universe needed a new Grim Reaper, Hellmaster Phibrizo
having gotten himself rather grimly reaped in a dispute with the
sorceress Lina Inverse.
It was about then that Polly decided to make an entrance.
Polly hadn't been there when Francois had explained the situation
that morning, so she knew nothing of who the skimpily-clad
blonde talking to Death might be. What she did know was that
she had a duty, a sworn and solemn duty, to make sure that only
authorized characters who had appeared in a previous crossover
entered the pub and made use of its facilities.
Okay, so she didn't _really_ have this duty. There wasn't so much
an actual _rule_ about crossover characters, as a sort of tradition
that was honored mainly in the breaching of it. Still, it was what
she did, even if she sometimes declared that she was quitting.
Besides, bimbos who dressed that skimpy needed to learn their
place, anyway. She tucked her clipboard under her arm and
marched smartly to the table.
"Excuse me, _ma'am_," she said to Phaidor, "but I'm going to
have to ask to see your credentials."
Phaidor turned and fixed her with a glance that would have made
a Yeti reach for his blanket. "And you are...?" she asked in a
dangerously toneless voice.
"I'm Polly, the Door Warden. But the question is, who are _you_?
I need your name, your series of origin, and the name of any cross-
over stories you might have appeared in." Polly hefted the clip-
board in her most officious manner.
"You question me?" Phaidor replied, her voice steadily rising.
"You _dare_ question me? You _dare_ to ask for credentials from
one of my ancient lineage?! Vile baggage! I am Phaidor, daughter
of Matai Shang, most revered of the Holy Therns!!" Phaidor
whipped a dagger out of her briefcase and slammed it into the
tabletop just in front of the wide-eyed Door Warden. "I am a
daughter of the Holy Hekkador, and by Issus, I shall FEAST
upon your trollop's heart!!"
"EEEEEEEEeeeeeekkk...!" Polly's scream trailed away as she
bolted out the front door as fast as her legs could carry her.
If Death had any eyebrows, he would have raised them as Phaidor
returned to her seat. "YOU COULD HAVE JUST TOLD HER YOU
WERE IN 'RED TAPE BLUES', YOU KNOW. AND BESIDES, I
THOUGHT YOU WERE REFORMED?"
"Be easy on me, my friend," the blonde replied with a chuckle.
"It's been over a century since I've been able to cut loose like
that at anyone. And I _am_ reformed. Were this the old days,
I would have already eviscerated the wench and fed her to the
hounds for her impudence."
Francois snickered as he eyed the dagger stuck into the tabletop.
He turned and nudged Adric with an elbow, nearly breaking half
a dozen of the boy's ribs in the process.
"Crazy dead woman reminding dead boy of anyone?" he growled
"Oh, hush," Adric retorted.
"I suppose we'd best be to our business, my friend." Phaidor set
her briefcase on the table and pulled out a small laptop computer.
"What I shall need," she said as she brought up the appropriate
files, "is to cross-check your records regarding Mortality Defer-
ment Card recipients, so that we might ensure that our data is in
"RIGHT, THEN. WHERE SHALL WE BEGIN?"
Phaidor consulted her screen. "First, I have Case Number 23E7-
99R413, Katarina. I show a Mortality Event Tally of two for her."
Death thumped one of his own dusty tomes onto the table and
paged through it. "I SHOW TWO DEATHS FOR HER, AS
"Excellent. Next, Case Number 23E7-99Y798, Sara Kingdom.
Three Mortality Events."
"THREE DEATHS FOR SARA KINGDOM HERE."
"Next, Case Number 64K2-74G113, Adric of Alzarius." Phaidor
paused to send a bone-freezing glare in the boy's direction.
"One thousand five hundred and twenty-six Events."
"THAT MATCHES, ALSO."
"Case Number 17W6-66L221B, the Master. Thirty-six Events."
"THIRTY-SIX IS WHAT I HAVE."
Across the room, the Fifth Doctor turned to the Master, who had
a rather sheepish look on his face. "You bastard!" the Doctor
spat. "And all this time, I thought you were making some sort of
clever last-minute getaways!"
Phaidor was checking another name. "Case Number 99Z5-49E111,
Samantha Jones, one Event."
Phaidor repeated the name and number, but Death just shook his
bony head. "I HAVE NO RECORD OF SAMANTHA JONES'S
ENROLLMENT IN THE MORTALITY DEFERMENT PROGRAM,"
he said worriedly.
"None at all? Did she pass directly into the Beyond? A few eli-
gibles do get missed, on occasion."
"NO. ACCORDING TO MY RECORDS, SAMANTHA JONES
SIMPLY HAS NOT DIED."
"Are you quite certain that she is still Life-Empowered?"
"SHE IS MOST DEFINITELY ALIVE. THAT IS HER AT THE
FAR END OF THE BAR, IN FACT."
"Ah, well. That is the purpose of these audits, to discover and
rectify such clerical errors as these." Phaidor rose suddenly and
snatched the dagger out of the tabletop, then hurled it across the
room. There was a gurgling female scream, followed by the thud
of a body hitting the floor. "You may now update your records
accordingly," she said to Death as she resumed her seat. "Case
Number 99Z5-49E111, Samantha Jones. One Mortality Event.
Next, we have..."