BKWillis here with the latest installment of the 'To Die For' series. This
piece is a direct sequel to 'The Substitute', 'Board Games', and 'Fistful of
Homicidal Mania'. This is dedicated to Clive May, Susannah Tiller, and all
the other wonderful folks who've written in, and to my
partner-in-literary-crime, Doug Killings. As always, your comments are very
Warning: Contains some fairly mild profanity.
Copyright Disclaimers at end.
TO DIE FOR: RED TAPE BLUES
"Mortality Deferment Office. Hold, please."
Throughout the ages, mankind has tried to imagine what the after-
life must be like. People have spoken frequently of a great and
warm Light, of the rocky, burning Pits, of lands of fleecy clouds
and music, of the Happy Hunting Grounds, of simple and timeless
Void, while atheists deny that there is any afterlife whatsoever.
Ironically, all these images have something in common, in that
they are all basically wrong.
Adric, a current but hopefully temporary resident of this afterlife,
knew little of such theological musings. He would have laughed
if he did. He would have laughed and told them that the Lights
were dim and buzzing fluorescents, that the rocks had been used
to stuff the chair seats, that the music was Muzak, that the only
hunting was for something to do, and that, above all, it wasn't
In Adric's admittedly short experience with the afterlife, it remind-
ed him more of a Tax Office than anything else, right down to the
cinderblock walls painted that institutional color that's supposed
to be soothing but looks like baby snot. The only thing missing
was a big round clock over the receptionist's desk. There were no
clocks at all here, and Adric had soon realized that this was be-
cause the place never closed. There was no need for it to close.
The patrons, such as Adric, were too eager to get their Mortality
Deferment Cards, and the workers were condemned to their jobs
forever (a woman at Adric's left had whispered) as punishment for
"Mortality Deferment Office... Mr. Varus is in a meeting just
now... No, I don't know when he'll be out. You'll just have to try
Adric was guessing that he had been waiting for approximately 68
hours. This was based upon a scientific calculation involving the
elevator-style music that was piped in to the waiting room. It had
taken awhile, but he had noticed that the Muzak only played about
eight different songs, and that one of those was a hideous instru-
mental version of Paul McCartney's 'Live and Let Die' that was on
every fifth song. By careful counting, he had now heard 'Live and
Let Die' 204 times. Being a math geek did have its advantages.
Adric occupied himself for a moment by looking at the receptionist,
who was very picturesque below the neck, being very well-built and
wearing what amounted to a jewelled leather bikini. Looking up,
though... Her head lolled at an impossible angle onto her shoulder.
Occasionally, her golden hair would fall away from the other shoul-
der, revealing a small piece of neckbone poking through the skin on
that side. "Jumped off the deck of an airboat," a man who had intro-
duced himself as Ulysses Paxton had said. A placard on the recep-
tionist's desk bore the name 'Phaidor'. Adric looked away before she
could catch him staring.
Adric's number at last! The receptionist shot him a look of imper-
sonally jealous hatred as he strode up to her desk. "Through that
door," she near-snarled, "first available desk you see."
He stepped through the indicated door and into a large, open office
space filled with desks and clerks and MDC applicants. The clerks
were all uniformly bad to look at, bearing a myriad collection of gun-
shot wounds, sliced wrists, nooses, and other indications of their
self-inflicted demises. The applicants were a more interesting lot,
particularly the one nearest him, a gorgeous naked woman who ap-
peared to be made of liquid glass.
"Come on, kid! Quit gawking! There's others waiting, ya know!"
Adric hurriedly looked for an unoccupied clerk, finally sitting
down opposite a frumpy middle-aged woman whose hair stood
on end and who appeared to be smoldering slightly.
"Before you ask, I stepped on the third rail of a subway track," she
said with the air of someone who has answered the same question
over and over again. "Now, whadda you need?"
"I need to get a replacement Deferment Card...," he began.
"Right. Lemme see your Form 77J211346D4."
"Errr... what?" Adric asked intelligently.
"You don't have it?" she asked in the sort of tone that you would
expect someone to take when asking about an overdue loan pay-
"Well, no. Nobody said anything about..."
"Right. Here," she said, handing him a large sheet of paper crammed
with tiny print. "Fill this out, bring it back, we'll go from there." She
poked the intercom button. "Send in another, Phai."
Adric miserably returned to the waiting room, only to find all the
seats now taken. He had to squat on the floor by a hideously ugly
end-table to fill out the form, when he realized that he had no pen-
cil. He eventually convinced the receptionist to loan him one, but
had to fill out a Form 326Y33984Q(e) Writing Implement Requisi-
tion, which was two pages long and had to be stamped and nota-
rized before he could take the pencil away from her desk.
He then tackled the Form 77J211346D4, mumbling as he filled out
the seemingly unending series of questions. "No. No. Yes. No.
No. Hmmm... I'll say 'twice a day'. No. Ummm..." He pulled off a
shoe and peered inside. "Size 10-and-a-half. No. What the--? I
can't believe they'd even _ask_ that! Of course I don't! No. Yes.
Ummm... June the sixth. Yes. Yes. The Magna Carta. No." And
so on until he had finished. He then returned the pencil to Phaidor
the receptionist and under her lopsided gaze filled out Form RD66/
93E7R Writing Implement Return Verification which they both had
to sign in the presence of three witnesses. That done, he started
into the main office when Phaidor stopped him.
"Take a number," she said firmly.
"But I was just in--"
"Take. A. Number."
"Fine, fine," he grumbled, drawing a number off the board. It was
12. Not bad!
Huh? "Wait a minute. Why's my number lower?"
The receptionist smiled sadistically, reminding him suddenly of
Nyssa. He shivered.
"We start the numbers over at 5,000," she explained.
"Oh, bloody hell..."
146 instrumental renditions of 'Live and Let Die' later...
"Yes! It's about bloody time." Adric hustled into the main office.
The clerk that had 'helped' him before was busy, so he got another,
a youngish man with a piece of electrical cord around his neck.
"And what can I do for you, sir?" the man asked fairly pleasantly.
Adric allowed himself just the tiniest ray of hope.
"I need a replacement Deferment Card."
"I see. And do you have your Form 77J211346D4?"
"Sure do," Adric said brightly, handing the man the tedious sheet.
The clerk carefully checked each line, at one point snickering,
"Twice a day?" and giggling. At length he was finished and told
the anxious Alzarian, "Everything seems to be in good order. I just
need to see your CEA's affidavit."
Oh, hell. Adric began to get that curious sinking feeling that he
generally got when trapped aboard a crashing space freighter or
when he heard a Traken accent. "What's that, then?" he asked
"Oh, dear. You don't have it? That puts a crimp in things. What I
need is a signed Affidavit of Loss filled out by your Celestial Ex-
tension Agent verifying that you need a new Card."
Adric rubbed at his temples. "And what's a Celestial Extension
"That would be your caseworker. Whoever it is that punches your
Card for you. I just need the affidavit with their name and Service
Number on it. He should have some blank copies on hand."
"And that's all?" Adric asked rather skeptically.
"That's all," said the clerk.
"No Affidavit Requisition Forms? No Verification of Receipt? No
notarized copies of my last pay stub?"
"No. We handle those first two, and we only need your pay stub if
you're filling out a Form 223W44M1066 or a 438P1073--"
"Right," said Adric, snatching up his Form. "I'll just go get this
thing signed, and come back, and I'll get a new Card. Correct?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Saint of Killers..."
"Oww! Damn it! What'd you do that for? It'll take me _days_ to
grow a new one!"
"Force of habit. Something you need, boy?"
Adric massaged the tender pink flesh of his new-grown hand and
looked at the number he'd taken. 1,217.
Typical. Absolutely typical.
195 'Live and Let Die's later...
This latest clerk was as surly as the first and had the most annoying
voice Adric had ever heard, a grating whine that was like a dentist's
drill boring upwards into the brain.
"What's the holdup?" he asked her.
"Well, it seems your CEA's name and number on the affidavit don't
match the one assigned to you in the computer." Drill drill drill...
"Oh. Right. My usual Death is away on business, and a substitute
is filling in until he gets back."
"A substitute? Uh-oh." Drill drill...
"'Uh-oh'? Just what the hell do you mean, 'Uh-oh'?"
"Don't get aggressive with me, young man." Drill drill... "What
that means is that you've filled out the wrong paperwork. For a
substitute Celestial Extension Agent, you need a Form 77J2113-
46D4a, a Substitution Verification Notice filed with the Bureau
of Life-Impaired Affairs, an Affidavit of Loss with attached Sub-
Clause 5440OF, and a signed note from a licensed physician."
Drill drill drill drill...
A strange sort of calm had descended over Adric. It was a com-
forting feeling, almost. A feeling that a man gets when he has
been hanging onto a rope so tightly that his hands are bleeding
and sore and he finally has no choice but to let go, no matter the
consequences. A feeling that his fate is no longer in his own hands,
so there's no point in worrying about it. He left the office in an odd
In a place that was no place at all, a figure brooded, idly toying
with a star-shaped badge. He'd given up. That's all there was to
it. He'd gone as far as he could go, and it wasn't far enough. The
system was rigged, the chips were against him, there were enemies
at every turn, and he had that stupid song stuck in his head. Sod
this. Sod all of it.
He could, he realized, simply stay dead and in Limbo. "Why was I
so concerned with getting back anyway?" he asked himself. "Every-
one there hates me. I've no family or friends to miss me. I've no
reason to go back. Bollocks to them all!"
But, even as he spoke, a part of his mind chastised him. "Adric," it
said over the strains of 'Live and Let Die', "you know that's not en-
tirely true. There's lots of things there, like playing cards with the
gang over at Ucchan's..."
"They'll find someone else."
"...eating fresh riverfruit at the picnic table behind the pub..."
"Ummm... I can do without."
"...sipping a nice cold beer while Tegan makes an ass of herself
trying to flirt with a Movellan..."
"Heehee. That _was_ pretty rich... No! I don't need that, either,"
he said resolutely, but couldn't stop snickering.
"...and besides, if you don't go back, Nyssa wins."
Adric snorted aloud. "So? At least she'll be happy."
"And why do you care if she's happy?"
"I don't! Stop trying to trick me! Whose side are you on, Mind?"
"Ours, Adric. And since we're the same person, I know quite well
what you were thinking when you looked at that receptionist with
the broken neck..." The reasonable voice became conspiratorial.
"You were comparing her to a certain Trakenite damsel..."
"If I was, it's because I wish that homicidal hellion's neck was bro-
"...which was why you were imagining her in that ruby-studded
"Hormones. Just hormones."
"Whatever..." said the voice.
"_Do_ shut up."
"-o- When you were young, and your heart was an open book...-o-"
"Shut up! It doesn't matter anyway. At the rate things are going,
I'll never get another Deferment Card. _Damn_ these people!"
"You think too linearly, Adric. Think of what someone else might
do in these circumstances. What would Nyssa do?"
"She'd start viciously murdering the clerks until she got her way,
then kill the rest for sport afterwards. Except that they're already
dead, so that's out. It's a moot point. We can't harm the dead."
"But Adric," said the voice with an increasingly sinister tone, "you
know someone who _can_..."
"They said _what_?"
"N-n-n-now d-d-don't be angry with m-m-me, sir. I'm just repeating
w-w-w-what they said to tell you. That if you couldn't even fill out
a simple affidavit right, you had n-n-n-no business doing this and
s-s-s-should take your 'illiterate ass back to the f-f-farm'."
"Did they, boy? Wait here. I'll be back."
"I thought he was going to blow me away for a second, there."
Adric rubbed at his neck where the Saint of Killers had picked him
up. The man's hands were rough, and so cold his flesh had almost
He sat huddled in the dark of nowhere at all, awaiting the sound of
those heavy, inexorable strides. He shivered, only partly with the
cold. He'd have to be an utter imbecile not to be terrified by the
Patron Saint of Murder. He knew that if the man decided to kill him
("He _can_ kill the dead. I don't know how I know that, but I know
it very well."), one look into those blazing eyes and he'd be as help-
less as a rabbit before a snake. But at the same time...
"I feel so... wicked," thought Adric. "This _is_ the sort of thing that
Nyssa or the Master might do. And no wonder they do it! If I'm
not careful, I could get hooked on this sort of thing."
Clomp... clomp... clomp... Only one set of boots made a sound like
that. Adric rose to await his fate.
"Boy, you lied to me."
Adric's blood went icy cold. He couldn't speak, couldn't move. He
stood like a statue, awaiting his fate.
"Them folks said nary such thing about me, an' I made a most in-
convenient trip for nothin'." The Saint's voice was as always, a
frigid lethal grind like a collision of icebergs. "Way I figure it, you
was tryin' to get me to do a bit of killin' so's you could have your
Adric could only nod dumbly. He was looking at the Saint's scuffed
boots. He didn't want to see when those huge pistols came to bear
on him, didn't want to see the Saint's twisted snarl, especially didn't
want to look into those eyes that would burn his soul away.
"That's a hard and cruel call to make, boy. Powerful hard and cruel.
What'd you expect if I found you out?"
"That you'd kill me," Adric barely murmurred.
"And you did it anyway? A hard and cruel call in more ways than
one. Well, I'll give you what's comin' to you..." Adric heard the
rustle of the Saint's coat.
"Well, this is really it," he thought. He remained looking down, but
his eyes were dry.
Adric felt a cold hand grip his wrist and press something into his
palm. It felt like... a punchcard.
He looked in astonishment. The Saint of Killers had actually put
a pair of Mortality Deferment Cards in his hand. Two crisp new
Cards without a mark or hole to be found. "What... why?" he man-
The Saint's face was as always, harsh and stern, implacable as grav-
ity. "You inconvenienced me, boy, an' I inconvenienced you con-
siderable worse. We stand even now. But don't cross me again."
The icy grip was released and Adric felt life return to his chilled
The Saint strode away, then paused and looked back at the Alzar-
ian. "You've more guts than I gave you credit for, boy. More than
others credit you with, too, most likely. Bear that in mind."
"Poor thing," said Peri, "she just hasn't been her usual violent self
"Are you complaining?" asked the Brigadier.
"Nope," Peri answered brightly.
"Thought not." The Brig sipped at his brandy reflectively. "Still,
you're quite right. Miss Nyssa is most definitely out of sorts. I
must admit that I have enjoyed the relative calm of the last few days,
and yet, somehow this place seems... _dull_ without our usual ent-
Romana finished her Bloody Mary Sue with some elegance and
leaned in. "You know, I worry about us sometimes, the things
we've come to expect. Makes me wonder how sane we all are."
"Sane?" This was Sarah Jane. "We've all been tooling merrily
around the Universe in a bloody Police Box with a man who changes
bodies periodically and has the fashion sense of mutton, fighting
off baddies who look like pepper shakers and potato-heads and
what-have-you and then bugging out before anyone can properly
reward us for saving the world." She paused to catch her breath.
"I think it's a bit late in the match to be worried over sanity, dear."
Several people applauded.
In the darkest corner of This Time Round, an odd-looking white
Dalek watched the proceedings with great interest. Something
was going to happen, it felt. Something of vast importance to
the Brethren and to Her Most Illustrious Ladyship. The Brethren
would make sure that the Lady's interests were protected, no mat-
ter the cost. So it watched, and planned, and a small tendril of
smoke curled from under its snowy dome...
"Give me another, Harry."
Harry Sullivan sighed and decided to try again. "Really now, Nyssa,
don't you think you've had quite enough?"
"Not running out, are you?"
"No, we've plenty. It's you I'm worried about."
"I'm just fine," Nyssa said a bit stiffly. "I'm just fine and I'm order-
"Nyssa, please. It's not healthy. Seventeen is too many for anyone."
"The customer is always right, I guess." Harry brought her order.
"At least try to make this one last a while."
"Certainly, Harry. Thank you." Nyssa seized the little Adric-shaped
ice cube he'd brought, downed a gulp of her tea, and began to meth-
odically pound the cube's tiny skull on the bartop.
"Well, here goes nothing." The pub's front door was thrown wide
and the wind whistled dramatically in the opening. All eyes turned
to the dark shape silhouetted therein. Thunder crashed, even though
it was a perfectly clear night. All in all, one _hell_ of an entrance.
"Oh. Hullo there Adric."
"Well, that was anti-climactic," the white Dalek thought.
"You!" came a furious snarl.
"You!" came the rather fearful reply.
The bar staff and patrons eased away from the confrontation, but not
too far to miss the action.
The two charged into one another, and those of more sensitive nat-
ure turned their heads. Certain others (like Leela and, rather oddly,
Victoria) leaned in closer to see the carnage. But no one was pre-
pared for what happened next.
"Ugh," spat Leela. "I am going to be ill."
Nyssa barrelled directly into Adric, who made no move to evade,
and threw one arm around his neck and the other...
"Gross," groaned Victoria. "They're _hugging_! Ewwww!"
The patrons looked on in shock, unable to believe their eyes.
In the corner, the white Dalek was fuming. It sent out a call to the
Brethren. Blasphemy of the worst sort was occurring and reinforce-
ments would be required...
Nyssa and Adric stood and stared at one another, arm-in-arm. Ad-
ric's face bore a faint, yet slightly cocky smile, while the Trakenite's
face showed a very strange mixture of relief and rage. Both sudden-
ly became aware of how quiet it had become. Both looked around.
"Are ye gon'ta kiss the lass or nae?" was shouted from the back of
the rapt crowd. The two quickly disengaged.
"So," began Adric, trying to sound casual, "how come you aren't in
"Oh, that," Nyssa replied with equal coolness. "It just wasn't the
same without-- Ah, I mean, I just wasn't in the mood. You know?"
She shrugged elaborately. "So, where've you been? Not that I real-
ly care or anything."
"Nowhere, basically. A big place full of nothing and nobodies."
The two avoided looking at each other, but the crowd was having
none of it. They could feel the tension, and knew that _something_
had to give. Just what that something would be, though...
"This is stupid, Nyssa," he blurted. "We both know what we _real-
ly_ want here, don't we? So let's just drop the pretense."
"Very well." She took the Alzarian's hands in hers, noting that one
seemed a bit softer and pinker than the other. They looked calmly
into one another's eyes for a long moment.
"Shall I start, or shall you?" he asked.
"By all means, go first," Nyssa deferred.
"Okay then." He straightened, cleared his throat, and said casually,
"So, I never realized that you Trakens hibernate."
She eyed him curiously. "We don't."
Adric looked confused. "Really? So all that fat you're building up
isn't to get you through the winter?"
The crowd drew in a collective gasp as Nyssa's face purpled. "Why,
you... AAAARRRGGHH!!" With a fierce yell she tossed the boy
across the room, where he landed on his feet and running. Nyssa
snatched up a beer bottle and smashed the bottom, taking off after
Adric and waving the jagged end.
Both of them were smiling.
Victoria looked at Leela. "That I did not expect," she said.
"I did," replied the warrior. "I _should_ be surprised, but I'm not."
"Nyeh nyeh! Your aim sucks, Nyssa! You'll never get me with
"You are _so_ dead, Swamp-boy!"
"I'm sorry, ma'am. The Mortality Deferment Office is closed at the
moment." The speaker was a big, powerful man in the cloak and
tunic of a Roman nobleman, a look that was accessorized by a sword
hilt protruding from his torso. A tag on his chest bore the name P.
Quinctilius Varus. Behind him, cleanup crews were removing some
dozens of bullet-riddled corpses from the office while a woman put
a 'NOW HIRING' sign out front.
"Drat," replied the applicant. "I really need that card. Any idea
how long you'll be closed?"
"Time has no meaning here, Red-Tress. We shall be open when we
are re-staffed." He eyed her oddly for a moment. "Pardon me for
asking, but is that a chakram in your neck?"
Doctor Who is the property of a 6th Century group of Stoic philosophers
called the BBC.
This Time Round is the creation of Tyler Dion.
The Saint of Killers is from the series _Preacher_, by Garth Ennis
Phaidor is from the books _Gods of Mars_ and _The Warlord of Mars_, by Edgar
The song 'Live and Let Die' is property of Paul McCartney.
Well, folks. This is the longest piece I've ever written and I feel like
I've been yanked backwards through a knothole. I hope that y'all had as
much fun reading it as I did writing it. To explain a few references that
The idea of suicides running the Netherworld's Civil service was cribbed
from the movie 'Beetlejuice', as if y'all didn'y know.
Phaidor the receptionist was put in because I love those old Edgar Rice
Burroughs novels and Phaidor was one of my favorite characters. For the
uninitiated, Phaidor helped the handsome hero of the Martian Tales in the
first part of the second book, then fell in love with him and spent the next
book-and-a-half trying to kill his wife and do other nasty things to him.
At the end of the third book, she changes her evil ways and jumps to her
death to make amends. (She should've just bought them a ham.)
Ulysses Paxton is from the same series of books, later on. He was an
American soldier killed in France in 1918 who was resurrected on Mars.
P. Quinctilius Varus was a Roman legate who threw himself on his sword after
losing his entire army in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest (9 AD).
The woman made of liquid glass is the waitress Crystal Claire from Leiji
Matsumoto's anime/manga series 'Galaxy Express 999'. She dies at the end of
the first series, but is back again at the start of the second. Mortality
The Ucchan's reference pertains to the anime/manga series 'Ranma 1/2' by
Rumiko Takahashi and will be explained in Douglas Killings' 'Friendly
The passages involving the Saint of Killers came out more serious than I had
intended, but the Saint is such a grim and terrifying figure that he is
difficult to portray any other way.
Thanks for reading!