The story so far: The members of SCAG are walking to Herald Rock, but the group has split. Jack has a special mission he needs to complete.
Lead in story: Through the tunnel
Jack hated to leave Happy and Aadi, but this was an obligation he could not and, in truth, did not want to ignore. In normal circumstances, Jack would walk or drive to the appointment, but in this case he took advantage of one of his lesser-used abilities. He closed his eyes, thought of the name, and disappeared, only to reappear miles away, back in Santa Creda.
The client, Carlos “Carl” James Weatherly, was slumped on the ground in his backyard. He wasn’t quite dead yet, but it would be less than a minute. There was blood seeping from a wound on the back of his head, but he had clearly been beaten in several locations. He was unconscious and had likely been that way for a while. Jack approached and laid a hand gently on the man’s shoulder.
“Hello Carl,” Jack said, “I’ve come to help you move on.”
“What do you mean?” The figure of Carl, looking a little younger and a little more handsome than his mortal body had in recent years, stood next to Jack now.
“I’m afraid you’ve died, Carl. Your spirit is no longer confined to your body. I’m here to open the door so you can move on.”
Carl gave Jack a long, appraising look. “You seem familiar.”
“We’ve met before,” Jack said. “I comforted you when your mother died a couple of years back.”
“Ahhh,” Carl said, but the look in his eyes seemed like he was humoring Jack. It didn’t matter.
“Do you remember what happened?” Jack asked.
The man was looking down at his crumpled body. He didn’t seem panicked as much as curious. “He came out of nowhere and he hit me with a big black stick. I was having lunch on the patio. Kelly is out at a scrapbooking party. She won’t be back until tonight, maybe late. I’m just going to be here until then, aren’t I?”
“I’m not sure,” said Jack. “Maybe. It’s just a shell though. You don’t need it anymore.”
“I’m not leaving,” Carl said. “Not until someone finds me. I’m not just leaving my body here.”
“I can wait a bit,” Jack said. “Let’s go sit on the chairs.” Jack motioned to two lounge chairs near a fire pit. Carl nodded and they went and sat down.
“So, what happens when I go through the door.”
Jack shrugged. “I couldn’t say. I’ve never gone through. My job is to open it.”
“So, it could be heaven or hell?” Carl asked.
“Or something else entirely,” Jack said. “I wouldn’t worry about reward or punishment. Just be ready for the journey.”
They sat in silence for several minutes. Jack listened to the waves. After a while Carl said, “They’re all going to fight over my money now. It will get ugly.”
Jack said nothing. Carl was probably right. After another minute or two, Jack asked.
“Did you recognize the person who attacked you?”
“No. He was smaller than me, and thin as a rail, but he really could swing that stick.”
“You said it was black, right?”
“Yes. It was like an oily black. The thing was creepy.”
Jack thought, then asked, “Did it have a bulb at the end, like it was a walking stick?”
Carl nodded. “That sounds right. Some psycho came and hit me with a walking stick.”
“It was a shillelagh.” Jack said.
“That’s an Irish thing, right?”
“It is. The shillelagh is a traditional Irish dueling weapon. People talk about it now like it is a joke, but for a wooden weapon, it is quite formidable.”
“Apparently,” Carl said. “What kind of nutcase would use one though?”
“An excellent question,” Jack said. “Perhaps the weapon chose the wielder.”
“I’ve never been into that mystical crap,” Carl said.
“Understood,” Jack replied, “But as one with the ability to open a door between this realm and the next, I’m a bit more open to the possibility.”
“I guess that’s fair.” Carl said.
They didn’t speak again for a long time. After about a half-hour had passed, Carl said, “I’m tired of waiting. Let’s do this.”
“Sure,” Jack said. He opened the door between realms. It was a simple thing. Door wasn’t even entirely the right word, but no other word fit better. It was an ever-changing thing, suited to each adventurer.
“Thank you for sitting with me,” Carl said.
“You are welcome,” Jack told him. “I wish you the best.”
Carl passed through the door and was gone. The door closed. Jack heard a honk. He turned to see Betty waiting for him. Jack walked over and got in. He had a bit of a drive ahead of him.