Bane of DeathA woman whose presence prevents Death from taking a person. She also can pass on the ability to see Death to others if she touches another while in the presence of Death.
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About the Story
Holiday cheer was in full swing by the time Alicia and Martin arrived at the party. People cheering, singing, dancing, and of course drinking. It was loud enough to be heard well outside the doors to the restaurant.
It was a company affair, but the invitation that had been e-mailed around had said "and guest." Those who were married brought their spouses. Alicia had asked around, and found out that everyone she knew was bringing someone, even if it was just a friend. Not wanting to feel left out, Alicia had asked Martin to escort her. He had gladly accepted.
At the entrance to the restaurant the company had rented out, Martin smiled at her and held the door. "Ladies first," he said, sweeping his arm out and ending with a slight bow.
Alicia chuckled. "Why thank you, sir."
Inside Martin took Alicia's coat from her and headed off to the coat check room. Alicia mingled near the entrance, saying hello to those who passed by that she recognized and taking in the ambiance while she waited for Martin to return. In one corner a large Christmas tree stood as tall as the ceiling. It was decked out in tinsel, colorful balls as large as a fist, gold and silver trim, and flashing lights, and underneath it lay boxes of various sizes with large red and green decorative bows. The opposite wall was draped with blue and lined with menorahs. It was apparent the restaurant didn't want to leave any yule time holiday out. Each table in the place had a mock goat's horn cornucopia full of fake flowers but real fruits and cheeses. To help blend the differences throughout, white cotton fake snow had been placed over all the molding. The overhead lights were low, but candles were everywhere giving the place a comfortable glow.
When Martin returned, the two headed into the room at large to begin scouring the tables for a pair of open seats. Once found, Alicia poured some water into her glass, took a drink, and then set it in from of her chair to lay claim to it. Martin laughed and followed suit. Then he asked her to dance. She agreed, and soon then where out cutting a rug with the best of the still sober.
Dinner wasn't on the menu for the evening. But dessert was! It was served buffet style, a choice of three pies, four ice creams, and little torts and other finger food type sweets. Alicia, having not eaten much beforehand, filled her plate and headed back to her table. There she found Melinda talking with Martin. Melinda turned to Alicia and smiled at her approach.
"Alicia, your boyfriend is so sweet! Where have you been hiding him?" Melinda asked with a small laugh.
Alicia stood startled for a second. "Uh...." She looked quickly to Martin and then back to Melinda. "We're not," she said slowly as her eyes darted back to Martin trying to judge his reaction, "boyfriend and girlfriend."
"Really?" Melinda asked, looking to Martin. Then she broke into a smile and shrugged slightly. "Oops. I just assumed! He knows so much about you. Sorry."
"It's okay," Martin assured her.
"We're good friends," Alicia added, sliding into her chair hoping it would make things feel a little less awkward. She set down her plate and looked up at Melinda. "How are your children?" she asked to change the subject.
"Oh they're doing fine," Melinda replied, and started in on how excited the children were about Christmas, and what each one wanted, and what each one would actually be getting from Santa. During the slightly one-sided conversation Alicia hazarded a sideways glance at Martin. He was smiling and listening without any indication he had been slighted by her comment to Melinda.
After most people had finished eating, David, the local company's vice-president, called for everyone's attention. He gave a nice, if a bit long, speech about the employees and the usual pleasantries a boss makes speeches about. Then he called up the administrative assistants and asked them to help pass out holiday cards to all the employees present. After the first few received their cards and opened them, whispers picked up and passed on the surprise news. Quickly everyone wanted to get their own card as well, for there were gift cards in the envelopes! But of course everyone kept their excitement in check and waited patiently for the administrative assistants to make it to them. Soon people were laughing and talking, some even starting to sing again.
It was in the middle of all this exuberance when Alicia thought she saw D enter the restaurant. Knowing D was not one to mill about, Alicia promptly excused herself from the conversation she was in. She weaved through the crowd towards the front door, looking around for any indications of what might be able to happen. Much to her dismay, she did find D near the front of the restaurant.
D seemed to be shadowing a specific group of three people, but none Alicia recognized. One, who was the tallest, had his hands in his pockets with arms held tight against himself, and seemed to be shaking slightly. The look on his face seemed to indicate he didn't feel very well. The second, who was the shortest, kept glancing at the first and had a nervous expression on his face. The third seemed fine, and possibly even ignorant to the moods of the other two as he looked around the room seemingly searching for someone.
Glancing around to make sure no one was paying much attention, Alicia grabbed D by the arm and pulled her a couple steps away. "No," she told D in a forceful whisper.
Both of D's eyebrows went up. "Well we'll just see, now won't we?"
"You leave him alone," Alicia ordered D, still whispering.
"Ah, why do you assume it's him I'm here for?" D replied.
"Then who?" Alicia asked.
D pursed her lips and shook her head, saying nothing.
"Come on, D!" Alicia said with enough annoyance to raise her voice above a whisper.
Just then the three men pulled out guns pulled masks over their faces, and started yelling for everyone to get down. Plenty of screams and one shot into the ceiling later, everyone was either lying or crouching on the floor. The man who had seemed fine turned out also to be the one in charge. He sent the shorter one to the other side of the room, leaving the taller one near Alicia's side, and went to the center of the restaurant himself.
"Okay people. Turn over your wallets and jewelry, and those gift cards, and we'll be out of here right quick," he said in a loud booming voice. "Don't worry about your wallets and purses in the coat room," he continued with a grin, "we already got those!"
He motioned for the other two to start collecting things. Instead of helping to collect the items as well, he stood and kept looking around, switching his watchfulness from the people on the floor to out the window.
Alicia glanced up to see where D had gone. It wasn't hard to spot D as she was the only one not a robber that was still standing. She stood looking away from Alicia, thereby not giving away who the victim or victims were going to be.
Alicia then looked around for Martin. She knew something was going to happen very soon, but had no idea what to do about it! As she scanned across the restaurant's floor, she saw one of her co-workers, Kyle, making ready to do something stupid. He had managed to get hold of a knife, and seemed to be fixing to lunge at the nearest robber when the man wasn't looking, which was the one closest to Alicia as well. Kyle's wife started to beg him not to do anything, but he quickly shushed her. Alicia a few feet too far away to grab him herself. She looked to the center of the room to see that the lead bandit had noticed Kyle as well, but was making no motion to preemptively stop him.
Just as Kyle started up to jump on the taller robber, the lead one leveled his gun. Alicia tried to reach for Kyle, screaming out, "NO!"
The shot went off, causing others to scream in terror, and Kyle fell to the floor. As his head hit the ground it looked like his feet had slid out from under him. Kyle's wife grabbed his arm and started yelling his name.
The lead bandit yelled over everyone. "STAY DOWN. I MEAN IT! AND SHUT UP!"
The other two turned shocked expressions Kyle's way. If it wasn't evident before one of them was willing to shoot, it certainly was now, even to them.
Sounds quickly fell to that of muffled crying and whispered, if frightful, assurances. Alicia watched Kyle and his wife with fear in her eyes and chest. After a few moments Kyle turned his head to his wife and discreetly pointed to a chair that had been a foot or two away from him. Several of the people around them turned their heads to look, and saw a bullet hole through the chair's back. Kyle's wife grabbed him and wept gratefully into his shoulder, trying not to be loud.
When she looked up to find D, Alicia saw D with a passive expression on her face and standing closer to the robber in charge than before. Suddenly she had an idea.
Between each person he took items from the taller robber was looking up at the one in charge, just to be sure. When he was close enough, Alicia carefully reached out and lightly touched his the back of his ankle. When he next looked up, he saw D. "Hey you!" he said, taking a step towards D, which made Alicia loose her contact with him. Immediately he froze, his eyes going wide.
The one in charge looked from the taller robber to where he'd been looking, then back to him. "What?" the one in charge asked.
"Uh...," the taller one shook his head to clear his vision, looked around quickly, then turned to the one in charge. "Nothing. Sorry," he said quickly.
"Then get back to work!" the lead robber ordered.
The taller one stepped back close enough to Alicia for her to reach him again. She touched his shoe. He hadn't looked down yet, so D reappeared to him just as she had disappeared. The robber yelled in fear.
"What?!" the one in charge demanded to know.
With his gun, the taller one pointed to D, who the others couldn't see. "Ghost!" he accused.
The lead robber looked at the other one like he was crazy.
The shorter robber was already making his way over. "Don't panic!" he begged. "Don't! Don't go anything!" he implored the one in charge. "I got him! I got him."
Begrudgingly the lead bandit narrowed his eyes, but neither said nor did anything else.
Right before the shorter robber made it to the taller one Alicia took her hand off his shoe, which made him jump again. This time he dropped his gun. Everyone in the immediate area flinched, but the gun didn't go off.
The lead robber had clearly had enough. As the shorter one retrieved the gun and tried to calm the taller one, the lead barreled over, stepping on hands and legs along the way. While their attention was all on each other, Alicia slid herself closer to the tall and short robbers, hoping to get close enough that she'd be able to reach the one in charge. She managed to do it, and touched both the lead one and the taller one at the same time.
Sure enough, the tall one pointed to D and yelled. "There!"
Both of the others turned to where he indicated, but short one didn't see.
However the lead one did. "You! Get on the floor!" he ordered.
D did not oblige. Instead she scowled at Alicia.
The lead robber leveled his gun at D. "GET DOWN!" he ordered.
Those already on the floor started looking around, wondering what was going on.
Without another word the bandit in charge fired on D. Who of course was unaffected. For the first time the lead robber was caught off guard. He fired again, to be sure he had actually shot right.
"It IS a ghost!" the taller one yelled in terror. He grabbed at the shorter one. "Let's get out of here!"
Not sure what was going on, the shorter one hesitated only long enough for the one in charge to fire a third time at the air. Then he nodded and the two bolted.
"There's no such things as ghosts!" the formerly in charge robber yelled after them. He turned back towards D. "And I'll prove it!" He took careful aim, and Alicia saw the next shot go through D's head. The robber took a step towards D with the leg Alicia was not touching. "What the hell are you?!" he demanded to know. He took another step forward, breaking Alicia's contact. As D suddenly disappeared to him, he froze. "What the-"
As the robber stepped backwards he stumbled over the person next to Alicia, which caused him to fall ungracefully to the floor, losing his gun in the process. Kyle was on it immediately. And then D was gone. To Alicia as well. She sighed with relief.
The bandit jumped up and fought his way to the door. Then he was gone.
People started picking themselves off the floor, checking each other to make sure they were alright, and calling the police. Kyle unloaded the gun as a couple of people came over to him smiling.
"How did you get out oft he way of that bullet!?" they asked him.
"Man, I don't know!" Kyle laughed in a manner that indicated he was relieved, not amused. "If I hadn't slipped on that water...," he shook his head with amazement.
"If you ask me, you were lucky," another co-worker said to him.
"I was damn lucky," Kyle agreed.
Martin quickly found Alicia, who was still sitting on the floor, looking off out the window. "Are you okay?"
"I saw you save that guy," whispered to her. "Good job."
Alicia shrugged. "That wasn't the half of it," she told him, starting to shake as what had just happened the last couple minutes sunk in.
He offered a hand to help her up. "What did you do?" he asked in a whisper.
Alicia held up her hands and gave him an innocent look.
He looked at her curiously, then a thought struck him as he looked at her hands. "Was D the ghost?" he asked.
Alicia laughed. "Yup!"
Martin laughed with her as he helped her up. "That's inspired!"
They smiled at each other, then Alicia went to join Kyle's wife in chastising him.