“Regardless where I come in,” I told Lutherson, “here’s the problem.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“To quote, Ye know neither the time nor the place.”
“The day nor the hour, actually. But anyway…”
“If we don’t know the day, let alone the hour, what are we selling?”
“There’s a difference between you and us,” Duke said.
“No argument there.”
I looked around the table. The dead were missing bits and pieces. Part of Duke’s left ear had fallen off. Pimlipper lacked a pinkie on his right hand. One of Juliette’s eyelids was at half-mast. Then there was the dust, which I’ve mentioned a time or two. And yet there they were, yapping, animated even, as if death existed in the same category as a sprained ankle, or a mild cold.
“I noticed,” I said to Duke. “A difference or two.”
“I’m not talking about what meets the eye.”
“We do know the hour and the day. Not to mention the place.”
“I’m finding that hard to believe,” I said.
“You got six dead people sitting in your basement. Your business partners. And the part you find hard to believe is, we know when people are going to die?”
“I think of that as the province of…”
“Go ahead, say it,” Pimlipper said. “We won’t shrivel up.”
Brimsnod sighed. “Fatman. Excuse me. You die, there’s a lot that surprises you. Needless to say. That there’s anything at all, for starters.”
“Most people think there’s something,” I replied. “The afterlife. Heaven. Hell. Purgatory. Limbo. And so forth.”
“In your heart?” said Duke. “Didn’t you think it was all crap? Wishful thinking? Grandiosity? People unable to believe that their precious selves would vanish into… Hmm. What?”
“History,” said Brimsnod.
“Not even,” Pimlipper added. “History, people remember. We’re talking something else. Obliteration. Living. Dead. Gone. A couple generations and no one remembers you were here.”
“Nonetheless,” Juliette said. “Some of it, people nailed. Like Limbo. Limbo, the underworld. Same thing if you ask me. We’re the ones who don’t know the hour or the day,” Juliette said to me. “Nobody hands us the schedule.”
“The schedule!” Pimlipper exclaimed. He laughed, then choked, then coughed. A bit of tissue flew from his mouth and landed on the table.
“Jesus,” Duke said. He swept it to the floor.
“Heaven?” I asked. “What about that?”
They looked at each other. Duke cocked a brow. Pimlipper drummed on the table. Brimsnod gave her papers a sharp fold. “Further research is needed,” Pimlipper said.
“No evidence one way or the other,” Duke added.
“Hell?” I asked.
“You figure, probably. Given how things usually work. The good, hard to come by. The bad, vast supplies. We don’t have the data. Conjecture, rumor, hypothesizing, yeah, plenty of that. But for sure? There’s the underworld. Limbo, if you will. The one part the Catholic Church got right, that’s the part they deep-sixed.”
“Back to the point. You can tell me when I’ll die?”
Tomorrow: About the drop-dead moment