That morning after Viktor had left, Scarlett was getting ready for work when there was a knock at her door. She allowed entrance to her visitor who turned out to be Bruce. He looked older than usual and was not his normal joking self. He paced the doorway without entering for over a minute before Scarlett realized that something was very wrong.
“What’s up boss?” She said in her normal playful tone. She always liked Bruce and didn’t want him to be upset. He looked at her for a long silence and then dropped to his knees and broke down into tears.
“She’s gone.” He sobbed. “There’s nothing left for me now.” After that all his words became unintelligible between the sobbing. Scarlett sat him down and made some tea. After what seemed like forever, Bruce finally opened up and told Scarlett everything. His wife, Kathryn, had been sick with cancer and it finally took its toll. He was heartbroken and Scarlett had no clue how to help him so she let him cry in her arms until he was finished. After he was calmed down he told her that they would no longer be opening the funeral home. It had been her dream to help others to the afterlife and Bruce had never really like the idea but did it for her and now that she was gone he could no longer handle the work. Scarlett didn’t quite understand but decided to do what Bruce wanted. They finished up with the customers that had already been admitted and at seven that night, Bruce locked the door for the last time.
The next day Bruce arrived bright and early with Kathryn’s body. There was no ceremony. Bruce and Kathryn were that last of their family and had never had children. Scarlett was the closest thing to a daughter and Bruce told her so. She never cried like she did that day as Bruce loaded his beloved wife into the furnace. After that, they took the ferry out on to the Mississippi and between dinner service and dessert they walked to the aft of the boat. He said a few words that were almost inaudible and let the ashes fly through the air. They ate dessert in silence. After coffee they went back to the aft of the boat.
“Thank you.” Bruce said not looking away from the water. Scarlett didn’t know what to say so she just hugged him. It was awkward for her but she held anyways. He sobbed for a few minutes as they pulled back into port. “You can stay in the home until you find somewhere to go but I’ll be long gone before that happens.” Bruce handed her a piece of paper with a name and a phone number. “When you leave for good, call this man and he will take care of everything.” They departed the boat while he spoke and she remained silent. He stopped her right off the platform and turned her to face him while holding her shoulders. “Truly, Scar, I am grateful for you. I wish Kathryn would have gotten to meet you. You may be an odd child, but you have a good heart.” He took a step back and let go of her. “I know you’ve been using the furnace off the clock. I knew all along.” Scarlett’s face went white. She didn’t want to kill Bruce; she didn’t think she could, but if he knew, he had to be silenced. She began to back up and Bruce grabbed her again and led her away from the rest of the departing people. “I won’t say a word,” he began but Scarlett was still terrified and wouldn’t let him touch her. She backed away while he held his arms out in a comforting gesture, “I will not say a word.” He dropped his arms and his head and turned to walk away. Scarlett watched him go without a word. She was torn. It was rule number one to never be found out and with Bruce knowing he had to go; but she knew she never would. Maybe Viktor could, or Cal, if he ever came back. Malificus was gone but she didn’t think she would ever really ask him a favor anyways. She stopped in Jackson Square to clear her mind and saw her favorite group of street children still playing away. She went and sat near them and just listened. They played for her for over two hours before she got up. She tried to pay them but they refused saying, “money won’t help us where we’re going.” This startled Scarlett but the looks on their faces reassured her. The youngest, who she had always wanted to “play” with but couldn’t, got up and hugged her, nestling his head in her sternum. She kissed him on the top of the head and backed away. They all smiled at her and continued playing away cheerily.
When she got back to her room she sat down with a glass of absinthe to think over what to do about Bruce. She was pacing her room drinking and smoking and talking out loud when she noticed something odd about her room. Her bed was made and there was a red box sitting on the trunk at the foot of the bed. “What the?” Scarlett said aloud as she walked and sat next to the package. There was a tag on the box in Bruce’s handwriting that said,
“Scar, here are some things I think you might like and since I’s got no use for them they’re yours. Burn anything you don’t want. All the best and happy hunting. Bruce.”
Scarlett opened the box and couldn’t believe what she found inside. She pulled out each object one by one to filter wants and discards. An envelope with five thousand dollars was a keeper, as was the set of sanitized individually wrapped syringes, some throwing knives, a bottle of absinthe, and a journal that was Bruce’s. Scarlett flipped to the last entry which read:
August 1st .
Today is the beginning of the end. With my beloved Kathryn departed to the land of shadows and light I must too depart for another life. I will go back to the only family I know. My dear Scarlett I hope you actually read this and understand that it was not my intention to mislead or lie to you but it’s time you knew. I’m no stranger to you or your way of life. Twenty years ago I was exiled for crimes against nature yet no real authority knew of my crimes. I practiced and mastered every art of necromancy. Your mother was the one to exile me, her own nephew. Yes I am your cousin and there is proof in the small green book behind the third brick above the fire mantle directly center. I was shocked you never noticed it was a different shade of red than the others. I know all about you Scar. You were always my favorite. I hope you remember. Take care and I hope our paths cross once again, though I fear I cannot survive in society any longer. Look for me at the dark cold corners of the world if you make it there.
P.S. If you wish to utilize my craft, all you need know is written in these pages.”
Scarlett didn’t believe her eyes. She couldn’t believe it. She ran to the fireplace and removed the brick she wished she would have noticed before. Behind it was a tiny green book, just bigger than a four by six photo and three inches thick. Inside were pictures of her family, and of her and Bruce. He didn’t look so much older than her in the photos but then again Scarlett never knew how old Bruce actually was. There were pictures, letters, stickers, and all sorts of memorabilia from Bruce’s birth to his banishment. She saw many memories that came flooding back and cursed herself for not remembering before. She put the book in her rucksack and went back to the red box.
There were some clothes from Kathryn (some that did fit and others that she wouldn’t even try on), a few books (one she kept but the other three she knew by heart), a small handgun which she put on the clothes in the burn pile immediately with the ammunition boxes, a foldable duffel bag which she kept, a box of what looked like twenty small perfume bottles, and a file of medical records and a file of the mortuary records. These intrigued Scarlett the most so she put everything she didn’t want back in the box and took the files to the kitchen table. She poured herself another glass of absinthe and sat down in front of the files. What she noticed thirty minutes later shocked her more than anything. All the medical files were from the same hospital and signed by the same nurse; the funeral records were all received by the same mortuary, by the same man. Scarlett scanned through the rest of the documents to ensure her suspicions and sure enough, she was right. Kathryn was the signing nurse and Bruce was the signing mortician. Scarlett slammed the rest of her absinthe as she accepted the situation. The people who employed her were her cousins, killers, and she had known nothing, nothing at all.
She spent the rest of the night packing and destroying any evidence she had of Bruce, Kathryn, Flow, Viktor, Launa, Audriana, and herself. She fit everything she owned into her foot locker and another duffel bag. Viktor showed up around two in the morning and they stayed up until four talking about everything that had happened and what to do next. They fell asleep askew across the bed to the sounds of pounding thunder and distant rain.