Reapers’ Portraits: April 1964


On the second of April, there was a sharp knock at my door a little past eight in the morning. I had just settled down to a cup of coffee and a pipe, so I wasn’t in the best of moods as I answered the door. Seeing Wayne Aldrich on my porch did not improve my temperament, but the man beside him piqued my curiosity. It had been nearly a half-century since I’d last seen a Maori outside of New Zealand, and it took me a moment to realize that this Maori was a reaper.

The reaper looked to Aldrich and prodded him roughly from behind.

Aldrich cleared his throat, and when he spoke, his voice trembled. “This fine gentleman wishes to have his portrait taken here, Mr. Blood.”

“In my home?”

Aldrich shook his head. “He told me there is a barn a short distance from here.”

“So there is.” I set my pipe and coffee down and stepped out of my house. In silence, I led the way to the first barn, opened the door, and brought them both to a small saddle room, which was barren. It had been many years since I last kept horses in that building.

I nailed a section of canvas on one wall and stepped back as Aldrich opened a small bag and removed a camera from it. The man’s hands shook as he prepared his equipment. I peered into the bag and asked, “Did you bring the ledger?”

Aldrich shook his head. “He said there would be time for it later.”

I shrugged and waited as Aldrich took the portrait. When he finished and put away his camera, the reaper nodded to me. I stepped forward as the reaper spoke for the first time.

“Wayne Aldrich, we have had quite enough of you.”

The photographer still looked confused as I brought the hammer smashing down on his head. As I struck the man twice more in the skull, splitting it open at the temple, the reaper nodded his satisfaction.

“You’ll dispose of it?”

“I will,” I answered.

The reaper smiled, and when he left a moment later, I did too.

My coffee was getting cold and Aldrich’s corpse could wait.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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