I managed to successfully avoid any direct involvement with Wayne Aldrich for seven years. Consequently, I didn’t see any reapers until April of ’63.
I was at the Cross train station, having picked up a package that had been sent via rail to me when I saw the reaper standing on the platform. Cross is a progressive town and has always been so. The civil rights movement was not necessary. There was no segregation in Cross, a state of affairs the town had worked long and hard to maintain in the face of some of the country’s more virulent policies.
The young black reaper smiled at me, waved, and crossed the platform to me. He offered me his hand, and I shook it, wondering why the reaper looked familiar. He winked as if understanding my puzzlement.
“We had a fair time, you and I, before the Revolution,” he informed me.
“Ah. One of the raids into Canada?”
He nodded. “I’ve come for my portrait, as I’m sure you’ve guessed.”
I told him I had. We left the station together and slowly made our way to the studio.
“I’ll be putting out to sea shortly,” he said.
I raised an eyebrow and waited for him to continue. The reaper frowned and shook his head. “Deaths come in many ways, but this will be new to me.”
“Different, and, yes, I suspect it will be unpleasant.” He offered me an apologetic smile. “I’m not quite certain what will happen. How fast or slow it will be. It is a difficult thing to judge. I have spoken with some of my brethren, but they cannot offer me and assistance. They say there are too many variables, from the strength of the boat to the strength of the man.”
We reached the studio a moment later, and I asked the reaper, “When?”
“Three days. On the tenth.” He offered me his hand again. “Be well, Duncan. It is always a pleasure.”
I watched the reaper enter the studio and turned away, wondering what horror lay ahead.