When the vessel box thumps on the table in front of him, Sam Oliver moans pitifully, and it's only Sock's quick video game reflexes that keeps the Reaper's head out of the bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup that Mrs. Oliver had brought over to comfort her sick son.
The box rattles ominously on the table when Sam doesn't open it right away. Ben casts a worried look at the box and then an equally worried look over at Sam who has curled up with his forehead pressed against the cold counter.
"Do you think he gets sick days?" Ben asks and pokes the vessel box with a hesitant finger. The box makes a weird hissing noise, shudders, and starts spewing smoke out from under the lid. Sock sends a grimace Ben's way.
"I don't think the Devil really cares one way or another," Sam says. They can barely hear his voice, and the second he stops talking, he starts trying to cough up both of his lungs, his body shaking so hard he almost falls off the stool he sitting on.
"No?" The Devil's voice comes right behind his ear and Ben shakes so hard in shock that the plate in his hands rattles and cracks against the counter.
Sock makes a noise halfway between a squeak and a shout and waves his hands in the air like it will banish the demon from their midst. Sam just moans again and this time Sock isn't quick enough to stop Sam's face from meeting his mom's soup.
Ben makes a yuck face. He doesn't need to look behind him to know that the Devil is smirking like Sylvester finally catching Tweedy Bird. Poor Tweedy.
"I'm not completely merciless," the Devil says shocking Ben all over again. He'd forgotten the devil's presence for a second, lost in his thoughts about the cruelty to animals on constant display in Loony Toones. It's probably a miracle more kids didn't turn out to be homicidal maniacs who pulled the wings off flies and the legs off spiders.
Ben moves to the other side of the counter, leaving more space between the Devil and himself.
"Sam's sick," The Devil raises an eyebrow as if to say, so what? "Like really, really, sick," Sock says again as he rescues Sam from a watery noodley death. "Is there someone else to hunt down your evil escaped souls today?" There's a hopeful tone in his voice.
"Consider yourselves drafted," he says. The Vessel box clatters loudly back and forth on the table, Sam gives it the stink eye from his place of soggy misery at the other end of the kitchen island.
"I'm going to die," Sam says, he doesn't hold himself too steady when he pushes himself to his feet.
"Don't be so melodramatic, Sam!" The Devil smirks. "You aren't anywhere near dying yet."
Ben swallows hard at the veiled threat. It's a sign of how fucked up being a reaper has made Sam that he actually looks kind of relieved to hear that.
He says "huh" in a distracted, congested tone before stumbling to his room where he goes for round two of trying to cough up all his internal organs. Even the Devil looks mildly grossed out by the hacking, coughing, mucusy sounds coming from Sam's bedroom.
"Looks like we're in business together," The Devil says and rubs his hands together.
"Umm, I don't think -"
"Good, keep it that way," The Devil chuckles at his own joke and Ben tries hard not to let his affront show. That's the kind of thing that always gets Sam into trouble.
"I'll give you more information than I usually do because it's your first time solo. The soul is Desiree Jones, she died about twenty years ago, at the time she was very interested in men - had quite a talent with the whole gutting, stuffing and using their body parts as decorative art." He sounds impressed, the way Ben's grandmother always sounds when she's been reminiscing about good times.
"I want her found, and back in hell in the next 24 hours boys," the Devil orders. "You do this for me and I might even give you all a few days off until Sam gets better. You don't, and you're going to regret it." Sock makes that funny gulping sound he makes when they're about to get eaten by a possessed lion which is something Ben doesn't want to relive, ever.
The Devil is gone without fanfare. One second he's standing there, the next he's not.
"Geeze, not even a pop or anything," Sock complains.
They both stare at the vessel box with trepidation as it rattles again. "Better to just get it over with," Sock suggests without much enthusiasm.
"No, that's a terrible idea. We should just leave the box closed and not touch it. It's evil, Sock," Ben warns. Sock shrugs and tentatively pushes the lid of the box open and they both lean back, wincing as smoke and heat come blasting out. Sock coughs and waves the smoke out of his face and leans in. Ben squeezes his eyes shut and leans away.
"Dude." Sock says. Ben opens his eyes and leans in.
"Ew, is that?"
"A foot?"Sock finishes for him. "Dude, that's totally a foot."
"What are we supposed to do with a foot?" Ben asks. "Do we like, throw it at someone?"
Sock nudges him with his elbow. "Pick it up," he says.
Ben wrinkles his nose and steps back. "No way man, I'm the one that said we weren't going to do this, I think we should just wait until Sam gets better and then we can-"
"What? Benji, I'm shocked. You're going to let this Debbie -"
"Desiree," Ben interrupts.
"--person wander around killing guys at random until Sam gets over the plague?"
Ben grimaces. "Fine, you pick it up." Sock reaches into the box, but gags before he can touch it. He holds out his fist.
"Rock, Paper, Scissors?"
"Stupid rock, paper, scissors," Sock mutters. Ben looks over at him from the driver's seat and is really glad that Sock always picks rock. "Rock smashes through paper." The other man mutters. Ben rolls his eyes.
"Sock, you lost fair and square, and I'm not going to let you guilt me into holding the foot," he says. Sock huffs and slumps back in his chair.
"What are we doing at the court house?" he asks for the fifth time. When Sock gets pouty he turns into a 3 year old.
"We're here because Josie works here and Josie has access to all sorts of records and if this Desiree is into art maybe she registered something with the arts council." He climbs out of his mom's car and hopes that this trip turns out better than the last time he took his mom's car out. Demon damage just isn't covered under insurance.
Sock climbs out of the car and follows Ben to the door.
"So you're going to not say anything to Josie and let me do the talking right?" Ben asks.
Sock reaches out and grabs Ben's arm, holding him back. "Ben, Ben!"
Ben turns to see what has Sock so up in arms and blinks. "Wow, okay, this is a little easier than I thought it would be," Ben says.
The poster for the D. Jones Body Art Exhibit is pinned to the notice board.
"And Sam says these things are hard," Sock scoffs. Ben doesn't say anything, because some of the things that Sam has faced are damned scary, but inside he kind of agrees.
"Let's go check it out," Sock grins. Ben's eyes catch on a small line at the bottom.
"Oh, crap," he says. Sock cocks his head to the side and raises an eyebrow. "By invitation only," Ben reads out loud.
"Okay, then let's go wrangle an invite." Sock says.
"An invite to what? You're not supposed to be within twenty feet of me Sock, it's what we agreed on," Josie is standing behind them looking as awesome and coordinated as always with her pretty hair and her evil eyes that make Ben think she can probably kill him with her brain.
"We were just thinking that this art exhibit looks pretty neat," Ben says. "And we were going to stop by to see...if you and Andi wanted to come with us." he improvises. Behind Josie, Sock is wide eyed and waving his hands and shaking his head and mouthing "NO!" at him. Ben smiles brightly at Josie.
"Oh, that's really sweet of you, Ben," Josie says and pats him on the arm. "But I've already got tickets to go with some of the people at work." Ben nods in understanding.
"I understand Josie, but that's cool, we'll see you there maybe?" he asks. She smiles at him, glares at Sock, and says maybe, before hurrying into the building.
"What the hell was that?" Sock demands. "Are you trying to make a move on my woman?"
Ben is scandalized. "No! No way, I would never!"
He totally, totally would, and maybe if they catch the soul quickly enough, and Sock is all high from the adventure he totally won't notice Ben asking Josie to the movies. "Besides, I had to think of something to say, what else were we going to ask her: we came here to see if you could give us information on a dead mass murderer but hey, no big, we found her poster on your wall?"
He can see Sock thinking it over in his head before the other man finally nods in agreement.
The library proves more informative then the poster does, the old newspapers give them a picture of the soul and a list of her crimes.
Sam moans something incoherent into his pillow. Sock tries again, this time he reaches over and shakes Sam's shoulder. "Sam?"
"What? What do you want?" he demands. "Can't you see I'm busy dying of plague?"
Ben makes sympathetic noises. "Sorry man, but we have an important question for you. How do you make the vessel work and do you think I can wear jeans to an Art Gallery Exhibit?"
"What vessel? What?" Sam is all befuddled which Ben figures girls would probably find kind of cute.
"The foot vessel the Devil gave us," Sock says and holds the vessel out. At some point at work, , Sock had gotten over his fear of the foot and used one of the demo drills at the Work Bench to drill a hole into the bit of bone sticking out of the top of the foot so that he could tie a string around it. Sam eyes the dismembered foot on a string and then he goes green. Ben grabs Sock and pulls him out of the way before Sam hurls all over the floor.
"Right," Sock says with a disgusted expression. "I can see we came at a bad time, you know what? We've got this, no worries. We'll see you later."
Sam stares at the foot with wide eyes and takes a deep breath before he hurls again.
"How did you too get in here?" Josie hisses. "I checked and this event is only open to people who work at the court house."
Andi is watching them from the other side of the room where she's looking at a plaster of someone's pregnant belly. It grosses Ben out to think that it might have actually been a pregnant belly except that Desiree Jones only kills men.
"And where did you get that?" She demands and gestures at Sock's foot on a string.
"What this?" Sock asks a little arrogantly. "From the gift shop," he says. He grabs Ben by the shoulder and drags him a few steps away. "Come on Benji, I can tell when I'm not wanted."
Josie raises her eyebrows with a superior expression on her face. "Oh really, is that why you keep leaving me messages? You'd better stop, Sock. If you don't, I'm going to get a restraining order."
"Oh, don't get all high on yourself," Sock says. Ben's hand tightens spasmodically on Sock's arm as he catches sight of the soul. She looks exactly the way her picture did in the paper twenty-three years ago.
Sock turns to see what he's staring at and smiles. "Sorry Josie, gotta go," he says. Josie stares at them completely befuddled.
"So, umm, how do you get your inspiration?" Ben asks. Desiree Jones smiles at them. Sock wanders around the room until he's in front of a display and turns to face them. He leans against the cabinet and catches Ben's wide eyes. Sock turns his head and jumps away from the hand sitting on a stand two inches from his face.
"Everyone has a piece of them that they love, their eyes, their hair, a pinky toe," she says. "I just like to capture that one part of them that shines. It's beauty. You have beautiful cheekbones." She adds.
"Well," Ben says bashfully. "I'm always liked my bone structure."
"I would love to add you to my collection," she says and reaches a hand forward. Ben jerks out of his seat. Her nails are claws and her face is twisted into an expression of anger.
"I'm not going to let you send me back to hell," she hisses and swipes at him.
He shouts and jerks back as she leaps over the desk towards Sock. Sock shrieks and stumbles back too, bounces into the cabinet, shrieks again when the hand lands on his shoulder, shudders and launches himself forward and trips over her desk. Ben watches the foot go flying and things `oh no' for a second until it lands on her head. There's a whooshing sound and she screams and screams and there's wind whipping around the small room and then it's all gone and the foot vessel is sitting on the floor with a faint glow to it.
"And Sam says this is the hard and dangerous part," Sock snorts derisively.
Ben nods, wide eyed. "It was kind of easy," he says. "Maybe Sam just needs to relax a bit?"
Sock grins and claps him on the back. "Come on, if we hurry we can make the deadline."
Ben stares at him with narrowed eyes. "You just want to see Gladys again don't you?" he asks.
Sock holds a finger up in an `a hah!' motion and grabs the hand on the stick. "Do you think she'll like this?" he asks.
Ben shudders "Probably," he says and pulls out his keys while Sock picks up the vessel.