If you’re in trouble with the wrong people, especially people with a connection to dark forces, go to the worst part of town, to places no one would enter in their right mind. Ask for Joe. His full name is JOE FITZGERALD, but when you ask for Joe in those places, everybody knows who you mean.
If you’re lucky, they’ll give you the location of a bar in a part of town that makes this one look like paradise by comparison. They will tell you to bring ten thousand dollars. And there you will find Joe. He will help you. He will save you. Even if it kills him.
Especially if it kills him.
In a time he doesn’t talk about much, Joe Fitzgerald was a private investigator. He’s never been a pretty boy, he has the kind of face that looks like it’s been thrown in a blender one time too many. Gentle eyes that have seen too much pain set in a hard, unforgiving face. He was good at what he did and he wasn’t afraid of a fight. Never back down from a fight, that was his motto, his way of life…and his undoing.
Joe’s one great love was his wife LAURA. Where he was hard, she was soft; where he was unforgiving, she was gentle; where he had lost his dreams a long time ago, she was still innocent, still dreamed of happy times yet to come. She was the one part of his life that was clean, and decent, and he loved her move than life itself.
In the last week of her life, Joe was hired to investigate a cult by a father who wanted his son out of there. Most cults Joe had encountered made a big deal about being in touch with vast, dark forces. It was always a lie. He assumed this was just one more.
He was wrong…and he got into a fight with the wrong people, a fight he didn’t back away from, a fight he thought he could win. And he paid the price for that mistake.
They came for him at home, where he did not expect them. Laura was killed in the fight, and Joe was mortally injured. At Death’s door, as the saying goes. But just as the door began to close, he prayed for the first and only time in his life.
He prayed to be given a chance to avenge Laura’s death…said he would do anything, pay any price, to settle that score.
Someone must have listened, because he woke up where they’d left him for dead. From there he tracked down the members of the cult who’d killed Laura and eliminated them, and their dark associates. Afterward, he learned the price of his deal.
Joe can’t die. Not for long, in any event. And he can be hurt. He feels every bullet, every blade, every blow. He’s not super-strong, he’s armed with only the weapons, skills, training and strength of will he had before…and one more thing: the knowledge that no matter how badly the guy or creature he’s fighting might hurt him, he can’t die. He will come back and finish the job. Relentless. Your worst nightmare.
But once in a very great while, if he’s wounded badly enough in the service of a worthy cause, a just cause, he dies for just one minute. And for that one minute, he can be with Laura, on the other side.
He lives for those moments, wants those moments, will endure anything, fight anyone, to have those rare, special moments before being ripped back into the mortal world.
So he set up shop in places where only the truly desperate will come, and only charges ten grand…enough to weed out the losers and the users and the time-wasters, but not enough to scare anybody off. The more desperate the cause, the more just the job, the more dangerous the situation, the better his odds of having that one moment.
Until the next job. And the one after that, and the one after that….
When Laura was still alive, one night, just for fun, he recorded the sound of her breathing in bed beside him. Now that she is gone, the only way he can sleep at night is to put that recording on the pillow beside him, and play it, so that he can fall asleep to the sound of her breathing.
But Joe is not entirely alone. There’s LENNY, the bartender, who works at the sleazy bar where Joe spends most of his time waiting for an assignment. Lenny hears everything, and is Joe’s main source of information on what’s going down in the streets. And there’s more: the lost and the half-insane, the street corner prophets and strippers and self-proclaimed Messiahs and thugs and the occasional cop who’ll look the other way if the price is right.
And there’s the GHOST, who appears to Joe from time to time because she says she’s concerned about his immortal soul. Sometimes she even acts as a conduit, passing messages between himself and Laura. Assuming she’s not lying, that is. You never really know for sure with ghosts, because they have their own ways and their own logic. Nobody else can see or hear her except Joe.
So day in and day out, Joe waits at the bar for someone to come to him. Someone with a desperate, righteous mission and ten grand. Someone who will never know the truth: that the only person more desperate than the client is Joe himself. Desperate for the just cause that will put him in Laura’s arms for one minute.
Maybe one day, if he does his job right, and kills enough of the right bad people in a righteous cause, he might earn enough tokens to buy his way to the other side, and be reunited with Laura forever. Some days the hope that this time, on this job, he can die and stay dead is the only thing that keeps him alive.
He doesn’t need the money. He doesn’t need the job. He needs to kill.
He needs to love.
And he needs to die.
More or less in that order.