Be the Death of Me
indignant, but his tone is anything but serious, and with a good–humored jab to my shoulder, he takes a seat at the table, choosing the chair across from Ford.
    “Just lucky, I guess.” I flash him my brightest smile.
    “I know I haven’t reacted well to all of this,” Ford jumps in, laying his pen down, “but you have to understand, I just found out that not only are there ghosts, but their entire purpose for being here is to keep me from joining their ranks. And let’s be honest. I haven’t totally chucked the idea that you two aren’t just very lifelike hallucinations. So bear with me. It’s just . . .  a lot to deal with. Let me handle it in my own way for now, okay?”
    “I think we can do that,” Tuck says before I have a chance to put in my two cents. “It’s Persephone, by the way.”
    Both Ford and I stare at him like he’s lost his mind.
    “Twenty–three down. Queen of the Underworld? It’s Persephone.”
    “Oh, right.” Ford smiles and scratches the answer down in the spaces provided. “Thanks.”
    I breeze around the kitchen as the minutes tick by, opening random cabinets and drawers in search of something interesting.
    “Doesn’t your grandmother eat anything without the words fiber or bran in the name?” I ask Ford.
    He offers me a wry shrug. “Not that I know of. She’s old.”
    “Why do you live with her anyway?”
    He doesn’t look up from his puzzle. “Because the judge told me to.”
    “The judge?”
    “Yeah,” he answers. “My mom ran out on us when I was really little, and when my dad died a few years ago, Gran was the only option left. Hey, do either of you know what nineteen–eighty–two film was directed by Tobe Hooper? Eleven letters, starts with a P.”
    “Poltergeist,” both Tuck and I shout at the same time.
    Ford grins and fills in the blanks. “How appropriate. So,” he says after answering a few more clues. The crossword is nearly finished, sky blue ink covering almost every white box on the page. “How did I get lucky enough to get the two of you as my . . . Guards?”
    “Guardians,” I say.
    “Right, Guardians. Did I win a raffle or something?”
    Tuck laughs and leans back in his chair. “Something like that,” he allows. “Can’t say for sure though. I’m kind of new at this.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You’re my first assignment. Congratulations.”
    Ford looks at me in panic. “What about you?” he asks, his voice cracking with alarm. “Is this your first assignment, too?”
    “Hardly,” I answer with a flippant wave of my hand. “You may be the first living person to see me in almost four years, but you’re definitely not my first assignment.”
    He exhales loudly.
    “Well, that’s comforting I guess. At least I know I’m not some test guinea pig. What happened to the rest? The ones before me?”
    I shoot Tuck a look out of the corner of my eye. He’s suddenly very interested in what the ceiling looks like. “Oh, you know,” I chuckle. “I looked after them for a while, and when the assignment . . .  ended, I was given a new one. Nineteen across is kismet,” I add quickly, taking the last empty chair at the table. “Six–letter word for fate? Kismet.”
    “Here,” Ford says. “Knock yourself out.” He slides the newspaper my way, rolling the pen across the table’s smooth, wooden surface. “So if it is all random, does that make death like a giant employment agency or something? Because there’s all sorts of stuff written about ghosts hanging around old houses and rattling chains just to scare people, and you guys aren’t anything like that. What about other ghost stuff? I saw what Tucker did last night. Can you all do that?”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “Ghost stuff! Can you walk through walls, you know, like they do in the movies?”
    I groan. “Phasing and disappearing is a given.” I begin slowly. “We’re all capable of that. It makes keeping up with our assignments a lot

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