Title: Murder at the Grande Hotel
Summary: Sam is sent to capture a soul that may have been innocent of his crime, causing Sam to wonder whether he can do the right thing and please the Devil at the same time.
Word count: 4,054
A/N: My first Reaper fic, but not my first fanfic by a long shot so don't let that stop you. I love this show and was finally inspired by an escaped soul bunny I just had to capture. Even if you're not a fan of the show, I hope you give this shot because it's still a cool story. The premise is pretty simple – 21 year old Sam's parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. Now he works for him catching escaped souls and sending them back to hell. And his two best friends Sock and Ben help him. That's it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Reaper or its wonderful characters, but this soul belongs to me. Mwahaha!
"Late again," Sam Oliver muttered to himself as he glanced at the clock and grabbed his wallet and keys from his dresser.
A day at the Bench under the fist of his asshat boss Ted just wasn't the kind of thing to get him motivated in the mornings. But that didn't mean life didn't still have its motivators. The last thing Sam wanted to do was tell his parents that he lost his minimum wage nowhere job that any chimp could perform because he couldn't get his lazy ass out of bed. It was no more than they expected of him and he couldn't handle that. He had showered and dressed in under ten minutes, gathered his things and headed out the door.
Sam opened his bedroom door but instead of crossing the threshold into the hallway of his house, he found himself in a room he'd never been in before. It looked like a high-class hotel room with a large poster bed and picture window with heavy damask curtains. He spun back around to check the way he'd come. His bedroom could still be seen through the doorway. He knew the Devil was up to something but Sam still needed to get to work on time so somehow he had to get out of there. He crossed the strange new room to the bathroom door and tried it. There was a whoosh sound and a disorienting swirl of colors in his vision and he was outside, on his porch.
He got in his car and drove to work, having gotten used to the unexpected by now. As he drove, he wondered what a hotel room had to do with anything. Working as the Devil's bounty hunter sure made life interesting, Sam thought. At the risk of sounding pathetic, Sam didn't really have much else going for him so condemned to hell or not, he tried to stay positive. He convinced himself that if he had to do this, at least he was doing good work sending escaped souls back where they belonged. It made him feel almost like a superhero. His friend Sock was actually jealous of him and that was the only time anyone in Sam's life had ever been jealous of him for anything ever, even if Sock was a perpetual mental twelve year old. Things could be worse, he supposed.
Pulling in to the parking lot at The Work Bench, Sam tied on his blue apron and went inside.
Except that he didn't.
When he passed through the automatic doors he was back in the hotel room. It was turning out to be one of those days.
Sam rolled his eyes and sighed, "Ugh, not again. Ted's gonna kill me."
This time when he opened up the bathroom door all he saw was a bathroom. Sam checked every other door in the room like a forced participant in a lame party game until he discovered that the closet door led him out. He stepped in and landed in the entrance of the store with a swirl of lights and a heavy drop. Checking his balance, his friend Ben spotted him swaying like a surfer.
"Sam, you all right?" he asked with genuine concern.
"Yeah," Sam sighed, righting himself and heading to the back of the store annoyed, "just some more of the Devil's crap again."
"What is it this time?" Ben asked, following him.
"I don't know yet, but every time I go through a door I end up in a hotel room," he explained.
"There wouldn't be a prostitute involved by any chance would there?" asked his friend Sock, appearing from behind a shelf with a curtain ring hanging from his nose.
"What?" said Sam.
"You know, hotel room?" said Sock as if it were obvious. "Trapping you in a fleabag hotel with a hooker sounds like something the Prince of Darkness might do to you. He wants to steal your innocence and score extra points."
Sam gave Sock a long look. "I work for him Sock. He's not trying to 'steal my innocence'. It's a clue to the escaped soul, I'm sure of it. And it wasn't a fleabag hotel anyway. It was a really nice one."
"Figures," said Sock, pulling off the ring. "Beelzebub's got style."
Two hours later, Sam headed into the back room for his break. When he faced down the king size bed and paisley wallpaper again he raised his head and shouted at the ceiling.
"All right, I get it! You can come out now!"
As if on command the scene changed and Sam was now in the sweeping lobby of a lush old fashioned hotel. It was like something out of a classic Hollywood movie with marble columns, uniformed bellhops pushing brass luggage carriers and guests lounging in plush chairs and standing at the check in counter.
"I can't fool you Sammy," said the Devil, appearing at his side in typical fashion wearing his expensive suit and a winning smile. He raised his arms with a flourish, "Welcome to the Grande Hotel. Ah, takes you back to a more civilized time doesn't it?" He soaked in the atmosphere as he spoke, "The Golden Age of travel. Now this was opulence."
Sam looked around. "So I take it the escaped soul did his dirty work back in the forties?"
"Actually, no," the Devil replied. "This was the Grande Hotel in its heyday. It's gone a bit to seed since then, but I wanted to show it to you the way it was, the way it ought to be remembered."
He snapped his fingers and the lobby changed. Gone were the well dressed guests, the sparkling marble. In its place was a dusty, faded room with a tired staff and a subdued ambiance. Sam felt a little sad at the contrast. Clearly the Grande Hotel failed to keep up with the times.
Before Sam could ask any questions the Devil snapped his fingers again and they were back in one of the guest rooms. Sam recognized it as similar to the one he was in before only this room was distinguishable by the threadbare carpet, the scratches in the mahogany furniture…
…and the two bloodied corpses on the floor.
Sam examined them from where he stood and grimaced. It was a well dressed man and a woman. They were lying side by side and face down. The man had a large carving knife sticking out of his back. Both looked like they had been stabbed with it.
"About ten years back this hotel was the site of several grisly murders."
"So who did it?" Sam asked.
The Devil handed him a file and Sam opened it.
"Dennis Ridgely," The Devil recited as Sam read, "23 year old bellhop with no history of violence. The police determined that a jealous Ridgely would stalk, kill and steal from the hotel's wealthiest guests. He'd wait until they ordered room service and then arrive with their food and a little something else besides, stolen from the kitchen and hidden under the tray." He pointed at the knife. "He stabbed 12 guests before the murders were solved and he was convicted and executed."
"And now he's back," Sam concluded.
As Sam closed the file he noticed the carved wooden cask appear on the bed. It was the vessel he would use to capture the soul. Sam crossed the room to the box and lifted the lid waiting for the smoke that billowed out to clear. The vessel was so small he almost thought the cask was empty, until his fingers closed around a small metal object. He removed it. It was an old style key with a plastic room number attached to it.
666. Naturally, what else, thought Sam.
"Just where am I supposed to put this exactly?" Sam asked.
The Devil smiled and Sam quickly added, "Nevermind. I'll figure it out."
"That's what I like about you Sammy," he said, patting Sam's shoulder, "there's nothing you can't handle. "
Suddenly the room swirled and Sam was back in the break room at work, only this time he still held the vessel in his hand. He sat down and held the key up, contemplating it until Sock stuck his head in the door.
"Hey Sam you better get back out there, Ted's about to have a baby." When Sam didn't answer Sock asked, "What's that?"
"It's the vessel," said Sam. "Where's Ben?"
From the file they discovered Dennis Ridgely's old address and found that he still lived there. Sam, Sock and Ben watched the house until Ridgely left for work and then followed him. It turned out he was still a bellhop, now working at another hotel, not far from the Grande. Heading straight for the guestrooms, the trio searched the corridors for the maid's cart. When they spotted it they checked the rooms nearby until they found one that was open and vacant. Sock couldn't resist grabbing a few bars of soap off the cart as he passed it.
When they were inside the room, Ben asked, "Okay, what's the plan now?"
"We order up some room service and when the soul delivers it we capture him with the vessel," said Sam.
"Well, wait," said Ben, "How are we going to make sure it's Dennis that comes up? Don't they have a lot of bellhops in hotels?"
"Have no fear, gentleman," said Sock, picking up the hotel phone and dialing for room service. "Watch and learn."
Sam and Ben listened as Sock spoke into the receiver.
"Yes, good day to you," he began. "I'm a business traveler and a regular guest at this hotel and last time I stayed here you had a porter named Dennis who was particularly good. Is he here today? He is. Excellent. Would you please have Dennis bring up my room service order? We'd like three cheeseburgers with fries and three chocolate shakes. Do you have those loaded potato skins? Good man, yeah bring those too. Thank you."
When Sock put the phone down, triumphant, Sam asked, "What are we going to do with all that food?"
"Who cares, we're not paying for it," said Sock, flopping down on the bed.
"Maybe we can take it to go," suggested Ben.
They watched TV and waited. Twenty minutes later there was a knock on the door. Sock switched off the set. The three got up and stood together as Sam picked up the vessel and held it out in front of him like a pistol.
"Ben," Sam whispered, "go open the door and stand back."
Ben opened the door and stood behind it as the porter entered with the room service cart, looking down. He pushed the wheeled cart into the room. Sam squeezed the key to keep his hands from shaking. When the man looked up and saw Sam he turned white and backed away as if he held a loaded weapon.
"No!" he cried, collapsing against the wall with his hands in the air. "Please don't!"
Sam was so surprised he lowered the vessel. He was used to souls who fought back. This guy was cowering in a corner, terrified. Ben crept out from the door and joined Sam and Sock, confused, as they watched Dennis Ridgely whimper and cringe.
"What kind of lame excuse for a hellboy are you?" asked Sock.
"Don't send me back," he begged. "I'm innocent. I didn't kill those people."
"Yeah, that's what they all say," laughed Sock.
"It's true!" he insisted. "I escaped thinking I could solve the murders myself and catch the real killer. Maybe then they would take him and let me go. I'm not supposed to be there!"
"Are you serious?" asked Sam.
Dennis nodded on the verge of tears. "You got to believe me, I didn't do it."
Sam wasn't sure what to believe. He remembered Leon and his promise to change his ways. Sam had been lied to before by souls who would do anything not to go back but this was different somehow. Those souls were angry and aggressive. This guy was truly scared, and Sam didn't think it was just because hell was an unpleasant place. He couldn't imagine anyone who had really knifed twelve people to death reacting this way. This guy wasn't like Leon; this soul was completely innocent.
"Do you believe him Sam?" asked Ben.
Sam took the bellhop in again as Sock picked at some fries from the tray and sipped at a shake. He was young, smallish and completely at their mercy. If he wanted to, Sam could have just sucked him up in the vessel and let the demons sort it out, but he got the feeling they weren't too concerned about justice in hell. All at once Sam decided he couldn't allow that to happen.
"Yeah," Sam said, to his own surprise, "I think I do."
Back at the Work Bench, the boys sat around wondering what to do.
"Do you think The Devil's setting you up again, man?" asked Sock.
The guy wasn't above it. Sam thought back to the time The Devil had given him a stolen watch and framed him for murder. Ultimately the purpose was to help him catch two souls for the price of one. Say what you wanted about Satan but there was a method to his madness.
"No," Sam decided, "what would be the point, unless he wants Dennis and the real killer too?"
"Maybe," thought Ben. "But if Dennis is innocent we can't let the Devil take him. Sam, what are you going to tell him about why we let his soul go?"
"I'll tell him the truth I guess," said Sam. "I agreed to capture escaped souls but only because I believed they deserved to be there."
"I thought it was because you didn't have a choice," said Sock. "Say no and you find yourself roasting on a spit."
"Yeah, that too," Sam shrugged. "But if this guy's not guilty, I don't want to be responsible for sending him to hell."
"So we help Dennis find the killer," said Sock. "We find the murderer and the Devil gets his soul. Problem solved."
Sock always made everything sound so easy.
Sam learned later that evening that things are never that easy when you run with The Devil. They were at The Brick, having a few beers when Sam was accosted by the man himself in the men's room. Sam knew right away he was angry, because as soon as Sam saw him, everything went black.
He didn't know where he was, it was like being stuck in a coal mine. He was about to call out when suddenly there was light and the floor disappeared beneath his feet. He screamed, but he didn't fall because he was hanging by a rope that was tied around his wrists. That was when he realized that the light source was a pit of flames licking at his soles beneath him.
"Hey!" Sam yelled at the surrounding darkness, "What are you doing?"
The Devil appeared a few feet away and he looked furious.
"I know what you're trying to do Sam, but I want my soul," he said.
"But he's the wrong guy," Sam explained.
He groaned in pain. His wrists were starting to burn from the rope as his weight pulled him down.
"I don't care," The Devil said. "What are you the Court of Appeals? That soul is mine now and you're going to get him back."
Sam could feel the heat now as it rose higher. He tried holding on to the rope to take the pressure off his arms. The Devil needed him to do this job, he thought, he took that as comfort in the hope that he was only trying to scare him and wouldn't actually kill him. Although that didn't mean there wouldn't be pain involved.
"Look, all you want is a soul back right?" Sam cried, suppressing his panic. "Well do you care which one? I'll get you a soul! If you just let me capture the real guy…"
"The real guy isn't dead, Sam," The Devil explained. "Do you have any idea how much paperwork is involved in collecting a living soul? The waivers, the release forms…"
"But Dennis is innocent," Sam said. "I just want to get the guy responsible. If I can find the killer will you let me capture him and let the escaped soul go free?"
Sam hung in silence, sweating from the heat and his own fear, waiting for The Devil's decision. Sam didn't think he had ever pushed him this far before and he hoped he didn't regret it.
Finally, he spoke. "All right, but you have 24 hours Sam. 24 hours to deliver me a soul or the bellboy goes back."
"Yes, fine, good," Sam said.
An instant later, the rope snapped and Sam screamed. When he landed, it was on the tile floor of the now empty men's room. Sam sat for a minute catching his breath and rubbing his raw wrists before joining his friends back out in the bar.
Trust the Devil to complicate things.
As soon as Dennis opened his front door and spied the three of them he tried to shut it.
"Aw man, it's you three again," he said. "I told you I'm innocent."
Sam put a hand out to block the door. "It's okay Dennis, we know. We're here to help."
"Help?" he said. "How?"
"I've worked it out with the Devil and he's going to let you go if we can find the killer by tonight," Sam explained, "but it has to be by tonight or you go back, guilty or not."
"That's not much time," Dennis said, although he nodded in agreement. Grabbing his jacket, he came out to join them. "Come on, we better get moving."
They went back to the scene of the crimes, hoping to sneak into their employee files. Dennis knew a back entrance and they used it.
"I'm almost positive the killer is the former chef of the hotel, Girard Spence," he explained. "There were prints of Girard's all over the knives but they cleared him assuming they were just there from when he used them in the kitchen. The chef had an alibi too – other kitchen workers said they saw him there at the time of the murders. But I knew Girard. He had a temper and the kitchen staff was afraid of him so I could see them bullied into providing him with an alibi. They feared for their jobs."
As he spoke Dennis led Sam and Sock to a back room where the files were located as Ben kept a lookout in the hall. He continued to explain his theory as he searched through the files.
"So what did they have on you?" asked Sock.
"They didn't have my prints that's for sure but that didn't stop them. They just assumed there wouldn't be any because white gloves were part of my uniform. Hotel records showed a room service tray was brought up by me just before each murder so I was arrested as the prime suspect. Girard must have taken the trays up himself and used my name."
Dennis found the file he was looking for and opened it up.
"Where's Girard now?" asked Sam.
"According to this he left here right after my arrest. There's a newspaper clipping here that says he opened his own restaurant," said Dennis.
"And away we go," said Sock.
"So what's it like being a bellhop?" Sock asked Dennis as they drove to Gerard's restaurant. "Chicks dig the uniform?"
Dennis smiled, "I don't want to brag but, it has its perks if you know what I mean."
"Free food and cable?" asked Sock.
"Absolutely," he said.
"Dude, that's kickass," said Sock, "Sam, I have found my new career. Tell Ted he can shove it for me."
"Shut up, man, we're here," said Sam.
They parked around back and entered through the kitchen with Sam and Dennis out in front. It was busy and bustling with staff and no one noticed them enter. Dennis looked around and pointed when he saw Girard standing at the sauté station. When the chef turned and saw Dennis he froze.
"You!" he said, and he picked up a knife and moved towards them.
No one in the kitchen reacted and Sam wondered if it was because this guy did this sort of thing all the time. They all turned and ran outside and he followed, out into the dark, deserted back lot where the dumpsters were.
"You're not going to get away with all those murders Girard," said Dennis. "I've taken the rap for you long enough."
"What are you doing here Dennis?" the chef replied. "I thought you were dead."
"I was away for my health," he said, "and now I'm ready to take you on."
Girard raised his knife and Sam raised the key. He held it out in front of him but nothing happened. Then he remembered that this soul was still alive, so maybe the vessel didn't work the same way.
"Uh, Sam?" said Sock as the crazed chef came closer.
"I know!" yelled Sam, "It's not working!"
He was about ready to drop the vessel and run when Dennis lunged forward and grabbed it out of his hand. In the next instant Dennis leaped at Girard, grabbing him in a bear hug. All at once there was a tremendous burst of light and the two of them were sucked into the vessel together. There was a light clank sound as the key hit the pavement.
Sam stood there horrified.
"What just happened?" asked Ben. "Did we mean to do that?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't know but, I think he sacrificed himself. It was the only way to get the vessel to work."
"Oh, man," said Sock, staring at the vessel.
Sam turned to look at Ben when he heard a sound over his shoulder. His friend was sniffling.
"That was the bravest thing I've ever seen anybody do," said Ben, wiping his eyes.
Sock patted his back, "Take it easy there buddy."
The next day they reluctantly returned the vessel. Sam wished there was some way to let Dennis out before doing so, but Gladys was her usual helpful self at the fugitive redemption counter of the DMV. He watched as the key went down the chute and innocent and guilty alike plummeted to a similar fate. He had tried, but it had all been for nothing, and just like before, the Devil got his two souls.
He went home depressed and barely even startled when the Devil was waiting for him in his bedroom.
"What's the matter, Sammy? You look down," he said, "Rough day?"
Sam shook his head. "I just don't get it. Dennis, he was convicted and executed by mistake. I thought once his name was cleared he'd be alive again. You said he could go free."
The Devil laughed. "No Sammy, dead is dead. I'm not the Big Guy, I can't fix everything. But in accordance with our arrangement he has been… relocated, if that pleases you."
"Relocated? Do you mean he's in…"
"He's upstairs, yes, in that big five star luxury hotel in the sky," The Devil replied.
Sam smiled, feeling a wave of relief. It wasn't for nothing, I did save him.
Before he could feel too elated however he noticed the Devil turn serious.
"Now look Sam, there's just one thing," he said. "Because of you an angel got his wings today, but don't go thinking I'll let you do that again. You are my bounty hunter, not a private eye. Got it? I tell you to fetch and you fetch. No more trouble from you."
Sam nodded. It cost him nothing to allow the Devil to have his dignity restored. Sam knew the truth was the man had just done him a huge favor and more than that, Sam had gotten him to participate in an actual good deed. Sam smiled in complete submission and at the same time feeling he had the upper hand. It would be their little secret.
There was hope for the Devil yet.