Sharp Recruit

[WP] John Shoester is a bitter old man who travels around and tells people their approximate time of death. Five years. Twenty years. Two months. And he’s always been 100% smugly accurate – then he met you. Last week!? from WritingPrompts

“Man, I hate to be asking you,” John rubbed the back of his neck for added effect. He stood in a parking lot talking to the manager of a coffee shop he frequented enough to be a regular. “It’s just until next week,” he asked. The friendly manager, Mike, smiled and nodded.

“Sure thing old timer, don’t sweat it,” Mike said. He handed John two 100 dollar bills. “But I definitely need it back by Tuesday, okay?” John nodded and accepted the money with a smile. Mike would be dead by Monday. John thanked the man and walked down the block. He had nowhere to be, but he enjoyed strolling through downtown. It was always entertaining.

“Don’t get too attached,” he commented to a young woman pushing a light pink stroller past him. Her eyes widened and she glared at him. She seemed to want to say something but held back because of his age.

“What’s wrong with you? Why would you say that about someone’s child?” she finally asked. John grinned and kept walking, though he added another comment over his shoulder.

“I was talking to the baby,” he laughed and continued on his way. John felt hunger gnaw at him and headed towards a pizza shop he frequented.

“Hey Mr. Shoester. The usual?” A red-headed waitress approached him with a smile, but he shook his head.

“Make it a whole pie this time, Allie. I’ve got some extra cash,” he said. She nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. John moved toward his favorite booth and sat down. He liked the booth because it faced the door. Once he did not pay attention to the people around him and someone died during his meal. The stranger’s death did not bother him as much as having to wait for the police and file a report. Allie returned with a glass of ice water and several lemon halves.

“It’ll be out in about fifteen minutes, crispy just like you like,” she said.  John smiled and handed her a single 100 dollar bill.

“Keep the change,” he said.

“Thanks!” she took the bill without hesitation, it was not the first time he over-tipped her. Somehow or another he had extra money frequently. As John squeezed lemon juice into his water the tinny bell over the entrance signaled a new customer. A tall pale woman with dark hair wearing an all-white business suit walked in. John dropped the lemon in his glass when he saw a new symbol above the woman’s head glowing red. It took John several years to learn what each symbol meant. Hours, days, weeks, months, each had a different symbol associated with it. The red symbol hovering over her head looked like the symbol for “week”, but it also had a negative sign in front of it. A short bald woman entered behind her, pointed at John, then walked out of the pizzeria. The woman in white walked to John’s table and sat down without an invitation.

“Hello, John.” She smiled.

“Do I know you?” A ruckus sounded from the kitchen. John turned to see Allie with her hand over her mouth staring at the woman in white. A mess of dishes and pasta around her feet seemed to be where the noise came from. Instead of cleaning it up she dashed to the table.

“Ms. Sharp! Ohmygod! Anything you want is free!” Allie bounced in place with nervous energy, starstruck over the woman. Then she glanced at John. “You know John?” Allie asked the woman.  Ms. Sharp gave a slight nod.

“Kind of. I was about to offer him a job.” She stared at Allie until the young woman got the hint and shrunk back into the kitchen to clean up the mess she made.

“My name is Dana Sharp, I’d like you to come work for me,” the woman explained her presence to John.

“Doing what?” he asked.

“Doing what you do. I’m sure you know what I mean,” she said. “Last week was VERY eventful for me, wouldn’t you like to know more about it?”

“How do you know about that? I’ve never told anyone.” John took a sip of his water.

“You tell everyone,” she smiled. “Do you know how many stories there are on the internet about a crazy old man that predicts death?” She asked. John shook his head.

“So, what do you want me for? What do you do, Dana?”

“Call me Ms. Sharp, please. I run a major corporation in 15 universes, this is one of them. As you can imagine the hiring process can be a bit of a pain, and that’s where you come in. I’d like to have you tell me which applicants will lead long, healthy, working lives.

“What’s the pay like?” he asked. John decided to accept the job loved the thought of being in a position of power. But, he needed to be sure the pay was livable.

“There’s no pay as such,” she started to say. John put a hand up.

“Not interested.” Ms. Sharp explained anyway.

“Money doesn’t matter universe to universe. Instead of a paycheck you’ll have access to anything you want/need.  Food, housing, transportation, entertainment. Remember how the waitress,”

“Allie,” John interrupted. Ms. Sharp’s eyes remained cold.

“That waitress offered me anything for free. It could be like that for you anywhere you go.”

“Alright, one condition.” Ms. Sharp smiled.

“You may be confused about how much you can bargain here, but I’m curious. What’s your condition?” Allie appeared with a large thin-crust Hawaiian pizza and placed it on the table.

“Allie gets a job too,” he said.

“What?” Allie sounded surprised, but Ms. Sharp looked at the waitress.

“Allie don’t think about it, just answer,” she said. “What’s your favorite number?”

“37,” Allie replied. Ms. Sharps eyes narrowed.

“Do you have any tattoos?” she asked. Allie shook her head.

“No way, needles hurt.” Ms. Sharp turned back to John.

“Okay. I agree to your conditions.” She stood from her seat, and John heard the bell over the door again. The bald woman from before walked in again.

“Janet will get you oriented,” Ms. Sharp pointed at the bald woman then walked out of the restaurant.