Peter's assistant

Kevin Moriarty drove his car the same way that he did everything else in life. He had the best of intentions at the outset, but somehow he always managed to make a hash of it in the end. He got out of the car and inspected the rear end which he had scraped against a pole next to the parking bay. Inspecting the dent, he shrugged his shoulders and walked off to the Department of Manpower building where he worked. Another dent on his car was hardly likely to be noticed.

"Moriarty, you're late again!" The voice boomed out of the departmental controller's office as he opened the door at the end of the corridor.
"Get in here right now Moriarty!"
Moriarty walked over to the controller's office. "Sorry, I got stuck in the traffic."
"Well, then you should leave earlier. You arrive ten minutes late every day. Have you ever thought that if you left home ten minutes earlier then you could arrive here on time?"
"Actually sir, I did leave home earlier this morning, but there was an accident on the freeway, and everybody got held up."
"Sure, a new excuse every day. If you were as creative with your work as you are with your excuses then things would run much smoother around here."
The controller flung a folder over the desk. "Your last report was a total mess as usual. Take it back and return it to me when you have some real facts in it. That is if I'm not asking too much."
"Not at all sir. I'll have it ready for you in no time sir."

Moriarty retreated to his cubicle in the open office next to the typing pool. The clatter of the typewriters drowned out most normal conversation. This meant that he did not have a phone in his cubicle. He therefore trudged over to the other side of the corridor where he had to ask Justine, the controller's secretary, if he could use her extension. This always made him feel like a little schoolboy but Justine was friendly and helpful to him as usual.
"Did Mr Roberts give you a hard time again this morning? You must really ignore him. He is just generally grumpy this morning."
Moriarty flashed her a smile of thanks and picked up the phone. After reporting his broken washing machine he replaced the phone on its hook and tried to think of a reason to tally longer. He liked chatting to Justine, but stood the risk of Mr Roberts' wrath if he was caught and then Justine would be in trouble as well. So after flashing her another smile he returned to his cubicle. He opened the folder that the controller had returned to him. He could not see any immediate way of improving what he had written there in the first place. So shelving it for the meantime, he opened his briefcase and took out his stationary and his lunch. Seeing his house keys lying in his briefcase he suddenly stood up.
"Damn!", he shouted.
Immediately he looked around to see if anybody had heard him. Normally he did not use words like that. With the typewriters still clacking away, however, everybody else continued with their work unaware of his own indiscretion. He walked over to Justine's office again.
"Excuse me."
She looked up and gave him her usual dazzling smile. "Yes?"
"I'm afraid that I've sent the repair guys out to my house already and I've just realised that the maid isn't in today. That means that they cannot get in and they will charge me for the trip anyway."
"OK, dash off home quickly and unlock for them. I'll cover for you. Mr Roberts is in a meeting until lunchtime so you'll be safe."
"Thanks a million Justine, I owe you one."

Moriarty raced down to the basement and after dislodging his car from the obstinate pole he raced off home. He arrived there just as the repair team were leaving. He waved them down and signalled to them that he was the owner of the house. They turned around and followed him back to the door. He fidgeted restlessly while they loaded the machine onto the back of their truck. The team leader handed him a clipboard to sign stating that the machine had been picked up.
"Be ready next Tuesday." he said as he got back into the van.

Moriarty jumped back into his car and raced back towards the office to get there before Roberts returned. Turning down Smith Street he spotted Roberts' 4x4 in the traffic ahead of him. At the next intersection he turned left again to avoid being spotted by Roberts in the traffic. Moving along the unfamiliar streets, Moriarty looked down all the side streets to see where he could turn down so that he could get to the basement parking ahead of Roberts. Finally spotting a side street, he gunned the motor of his battered VW to race across the intersection. So intense was his concentration on the far side of the block to see if Roberts' blue 4x4 had passed already that he did not see the tipper truck that jumped the intersection. The truck hit the side of his car with enough force to spin it around 180°. The truck hit the car again crushing the driver's side down to half the original width. The truck continued across the intersection and slewed across the road on the other side with the VW still wrapped around the front of it.

Half an hour later the emergency crews were still working to try and free Moriarty's body. Moriarty stood and watched them working. At first he had been a bit puzzled about standing there watching all the activity. When he tried to tap a fireman on the shoulder to ask him about it, he started to realise what had happened. When all his other attempts to talk to people failed as well and he even managed to walk through the truck his worst suspicions were confirmed. He eventually realised that he had died and his spirit was busy watching all the activities around him. He had always been a practising Christian so after the initial shock had passed he waited around expectantly to see what would happen next.

After an hour or so he noticed that he had started to float upwards. As he went higher, he drifted increasingly faster. He looked around him and it appeared as if he was in some kind of tunnel getting progressively brighter as he came closer to the end of the tunnel. When he stopped moving he shaded his eyes with his left hand and looked around. At first he couldn't discern anything. As his eyes adjusted to the bright light around him, he was eventually able to make out a huge set of gates ahead of him shining in the light. In front of the gate was a small hut and a line of people stretching away from the hut towards him. Not seeing anything else to do, he joined the back of the queue. Seemingly in no time at all he was at the front of the line. A tall chap with a mop of red hair and an unruly beard looked up at him from behind a small desk. A large book lay on the desk in front of him and he had a pen in his hand.
"Your name please."
"Um, Kevin Moriarty."
"Hmm that's funny. I have a Kevin Moriarty listed, but no Um Kevin Moriarty."
"Yes that's me - Kevin Moriarty."
The man gave him a sharp look and said. "So why did you not say so in the first place boy. We don't have all day here you know."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to confuse things."
"That's OK. I was just pulling your leg a bit. We do actually have all day here. Sit and make yourself comfortable."
Moriarty looked around and saw a chair that he had not noticed before.
"Well Kevin Moriarty I'm really glad to see you here."
"That makes a pleasant change. Usually everybody is upset when they see me."
"Yes I know. That's part of the reason that you were chosen. It will make your job easier."
"My job?"
"Yes, but I'm being rude. Let me introduce myself first. My name is Peter. I am in charge of the Gates."
Peter sat and looked at Moriarty and smiled as if this explained everything. Moriarty continued looking confused.
"Which gates?" Peter looked a bit taken aback by this question. He stood up and raised his right arm pointing at the vast gates behind him stretching up as far as the eye could see. He turned back and looked at Moriarty with a worried frown on his face.
"The Pearly Gates of course." He sat down again.
"God has decided to give me a bit of a break you see. So you will take over my job here at the Gates for a few hundred years."
"A few hundred years!?" Peter waved his hand and smiled to indicate that this was not a problem.
"Don't worry about it. Time works a bit differently up here. A hundred years can pass in the blink of an eye and a day can last a thousand years. Once you go to the school you will understand all about it."
"I have to go to school here?"
"Oh yes everybody that arrives here has to go to school. Of course not everybody has to start at the same level, but we all need a bit of extra education to help us understand how things work around here. However, due to the timing of things, you can only go to school when I return from holiday." Peter turned the large book around so that Moriarty could see what was written there.
"Let me explain how things work around here and then I'll be off. It's quite simple really. When a person arrives here, you ask them for their name. If you can find their names in the book here then you hand them an admission slip like this one." Peter produced a slip of paper out of a desk drawer and showed it to Moriarty.
"On the admission slip you must indicate which level of schooling they will start on." Moriarty was getting more bewildered by the second, or was it by the year, he wasn't even sure of that anymore.
"How do I know what level they must start on?"
"It's written in the book here next to their names."
"Ah, I see, for example I am listed as preschool."
"That's correct. Tick the correct box on the admission slip and send them on their way."
"OK that sounds fine, but what if their names are not in the book? Do I enter them in then?" Peter was so shocked by this question that he couldn't utter a word for quite some time - irrespective of how time was actually measured.
"No. You never ever enter anybody into the book. It is not up to us to judge who is in the book and who is not. If their names are not in the book, then you hand them a complimentary fan and coke and send them to that escalator over there." Peter pointed to a large steel escalator visible in the distance. It appeared to be almost completely surrounded by a dark cloud and seemed to be glowing red with heat.
"Does that go where I think it goes?" Peter nodded wordlessly. Moriarty gulped and heaved a sigh of relief. Peter opened another drawer on the desk and extracted some cards that seemed like small ID cards.
"Let me explain the rest of your responsibilities to you quickly. These are exit passes. The passes with green backgrounds are for spiritual returns and the red passes are for corporeal returns." Peter looked at Moriarty's blank expression.
"That means the person returns either as a spirit or as a human being in a body." Moriarty slapped his hand on the desk and laughed.
"Of course, I knew that."
"That's good, you will need to know the difference. The only people who get exit passes are the angels, and it is usually a green pass. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that a red pass is issued." Peter produced a small book out of the seemingly inexhaustible drawer.
"Once you have issued them with an exit pass, then you enter it into the logbook here and get them to countersign it. When they return then they must sign in again and return the exit pass." Peter placed the book on the desk which appeared somewhat cluttered now and stood up. He picked up a set of suitcases and handed Moriarty a red pass.
"Well I'm on my way at last. Please sign me out. Oh, before I forget, your halo and robe are in the drawer. I ordered them for you earlier. You better slip them on before getting on with the work. They are quite strict about the dress code around here." After Moriarty had entered the information in the logbook and Peter had signed it, Peter picked up his bags and strolled off into the distance. Just before he disappeared out of sight he turned around and shouted back. "Please be a kind chap and press the blue button next to the drawer." Looking down, Moriarty noticed a small blue button to the left of the drawer and pressed it. Instantly a large blue escalator appeared before Peter rolling downwards slowly. Peter stepped on the escalator and disappeared downwards.

It was some time later and Moriarty had put on the glowing robe and the halo. Unfortunately both seemed a bit large for him and he kept tripping over the hem of the robe. Eventually he removed the halo as it also kept slipping down over his eyes. At last he felt ready to start attending to the line of people stretching away from his desk into the distance. He first tried to tidy the desk up a bit before beckoning the first person over. While he was returning all the various items to the drawer, he noticed a small leather bound book lying at the bottom. Taking it out he saw that it had the words "Gatekeeper's Manual" embossed on the cover in gold leaf. He opened it and the front page appeared as follows;
Gatekeeper's Manual
I do solemnly swear to abide by the following gatekeeper's commandments:
1. Always make sure of the person's identity. If you send a person to the wrong destination then it cannot be changed later.
2. Always be courteous to the public - remember it is their first time here and they are very confused now.
3. Never change a judgement made regarding a person's destination. It is not up to you to make that sort of decision.
4. Always double-check an exit pass. People often try to get back to warn loved ones to change their ways. This cannot be allowed to happen.
5. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm. (Heaven Local Time) Lunchtime is from 12pm to 1pm. If you need to take a break for any other reason during the day, then please dilate Local time so as not to delay the public.
6. Remember your vast responsibilities towards God and the people.
The rest of the book was filled with all types of procedures and maintenance systems to be completed. Slipping the book back into the drawer, he called the first person over to him. The man had a large smile on his face and extended his hand towards Moriarty.
"You must be Peter. I've really been looking forward to meeting you." Moriarty shook the chap's hand.
"No, actually I'm Kevin. What is your name?" The man backed away with a panicky look on his face.
"If you aren't Peter, then I'm not dead. So where am I then?" Moriarty raised his hand in a calming manner.
"Please calm down sir. You are dead and you are at the Pearly Gates. Now if you could please give me your name, then I could look you up in the book." The man looked at Moriarty in disbelief and continued shaking his head.
"But Peter is supposed to be in charge of the Pearly Gates, and you don't even have a halo." Moriarty smiled gently at the man. Standing up he picked up his halo from the desk and walked over to the chap who had slumped into a chair by now.
"Peter is away on holiday right now. I'm standing in for him. And see I do have a halo." Moriarty placed the halo on top of his head where it promptly fell over his eyes again. The sight of this sent the poor man into a frothing frenzy.
"Get away from me. This can't be heaven. They can't possibly be this disorganised. They would never allow anybody like you to man the Gates." Moriarty raised his voice slightly as he wrestled the halo off his head again.
"Listen to me sir. I know things look a bit bad right now, but this is my first day on the job so cut me a bit of slack please. If you could please give me your name then I can process you." By this time the man was lying on the floor and moaning softly to himself.
"I want Peter." Moriarty bent down and picked the man up by the front of his shirt. With his right hand he gave him a smart thump on the head with his halo.
"Listen here buddy, Peter is not here. You have to deal with me. You are also holding up the queue here. So if you do not give me your name in the next five seconds, then I will arrange for you to be resurrected and I will personally strangle you to death. Do you understand me?" The dazed chap nodded.
"Blake Zaslow."
"Excellent! Cooperation at last." Moriarty let go of Zaslow's shirt and stomped over to the table. Running his finger down the list he found Zaslow's name eight from the bottom with a secondary school listing. Pulling out an admission slip he ticked off primary school and handed the slip to Zaslow. He pointed to the Gates with his arm.
"Through there and take the first left to the stores. After you get your robe and halo, they will direct you to the school." Zaslow nodded his thanks wordlessly and walked off towards the Gate. When Moriarty looked towards his desk, the next person was standing there already.
"Janet Claudine." She smiled nervously. Finding her name, he completed the admission slip and directed her away. The work continued mindlessly until he was disturbed by a buzzing coming from the desk. Opening the drawer he saw a clock that he had not noticed before. Looking at it he saw that it was five o'clock. He placed the clock and the book back into the drawer and walked off to the Gates.
"Hey what about me?" Turning around he noticed a teenager standing at his desk.
"Yes, what about you?" "Well are you not going to let me in or something?" Moriarty smiled at him the way a person smiles when you have to explain something totally obvious.
"Working hours are from eight to five. I'll sort you out first thing tomorrow morning." Moriarty turned around to walk back to the Gates again, but was stopped short by another shout.
"That's not good enough buddy. I want service now!" Moriarty turned back and walked up to the teenager slowly.
"Listen buddy, I missed out on lunch today. I am starved and would like to get something to eat. If you want me to sort you out right now, then I can send you for a trip on the red escalator, or else you can wait until tomorrow morning. What is it going to be?" The youth held up his hands in a placating gesture and backed away to his seat. Moriarty gave him a final look and stalked off to the Gates. Inside for the first time, he was taken aback by the beauty and splendour of everything. Wandering around, staring at everything in amazement, he came across a restaurant. Walking up to it, his entrance was blocked by a large chap with an impressive pair of wings on his back.
"You know that you can't go in there without your halo on. In fact you shouldn't even walk around on the streets without it on." Moriarty looked up at the giant's face.
"My halo doesn't fit properly. It keeps slipping off." The angel studied him for a while.
"If it wasn't for the fact that you're in heaven, then I would say that you're lying because everybody has their halo fitted at the store when they collect them. So how come your halo doesn't fit?" Moriarty explained to him the events of the day. At the end the angel understood and offered to get Moriarty some food at a take-away place just down the road. Sitting on the pavement eating his food, Moriarty questioned the angel some more about heaven.
"How come the big deal about the halos? I though heaven was supposed to be enjoyable and that everybody was free to do as they pleased." Shaking his head, the angel laughed.
"True freedom can only be achieved through the proper use of rules. Wearing a halo is one of those rules." During the evening, the angel told him more about heaven and where the stores were so that he could go and get a new halo and robe. Unfortunately he could not tell Moriarty how to dilate time as this sort of thing came naturally to angels and Moriarty would have to wait until he went to school before he mastered such things. Towards the end of the evening the angel made some enquiries and led Moriarty to the place where he would live. The small house appeared to contain all the necessities, and some luxuries, to make life quite pleasant. They had a cup of tea together and then the angel stood up to leave.
"Well it was a pleasure meeting you. If you ever need a message delivered then speak to me. I work for Gabriel. Just ask for Jason and I'll see what I can do to help you." After that Moriarty got into bed and slept soundly. The next morning he was woken up by an alarm clock again. He got up and after opening up various cupboards in the kitchen he discovered all his favourite breakfast stuff stashed away, ready for him. He finished his breakfast quickly and to his delight discovered a dishwasher under the sink. It was exactly the model that he had always wanted. He padded his halo with some toilet paper so that it could stay in his head in some manner. Similarly he managed to tack up the hem on his robe so that he could walk more than two steps without tripping. Looking around for a watch he discovered a Guess chronograph on his bedside table. He strapped it to his wrist and set off for the stores to swap his halo and robe for a more fitting size.

When he arrived at the store, however, he found that they were also only open between eight and five. He considered waiting until they opened, but thinking about the long line that was still left over from yesterday he decided against it. He walked back to the Gates which were visible from everywhere in the city. This time he marvelled at the ease with which the massive gates opened at the press of his fingers. It really was a miracle! He walked up to his desk and settled in, getting out the book and his pen. He called the teenager from the previous evening over. Before the kid reached his desk though, five angels walked up to the desk. They were covered in soot and were cut and bruised all over. Each of them had a massive sword strapped to his waist. The leader, a truly massive man at least two head lengths taller than the rest of them flipped five green passes on Moriarty's desk.
"Sign us in please." Moriarty looked up at the leader.
"Have you ever thought of joining a queue like the rest of the people here?" The tall angel bent over almost double so that he could look Moriarty straight in the eyes.
"Look we have just come back from a long battle in the Styx. We are tired and would like to have a chance to clean up and have a rest." Moriarty pointed to the line stretching away as far as the eye could see.
"All these people have been waiting for this day all their lives. They are also anxious to get inside. Please join the back of the queue." The angel stared at Moriarty for a while.
"Excuse me, I don't think you know who I am. My name is Michael and I think God is quite anxious to see me again."
"Yeah, that's what they all say. Now hit the queue buster. The rules apply to everybody. Next time bring a note from God himself if you want to jump the queue." Michael's jaw hung slack in disbelief but eventually when he saw that Moriarty wasn't going to let him in he turned around and headed off for the end of the queue. Moriarty turned to the teenager who had witnessed the entire exchange with a thunderstruck expression on his face.
"Do you have any idea who you just spoke to like that?"
"Yeah his name is Michael. Would you like to join him at the back of the line?"
"No. No. Not at all. I was just curious if you knew who you were dealing with." As Moriarty was looking up the teenagers' name, he looked up at him again.
"You look somewhat familiar. I'm sure I know you from somewhere."
"I doubt it man. I haven't been around that long you know."
"What do you do for a living?" "I work in an appliance repair shop on 27th street."
"That's it! I knew it! You came to pick up my washing machine yesterday or whenever it was."
"Oh yeah man, now I recognize you. You drive that trashy VW."
"That's right." Moriarty handed him his admission slip.
"Well it's better that you ended up here man. That machine of yours was a goner man. There was no way that we could have repaired that thing." The teenager walked off to the gates and waved to Moriarty before entering. Sometime later the five angels came through the queue and Moriarty signed them in in total silence. He continued processing the line but was distressed to notice that more people were sent to the red escalator than the Pearly gates. That evening Jason joined him again for supper and they chatted more about heaven and the likes.

<>A few days later Moriarty beckoned the next person in the queue and noticed a large chap in a black robe strolling over to him. Walking up to the desk, he extended a bony hand. "HI!" Moriarty gave him an uncomfortable handshake.
"Hi! Who are you?" The man gave a hideous laugh which made his entire robe shake. He leaned his scythe against the edge of the desk.
"I'm Death. I thought I should come around and introduce myself properly as you will be processing my work for a while." Moriarty looked at Death in disbelief.
"Wow, I thought it was you. You look exactly as I imagined you would."
"Yes, actually I take on the form of the person's imagination. So I always look the way that people imagine that I would look."
"How come I didn't see you when I died?"
"Oh that was quite a busy day. I left immediately after you died." Death picked up his scythe again.
"Anyway I must be off again and you have a lot of work to do. I have just returned from an earthquake in California." He turned around and walked off. He stopped a short distance away and looked over his shoulder.
"Anyway with me standing here chatting to you some people are living on borrowed time, and that wouldn't do at all!" Laughing his hideous laugh again, he disappeared into the distance. The next morning around ten o' clock, for what time was worth, his newly established routine was disrupted by somebody returning from the gates. The petite woman tapped his shoulder nervously.
"Excuse me, but I can't seem to get the gates open." Moriarty looked at her and decided against any comment. Excusing himself from the person that he was busy with, he walked over to the gate. After a few minutes of increasingly furious tugging he had to admit defeat as well. The woman shot him a look as if to say. "See I told you so." Standing at the gate totally perplexed by this latest development and not at all sure how to handle it, he was startled when the gate was suddenly flung open. Michael, the huge angel, stood at the other side of the gate.
"Don't you ever oil the hinges on these gates?" Looking at Moriarty's face, he shook his head and walked past him to the desk. Michael opened the drawer and took out a can of oil. Walking up to the gates, he opened a small side door next to the hinges. He beckoned Moriarty to follow him as he ascended a small staircase. At each landing he showed Moriarty how to open up and oil the hinges. When he reached the top, he handed the oil to Moriarty.
"You can do the other gate. If you look in the Gatekeeper's manual then you will notice that this is supposed to be done once a week." Michael smiled at Moriarty and walked down the stairs. After oiling the other gate, he returned to his desk to find that the queue had again managed to stretch off into the distance. Michael was standing at his desk with a red pass in his hand.
"Could you sign me out please?" Moriarty got the logbook out of the drawer and started filling it in.
"What do you do every time that you go out."
"I fight."
"Is that all? Doesn't it get a bit boring after a while?"
"No, it's my job and I really enjoy my job. In fact I would go so far as to say that I've got the most enjoyable job in the universe."
"Well I'll take your word for it. Where are you going this time?"
"To a place in South Africa. Some believers are praying for their church leader. He is beginning to irritate some people in the basement and he will need my support soon."
"The basement?" Michael pointed to the red escalator and laughed at Moriarty's surprised expression as he walked off.

Moriarty had now been doing his gatekeeping for quite some time - he had given up on any attempt to define time in the manner that he had been accustomed to. Up to now he had been so busy that he had not been able to stop the queue for long enough to exchange his robe yet. That evening, when he and Jason were having some tea together, he suddenly thought of something.
"Hey, you said that if I wanted to send somebody a message then you could arrange it for me." Jason nodded.
"That's right. Who do you want to talk to?"
"Death."
"Death!? Why?"
"I want him to slow down the queue for me so that I can exchange my robe and halo."
"OK, I'll see what I can do, but that will upset the apple cart a bit." The next morning just after Moriarty arrived at his desk, Michael walked up to the desk.
"Hi, I'm back." Feeling around inside his robe, which was in much better condition than the previous time that he returned, he extracted an envelope. With a small smile on his face, Michael placed the envelope on the desk. Moriarty picked up the envelope.
"What's this?"
"Read it. It's for you." As Moriarty started opening the envelope, Michael handed him a pair of Ray-Ban's.
"You might want to put these on first." Moriarty looked at Michael dubiously, but put the dark glasses on anyway. Feeling somewhat silly, he finished opening the envelope. Inside was a single folded piece of notepaper. When he opened the paper up, he was hit by an almost blinding light. The light was so intense that even with the dark glasses on, it took his eyes a couple of minutes to adjust. When he could finally read the glowing letters, he made out the following message; KEVIN PLEASE LET MICHAEL BACK IN AS SOON AS HE GETS BACK AS I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HIM. THANKS, GOD. Moriarty folded the paper again and placed it back in the envelope. Michael, who could barely contain his laughter at this stage, said to him;
"Well, you did say that I had to bring a note from God next time." Nodding in embarrassment, Moriarty retrieved the logbook.
"Sorry about last time, I was not having a good day then."
"Quite all right, in fact I appreciate it if somebody does their job well, and you were quite entitled to send me to the back of the queue." Laughing sheepishly, Moriarty handed the pen to Michael to sign.
"Thanks."

Later that afternoon Jason came around to tell him that Death had agreed to give him a bit of a breather the next morning. Moriarty thanked him profusely and returned to his work with renewed vigour. Just before closing time, when he was going through the line at considerable speed, he was stopped short by a voice he recognised when he asked for a name.
"David Roberts." Moriarty looked up with an evil gleam in his eye.
"Ah, Mr Roberts, we meet again." Chuckling to himself, he was totally delighted when he could not find Mr Roberts' name on the list. Laughing out loud by this time, Moriarty got up and beckoned Roberts to follow him. Stopping at the red escalator, he pointed down it.
"Mr Roberts, you can go to hell. There is your ride waiting for you. You see, I managed to arrive early the one time that it really mattered." As Mr Roberts descended the escalator, he shouted after him.
"By the way tell Lucifer that I told him to give you the special treatment!" When Roberts had finally disappeared from view, he muttered to himself.
"This really is heaven!" The next morning he treated himself and slept in late. After breakfast, he strolled over to the store and after a lengthy explanation managed to exchange his robe and halo for a set that fitted properly. Feeling positively buoyant, he walked over to the gates. On the other side, he noticed that Death had excelled himself. There was not one person waiting at his desk! Not quite sure what to do with the time suddenly on his hands, he took to strolling through the city.

Passing a sweet shop, he suddenly had an idea. After he had made his purchase, he trotted off to the gates again, laughing childishly to himself. Outside he strolled over to the red escalator and got out his packet of marshmallows. Popping a marshmallow onto the back end of a long feather duster that he had found in his house, he held it out over the edge of the escalator. After a while he pulled it back and munched the mallow. Sticking the next one onto the duster, he decided to get it a bit closer to the flames. Leaning over the edge of the escalator as far as he could go, he stretched out the duster towards the flames below. He continued the process for the next few marshmallows. Sitting back to place the next one on the duster, the hem of his new robe snagged the escalator pulling him onto it. With sudden fear, he turned around to run up the escalator, but no matter how fast he ran, he continued downwards. He noticed some demons laughing at him from the side of the escalator.
"It won't help. Once you're on the escalator, you can never get off it again. It's a one-way street." He looked at them beseechingly as he renewed his efforts to run upwards.
"Help me, I'm not supposed to be here!" They simply laughed at him and started bumping him downwards. The next moment a huge voice bellowed out and a large hand stretched down and swatted the demons out of the way. The hand grabbed Moriarty and pulled him up. Lying on the ground gasping for breath, Moriarty looked up and saw that it was one of the angels that usually travelled with Michael.
"Thanks, I didn't think that I was going to make it."
"You wouldn't have. In fact I was not supposed to help you, but I knew that you really belonged in heaven so I bent the rules a bit. Don't try a stunt like that again. Next time I might not be here to help you, and once you get to the basement, then there is nothing that any of us could do to help you." After he had recovered, he walked back to his desk and sat down to tidy up the drawer a bit. Looking up he noticed that somebody had slipped out of the gates and was walking furtively over to him.
"Hi, please don't tell anybody that I am out here. I might get into trouble if anybody finds out." Moriarty nodded and indicated that she should sit.
"Who are you? You look somewhat familiar."
"I'm Justine's mother."
"Oh yes, now I remember. You died some time ago. She was very upset about it."
"Yes I know. I also know that you liked her a lot when you were on earth."
"Yes, she was very nice and extremely helpful to me. In fact she was the only reason that I stayed on at the job."
"Yes, that's why I have come to ask you a favour. I have found out that she will not come to heaven. I need to go back down and speak to her so that she will change her ways." Moriarty held up his hand.
"I'm sorry, but there is no way that I can do that. It is against all the rules." She leapt out of the chair and fell down on her knees in front of the desk.
"Please Mr Moriarty, I'm begging you. I only need one day. You wouldn't want her to end up in hell do you?" Moriarty sighed loudly.
"You are busy blackmailing me emotionally."
"I know, but I'll do anything that I can to get Justine here with me." Shaking his head, he opened the drawer and extracted a red pass. Handing it to her, he said.
"If anybody finds out about this, then I'll end up on the red escalator over there. You realise that don't you?"
"I promise nobody will hear about. I will be back before anybody notices that I'm gone." She ran off towards the blue escalator that he had activated. That afternoon the people started arriving in droves as Death went about catching up on his business. Over the next few days he was extremely busy getting through the backlog created by his morning off. Around mid-afternoon the next person in line stepped up to the desk and placed a red card on the desk. Looking up he saw that it was Justine's mother. She was smiling broadly.
"Thanks a lot. I think I managed to convince her to change her ways. I won't forget what you did for me." Quickly placing the red card back in his desk, he watched her walk to the gates with a definite bounce in her step. The rest of the afternoon passed quickly and he managed to process a large number of people. Just before six o' clock, just as he was about to call it a day, another person slapped a red card on his desk. Looking up with trepidation, he saw that it was Peter.
"Well Um Kevin Moriarty, you seem to have things nicely under control here. Finish off these last couple of people then I'll treat you to a drink at my place." After he had processed the last person, he and Peter walked off to Peter's house.
"So how was you holiday?"
"Truly wonderful. I went everywhere and I stayed in each place that I liked for a few years. That is the way to have a holiday." After they had finished supper, Moriarty packed the dishes into the dishwasher which seemed to be standard in every house.
"I'm really glad that you are back. I have made a total hash of everything." Peter laughed and waved his hand to indicate that he must stop.
"Nonsense my boy. If you say that you made a hash of things, then you are saying that God made a hash of things by leaving you in my place. Now believe me, God never makes a hash of things."
"You might change your mind when you hear everything that I did."
"I know everything that you did already." Moriarty gave him an astonished look.
"How could you know, you only just got back?"
"My dear chap, God knows everything that happens. I simply asked him to keep me informed while I was on earth so that I wouldn't be out of touch when I came back."
"But you don't understand. I broke every rule in the Gatekeeper's manual. In fact I nearly managed to break the gates as well."
"Yes, and you are worried because you know that I wouldn't have broken any of the rules if I was here." "Precisely. It's all a mess." "Has it ever occurred to you that maybe God put you there because He knew that you would break those rules?"
"Why would He do a thing like that?"
"Well for example, your friend Justine has started a large crusade on earth. She has singlehandedly led more than five hundred people to the Lord already. That wouldn't have happened if you had not bent the rules a little. When you asked Death not to kill the people that morning, six people gave their lives to the Lord in that extra time on earth. If only one person had done it, then God would have thought that it was worth the effort." Moriarty sat back and tried to digest all this.
"I still don't quite understand."
"Don't worry, you will once you have been to school. You start tomorrow. Come down to the gates first and let me sign you in officially." The next morning, Moriarty went to the gates and found Peter there already processing the first people of the morning. When he arrived at the desk, Peter turned the book to let him sign next to his name. When Peter handed him his admission slip, he noticed that Peter had changed him from preschool to primary school.
"Why have you moved me up?"
"Oh, I think you have learnt a thing or two while you were here. I'll walk you to the school. That way I can take a bit of a break as well."
"Good, then you can show me how to dilate time now." Peter laughed.
"It's quite simple really. It works like this." He took a piece of paper out of the desk and folded it in half. Scribbling something on the paper, he propped it on the front of the desk. As they walked away Moriarty glanced at the front of the paper and laughed. Peter had written on it; "Back in 5 min. Please be patient." Arriving at the school, Moriarty turned to Peter.
"When I finish in the school here, would you mind if I came back to be your assistant?" Peter patted him on the back.
"No, I would be very proud to call you my assistant."