"Oh dear, not another one," Sadie said, parting the curtains in Cabin 14 and peering out the window. A man in a black suit stared back at her. Sadie's shoulders sagged as she signaled to her twin sister. "Jane, come here. Tell me if you can see him. In that fancy get-up, he's either one of them or he's an undertaker." Sixty-four-year-old Sadie cupped her hand over her forehead to prevent the sun's glare from obstructing her view.
The man looked back over his shoulder, clutching his leather briefcase to his chest. He took a few steps forward, hesitated, then cautiously edged off the walkway seeking cover behind a low-hanging pine. Bewildered eyes peeked through the boughs. He concentrated on a group of teens, toting inflatable rafts and skipping playfully toward the shore.
Jane edged closer to the window and nudged Belly LaGossa aside with her knee. The dog snorted at the intrusion. After sniffing the air, Belly waddled across the cabin floor, scratched on the screen door and waited for one of the sisters to let him out. His jowls fluttered a sigh of resignation when he realized they had no intention of honoring his request.
Jane followed the direction indicated by Sadie's finger. "Where? I don't see anybody."
Sadie hoped Jane would quiet her anxiety. If Jane could see him, he wasn't a crosser. If the man was invisible to Jane, it meant the fifth and final crosser was about to make an entrance.
Although most guests who failed to cross over were shocked to learn of their demise, they were generally harmless and agreeable. Not this week, though. Sadie already had Rodney, a crosser with an attitude, occupying one of the bunks in the inner room. She was sure Rodney had been destined for hellfire, but took a wrong turn on his way to meet the devil. The hateful twenty-one-year-old had stretched her patience to the limit, because he didn't give a rip. About anything. Or anybody. He took pleasure in making life miserable for the other crossers. Sadie turned back toward the window. If her hunch was right, another crosser was lurking outside her door.
"Right there." Sadie jabbed her finger in the direction of the walkway. She watched a courtesy-cart driver glide past the man in black.
The cart driver tapped his horn to alert four men laden with fishing gear that he was about to pass on their left. Chatting with excitement, the cart's passengers scanned the marina as the driver continued to transport them to their assigned cabins along the shores of Pinecone Lake.
The advertised check-in at Witt's End Resort was every Friday afternoon between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. Because guests arrived promptly at 2:00 p.m. to take advantage of two extra hours of valued vacation, staff members scurried to accommodate the rush. Today was no exception. New arrivals crammed the walkways, the gift shop, and the marina.
Sadie tapped the window pane with her fingernail as Jane edged closer. "Just look over the top of my finger at that guy in the snazzy suit. Do you think he's a crosser?" Sadie held her finger rigid to give her sister ample time to zero in.
"Well if he's a crosser, why do you bother to ask? You're the only one who can see the dead."
If Sadie could get her hands on the man who had deemed her a death coach, she'd staple his lips to his nose. It had to be a man bent on revenge. Who else would saddle her with the responsibility of guiding the dead on their final journey?
"Geez Louise. How come everything happens all at once? I've got a cabin full of crossers and now I have to deal with a new manager who can’t make a decision. It makes me furious I let you talk me into hiring him to run the resort,” Sadie said. “I gave in too easy. I should spank myself.”
“Easy?” Jane’s voice rose as she stared in disbelief. “That wasn’t easy. It took me two years to convince you.”
“Mother would kick the lid off her casket if she knew we hired a manager. Witt’s End has been in our family for over eighty years.”
“That’s a bunch of hooey,” Jane bit back. “Our manager does a good job. You make it sound like we sold the resort. We didn’t. Besides, now we can go dancing. You were the one who complained we never went dancing on seniors' night."
“If that man in the black suit is another crosser, I won’t be going to the Fertile Turtle any time soon,” Sadie said.
“Well you better feel like it because Mr. Bakke’s taking us dancing tomorrow night.” Jane gestured toward Sadie. “And don’t embarrass us by wearing any of your stupid outfits.”
“This isn’t stupid,” Sadie argued. “It’s new. It’s all the rage.” She smoothed the hem of the leopard print shirt over her mini skirt.
“You look like you’re going on safari. Why can’t you dress like me? Like a normal person.”
Sadie wanted to comment on Jane's attire, but if Jane hadn't changed her appearance in thirty years, one more fashion tidbit wasn't going to help. Sadie had even gone as far as purchasing colorful outfits for her sister. They were still buried in the back of her closet behind the cadaveresque colorscape Jane referred to as beige, ecru, tan, and, on a real flamboyant buying binge, khaki. The bottoms were all worn with white blouses. Ironed, starched, lace-adorned blouses. With Jane's silver bob topping off the ensemble, Sadie often had the urge to poke her bland sister to make sure she was still among the living. Why look like a crosser if you could prevent it?
Before huffing away from the window, Jane added, "I still don't see a man in a suit. If he's got a suit on, he must be a crosser. Who else would wear a suit to a resort?"
"You've got a point," Sadie said. "But with four other crossers already in residence, I don't feel like dealing with a new one."
"Why? It's no different than any other time. You should be used to it after forty years." Jane walked over to the screen door and looked through the opening.
"I already told you those business types don't like being told they're dead," Sadie said. "In fact, they get downright belligerent. They waste time denying it when they should be making their death decisions."
"Do you think I'll end up being a crosser?"
"Not if you don't have unfinished business."
"Who made those stupid rules? And where does it say I need to have unfinished business? I don't understand why they didn't give you a manual so I could check to see if you're telling the truth." Jane waved her hand in dismissal before removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes.
Not only had Sadie not been given a manual, but the assignment lasted a lifetime. She would prefer to ignore the crossers, but she couldn't. If she didn't guide them through their death decisions in the allotted time, the crossers would never realize their death potential. They'd slip into oblivion.
"You've been in a foul mood ever since you got up this morning. Are you going to share your problem-of-the-day, or are you going to keep me in suspense?"
Jane lifted a Victoria's Secret catalog off the kitchen table and placed it under a stack of magazines.
"Put that back. I haven't decided what to order yet," Sadie said. Her gaze wandered to the window. The man in the black suit peered back at her. His demeanor had changed from confused to distressed.
"You're too old to be buying that kind of stuff." Attempting to straighten the rest of the items on the bookshelf Jane said, "Why don't you look at something intelligent?"
"Like one of your cooking magazines? I don't know why you bother to read them. You don't follow the recipes anyway." Sadie batted at Jane's hand as her sister tried to stop her from pulling the catalog back out of the stack. "You're driving me nuts. All you do is clean, clean, clean. It's to the point where I have to Duct Tape my undies to my butt. I'm afraid if I lost sight of them for one second, you'd put them away and I'd never find them again."
When Jane's tidiness drove Sadie to distraction, Sadie countered by creating a mess. Even though Jane's exasperation resulted in a sermon clarifying the finer points of organization, Sadie took pleasure in flustering her sister. However, this sparring hadn't been intentional. Jane's worries had escalated to a feverish level because of a pending lawsuit, a lawsuit that could produce devastating results, and Sadie knew it would be wise to keep her retaliation to a minimum.
Sadie had dealt with crossers for forty years. That she could handle, but not the lawsuit.