The pokey storefront looked to be carefully decorated and spoke of plenty of start-up capital. Behind the reception counter, framed original art hung on the walls. Coupled with comfortable modern furniture, these made the space look like an art gallery. The only indication of the business was a laser cut sign saying 'The Agency' in a cursive font of some sort.
Phil looked carefully at the business card in his hand, matched the logo on it with this, then also checked his phone. He glanced up and down the street then stepped decisively to the door and pushed it open. He heard a faint buzz from somewhere further in the building.
The receptionist, an attractive older woman, stood and smiled widely. “Hello sir, welcome to The Agency. Do you have an appointment?”
Phil shook his head. “No, I don’t. But I was given one of your business cards by a colleague and thought I’d see if I could talk to someone about your services.”
The receptionist smiled and nodded. “Certainly sir. If you’d like to take a seat, I’ll see if one of our consultants is free. While you wait, would you like a beverage? We have coffee, tea or water.”
Phil sat down as he replied. “Ah no thanks, not at the moment.” The receptionist smiled again before disappearing through a door behind the counter. While he waited, Phil flicked through the pile of magazines on one of the side tables. These were all high end décor and fashion magazines and all current issues. Just as he was about to take one, the receptionist came back followed by a very well dressed man. He was wearing what looked to be a high end, blue-grey two piece suit, with matching tie, a crisp white shirt and classic brogues on his feet.
He came around the reception desk and as he did, his face lit up with a practiced smile. Phil could tell straight away this was a man who knew how to sell, a career salesman who wouldn't take no for an answer.
“Good morning, sir, and welcome to The Agency. My name is Donovan Plunkett. I’m one of the senior sales consultants here.” Then he stuck his hand out.
Phil stood and shook the proffered appendage. “Hi, erm, Donovan, my name is Phillip Dunstan. A colleague gave me one of your business cards, thinking I might be interested in your services.
Donovan nodded his head as if agreeing. “Ah yes, Mr Dunstan, we get that a fair bit here at The Agency. But not to worry, I can explain it all quite simply, if you’d like.”
"Okay, great, and please, call me Phil.” The other man smiled and carried on.
“Well, Phil, what we provide our clients with is the provision of the means to go out in a way of their choosing at a time of their choosing. Each experience is unique to the desires of the individual."
Phil shrugged and nodded at the same time. “I'm not sure I know what you mean by ‘go out’?”
Donovan gave a knowing smile. “‘Go out’ is a euphemism we use here at The Agency to mean the way you’d like to exit the world. While I personally find this particular expression inadequate, market research indicated it was the most popular.”
“So by ‘go out’ you mean ‘die’, right?”
“Yes, Phil, that is exactly what I mean. We at The Agency believe death is the last great commodity. We plan your death according to your wishes. We can even arrange for your funeral, should you so wish. Nothing is beyond our capabilities.”
"Okay, so you're a glorified funeral home..."
Donovan gasped then said, "No, Phil, The Agency is most certainly not. We are business partners with a number of funeral services and can most certainly put together an attractively-priced package that can include those, should you so desire. We offer everything to do with you death, up to and including your funeral. Of course, you don't have to use our partners. If you have a funeral provider you'd rather use, we're happy to negotiate with them on your behalf."
Phil thought about this for a minute. He had nothing to lose. "Okay, so how does this work?"
The other man clapped his hands in delight. "Oh wonderful. I will make sure you don't regret your decision, Phil. Now, if you'd like to give me a minute to prepare some paperwork, we can discuss this further."
While he waited, Phil skimmed the pile of magazines again and selected one on high end decor. He flicked through the pages and settled on an article about Scandinavian antique furniture. He had inherited a cabinet and a funky chair years ago from a bachelor uncle but had no idea of their worth. He was just getting into the meat of the article when the door opened in Donovan reappeared. He was carrying a leather folder.
Donovan sat down, opened the folder and presented a pen to him. "This is a simple non-disclosure document and covers everything I'm about to tell you. You can take the time to read it but in a nutshell, this prohibits you from discussing anything you're about to hear or see with anyone."
"Well that explains why my colleague wouldn't go into details. Will my wife ever find out I've made this arrangement with you?"
"Oh no Phil, she never will. If you sign this NDA, you are stating you will never communicate what you're about to hear in any form whatsoever, in perpetuity. It means you can rest assured we are bound by the exact same conditions."
Phil sat back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. He looked to be going through a conversation with himself. Then he nodded slightly, leaned forward and took the pen. "Okay, Mr Donovan Plunkett, where do I sign?"
Phil eased the car into the tight parking spot. Evelyn tutted as he did. "Can you get it any closer to the other car, Phillip?"
He wanted to snap back at her but knew it wasn't worth it. Besides, in a very short while, he would never have to put up with any of her petty remarks again. For twenty seven years, give or take, he'd put up with her haranguing, her callousness, jealousy and snideness. Thankfully, their two daughters had somehow survived to become strong, intelligent young women. But they'd forever be, in his mind, Daddy's girls.
Instead, he said "Sorry Ev, that car is badly parked. Why don't I back out and let you out first?"
Evelyn snorted. "This wouldn't have happened if we hadn't parked on the street like you insisted. Hold on, are you trying to say I'm too fat to get out? Are you?"
Instead of responding, Phil put the car in park, applied the handbrake and turned it off. He opened the door and got out of the car. Then he looked back in at her. She harrumphed and opened her door, banging into the side of the next car. He grimaced, closed his door and waited as she muttered and groaned and struggled to get herself out of the car. He glanced at his watch and saw he still had enough time. So instead of offering to help, he walked around and sat on the bumper of the car.
A few minutes later, she slammed the door and he stood up. The look she gave him would turn bones to powder but he'd weathered it for so long, it bounced right off him. "Where were you? Couldn't you see I was having problems? You don't care about me. Why do I even bother?"
Phil shook his head and glanced at his watch. It was just about time. The slight hope he had that she might actually say or do something to redeem herself was now completely gone.
He stepped up next to her, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and looked her square in the face. "You know what Ev, you're right again. I really don't care. So... Goodbye." He pushed her hard out into the middle of the road. She didn't even see the speeding truck. Her last second, her last breath and her last words were smashed away before he could hear them. But he did catch a glimpse of the stunned face of Mr Donovan Plunkett in the passenger seat of the truck.
Phil called the police then went and sat back down on the bumper of his car while he waited. He had practiced pretending to cry but when he started, he realised he was really crying tears of joy, although no one else would know this.
The police arrived not long before an ambulance. One of the young constables gently led him over to and into the back seat of a police car. He left the door open then crouched down, asking Phil to run him through what happened, if he could.
Both the ambos and police were shocked and stunned by the destructive force of the truck that hit her. Her remains were smeared across a good 10 meters of asphalt. However, Phil could hardly look at the mess without smiling, so buried his hands and kept up the grieving husband pretence.
A little while later, the same constable came back and offered him a lift home. Phil nodded and gave him the address. When the cop got him back to his home, he gave Phil a card with his contact details on it and asked him to get in touch the next day.
He went to his front door and watched as the cop pulled away. He raised his hand slightly in goodbye then turned, unlocked the front door and went inside. He walked down the hallway to the kitchen and by the time he got to the family room at the back, he had tears streaming down his face as he roared with laughter.
Then the front doorbell rang. He thought it might be the copper, coming back to ask him something. It turned out to be a very angry-looking Mr Donovan Plunkett instead.
"What did you, Mr Dunstan, what did you do?" He was fairly livid and pushed past Phil into the house. As he did he pushed the door and it slammed shut. "You have some serious explaining to do. Never in the history of The Agency has this happened. You have jeopardised everything we've worked for years to build. Do you understand what I'm saying to you?"
Phil shook his head. "No, Mr Plunkett, if I am correct, and I'm pretty certain I am, that NDA you had me sign, the same NDA you counter-signed, prevents either of us, as individuals or entities, from revealing any details of this transaction whatsoever. Would you agree?"