Just not for him.
“If I do say so, Mr. Riley,” said Alex [the cab driver], “you’ve accepted your death quite well. Some take much longer.” The cat wailed again, eliciting a growl from the cabbie’s scruffy terrier. The dog stood on his hind legs, his front paws digging at the gap in the passenger window. Alex leaned over and patted the dog’s head. “Easy Chester, those days are gone.”
“I thought you’d figured that out, Mr. Riley.” Alex answered him in the disappointed tone a teacher used when a prize student got an answer wrong.
Alex sighed. “An unfortunate title.”
“No, Mr. Riley. Your journey has just begun.”
The air inside the cab was suddenly stifling and Ben felt a trickle of sweat between his shoulder blades. He forced his voice to sound reasonable - - friendly, even. “I have unfinished business, Alex. That counts as a reason to stay, doesn’t it?”
Alex shook his head. “You don’t want to do that yet.”
“Mr. Riley, I understand your frustration - -"
“I already have.”
Alex nodded toward the house. “Beth is inside. She’s waiting for you.”
Ben grasped on to a new possibility. “That means I’m not dead.”
“A few hundred years,” Ben repeated.
“Give or take.”
He was speechless and Alex jumped in to take advantage. “We’ve found a visit to happier times helps with the transition.”
“What do you mean by visit?”
It sounded more like a cruel joke than a gift, but he wanted it. Badly.
A shudder of longing went through him. He looked at the house, wanting to go to her, but held back at the thought of what this meant. If he was real, could he get to Matt? His hand clenched into a fist. Vengeance had a much nicer ring to it than acceptance. “So you can take me somewhere else?”
Alex arched a bushy eyebrow and pinned him with those black eyes. “Is the satisfaction of confronting your former friend worth wasting your gift?”
“It wouldn’t be a waste if it would protect Beth.”
“Mr. Riley - -"
“If it makes you feel better, I promise I won’t lay a hand on him. You have my word.”
“Mr. Riley!” Alex shouted. He looked startled at the sound of his own raised voice. “I’m not refusing. I’m just saying it can’t be done.”
Ben gave a jerky nod. Without sparing Alex a second glance, he reached for the door handle.
“Wait, Mr. Riley. Don’t you want to know how long you have?”
Alex didn’t smile.
“Fine. Midnight it is. Then what happens?”
“You return to where you left.”
“Back to being a ghost you mean.”
He got out of the cab and looked at the cabbie. Alex touched his hand to his hat. “Good luck to you, Sir.”
Ben slammed the door.