The Judge of Hell is My Phone Pal

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"How do you know my name is Ivan?" Ivan was taken aback.

"I am the judge of the nether world. Since I chose you, of course I know everything about you. Your father is John Frank, he divorced your mother when you were a child and raised you up on his own, but he was killed in a car accident three years ago, and the perpetrator has not been found yet, right?"

As he listened to his words over the phone, Ivan repeatedly nodded. That's right. Perfectly right.

"In five minutes, you will receive a call from your father. Just wait."

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Chapter 1 Dark Encounter
It was a dark, rainy autumn night.   Ivan Frank’s mood matched the gloom of the city as he drove through the empty streets. There had been few customers tonight and his takings were less than a hundred dollars. By the time he paid Gary the fee for the taxi, he would be left with virtually nothing.   He pulled over for a cigarette break and as he sat in the cab staring into the dark night, Ivan swore to himself. He had never felt so despondent.   His phone pinged. Jessica Lawrence, his girlfriend, had sent him a w******p message.  Jessica's younger brother was coming to Cincinnati tomorrow afternoon and she needed $20,000 from Ivan before her brother got there.   Looking at the message, Ivan suddenly felt as though he had been hit in the head with a brick. He struggled to think straight as a wave of panic came over him, making him feel sick to his stomach. Unbeknown to Jessica he had resigned from his job and finally, after much searching, found work as a taxi driver at night.   He had already used his $10,000 savings as a contractual down payment to Gary. How could he possibly find $20,000 for Jessica’s brother?   Having dated Jessica for more than a year, Ivan felt that he was more like an ATM from which she constantly withdrew money, than her boyfriend! Now, Jessica's younger brother needed $20,000 for his engagement. If he had still been a white-collar worker, finding $20,000 wouldn't have been a problem, but now…     He couldn't tell Jessica about his resignation. That would create another conflict between them. Ivan scratched his head and tried to think of a way to find the money. His only option was to earn some tonight.   Just as he was about to start the engine, he heard a tap on the window.   Someone must want a taxi.   Overjoyed, Ivan looked out. A frail old man was standing next to the car. His wrinkled face looked deathly pale beneath the dim street light. He wasn’t wearing a coat and was trembling as he stood, soaked to the skin.   "Sir, get in the car," Ivan quickly told him, but the man didn’t move, seemingly having no intention of getting into the car.   "Boy, can you take me to Hargreaves Street?" the old man asked as he stood outside in the rain.   Hargreaves Street?   Ivan quickly reacted. Hargreaves Street was on the outskirts of Cincinnati, a fair drive from the center and he was unlikely to find a return fare from there. Usually, taxi drivers didn’t charge by the meter in such circumstances, but rather gave a set price of at least $100, even more on rainy days.   Ivan glanced at the old man shivering outside. "Yes, Sir. I can take you there for a set fee of $100."       The old man smiled, "I don’t have any money."   No money?   Was the old guy taking the piss?   "I’m sorry Sir, but you can't take a taxi if you don't have money."   "Really?"   Ivan nodded.   The old man simply shook his head and left. He was almost bent double as he hobbled away and tried to hail another taxi. Soon, a car stopped. The old man said a few words to the driver and the taxi drove away, soaking the old man as it splashed through a large puddle on the side of the road.   Ivan sat in the car, watching. The old man staggering through the rain reminded him of his father. They would have been the same age had his father still been alive.   Forget it. Since there was so little business tonight, he might as well do a good deed.   After catching up with the old man, Ivan opened the door and said, "Sir, get in the car. I'll take you to Hargreaves Street."   "I have no money," the old man told him again.   Ivan smiled, "It's free. Today is my birthday. I want to do a good deed to celebrate."   "Your birthday?" The old man looked Ivan up and down.   "Sir, please get in the car. The rain is forecast to get heavier. We’ll need to allow more time to get to Hargreaves Street."   The old man pulled open the door open and climbed into the car.   As he drove, Ivan glanced at him through the corner of his eye, "Sir, are you in a hurry?"   "Just visiting relatives," the old man replied without expression.   Ivan was about to continue the conversation when he noticed that the old man had leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.   Damn! How come he’s gone to sleep? He didn't even say thank you for the free ride, the ungrateful old sod!   He gave a wry smile and began to speed up in the pouring rain.   Forty-five minutes later, they arrived at Hargreaves Street. Ivan was about to ask for the address of where they were going when the old man opened his eyes and glanced outside.   “Stop here," he told Ivan.   "Sir, I'll take you to the door of your destination. The rain is really heavy now," Ivan replied kindly. "No need. Stop." The old man insisted. Ivan braked and pulled over.   The old man pushed the car door open, but before stepping outside, he looked back at Ivan and said, "Young man, your birthday is next month. There is no need to lie when you feel like doing a good deed."   Ivan was stunned, "I..."   The old man smiled and slammed the door shut, then disappeared into the rain.   Coming back down to earth, Ivan pondered over how the old man had known his birthday?   Had he mentioned it whilst he was driving?   Hearing a phone ring, Ivan automatically reached for his mobile but saw there was no call. He then noticed another phone flashing on the passenger seat.   He leaned over and picked it up. It was an old-style mobile, which had clearly seen better days.   The old man must have left it. Given his age and clothes, it did look like the sort of phone he was likely to own. It was raining heavily now and there was no one around. How could he return it to him?   Ivan checked the contacts and call records on the phone but they were empty.   He was in a dilemma. No one else would want such an antiquated mobile phone, but considering the old man's financial situation, he was sure that the old man would be distressed at having lost it. Maybe the old man would come back looking for his phone.   He lit a cigarette and decided to wait and see if the old man would return.   Two cigarettes later, the old man hadn’t come back. Ivan checked his watch. If he didn't leave soon, he might have problems getting back to the city due to the heavy rain.     Just as he was pondering what to do next, the phone rang.  

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