It was my turn to start digging……
Bone-weary and mud-splattered, I rose from where I hunkered against the lichen-covered headstone, picked up my shovel, and headed back towards the grave. Boyston was just hoisting himself out of the hole. He shook his head towards me, wiping mud-covered hands on equally mud-covered coveralls.
A hundred yards away, secure and dry under a large tarp, stood the Client. All I could see was the dark solid of his body, servants and henchmen ringed round him like a King’s Court. Unfortunately for me, I was liking this Client less and less as the night wore on.
Truth was, we knew very little about him which, at this point, was perfectly fine. What I wanted most was to collect our money, take a hot shower, don dry clothes, and drink myself into a stupor. All right, the drinking into a stupor wasn’t likely to happen, but that’s how I felt. Cold and wet and tired and hungry and antsy as all get-out.
Stepping onto the small wooden platform hung over the open grave, I unhitched the rope that allowed me to lower myself down, stepping off once I hit bottom. Not that deep, head-high, but it was bad enough when the space was small. My boot heels thudded on wood and I looked up at my partner.
Kneeling on the lip of the grave, he cupped his hands around his cigarette, lighting it and shielding it from the rain. “My time up on the clock,” he shrugged and I knew he was laughing. “I know how equal you always like to be.”
With a snort, I turned away. How easy would it have been to scrape away the remaining mud and save me another trip to hell? But that’s one thing Boyston never did, stand in my way to hell.
It only took me about a half hour to scrape away the mug and dig a small trench around the coffin, just enough to allow the hooks of the Lift to sink into the rotting wood and hoist the coffin to the surface.
“Ready?” Boyston called and I sudden became aware of the chill that always hit me when the Client was near. Rain poured down my face and body, sliding beneath my collar, sending shivers running along my spine.
“Yeah, send’em down,” I called, never looking up. The next moment, Boyston lowered the hooks and I attached them to the box. That was all it was, right? A wood box. Whatever lay inside must have surely turned to dust long ago. Funny, how that thought didn’t comfort; how it was almost as if I could feel a hum emanating from the box beneath my boots.
“Ready,” I called roughly, stepping to the center of the box as the wrench started to lift the coffin towards the surface. It was almost as if I was rising from the dead, coming slowly out of the grave, first the touch of breeze on my hair, then my face and neck and chest and….
I stepped off the coffin onto solid ground, tossing my shovel aside. At the Client’s silent motions, Boyston and I picked up the box, me in the front and him at the back, carrying it over to a small cart. The horse stirred uneasily as if it, too, sensed the danger in the night. We shoved and heaved, finally loading the box. It was damned heavy for a load of dust and bones. Boyston and I intentionally didn’t look at each other.
One of the henchmen stepped forward, a man in his thirties looking as if he’d never shaved a day in his life. He handed me a small disk. “Your payment. Now you will fill the grave back in and disappear into your lives, saying nothing.”
“Wait a minute,” I protested, “nothing in our agreement stated we’d be filling the damn hole back in. Fill it yourself if you want it done!”
“Christ,” Boyston muttered, shifting uneasily.
The man considered a moment and then pulled out another disk, dropped it into my palm. “For your trouble,” he intoned, “and your silence.”
I snapped my hand closed and slipped both disks into my pocket. Turning silent, I grabbed my shovel and started to work.