Standing over the body of the old man, Dustin signed whatever paperwork was handed in his direction by the EMT’s. He gave them his name, his address and his phone number in case the police needed to contact him. When they were finished he briskly left the room and all of the corpses that it contained. As he headed back out into the light of parking lot, the ambulances were already pulling away. From the passenger window of one of them Donaldson called out, “See you later killer!” letting out a maniacal cackle as they sped down the road and past the huge angel sculpture.
Dustin shook his head wearily as he came around to the table and reclaimed his chair. “I’m sorry Miss Kennedy.” He said picking up her father’s paperwork once again. “You were saying that you wanted to schedule a cremation right?”
“I don’t want to schedule one.” The woman said. Leaning back she crossed her legs fixing her eyes on him with a piercing stare. “I want one done right now.”
Dustin smiled nervously. “I’m deeply sorry but I’m afraid that I can’t facilitate that right now.” He apologized. “You see, our crematorium was damaged during the earthquake and we have to make repairs to the pipes before it can be operated again. I could contact you once they’re finished and we could maybe schedule a time to do it then but performing a cremation today would be impossible.”
Kennedy shook her head. “No.” She replied. “I’m not leaving here until my father has been taken care of. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have to drive to work everyday and pass by this place knowing that he’s in here?”
Dustin indeed had a notion of what that must be like. He came to work everyday surrounded by ghost. When he left, they were with him still. He’d buried his own share of corpses before moving to California. Somehow they had a way of always haunting him. No amount of inspirational sayings on plaques or twelve-step meetings could completely quell their voices.
Folding the file closed Dustin turned to his laptop. “We once used to contract out all of our cremations.” He said as he distractedly used the mouse to pull up his saved list of contacts. “I could call out to the firm that we had handle them before we built our own set of ovens. Maybe they can expedite your request.”
“Can they burn him today?” The woman asked.
“I doubt it.” Dustin said shaking his head. “Unfortunately a lot of paperwork needs to be processed before we can do these sorts of things and I’m sure that they have their own set of issues that they’re dealing with. I have no way of knowing it for sure but I would assume that, that little rumble that we had this morning has probably messed things up for them as well.”
“Then that plan’s no use to me.” Miss Kennedy replied defiantly. “I don’t think that you really understand what I’m telling you. I can’t say it any simpler than this: I’m not leaving here so long as I know that he’s still around.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Dustin smiled reaching into his pants to take his cell phone from his pocket. As the woman sat across from him frowning he dialed the number for the company which ran the outside crematorium. There was no answer. “I’m sorry.” He said after a moment, hanging up and setting the phone down next to his laptop.
“They weren’t there?” She asked.
“No one picked up.” Dustin explained. “They’re probably short staffed or busy or some sort of a combination of the two.”
“Then build a bonfire.” The woman said. “I don’t care what you have to do I’m not going to go through another day knowing that he’s in here. I want his coffin trashed, his tombstone destroyed and his body burned.”
“Why?” Dustin asked boldly. “Why are you so set on getting this done today?”
The woman gave a deep sigh. “Look,” She replied very slowly. “I was ten years old when my father died. I barely remember him at all and I’d like to keep it that way if I can. Every time that I pass by this place I’m forced to think of that man and seeing his body up there looking down at me this morning just put me in a terrible mood. I’m ready to do whatever I have to in order to make him disappear right now. I don’t care what it takes. I’m not leaving here until I know that he’s gone forever.”
Dustin thought about what she had said for a moment. “If he just disappears then you think that you’ll feel better?” He asked.
The woman uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “The way I see it is that it won’t make me feel any worse.” She said putting her elbows on her knees and cupping her hands together. “Right now it’s like he’s gone but still always around. Almost everywhere that you go in this city you can see the top of that hillside. I can see his damned grave from the coffee shop where I work over there in the old bank building. I don’t want to have to go about my life with him looking down on me all the time. The man died and left me and my mom behind a long, long time ago but still, he’s always there you know?”
“So you want him to disappear?” Dustin asked again.
“Hell yes!” The woman spat leaning back with exasperation. “Am I not making myself clear?”
Dustin looked down at his computer screen once more mulling over what she had said. The address for the crematorium reflected back at him. Their offices were just outside of town, towards the coast. “Give me a second.” He said getting up and taking her father’s file with him.