Chapter 22

One of the things that every funeral home and cemetery did was to make a list of all items that were buried on a body.  It was part of their standard record keeping along with the caskets location in the graveyard.  Some went as far as to include a picture of the corpse in the file but Steve’s father hadn’t engaged in that practice and Dustin hadn’t felt the need to start doing so once he’d taken over operations. 

The lists were in case any claims were ever to be made regarding the possessions that a person was buried with.  It was a lot easier to confirm any important heirlooms that came up missing should they be interred with the deceased.  The alternative of digging them up again in order to find out was too disturbing to contemplate so they used a file instead.

Now that Dustin was walking through the cemetery headed back towards the crack he reviewed the short list of things that Miss Kennedy’s father had worn to the grave.  They were the usual items.  A gold colored Seiko wristwatch, an Army tie clip and his wedding ring which was lined with four diamonds across the band.

He intended to use the list to make a positive identification of the man’s corpse.  He could have easily asked the woman to come along with him and point out the spot where her father sat upon the hill but that seemed too cruel.  She’d been adamant that she didn’t want to have to see any trace of him and since Dustin understood what she was feeling, he chose to spare her the ordeal.

He didn’t know why, but something about the woman made his desire to help her almost impossible to hold back.  True, she was very attractive but Dustin had no problem with being chaste.  Part of his monkish existence since moving to the Bay area had been to avoid any kind of affair.  They were complicated and tended to make a persons life overly cluttered.  Dustin had been in love before and the experience hadn’t suited him.

It was more likely that the reason that Dustin felt such a strong need to put an end to her problems was because he knew very well what it was like to want something to just go away.  The way that the woman had told him that she’d wanted her father’s body to just disappear had struck something in him.  It was his job to make these dead people disappear.  Some days he wondered why he’d ever lost sight of his own quest to just disappear.   The act of vanishing and burying people’s losses seemed to be a tidy solution to almost all of life’s problems.

As Dustin came upon the hill he could see that Marcus and Steve were still standing at the edge of the crack watching the architect and his mother below.  Steve glanced up noticing him.  He didn’t say anything.

Dustin approached them looking down at the man in the hole.  He was no longer stroking his mother’s hair or engaged with her corpse in any way.  Instead, he sat at the edge of where the fissure dropped down completely.  His feet dangled on the ledge as he looked down into the darkness below him.

“Is he okay?”  Dustin asked pointing towards where Mr. Perez was sitting.

“He’s fine.”  Steve said casually. 

“He’s a stupid idiot!”  Marcus barked glaring at the man in the hole.

Dustin watched him for a little while.  “Is he going to come out?”  He asked finally.

Steve spread his hand, making a gesture that either indicated that he didn’t know or didn’t care.

“Look I’m sorry about what I said earlier.”  Dustin called across to him.  “It’s crazy today.  I don’t know what’s up with me.   Maybe I need to take some of Mr. Perez’s Valium or something.”

Steve laughed.  “Too late buddy.”  He smiled.  “The dude chunked it and about four other bottles of medication down into the crack about ten minutes after you left.”

Dustin shrugged.  “I guess I’ll manage.”

“Maybe when we’re through today I’ll finally get you stoned.”  Steve joked.  “Might loosen you up man?  Might help to get that stick out of your ass?”

“I don’t know about that.”  Dustin quipped.  “Actually, I’m probably going to be headed out pretty soon.  I need to get a body loaded up into one of the hearses before I leave though.  I’m just coming out this way to make sure that I tell Juan to pull the right one.”

Steve’s brows went cross.  “You’re leaving?”  He asked sounding totally shocked.  “What about them people that you’ve got waiting to meet with you?”

“I’ll reschedule.”  Dustin said.  “I need to take care of something first.”

“What?”  Steve asked visibly annoyed.

“I’ve got to get one of these corpses out to that offsite crematorium that we used to use.”  Dustin answered.  “There’s a lady here who needs to get her father’s remains taken care of today.  She wants them gotten rid of.”

“You can’t leave!”  Steve protested.  “These dudes showed up this morning right after a big damned earthquake.  They’re not going to reschedule.  They want answers now man.”

Dustin shrugged.  “Then you take care of them.”  He said.  “It’s your funeral home.  I’m going to fix this ladies problem.  She says that she’s not leaving until she gets it resolved so I’m going to resolve it for her.”

Steve shook his head.  “Man!”  He whined.  “People is just weird man!  This dude won’t come out of the grave and she’s going to hang out in this depressing place until she gets what she wants?  I don’t get it!  Why do these people show up here?  Why won’t they just leave?”

“Because they’ve buried something out here that’s important to them Steve!”  Dustin replied his voice rising with the frustration that he felt at having to explain it all.  “They’ve trusted us to keep it hidden from them and now here it is out in the open again for everyone to see!”  Spreading his arms around the crack Dustin looked up and down the expanse of the tarp covering much of the hole as if to emphasis the bodies that lay beneath it lining its edges.

“I’m not going to let you leave until you’ve spoken with every single one of them people!”  Steve barked across to him.  “I’ll fire your ass if you do.”

“Fine!”  Dustin spat back.  “Give me ten minutes to find this girls father and then I’ll talk to every single one of them.”

Steve nodded.  “You’re the best!”  He called after him as Dustin stomped off.

Once he’d reached the top, it didn’t take Dustin long to find the body of Mr. Kennedy.  There was only one male corpse in the area that he’d been buried in which had been exposed by the quake.  It was wearing a gold Seiko, an army tie-clip, and a wedding ring lined with diamonds.

Mr. Kennedy lay face up in the dirt having spilled from his coffin when the crack had opened up over his grave.  His face had turned slightly leathery from dehydration over the years but Dustin could tell by looking at him that the man had been about his same age when he’d passed away.  Next to the body sat his tombstone, having itself fallen into the crevice.  On it, a ceramic photo of a kitten hanging onto a branch had been cemented to the granite.  It said:  “Hang in there.” 

The End

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