Chapter 25

“You’re not going to leave.”  Leon chided as Dustin re-entered the break room.  “Everyone knows it!  You threaten to quit all the time but Steve always gets you to come back.” 

Dustin hesitated then shook his head.  “No, not this time.”  He said defiantly.  “Steve needs to learn how to run this place without me.  He’s been off drugs for a while now.  He’ll do okay.” 

“He’ll do anything to keep you around.”  The mortician said setting down his sandwich and dusting off his hands.  “Heck, he’ll probably even call in the hearse as stolen.” 

Dusting shrugged.  “If he does, he does.”  He said walking over to the break room table and setting the paper work down next to the sandwich.  “I’ll bring it back of course but I’m not sticking around to do this job anymore.  I know this feeling.  It’s like being stuck in a box.  It’s time for me to leave.” 

“That’s pretty funny coming from someone who’s made a pretty good living putting people in boxes.”  Leon chuckled.

“Not anymore.” 

The mortician fixed him with a dubious stare.  “You’re not really going to leave.” 

“It’s not that hard to leave.”  Dustin argued.  “I’ve done it before.  What’s hard is disappearing entirely.”

The mortician’s head cocked in an inquisitive manner.  Just as he was about to form a question the building was hit by a hard aftershock.  The jolt knocked Dustin from his feet and sent the refrigerator skidding across the floor.  There was a loud boom.  The lights flickered throwing them into darkness.   

As the quake shuddered and subsided, silence followed.  Slowly, sounds began to creep into his ears as Dustin collected himself and helped the mortician to his feet from where the man had fallen off his chair.  He could hear shouting coming from outside.  The canaries were chirping frantically in their cage from his office down the hall.  Car alarms. 

“Are you okay?”  Dustin asked, fumbling in the darkness to try to find a way to help the portly man out of the room. 

“Yeah.”  Leon wheezed.  “I hate those things.  I’ve lived here all my life and I’ll still never get use to them.  I’ll bet the embalming room’s got bodies all over it now.” 

Dustin let him go as they pushed their way past toppled furniture towards the light coming from the front door.  He could see Steve standing inside the frame of it balling and un-balling his fist.  Beyond, the people in the parking lot were clumped together in small little groups looking scared. 

“We’re okay!”  Dustin called out to Steve.  “There was a boom; probably the generator.  I don’t smell smoke though so I guess it’s okay.” 

“Nah, its bad dude.”  Steve said as they butted their way past him out into the parking lot.  His tone was more anxious that Dustin had heard it in years.  “It’s really bad.” 

Dustin led him off the porch into a vacant corner of the parking lot.  “What’s up?”  He asked straightening and putting his hands on his hips. 

“That architect dude.”  Steve said excitedly. 

“Terry Perez?”  Dustin asked. 

“Whatever!”  Steve shrugged.  “That aftershock knocked him down into the crevice.” 

“Well get him out!”  Dustin spat with exasperation.  “Why is it so hard for you to deal with this kind of thing on your own?”

“No!”  Steve blurted, his eyes wild and looking around nervously.  “He fell down into the crevice and we can’t find him anymore!” 

“What are you talking about?”  Dustin asked.  “He fell down into the deepest part?” 

“Yes!”  Steve said.  “We called down to him but there’s no response.  Heck, when he fell there was just his screaming and it got further and further away like that dude was going down forever or something.” 

Dustin shook his head.  “It can’t be that deep!”

“Marcus went to go get a rope to lower it down.”  Steve said, trepidation lining every word.  “It was a damned ugly sound he made when he fell man.” 

Dustin walked over to where the mortician was standing and grabbed him by the shoulder.  “Can you check on all of these people and see if they are okay?”  He asked the man. 

“Sure.”  Leon said pulling away from his grip.  “Which one’s your lady friend.” 

Dustin let his hands fall to his side and regarded the mortician seriously.  “Don’t freak her out.”  He warned.  Motioning with his eyes he indicated a spot near the tent.  “She’s standing over there by herself.  Tell her that I’m still going to take care of her dad but I need to check on something first.” 

The mortician followed his gaze.  “Oh she’s a pretty one.” 

“Yes.”  Dustin said flatly.  “Seriously, just check to make sure that these people are okay and let her know I’m still going to take care of her dad.  Don’t start talking craft.  The last thing I want is you being creepy with your trade lingo, making everyone sick to their stomachs.”

“No problem.”  Leon grinned.  “I can do that.  I’ll pretend like everyone’s not going to die.  It’ll be fun!”

The End

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