Two rival funeral homes with the same name.
It was official – Mrs. O’Riley was missing. Nathan had been running around all morning trying to locate her but finally had to give up once he found the note. His uncle was not going to be pleased.
“Um, hey, boss,” Nathan greeted, his voice cracking. He was trying for a nonchalant tone but his nerves were frayed. “You got a sec?”
Gabriel frowned as he looked up from the paperwork covering his desk. “What now?”
“We’ve got a situation.”
Gabriel sighed. It was days like these where he regretted hiring his sister’s kid. Just last week, Nathan was convinced that one of their clients was a victim of some kind of voodoo zombie curse. The week before that it was vampires. Must be those video games he was always playing. That kid needed a good dose of reality. “Not again, Nathan. I’ve told you before – “
“No, no,” Nathan interrupted. “Not that. We’ve got a different problem.” Nathan paused before delivering the news. “Mrs. O’Riley is missing.”
“Missing?” Gabriel frowned. “Nathan, she’s dead. It’s not like she could get up and walk away.”
“I know. But she’s not here. I’ve looked everywhere – the embalming room, the viewing rooms, the casket room, and even the hearse. But she’s gone - casket and everything. Just gone.”
Gabriel frowned. “Are you sure?”
Nathan nodded and pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket. “I found this.”
Gabriel’s frown deepened as he read the note.
Mrs. O’Riley intended to be our customer and we have the paperwork on file to prove it. We are simply acting upon her wishes. Her family has already been alerted to the change of address for tonight’s service.
He crumpled the note in his fist. “Damnit!” He pounded his fist on the desk. “This has gone too far! Grab your coat, Nate. We’re going over there.”
Julian cringed as Gabriel’s voice boomed from the hallway. “I’m very sorry, Mrs. Miller. May I call you back?” He hung up the phone and plastered a pleasant smile on his face as his cousin burst into the office. “Gabriel,” he said, inclining his head. “What brings you here?”
Gabriel threw the crumpled note onto Julian’s desk. “What’s the meaning of this?”
Julian took his time smoothing the paper before reading the note. “Why, it’s just as it says. We were merely getting our customer back.”
“She was our client, Julian. She was already in the casket, for Christ’s sake!”
“And we do thank you for helping us prepare for tonight’s wake. Though you did a terrible job with the makeup.”
“We hadn’t done the makeup yet.”
“Ah, well, it’s hard to tell. You always did such a mediocre job. It’s a miracle that Uncle Jack left you the business in the first place.”
“Is that what this is about? Uncle Jack?” Gabriel shook his head and began pacing the length of the small office. “I had nothing to do with Uncle Jack’s decision – he left the business to me fair and square. But that doesn’t give you right to steal my clients – quite literally, might I add.”
“She was supposed to be our client, Gabriel. She had made all of her arrangements with us. Unfortunately, her family could not locate our funeral home since the sign had been removed . . .” Julian’s voice trailed off and he held out his hands, indicating that he had nothing more to add to the conversation.
“I told you, Julian – change your name. There’s no reason to have two Sullivan Funeral Homes in the same town, let alone on the same street!”
“So you stole our sign?”
“Don’t change the subject! You stole our client!”
“I did no such thing. I was merely responding to her wishes to use our service.”
“We handled her husband’s services three years ago – it was us that she wanted.”
“Be that as it may, she made her arrangements through us.”
“There’s a better way to solve this,” Nathan said from the doorway.
Gabriel and Julian turned to glare at him. “And what, do you suppose, might that be?” Gabriel demanded.
“A dance off.”