“Was that a knock?”
“…Nothing.” It must have been Morrie’s imagination. After all, they watched the poor sod hang, his body swinging in the air for all the town to see. He wiped his brow and continued digging with his brother, Keith.
After they finished the hole they dragged the coffin from the back of the wagon and shoved it into the earth. As they proceeded to shovel the dirt onto the coffin, Morrie heard it again, and, this time, so did his brother.
“But we watched him hang.”
The knocking became more rapid. The two brothers stood above the hole, unable to process what they were hearing. Until finally:
“Um, hello? Can someone–I believe I heard voices unless my hearing is finally going. Oh, what a dastardly fate!” The voice was muffled behind the wood, but it was clear.
Morrie stepped down into the hole and onto the coffin. “What are you doing?” Keith asked.
“The man is clearly alive!”
“Right, but…he’s supposed to be dead, ain’t he? So why not just…”
Morrie stopped and looked up at his brother, considering for a moment. Then he said, “No. That isn’t proper. He needs to be hanged again.”
Keith sighed as Morrie pried open the coffin with his crowbar. After a few snaps the lid was released, revealing a well-dressed man squeezed into the box, his hand blocking his eyes from the sudden gaze of the sun.
“Oh my. Thank you good sir. I wasn’t sure how long that nonsense was going to last.”
Morrie pulled the man up. The man grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped himself. “I can’t say that was the most fulfilling sleep I’ve had. Ah, good day sir!” He waved to Keith above. Keith didn’t wave back.
“Now, thank you kind sirs for heeding my call. But I must depart. I have unimportant matters to intend to. Good–” The man clawed himself out of the hole, and as he was about to leave Keith placed a hand on his chest.
“Ain’t gonna let you do that? You killed a woman. There’s justice that has to be done.”
“Ah. Yes. ‘Justice’ as you call it. Right. Right. Well, as I insisted during what one could hardly consider a ‘fair trial’ I am not one to partake in such murderous activities. It is simply not in my character. In fact, I could hardly smother a fly without asking its name first.”
Morrie climbed out of the hole. The two brothers surrounded the Englishman, and the Englishman sensed this.
“And besides. Justice had already been met out. I was, unless I am mistaken, hanged.”
“And die. You died as well,” Keith said coldly.
The Englishman smiled and nodded. “Ah. I guess I had neglected that last part. However, it would be wise to consider that it is not in my interests, nor in yours, to–”
“Justice. That’s all that matters here. You killed a woman. And I don’t care if we have to watch you hang three or four more times. You will pay for taking her life.”
“Hm.” The Englishman rubbed his chin.
“Now,” Keith revealed the gun in his holster. “You’re either comin’ with us, or, we toss you back in that box. What do you say?”
“May I propose a third option? I’m a man of great wealth. Now, I do not wish to besmirch the occupation of gravedigging, but–”
“How much?” Keith sharply asked.
“Make it $1,000.”
“Hm. Hmmmm.” The man rubbed his chin. He then looked back at Morrie who gripped his shovel tightly. Then his eyes fell back on Keith. “I’m not one to bargain or negotiate, especially with two fine and experienced businessmen such as yourselves. But I believe $500 is a sufficient price to–”
SMACK! Keith smacked the Englishman with the butt of his pistol and watched as he collapsed onto the muddy ground. He grabbed his ankles and started dragging him back to the hole.
“Wait. WAIT!” The man yelled. Keith stopped and flipped the man over. “I believe we can make an arrangement.”
“Ah. So much for justice. Fine. I will have to sort through my finances, but I believe this is not an unrealistic demand.”
“Sort away.” Keith pulled him back up to his feet. But as soon as he did this the Englishman charged toward the other side of the hole and clutched the shovel on the ground. Keith started firing his gun into the man’s back, but the man hardly winced. He twisted back to Keith and bashed him upside the head with the shovel. Keith fell into the open coffin.
Morrie had watched all of this unfold before his eyes, but could hardly believe it. “You…You are the Devil…”
The Englishman’s eyes darted toward Morrie almost as if he had forgotten he was there. “No. Just English.” He smiled and dropped the shovel onto Keith’s body. The Englishman wiped his jacket off and his brow. “I was never one to engage in dirty work.”
Morrie crouched down and peered over the edge of the hole and started to weep. Keith’s eyes were wide open, but all life had faded from them. Blood oozed from the side of his head.
The Englishman noticed Morrie’s display. “You know,” he said, “any man can be a good friend if you try hard enough. I would wager that there are plenty of fine fellows out there willing to dig graves by your side.”
“He was my brother…”
“Ah. Those are a little bit harder to replace. Well…at least you don’t have to dig another grave tonight. Good day.” And the Englishman strolled out of the cemetery at a leisurely pace.
Written for First Line Friday.