Sinister Thing Rough Draft

Writing pantser style means the scenes/pieces of the story are written on the fly.  These posted in order to their place in the story, but numbered based on when they were originally posted.  This is the completed rough draft.



Being called in this late at night was not a problem. She didn’t mind going in to work last minute.  They may have wanted to think that one over before hiring her.  She didn’t change, just grabbed her keys and left.  Keeping everything needed in the trunk, was easier that way.
When she arrived on that blue moon, there was a black cat in the parking lot. She noticed it as she pulled in.  Parking the farthest from the building, in the darkest spot, she was not afraid. The cat didn’t notice her, not even when the engine shut off.
The trunk was popped from inside, the driver’s door opened. She glanced over. The cat sleek and black, didn’t notice.  Heels hit the pavement, click, click. The cat noticed.  She stopped and watched in mid movement, while the cat’s ears perked up, and the hair along its back began to rise in slow motion. The formerly seated cat stood up, then crouched ready to spring.  She walked around to the back, hidden by the trunk lid.  A smile crept across her face, ‘The cat won’t move until it knows where I am going to walk,’  She thought.
She took her time removing the gear. Making sure she had everything she would need.  Putting her hand on the edge of the lid above her head, the glossy painted nails and jewels catching the light as she drummed them on the metal . . . making time. Then suddenly the lid slammed down. The cat hadn’t moved.
‘We stared at each other. The cat and I. I looked towards the employee entrance, and debated. Should I go out of my way to walk into the cat’s path, or should I walk straight ahead to work?  I checked my watch.  It was a couple of minutes to midnight. Straight.’ She would later recall.
‘I chose at the last second to walk farther around my parking spot, as if to head toward the cat. It took a few steps back.  Then sat. Brave. I walked straight to my destination, until I was parallel with the cat on my right. I stopped. Turned my head. The cat stood back up. I bent at the waist, leaning towards the minion, and hissed. The cat sprang and ran away never looking back. I know, I watched.‘  She would continue to report about that night.
Laughter echoed in the night air off the building and mostly vacant lot.
She checked her watch.  Clocking in right on time.


As she nears the building a shiny black hearse pulled up, stopping in a “No Parking” zone by the entrance like it owned it. It does she thought, realizing that was the only vehicle she has ever seen parked there. Approaching the building, she heard the click of the driver door, saw it swing open revealing the driver. It made her smile. The man unfolded his tall frame and stood straight.
“Hello Sam!” came the rolling thundered greeting and returned smile. ” Ready to go to work?”
“Ready as always.”
The man walked to the back and opened the door, walking it with his long strides to stand fully open. Sam stepped in slinging the bag straps over her shoulder and pulled the gurney out, dropping the legs to the ground. The man waited until she had the gurney out of the way of the door, then walked forward and shut the door securely. An action he has now completed for 17 years. He clicks the hearse lock with the key fob, Sam places the bag on the gurney. They glide the gurney up the ramp and through the twist and turn maze of halls. The two move as if apart of the wheeled bed, near silent, to stop smoothly at the nurses station.
It hadn’t taken Sam long to fit in, awkward though it had been at first. She had now worked or assisted in almost all jobs at the home. The greatest compliment is for no one to notice them, not realizing they are there doing their job. Quiet, smooth, it could be considered an elegant dance. As TJ had told her on the first shift she worked, this job was a privilege. They were taking care of someone’s loved one, loss is heard enough on the soul, we don’t want to wear on the raw nerves of the loved ones left behind. TJ had a way of shortening his stride and bending to accommodate his coworkers to make the movements seem so smooth and crisp. She couldn’t remember when she went from feeling awkward with the movements and when it had become rote and polished. It had been a long time since Sam’s thoughts were conscious about this job. She wondered why tonight. A question that would persist.
TJ stepped up to the counter at the nurse’s station, a nurse sat across from the counter with her back to them. She moved little scraps of paper around transferring the scribbles on them to the computer. She appeared to be talking to herself.
“Excuse me?” TJ’s deep voice softened to a loud whisper, the nurse visibly jumped. A second later around the corner behind the nurse came a male in scrubs.
“Hey, TJ. Your rider is in room 130. Hang on a minute and I’ll go down with you. I am not sure the patient is ready to go yet.”
Sam and TJ glanced at each other quick and with no sign of reaction. It wasn’t unusual to wait for the nurses to complete the release details, especially when they were busy. It was odd, however, for this nurse. He was the supervisor here and was known for his diligence and detail.


Alma sat quietly tears running down her cheeks as TJ and Sam entered the room. On either side of her chair were her two son’s kneeling. Holding her hands, rubbing her back. trying the best they could to comfort their mother, not ready to face the reality of their own loss.
Looking up to see the two enter solemnly, Alma smiled. She took a sharp breath.
“Well, Harlan will be in good hands I see. I suppose you would like for us to leave?”
“Well, now, Miss Alma, we are going to do this however you want.”
TJ shut the door and nodded to Sam. They weren’t in any hurry to rush this. Harlan had been mayor for many years before he retired to just preaching. His last term, when he announced he was not seeking re-election there was a disappointment. Harlan had made a decision that saving souls were more important than running a town. Though people still went to him for advice, politically, dealing with the local government and spiritually. That had always been, but now it would no longer.
Alma and Harlan had decided when his first diagnosis of cancer to keep that to themselves. His last term had just begun. The reaction created by his diagnosis would have stirred up an already tumultuous time for city government. Harlan knew then that he would no longer remain in politics. In his eyes, while the decision was a personal one, and the right thing to do, it was morally a lie of omission.
The treatments had been hard on both of them, Alma recalled, looking at the lifeless body of the man she had been a partner to for sixty years. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t considered losing him. First the cancer, then the treatments that weakened him. Leaving office had lifted his spirits and health back. Last year, the cancer came back. They had done this before, and truth be told, it was both easier and harder than the first. The first time no one other than the doctors and themselves knew locally. So they had help they hadn’t at first, which was good.
The bad was the looks and the voices. They hadn’t had to listen to so many stories about how this or that had happened to this person or that person. The stories got on Alma’s nerves. She knew it wasn’t how people expected her to be. Alma, a sweet woman all her life, found that this time, she got mean. Ugly even.
How dare this cancer come threaten her life again. Torment her heart, make her watch as it destroyed the man she loved so much. It was not fair. Now it had won.


“TJ, I think I want to go home. I know you and Sam will take good care of my Harlan. I want to go home, I would rather he be going home with me. He’s not is he?”
TJ walked over and knelt down in front of Alma. Neither of her grown boys had moved, other than to release her hands as TJ knelt. TJ took her hands into his.
“Miss Alma, can we pray?”
Alma could only nod her head. One more prayer wasn’t going to hurt. She didn’t believe it would help anymore. She had prayed herself out. But the last person she had said that too was shocked and tried to convince her otherwise. She realized it didn’t matter what she thought, others really felt they needed it. So she had stop saying her own and just listened when others prayed.
“Lord, you have placed a mighty burden on a good woman. Not just to day, but for the last four years. I do not believe that she done anything warranting such a punishment. You may not have your hand in this, as some say. I don’t know about that. I do know she is hurting. There are gonna be a lot of people hurting over this. This two men here have lost their Daddy. The man they went to for advice. This family now has a hole, a big hole. Lord, fill it. Fill that hole. Console them as only you can. Please somehow, ease them through this change of life. You know their need better than me, probably better than them. Help them with that. I trust in you God, Amen”
Alma watched the top of TJ’s head move, shake. His face expressing his will, eyes closed. He meant what he was saying. Almost detached mind, heart, and body, Alma watched, heard, and reacted to this heart felt prayer. This was going to be the first of many prayers she fears like this. She couldn’t live up to them. She didn’t know if she could hold her tongue anymore. Harlan had kept her in check. HE let her rant privately, rant until she’d dried up. He knew how judgmental she was deep down. The only other person in the world that knew her heart was gone. She had no one to be is all with. So many people expected the quiet, angelic Alma who was always by Harlan’s side. Now, she had to be perfect all the time.


**** Note-  This is being published here in the order that I write it, my notes and all.  Not as it would appear were it a completed book.  This is the practice copy in progress.  I had to debate this point.  But my blog is about working towards goals.  I haven’t found anything like a work in progress for a story, but if anyone knows of one, please share a link or title with me please. Thanks!  Oh, and I am editing to some extent, spelling, grammar and some wording, please remember you are only seeing first draft posts of practice writing of a darker than I normally write story.  Again, THANKS!*****
(NEED TO WRITE – Scene in the room, leaving the building, placing body in the heast, TJ going in for coffee)
Scene – after they have placed body in Hearst TJ goes back in after checking the back gate is locked to get coffee, having said their  ‘see ya/goodbyes’….
Half way across the lot to her vehicle, Sam hears a noise.  Stopping, she slowly turns around in a circle looking near and far for the source.  She focuses for a second on the hearst.  Seeing nothing amiss, she pauses waiting  to hear another noise, instead she felt a light breeze of wind upon her bare face.  Thinking it was the wind rustling a leave or branch she continues walking toward her vehicle.  Unable to shake the feeling something else was there, she checked around her vehicle.  She took one more look around about  twenty feet out from the car, and clicked her doors unlocked so the interior light would come on.  She didn’t take the empty bag to the trunk as she normally did, instead she tossed it across to the passenger seat, sitting down in one swift motion, locking the door from the key ring still in her right hand, she shivered a little as she looked around her.  After checking the mirrors.   She looked straight at the entrance she had just left, and the shiny black vehicle parked in front of it.   TJ locked it, she would later recall thinking.  Sam started her vehicle and decided at the last moment while putting the car in gear to take one drive by the hearst just for her own reassurance.   Nothing had felt right since they walked in that building.
Just as Sam reached the hearst TJ came out, he waved.  She pulled up along side, leaving room for TJ to open his door.
“Hey, girl, didn’t get no coffee. Can you pick some up with the food?:
“Sure, no problem.  You be careful on the drive back ok?”
TJ nodded his head, “You be careful with my chocolate pie on the way to the home.”
“Will do, in a few.”
Waving each other off, Sam waited until TJ was in the vehicle and motioning for her to get going before she drove off.  The big black hearst following her little car out of the lot.  At the first corner she turned left and he right.
Back at the entrance they had just left the second hearst pulled up in front of the entrance.


T.J. walked back up the ramp, into the building.  He couldn’t shake the feeling from his mind, ‘Something is wrong with those people’.
Almost to the cafeteria, he heard voices coming from a hall or two ahead of him.  He stopped in mid-step. The woman’s voice was familiar. “Shit”
T.J. turned down a hall leading away from the cafeteria and walked down a bit.  He said a silent prayer and looked heaven ward before looking up in the mirror at the corner, he saw the woman from earlier,  two large men and one short scrawny man walking with her.  She was still carrying on as T.J. remembered, the men all trying to hush and calm her.
“Margaret, you can not make a scene.”
“I am not making a scene, everyone else is. Fouling things up. That’s making a scene.”
“Marg, if you would just be quiet, stay calm, we had planned contingencies.  Just let the experts do their job.”
“And what if they don’t! ”
They turned a corner down another hall, the one T.J. had been planning on taking himself.  “Like, hell,  we can get coffee from the diner.”
T.J. retraced his steps.  He didn’t know what those people were up to, but he wanted no part of it. Something was just not right with them.  He spoke under his breath to himself.  At the exit to the building T.J. paused, said another heavenly directed prayer, and took a deep breath and left the building.  His attempt to leave the dust from something wrong behind him.


**** Note-  This is being published here in the order that I write it, my notes and all.  Not as it would appear were it a completed book.  This is the practice copy in progress.  I had to debate this point.  But my blog

is about working towards goals.  I haven’t found anything like a work in progress for a story, but if anyone knows of one, please share a link or title with me please. Thanks!  Oh, and I am editing to some extent, spelling, grammar and some wording, please remember you are only seeing first draft posts of practice writing of a darker than I normally write story.  Again, THANKS!*****
(NEED TO WRITE – Scene in the room, leaving the building, placing body in the heast, TJ going in for coffee)
Scene – after they have placed body in Hearst TJ goes back in after checking the back gate is locked to get coffee, having said their  ‘see ya/goodbyes’….
Half way across the lot to her vehicle, Sam hears a noise.  Stopping, she slowly turns around in a circle looking near and far for the source.  She focuses for a second on the hearst.  Seeing nothing amiss, she pauses waiting  to hear another noise, instead she felt a light breeze of wind upon her bare face.  Thinking it was the wind rustling a leave or branch she continues walking toward her vehicle.  Unable to shake the feeling something else was there, she checked around her vehicle.  She took one more look around about  twenty feet out from the car, and clicked her doors unlocked so the interior light would come on.  She didn’t take the empty bag to the trunk as she normally did, instead she tossed it across to the passenger seat, sitting down in one swift motion, locking the door from the key ring still in her right hand, she shivered a little as she looked around her.  After checking the mirrors.   She looked straight at the entrance she had just left, and the shiny black vehicle parked in front of it.   TJ locked it, she would later recall thinking.  Sam started her vehicle and decided at the last moment while putting the car in gear to take one drive by the hearst just for her own reassurance.   Nothing had felt right since they walked in that building.
Just as Sam reached the hearst TJ came out, he waved.  She pulled up along side, leaving room for TJ to open his door.
“Hey, girl, didn’t get no coffee. Can you pick some up with the food?:
“Sure, no problem.  You be careful on the drive back ok?”
TJ nodded his head, “You be careful with my chocolate pie on the way to the home.”
“Will do, in a few.”
Waving each other off, Sam waited until TJ was in the vehicle and motioning for her to get going before she drove off.  The big black hearst following her little car out of the lot.  At the first corner she turned left and he right.
Back at the entrance they had just left the second hearst pulled up in front of the entrance.


Sam reached down to turn on the stereo, her hand stopped mid air, held in place. Soft word breathed across her ear.
“I am not there. Sam, take care of Michie for me.”
The words repeated fading out to no sound at all. The hair on Sam’s neck stood up, and a shiver went down her spine. The voice was familiar. It was Harlan’s. She stopped the car.
Sam’s own voice startled her more than Harlan’s had. Shaking her head, to clear it, she checked her rear view mirror and no longer saw the lights of the hearst. She need to get going. She couldn’t sit here forever. Sam finished reaching for the stereo, turned it on, and released the break.
Not the time, nor the place, I will think about this later she told herself over the thumping rock beat through the speakers drowning out the quiet of the night. She switched the station to blues, then turned it off. Quiet was better.


In the spirit of the exercise, pushing outside my comfort zone of writing, this is/was a series of posts. A first draft if you will. In doing so there is back story information that is being made up as the story unfolds in my imagination. Not every word written nor piece of information I, the writer, formulate in my mind needs to be made known to the reader but this series, isn’t for a reader. This blog is about me developing my skills as a writer. Therefore, I am sharing all in this rough, first draft. Some may or may not make it into the story a second or final drafts, if there are any. Including my debates on whether or not this or that stays as part of the story or not.
Why? Because if I could look over another writer’s shoulder as they began their body of work, this is something I would have love to be able to do. Even as a reader, I would love to be able to read the thoughts of my favorite writers as they wrote, and not just the story.
So here goes the whole thing, kitchen sink and all.
I need to research the funeral home side of pick of bodies at facilities, proper vehicle, and then research the plausibility of a body being removed, from a lock vehicle.
The body picked up by Sam and TJ will be stolen. In the lot before they ever leave the parking lot. The why had been eluding me, then I woke up one morning during the Christmas season with this idea-
The family in the room down the hall, they are dealing with a death also. They feared that Sam and TJ were picking up their deceased, and this would not do. They had called ‘their own people’. This woman in the hall that unnerved TJ, is the daughter of the other deceased person.
TJ left the parking lot, driving somewhat distractedly to the funeral home. Pulling up in to the (loading/unloading- terminology) area, he pulled forward, as if to back in. Looking for the first time since TJ got in the vehicle in the rear mirror to check the body’s position from the wide sweep and assure himself that all was well before backing up into the now open bay/covered awning. He saw no body. He put the vehicle in park and turned his whole body to the right, slowly, eyes wide in disbelief. His head turning first, looking over his shoulder, seeing only the floorboard, turned shoulders and down to his waist, using his hands on the wheel, gripping tightly to wedge/will his upper body to turn and remain still.
Breath, Tj told himself. What is today? IT is Friday. Friday the tenth, not the thirteenth. He was on duty and he just came from a pick up. He turned back to sit facing forward. his watch on his left hand just barely perceivable under his jacket sleeve. Arching his wrist without taking his hands off the solid steering wheel, which was his grasp to reality at the moment. He checked the time piece. The face of the clock showing quarter til 2 the date the 10th, day, Friday. He was not losing his grip with reality.
Breathing in and out. He pulled his right hand from the steering wheel, reaching down to the cell phone clipped to his belt. Raising to rest his hand on the center of the steering wheel, he hit the button, lighting up the phone’s screen. Friday 10th, 1:46 AM flashed brightly. He hit the button again, and the screen of options popped up. Hitting the call button and seeing the keypad blaze in the dark. TJ dialed 911. As the phone began to ring, his thought his mind stopped. What the hell was he going to say?


What if…
The first body was stolen? Not just disappeared. The second family experiencing loss that night was one that had issues.  The almost-deceased’s daughter was angry with the choices of the parent dying. Let’s toy with the idea that she was the right hand. Having tried to please, and saw that her reward was not what she expected. She was passed over. Did she wait until death to steal the body as leverage to get what she wanted or did she abduct the parent prior to death to convince said parent to change their mind? Assuming the parent is a father.
The woman first met in the story, what if she is the illegitimate daughter of the woman above? Given away after birth to a very distant family member to be raised, and didn’t learn of her bio mom until after her beloved parent’s death.
The body is stolen, the wrong body, what becomes of it. Is there a contingency plan. Who is the mastermind behind the theft. What is his relationship to the distraught woman? Is there a relationship or potential relationship to Sam?
These are the possible backstory that is tumbling around in my brain.
Does Sam get arrested for the theft of the body?
IS this going to play out in a surreal fantasy atmosphere or will it become realistic and factual?  Or is this really just backstory that the reader may or may not know in order for me, the writer, to understand the motivation of the characters?


“This is 911, what is your emergency?”
The phone on the other end of the phone stabbed a point of reality into TJ’s panic. He turned to check once more behind him. From the light shining in and reflecting off the clipboard laying on the seat to his right, he saw the signed and dated pick up papers for the body that was no longer in his possession.
“This is TJ Smith, I work at Johnson Funeral Home.  I just picked up a body, but the body is now missing.”
“Excuse me, TJ?”
“Yes, m’am, T.J. Smith.”
“TJ, where are you right now?”
“M’am I am at Johnson Funeral Home.  The address is 2955 Saratoga Street.”
“Ok, TJ, just a moment.”
TJ waited, taking a deep breath.  The dispatcher called for a call to meet a Mr. TJ Smith about a missing body at the Johnson Funeral Home.  The patrol car was sent on it’s way.  The conversations this call began spread across the county.  Hours from now it would be talked about across the state, by the end of the day, it was going to be national news.
The effects of truth and gossip would be felt for years later. The reaches of the events this night had begun, but were far from over.  It could be compared to a midwest twister, all the conditions are right, but you never really know where it will touch down, for how long, or who will be in the path.
“TJ is fine m’am.”
“TJ we have a car on the way to you. Are you ok?”
“Yes, m’am, I am fine.”
“I am going to stay on the line with you until they get there, ok?”
“Yes.  I hear the sirens now. They aren’t far.”
“Ok, that’s good.  Are you alone?”
“Yes, m’am.  I am. I see the car now. They are parked in front of me.”
“Ok, the officer wants you to get out of the car now.”
“M’am I am afraid to touch anything.  They stole the body out of the car. I didn’t notice it until I turned to back in to unload the body.  Someone had to have stole it when I went back into get coffee. That is the only time it was alone, but it wasn’t really alone.”
“Ok, Sir, just hold on.”
TJ saw the officer get out of the car.  He didn’t register that the officer was Paul Collins.  The chief of police until Collins was at his window pointing down, trying to get him to roll the window down.  Then held a finger up and pulled out his phone.
Tj’s phone rang, looking at the incoming call screen, ‘PAUL’ flashed and he had the option of putting 911 on hold and answering or ignoring.  TJ held the phone up and spoke to the 911 operator.
“M’am, Chief is calling me, I am hanging up on you right not.  I am sorry, but I need to go.”
“That is fine TJ.”  The operator was Betty, he realized after she’d hung up.  Betty sat next to TJ’s wife in the church choir.  The phone rang again, this time TJ answered.
“Paul, I picked up a body tonight at the hospital.  We put it in the back and I went to get coffee.  Sam was on call, she drove her car.  She was walking across the parking lot to it.  The car wasn’t left alone alone.  But I got in and Sam went to pick up breakfast at the diner.  I drove here, and  SAM!  Paul Sam’s not here yet!”
“Ok, just calm down TJ.  Sam is fine.  She is at the diner.  A couple of officers were eating at the diner when the call came across.  They stopped Sam.  They didn’t know what was going on, and wanted to make sure she was ok.”
“Oh, Thank you, Jesus!”


Sam pulled into the diner’s parking lot, parked next to the state and county cars that were backed in opposite the lot’s entrance.  Still feeling the uneasiness from the hospital, it made her feel a little more secure. The officers were getting out of their vehicles stopping to eat on their dinner break. She walked in with them, nice guys she has known since she started working for the funeral home.
Making small talk as they walked in, they parted at the counter, Sam staying to pay for the pick up order and the officers walked farther on setting in a booth that faced the door.  Sam was walking back out, when the county deputy Devin Thomas caught up with her and walked her the rest of the way.
“Dev? Is there something wrong? TJ?”,  Sam stopped in her tracks, worry over her co-worker flooded her.
“No, Sam. TJ is fine.”   Devin was caught off guard, his suspicion now up, after hearing only part of the call over the radio about a missing body.  He had run out to catch up with Sam, while X called in they had Sam.  Knowing she had just left TJ, they wanted to stop her.  Not knowing for sure what was going on, or if Sam was apart of it.  It was hist job to check it out.
Sam let out a sigh of relief.  It still didn’t reliever her of the feeling that something was wrong.  Looking Devin in the eye looking to make sure he wasn’t just saying something to keep her calm.
“It has been an odd night Dev.  You are sure TJ is fine?”
“I promise you Sam, TJ is fine.  What do you mean odd?”


“This has been an odd creepy night.”
“Odd and creepy? What do you mean Sam”
” TJ and I were on call.  We met to pick up a body.  It really started being odd at the nurse’s station.”
Devin had to smirk a little, rumors about Sam before he met her had been descriptions of odd and creepy.  After getting to know Sam there were other words he would have used to describe her.  At the moment his suspicion was tweaked.  Sam wasn’t easily spooked.  Yet, now, if he had to name the impression that bothered him most when they pulled in to the lot, and what made him ‘check’ her out was she was spooked.  She was scared. Only now talking to him, he was seeing her relax.  There was a sense of relief.  Why?  His instincts said they needed to start working the case now.
The state officer came out of the diner and nodded to Devin.  Sam turned to face X.
“TJ, he IS ok?  You aren’t just telling me that.”
“Sam, TJ IS ok.  I am sorry but we need to question you. Did you drive your car to the pick up?”
“Yes, do you need to search it or something?”
X was caught off guard by Sam’s response. Though she didn’t see defensive.  His eyebrow’s raised and he looked past Sam to Devin whose shoulders shrugged.
“My dad was a cop.  Here, you are more than welcome.  I locked it when I left in the parking lot.  It was locked and everything looked like I left it when I came back to drive here.”
Anyone else may have balked, but Sam knew she had no clue what was going on.  She didn’t know what it was, and the not knowing was the scary part.  X relieved her more than any of Devin’s words, even if something was wrong with TJ,  something  was being done about it.
“Dev, you want the car or . . . ?”
Devin saw the change Sam even greater when X nod about searching the car.  He tried not to take it personally, but she had definitely relaxed when he had indicated wanting to search.  He took a step forward and reached for the keys.


“Sam, I need to ask you about tonight. Do you mind telling me about it?”
“No, sure.” Sam indicated putting the box of food on the hood of her car.
“Yeah, go ahead. Just start from the beginning.”
X began taking notes as Sam told him from the starting from her call in, to when she drove into the diner’s lot. Nothing in her demeanor or her narration of the evening led X to believe that Sam had any part in the disappearance of the body.
Devin searched the interior of the vehicle, nothing out of the ordinary. Popping the trunk, he only found a couple of duffle bags of the funeral home’s packed with straps and monogrammed blankets. He closed it and walked over to stand listening to Sam finish.
X looked up asking Devin with a nod of his head, Devin responded by shaking his head no.
“Sam, I have a question or two, if you don’t mind X.”
“Go ahead.”
“The bags in the trunk?”
“I did inventory and cleaning today. Didn’t have the time to prep and set up the bags, so I took them home with me to fold and set up. I am on call, and getting paid. It’s normal. Many times we get paid full when on call to do maintenance, or just the odd and end stuff. TJ and I cleaned the carpets last spring at night on call. We got a call out and we just stopped where we were and completed the pick up and finished when we got back.”
“Ok, We will need you to go make a formal statement. X do you know which agency is taking this one yet?”
“I don’t know but I can check. If you want her to go to the Sheriff’s office, it’s closest. You can take her statement, that way she can get out of her. They can followup as necessary.”
“Ok, you fine with me follow her over? ”
“No problem, we are good here.”
X radio’d dispatch on his way to his car. Sam grabbed the box of food off the hood of the car and sat it in the backseat floorboard. Devin followed Sam to the Sheriff’s office a couple blocks away. Once there Sam brought the box of food in.
“Devin, you hungry? It’s gonna get cold before I get it to TJ, might as well not let it go to waste.”
Devin smiled and took the box from her hands leading her into the office.


TJ wanted to wait until they had dusted the outside handle before someone let him out. He refused to open the door from the inside. Paul tried to reason with him, finally in exasperation he yelled.
“TJ, they sure as hell didn’t drag that body and gurney through the driver’s door. Open the Goddamn door and get the hell out so they can tow this thing!”
TJ unlocked the door, and Paul opened it.
“Damn it Paul, if we don’t find that body and catch who ever took it, BEcause you had to have your way, I will never forgive you.”
“TJ, you still haven’t forgiven me for flipping that canoe at camp. I think I will survive. Just add it to my bill.”
Paul walked away to calm down and allow TJ time to calm down.
The panic that TJ had held in until now, was let loose. Yelling at every person between him and Paul’s cruiser. TJ had fond feelings for the former Mayor. Like family, as he was to many citizens in the city, county and from far across the state. It was a hard enough moment for him to have to take the man’s body away from his wife and family. Grief had not yet struck the little community. Everyone was keeping a tight rein on the events. The death alone was a shock. The insult was the loss of the corpse.
TJ made it as far as the cruiser and stood. Confused and the tears started. Talking to himself about manhood and admonishing himself to suck it up and be a man, TJ folded his long body into the car, and buckled in.
“Last thing I wants to hear is for him to tell me to buckle up. He’d probably just as soon set me in the back, with the cuffs on.”
Paul left the scene in the hands of his best investigator. The state crime lab was sending a reconstruction team over to assist in the case. Paul would take TJ to his office to interview and take a sworn statement. He had already sent another car over to the hospital to begin taking initial statements and set up interview room to take official statements before those working left their shift.


The only sign of displeasure was the raised eye brown and the thin straight line her lips made. A sharp intake of breath, chin raised followed by a deep sigh before she spoke on the phone.
“I have told you what I want done. Make it happen.” She pushed end and tossed the phone lightly on the bed.
“That told ’em Leighann, what was it? Take out again?”
He had snuck up on her again. Used to his efforts to unsettle her over the years, Leighann never turned around to face him. It made no difference, he would dominate, he always did. He just wasn’t sharp enough to realize Leighann had chosen not to challenge him. He hadn’t won by default, but by her choice.
“Cat got your tongue again? Giving me the silent treatment? That’s not going to change things Leighann. Your Dad is going to die. It’s a fact. You can’t save him now.”
Leighann controlled her breathing as tears came to her eyes. Glad she had maintained her posture and not turned to face him. What he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. She pulled her thought together, sighed and turned to face him. Her husband of twenty five years.
“Wayne, what brings you home so early in the day? Did the jury come to a verdict quickly?”
“No, Leighann, the case was dismissed, as I expected. So what was that call about Leighann, really you should stop making decisions with out Daniel. You should be cluing him into the business.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you, Your father wants the business to go to Daniel. Didn’t he tell you? We discussed this after his diagnosis of cancer, what, a year ago? I even have the it in writing. You know he always wanted Daniel to take over. Daniel was just sowing his oats, he was convinced of it.”
“He was, or was Daddy helped, Wayne? You know that Daniel has no interest.”
“Believe what you want Leighann, just realize that I am always right.”


“Baby, you know I am right. When have I ever been wrong?”
“. . .Wayne.”
“Ok, when have I ever been wrong about your brother?”
Margaret Leighann closed her eyes and sighed. He was so annoying when he tried to make her feel better sometimes. She shook her head before opening her eyes again and nodded.
“Now do you want to know what I think?”
His Leighann kicked off her shoes and went to sit in the chair by the fireplace. It was early spring, shortly they would be placing her father in hospice to live out his days. Her burdens were just beginning to become heavier. Wayne moved to raise her feet and seating himself on the ottoman placed her feet on his thigh and began massaging.
“I need you to listen. This is important. Hear not only what I say, but what I don’t say. Ok? ”
Leighann nodded. Eyes tear filled, lips held between her teeth to keep from talking. If ever her life was complicated before, it was nothing compared what was to come. She knew this in looking into his face. She loved that face. She trusted that face.
“Lee, the business is valuable to a lot of people. Who runs it doesn’t matter so much as who owns it. The business could be sold off, parts, pieces of whole. Typically to settle debts owed by the deceased.”
Tears flowed over the edge of her lower lid, tracking down each side of her face. Hands gripping the arms of the chair, knuckles white. This was a conversation she didn’t want to hear. Wayne took a deep breath letting his words settle in her head. He saw the sinking of her heart reflected in her eyes. There was nothing he could do to stop it. He had tried. He had tried maneuvers to prevent this conversation for months. He couldn’t fix this.


Sort of a Sinister post.  Difficult and highly avoided section to write. What happens immediately after the discovery of the stolen body.
Brainstorming –
Paul Collins radioed dispatch to contact the security department of the hospital, and sends a car over to begin taking statements from the personnel on staff and any visitors or patience awake.   Paul also calls the head of security, his golfing partner Fred.
“It is 2 am Paul, the hospital better be on fire.”
“Close. A dead body is missing and it was last seen leaving the hospital.”
This brought Fred not only fully awake, but out of his bed and standing sans pajama bottoms and flipping on the bedroom light.  The light disturbed his sleeping partner, his ex wife of ten years, who pulls the pillow from Fred’s side of the bed and the blankets up over her head.
“What do you mean last seen leaving my hospital?”
“Exactly what I said.  Now, I need you to get over there and help my guys with searching the building, taking statements and reviewing tapes.  I am not saying your people won’t cooperate, but they will be able to with you there to think for them.”
“Wait a minute.  The body went missing after it left my hospital.  Then it’s not my problem per say. It was out of jurisdiction shall we say.  And what do you mean my people won’t cooperate or be able to think.  Some of my people ARE your people.   is this a joke.  . . . Wait a minute is this about last month’s poker game.  I swear, Paul ( belligerent ).”
“Fred. . . . Fred . . .   FRED!”
“We know the body left the building and initially made it in the vehicle, but it didn’t make it to the funeral home.  The only place it could have left the chain of custody was sitting in the parking lot.”
“Old ER entrance?”
“Yes. Is there going to be video?”
“Maybe, depends.”
“What do you mean maybe depends?”
“Well, that is only used for deliveries, so there is only one camera.  It isn’t wide angled, it just covers the door and ramp.  Depends where the back door of the vehicle is in respect to the camera viewpoint whether or not there is a shot showing what happened.  Let me make a call, I will get dressed and get down there.  Damn. I would have rather this be a joke.”
“Yeah, me too.”
So began Fred’s longest work day at the hospital since retiring from the state police department five years ago.  He took his job seriously, but still, it was not nearly as wearing as being a state trooper.  He had to admit it had become a little boring at times.  Well, this certainly wasn’t going to be boring.
At the hospital, Fred’s call put into works a series of actions.  He called the supervisor on shift and found that as soon as the supervisor had heard over the radio a call to the funeral home and references to the hospital, he locked down the door system and had for lack of knowing what to do set in motion all the procedures associated with an abduction of a patient and any relevant security means in the chain of actions for a drug theft from the pharmacy.  When dispatch called to inform him of the arrival of an officer and  need to interview, he had  begun the set up of a room for statements and one for interviews on site by turning on the lights and unlocking the classrooms behind admin.  A phone call to the security service about retaining records and copies of the evenings video surveillance was when he received the call from Fred.
Fred authorized some call-in additional bodies for security, something the supervisor had already done, counting on the authorization.  (He- supervisor, may just work out for this job after all. Maybe he should change his major at college.)  Fred was quite pleased to find that the kid working as supervisor was on top of things, but still would feel better, as would Paul if he was there.  Informing the supervisor his impending arrival and expected reports for the evening shift.
While all of the movements were taking place, the supervisor had sent a team of two, to walk the building and look- don’t touch any thing out of the ordinary.  An unlocked door, broken anything, just check everything he told them, radio back what they found.  Even if they found everything as it should be. He pulled a paid and noted the time and every time they radioed back, where they were and what they found.  Status normal so far.


Paul hung up the phone. Resting his head in his hands for a moment, then sighed, and grabbed his radio mike on his shoulder and keyed it.
“Thomas, you in the station? ”
“My office.”
It took Dylan less than a couple of minutes to make it from the desk where he was writing up his notes on the search an interrogation of Sam. He grabbed a folder and stuck his notes, Sam’s statement included.
“Thomas, I want you to go over to the hospital. Knock on every door of every house that can see that old ER entrance. Maybe not everyone was asleep. Someone had to have seen something.”
“Sure thing.”
The drive over was quiet and Dylan had some time to think, what he would say when people answered their door without leading them to give him false information. He also thought about Sam. He knew enough from running a background check on Sam a few months after she arrived and he saw her picking up an order at the diner they were just at. She had piqued his interest then. It was a difficult position to be in. He knew she didn’t have any apparent connection. Growing up in a family of cops he knew enough to never be surprised by anything. Waiting wasn’t such a bad idea now. Still, he held hope that she wasn’t connected to this.
Dylan pulled his cruiser up into the hospital parking lot, stopping on the street side, nearest the houses directly opposite the entrance in question. He started with house directly opposite. Knocking on doors, asking if anyone in the house was awake during the night. Many people answered no, followed by a query into why he was asking. He’s pat response by the time he was done – “We aren’t sure, we are hoping to find an eyewitness to give us more details.”
Dylan was going to be thorough as possible. He went down side streets that as he walked the block around the hospital still had a view of any part of the hospital. He spent the better part of the day knocking doors, talking to residents. Taking down the few bits and pieces of information. Until he hit the south side of the hospital. Then he found someone who had been awake.


Dylan rang the door bell, and the door open instantly. The person on the other side had been watching him go from door to door. She had already gotten a call from Gladys, her Sunday school seat mate two hours ago. Gladys had called her after mentioning to the officer she spoke with that her friend had woke her up because of something ‘funny’ going on at the hospital last night. Betty waited patiently until he arrived at her house.
“Ma’am, was anyone in the house awake at any time last night?”
“You talked to Gladys?”
“Yes ma’am. Your name is?
“Betty Malone. Would you care to come in for some coffee?”
“Would you care to answer some questions?”
“Well, I’d call that a unanimous yes.”
Betty let Dylan into the kitchen. She motioned for him to set at the kitchen table, went to the counter to grab two cups and the coffee pot. She set both on the table and told him she would be right back.
Dylan was hesitant to sit himself down at the table until he knew where she was going, or what she might be getting. A self survival instinct that over time most good officers develop. He stayed standing, his back against a solid wall, and facing the doorway into the room. He could her Betty holler down the home.
“You will have to excuse me. I had just finished watching a movie and headlights flashed in the living room window, which is unusual late at night anymore since they moved the ER entrance. I looked out to see what was going on. There isn’t much to tell, but I wrote down what I saw just incase it was more than it seemed. You never know these days.”
Betty returned with a note pad. Scrawled notes across. Betty settled herself and her pad down, and poured coffee in both cups, reaching to the center of the table for sugar and cream containers and a spoon.
“Do you take yours black?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
Dylan pulled out the chair opposite, set his clipboard down with a fresh blank page. Sitting down, and taking a sip of the hot black coffee, prepared to take notes and ask questions that he hoped would aid in the investigation.


after Harlan’s body was  picked up.
The boys took Alma home. Both wanting her to come home with them.  She refused.  She wanted to be home.  Alone.  They both offered to stay with her. She had to lie and tell them their Aunt Betty was coming to stay with her.  She will have to call Betty and make sure she knows to cover for her.
It was nearly half an hour before Alma could get the boys to leave.  She was holding tight her mouth, so close to loosing her composure. The boys wanting to wait for Betty.  Fifteen minutes after arriving home, she called Betty from her bedroom, on the pretense to see what was keeping her.
“Betty, this is Alma, . . . he’s gone.”
Stopping short, Alma held her breath until the urge to cry passed.   Betty was silent, having been woken up from sleep. It was a call she had expected. They had talked about the call, and what Alma would do after Harlan died.  Betty waited to take her cue from Alma, but nothing came.
“Alma, what do you want me to do?”
“Can you come over in the morning, before the boys get here. I told them you were coming over to stay with me.”
“Fine, I take it they are still there, let me talk to them, and you know if you want me,  I will be there in five minutes.”
“Thank you, and I do.  I just . . . I need to be alone.”
“That’s is fine. I understand.  I will be there by coffee time.”
“Thank you.”
Alma went to the living room, the boys talking in whispers, she handed the phone to the eldest.
“Miss Betty?  . . .   Yes, ok, well, we can wait til you get here.”
A long pause.
“Oh, ok.  Well, yes, I can see that . . .   Ok. If you are sure . . .  Yes, call us if you need us. . . . Ok, ‘bye Miss Betty.”
“Well, Mom, we’ll go, she is on her way.  I didn’t know she had a cell phone, she said she stopped to get some something to eat, but we’ll get out of here.”
On the way out to their cars, the younger boy asked the other.
“What was that all about?”
“Miss Betty said she was in her pjs and had to run back and get a bottle of bourbon.  She said Mom might need a shot of something to settle her nerves, and for us to get out and let her be. That Mom was a woman first, Daddy’s wife second and our Momma third.  We are grown men with wives to tend to our grieving.  Mom needs to not have to be our mom right now.  We could either wait for her to arrive and kick us out, or we could get gone so she didn’t have to upset Mom any more than she already was.”
“Damn.  She’s a pistol.”
“you know she’s probably right. Mom’s been strong for everybody.”
“But she has us.  We can be strong for her.”
“True, but Miss Betty said something else.”
“What was that.”
“We may grow up to be men, but our mom will always be that.  Our mom.”

#18  – you can skip to #19 as this is a catchup post

Here is a little catch up and character list of the story thus far.   There are a few more characters I have in my mind that are key players in the plot.
Characters – mostly in order of appearance thus far.
Sam – opens with – female works at a funeral home
TJ works at funeral home with Sam, Elder black man.
Johnson Funeral Home – name of home.
Nurse #1 at Station – charting nervous
Nurse #2- Male Supervisor
Leighann Margaret – 1st seen in hospital – woman who bursts out of first room, Nurse #2 must calm down
2 men with Leighann Margaret  – 1 large 1 scrawny.
911 operator Betty
Chief of police Paul Collins
State Police Officer X
County Deputy Devin Thomas
Wayne – Leighann Margarets Husband
Daniel Margaret Brother
Harlan – former mayor preacher – 1st body, stolen
Alma- Harlan’s Wife
Harlan’s 2 sons.
So far those are the characters.  Major and minor.
What has happened thus far?
Well TJ and Sam went to pick up Harlan, but were confronted by Margaret on the way to the room.  Margaret was distraught.  They placed Harlan’s body in the vehicle.  TJ went in to get coffee while Sam walked across the mostly empty lot to her car and pulled up along side the vehicle.  TJ saw and overheard Margaret and 2 men in the hall way on the way to the cafeteria and avoids being seen due to the incident with Margaret before. He then leaves the building with out the coffee.  TJ and  Sam leave in different directions.  TJ back to the funeral home, Sam to the diner to pick up breakfast.  TJ arrives and realizes the body is missing and calls 911.  Betty the 911 operator talks to TJ and send cars his way. First car on the scene is the Chief of Police Paul Collins.  Sam is stopped at the diner by a county and a state officer who were going on dinner break but hear the radio traffic about the body theft.  There was concern over whether Sam was ok or not. They stop her, talk to her and search her car.  She then follows the county to the Sheriff’s office 2 blocks away to make a formal statement.  The Chief of Police, who’s office is around the corner from the Sheriff’s office arrives with TJ to take his statement.
There is back story presented.  There are flashbacks, to the evening, and prior to the evening.



Daniel was antsy sitting on the park bench. There was snow on the ground, but to just look at his face you would have thought it was the middle of a long stretch of summer heat. Sweat beads were layered thick on his upper lip. Drops ran from his hair line down the nap of his neck drenching the shirt under his suit jacket between his shoulder blades all the was down to his lower back. His left leg bobbed up and down in a nervous twitched from the tapping of his toe on the snow scattered concrete sidewalk under foot.
He sat waiting. He looked at his phone. It had been only a minute past the last time he looked. He was there thirty minutes early. This was going to be a long wait.
Five minutes prior to the meeting time, a man approached from behind Daniel. coming across the undisturbed snow. The man in a dark winter parka stepped over the snow bank formed from the shoveled sidewalk snow. He stood behind Daniel for a second, then reached out and placed his hand on Daniels right shoulder.
Daniel jumped a foot high. He had been running through his planned speech in his mind for what must be the hundredth time since the call this morning came setting up the meeting. Daniel looked disheveled, quite the contrast from his appearance as he rushed to dress impeccably for this meeting. It had now been an hour since his last hit. He had been torn the last hour between leaving his place and seeking some relief he knew could be found on the other side of the park. Well, a block from the other side of the park. In a brown neatly kept craftsman duplex. Doing so would risk his fixes for a long time, and Daniel knew it. So he sat, fixed to the bench as if chained.
“Come with me”
Daniel walked around the bench and then followed the man across the snow covered field. They walked out the entrance on the other side. This was a great temptation for Daniel. He was merely a block from his relief. As they walked past the gate to the street, a car pulled up and stopped. The man in the dark parka opened the back passenger door, pushing Daniel’s back toward it. Daniel got the message and moved to sit in the seat, the door shut. The man got in the front passenger seat and the car moved forward before he shut the door.
Daniel knew his fate was now sealed. Whether the deal was accepted or not, Daniel had crossed a line. A line he could not cross back. Not alive any way.


Daniel sat back in the rear seat of the car.  Should he buckle or not, as he instinctively reached for the seat belt..  He looked to the others and they weren’t buckled.  That was not good. He let the belt go and retract.
The drive was a long one. He hadn’t thought about it at the time that he made the call.  He wished he had.  A six hour drive one way.  These guys weren’t talking to him or each other.
The only stops made along the way were to switch out drivers, never at a rest stop and if they went to the bathroom it was to take a leak off the interstate among the trees, Daniel guessed.  At first he looked at the men, trying to determine if he recognized anyone.
They all had suits.  They all had similar dark glasses, and they all had the same military style short cropped hair. If he didn’t know better, he would think they were Feds.  The thought did continue to cross his mind occasionally on both the drive to and from, maybe they were.
By the time they arrived for his meeting, Daniel was in need of both a bathroom, a drink and food.  None was offered, and Daniel didn’t have the guts to ask.  He just followed directions.
He sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  If he had thought to check the time, it was only fifteen minutes.  His sweat factor had over the last six hours increased, subsided and now increased again.  He was more than damp.  He was uncomfortable.  It showed.
His wait was observed through a two way mirror.  The elder man, to be a rival of his father, sat and watched.  The nervous man could wait, he was going to wait on a return call before proceeding with this meeting.


The boys had left and Betty called back a few minutes later to make sure they had gone home.  Alma sat in Harlan’s chair in the den, popping back the recliner to put her feet up.  She looked down and noticed that her ankles were swollen from the long hours at the hospital.  She sighed.
It was a quite a while Alma sat staring into a black television screen.  The large black hole mounted on the wall that she and the boys had surprised Harlan with on the last Father’s Day.  The house was quiet.
Alma sat and waited for Harlan to come in the room and cough.  Indicating he was ready to get comfortable in his chair.  When she was younger, the boys were still in school, she would send them t their room while she made dinner.  After the meal was made, she’d set it to warm and go sit in Harlan’s chair and read a book.  He would walk in the door from the kitchen after seeing that the boys set the table and the food was on the table, he’d stand there and cough until Alma noticed him.  Then after the boys were grown and gone, raising families of their own.  They continued the same routine.  In the last few years, when Alma was home and had the time, she would sit in his chair and read. Harlan would come and stand near her and cough softly until she was pulled from the world within the book she was reading.  She’d get up and move over to her chair and they would watch the news, or just sit and read.  This was how she would know for sure he was gone.  She would sit here until he coughed for her to move.


Father is a name holder.  This is the Father of Leighann Margaret and Daniel.  Name to be later determined.
Father sat on a paper covered exam table. Exam gown barely covered the tops of his thighs.  His Leighann would have been telling him he needed to plan on wearing sandals this summer so his feet wouldn’t be so pale white, he thought as he looked down at his bare feet.
‘Should have kept my socks on.’
He looked at the clock, time ticking by.  Normally he would never be kept waiting.  It just wasn’t done in his business circle.  This wasn’t his business circle. This was doc’s world. A young man who had had a tough break in life.  One of his attempts to balance the score between his rights and wrongs.
Now he may be finding out sooner than he hoped whether or not he had made enough amends for all his sins.  Doc may be able to determine what was wrong, even save his life, but only Father could save his own soul.  He wasn’t sure he had done that.  Whatever time he had left, he was going to do everything to make sure that he spent eternity, within  reason, with his Leighann.
A knock at the door, then it opened.  Doc, walked in looking at a chart.  walked over to wash his hands.  He turned to face Father drying his hands, looking the elder man straight in the eye.
“So, Father, what seems to be the problem.  I see you once a year for your check up and it hasn’t been a year.”
“Doc, I hope you can tell me.”


The sun was rising when Sam parked her car in the lot outside her apartment building.  She sat in the quiet car after shutting off the engine and went through a habit her mother taught her as a little girl after a bad day at school.  She imagined pushing all the bad thoughts and feelings into balloons outside her head, but in the car.  This morning took longer than usual, even waiting a few minutes to make sure they were all out.  In her mind, the car was crowded. Reaching to open the door, eyes still closed, she imagined the balloon floating up and away as she opened the door.  All that bad juju floating away like helium balloons.
She wasn’t taking that into her home with her this morning.  Her mood improved on the short walk to the door.  Needing to fill her mind with positive and pleasant thoughts, Sam clicked on music on the way to the bathroom, flooding the apartment with ‘happy music’.
Sam showered completing the cleanse not only of her mind, her spirit but her body, too.  It didn’t help, thought going through the motions did ease the tension in her muscles; her mood was still confused and quite probably shock.
Sam decided to flip off the music, which hadn’t helped near enough, and began flipping through comedy movies to watch until she feel asleep on the couch.  She didn’t want to take this mood to her bedroom, afraid that the dreams to come would linger longer than she was prepared to deal with.
The phone rang just as she had begun to relax enough to chuckle, not just smile at the jokes and physical comedy flashing on the screen she would have normally laughed loudly at.  The sharp sound of the noise on this morning coming ominously from her phone.
Muting the movie, before looking at the caller id, if was from no number.  Sam looked at the area code followed by 000-0000.  A private unidentifiable number, who would be calling her?  She chose not to answer it.  Let them leave a message.  Ignoring the call, she turned the volume back up on the movie and snuggled deeper into the couch.
Sam was awoken by the sound of her phone voicemail, seems that non-number had left her a message.  She was wide awake and decided to listen to it, hoping her curiosity would be put to rest and so could she.
The male voice was calm, polite and serious.  “Sam, this is Dylan Thomas, if you could return my call, I would appreciated it. I have some questions about last night if you don’t mind answering.  Give me a call back at . . . .
So that was the mysterious number.  Must be a working cell from the station and not his personal number, or maybe it was.  Sam decided to try to sleep a little more before calling him back.  If he had questions to ask, she wanted to be rested and ready to hear and answer them.  Right now, she was still exhausted.


Sam was abruptly woken by the doorbell and knock. She looked at the clock, barely an hour of sleep.  The ringing and knocking increased.  She grabbed her jeans and pulled them on as she stumbled from her bedroom to the door.
She grabbed a jacket from the coat rack behind the door to cover the threadbare favored t-shirt she had slept in and checked through the peephole.  It was Officer Thomas.
“Sam?!?”  she heard him calling through the door.
“Hold on!”
Sam unbolted the door and opened it. Standing face to face with the officer who was probably still in his same uniform from last night, morning stubble a giveaway to his appearance.
“I really need to ask you some questions, do you mind.  You didn’t answer your cell phone. Given last night, I thought it best to check on you.”
“Yes, sure.  I am sorry I was so tired when I got the message it just seemed wise to get some sleep before I returned your call.”
“Did you get any?”  Dylan noticed her bed-head and change of clothes.  He followed her motion in to the apartment.  Again, habit was to check the surroundings and exits.
“I think maybe an hour.  This must be important so go ahead, ask.”
“When you were at the hospital did you notice any other coming and going?  Ambulance or another funeral home pick up? Something that would be normal, but you might not think to mention it?”
“No, there were no ambulances.  There was a work van over by the old entrance when we left, but I don’t know if it was there when I arrived.  There has been so much renovation, I never thought . . .”
“Ok, so it was there when you left.  You remember that but not if it was there when you arrived?”
“Yes, I heard a noise and scanned all around me.  I told you that.  I was thinking someone was in the lot with me.  I didn’t want to get mugged or anything so I turned all the way around checking for movement.”
“You didn’t see anything.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Humor me, can you go back in your mind and tell me what you did see? It doesn’t have to be out of place or odd, just tell me exactly what you remember seeing, even if it doesn’t seem important”


Dylan finally made it home, before finally calling it a night to get a couple of hours sleep before getting back on the case tracking down leads, he returned a call to him mom.
Her phone rang, but was quickly answered.  Straight to voicemail.
“Hello, you’ve reached Margie Thomas.  Please leave your name and number at the tone.  I will return your call as soon as possible.  Thanks! Bye.”
“Mom, it’s Dylan.  Listen I am on a case.  How’s Pop doing? I know I should have stopped by, it has just been a wild night. I am going to sleep a bit, will call you when I wake up.  But call me anyway if something happens with Pop, ok?  Love ya, Mom.”


On the ride to the cabin, Margie waved between guilt and anger.  Guilt at keeping their father’s location and health from her only sibling, and anger that Daniel had made choices that put her and their father in this very position.
Dad was resting comfortably and would remain so until another treatment next week.  The therapy could be lifesaving, or in her father’s case ending with his reaction.  The risk for him outweighed the choice of a slow and painful demise.  He will either survive his reactions to the medications and have a potential of several more good years with his family, or it might kill him.  Those were terms he was content with.
Margie herself had trouble from day to day, depending on how well he was tolerating the side effects.  If it weren’t for Wayne she would be a complete wreck.  He had, as in the past, stepped up at the last minute to be her rock.
“Lee- he’s starting to wake up.”
“I will be there in a minute.”  Margie just wanted a few more minutes in the fresh air.  Last night was nerve straining. Getting Daddy from the hospital and out to the cabin, with none the wiser.  Using Harlan’s death as a cover, if only she could have gone to Alma and expressed again her thanks and sorrow for all they had done for Dad.  To let Alma know that regardless what the outcome, she would always be there to help Alma in anyway she could.
Margie went back into the cabin by the lake, her family’s vacation home. Through the hall to the livingroom now set up as a makeshift hospital room.  (Male Nurse Supervisor Name??)  was checking Danny’s vitals and marking them down. Margie thanked him for his help again.  They were so lucky that Harlan had put them in touch with MNS,  his military background proved crucial in pulling all the ‘covert’ abduction of her father’s plan together.
Her father’s plan, what had possessed him to do all this?  He and Harlan had spent too much time together Alma had said.  They were like young men again, pulling a big prank. Only this prank could have dire consequences that no one could foresee; what if Daniel had found another buyer, one who wasn’t his uncle.  So many last minute changes could have come about even in the last twenty four hours.



Wayne was on the road to meet Leighann at the cabin. His phone rang and (head of hospital security) came up.  Wayne pulled over at the next side street and returned his call.
“Wayne, I wanted to let you know that I just got off the phone with Paul.  Are you sitting down?”
Wayne’s mind raced at all the possibilities (HofHS) could be calling with; it couldn’t be Dylan, that call would have come from Paul.  Truth was he couldn’t fathom what (HofHS) would be calling to tell him. “ Yes, I am.  What’s up?”
“I am sure that Margie called you and told you Harlan passed away tonight?”
“Yes, she did.  Does this have to do with Margie?”  Wayne was trying to remain calm.  Maybe something had gone wrong with the discharge and transport.
“No, no, Wayne.  Margie is fine.  This has to do with Harlan.  His body left the hospital but never made it to the funeral home.  I mean, T.J. came and got it, took it to the home but it was gone when he got to the home. If T.J. hadn’t said he went back for coffee before leaving, you could say it vanished.   T.J. said he didn’t notice it missing until he started backing up to unload.  I thought you were Harlan’s attorney and would want to know.  Paul will be going by to see Alma, but thought you might like a heads up on this.  Give you some time to prepare before you talk to Alma.”
Wayne’s mind was trying to piece the sequence of events that (HofHS) had laid out.  It just didn’t make sense, at first.  As he thought it through, he interrupted (HofHS).
“Are you saying that someone took the body out of the funeral home vehicle?”
“On the hospital property?”
Wayne almost breathed an audible sigh of relief along with a chuckle.  It wasn’t funny.  Wayne’s thought was some how the transport of his father-in-law to the cabin.


Just a little after five, everyone but TJ and Sam were left. The phone rang. The phones hadn’t been sent to the answering service yet, so TJ picked up the call.
“Johnson’s Funeral Home, this is TJ, how may I help you.”
TJ grabbed a pad and pen. He motioned for Sam to wait. It must be a call.
“We have a call?”
“yes, we do, if you don’t want to go Sam, I can call my stepson-”
“No, I am good. Where is it?”
“It was a hospice call. F County. I think it’s up near the lake. Here you can plug GPS in your phone and give me directions. If it’s around where I think the roads are going to be rough, I would rather drive up Ok?”
“Sure TJ” TJ would have rather drive most of the time, only when he was tired would he ask Sam to drive.
They had just crossed the county line when the rain started, by the time they had reached the lake, the rain was coming down hard. The roads did narrow around the lake, as TJ had feared. The GPS directions had them turn off the main road onto an established heavy graveled road. The next turn put them on an older, less used dirt and gravel road. They went up one hill and down another, The downpour was becoming so heavy it was hard to see. They must be near the water, at times Sam thought she saw water to her right. TJ’s hands were gripping the steering wheel tight, wipers on high weren’t moving much of the water that was pouring down the windshield.
“Sam, if tell you to jump, jump.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am not sure where we are, but I don’t think this is where we need to be, and I see water over to hear.”
“Me too.”
“I am afraid we might drive into the lake, With the hills and muddy road, I just want you to jump if we hit water.”
“Well, the GPS is showing the address isn’t far, and we are on a road.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t trust those things when I can see the road ahead. It might be fine, I am just trying to be prepared. Gotta take care of my partner.”
“Do you want to turn around?”
“The road isn’t wide enough. But if I see another side road, I wouldn’t mind. ”
The vehicle topped the hill and then headed down. The GPS showed the little red dot flashing to show their position was right next to the address to the right. Sam looked up what she guessed was a hill and out the side window. There looked like there might be a light.
“I think I see it over here.”
TJ was trying to break and the car was sliding. TJ and Sam opened their doors and rolled out of the car. The cold ground was at first squishy mud, and then hard to Sam as she hit the road, which was a bit wider than it seemed from the interior of the vehicle.
TJ hit and rolled, putting out his hands to stop from rolling into the water filled ditch on his side. The vehicle rolled on and a splash was heard. The vehicle slowly rolled out sinking into water.


Sam hit the road edge first, her fall a combination of sliding, skidding, and finally a slight roll into the ditch, stopping on her right side underwater.  Heart racing, water in her nose and mouth.  Panic! She thrashed about, realizing that her right shoulder and hip were on soft ground and banging her left hand on ground in front of her. Pushing her right elbow against the ground she raised up above the water and could breath.
‘Hearts working.  God, please not a heart attack out here, Calm down. I can breath. I am ok.’
Thoughts raced through her mind. She couldn’t see until she thought to open her eyes.
“What an idiot I am.’
Water beneath her to the right, just below her chin; a mixture of dirt, grass remains and leaves in front of her; above to her left sky, and raindrops. Pushing up further, she fell on her back against the road side of the ditch. Panic for a moment, until she realized this kept her face out of the water, just barely.
‘Ok, assess. What works?  Wiggling her fingers and moving her hands, arms, then toes, feet, ankles, lifting her knees.  Tops of her thighs jiggled. Need to go to the gym more. She squeezed her butt cheeks. So far brain thinks everything works.  My back.  sore, hurts in places.  I don’t feel like my body is awkwardly out of line. Does someone know that when hey have broken their back?”
Sam’s mind went racing.  Back to the day after her Dad had passed away, going through his things. The envelope yellowed with age she found under his socks.  The one that had lead her here.  The return address was the imprint of the funeral home she now worked at.  She was curious, and Daddy was dead, still there had been that feeling of doing something naughty.  Invading Papaw’s privacy.
Inside was a letter to Dad, hand written and a funeral card (program thing).  Opening the card to the left was a picture of a woman.  Leighann X (Same last  name as Sam and Dad) X  birth date and year, death date and year.  The right hand side was what appeared to be like the eulogy she had helped her dad prepare for Mom, and then on her own about her Dad.  Who would make out her card?
(Card writing?  Do I want to put it here?  What does it say for own benefit think about this)
(The letter, what does it say? Do I want to insert it here? Or later?)
That address brought her here, to this moment.
The shout brought Sam out of her memory.  The call came again, from behind and above her.
“SAM! Are you ok?!”
“TJ! I think I am fine. Where are you?”
“In a damn thicket. OW! Did you break anything?”
“I don’t think so, you?”
“No, I am just full of thorns, the bush broke my fall, but I am being poked to death”
Sam could hear TJ rustle with the brush, The rain wasn’t coming down as hard, and felt more like a heavy mist now.  Sam brought her knees up and rolled toward her stomach, bracing with her left arm on the opposite side of the ditch, getting up awkwardly on her hands and knees in the ditch. The water no deeper than a standard tub of bath water.


Sam crawled and climbed onto the road.  Raising up to stand, she limped across the road looking for TJ.
Below and to her right she heard branches breaking and a grown.
“Down here!  On my way up! Don’t come down here!”
Sam listened to the crunch and crumble of branches; moans, groans and curses from TJ.  Limping over to where she heard his heavy breath and milder cursing as he came up the side of the road. Sam reached out her hand to help him onto the road.
TJ looked towards her hand and waved it away.
“Girl, I am not that old and decrepit. Appreciate your offer, but no.”
Sam laughed off his remark.  He was fine.  TJ may be banged up and bruised as she was, but he was fine.  No broken bones, they both seemed to be in one piece.
“Ok, now what?”
“Well, Miss, we are going up to that house up there.”
TJ pointed up the hill behind Sam.  There was a security light on a pole. From that pole a power line could be seen running downward, which could mean anything from a shed to a house or some shorter structure.  Regardless, it would get them out of the rain.
Walking back across the gravel road to the side that Sam had rolled into, they made their way down the side of the road and up the hillside.  Along the way TJ found a sturdy  branch that he used to pull them both up the soft spots beneath the heavily treed hillside.
As they reach the near the top of the hill, they could see at eye level the porch and house that the power line ran down to.  Lights were on and now Sam saw the smoke coming out of the chimney that TJ had spied on his climb out of his ditch.


The first visit to the hospital next state over for treatment, went uneventful for Harlan.  In fact the first three months were the same as the first.  The fourth month was the kicker.
He had decided in the heat of the summer diagnosis despite the better odds they gave him of not losing his hair to start shaving his head.  It turned out to be a good idea, as he did begin losing hair.  It was less noticeable. At first people though he had lost weight, the change in his features were attributed to his changing his hair and his new ‘workout’.
That fourth month was not only the beginning of difficulties of hiding his condition, but also the start of an entirely different relationship of one of the most feared men around.  Danny.
Not that it mattered that the two were of the same age, and nearly the same background.  They had in their youth gone down far different paths. Harlan would not have disclosed how close he came to running in Danny’s circles.  Danny knew.
Now their secrets would be held within the two.  Danny’s first appearances at the treatment center was as hushed as Harlan’s.  Were it not for Danny’s immediate reaction to the medicine, and the emergency team showing up to stabilize his condition, and rush him to the nearest emergency at the same time that Alma had returned from a trip to the ladies room, neither would know the other was there.
For Danny, no one but his doctor knew he was there. He had driven himself.  Alone.  Not a smart move, Harlan would remind him.
Alma was at first stunned. When the nurse called out to find if anyone was with Danny, no one answered, another nurse said she thought he was alone.  That was all it took to move Alma into motion.  She grabbed the first nurse and informed her she had brought both men, her husband and Danny to for treatment.  They grew up together.  It wasn’t a lie, she reminded herself.
She asked if she could get word to her husband, and she would follow to see about Danny. They nurse said she would get her directions and call ahead to the ER to let them know she was arriving.
The minute her head came around the curtain, Harlan knew.  He had heard the conversation. He wanted to let Alma know he was in on the plan.
“Danny’s not doing well, did you hear?”
“I heard, go see about him Alma,  I will call when they are done with me. We will go from there.  I think I may call and get us a room nearby so we can wait and see what happens.  They may release him in a day or so. What do you think?”
Alma’s eyes widened.  Neither she nor Harlan had heard any rumors of Danny’s ill health.  For a fact no one knew about Harlan’s.  The thought occurred to her a moment later than it did Harlan, that the two men of different powers, were both between a rock and a hard place.  Likely Danny was treating himself without letting on to anyone.  Only Danny’s Leighann was long gone.
‘I should have kept my mouth shut. So much for being a preachers wife for nearly sixty years. By now, I should know better.’


Alma found Harlan in the waiting room. He was reading the Bible and didn’t notice at first when she sat down next to him. She waited quietly.
“Well, Momma, let’s go check in our room. I am tired, they let me have Danny’s things.”
Harlan began gathering the belongings around him, a clear plastic bag of Danny’s personal effects, his own blue duffle bag and jacket. He looked tired, worn. This time it was taking a toll on him.
Alma took the duffle bag, and Harlan’s arm letting him lean on her without giving the appearance of needing her assistance. She had always admired his pride, until now. It was adding to her burdens.
The hospital called shortly after supper. Harlan was asleep after his watered down broth. Alma spoke to the charge nurse and made plans to return to the hospital to sit with Danny until he woke. She left crackers and water by the bed. While getting the ice bucket filled she purchase a few treats she thought Harlan’s stomach might tolerate, checked at the desk for local restaurants that delivered, and left him a note with phone number and room, including the nurse’s name she spoke with and menus. Pausing in the car before heading to be there for someone else. She said a prayer of patience, resilience and strength. Off-handedly she threw a ‘Why me’ at the end before she could stop herself.
At the hospital Alma met the nurse face to face. A sharp young woman who walked her to Danny’s room. Explanations that he would be pale, with several IV’s going. They would be checking in on him regularly, if she had any questions to please ask.
Danny was pale. Alma knew the look. Harlan didn’t have the same reaction, but over time the treatments had worn him down to this. Danny probably could associate more with Alma up until today, Leighann had passed away after some long illness, though she couldn’t remember what. She tried to remember how long after Daniel was born before Leighann had passed.
A cell phone rang in the room, drawing Alma out of her memories. She looked for the phone, checking to see if the sound woke Danny after every ring. Alma found it in the drawer of the bedside table. The number and caller’s name light up ‘Theo’.
Stunned, Alma couldn’t decided what to do. She had not thought of Theo in so long. She panicked when it rang again, grabbing the phone and answering.
“Hello, Theo?”
A pause, no response. Alma repeated herself. Finally, Theo responded.
“Allie? What are you doing answering my brother’s phone, is he all right?”


“Theo, I am not sure how to answer that.”
“What do you mean. He either is or isn’t. Which?”
“Well, he is in the hospital and asleep.  More than that I can’t say.”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t really know much more than that. I could guess.”
“So, . . . guess.”
“Theo, it isn’t my place to guess.”
“Wake him.”
“I will do no such thing.  I will tell him you called and he can call you back.”
“No, you will wake him now. My call is important. If he isn’t dead, dying or in a coma, I need to talk to him.”
Alma sighed. She put the Danny’s cell phone down on the table and moved closer to his bed.  For the first time, a sense of fear washed over Alma. Dannie had always been an impressive man. Intimidating to some, overly confident others might say. Alma sighed again.
She put her right hand on Danny’s right forearm, her left hand on his shoulder.  She leaned in close to his right ear.
Alma paused and waited to see if her voice stirred him awake.  Nothing noticeable.  She leaned in again and gently squeezed his arm and shoulder as she said his name again.
Waiting, this time she thought she saw his face muscles move a bit.  She tried again, this time barely shaking and squeezing his arm with her hands and leaned in closer.
Danny’s eyes blinked. His face scrunched, slowly he opened his eyes.  At first he seemed disoriented.  It took a few seconds for him to realize who Alma was, she could tell the moment he recognized her. His face lit up.
“I’m not dead.”
Alma smiled and shook her head.
“No, Danny, you are not dead.  You do have an obstinate brother on the phone who is insistent that he talk with you.  Do you feel like sitting up and talking to him?”
Danny started to raise himself up in the bed, but Alma stopped him with hands on his chest.
“No, I will raise the bed, just a minute, let’s get you up and see how you feel, ok?”
Alma raised the head of the bed, and handed the control to Danny, who laid it by his hip.  She reached back to the table and grabbed the mug of ice water and offered him the straw. Danny pushed it away.
“Seriously, try, you will want to stay hydrated, trust me.  I have spent some time with Harlan and hospitals.  Besides, if you are going to talk to Theo, you need to moisten your mouth and throat. You snore, it’s probably dry and once you start talking you will wish you had.”
Danny looked at Alma with a grimace, grabbed the mug from her and sucked on the straw. It was ice cold and she was right it felt good, he realized how dry his mouth and throat were.  Between sips he sighed.
“You and Leighann, you both were good mothers.”
“Thank you, and yes she was.  You aren’t the only one who misses her.”
“I know.  Here. Give me the phone.”
He handed Alma back the mug and waited as she reached over to place the mug on the table and hand back the phone.
“What the hell, Theo, can’t I get some peace and quiet?”


Going back to when Daniel was sitting waiting for an appointment with a man.
Theo finished his call with his brother.  Their conversation a bit of business  and catching up.  Theo was not pleased about the conversation on many levels.
Theo sat and waited while the many thoughts turned in his head.  He watched his nephew sit sweating and nervous in the adjoining room.  Theo had agreed to learn what he could from his brother’s son.  He had hoped that given time, Daniel would rethink his mission and make a better choice.
Daniel sat contemplating other ways of turning the business his father had established into cash to maintain his addition.  The labor and slow turnover of value into cash concerned him.  He needed more that what was readily available at any one time.  He had believed when he first learned of the prognosis that taking over his father’s control and ownership would assure him his need would be filled.
Daniel’s father took him under his wing, took his youngest child, his only son at his word that he was ready to step up and take over the role of a son as should be in his father’s eyes.  Danny was so proud of Daniel, a son who he had watched weaken in character each year.  Making choices out of spite and rebellion at first, then out of desperation to support his addiction.  Having spent money and time on program and rehabs until finally he realized he couldn’t fix his son.  Daniel’s interest in taking over for his father during treatment was thought to be  a sign that he had turned the corner.
Danny was not blinded by his joy to see his son’s interest was merely for his own personal agenda.  His decision and attention to details lacked and the business began to suffer.  The family Danny had worked hard to build with both his employees and customers suffered.  Daniel never looked to himself as to why the decline in profits, he just wanted to get rid of the sinking ship for as much money and as quickly as he could.
Daniel began to look to competitors willing to purchase the territory his father had carved out.   No one wanted to buy him out.  Not with his father still alive, and most all believed that in the end Margie would be the one to inherit and all would be made rights.  Daniel was just not his father’s son, so they bided their time with the foolish son.


Alma gasped, the shrill sound of the cell phone ringing had startled her.  The vibration alerted her to its location in her pocket.  Twisting to pull the phone out to see who could be calling at this hour, Alma looked at it for a moment trying to remember putting the phone there.  She couldn’t.
It sounded again, the vibration in her hand made her grasp it tighter.  The name ‘Sheriff Paul’ in bold letters light up it’s screen.
“What could he want?”
Harlan had shut off his own phone at the start of the last round of chemo.  The diagnosis was out.  His term as mayor was completed. He’d even resigned as pastor.  None of that told her he had given up fighting until he shut his own cell phone off.  He was retreating.  ‘Preparing others to make decisions without him,’ he’d told her when she’d discovered the fact.
The doctors had warned her that he might make some drastic decisions, behave out of character.  That she herself might make some, and that neither of them might be prepared or able to immediately accept those actions.  He had.  Shutting off the cell phone wasn’t’ the first or last.  It was just the one that told her he had stopped fighting.
The people, friends, colleagues, church members, none of them were deterred by Harlan’s withdrawal.  They had just taken to calling Alma.  Telling her they would like to speak to Harlan.  She had told Harlan that was what would happen.  He didn’t listen.  She had been right.


“This can’t be good, Harlan. Paul’s calling.  You should be the one here to take this one.”  Alma said to the empty room, as much to Harlan’s spirit.
Paul had thought about the next call in the back of his mind since he heard T.J. tell Harlan’s body was missing.  It went in the long list of calls he didn’t want to make but had to.  It was right up there with the worst.  Not only telling someone their loved one’s body was missing, but it being Alma?  She’d taught him at Sunday school.  Close friends with her oldest boy all his life,  Paul knew she’d be gracious, understanding, sympathetic to his having to tell her.  She wouldn’t show to everyone how it hurt, whatever it was.  Though over the years, being around the house, he’d noticed that Miss Alma didn’t always let on how things really affected her.  They’d had a talk about that when he had first become a police officer.  The putting aside of your own feelings to do the job at hand.  It’s why he didn’t call her son, his friend first.  He wanted to let her have some freedom to just react, for once.
He debated on whether in person or on the phone would give her the most room.  This was not going to be easy to say, much less take.  He took Alma and Harlan’s advice, straight forward and in person.  Not only was that the right way, it was also the best way as far as investigative work went, to see that initial reaction.  In most every case, everyone one is always suspect, even family.
Paul saw to it the investigation was started and decided he wasn’t going to get another call letting him know the body had been found.  Harlan had been officially dead now for two hours.  It was time, he couldn’t put it off any longer.


Paul figured that the boys would be at the parents house, but he would try to get Alma alone to tell her.  As he neared the house, he could see light son, but the boys’ vehicles weren’t in the drive.  He really couldn’t imagine Alma going to either of the her sons’ homes.  He pulled to the side of the rode to call Alma, find out where she was.
The phone rang and rang.  When Paul thought it was going to go to voicemail he heard,
“Paul, what’s wrong?”
A typical response so late at night.  Harlan had said the same thing many times over.  Once he told Paul,  ‘Son, when you call after ten, something is wrong.  You have a job to do, get to it.’ when he’d apologized for waking Harlan.  Of late, he’d have to wake Alma, and as often she would be the one to come out to console a family member after a car accident or just help someone through the process after a loved one was arrested.
“Alma, I need to stop by and talk with you.  Are you at home?”
“Yes.  . . .  Paul, you know. . ”
Paul cut her off, ” yes, I will be there in a minute.”
Paul wiggled the phone in his breast pocket where it just barely fit.   He drove the few hundred feet from the drive, turned right and parked again. After turning off the engine he sat for a bit.   Alma had heard the crunch of tire on the drive, and rose to open the door.  When Paul looked up from the gear shift there was Alma standing at the front door, lighted room showing her silhouette in the storm door, for once, there was no shadow behind her of Harlan.  Paul broke down and cried.


Paul pulled himself together.  Bending over the passenger seat to reach into the floorboard, he grabbed the box of tissues he kept in his car.  Setting himself right before he exited the vehicle, he looked up to see Alma still waiting for him in the doorway.
He had to be all cop now. Well, at least for the next few minutes.  He exited his car and kept his eyes down as he walked to the door, only looking up as he neared  the door way.  He set his face in as an unemotional expression as he could.
Alma opened the door as Paul came towards her.   In the light from the house spilling out the doorway, she saw that  Paul’s mouth was set, his face in a stern mask.  Ah, oh, this was not good.  A chill ran up Alma’s spine; she felt the goosebumps pop  up on her arms.  An inadvertent twitch shook her shoulders and back.
“Alma, lets go sit in the den.”
“Alright,” Alma followed Paul through her house to the room that felt to her as if Harlan was still there.  Paul went to Harlan’s chair, started to sit down and then moved to the sofa next to it.
Alma stood briefly in the door way, finally deciding to sit in Harlan’s chair, so she could face Paul. She felt it she was going to need to look him in the eye. Something terrible had happened.  She sat on the edge of the seat, leaning on the arm of the chair closest to Paul.
“Alma, I am sorry to inform you, Harlan’s body is missing.”


Alma stared at Paul’s face, not registering fully his words.  She repeated them to herself in her head. ‘Alma, I am sorry to inform you, Harlan’s body is missing.’
“Paul, what do you mean Harlan’s body is missing. Honey, Harlan is dead.  He died tonight at the hospital.  T. J. and that nice young girl that works at the funeral home came and got him.  Really, I just never would have imagined a young woman like her taking to the funeral business.  But you know, she just has a real nice way of dealing with family. Harlan said to me that she had a calling and that must be it.”
“Alma, did you hear me?”
“Hear you what? What did you say?”  The words still didn’t make sense to Alma.
“Alma, Harlan’s body is missing.”
“No, it isn’t it is at the funeral home.”
“Alma, T.J. called the police when he got to the funeral home.”
“T.J. called the police because the body. Harlan’s body was not in the vehicle.”
“But T.J. and Sam, that’s her name Sam.  Like a man, but I think it is short for Samantha. They took Harlan’s body, . . . what do you mean T.J. said it was missing? That doesn’t make sense Paul.”
“I know it doesn’t.  T.J. said that he put Harlan in the vehicle, Sam walked over to get her vehicle.  She was on call and had met him at the hospital. She drove her car and had parked. She walked over to get her parked car while T.J. went in to get coffee from the cafeteria.”
“Well, I can understand that.  The hospital does have very good coffee.”
“When T.J. came back Sam had pulled her car up to the funeral vehicle. T.J. got in and drove to the funeral home.  At the funeral home, he realized Harlan wasn’t in there.”
“Sam? Is she ok.  You keep telling me about T.J., is Sam ok?”
“Yes, Sam is fine.  She said she did hear something when she was walking away, she looked around the parking lot, but saw nothing.”
“So someone may have taken his body while Sam was walking across the parking lot?”
“Honestly, I don’t have any facts, but that is what we are looking at; I just don’t want to venture any further until I have more to go on.”
“Oh, Paul, you don’t think Sam or T.J. for that matter have anything to do with this!”
“No, not at this time.  They are both upset and very cooperative.  T.J. said to tell you that if you want to talk to him, don’t hesitate to call. He said he was so sorry.  It shook him up quite a bit.”


“Alma, do you want me to call the boys for you?”
“I really need to ask you some questions, the boys too. Are you sure you don’t want me to call them?”
“No, I really don’t. I needed to be alone before you told me that, I need to be alone for a bit more after this. Even knowing Harlan was dying, it is still taking a bit to adjust to it.”
“Alma, I really need to ask you a couple of questions and then I will let you go, ok?”
“That would be nice considering,” Alma’s mouth formed a straight stiff line. Her patience level of being kind, considerate, had already reached it’s limit many times over the last days. She had felt her nerves start to unbind and she had just begun dealing mentally with all the ways her life would change now with Harlan gone. Now this. ” Go on, ask your questions.”
“Do you know anyone who might pull this kind of stunt, taking Harlan’s body?”
“Not off hand, no. There were some citizens unhappy with the proposed zoning changes that were coming up before the last election. Those stopped once Harlan announced he wasn’t running for re-election. Same thing with the church, but once he revealed why he was leaving the pulpit, their sentiments changed.”
Paul jerked. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the phone, checking the incoming call. Looking up at Alma as he rose, “I need to take this.”
Paul walked thru the kitchen out a door on the opposite side of the room and into the garage shutting the connecting door as he went. “Give me something good, Fred.”
“I think we found Harlan’s body.”
“Well, damn! Where?”
“In the morgue.”
“Hospital morgue?”
“Yes, the crew I sent to check the building found evidence someone broke into the morgue. No one has touched anything, but they could look through the window and there is a body in there with a Johnson Funeral blanket over it. We haven’t had any one else die tonight. The last dead body I can recall in that morgue was over a month ago that I can recall.”
“Ok, just keep that secured and I will get someone out there to start processing. Fred, thank you for the call. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”


Alma sat up until Paul left the kitchen and disappeared into the garage. Her hands pushed back on the chair arms and the foot rest popped up. Leaning back into the chair she sighed. Harlan’s body missing or not; dead or not, she was tired. Too little sleep, too many people, Alma felt like she just need a few minutes rest before she had to face the next bit of news.
Alma’s mouth dropped open and a light snore filtered out just as Paul walked into the room. His mouth was open to speak as he came near and realized she had fallen asleep. It’d been a hard week on her. Probably a hard few months to be honest. Walking over to the couch where he had been sitting, he checked his watch as he sat down again.
Fifteen minutes. He could spare fifteen minutes. They both needed it. Her more so than him. He set his watch alarm, leaned his head against the back of the couch. For the next fifteen minutes they both took much needed power naps.


Paul met Fred in the hospital security.
“Paul, I’ll walk you down, we can talk on the way,” they left taking the elevator down to the the basement.
“Fred, tell me,” after the elevator doors closed.
“I pulled the tapes from the corridor to the morgue. We had only initially pulled exits. I thought better and pulled all cameras. You probably won’t need them, but, well, you got ’em.”
“Thank you.”
The ‘team’ was really a part timer and the deputy that stood guard duty at the courthouse Monday through Friday except for holidays. The part timer was the town photographer. They had taken pictures, dusted the foo and waited on the coroner to arrive. Once there the coroner looked the room over, nothing was out of place and checked the body to verify it was indeed Harlan’s body.
Paul and Fred passed him in the hall.
“Looks like they just broke in to the leave the body.”
“Did you check?”
“Yes, and it’s Harlan.”
“It’s Harlan, what more? . . . OH! No, there was nothing done to the body. If you ask me, they thought they were taking another body, realized it wasn’t the person they came for and ditched what they took.”
Fred nodded his head, “They though they were taking Danny. My money’s on it.”
“Danny died?”
“No, Paul, but he was here last night. Left shortly after T.J. and Sam left. Hospice.”
“You don’t say.”


The knock at the door startled Margie. She jumped, in her seat looking to her Dad on her left and over to the couch where Leo was napping. It couldn’t be Wayne, he wouldn’t knock. The knock came again.
Margie couldn’t remember hearing a vehicle, but the rain was coming down so hard, she may not have heard it. She rose and went to the window over the sink to check the drive; no car. The knock came again closer to the door she could hear voices.
“There may not be anyone there.”
“No? Well, there is a vehicle in that shed over there, see? There is somebody here.”
The first voice sounded like a woman’s, but the second was deeper, a man’s. It sounded familiar. The knocking became louder, stirring Leo and her Dad behind her.
“Who is that Margie?’, her dad’s raspy voice filtered by the rain barely reached her, but was apparently loud enough for those on the other side of the door to hear.
“Open up! Let us in, our vehicle is in the lake.”
Margie moved to open the door, Leo now standing behind her, prepared to take down whoever came through the door. The lock clicked. The door didn’t budge. So, whoever it was, wasn’t cautious or not here to harm them. Margie slowly pulled the door a crack open, just to peek. Then threw it open wide.
T. J. and Sam stood feet up to the threshold soaking wet. Margie grabbed each by an arm and pulled them across. She pushed them into the room. Leo stood between the three and the room.
“Leo, get out of the way, they are cold and wet! We have to find them some dry clothes. T.J. go sit by the heater, I will bring you a towel, you in the bathroom and take a hot shower.” Margie pushed across the room to the bathroom under the stairs, grabbed towels from a shelf and turned on the hot water. She shut the door on the way out with a quip, ” I will be back with some dry clothes.
Leo after fighting agains the crowd of three shut and locked the door. He took the towels from Margie, taking them to T.J. “Your car is in the lake? Are you ok?”
“No, I am not ok. I just landed in a ditch.”
“I can see that, are you hurt anywhere?”
“Man, I am hurt all over. If you are asking me do I need medical attention; no, I do not.”
“T.J. let me at least check you out.”
“T. J. you know that your wife will have my hide.”
“Fine, then you check out Sam too. I landed in a ditch of muddy water and some thorny bush. So a few scrapes and scratches are all you are going to find. ” T.J.’s voice lowered. “Sam landed on the other side. She may have blacked out, she didn’t answer my calls right away.”


Dripping wet from the rain, staring at the closed door, Sam heard muffled words on from the other side of the door. The scent of perfume held her in a trance.
It was a familiar scent. having been close to it before. ‘Maybe I did hit my head hard.’
Sam came out of the trance when someone knocked on the door.
“You ok in there,Sam?”, T.J. was again showing fatherly concern.
Sam ran through her memory of being around Margie while waiting for the hot water to flow in the shower and undressed. She heard a quick knock, the door open while in the shower, and Margie tell her some dry clothes were on top of the closed toilette seat.
Margie was in the kitchen making breakfast when Sam came out of the bathroom. Stepping into the kitchen to help and be near the scent which was brought memories of Sam’s grandmother. The comforting scent she had known all her life associated with love.
Sam’s grandmother wore the scent and only that perfume since Sam arrived. Upon Sam’s arrival as a baby she had been inconsolable, colicky baby. Or so everyone but her grandmother thought. She knew Sam’s mom had always worn __________ perfume. On instinct, her grandmother bough some of it and wore it when she went to give Sam’s adopted mother a break. Sam settled dow. Her grandmother put a few drops in the corners of Sam’s crib. Sam had the first sound sleep in the weeks she had come to her adopted family.


THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT. Keep that in mind, please.
( Set up incomplete- This is while Sam is showering and changing. Exchange in the kitchen between Leo * i have to change that name, TJ, and Margie)
”So we have no vehicle to transport?” Leo’s deep voice was low and as soft as he could make it as he pulled the chair out from the table indicating that T.J. should sit. He pulled the blood pressure cuff across the table and stood waiting for T.J. to take off his jacket.
“Really? We have to do this?”
“Look, you took a fall right? You look like hell. Yeah, I am doing this.”
“Fine. No, we have no vehicle to get him to the treatment center. It’s in the lake now.”
“Thank goodness you are both ok!”, Margie turned from the counter with unbroken eggs in either hand.
“We didn’t have any brakes. I felt them going out the last couple of hills. I tried to slow down. I couldn’t turn into any side road or drive. We had too much speed. I am just thankful Sam jumped when I told her.”
Margie broke the egg in her left hand. Turning quickly to save the yolk and pick the shell out of the batter she was mixing up.
“Margie, you ok?”
“FINE!” hissing and cursing under her breath. Her mind was racing of all the what if’s that could have happened. Not least of all, now the concern of getting her father to his next treatment.
“Margie, can you call Wayne? Tell him to hold up. I have a connection with a shuttle service. They run blood, meds, that kind of thing between facilities. Might be able to come up with a van that can hold a gurney. Let me check TJ out and then I will call.”
“I can call him, I am not doing anything but letting you poke and prod.”
“No, she can step outside, you need to sit right here.”
“Sure, I will be right back”, grabbing her phone off the counter, Margie stepped out onto the back porch. The awning that ran along the back not only gave her shelter from the rain pouring down, but a place to pace as she put the call into Wayne. Her hope was he had’t left the county to come this way. How much time did they have before her brother found their dad, she didn’t know.


Alma and son leave room.

Leo asks if the remaining son wants to remain or wait outside. “I just wanted to check with TJ about making arrangements, should I call or do we need to set an appointment?” he asked turning to TJ.

“Mr. ____, Why don’t you just call the office in the morning between 10 and noon. Your brother, mom and you can come in tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know what all is on the books for tomorrow, but that should give Miss B time to set things in order.”

“Alright, will do. Thank you Leo, we really appreciate all you did for Dad. TJ, Miss Sam, I will leave you to your business. Thank you all.” A chocking man with a lost look left the room.

“Looks like you have Mr. Harlan ready for us.”

“TJ, they were in the cafeteria eating dinner when he passed. His doctor was covering ER and being a slow night over there, he came up and pronounced him. He went down to the cafeteria to talk to the family and we were able to bath and prepare him for both you and them.”

“Well, that was a blessing. Some don’t see it as that though. “

“No, they don’t” Sam said flatly She wasn’t there when her father passed. But by the the time she arrived at the hospital her mother, was still in the ER and unfortunately conscious. On one hand Sam was able to tell her she loved her, and goodbye, but on the other, she also saw her mother’s last struggling breath, which haunted for a long time. If she could have breathed for her mother she would have. There was a frustration that couldn’t be resolved other than making in up her own mind to let it go.

Leo proceeds to assist the two move the body to the gurney and strip the bed of the linens. Sam’s first time had left her with mixed feelings. Some left over from the night she lost both her parents. Now after working a year, she was less disturbed about the whole process of death and burial. She still stayed away from the mortuary room (?), not having any inclination to work there. It wasn’t only the lack of education and certification, but because tit was when she first came to work with TJ was so close to her parents death. The loos was too soon and the grief was still to fresh and great. At the time she thought the trooper that suggested this job to her was crazy. Or mean. Or both.

Not knowing where else to start, her only tie to the area and her parents was the funeral card from the business suggested to her. Something the trooper hadn’t known at the time.


Harlan and Alma had had many a heated discussion over his final arrangements. Harlan being adamant about cremation and refused to change his mind.

Alma couldn’t budge her husband on the matter, even trying to change his mind hours before his death. Nor on the memorial service at the church or any of the other aspects of a funeral service.

Decisions Harlan made after the first diagnosis stood. Choices that Alma was sure would change at each remission and reoccurrence. Even this last time, this very evening, she had broached the subject. Was it only a few days ago she opened her mouth to bring it up. Harlan and raised on fine from the bed and said “Have I once wavered?”

Alma quickly shut her mouth and never asked again.

Thankful TJ hadn’t brought up the pre-arrangements in the room. Alma knew her reprieve from telling the body would be short lived. When she and Harlan had sat with TJ to make them seven years ago, TJ had suggested then that Alma wait to inform the boys at the office. They could come to ‘make arrangements’. Seeing a loved ones signature and notes made about what they wanted, didn’t make the facts any easier, but the direct would take any repercussions on the remaining family negative. It was out of everyone’s hands but the deceased. Some families, he had explained to Harlan went against the wishes of the deceased, but the boys would go along with Harlan’s wishes, he felt sure, even if they disagreed. That had made Harlan even more staunch in his plans.

TJ had warned her, you don’t have to tell everything you know. ‘Let me be the one to tell them. It will be easier for you.’ She sure hoped what he said back then, she had held onto those words all this time.


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