The hard metal shovel blade sank into damp soil like a stone in water. A small concrete barrier placed with a black box in the middle. Ashes of Ms. Diana Tam and a cheap plaque to mark her tiny grave. The third empty funeral of the year with only Williams in attendance to place her poor soul.
“Mr. Williams buried her this morning yes, they cremated her without an autopsy.” Richard Danahue the owner of the MarryMay funeral home read Ms.Tam’s account through a desk top phone. Mrs. Christina Morland on the opposite end. She has worked as a coroner for just under ten years. She has become aware of the recent deaths of Ms. Tam, Ms. Creed, and Mr. Harris. All of them died seemingly of unnatural cause yet further inspection was never called.
“Was a cause of death determined Mr. Danahue?”
“One wasn’t needed, she was pronounced dead the tenth of September, cremated the eleventh buried the twelfth.”
“Yes, you’ve told me but of an unknown cause sir. Seems like malpractice to me. A burrial -cremation especially cannot be done… ”
Cutting Mrs. Morland off quickly, “I have only authorized what I can as I’ve received approval. Ms. Tam is listed under an undetermined cause.”
“And of Ms. Creed and Mr. Harris? Who has given you approval? There are three deaths in which the county needs answers for. If there is an explainable reason that can be of concern for others, it needs to be found sir!”
A silence came over them before Mr. Danahue speaks suddenly. “That concern is with the rest of the county, not me.” He cuts the call and returns the receiver to his desk top.
Williams clicked on his radio and stood the shovel by the front door. Digging graves had seemed liked nothing more than a job for him. In Creekwillow county there was only one cemetery. He worked and cared for the land as hid own. It became an easy routine -every two or three days he’d get a call from the home to set a new stone and dig for the name it represented. Funerals were usually small aside from those of the rich, but it was only of the past year that he was met with dust bodies and no one to claim them. If not for some sort of ID they would have been left in a pile of an unmarked grave and forgotten.
Through the years Williams made acquaintance of many of the families that crowed the services, even meeting his second wife six years ago in 1973 at the age of 39. Now 45 and roaming the fields alone again making time pass sitting by his untuned radio in his free time.
He makes enough to live and for him, it all he wanted. The radio whined and hissed as he turned its dial slowly, stopping at the first station he could hear clearly. WKMR 108.9 FM. A soft him of Fleetwood Mac emits from its small speakers.
A Knock at the wooden door disrupts the radios sound. He lifts himself to his feet and quickly moves to swing open the door. The air outside was cooler now as the sun began to set. Danahue’s small crooked figure was leaning eerily in the doorway.
He tilts his hat rim slightly then enters the room.
“They might be near dingy you to dig some of the bodies back up.”
“The undertunderterminds, they want to know what killed’em.”
“But they’re nothing but dust.”
“There’s some tests Mrs. Morland wants to perform on the remains. Best we do now as the county says before they make too big a deal of the whole thing…” He sighs, “You ask me it’s all a waste of time, says they’re all senseless undertakers for cremating bodies that weren’t meant to be cremated yet. My senseless undertakers they may be but I’m not taking the blame for them. They’re all dead now, what’s it matter why? Dead is dead.”
Williams glared sharply at the small grey haired man. “They need them boxes, I’ll dig’em back up.”
Late the following evening…
Tyron Anabello lead detective of Creekwillow and assistant Matthew Kret shuffle through evidence of a need cade. Branding Roe was killed at 33 supposedly by her 10 year old son Thomas. They closely work together with Denise Patty and her collected information for each investigation. None of them have even heard of the undermined cases. In fact they only seemed important to Mrs. Morland and the occasional worried neighbor questioning their deaths.
Mrs. Morland conducting the autopsy on Ms. Roe confirmed that although she had been stabbed multiple times, it was a blow to the heart that sealed her fate. She was a wealthy woman and at only 33 she had already purchased a plot for her own grave. A three foot tall headstone and silver attached vases.
Among the metal clans of the freezer, Morland recognized the sound of commotion outside. Rushing to the exit then continuing into the night air.
She can see flashing red lights on the next block. Everyone seemed to be crowding in front of David Sahde’s home. Still in her lab coat, Morland makes her way through the crouch.
One ambulance is parked at the curb. A white sheet hangs loosely off the sides of a silent stretcher. Two men slowly push it to the rear of the ambulance, Morland spots her chance to question what had happened.
“Who called it in?” she asked the men, but they ignore her.
“Sir, My name is Dr. Christina Morland, from the lab down the road. What is known about the death? I shall investigate the cause more closely.”
“There will be no investigation ma’am. We’ve already called to the undertaker.”
“Mr. Sahde’s needs to be taken to the lab for examination!”
“We are only following orders ma’am.”
“He was a healthy young man, his death was sudden. He must be taken to the lab!”
“Doing so will be against orders.”
“And not doing so will be letting a potential murder victim go unnoticed.”
The man stops packing the van and sighs.
“We’ll bring him over.”
Signing a document and returning it to its file, Danahue sat breaking the quiet steadily with his pen. Not a care but to make himself stand as a dollar compared to dimes.
He isn’t as rich as some of the families that pass through the home. To him though he knew his own bliss to kiss a personal value larger than a quarter of the county.
Impossible it was to care less of the passed with no money. They had little to no family, and little assets which meant they were worthless to Danahue.
He himself had no family. The only person he keeps in contact with is Williams, but he’s no family.
And Williams, an odd yet friendly man, loves to meet people. As independent as he seems living in his cemetery cabin, he couldn’t stand the thought of being alone too long. Taking advantage of the vulnerable families saying their last goodbye as his opportunity to make a move. He absolutely loved it. You can assume his disappointment when the occasional lonely soul arrived.
Both Danahue and Williams couldn’t believe Christina Morland’s excitement with these cases. The money used in their examinations wasn’t worth it. The money they’d leave behind couldn’t come close to compensating.
The rich were gifted in death. Doesn’t matter how or why the died, there was always praise. Their stones would be admired and names always remembered. You pay for that right.
The young pale man lay cold upon the examination table. At first, nothing looked out of the ordinary. A faint bruised line stretched across his neck. Clawed scratches around it. Strangulation. There is a killer on the loose. She’s the only one who seems at all concerned.
Why were some murders seen as less important? Morland could remember David Sahde’s life well. He used to roam the streets during the day. Lived alone and struggled to keep his home which was easily recognized.
She had known how he died and suspected the three undeterminds were the same way. He was scheduled for cremation as soon as he was found. Destroying evidence. Was it of any use that she knew? The county won’t take a poor man’s case.
She replaced a white drape over the still man and sent a request to the undertaker…