Wood crackled and glowed in a brick fireplace. If you stared at it long enough with a cup of cocoa engulfed in your hands and had a woolen blanket wrapped around your shoulders, you could've fallen asleep.
But the ominous goings on surrounding the mantle suggest otherwise.
An old, wrinkly lady rocked back and forth in her faded green rocking chair. She was sitting adjacent to the fireplace keeping warm by the heat of the flames and was watching her favorite show, jeopardy. Her beady eyes squinted at the glow of the little t.v., scrutinizing the letters on the board being presented to the audience.
She raised a cigarette to her lips with a shaky hand and sucked in. This was the most active part of her day.
From across the room and past the custom made, red stone staircase, around the corner of the dining table that could seat twelve; and past the wood burning stove in the kitchen, the old, rackety kitchen door swung open with a long creak. The old lady didn't bat an eyelash, she didn't hear it open.
A tall, dark haired gentleman in a tailored, pin striped suit stalked in, following the opening kitchen door. He made his way in and stopped at an angle in front of the old lady.
She exhaled and let the smoke dissipate among the antique wooden beams in the high ceiling. The young gentleman stared at her, but she didn't notice. She just took another smoke and stared at the t.v.
"Mother, I need to use the basement again," The man in the tailored suit said.
There was a moment of silence. The old lady waved the cigarette from her face and glanced upward with a frightful smile.
"How wonderful dear! Are you having guests over again? You must tell me these things beforehand, so I can have my smoke and put my pack away before they come in. I wouldn't want to scandalize anybody with my bad habit!"
The gentleman rolled his gaze over the ash that sprinkled the carpet around the faded green rocking chair, then raised his eyes to the overflowing ash tray on the mahogany side table. He remained mute about the scene.
"Don't worry mother," said the gentleman shortly, "it's only Dr. Sullivan, and his, er- his friend that are coming over."
The gentleman stared coldly at the old lady, but she did not seem to notice.
" Oh, how nice." Her voice was sickening sweet and high pitched; not altogether unusual though. The gentleman's gaze hardened, but he didn't say anything.
The old lady croaked, "I do love it when Dr. Sullivan brings his friends. They are really the most interesting people I've ever heard of."
She was almost enthusiastic at those last words.
The old lady helped herself to the ends of her smoke and then smashed the cigarette into the overflowing ash tray.
" Yes, well, don't let us bother you, Mother," the pinned striped gentleman said harshly, "the doctor's friend has had a bit too much tonight and er-, we gotta get 'im inside before the neighbors wake up."
"I understand perfectly."
At that, the man showed a shadow of a wince. The old lady rubbed the ash from her hands onto her worn out night gown then turned back to the show, her thin mouth shut tight as if she had not spoken in years.
The young gentleman turned on his heel and went back out the kitchen door.
It was pitch black outside. There weren't very many neighbors up in the hills surrounding the old lady's house, just two. One neighbor's house was to the left of the kitchen door if you're facing outside, and another across the street, nestled behind a long private drive.
The little doctor was standing against a black Cadillac, beads of sweat racing down his forehead. He rubbed his moist palms on his sides and brought them in and out of his pockets indecisively. He was keeping a watchful eye on both of the neighbors' dark houses.
The gentleman walked brusquely down the foot stone path from the kitchen, startling the greasy doctor.
The doctor's eyes bulged out of his head as he stuttered out, "Jeffery," he pronounced his syllables very distinctly, "I think I saw someone looking out that neighbor's upstairs window," the doctor also had a raspy voice, "what if they saw us?"
The gentleman in the pinned striped suit looked down at his Celtic comrade.
" Relax, Sullivan," he commanded, " no one, lives in that house except an old man with Dementia," the gentleman paused, then added, "and some cats."
The doctor still looked uncertain.
" Across the street that neighbor is considered legally blind. If you ever see him driving a tractor though, it's none of our business. You know what I mean?"
The doctor was confused but nodded.
" Now, how's your cold friend doing, doctor?" The man in the suit asked.
" Oh, he's doing just fine Jefferey, just fine. Been as silent as a rock this whole time." he added with a slight chuckle.
The man in the suit stepped towards the back of the car. The doctor inhaled sharply as he opened up the trunk. There was a large black bag, almost six feet in length sitting in there. It looked like it weighed about 165 pounds. The man in the suit started pulling at it, whilst the doctor was still glancing around at the rural neighbors suspiciously, wiping his sweaty brow.
" I don't like it," he said rubbing his hands together, "no, no I don't like it."
" Will you relax and grab the other end Sullivan? I can't carry it all by myself."
The doctor jerked his body in the direction of the bag in the trunk and scooped up the other end. The two men lifted it and started to walk up the path toward the kitchen door, carrying the large black bag on both ends. The gentleman at the front was walking backwards, facing the doctor.
" Now, Doctor, remember to breathe. You've done this a dozen times."
" Yes, but not so close to halloween," he said looking side to side.
"Don't be a child, doctor" the man in the suit said pitilessly.
" No, honest and truly I don't like the feeling right now. It feels like someone is looking straight at my,-oh!"
At the cry the doctor dropped his end of the bag and there was heard an offended sound of hissing. The doctor leapt back in fear.
" What.. is it Doctor?" the gentleman seethed out.
"Oh, I-, I think I stepped on a cat," the doctor was very much agitated and scratching his head.
The gentleman rolled his eyes upward, remembering the doctor's phobia for feline creatures. He looked to the left and saw the silhouette of a cat dart into the bushes.
" Come on now, doctor it's gone. Pick up Mr. Kreuzenstein's feet. We don't want to leave dirty tracks on mother dearest's floor." He said the last line with a vile smirk.
" Alright, Jeffery."
The doctor picked up Mr. Kreuzenstein's other end and walked toward the kitchen into the house.
" Doctor, " the gentleman strictly said once the trio passed the dining table that seated twelve," we are putting Mr. Kreuzenstein in the basement."
A look of dire reluctance overcame the doctor.
"Oh no Jeffery, I can't go into the basement again. Is there even anymore room? Oh, you know I can't. I can't spend another night again down there, aching and sweating. Please, Jeff, have a heart. For my sake, I'll help you put him down there. But that's it. Please."
The doctor looked up with pleading, desperate eyes. The man in the pinned striped suit returned a cold menacing stare.
" Doctor, you know you're duty."
The doctor knew he had no choice.
" Alright, Jeffrey, you win. But please let this be the last time."
But the man said nothing and continued on.
They walked past the custom made, red stone staircase where the door to the basement was off to the right. The gentleman reached back and opened the door with one arm and proceeded to step downward and backwards on the steps into the basement. The doctor looked to the left into the living room where the old lady sat rocking back and forth in her faded green rocker. Another cigarette was lit up in her hand, smoke billowing about her as if she could've breathed fire out her ears.
" Your mother is always the same Jefferey. Every time she is the same. She rocks back and forth like this, raises a cigarette up and breathes the smoke in and out like a dragon."
The man in the suit shot him a look and the doctor shut his mouth and said no more. The old lady scared the doctor half to death, he laughed nervously. The odd companions and their cold friend reached the end of their descent down the basement steps.
The gentleman and the doctor released the bag and let it hit the floor with a heavy thud. The gentleman in the tailored suit flipped on a switch and a single light bulb turned on, producing an eerie ambiance much suited to the situation at hand.
"Alright doctor, let us begin. Where did we go last time?"
The doctor looked around the basement.
" Last time Jeff, we were in that corner, over there to the right."
The man in the suit glanced in that direction and then looked to the opposite side.
" Okay then, we'll get to work over there," he said motioning to the corner on the left.
The doctor nodded and walked over to a little closet under the basement steps and pulled out two shovels. He handed one to the gentleman.
" We are going to make Mr. Kreuzenstein a nice bed to stay in, eh, Jefferey? "
The other man only pursed his lips together grimly, removed his coat and neatly rolled up his white shirt sleeves. He then stabbed the shovel into the earthen floor and began digging.
The doctor pulled out a flask and took several long gulps. He let out a sigh and said to himself, " Yes, we'll make a nice bed for Mr. Kreuzenstein." He licked the whiskey from his lips and went to work.
After hours of digging, at nearly two in the morning, the two men finished Mr. Kreuzenstein's "bed". The man in the tailored suit hopped up and lended a hand to his short friend and yanked him upwards.
" Alright Doctor, it is time to lay Mr. Kreuzenstien to rest. As you can see he's had a very long journey."
They both looked down at the six foot bag laying limply on the floor.
The doctor mumbled, " Yes, across five states in the trunk of our car, giving us no time for rest and we breaking our backs for hours here- ," the doctor stopped, "Mr. Kreuzenstein must be exhausted." The doctor wiped his brow again and took another swig out of the flask and said to the bag, " I hope you appreciate our hard-,"
The gentleman interrupted, "No one will know where he is now and there's no possibility it can be traced back to us . Isn't that correct, Doctor?"
The doctor hesitated as he noticed the man's white collared shirt. There was no trace of dirt on it, remarkably. The doctor thought for a moment then nodded in agreement.
"Yes, yes Jefferey. Let us hurry up now and lay Mr. Kreuzenstein down, shall we?" He took another long swig of whiskey. " I don't want to be down in this cursed basement any longer than we need to be."
The gentleman assented and he and the doctor picked up the bag and on the count of three, tossed it in the ground. The doctor looked down at Mr. Kreuzentstein and gave a little cry. The gentleman in the suit looked aggressively at the doctor in irritation.
The doctor pointed into the hole. The man walked over and glanced down. A single foot was sticking out of the bag.
" He's missing his shoe!" The doctor exclaimed.
The gentleman's face changed just a shade lighter.
"Well, where is it?"
The doctor thought for a moment and said, " Wait a second."
He dashed up the basement stairs like a deer and ran through the house and out back through the kitchen where they had entered. He walked unevenly on the foot stones in the grass to where he had stepped on the cat. A single shoe lay there. The doctor looked upward in gratitude, swayed a little, then snatched it up and quickly ran back to the basement. He tossed the shoe in neatly next to its silent owner.
" Well done, doctor." The gentleman in the suit said grimly.
The doctor downed the rest of his whiskey and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He gave a weak smile.
" Let's finish up." The man in the suit said.
Still out of breath, the doctor said, "Yes, Jefferey let's finish this up."
They both picked up their shovels and reversed the digging process.
"Bon Voyage, Mr. Kreuzenstein," said the doctor.
The two men walked back up the stairs when the earthen floor in the basement was flat once more. It was half passed three. They walked into the living room where the old lady was still in her rocker, unaware of the present moment. The gentleman in the tailored suit stopped next to her.
" I'm going now, mother."
The old lady turned toward the gentleman.
" Did the doctor and his friend have a nice time?"
The doctor stood back and nodded nervously. "Alwa-ays a p-pleasure, ma'am," he said with a wry smile and slight stutter.
" Good, doctor. I hope you don't mind the smoke, I know how much you must disapprove of my habit."
She gave another frightful smile. The doctor could only return a nervous nod.
" Do come back soon, dear."
" Of course, mother. The doctor and I will be going now."
The old lady turned back suddenly toward the t.v as if she hadn't had a conversation at all. The doctor and the gentleman turned on their heels and marched out.
The doctor seemed to be musing over something as they were walking on the footpath toward the black car and then he cried in a whisper,
"Jefferey, what if the cops find out she's your mother? Wouldn't we be caught, dead? All they need to do is have one stop here and we're-!" He a made a slicing motion with his forefinger across his throat.
His comrade was silent.
The poor doctor went white and broke out in a sweat all over again, rubbing his hands together. "What if they connect all those crimes here, to her basement? And then they find it was us?"
The gentleman in the tailored suit gave a ruthless smirk.
" Relax doctor, relax."
"But Jefferey, oh, what if she suspects something?"
The gentleman stopped and stared hard into the eyes of his nervous comrade.
"Doctor," he said, " we shan't be caught."
"How are you so sure?"
The gentleman's smirk returned as he took out a cigarette and lit it. He took his time while the doctor waited anxiously. He lifted the cigarette up , sucked it in and breathed out. He said, "I know we shan't be caught because that old lady isn't my mother." The gentleman exhaled the smoke into the night air casually. The doctor just stared.
"She has Alzheimers and she thinks I'm her son." continued the gentleman.
The doctor was silent then he smiled.
"Oh, this is wonderful Jeffery." He said, almost with a laugh. " So we just use her basement whenever we want because she thinks you're her son, eh. She has no idea, huh? Who's all down there? Every time? Oh, you are too much, Jeffery, too much." The doctor was chuckling, slapping his thigh and then laughing maniacally. He stopped and regained composure, and wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked up as another thought struck him and stared at the gentleman for a moment, then said, "But what happened to her son, Jefferey?"
The man in the tailored suit smirked deviously again and took another smoke before speaking.
"He died a terrible death, Doctor. " He said staring at nothing in front of him.
" How... how...how do you know that, Jefferey?"
The gentleman in the pinned striped suit took another smoke and glanced sideways at the doctor.
" You should know, Doc. You helped me bury him."