Fiction Mystery Holiday


By Andrew Paul Grell

“Dink, I heard him with my own ears. I just walked into Stiffy’s lookin’ to wet my whistle, and I see Bad Brad at the Euchre table in the back with Panhead Pete and the Constable. Absolutely positively I heard Brad say that the biggest deal of the year was going down on Halloween night at Gates of Mercy Cemetery. The stuff was going to be hidden in crypts and graves,” One-eyed Jack informed his friend and occasional nefarious partner, while righting himself from parallel to perpendicular on the park bench, the one closest to the Prism Fountain and far away from the stand of Ailanthus trees. 

“How sure are you that you heard what you think you might maybe have heard, Jack, And who decided to put those stinky Ailanthus in a park where people eat,” Dink asked. He knew the answer to the first but had to ask the question.

“Aw, Dinkster. You know me. When I lost my eye I musta compensated with better hearing.” Arthur Dinkletter couldn’t disagree. One time at Eider Downs, Jack overheard a whispered conversation under the paddock between him and some tout about a hot shipper horse from New Jersey. Dink only realized that Jack glommed onto the tip when Dink saw him driving a Corvette down Tyndall Avenue.

“Biker gang, local operator, and ceremonial law enforcement, such as it is. Gotta be meth. Ain’t folks tired of meth? Ain’t the skells doing downs now? Or legal weed? Whaddaya figure for the job, Jack?”

“Nobody’s gonna be in that bone yard tomorrow night, not until everybody who remembers five years ago is either buried here or moved away.” The memory of it got Dink to shiver; no mean feat, that. Five years ago, the Not-So-Right Reverend Hawthorne had a bit of a Vitamin K proclivity. He became increasingly incensed by any sexual activity, natural or deviant, legal or not. His number one bugaboo was the William Seward High School senior class fucking in the cemetery on the eve of All Saints Day. He filed his teeth to points and made himself a pretty good Dracula costume from an old Cassock and a pre-ordination tux. Nobody noticed anything strange about just another costumed rutter. Until he started biting throats.

“Good thinking, Jack. Ya hear any more about where those crypts and graves with the stuff might be in?”

“I think I heard the Constable mention Trees of Heaven. Dink, ya think they got trees up in Heaven?”

“How in Hell should I know? And it looks like we ain’t gonna never find out, neither. But maybe we might could find out a bit about what’s goin’ on in what’s left of the Constable’s brain.” Haimish Dogberry had been a sergeant in Sumac’s little police force. An incident involving a thrown frying pan during a response to a domestic dispute left Haimish intellectually diminished. Rather than having him wandering around aimlessly, the Town of Sumac created the position of Town Constable as a sinecure for the popular officer. He would accompany the police for things like repossessions or flagrantly overdue library books and then put his rubber stamp on the incident report. He was never called to testify, but if he ever was, he’d probably be at the A Minor Diner having toast and eggs, precisely where Dink and Jack found him. They took a booth far away but in line-of-site, ordered sour creme-filled doughnuts with coffee, and waited to see what was up. Eventually, after the pair of part-time petty criminals switched to gravy fries, it turned out to be Delilah who  was up.

 Delilah the seamstress looked in on the Constable from time to time, just to make sure he was okay. And perhaps to convince herself she maintained being social in her widowhood. Jack lowered the brim of his campaign hat and focused in on the not-quite couple.

“She can’t stay long. She has three costumes to finish up by this afternoon. Madonna, Puck, and a Q-tip. He can’t meet her tonight because he has to stand watch over the cemetery to make sure no juiced preachers get in. She says…” Jack was interrupted by a dropped tray heading to table six. “Nuts. Back on track. She says nobody is going near there. He can’t meet her tomorrow night because it stinks to high heaven where his post is.” They both saw her give a little laugh. “The constable allowed as to how if he’s patrolling, he should be able to go around and patrol. They’ll be meeting at the fat cherub tombstone. Now Haimish is talking about Bad Brad’s son. Something about the high school senior class.”

“Cherub. Stinky place. And, let’s say, the east parking lot for Pete’s crew. We should be able to triangulate with that. What say we reconnoiter a bit.”

The delinquent duo hoofed it the four blocks from Sumac’s cradle of culinary arts to the graves of those who were just a soupcon too culinary. Everyone knew where the fat cherub was. The pair started from there and headed south. Dink stopped at the first fresh grave. He gave it a good stomp; it was a just plain fresh grave. Same with the second and third fresh graves. But the fourth was just two inches of dirt covering something wooden. “Bingo,” he shouted. “Paydirt.” They went on. Three more plots sheltered no departed souls. “That’s my family’s mausoleum right there, Dink. See? It says Lowery right on that plaque.” The one-eyed man noticed a smudge on the mausoleum brass; he took out a bandana and wiped it away. “Lot of us Lowerys put up in there. Grandpa showed it all to me when I was six, there’s another level under this one.”

“Probably a good place to observe. Maybe we know where the meth is buried,” Dink opined. They pressed on south.

“Dink, I think my nose is also compensating for my eye. The stinky place is that way,” Jack said, pointing southwest.

“Jack, take me back to your tomb.” They walked back; Jack took a key from a chain around his neck and inserted it into the gothic lock under the strict gaze of both Angels and Gargoyles.

“It’s been opened, Dink. Picked. I’m going to check and see if there’s any damage. Everything looked in order on the ground level portion. The below-grade part, also untouched, extended far enough that they couldn’t see the end of it.

“It ain’t meth, Jack. It ain’t Mexico on the other side o’ that parkin’ lot. They coulda just took a pitstop, pretend to fix a flat, make the exchange and ride on off to the four corners of the earth.” Dink took out his phone and called up a map. Five hundred yards away, across 61, was the First National Bank of Hellespont.

“Jake. It’s a bank job. Now we have to figure out how the stinky place fits into the equation, and what the Trees of Heaven are. My bet is that they’re going to do a diversion on this side and take out the bank when nobody is looking. I hate to see that they got the Constable involved.”

“Ya know, Dink, we might could got something better than meth or cash or even both.”

“And that would be?”

“Our lives back. Our good names back. Let’s clear out of the Mausoleum and set up a blind at the opposite angle. We think we know what they’re fixin’ to do, we just have to wait here tomorrow night and see how it plays out.

# # #

Halloween started in Sumac at precisely 3:00 PM with every church and school bell ringing and the smashing of the prize-winning pumpkin in front of Town Hall. Little kids made the rounds for their candy, older kids pretended to be littler and glom some treats. Grownups dressed for their parties, seventeen of them in hand-stitched Delilah costumes, consumed with wondering who was going to feel up whom at their particular masked free-for-all. At one hour before sundown, Brad Junior, costumed as the Pied Piper, led the senior class towards Gates of Mercy. His Lieutenants were passing out condoms and Roman Candles. 

Jack and Dink were able to see the action to the west from their blind. They settled in for the long, overnight haul, Jameson’s and a deck of cards to pass the time.

“I guess the curse is over, or the lure of fornication won out,” Jack proposed. “Or Bad Brad is using his son to set up the diversion.”

By 2:00 AM, there was foot traffic headed in the direction of the blind.

“Who are they, Dink?” Can’t make ‘em out, too far away to smell ‘em.”

“It’s Haimish and Delilah. I guess they decided to leave the stinky place.” Dink stood up in the clear.

“Haimish,” he whisper-shouted. “Constable Dogberry!”

The pair, coquettish as any of the high school senior couples, moseyed over to their underclass neighbors.

“Happy Halloween, Boys!”

“Haimish. There’s going to be trouble. Listen. If you see the balloon go up, if you hear trouble, anything at all, get on the radio and call Hellespont PD, tell them the bank is going to be robbed. And if they don’t see’em, they’ll be in the basement.”

“I think your balloon is going up, Mr. Dinkletter,” Delilah was pointing back north, then poked her paramour in the ribs with his own radio. There was a scrum around the false grave, men were pulling out articles of clothing. “Hey! I think I made some of those costumes!”

Art saw one man not in costume; it had to be Panhead Pete. Originally named because of the model of Harley he rode, the moniker became more and more descriptive over time.

The group, wearing Reverend Hawthorne costumes, headed southwest to where the action seemed to be. Jake and Dink climbed to the top of the Lowery Mausoleum and saw what was going on with the Seward senior class., and especially what had to happen to cause a celebratory roman Candle to be set off.

By 3:00 AM, a flying wedge of Hawthornes invaded the amorous high school seniors, who fled before the onslaught of potential murderers. Right into the stand of Ailanthus trees, autumn-discarded leaves crushed into the dirt and pebbles, the horrid-smelling Ailanthone chemical panicking the students into not knowing where they’re going. There were so many 911 calls that all units in town, plus fire and EMS, converged on the final resting place. So far, Bad Brad’s and Panhead Pete’s diversion was effective, but thanks to Haimish, Dink, and Jack, Hellespont PD pounced on them in the tunnel leading from the Lowery Mausoleum at the point directly under the centerline of Highway 61, the dividing line between the two towns.

# # #

The police overtime for this year’s Halloween Spectacular ate up much of the department’s budget, and the medal pinning ceremony was basically leftover pumpkin pie and rejected candy. But Constable Dogberry got to be a hero, and Dink and Jake couldn’t buy a drink or a meal in either Sumac or Hellespont. They could hold their heads high, finally. After the ceremony, on a whim, Dink looked up Tree of Heaven on his phone, and got a surprise a sharp operator like himself should have expected…

October 28, 2020 17:12

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