In my business, we plant a lot of trees so to speak. Plant a lot of trees, dig a lot of holes, and work a lot of nights. This particular time we were engulfed with all three. But don’t feel bad for the departed. He was a bank manager taking from not only my boss but the customers of his bank; charging high-interest rates and skimming a 1% or 2 off the top. He deserved what happened to him. Believe it or not, planting trees is a great way to dispose of bodies. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if 50% of the trees in this development had a body underneath them. Plus, it helps the trees grow faster so be wary of any tree in your development growing faster than the other trees around them.
You’re probably wondering, why trees in housing developments? One, it’s convenient and two, it’s convenient. You see, when a body is buried it has the tendency to decompose quickly. If you put it in a shallow grave, or even a deep one, after a week or two a depression will show, and sure enough if people are looking for the person or if someone just happens to wander around where you buried the person, the situation gets a lot more complicated. If you plant people under trees, not only will the tree grow faster and stronger, the depression will not alarm anyone.
Benny “Bones”, the tall masculine man digging to my left, was the perfect man for the job. Sworn in as a “uomo fidato” years ago, he took me under his wing soon after and we were inseparable. He understood my dark humor and I understood his affinity for pain or inflicting pain to be more specific. He worked out regularly and steroids were his drug of choice. Every once in a while he raged but he tells me they make them a lot better than they used to be. “Roid rages” were a thing of the past. Steroids, he said, were a lot cleaner. Whatever the case may be, he was the kind of guy you wanted to have your back in my line of business, especially for me. I may have been a scraper, but I was no ringer. Not like Benny. To put it bluntly, I did the talking and he does the walking.
Luckily for us, our bosses were in the housing development business. That’s where most of their money came from and most of the work was started. We were finishing up the dig in Phase 2 because it was vacant. No one was around mostly because it was 3 in the morning. The foundations were laid out to begin construction but no houses were built yet so it made for a great dumping spot.
Think what you want about us but the truth was we were the good ones. Or that’s what we told ourselves. It always beats working at McDonalds. We were like Robin Hood in a sense. The people we targeted were the rich pricks that tried to soil the deals or sully our bosses and their customers. Basically, our bosses developed land for houses for people that needed help. They offered small interest loans as a way to undercut the banks and also help the ones who needed it the most. When the banks turned them down or offered too high of high-interest rates, they turned to our bosses and they in turn offered those people help. They in turn sent us out to set the bank people straight or teach them a lesson. Sometimes it didn’t go as planned and we were digging holes for trees. Most of the time, they got the message to do business and adjust their offers. My boss was a gentleman like that. He stuck up for the little guy. Someone had to in these dying times.
“Hey, do you see that guy over there?” Benny said. He pointed to the corner of the woods across the way. As I looked, I saw the shadow of a man walking back and forth looking at us.
“I wonder how much he saw. I better go over there and talk to him. You finish up here and get everything in the truck and ready to go. Take off the license plate too.”
I dropped my shovel and started to walk over there and thought there could be more of them. Even though it looked intimidating, I walked back, picked up the shovel, and started my way over there again. He was about 50 yards away so he was in plain sight but as I got closer, he started to move further and further into the shadow of the woods. When I arrived at the spot, he was standing in the shadow of the tree so I couldn't make him out completely but I knew him. This wasn’t the first time. He was hunched over like an old man. He was pale and never looked at me directly, just in my general direction. He smelled of burnt roses and hickory if that makes sense. It was also cold near him. My joints always started to hurt like I needed to kneel. My chest felt caved in and my mind always raced.
“Hey old timer, do you need a hand with something?” I sputtered out the words.
“Looks like you started working early this morning.” The old man said.
“Or working late. I guess it depends on how you look at it, right?”
“Six one way, a half dozen the other.”
“Can’t argue with that”
The old man started to walk away then stopped.
“Your life is meaningless if everything you do is for someone else.”
Benny brought the car around to pick me up and when the lights shown on us, the old man disappeared. I looked around for any remnants of him but he was gone. I walked to the truck, put the shovel in the back, and hopped in.
“Who was it?”
“It was no one.”
“Jackson, who was it?”
“It. Was. Noone.” Mr. Noface showed up. I didn’t want to tell Benny but there was no use hiding it from him.
We called him Mr. Noface or Noone, mainly because we never saw his face. He was always in the shadows and never said too much, but what he told us was always haunting. In this line of business, you get to see a lot of weird things. It was jarring at first; made us rethink our lives and who we are; that kind of existential shit but over time it became annoying.
When Benny first met him, he tried to fight him and immediately started swinging. Benny told me the old man said something to him he’d never forget or repeat. He never told me what it was until he was on his deathbed. Benny kept it pretty close to his chest. That week Benny was in the hospital for a while when he tried taking on 4 guys at a bar. He was big but not big enough to take on 4 guys that night.
It was the same for me. The first time I met Mr. Noface, I pulled a gun on him. He told me the police were going to get involved with me and walked away. When I tried to stop him, he was already gone. A couple of days later a cop pulled me over and pulled a gun on me for reaching for my wallet. It seemed Mr. Noface was a kind of Karma trope or religious awakening. Benny thought he was some angel. I thought it was just some small inconvenience. Whenever he came around we treated him like a stranger passing by. It always worked out better that way.
“Oh shit, it was Noface? Shit! Shit! Shit! Glad you talked to him than me. Last time…”
“I know about last time, okay? Everything is going to be fine. We chatted and he left. Let’s leave it at that.”
“You betta lay low for a while. I’ll tell the boss you’re sick or something.”
“No need. We have work to do.”
Benny was a bit of a superstitious man. Currently reciting the Lord’s Prayer and messing with prayer beads as we drove, I did more of an introspection of sorts. This time was different though. This time he may have been right to pray. I sent up a prayer or 2 of my own after seeing the no faced man because this time he did have a face. It was mine.