As Augustus watched the police officer climb out of the cruiser, tears blurred his vision and burned the corners of his eyes.
A bolt pierced his mind, and he winced, silent thunder rumbling through the depths. Coiling around the dark recesses, rising, something foreign squeezed into his conscience becoming thought. Not words, but his mind translated giving it new life. It blazed into an inferno this message from Hell.
Make him go away.
Spinning away from the window, Augustus put his back against the wall. Sitting there in the center of the desk among pads of paper, pencils, and his calendar, an unfamiliar revolver, an old Colt .45 Peacemaker caught his eye. The corpse of Villeneuve, the man he had shot weeks ago, sat in the chair behind the desk. The half-rotted face seemed to grin with delight. Villeneuve’s hand rested on the edge of the desk. His index finger, forced open, crooked and broken, pointed at the Peacemaker.
Augustus glared at his visitor from Hell. “Tell the devil he isn’t getting me. Not tonight.”
Sitting in the other chair beside the desk, the corpse of the skinny fellow from Pine Mountain Tavern offered nothing but a mouth full of rotten teeth and bugs.
Racing to meet the officer before he drew too close to the stench, Augustus flung open the door, stumbled outside—nearly dropping his cane, and as calmly as he could muster, he closed the door. He met the officer half-way down the walk.
The man in blue removed his cap and pushed his hands through his bristling flattop hair.
“Mister Thyme,” said the officer, “are you feeling all right?”
Augustus’s heart hammered so hard, he thought the police sergeant—designated by the insignia on his uniform—might hear it. He dabbed at the sweat on his forehead, took a deep breath, and offered a smile.
“It’s been a long day,” said Augustus. He let his smile fade. “My leg, you see?”
The sergeant sniffed the air and his eyes narrowed, his expression as stern as stone. Towering over Augustus, the sergeant was built like a gladiator. He held the glare of military discipline, and wore the calluses of a farmer, or more likely a mechanic during active duty. Sergeant Wilcox, according to his name tag, glanced about, eyeing the funeral home with suspicion.
“You should consider hiring help,” said Sergeant Wilcox.
“Yes—yes, I’ve realized that now. Feeling rather foolish for trying to do so much on my own. What brings you here tonight, sergeant? Is it about my son?”
The sergeant’s gaze locked onto the office door, and he sniffed at the air.
Dear God, Augustus thought, please call the officer away. There was no telling how much rot swam into the night air. So much of it trapped within his nostrils, to him, the world stank of rot. His clothes likely smelled bad, perfectly explainable for his position so long as the officer stayed away from the office. Who had set the corpses in the office? Certainly not Vampire Thyme. The old creature already had young Samuel. There was nothing to gain through torture.
“Your son?” said the officer. He shook his head. “No, you’ll have to speak with Detective Montgomery about that.”
Make him go away.
Augustus winced. There it was again, not a voice, not a thought exactly, something in his head. He couldn’t agree more. Make Sergeant Wilcox go away, he thought.
“There’s been calls about a camper seen around here,” said the officer. His expression softened, but his face still appeared to be chiseled from stone. “A blue pickup pulling a trailer parked along the road and spotted in the graveyard. Have you seen anything suspicious?”
It took a moment for the words to break through his thoughts, assembling into a scattered mess: truck, blue, graveyard. Graveyard camper? Once he put it together, he let out a breath of relief, and shook his head.
“I haven’t been out much on account of my leg,” said Augustus. He tapped his cane on the ground twice. Camping wasn’t allowed in the graveyard, but out here in the woods, trailers weren’t exactly suspicious looking. “I was in the graveyard earlier this evening for services. There was a mess of vehicles along the roadway, but I don’t recall seeing a trailer or a blue pickup.”
Sergeant Wilcox nodded. “Might have been kids up to no good. Wanted to make sure you were okay, nobody giving you trouble.”
The two corpses. His visitor from Hell had brought more than enough trouble for one lifetime, and a story he couldn’t share with the police. What would he say? Hey, mister police man, two men I shot came back from the dead for a drink of revenge. No, he had to do what the thing in his head had suggested. Make the shining knight go away.
“Mind if I look around? asked the police sergeant.
“No, no,” said Augustus, waving his cane. “I mean yes, I do mind.” He cringed nervously, and took a deep breath. “I was just locking up and getting ready to put my aching leg to bed.”
The sergeant shot a glance at the office door. “Is everything all right, Mister Thyme? Do you need any assistance?”
Make him go away.
A flash, and sparks shot down his back, into his leg. Buckling over, he grasped his leg, squeezing. “God damn it!” he said, spitting through clenched teeth.