I’m trying to see myself through the officer’s eyes, but I can’t seem to manage. To be expected, I suppose. Not big on the whole empathy thing; it can be problematic in my line of work.
Standard city cop fare, he’s wearing. No flak jacket. Slight gut, a forty-years paunch; unremarkable bones. Terrible specimen. Shame.
Harassing kids at the local cemetery is likely way beyond his pay grade. Doubt he’s happy to stop here. I’m not too happy about it, either.
Give it a minute.
He’s turned on the giant flashlight. Holds it like a javelin. A security blanket, not a weapon. Bet he’s unarmed. Shame.
Here comes the beam. First on my boots, black, rather shiny. The pants, heavily zippered, black. Now my jacket. Leather. Black, of course. Camouflage for moonless nights, far from the city where there’s no light pollution, where I can move freely.
He swings the beam into my eyes. The prick. Wonder what he sees. My pale skin all aglow, my short obsidian hair invisible in the dark. Looks like my face is floating there, I imagine. Maybe he thinks I’m some Goth out for thrills. Or melancholy, whatever it is they like. Wouldn’t know. Terrible at that empathy business.
He hasn’t discovered the hole yet. Marvelous. In another minute, he certainly will. What fun.
Too busy hovering the light over my eyes. Checking whether or not they’re bloodshot. Figures I’m addled. One of those chemical types. Who else would be in this place, at this late hour? Who, indeed! Well, let him search. Should keep him busy.
I didn’t bring the dog. Cop’s lucky. In that regard.
My dog’s a hound. Exceptional snout. Trained to sniff out lime. Cheap enough mineral. You can sprinkle it over bodies to prevent animals from digging them up, or to foil most police dogs.
Not my dog.
Where there’s lime, there’s something to hide. Often murder. Where there’s murder, there’s a set of bones imbued with rage. Or fear. Or hatred. Strong stuff. Makes the bones easier to use. More pliable. More suggestible.
Of course, you only need a hound when you’re searching out unmarked sites. Forests. Marshes. Dumpsters. Here, everything’s clearly marked. Easy to find the good specimens. Check the headstones. Hunt down the years with comparatively small gaps in between. Say, seventeen to thirty. Usually murdered; usually choice. Lots of them in the city.
It’s quite simple.
Better not to bring the dog. I can do the searching myself. Dog would only attract suspicion, being here. Cop might stop me for littering, not picking up after my pet.
Wish he’d move that beam already.
What did he say? Better not to answer. Half a minute, if not less.
Most people would think my profession died off in the medieval era, if it ever lived at all. How little they know. I have colleagues the world over.
It’s the Japanese ones who make me stand in awe. I hear they have funeral towers there. For lack of land. Have to build upward, bury at sky. Visiting hours, locked doors, like a hospital. Tight security. Too many living stares.
There goes the flashlight beam, leaving my eyes, trailing down to the soiled shovel by my feet. Now he’s scanning the ground, the piles of dirt on either side of the hole. And now the hole, wide, deep, black like strong treacle. He mumbles something. Perhaps wishes he brought his two-way radio. Then he notices an open book I’d dropped.
Sometimes, when you’re first learning the ‘Mancy, you need one of those dusty leather-bound tomes to help you. Agrippa. Paracelsus. Compounds to mix, words to utter. Not me. Not anymore. Memorized what I need. The only books I use are my journals, for notes, results.
Gorgeous results. I’ve many. The one thing at which I’m any good.
The flashlight zooms back to the hole. Was that a movement you glimpsed, officer? Delightful. No, it wasn’t me. I’m here, stock-still like a nice obedient boy.
Did you see something? Well, right on schedule. What was it? Do tell, though I’ve a notion.
Silent? But, why? Is that fright, officer?
Oh, now he knows what I am. What I do. What I can do. Most people, I’ve found, recognize ‘Mancing by instinct. There’s no mistaking it when they do. Those eyes. That look. The quaking beam that can’t tear itself away from the open grave.
A skinless hand reaches out of the hole, sinking its white bone fingers into the grass.
Not my best work, but good enough. You won’t have time to run, officer. Let the fun begin.
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