I sat in my inner office, biting on the sorry end of a pencil as I stared intently at a document. Figures swam in my eyes and I sighed. We were barely managing to stay afloat from the state of the account books. I dropped the pencil and removed my glasses, rubbing my eyes laboriously.
I really shouldn’t have given Patty a day off. Patty, my able assistant and Saviour on days like this when my brain refused to cooperate with me.
I sighed again, closing the file and keeping it for later when I heard a chime at the outside entrance signifying that someone had entered into my small establishment. I stood quickly, tucking my shirt in and straightening my tie, I walked out of my office to receive a customer.

A tall but somewhat diminished man stood, unsure of himself looking at the empty front desk where Patty should have been. He didn’t notice my silent entrance. I cleared my throat to get his attention and when he turned, I took in his appearance. His clothes hung off him loosely as if it unsure whether to mould to his skin or not; decrepit clothes of dull greys and browns. He sported a buzz-cut, dark hair greying at corners, his face rugged and bearded. His hands fascinated me; huge, callused things that spoke volumes about his menial type of job. His dark eyes were flinty, piercing mine when i looked at them. I dropped my eyes quickly. From my examination, he wasn’t a rich man.
I sighed inwardly. How was I going to get ahead if I could only net these sort of people?
I put on a bright smile and presented my hand to be shaken. he stared at it and ignored it.
I swallowed my slight irritation.
“Hello and welcome to Dante’s Mortuary ” I said affecting good cheer. His eyes roved the front office as I spoke to him.
“Is this a mortician’s place?” he asked in a dry voice that sounded like gravel pieces grated themselves somewhere in his larynx. I smiled at the question.
I got it a lot because of the bright and tasteful décor of the office. People always expect something dark and grey when they hear the word ‘Mortician’ and so being thrust into a vibrant office always threw them off.
“Yes it is and I am the man in charge” I added helpfully.
I felt his eyes go over me and I bore his examination with good grace. A few seconds passed and he didn’t say anything.
“So…” I started “You need my services?”
He nodded. “Are you good?”
I smiled unsure of how to answer. “Yes Sir. I can assure you I am excellent at my job. I would want to show you my past works but I’m sure they’re rotting in the grave right now”
I flashed him a brilliant smile which he answered with an impassive look. My smile died. Poor taste in joke?
“Well…I am good” I finished limply, suddenly unsure of how to continue the conversation.
“She was a beautiful woman.” he whispered, eyes far away. His eyes focused back on me. “I want to make sure she looks good. Good for viewing”
I nodded sagely. “Of course Sir.”
“Money is no object” he added and I reappraised him, curiously. Well! I grinned.
“Of course Sir. We give our clients expert services which they can testify to. Or not.”
“She was very beautiful” he whispered, eyes faraway again.

We stood there in silence, him arms by his sides distant; me, arms folded primly behind me, twisting my toes in my shoes with growing impatience.
Suddenly his attention returned. “She was a looker. She must look that way. Make sure of that.” he said sharply as if rebuking me and I snapped to attention.
“Of course Sir! May I inquire her name and when she died?” I asked.
He stared at me for a second too long, making me suddenly uncomfortable.
“Her name was…is Martha”
He smiled small. “I’ll fill out the necessary documents when I bring her.”
He turned to leave then stopped just at the door.
“As to when she died…” he paused, licking his lips. “It would be as soon as I get home” he whispered.
Without a backwards glance, left my office.
It took me several seconds for the import of his words to reach me. I gasped, swallowing hard. My mind was in turmoil.
“Maybe I heard wrongly” I whispered remembering he had said money was no object.
I needed funds. Badly.
I swallowed and walked back into my inner office.
“Maybe I heard wrongly”

He was right, she was a beautiful woman.
I stared at her lovely face slightly marred by death, fingers stroking her full dark hair. Her eyes were closed, thankfully.
Sometimes they were brought in with their eyes open. The emptiness usually made me shudder. It didn’t help that I enjoyed working on them late at night when there was quiet.
“What a pity” I whispered. “What a beautiful loss…”
“Maybe you heard wrongly?” a voice asked.
I jumped, startled.
I was alone. I laughed softly running my fingers through my hair. Fatigue.
“Or maybe you heard me wrongly?”
I jumped again, eyes glancing widely. “Who..what?”
My eyes fell on her face and watched in horror as her stiff lips stretched into a smile.
“Ah… Now you hear me… But you heard him wrongly…right?” the feminine voice drawled into my ear.
My legs shook and I stumbled, voiding my bowel on my trousers.
“Let’s make sure you really heard wrongly… Let’s make sure…”
A tug; sharp blooming pain.
I screamed.

***********************************************

Patty walked into the office the next morning and dropped her bags on her desk.
“Harry! Morning!” she called out.
She got no answer.
She frowned and walked into his office. She had noticed the lights on. Odd in itself, it meant he was in.
His office was empty.
“Ah. He’s working then”
She walked to the door opposite his office and knocked. “Hey Harry! I’m in!”
Silence greeted her.
Frowning she opened the door and walked in.
The smell hit her before the sight did.
Her eyes widened and she gagged, choking on a scream.
Harry was splayed on the floor, scalpel clutched in one bloodied hand, his ears clutched in the other.
On a slab, the unsmiling face of a beautifully dead woman.

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