Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 17
Sharon let the small gate swing closed behind her, then glanced around. Which took about two seconds because, as mentioned in previous frantic episodes, this cemetery was miniscule. Two fancy headstones, and then a small cluster of unmarked graves. Nothing seemed out of place, nothing looked different. Same as it had been twenty-five years ago.
Sharon sighed. She had really hoped she’d made the right connection that this cemetery had something to do with the twenty stones. She quickly counted the unmarked graves. Yep. Twenty. Wait. Was that a twenty-first? She wasn’t sure.
She yelled over the privacy hedge that surrounded the small property. “Hexom!”
There was a small yelp, a creaking of the gate, and then Hexom’s head poked into view. “Yes, Sacajawea?”
“Come here. Does this look like another grave to you?”
Hexom walked a few steps closer. “How would I know, Sharon? I didn’t bury these people.”
“Don’t be an ass. Just look.” She pointed. “That right there. Is that a grave?”
Hexom peered at what did appear to be an indentation, mulling the possibility. There was another gate squeak as Alejandro joined them, his broad chest glistening in the late-afternoon sun. “I should be able to tell. I used to dig graves before I moved to this country. I like solitude and people who don’t talk back.”
Sharon paused at this revelation. “You did? You never told me that.”
“You never asked.”
“Why would I think to ask that?”
“Why would I think to tell you?”
Sharon made a dismissive gesture with her left hand. “Alejandro, I’m not in the mood for more of our pretend dysfunctional relationship. And why are you in here without a shirt? It’s disrespectful.”
“You, concerned about disrespect? You don’t even respect people who are alive. Besides, you like my nipples. You’ve named them. I might be busy with getting the leaves out of the pool every morning, but I can hear you on your balcony. I can also hear when you change the batteries in your-”
“Alejandro, GO put your shirt on. And where’s April?”
He pointed over the hedge to the east as he marched away.. “She saw a construction worker on the next block, doing something with a jack hammer. She’s going to be disappointed, though. Even from here, I could tell that his package was mostly underwear and vibration.” The gate clanged shut.
Sharon turned back to Hexom, only to find that he was down on his knees in the grass, which was startling since there were no other males in the vicinity. “What are you doing, Hexom?”
He glanced over his shoulder briefly, then went back to fiddling with the ground. “There’s something odd here. This looks like it’s new.”
Sharon knelt beside him. “What do you mean? They don’t bury people here anymore.”
“I’m aware of that.” Hexom continued pawing at the grass, and then managed to find a seam of some kind. He peeled back a perfect square of the grass. “It’s sod. Somebody’s put sod in here recently.” He pulled another square aside.
Mystified, Sharon helped Hexom as they pulled up more squares. “This doesn’t make sense. The rest of the grass looks fine. Did something happen here?”
Hexom armed some sweat of his brow. “I don’t know. But instinct tells me you were right about this cemetery. We just have to figure out what it means. That’s how this whole game works.”
Hexom’s secret phone rang. He whipped it out, flipped it open, hit a button, and barked “You don’t have to chastise me. But it’s her first stone. Back off.” He slammed the phone shut and shoved it back in his pocket.
“Wow,” murmured Sharon. “You really get butch when you’re on your knees. You must be popular at parties.”
Hexom chuckled, then stopped in mid-laugh as he pulled the last square of grass away.
They both stared at what was revealed. It looked like the back of a Polaroid picture, half-covered in loose dirt.
“Interesting,” mused Sharon. “This has got to be old. I don’t think they even make that camera anymore.” She reached out and plucked the object from its hiding place. She flipped it over. “It’s a house. An older house.”
Hexom brushed dirt from his manicured hands. “Do you recognize it?”
Sharon studied the picture for a bit more. “No. Well, maybe. I don’t know. Something about it seems…. I don’t know.” She held the picture out to Hexom. “Have you seen this house?”
He took the photo and perused the structure. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to live there, but yes, it rings a weird bell.”
“What the HELL are you bitches doing, digging up dead people?”
Sharon and Hexom turned in the direction of the familiar voice. April was standing at the cemetery gate, brushing jackhammer dust off her slender arms. “You know that’s wrong, right?”
Hexom stood up. “That’s not what we’re doing, creepy hairstylist with issues. But speaking of digging for things you shouldn’t, how did it go with your pile-driver man?”
April sighed. “Turns out it was a woman. Back in the day, that would have bothered me. But I was cool about it. She was kinda hot. Then she said she liked country music, and I knew it wouldn’t work.” She shook some concrete flecks out of her hair. “Anyway, what up in this grill?”
“Ever seen this house?” asked Hexom, handing her the Polaroid.
April took the picture and gazed upon it, then “Nope. Wait. Maybe?”
“Exactly,” said Sharon, standing up as well. “It could be any house around here. It’s the right time period for this area. We’ve probably seen it a million times, but we’re not making the connection.” She walked over and gently placed her hand on the tombstone for Mrs. Merrifield. “I just don’t know what they’re trying to tell me.”
Hexom sauntered up and stood beside her. “It’s not the Merrifields, Sharon. It’s The Host. Screwing around with us.”
Sharon shook her head. “I know what you’re saying. But still. The spirits of these people have to know what happened in their own-”
“Do you think this means anything?” April again. Pointing at one of the unmarked graves.
Hexom joined her, followed by Sharon. “I don’t see anything. What are you trying to point at with your nasty slut finger?”
April made a scowling face, then reached down and plucked something out of the grass covering one of the unmarked graves. “This!” It was a tiny white flag on a toothpick, easily missed. “It says ‘yes’ on it.”
“Really?” pondered Hexom. “Like the drug-drenched musical group from the 70’s?”
“I wouldn’t know,” said April. “I’m only thirty and can still do the splits.”
Sharon sighed, for the fortieth time in this serial. “Was that really necessary, April? One day you’ll be just like us, hoisting your fat ass into the bathroom and spending three hours trying to have a bowel movement.”
The cemetery gate creaked again. It was Alejandro. “I thought you all should know that I just checked the poll results on the website, and everybody is whining about how this episode is not as funny as the others.”
Sharon marched over to him. “We really don’t need your mess right now, Allie. It’s nice that you finally put on a shirt, but go away.”
Sharon turned around to sashay back into the cemetery proper, but suddenly stopped. “Uh oh.”
Hexom moved next to her. “Why are you saying that?’
Sharon shifted Hexom around until he was standing exactly like her. “Now. Look at the graves.”
Hexom did so. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to see.”
Sharon opened her arms and held them wide. “Look at all the graves, and how they are arranged.”
Hexom tried, but didn’t get anywhere. “I still don’t-”
April got it. “It’s the layout of this part of the neighborhood.”
Sharon smiled. “Precisely. That grave right there is the Tom Thumb supermarket. That one over there is the CVS pharmacy. It’s a map!”
It finally clicked with Hexom. “Oh my GOD, girl. How in the hell did you get that?”
Sharon shook her head in befuddlement. “I don’t know. It just came to me.” She glanced briefly at the headstone of Mrs. Merrifield. “Something told me.”
Hexom snatched the small white flag from April’s hand, then held up the Polaroid. “So we’re looking for a house. And it’s right where this flag was.”
Sharon nodded. “Yes. And if these graves are aligned right, that house is just a short way down Hampton Road.”
April: “This is too weird. How can a cemetery that’s over a hundred years old…”
Sharon: “Doesn’t matter. Let’s go.”
The quartet exited the cemetery, the rusty gate clanging home for the final time. “Should we lock it?” asked Alejandro.
“No,” said Sharon. “You should never lock away the past.”
The group headed south on Hampton, counting the buildings until they arrived at what should be the house indicated by the cemetery map. They paused outside the dwelling, not sure.
Suddenly, the front door of the house banged open, and a slightly-weathered woman, sporting tattoos and a leather jacket, came into view. “What the hell do you people want?”
It was Theresa Thomas.
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