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Time and Time Again

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October 29th 2013  |  0  |  Category: Fiction , Suspense  |  Author: geedda  |  1115 views

The cold northeast wind blew furiously, snow swirling and blowing as the blizzard continued. The Campbell Funeral Home did not close today because of the storm; fact is; they didn’t expect anyone to show up for Harley Maxim’s funeral. Harley was a no-good, lazy man in his late fifties. His death probably due to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and consuming more booze than four men and a woman. He worked odd jobs and lived in a house his father left him twelve years ago.

Harley collected junk, pieces of wood, anything shiny, metal and old glass. His house’s interior is best described as a dark, dreary tunnel; stacks and stacks of paper and cast away debris lines his hallway from the kitchen to the living room; ceiling high.

Harley’s demeanor is… was that of a cornered… rat. He hated people, and avoided contact with them; most folks ostracized him as well, because of the vileness of his nature; tantrums he executed when anyone tried to befriend him, if only with a, ‘good morning.’

The Reverend Dexter Wyndham of the Bickford Community Church, the Officiant at the funeral, was standing by the closed casket getting ready to eulogize Maxim. It was hard for him to say anything, good or complimentary; he didn’t know the man. Harley was not a church going person, and certainly not what one would call a… Christian.

The piped in organ music stopped, and Rev. Wyndham began to speak, “we are gathered here today to remember…” The door at the rear of the chapel opened and a figure dressed in black appeared, Mr Campbell could see it was a woman, she shook off the snow. Mr Campbell went to the rear of the room to talk with the newcomer.

In a low, nearly whisper, he asked the woman her relationship to the deceased. She did not answer his question, but made her request known.

“I’ve come to take Harley… that is, to claim his body.”

“Are you a relative, Miss…?”

“Mortisson, Angela Mortisson. No, I’m not a relative… just a close friend. He has no living kin, Mr Campbell.”

“I see. Well, it is certainly all right as far as I am concerned, Miss Mortisson. Please take a seat until the service is over.”

“Certainly,” she said.

The eulogy was short since Pastor Wyndham did not know the decedent. As he finished the message, Miss Morton came forward and thanked Wyndham for his message. She thanked Mr Campbell for what he had done to prepare the body.

“Now,” she said, “I’d like to see Harley if you don’t mind.”

“Eh… I would suggest you… well, you remember him as you saw him last. He was burned very badly, Miss Morton.

“It is all right, I have seen enough dead people in my… time. Please open the casket, Mr Campbell.” Campbell lifted the lid of the coffin, and stood back.

The black body bag, with its vinyl fabric lay zipper side up in the satin lined coffin. Mr Campbell slowly unzipped the bag. His jaw dropped, and his face went as pale as paste. Harley Maxim was not there; the bag was filled with two sacks of potatoes.

“Drats, he has done it again,” Miss Mortisson said.

“What did you say, Miss Mortisson?” Mr Campbell asked.

“Oh, nothing, I was thinking out loud that’s all.” She exited as quickly as she entered. Pastor Wyndham opened the door, peered into the fast mounting snow, shut the door and exclaimed, “Mr Campbell… that woman… she… she walked out the door, and… and disappeared.”

“There is a blizzard out there, Pastor… white out. That explains her disappearance, but how in the world did Harley disappear? I let Junior, a mistake that will haunt me forever, prepare his body; about time he soloed. We put it in the casket together.” He thought a moment, “I hope Junior didn’t take the body out for some reason.”

“Where is Junior, Mr Campbell?” Wyndham asked.

“He’s in Boston picking up some supplies… snow-bound I expect. I’ll call his cell.” Campbell punched in a series of numbers and waited. “Hello, Junior? What on earth did you do with Harley Maxim’s body? What? You didn’t remove him from the casket. Okay, Son… see you when you get home.”

“It certainly is a mystery, Mr Campbell,” Pastor Wyndham said.

“Sure is… the first time that’s happened in the forty years I’ve been doing this work, and my father before me never witnessed such a thing, though we have had some strange happenings for sure. Like the time, two women showed up to a decedent’s funeral, both claiming to be the victim’s wife. As it turned out, he was a bigamist, and neither one accepted his body, the State paid for his funeral.”

“What do you suppose happened to Mr Maxim?” Wyndham asked.

“I have no idea. I shall check downstairs.” Campbell left the pastor and went out of the room. He returned several minutes later. “He is not down there, and there is no other place he could be. This is insane.”

“I am unable to explain this dilemma, Mr Campbell; it is astounding to me,” the Pastor said.

“This is not your problem, Pastor Wyndham. I’ll see you to the door. Button up tight, it is really coming down.”

“I’ll be all right, I walked over here from the church.” Bickford Community Church is only a block from the funeral parlor, but on a night like tonight, it may seem like two miles.

Pastor Wyndham arrived home, removed his boots, and heavy winter clothing; sat down on the sofa.

“She just vanished right before my eyes, Chauncey.” Wyndham was talking to his little fur ball, a kitten he had rescued from the refuge league.

As the pastor sat reading, preparing for Sunday’s sermon, the doorbell rang. He was used to receiving visitors at all hours, but, in a blizzard? He opened the door and saw Miss Mortisson standing there, her black coat covered with snow.

“Come in, Miss Mortisson.” He said, opening the door wide.

“Thank you, Pastor,” she said stepping into the hallway.

“What can I do for you, Miss Mortisson?”

“I would like to ask a favor of you, Pastor. Help me find Harley Maxim.”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t make a very good detective, Miss Mortisson. I have no idea what could have happened to him.”

“It is imperative I find him before midnight tonight, I am desperate, Pastor Wyndham.”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you, but I can offer you some hot coffee or tea.”

“I don’t have time to socialize Pastor… I’m on a tight schedule. I have to find that man today.”

“May I ask you a question, Miss Mortisson?


“Certainly,” she replied.

“What did you mean when you said at the funeral home, he has done it again?”

“I mean this is not the first time I have made a trip to pick up Mr Maxim. He is a slippery character, Pastor.”

“Are you the police, Miss Mortisson?”

“Oh dear no; just a woman on a mission. You see I have orders to bring Mr Maxim… home.”

“Where is this home of which you speak?”

“A little south of here, Pastor; and a little warmer climate.”

“How well do you know Mr Maxim? I only met him once a long time ago. He was… shall we say, a bit crotchety.”

“That’s Harley Maxim to a tee, Pastor. He has been a… er… was a bit of a rascal in his time.

I beg of you, Pastor, please help me find Mr Maxim. I cannot rest until I have him… eh… see him again.”

The pastor was duty bound to help those in trouble, and he could plainly see Miss Mortisson was deeply disturbed. “Let me get my coat and boots, and we’ll go over to his house and have a look around.”

“Thank you so much, Pastor, you are a saint.”

“Yes I am, Miss Mortisson… eh… I do not mean that in the bragging sense… we are all saints who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior.”

“Yes, I know what you mean, Pastor. I did not, for one moment, believe you meant it any other way.”

The storm appears to be decreasing in strength, the wind has died down, and there aren’t many flakes falling at the moment. The streets have been plowed and well maintained. The drive over to Harley’s house is not that challenging for a native Maine winter driver.

As soon as they open the front door the stench hits them; stale tobacco, sweat, decaying flesh and the odor of an overflowing cat box, though Harley did not have a cat. They soon discover the rotting flesh smell is coming from all the open food containers scattered about the living room. They had to enter the house in single file; there was not enough room for them to walk side by side.

“It’s obvious he isn’t her, Miss Mortisson,” Pastor Wyndham said.

“I’m afraid you are right. Where could he be?”

“The only place… they tell me, might be Riley’s Bar down the street. People say Mr Maxim likes to go there and drink in the afternoons.”

Riley’s Bar is a small hole in the wall lounge with few lights and fewer customers at present. When their eyes adjust to the darkness Pastor Wyndham notices the bartender wiping down the counter. There are four other people besides he and Miss Mortisson in the establishment. The bartender, two men in their thirties playing pool in a small alcove, and a scraggly looking man in a booth near the rear door. They smell him before they reach him; the same odor as his home; it’s Harley Maxim, and he is drunk.

“Well, well Mr Maxim, I’ve caught you at last,” Miss Mortisson says.

Harley looks up at the lady through red, rum soaked eyes; his tongue thick from drinking too much alcohol. A strange look appears on his face. He sobers some.

“So you got me, Miss. I spent the last two years avoiding you…” Harley says.

“I know, and I thought I had you earlier today, but as usual, you were elusive.”

“Look, I’m tired of runnin’, take me now.” Harley stands on unsteady legs and takes Miss Mortisson by the hand.

“Wait a minute, before you two go running off somewhere; I’d like an explanation. First Harley how did you escape death.? Mr Campbell claims his son prepared you for… burial.”

“That’s an easy one. Junior Campbell will do anything for a buck. I offered him a hundred dollars to fake my death, and…”

“You mean Mr Campbell didn’t actually see you… eh… dead?”

“No, Junior told him he picked me up and brought me into the parlor. He begged his father to let him do the embalming.”

“But, he said he helped his son put you in the coffin.”

“Junior put two fifty pound bags of potatoes into a body bag, convinced his father it was me, well… here I am.”

“Any other questions, Pastor?” Miss Mortisson asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. What is your real connection to Harley here?”

“Oh, Harley and I are old friends, right Harley?” Harley forced a slight smile.

“If you are not the police, are you then FBI or CIA or something?” Wyndham asked.

“Neither Pastor, I am, shall we say, a woman on a mission. You, a man of the cloth, should be able to figure it out from my name. We have to go now.” She pulled gently on Harley’s arm. Turning to Pastor Wyndham, as the two left the lounge, she said, “Oh, thank you for the help, I’ll see you again, someday. Thanks again.”

Angela Mortisson, the name kept going around in Pastor Wyndham’s head. What did she mean, I could figure it out from her name? He asked himself.

Of course, suddenly it came to him; Mortis Angelus, Angel of Death, Angela Mortisson! Dexter Wyndham had met death face to face.

Evan Goodjohn

 

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