“I can’t believe I’m actually in a graveyard in the middle of the night. Let alone in a hearse.” Lizzie wrung her hands together. “Why couldn’t we reach anyone at Peaceful Gardens? What if something bad has happened?”
“Try not to worry. This will all be over soon.” But Phillip’s face looked as dismal as a defaced tombstone.
“I hope so. I have job applications to fill out. What if someone has already called offering me a job?”
“There’s a crypt right up here on the right.”
“So after we’ve gotten rid of the hearse—ˮ
“Casket coach, Lizzie.”
“You’re as bad as Herbert. Hearse, casket coach…I don’t want to be in either one.”
“Why are you so put-off by death? Annie doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, all right?” She couldn’t deal with her issues in the middle of a graveyard. What poor timing. “I haven’t exactly seen a shrink about it. I just am. Can we get this over with?”
Phillip drove up a small dirt road. The headlights refracted against the smooth, cement building. She watched him cautiously glance around before getting out.
I can’t believe I’m doing this. She bolted out of the car and then dashed toward the back to be with him. He’d opened the door and had started to slide out the casket.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked.
“Grab the other end.”
She struggled with the weight.
“Could you hurry a little?” Phillip prompted.
“You try balancing on stilettos in the dark through this moist grass while carrying a heavy casket.”
In the distance, she caught sight of movement which flitted like a ghost between two headstones. She dropped her end and then screamed.
“What?” Phillip demanded.
“Over there. A ghost!” She could barely get the words to pass her lips. Her whole body had frozen into an ice sculpture.
“Lizzie, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
They both paused, listening to the silence, the night as still as a tomb.
They took a few steps toward the crypt. The night air cracked and then something whizzed by within an inch of her shoulder.
“That is no ghost. Hurry, Lizzie. Pick up your end,” Phillip yelled.
Lizzie wanted to take off running but obeyed for some strange reason. Three more shots rang past them as they reloaded the casket.
She beat Phillip to the front seat. “Drive,” she yelled, turning the key for him.
As he drove away, she watched as the flash of gunfire illuminated the man just enough to make out his military uniform. Lizzie threw herself deeper into the seat, her heart racing. “It was him. We actually escaped with our lives.”
“It’s hard to be accurate with a pistol at that distance.”
“You seem very calm to me,” she said, brushing at an unruly strand of hair.
“We’re in trouble, Lizzie.”
“This is getting out of hand.”
“What other brilliant plans do you have in mind? I’m for abandoning everything and going home.”
“You know we can’t go home.”
“I want my life back.”
“They’ll find us,” he said, giving her a worried look.
“Who is this ‘they’ you’re referring to?”
“I don’t know, but we won’t be safe until we find out.”
She gritted her teeth. “How do you know so much about drug dealers?”
Pain seared across his face. “I just do.”
“Oh.” Obviously he didn’t want to share his experience. She didn’t want to press the matter. From talking with her clients, she knew getting your feelings out in the open helped the healing process. Phillip appeared to want to bury his past inside, festering forever.
“Tell me again why we can’t just go to the police?” she questioned.
Phillip gave an exasperated sigh. “We don’t know anything yet.”
“Let the police figure out the truth.”
“If you think turning everything over to the police will stop them from coming after us, you’re sorely mistaken.”
“But we’ll just tell them we don’t have the drugs.”
“Did you just crawl out from under a rock?”
She pursed her lips at him.
“Until we give the police enough information to arrest them, we’re still in danger. I’m afraid we are going to have to continue using ourselves as bait until they make a mistake.”
“You mean kill us.”
“No. I won’t let that happen.”
Lizzie folded her arms. “So now what do we do?”
“Wait until morning, try calling Dover again and get rid of the coach. We’ll just have to park somewhere out of sight and rest. You could probably stretch out in the back.”
“Are you kidding?”
Story Excerpt 2
“Annie. She always did have lousy timing. You’d never guess how many goodnight kisses of mine she’s interrupted,” Lizzie informed him.
Phillip wondered just how many kisses Annie had interrupted. The thought irritated him. There would have been a kiss just now if Annie and Herbert hadn’t showed up. His body ached to know what her lips would taste like, and how they would feel against his own. Thank goodness the two had shown up when they had. He had to keep his heart inside those gates. He’d only hurt Lizzie.
Annie jumped out of the car, Sasha in her arms. “This is so exciting.”
Lizzie marched up to her and gave her a hug. “Did you have to bring Sasha, Annie? This is serious, you know.”
Annie shrugged. “I couldn’t leave my precious little baby home all alone, now could I?” She lifted the little hairless dog to her face and kissed her.
“We could have been killed last night. Bullets were flying everywhere. Sometimes you can be so irresponsible.” Lizzie crossed her arms.
Annie sat Sasha on the front seat of her car. “Well, we’re here, aren’t we? We brought everything you said.”
Herbert started pulling bags out of the car, and Phillip placed them in the trunk of the Corvette.
“Here we go, Mr. Van Dyke. I think we have everything you need. Here are a few clothes for the both of you,” Herbert said.
“Did you say both of us?”
“Yes. I took the liberty of stopping by your apartment to pick up a few things. The landlady let me inside. She remembered me from that one, and only one, time you stopped with me at your place. You know, so you could change your suit jacket before we went to the Peel Mortuary for—ˮ
“Stop talking, Herbert.”
Phillip heard the car engine. He looked up just as a black Sedan turned the corner a few streets away. He shoved Herbert toward his car. “Take Annie and get somewhere safe. Make sure you’re not followed.”
“But the rest of the bags…and the money. What about our funeral directors’ convention in Ocean City?”
“Move fast. They’re almost here,” Phillip yelled. He grabbed Lizzie’s hand and pulled her toward the Corvette. He slammed the trunk and dashed for the driver’s seat.
Herbert and Annie whizzed by in their car. Phillip gunned the Corvette and shot up the street behind them, driving over the remaining bags.
Bullets flew, hitting the car.
“Move it, Herbert,” Phillip yelled, slamming his hand against the steering wheel. He grabbed Lizzie’s silky head of hair and shoved her down on the seat.
Herbert turned right, and he turned left, barely looking for oncoming cars. The black Sedan followed them with guns drawn out the side windows and firing.
“This is just like an old gangster movie,” Lizzie said, breathless.
He took a quick left, a right and another left, hoping to lose them. The heavy traffic hadn’t started yet. His bright red Corvette stood out against the soft pale dawn. He’d taken this car out of the half a dozen classic ones parked in the warehouse. Hopefully, she still had gasoline in the tank. Besides, all the other cars, like the Silver Ghost, would have really been noticeable. At least you could still find Corvettes on the road.
He turned the next corner too fast and squealed the tires. The light changed behind him. Two cars were at the light. The Sedan had to wait. Phillip accelerated and turned right again. He eventually spotted a three-tiered parking structure. He pulled inside, turned the car around and killed the engine. Now he only had to wait and see if he’d lost them.
“Can I sit up now?” Lizzie asked.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
She sat up with a deep breath and tried to rearrange her hair into some kind of normalcy. “I think I forgot to breathe for the last ten minutes. Did you lose them?”
“Not sure yet.” He stared at the street and then noticed something wet trailed up the ramp into the garage. He jumped out of the car and rushed behind it. He could smell gasoline. Bullet holes riddled the exterior. He dropped to his back and looked underneath. Gas dripped from the tank onto the cement. Great.
“What’s wrong?” Lizzie asked.
“We have a leak in the gas tank, and there wasn’t much gas to start.”
“We’re like targets here. You might as well paint a bulls-eye on each of our foreheads.”
A scratching sound came from the trunk. He stood up and promptly unlocked it.
Annie’s little rat dog whined at him and wagged her feather-plume tail on top of the dead body wrapped in the blue tarp he’d found in the warehouse.
“Oh, boy. You’ve got to be kidding,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Now what’s wrong?”
He picked up the dog and hurriedly slammed the trunk so Lizzie couldn’t see inside. Better she didn’t know he’d brought the body along. He stomped up to her, dumping Sasha into her lap. “How on earth did that rat get into the trunk?”
“I…I don’t know. She must have jumped inside while Annie and I were arguing.”
Sasha climbed up the front of her and licked her face.
Lizzie drew back. “What are we going to do?”
“Drop the little rat off at an animal shelter, and they can call your sister.”
“We can’t do that.”
“I know. But we can’t go traipsing across the country with a dog.”
“Do you know how much my sister paid for this dog?”
“If she paid ten dollars, she got taken,” he said, half smiling.