Mrs. Tooms was in her garden, tending to her winter flowers, when inside the house, the phone rang. She creaked and cracked as she stood, her bones older than she remembered. She stumbled into her home, trailing dirt through her kitchen and foyer, and yanked the phone from its cradle.
‘Hello, hello,’ she chirped, breathing heavily from her rushing.
‘Mrs. Tooms?’ asked a raspy monotone.
‘Yes, who’s this?’
‘You may not remember me. It’s been over fifteen years. My name is Benjamin Sidley. I’m head caretaker down at Pine Banks Cemetery.’
‘I don’t,’ answered Mrs. Tooms. ‘Remember you, that is.’
‘Well, that’s of no matter.’
‘Why are you calling?’ Mrs. Tooms was eager to return to her flowers.
‘Unfortunately, my reason for calling is to deliver some bad news.’
Mrs. Tooms waited.
‘It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that your husband’s grave has been desecrated…’
Mrs. Tooms’s brow furrowed. ‘In what way?’
Benjamin Sidley didn’t speak for a moment. ‘How do I say this? Your husband… was… which is to say… um… his body… was…’
‘His body what?’ spat Mrs. Tooms into the phone. ‘What are you saying, you blithering idiot?’
The caretaker sighed. He spoke timidly. ‘His body was stolen.’
Mrs. Tooms lost her breath. ‘How?’ the old woman demanded.
‘Well, Mrs. Tooms, that we do not know as of yet.’ He hurried on before she could raise her voice, again. ‘But, we’re hastily working on catching whoever did this. The police have been notified.’
‘This is an outrage!’ she screamed. ‘How could this happen?’
‘We are working on finding out why and how this happened, Mrs. Tooms. I assure you, this will be solved, promptly, and your husband’s body will be returned to its grave.’ Benjamin Sidley shook in his suit, his nerves getting the better of him.
Mrs. Tooms clenched her free hand. ‘Please have the police call me, so I may speak with them about this further.’ She slammed the receiver down.
In his ear, the caretaker heard the hum of a dial tone.
He turned from the phone, looking back at the security camera monitor. The screens were paused.
‘Rewind it. Play it again,’ he commanded the security officer.
The scene on the monitor reversed, and the young man in the security uniform pressed play.
It was night-vision footage of the cemetery gates, from the evening prior, after the graveyard had closed. There had been no footage of anyone sneaking in, no one trespassing.
Benjamin Sidley stood watching the screen. He sweat under his suit. The security officer shifted in his seat.
In the grainy footage, a figure appeared, walking across the screen, slowly, clumsily, slouched. It wore ragged garments, some pieces hung in tatters. It pushed through the gates, and disappeared onto the road beyond.
‘Do we call the police, yet?’ asked the security officer.
‘And tell them what?’ The caretaker looked down at the young man, his face blank.
The kid rewound the footage and played it, once more. He shivered. ‘I don’t know, sir.’
Back in her garden, Mrs. Tooms snipped at leaves and sang to her flowers, distracting herself.
She picked up her head. She had heard the front door open.
The old woman stood – the same aches still there – walking to the back door. She stepped into the kitchen, walking again to the foyer.
The front door was closed. Mrs. Tooms shook her head. Hearing things…
She leaned on the stairs’ banister, and bent down to rub her sore knee. She saw dirt on the steps, leading upstairs. Funny, she thought, I don’t remember tracking dirt there.
Her bedroom door creaked.
‘Margaret,’ a voice moaned from above. ‘I’m filthy in these clothes. Draw a bath, dear.’