The Iron Writer Challenge #121
The Alis Van Doorn Challenge
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A moss draped cemetery.
A hidden leather satchel, containing $10K cash (or pounds, forint, yen, etc).
A peculiar looking priest.
A foul mouthed parrot named Percy.
“Where’d you put it, Roy?” she holds a cigarette between her lips, a gun in her hands.
“Remember what you told me, all those years ago, Darlene?”
She takes one hand off the gun and drags hard on the Marlboro.
“Before that. You said, ‘I could never love another man, much as I love you’.” He wriggles to get a better look at her.
“That was before you turned into an adulterator, Roy,” she exhales, “before you stole my money.”
“Our money,” he corrects her.
“We worked a deal, Roy!” she growls through gritted teeth.
“Darlin’,” he reaches for her with handcuffed hands.
She aims the gun at his forehead.
“After everything we done been through?”
“Robbin’ convenience stores don’t exactly make for a successful marriage,” she says.
“I ain’t stupid, Roy.” She cocks the revolver.
“Don’t our vows mean nothin’ to you, girl?” He pleads.
“That ship sailed, right about the time I found you with that waitress.” She kicks him.
“Damn it, woman!” he yells.
She shakes her hair behind her shoulders.“Tell me where it is and I’ll give you this satchel and all 10,000 dollars in it.”
“Darlene,” he starts.
“It’s more than you deserve, plus, you can have your stupid, filthy-mouthed parrot back,” she waves the gun at him.
He swallows. “It’d be best if I took you there. Gonna have to make a call first.” He holds the phone with tethered hands, speaks briefly in whispers, hangs up and nods.
She throws a jacket over his wrists, leads him outside.
“Get in the truck,” she hisses, then waves at Mrs. Everly, next door watering her front lawn.
“Glorious morning!” Mrs. Everly calls.
Darlene slams his door, eyes him through the cracked windshield, makes her way to the driver’s seat.
When she opens her door, he yells, “Heeeelp, Mrs. Everly….” She leans over and kisses him, full on the lips, covers his whole mouth with hers.
Mrs. Everly shields her eyes and walks toward her back yard.
“Try that again and you won’t be able to talk to nobody.” She shoves the gun into him, backs out of the driveway.
“When’d you start wearing that perfume?”
“When I felt like it.” She rolls down her window.
They drive past corn fields for miles. The road turns to dirt and finally ends at a cemetery covered in moss.
She unlocks the cuffs. From inside an old tree, he pulls out a duct-taped bag.
“All hundred-thousand,” he says.
She tosses him the satchel, heads for the truck.
“Not so fast,” he says.“Saw that weird-lookin’ biker.”
“Yeah,” Roy checks his watch.
“He asked about you,” he says.
“So?” she frowns.
“Says you owe him 95,000. I may’ve mentioned you’d likely be here sometime today.” He grins. His eyes settle on an approaching car, about a mile away. Her eyes follow his.
By the time the cab rolls to a stop, they are acres deep in cornfield, halfway to Greyhound Bus Station as a crow flies.
“Dispatch, you sure they said the old cemetery?”
“Affirmative. He was whispering, though….”
Christopher A. Liccardi
Claire nearly sprinted through Tremé. It was after dark; the last Jazz Funeral wrapped up and the tourists were in the French Quarter having dinner. What she was doing was illegal. It was also dangerous. She’d never been much for the New Orleans her Gran talked about; certainly not for the hoodoo her mama’ went on and on about but this place always seemed to scare the hell out of her. The fact that Percy’s foul-mouthed parrot voice kept saying the cemetery name over again was just another of those ’N’awlins’ coincidences she grew to distrust.
The old priest’s words echoed – “..find me dat ole leather bag. Dat one hidin’ with ten thousand possible dreams in it.” She guessed it was cash he was asking for. Ransomers almost always ask for cash.
She had family buried about an acre away from the streetlights and relative safety of Basin Street and that’s where she would start looking. Finding it now was going to be near impossible. She’d been on the tour enough times this week to know most of the Common, but there were parts of this place that were older than others; parts of it that were covered in clinging wet moss and shrouded from the light even on the brightest days.
Claire wandered around inside St. Louis #1 for hours, afraid to leave her penlight on for more than a second. The place was dead empty, but that didn’t make her feel better. She needed to find what she was looking for before that priest found her. It was her only chance.
Claire turned a corner, disoriented as much by the momentary flashes of light she allowed herself as she was the dark terror that was stealing across her heart. Time was running out. It would be daylight soon and the church would have people wandering through the place, looking for vandals and vagrants who camp out at night, away from the police. She didn’t see the man step out from the broken crypt and into her path. His hand was over her mouth before she was able to get the scream out.
“You shouldn’t a come child. It’s too late for dem… it might be too late for you,” he said, the thick creole accent dripping from each word. He smelled of old decay and long dead things. She struggled hard but this old man was too strong.
“You settle down now, I’ll let you go. Ya’understand me,” he asked? Claire stopped struggling.
“Let my people go…” she heaved out, gasping for cleaner air. She felt like she’d been running a marathon instead of standing here talking to an old man. Her mind raced. She hadn’t gotten a good look before, but now, the glare of her penlight bounced off all his shiny baubles and trinkets that were fastened to his robes. He looked like a walking junk pile. Claire fixed on several doll’s heads with blacked out eyes before looking back at his gnarled face.
“You find me what I need and I let ‘em go.” He held out the little dolls heads and laughed.
Claire screamed, then fainted.
“ ….. after beaching my dingy, I hopped out and ran to the dunes. It was dark, but I couldn’t be sure I hadn’t been spotted. I checked my two pistols to be sure the powder was still dry. I had a few guineas, and a pretty good idea where to find the pub. It was a place in the town square called The Oaken Barrel. I was to go up to the bar and find someone called Percy, and give him a secret message.
The pub was crowded. How was I to discover the identity of this Percy fella? Swaggering up to the bar I elbowed my way in-between two smelly sea-dogs. ‘I’ll have a pint of bitter, Mate!’ I shouted at the bar-keep. I slammed my coins down as I turned to the fellow on my left. ‘I’m lookin’ for a man called …’ but I was interrupted by a string of foul swearing coming from behind the bar. I turned to see a red and yellow parrot cursing up a storm. I tried to speak again, but was once more drowned out by a flood of cursing and swearing. ‘Bar Keep! Can you shut that damned bird up?’ The bar-keep shouted at the parrot, ‘Percy! Be still!’
Could it be?’ I pondered for a second, then I spoke the message out loud, ‘I’m a sinner in need of salvation.’ The parrot responded, ‘See the priest in the cemetery!’
While the men around me laughed, I decided to slip out and find me a priest. Pausing at the door, I asked about the local cemetery. ‘It’s down by the river; that way.’
There was a fog settled along the river. I could barely see but 20 feet in front of me. It was deathly quiet as I entered the old moss covered cemetery. I spied a man in a priest gown leaning against a tree, but something was very odd about him; he was slumped over, and very still. As I approached, I realized he was dead. What to do now? Looking closer. I noticed his hand was pointing to a rotted stump, so I searched the stump. Inside, I found what I had come for; the satchel of loot Captain had sent me to fetch.
Hoisting the heavy pack to my back, I hurried back to my dingy, shoved off, and rowed back to the ship waiting just in the next cove. Covertly passing the satchel over to the captain I declared, ‘I want the freedom we bargained for.’ Taking the satchel, and feeling it’s heft, he peered inside with a smile, ‘Boy, You’re gonna make me miss you when you’re gone.’ Then he nodded in agreement, and gestured toward the dingy, ‘Go on then. Be off with ya! You’re free and clear of your obligation to me and this crew.’
There was a silent pause.
“And, you’ll be needin’ a job now, I suppose?”
“Yes Sir; and an honest one too”
“Well, you can start by cleaning the hog pen.”
Steven L. Bergeron
The Guardian which protected the residence of Wells Cemetery, shall remain no more. At least Pastor Kuhl presumed this, as he strolled through the dust infested pathway to the WWII monument of one Robert.E Curtiss. No sooner had he dusted off the engraved tombstone a bird nearly took off his head.
“Kuhl’s are pricks, are dirty rotten assholes.”He chirped as he swung from a moss curtain hanging from above.
“Hey are you trying to give a man of the cloth a heart attack?”
“ A man of the cloth, in these parts? How preposterous is that.”
“My name is Pastor Kuhl. I have come to show my respects to the dead and who might you be?”
“Ah Ah you are about as much as a screwball pastor as I am a holy guardian. Hah.”
“Now now watch that foul mouth! Or there shall be no crackers for you.”
“Crackers ?”The guardian laughed “I’m no Polly. The name is Percy and I’m the keeper of this monument and all its worthy possessions.”
“All right then Percy. By the look of this place you’re not much of a clean person.”
“Are you hard of hearing? I said I was a keeper not a cleaner. You say your name is Kuhl ? Oh Oh protect the loot, protect the loot! ”
“So there is loot, it’s no myth”
“You see the last Kuhl of these parts was a dirty rotten asshole. And needed a smart companion to pull off his dirty deeds”
“Is that so? Where’s his companion? I need to have a few kind words with him.”
“A kind Kuhl, that is another understatement. You’re looking at his partner here bud”
“So where did he hide the satchel?”
“I know of no satchel. But even so.What would be in it for me”
“Let’s just say if you don’t hand it over, you will make one fine lunch.”
As he finished his negotiations he aimed his revolver square at Percy’s head.
“ Shoot if you may my phony pastor. For with me gone, there will be no loot.”
“And what makes you think I can’t find it on my own?”
The guardian laughed once more.” Simply you’re a Kuhl. And like grandfather you don’t have the smarts to pull any of these dirty deeds. Look down upon these dirty soils and you will find the richest cemetery in the world.”
As the good pastor drug his feet a few times on the mossy soil a leather satchel suddenly slipped from under his feet. He picked it up, there it was the most money he ever led his eyes on.
“So how do you expect to get out of here my dear friend?”
“The same way I got in Percy. Who is going to stop me?”
“I am pastor. Thank you Percy I owe you one.”Another voice called out.
“No problem any time Sheriff. As I told you all I’m the keeper of this cemetery and all it’s crusty creatures.”
Father David, was not the prettiest person. Slack jawed and pale. Ancient flying jacket and jodhpurs, with pet parrot Percy perched on his hat, he cut a peculiar air to his congregation if they met while crossing the moss draped cemetery. The parrot was a noted foul mouthed curser. His strong Geordie phrases heard through the still of a night.
I say congregation, but in reality this amounted to old Mrs Gubbins, Elijah Millhill, and the postman for that summer.
Mrs G, deaf as a post, knew the length of Fr David’s service would give enough time for a nap, before returning home to serve up lunch to Mr G. Cold roast beef and pickles. At the back, Elijah Millhill, gravedigger, sat. Laboriously chewing his way through a large bag of toffees. Quick to anger, in his youth, the net result was a mouthful of misshapen and missing teeth.
The village being mostly cut off in winter, the council engaged a postman for the summer months only. Their contract stating to fit into village ways. This included attendance at the local church, no matter his faith. Mostly the postmen would sit and listen quietly to the sermon, before politely thanking the priest at the end.
This summer’s postman, Fred, was a different breed. A fellow with a brooding air. You had the feeling you wouldn’t want to meet him on a dark night.. Particularly if he’d been to the pub. He sat mid way to the aisle. His eyes scouring the pictures on the stained glass and rose window. Pugnacious of nature, Fred had known the inside of a cell. Last stretch, heard the rumour of this village and its hidden pirate’s hoard. Frequent trips around the village had yielded little in the way of hints. A close look around the church, showed a gravestone set into the floor. A satchel carved into the stone. The minister was quick to notice Fred’s interest and told him the story. That a leather bag with an estimated ten thousand ducats was still in the churchyard.
Through the lychgate, carefully thrown torchlight showed moss and ivy draping the walls. Fred worked his way over to furthest corner, as directed in the legend. Digging his hand in and around the earth, he was surprised to find himself grasping another hand. That, and the sound of a voice calling “Away you booger” in a strong Geordie accent, had Fred stumbling backwards. As he tried to get to his feet, he fell against a gravestone. The heavy stone gave way and they both tumbled to the ground.
Father David, first on the scene, closed the postman’s eyes, and said a quick prayer before phoning the relevant services. Looking to Elijah, he said. “Told you, sleeping off the booze in the churchyard was not a good idea. Even if you did find the pirate’s treasure under the knocked over gravestone.”