This little gem marks the end of The Diamond Series that began in February. Each of the five episodes were written so they could stand alone. In this one there is the obvious nod to a Beatles tune, Chet makes yet another post mortem appearance, and I allude to the ShadowLands—which is something I’ve been churning about in my cranial wadding for some time now (years, actually).
Lucy Skye’s got Diamonds
GemStars northeastern sales representative, Lucinda Skye, had a lot to be grateful for. She was young, charming, and had great teeth. She was also getting a lot of orders from a single family run business: the Muller Funeral Home.
The primary product Gemstars offered, creating keepsake diamonds from the carbon in the cremains of loved ones, could be expensive. That didn’t seem to bother the clients of the Muller Funeral Home. So she decided to visit and see this successful business for herself.
Ann Muller gave Lucy the grand tour of the place before winding up back at the sales office; walls adorned with shelves of urns, brochures, a large LCD TV over the mantle, a corner dedicated to pets, and a table with business cards and a coffee maker.
Ann said, “Can I offer you a cup of coffee? Tea?”
“Tea, thanks.” Lucy took a seat, opened her planner, found her listing for the Mullers and said, “Last time I was in contact with the Muller Funeral Home, I talked with Chet. Your husband?”
Ann immediately understood that this was the Loosey that showed up on Chet’s cellphone, the phone she kept after killing him. “He was. He passed…five months ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. He was quite the businessman. But you…I came here because we’ve gotten quite a few orders from you. It seems you’re quite the businessperson yourself.”
Ann had placed a cup of tea in front of Lucy, opted for bottled water herself, and had taken a seat. “Thank you.” She didn’t know what to say to this woman. She assumed that Chet was seeing her as well, but that couldn’t be. This was her sales region, but she lived two states away.
“What sort of reaction do the families have when they see our work? Are they satisfied?”
Chet was definitely seeing the other three girls; Cynthia, Jane, and Amanda. Ann had killed them all; cremated each so they’d never be found and sent some of their ashes to GemStars to be pressed into diamond keepsakes. She fidgeted with the pendant full of stones hanging around her neck and said, “Yes. They are all happy with your service.”
Lucy noticed the faraway look in Ann’s face and the cage-like pendant she fidgeted with. Weren’t those the GemStars we sent her? “Would it be asking too much to talk to the families; maybe get a testimonial?”
“You can’t do that,” Ann said too quickly. She was focused again, glaring at Lucy. “We don’t bother the bereaved with sales calls. We respect their privacy.” Ann was standing now, the fingers of her left hand touching her thumb in turn. She noticed that Lucy was staring at her pendant and decided in that moment that Lucy could not be allowed to leave.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Lucy closed her planner, took a sip of her tea, made eye contact with Ann again and said, “I should get going. This has been an enlightening visit. You have a wonderful place here.”
Ann was calmed by the kind words. “Thanks. That’s kind of you to say.”
Both women looked to the doorway, each seeing something fleeting in the hallway. When nothing else occurred out there, Lucy said, “Could I use the ladies room before I go?”
Ann ushered Lucy down the hall to a doorway. As she opened it for her visitor, she said, “The light switch is just inside.”
As Lucy stepped toward the doorway, Ann corralled her just like she did with Jane. The training Lucy received at her uncle’s studio, the Xin Chang Martial Arts Academy, kicked in and she dropped down and kicked out. Ann caught the glancing blow of her stiletto-heel high on her shin and stepped back.
Something more than shadow-play—something with substance—rushed down the hall past Ann, who saw it in a fleeting glimpse. Lucy noticed it for an even shorter instant because she was getting up.
As Lucy stood, stepping into it, Ann charged her. Lucy windmilled her right arm, deflecting Ann’s tackle. She spun with Ann and delivered a shot to her kidney in passing. Ann collapsed into the heavy open door of the basement stairs, turned and watched Lucy predatorily as she recovered.
“You know too much.” An empty pedestal—for floral displays—stood nearby. Ann snatched it up, holding like a baseball bat, and approached Lucy.
She took a swing, but both women were distracted by a sound coming from the other end of the hallway. It started low and guttural, coinciding with the appearance of the shapeless shadow hurrying toward them.
“Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnn.” The shadow reared up to a halt, taking the form of Chet Muller from the waist up. “What are you doing? She’s not part of this.”
“She was on your phone.”
“As a business contact.”
“Lucy? Spelled with two O’s?”
“No one was supposed to see that. It was personal humor.”
Lucy was staring at Chet, mouth agape.
Ann hoisted the pedestal again and as she swung it she said, “Well it’s too late now.”
Lucy ducked back and Ann changed her grip, holding it like a barbell and charged. Lucy grabbed the pedestal as well, dropped, and using her feet—hurled Ann over her. Ann released her grip and flew over Lucy, somersaulting down the stairs in a horrible crescendo that climaxed in utter silence.
Chet hovered toward the stairs and peered down. Lucy, unsure of Chet and what he represented, allowed curiosity to win out. She approached the stairs as well.
Ann was in a heap at the bottom, her head gruesomely twisted and facing behind her.
Chet said, “There’s something to be said for keeping your head.”
Lucy watched him turn to a smoky, ethereal appearance that continued transforming into shadow as he moved away and down the hall.
At her feet she saw a small cage filled with precious stones. It was Ann’s necklace, the chain broken.
From down the hall, Chet’s voice said, “Keep them, Lucy Skye.”
He began whistling a Beatles tune that she recognized right away and smiled as it faded with Chet to the ShadowLands.
So that’s it for Chet and Ann.
There is an actual company that will—for a price—turn the carbon in the cremains of a loved one into a keepsake gemstone. I called the company GemStars. It made for some interesting Googling.
If you liked the story let me know. Heck, let me know if you didn’t. Feedback is the price I ask of my readers, honesty—the currency of choice.