The cool embrace of the grave lost its hold even before I saw a chisel tip tear through the weakened nails holding down the lid. Creak. Sunlight. Creak. The smell of damp earth.
A face hovered over me. Dennis Hiver’s face.
Hiver the Driver. Young and cocky. I could have done worse than Hiver. Running his hands over my pockets, he tore at the fragile, rotting cloth, leaving it hanging. He didn’t care about my dignity. Puffs of dust rose, hovered and fell. His right hand brushed past my face. The letters L-O-V-E-R were tattooed on the knuckles.
Turning his head away – was it disgust at himself or the fear of my decomposing flesh? – Hiver rolled me on my side and ripped the silk lining from the coffin floor. “The key,” he muttered. “Where’s the key?”
Frustrated, he stood up, turned his back and pulled a mobile from his hip pocket. He was beginning to punch in numbers when he stopped. Froze. Spinning around he saw me standing just centimetres away. The scream died on his lips as I ate his soul.
I was surprised his body – no, my body now – didn’t feel awkward. Clambering out of the deep hole, I stretched my legs before leaning back against a stone cross. A mound of freshly-dug soil was piled next to my gravesite.
Patting my jeans’ pockets, I found a set of car keys, two cigarettes, a cheap lighter, and a condom packet with no use-by-date. Hiver must have been psychic.
The tobacco smoke went deep into my lungs and came out with a sigh. Flicking the still burning butt into the grave, I took a final look at my old decaying body lying twisted, half in, half out of the vandalised coffin. Sic transit gloria mundi.
I’m not quite certain why I drove past the bank. It certainly wasn’t for sentimental reasons. Beneath street level, clad in blast-proof steel, the safety deposit box vault would have even tighter security by then. But security means nothing if a disgruntled staffer gives you the codes. How many weeks had it been since we’d all stood in the vault, slapping each other’s backs, kings and queens of the world? The deposit boxes had been crammed with cash, jewels, even small artworks. While the others had filled bags, I’d prised open Box 792. I became bewitched by a slim phial of gleaming green liquid resting alongside a hypodermic needle. A slip of paper read: Prescott Pharmaceuticals. Vax-a-Life. Batch #92, followed by a two paragraph description of the contents. So, so tempting. Pocketing the phial and syringe, I’d rejoined the looting.
By the time we’d reached the safe house, the other five – Dennis Hiver, The Lamp Lighter, Vig Vigorish, Salvation Joan and D D McNally – were quiet. I found out why.
McNally had waited until the final lock clicked into place before he’d knocked me to the floor. He’d seen me shoot up on the darkened stairwell of the bank. I’d broken the code of whatever honour those thieves had – I’d stolen from the gang.
They’d circled around me as I lay on the bare boards. I’d pleaded that I had the key to the world’s greatest secret: eternal life. McNally had laughed, shook his head, then nodded at someone behind me. When the electrical cord was drawn tight around my throat, I’d seen a hand. L-O-V-E-R was spelt out on the knuckles. Karma’s a bitch.
Hiver, the fool, had thought the key was an object. The key was a man and I knew his name. I was tasting a stone cold dish of revenge. I liked it.
The lobby of Prescott Pharmaceuticals was guarded by two security men. I left their bodies laid out neatly behind the reception desk.
On the third floor, I found the laboratory. Professor Prescott was bent over a microscope, a note-taking assistant at his side. When I swung open the glass door, the assistant moved towards me, her hand outstretched. Prescott didn’t appear concerned.
“Hello, young man,” he said. “Have you come to help me?”
“No,” I said. “I’ve come to stop you.”
# # #
Copyright © 2010 GREG FLYNN