or Thank You Kindly and Kill Me Quick
It all came down to the diamond. I swear that to you. For any riddling, pondering, fretting—heck!—any barking of “what could be,” “what if,” and “if only” all wrapped up into one gooey, oozing pile of greedy mother-devil-toot’n desire, that there high-carat, custom-cut dia-oh!-mond of delight was the be-all and end-all ticket to “yes, yes,” and “oh God! Oh God! YES!” That was a fact. A fact! I tell you.
I don’t care what you heard from my partner during that there interrogation what brought me in here. I’m selling it to you straight. It was the diamond. Not “Oh, my little Molly has TB” or “Uncle Ed needs a new glass eye.” That’s baloney, and if Fred even had the guts to pull that old line out for you two fine gentlemen—and, of course, the purty lady here—well, you just as soon ask how exactly Uncle Ed came by needin’ that there eyeball in the first place.
No, no. I don’t need any water, but thank you very kindly.
Well, Fred won’t tell you since it all wraps up—as I said before—it all comes down to the diamond, and so I’m spilling it all. The whole bag of beans. I know where I’m headed, but I don’t want a detour. I suppose I’ll deserve it, so just bear with me for a minute while I gather my nerve. Shoot. Uhm. I’m not boasting here now; I’m just saving my soul. I swear.
Firstly, I had nothing to do with Madam Candy’s death. That much is true—err… I mean, the first one, if you know what I’m saying. The one that happened up in her brothel. That I can swear to you as God’s my witness and with no fear of lightning striking me down. But it is a fact we were up to no good last night. That I will tell you. We were bein’ thieves—that I confess. And that’s what got us there and here.
So, we were down in the grave after slicing those two men watching over Madam Candy’s resting place. Oh… well, yup, I know I said it, but there’s more and… what? It’s not like you can hang me twice or more, with any variation to the first neck snapping, can you? My boy will be bobbin’ in the wind just the same. Excuse me, ma’am, no offense.
Well, we got down to the bottom of it when Fred hit pine. The moon was overhead and bright enough we didn’t need our lamps, but we kept ’em just the same. Looking back, we should’uv doused ’em as I suppose you guessed from where Fred got them bad burns. Weren’t my doing, neither, no matter what he tells you. His stupidity—and I’ll tell you why in due time. We got to the moment finally where the dirt was all gone and cleared and there were only nails and a wood cover to keep us from the be-all and end-all of life.
See, we’d heard Candy would be buried with her jewel—the one that foreign man, that doctor, gave her for the gambling debt. Actually, he owed it to her—she won it fair and square—but she liked to say he gave it to her as an admirer. Heh. If that were true, then I’m a goat ’cause no one deserves two black eyes and a broken arm; that’s what for she got by his admiration. ’Course, he most promptly disappeared afterward, so my guess was that he got the short end of that in oh so many ways. Admirer? Nope. Don’t think so.
Anyhoot, the reason I bring him up is ’cause we found out what happened to him sort of as an extra what-you-call revelation while robbing that there grave. We pulled out a bunch of them nails and lifted the coffin’s c-c-cover… sorry. I get a bit choked up here. I’m rather emotional.
Nothing like it—that beautiful diamond. Wanting to live. Wanting to shine. The moonlight caught and held it like a lost lover. Yeah, ma’am, I reckon I am a romantic. Heh. But, yes, I am admitting the diamond was there when we robbed the grave—why else would we bother offering those two men permanent scrapes beforehand? We done knew it had to be buried with her. Problem was Madam Candy was not buried alone.
You see, I didn’t notice it all at first. I was too excited, in awe of that there beauty—I mean, the stone; Candy wasn’t so much to look at, at all. But the stone, so purty that my hand was trembling as I reached out to touch it. Don’t know why, but I felt like it was needing me. How can I explain it but that way? I know it sounds nuts, but I felt its empty insides like it was a woman waiting for love.
So, I reached for it, not to grab it but to caress it just a little when Fred pulled me back, saying that there was something I better see. I was taken out of my wits, vertigo like. After a few deep breaths, I looked at Fred like I wanted to punch his lamplights out when he pointed to the cover of the coffin—the side that was inside the coffin.
Holy Mother, but there were gauge marks inside. And a little blood. Two of Candy’s purty painted fingernails were stuck in the wood. She’d been buried alive. By mistake, we were sure, ’cause everyone saw her lying in state, everyone drooled over that glittering treasure, and no one wept more heartfelt-like than when the lid was shut tight.
Fred took off his hat and said a quick prayer. Then he lifted the lamp high and shined it on Candy’s face. I nearly done shot the cat, but, yup, I saw what I hadn’t before; her face contorted, her eyes wide and a little filmed over. Her dress in tatters, and her fingers swollen like taters just tipped with ketchup and clutching her neck like she was gasping. But there was something else, too. I hadn’t noticed it when first I went down in that there hole because my eyes were only for that diamond. But with Fred’s light shining so bright, I saw what I had not seen before—Candy’s “admirer” there, his mummified body buried with her, under her. From under her red, shiny ringlets, the gold tooth from his gaping mouth caught the lamplight. One of his eye sockets was just below her ear.
He’d been dead a long, long time it looked, maybe stuffed in the wall or something and brought out of hiding with Candy’s death. Could understand that. No man of the brothel house would want to be labeled for that with the madam gone. Who could blame Bert or wily ol’ Kurt for dropping in that foreign doctor with their boss lady’s body? It was a good idea.
Now, I know you’re gonna go and say I’m nuts, but just ask Bert. He’s a man to fess up, no matter what, and if he don’t, ask him again anyway and look to his eyes. The man’s got a twitch—a tell—and then you’ll know he’s been lying, lying like a dog. What good it do me for, yes or no? The good is to prove I haven’t lost my skull, that’s what. That’s why I’m here suffering this. Why would I lie?
Anyhoot, that’s my guess is all I’m saying. Nobody told me anything. I swear. But at any rate all their planning wouldn’t have amounted for much either, because I got a guess, that there diamond was destined to find Candy and then reunite with its original owner. I believe, as God’s my witness, that there foreign man would’uv crawled into that coffin on his own. In fact, he just about could’uv. But you wouldn’t’uv guessed it—not at first, what with his being mummified and all.
So, after a quick prayer, we crossed ourselves, and Fred stepped back as I kneeled. I went back to what I was doing—reaching for the prize. My fingers touched it, and suddenly all the hairs on the back of my naked neck stood on end. First thing I thought was Fred must be ready to bash my head in from behind when I heard his shout. But it was a shout of warning. I looked back down, and the crystal was swirling and trembling. But then I realized the jewel weren’t what was trembling—it was Candy! She was trying to sit up, and her face was all messed up like she was gasping for air that wouldn’t come. Her eyes lost their milky film and were suddenly as red as roses. It was close to the scariest thing I ever seen, I swear. But then her mouth stretched backward, and her teeth came into view. They were fangs.
So, Fred’s shouting behind me, and I’m screaming, too. I grabbed for my knife, and I tried to push her back down with my left hand and pressed with my whole body, but she was stronger than a bear. My hands were shaking like leaves, but I fumbled around and found my knife. I plunged it into her chest, just to the left of the diamond, but straight into her heart.
I ain’t exaggerating to say Madam Candy shrieked as loud as the time Betty and Daisy caught the clap and passed it on to the sheriff. That was a troubling month, but I tell you it was that fierce. Then she just shut her mouth and fell back. I shuddered and brushed my face with my filthy paw, reassuring my heart that it was over faster than it started, but Candy’s ghost had another idea. It didn’t much seem to believe it was dead. It still sat up in the coffin, its smoky-like eyes glaring at me. It was trying to say something to me, something cross, but then it slowly stretched backwards and down toward Candy’s bleeding body. The ghost stretched out and lengthened and then plunged into the diamond. It was all swirl-like and churning like a boiling pot. I watched amazed, lost for words until it stopped.
Then I grabbed that diamond.
Fred told me to put it back. “It’s cursed,” he warned.
I told him to shut his mouth. I hadn’t come out all that way and cut the throats of two men and now killed a lady ghoul or vampire or whatever-the-heck she was just for nothing. If what I’d heard was true, it be a genuine high-carat diamond that was now handily filled with a soul. It was a soul gem. Diamonds be damned. A soul gem would set you up for life—a thousand lives if you knew the right people. And it was a soul gem with a supernatural in it. They don’t come much better than that. My eyes started seeing stars—my name written in gold.
Of course, that be my worst sin—at least to myself—that moment of vanity. I should’uv pulled Candy’s body out of the coffin and chopped her head off. Should’uv remembered the King Tut wannabe hiding under her. Should’uv put it all together—why Candy was a supernatural, why she wasn’t dead when we found her, why she could still bleed, and what that there man was doing in the middle of it.
Well, with Candy’s blood falling on him like a spring of life, that doctor didn’t stay a mummy for long. He was flesh and blood when he pushed Candy off him and grabbed the knife, yanking it out of her chest. I did not hesitate for a second. As soon as I saw his sun-weathered face with those beady black eyes and that long mustache, I remembered that villain.
I sprung like a cougar, jumping for the top of the grave and then gauging at the surface, dirt flying everywhere and into my eyes, as I tried to flee. My feet dug into the dirt and pushed me up, got my elbows onto the grass and squirmed up and over like a snake on my belly. I got to my knees without another pant. Then, I heard Fred scream and the lamp break below.
I didn’t look back. We were on our own. The diamond was still in my hand, and I fumbled to find my pants’ pocket as I ran. Not another second later, Fred sailed through the air with his pant legs on fire. He hit the edge of a tombstone with a nasty thud and slid down on the other side of it.
He called for me. Should’uv kept running, I should, but I didn’t. I went to him and pulled him away from the tombstone, and I hit at the flames with my bare hands. See. Look. Blisters and all here. So, I was batting the last flame out, and Fred was moaning something fierce. A branch snapped behind me, and I jumped to my feet.
The doctor wasn’t a foot away from me. He grabbed my collar before I could even step back, and he lifted me into the air. His grip was firm and tight, and the collar of my shirt was nearly strangling me. I thought I was good and done for as he lifted his other hand and the knife caught the light of the moon. My own knife hovered just above my stomach. The villain had found a dastardly moment opportune from my fright. I swear the man was ready to gut me there, like a dog stuck in a starving town, an’ you know which one, but I can’t say, ’cause there’s a lady present.
He pulled me down slightly, just enough for me to look into his beady eyes and smell the ancient stench of his breath. It was bad. I gagged.
“Where is it?” he whispered, his chords dry and brittle. I nearly fainted, not from his breath, but from the fact that I didn’t know where the diamond was!
Frantically, my mind raced backward to when I helped Fred. One moment, I was holding that there jewel, and then in another, I was batting at breeches’ flames. As hard as I tried, confound it, I just couldn’t find the moment in between.
“I d-don’t know!” I cried miserably. “I don’t know. I don’t know!”
Sweet Jesus, it was the worst feeling in the world—even more than having a mummy ghoul ready to slice and dice my innards. I had lost my beloved prize!
“Let me down, and I’ll look,” I told him. He dropped me, and I went on my hands and knees looking, searching, swearing, rummaging around unconscious Fred, and rolling him over onto his stomach to look under him. No luck. It was gone.
I stood up and ran in circles, muttering to myself like I was crazy. Desperate. Oh, it was awful. I must’uv looked for it for an hour. Can’t believe the ghoul doctor had that much patience. But I didn’t care at that moment. I was done, destroyed. Still am. What’s the use? The sky was lightening. It would soon be morning. Everyone would know what I dun with nothing to show for it. Horrible. When the devil doctor pushed me into a kneeling position, I bowed my head, ready to take the killing blow. But nothing happened.
I stood there crying like a babe, looking at my silent partner friend laying there by the tombstone. I shouted at the devil doctor to just do it already. But he didn’t answer.
The sun spilled over the horizon and hurt my eyes something fierce as I looked over my shoulder, but he was nowhere to be seen. Disappeared. I jumped to my feet and ran into the woods, and that’s where I have been most the day.
When I got the nerve, I came back out. Fred was long gone. I deducted that there doctor took him for an early evening meal. But now I’m thinking I was wrong, as I heard he was very much alive and a liar, putting it all on me, and I seen my old buddy in the sheriff’s jail cell but a minute or three ago enjoying Sandy’s chicken potpie. Don’t be fooled. At least, I reckon you all better protect yourselves with garlic and Bibles next you question dear ol’ Fred. It hurts my heart sorely for having to say it, but it must be said, and I can’t account for his comings and goings since before dawn.
Anyhoot, back to this here true and accurate confession. Once my nerves came back, I covered every inch of that graveyard, all the while thinking on how peculiar that there vampire ghoul doctor was and how I hoped he’d gone and how, if he didn’t, I’d purty much be doomed. Heck, I know now I am forsook. Kicking up dirt and crying for hours I been doing such things, repenting, praying, thinking while looking for my beloved jewel. But no luck. And as my desperation made me run all over like a wild man, looking for my lost treasure, I realized that nobody would believe it lost. Not the preacher, not Fred, and most certainly not the doctor. He would drain me to my last drop but never kill me, and I’d never be safe anywhere ever again. With that thought, my knees gave way and I crawled back into the woods and bawled my eyes out. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Cried like a baby born into a sad, sad world. I cried ’til sunset. See, look at my eyes. Red! And I emerged a changed man.
Nightfall is here, and I’m not safe out there. I know already the demon devil dog doctor came to see you at sunset. I know he’s here. Bert told me. An’ I saw him lookin’ good and new, with skin shiny like a penny, when I went back to look for the soul gem in the graveyard again. I must’uv been in a purty bad state because Bert looked mighty shocked to see me. He was real angry with me, but I know he was more upset the doctor was back. See, that’s why I know he had something to do with the foreigner being in that there grave of his boss lady. Bert told me what the doc says about me and Fred, and that the doc has proof with my knife and my shovels. But that’s why I came here to confess.
I’m here to set things straight. Much as the doctor has told you—I’m telling the truth and you got to believe me. Firstly, I don’t know where the diamond is. Secondly, I don’t know where Madam Candy’s body is. And thirdly, that doctor is a devil. He didn’t just opportunely reappear in our town after all these years. He’s the devil woken up by Candy’s blood. I swear on all of those things. I swear.
I swear I did not steal Candy’s body or fornicate with it or any such thing, no matter what that feral fiend says. I am no crazy coot, and I don’t need the devil doctor’s care as much as he says I do. I don’t have the diamond, but he will try and torture it’s bewildering locale out of me. But as God is my unfortunate witness, I don’t know where the diamond is. Go look for it yourselves, and I hope y’all have better luck.
I know I handled myself poorly and did wrong, but I am a changed man. And you’ll be thinking I’m saying that what for to spare my life. But that’s where you’re wrong!
I am telling you right now to hoist me up tomorrow. Hang me high. I’m begging for the boneyard. But please, don’t have me committed. Don’t let the devil get me! I done bad things. Very, very badly. But I don’t want to be a ghoul or anything of the sort. Hang me from the highest tree but don’t let him take me away to no sane-E-tarium.
This I confess to you and this I can say to highest heaven: I am a boozer and a gambler, a thief and a murderer—please don’t add vampire treat to that there list.
Oh. And I am not insane. Put that on my headstone.
Thank you, kindly. And kill me quick.
copyright 2019 A. H. De Carrasco All rights reserved. Stock images used from Depositphotos, Inc., Depiano, Audrey_Kuzman. Fabulous fonts (Rosewood, Tilda, and Piepie) courtesy of Adobe Typekit.
Special thanks to Hot Tree editing for looking this one over. Special thanks to Virginia for plowing through the vernacular and what-nots. You are a gem! Thanks to Gunsmoke because, well, Gunsmoke and that’s not Bonanza, but I like that one, too, so maybe let’s just thank both and for my childhood free from cellular phones that left me to watch Saturday morning westerns. Yee-haw. Happy Halloween to y’all’s inner cowboys.
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