The Third Policeman (part 1)

The plan was to be simple, at least the way that Thomas had been telling it. The Old Man — Mathers was his name — made his fortunes in fertilizer, dealt in cash that he kept hid beneath the floor boards. That night, we’d be waiting by the path to his house for to find him walking home, and we’d make damn sure he did’t make it.

“Damn sure.” Thomas’ words. He gave the first hit, bludgeoned with a tire pump to put him on the ground. Then he left the rest to me while he went to find the stash. “No witnesses,” he said. “Just an old man won’t be missed.” Not the way I’d hoped to do things, but we had to be sure. We had to.

I dug the spade into his head — that was all the weapons we had between us. It was a clean scoop, his brains like grits in a spoon. Too bad I’d lost me appetite. I used the bloody tool to dig a hole out in the woods. Not too far off the path — I needed the light, as little as it was, plus I had to keep an eye our two bicycles. Didn’t want someone to be stealing them while we were off making the grab, else we wouldn’t have a way to make it home.

See, the money was to be used for the book that I’d been writing since well before Thomas and I took up together. The Complete Annotated de Selby. There’s nothing in the stores that’s like it. My life’s work. But Thomas said we needed money for to publish it. And Old Man Mathers, well, he wouldn’t miss it. Or so Thomas said.

By the time he got back, I was nearly finished with the hole, digging with that tiny spade. “Aye, took you long enough,” I said. Thomas didn’t answer. He was a bit bent that I had left the corpse out on the path for all to see. I couldn’t carry him myself though, what on account of me leg. Thomas helped, and together we tossed him in the grave and closed it up, made our way up to his house to claim the prize.

When we got outside, Thomas stopped. Said I had to go in first, on account of he’d already been inside. In the interest of being fair and all that, just to prove his word.

I climbed in through the window, second from the left. The room inside was empty, but for a worn old wingback chair off in the corner. The cobwebs by the window sparkled by the moon, but the rest of them were covered up by dust and death. Thomas said the box was in the floor beneath the chair, hidden ‘neath the third board from the wall. I counted, then I double-counted three, just to be sure. Thomas was right — the board was loose, and I pulled it up with ease. It was much too dark inside to see below the floor, and I didn’t have me lamp, so I cleared away the spiderwebs and with me hand I felt around for anything resembled a money box. The angry little critters nipped at me, crawling up me arms, but I hardly noticed. I was too focused on the prize.

My fingers found it — a tin smith’s box, at least it felt like. “Thomas!” I cried. “It’s here!” I groped until I found something, a lid, or a handle, or something I could fix a grip on, and I pulled. There was a bright flash, something warm. And that’s…well, that’s when things turned a bit strange.

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