“I told you four thirty so you wouldn’t be late!”
Aoife slid the mobile phone back into her trouser pocket and waved her arms like a frantic traffic warden to try and stay warm. She berated herself for not having known better, not having called his number sooner. What a loser! Mr Can-do-anything-no-problem-at-all-you-can-count-on-me hadn’t even got out of bed yet.
Together they were meant to function as one small but very crucial cog in a minutely planned out operation. They’d made it clear that recruiting a helper for the cemetery spray walk was solely Aoife’s responsibility. She sighed.
Jack scratched the small circular bald spot amidst his otherwise still rather thick mop of hair. Kept reasonably short with just a bit of length at the front and to one side. She said it looked like a cumulus cloud with a one-sided cirrus extension. He had thought the woman rather attractive last night. Hadn’t heard much of what she said over the din inside The Jolly Gravedigger’s. The place was always packed on a Saturday night.
Her eyes the colour the sky had been all week, predominantly grey with dark clouds passing through, drew him in completely. It was all he could do to try and resist the temptation to ask her to come home with him. Instead he keyed his phone number into the address book on her mobile. As contact name he entered “Call me Jack”. The thought of that clever move made him smile. And now she had called. What a peculiar phone call though. None of what she said made any sense to him at all. It was news to him that he had agreed to meeting her at half four this morning, in the cemetery of all places. For a very important spray job. A spray job? Jack was puzzled but intrigued.
She hung up before he could ask what exactly that meant, obviously assumed he was in the know. He remembered smiling and nodding a lot last night and going weak in his knees whenever she touched his arm emphatically. There was such urgency in her voice just now that it had catapulted him out of bed at this ungodly hour. Good grief, it was still dark outside.
And who were they? They who would ruin any chance of survival she had if he didn’t rush over to the east gate which wasn’t guarded and didn’t have a security camera and would be easy to climb over. He was late already she said and if the job didn’t get done by six sharp she’d be as good as dead.
Ten past five. He better be here quick or all was lost. Aoife stopped pacing around the grave nearest the east gate. She slid the rucksack off her shoulders and opened the zip. Assuring herself that it did contain the two envelopes which they had delivered into her letter box at midnight.
Aoife was in bed of course at the time but Jonjo, her Golden Retriever, had growled and pawed her arm to wake her. They knew that the new recruit’s name was Jack, so on the outside of one of the envelopes was written Jack, on the other Aoife. Both envelopes were there alongside two pairs of night vision goggles and two spray cans. The fluorescent yellow one was for Jack, the green one for her. That was Aoife’s decision, who would get to spray in which colour. They didn’t micromanage to that level, although they did micromanage quite a lot.
Jack and Aoife were meant to kick this off together and open the envelopes at the same time, but it wouldn’t do to wait any longer. She just had to hope that Jack would arrive soon and on realising that she must have gone ahead without him would take his clues from the contents of her abandoned rucksack and catch up with his part of the assignment.
“Starting with the headstone closest to the east gate, spray the words ‘Forget death!’ across the inscription on every headstone to the left of the gravel path between here and the west gate. Make it so that each t is an upturned cross. Hurry, time is of the essence!”
Risky and no doubt forbidden as it was, Aoife couldn’t resist taking a sneak look at Jack’s instructions. He was to spray “Death is dead!” on all headstones along the right side of the path. At least they weren’t being sent off in different directions. And the grave plots to the right of the path were bigger meaning fewer headstones and a good chance that Jack could catch up.
Jack did catch up with Aoife at the second last tomb before the west gate.
“We have to hide in here, Jack, until this place opens up and gets busy and we can slip out unseen.”
Jack nodded, but stood as though frozen to the ground. Above the tomb towered the sculpture of a Golden Retriever his head turned skyward in silent anguish. “This dog,” he started but was cut short when she took him by the hand and pulled him down the sunken path to the back entrance into the vault.
An upturned cross was carved into the top part of the granite door. The plaque below it simply said Moonigan. Jack swallowed, “That’s freaking me out now. I’m a Moonigan, Jack Moonigan.”
“That must be why they directed us here, don’t you see?”
She bent down and reached into the gap between the door and the earthy ground. Before he could get himself lost in observing her trim and boyish figure, travelling into his mind via the shades of green which the night vision goggles presented to him, she rose back up and triumphantly waved a massive key in front of his eyes. The key reminded him of his Georgian basement flat, the one he had briefly shared with one of his many girlfriends from way back when he was a student. What had been her name again?
“After you,” she said.
Why was it that the musky smell made him choke and retch instantly? Her hand on his back urged him on. Gently at first, then with a hard push.
“And I’d be a Moonigan, too, if you’d done the decent thing and married my mother 25 years ago, Jack Moonigan!”
The heavy door closed behind him.
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2013