The Empty Grave

Here’s a little story I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while back.  A hitman attends the funeral of his latest victim ….


Marco always loved the funerals. They were the icing on the cake, the opportunity to savour the results of his handiwork. There was never time after the hit itself. You pulled the trigger, then you packed up quickly and efficiently and got the hell out of there.

This time had been no different. The whole thing had been a matter of five minutes. Two to set up. One to find the target in the window, wearing his trademark fedora hat, aim, and squeeze the trigger. A second to verify that the figure had indeed fallen, then two more minutes to disassemble his rifle, put it back in its case, and get back down the stairs and into the waiting car. You had to be precise, mechanistic, dispassionate. There was no room for emotion of any kind. It just got in the way.

But now … he could watch the grief and anger play over the faces of the Greco family. Hell, he could even shake their hands and express fake sympathy. He prided himself on being convincing; the bullshit was all part of the trade. Maybe one of the most important skills.

And there was plenty of time to enjoy his success. Boy, did the Grecos do funerals. After all the weeping and wailing at the church and the graveside, there would be the wake back at Don Angelo’s house, at which all the four families would pretend to be friends and eat and drink into the night. He would toast his own success in wine paid for by his victim’s sons.

But first, there was the burial itself. For Marco, this was the very best part. What better seal could you put on your success than to watch your target being lowered into the earth. To throw soil onto the coffin of the man you had killed.

Marco walked to the grave with Gino Greco, the eldest son, who would likely be the next boss. It was a matter of pride to seek out those who could be most dangerous to him, a test of his ability to give nothing away.

“You okay, Gino? You look pretty down. A great loss, huh?”

“Oh, I’m all right, Marco, all things considered. But Mr Black has taken it very bad.”

“Mr Black? Don’t think I’ve heard of him.”

“He’s one of my Dad’s guys. Was very close to him at the end.”

The pair joined the crowd by the side of the open grave. Lesser men moved aside to let them through. An empty coffin sat next to the hole. Marco was puzzled.

“I don’t understand. Where’s the body?”

“Here it is.” A life-sized human silhouette, of black cardboard, fell down into the grave. In the centre of its head was a small round hole.

“Poor old Mr Black,” said Gino.

And where the figurine had been stood a man in his sixties, stern of face and wearing a fedora hat.

“Don Angelo, you’re alive! Then whose funeral is this?”


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