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“Crap,” Holly muttered, staring down at the sheaf of papers she’d just stepped on. The small disc stapled to the top corner told her that it was the paperwork for one of their clients. It included the burial permit, the coroner’s certificate, the application for cremation and the coversheet with the client’s name and info . . . and it should have been given to John Byron when he arrived to start his shift at 4:30 that afternoon. Obviously, it hadn’t. This bundle must have fallen off her desk at some point that day.
Holly continued to stand there for several seconds, simply staring at the bundle. She didn’t even remove her foot, because once she did, she’d have to do something about it . . . like take it to the crematorium . . . and she really didn’t want to go down there. Not at this hour. Making the trek during the day was one thing, but it was just past midnight now. She’d have to make her way through the graveyard to get to the building that housed the chapel; the columbarium, where the urns rested; and the crematorium, where the bodies were stored and waiting for their turn at the retort.
Retorts is what the owner of Sunnyside Cemetery, Max, had called them when he’d given her the tour the day she’d started. He could call them what he liked, but retort was just a fancy word for the oven where they burned the bodies.
Shuddering at the thought of the coffins shelved in the cooler, Holly closed her eyes briefly. A popular game here seemed to be to freak out the new worker with tales of the “ovens.” Jerry, the day technician, and John, who took the evening shift, as well as her boss, Max, and even Sheila, the receptionist, had all told her one horrific tale or another. But the most memorable was John telling her how the coffins burned away first and the corpses sometimes sat up inside the oven, muscles contracting in the heat and mouths agape as if screaming in horror at their doom. That image had stuck with her, convincing Holly she really didn’t want to be cremated. In fact, she’d decided dying was to be avoided at all costs if possible.
Sighing, she opened her eyes and peered at the papers, wishing she could pretend she hadn’t seen them. After all, in the normal course of events, she wouldn’t have found them until morning. She shouldn’t be here now except she’d got home after work, made dinner and looked for her purse to get her blood tester to check her sugar levels, but hadn’t been able to find it. Thinking she’d probably left her purse in the car and not wanting dinner to get cold, she’d decided the blood test could wait. Of course, by the time dinner was finished, she’d forgotten all about it . . . until she was brushing her teeth before bed. She’d been halfway done when she’d remembered.