Author: Guede Mazaka
You heard funny things when you were digging up a grave. The nighttime already distorted sound and let it carry farther, and then the rhythmic thunkwhoosh of the shovel moving dirt made things sound even weirder. If he could figure out a way to still keep an alert out for anything sneaking up behind him, Dean would totally break out the Walkman and headphones for the exhumation parts of his job. Honestly, it sounded like somebody else was digging around in the cemetery, but this was mostly tree-less land out here, and he hadn’t seen a single—living—soul when he’d walked in.
“Man, I hate this part,” Dean muttered, heaving another shovelful over his shoulder.
That had sounded like another echo. Dean frowned and paused, taking a moment to wipe off his face…and he heard it again. While his shovel had been planted firmly in the grave-bottom.
After a second, Dean pushed the shovel-blade deeper into the earth, ensuring that it’d stay upright, and then hauled himself over the side of the grave. The ground here was soft and sank as he pressed on it, so it wasn’t exactly a clean jerk-and-heave, but he managed it. He glanced around, then caught a flashing glint about thirty yards away.
Well, this ghost only was active during the hour before dusk, so Dean figured it was okay to go check that other thing out before he wrapped up the first job. “Stay right there,” he said over his shoulder.
Nothing answered, thankfully—God, that’d been one fucked-up hunt in Nevada—so he retrieved the shotgun and then eased himself on over to whatever else was going down in the graveyard tonight.
A big hulk of a mausoleum was near the source of the sound, and probably had been blocking off Dean’s view when he’d walked in. He rounded it and stopped to look down at another freshly-dug grave: some other hunter working the same area, apparently. Then again…the body in the bottom was on top of a…a closed coffin. And it looked really fresh. And—
He heard the wind whistle and ducked, then whirled around to return the punch. Except the side of the shotgun hit a leg—some random kung-fu?—and then they were really into it because the gun got knocked out of Dean’s hands. Knuckles, teeth, flying trenchcoats, sprays of dirt spattering up against their legs…oh, shit, grave.
Dean jumped back from the edge just before he would’ve gone over and desperately threw himself at the other man. They fell over, rolled into a patch of moonlight, and then he finally got a good look at the guy: thirties, dark hair, probably a lady-killer except something about his eyes bothered Dean. But he was definitely a living person.
“You’re not a ghoul,” Dean panted.
The other man paused—his grip didn’t loosen an inch, though—and frowned. “You’re not from around he—Miho! Don’t!”
“What?” Something moving on the edge of Dean’s vision spooked him and he jerked up. Or tried to jerk up, only to get rolled while shiny, sharp-looking ninja star things plunked into the ground where he’d been. Dean cursed and struggled to get free, but the guy on top of him kept shoving him back down and saying something about slow movements. Fuck that—whatever that thing flitting around throwing crap at him was, he wasn’t just going to lie here and—
--something nicked his cheek. It didn’t really hurt, but then he was suddenly so sleepy.
* * *
Miho, as it turned out, was a cranky little Japanese…girl? woman? definitely stay away from age references with her, said Dean’s instincts…who didn’t mind having her breasts hanging out of her kimono, but got totally bitchy about where Dean was allowed to lean against the sweet old-school Cadillac Dwight had. And she had lots of sharp edges to back that up.
“Okay, okay,” Dean said, hands in the air as he backed away. He was tired and kind of wanted to sit down, but he could just lean against the graveyard gate if she was going to make such a big deal out of it. “You know, I drive a vintage Impala. I know how to appreciate a car like—”
She started playing with those little daggers again while staring at Dean’s throat. Dean gave up and settled for the damn gate.
Dwight, also known as the guy who’d been trespassing on cemetery grounds to bury a corpse, rolled his eyes at the whole thing. “So to stop a ghost, you throw salt on the body of who it was before and then torch it.”
“Yep.” The other man had given Dean his shotgun back, but had flashed a pretty big handgun in his own belt while doing that, so Dean decided to be reasonable for the moment. Well, as reasonable as he could be with those open graves only twenty yards away as reminders. “So how about your dead guy?”
“If a man rapes a prostitute, it’s impossible to prosecute him around here, so we don’t bother going to the court,” Dwight said. He was watching Dean as coolly and carefully as Dean had been watching him a moment ago. “Double-stacking’s an okay way to hide the body.”
Miho leveled another one of those killer glowers at Dean, and that was when he kind of realized that looking right away at her probably didn’t speak too well for him. He grimaced and tucked the shotgun more firmly beneath his arm. “How do I know you didn’t just kill him because…I don’t know, for something else?”
“How do I know I shouldn’t think you’re crazy because you believe in ghosts, and dangerous because you’ve got guns and fighting skills too?” Dwight countered. He cupped his hands around his mouth, his fingers briefly glowing red, and then lifted his head to drag on the cigarette he’d just lit. When he’d been busy, Miho had straightened up a little bit to be able to cover him. “Look, I need to finish up and get going, and I honestly don’t want to kill you because then I’d have to dig another damn grave. I think you probably need to do the same thing.”
“So I’ve seen yours, you’ve seen mine, let’s go our separate ways now? Am I hearing you right?” Dean was trying not to, if only so he wouldn’t give away how nervous he was, but he couldn’t help glancing at Miho over and over again. Her expression hadn’t changed, but somehow she gave off the impression of not liking the idea at all, and that seemed to be making Dwight nervous. And Dwight seemed fairly intelligent and outweighed Miho by like, five times. At least.
Dwight smoked his cigarette down to the filter in less than a minute, then ground it out against the gate bars. “It’d work for me. Miho and I go back to our grave, you go back to yours, and we both leave at the same time. Go in opposite directions.”
Miho started to shave the edges of her nails with her dagger. It looked like she was sharpening them into claw-points.
After a moment, Dean nodded. “Okay. But I’d better be able to see her, or no deal.”
Dwight looked at Miho, Miho looked at Dean. Her nose wrinkled slightly, and then she hopped off the car hood and stalked away, clearly telling Dwight ‘fine, but anything goes wrong and it’s your fault.’
“Guess you’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” Dean said.
The strangest look went over Dwight’s face, more like a spasm than an expression. He put his half-curled hand up to his mouth, shoulders jerking a little. Then he lowered it while he turned away; he choked a couple more times as he and Dean warily walked towards their digs, shaking his head like he would’ve been laughing if he wasn’t afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
* * *
Of course, Dean hadn’t really believed that it’d be that easy, but he had thought he’d be okay till they had to leave. So he went ahead and did the bonfire while keeping one eye on the other two. He thought about calling Dad a couple times, but it seemed like every time he started to reach for the phone, he heard a twig crack or some kind of metallic clang and looked up to see Miho giving him the evil eye.
Usually nothing happened when the body was burned, which meant checking to make sure the ghost was really gone took till the next day. But this time, a thin wail whipped through the cemetery just as the last flames died away, making Dean spin around with his hands reaching for the shotgun and salt.
He didn’t see anything, which was a relief. And then he turned back and didn’t see anything where Dwight and Miho should’ve been either, which was not a relief. Dean stood in place for a second, straining every sense he had, but…nothing.
Every nerve jumping, he hustled himself over to Dwight’s grave, but the hole was all filled in and there wasn’t a trace of the other man, or of Miho.
He’d touchedDwight—he’d felt the man’s breath and body heat. The guy was alive, and he’d grunted and slowed down like a normal person whenever Dean had gotten in a good hit. Miho, on the other hand…but she hadn’t hit Dean that way, either.
Dean’s skin was crawling, and in ways he completely wasn’t used to. Which worried him, considering his life.
In the end, he went back to the car. He didn’t stop to fill in that grave, and he didn’t stop turning around even after he’d pulled onto the road, but nobody came after him.
* * *
The next morning, Dean came back in with a bunch of flowers he’d picked out of somebody’s lawn border as cover. It was Sunday, so a few other people were roaming around, but they didn’t pay any attention to him.
Somebody had filled up the grave he’d dug up, packing the dirt carefully down so it didn’t look out-of-place. After a moment, Dean went over to where Dwight had been and compared reburial patterns, and concluded it’d been the same people. He stared at that grave for a while, then took the day’s paper out from beneath his arm and checked the front page again: lead story was a missing local politician, and the accompanying photo looked a lot like the body Dean had seen.
He went back to the car, thinking about how he’d swing an anonymous call, and then stopped again. After a long, long second, he slowly moved forward and picked the piece of newsprint out from beneath the windshield wiper.
Dean needed a minute to look through the paper and find where the article would’ve come from, since it was buried way in the back. It was a short obit for a nineteen-year-old girl, and after he worked through the strained, stilted language, he managed to get that one, she’d been a streetwalker, and two, she’d died just before the politician had vanished.
Could be coincidence—wait. Somebody had shelled out the money to have a picture of her included: it’d been taken at some kind of party, and in the background, Dean could just make out a small, expressionless face with two glowering eyes.
A small puffing noise near his foot made him look down. He blinked, rubbed his eye, and then looked again, but that ninja star was still there. Dean scanned around, but predictably, didn’t see anything or anyone.
“Jesus, I’m going,” he muttered. “But…hey, thanks for filling in that grave.”
No response. Still with an uncomfortable prickling between his shoulders, Dean got into the driver’s seat. He kind of hoped Dwight had been paying attention to what he’d been saying about ghosts, because he honestly didn’t like the idea of coming back to this city. Seemed like the locals preferred taking care of their own business, and for once Dean figured it might actually be a better idea to leave that to them.