Welcome to the November edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
November is the month for remembering the dead, so here is a humorous crime story set in a cemetery. You can read “Loot” both in a standalone edition and as part of the crime fiction collection Murder in the Family. “Loot” is based on a true story, by the way, which happened to an elderly lady of my acquaintance.
So prepare to accompany Eudora Pennington to the cemetery to bury a loved one and watch pursesnatcher Jack Slater get his comeuppance in…
Katrina hadn’t been well for quite a few days. She didn’t eat, she didn’t drink, she didn’t want to go outside, she scarcely stirred from her basket in the bedroom. She did not even enjoy sitting in her favourite spot on her owner’s lap anymore.
Eudora Pennington had been very worried. After a sleepless night, for both her and Katrina, she finally decided to call the vet. The vet came, examined Katrina and then told Mrs. Pennington frankly that there was nothing he could do. Old age was finally taking its toll. The best thing would be to put her to sleep.
Eudora Pennington had refused, of course. If you spent seventeen years with a pet, you didn’t just have it put down, once it became old and ill and useless. It was inhuman and simply wrong. And this was what she told the vet. The young man just shrugged and left. He hadn’t helped Katrina, in fact he hadn’t done anything except making Mrs. Pennington angry and he’d charged her twenty-five pounds for the privilege, too. Typical, those young doctors of today were interested in nothing but money.
But though Eudora Pennington was unwilling to let her sole companion of the past seven years go, the fluffy white Persian cat died peacefully the following night anyway. Mrs. Pennington was heartbroken. Katrina was the only friend she had left, after all, the only living creature to share the loneliness of a large empty house. Her husband Albert was long dead, and they’d had no children. And they’d always had preciously little contact with the relatives on either side. So all that had been left after Albert’s sudden death seven years before were a few friends and the neighbours who dropped in every now and then. And Katrina, of course. But now Katrina was gone as well.
The morning after Katrina passed away, Philip, Mrs. Pennington’s neighbour, came over to offer his assistance. Mrs. Pennington liked her neighbours. They were good people and had always been there for her, when she needed help. But that morning Philip wanted to take Katrina away. And Mrs. Pennington knew only too well where he would take her. He’d take her to the knacker’s. And Mrs. Pennington knew only too well would happen to her then.
“I will not have my poor Katrina end up as glue or as meat and bone meal,” she told him.
Philip had been very understanding. He assured her that he knew how she felt, though he was pretty sure that they did not actually make glue out of dead animals anymore. And meat and bone meal had been banned over that mad cow scare years ago. And he really wished there were some other way. But unfortunately it was forbidden to bury pets in the garden or anywhere else except at designated pet cemeteries.
The idea of a pet cemetery had crossed Eudora Pennington’s mind. Katrina would have a decent grave there, complete with a headstone and flowers. It was what Mrs. Pennington wanted for Katrina, what her trusted companion deserved. But unfortunately there was a grave problem. Pet cemeteries were very expensive. Too expensive for Mrs. Pennington’s small pension.
For two days, Eudora Pennington brooded over what to do with poor Katrina’s body. She considered simply burying Katrina in a nice corner of the garden or in a pleasant spot in the woods. But that was forbidden, just as Philip had pointed out. Besides it might poison the groundwater or something like that. To be honest, she didn’t quite understand all that. All she knew was that burying Katrina in the garden was against the law and Mrs. Pennington didn’t want to get in trouble with the police. She had always been a law-abiding citizen, after all. No, she would have to find another way. Then, on the second night after Katrina’s death, she had an idea.
There was one place where she could give Katrina a decent burial without accidentally poisoning the groundwater. And Katrina would have as nice a grave there as she would have had at a pet cemetery. What was more, she would even rest in the company of somebody who had cared for her almost as much as Eudora Pennington herself had.
Mrs. Pennington would simply take Katrina’s body to the cemetery and bury her in her husband’s grave. Albert would have liked to have Katrina with him. And this way, Eudora Pennington could visit the graves of both her loved ones at the same time. It was the perfect solution.
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in the crime fiction collection Murder in the Family or in a standalone edition. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.
Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.