The following is an excerpt from the short story "Midnight Creep" which appears in the Barely Bound, available at amazon.com .
Midnight Creep by Paul Fecteau
“He used to grab my ass,” Earlina whispered. Isabelle looked away from the casket to her cousin, back again, and nodded.
Earlina affected a deep, slurred voice: “Got a hug for Uncle Norm?”
Isabelle smirked but continued to stare at the puffed and waxy face that lay beneath the bushy gray eyebrows and mustache. A black coat buttoned over the rise of stomach, and a golden amulet with a reflecting purple stone rested upon the white shirt. Isabelle thought of him ambling down the beach in Bermuda shorts. “That reunion in Corpus Christi,” she confided, “I was in a swimsuit.”
Earlina slyly reached over and clamped her hand on Isabelle’s behind. Isabelle jumped, and Earlina shook with suppressed laughter.
Isabelle watched and allowed herself a sheepish grin. She pictured them as an oddball comedy team, mismatched in temperament as they were in appearance. Isabelle’s flats still gave her an inch on Earlina who was in heels. Earlina’s chestnut hair was loose about her shoulders while Isabelle’s was darker and pinned up. They both played basketball in college but at opposite ends of the state, and Earlina made all-conference at guard while Isabelle averaged only a handful of points a game as a forward off the bench.
Isabelle’s gaze wandered back to Uncle Norm’s body. She gasped as she was sure a smile had crossed his lips. Her eyes closed reflexively to block the sight, but she felt a meaty hand pawing across her swimsuit. “No,” she whispered.
“What?” Earlina asked.
Isabelle opened her eyes, and the snowy mustache again looked plastic and the pale lips were bloated and lifeless. “Nothing,” she told Earlina.
Voices floated in from the hall, and Earlina took Isabelle’s arm. She pulled her into the shadows and up against the curtains that flanked the casket as two women came into the chapel and closed the doors.
Geneva and her sister Opal stopped two rows in, neither looking to the coffin. Geneva wore a navy blue dress that looked particularly dark against her white hair but was not the widow’s garb she’d don the next day for the funeral. Opal was in a tan pants suit. She said, “We can still talk to Mr. Anno.”
Geneva glanced quickly toward the display and shook her head.
“The estate,“ Opal began, “could use the money, dear.”
“No,” Geneva said, her voice high and unsteady. “It says in the will—”
She was interrupted: “I told you I talked to Anno.”
“Does he get a kickback in the deal?” Geneva shot back.
“It would mean more work for him.”
Geneva choked up and headed for the door, followed by Opal chanting apologies and supplications.
Isabelle murmured, “Can you believe aunt Opie?” But Earlina was already moving toward the coffin. Isabelle went with her, and they stopped by its side. The light reflecting off the amulet caught Isabelle’s eye. She pointed. “That’s got to be what they were arguing about.”
The base was a five-point star formed of hammered gold, and it supported a diamond shaped chunk of Alexandrite that varied in hues depending on the angle from which it was viewed.
“I wonder how much,” mused Earlina.
“We should find out,” offered Isabelle.
Earlina turned to her with a smile. “What are you suggesting, oh Queen of Clear Conscience?”
Isabelle rolled her eyes and gave a sly shrug.
“I’ll be damned,” said Earlina with her hands on her hips. “The same kid who ratted on me for swiping a Snickers from Wolworth’s, now wants to thieve from the dead.”
"Midnight Creep" follows Earlina and Isabelle's efforts to cash in on their dead uncle's secret, a secret that turns out to be even creepier than they could have imagined . . .
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