Alan T. Orr 

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An excerpt from Death by Deceit...

Harry passed through the gates of the national park just as a hint of the sun's orange glow began to modify the eastern horizon.  As he drove on, he began to think he wouldn't be able to find that specific tree on that particular hill, but then he passed the twisty curve and the rocky outcropping that seemed familiar and there it was.  He pulled into the parking area where he'd stopped with Lee last summer—now it seemed like a lifetime ago.  He grabbed the brand new shovel and the green plastic trash bag, marveling again at how light it was, and stumbled in the half-light up the stony terrain towards the top of the hill.  

It was a nice spot.  If he squinted, he imagined he could see the distant shadowy outline of Mount San Jacinto lurking over the faint orange glow of Palm Springs.  He began to dig.

He dug down eighteen inches just to be sure, and then kneeled down in the sand beside the hole, pausing as what he was about to do sank in.  He took a deep breath, reached into the green plastic trash bag and pulled out a simple but elegant bronze funeral urn.

Not sure what to expect, Harry tentatively poured the contents of the urn into the hole.  Huh? A plastic bag slid out.  Why can't this be easy?  Harry carefully tore open a corner of the thick bag and gingerly spilled the contents into the grave.  It's like kitty litter—a few quarts of kitty litter.  Harry contemplated it as he filled in the grave.  That's what it's all about.  That's all you get in the end.  That's all you are in the end.  A few quarts of kitty litter.  Some sick joke that is.

Still kneeling, he carefully leveled the top of the grave with the back of the shovel and patted it smooth as he thought about the unfunny joke.  His anger began to percolate as he tapped the shovel on the top of the grave.  Gradually, the tapping became more assertive and more forceful. 

As he thought about the events surrounding Lee's death in Mexico, about the stolen car, and about the woman Lee had run off with, Harry's anger became volcanic.  He was pounding on the grave now with the back of the shovel, putting his entire body into the effort, the heavy thuds echoing in the silent hills around him.  He slipped beyond verbal expression, beyond rational thought, beyond conscious control of his actions, banging on the grave with his shovel. 

As the first rays of the sun found the eastern sky, Harry's anger abruptly burned itself out.  Exhausted, he collapsed over the grave, his face rubbing into the sand.  As he lay prostrate over the little grave, he was vaguely aware of a far-off sound, a keening moan that seemed to come from everywhere around him.  It was a primitive sound that couldn't be consciously produced; it came instinctively from the anger and pain and loss that festered within him.  His eyes burned with hot tears and his throat choked with bile.  The gritty desert sand of Lee's grave stuck to his tears and scraped his eyes.  It got into his mouth and grated against his teeth.  The anguished keening gradually became fainter until it was just a feeble moan.  Then for the first time in days, Harry slept.


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