Welcome to Flash Friday! I hope you enjoy the story and have a great weekend! Gregor paced the small room, checking his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes. What was keeping them? Usually the night shift was quiet but he just knew that the night he was away from the desk would be one night a resident wanted something. He looked at his watch again. Almost midnight. He would wait five more minutes. If they hadn’t arrived –
A surreptitious knock sounded at the servant’s entrance.
‘Yes?’ hissed Gregor through the door.
‘It’s Samuel and Frank,’ came a muttered reply. ‘Hurry up and let us in!’
Gregor opened the door and stepped back. Two men were in the stairwell, a rolled-up carpet slung between them.
‘What took you so long?’ he demanded.
Samuel shot him an angry look but didn’t answer. He was flushed and out of breath from the climb to the top floor.
‘Where do you want it?’ Frank grunted.
‘This way.’ Gregor led them to the bedroom where had already turned on the lamps.
Samuel and Frank heaved the carpet onto the middle of the king-size bed then stretched and rolled their shoulders, sighing in relief. Gregor crossed himself then took out his pocket knife and cut through tape around the carpet, allowing it to flop open. There, looking grey already, was Mr. Hendricks.
Gregor shuddered, closing the sightless eyes of his employer’s body. He took the old man by the shoulders while Samuel took his feet and they lifted him, allowing Frank to pull the carpet out from beneath him. Gregor and Samuel lay the body on the bed, pulling the duvet up as if their employer was sleeping. Frank lifted the paperback that was lying on the bedside table, The Hunt for Red October, and placed it beside Mr. Hendricks outstretched hand, as if he had fallen asleep reading.
‘When is Mrs. Hendricks due back?’ Samuel asked.
‘Henry is picking her up at the airport at six-thirty. They should be here by quarter past seven I should think,’ Gregor answered, looking around the room to make sure everything looked right. His eyes fell on a pair of checked pyjamas folded neatly on a chair in the corner.
‘Does he normally wear pyjamas?’ Gregor asked.
‘How the hell would I know a thing like that?’ Samuel snapped.
‘Well it seems kind-of important if we want it to look like he died in his sleep!’
Frank cursed and turned his back on the other two. Gregor pinched the bridge of his nose and thought. Would something as small as whether or not he was wearing pyjamas really make any difference? Then he thought of Mrs. Hendricks with her big heart. Always a kind word for the staff. He remembered how she had arranged for Sue to get a scholarship so she could go to private school. Anything that might make Mrs Hendricks doubt what had happened was a problem.
‘The pyjamas must be lying out because he wears them. We better put them on him,’ Gregor said with a sigh.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Frank snapped. ‘He’s getting stiff already. How we gonna do that?’
‘Do you want Mrs Hendricks to come home and wonder why her husband was sleeping naked if that’s not his habit? Maybe start to wonder if someone else was here?’
Frank glared at Gregor but instead of arguing, he stomped over to the chair and grabbed the pyjamas. ‘Give me a hand then.’
Samuel hauled the old man into a sitting position while Gregor and Frank struggled to get the pyjama top on him. Mr Hendricks’ limbs were getting difficult to move but they hadn’t quite set into full rigor mortis yet. By the time they were pulling their boss’ trousers up, Gregor was panting and a light sheen of sweat covered his brow.
As the three men trooped out of the bedroom, Gregor turned around and looked over the room one last time. The lamp glowed softly, casting the old man’s face in shadow. It looked for all the world as if he had fallen asleep reading. As if he was still sleeping now. The enormity of what had happened hit him and Gregor tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He had never cared too much for the old man but Mrs Hendricks, she was a classy lady. Gregor knew that she would probably move now, to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. He would miss her.
Samuel had brought in a bag and was putting the old man’s clothes in the laundry room. A flash of black lace caught Gregor’s eye and he grabbed the pile of clothes from Samuel before he could drop them in the basket.
‘What’s this?’ Gregor said, waving the black bra at the other two men. ‘All of this trouble and you nearly blow it by leaving this with his clothes?’
‘I’m getting really tired of your preaching Greg,’ Frank muttered. You didn’t exactly do the hard part of the job, you know what I mean?’
‘Think of the lady. You want Mrs Hendricks to figure out her husband spent his last night with his mistress? Died in bed with someone half his age? You think she deserves that?’
‘Maybe she ought to know he wasn’t exactly as pure as the driven snow!’
‘Just get out of here. I’ll finish up and make sure you didn’t miss anything else.’
Gregor hustled Frank and Sam out the back door with the carpet and then went through the apartment, carefully checking every detail he could think of. The bra, he stuck in his pocket until he could get rid of it.
It was a little after seven forty-five when Mrs Hendricks walked through the lobby, towing a little suitcase behind her.
‘Can I help you with that, ma’am?’ Gregor asked, getting to his feet.
‘Not at all, Gregor. I can manage,’ she answered with a smile.
Gregor couldn’t bring himself to smile back at her.
His shift finished at eight but he stuck around, taking his time with paperwork that didn’t really need completed, watching an ambulance and then the police arrive and go upstairs. Eventually, the bustle died down and the body was taken away and Gregor made his way up to the Hendricks’ apartment.
Mrs Hendricks opened the door when he knocked.
‘I just came up to say I’m sorry, ma’am. Is there anything I can get for you?’
‘Just some company Gregor. It’s early in the day but will you take a whisky with me?’
‘Of course, ma’am,’ Gregor answered, stepping into the living room. ‘What … what happened?’
‘It seems he died in his sleep. My poor Bert, all alone like that.’ Mrs Hendricks covered her face and began to sob.
Gregor put an awkward arm around her shoulders, comforting her as she wept for her husband.
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