Thursday, June 03, 2010

In Plain Sight

There were seven or eight of them standing around. You could almost call it a half circle. Loosely. Their posture seemed slightly menacing, or at least adversarial. Could they be? No, probably just his imagination. They were standing on a gravel patch, mostly shaded by the large leafy tree in the corner. Behind them, a two-story brick building and with two large garage doors, closed. In front of one, a white cargo van. A typical non-descript Ford Econoline. Several small scrapes along the right side, but you'd expect that, it was obviously a work truck. The upper floor of the building had wide windows and he could see people looking out, he turned to look at what they were looking at. The building must have offered a wonderful viewpoint of the lawn of that section of the cemetery and the valley and the city below to the east. To the left of the building was a lazy gravel path leading to stairs made of railroad ties and ending at the top at a fence of poles with looped chain at the top. Where the path met the fence, a small sign hung from the chains. He imagined that it must say something like "Staff Only" or "Please do not enter." Something probably attempting to be respectful, but in only a few words.

He didn't recognize anyone in the group, but they weren't looking for him. He pulled up the collar of his coat and strode into their midst, nodding, and proceeding north parallel to the building. There was another gravel path leading up on the other side of the building and the flat gravel path gave way to a narrow gravel driveway flanked by two large rocks and quickly disappearing into a thicket of trees. It was no wonder the van had scrapes. As he reached the tree line, he made a furtive glance back but it didn't appear like anyone was following him. They didn't belong here anymore than he did, but apparently their presence was unrelated to him. There was a quick turn and then another. It seemed inconvenient, but it was obvious that it was all done to mask the gravel drive as it connected with the paved road between the different parts of the cemetery.

The cemetery had been divided into sections. Near the center was the building he'd just seen. With its large windows on the second story, it served to offer a quiet place for people to contemplate their loved ones' eternal resting place, to look over the city and contemplate the temporal nature of their own lives, plus some offices for the staff. The lower half housed the offices and equipment for the grounds crew. The design of the building would mask most of the lower gravel plateau where he'd just come from, as well as his interloping. Between the sections were various natural and man-made separations; a vista with a cliff, several lakes, a chapel, several small thickets of trees hiding the business-side of running a cemetery, power, water, other utilities, and to the far north, a tall cliff and waterfall and another grove of trees. At the base of the waterfall was a really nice section, lots of mausoleums. And that, that was where he was headed in a hurry.

The road was clear and he quickly crossed, disappearing back into the thicket. It would have been quicker to have just stayed on the road for a couple hundred feet, but there was no sense in advertising his presence. He arrived at the edge of the cluster. He was going to be out in the open now. Hopefully he could proceed without drawing attention. He began to walk slowly, looking carefully, consulting a piece of paper as if he was looking for a specific mausoleum or tombstone but wasn't sure of his exact location.

All of the sudden, chips of granite flew towards his face and he heard a few dull thuds. He dived behind a tombstone and heard a few more thuds. What the...? He had to think quickly. Obviously they were on to him and now he was a sitting duck. Should he head back for the bushes and try to draw their attention, or continue onto his rendezvous knowing the person he was meeting would be in jeopardy without his help. The decision wasn't a difficult one. He laid back, feet against the headstone, prayed a little prayer asking forgiveness of the family and the departed.

He listened, hearing the footsteps coming closer. When he sensed he wasn't going to be able to get any better chance, he quickly pushed with both feet, toppling the large headstone and from his position laying on his back, fired in the direction of the footsteps. There was a hasty retreat and he rolled to his feet, running quickly. Fortunately there had been only one. If he hadn't hit him, he'd at least spooked him enough to give him a few minutes. He could get to her, but he wasn't sure how he'd get them both to safety. But, he'd figure that out, to be sure.
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