By Francis H. Powell
|“The sins of the night don’t wash off easily Malden.”
“Sadlife, what are you on about” scowled Malden. “I said the sins of the night don’t wash off easily,” said Sadlife raising his voice, so
this time Malden was obliged to hear him.
“Keep digging, Sadlife and keep your worthless thoughts to yourself, called out Malden perplexed by Sadlife’s sudden
“And if you don’t want to be digging your own grave, be sharpish.” Said Malden before placing a cigarette in his mouth.
Sadlife was experiencing back pains and was severely fatigued, but he knew Malden never gave empty promises and he knew the sky
was not providing a thick dark cover as when they had arrived.
Sadlife hated silences an always looked for ways to fill them, even at the expense of a lash of Malden’s tongue.
“My back hurts and it’s always me who has to do all the physical work, complained Sadlife, as his spade hit ac piece of flint.
“You, Sadlife are a mere artisan, I am the artist, said Malden proudly.
Sadlife stopped momentarily and put his hands on his hips, as if he was making a paltry show of defiance.
“But you just stand watching over me as I labor away, what is so artisan about that?”
Malden took a step forward and craned his head closer in Sadlife’s direction.
“I do far more than that, he said imperiously, Sadlife, I do the preparatory work, the uncover work, work you could only imagine, I
take the orders from above, you just carry them out with a spade.”
“It still does not seem right, continued Sadlife, with his fruitless argument.”
“What’s not right said Malden sharply, is that I have to listen to the worthless thoughts that come out of your clueless head.” Malden
shook his head, sighed and took a swig from his hip flask.
“Let me take this opportunity to remind you, that it is me who brings in the work Sadlife, thus providing you and your pitiful family
sustenance to eat and drink in these hard times, never forget this fact, Sadlife.” Sadlife remained silent, and began resentfully picking
away at the troublesome ground, situated a remote wasteland.
Sadlife couldn’t contain himself, he had another question to nark Malden, “Who exactly are we burying anyway Malden?”
Malden looked to the sky and let out a painful groan. “Sadlife, I don’t know, maybe some rogue Priest, some dissident politician,
some Union leader, some corrupt official, it could be some high powered prostitute, the devil himself for all I care, keep digging like
you paid to do and I am sure the body will be coming shortly.
Suddenly without warning Sadlife hauled himself out of the pit he had been digging. Malden’s jaw dropped. He wasn’t as alert as
usual, he’d drunk too much from his flask, “Wwwwwhat are you doing Sadlife, the jobs not finished”, he stuttered.
Sadlife had this twisted expression, Malden had never seen on his face. He looked so sprightly and determined, not the malleable,
down trodden wretch, Malden perceived him to be. He prodded Malden with the spade in the direction of the pit.
“Get in the pit man.” He said in a commanding voice.
Malden tried to go on the offensive, he bawled.
“You get t back in the pit and get back to work, this is the last job you will ever do, I’ll have you praying for you pathetic existence.”
Sadlife lunged at Malden, with his spade. Malden lost his footing on the greasy turf and fell into the pit. Then most
uncharacteristically, Sadlife pulled a revolver out of his sizable pockets. Somebody of importance must have issued him with it. He
held it uneasily in his hand, his eyes fixed on Malden, who was cowering in the pit.
“What the hell” said Malden, realizing he was in a far perilous position than he had originally bargained for. He adopted new methods
with Sadlife, he offered a sycophantic smile.
“I will do my share of the digging Sadlife, I mean Mr. Sadler.” He had finally addressed his colleague by his correct name.
“I think the grave is deep enough to easily cover a man don’t you Malden.?” Mocked Sadler, save the last of your energy.
“Come on, be reasonable Mr. Sadler, we work well together, we are a team, don’t you think, said Malden, patronizing Sadler, his voice
increasingly desperate, as some light rain started to come down.
Sadler was unmoved, still resolute.
“This is not about you and me Malden, I have orders from above, it seems you have been stepping out of line, your number is up
Malden, accept it, show some dignity in your final moments.”
Malden shuddered. Sadler raised the revolver and aimed it at Malden, his eyes intense.
“Hold on Sadler, stammered Malden, listen I have something to offer you, look.”
Malden shied away, putting his hands out in some kind of meager form of defense and turned his head away, as Sadler looked ever
poised to pull the trigger.
Urgently he then reached into his pocket and took out a wad of money, he had bundles of money stashed away. He had managed to
restrain Sadler momentarily. Sadler had a coldness in his eyes, the callous look of a trigger happy killer, Malden recognized that look
in a man, he had seen it quite a few times, but maybe the money might distract him.
“Let me look at that,” said Sadler, his eyes bulging, almost snatching the money.
“It will be yours if you let me go,” said Malden, with the voice of a desperate bargainer, at the limits of his negotiating powers.
“That’s quite a lot of money you have got there Malden, his eye browse lifted, I wonder how you came by that.”
“It’s some of my savings,” said Malden unconvincingly.
“Why of course Mr. Malden,” scoffed Sadler, shaking his head.
Sadler estimated there was enough money for him to look after his wife Hagrad and daughter Sunshine and young son Topaz, for
years to come. In deed with those bundles, there was a life not of luxury, but certainly comfort. He had never had many chances in
life, now he was looking down at a once in a guilt edge lifetime opportunity.
Ten minutes later two shots rang out, birds scattered, a few early morning risers, walking their dogs were taken by surprise. A few
minutes after that an officious looking figure wearing a sedate black suit and a trilby hat appeared, puffing on a cigarette, the night sky
had given way to daylight and there was still this relentless drizzle.
“Everything went to plan Mr. Sadler, I trust.” He said in a somber tone. He handed Sadler a brown envelope.
Sadler was panting, trying desperately to compose himself. He had been working feverishly and it had not been easy to fill in the
grave. He had known time was against him and he had sensed the official would soon be paying him a visit to check all had gone to
plan. He did not feel comfortable with the official. Officials made him nervous. He was sure Malden would have handled such a
man with brazen confidence, but for him, he was tasting a new experience and it was proving most testing.
His answer had been unconvincing, his voice quavering.
“Yes sir, everything went fine.” He hardly dared look the man in the face, for fear his guilt might give him away.
“I don’t imagine Malden, went easily, I suppose he must have put up quite a fight, went to hell, kicking and screaming to last.” Said
the official, with a look that begged a forthright convincing response.
“Why yes, said Sadler, I’ve never seen him in such a state, it took two shots, to the head before he succumbed , he was screaming
“Well, said the official philosophically, this is what happens when a man gets above himself, when greed takes over.” He shook his
head and sighed mournfully.
“It’s lucky we can rely on the likes of you Sadler, to rectify such a man’s evil deeds.”
“Yes sir” replied Sadler, humbly.
“I suppose you searched him before burying him.”
“Err yes, why of course sir.” Said Sadler blinking, his jaw quivering.
The official’s features tightened, he placed a new cigarette in his mouth and took out a box of matches.
“He did not have any money on him, by any chance, he was known for carrying lots of money on his person.” The official’s eyes
were fixed on Sadler’s eyes, who flinched, the official coolly drew on his cigarette.
“A few coins perhaps sir, but nothing substantial” said Sadler in a soft voice. All these lies were empowering all his concentration. He
just not feel he was putting on a convincing show, that official was trained to spot idiosyncrasies.
“That’s most unlike Malden, I wouldn’t mind double checking, maybe he had some inner pockets, perhaps you would be kind
enough to dig the body up, if it’s not too much trouble.” Said the official curtly.
“I don’t think that is necessary, I gave him a thorough search said Sadler frantically, it’s daylight now and well people will be walking
their dogs, what if we are seen.”
The official weighed up his remark. Sadler’s heart was pounding violently, he was perspiring, there was fear in his eyes. The official
was giving him all too knowing looks.
“We could always come back tonight, I suppose, said the official sighing, I have another job for you in fact.”
The two men walked away in a fraught silence. Sadler seemed ever pensive and most strikingly uncomfortable. The official seemed
to giving him sudden quizzical glances. Sadler was laden with money, but what would this be worth if was next on the officials list.
Two bullets, that was all it would take and somebody else would be digging his grave.