Beyond The Grave – Two
Naomi put on an air of annoyance after hanging up the phone. Though secretly delighted her boss had asked her to work a double at the Main Street Café, she knew her husband Cliff wouldn’t be pleased.
“That was Carl. Said Sara called in, and he needs me to work a double tonight.”
Cliff stared at the TV. “Huh?”
“I have to work a double tonight,” she said again.
Cliff took another sip of his beer. “Why?”
“Sara called in sick again. I don’t mind. We could use the money.” Naomi wiped her hands on the apron she was wearing. “How many pieces of toast do you want with your eggs?”
“Two, and can you fetch me another beer?”
Naomi walked back to the kitchen, shaking her head. Beer, the breakfast of champions. Champion my ass, she thought to herself.
She and Cliff had been married for ten years. He’d worked six years out of that ten. The accident wasn’t his fault, and the doctor told him he’d get better if he just went to see the physical therapist. Cliff refused. He preferred sitting around all day, drinking beer, being waited on hand and foot, watching shows like Jerry Springer and Maury. He’d yell at the TV, shouting what deadbeats these guys were…if only he’d stop and look in the mirror every once in a while. But his brain didn’t work that way.
She threw in two pieces of bread into the toaster then went to draw herself a bath. The showerhead had been busted for months now, but Cliff never had time to fix it.
“I’ll be in the bath if you need anything; you know where the kitchen is.” She said, placing his breakfast dish of eggs, bacon, and hash browns on the TV tray next to his chair.
“You forgot the jelly, again.”
Naomi sighed. “Sorry.” Rolling her eyes, she went back into the kitchen, retrieved the jelly from the refrigerator, and placed it with a bang onto the tray table.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Not a goddamn thing.”
Wrapping her hair up in a towel, she closed and locked the bathroom door. This was her time, and she didn’t need Cliff coming in saying he had to pee.
The hot water felt good as Naomi lowered herself into the tub. “Ahh…” She’d been so tense lately. Naomi closed her eyes and allowed the water to relax her muscles. What this girl wouldn’t do for one of those fancy soaker tubs. Not in this lifetime, she thought, or at least not while she was still married to Cliff. As her hands roved down her naked body, Naomi contemplated grabbing her vibrator. She missed the touch of a man. Cliff wasn’t interested in sex any longer. At least not interested in sex with her.
She’d heard the rumors. It was the source of their fights and why the cops had been out to their house at least a half dozen times this past year. Also, the cause of her having to cover up her black eyes before going to work. It got to the point it wasn’t worth her mentioning it anymore.
Naomi had consulted with a lawyer in town. The consultation was free, but he required a $5,000 retainer fee. From her working doubles all these months, she’d managed to save up $3,000 so far. Two thousand to go before she could kick his ass out of her house.
The double-wide her mama had left her when she died wasn’t much, but it was all Naomi had, and she’d be damned if she’d let that lazy bastard take it from her.
Finishing up, Naomi grabbed her towel and wrapped it around herself. She looked at her image in the mirror. God, I’m looking so old, the stress, the work…Cliff. He’ll be the death of me, I’m sure.
Drying herself, she put on her bathrobe and opened the bathroom door. She could hear Maury on the TV. “…and the results of the paternity test are in, we’ll be back to find out who the real father is after this commercial.”
She glanced into the living room. Cliff’s head tilted to the side; his eyes closed. Suppose I could get away with murder. She pictured herself taking a hammer to his head. But he wasn’t worth spending the rest of her life in prison, so she dismissed the murderous thought.
Naomi took out a clean uniform from the closet. To cheer herself up, she put on her favorite lotion and matching perfume. Arranging her long hair into a messy bun, she applied a light blue eyeshadow and mascara. As she gave a final check in the full-length mirror, she was happy this time with the image that stared back at her. The uniform was flattering to her figure. Her willpower of not eating her way to happiness was paying off. Her full breasts, slim stomach, and long legs attracted much attention from her male customers. The large tips were usually an indication they liked her.
Spirits lifted, Naomi walked out of the bedroom, grabbed her purse, and walked out the front door. Not wanting to disturb ‘the king,’ she left the house while Cliff snored in his recliner.
Driving to work, Naomi was aware the car’s engine seemed to be skipping. She made a mental note to call the mechanic in the morning. Not having transportation was not an option for her. Cliff’s truck sat under the carport, gathering rust for years.
It was around 7:30 when he walked in. The kids called him ‘Old Hank’ because of his long gray beard and unruly mustache, though he wasn’t much older than Naomi. She remembered Hank from high school. When he was growing up, he was a nice-looking boy. But after his stint in the army and his Afghanistan tour, he’d come back a different person.
Hank’s dad had been the town’s only mechanic for years. When the city decided to renovate the downtown area, a new garage opened up shop. Drawing the townspeople to the new place wasn’t hard to do as it was closer for people, and they could shop in town while they got their oil changed.
“Well, howdy there, Hank,” Naomi greeted him. “I’m so sorry to hear about your daddy. He was such a sweetheart. How’re you doing these days?”
Hank looked up at her. “What?”
“It’s Naomi from high school. Remember me? We had a science class together. I realize it was a long time ago, but my mama and daddy always took our cars to your daddy back in the day.”
“Yeah, back in the day…sure, sure. I remember you,” Hank muttered back. “Pretty little thing.”
“Excuse me?” Naomi wasn’t sure if she’d heard him correctly.
“I remember you. What’ve you been up to lately?”
“Oh, you know, living life, working…”
“Huh, yea, know what you mean. Got any specials tonight?” Hank asked, changing the subject.
“We have a delicious meatloaf, mash potatoes, and sautéed green beans, or you can change out the meatloaf for a minute steak if you prefer.”
“No, I like meatloaf. I’ll take that, please, with some water.”
“Coming right up.”
Naomi put in his order to the cook, and as she gathered his water and utensils, she remembered Hank worked on cars as a side gig. When his parents died, she’d heard they left him a sizeable inheritance.
“You know I hate to bother you, but I was wondering if I could ask you a question? Do you still work on cars?”
“Every once in a while, sure.”
“I noticed on my way into work, the engine of my car seems to be skipping. It gives me a little jolt if I try to go the speed limit on the highway. Would you mind if I brought it by for you to look at? I’d pay you, of course. Perhaps, tomorrow if you have time?”
“Uh, sure. I could do it tonight after I eat. Why don’t I drive your car to the shop? I can get an idea of what it’s doing, and I’ll leave you my truck. When you get off work, just come by. I should have an answer for you.”
“Seriously? Wow, that would be great. I’d certainly appreciate it. I get off at ten p.m. Is that too late for you?”
“Nah, I’m a bit of a night owl myself.”
Naomi smiled at Hank. The cook dinged a bell on the counter and shouted, “Order up.”
“There’s your meatloaf. I’ll be right back, and I’ll bring you my keys too. You have no idea what a lifesaver you are.”
Hank watched as Naomi bounced back to the counter to retrieve his dinner.
* * * * *
Boy, it’s a good thing I know how to handle a 5 ton dually, Naomi thought to herself as she shifted into fourth gear. She wondered why Hank never asked her if she could drive a stick shift. Maybe he just knew.
As she rumbled down the interstate, she passed the area where the hairdresser, Katie, had last been seen. Chills ran up her spine—poor girl. The shift in the attitude of the city was noticeable. People started locking their doors and traveling in vehicles together whenever they could.
As she pulled up the long gravel driveway, she noticed the oil drums along the property line, and as she got closer to the three-door garage, there were two rusty shipping containers off to the right. Putting the dually in park, she jumped down from the driver’s seat.
Looking over to the farmhouse, she saw Hank sitting in his office. He seemed to be talking to himself. He made a continuous gesture of smoothing out his beard and mustache. He turned to face the window, realizing she was out of the truck and looking his way.
The light went out in the office. The garage doors were down. Naomi couldn’t see if her car was up on a lift or not. She reached into her purse, fumbling for an old cigarette pack she remembered she’d thrown in there.
She thought about calling Cliff to tell him where she was, but he was either drunk or sleeping or both.
The cherry of her cigarette, as she took a drag on it, glowed fiercely in the cold night air. Where was Hank? She’d been out here long enough to smoke a whole cigarette already! She kicked around the gravel and noticed the debris scattered around the yard. Looks more like a junkyard than a mechanic’s place. She threw her butt onto the ground and smashed it with her shoe.
Naomi turned around. She jumped at the dark silhouette standing behind the dually. “There you are, you scared me; I didn’t hear you come out of the house. So, what’d you find wrong? Hope it’s something you can fix quickly.”
“Think it’s your engine’s pistons. A simple tune-up will fix it.”
“Well, that’s a relief. Were you able to do the tune-up?”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right set of spark plugs. Had to call the parts place to order them.”
“Are they open this late?”
“No, I left a message so they’ll get it first thing in the morning.”
“Oh, good. Is it safe for me to drive home and bring it back in the morning?”
“Well, I pulled a few wires, so I’ll let you take my loaner car. It’s out back behind the garage. Follow me.”
Naomi hesitated. Even though there were a few security lights on, the grounds were still dark, even darker behind the garage.
“My feet are killing me from working a double. Not sure I can walk that far. Can you get it and drive it out here for me?”
* * * * *
When she awoke, it was pitch dark. The heavy chain around her swollen ankle dug into her skin.
Guess Cliff won’t be the death of me, she thought.
* * * * *
Going back through the case files, Daniella realized Naomi was victim number two. The killer, under their noses the entire time.