“It isn’t as if you liked him. I hardly think you can feel sorry that he’s lying six feet under.”

“He’s not exactly six feet under,” Richard replied to the haughty woman, as he tugged on her husband’s limp arms and battled to keep the overcoat sleeves from slipping free. The battle lost, the dead man’s arms dropped from the sleeves, and a pocketwatch dropped simultaneously from the pocket, slamming against Richard’s polished wingtip, splattering mud droplets up his spats. Its tick-tock-tick-tock amplified in the darkness, the sound thudding against Richard’s chest like Elda’s heartbeats.

Elda. What a dame. Any man would die for her, and one did. What a dame; what a shame, Richard had always said. Yet, here he was, lifting Elda’s fourth husband into an early grave without the bravery of questions.

He watched her clench the shovel like she would a man’s heart, twisting its handle, jabbing it into the ground with repeated blows. His heart hurt from the careless repetitions, hurt like a heart would hurt if she squeezed it or drove a shovel through it.

Dawn creased the horizon by the time he’d kicked the last batch of dirt and leaves over the hidden grave.

“You didn’t like him,” Elda whispered again.

“No.” He wiped his brow. “No, I never liked the man.” There again, the tick-tock-tick-tock rose like a degüello, and Richard eyed the timepiece resting near the toe of his shoe. “Might I have this watch?”

“For memories, Rick?” she chuckled coldly. “Old times’ sake?”

“For payoff,” he returned just as coldly. “Lord knows I’m not getting what was promised from you. So you oughta think real hard about keeping me quiet.”

Elda raised a brow and her pretty lips curled, but void of thought, her hands clenched tighter on the shovel.