WINTER'S MOURNING, A Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery, Book 2

By Janice J. Richardson

Crime & mystery

Paperback, eBook

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4 mins



Marcia and Jennifer didn't see it coming. The casket slipped from the hands of the two elderly pallbearers who were bringing up the rear and crash-landed on the edge of the grave with a sickening thump.

The casket spray slid off, landing face down.

Peter did his best to stop the casket from smashing onto the lowering device, he was unsuccessful. The heavy unit landed on his foot.

The widow fainted, folding gracefully into the grass. Peter nearly passed out too, from pain. A strangled groan escaped his lips.

Both funeral directors were rooted to the spot, it was like watching a slow motion clip from a comedy scene, except it wasn't a comedy show, it wasn't funny, it was a funeral. Their funeral.

Jennifer was the first to react. She went straight to the widow, whose eyelids were fluttering like a goose's wings as it took flight from the water.

Marcia was next, she headed straight to Peter, whose breath was coming in short gasps. “The pallbearers,” he managed to say as he collapsed onto the wet grass.

Marcia turned to look at the pallbearers. One of the men had his hand on his chest. He didn't look good. She got to the elderly man quickly, took him firmly by the shoulders and led him to the closest gravestone, easing him down gently.

“Do you have a heart condition?” she asked him. He nodded. “Nitro?” she added. He patted his pocket. Marcia wasted no time digging out the bottle of little pills and getting one under his tongue.

Fortunately, one of the family members snapped out of it and came over to help. “I'm a nurse,” she said.

You are an angel, thought Marcia as she turned the poor man over to the nurses expert care and went back to Peter.

The widow had recovered enough to attempt to sit up. A couple of family members tried to yank her to her feet.

“No!” said Jennifer firmly. “Not yet.” Jennifer was wondering if she should get the woman to lie down again so she could put her into the recovery position, but decided against it. The ground was muddy and the widow's suit was wet and dirty.

She looked around for the limo driver. He was staring at the scenario unfolding in front of him, frozen to the spot.

“Jeff,” said Jennifer. “May I speak to you please?” He didn't move. At least he looked at her when he heard his name. “Now please,” she said with more emphasis on the now than please.

He sprang into action, slipping twice on the wet grass. “In the trunk of the lead car is an oxygen tank and mask. Here are my keys,” instructed Jennifer quietly. “Don't run.”

“Oh my, oh my,” This came from another family member who was fluttering her gloves in the widow's face. Jennifer wanted to swat them and yell at her to stop it.

“It's OK ma'am, Mrs.Werther will be alright.” she said instead.

She pulled her cellphone from her pocket and dialed 911. Peter was fully supine now, writhing in pain.
“Police, fire or ambulance...”

“Ambulance, the cemetery, Second street entrance, section 4, grave 13. We have a pallbearer with a heart condition and a funeral employee with a fracture. The widow fainted and we are administering oxygen.”

For a few seconds the 911 operator didn't respond. She probably thinks it's a crank call, thought Jennifer as Jeff came up behind her and handed her the oxygen.

“Pull the wrapper off the mask, don't touch the mask, let me take it from the wrapper,” said Jennifer to Jeff. who complied. She put her phone down, placed the mask on the widow and slipped the elastic over her head to hold it in place. The valve was tight and Jennifer struggled with it. Jeff reached over and helped turn it on. Jennifer heard the satisfied whoosh as the oxygen went to work. She picked up her phone. The dispatcher would have heard the conversation. “Hello?” said Jennifer.

“The ambulances will be there shortly,” said the 911 dispatcher. “We dispatched two.”

“Thank you,” said Jennifer as she disconnected.

The minister moved up beside her. “I'll take over here Jennifer if you want to check on your employee. Jennifer rose and thanked him, then went over to Peter. Marcia was still with the pale, unhappy Peter.

Jennifer stooped down. “Peter, I'm so sorry, the ambulance is on its way. I will let Angel know.” He groaned. Angel was Peter's wife. She was pregnant.

“What do you suggest we do now?” she said quietly into Marcia's ear.

“Run?” replied Marcia.

Jennifer did her best not to smile. Marcia had a point.

“Let's see if we can proceed with the committal and let the cemetery staff take care of placing the casket on the grave. One of us will check for damages to the casket, which means we may have to make a trip back to the funeral home to replace it, with the deceased in it of course.”

Marcia had a knack for being quite witty when confronted with difficult situations. Jennifer remembered her response the night the funeral home had been broken into. Marcia made her laugh then, and she was close to making her laugh now.

“I'll check with the minister right now,” said Jennifer and she made her way back to the widow. The colour in Mrs. Werther's face was starting to return to normal.

“Rev. Stone,” said Jennifer. “There are two ambulances on the way. Perhaps we should proceed with the committal?”

“Excellent idea,” he stated as he moved purposefully to the head of the grave. The casket was at the foot of the grave with the flowers still upside down on the grass, but he proceeded anyway. In his booming voice, he ran through the committal service in record time, the sirens in the background getting louder and louder. At the final amen, which could barely be heard above the shriek of the sirens, she watched the lights of the ambulances closing in. Taking a deep breath to compose herself she calculated it would take about two minutes for the cemetery manager to show up.

Calmly, she met the first ambulance crew. “The gentleman lying in the grass has a fracture, the gentleman sitting on the gravestone has a heart condition, he has had one sublingual nitro, a nurse is with him. The widow is sitting on the ground with the oxygen mask on.”

“Geez Louise, what the heck happened here?” one of the paramedics asked.

“A series of unfortunate events,” said Jennifer, her shoulders slumping. Gone was the urge to laugh, now she wanted to cry.

It didn't take long for the ambulances to load up. Peter went first, followed by the pallbearer and the widow, who shared the second ambulance. The mourner's started to head for their cars. Jeff took the remaining family members to the limo.

Marcia bent down, inspected the casket carefully and stood up. “It's broken,” she announced to no one in particular.

She pulled back the fake grass covering the edge of the grave. “Ah ha,” she said as she flipped it back further. “Do you see what I see?” Jennifer could only nod.



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