By Morgan Brice
“I can’t believe we’re actually spending Halloween in a cemetery, digging up a grave,” Evan Malone said, leaning on his shovel.
“If giving Lyle Atcheson back the ring his niece stole keeps him from trying to kill people, I’m all for it,” his boyfriend, Seth Tanner, replied from where he stood several feet below ground, pausing as he lifted a shovel full of dirt.
That short period had been enough for Lyle’s angry ghost to cause havoc.
“He must have been an interesting guy,” Evan said. “That ring had to mean a lot for him to haunt his niece for disrespecting his last wishes.” The silver ring looked custom-made, sized for a man’s large hand and set with a big opal.
Simon looked up and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “When someone says they want to be buried with a piece of jewelry, smart people don’t decided to take it off the body after the funeral.”
The errant niece claimed that Lyle’s ghost pulled her hair, pinched her, and shoved her off a curb. When she tried to sell the ring, ‘invisible hands’ grabbed the steering wheel and drove her sports car into a hedge. Lyle’s angry ghost broke every plate in the set of heirloom china the family had inherited from him. The final straw was Lyle’s disembodied voice following the girl around and whispering ‘thief’ next to her ear.
“Lucky her dad knew Milo,” Evan replied. “Even if it cost us a day’s detour.”
Seth and Evan hadn’t been looking for a case. They were on their way to Cleveland to hunt another member of the dark coven that had killed Seth’s brother when they got a call from Seth’s mentor, Milo, asking if they could lay Lyle’s angry spirit to rest as a favor to an old friend.
So here they were, digging up a grave on Halloween night to return the stolen ring and send Lyle on to his eternal—and hopefully peaceful—rest.
Fortunately, Lyle’s wooden casket wasn’t sealed, so returning the ring would be simple—if unpleasant. Even with embalming, a couple of weeks underground wasn’t going to have done good things for Lyle’s remains.
“He’s not buried in the family plot,” Evan mused, glancing around the moonlit graveyard. “The cemetery office said he’d bought this spot twenty years ago. But there aren’t a lot of other headstones in this section, and none of the last names match.”
“Hold your breath—I’m lifting the lid just enough to slip the ring in and slamming it shut again,” Seth warned. “Putting it back on his finger is a big ‘hell no’,”
Evan wandered a few steps away, letting the beam of his flashlight play over the inscriptions on the other half dozen headstones nearby. All male, all of them born around the same time, no matching family names.
Fraternity brothers? Military buddies?
He paused as he looked at the headstone next to Lyle’s grave. The name read ‘Peter Dunnell’ with a death date twenty years in the past and the inscription, ‘Forever beloved.’ Twenty years. Right when Lyle would have purchased his spot.
“If you’re done with the scenic tour, it’s your turn to fill in half of what we just dug out,” Seth told him, as he hoisted himself out of the hole.
Putting the dirt back was easier than removing it, but Evan still knew his shoulders, arms and thighs would still ache in the morning from all the bending and lifting. This wasn’t the first time they’d had to dig up a body to put a troublesome ghost to rest, but fortunately it wasn’t something that came up often.
He fell into a rhythm, underscored by the scrape-thud of filling the shovel and dumping dirt back into the hole. All the while his mind worked, trying to figure out if Lyle’s choice of final resting place was based on more than just a plot with a nice view.
Evan made quick work of his half of the project, and Seth took over to fill in the rest, tamping down the mounded dirt as he finished. Evan caught a glimpse of motion between Lyle’s headstone and the one next to it. As Evan watched, fog rising from the ground coalesced into the forms of two ghostly men.
One of the ghosts appeared to be in his fifties, while the other—whom Evan recognized from a picture as Lyle—was in his seventies. The two men were smiling and holding hands.
“Hey Seth—we’ve got company.”
Seth looked up sharply as if he expected to see police cars and flashing lights. He stared at the two ghosts, alert for danger, then frowned as he studied them more closely.
“Evan—look at their hands.”
Both of the ghosts wore matching rings on their right hands, identical to the one they had just returned to Lyle’s casket. Evan glanced at Lyle’s headstone, noting the inscription that read, ‘Together forever.’
“Opal means love, desire, loyalty and faithfulness,” Evan said. “Peter—the guy buried next to Lyle—died before it would have been legal for them to marry. The rings were probably a pledge, and Lyle arranged to be buried with his partner.”
Lyle’s ghost put a hand over his heart in a silent ‘thank you’ and the two spirits faded from sight.
Seth looked out over the cluster of nearby headstones. “You think—”
Evan nodded. “I’m betting a group of gay friends went together on the plots in this section, so they could be with the found family they built even if their birth families didn’t welcome them.”
They gathered their shovels and flashlights and headed back to Seth’s truck. Evan reached for Seth’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “Do you think Lyle’s ghost could tell, about us?”
Seth raised an eyebrow. “That we’re gay, or together?”
Evan shrugged. “Both.”
“Maybe. I’m glad he and Peter don’t have to worry anymore about showing their love.”
“I’m glad we can, too.” Evan turned and kissed Seth’s cheek, tasting sweat and dirt. “I thought Lyle and his ring were going to be a horror story, and it turned out to be a romance.”
Seth chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so. They did better than ‘til death do us part’, in spite of everything.”
“Makes for a kinda nice relationship goal,” Evan replied, giving Seth’s hand a squeeze. “I mean, not until we’re really, really old but….”
This time Seth leaned in to kiss Evan on the lips. “Together forever.”
Evan murmured his response as he kissed Seth in return. “Forever beloved.”
Read more about Seth and Evan in my Witchbane series!
Today’s contest / giveaway is for an ebook copy of Morgan Brice’s WITCHBANE. (Especially good for those of you who want to learn more about Seth and Evan!)
To enter to win, post a pic of your favorite Halloween candy in the comments of this post.
*If your reader platform doesn’t allow you to post a pic here on the blog, you can post a picture of your favorite treat on your own social media, tagging Morgan Brice, and leave us a link here so we can go see it. We MUST have the picture or link here in order for the entry to be eligible.
Contest starts today, and Morgan will be choosing one winner from all eligible commenters at the end of our event. Winner will be chosen, then announced in our wrap-up post on November 1st.
Let’s see those yummy goodies!!
Check out the Kick-off post HERE to see the full list of authors participating in our 2022 Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event. Links will be added to the main post each day when that author’s story goes live. Each post will include the inspiration image from a DeviantArt creator, the story, and the contest/giveaway info.