There really are no mental preparations you can make for being buried alive. In truth, I should have expected it. There is no more a fitting end to the life of a dirty cop.
My partner, Philip Stern, and I had worked all the angles for as long as we rode the streets together. He was my best friend and I trusted him implicitly. And that was the angle I missed.
It was mid October and I was standing in the middle of a North Memphis junkyard, amidst the refuse of decades past. I had a lighter in my right hand and an unlit cigarette in my left. I was about to light it when Phil pointed his pistol at my back and spoke up.
“Let’s drop the piece, Stan.” Phil said this to me as sternly as he could, but I could hear the tinge of anxiety in his voice; and maybe a little pity.
I never figured it would go like this. I was always the brains of the partnership and Phil was the brawn. I never figured he would be the one to take it solo. I stalled just a moment as I considered my options. “Listen, Phil…
My moment of hesitation was met by a swift strike on the back of my head with the butt of his own piece. It wasn’t hard enough to do any damage, but was ample to call upon a few stars into my vision.
“Okay!” I dropped my lighter into my jacket pocket and reached with my right hand, my fingers stretching out for my beloved Veronica which was strapped in a shoulder holster under my left arm. Truth be told, I had considered this same sort of trickery for a few years. I just never worked up the nerve.
“Slowly!” He demanded. “And with your left hand.”
I frowned as I exchanged hands, dropped my last cigarette, unsnapped my holster and withdrew Veronica, upside down in my left hand. Phil had demonstrated his skills with a piece many times on the Memphis streets, so there was no getting the upper hand this time.
I dropped the pistol into the dirt at my feet. “Good for you, Phil.” I needed some time to think; to get him talking and maybe even reconsidering his mistake. “You’re going to go at it solo, eh?”
“Shut up, Stan!”
“You are going to be ‘King of the World’ now?” I continued.
“I said ‘Shut up, Stan!'” He struck me again, no harder than the first, but in the exact same spot, producing more stars and the taste of iron in my mouth. I buckled over a bit and grabbed the back of my head.
That was when I noticed the gaping hole in the earth. It was roughly the size of a small house. I looked at it ominously. He had walked me out here in the dark, with very sinister intentions indeed.
“Just shoot him already.” A new voice called out. I recognized the Southern accent immediately.
“Is that Benny?” I called out over my shoulder to the unseen figure, “Better watch out, Phil. You’ll be next!”
Phil reached out and hit me again.
“Nah.” Benny replied. “Phil and I have a mutual respect for one another.”
“So you’re switching partners?”
Benjamin Wisenart, also known as Benny or the Weasel, was the nephew of the local big man, the Abominable Showman, William Kincade. He was buried deep into the local drug and sex trades and was on speaking terms with just about every major player. He was also our informant, ever since we caught him with his hands stuck in his uncle’s pockets. As good a puppeteer as anyone. He must have been pulling the strings.
But I had had enough of it. “Damnit, Phil!” I spun around, but maybe a bit too quickly.
I knew Phil was nervous, but I had misjudged exactly how nervous he was, to be pointing a gun at his partner’s back. As I reeled around, his eyes sprung wide open in shock and his mouth opened in an unnatural way, as he attempted to shout something to Benny; something I didn’t hear.
There was a flash and then another, accompanied by the thunderous booms from Phil’s pocket cannon. Damnit, why didn’t I wear a vest?
I’m not sure that even a vest would have helped at this range. Phil’s .45 was a beast of a gun and he never missed. Never.
I started dropping down to my knees, but Phil stepped forward and placed an arm under my own, helping me stay erect. I had been shot once before, by some drugged-up war vet out East, wanted for a couple misdemeanors. He shot me once as I approached the car and then proceeded to murder my partner.
After that, I was partnered with Phil, another unlucky bastard who got his partner killed.
“Phil?” I stammered.
“Come on, partner,” Phil replied as he spun me around, “I need you to come over here.” He aimed me back toward my ‘64 GTO, Gretel, my legs twisting around one another.
It was a short walk to the car and then to the rear of the car, where Phil spun me around again, and held me still, near the opened trunk. “Sorry, partner.” was all he whispered before he shoved me backward. I stumbled over a small pile of dirt and into the awaiting space, landing not on carpeted metal, as my reeling mind expected, but onto something softer within the trunk. My hands fumbled about, exploring the soft mass underneath me as Phil grabbed my legs and made sure they were within the space.
It wasn’t human, much too small for that, but with four limbs and a sizable head and a collar… “No.” I murmured. “Why my dog, Phil?”
I continued frisking the corpse. Baxter was a mutt of a dog, but smarter than most; Black and brown spotted with a white chest and feet. He had a long angular face with sharp ears, which were nearly always alert. He had a thick tail with smooth fur that would lash about wildly whenever he first saw me.
“Where is Angela?” I spoke more loudly, trying to turn over, the pain welling up with the fear. “Phil?” I yelled. “What did you..”
“Angela is fine.” Phil spoke up at last, his head appearing over the edge.
“Yeah.” Benny chuckled. “She’s fine alright.”
“As long as she cooperates,” Phil continued. “She’ll live a long and happy..”
“Ish.” Benny chuckled again. “Happy-ish.”
Phil wasn’t laughing. Phil was reciting lines. “As long as she cooperates, she’ll live a long and happy-ish life.”
“What he means to say is,” the Weasel bent down and reached into the hole. “As long as she takes care of Mr. Winkie, I’ll take care of her.” He grabbed the edge of the trunk lid. “and if she doesn’t…”
He slammed the lid into place.
“You’re too good for this, Phil!” I yelled, pushing up at the lid.
“No!” Phil yelled back. “You were too good for this!”
I could feel the car in motion, moving forward at a snail’s pace, followed by the car’s plummet into the massive hole that had been prepared for it.
Momentarily I was weightless as Gretel descended into the pit, and then the shocking impact which caused me and my dog’s corpse to rocket toward the front of the trunk, colliding with the rear seats.
I really must have pissed someone off.
It wasn’t long afterward that I heard the dozer start up, it’s exhaust pipes belching their black poison into the cold night air. I felt the rumble of the earth and heard the squeaking of mechanical parts.
I pushed and kicked upon the trunk lid, desperate for escape, until the dozer pushed a deluge of earth upon my tomb, and my fate was sealed.
No matter how claustrophobic you say your aren’t; once you’re shoved into a car trunk, lowered into a pit and finally covered with earth; you will be.
I lay in the dark, consumed by the earth, drenched in the smells of diesel and dust, blood and death. I quit fighting and simply lay silently, my mind growing hazier, dulled to the point of surrender.
There was no way out of that prison and it wasn’t long before my bloodless body succumbed.
I remember death, cold and unforgiving, as it slipped into and under my skin, numbing my faculties and liberating me from my earthly restraints. I journeyed to places never seen or imagined; to Heaven and Hell, Valhalla and the Great Hall. I saw the great plains of Elysium, Nirvana, Arcadia and Shangri-La. I spent years in solitude and a lifetime enshrouded in mist. I was man and woman, spirit and flesh.
And then I was banished; sentenced to flames, and to torment.
I remember the sheer terror that gripped me from my insides, but I recall most the screaming; praying to anyone that could hear my voice.
And I was heard.