Susan Delaney flipped open her cell phone and gasped.
“What?!?” her husband Tim said, one eye on traffic and the other on his wife.
“It’s the funeral home,” Susan said, her eyes larger than large.
“The funeral home?!? That’s impossible because . . .”
“I know. I forwarded the phones before we left, and Helen’s off until tomorrow morning and . . .”
“So,” Tim said, “how can the funeral home be calling us, the funeral director and his wife who are trying to get out of town for a little R&R?”
Susan’s cell phone continued to chime the melody to Amazing Grace, so she shrugged at her husband and took the call.
Tim Delaney was trying to get through Louisville without mishap, so he couldn’t really see the expression of great alarm that overtook his wife’s normally serene visage. But he could sense it, so he said, “What?!? Who is it?!?”
Susan put her hand to her chest and said, “Turn around. Turn around and go back. Now!”
They were headed north on I-65 through the center of Louisville, Kentucky itself, and there was no turning around'”anywhere.
“Timothy! Turn around! We have to go back! Immediately!”
“Turn around! We have to'””
“All right, all right.”
Tim Delaney wrestled their silver Lexus across two lanes of traffic and hollered: “Hold on!!”
Susan held on as they flew off the interstate at a busy downtown exit, blasted through a red light, rocketed back down the southbound entrance, and roared south.
“Let’s just hope the cops were asleep at the switch for that,” Tim said.
“Cops I can handle,” Susan said, her hands over her heart.
Tim glanced at his wife of 32 years and mother of their four children and knew it was bad. Really, really bad.
And it was.
When they wheeled under the port-cochere of their 102-year-old Kentucky funeral home, they saw immediately that the light was on in the “prep” room.
Tim Delaney only turned on the lights in the prep room when he was embalming a customer. And he had no customer to embalm, hence their spontaneous departure for a little R&R in the Hoosier National Forest on the Indiana side of the Ohio River.
Susan touched her husband’s hand and said, “Maybe we should call the police before we go in.”
Tim Delaney reached under the seat and produced his handy “travel aid.”
“No,” he said, “Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson will protect us. Let’s go.”
And so they went right to the prep room where they were waiting.
That’s right: Susan and Tim Delaney were prepped and ready on the two slanted, porcelain, embalming tables. They were dressed just as casually as the living pair who had come rushing back from their little vacation.
“Who called you?!?” Tim asked.
“You know. It was the funeral home.”
“A voice just said: ‘˜This is the Office of the Dead. We have two cases that need your immediate attention.’ That was it. So'””
Tim retired his revolver and went to the wall phone. “I’m calling the police.”
Susan just stood there staring at her dead self, thinking how peaceful she looked in final repose.
Presently, the police came and found only the funeral director and his wife of 32 years prepped, casually dressed, and ready for a viewing in the adjacent parlor. There were even two death certificates, duly notarized and signed by “the Office of the Dead.”
“Office of the Dead,” the first investigating officer said to the second. “Who is the Office of the Dead?”
It was then that Susan Delaney’s cell phone chimed the melody to Amazing Grace.
“Should I answer it?” the second officer said to the first.
The first officer plucked the phone out of the dead woman’s pocket and handed it to the second. “Sure. What’s the harm?”