by Tony Kintigos


PHILIP MATHIEU WAS a musician. The finest violinist in the French Quarter, some said. Yet, he only played for the public in two places; his church and a small park by the river. He was self-taught, practicing every day from the time he was eleven years old. He was once offered a seat in the La Barre Symphony Orchestra, but declined. Philip believed that doing so would rob him of any joy he found in playing.

He owned an original Couturieux violin. In his will he asked to be buried with it. And he was.

Will and his Uncle Burch looked for Mathieu’s grave, while Burch’s friend, Harry, stood guard at the gate. It had rained earlier that day, and the ground was still wet. Water seeped into Will’s shoes, freezing and numbing his toes. It was past midnight. The cemetery’s high stone walls blocked out the streetlights. Their only light source was the lantern. The only sound they could hear was the clattering of shovels. Uncle Burch carried the lantern, while Will carried the shovels.

‘Should be up here,’ Uncle Burch said.

Philip was buried that morning. He rested next to his mother and father, Davis and Cecilia Mathieu. He never married, or fathered any children. A friend found him nestled in his chair, wrapped in a blanket. He passed away in his sleep. He was sixty two. Will had read his obituary while his uncle and Harry debated about what time they should dig him up.

The dirt was still loose, and the rain had softened it further. It only took half an hour to reach the casket. Uncle Burch stood overhead as Will opened it. He was always the one in the grave. He was skinny and small, which his uncle told him made him perfect for the job.

Rain had poured in through the lid. Philip lay in a shallow pool of brown water. He was smaller than Will thought he’d be. A thin, bald black man with a silly moustache. His face was wrinkly and gaunt, but not scary. Will felt that if he came to life, he would kindly ask the boy to shut the casket before going back to sleep.

‘Get the fiddle!’ hissed Burch, looking over his shoulders. ‘Quick, quick, quick!’

Will reached inside the casket and felt around. His fingers found the stoll of the violin. He gripped it and pulled, but something stopped him. Philip’s fingers had been wrapped around the flat board. Will carefully pried them loose, making sure not to break them. With the tug of a pinkie, the violin was free.

‘Hand it up,’ said Burch. The boy did as his uncle told him. ‘Good, good. Any rings? Necklace?’ Will shook his head. His uncle handed him the pliers. ‘Get the teeth.’

‘Yes, sir.’ The boy did as his uncle told him. One by one. Pop pop pop. It was hard the first time he did it. He used to crush the teeth with the pliers. But with time he learned the right way to pry them loose.

‘The dentist pays real good for the back ones, boy,’ his uncle reminded him.

Will forced Philip’s mouth open wider and took his molars. The stench came, that rotting black sickness. Will had gotten used to it. It used to make him sick. His uncle would laugh at him as he tried to crawl out from the grave. But like the teeth, it got easier with time. The stench was always there, always the same, and he could prepare for it. A rag full of cloves and mint became the boy’s friend.

When the last of Philip Mathieu’s teeth were out and in Will’s pocket, his uncle knelt down and pulled him from the grave. It didn’t matter if the lid was closed or not, Uncle Burch told him. But Will always closed the lid. It made things feel less wrong. ‘Good night, Philip,’ the boy whispered.

‘Can I go say hi?’ Will asked after they finished covering up Philip. Uncle Burch didn’t answer. ‘I said I want to go say hi.’

‘Not tonight, no,’ Uncle Burch said.

‘But I haven’t seen them in a long time!’ Will protested. ‘What if they think I forgot about them?’ Uncle Burch stopped and glared at him.

‘Fine,’ he huffed.

Uncle Burch led Will to the west end of the cemetery. Will’s parents were buried there, under the big magnolia tree, its branches bare and dead for the winter. ‘Make it fast, boy,’ his uncle told him.

Will knelt down and plucked the weeds around their stone.

‘Uncle Burch said I could start school in the summer! I’m reading every day, like you wanted me to, and I’m practicing math... I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m trying really hard.’

‘Hurry up,’ Uncle Burch urged him, looking over his shoulders again.

‘I miss you both, and I haven’t forgotten about you,’ Will said, taking the bonnet shell from his other pocket. ‘I got this for you, Mama. I found it on the beach. I remember you telling me how much you loved it there. So, I thought you’d like it.’ He placed the shell atop the gravestone. ‘I’ll bring something for you next time, Papa.’

Harry gave the signal; a sharp whistle. It was time to go. Uncle Burch pulled him up by the collar, and Will said his goodbyes.


Will lived with his uncle above a butcher shop. The owner made a deal with Burch that he could have the attic in exchange for Will helping out in the back. The attic was small and damp, barely big enough to move around in. It smelled of bad meat and mildew. Burch fashioned himself a hammock out of an old fishing net. Will had a wooden skid with a thin blanket. It hurt his back and sides, and left bruises on his legs.

‘The pawnbroker says he’ll give us fifteen dollars for that fiddle,’ Uncle Burch grinned, cutting a sliver of apple for himself. He was a needle of a man. Not a bit of muscle on him, with hair that was black and thick as grease. ‘And the dentist pays real good for a whole set!’

Will was busy reading. The only books he had were a Macy’s catalogue and half a Bible. He found it in a storm drain, all torn and wet. He couldn’t make much sense of it. The ink was runny, and the words were faded, but he remembered his Papa saying how important it was to know the word of the Lord.

Will’s parents passed away when he was four years old. He remembered things about them. Things they did, things they told him, but he couldn’t remember what their voices sounded like. He only had one photo of them. It was the size of his palm, and he kept it in his pocket. Like his Bible, it was old and faded. He could barely make out their faces anymore.

He was twelve now. He had been with Uncle Burch ever since they died. Burch sold his parent’s things for whiskey, and gambled away the rest. The family home was lost in a year. The two moved from place to place until they found the butcher’s attic.

‘We’re kings tonight, Burchy! Kings!’ Harry cheered as he stumbled in, waving a bottle around victoriously. He was tall and broad, like an oak tree, with not a hair on his head. He produced a fistful of cash and laughed. Burch met him on the floor and danced.

‘How much?’ asked Burch.

‘With the teeth, a whole thirty bucks!’ Harry chuckled.

‘Wash up, Harry, we’re hitting the cathouse!’ Burch said. A big smile grew across Harry’s red face. Butch looked to his nephew. ‘Boy, lock up after we leave. I’ll be back tomorrow. If you want something to do, go help Rork in the freezer.’

Burch and Harry hurried out the door. Will sat by the window and watched them leave the shop, singing and laughing all the way down the street. From the window, Will could hear a jazz band start playing off in the distance somewhere. It was quiet, but he could still make out the horns and drums. He watched the moonlight dance on the river. Will had a dream once that he built a raft and sailed it far away from his uncle and the butcher’s attic and the bodies. In the dream, the raft sailed him to a nice school that had lots of friends and lots of books to read.

Will drifted off to sleep imagining his raft. His parents were there with him, and his mother was holding the bonnet shell.


Summer had come. The days were humid, and the nights were no different. The air was a thick, soupy mist that smelled of swamp grass. Will had a satchel slung over his shoulder, filled with heavy tools. He was lagging behind his uncle on the uphill march towards the mausoleum.

‘Pick it up, boy,’ Burch ordered.

‘I’m sorry, sir,’ said Will.

Adeline Hardy was their target tonight. She was the daughter of Franklin Hardy, owner of the largest tobacco farm in the state. Adeline was a socialite of sorts, attending lavish parties and rubbing shoulders with politicians and other important people. She was also a philanthropist, championing social causes and making more than modest donations to schools throughout New Orleans.

A mountain of flowers were left around Adeline’s tomb. Her father had purchased a nice one for her. The double doors had a heavy lock that needed to be pried off. Uncle Burch ordered Will to do it. ‘You wanna get strong, don’t you, boy?’ he asked him. The pry bar was old and rusty. The iron squealed as Will struggled with the lock. The lock snapped, sending Will off-balance and falling to the ground. He picked himself up while his uncle went inside.

The inner chamber was a small alabaster room. There was a large portrait of Adeline on the wall, with tall windows, and a large stone coffin in the centre of the room. Her coffin. Again, Will wrestled with the pry bar to lift the lid. Uncle Burch only stepped in to help place the lid on the floor. Burch lifted Will into the coffin.

It was pitch black. Uncle Burch stood guard at the door, with the lantern, leaving Will in the dark. But Will carried the matches. He fished one from his pocket, striking it, and coming face-to-face with Adeline.

Her obituary called her ‘The Angel of Acadiana’. She was soft-spoken and polite, never one to raise her voice in anger. She was twenty-two and still unmarried. Adeline was private about her personal life. She turned down any suitors that proposed to her. Rumours began to follow her. A week after her father arranged a marriage between her and a wealthy lawyer from New York, she took her own life.

Her face was white as snow, her cheeks and lips painted rose red. Her hair was pale gold, brushed to perfection. Will was transfixed by the slash along her throat. It had been sewed shut, the stitches resembling shoelaces. A sadness washed over the boy. He didn’t want to take anything from her. He wanted to apologize and go home.

‘How you doin’ in there, boy?’ he heard his uncle ask.

‘I wanna come out, Uncle Burch,’ Will said, his heart pounding in his ears.

‘Get the jewels,’ Uncle Burch ordered.

‘Uncle Burch, I don’t wanna—’

‘I don’t wanna fuckin’ be here either. You’re the one holding things up!’ Uncle Burch hissed at him. ‘Get the fuckin’ jewels!’

Will held his breath and gripped the match with his teeth as he reached for her necklace; a pearl trinket on a gold chain. His thumbs fumbled with the clasp. Will kept his eyes shut until the necklace was free. He moved to the ring; a silver band with a diamond. The match burnt out by the time he got it off her finger.

The doors slammed shut. Will stood up, looking for his uncle. He was outside the window, telling him, ‘Stay quiet. I’ll come back for you later.’ And then he was gone. A cold fear ran inside him, and he climbed out of the coffin. Will fell to the floor and ran for the door. Uncle Burch had haphazardly wrapped a chain around the doors. Will unwound them and left the tomb.

‘Who’s there?’ a voice asked. Will saw the blinding light of the watchman’s lantern. He saw him. ‘What are you doing here, boy?’ Will ran. The watchman called out to him, but the boy kept running. Between mausoleums, up a flight of steps, around a willow, until he found a nice tall cross to hide behind.

The watchman was nowhere in sight. All was dark and quiet. The moon creeped out from behind the clouds, pushing back the darkness. He was in a part of the cemetery that he had never been before. The graves were older here, decaying. Will looked for names. They were gone. Just shallow grooves in the stone remained.

He wanted to call for his uncle, but he knew better. If he did, Uncle Burch would punish him. He sat under the cross and waited. And waited. And waited. The clang of a door perked his ears. Relief washed over him. ‘Uncle Burch!’ he cried as he ran out to greet him. But it wasn’t him. It was an older man. Much older. Bent and grey, with a beard that fell to his belly. His eyes were soft and milky. He looked scared. He dropped a bag when Will jumped out in front of him. Dozens of golden coins scattered on the ground. Will looked at them in disbelief.

‘You shouldn’t be ’ere,’ the old man muttered, trying to do it quickly. But his feeble hands slowed him. Will knelt down to help. He pulled the coins together and dropped them into the bag. The old man was shocked. Will helped him to his feet.

‘Th-thank you,’ he said. He looked at Will for a moment, smiled, and gave him one of the coins. Then he left.

Will gazed at the coin in his hand. It shone in the moonlight, pure and beautiful. It was smooth and cool to the touch. On one side was a coat of arms; a pair of lions and two castles. On the other, the face of a man with the words ‘Ferdinand VII’ engraved along the edges. A smile crossed his lips.

‘Boy!’ Uncle Burch called for him. He was close. Will hid the coin in his shoe. Burch and Harry reached the summit of the steps. Uncle Burch was mad. He rushed over and grabbed Will, lifting him into the air. ‘I told you to stay put, didn’t I?’

‘I’m sorry,’ Will said, his feet dangling over the ground.

‘Why don’t you fuckin’ listen, huh?’ He gave Will a swift smack. Not hard enough to hurt him, just hard enough to scare him. He wasn’t angry enough to hurt him yet. ‘What happens to you if you don’t listen to me?’

‘I was scared, I’m sorry!’

‘If you don’t listen to me, I’ll sell you to the factory,’ his uncle told him. ‘A stupid little shit like you lost his arm last week. You wanna lose your arm too, boy?’

‘No, Uncle Burch,’ Will told him. ‘I’ll listen, I will. I promise.’

Burch spat and dropped Will. ‘Where’s the stuff?’ Will patted his pockets. Panic gripped him tight. He forgot the jewels. Uncle Burch was mad enough to hurt him now.

At home, Will sat with ice on his left eye. It was swollen and purple. He couldn’t see out of it at all. When Uncle Burch hit him, he thought he was going to die. His head hit the ground hard and he passed out. He woke up in his bed, and Burch and Harry were already gone for the night.

Will took off his shoe and checked. The coin was still there. His smile returned. Tomorrow, while Burch slept, he would sneak out and get on one of the steamers and sail away. Just like in his dreams.


He tried his best to stay awake, but he fell asleep again. A boot to his belly woke him up. The boy looked up to see his uncle’s face, burning red.

‘Where’d you get it, boy!’ Burch kicked Will again, harder. ‘Where!’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Will cried. Uncle Burch struck his back with a belt. Will screamed.

‘Don’t you fuckin’ lie, you shit! You were hiding it! You were hiding it from me, you shit!’ He struck him again and again, harder and harder. Will’s back bled through his shirt. ‘Tell me where you got it or I’ll whip the skin off your fuckin’ back!’

‘I don’t know, I don’t know!’ the boy wailed. His uncle reached under the blanket and pulled out the picture of Will’s parents. ‘No, no please, no!’


Will forced the words out through his sobbing. ‘An old man... at the cemetery!’

Burch kneeled down and shoved the coin in Will’s face. ‘Is there more?’ he asked.


Will led Uncle Burch and Harry back to where he met the old man. ‘I don’t know which one he came out of,’ he told them. All the crypts looked the same to him.

‘Should we look through ’em all?’ asked Harry.

‘No, dumbshit, that’ll take hours,’ snorted Burch. ‘The boy said he had a little bag with him. I’m thinking he’s got some loot stashed away. So, he’ll have to come back.’

‘But what if it was just the one little bag?’ asked Harry.

Burch shrugged. ‘Then we’ve wasted a night. But I got a good, good feelin’ here, Harry.’ He looked at Will. ‘You’re first on watch, boy. You see him, let us know. And I swear to Christ, if you fuck this up too, I’ll knock your other eye out.’

Burch and Harry hid behind the willow. Will hid behind the cross, as he had before. Hours passed, slowly. The cemetery was cool and quiet, and the sounds of crickets and night birds echoed through the mausoleum alleys. The leaves of the willow trees looked like ghosts in the wind.

Will heard humming. Not his uncle or Harry. It sounded nice. Beautiful, in fact. Low and smooth. Will looked out from behind the cross, expecting the old man, but found no one. The humming stopped. He waited, thinking it would come again. But there was nothing. Just the wind and crickets and night birds.

There was a light coming up the steps. It was the old man. A tiny lantern in one hand, a burlap bag in the other. He approached a large, unmarked mausoleum. Will watched as he fished a key ring from his pocket. There were several locks on the door that had to be undone. Uncle Burch and Harry came up from behind, watching the old man.

‘Harry, you and the boy follow him down,’ Burch said.

‘No, no, I don’t go in, I stand guard,’ Harry said.

‘And a fine job you do, Harry. You let that watchman walk right past you last night.’ Burch shoved a bag into Harry’s hand. ‘Go!’

‘What if the old bastard puts up a fight?’ asked Harry. Burch gave Harry his knife. Will looked at the blade with fear. Burch’s gaze shifted to his nephew. He held up the picture of Will’s parents. ‘If you want them back, earn your keep, boy.’

Will walked in front, carrying the lantern, with Harry close behind. The inner chamber was different from the others. In place of a coffin was a large iron trapdoor. There was a passage beneath the mausoleum that led down into the earth. Will and Harry reluctantly descended. The two walked down a spiral staircase, Will still in front and Harry still holding the rear. The walls were narrow, and the air was cold and sour. The stairs let out to a hallway where the walls opened up.

The ceilings were high, with stone columns and sconces along the walls lighting the way. Paintings of men and women in regal looking clothes adorned the walls. Harry tried to take one, but they were bolted in place. He took Uncle Burch’s knife and began cutting a picture from its frame.

‘What are you doing,’ asked Will.

‘Shut it, you,’ Harry hissed. ‘Folks runnin’ the cathouse’ll pay big for this crap. Burch was right! The old bastard’s rich! Here, you hold the bag.’

Will realized that this wasn’t just a single hall, it was a mansion. A mansion built beneath the cemetery. Colourful tapestries hung from the ceilings. Will’s eyes widened when he saw the coat of arms embroidered on them. The lions and the castles; the same as his coin.

A sick smell hit them hard. Harry covered his nose and mouth, gagging, while Will brought his rag to his face. There was an open door to their left. ‘You go,’ Harry said, shoving the boy. Will steeled himself and inched forward. The closer he got, the more familiar the smell became. That rotting black sickness. Flies bit at his face as he entered the room.

Will found a nightmare inside. Dead animals hung from hooks. Small animals, like cats, rats, and chickens. They were all missing their heads. Underneath their bodies were large brass bowls full of dark blood. He wanted to scream. But a voice in his head told him that would be the death of him.

Harry wasn’t so wise. The large man yelled out in terror, backing into a column.

‘What are you doin’ ’ere?’ a frail voice asked. Will spun around and saw the old man, his hands wet with blood. He looked terrified. ‘You shouldn’t be ’ere!’

Harry pulled the knife on the old man. ‘The fuck is that, old man? In that room?’

‘You shouldn’t be ’ere,’ the old man repeated himself. He looked over his shoulder, down the hall. ‘He must not know yer ’ere!’

Harry rushed the old man, slamming him into the wall. ‘Stop!’ Will screamed out. He started pounding at Harry’s hip, but the brute knocked the boy on his head. Will bit into his cheek and went down.

‘Please go! Please go!’ the old man begged. ‘No one comes down but me! No one!’

‘Where is the gold?’ Harry demanded.

‘Go!’ the old man cried. Harry drove his fist into the old man’s stomach.

‘Stop it!’ Will yelled.

‘Shut the fuck up, boy!’ Harry barked. ‘You gave him gold! Where is it?’

‘Y-you... you must go...’ Blood trickled from the old man’s lips. Harry punched him again. The old man whimpered. ‘He... he must not... feed on...’

Harry screamed.

The big man pulled back, holding his side. The old man had stabbed him. The knife was small and dull, and the hand holding it was weak and shaky. Harry’s face burned with rage. He grasped the old man’s throat and slammed him back into the wall. The old man dropped his knife as Harry stabbed him in the belly. Again and again and again. Will cried out, but nothing stopped him.

When Harry was satisfied, he tossed the old man to the floor. Will crawled to him, holding his head, sobbing. Harry started turning the old man’s pockets as he lay dying. His milky eyes were fixed on the ceiling. The old man whispered something, then he was gone. Will felt him die. His body became limp and heavy. His last breath was a slow, shaky wheeze.

‘We don’t need that old shit,’ Harry said. He rattled the old man’s key ring. Will noticed the other knife, just out of reach. He went for it. Harry brought one foot down on Will’s wrist, and kicked the knife away with the other.

‘All that readin’ don’t make you smarter than me, boy,’ Harry told him. ‘Now, move it!’

They left the old man lying in his blood.

They continued down another flight of stairs. There were countless locked doors. Harry opened them only to find rooms filled with crates full of tattered clothes and old junk. They found an old kitchen. Nothing but rusty pots and pans hanging over a cold stove. While Harry was tearing through a box of forks, Will thought of running. But he knew his uncle would be waiting for him at the entrance. He couldn’t come back empty-handed this time.

Suddenly, Will heard the humming again. The same melody as before, but louder. Closer.

‘Do you hear that?’ he asked Harry.

‘Shut up, boy,’ the brute grunted. Then it was gone. Just like before.

They reached the end of a grand hall, and came upon a massive iron door framed in a stone archway. Faces were carved in the stone; old, forlorn, all looking down at Will with empty eyes. Harry gave the keys to Will. ‘Open it,’ he ordered.

The door led to a massive chamber. Ornately decorated, with fine tapestries hung on the walls and a massive chandelier overhead, glittering with golden light. The trophies of hunts were mounted along the wall. Will marvelled at the towering bookshelves. They had steps built into them, fully stocked, no two books the same.

Then he noticed it. In the centre of the room was a standing coffin. The thing inside wore the fine clothes of a rich man, but it was only vaguely human. Its paper-thin skin was dry and cracked like dirt in the summer sun. Every bone and ligament was visible. Its fingers were long, twisted things, with nails like talons. It had no eyes. Just black, empty slits. No nose or ears either, but the worst was its lack of lips. Because Will could see its teeth. Each one sharp as a needle.

Harry paid it no mind. He was busy prying open the many chests in the room. Inside each was gold, mountains of it. Harry laughed, tossing the coins in the air by the handful. ‘Bring the bag, boy!’ he ordered Will. Harry stuffed the bag so much, Will could barely lift it. Then he started filling the boy’s pockets. ‘I’m gonna buy me every whore in the Quarter! Twice! No, three times!’

‘I wanna go home,’ Will said quietly, looking bitterly at the gold in the chest.

‘Quit your cryin’, boy!’ Harry sneered. ‘If you’re lucky, Burch’ll be nice and not sell ya to—’

‘Quién eres?’ A voice filled the room, deep and loud. Harry turned around first. He froze, terror in his eyes. Will didn’t want to see. Everything inside told him not to look. But he did.

And there it was. The thing from the coffin stood before them. Its empty black slits looking at them. Tears streamed down Will’s face. It shouldn’t be there, but it was. He wanted to wake up, for this to be a nightmare, but he couldn’t. It was real. And it spoke.

‘Dónde está Jakob?’

Harry dropped the bag. Coins spilled onto the floor, rolling to the thing’s feet. Will pressed his back to the wall. It spoke again.

‘Dónde está mi sirviente?’

Harry pulled out the knife. His hand was shaking as bad as the old man’s. The thing’s head lowered, as if it was studying the blade, then raised it high and sniffed the air.

‘Mataste a mi sirviente. Huelo su sangre en ti.’ It looked down at its feet, at the coins. It laughed. The sound made Will sob. ‘Huelo la codicia en tu alma, ladrón. Patético. Una pequeña rata con pequeñas ambiciones.’

The thing looked at Harry and took a step towards him. Harry screamed and rushed the monster, plunging the knife into its head. The thing grabbed Harry by the throat, pulled the knife out of its head, and stabbed it into Harry’s gut. Harry cried out in pain as the thing lifted him in the air with ease. It laughed again.

‘Tendré tu corazón en mi mano.’ It shoved its hand inside Harry’s chest. ‘Lo comeré ante tus ojos y me reiré mientras lo hago.’

Will ran out of the chamber. Harry was making a terrible high-pitched wail. The sound followed him out into the hallway. Will’s legs and chest burned. He could barely catch his breath, but he kept running. The grand hall felt so tiny now, as if the walls were closing in around him. Harry stopped screaming. Will looked back. It was there, standing just behind him. All it would have to do was reach out and grab him. Will sprinted faster.

He ran into the first open door he saw. It was the kitchen. Only a single candle lit the room. There was an open pantry door. Will jumped inside and closed the door. It was quiet now. All he could hear was his own panicked breathing. Will didn’t know what to do.

There was a soft knock at the door. Will recoiled in fear, bringing his knees to his chest to make himself as small as possible. A voice he did not know called out to him.

‘William?’ The voice was deep and warm. It felt kind. ‘William, are you in there?’

Will said nothing.

‘Why are you in there, boy? Are you afraid?’

The boy remained quiet.

The voice told him, ‘There is nothing to be afraid of. Come out from there.’

Will slid further back into the pantry. He sat quietly, waiting for whoever it was on the other side to go away. An hour passed, and still Will sat in the pantry, waiting. He didn’t know if the person was still there, and he didn’t want to open the door and check.

The humming returned. That same melody, just outside the door now. It felt inviting somehow. Will opened the door, slowly, cautiously. Sitting at the table just outside was a tall, dashing young man with fine features and bronze skin. His hair was long, black, and lustrous. Most striking of all were his pale silver eyes. Will stared at him, afraid and curious. Ready to retreat back into the pantry.

‘My mother sang that song to me every night when I was a child,’ the man said, looking into the flame of the candle on the table. ‘Over the years I have forgotten the words, but never the melody. It is such a beautiful thing, yet it haunts me like a phantom. Year after year, day after day, every waking hour, I hear it. It never leaves my mind. I even hear it in my dreams. It is as if she is still with me, even after all this time. All these years.’

The man looked at Will and smiled softly. ‘Hello, William. That is your name, correct?’

Will nodded, hesitantly.

‘It is a pleasure to meet you. Have you seen my servant, Jakob?’

Will tensed with fear. The man wore the same clothes as the thing.

‘Do not fear, boy,’ the man said with a patient tone. ‘I know that you did not harm him. I only wish to see him. Will you take me to Jakob?’

Will nodded and led him to the old man.

The old man was where Will and Harry had left him. He had grown paler and flies crawled on his dead, milky eyes. The young man looked at him sadly. He knelt, placing a hand on the old man’s chest, whispering, ‘I release you now. Go, find peace. You have my thanks.’

He turned to the boy. ‘William. I would ask that you assist me in burying him. Jakob served me well for many, many years. I will not see him this way.’

‘I didn’t want to come here,’ Will admitted to the man. ‘He... Jakob gave me something... a coin. And my uncle found it. He made me bring him here... then Harry...’ Tears rolled down his cheeks.

‘I couldn’t help him.’

‘Do not cry, boy, you did no wrong,’ the man told him. ‘You are not here of your own volition. Your hand did not take his life. I cannot blame you for any of this.’

He placed his hand on Will’s shoulder. His touch was heavy and cold. ‘Do you dream, William?’ the man asked.

‘Yes,’ Will answered.

‘Tell me your dreams,’ the man said.

‘I dream that I go to school,’ Will tells him, drying his tears. ‘I dream that I have lots of friends, and read lots of books, and I never get hit for doing things wrong. I dream that I’m happy, and that I never have to be sad again.’

‘What’s stopping you from making these dreams come true?’ asked the man.

Will did not want to say.

The man then asked, ‘What if I told you I could help you achieve your dreams?’


‘Take Jakob’s place,’ the man told him. ‘If you become my familiar, a servant of sorts, you shall be rewarded handsomely. I will give you all my gold, to do with as you want. You can go to school, you can make friends, you can even read all the books in my library to your heart’s content.’

‘Really?’ Will couldn’t believe it.

‘Really!’ The man smiled. His teeth were pearl daggers. ‘But only if you agree to become my familiar.’

‘What do I have to do?’

The man explained. ‘Tend to the manor. Keep it clean and tidy. Keep out intruders. I like my home to be quiet at all times. See to my accounts. Nothing too taxing, just a few cargo ships from the old country. And one last thing.’

‘What is it?’ asked the boy.

The man’s silver eyes shone like the moon off the river. ‘Feed me.’

Will look at him, curious. ‘What?’


It took another two hours before Uncle Burch entered the crypt. Will heard him swearing like a sailor all the way down the hall. ‘Where the fuck are you two?’ he yelled. ‘Harry, boy! Where are you!’ Will watched him from the shadows. Uncle Burch was as amazed by the grand house as he and Harry had been. His eyes wide with wonder. He laughed and clapped his hands at the tapestries and paintings.

‘We’re rich!’ he yelled, his voice echoing throughout the halls. Will kept close to his uncle, but out of sight. The wonder left his uncle and the anger returned. He searched every open door, called out their names over and over again, but he couldn’t find Will or Harry. Eventually he began shouting threats to scare the boy out of hiding.

‘I’ll beat you bloody if you ran off with my loot, boy!’ he said. ‘You hear me? I’ll bury you next to your fuckin’ mommy, you shit!’

He came upon the grand chamber, and Will made himself known. ‘Uncle, uncle, where have you been?’ Will made himself smile wide.

‘I’ve been standing guard,’ he sneered. ‘Where is Harry?’

‘In there!’ Will pointed to the room. ‘There’s just so much gold, we can’t carry it all out!’

Uncle Burch pushed him out of the way and rushed into the room. He found Harry’s pieces. Scattered along the floor, drained of blood, dry as the meat at the butcher shop. Harry’s head was mounted with the other beasts. Uncle Burch tried to retreat.

But, The Master laid his hand on Burch’s shoulder, stopping him. His eyes were wide with terror.

‘Wait!’ Will begged as he ran to his uncle. He rummaged through his pockets.

‘Wh-what is this, Will?’ Uncle Burch asked. Will pulled the picture from Burch’s back pocket and ran for the door.

‘Close the door, William,’ The Master said.

Uncle Burch looked at his nephew. ‘W-Will?’

The boy did as his master told him.


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