Richwood, Texas. A small town that wasn’t even a blip on a map then, and sure as hell isn’t now. Though, that might have more to do with small town politics, limited economic growth, and a lack of job opportunities than the nasty habit of law enforcement turning a blind-eye to things that didn’t fit in with the status quo. However, law enforcement had much to do with the fact that one would be hard pressed to find an official report of what happened at Hoskins Cemetery on the night of April 16, 2006, let alone accurate information. As one could expect, the news of the event spread through the town like a plague, but as most know facts rarely stay unadulterated when passed along through gossip. For certain, the simple folks of Richwood knew that bodies were found in an open grave, and that among the bodies were two police officers. No one disputed that deputy Johnson and Daniels were found dead. Rumor had is that the officers died of a sudden cardiac arrest, while others claimed that the two boys in blue died of self inflicted gunshots straight to the temple. However, the official statement from the small town press was that they were shot down by a hobo, not just any type of hobo, a homosexual hobo. There’s that small town mindset, so pure, and so engrossed with them good ole fashioned wholesome Christian values. Richwood being such a small town, no one outside couldn’t give less of a shit. Sad, really. Because the oddity of two police officers simultaneously suffering from a heart attack ought to pique the curiosity of a few, especially those interested in the occult. But with so much pretentious assholes and scammers, hardly anyone was willing to put in the time to do basic investigative work. Of course, I’ve heard my fair share of bullshit, but then I stumbled upon someone that not only claimed to have been there, but could prove it.
According to the source, a man was spotted shoveling into a crude, unmarked grave. I was, at first, doubtful of his account. Just about everyone that I had encountered up until now had said a similar tale, though with slight variation, but unlike prior witnesses, this odd elderly fellow produced a police report. Though the report contained nothing more than one line that read “April 16 2006 22:00: 594 – Hoskins Cemetery.” The line proved that something did indeed occur at the old cemetery, but more than that it proved that this man may actually have reliable information. I sat before him in his efficiency that seemed more of a home for roaches than people, at least civilized people, while he gave his account. He stated that the man had spent hours digging.
He dug, and dug, and dug. Frantically, as if every second counted, he dug the shovel into the earth and hurled moist dirt every which way. He dug for God only knew how long, but it was long enough to make it four feet in. A bright light blinded him, but he didn’t even flinch. “Hey,” said officer Daniels, as he slowly approached. “What do you think You’re doing out here?”
“Sorry, officer, I can’t talk right now,” said the man, as he continued to shovel into the dirt beneath him.
“Yeah, I see that, but you need to stop. You can’t just dig up them graves.”
“Oh, but I must,” said the man, paying no attention to the officer. “And I better find it soon, otherwise he’ll get mad.”
“Who the fuck is he?” The Officer sliced through the darkness with his light. “Are there more of you out here?”
“Oh, He is everywhere. He’s behind you, in front of you, and even trying to get inside you.” The scrawny man spoke as he dug into the ground without skipping a beat.
Officer Daniels cast his light through the shadows behind, in front, and even to his sides. A frown formed on his clean-shaven baby face. He leaned into the radio, “Daniels, requesting backup at the Hoskins Cemetery.”
“You’re just going to make him mad,” said the man, as he continued with the digging.
Officer Daniels directed his light right at the scrawny grave digger, “Listen to me. Drop the shovel.”
“I must keep digging,” he said, laughing hysterically. “You shouldn’t stop me.”
With a steady hand maintaining the beam, Daniels pulled a taser out from his belt and readied it. “Drop that shovel or I will drop you.”
“He requires that I dig. So, I must dig,” he said, as sweat trailed down his brow.
Daniels didn’t hesitate. A simple click released three prongs from the taser that caught the man in the chest, and instantly delivered a payload of electricity. The man fell, like they usually do, with pants soaked with piss and shit. The officer approached to get a better glimpse of the man. An unfamiliar face on a scrawny meth-head body dressed in dirty secondhand clothes. Just when the officer thought of climbing down to check for identification, something stopped him. Mr. Piss-pants began to move. The officer pulled the trigger on the taser again, but the man got up on his feet, picked up the shovel, and began digging. Daniels glanced at his yellow device, the power light was on, and he could hear a hum from the device. “Do you not feel this?”
“He requires that I dig. So, I must dig,” he said, coldly.
Seconds passed by, but what felt like seconds to Daniels was minutes to others. Long foreboding minutes as he stared at the man. His hand was as limp as his pride and was as useless as his shriveled dick. He pulled at the trigger, and the lights flashed on the device, but the man would not stop digging. Again, with the bastard digging.
Another bright glob of light shone from behind him. “Daniels, what in tarnation are you doing out here,” said officer Johnson. The new arrival approached Daniels like a father about to reprimand his own son. “You mean to tell me you can’t handle a tweaking grave robber?”
Daniels didn’t take his eyes off of the man. “He won’t stop.” Officer Daniels casually showed Johnson the taser.
“That piece of shit is defective,” said Johnson, rubbing his chin. “You new recruits are all the same. Afraid to get your hands dirty. Let me show you how this is done.” The officer walked to the edge of the grave, and glanced at Daniels. “He’s really wanting that bone cold pussy, ain’t he?” Johnson laughed at his own joke before leaning into the pit.
“Hey, grave guy, drop the shovel,” he said, chewing on a toothpick.
“He requires that I dig, so I must keep digging,” said the man.
“Who’s he,” asked Johnson, before aimlessly waving his light around.
“Beats me. He’s been saying that since I got here. Lunatic.”
“Well, you stay out here and watch for any onlookers. This might get a little old school.” The officer flicked away his toothpick, and jumped down into the hole. “Aww, fuck,” he groaned. “That’s quite a hole you’ve dug up, grave guy.”
The man paid Johnson no mind and kept digging.
Johnson slowly approached, studying his target. “Now, I know that officer Daniels has been nice about this whole thing, but you’re gonna stop digging.”
“He requires that I dig,” said the man.
Johnson interrupted, “I know. You’ve been saying that a lot. But what you don’t understand is.” Johnson popped his knuckles. “You’re gonna stop with the fuckin’ digging.” Johnson grabbed the shovel, shaking the man from his famous line. “I got your attention now, don’t I?” Johnson closed in and could smell the man’s rotten breath. “You dig one more goddamn piece of dirt, I’ll shove this shovel so far deep into your ass you’ll think I’m digging for gold!”
A man of chances, Johnson let go of the the shovel and watched with amusement. Amusement that was short lived as the man drove the shovel back into the earth as if no concern of consequence.
A man of extremes, Johnson closed his fist and cold cocked the living shit out of the grave digger. The man twirled to the momentum of fist meeting face, and dropped to the moist ground.
“Daniels,” said Johnson, as he rubbed his bloody knuckles. “I think that was my best, yet.”
“Does this go in the report?”
“What report? There’s nothing but the dead all around and the dead don’t tell tales,” said Johnson, as he stepped away from the body. “Besides, this man is clearly a bum. A no good worthless piece of shit bum.” Johnson grabbed the shovel and threw it out of the pit.
“Sir,” muttered Daniels, as he pointed at something in the grave.
Johnson turned around. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
The man, with a broken jaw and busted nose, pawed the soil like a dog looking for a buried bone. “You don’t quit, do you boy?” Johnson stepped towards the man. Johnson kicked the scrawny meth fiend away. “You think this is a game, don’t you boy?” Johnson stomped on the grave robber’s right hand, and pressed the heel of his boot down into the soil. “This ain’t no game, boy! When I tell you to stop, you oughtta stop. We don’t have time for your faggoty grave robbin’ ass.” Johnson pressed his knee on the man’s chest, and seemed worried by the lack of fear in his eyes. “You really don’t know what’s good for you, do ya?” Johnson pulled out his cuffs. “Guess what? Your digging job is over, and He ain’t around.”
Johnson went to snap on the cuffs when a powerful force hit him in his chest like a wrecking ball, knocking the wind out of him, and planting him on his ass. Without a moment of hesitation, the man crawled back to the spot like it was a goddamn honey hole. Furiously, the grungy and foul smelling fiend dug through the soil, broken hand and all.
Johnson rubbed his ass, popped his neck, and reentered the ring for round three. “You think this is some sort of game, but I’m through playing around.” Officer Johnson drew his firearm, aimed straight at the man, and was ready to send him to his maker.
“Johnson,” yelled Daniels, as he climbed down into the pit. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing!”
“Sending this fucker back to Hell,” he said, cold and steady. “We take this freak down to the station he’ll spread whatever nonsense that’s in his head to the press, and worst of all, he’ll stink up the goddamn place. This junkie isn’t worth the time or the hassle, and it’s convenient that he’s already in a grave.”
“Look, he stopped.”
The man hunched over a small metallic box. His bloody hands dusted the dirt off of the latch.
“Don’t you dare open that fucking box,” said Johnson.
“Aren’t you curious,” asked Daniels, fidgeting with contemplation as he stood behind Johnson.
“Son, curiosity gets you killed. That box was buried for a reason,” said Johnson. He fired,letting loose a thunderous clap, and sending a slug deep into the earth. “That’s your last warning,” he said.
Officer Daniels stepped between the lion and his prey. “Look, let’s see what’s in that fucking box,” he pleaded.
“Absolutely not. The fucker was tazed, cold cocked, mutilated, and restrained, and yet he still persists on digging. I’m convinced that whatever is in that tin can should stay in the depths of this fucking place.” said Johnson, as he shoved Daniels away. “I’m done with this.” He fired, delivering a ticket to Hell straight into the grave diggers brain. The body slumped over next to the box, latch undone.
Whether it was the coat of blood, or the glow of the flashlight, the source claimed that the box beckoned officer Daniels to do what the dead man couldn’t. Johnson holstered his weapon and had stepped away to light a cigarette. Daniels exploited Johnson’s moment of distraction, and went for the box. The cold, rustic metal resonated through him, forcing him to disobey Johnson’s command.
“Daniels, leave it alone.” Johnson took a drag from his cigarette.
From the witnesses own account, officer Daniels stood in silence with his back turned towards Johnson, indifferent and unresponsive. Johnson tugged on his shoulder, but he didn’t respond. Johnson snapped his fingers in front of his eyes, but it was as if his senses hadn’t even registered.
“Stop fucking around.” Johnson grabbed the grime covered box and tugged. Daniels refused him, and clung the canister to his chest as if it was his precious.
“We must wait. He is coming,” uttered Daniels.
For a moment, a brief moment, Johnson was quiet. He stood fixated on his insubordinate, clinched his fists, and brewed a deep frown. “Please, tell me you’re fucking with me.”
Silence. A cold, heavy silence.
“He’s here.” Daniels looked down at the blood stained box and cracked open the lid. “It’s time to feed him.”
Officer Johnson, as told to me, stood with his firearm ready to draw, silent as stone. Not even a whisper escaped from the man’s rugged mouth. He slid his firearm from its leather holster as Daniels opened the box. The lid dangled from rusted hinges, and revealed a small space of absolute emptiness, bottomless emptiness, an illogical paradox that was as mesmerizing as it was deadly. Apparently, the dark void did more than captivate the officers, it distracted them while their hearts stopped.
Now, don’t think of me as a fool just yet. I too had much doubts about the validity of my source’s account. After all, the spill of anecdotes, even detailed down to the line of dialogue, was only as strong as the facts that supported it, and an incomplete police report did not support the man’s story. I confessed my suspicion with a bit of gratitude for his time, and was about to head out the door when he produced it. A box. Instantly, without the slightest doubt, I knew that this was the box. Though, it was free of mud, dirt, grime, but the rustic touch and blood splatter remained.
The man smiled maliciously. He told me what I already knew, while I watched him. Deep trenches stretched from his lips, branched out through his cheeks, and formed folds around his black eyes. Features that I first chalked up to age, but as he pushed the box towards me, I began to wonder. I could feel my conscience pull on me, urging me to flee, but curiosity had the better of me. With frail skeletal hands, the elderly man carefully opened the box. I dug into the chair, tried to force my eyes from the strange relic, but like a moth to light there was no recourse. My heart pounded rapidly against my chest, sweat dotted my brow, and I felt a sense of closure coming over me.
But there was nothing. The lid flopped open to reveal an empty box. Not a bottomless void, or an empty darkness, just a simple box. A simple goddamn box. A simple goddamn box with two burnt marks that only remotely resembled two human forms. To claim that the marks were impressions of the two officers was like when Mexican women claim they found Jesus on their burnt tortillas. As you could expect, the geriatrics, depends-wearing mother fucker tried to sell me that exact line of grade-A bullshit! I stared at the dark smudges, shook my head in disbelief, and gave a calm, collected, yet stern, “Fuck you.”
Perhaps something really did occur at the Hoskins Cemetery that night, but whatever it was, I was no closer to finding the truth than a pale neck-beard was to getting laid. I’ve spent two months in this small, pretentious town of Richwood, Texas trying to discover the truth, or at least something of value. While the truth was out there, and I’m certain that it was, the takeaway from this was that sometimes the truth really does die at the scene. After all, what if no one else was around that night, and it was just three guys in an open grave, then who could I honestly expect to find out. Like the old saying goes, dead men don’t tell tales.
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