Dalton rolled over and brushed against Samantha.

Her perfume lingered in the air as he climbed out from under the covers.

As he slipped on his shirt and socks, he cursed at his foolishness.

Sweeping up the beer bottles and vodka miniatures into a black bin bag, he crept around the back of the building and gently lowered the forbidden contents into the skip.

Even the gentle tinkling as the bag slouched against the others was enough to send shivers down him.

The last thing he wanted was to be found out.

A light flickered on in the house over the road. A shadow appeared at the window.

Dalton was grateful for the roiling fog that swept the morning streets, but nonetheless retreated back through the exit door and slid the deadbolt behind him. You could never be too careful about the neighbours talking.

Dalton knew they envied him.

Before heading upstairs, he headed to the communal kitchen, turned on the coffee pot, and rooted through the cupboards for some strawberry granola.

The milk was off, and so he crunched it dry and helped himself to a mug of water from the tap to wash it down.

Plumes of steam jetted from the coffee pot. The clicking mechanism had bust and so Dalton gently lifted the pot and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee.

With his headache abating slightly, nothing smelled as good as roasted coffee beans in the morning.

He went to pour a few more mugs but hesitated. He didn’t want to make it awkward.

Would it be rude to assume the others would want cups of coffee? No. He’d leave it.

The complex he lived in cost roughly £14,000,000. It was state of the art, covered with glistening aluminium and immaculate. The cleaners were a big part of that, but Dalton Bloom did his best to sweep up wherever he could.

There was no bed in his room upstairs, but hundreds of blankets.

Samantha was still lying in the middle of the room, whilst Lucy lay splayed on top of a pile of feathery duvets.

With the bottles gone, he started tidying up the pizza boxes and cigarette packets that littered the floor. Dalton was always amazed at the amount they went thorough in a single night.

Emptying the detritus into a grey plastic bag, he bundled it against two others in the corner of the room. He showered in the large and spacious bathroom and selected his clothes from the wardrobe he left in the corner.

He peeked out of the window at the empty street. A lone car trundled down the street through the slowly receding morning mists. A warm orange glow shone on the horizon, illuminating the autumnal trees on the hill.

His watch beeped. 8:00 AM.

He brushed his teeth and gargled with mouthwash. The acidic alcohol sting still lay somewhere, dormant, in the back of his throat.

He retched twice, but nothing else.

He trundled to the kitchen and poured himself another mug of water. After downing the mug, he took a look at the mug, realising that he’d never actually had a look at the mugs he owned.

The black mug featured a cartoon moon looking a little sad. Above the moon, in bright white letters, was “Sorry for Your Loss” and, below it, “M-M.”

And that was when the doorbell buzzed.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Dalton felt his heart thudding in his chest as he raced downstairs and peered out of the peephole at the two uniformed police officers on the doormat.

He took two long and deep breaths. And then he opened the door.

“How can I help you, officers?”

“Hi there. May I ask your name for the record, sir?”

“Dalton. Dalton Bloom.”

“Mr Bloom, may we speak to the owner and proprietor?”

Dalton smiled. He always liked it when they asked and made a little show of his hands indicating himself.

“Right, I see.” said the officer. He flipped open a notebook and began to make a few notes.

The officer standing next to him muttered something into the walkie attached to his shoulder lapel.

“Ms. Jennifer Janson was crossing the road at 23:32 pm last night. Potentially drunk and didn’t see the lorry. Jaw dislocated, neck lacerations, and multiple fractures on the upper torso. We’re bringing her to you in order to sort this out. We’ve informed the relatives and they’re on the way now. You can do this one in thirty minutes, right?”

“I should do.” Dalton said, furrowing his brow. His mind, spry as it was, began to think about the foundation reserves for neck scarification in his little make-up box and his drawer of spare hinges that were ideal for temporary jaw repair.

He didn’t notice the policeman step forward until it was almost too late and shot an arm out, almost hitting the officer square in the chest.


“We just want to see your funeral parlour.”

“YOU CAN’T—there’s…”

Dalton lowered his voice and leaned towards the police officer conspiratorially.

“There’s a wake going on right now.”

“This early?”

“They’re, uh, Amish.”


The police officers exchanged puzzled glances.

“Well, we’ll be off then.”

“Thanks for stopping by!’ Dalton shouted after them, in a desperately cheery tone.

“Weird guy.” muttered the second police officer.

The first officer shrugged, revved the engine, and set off into the brightening day.

Dalton flew into a panic as he sprinted upstairs. He collected up as many blankets as he could and threw them down the laundry chute. Lucy, Samantha, and Jessica were all collected up as he tore into the cold chamber and began hastily returning the bodies to their compartments.

With trembling hands, he retied the toe tags on all three women and sprinted out into the lobby just in time to see the knob on the master bedroom turn.

He flung himself into a maintenance closet, his heart pumping away in his chest in a wild frenzy of absolute terror.

Mark yawned and checked the clock in the hallway. 8:39 AM.

“Nancy?” he called.

“Yes?” came a faint voice from the second floor.

“What appointments have I got on today?”

An exasperated sigh came from somewhere below.

“Joneses at 3, Parry Hunter at 6. Then you’ve got those three—“

“Missed calls from Rita; yeah, yeah, I know.”

“You really should call her. Your angina has been getting worse.”

“Nancy, my blood pressure’s fine, or it would be if you didn’t keep bothering me with it.”

The doorbell buzzed.

“This isn’t helping!!” Mark yelled into the empty hallway.

He headed downstairs and opened the door.

The two police officers didn’t look up as they trundled the gurney into the lobby. The second officer looked up in confusion.

“You’re not the other guy. Where’s the other guy?”

“My name is Mark Samuels, what are you doing in my mortuary?”

Your mortuary? Some guy called—“

He flipped open his notebook.

“Dalton Bloom said he owned this mortuary.”

Mark grunted. “Dalton’s my nephew. He’s staying with us until he finds a job.”

“Well, he said he’d fix up the body.”

“Dalton couldn’t fix up a body if his life depended on it. He’s good enough to be a glorified receptionist here, but that’s about it.”

The second policeman shuffled a little uncomfortably.

“If you ask me, his parents should have thrown him out sooner than 22. Social anxiety aside, the kid’s just a nuisance.”

“I see,” said the second policeman. He seemed a little at a loss for words.

“Well, can you fix her up?” he said, finally.

Mark Samuels took the gurney from the officer.

“I’ll take it from here,” he growled.

He shut the front door.

He trundled the gurney past the maintenance cupboard as Dalton slipped out.

He headed for the back door and out into the garden of Maudlin Morgue. Hopping the fence, he strolled out of the back alley and headed into town.

It was usually wise to stay out of Mark’s way.

On his way to town, he stepped into the off-license in the corner and began filling a small shopping trolley full of beer and miniatures.

The kindly Indian lady behind the counter tipped him a smile.

“Having a party tonight again, Dalton?”

Dalton grinned. “Every night.”

“Inviting any new girls?”

Dalton paused for a minute, remembering what the police officer had said to him before he smiled, widely.

“Yes,” he replied. “Her name is Jenny.”

Dalton paid for the alcohol and left the shop, the smile never once leaving his face.