This Ticket Could Be Murder
By Carole Lynn Jones
“Melody, if my ex-wife calls again, tell her I’ve left town.” Arthur Snugg’s voice echoed down the stairwell from his second-floor office.
“Got it, Mr. Snugg.” I took my last sip of coffee, checked my reflection in my compact, and reapplied my berry lip gloss.
“And … check on Alex and J.J. They’ve been digging Esther Green’s grave for three hours now. Knowing them, the sides will collapse when we put her in.” He closed his door as his prized grandfather clock began to chime.
Outside the Peaceful Rest’s lobby window, the rain is slowing down. I smooth out my burgundy tulip skirt and continued to type an unpaid insurance claim until the phone rang.
“Peaceful Rest Funeral Home and Cemetery. This is Melody Shore, Funeral Assistant.” From my floral brass vintage card holder, I pick up my business card and admire it.
“He gave you my title, did he?”
“Hi, Mrs., I’m sorry, Ms. Snugg. How can I help you?”
“Put me through to that womanizer.” I can hear her notorious blood-red nails clicking on a hard surface.
“I can’t. Mr. Snugg left.” I look down at my nails, which haven’t had a manicure in seven months.
“What? I just spoke to him!”
Through my glass walled office I can see Snugg’s closed door. If this keeps up, I will ask for a pay raise. When I started here, Arthur Snugg didn’t say my job duties entailed divorce counselor and babysitter.
“Listen, Mrs., oops, Ms. Snugg, I can’t put you through. He went of town.”
“With some woman, I bet.” She lets out a loud huff and hangs up.
After that call, I needed some fresh air. Alex and J.J., Arthur Snugg’s nephews, who only hold their jobs because Snugg would rather employ them then deal with his ex‑wife and their divorce decree, sit relaxing on the two new rocking chairs that Snugg recently purchased for the porch of the Peaceful Rest to give the funeral home a “homey” feel. My idea and purchased on sale. Their clothes are muddy and dirt cakes their work boots. Mud runs down the porch pillar that J.J. has his boots propped up on.
“What are you guys doing?” I ask, even though, as usual, it looks like they aren’t doing much of anything.
“Man, Melody, what a morning we had.” Alex scrapes mud off his boot on the corner step. “The backhoe ran out of oil and started smoking. We had to finish the last three feet of grave by hand.” He points at the wall.
I look over. A muddy spade shovel leans against the sandstone brick of the funeral home.
“I can see why you guys are tired. Your uncle wanted me to check, did you do everything he asked?”
“Yep,” they say in unison.
“Great. Please don’t go in through the lobby to change. Use the receiving service door. Okay?”
Alex, the older of the two twins by eleven minutes and more outspoken, speaks up. “We are just going to head home. Our work’s done, and it’s Friday. Uncle A won’t mind.” He stands, stomps more mud on the porch, and pulls his brother to his feet.
“See you next week, Mel,” J.J. says as they both jump off the porch and head to Alex’s truck.
I stay outside a few minutes absorbing the warm October sun. The rain the past two days has subsided, leaving behind windblown red and yellow maple leaves which cover the ground and dot the funeral home porch.
I am about to go grab myself some lunch when Snugg appears. He is dressed in his usual grey suit pants, white shirt and checkered tie. He smells of old spice cologne.
“Mr. Snugg, I’m going to pick up lunch. Can I bring you something back?”
“That would be nice, thank you, Melody.” He hands me fifteen dollars. “If you have any change, get me one of those scratch ticket things.” Arthur Snugg likes games of chance?
Twenty minutes later, I return with two cheese covered meatball hero subs, an ice tea for Snugg, and a diet coke for me from Marsha’s Café on Eighth Street. I set the food down in my office as Arthur Snugg came out of the Rose Room, carrying a Victorian floor lamp whose bulb had begun loudly buzzing and burnt out during the eulogy yesterday of Sam Levine.
“If you don’t mind, Melody, I think I will join you in your office for lunch today, as soon as I take this lamp downstairs. It’s light’s out for this lamp.” Snugg chuckled at his joke.
“Did you have any change to get me one of those scratch offs?” Snugg asks as he wipes a glob of cheese off his chin.
“I got you a $5.00 one. Marsha had a special on the subs.” I hand him $1.42 in change and his $5.00 scratch off.
“What would you do if you won the big money?” I ask.
“Well, to be honest, Melody, I would pay Regina. I don’t believe I owe her what she says, but I don’t want to spend more money on lawyers to tell me I’m right. Divorce lawyers aren’t cheap.” He sighs.
“Well, let’s hope you win. Let me get my lucky penny. It’s the year I was born. Still shiny.” I take my antique silver cigarette case out of my top desk drawer and remove the penny. I’m not a smoker, but I love the case.
Snugg silently scratches. Then, he jumps up, takes his glasses off, and wipes them with a tissue from my desk box. He does an unusual dance move, throwing his hands in the air, and waving them side to side like the blow-up things outside mattress stores.
“Melody, look at this, tell me I’m seeing straight.” He hands me the ticket.
“Mr. Snugg, you won! $25,000! Whoop, Whoop! Meatball hero sandwiches for everyone.”
“Melody, thank you! I can’t believe I won!” Arthur Snugg is full-on dancing now. His cellphone rings. We both look at each other. Snugg flips open his phone, smiles, and answers. It must not be his ex-wife.
“No, I didn’t forget. I will be right there. Yes, okay. I have good news.”
He hangs up and turns to me. “Melody, put this ticket in your lucky case for safekeeping. I need to go out. I have a date this afternoon.” He straightens his tie, runs his hands over his jet-black hair and puts on his suit coat. Arthur Snugg handles eternal life and is eternally dating someone new.
“Mr. Snugg, this is a large amount of money for me to safeguard, I think you should…” He is out the front door before I can say “sign it.”
I put the ticket in my cigarette case and return to enjoy the last bite of my meatball sandwich. Happy boss. Lucky day. Wonder if he’ll give me a tip?
The afternoon at the funeral home is quiet, so, after I check the urn inventory, and organize the new prayer card books, I call my bestie, Claire. She owns a vintage clothing store and I am one lucky girl to have her as my friend.
“Claire, can you believe it, I bought Snugg a lottery ticket, and he won $25,000.”
“That’s awesome, Melody! Wait, Snugg? Did he ask you to buy it for him or did you buy two and give away the winner? Cause, that would be my luck.”
“No, he asked me to get it for him. Just think, if you or I won that kind of money. We would definitely do a girls’ road trip. … Maybe he will give me a tip when he cashes it in.”
“Snugg? Slim chance of that happening. That man has ice water in his veins.”
I am holding the ticket up in the air, daydreaming when the front door of the funeral home bursts open, and in comes Regina Snugg.
Claire is still talking but I miss what she says as I stare out into the lobby at the Tasmanian she-devil.
“I’m going to have to call you back, Melody. It’s my lucky day too. A woman just came in with three maxi dresses. They still have tags on them.” She disconnects.
Talk about happy, my day went from sunshine and rainbows to black storm clouds and thunder.
“Where is he? I know he didn’t go out of town. I ran into Rose Schmidt. She saw him over at the Corner Cupboard with Gloria Fishman drinking coffee and holding hands. She overheard talk about a big win. He owes me. I want my money!”
I grab my cigarette case, and attempt to tuck the ticket back away.
“Arthur lets you smoke in here?” She reaches for the case.
I quickly shut it. There’s no time to put the ticket away. I shove the ticket under the fold of my tulip skirt.
“Let me see that case. What are you hiding?” Regina Snugg leans so close that I can read the designer name on her Coach sunglasses.
“What’s under your skirt? I saw you tuck something under there. Are you doing drugs here?” She inhales deeply as if to catch her own high.
“I don’t smoke, or do drugs, and I am not hiding anything.” I smooth out my skirt.
“Well, let’s just take a look then.” She comes at me like a woman reaching for the last size 8 shoe at a shoe sale.
I jump up, and the ticket falls to the floor. Oh no!
Both of our hands grab for the ticket.
“$25,000!” Regina Snugg screams.
Luckily, her long fake nails prevent her from being able to pick it off the ground.
“I guess it pays not to get a manicure.” I pick up the ticket, and run.
“Come back here! I want my share of that money. He owes me.”
Regina Snugg is quick, but I’m quicker. I race out the funeral home door and head to my Jeep, Blue Betty. Then, I realize Blue Betty’s keys are in my office. As I turn back to reason with this money-crazed woman, I see she has picked up the shovel Alex and J.J. forgot to put away from the front porch, and is coming toward me. The shovel bounces wildly off the ground. I race off toward the cemetery. Surely, she can buy her own shovel, and surely, she won’t follow me into the cemetery. But she does.
I run down the first path and into the Garden of Freedom. The two of us ducking around tombstones. I am like a zig-zagging rabbit and she is my shovel-wielding, money-hungry pursuer.
All of a sudden, she swings the shovel, and it connects with my right shoulder. It immediately throbs.
As I round the seventh stone in the row, I look back. Regina Snugg might be in good shape, but the weight of carrying the shovel is slowing her down. Every few steps she leans against a tombstone. I, myself, am dizzy. Regina Snugg is staggering like a drunk. She is crashing into the stones.
As we enter the Garden of the Blessed, she trips over a low stone and careens right into the six-foot hole that Alex and J.J. have dug for tomorrow’s burial of Esther Green. The fallen leaves camouflaged the hole.
Regina Snugg is trapped.
“Help! Help me out,” she screams like she is the victim. She digs with the shovel, but that only makes her situation worse. She throws it out of the hole at me.
“You injured me over a lottery ticket. There isn’t a soul around who will help you.” I stand over her. The shovel now my weapon.
I am about to run for help when Arthur Snugg pulls into the funeral home parking lot and drives to where I am standing. In one hand, I wave his ticket in the air, with the other I hold the shovel high.
“Melody, what are you doing?” Snugg asks.
“She attacked me with this shovel.” I drop the shovel and pull the corner of my now dirt-stained white peasant blouse down, exposing a large welt.
Regina Snugg screams from the ditch she is standing in. “That’s my money!”
“I’m calling the police! You aren’t getting a cent of this money.” Arthur Snugg shouts back.
After the police arrive and Regina Snugg is taken away, Mr. Snugg and I sit in the rockers on the porch of the Peaceful Rest. Snugg has gotten me a warm cup of tea, and an ice pack for my bruised shoulder.
“Melody, since you started here, you haven’t taken a single day off.”
“We’ve been pretty busy, Mr. Snugg.”
“Well, you deserve a long weekend away. You and a guest. It will be my treat.”
This time, it’s me, not Snugg, who is dancing.