by anita marie moscoso
Bancho Church died back in 1954 when his car slammed into a tree out on Poplar Road in a town called Kilburne.
For over 50 years some people wondered what that terrible last hour was like for Bancho- and you’re about to find out.
Some people have all the luck.
Bancho spent the last hour of his life wondering if he was going to be burned alive in the wreckage of his car. And as awful as it sounds that wasn’t the worst thing Bancho went through that night.
The worst part of it all- worse then the steering wheel burying itself in his chest, worse then the broken legs and dislocated shoulder, worse then the fact he could feel his ruined eye running down his cheek…worse then all of that was the awful fact that Bancho could see with his one good eye, just on the other side of the road-he saw someone watching him die.
And they were smiling.
That’s how Bancho Church’s story ends…and everyone else’s story begins.
Sunny Longyear use to be a grave digger- she wasn’t the kind of Grave Digger you see in the old black and white horror films from the old days.
She used a backhoe to open the grave, she ran the machinery to lower the coffin into the ground and then she closed the grave and the entire time she worked she could take hits from her candy Pez Gun.
And even though she was a woman running a huge piece of heavy machinery and eating candy from a dispenser that had a frog’s head no one really ever saw her at work.
So on that day when everything in Sunny’s life changed, the day she looked down into the face of a small dark woman with eyes so black they looked like empty sockets in a snow white skull, she didn’t answer the woman’s greeting and she certainly didn’t realize the woman had asked her a question because she was listening to music on her cassette player.
The woman motioned for her to pull her headphones off and Sunny did.
” I said, hello ” the Dark Woman said, ” My name is Livia Cotard and you are-”
” Uh- Sunny, Sunny Longyear. ”
Sunny felt like she needed to fill up the space around herself with words and as she started to talk she had the unpleasant feeling that emptiness was being caused by the woman on the ground below her.
” I’m sorry, I’m not use to people- ” here Sunny searched for the right words and all she could think to say was, ” I’m not use to having people notice me.”
Livia Cotard’s smile was as bright as an exploding star ” that’s magnificent. Yes…that will do. So, my next question is- does Death bother you? ”
Sunny straightened up in her seat, pulled her Pez Gun from the front pocket of her work shirt and snapped the Frog’s head back. A little rectangle piece of cherry flavored candy shot into her mouth and she crunched it slowly.” You’re kidding right? ”
Livia Cotard motioned from Sunny to lean forward and she handed her a business card. ” I need for you to find a someone for me…”
” Miss Cotard…”
” Livia ”
” Livia, I don’t work with living people. I work with dead people. I bury dead people.” Sunny said hoping that she was making herself clear.
” Miss Longyear, I know what it is you do for a living, I asked if Death bothers you and you said no. Therefore you are the perfect person for the job I’m offering you. ”
Sunny who didn’t realize that not only was her life about to change and the world she use to know was about to end laughed and asked, ” and what job is that? ”
” I need for you to find a friend- and it’s very likely that I’ll need for you to kill someone.”
Sunny spit what was left of her Pez out of her mouth and said, ” Are you freaking crazy? ”
” Oh…Miss Longyear don’t worry, the person I’ll need for you to dispatch is already dead- this isn’t like murder or anything like that. ”
” Oh, ha, ha, ” Sunny choked and she reached over to start the engine on the backhoe back up ” that’s a relief. I thought you were asking me to break the law or something wild like that…”
” No Miss Longyear, I’m not asking you to break the law. I’m asking you to help me find someone very important to me. I’m asking you to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. ”
Livia reached up again and handed Sunny a dust jacket from a book.” Gone To Croatan ” was splashed across the cover in red ink and there was a picture of a Woman with no eyes under the title.
” The man who wrote this died under horrible circumstances, but before he died all of his books disappeared. All that’s left is this, and of course the manuscripts. I bound those myself and they’re quite- ” Livia said with an unpleasant smile ” capable of taking care of themselves”.
“I’d like them found and returned to me. ”
Sunny turned the dust jacket over and looked down into the face of BanchoChurch.
‘Master Of The Macabre’ was written in the same red letters under his picture as the ones on the front of the cover and Sunny tried not to laugh.
She had the feeling that she could have lit herself on fire and the Livia wouldn’t have batted an eye…but she didn’t think that Livia Cotard would sit still while she laughed at the picture of the late Bancho Church.
Sunny saw that Bancho didn’t look like the ” Master of The Macabre “
The face that Sunny saw looked like it should have been in a photograph of a teenager sitting at a Soda Fountain sharing a malted milkshake with a girl in a poodle skirt
” Looks like a kid. ”
” He was…once” Livia told her.
Sunny starred down into that darkness that was seemed to cover Livia Cotard’s face like a veil and she was glad for it. Whatever was under that darkness was best left just out of sight.
Sunny could feel that in her bones.
” There’s a train that leaves from behind Peebles Bookstore in Seattle- at the Prefontaine Station. Be on it Miss Longyear. ”
Then Livia pulled herself up straight and said as if she had been rehersing what she was about to say next for hours upon countless hours “Please.”
” That’s the train station where the fire was…” Sunny said
” Eighty years ago.”
Livia shrugged. ” Unless train stations in Seattle burst into flames on a regular basis- then we’re talking about the same one.”
” It’s off line now…I mean, there hasn’t been a train on it for years. ”
” That’s a relief. It would be another nasty mess if the train from Duwamish Bay comes through and there’s something on the tracks.”
” I see your point.” Sunny agreed.
” Then we can expect you Miss Longyear. ”
Sunny didn’t answer her because she really didn’t need to.
” I’m glad we’re already understanding each other Miss Longyear.” Livia turned and walked deep into the cemetery and Sunny finished digging the grave.
That night Sunny Longyear left for Duwamish Bay
Return to Owl Creek Bridge
and be there when Sunny Longyear