Tately Grund was always meant to do big things, great things, he was meant to make his mark on the world.
That’s what drove Tately Grund to do the things he did.
The very distasteful, odious things that would make the Devil blush. From what I understand he did exactly that on more then one occasion.
But I digress.
I’m here to tell you a story about Tately Grund and how he came to make the acquaintance of one Livia Frost- Frosty to her friends- not that she had many of those.
Livia owned the one and only Funeral home in Burnside, Washington. She owned the cemetery too and most of Cross County was buried there.
What that adds up to numbers wise is a lot of dead bodies and they’ve been taking up residence at Leaning Birches Cemetery since 1904.
Livia lived just across the street from Leaning Birches and her old bone white house with the stain glass windows and and her front door with the dog’s head knocker didn’t exactly say ‘welcome’- .
But you’d be surprised how many people did visit Livia’s Bone White House with the stained glass windows- they didn’t go to the front door though. They walked around to the back door- down that little path lined with those white flowers that only bloomed at night and smelled faintly of cigarette smoke.
It wasn’t a long walk to her back door, it just felt like it if anyone were to admit to taking that walk which nobody ever admitted to doing.
So no, I don’t know how they figured out Livia Frost had a way of getting things done and knowing things that nobody should know- to be exact she knew the kinds of things that most people took their graves.
Tately Grund took that long walk to the back of Livia’s house and pulled open the screen door and knocked.
He heard footsteps, he heard a lock turning and the door swung open and Tately Grund looked up into the eyes of Livia Frost.
Part of Tately wanted to run, part of him knew that nothing good was going to come from stepping over that threshold into Livia Frost’s kitchen.
But he did it anyway.
He followed her through her kitchen, down a hallway lit, if Tately Grund new as much as he claimed, by gaslight fixtures. The hardwood floor under his feet were polished to a high gloss and there were pictures of the same man and the same cat and the same two dogs in different poses in frame after frame after frame.
He stopped and looked at one of the paintings of a cat and said, ” I had a cat like that once.”
” I doubt that very much Mr Grund.”
They stopped in front of a door and Livia took a key from her pocket and put it into the lock.
She led him into a sparsely furnished room.
One table, two chairs a fireplace that needed to be cleaned. The curtains were closed. It was cold in that room.
She motioned for him to sit.
” So how does this work?” he asked as he sat.
” You tell me what you want. And then we figure out how to make it happen.”
” And it costs…”
” Does it matter?” she asked as the light fixtures around the room blazed on and the shadows grew long around them.
It took him less then a second to answer.” No.”
” Fine Mr Grund. Talk to me.”
” Do you know Astor Brock?”
Livia rolled her eyes up and shook her head. ” Politics. ”
” Exactly. Politics Mrs Frost. Astor Brock’s wife was a suicide, and more then a couple,pf people,believe she was driven to it with a little help.”
” She wasn’t.”
“Well. What they don’t know is why. I do. That good woman-”
“For the most part she was. Actually.”
” She killed herself because Astor Brock talked her out of taking her medication. Said it made her slow, she blew a couple of interviews and he really let her have it. Blamed his tough campaign on her.”
” Is that what you think?”
” I know it. I know he has a bastard child from his college days, that his brother murdered his neighbor over a fence line. All of it. I know Astor Brock and he doesn’t deserve to have what he has.”
” You want Astor’s seat. ”
“Mrs. Frost, I want his life. I want a wife like his, his voice, his hair. I want to be Astor Brock.”
Livia didn’t bat an eye.” Is that all?”
Tately looked over the table and Livia was not smiling.
” That’s all.”
” Hmmm. Yes. Just one thing.”
Livia got up and walked around the table. ” Tell me what you know about Cardel Brock’s suicide.”
” It’s like I said, I heard she went off her medication and did this interview and could barely put her sentences together. She was a bigger mess off her meds than on. So that interview went on tv. It went on Youtube for Godsakes. Astor took a beating in the press and a week later she was taking a dive off the bridge over the expressway.”
” I went to the Wake.”
Livia’s face, the stoic mask she wore cracked. ” The Devil you say. You went to their house?”
” Well. To pay my respects of course.”
Livia took a seat on the edge of the table next to Tately. ” Of course.”
Tately Continued, ” And I happened to wander into their library and on her desk I saw her day planner and I came across your name and a date and directions to your- how to make your acquaintance.”
I knew you could- help people. I Just didn’t know how to ask.”
“So after I read what Cardel wrote, I figured if you helped Astor, you could help me. I mean, He didn’t deserve the chance you got for him. Look what he did with it. Squandered it.”
“Yes. Well. I have to admit Mr Grundley. I didn’t have anything to do with Astor Brock’s success.
” I actually reached out to Cardel Brock. Offered my services to fix that mess of wires in her poor short circuiting brain. And she turned me down flat. She didn’t like the terms of my sale- as it were. Come to find out later, that woman could cut a deal that was sharp enough to cut through a soup can and not even dull the blade.”
” Somehow that woman always managed to get what she wanted all by her lonesome”
” She got hit by seven cars after she dove off of that bridge.” Tately reminded her.
” Yes. Well. I can’t tell you want drove Cardel to do any of the things that she did. But I am smart enough to know to stay away off of the railroad tracks when an out of control freight train goes roaring by.”
” So. Enough chit chat Mr. Grund. You want Astor Brock’s life?”
” I do.”
” Are you sure.”
Tately stood up, glared into Livia’s eyes. ” Damned sure.”
Livia, a mortician, and embalmer of the highest skill level dropped a scalpel from under her sleeve and drew it across the right side of Tately Grund’s Neck. She made a small incision, reached in with her finger lifted Tately’s vein and artery served them both with one small clean cut.
He looked up at her, speechless for the first time since he started talking.
” Astor Brock died 4 years ago. I have no idea who or what is walking in his skin. I’m guessing the only person who did know is Cardel and she took that secret to her grave. Or maybe it sent her there. Who knows. If she’s talking it isn’t to me. The point is, I can give you everything Astor has: all the way to the same hole in the ground he’s been in since the day he strung himself up in his office and Cardel took him down and got him into her attic.”
“The thing is, whatever came down the stairs with her wasn’t Astor Brock and the life he is living wasn’t Astor’s. Not by a long shot”
” Enjoy your new life Mr Grund.” Livia Frost said as the last drop of blood left Tately’s body and the small spark that was left of his soul drifted into Livia’s fireplace that needed cleaning and it was pulled up into the chimney like a fish on a line.
” It was good doing business with you.”