Victor and Nicholas stumbled down the walk. They leaned on each other; one thought he was holding the other upright. Victor took a deep swallow from the bottle then passed it to his friend.
Nicholas took the offered libation. “Ah, there’s still half of the amber left in there. We must be getting light my friend.”
Victor chuckled. “Light? Nay, well, you maybe. You know what we need Nicky boy?”
He passed the bottle back to Victor. “Oh bloody hell. No, not that.”
Victor grinned a bit lopsided. “Oh yes.” He took a deep breath and began. “Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…”
Nicholas took the cute as Victor paused for a drink. “From glen to glen and down the mountain side. The summer’s gone and all the flowers dying…”
Victor shoved the bottle back into his friend’s hand. “Och! Take another swig to tune those pipes.”
Nicholas pushed the bottle back and hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his waistcoat as his chest puffed up with pride. “I will have you know, Reverend Blake said my voice could wake angels.”
“No, he said, you could wake the demons in all nine hells.” Victor started to laugh when he saw the policeman pop around the corner. He leaned against the brick wall and smiled. He knew he was to far gone to pass for sober any other way.
Nicholas straightened and tossed the bottle over the high wall. “Evening, officer. Lovely night for a stroll don’t you think?”
“Aye, evening gents. You should be heading on home at this hour though.” The bobby eyed the men, he could see they were a few sheets to the wind. They weren’t causing trouble so why bother with the paperwork of taking them in.
Nicholas tipped his cap to him. “Yes, sir. That’s right where we’re headed.”
The cop scoffed then continued to walk. Once he was gone around the next corner, Victor breathed a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s totter on before he patrols back. Where’s our fine nectar, boyo?”
“I tossed it over the wall. I wasn’t going to spend the night in the tank.” He thumbed over the top of the bricks to point where.
Victor pulled himself up enough to peek over. “I see it, still intact even. Good thing you throw like a lass. It landed on a new grave, the fresh turned soil cushioned her fall.”
“Grave? This is Westfall Cemetery? Oh no, I don’t want another drink that bad. The bobby was right it’s time to call it a night, Vic.”
“You can’t be afraid of a few old bones. No one in there is going to bite.” Victor laughed as he started to walk toward the gate of the cemetery.
Nicholas grabbed his arm. “You cannot go in there, it’s past midnight and the moon is high. There’s a fresh grave. We can just walk around the other way and go home.”
The other man shook his head. “For the love of Pete, the bobby went that way. I’m not getting pinched again because you’re superstitious. “
With a deep sigh, Nicholas conceded. Neither of them could afford to get busted again by the cops for public drinking. “Alright, but when we pass the gate you have to hold your breath. They can pass through a gate, the spirits that is, and steal your body.”
Victor rolled his eyes and walked toward the gate. Just before they got to the rusted iron barrier Nicholas took a deep breath and readied to rush past it.
His friend had other plans, Victor tried the gate and when it gave he pushed it open. The iron creaked and squealed a bit as it swung on hinges that begged for a drop or two of oil. The horrible sound echoed into the night.
Nicholas was so startled he let go of the breath with a bit of a whelp. “What are you doing? You’re going to bring that bob back around.”
He realized he’d let go of his breath and the gateway was open, the ghosts had permission now to roam. As quickly as he could Nicholas drew another deep breath careful to do it away from the gate.
Victor shook his head. “You are mad boyo. I’m not going to leave some spook half a bottle of third shelf whiskey.”
With that, Victor left his pal on the walk and ventured into the cemetery. It was much darker on this side of the wall. There was only one lantern hung along the walk. He made his way through the row of headstones to the fresh turned soil. He could see the glint of moonlight reflecting off the bottle glass. “There you are my beauty.” He turned and called out over the wall. “I found it.”
Nicholas huffed exasperated and worried. “Don’t breathe you, damn fool. Just hurry up and don’t breathe.”
Victor grinned, plucked the bottle from the earth. He took a swig and turned to head back.
There in a moonbeam stood a man a bit older than Victor but finely dressed. His expression was dower as his eyes took in the sight of the man before him. It was a judgmental glare.
Victor coughed having choked on his whiskey. Once his lungs were clear of the burning liquid Victor placed his hand over his pounding heart. “Mister you gave me a fright. They almost needed to dig another plot.”
Victor chuckled while the man considered him. When the stranger didn’t respond Victor brushed his hand off on the thigh of his pants then offered it. “Name’s Victor Mason, my mate and I just lost our libation.” The silent man made Victor nervous. “May I ask your name, sir?”
The stranger’s lip twitched then he shook Victor’s hand. The stranger’s hand was ice cold and his voice sent a shiver down Victor’s spine. “Jacob Crest. You live here in the village?”
Victor rubbed his palm against his thigh again this time to rid it of that awful sensation. “Yes, all my life.” Something started to feel very off, very wrong. He tipped his hat. “Nice to have meet you, Mr. Crest. I should be going. Early day at the mill and all.”
Jacob nodded and pointed to the headstone of the fresh grave. “Nice, to meet you Mr. Mason. Before you go would you kindly hand me my cane.”
Victor glanced back and saw the cane with a shiny silver bird on top. “Uh… sure.” He stepped back to the freshly covered grave and picked up the walking stick. Just as his hand closed around the shaft a moonbeam illuminated just enough of the tombstone for him to read…
His eyes grew large and he took a deep breath to shout out for Nicholas….
After a couple more minutes, Nicholas shook his head and called into the cemetery. “I’m not waiting any longer, Victor.”
Victor stepped out with the bottle still half full in one hand and a walking stick topped with a silver bird in the other. “No, need to wait. I’m ready to go home.”
Nicholas looked at his friend, something was off, something was wrong. His voice was an octave deeper than it was before. “Are you alright? Where did you get that fancy cane?”
Victor smiled, it wasn’t a lopsided grin. “I’m fine, it was a gift.”
Nicholas took the bottle and drank as they walked back to their flat. His companion didn’t talk or sing. He didn’t even seem tipsy any longer and refused any of the bottle he’d risked his soul to retrieve. When they reached their door Nicholas fumbled with the key.
With an impatient sigh Victor stepped up and took the key. He unlocked the door and looked at Nicholas who stared back. “Victor… your eyes.”
His lip twitched. “Yes, there are two just like yours.” Victor ushered him in and put him to bed quickly to silence any more questions.
In the morning Nicholas woke and sat, bolt upright with the memory of those eyes. He jumped up and hurried into the next bedroom. “Victor….”
The closet was open and Victor’s best clothes had been removed. His suitcase was gone as were any valuable effects. The photo of his ma and siblings still stood on the dresser, as did his journal. Two things Victor would never have left without.
Nicholas sat on the bed and wanted very much to disbelieve. He knew it the moment he had looked into those eyes. Blue eyes, Victor’s had been brown. “You damn fool. I told ya don’t breathe.”
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