‘Get over here, Sparky!’ Michael called. He’d only stopped at home briefly to let his Dachshund out, and he didn’t have a lot of time before he had to be back at the office. He waited a minute, and then called the dog again. Still no Sparky. With an irritated look at his watch, Michael resigned himself to a search. Now he really wished he’d taken the time to put Sparky on her lead before letting her out.
He’d just started walking around when Sparky came running towards him. ‘There you are!’ he said. ‘Come on, I’m gonna be late back to the office.’ He leaned down to pet Sparky and noticed fresh dirt clinging to her brown-and-black front paws and muzzle. He brushed the dirt off and scratched her ears. ‘What the hell have you been digging up?’ he asked. Then he looked over at the part of the property where she’d been digging. It would figure that she’d pick the very place where the landscaping company had just put in some fresh flowers and bushes. Three of the new birds-of-paradise lay flat on the ground next to a large, fresh mound of dirt. Amazing how one little dog could do so much digging.
Michael went over to the hill of dirt to see how bad the damage was. He looked into it and froze in place when he saw the hand at the bottom. He stepped back quickly, then he looked again. Oh, God, that was a human body in there. Someone had buried a body right on the apartment community’s property!
He absently called Sparky again and took her back inside, his mind whirling. He went into the kitchen and got a bottle of whisky from his liquor cabinet. He found a glass, poured himself a whisky and drained it in a few gulps. Then he refilled the glass and walked out onto his balcony, from where he could see the landscapers coming back to work after their lunch break.
The obvious thing to do was call the cops. But then he’d have to give his name and contact information – not something he wanted to do. The last thing he’d need would be the police getting interested in him. It wasn’t as though he were a serial killer or anything, but the authorities probably wouldn’t look very kindly on his side business of making fake IDs and other documents at his printing company.
Then, as Michael watched the workers, a thought came to him. Those workers had to know something about that body. He was no expert, but he couldn’t imagine they’d have been able to lay down new soil and all of those plantings without seeing it. Oddly enough though, they didn’t seem to be paying any attention to it. Maybe they had their own reasons for not wanting to tell anyone. Maybe one of them had put the body there.
‘Oh, that’s ridiculous,’ Michael muttered to himself. He really needed to lay off the lunchtime whisky. Shaking his head, he went into the bathroom and after using it, brushed his teeth to get the smell of the liquor off his breath. Then he gave Sparky a final pet and left his apartment, locking the door behind him. He passed the workers on his way to his car. Weird how they were just going about their business as though nothing was wrong.
Michael wasn’t stupid, but it sometimes took a bit of time for things to sink in. So it wasn’t until two hours later, right after he finished an appointment with a client who wanted wedding invitations, that it hit him. If that landscaping company was like some of the other companies around here, it probably hired people who would be just as well pleased to have access to his services. A US driver license or passport could come in very handy for someone who couldn’t get one legally. He could make use of what he’d guessed about that company.
As soon as he could, he left the office and drove home as quickly as traffic allowed. He pulled into his assigned parking place and got out of his car. Good, the landscaping crew was still there. He looked around: no-one else was in sight. So he went over to where the workers were digging up more soil. ‘Excuse me,’ he said to the man closest to him. ‘Can I speak to your boss?’ The man smiled and shrugged.
‘No hablo inglés,’ he muttered. Then another man joined them.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, gesturing towards his workmate, ‘He doesn’t speak English. Can I help?’
‘Yes,’ Michael said. ‘I’d like to speak to your boss if he’s here.’
‘Over there,’ the man said, jerking his chin towards a tall, paunchy man who was standing next to the landscaping truck, talking on his telephone.
‘Thanks,’ Michael said.
This would be easy, Michael thought to himself. And lucrative. He walked over to where the crew boss had just finished his conversation.
‘Can I help you?’ the boss asked politely.
‘More like whether I can help you,’ Michael answered.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘I saw your crew earlier. ‘
‘They’ve been here all day.’
‘I know what they did.’
‘They were planting,’ said the man. But his face twitched just a little.
‘Yeah, well, I know what they were planting,’ said Michael. ‘I watched them.’
Now the man’s face went a little pale. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘Let’s talk about this.’
‘That’s what I’m here for. What’s your name?’
‘My name’s David. What is it exactly that you want?’
‘I have an idea that can help us both. I’ll bet you’d rather not call a lot of attention to your crew here and what they do. So let’s go have a drink and discuss an arrangement that I think you’ll be interested in.’
David didn’t have much choice, so he followed Michael back to his apartment. As they got to the door, Sparky started barking; she wasn’t happy about letting a stranger into her territory. But after a few minutes, she calmed down. As Michael poured out two glasses of whisky, David sat at the small dining table. He unbuckled his tool belt and pulled off the work gloves he’d been wearing.
‘Now here’s my idea,’ Michael said after they’d clinked glasses. ‘I own a printing company. I sometimes use that equipment for other things, like IDs.’
Now David understood. ‘Passports too?’
‘That can be done.’
‘OK, so what’s your plan?’
‘You make use of my services for all of your people. Only my services. I mind my own business about what I saw.’
David sat silently for a moment. He took another sip of his whisky. ‘All right,’ he finally said with a sigh. ‘Don’t have much choice, I guess.’
The two men finished their drinks and Michael carried the glasses to the sink. That’s why he didn’t see David coming up behind him. The shears David carried on his belt weren’t big, but they were sharp enough to do their job. Michael slumped to the floor.
Twenty minutes later, David made another telephone call.
‘It’s me…yeah, it’s done…all filled in…nope, I cleaned up…no, just a dog. Mind if I keep her? She’s kinda cute…OK, we can do that job on Wednesday. Yeah, we’ll be there.’
He finished his call and slipped the telephone back into his pocket. No need to tell his supervisor about the fifty dollars he’d found in Michael’s wallet. Landscaping businesses were the perfect cover for helping people get rid of their problems. Too bad for that guy Michael that his side business had started to annoy Hugh Campbell. Campbell ran the biggest counterfeit operation in the area and he wanted it to stay that way. It wasn’t David’s fault if Campbell had hired his boss’ company to make sure that happened.