It was raining halfheartedly and Julie stood there feeling appropriately soggy. The body of her husband inert and unreachable under the ground at her feet, while the constant drizzle turned the freshly filled plot into sludge. It was a miserable day, cold, damp, uncomfortable and seemed about right to Julie. It feels like its been raining all my life, she thought, why should it be any different now that he’s dead?
There was a hand on her shoulder.
‘Mrs. Jenkins?’ the hand said.
‘If you’ve come to say you’re sorry then don’t. I’m not sorry and I don’t care if you are.’ She turned to face the hand. There was a handsome looking man attached to it. She looked at him through tired eyes. ‘I thought you were someone else.’
‘That’s quite all right, Mrs. Jenkins,’ the man said, offering his hand.
It had been an exhausting week, arranging the burial of her husband. Julie never understood before how much work it took disposing of the dead. Her husband’s complicated life had extended itself into the grave, leaving her alone with two kids, streams of paperwork, a slew of family and friends and their unrelenting condolences. She found it hard to raise the energy for formality.
‘People just call me JJ,’
The man smiled delicately, with only the corners of his mouth. He was somewhere in his late thirties judging by the slight wrinkles around his eyes. There was a certain lonely look to him, but his voice was soft and kind as it tried on her name.
‘JJ, then. Please, call me Hemingway,’
Julie took the man’s hand and shook it briefly. ‘You knew my husband?’
‘Yes, in a way. Though I only met him twice. I worked for him in a small capacity for a good many years.’
Julie turned back to look at the muddied plot. ‘He never mentioned you.’
‘I can’t imagine he would have.’
The truth was that Carter had never talked to Julie about anything. He was as much of a mystery now as he had been in the beginning. She had loved that at first, there was something so reassuring about a man who acted without need for conversation or deliberation. Carter was a stone wall that she had built her life around.
Julie sighed over her dead husband. ‘It’s too late for him to say anything now.’
‘I’m sorry, JJ.’
‘So am I, but not for him.’
They stood together in the hush and patter of rain, coming to terms with their own thoughts. Hemingway spoke first, his voice, softened in the falling water. ‘JJ, there’s something I have to tell you that may not want to hear.’
Julie spun sharply and stumbled, her heel sinking into the damp soil. As she fell forward Hemingway stepped in, bracing her by the elbows. He steadied her on her feet, smiling apologetically as though for his own clumsiness. She looked at the man with a mixture of embarrassment and anger, silently daring him to speak.
Hemingway stuffed his hands into the pockets of his coat and let his eyes drop. ‘I need to tell you about the work I did for your husband.’
It was getting cold and Julie was soaked through. She ran a hand through her hair, leaving tracks in the wet blonde mess. It was done for now and so was she, he was in the ground. All she wanted now was to shower and sleep. She didn’t want to do this today but the man in front of her meant to say his piece. Better to get it over with.
‘If you want to tell me why you killed him,’ she said, ‘then I think we should go somewhere dry.’