"You dig anymore slow I'm going to put up a tent ", I lashed out at Rahul who was taking his sweet time digging. He stopped digging and looked at me surprised. "I didn't know you brought tent" he told me with genuine surprise. I sighed and told him I was joking. It was hard to find good help digging graves these days. Everyone was so afraid, not of ghosts though. The good old days when people would lash out at strange noises was over. Nowadays reality had sunk in the minds of people. Graves weren't safe anymore. It is no secret that behind the silent still night in the grave drug dealers and criminals found their heaven. Dogs roaming around increased the risk. The risk of accidentally hurting one and getting bitten by stray dogs was a nightmare even today. The fear of rabies was greater than fear of ghosts.
A clink sound in the hole broke my train of thought. “We have got a casket. What do you want me to do with it” Rahul asked. “Take it out let’s take it to crime lab.” I said. “ Its illegal sir. It’s stealing. That too from a dead person.” He was panicking . “We are not stealing from the dead Rahul. We are stealing the dead.”
He did not seemed happy. I knew forcing him would do no good. Even as a forensic medical examiner it was hard for me to find someone to prove a theory.
Life was going peaceful and smooth before I was called for an exhumation In St .Thomas grave last month. There was a body without a casket. The family had paid extra money for casket and it was missing. First suspicion naturally fell on the casket makers whom people accused of reusing the caskets to save money. They of course denied it vehemently. The police could not get a warrant to search the other graves as it might cause a delicate situation apparently. No one wanted to disturb the dead except the people who wanted to make a profit .All this has led me to ask the help of Rahul, who helps in the lab.
Now we are standing in the dark with torchlights, pickaxe, spade and a pile of soil he managed to dig out. I was the torch guy. Thinking it is never wise to anger the help I agreed to put the body and casket back after examining it. I started examining the outside of the casket. The wood seemed repainted. There was strong smell of paint making it feel like new. Flowers were carved in the lid. A new fashion that has started in a few months time I thought. We opened the casket and a dog barked in distance. Rahul seemed anxious to close the lid and get home. Because of the dogs, not the lid opening. He has seen his share of bodies in the morgue. It was his livelihood. The money was bad and this was the only job he knew. Educated people found it hard to find decent jobs these days. He was still in his youth wanting to save money so he could go to college one day. Whenever someone asked me if I knew someone to help with chores I always suggested him. Trustworthy he was and he wanted the money and was willing to work for it.
Another dog barked in response to the first dog and we hastily lifted the heavy lid and placed it sideways. I shone the torch inside. The white bed seemed unslept. Wait. The body was missing. Me and Rahul stared at each other dumbstruck and time flew. The dogs now took turns barking which luckily woke us up from trance.
“We are going to jail . It was all your idea. Never in my life have I been accused of stealing the dead.” Rahul sat down near the casket upset holding his chin in his hands. “We are not going to jail. It’s okay” I tried to console him with no use.
I thought of the implications this have. We cannot go to police about missing a body because we would have to explain how we know. An anonymous call would be definitely ignored. They had enough problems to deal with new bodies and people than old ones. Moreover the grave made it a sensitive topic. Not reporting would be wrong. Reporting would land us in jail. If anyone found us here it would mean us being charged for stealing and trespassing with murder. We should get out of here I thought.
I shone the torch again in the casket. The white sheet hasn’t been slept in at all. It was new. So there never was a body here. I looked closely at the sheets with torchlight and lens. I found a strand of black thin hair in it. Another black hair was found at the other side of the casket. It seemed thicker but impossible to tell if it was from same person or not. Damn. Almost every young person had black hair. I carefully picked the two samples with tweezer and placed it on plastic evidence covers and closed it .
I checked the sheet for blood and other stains. There was none to be seen. “Rahul, let’s keep the lid back on and get out of here” I told Rahul.
He looked happy at the thought. We kept the lid back on with effort. I took the lens and checked the lid. It was scratched in many places. Some scratches looked deep and had been covered with layers of paint. It would have mattered for stealing casket theory I thought. Now it was a missing body case. We climbed back to ground level and started shoveling the soil back. It seemed like hours. It was done at last. We then proceeded to plant the plants which we had to pull out to shovel the grave. After staging it with atmost care we took our tools and started walking out when we heard noises.
“We are getting caught” shrieked Rahul. I shushed him and pulled him to hide behind a stone grave. Three men were busy shoveling the grave. They had just started the job. I looked closely at them and recognized one of them working for the casket making company. I smiled for the first time and told Rahul to stay hidden. I went over to them quietly and in a strong calm voice said the guys name. The effect that had on them was funny. The guy who’s name I called dropped his tool. The other guys scattered to different directions instantly. I grabbed the only guy left before he realized people are more dangerous than ghosts especially in a graveyard.
“Caught you red-handed didn’t I. Like I told I would.” I told him pretending to be here to catch them in the act. “The manager forced me to fire if I didn’t do this sir. Please let me go sir.” He mumbled frightened.
I secretly thanked God for giving me this chance. I told him that we could work upon a deal. If he admitted to the police of the company’s involvement in stealing and reusing casket, I would leave him out of it. Also while committing the crime they also failed to report the missing bodies. He agreed everything because jail seemed more scary than joblessness. I let him go and he ran away in fear I might call others. I returned to Rahul and we walked away happily. We agreed no more graves again.