When mourners gathered at the grave-side for the burial of
Isaac Archibald Quicksell few were grieving. One brother,
Lionel shared the name Quicksell and there were cousins and
second cousins with connections by marriage who were hoping a
small legacy might come their way. Others attending had no
relationship with the deceased except through business
transactions which Isaac had failed to complete. Most were
there not in respect for Isaac but in respect of the credit he
The pall bearers responsible for lowering the
not-so-dear-departed into his final resting place had known the
tall, lean, miserable, wizened old man who scowled and
complained, scrimped and scraped and grumbled his way round the
village, dressed in faded and roughly repaired clothing which
had gone out of fashion thirty years before. Rumour had it he
was worth a million or more.
Two of the pall bearers were seen to nod and wink as the
hallowed ground accepted the coffin. The larger man nudged the
other and smiled when his companion tapped the side of his
nose, and they left the party of mourners to go in search of
`When you planning to fill in old Isaac then Charlie?' asked
Arthur, the larger of the two pall bearing friends.
`I shan't make him wait too long,' came the reply. Charlie
sensed Arthur Montgomery and Cyril Capstick were up to
something. They usually were, if there was a quid or two to be
`How long would you say that would be then?' asked Cyril.
`An hour or two. I ain't got nothing on today, apart from
`Two quid to delay it until tomorrow,' said Arthur. Charlie
looked at them quizzically through the space above his
spectacles and below the copious growth of hair which was his
eyebrows, but said nothing.
`Two more to keep your mouth shut,' Cyril suggested.
`Five quid and you've got a deal,' said the sexton.
`And no questions asked.'
`No questions,' he said.
`Done!' Arthur produced the five pound note he had expected
would be Charlie's price and paid him off.
The corpse which should have been occupying the coffin was
at the moment of commitment to the earth tucked up in a large
brass bedstead five miles away. He had been borrowed. The
coffin was occupied instead by a rolled up length of carpet
which usually covered the tiles in Cyril's hall.
`A deserving cause,' Arthur told Cyril.
`A good piece of carpet,' said Cyril; Arthur agreed.
`But when an old friend needs to borrow something from you
and is willing to pay for the privilege you don't ask
questions,' he said.
`I'll have him back here by midnight tomorrow,' said Zeb.
Arthur and Cyril agreed to meet him by the lychgate at the
back of the church yard with the sexton's wheelbarrow. Isaac
would be transported to where the empty coffin awaited him and
on the following morning Charlie would fill him in and no one
would be any the wiser.
Zeb arrived in his car at the back entrance to the church
yard as arranged but without his passenger.
`Where is he then?' asked Cyril.
`Yes, where is he Zeb.' Arthur Montgomery was a formidable
figure when he squared his shoulders and pulled himself up to his
height. Zeb looked worried.
`The doctor came and looked at him, that was all right, but
they moved him to the chapel of rest and Uncle Ed wants to keep
for a day or two, so that relatives can come and see. A sort of lyin'
state in Croxford Chapel of Rest. So there is no doubt in anyone's
that Giles Edward Longfield is indeed dead.'
`Which he isn't.' said Arthur.
`No.' said Zeb chuckling, `But he's got his death
`It'll cost 'im,' said Arthur.
`I told him it would,' agreed Zeb.
`How much did you tell him?' asked Cyril.
`I can let you have another twenty.'
`Oooh, I don't know about that.' Arthur's thick hairy fingers
rubbed his stubbly chin. `Double that might be enough... per day.
do you think Cyril?'
`It might... just, but no more than two days mind or
Charlie'll start asking questions.'
`Done.' said Zeb climbing into his car. `He'll just have to
pay up.' Arthur's big hairy hand was already out.
`We'll have the cash now Zeb or... somebody might discover
Isaac's gone missing. You know how it is.'
Arthur and Cyril went back to their beds agreeing to meet up
again at first light when they knew Charlie would begin his filling
`It'll cost us.' said Cyril.
`Yea. The Reverend Thomas Carshallton is very keen on
filling in prompt like. Charlie'll have to have a good reason
keeping him waiting.'
They decided the discussion of terms could wait until the
* * * *
`Lookin' for some-body were you?' Cyril noticed something
unusual about the way Charlie greeted him. He was smiling.
`Arthur and me'd like you to delay a bit longer.'
`I'll bet you would Cyril Capstick.' Just then Arthur
`You'd like me to stall a bit I hear,' Arthur Montgomery,
but I'm afraid it can't be done.'
The two friends looked at each other and gulped audibly.
`Charlie!' they exclaimed.
`I gotta fill him in and turf him over quick because
somebody suspects that Isaac Quicksell was murdered.' Arthur
and Cyril looked at each other and then at Charlie in disbelief.
`Poisoned!' said Charlie, `and do you know what that means?'
He paused. `That means exhumin', and if Isaac ain't filled in they
'im up now can they? Goodmornin' to you both.'
Charlie trundled his barrow off towards the cluster of new
graves he was going to turf over. When Cyril and Arthur caught up
him he was moving the boards off the top of Isaac's grave.
`No, Charlie. You mustn't.'
`You can't do it.' Charlie straightened his back.
`What's it worth?'
`Fifteen.' said Arthur looking into the gaping hole. Charlie
smiled. `It's gotta be worth more than that or someone might
Isaac's gone missing. You know how it is.' He laughed loudly. `He
isn't in there is he boys? You were gonna put him back under cover
darkness last night but something's gone wrong hasn't it?' He
pushing his cap onto the back of his head. `How long do you need?'
started replacing the planks across the grave. `I'll be fillin' him
at ..' he looked at his watch, `ten o'clock sharp, that gives you
hours to collect and deliver.' His outstretched hand went very near
Arthur's trouser pocket. That'll be thirty. Fifteen now and fifteen
I lifts the lid.'
The two friends turned back towards the lychgate.
`There's a workman's special to Croxford in five minutes,'
said Arthur, `We'll just about make it.'
* * * *
They stood under the window of Zeb's cottage. Cyril was
clutching a handful of pebbles. `What if we wake his wife? It's still
`Cross that bridge when we come to it.' said Arthur. `This
is an emergency.' Just then a light went on in the small window on
end of the cottage.
`There he is.' They could see an unmistakable masculine
attitude through the obscure glass standing head bowed in
communion with nature.
`Our luck's in.' Cyril shied half a dozen pebbles at the
bathroom window. `Zeb, Zeb, it's us, come on down, quick.'
The figure raised it's head, reached out to the handle and
flushed the lavatory. The window burst open.
`Zeb, we've got to get Isaac back, he was poisoned, they're
going to...' Before Cyril had finished his sentence the window
shut and Zeb was rushing down the stairs to the front door.
`We got to have him back Zeb. They're going to dig him up
this afternoon and he ain't buried yet.'
`Going to exhume are they? That's serious,' said Zeb.
`It's very serious,' said Arthur.
`How are you going to get him back to St Peter's?'
`We hadn't thought of that' said Cyril.
`Oh, yes we had,' said Arthur, `We'll take a taxi.'
`I could give you a lift in my car... .'
`No' said Cyril, `I'm not sitting in the back of your car
with a stiff.'
`How much is a taxi gonna cost? asked Zeb.
`Ten each.' said Arthur `And we've already had to pay Charlie
to keep the grave open. Your bill is mounting fast Zeb, borrowing
corpses is an expensive business.'
`Ten each is thirty pounds man,' said Zeb `There's three of
you, don't forget.'
`Four.' said Cyril, `Don't imagine we'll be taking all the risks
while you sit back with your feet up. You're coming too.'
`My Uncle Ed won't never cough up.' Zeb sounded worried.
Arthur spoke slowly. `We'll leave him then Zeb. We'll just
have to own up, and face the music.' He grabbed Cyril's elbow
and propelled him down the garden path before he could open his
mouth to protest. They left Zeb standing on the doorstep with
his mouth wide open and hurtled round the corner.
`He started all this,' said Arthur, `He borrowed Isaac so his
Ed could be certified dead by the doctor and then collect his own
Insurance; right? '
`Right,' said Cyril.
`He asked for an extension. Right?'
`Right.' said Arthur.
`So he pays. Right?
Arthur stepped out into the road as Zeb came scuttling after them
his dressing gown.
`I was thinking..' Zeb began.
`Good. So was I.' said Arthur. `You go and get your wife's key.
She does the cleanin' in the chapel, don't she? Then we'll organise
bring his taxi round while you go and knock up old Isaac.'
'You're in this as deep as us.' said Cyril.
'Deeper.' Said Arthur.
* * * *
Two Police vehicles were pulling away from the front door
of the church when the taxi arrived in Overbury village. Basil drove
round to the back where Charlie was waiting for them.
`This is going to cost you,' said Charlie as they drew up by the
`Where are the police now?' asked Arthur.
`They've just gawn, haven't they?' Charlie was leering
triumphantly. `They come early, and they've gawn.'
`Blimey! What did you ...?'
`I couldn't let them take away the empty coffin could I?'
`I'm glad you didn't, that was my hall carpet in there,' said
`What did you do for Heaven's sake? We shall all be
arrested,' said Arthur. Charlie remained calm.
`Nobody will be arrested, I used my initiative, but it'll cost
Initiative comes expensive.'
`What did you do? What's it going to cost Charlie?' asked Zeb
`They went off perfectly happy with Ivor Standing lying in the
`Oh!' said Arthur, `Was that wise?'
`You sent the police away with Ivor Standing? You must be
mad,' shouted Zeb.
`Ivor didn't mind, and the police didn't mind so what's it to
except another thirty five quid?'
Charlie was apparently enjoying himself, but the others
looked concerned. They manoeuvred Isaac out of the taxi boot and
the wheelbarrow. Arthur, who held the purse strings, paid off
with a bonus for keeping mum. In true Montgomery style he was
very concerned about cash flow. This had seemed like a chance for
bit of easy money but things weren't working out quite as they
expected. Zeb had got the four of them into this fix and it was he
was going to have to find the cash to get them out of it.
When Zeb returned to his cottage in Croxford, Arthur, Cyril
and Charlie went with him. Uncle Ed thought they were going to
him and got into a terrible state because he didn't fancy jail but as
pointed out they wouldn't dream of doing such a terrible thing, he
have his fare to Australia and welcome, of course he could.
`What remains of the insurance after we've bought you a single
economy flight to Australia will be split four ways,' said Arthur.
understand we had to use our initiative on your behalf and
comes very expensive, don't it Charlie?' Charlie nodded.
Not surprisingly the police found no poison in the body of
Ivor Standing, so they concluded Isaac's loving relatives had not
him after all and the body was returned to the grave from which it
Arthur, Cyril and Zeb were in the public bar of their local
hostelry, waiting for Charlie. He would be ready for a pint when
finished filling in and turfing over Ivor and Isaac in the sincere
neither would be disturbed from their rest again.
Missing Body Mystery reported the Overbury Evening Echo that
same day. Charlie joined his friends. He tossed the paper onto the
in front of them.
Body snatched from Croxford Chapel of Rest.' Arthur read.
`My Uncle was no sooner dead than he was kidnapped, says
Zebedee Sturt, but I have his death certificate, I hope the
company will pay up.'
`And so say all of us,' said Cyril raising his glass.
`So it all went off without any hassle then, Charlie?' said Zeb.
`I should coco! Charlie began to chuckle `I had to use my
initiative again though, and as you know ...'
`Initiative comes expensive!' The friends chorused.
`So when a police constable noticed that the little fellow,
- that's Ivor, - had a coffin big enough for a man a good foot
Charlie laughed, `I had to give him a satisfactory answer?'
They waited with baited breath while Charlie drained his
glass and put it up for a refill. He wiped his mouth with the back of
hand. `I told him his relatives was that mean they bought it second
with room for him to grow into it.'
`What did he have to say to that?' asked Cyril nervously.
`Nothin,' said Charlie. `He looked at me as though I was
daft! My only regret is that poor old Isaac won't be as
comfortable in Ivor's coffin as he would have been in his own.'
`Don't worry,' said Cyril. `The old bugger'll have
something worth complainin' about at last.'
Charlie laid two ten pound notes on the table. `That's for
your hall carpet Cyril. The Vicar saw me with it and wanted to buy
for the church porch, so I had to let him have it.'
`That was a good bit of carpet!' Cyril exclaimed.
`Well, you'd better have the other five then,' said Charlie
pulling another note from his top pocket.
A thought was niggling at the back of Arthur's mind. `If Isaac
was poisoned by one of his relatives, we have, so to speak, done
relative a service,' he said. `I figure there could be some ready to
made here, if we play our cards right,' he paused to put up his
'Who's round is it?'
approximately 2,505 words.