© Copyright 2013 - Jo - Used by permission
Storycodes: Solo-F+; MF+/mf; strip; naked; funeral; casket; encase; transport; cons; X
Denise checked her watch.
No way was she going to make ten blocks in ten minutes. She crossed the street, dodging traffic, and climbed into a cab parked outside the Marriott.
"508 Pecan," she told the driver.
Still the ride took fifteen minutes, but she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw another cab at the curb and Lisa stepping out. Lisa was Anderson's go-to gal so if she was late how much trouble could there be?
The woman turned and waited for Denise to pay the driver. They turned to the walkway.
"Uh. This is the right address, isn't it?"
"That's what he said. 508 Pecan."
The sign read: Whiteford Funeral Home, est. 1954, J.J. Whiteford Esq. III Proprietor.
"Oookay. He's sent us to some odd places, but a funeral home?"
"Of course, asking us to wear black makes sense now."
"Yeah. I thought that was odd."
They stepped through the door. It was like every other funeral home she'd been in. Not too bright, not too dark, kind of somber.
"Ah, ladies. Welcome."
The man was middle age, handsome in a rugged sort of way with a deep tan and a wisp of white hair at his temples. He extended his hand.
"Hello. A pleasure."
"If you'll just follow me. Down that hallway, third door on the right. The others are here. They'll fill you in. Here we are."
Eight women were in the room, each naked beneath a sheer black veil wearing only their shoes. The veils hung down to their knees.
"Uh, what's going on?"
Tina shrugged. "Beats me. He just said to get undressed and put on a veil."
"Didn't Anderson tell anybody anything? You know how he likes to brag on himself."
"Speaking of Anderson, where is he? He always supervises these things."
"He doesn't do funeral homes. Something from his childhood. They totally creep him out."
"Well, I'm not 100 percent comfortable myself. This is weird. Hey. Where's Audrey?"
Audrey was the new girl. Asian with long dark hair and light, cocoa-colored skin. She called herself a mutt because she had no idea who her parents were let alone where they came from.
There was a gentle knock on the door. Denise opened it.
"Ladies? Are we ready?"
Ready for what?
"I think so. Is this it? Just a veil and shoes?"
"Yes. Yes. Quite appropriate."
He offered his arm, Denise took it. Kind of awkward to do from under the veil. He led her from the room into one of the parlors. There were rows of chairs and two stands of flowers, but no casket. Music played softly in the background.
There were ten chairs in the front row, five on each side of an aisle. The ten women sat. A minute passed, then two. There was the muted sound of doors opening. They turned. Eight men filed in in pairs followed by two pushing a bronze colored casket. Another man trailed the group.
The eight took seats behind the women, the two with the casket positioned it near the wall, opened the lid. The casket was high enough or the seats low enough that Denise couldn't see if there was a body in it, but Tina reached over and grabbed her hand, gave her a look.
Yeah. Creepy. Definitely creepy.
The ten men stood behind the women. The lone man stood to one side. One by one the men led the women to view the "body."
Denise didn't know whether to scream or giggle. There was Audrey, naked beneath a white veil, eyes closed, the picture of peaceful repose. For one instant Denise wondered whether she was alive, but, yes, her chest rose and fell gently. She stood for a minute before being led away. They didn't return to the seats, they formed a semicircle around the casket. After the last viewing, the lone man walked to the casket, gazed at the woman lying there, and removed his clothes.
Naked, he climbed into the casket. Two of the men lowered and fastened the lid. Another folded the man's clothes and placed them in a black, cloth bag. He set the bag on the casket.
The men led the women out of the room and through the home, out the back door. A hearse was parked in the drive, its side door open. The men wheeled the casket up to the car, slid it in, rotated it, locked it down, and closed the door.
The men led the women to two limos. Everyone climbed in. Denise could feel the tension. She wanted to burst out laughing and she knew the others did, too, but the men were there looking very somber.
They drove through the city, ten naked women behind black glass. Nudity had never bothered her, but this just felt odd. Despite the glass she felt everyone could see her. Traffic stopped to let them through. Very respectful.
They rolled on to the highway, a few miles later off the highway. They were out of the city and the two-lane road wound through the countryside. The sign over the gate said: Eternal Rest Cemetery. They drove in.
Down in a back corner a grave had been dug. The carriage was in place. A green turf mat surrounded the hole.
They exited the cars, the hearse pulled up, the door popped open, and the men removed the casket, wheeled it over to the grave. A man came by with a basket of roses and each woman took one.
No one said a word.
Once everybody was assembled the mechanism whirred to life and the casket was slowly lowered. Denise felt a moment of panic.
They aren't going to bury them, are they?!
When the casket reached the bottom the couples filed past, each woman tossing her rose into the hole. Back in the limo they made their way into the city, parked behind the funeral home. They filed into an elevator in small groups and rode to the second floor.
The place probably had been a family home way back when, but now it was apparent to Denise that no one lived there. The furnishings were opulent. The kitchen was bare save platters of food and bottles of booze on the counter.
"Yes. Thanks. White wine?"
"Coming right up. I'm Randy." He held up a hand. "Please. No jokes. That's my name."
Drinks in hand the noise level went up. Nobody touched the food and Denise had the sense they were waiting for something. And she was right.
The elevator doors opened and casket man (now clothed) came in with Audrey on his arm. She, as the other women, was still naked under her veil. Like a switch being thrown the room went silent.
Whiteford stepped over to the man. He reached something from his pocket. It turned out to be a pin and he fastened it to his lapel. He clapped him on the shoulder.
"Welcome to the club, Roger."
"Roger! You da man!"
Denise couldn't help but smile. So it was all some kind of initiation.
Tina leaned close to Denise and whispered, "You don't think there are, like, you know, dead people down stairs, do you?"
"God! I hope not."