“Aw, it’s jus’ a stupid bird,” said Wally cautiously poking his head out the door of the mausoleum.
The large raven, its ebony feathers gleaming a shade of indigo blue in the light of the full moon, sat silently on the stone gate and cast a beady eye at the stubby, plump man peering out at it. Wally ducked back in. “Come on! Don’t be so jumpy. Ain’t no such thang as haints! Thinka all that shiny stuff they buried wit’ old man Brome. We gonna be in the money!”
Bob, a frown on his pinched face, pulled his ball cap low on his forehead. Jim, the third partner in crime, a tall thin man, held a battery powered lantern and led the way through the small entry. They reached the stone steps that led down into the crypt.
Jim held the lantern out, peering into the gloom. “Y’all watch yer step. Ain’t no hand rail.”
Single file, the three grave robbers started down. It would be an easy job. They didn’t even have to dig. It was a private mausoleum on the old Brome estate, nobody around for miles. They’d handily gotten over the stone wall onto the grounds, and even better, the door to the mausoleum wasn’t locked.
“Wha’ wuz that?” hissed Bob, pausing. “Y’all hear that? Sounded like footsteps!”
In front, halfway down the stairs, Jim stopped. He cocked his head listening. Then he shrugged and continued down. “Naw, ain’t heard nothin’. It’s jus’ yo’ ‘magination.”
They headed into the gloom, peering around. “Tha’s where they laid th’ old codger,” said Wally, eagerly shining his flashlight toward the back.
Jim went over, pulled the drawer out and lifted the lid of the coffin. “Wha’ th’- were’s th’ old bastard at?” he exclaimed looking down into the empty interior.
Upstairs, the door slammed shut with a loud bang. Wally jumped, his heart thumping.
Bob sucked in a terrified breath and edged toward the steps. He stumbled into Wally who dropped his flashlight as they both fell, Bob grunting out a pained “oof!” as Wally landed on him. His hat flew off, his stringy hair flopping around as he scrambled to get to his feet. His eyes rounded with fright as a shadowy figure stepped out from a corner, and old man Brome stood there, yellow eyes glaring balefully at the thieves.
Jim turned to run and fell over his partners huddled on the hard floor. His lantern went skidding off and fetched up against the booted foot of the old man.
“Hello, boys,” Brome rattled out in a dusty voice. “You’re right, there’s no such thing as “haints”. However,” he grinned, his pointed teeth glistening in the light of the fallen lantern, “did you ever hear of ghouls?”
The smell of urine permeated the air as he strode toward the cowering men.
Outside, the raven fluttered down from the gate, settling on the grass. It listened to the faint screams coming from the mausoleum. It waited.