PAYING THE PIPER
Robert looked out his bedroom window, hoping for impassible snow drifts. He needed a breather from the office. All thoughts of frozen precipitation fled his mind when he was greeted by the sight of the two gentlemen in top hats and tails digging a hole in his front yard. The taller of the two men had his back to Robert, but the shorter one was staring right up at him, lips pulled back from blackened teeth in a vicious grin that told Robert everything he needed to know about the purpose of that deep, dark hole. It started to snow.
Robert half ran, half stumbled out of the bedroom and into the hallway. He ran a few steps, the image of the madman’s grin burning in his mind. He tripped again at the top of the steps and tumbled down to the first landing. He laid there for a minute, trying to get the strength to stand back up again. Finally, he crawled back to his feet and ran for the back door. His feet pounded the linoleum and he nearly crashed into the back door. He steadied himself, grabbed the knob and threw the door open. The two men stood in the doorway, both smiling.
They stared at each other for a full minute, Robert’s heart beating hard in his chest. The pair parted like the red sea, revealing a large wooden cart with a human form wrapped in a bloody sheet. Wide eyed, Robert staggered between the men and walked over to the cart. He pulled back the sheet and stared down into his wife’s lifeless eyes.
“Mr. Henderson, time to pay the pipers,” the tall man said.
Robert closed his eyes and covered her head. “Was it quick?”
“No, Mr. Henderson,” said the short man. “She suffered a great deal.”
Robert stared at the couple, and then pulled out his wallet.
“Well all right! Nice work boys!” Robert took out a wad of hundred dollar bills and handed them to the tall man.
“Thank you, Mr. Henderson,” the tall man said, counting the money and handing half to the short man.
“Okay, boys, plant her in the yard,” Robert said. “You boys coming tomorrow night for poker?”
“We’ll be here,” the short man said.
“Good. Give me a chance to win some of that back from you.”
“The way you play, that’s doubtful, Mr. Henderson,” the tall man said, grinning ear to ear.
“We’ll see about that. You Pipers have a safe ride home.”
Robert went back inside, leaving the Pipers to finish their gardening duties.