Image by Simon Howden, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
The casket was full of hair, Silvain could hardly close it again for all the floating strands reaching out at him.
“Damned witches.” He grunted sourly. “They never throw anything away,”
Rilo was tossing dead books over his shoulder.
“Indeed. By God but this stuff is worth less than a pittance.”
“Don’t say the Lord’s name like that, not in a witches’ house.” Silvain scolded him.
“Can’t complain if she’s dead.”
“Even so.” Silvain stopped to cross himself. “Never curse in a witches’ house, the devil might hear you.”
“The devil, pah!” Rilo leant against the table, narrowly avoiding the raven gizzards.
“You know there’s not nearly as much as Vicar promised. All I’ve got so far is a set of gold teeth, and some of these nasty, blood-rusty knives. It’s been hardly worth our bother murdering that foul crone in the first place.”
“Count your blessings” Silvain replied, his head in a chest of dread unguents and ointments.
“All I found was Mr Simpkin’s hand.”
“His hand? Grief! How so?”
“Oh I knew it to be his at once. He still had the brand of the cross on his forefinger.”
Rilo shook his head and muttered “See, religion never did good by anyone.”
Then came a heavy, slow knock at the door, it cut through the calm of the cottage like an axe falling and it knocked three times.
“Christ’s eyes! Who can that be?” Rilo hissed.
“Quiet, you’ll raise the devil!” Silvain was pleading now.
“Devil take me! I’m more afraid of those bandits out for gold.”
“Now calm down, it’s probably the Vicar come to see if the job’s been done.”
Silvain waved him off and moved towards the door, his heart beating in his ears like the sound of the witch beating out her rugs on a Sunday.
The door fell open at his touch, but there was no one.
“Hullo?” he called but nothing answered.
He wandered out into the herb garden, the corpse was still there, her body, limp beside the thyme, her head somewhere in amongst the parsley.
“Vicar?” Silvain called. He kept walking. There was a rustling, twitching, snuffling sound, a feeling like the world was turning backwards, Silvain felt an ice hand on his heart. Somewhere behind him, a door slammed shut and an oath blew away.
“Rilo?” He called, this time afraid, for when he turned, he could see no head in the parsley and no body in the thyme.