179 - fix
fter enough time, dirt was just dirt. In times past, Tilly would have drawn a distinction between the dirt he saw here in the cemetery and the dirt he used in his garden at home. He wasn't different from other people, at least he hadn't been. He considered this ground hallowed.
But with familiarity came disregard. Tilly now only cared about the soil's color. The brighter it was, the fresher the burial. He avoided gravesites which were obviously new. Skeletons were like wine. The greater the age, the better.
His spade cut through the ground with the monotonous sound of routine. Tilly rolled the exhumed earth around so that it fell under the narrow beam of light from his headlamp. The color was dull, and the soil looked quite dry. Good.
Six feet was a formidable amount of ground to move through, especially for one man in one night. Fortunately, Tilly knew that the gravediggers employed by the cemeteries were often lazy. Rarely did anyone actually hop into a grave to measure its depth, so the gravediggers could dig until it merely looked deep enough.
Tilly's hole didn't have to be pretty. He just had to make it functional, and tonight's work was progressing swimmingly. Little of the night had passed at all when he heard the tell-tale clunk of his shovel's blade against the top of the casket.
He kept at it, creating enough space in the surrounding earth to open up the top half of the casket. That would be enough. Tilly never wasted any effort beyond what was necessary. He saved time that way. Daylight had a way of sneaking up quickly.
When he had the required room to operated, he wasted no time in getting the casket open. He no longer had to prepare himself for crossing that threshold. No sight or odor remained too ghastly for him. He had seen it all.
The lids did not always open easily. Time and dirt did a decent job of shutting them tightly. So Tilly exerted no small force in getting the upper half open. He was already sweating heavily from the dig. In a jerking, halting fashion, the lid swung open, and Tilly waited for the dust to settle.
His torch sent thin beams of light through the cloud of decay, until he finally laid eyes on his prize. Tilly was delighted to see that tonight's efforts certainly were worthwhile. They didn't always prove to be. Corpses too decayed, or worse, not decayed enough. Or the occasional burial that had already been ransacked by other individuals in the same industry. Tonight, he was lucky.
This specimen would fetch a handsome price, Tilly was sure. Quickly, he removed the skeleton's possessions. Better to leave everything but the skeleton behind. Items designed for burial were of supremely low-quality. Jewelry and other burial mementos were always cheap imitations. Families were smart enough to not throw valuables away under the ground.
The only buried treasure was the intact skeleton. Dirty work in a few senses, definitely. But for Tilly, the second-hand skeleton market allowed him to live a life well-beyond his means. Everything was bagged up nicely, and he worked his way out of the hole he dug himself.
Back on the ground, he replaced the freshly-exhumed dirt. His handiwork would remain obvious to anyone passing by over the next few days, so he scouted out graves with dates of birth and death far from the present. Signs of derelict were always good, too.
Even if someone did notice the churned ground, he left no other clues behind. By noon tomorrow, he and his bounty would be three counties away.