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Beneficiaries

Alan McCabe was born into the funeral business. His grandfather was the founder of Serene Pastures funeral home. The old man left the care of his legacy to his son, Martin. The twenty-seven years Martin ran Serene Pastures were steady, and upon his death, he passed the family business onto his son Allan.

Martin saw to it Alan was well versed in the trade. He taught his son and protege to be a capable mortician and businessman. His dutiful wife Elizabeth was a dependable and competent administrator between the two of them they were able to run a tight ship. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t always remain so favorable.

Death is a steady business to be sure but the area Serene Pastures serviced became less and less lucrative over the years. The elderly died debt-ladened and abandoned by their kin in local morgues. No one had money to spring for grandma and grandpas memorial services. Heroin overdoses kept a trickle of business flowing, but these were more often than not very modest affairs.

Elizabeth was in the small home office they kept above the parlor. She sat in a plush office chair with her swollen feet soaking in warm water with a steaming cup of coffee at the ready. Her belly now holding an eight-month developed fetus made it too hard to look over her paperwork on her desk, so she worked off a clipboard she kept rested against her round stomach.

Alan walked in still dressed in his pajamas.

“Good morning,” He greeted his wife sleepily.

“Good morning,” she replied, not lifting her eyes from her clipboard.

Alan walked up behind her and started gently massaged her shoulders. She lightly purred, and he felt her muscles loosen in his hands.

“Any calls?” he asked.

“No,” Elizabeth sighed. “But I guess that’s good news for someone else.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Alan shrugged.

Alan sat down on the other side of Liz’s desk. His ear twinged when he heard the faint sound of distant emergency sirens.

“What’s going on out there?” he asked nonchalantly.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said “but I’ve been hearing them all morning. There were even a few helicopters,”

“Woah, must be big,” Allan muttered.

“You need to call the Parson’s today. They still owe $350,” Elizabeth said.

Alan shuddered, “can’t it wait? They did lose a daughter.”

“Yeah but that was six months ago. Besides life goes on and we have bills due ourselves,” Elizabeth reminded her husband.

“Alright, I’ll do it later,” Allan reassured her.

Beth’s phone vibrated sharply on the desk. She picked it up and looked at the notification.

“Oh my god,” she gasped.

“What is it?” Alan asked.

“It’s Jerry he said there’s an active shooter at the high school.” She said gravely.

“Oh my god, that must be what all the sirens are about,” Alan said.

Alan and Elizabeth spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon keeping up with the unfolding carnage of their phones. They exchanged horrific updates, and by the time it was over 15 people were dead.

When they finally went to bed that night and unplugged themselves from the nationally televised massacre they were exhausted. When the lights went off, Alan rested his hand on his wife’s belly. “I think we should apologize to her in advance,” he whispered.

“What?” Beth said sleepily.

Alan didn’t reply.

Alan awoke the next morning, and as usual, Elizabeth was already up. He shuffled down to their little office and saw she was on the phone concluding a conversation.

“We’ll work it all out when we see you this afternoon Mrs. Parker. Just try and stay strong. We’re gonna help you the best we can.”

She hung up the phone and sighed. “That was Robin Parker. Her daughter was killed at the high school yesterday.”

“That’s terrible. The Parker's are nice people,” Alan said somberly.

“That was the third call we got in the last hour,” Elizabeth said. “It looks like we’re going to have a very busy week.”

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