Necromancing by the sea.
The dead lie in their graves suffocating under the grief of their mourners.
It was Robert's first funeral but as luck would have it it wouldn't be his last. In the space of five years he'd bury not only his parents but three aunts, two uncles and four cousins.His sister lost her husband to the flu epidemic of the early twentieth century and he also lost his best friend to consumption.
It was then he decided that there was a profit to be made from death, it was an occupation that would never suffer in a recession and once a client had been taken care of then there was always another waiting in the wings.
Robert loved attention to detail, he made sure his 'family' had the best. The plumed horses and glass hearse made him the man to go to when you departed from this world. A themed funeral would have been frowned upon by many but because Robert was such a showman he got away with it. To look as good in death as you did in life was one of his promises and he saw each one through to the end, nothing was too much trouble and each mourner left with happy memories of what could have been the worst day of their lives.
It occured to him how beautiful and silent they looked in their coffins, especially the women.Their faces waxy and still like a shop dummy, and no answering back either.
Yes, he recounted, if he were ever to take a wife then she would have to be dead.
He'd started his business in the small seaside town at the age of twenty three with money left in trust by his parents, his sister helped him out now and then wearing her widow's weeds to great effect. Business was a little slow what with all that bracing air and healthiness that abounded the residents, the old gave him a tidy income but he craved a younger model, a creature he could sculp and mould into his perfect woman.
When Alice walked into his office that day enquiring for her aunt who's husband was at that moment, gasping his last breath he thought he'd found his queen. She was tall, a stunning brunette with brown eyes and tanned skin, but she wasn't quite right.
She was too alive, too happy wilful and free, and also not pale enough for his liking.
He was gracious and kind to her and she blushed when he kissed her hand and as he glanced out of the window, there she was.
"Ingrid" called Alice and beckoned her inside.
Ingrid was blonde, blue eyed and as white as snow, her blue veins were visible through her skin and Robert was so overcome that he nearly dropped to the floor. As he also kissed her hand she too reddened a little, not too much as to put him off but just enough so that he could see the blood vessels and capillaries that were prominent on her face.
"Ingrid is my friend, she's Swedish you know, it's very cold there but she likes it.." as Alice rambled on Robert studied the features of this ice queen, her cheekbones carved from the blades of ice skates, her nose a little prominent but that could be tamed with good shading, no it was her eyes that captured him, glacial and frigid they watched him as he went about his business organising the funeral for Alice's near dead uncle.
As it was just his luck the uncle hung on for a few weeks more, he craved another viewing of the crystalline like girl from Sweden.
The morning of the funeral couldn't come soon enough, as Robert led the procession he couldn't keep his eyes from wandering to the blonde dressed in black like a snow covered raven. She was like a sun drenched iceberg amid all the doom and gloom. Alice's aunt didn't require any of that fancy pantomine stuff, no, just a regular hole in the ground for a miser.
He performed his duties with respect but underneath he bubbled with excitement, he longed to be with her and to stroke her cold skin, to watch her sipping her tea and talking was not enough, he needed to get her alone.
Alice made it clear that she liked Robert and he used her to his advantage, anything to get closer to his prize.
"There's a show on I'd like to see" she hinted, he nodded and asked if her friend would like to join them
"She's going home tomorrow, came to see me and all I can offer her is a funeral" she laughed.
Robert had to think on his feet, he offered to take Alice home in the hope that he could have a moment with Ingrid but she wanted to stay and talk to him, this inflamed his impatience to the point of rudeness. Alice stamped her foot as he ignored her and she demanded he take her to the show.
Two thuds of the candlesticks and she was out, he dragged her body into the embalming room as blood trickled down her face in a line across her cheek and down to her chin. He frowned at the pretty girl who lay damaged but still alive, murmuring and holding her forehead she opened her eyes as his hand covered her mouth and nose suffocating her, the one so full of life and laughter now still and lifeless he put her in a coffin to be dealt with later.
Knocking on the door he straightened his clothes as the maid let him in, she said her mistress wasn't at home, but Robert knew exactly where she was and anyway it was Ingrid he wanted to see.
She walked down the stairs to her doom as beautiful as the day he'd first seen her.
"Alice isn't very well" he lied, "can you come and tend to her?"
Ingrid put on her coat and said she'd find a doctor but he dissuaded her long enough to get her to the house.He watched her take off her coat and go into the embalming room, he watched her look around wondering where Alice was, and he watched her fall to the floor when he'd injected her with a sedative, holding her so that she wouldn't break and disfigure any of her delicate features.
He'd only wanted one of them. He caressed her as she lay on the table, a soft pillow under her head and a sheet over her he watched her body rise and fall as she breathed the stale air of the room which he used to pamper his clients.
First he knew he'd have to deal with the dead one, the unfortunate girl who wouldn't go home and who now took up wasted time and space in his life that could be more useful elsewhere. Ingrid was due to go home tomorrow and people would be wondering where she was, only the maid had seen her leave with him so he knew he'd have to deal with her. He lied and told her her mistress was worse and that she needed her, she kept asking if Ingrid was there and as she saw her lying unconscious she got her answer. Killing this girl was easy, it got easier when it was Ingrid's turn although he did feel guilty, he'd wanted Ingrid to himself and now he had two others to contend with, Alice was first to be embalmed, he put the needle into her neck and filled her with the fluid, he stroked Ingrid's face as it took effect, the maid was next.
"Not the prettiest specimin are you" he mumbled to himself, making sure their eyes were open so that they could see him.
Ingrid was last. She was his most precious possession and he had to treat her with care.
Slowly he moved her into position, carefully he inserted the needle and lovingly he watched as she turned into his perfect woman.
There hadn't been time for a wedding so he held his own. With the maid and Alice as witnesses he pledged his undying love, he cried as he made his vows and slid the gold band onto the rigid third finger of Ingrid's cold dead left hand.
Robert sat his three girls around the dining table.All looked upon their benefactor with blank stares, if only he'd had the time to tell Ingrid how her felt, but everything had happened so quickly, he couldn't have risked losing her after just finding her.
"Here's to us," he said as he raised his glass and tucked into his chicken
First he positioned Alice in the drawing room, an old embroidery set his sister had left half finished was brought out so that she had something to do when he was at work. The maid of course was settled into her role next to the cooker. Ingrid was given pride of place in his bed, sitting up with arms outstretched and totally naked he took the image away with him which kept him happy when he was working. He'd changed the locks on his house so that his sister couldn't find his harem of the dead, his trio of temptresses.
With each new funeral he gave his all, safe in the knowledge that waiting at home for him were his girls, and nothing would take that away from him. But as time went on Robert got bored, he yearned for another.
Her name was Emily and her family had sent her to work for an uncle, she had red hair, pale skin and a beautiful soft Irish lilt.
"If only I could bottle that voice" he thought aloud one morning, "now don't get jealous ladies" he shouted from the bathroom, "especially you Alice" he spoke quietly, looking in on her as she sat by her sewing. She'd have loved to have gone to the theatre, if only.
Emily giggled as he kissed her warm hand that repulsed him and excited him at the same time. She was yet to be created into his perfect woman, as she slipped her arm through his she talked incessantly about the show they were about to see, Robert thought about what he had planned for her later, oh how he wished he could tell her about what he had in store.
Alice stared out of the window watching the waves crash against the harbour wall, the lighthouse giving a lifeline to lost ships at sea. She was located in spot as to see but not be seen. The maid with no name stood in her usual place in the kitchen and Ingrid, arms outstretched waited for her husband to come home.
Their new housemate was on her way to be added to his collection of embalmed beauties.