The Brigadier laughed. "Jolly spiffing, but I can't hang about here all day chatting to you lads, can I? Places to go. People to see, what?"
"Sure." Dillard looked around the cemetery. There was not another soul in sight, living or otherwise. "Com on Sam. Time to go."
"Okay." Sam stood, brushing dirt from his jeans. He'd arranged all the little stones on the Brigadier's grave in order of size, with the largest next to the dark granite. "Are you coming with us, sir," he said.
"What? Into town?" The Brigadier stared at him for several moments. "No, son, Not allowed. Bound by these four walls, see?" He used his pace stick to indicate the cemetery walls. "No going AWOL for old soldiers, what?"
"Trapped?" Sam stared at the old stone. "Maybe there's some sort of barrier. Like a resistance loop or something. I'll have a look if you like." He bounded off toward the gate.
"I'll have to go after him." Dillard held out his hand. "It was good to meet you, Brigadier."
"Roger that." He eschewed the hand and saluted instead. "You know where the mess is ."
"Sure. In our house." Dillard grinned and set off after Sam. "Bye."
He soon caught up with his friend. Sam had become distracted by the iron railings around a tomb. "Are these to keep grave robbers out or the dead within?" he asked.
Dillard shrugged. "Search me. We need to get to college, get some cash together."
"Right." They walked on, Sam a little behind muttering about spiritual circuits. After he few dozen paces he clutched at Dillard's arm, pulling him to a stop. "There's that crow again. I told you it was following me."
Dillard followed the pointing finger. "I see it. How do you know it's the same one?"
"It must be." Sam frowned. "There aren't any other crows, are there?"
"True." Dillard did a slow turn but saw no other birds at all. "Odd, that. How do you know it's following you, though? It might be following me."
"'Cause it's watching me with its beady black eyes." Sam's fingers tightened on the sleeve of Dill's coat. "Scare it away, Dill. It's giving me the willies."
"Everything gives you the willies." Dillard picked up a stone and lobbed it at the bird. It missed by a good three yards and the crow shook its wings as if laughing
The crow spread its wings and launched unto the air. The two lads watched it climb, wheeling in the clear sky and then plummeting. Had Sam not thrown himself to the path it would have hit him full in the face. As it was, the bird smacked into the granite headstone of Edith Garlic, 1908- 1985, breaking several bones and leaving a smear of sanguine blood across the incised lettering.
"I told you it were after me." Sam rubbed his elbow and sat up to pick bit of gravel out of the skin.
Dillard picked up the dead crow and ran his tongue along the crimson gash. "That's what I was hungry for."