“See? All of them gone.” Caleb Barnet, the cemetery caretaker, was an odd sort with a vaguely singsong diction and a long-running, long-joked-about conflict of interest since he was the younger of the two sons of old Ethel Mae Barnet who ran Barnet Funeral Home over on East Schloss St.

Deerton PD Officer Mike Overhauser had responded to plenty of Caleb’s calls before. Usually it was something about teenagers in the cemetery walking over his fine crosscut grass or littering, and he’d been known to call the fuzz when one of the kids he hired for odd jobs over the summer looked at him funny. A lot of the guys in the city police looked at Caleb Barnet’s calls as a good excuse to pick up some coffee at Easton’s Gas.

And then there was this.

“Any idea who might have wanted to take them?” Mike bent over a grave to examine it closely. The gentleman six feet south, all dressed up with nowhere to go, was one Jared Matthews. As noted on his tombstone, he’d died in Korea circa 1952 and by rights there ought to have been a little steel holder in the ground with an American flag and a slot for flowers. Instead, the flag and flowers had been placed on the ground on either side of an empty hole.

“It’s those damned teenagers again,” Caleb said in his distinctive diction. “Pulling them up and selling them for scrap to get money for meth and dope.”

Mike pulled on a latex glove and examined the flag and flowers–one of many scattered about a burial field completely denuded of steel holders. “It’s just cheap pressed steel,” he said. “Worth less than a penny each in scrap. All the money’s in copper and stuff like that.”

“Then they’re making shivs out of them, or using them as crack pipes,” insisted Caleb. “I tell you officer, it’s those goddamned kids, with too many horror movies and not enough respect for the dead!”

“Maybe,” said Mike, unconvinced. “I’ll dust these for prints and we’ll do some drive-bys tonight.”

Over Caleb’s protestations that dusting and drive-bys weren’t enough, Mike bagged the evidence and returned to his squad car to call in the report. Caleb stalked back to the cemetery maintenance shed in response, muttering darkly.

Not far away, the stolen steel flag holders were arranged in a complex geometric pattern on the ground about their thief, close enough to be seen but missed by both caretaker and cop.

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