"Thank you Duchess." Jared answered, "Same to your and yours." He didn't raise his eyes from the floor, and soon hurried back to his garbage truck, ready to head back to the depot and pick up the rest of the crew.
Jared had never seen the rich lady who had approached him one morning with a business proposition. He had been told to ask no questions, and just respect the privacy of the lady who had promised him that his obedience would be richly rewarded. She hadn't lied. All he had to do was collect her garbage once a week, and the only promise he had to make was not to look her in the eyes.
The Duchess was the name she had asked him to call her. He doubted it was her real name, but she did live in the rich part of town. A part not normally on his route; where the houses were easily three times bigger than the one Jared and his family lived, and they were just the smallest homes.
Jared had obeyed his orders, not finding it strange that the rich old lady - he could tell she was old by her mannerisms, her voice, and her wrinkled hands - wanted her privacy. He was fine with it in fact.
Jared pulled the truck out of the street and pulled over by the side of the road, ignoring the honks of the traffic behind him. He pulled the wad of notes out of the envelope and started to count. He stopped once he hit $2500. Smiling, he slipped the envelope into his pocket and pulled back out into the road. He was running late to pick up the others, they knew nothing about his little side arrangement and given his recent bonus, Jared planned on keeping it that way.
Still, as he drove he couldn't stop his mind from wondering just what the Duchess was throwing away each week that was worth such a lot of money.
"Don't think about it Jared. It's gonna put your daughter through college just so long as you don't screw it up." He chided himself.
Three streets further along, Jared pulled over once more. His mind was made up he had to see.
It was a hot day and the idea of climbing up and peering into the back of his truck didn't appeal to him, but the higher he rose the sweeter the smell became. Not roses sweet, or even sugary sweet but a strange, heavy sweetness that actually made his mouth water and his stomach growl.
Jared felt his heart begin to flutter as he leant over to peer into the truck's container, unsure what he would find.
Bones, the back of his truck was filled with bones, most had been picked clean, but several still had strips of tender looking meat hanging from them. A strong barbeque aroma rose from them and made Jared's mouth water even more. He loved to barbeque.
Climbing back into his cab he thought nothing of it, the rich were strange and had more money than they knew what to do with. A private garbage disposal was just another thing that set them apart from the neighbours ... or the competition as it was doubtlessly classed within their privileged circle.
It was three weeks before Jared received another call from the Duchess, asking for a next day collection, not that she ever asked for anything else.
"Sure, no problem whatsoever." Jared had said, in his mind picturing the envelope of note. Only once the call was over and he concentrated on the image, he saw it wasn’t money but skin that filled the envelope. Folds of skin, stripped from a body and still wet, the envelope was sodden and breaking apart and even more blood spilled out; poured out and flooded the image, washing it away.
Jared shook his head. "Get a grip man." He said to himself, but couldn't shake the goosebumps from his flesh.
The next morning Jared collected his truck and took it out early to go make his scheduled pick up by the Duchess. It was icy on the roads and the sky was grey. It had been threatening to snow for days.
"Sorry I'm late Duchess." Jared whispered when she opened the door. He could tell she was annoyed from the way she was tapping her foot on the floor.
"I expect you to arrive on time Jared, I thought I was very clear on the arrangements." Her words were short and sharp.
"Sorry Duchess, its the weather." He paused, not realizing he was speaking before it was too late. "I'm impressed that you can barbeque in this sort of weather. I would it I could, but my yard is all exposed." He stopped himself,
The foot stopped tapping the floor and was still.
"You looked in the dumpster Jared. I am very disappointed in you." The Duchess voice was firm; there was no level of surprise in it at all. It was as though she had been expecting it long ago.
"I'm sorry Duchess, really I am, but what's the deal, why be so secretive over having a barbeque?" He pushed on, knowing that each word was crossing further over the invisible boundary that had governed their relationship.
"For a few moments the Duchess said nothing.
Jared turned to leave. He was halfway down the drive when he heard her.
"Jared, if you have nothing else to do, I would very much like to invite you and your family over to dinner next Saturday. We can barbeque if you would like."
Jared turned. "Thank you Duchess, it would be an honour.' Jared smiled, and was about to raise his head.
"Don't be a fool Jared'." She stopped him at the last second. "Be here at "sixteen hundred, no need to bring anything you understand." With that the door was closed and Jared left, taking the rubbish with him.
This time he didn't need to look in the back. He could smell the leftover meat from inside the cab.
The following Saturday Jared arrived at the Duchess's house his wife and child in tow. His wife hadn't asked how he knew the Duchess, nor did she question her strange name, she trusted her husband and was planning on enjoying a nice afternoon with her family. Despite the instructions to bring nothing, Jared had insisted on buying the nicest bottle of wine he could fine, using some of the Duchess's Christmas bonus to pay for it.
It was a lovely wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon that proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the meat that was served. It also made a wonderful sauce reduction, which was served over the tenderloin of meat that was served as the fourth course of the evening meal. Luckily there were six guests for dinner and exactly 6 cheeks to go around. The sweetest cut of all meat.
The following morning a strange call was received by Arthur Malcolm, asking him if he would possibly consider bringing his garbage truck to 1571 Wintershore and make a collection. The old ladies voice on the phone was very convincing.
"Yes mam, no problem, I'll be there. There isn't any um... security that I need to worry about right?" He asked smiling.
"No nothing like that my dear man. Just ring the bell and ask for the Duchess. Now let's discuss the rules shall we."