Hard to say

Joseph stared into the dirt hole where the two skeletal remains had been found. They were perfectly intact, but their bones were visibly brittle as though a light breeze could shatter them at any moment.

He stepped into the pit carefully so not to disturb them. Their skulls were smooth, their rib cages unbroken, and their femurs solid. Despite how closely he searched, he found nothing. The only peculiarity was one had died while touching the other’s face. Joseph took off his glasses and scratched the prickly hairs on his chin.

“Well?” said a voice.

Joseph stood tall while cleaning his glasses with his shirt, “Hard to say,” he said, “since there are no visible clues it could be a number of things: an illness, starvation, even hypothermia.”

The detective reached his hand into the pit to help Joesph.

“How long ago you think it happened?” said the detective pulling Joseph out.

“Hard to say.”

“Is everything hard to say for you?” said the detective.

Joseph smirked. He loved how easy it was to provoke him.

“What am I supposed to tell them?” the detective gestured towards the crowd of cameras and reporters waiting behind the police tape. The construction crew that found the remains were being interviewed by reporters.

“They’re calling them Romeo and Juliet,” said the detective, “I have everyone calling me the mayor, the governor, my wife! I swear people are too tender nowadays.”

While the detective rattled on, Joseph scratched his chin again. He had to admit that even he had become enamored with them. In their final moments, they had intertwined their hands together and pressed their lips close.

“What I know, detective, is that people don’t die in seconds,” said Joseph, “regardless of what killed them, they didn’t die together. One of them had to go first and whichever one lived longer was the one that held on.”

Together they glanced at the remains.

“Poor bastard was hugging a rotting corpse,” said the detective as they stood before the couple’s grave, “you think it took long for the second one to die?”

“Hard to say.”