The November Editor's Pick Writer is Kristen Houghton
Please feel free to email Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I bagged it in three plastic bags.”
“And? Where is it?” I turn from securing the locks on my suitcase.
“In back of the shed. I’ll put it out for tomorrow’s trash.”
“Oh boy, Hal, what are you saying here? This is a Memorial Day weekend. There’s no trash pick-up on tomorrow. The next trash collection day is next Thursday!”
“What’s the difference?” He looks tired and I know he’s not thinking about that particular body.
I sigh and grit my teeth. He means well. After all who would pick up a dead body and stuff it into three plastic bags, then drag it around to behind the shed, and be willing to drag it out front for trash day?
“Okay, listen to me carefully. We’re leaving tomorrow. The temp forecast for this weekend is exceptionally high for May. It’s supposed to be in the nineties. We can’t leave that body behind the shed. First it will begin to deteriorate, it will smell…and worst of all, there will be maggots.”
“Jesus! I never thought of that. Sorry, Chrissy. Maggots!” He passes a hand over his forehead. “So then we…”
“We have to get rid of it.”
“Yeah, right, get rid of it. But where?”
We sit at the kitchen counter to think about just where we can dump this body. Our luggage is in the foyer and we’ve been planning this trip for a long time. It is absolutely necessary that we get away. I glance out the window over the sink and see the edge of a plastic bag peeking out from behind the shed. In my mind I can just see maggots emerging from the soil, slithering through the tiny openings of the bags, ready to feast on what the bags contain. I shiver just thinking about it.
“Listen Chrissy, today is Saturday. This town might not have trash collection but I think there’s one town near here that does. Let me drive over and see if there are cans on the curb.”
He means the town three miles from here, the one that is in a different universe than this shitty little borough. That town’s taxes make sure that the residents’ trash is collected holiday or no holiday. Got to keep the town pristine. I stop him from getting up. “Then what? You’re going to just casually dump the body into some rich person’s large trash can and simply drive away? You’ll be seen.”
“Shit! You’re right. I’m not thinking clearly. I’ve got a lot on my mind. So, any suggestions on what we can do?”
I wrack my brain trying to come up with a good plan. The one thing I know is that we have to get rid of the body. It absolutely cannot stay on our property in this heat and draw attention to us. “What about Holy Cross Cemetery? Can we dump it in the cemetery, over by all the debris from the construction they’re doing for the new mausoleums?”
He thinks for a minute. “Maybe. It’s like we’re some reverse-type of grave robbers or something. We’re not robbing a grave and digging up a fresh corpse, we’re depositing a body.” He pauses. “Hey, wait a minute. Disposal Road. Carl told me there’s a place down there where people junk their old cars and furniture and all kinds of crappy stuff. What about that place?”
I sigh. Any place is better than our own backyard. “I don’t know; maybe. Listen let’s just drive there with the body and see. We have to pass the cemetery so think about what I said too.”
He gets up and looks at me with a very serious face. “Listen, I’ll have to load it into your SUV. You know that the trunk of the other car is full and I really can’t move what’s in there now.”
I shiver. Damn! Damn! Damn! I hate the thought of driving around with a dead body in the pretty SUV but I guess I have no choice. I know he won’t empty the trunk of the Bonneville, not now. I shake my head yes. Sure, why not? That’s what we have the SUV for, right? Dead body removal at your service. I laugh at the thought.
I watch as he drags the plastic wrapped body across the lawn, down the pathway and to the SUV parked in the driveway. I help him load the bags into the tailgate. An old man, sitting on his front steps across the street, looks over at us to see what we’re doing but I don’t worry. I’ve been told that he suffers from dementia so no one will believe much of what he says.
Thankfully there’s no one else outside. The neighborhood consists mostly of tough, blue collar workers who come home every night and lose themselves in a bottle. I don’t blame them, not really. They exist just above the poverty line; their lives are crap. The fact that they have a three-day weekend means they can be drunk for seventy-two hours straight and forget their miserable jobs and lives. By the closed blinds on the windows of the houses and the empty boxes of booze, I know they’ve begun the poor people’s version of a holiday a little early. But they don’t bother us; no one cares what anyone else is doing and that’s one reason why we chose this neighborhood.
We shut the tailgate, get in, and begin to drive. Before heading to Disposal Road we drive the three miles to ritzy town to see if it’s trash day. Then we drive block to block looking at the cans in that town neatly lined-up curbside. A sanitation truck is parked in the middle of one block while workers grab cans and toss their contents into the mashing section in the back. I think about a body going into the maw of the crushers.
We park on a side street and watch the flow of people around their nicely manicured lawns. There seems to be a lot of barbecues and holiday parties going on. People are arriving with all the things that guests bring to a party. It’s too busy, too open to dump a body here.
Without looking at him I say quietly, “Not here, okay Hal? Someone will report us for dumping trash and we can’t have that. Got to keep a low profile.” Hal nods and we take off for Disposal Road, a place of total isolation.
On the way to the Road, we pass Holy Cross Cemetery and I make Hal stop the car outside the huge iron gates. Getting out of the car, we slowly walk through the rusty gates which never seem to close properly and pretend to look for a loved one’s tombstone. There’s group of workers excavating a new grave. It’s too close to where the mausoleums are being built and any one of them might see us dragging the plastic-wrapped corpse. I look at Hall and shake my head. Okay, off to Disposal Road.
Disposal Road really isn’t a road at all; it is nothing more than a narrow dirt path that leads into an overgrown meadowland area. At one time it was a protected wetland with all kinds of waterfowl. Once the area stopped getting grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency due to government budget cuts, the place went to shit, literally. You will not find even a small snipe bird dipping its beak in the leftover amount of putrid water there.
Hal’s completely right when he said that people dump all the detritus of their lives on Disposal Road. All the shit no one wants anymore. On rainy nights you can smell the stench of whatever is rotting under the discarded mattresses, old furniture, and rusted cars. Not even the many homeless in the area will go there because of the smell.
He drives down the road about a half mile so that we are hidden from the main street. Parking the car on the side of the dump, he squares his shoulders and says, “This is it. Let’s do it.”
Then just as he exits the car, flashing lights hit the windshield and a siren goes off. Damn it! A hidden police car!
Two big burly cops with angry faces walk over to the driver’s side and cop number one says, “License and registration, sir. What are you doing down here?”
“Here? What am I doing down here?”
“Are you a parrot, repeating what I say? That’s what I asked.”
Hal fumbles for his wallet and takes out both license and registration. The first officer looks at the registration and then at Hal. The second cop is standing off to the side looking over the SUV as if he was a prospective buyer.
“It’s her SUV, officer,” says Hal nervously.
“Uh-huh. You seem a bit nervous, sir.”
“Nervous? Uh, no I’m just…”
“Ma’am,” the cop says shining a flashlight in my face, “You okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Of course I’m fine.”
“Mind telling us then just what you and this gentleman are doing here?”
“We’re… we’re lost.” I turn to Hal and pretend to berate him. “See honey? I told you that you went the wrong way! Honestly, if you only just once listened to me!”
My performance is lost on the cops who ask both of us to “step outside the vehicle.” One of the cops watches us as the other checks the backseat of the car. The one watching us says to Hal, “You seem a little out of it, buddy. Whatcha got? Drugs? Weapons?”
To his partner he yells out, “We got probable cause here. Guy seems disoriented. Check the tailgate.”
“Oh no, don’t.” I say in a panic.
“Why? What’s in there? You want to tell us?”
I shake my head and close my eyes. Inside my head I smile. We’re a perfect couple, Hal and I. Ha!
“Holy shit!” shouts the cop who is checking the interior of the car. His upper body is halfway inside the tailgate. “Look what we got here!”
Our guard-cop pulls out his gun and motions for us to go to the back of the SUV where his partner has lifted out the plastic bags-covered body. Slowly he unwraps it and I close my eyes again.
“You were going to dump this here! Man are you in trouble!” says the first cop.
“That’s a $500 fine and a court appearance. Stupid people. What? You on a killing spree? This one of your victims, buddy?” said the second cop.
“No, officer,” says Hal looking at the dead body at our feet. “The body was found in our backyard. My wife just didn’t want it hanging around until trash day. Said it would bring maggots.”
“That may be but you can’t just dump a dead body here. By the way, did you check her pouch? This one’s a female. Might be babies in there.” He puts on a plastic glove, bends and gently places his hand inside the pouch of the dead possum. When he withdraws his hand, he has three little baby possums in it. “I knew it. Poor little things inside a dead momma. They would have died of starvation,” he snarls at Hal.
He turns to his partner, “Write them a ticket for illegal dumping. We’ll get these to the vet after we’re done here.” Staring hard at us he says, “Then you two killers get the hell outta here.”
The cop with the baby possums reaches inside the back seat of my car and grabs an old towel. Carefully wrapping the babies inside the towel he gives us one more angry look and walks back to the patrol car. The other cop smartly rips the completed ticket from his pad and hands it to Hal. “Really stupid. Didn’t think you’d get caught, huh? Stupid!”
I watch as the cops drive off and breathe a sigh of relief. That’s good, that’s okay. We get back into the SUV and drive off. When we’re on the road back to the house we both burst out laughing. Dodged a bullet there.
We’re still not caught, no matter what that beefy cop thinks. Talk about stupid.
It’s 4:00 am and our plane leaves at 6:35. We’re running a little late.
Hal straightens up with two suitcases and smiles at me as I reach the bottom of the stairs. “You look great,” he says appreciating my black pants and dark grey top. He looks pretty great himself. He looks the way I like him to look; confident, no nonsense. My Hal.
As the limo drives off we get into the Bonneville. “Ready?” asks Hal. I put the car into drive and say that I’m as ready as ever. I drive quickly towards our destination.
The rusty gates make a slight squeaking sound as Hal pushes them apart far enough for me to drive through. Hal gets back in and we drive without headlights towards the tarpaulin-covered grave we saw yesterday. We park next to it and I pop the trunk. There’s an odor of death covered by lime. Lime, the assassin’s fumigation system.
Hal removes the tarp and we walk to the back of the Bonneville. Within ten minutes we have dragged and dumped the body of one ugly and nasty Nick Annitti into the open grave. I note with satisfaction that there are maggots in his eyeball sockets. Good.
While Hal recovers the grave with the tarp I drive back to the gates where our limo is waiting. When Hal joins me in a few minutes, I hand the car keys to a man who has just gotten out of the vehicle along with the keys to our rented house.
“Good job, and you got a nice payday.” He looks at the Bonneville. “Nice little car here. We’ll clean it up and sell it. Whatcha want done with that SUV?”
“Keep it, just make sure that you steam clean the tailgate part. We had a dead possum in it.” For some reason that makes him laugh.
“Yeah, well you two have fun. There’ll be another job waiting for you when you come back.”
Hal and I get into the limo and wave as we drive off. He grabs me, kisses me, and says with absolute approval, “You were perfect as the annoyed wife, baby. Those idiot cops bought it. Nice payday and nice bonus.”
“And you were perfect as the bumbling, nervous husband,” I say. “We’re a perfect team! The Caymans should be a nice break before our next job.”
I settle close to him and smile as the limo takes us past Disposal Road to the airport. The next job. Hopefully the next job will only have one dead human body to dispose. But the possum was a nice side-job.
Kristen Houghton is the author of nine top-selling novels, including the best-selling new series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, named “Best new crime series” by The Huffington Post Book Reviewer, Greg Archer. Book three in the series will be published this summer. She is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with very distinct powers of her own.
See The Horror Zine review of For I Have Sinned HERE