I knew it wasn’t about the murder. Maybe Charlie knew it. Hell, it was pretty clear. You didn’t take a man’s life because you had nothing better to do. I didn’t. I got no thrill out of spilling gray matter over an oil-spotted parking garage floor. But sometimes… Sometimes that’s the way things goes.
I wasn’t so sure about Charlie. I’d watched his face after I hit the guy, and it made me go sick inside. Charlie with that strange smile of his, whose pale blue eyes almost mirrored death. He understood something he wouldn’t ever tell me. Did Charlie know it wasn’t about murder? He would’ve whacked the guy for blowing his nose.
The body, as it was now appropriate to say, lay in a black pool on the concrete, face down, smashed, eyes wide and empty. They stared past my knees. I stepped to the side, half-expecting them to follow. They didn’t. I felt a jolt of disgust that I could be so childlike. Fifty years old last week and still watching for fucking ghosts. Charlie stood on the other side of the body, his black gloved hands hanging at his sides in a way that made me think of the old silver-back at the Metro Zoo. He was gazing at the body. The light from the naked bulb overhead glinted on the white of his left eye like a small star burst. I watched it.
“So,” his child’s voice said. “What in hell we do with ‘im now?”
The smells of gasoline and diesel fuel, of slick oil and shit. He’d soiled himself, our corpse. I had no answer. Should have thought farther ahead, too busy pretending to be an asshole hit man.
“I say we leave ‘im,” Charlie said.
“You outta your fucking mind?” I asked. “Leave ‘im for some rookie cop with everything to prove? You think we’re that good, do you?”
Charlie shrugged. “No prints. Ain’t touched ‘im, have we? Ain’t laid hands on ‘im.”
“God. Who’s the ex-cop?”
Charlie again lifted his shoulders, slightly, not much of a gesture; so much attitude in him.
“Listen to me. They got ways of tracking stuff. You leave behind a fucking skin cell, your chances are down ten percent.”
“So we take ‘im someplace. Throw im’ in the river.”
“Runs too fast here. He’d be washin’ up a mile, maybe two down in no time.”
Charlie walked around the body, hands still hanging, fingers slightly curled. “Bury the bastard. Find a place where the earth’s already been turned.”
The cemetery. A fresh grave. Could two bodies fit one box? If the corpse was small. The body had been a medium sized man, my height, Charlie’s weight.
I realized I still held the club, the stick, the murder weapon, tight in my fist. My fingers felt frozen around it. The corners digging through my glove and biting flesh. I’d cracked his skull with it, opened scalp and bone and watched the surprising redness begin to trickle, and I’d hit him again, and again, again again again- I’d hit him until his hair was matted with it, till his brains started to leak out on the ground, till the smell of shit and urine and vomit and blood brought back the realism.
And I still held it.
“We bury ‘im, Joe.” Charlie was looking at me.
Charlie squatted near the body’s head, his long hands hanging between his knees. “We bury ‘im someplace, and we bury that with ‘im,” he jerked his chin toward the weapon in my hand. Charlie was bright. Cocky and bright.
We worked silently, side by side, tucking the body into the trunk of my car lined with Food Lion and Sky City grocery bags. I tied one over his head to catch the ooze. I closed the lid. Charlie rested his ass against it, lit a cigarette. “It’s a high,” he told me.
Charlie chuckled. “You tellin’ me you didn’t feel it?”
I looked away. I hadn’t. I’d felt nothing. That was the terror of it.
“Sure, man. I believe that when dicks dance.” He drew deeply, sucking the smoke into young pink lungs. “I felt it. Made me hot. See ‘im laying there, all surprised. He was probably going to his kid’s school play. Pick up the missus first, then take the brats to Chucky Cheese and live it up for the night.” He blew smoke. A thin, gray-white stream.
“Get in the car.” I got behind the wheel, again sickened by him.
He stayed long enough to make it his own idea to get in, ground out his cigarette on the car, and fell into the seat beside me.
I said it aloud. “It’s not about killing.”
“Not this time.”
“Not any time. Never again.”
He bobbed his head, a lanky sillhoutte with a knobby Adam’s apple against the lights along the street. “Sure.”
It was silent for a time.
“You going to tell ‘er?” he asked.
“You fucking kill for her and you ain’t telling ‘er?”
“I didn’t do it for her.” I did it for me. For me to be able to sleep at night the scum had to be gone. That I couldn’t touch her anymore without feeling him, without feeling her cringe because of what she remembered, made me angry.
“All right. So don’t tell ‘er. What do I care.”
The cemetary was dark. No lamps, just me and Charlie and a couple of EverReadies, and the stiffening body with the ghost white sack rattling on his head.
It wasn’t about the murder. I would never murder again. I wasn’t a violent man. Funny how two lives would branch off from this night, from this one weak act. How when The Body decided to victimize my wife, his ending would begin the career of another criminal.
Life was funny that way.