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Let Me Count the Ways
Though she was roughly dragged out of her house by the policemen, she couldn’t help but notice how blue the sky was, or how the warmth seemed to seep into every wrinkle of her skin. She noticed the birds, building a nest and chirping at all the commotion the officers were making. She stared back at her house, the house they had worked for all their lives. Her husband walked out, his expression full of despair. He caught her eye and his expression was hard for her to look at, but she made eye contact anyway.
The windshield wipers squeaked, further agitating her. The old Ford creaked down the back road, a plain black tarp pulled over the bed.
She kept the radio off and twirled her hair around a finger. Her clothes hung off her body, somewhat resembling a sack.
She pulled off the road and parked on an empty lot. Humming while she smiled at the muddy ground, she grabbed a shovel out of the back of her truck.
She walked about fifteen feet forward and seven feet to the right before she stuck the shovel into the ground. The mud made the process more difficult, but she kept digging, ignoring the pain of a splinter the shovel had given her.
When she thought the hole was deep enough, she quickly walked back to the truck, trying to stay as dry as possible in the cold weather. The rain had dissipated a bit, so she allowed herself to take a more leisurely pace. She lifted the tarp and reached in, grabbing a large black sack and pulling it out. It was too heavy for her to carry, and it landed with a thud on the ground.
She dragged it to the hole, the mud quickly seeping into any tracks she made. She pushed the sack in to the hole, and quickly piling the mud back on top of it, making sure that the mud was placed so that the rain would not create a curious indent in the ground, to avoid any cause for suspicion.
Back in the Ford, she grabbed a towel and wiped her hands and shoes off. The air conditioning made her hands frigid, and she turned it off. She parked a block away from the place she had buried the sack, and sat, watching to make sure the rain did not wash away the mud from on top of it.
After an hour, the rain stopped. She tried starting the car, but it stalled. She sighed and rested her forehead against the steering wheel, cursing.
James had been working late again. She had prepared something special for him. She had boiled oysters, his favorite and set candles out on the table and Rose petals scattered about in various places. At first, she had thought the rose petals were a bit much, but once she had started to spread them, she liked the way they looked. She placed them in the entrance hallway, over the dining table; she made a trail into the kitchen with them as well.
When he did not come home, she got bored and began watching the television. The news came on, and the anchorman was discussing various murders that had been happening recently. She sighed, trying to listen so she could be prepared when he came home. She didn’t want to be caught watching the news in her shortest nightgown; it just changed the whole mood.
He startled her when he came home, slamming the door and throwing his keys down on the table.
“Honey,” she had called out to him, attempting to sound as alluring as possible, but her voice was too forced and rough, so she tried again.
He ignored her and walked past her into the kitchen, where he poured himself a glass of ice water. He stood over the sink, staring out the window and did not move.
She watched him. After a few minutes, she had thought about calling out to him again, but before she could, he poured the full glass of water out and walked right past her and up the stairs.
She stared after him. Confusion welled in her eyes. She blew out the candles and ate the oysters alone, eventually falling asleep on the couch.
When she woke up, he was in the kitchen near the stove. She warily called out to him.
“Oh, you’re up. How come you slept on the couch last night?”
She stared at him.
“You didn’t seem to be in a very good mood,” she said.
She watched him as he went back to making omelets. He smiled at her and told her breakfast was ready.
She went over and took a bite, cautiously watching him. He noticed.
“Nothing, could you- turn on the TV?”
“The cable is out.”
She picked up the remote anyways and pressed the power button. The screen was blank.
When they came home from their week-long trip in Europe, their friend had needed a place to stay. They offered him their guest bedroom, and he gladly accepted.
His name was Jack. He was single, and though they weren’t really close to him, they pitied him.
When he came over, he had brought them a glass of wine, as a thank you. They tried to refuse, but he insisted. They decided to drink it with dinner- steak, broccoli and chopped salad.
They stayed up later than they thought they would, drunkenly playing cards and telling stories that otherwise would have been considered socially unacceptable.
They decided to turn in around midnight, saying good night to Jack as he walked down the hall to his bedroom. James helped her stumble up the stairs, giggling all the way.
They fell in bed, exhausted, without even changing their clothes. They fell asleep facing each other, in the middle of one of his jokes. He looked like he had been laughing, while she had a forced smile, though her expression was nothing but absolute adoration.
Something woke her up. The lamps were still on, and she turned out to look at the alarm. 2:17, she closed her eyes again but heard a soft thump. She realized that James was not in bed. She quietly sat up, listening hard against the dead silence, but hearing nothing; she got up and moved out of her bedroom and to the stairs. A shadow moved against the wall. Quietly crawled down the stairs, she heard a quiet sobbing sound. Worried, she peeked behind the wall into the kitchen.
James was kneeling on the floor. The kitchen was a mess. Broken glasses and fruit strewn about the counter. On the floor was a small steak knife, and next to it a trail of blood. She followed the trail of blood with her eyes until she saw Jack’s body, crumpled in front of the refrigerator. At first, she wanted to know why he was laying there, maybe he and James came back out to continue talking, and after all, James did have a habit of waking up throughout the night. But Jack was not laughing, nor talking, nor moving.
James stared at the body. Though she could only see part of his face, something strange was radiating from his body, and he had a glint of something in his eyes that se had not seen before.
She could not move. She wanted to get out, to leave the house and drive away, but she couldn’t. Her body would not respond. From pure will, her arms made a slight movement, and it caught his attention.
He stared at her, and tears began pouring down his face.
“What have I done,” he whispered.
She was terrified of him in this moment and even more so because she had never seen him in this state. She longed to tell him it was alright, but her tongue felt too heavy and dry.
“Please help me,” he cried. At the sound of his despair, her body snapped back to reality and she moved towards him.
“Why did you do it?” she asked, gently.
“He… he… I don’t know what… I don’t understand…” He couldn’t finish his sentence between his overwhelming fits of sobbing.
He grabbed her hand. She tensed but did not pull away, and he noticed.
“I’m not a killer,” he said defensively, his grip tightening.
She could not recall what else happened, but he ended up back in their room, waiting for him to fall back asleep. When he finally did, she sat on the bed, too scared to sleep. Should she call the police? James didn’t deserve to go to jail for one slip. She thought about Jack. He was a good person. He didn’t deserve to die so early, and so pathetically. She couldn’t let the body just sit there.
She went back downstairs and moved the body to the backyard. She retched when she had first touched the body, and did not want to have to look at it, curled into a pathetic helpless position. She had jitters, and her hands fidgeted, annoying her to the point where she decided to clean the rest of the mess. She wiped up the blood and put the kitchen back in order. She laid on the couch, and after a while, fell asleep.
She woke up to her husband gently shaking her awake. When she woke and him, she smiled until she remembered last night. She recoiled.
“Honey, what’s wrong?”
“What’s the matter? You seem upset.”
She stared at him, warily watching his movements.
“Where’s Jack? I didn’t see him in his room.”
She opened her mouth to answer, and then closed it again. His face was clean shaven, and he was smiling at her, though there was genuine concern for her in his eyes. His hair was ruffled, and he gently set his hand on her shoulder. He was not the killer she had known last night.
“He… left,” she whispered.
“Oh. That’s weird. I thought he was staying for the week.”
“He… had a small emergency at… at work, so he had to go.”
“Oh, okay then. We’ll have to thank him again for the wine.”
Satisfied, he got up and walked back upstairs, whistling as he went.
She stared after him, unsure of what to do. She went to the bathroom and turned on the light. The bulb was out. She sighed and turned on the faucet, rinsing her face with cold water before going to work.
She adjusted to James coming home late every night. After a few months, she decided to follow him studying his habits. She did not understand why he could not remember. When she would follow him, she noticed that the only thing he would leave behind was a body, and the news would often report it the very next afternoon.
James was beginning to worry, there were so many murders happening in their area. After the morning news, he would openly discuss the prospect of moving, though they couldn’t afford it at the moment.
She began to bring cleaning supplies whenever she followed him. She wanted to protect him. He didn’t mean to do what he did, but nobody would take that into account if they found out.
The news began to change. They no longer heard about very many murders in their area, only missing peoples of various ages. Nobody could explain it. James wanted to know why we couldn’t live in a world where people didn’t have to kill. She always changed the subject, or changed the channel.
Her skills at cleaning up the bodies were becoming more and more profound, and so was her ability to stay hidden and evade any sort of suspicion, even when the disappearance of Jack came up.
She had been driving home from a particularly messy scene when she was pulled over. The officer was told that there had been some screaming in the area, and someone had seen her car parked about a block away from the scene, and from there she was the main suspect. Whenever she was interviewed, she was jumpy, overly irritated. They took this as a sign, though she told them over and over that she just wanted to be with James.
She denied it, saying that she was coming home from a late night out at the bar. The officer wrote down her information. When a dead body was found days later, chopped into pieces and spread out in an alleyway, they came to her house. They told James she was suspected of murder. When she came home, he grabbed her by the arm, telling her to sit down and tell him the truth.
“I did not kill anyone,” she said, her voice bland.
He believed her until her prints eventually showed up at the scene. She had forgotten to wipe the lid of the dumpster.
She came home from the police department after her last interview before she was arrested to find all of his stuff gone, and most of the furniture was missing, except for the presents they had been given from their wedding. He was not home, but she called, and before anyone could answer, she went into the kitchen, where he had left his wedding ring out on the counter for her to see.