Marcel’s soul escaped through the hole in his chest as well as his last dying breath. The sound was something that would stay with Larry and Susan forever and neither of them dared to breathe. The smell of cordite filled the room and when Larry’s cell phone rang he jumped. Instinctively he pulled it out of the case on his belt.
“Don’t answer it, said Susan.
“Why?” Larry asked as he held the phone in right hand as if it might explode.
“We have to think about this,” she told him.
“Think about what?” Larry asked but he didn’t answer the phone.
“What are we going to do?” Susan replied as she got up, rubbing her wrists. “We can’t report this to the police.”
“What?” Larry was stunned. “The hell we can’t!”
“Okay, fine,” Susan said, “dial 911 and tell them that you or I, or you and I, just shot my lover. One of us is going to prison for a very long time, maybe both of us. Is that what you want, Larry?”
Larry sat with his phone in his hand and hesitated. He had seen this before; a husband comes home to find his wife in bed with another man and suddenly he’s doing ten years. Larry thought about it. In ten years he would be thirty-five. Maybe he could get out in seven or eight.
“You’re the one who shot him.” Larry said but even he didn’t quite believe it.
“Oh?” Susan arched an eyebrow. “I shot my lover with your gun after you caught us in bed together?” She laughed bitterly. “I think you better shoot me too. Hit the road and make a run for it.”
“Why” Larry asked as he stood up.
“That’s the only way you’ll get out of this without doing any time.” Susan told him.
“No,” Larry shook his head, “why did you cheat on me?”
“You think that matters now?” Susan turned away from him and headed out of the room.
“You’re damn right it matters!” Larry’s voice rose as he grabbed her by the arm. “We just killed someone!”
“Once again, Larry,” Susan said calmly, “here are your options; confess to murder, blame me for the murder, kill me and make a run for it, or you can help me cover this up.” She pulled herself free of his grip. “We have to clean this mess up and get that body out of here. How much cash do you have on you?”
“Cash money.” Susan repeated. “Go get some bleach, a new mop, a pretty good sized tarp, and while you’re there try to think of a place we can dispose of the body. Better yet…” Susan reached down and took Marcel’s wallet. She pulled the cash out of it and stuffed it back into his pocket. “Looks to be about five, maybe six hundred bucks here. Damn, and he was always such a tightwad too. Here…” she held out the money to Larry.
“No way” Larry protested. “Susan, we have to go to the authorities with this. Right now it’s an accident but if we start trying to hide it then it’s murder!”
“It was murder the second you put that gun in my hand, Larry.” Susan told him. “No matter what else you might think you put a gun in my hand and you pointed it at another person. That’s murder with twelve out of twelve members of the jury or about ten to fifteen years in a plea bargain, if what I’ve learned about criminal justice on television is any guide. Now either call the cops or go get the stuff. I’ll start cleaning up here. Don’t use your credit card for anything and leave your cell phone here. Wal Mart is open all night in Fitzgerald. It will be about four when you get there. Hold on, I’ll make a list. Bleach, a mop, a tarp, and get some sheets to use as rags to clean the blood up,” Susan started writing it all down on the back on an envelope, “use the self check-out if you can and don’t get gabby.”
“Why did you cheat on me?” Larry watched a thin red river of blood flow out of Marcel’s chest. The carpet would have a stain on it the size of an elephant.
“Carpet cleaner,” Susan replied, “the stuff in a spray can.”
“I know I’ve been working a lot lately, but you could have told me something was wrong.” Larry went on.
“We’ll go to a marriage counselor if we get away with this, okay?” Susan handed him the list. “We’ve got some time but I have to go to work like nothing has happened and you do too.” Susan stopped and looked at him hard. “I need to know if you can do this, Larry. This isn’t like the time we claimed the car was damaged by hail after we took it out of the garage so it could get dinged. You work at a prison. Do you want to retire there?”
“Here’s the problem, Susan,” Larry said thoughtfully “if I leave now and you’re here alone you can call 911 and say I killed him and you were tied up or something and finally got loose. You can blame this all on me. So I’m going to tie you up.”
“What?” Susan took a step backwards. “No way in hell you’re tying me up with a dead man in the same room with me!”
“I’ve got your cuffs and my own set.” Larry said as if he were discussing what color of socks he was going to wear to work. “Don’t put up a fight and I’ll leave you on the bed. Otherwise I’ll make you sleep on the floor. Get on the bed, Susan.”
“Okay” Susan said meekly. “I’ll do it.” And she got on the bed.
Larry handcuffed on of Susan’s hands to the bedpost and then the other hand to the other one. Susan complied and that worried Larry. “I’m going to gag you and tie your feet.” He said.
When Larry stepped out of the front door the rain fell out of the heavens like it was trying to wash his sins away.
It took over an hour and a half to get the stuff and get back. Larry pulled up into the driveway with a sense of dread. A thought came to him; he could blame Susan for the murder. He could say that they attacked him when he came home and caught them in bed together and she accidently shot Marcel. But that idea sounded lame and hopeless, much like the idea of trying to hide the body, but not nearly as bad as trying to get someone to believe Marcel had died wholly of accidental causes. Once the trigger was pulled the bullet fired and there was no way to recall it or whatever it did, wherever it went. Larry took a deep breath and released it.
Susan was up, dressed, and cutting the carpet off the floor when Larry walked in. “I made coffee but you should sleep. I have to go to work in a couple of hours. Let’s get the body rolled up in the tarp and ready to go. We have to get rid of it right now. Any ideas?” she asked.
“How did…” Larry began.
“Your handcuffs are real handcuffs but mine have a hidden button for a quick release in case something goes wrong” Susan explained. “The top knob on the bed post slips right out and your spare keys are in the kitchen drawer. I was out before you left the driveway.
“How did you get to be such a sneaky bitch?” Larry asked.
“Did you get a tarp?” Susan asked as she reached for it. “Bring it in here and we’ll roll him up in it. “I tried to get to as much of the blood as I could but I couldn’t roll him over by myself.”
“Left him in the wet spot again?” Larry smirked.
“Any ideas on where to hide the body, Larry?” Susan unfolded the tarp and the smell of plastic filled the air, “we’ve got to get him out of here this morning before I leave to do to work.”
“You’ve never had a problem getting him out quickly before.” Larry laughed without any humor at all.
“Okay, Larry, let’s get something out in the open here,” Susan began, “I fucked around on you. I fucked Marcel when we were in high school, and we started it again about two months ago. You can forgive me, not forgive me, you can beat the hell out of me if you want to, you can divorce me, you can do anything you want and I’ll accept it. The only thing I’m not going to put up with is you running your mouth about it while we’re trying to cover up a murder. Want me to take my clothes off so you can shove that pistol up my ass?” Susan started undressing. “Take off your belt and beat me with it. Tie me down and gag me first so the screaming won’t bother the neighbors.” Susan jumped on the bed, lay on her stomach and spread her legs. “So put up or shut up, Larry. Punish me the way you want for as long as you want. Or shut up.”
“Get up,” Larry said. “I’m done.”
“Good, now pull my car out into the rain, pull your truck into the garage, and let’s get him out of here.” Susan replied as she got dressed. She realized her hands were shaking. What would she had done if he had attacked her again? Nothing. If he went off the deep end she was going to have to deal with it.
“Where are we going to put him?” Larry asked.
“I’ve got an idea.” Susan said.
They worked without speaking again. They pulled the body over onto the tarp and took care to fold the edges so no blood would escape. They wrapped both end with duct tape and Larry joked about it being the first joint he had rolled in years. Susan smiled at the joke but also watched the clock. “I have to go in an hour and forty-five minutes. Let’s move.”
The drove in the blinding rain down 441 to the Ocmulgee River. “Pull in here” Susan said. “I’ll get out and move the sign.” And Susan was out of the truck before Larry could speak. She moved one of the barricades just wide enough to let them pass and then pushed it back again. “You know how to drive a backhoe, don’t you?” she asked Larry. “Yeah, I do but…” Larry stopped speaking. “Just tell me what to do.”
“See those big pipes sticking out of the ground over there?” Susan asked. “They’re called ‘shell piling’ and they’re about two hundred feet deep apiece. We’re going to drop him in and then we’re going to drop a few of those big rocks on top of him, and then we’re going to dump about ten feet of sand on top of him. Let’s go!” Once they got started it was almost too easy. The equipment all had the keys left in the needed materials were all on hand. In twenty minutes it was done and they were on their way back home. “I have to take and shower and get dressed. I’ll get to work on time, barely, but I’ll get there. You tear the carpet out of the bedroom. Find a place to hide the gun where it will never be found. I’ll be home at six and I’ll get you up in time for you to go to work. I’ll fix supper.”
Larry spent a few hours tearing the carpet out of the bedroom and used the work to drain the energy out of his body. The workouts at the prison gym had added a lot of muscle mass to his body and the carpet was no match for him at all. What hadn’t Susan gone to the cops? With one bracelet on her wrist and tears in her eyes they would have believed her easy. Now, the body was gone, the carpet was going to be gone, and as soon as the gun was gone, it was all over. All they had to worry about is the body being found but after he had pushed it into that pipe it was a very long time before he heard it hit. But from this point on, anytime they drove over that bridge, he would think of Marcel. Odd thought that, Larry realized for Marcel had always been one of the smart kids in school, one of those with futures and a destiny. But Marcel had returned to Jacksonville Georgia for no good reason after college. Did Marcel have that big of a crush on Susan? Larry paused and took a breath and felt his stomach churn. They had just murdered Marcel Delving. Larry knew his parents and he remembered seeing them at High School graduation. Larry hadn’t realized what a small man Marcel had been. That piling hadn’t been more than two feet across, Larry certainly couldn’t have fit inside, but the body wrapped in the tarp slid down and disappeared instantly. Marcel had vanished from the earth and vanished into the earth in less than two and a half hours. Now, unless someone looked under the sand and rocks in that same pile, Marcel might never be found. How many years would his mama wait for him to come home? Larry put his back into it and a piece of carpet ripped along a seam. He cut the bloody part of it out with razor knife and put it in a trash bag. He would stop on his way to work to get gas and leave the bag in the dumpster at the gas station. But did Susan call the cops? Tim Jenkins had caught his wife in bed with another man and they were still together. That has been five years ago. How does a man forgive a woman for something like that? Larry realized it was far too late to do anything but to keep going. He ripped out all the carpet and mopped the floor, twice, methodically, as if the mindless work was a benison. There was a hole in the floor and Larry took his time in digging out the slug. It was such a small thing. A tiny piece of metal that had sat still and cold inside of a .357 for…a year, two years, how long had it been since he had fired that gun? Now it was slightly mushroomed, bent and misshaped, and harmless. Larry looked at the clock. It had been less than four hours ago. He had gotten away with murder for less than four hours and now the slug was useless except to destroy his own life and Susan’s life.
Larry parked behind the Big Blanche’s Carpet world and dumped the carpet into one of the dumpsters. There were piles and piles of carpet in there already. It was Monday, so maybe the truck came on Mondays. As he rode down the road to Lampkin Branch he rolled down the window and released the slug. It would be hit by dozens of cars, be flattened and once again be useless. At the bridge over Lampkin Branch he tossed the gun over the side of bridge and into the muddy water. With all the rain recently the slit and debris would bury it quickly. Larry got back into his truck and drove home.
The house smelled of bleach so he ran the fan and opened a window in the bedroom. Even though it might have shown up on a urinalysis test, Larry took three of Susan’s sleeping pills and chased them down with a beer. Larry’s mind eventually stopped churning and he fell into a very deep sleep.
“The place looks nice,” Susan said as she joined him in bed. “I’ve got some pork chops going, with some veggies in the steamer.”
Larry awoke and for a minute his head was far too fogged for him to realize what time it was. She was back from work. It was night. He had slept for nearly twelve hours. He sat up and looked around the room. The hardwood floors glistened and there was no sign that there had ever been a dead body on the floor. Susan looked exhausted from her efforts to clean up the room and the stress.
“Why did you cheat on me?” Larry mumbled. He hated himself for asking.
“Larry,” Susan began, “men cheat on their wives for much different reasons than women cheating on their husbands. Men cheat because they define themselves by what they conquer. They want more than what they have, or perversely, they want less. Sometimes a man will take a waitress from some fast food place when his wife is an attorney, because that’s someone he feel like he’s better than, even if it isn’t true.” Susan took a deep breath and released it slowly, and tied her hair back again. “I cheated on you because I was bored and you weren’t paying enough attention to me. I felt like our life together was growing old very slowly and very dully. Marcel wanted to prove he could take the football player’s wife from him, I wanted to feel some sort of life again and I wanted to punish you for keeping me captive in this place.” She stopped talking and Larry could tell the tears were coming. “I think you would feel better about all of this if you just beat the hell out of me and got it over with. I think you’ll always have that anger and you’ll always keep it in check, but if you just go ahead and get it out of your system I think we can move on to what we’re going to do once this is truly over. I cheated on you. Whatever you want to do to me that’s fine, but let’s get it out of the way, okay?”
Susan began sobbing as Larry put his arms around her and held her close.