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Authors: Rob Kitchin

Stiffed

 

 

 

STIFFED

 

 

Friends help you move … true friends help you move bodies
 

 

 

Rob
Kitchin

 

 

1.              Friends help you move ... true friends help you move bodies

2.
              If you are going to walk on thin ice you might as well dance

3.
              Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error — Cicero

4.
              Any time things appear to be going better, something has been overlooked

5.
              A bad plan is better than no plan

6.
              Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid — John Wayne

7.
              Never trust a lying, cheating, double-crossing bitch

8.
              Only dead fish go with the flow

9.
              Life is never so bad that it can't get worse – Calvin and Hobbes

10. 
              The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea -
Ovid

11. 
              Everything is always okay in the end; if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end

12.
              Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends –
William Butler Yeats
.

 

 

 

Copyright

Acknowledgements

 

 

 

1

 

Friends help you move … true friends help you move bodies

 

The house is quiet when I sneak across the threshold.  Kate must have already headed up to bed.  She’ll be lying on her side, staring at the closet door, pretending to have gone to sleep. 

We
haven’t slipped beneath the covers together for some time.  And if we did, all we’d do is bicker.  That’s all we ever do these days. 

Seven month itch.

More like an open wound. 

I totter through to the kitchen sink where I knock over a glass with one hand and miss the tap with the other. 

I guess I’m a little
more drunk than I thought.  With exaggerated care I fill the glass with tap water and gulp it down.  It won’t stop the morning’s hangover, but it’ll round off the jagged edges.

Time to face the music.
 

Or at least the
frigid silence.

I tip
-toe up the stairs and into the bedroom.  Kate has the duvet pulled up over her shoulder.  I tug off my jeans and socks, one hand on the wall to keep my balance, and slide into bed wearing my boxers and a t-shirt.

‘Are you okay?’ I whisper. 

She doesn’t reply.  Doesn’t even flinch at my proximity. 

Kat
e was always out of my league – the star of the show slumming it with a stagehand – so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that our relationship has run its course; that it’s seemingly beyond repair. 

I reach out one last time:
‘Kate?’

Nothing.

It’s like I’m already dead to her.

I roll on
to my side and stare at the red letters of the digital alarm clock.  12.07.  Numbed by beer, the numbers slowly start to fuzz and fade as I drift into sleep.

 

* * *

‘Arghhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.’

I jump into consciousness.

‘Oh my God! … Oh my God!’

I remove my arm from around
Kate’s waist and start to sit up.  I have an erection you could play baseball with and the beginnings of an unpleasant hangover - a dull, throbbing headache, queasy stomach, and a mouth that feels as if it’s been used as a nest by a family of field mice.

Her scream reaches
an octave that could shatter glass.

I open my eyes, my heart already beatin
g in double time.  What the hell have I done to her?  Can you violate someone when you’re asleep?

The room is in semi-darkness, barely lit by the
hall light creeping round the nearly closed door.  Kate is standing at the end of the bed wearing a silky camisole and white hipster panties covered in red hearts.  Her hands are cupped round her temples and she is doing one heck of an impression of a banshee.

As our eyes lock and
she starts to back away, the scream dying in her throat.

She looks down at the bed next to me.  I follow her gaze.

There’s a man laying there, his back to me. 

A naked man.
 

With a hairy back.

Covered in blood.

All
of sudden I feel nauseous, my stomach folding itself inside out. 

I glance at my right arm.  It’s
stained a ruddy red.

Oh my
God.  I shuffle backwards away from the body, my legs cycling across the sheet.  I topple off the edge of the mattress, the back of my head clunking on the bedside locker.  An extendable reading lamp follows me to the floorboards.

Fuck
.

I’m aware of movement by my side.  I glance up at
Kate as she scoops up the lamp, holding it just below the shade, and swings it back.

Oh shit.

I get my hands up just in time to deflect the metal base from smashing into my nose.  I’m little prepared however for the stamp of her heel on my rapidly deflating erection.

OH FUCK!  OH SWEET JESUS!

I’m aware that Kate is shouting at me, but I’ve no idea what she is saying.  It’s just white noise. 

With chirping blue birds

A
nd a full fireworks display.

I open my eyes
to see the lamp base arriving.  It wallops into my forehead and the world goes blank.

* * *

I slowly drift back into consciousness.  An incendiary bomb has been detonated in my skull.  All my neurons are alive, but are dripping in phosphorous.  My balls are throbbing like the engine of a small boat and my bladder is fit to burst. 

‘What the …’ I mutter to myself, wondering what I’m doing lying prone on the floor.

Then the red sea parts and I have a moment of clarity tinged with the fuzzy fringe of a resplendent headache.

I work my way onto my knees and look across the bed.  Dea
d Man is still laying there, his back to me.  How can someone be so hairy?  If you threw him at a Velcro wall he’d have to be cut free.  I glance round, but there’s no sign of Kate.  The bedroom door is wide open and the house is silent.

The reality of the situation starts to hit home. 

There’s a man in my bed.

A dead man.
 

Looking like an extra from a
particularly bloody CSI scene.

How the
hell did a dead man end up in my bed?

This isn’t happening.  It
must be a bad dream.  A nightmare.  Too much cheese on last night’s pizza.

I close my eyes and lower myself
gingerly back to the floor.  If I force myself awake it’ll all revert to normal.  I just need to find a way to jam my mental projector and step out of the theater into consciousness.  How do you wake yourself from a nightmare in which you’re trapped in a nightmare?

Reluctantly
I raise my head again and open my eyes, one hand feeling the golf ball sized lump on my forehead.  Dead Man is still there and I suspect I might be awake.  This really
is
a nightmare.

I clamber to my feet, my legs unsteady. 
A couple of slices of beer soaked pizza are struggling to stay in my stomach. 

My thoughts are slow and clunky
and painful.  There’s a dead man in the bed.  I’d been sleeping with a blood soaked, hairy corpse.  Kate found us together, cuddled in tight, a tent in my boxers.

Kate.

Oh God.

I stagger to the door.  The house is deat
hly quiet.  I call out her name but there’s no response.  She’s fled and who can blame her?  I always thought she was a little nuts, but she must think I’m a full-blown psychopath.  A dozen bodies buried in the back yard. 

H
ow long is it since Kate took flight?  Five minutes?  Half an hour?  When are the police going to arrive?  This is going to take a lot of explanation and I have no rational account for the yeti’s presence or his violent death.  Not even the semblance of a half-baked story.  I don’t even know who the poor bastard is. 

I wander round the end of the bed
so I can take a peek at Dead Man’s face.  I step cautiously up the alley between the closet and mattress.  The man has been stabbed at least three times in the chest and once in the neck.  The sheet and pillow are soaked in blood.  Flecks dot the wall, bed side locker and floorboards. 

How the hell
could I have not noticed this when I arrived home?

Drunk.
 

Drunk and blind.
 

Drunk, blind and stupid.

I’m not blind now.  I feel pretty damn sober as well.  Stupid … well, yeah, probably.  Nothing you can do about genetics and nurturing. 

I stare at the face. 

Oh, Sweet Jesus.

Tony Marino.

The
Tony Marino.  Aldo Pirelli’s right hand man.

Pirelli by name, Pirelli by nature.
  If you find yourself in his way, he’s liable to flatten you like a tire on a twenty ton truck.

Carrick Springs might be a small town of only
35,000 or so inhabitants but, like just about every settlement in America bigger than a village, it has some form of organized crime.  Some group of men who make their living preying on everyone else.  After five years of working on the local paper – The Spring Times – covering just about every kind of story going, I knew all about the rackets run by Pirelli, Marino and their associates.  They were ruthless men that exploited other people’s weaknesses and vices.

I manage to turn away
as the contents of my stomach rise up and explode over the closet door.  About twenty heaves later I feel no better, my chest tight, stomach weak and twisted, and my throat on fire.  I hold each nostril, snorting to expel bile and heaven knows what.

I have to be awake; that was far too corporeal an experience to be a dream.

I might as well be dead.

Tony Marino.  Fuck. 
The
Tony Marino. 

I cautiously poke his upper arm.  He’s cold and he’s real.  They may as well have put a horse’s head in my bed or a death warrant or a pair of concrete shoes. 
Regardless of what the police think and believe, Pirelli will want revenge.  He isn’t going to be interested in evidence and truth.  He’ll look at the bare facts – Tony Marino is found dead in my house, in my bed, and I’m covered in his blood – and execute rough justice.

Execute being the operative word.

The right thing to do would be to wait for the police to arrive.

The sensible thing to do would be to get out of there and to disappear. 
Forever.

The only other
option is to get rid of the body and pretend it was never there.  No body, no crime.  The problem disappears and I can get on with my life. 

Hopefully.
 

Possibly.

It has to be worth a shot.  Right?  Every other way and my life is over as I know it.

If it comes to it, i
t’ll be Kate’s word against mine.  And it won’t take long for the police to realize she swaps moods and stories faster than a chameleon on acid.  Not so much carrying emotional baggage as a full set of matching suitcases. 

I turn back to Marino.  He’s a big guy and he’s a
dead weight.  The chances of me moving him on my own are slim to none.  I need help and I need it fast.  I head to my jeans and my cell phone.  My finger hovers over the keypad. 

Here’s a question.  There’s a dead man in your
bed and you need help to move him, who do you call?  No, seriously, who would you trust to help you?  Even if you didn’t kill the guy, they don’t know that.  You’re covered in his blood and hopped up on adrenaline and you’re asking them to put their freedom on the line for you.  If you get caught, you’ll both be going to prison for a long time. 

A very long time.

So, who do you call?  Or do you just wait to face the music alone?

To hell with
that.

I pull up Jason’s number and press dial.

The phone rings ten times then cuts to an answer service.  I cut the call and try again. 

After five rings Jason answers.
  ‘This better be fucking good, man,’ he says in a nasally, high pitched voice.  Jason Choi is second generation Korean.  He weighs three hundred and fifty pounds, produces enough gas a day to roast a chicken, and has been my best friend since I moved to America from a small town in Ireland when I was fourteen.  He still lives with his aging parents, three doors up from the house I grew up in.  The house I now live in, having inherited it from my parents.

‘I need you to come
to the house, right now.’

‘What’s she done
now?  Locked you in the basement again?’

‘Ja
se, I don’t have time to explain.  Just get your fat ass here.’

‘You want my fat ass
there, you’d better start asking nicely.  It’s gone three o’clock in the morning.’

Damn
.  The police could be here any minute.  Pirelli will exact revenge shortly afterwards.  A lackey in his debt will ram a sharpened toothbrush through my ribs in the county jail.

I cut to the chase
: ‘Jason, there’s a dead man in my bed.  I need to move the body.’

‘There’s a dead
man …’ his voice rises an octave. ‘You’re shitting me, right?’

‘Do I sound like I’m shitting you?  Just get over here before the
cops arrive.’


The cops?  What the fuck is …’

‘JASON!  JUST GET THE FUCK OVER HERE.’  I terminate the call and pull on my jeans wondering if
Jason will do the best friend thing and waddle up the road.

* * *

‘Shit, man, you’re covered in blood.’  Jason is wearing a massive, yellow Hawaiian shirt covered in green parrots, plaid shorts and a pair of pink flip-flops.

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