Victim Number Five
The first body I found was a rat. It was on its back in the dirt, legs stiffly pointing toward the sky like it might resume walking at any moment, only upside-down. Its eyes were wide and glazed over, closer resembling a painting of death than an actual dead thing. At least, I had never seen a dead body with its eyes open, so I always assumed that glossy film was the result of some artist trying to come up with a lazy way to relay “dead” with minimal effort. Seeing the rat probably would have had the same impact if it had x’s for eyes. There was something cartoonish about the way its lips curled back from its teeth, about the way its tongue didn’t lean to one side or the other, but remained directly in the middle of its mouth like it was screaming. Even the way its fur was beginning to peel back was more amusing than disgusting.
I looked back and forth, up and down the railroad track. There were no trains, of course. I wasn’t there to kill myself. There weren’t people, either. The tracks and the dirt continued east and west for what must have been miles before completely disappearing into trees. It was just me, the tracks, the dirt, the forest, and this rat. I looked back down at the rat and momentarily wondered if Dead Rats would be a good punk band name, but it wouldn’t. Too derivative of the Dead Kennedys, I think. Then I briefly wondered if this reaction was normal. I assured myself that New Yorkers see dead rats all the time and don’t think anything of it, and a dead rat’s a dead rat, even if it is in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin.
I hovered my litter stick over its unmoving form. The image of blood and guts spilling out of it was less comical, so I figured I should check with someone about how to dispose of it first. Having studied the map of this stretch, I knew to head north a little ways in to find the supervisor’s building. It was a small wooden structure that stood completely square and stoic, with a stark lifelessness that matched its utilitarian aesthetic. The small, yellow light above the door was lit, which meant the boss was in. I knocked.
I heard some scurrying, but nothing more.
I knocked again. “Hey, boss? I gotta question for ya.”
I heard someone messing with the lock on the door. For a second, I thought he was going to let me in. No such luck. He must have been checking to make sure it was secured.
There was no point waiting for an answer from someone who didn’t want to talk, so I took a deep breath and hoped I wasn’t asking something stupid. “There’s this, uh, dead rat? Out here? Um, do I just…stab it, or..?”
“You have gloves, don’t you?”
The answer was so forceful that I pulled back a little. “Uh, yeah?”
“Then pick up it up and put it in the trash. Idiot.”
I couldn’t afford to get fired, so I didn’t fight him on the ‘idiot’ thing. Okay, so I technically wouldn’t starve or anything, but I’d never be able to move out of my mother’s house if I kept losing jobs. And I actually stood a chance of keeping this one, since cleaning litter from around the railroad tracks didn’t require much human contact. It’s not my fault people are assholes. I can’t stand assholes.
That asshole rat was practically staring at me when I got back to it. It was daring me to chicken out. I checked my glove for holes and, when I didn’t see any, grabbed the rat before I could think about backing down. I grabbed too hard. I should have known by its sagging skin that it was in the middle of decomposing, not solid. There was something satisfying in the way its soft body gave way under my hand. In the way its intestines pooled out between my fingers and slopped into my open trash bag. I was busy admiring the way that coagulated blood doesn’t really ooze once an animal’s been dead long enough, just plops in small bubbles, when the maggots emerged. They wriggled out of its stomach, pushed their way through its eyes, and swarmed out its anus. I dropped the carcass, waving my arm and sending a spray of blood and bugs through the air. I stamped on the disgusting creatures in a ridiculous spasmodic imitation of a club dance, cursing and swearing to buy a new pair of shoes. After about a minute, I stopped to catch my breath. Then I laughed until my sides ached.
The second body I found was a bird. It was a couple days later, and raining. It must have been newly dead. The feathers that hadn’t been plucked remained steadfast in its body. Blood moved from a hole in the center of its chest, the rain washing it out. I poked at the bird with my stick, pressing on its stomach to check for maggots, then gently lifting its beak to get a better look at its fateful wound. The beak moved easily, then the whole head rolled away. The poor little freak had been decapitated.
The head didn’t roll far. It just kind of fell sideways in the dirt and got stuck. The separation was so clean I couldn’t help but think it was suspicious. Cats don’t carry butcher knives, as far as I know. Gently, I picked up the head and turned it in my fingers. It still looked alive, in a way. Like a head that just happened to forget its body at home that morning.
I carried it to the boss’s shack and knocked. I didn’t wait for him to not answer me to talk this time. “Boss? I, uh, found a bird. A headless bird.”
I gritted my teeth. I thought maybe the last litter guy quit because of the maggots, or the heat, or the low pay. I was beginning to think it was because the boss was a reclusive asshole. “Don’t you think that’s, I don’t know, weird? That bird and its head were just…not connected anymore?”
“Must have been a train.”
I looked to the little parcel in my palm and moved its tongue from side to side. “Like, the bird just got tired of flying around, maybe its bird-wife was cheating on it or something, so it decided to just…lay its head on the track and end it all? Do you think it left, like, a suicide tweet?”
He didn’t answer.
I looked at the cut. “Wouldn’t it…squish? Birds are pretty small, I mean.”
“Just throw it away.”
“It’s a little weird, that’s all.” My voice lost its strength. I dropped the head into my bag and went back for the body, muttering to myself. “It’s just weird.”
The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth bodies I found all blended together. It may have even been nine or ten. I lost count. There were birds, rats, and a squirrel or two. Some were partially rotten, some were fresh. Some were bloody and dismembered, some were clean and intact. I stopped bothering my boss about them after a while. It just became part of the job. I could lie, I guess, and say that the bodies kept me up at night. It wouldn’t be entirely untrue. It just wouldn’t be for the reason you’re thinking.
I would get excited sometimes. I enjoyed my job. I would have trouble getting to sleep because I was looking forward to the next day. The bodies fit right in. I mean, the tracks ran through the woods. The little critters were probably dying all over the place, but the only way I ever saw them was if they died on the tracks. And, while I’m being totally honest, I liked finding them. We’re not supposed to listen to music while we work, in case an unscheduled train is coming down the tracks, but I always did. I’d have my head phones on, my Walkman clipped on my belt, swinging my stick and rocking out. There was something satisfying about singing Rage Against the Machine while kicking a corpse into a trash bag, or throwing a body into the air. Rats, especially, made good microphones. So I’d be out there, all alone, singing as loud as I could into a dead animal and dancing my way down the tracks. It’s weird, I guess, but there’s no point lying about it now.
Like I said, for the most part, all these tiny little cadavers ran together. If I kept them all, I probably could have made a scale stuffed model of the Squirrel-Battle of Gettysburg, or of the Dead Rat Holocaust (which actually is a great punk band name, coincidentally). Of all this carnage, there was really only one that stood out from the rest.
It was a squirrel, which wasn’t the unusual part. It looked like it had been cut open, its little organs swelling in the heat, but I’d come to expect that kind of thing. I wasn’t even surprised by the flick of its tail as I approached. Muscle spasms were pretty normal for animals that hadn’t been dead all that long. What struck me about this rodent’s remains was that it wasn’t alone. There was another squirrel beside it, sort of balanced back on whatever a squirrel’s equivalent for heels is, moving its hands up and down. For just a second, I thought it might be praying. Then I realized the stupidity of that thought, imagining a little squirrel in tiny priest robes beside a miniature hospital bed, with its little Bible and its little rosary, squeaking out in a high-pitched voice a prayer for the dead—May Christ who called you, take you to himself! May angels lead you to Abraham’s side! Then a group of rats in choral robes would pop out, some squeaking out Amazing Grace while others just chew on the edges of their hymnals. A nearby bird in a floral dress would clutch its pearls and faint.
I realized I was laughing out loud at about the same moment the squirrel did. The living one, that is. It looked up at me, its beady little eyes seeming to stare without focus. It rose to its back feet like a meerkat, probably trying to judge if I was dangerous. I stopped laughing. The little beast seemed to think I would kill it. Maybe it thought I’d killed the other one and now I was back for it. Like some kind of serial squirrel killer, an even dumber version of Norman Bates than the one in Psycho III. I imagined myself wearing old lady wigs and cutting small animals to pieces. I pictured stabbing out with my litter stick, the music sting from the infamous shower scene cycling in the background. I remembered the way the stick looked as it plunged into already-dead animals, the way that blood clung to the metal around the edges of the new wound without leaking out. I wondered what stabbing a living animal would look like. I wondered if its blood would be as dark.
The stupid squirrel was still staring me, probably paralyzed from fear. I lifted the litter stick higher, marveling at how light it was, at how easy it would be strike quickly. I inched forward, not picking my feet up off the ground. I glanced at the dead body the squirrel had either been eulogizing or preparing to eat. A glint off a railroad tie caught my eye, and I momentarily looked to the track. Its surface was smeared with dirt from countless trains and drunken partiers (there’s not a lot to do around here). Under this layer of dirt was an oxidized layer of patina, making the normally copper-colored tracks appear green in some places. What caught my eye was a small section still clean enough to reflect sunlight. I could see myself in it, distorted by the angle into a grotesquely stretched-out caricature of a young adult. My light brown hair, which I never brushed, stuck out in odd angles like I just rolled out of bed, but seemed to twist into horns in the mirror image. My green eyes glinted fiercely, their permanent dark circles deepening and darkening by the contrast. The orange vest I had to wear for the job was the only thing about me that suggested safety. It contrasted sharply with the metal spike I had raised like a spear. I looked dangerous. I looked insane.
What was I planning to do, exactly?
Before I could think of an answer to that question, the squirrel took off like the devil was chasing it. It slowed down to glance back at me only once, but did not stop. I didn’t chase after it. I’d never be able to catch it, even if I wanted to.
After that, the bodies all ran together again. And I went back to kicking, stabbing, and singing like nothing happened, because nothing did.
I had my bag and stick in one hand and a bird in the other when I stumbled upon the seventh (or was it eleventh?) body. Calling it a body might be a bit dramatic, I guess. It was a woman’s shoe. It was scuffed and dirty, but it was clearly once an expensive high-heel. I couldn’t imagine a classy lady walking out into the woods to throw a single heel on the track. I threw the bird away and picked up the shoe. Thinking that someone might be out there and hurt, I followed the tracks for a while. Maybe a woman was chased out here, and she lost her shoe as she was running. As I walked, I couldn’t find any footprints in the dirt, and the rocks around the railroad ties seemed undisturbed. I headed back to where I found the shoe. Rocks were definitely displaced, and there were small holes in the ground, like someone had been stabbing the dirt repeatedly with a very tiny knife. Or kicking out while wearing heels.
Someone was kidnapped here. I pulled off my headphones and spun in a circle, but nowhere else looked disturbed. Whoever took her must have carried her from this point.
Shoe in hand, I ran to the boss’ house and pounded on the door. “Boss! We got trouble!”
“Open up, dammit!”
“I’m not joking, and this isn’t about some dumb animal! A person’s been taken!”
Not even the sound of breathing.
“Goddammit!” I backed up, ready to throw myself against the door and force it open. Then I noticed it. The yellow light wasn’t on. My boss wasn’t there.
What the hell was I supposed to do? I could walk back to my truck to get my cell phone. But what if they were nearby? I would just be heading in the opposite direction. That wouldn’t really be helping. I knew there was a landline in the building. There had to be. If I could get inside, I could call for help quickly and go looking for the semi-heeled woman. I wouldn’t get fired for trying to save someone’s life. Probably.
I threw myself into the door. It didn’t budge. I backed up, got a running start, and hurled myself into the door. I heard a popping sound, so I pulled back. The door remained unmoved. I looked down. My arm wouldn’t move. The moment I realized that the popping sound was my arm, the pain hit. I screamed. I pressed myself against the side of the building and worked my shoulder back into place. I knew I could work through the pain. I’d gotten worse injuries in backyard wrestling competitions with my cousins, after all.
It was then that I realized what a complete idiot I was. I tried the handle, and the door opened easily. It wasn’t locked. Almost immediately, I wished that it had been. The stench inside the small room was unbearable. It was the stink of a bloated corpse, but condensed into a ten square foot block. It was like a wharf on a hot summer day, or a giant pile of diapers inside a sewage processing plant.
I threw up. Twice. Once I could see straight, I lifted part of my vest to cover my nose and mouth and went inside.
There were jars of preserved creatures lining the walls. There was a squirrel on the desk, its skin pulled back and pinned to show where someone had been carefully removing its organs and putting them in small marked baggies beside it. Under the desk was a dog. It was headless, but stuffed. The trashcan was a horrendous pile of miscellany. Even a zoologist wouldn’t have been able to determine what all animals were inside it. I was staring into this blob, thinking how much it looked like my mother’s jello, when I heard someone crying softly.
To the left, in the corner, was a woman, gagged and bound. She was missing a shoe. More importantly, she was staring at me with hope in her eyes. Like I was some kind of knight in shining armor come to her rescue. She was also pretty hot, truthfully. Her brown hair was bobbed. There were twigs sticking out the matted back of it. Her green eyes were huge, and the cuts on her cheeks brought out her freckles. There was tight binding at the base of her ribcage and across her chest, really lifting and separating. I tried to focus on the crying and the rescuing. I tried not to think about what must be wrong with me to be thinking about her breasts when her life was in danger. I knelt beside her and removed the gag.
She coughed, then started sucking in air like it was just invented. “Thank God!” Her voice was hoarse. I don’t know how long she’d been trying to scream.
Not sure how to break the ice, I held up the shoe I found outside. “This yours?” I was never very good at talking to girls.
Probably just from relief, she laughed. The laugh turned into a sniffle as she tried to stop crying. “I can’t believe this. I thought I was going to die.” Her smile was radiant. “We need to get out of here.”
“Uh, yeah. Of course. Just let me…I need to call the police first. So they can send someone out here to look for whoever did this. But I have a truck. I can drive you to the hospital.” As I spoke, I untied her. She rubbed her wrists gingerly and nodded, so I moved to the desk. The phone was next to the squirrel. Little bags of organs leaned against it. I tried not to touch them as I picked up the receiver, though I couldn’t help but wonder if a human spleen looked as small and as round as a squirrel’s.
I put the phone to my ear, only to hear nothing. No dial tone. The phone wasn’t working. I dialed 9-1-1 anyway, not wanting to frighten the person sitting behind me. “Yes, we’re out by the railroad tracks in the woods. We’re in the guard house, the little wood box just north of the tracks off 94 near Cottage Grove. A woman was kidnapped. I’ve got her. We’re coming in to the hospital. We don’t know who or where her kidnapper is. Gotta go. Bye.” My sign off could have been smoother, but my guest didn’t seem suspicious of it. I helped her to her feet, and together we hobbled out of the hut. But even after leaving that psychopath’s room, the image of the surgically-mutilated squirrel wouldn’t leave my mind.
The woman didn’t have much strength, so I had to support her over the tracks, through the woods, and into my pickup. For some reason, I wasn’t really worried about my boss coming around and catching us. I felt like I could handle it. I was worried about something else. Something inside myself that I wasn’t sure I could control.
The nearest hospital was in Madison, a drive that should have been mostly on the highway. I opted instead for the much longer backroad route. I didn’t want to let her go. She was leaning against the passenger door, her bare feet resting against my leg. Her knees were slightly in the air, and her neck was craning sideways to watch out the windshield. Her mouth was partially open. There was blood on her lip where the gag had been digging in. I cleared my throat. “So, uh, what’s your name?”
“Cecelia, after my grandmother. But I prefer to go by my middle name, Tate.” Her tone was easy, conversational. Like she hadn’t just been bound up in a shack. “What do you go by, hero?”
“Well, that certainly has a nice ring to it.” I laughed a little, my cheeks burning. “But I don’t really go by anything, really. The name’s Logan, actually. I just mean that, well, you know…”
“You don’t have any friends, so no one calls you anything?”
“More or less, yeah. But Logan’s fine. Anything’s fine.” I readjusted my grip on the steering wheel, fighting the urge to turn.
“Anything?” The playfulness in her voice was intoxicating. “How about Priscilla, Queen of the Forest?”
I smiled despite myself, and took a wrong turn. “I, uh, did say anything.”
“Alright, Priscilla, Queen of the Forest, if that is your real name.” Her toes wiggled against my leg. “What were you doing out at that shack?”
“I work out there. Not in the shack!” I glanced sideways, but her smile hadn’t wavered. “I work on the railroad. I pick up trash.” I focused my attention on a fork in the road. “It, uh, looked like there was some kind of struggle, so I was, um, breaking into the shack to call for help, or something.”
“Well, I’m glad you did.” She moved her eyes from my face to the forest surrounding us. I couldn’t tell if she had picked up that we weren’t heading toward Madison.
I didn’t have an answer, so I drove on in silence, only occasionally glancing over at her bare legs. The dress she had on wasn’t immodest, but her legs went on for miles.
“Do you know who owns that building?” Her tone shifted some, becoming marginally more serious, but the smile remained as she glanced toward me again.
“Sort of.” I tried to refocus on the image of her bound and helpless instead of the image of her relaxing in my passenger seat, but somehow it didn’t help me concentrate. “I mean, the railroad does. Or the state does. If, like, the state owns the railroad, or something. I mean, you know, it’s the supervisor’s building. My, uh, boss works there. I think.” I wished I could say that it was out of the ordinary for me to stutter like this, but I’d never been very good at communicating, regardless of how hot the other person was.
“He’s a serial killer, you know. You can read about it in the paper, all the girls that have been going missing. It’s his doing.”
“No shit?” That couldn’t be right. Sure, he seemed like the type, with the dead animals and everything. But if he was killing girls, why bother with rats? Don’t crazies usually move from one to the other, not do both at the same time?
She frowned and bit at her lip, wincing as she unintentionally dragged her glistening white teeth over a developing sore. “The only shit is your shitbag boss.” I felt her resituate in the seat beside me, putting her feet on the floor as she leaned forward to look out the windshield. “The first girl went missing about six years ago, in 1994. Three more girls have disappeared since then. Two of the girls were found…dissected, for lack of a better word, at the garbage dump. The other two haven’t been found yet.”
“So you were, you know, about to be victim number five?” I allowed myself a quick peek at her furrowed brow, then looked back to the road. The last chance to turn off toward Madison was coming up quickly.
“That wasn’t the plan, exactly.”
“You, uh, didn’t really look like you, uh, had a plan, exactly.”
She blew stray strands of hair out of her face audibly. “There was a plan.”
I could see a short hill on the horizon. The turn was just at the bottom of it. “And that plan was…?”
“It sounds so stupid now.” Tate slumped backward in her seat. “All the girls went missing from the same bar. All the girls had short brown hair, and they were all wearing green dresses and high heels.”
I glanced at her reflection in the slanted rearview mirror, noting the emerald color of her outfit.
“I cut my hair. I bought this stupid dress. I was going to find him. I was going to…to…”
“To, like, commit suicide by serial killer? That’s, umm, an original way to go, I guess.”
“No, it wasn’t that.” She waved her hand dismissively by my face. “I was going to ask him why. Why he killed my sister.” The strength ebbed out of her voice, and she finished with a whisper. “I had to know why.”
We rounded the hill. I kept driving, staring straight ahead. Before I realized what I was doing, we were parked back where we started. I shut off the engine. “Get out.”
“What are you—“ She didn’t finish the question. She climbed out of the cab quickly, not taking her eyes off mine.
I put a hand on her back and pushed her forward, leading her into the trees.
“Is this some kind of sick joke?” Tate’s voice cracked. “You work with him, don’t you? Why even pretend to rescue me?”
I wasn’t sure what I was doing, to be honest, so I didn’t answer her. I just kept picturing what her insides must look like. What it must feel like to pull them out one by one, or what those green eyes would look like with maggots boring through them.
“You don’t have to do this. If he’s making you do this, the police can help, you know.”
Was she trying to talk me out of killing her? But, I wasn’t going to kill her. Probably.
“You’ve got to say something, Priscilla! Are you going to give me back to him, or are you going to help me?”
I pushed her onward, silently.
When we returned to the shack, the light above the door was on. The door was slightly ajar, the stench pooling around its edges and invading the air around it. I coughed, a reaction that seemed to surprise Tate. How she didn’t choke, I couldn’t say. It likely had something to do with being stuck in there for God knows how many hours before I found her. I put my hand on the door, and it gave way without any force. Someone else had opened it.
An older man, probably in his forties, stood there, smiling. He was dressed cleanly, his slacks pressed and his tie in a meticulous half-Windsor. He had one hand behind his back and a gleam in his eye. “And who might you be, young man?” His voice was kind. Disarming.
“I’m Logan. I, you know, work for the railroad. I’m the one who kept, uh, complaining about the, umm, animals.”
“Ah, yes.” His eyes lit up in recognition, and his smile widened. “I’ve seen you out there, singing and dancing. You’re always so lively.”
“Yep. That’s me.” My confidence was completely gone. I was talking to a real serial killer like he was my friendly neighbor.
“I see you’ve brought back what’s mine.” His eyes moved from my face to Tate, who spit at him. “Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks so much for returning it.”
“Uh, yeah.” I stepped to the side, letting him reach past me and grab his victim.
Tate took a step forward, then stomped on the killer’s foot as hard she could. He gritted his teeth, then laughed. As he was laughing, she swung. Her fist connected to his face harder than any of us expected. He reeled backward, still gripping her wrist. Her eyes widened in shock as blood pooled on her knuckles and a tooth fell to the floor. I took a step backward, not wanting any of that to come my direction.
The killer straightened himself and looked to Tate. The glimmer in his eyes was gone. He scowled, his friendly features contorting into a hideous expression of rage. “Don’t you dare touch me again, young lady. Or I won’t kill you before I cut you open.”
The image of Tate lying on the floor, writhing as my boss pulled her skin back and pinned it, brought conflicting emotions of arousal and horror. What kind of person was I, exactly?
Slowly, confidently, Tate raised a single finger and touched the killer’s forehead. He flew into a rage, throwing her against the wall and reaching for a knife from his kit on the floor. She recovered quickly, kicking his hand and sending the knife skittering across the floor to my feet.
I picked it up. It was beautiful, in its way. I focused on the sound of birds chirping in the distance as I studied its reflective surface. It had marks along the edge. It had clearly been used many times and re-sharpened. There wasn’t a speck of blood on it. He truly cared for his scalpels.
A loud thud brought me to my senses. The two were wrestling on the floor. He was much larger than her, but she had her fingernails dug into his face, just below the eye. He reached toward me. “Logan! Throw me that scalpel!”
Tate bit into his hand, then stuck out hers. “Priscilla! I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but give me that knife!”
“Logan! Hand me that scalpel, or you’re fired!”
“Priscilla, for God’s sake! He’ll kill me like he killed my sister!”
I was frozen. It shouldn’t have been a difficult decision. An innocent girl’s life was on the line. A girl whose life I had intentionally endangered. A girl who I wanted more than anything to see in bloody pieces. I had to decide, who was I? Was I human, or something else? Did I really want to end up like this guy, struggling with a victim, one idiot away from going to prison? Of course, if I were a serial killer, I would do better. I would lock the door when I was out, even if I thought I could trust someone. I wouldn’t trust anyone. I wouldn’t leave my victim alone for anything. I wouldn’t kill in the same place I worked, even if it was remote. I wouldn’t have left Tate with any of her skin. Not for a moment.
I thought of the way that bird’s head had felt in my hands. It had felt right, in a way. Like my hands were meant to hold the dead. I thought of Tate’s head in my hands. It felt much heavier. I could barely lift it, let alone toss it casually into a bag.
I swung out, stabbing something. I swung again. And again. Tate and my boss were both screaming. I kept hammering the point home. A loud buzzing noise took over my senses. I kicked out, knocking a body to the ground. I straddled it from behind, grabbing a larger knife from the tool kit. I cut into the spinal cord, just above the tailbone. I brought the knife up, severing everything I could. I rolled my prey over, and cut into the stomach. Clothing and skin and fat and muscle all gave way the same. I plunged the knife in over and over, splattering myself with blood and pulling out as much viscera as the blade could handle. The stink that rose from the severed intestine was unreal, like the worst shit I had ever taken with compounded interest. I didn’t stop stabbing until I puked. My arms lost their strength. I realized with sudden clarity that the buzzing noise was my own screaming.
I was lifted up from the body and dragged outside. The fresh air was almost overwhelming, but I managed to steady myself on my feet. The hands that were supporting me moved away.
“You had me worried back there.”
I looked over at Tate. She seemed to be swimming in blood. “Yeah, sorry.”
“Looks like you burst a blood vessel in your eye.” She cringed and folded her arms, shivering.
“You, uh, you should see, you know, the other guy.” I smiled half-heartedly.
Tate looked around, uncertain. “Do you think the police will get here soon?”
“Funny story, that…” I put an arm around her and began to walk back toward the truck. “I think we’ll still need to, like, drive into town. I’ll, umm, explain it on the way.”
She frowned, but she began to move on her own. “Fine, have it your way. I don’t really want to hang around here, anyway.” She paused, glancing back over her shoulder with a smile. “You know, you really had me going for a minute. You should have told me from the beginning what you were planning.” She lowered her eyes, bashful. “And thanks.” She turned and continued toward the truck.
I allowed myself one final look backward. My boss, on his back, covered in his own organs. I decided to never tell anyone how much I enjoyed it.
I put my headphones back on, cranked up the Clash, and followed Tate’s tired back into the woods.