Substitution


Here's a prompted story I put together, based on a prompt at More Odds Than Ends. The prompt was “A pinch of poison, a few hours, and a grave later the deed was done and none would ever be the wiser.” This ended up being a lot darker than what I usually write, and the language is - well, it's not on par with Goodfellas, but there are a few F-bombs in there. 

  

Just like that, Kendall’s world fell apart. The people around her, the throbbing music, all faded away to nothing.

Heart in her stomach, she stared at Josh’s phone screen, still not comprehending the message. Thirty seconds ago, she was looking forward to some long-overdue sack time with her boyfriend of three years. With their competing schedules at the EMS service, it’d been three weeks since she’d been naked with him and that had only been a quickie at the station. She couldn’t remember the last time they screwed in a bed.

And now it might not happen ever again.

“Can’t wait to see you tonight. Call me as soon as you leave the party.” The message faded from the screen, still burning its way through her brain.

Who the fuck was “R” and how long had he been seeing her?

Neomi walked by, smiled at her, pulled up short and sat. “Girl, you look like you’re fixing to die or go off on somebody. What’s up?”

Kendall said nothing, looking around the room, trying desperately to find Josh. “Nothing,” she mumbled.

“Bullshit. What’s wrong?” A minute later, Neomi grabbed Kendall’s wrist and dragged her out to the back porch. “What the hell is up?”

She still didn’t answer her friend, still surveyed the clumps of people for her boyfriend. “Where’s Josh? You seen him?”

“Downstairs playing beer pong. What’s goin’ on?”

Kendall woke up Josh’s phone to show the message to her friend. “Shit. It’s gone. He got a message from some chick saying she ‘can’t wait until she sees him tonight after the party.’ Fuck. I’ve been lookin’ forward to this for weeks, man. Friggin’ weeks! You know how long it’s been since I’ve gotten laid? We were just supposed to put in an appearance here, then get back to my place and spend the night shagging our brains out. It’s the first time in months we’ve had two nights off together, and now he’s gonna go bang some whore? I don’t frigging think so!”

“Let me see that. No way is he cheating on you.” Neomi grabbed the phone from her.

She yanked it back. “No, don’t. I don’t want to let him know I know yet. If you read the message, he’ll know I’ve seen it.”

“Who sent it?”

“Hell if I know. But it’s not the first time she’s texted him. All it says for her name is ‘R’.” She grabbed Neomi’s beer and drained half the cup in one long drink. “So how damn long has this been going on?”

“What are—” Neomi cut her sentence short as Josh walked up.

“There you are. Nobody saw where you went. You got my phone?” He had his usual perfect dopey smile up, the one that had always made her go weak in the knees. Now, tonight, she felt nothing.

“Yeah. Here.” She tried to sound normal. And probably failed. And I don’t give a shit.

His eyebrows furrowed, that soft look she always loved coming across his eyes. “You okay? You look like you’re getting sick.” The back of his hand whispered across her cheek, which never failed to make her smile. 

She forced herself to not respond to his touch, letting a shrug creep through her shoulders. “Not really feeling great.” She rested her head on Neomi’s shoulder instead of wrapping herself around her boyfriend like she wanted to because no matter what was wrong, his touch always made her feel better. Is that gone forever?

“That’s no good.” He reached for her face again, this time with a clinical touch, looking for a fever. “You don’t feel hot. Maybe actually a little clammy. You eat dinner today?”

Yeah, with you, you fucking moron! You drove me to freaking Taco Bueno! She nodded slowly. “Probably just too much beer on top of being exhausted after this week. We were stupid busy today.”

He smiled. “Yeah, but you were a rock star with that kid. Never seen someone so cool with a choking kid.” He looked over at Neomi, oblivious to the holes she was boring through him with her eyes. “She tell you about her save this morning? Four-year-old choking on a hotdog. Slick as snot, she gets in there with forceps and yanks it out while mom and dad are screaming their lungs out.”

Neomi wobbled a nod out, her braids making it look more agreeable that she wanted to let on. “Yeah, she mentioned it. Pretty cool.”

“‘Pretty cool?’ She was friggin’ awesome! My girlfriend saved a kid today, and all you can say is ‘pretty cool?’” He laughed. “Wow. Okay.” He looked more closely at Kendall, stroking her blonde hair softly. “You still want to hang out tonight?”

Kendall desperately worked to conjure up a memory of the last time they’d had sex and drew a complete blank. She tried to imagine them in their bed, the lights down, music in the background, him inside her as she clung to him. As her mental camera zoomed out, she saw someone else’s body, hair, face. The bile rose before she could stop it, spewing as she ran for the edge of the porch.

Neomi glared at Josh. “Thinking that’s gonna be a ‘No.’” She bent to help her friend. 

When they could finally stand, Josh was gone. Kendall cleared her throat twice, spat, and looked around the party. “Figures. Asshole.”

“I’m gonna fucking kill him.” The women sat in the dining room in Neomi’s apartment, a bottle of Captain Morgan’s on the table between them and music on in the background. They’d each knocked back three shots since they got back from the party. Their mood had not improved. 

Neomi smiled at the thought. “How?”

Kendall scoffed. “I’ll figure something out. God knows the job is dangerous enough. Maybe I’ll do something at work.”

“Nah, don’t do that. Do it there and you got a partner and maybe a patient to worry about. It’s gotta be just him.” She poured another shot and knocked it back. “You thought any more about who it is?”

Kendall shook her head. “I know a bunch of girls with ‘R’ names. Who knows how many he knows? Hell, there’s two at the main station alone.”

“Wait. Reilly on C shift, her I know. Who else?”

“Renee something, in Billing. She’s new.” Bob Seger sang about heading west on his motorcycle. “She’s too old, anyway. She’s like in her fifties. He likes ’em young.” She laughed at the idea. She was four years older than her boyfriend. 

“What about a Rachel? Or Roberta?”

“Oh, God. Can’t you just see him with a Roberta?” She burst out laughing at the mental image. “She’d probably be like a hundred pounds heavier than him.” 

Neomi laughed along with her, then poured another shot. “Rebecca.”

“No. He’d call her Becky or something like that. He’s always coming up with nicknames.” Kendall took a shot of her own. “Oh, how about Rosemary?”

“What, like in that movie?”

“Which one?”

“The one about the demonic baby and shit. Rosemary’s Baby.”

Kendall snickered. “It’d be just like him to make a demonic baby.” She pulled herself to a shaky standing position, swaying several times before grabbing the chair for support. “Okay, that’s enough of that crap for the night. Time for bed.” The last thing she remembered was collapsing onto the couch.

She awoke the next morning not nearly as hungover as she expected. Her phone showed three texts and a missed call from Josh, and a text from Neomi, the latter to remind her what was in the apartment for food and that Neomi was working a double today. I do not want to deal with him right now. 

Neomi had wondered on the way home from the party if there could be some innocent reason for the text. “Not too damned likely. ‘Can’t wait to see you tonight?’ No way. And then he disappeared and just left me there, puking my guts out? Didn’t even bring me some frigging water? Fuck him. We’re through. I just got to figure out how to get his crap out of my place.”

She didn’t read the texts until after a shower, breakfast, and half a pot of coffee. They compiled into a story of him running to the bathroom for water for her, then getting distracted by two different people, ending with her being gone by the time he got back. The voicemail was a rambling recitation of the texts that included a promise to call her later today. I think I’m going to be busy.

Two hours later, she was home packing up the memories scattered throughout the apartment. They’d been together almost three-and-a-half-years and even though they’d never officially shared a place, they both had a ton of crap at each other's apartments. It took her forever to pack his things up. Every single thing she picked up had a ton of memories glued to it. 

Josh called twice more while she packed. Both times she let it go unanswered. He left a message after the second call. “Hey, babe. Sorry I missed you. Uh...I guess you’re pretty pissed about last night. We should talk about it. I tried to help take care of you, but like I said, by the time I got back you guys were gone and no one knew where you went, and Neomi didn’t answer my texts. I didn’t text you ’cause I figured you were still sick. So. Yeah. Anyway, I’m doubling up for the next couple of days, covering for Shawn. So I’ll see you at work. Love you.”

She tossed the phone on the couch and sank down, hot, angry tears streaking down her face. “Why would you do this? You threw away three freaking years for some bitch! Does she even know about us? About what I thought I meant to you?”

Kendall pulled in to Jasper EMS Station One almost late for her shift the next day, figuring that by rushing around to get ready for the shift, she’d avoid Josh. It almost worked, too, until she needed to restock the saline bags on her rig. Turning right out of the stockroom, she bounced off of Josh and into Reilly Owens, one of the newest paramedics at the agency. The saline bags went flying and Kendall barely caught herself on the wall.

“Slow down there, speedy,” Josh said with his usual smile. Kendall ignored him, gathered the saline and continued down the hallway. She paused for a second just before she turned into the bay. Josh and Reilly were still standing where they had been when she ran into them, smiling at each other. 

You’ve got to be shitting me. Her? Here? Right under my fucking nose? She stormed back to her rig, slamming hatches and banging drawers shut. 

Sergio Fasone, her partner for the shift walked up to the back door as she smashed the last cabinet closed. “You okay there, sis?”

She glared at him, saying nothing. 

“Right. Was it something I did? Something I need to apologize for? ’Cause you know me. I’ll apologize for anything if it gets us through the shift.” He would, too. People joked that the Hispanic man was part Canadian because he’d apologize so much. It worked great for keeping patients calm, though.

Kendall smiled in spite of her mood. “No, we’re good. Just some personal drama that I had to beat up on the rig to get out of my system. I got to go pee then I’m ready.”

“No sweat. They’re posting us over at Wendy’s for the first hour, so it’s not like we’ve got to go across town or somethin’. You wanna drive?”

She shook her head and waved a hand behind her, already halfway to the restroom. Reilly was there when she came out of the stall, looking at something on her neck. Kendall walked carefully over to the sink, forcing herself to study the water, her hands, the sink—anything except the other woman’s neck. Mechanically, she washed and dried her hands, then walked back out to the bay without slamming a single door.

The bitch had a fucking hickey!

She didn’t speak for the next half hour, was barely aware of Sergio driving to the Wendy’s they parked at during rush hour. She sat there, bouncing her leg incessantly for twenty minutes, watching everything around them and seeing nothing. Then she grabbed her phone and texted Neomi, telling her what she’d seen. After five minutes, she still hadn’t responded. Kendall’s leg bounced into high gear.

“You know they’re on a call, right?” her partner reminded her.

“What?”

Sergio was watching the traffic on I-44 to their left. “They marked out at Pleasant Ridge on a non-breather five minutes before you texted her. She probably a little busy.” He turned to look at her. “So, you really okay? Ain’t never seen you this worked up before.”

“I—” She stopped. There was no point in lying to Sergio. They’d worked together longer than she and Josh had been dating. 

“Something to do with the party?”

She nodded, remembering that he’d been there with a striking blonde she’d never seen before. “Who was that girl you were with?”

He smiled. “Not getting off that easy, sis. I’ll tell you about her after you tell me what’s got you stomping a floor through the rig.”

She swore him to secrecy, not that she needed to, because they were closer than many siblings. Then Kendall spilled her guts about the last couple of days, including what she’d seen in the bathroom.

When she’d finished, Sergio scratched his chin, then looked over at her. “So now what?”

She sat up straight, mouth agape, staring at her partner. “What do you mean, ‘now what?’ I’m going to kick her ass is now what.”

He shrugged. “Why? Why waste the effort? It’ll make you feel better for a little while, but she’ll win in the end.”

“What do you mean, she’ll win? How the hell can she win if I break her jaw?”

Sergio barely stifled a yawn. “Okay, you kick her ass. Break a bone or two, and put her in the hospital. Before she’s out of the ER, there’s going to be cops looking for you, and you’ll be in jail before she’s in a room. You’ll get fired. You might lose your license. You’ll end up paying her medical bills. So you’ll be out of work and broke, and what did you gain?”

Kendall sat back in her seat, arms folded. She stewed for a minute before responding. “So I just do nothing? Just ignore it?”

“My abuelita always said ‘a life well-lived is the best revenge.’ Look, I ain’t saying it’s going to be easy or quick, but just, you know, get on with your life. Grieve it, then forget about them both and move on.”

She turned and stared out the window again. “We’ll see.”

Kendall staggered into her apartment twelve hours later, completely drained of all physical and emotional energy. Their last call had been a three-car MVA with nine injured. They were on scene for over an hour, resuscitating two victims and trying and failing to save a third. She only barely had the strength to change clothes, leaving her uniform in a pile on the bathroom floor before she crawled into bed.

The next morning, she gathered her clothes to toss them in the hamper. A vial tumbled out of her shirt pocket and clinked onto the floor, a partial vial of succinylcholine that they’d used during one of the many intubations at the crash. Whoops. Hope that doesn’t screw up inventory too much. I’ll take it back in when I go. She left it on the bathroom counter while she got ready for work.

It was still there that evening.

I probably forgot about it because of the damn box. She’d taken the box of Josh’s stuff to work with her and handed it to him without a word. He’d texted her twice during the shift and was waiting by her car when she left, asking, “Are you going to talk to me about this?” She didn’t say a word then, either.

She stared at the vial for the longest time. “200 milligrams of shut the hell up,” some medics called it. Orange and white label with tiny print. Big red letters warning that it was a paralyzing agent that causes respiratory arrest. The vial was still over half-full, probably from the woman they hadn’t been able to save. The intubation had been perfect, but she had too many things wrong with her to make it to the ER. 

No point in taking it in tomorrow. Too many questions would be asked, like why she had it, and why she hadn’t returned it today. With three rigs and eight medics working the scene, there was no telling which unit it belonged to, anyway. I should just throw it away here.

Five days later it was still on her counter. But now she knew why she hadn’t thrown it away.

She would use it on Reilly. 

It hadn’t been a sudden thing. She couldn’t point to a single moment where she’d decided to kill her coworker. She’d briefly considered using on Josh, and couldn’t figure out when she changed targets. It probably started, like most grand plans, with a single thought, a wondering moment of curiosity. The idea—life without Reilly—twisted and tumbled and wandered through her mind, occasionally burbling to the surface of her soul and startling her. In the beginning, anyway. After the third time, she quit pushing the thought away.

After the sixth time, she began nurturing the idea. Cultivating it. 

A day later, she started planning in earnest. 

It wasn’t much of a plan at first. These kinds of things never are. She only got as far as “Kill Reilly with sux” for a few days. Then again, she didn’t give it a lot of thought that first week. 

There wasn’t much to plan, really. All she needed was to be alone with Reilly for a few minutes. That was sux’s beauty: it took effect within seconds and cleared your system in five minutes. Of course, you needed respiratory support for those five minutes, because you were paralyzed. Without intubation, or at least ventilation, you’d die, knowing you couldn’t breathe and completely unable to do anything about it. When they pointed that out during training, Kendall had shivered at the horror.

Today, she smiled.

Tuesday, she saw Reilly and Josh smiling and laughing in the hall again. Reilly’s hickey had faded by now, but Kendall’s anger over it still remained, rekindled by Josh’s laughter at some comment the other girl made. 

That’s when Kendall started thinking seriously about how to get her someplace alone. 

Four days later, Kendall saw Reilly get off at the bus stop a block from the main station. She’d heard something about the other girl having car trouble, and scuttlebutt said she was going to be riding the bus for a while.

Bingo. 

She didn’t make a big deal about it, just mentioned that she’d be available if Reilly ever got tired of spending money on public transit. She’d given a non-committal response, and Kendall had left it at that. 

It rained Thursday. A storm system stalled out over Joplin, running the gamut from misty drizzle to deluges that cut visibility to a hundred feet or less. I-44 traffic crawled along at less than forty miles an hour at times. Kendall and Sergio weren’t busy that day, though Reilly’s rig was. Internally, Kendall smiled at the idea of the other girl being perpetually soaked. She kept up a good front for Sergio, though, tsking and nodding at the appropriate times when he talked about how sucky the weather was.

Back at the main station after her shift, Kendall rested on the bench in the locker room before heading home.

“Hey Kendall, is that offer for a ride still good? My bus isn’t running tonight.” Reilly stood at the end of the row of lockers, her dark hair hanging in drenched strands, water pooling under her boots.

Really? Kendall buried her excitement under a giggle. “Girl, please tell me you’ve got a change of clothes here.”

Reilly shook her head. “I wish. I had a set of coveralls, but I wore them home a couple of weeks ago and keep forgetting to bring them back. If you don’t want to, that’s okay. I’d ruin your seats like this.”

Kendall waved her objections away. “Nah, it’s okay. I’ve got a towel in the car, I think. I just hate for you to be cold and wet on the way home. Give me a minute and I’ll be ready to go.”

Reilly smiled, her shoulders visibly relaxing, betraying the tension she’d been holding in.

Maybe I haven’t been as subtle as I thought. So how do I get her into the apartment?

Just as they made it to the car, another downpour erupted, soaking them both before Kendall had a chance to unlock the doors. She turned right out of the driveway by reflex. “Crap. Sorry. I should’ve thought to ask where you live before we took off.”

Reilly laughed. “No, it’s cool. I actually live a ways down south, down beyond Spring City a little bit, so this works.”

“Oh, cool. I live in that new complex off 86 by Spring Creek. Around here, that makes us practically neighbors. You got your own place, or you gotta deal with roomies?”

“No, just me. This family had some extra land they weren’t doing anything with, so they put up a couple of little duplexes. I don’t even have a next-door neighbor right now.” She leaned back and stretched. “Damn, but it’s going to be nice to have a few days off.”

Hmm. Nobody would miss her right away. “Got your long break coming up? Cool. I’ve got tomorrow off, at least. Got any big plans?” Go ahead and tell me your boyfriend is coming over. 

She shook her head, tossing water here and there. “Nope. Gonna get some wine, kick back and binge a couple shows on Netflix, just veg for the whole time.”

Right. “No boyfriend to keep you company?” She forced a friendly smile out. Let her think we’re buddies and she can confide in me.

The other girl paused for the briefest time before shaking her head. “Nah. Can’t find anyone who can keep up with the hours and crap that we put ourselves through. Not that I’ve been looking. Too many weirdos out there these days. Found that out the hard way.”

Kendall offered a fist-bump. “You got that right.” 

Reilly returned the gesture, smiling.

They drove on slowly for a few minutes. The rain had let up, but traffic hadn’t yet caught up with the weather. She glanced over at the other girl, caught her watching. “What?”

“Can I ask you a question?” 

Kendall shrugged as she stopped at a traffic light. “Sure.”

“What happened with you and Josh? I know I’m probably being really nosy here, but I always kind of looked up to you guys. You always seemed to have it together as a couple.”

Really? You went there already? Dang, that was quick. She sighed, hopefully dramatically enough. “Found out he was cheating on me.”

“Ouch. Who with?”

Like you don’t fucking know. Kendall shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. We had plans one night and he broke them to be with her. I’m not gonna play side chick. Fuck that noise.” The light changed and Kendall eased forward. “Forget about him. Not worth the effort. Hey, I got an idea.”

“What?” The other girl smiled.

“I got a bottle of wine at my place, and it’s on the way. Wanna do a girl’s night? We’re both off tomorrow. Order some pizza, drink some wine, watch some movies?”

“I don’t know...” Her voice trailed off as she looked out the window. 

Come on, take the bait. “Come on, it’ll be fun. We’ll grab the wine at my place and order the pizza before we head over to yours.”

Reilly looked back over and shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

“Perfect. We’re like, a minute from my apartment. I’ll run in, grab the wine and a change of clothes, and be right back out.” This is going to be too easy.

An hour later, they were settled in on the couch at Reilly’s, eating pizza as she complained about her empty garage. “The transmission died a couple of weeks ago, and now the dealer’s arguing with the manufacturer about who’s going to pay for it. It was a certified pre-own, so it came with extra warranty coverage. But I guess the manufacturer is saying the dealership did the certification wrong, or shouldn’t have certified it, or something. All I know is my car’s broken and they won’t even give me a rental.”

Kendall refilled her host’s wine glass, even though it was barely half-empty from the first round. The level in her own glass hadn’t shifted much, but she still splashed a bit of fresh wine in for appearances. “Man, that’s got to suck.”

“Eh, life goes on. I can pretty much get by using the bus, but this is like the third time since I started riding that they canceled the route.”

“That’s what friends are for, right?” She raised her glass in a toast. “And this is some of the best pizza I’ve had in a long danged time. They been open long?”

“Stromboli’s? Sorta, I think. Seems like I heard they were ready to close when this guy bought the place and turned it around. Had a pretty bad reputation when I first moved out here, but they gave away a bunch of food a few times, and it’s doing a whole lot better.”

They settled on a recently-released chick flick that Kendall barely watched. She kept her focus on getting Reilly buzzed enough that she wouldn’t be able to fight her off when the time came. By the end of the movie, Kendall had subtly fed the other girl over half of the wine, and Reilly was obviously drunk, slurring her speech, and giggling at the stupid jokes she’d been telling throughout the movie.

As the end credits rolled, she stood, slightly less steadily than she’d expected. “Okay, time to pee,” she announced. 

“Hope everything comes out alright!” Reilly burst into laughter at the age-old bar quip. Kendall forced a laugh until her back was to the other girl, then rolled her eyes. She wasn’t drunk enough for the line to be very funny. 

She grabbed her purse on the way to the bathroom. The syringe rested there, filled with almost ninety milligrams of sux. She’d straight up stolen the syringe from work not long after she’d finally realized what she was going to do, and had drawn up the succinylcholine today when she’d picked up her clothes. She set it on the counter and stared at it while she peed, still processing the power the syringe held. In an emergency, it could save someone’s life, paralyzing respiration long enough to allow intubation. 

She smiled grimly as she stood and buttoned her jeans. Bitch has it coming. Playing it all cool, pretending she ain’t got a boyfriend when’s probably banging Josh every chance she gets. Hope the last one was worth it. She flushed, then grabbed the syringe and slipped it into her pocket. Where should I stick her? During intubation, they tried to hit a vein, but there wasn’t always enough time, and going IM didn’t really slow the sux down all that much. Bicep will do fine. And she should be drunk enough that she won’t fight. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and opened the door.

Reilly was smiling, kicked back even more than she had been. “I was wondering if you fell in.” She laughed loudly again. 

Kendall rolled her eyes this time. “Der-der-der. That’s about the lamest fucking thing you’ve ever said. Stupid bitch.” 

“Hey! What the hell’s up with that attitude?” Reilly pulled herself into a sitting position, struggling to stand.

Moving faster than she thought she could, Kendall ran into the living room, slapped the other girl, pushed her back down on the couch. “Shut up you little slut!” She slapped her again. Damn, that felt good! She hit her twice more, venting a little more anger each time, the other girl’s screams egging her on. 

Reilly sobbed now, hands up over her face. “Please stop! Why are you doing this? What did I do?”

Kendall pulled her hands away and slapped her again, drawing another scream from the other girl. “You know what you did, you damned slut. You fucked my boyfriend!” Slap. “You didn’t even try to hide that damned hickey, either!” Slap. “Fucking paraded it around in front of everyone!” Slap.

“No! Kendall, stop!” Reilly tried pushing her off but was practically prone on the couch, Kendall was too heavy, and she was too drunk.

Kendall didn’t speak. She pulled the syringe from her pocket, grabbed Reilly’s left arm, pinned it under her own left arm. Uncapped the syringe. Jammed it in the other girl’s bicep. Pressed the plunger home. Slow and steady. Nice and slow and steady.

“Ow! Kendall! What are you doing? What wa—”

She stood, watching everything drain out of the other girl. Picked up her arm, let it fall, twice. Waved her hand in front of Reilly’s eyes. She’s not even blinking. Wonder if she can hear me? “Huh? Can you hear me, bitch? Can you?” She took a step back. “What’s it feel like? I mean, you know you’re dying, right? You know I’m not gonna lift a single finger to help you?” 

She checked the radial, then the carotid. 90 at least, and already pretty thready.”Hey, how you doing? Lights gettin’ dim yet?” Respers are...zero, it looks like. She checked her watch. Two minutes. Time for another glass of wine.

She refilled her glass and settled into a recliner across the room, watching the other girl die. “You know, I just realized that even though we spent the last couple of hours together, I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know if you’ve got a brother or a sister, or if your parents are still around. Did you grow up around here?” She paused as though listening. “What’s that? Couldn’t quite hear you.” 

Five minutes later, she checked the other girl’s pulse again. Nothing I can feel. “I guess it’d be wrong for me to pronounce you, hmm? Now I’ve got to figure out what I’m gonna do with you.” In all of her thinking about doing this, Kendall had never thought past the moment of death. She’d never considered how to deal with the body, or what to tell people who might have seen Reilly leave with her.

“Well, we had Netflix on, and I figure they can track my phone here. Nothing wrong with telling them most of the truth, that we came over here and had some wine and watched a movie. How long is it going to be before someone misses you, I wonder?” She started pacing. “What should I do? Leave you here? If I leave you here, they’ll find you in a few days, but there’s going to be an autopsy, because healthy—how old are you, anyway? Twenty-five? You could be twenty-five. Healthy twenty-five-year-olds don’t just drop dead, so yeah, they’ll go over you with a fine-tooth comb. Can’t leave you here, then.”

She paced more. There’s that lake over by Lowell, and the river right there at the state line. And hell, if I’m going to drive her somewhere, I could just drive to Picher and drop her in one of those mine shafts. Nobody would find her there. The more she considered the idea, the more she liked it. It’ll be a few hours of driving, but once I’m done, nobody will be the wiser.

Twenty minutes later, Kendall had the other girl loaded in the trunk of her Camry, wrapped in a blanket she’d found in a box in the garage. I have watched entirely too many true crime shows. Before she left, she stuck her phone in a plastic baggie and hid it behind a bush by the front door.

Worried about getting stopped by a bored cop looking for a drunk, she drove carefully, but not so much that she’d stand out. Her heart went into overdrive every time she saw another set of headlights on the road, but after forty-five minutes, she made it to the outskirts of the old mining ghost town in Oklahoma.

It was a lot harder to find a suitable spot in Picher than she’d expected, especially in the middle of the night with no flashlight. She knew they wouldn’t be marked, but she’d always heard there were hundreds of old shafts in the area. The feds had been worried about the place collapsing because of so many mineshafts crisscrossing the town deep underground. But by one in the morning, she’d found a hole and dumped the girl’s body, all without falling in herself or getting her car stuck.

She was back at the other girl’s house ninety minutes later, having stopped to wash as much of the Picher dust and mud off her car as she could. She grabbed her phone from its hiding place and headed home. 

Josh woke her up barely eight hours later, beating on her door. “Come on, Kendall. I know you’re home. We need to talk about this.” 

Kendall had panicked at the pounding, thinking she’d missed something and the cops were there to arrest her. She took a moment to calm herself and let the anger take over before she jerked the door open. “What the hell do you want?”

“And hello to you too. Is that the best you got for me?” He jammed his foot against the door before she could slam it. “Look, I’ve got your stuff. Can I bring it in and at least tell you a couple of things?”

She glared at her former boyfriend, her old lover, and marveled at how she no longer felt anything toward him. Not love, not passion, not anger. Just...nothing. “Sure. You got two minutes.” She walked over to the kitchen, grabbed a mug and started making coffee. 

It took him two trips to get everything in. He stared at her for the longest time before speaking. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“You’re under a minute. I’d make it quick. Maybe tell me who R is. I don’t really give a shit about her, but that’s who you ran off to see, so maybe start there.”

He nodded. “Yeah, that’s probably the best place to start.” He looked around the apartment. “Shit. I had this whole speech planned out, and now none of it makes any sense. You weren’t...I wasn’t...crap.” He scratched his head for a second, then straightened up and looked her in her eyes. “Randy.”

“’Scuse me?”

“That’s who I was going to meet.”

“Not that I care, but where did you meet her?”

Josh cleared his throat. “I met him on a patient transfer up to Carthage a few months ago.”

She didn’t drop the coffee mug, but it landed pretty hard. “You met him? You cheated on me with a guy?

He nodded. “Yeah. I mean, we’d met a couple of times, but nothing had—” 

“Shut the fuck up! Don’t you say another word. Not another goddamned word! Out! Get the hell out of here. Now!” 

He stood there a second longer, a look in his eyes she’d never seen before, and raged bloomed in her head. She pitched the mug at him, chasing after him as he ran for the door.

Kendall slammed the door, sank to the floor, and wept.

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