We stood at the edge of the dirt mound with dirtied hands and shattered hearts; we stared at our crime for what felt an eternity before the slouched man with fierce eyes finally spoke; that man was Frank.
“No one can know what happened here,” he mumbled.
“Are you insane!? This isn’t like the usual job, this person was innocent. I still think we should report it!” I replied.
“And tell them WHAT!?” Frank yelled. “That we ran a person over and buried them right on the spot!?
I couldn’t think of anything to say back to him. Another moment of silence passed while Frank rubbed his temples.
“Listen here, Dave. You and me? We’re the ones who take out the trash. And sometimes, you get a little dirty in the process. But you’ll find that after a quick shower, you’re as good as new. You catch what I’m saying?” Frank spat.
I knew all too well what Frank meant. He drilled that same line in my head every time I questioned a job.
“I-I understand,” I stammered.
“Good. Now think before you say any more stupid shit,” Frank finished.
We took one last look at the dirt mound as we walked back to the white sedan. I got in the passenger seat while Frank took the driver’s. Aside from a medium dent in the hood and bumper, everything was in working order. The turning of the key sparked the engine to life and we sped off into the city. I looked back in the rear view mirror and saw fog roll in; It was almost like I could see a face too. I quickly shook my head and tried to forget about it.
One hour had passed since that incident. The skyline steadily sprang up over the horizon the closer we got. We took a series of turns and detours before Frank dropped me off a few blocks from my house.
“Just take today off and rest. I need you at one-hundred percent if we are to avoid any more screw ups. I’ll take care of the car as usual. If anyone asks, I’ll just say I hit a deer,” he said, leaning out of the window.
I gave a simple nod and continued forward as if we had never met, following protocol to a tee. A quick moment later, his car sped off into the distance and left the smell of gasoline lingering around my nose. This interaction was supposed to be business like usual, but my heart couldn’t stop pounding at my heinous crime. I’ve killed before, but those targets weren’t innocent; greedy businessmen have never earned their wealth without acquiring a few skeletons along the way.
Anyway, my worries had to wait. My mission was only over once I returned home. I regained my cool and walked a zigzagged path for a few blocks before reaching my house. I looked up into the distance and saw thick gloomy clouds hanging around the skyscrapers, blocking out the sun. Clear skies had become a dime a dozen these days.
I snapped out of my daze and unlocked my back door. A minimally furnished ranch house greeted me, but it had all I needed. I hung up my trilby hat and trench coat, taking my shoes off soon after. Luckily, we had changes of clothes in the car so most of the blood stains were taken care of. However, most people forget to clean under their fingernails; I turned them over and it just so happened that mine was black with old blood.
I strode towards the bathroom and hopped in the shower. A creak of the knobs brought steamy-hot water crashing down my back with suggestions of washing away filth and sin, but I always knew only the first option was available. I grabbed a scrubbing brush and went to work on my fingernails until there wasn’t even the tiniest speck of blood remaining. I knew Frank’s saying was a metaphor, but it really seemed like no amount of scrubbing ever left me feeling clean.
I turned the water off, dried myself, and put on some fresh clothes. I didn’t know how long I was in there, but it had become completely dark out. Funny, the day never seemed to end until the moment I got an ounce of time to relax. I sighed heavily and took a cigarette out of my cartoon; the flick of my lighter lit the end and I brought that acrid smoke into my lungs. I had grown to love it and it brought a strange comfort I couldn’t describe with words. A few puffs later, my eyes started to grow weak and I squashed the cigarette onto the ashtray sitting on my bedside table.
My mind soon became blank and I plunged into the deep void.
The dark grey clouds swirled and swished to form previous displays of times good and bad; It showed me early moments of happily playing with my grandparents, before showing my bloodiest hits in quick succession. It didn’t bother me one bit though, since it was a daily occurrence. I expected it to go on as usual, but something strange began to form; the smoke formed a scene of Frank and I driving down that same road where tragedy struck. We were speeding down the lonely asphalt and climbed a small hill; we only caught a glimpse of the poor bastard once it was too late. His body smashed into the bumper, crumpled over the hood and skipped off the roof before crashing onto the ground with a sickening thud.
We gave each other a cold look speckled with hints of fear and immediately exited the car to assess the situation. We crept towards the back to find our newest victim sprawled in an unnatural position, while that deep red blood poured out as if it never wanted to be contained. I moved in for a closer look and saw something truly terrifying; the man’s face wasn’t one of a dead person’s, but was filled with rage, fear, and sadness. His mangled body sprung up and he gripped my wrist with enough strength to break steel, while his dead grey eyes stared deep into my soul.
My eyes jolted open as I found myself in a pool of sweat with a haggard breath. The bright grey light illuminated my bedroom, but it didn’t bring any life. I laid there for a while thinking about that bizarre dream. I didn’t really think too much about the jobs we did before; I just followed Frank’s word and went with the flow. Yesterday was different though. We knew nothing about that man and had no reason to off him. We’ve crossed lots of lines to do this work, but I felt like we just crossed the biggest one and I’m not sure if I could live with that.
I still laid there on the bed with contemplations on what to do. The empty silence of my house cared little to comfort me and lashed at me in the form of isolation. Before I could do anything else, a rapid pounding came from my front door. I stealthily got out of bed and sneaked through the house towards the noise. I put my eye to the peephole to see who had been knocking, it was a police officer.
He stood with a relaxed posture, but his presence still made me feel uneasy. I slowly and carefully unlocked the door; the knob turned and a long creak emanated from the old wood.
“Can I help you with anything?” I asked.
“Yes,” he responded. “ I’m officer Johnson from the police department. We’ve received a missing persons report and have been asking around for any leads. Have you seen this person?” he asked.
He fumbled in his front coat pocket for a moment before taking out a pristine photo. I grabbed it for a closer look and took a gulp half expecting that man from yesterday to show up. I flipped it over in anticipation and held my breath. The man that looked back at me... was entirely different. The one we disposed of had blond hair, while this one had brown. Was a part of me hoping it would have been the same person? Maybe, but I couldn’t say for sure. All I knew is that I wanted to tell the truth and a police officer stood right in front of me.
I tried to speak but my lips moved at a snail's pace and it seemed like a frog wedged itself in my throat. What were meant to be words instead came out as a sort of croak. The police officer took notice with a look of confusion as one eyebrow raised higher than the other.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
No, nothing was alright. We just killed an innocent man yesterday. I wanted to tell him those words and lead the police to the body and be done with it. But no, I couldn’t. Nothing could be done as long as HE was calling the shots. Nothing would change until He was taken care of. I took a deep breath and calmed myself enough to respond.
“Take you for your concern, officer. I’ve just been working a little too hard. I’ll keep an eye out for anything about this man,” I replied with a smile.
“Well don’t push yourself too hard,” he smiled back. “I appreciate the willingness to help. It's times like these where members of communities need to help each other out,” he finished.
I gave a nod and watched as he walked down to the street and up to other peoples doors. My fake smile vanished and I closed the door behind me. The usual meet-up time was six pm on the dot. I best not keep Frank waiting. I entered my garage to double check I had everything I needed. All the special compartments in my car were stocked and ready to go. I reloaded my handgun with precise movements and turned the ignition key, bringing the engine to life. I couldn’t be certain what would happen, but I had to try anyway.
The low roar of the engine accompanied me on my journey to the cliffside; It filled that lonely space with something to fill the void and I was thankful because I wasn’t sure I could go through with my plans if I were stuck in my own head. The dark white sky had been close to letting go of its last light by the time I reached the usual meetup location. With a turn of my key, the engine took away it's comforting purr and died down. The door clicked with the handle, swished as I got out, and slammed as I finally shut it.
I heard the violent waves crashing against the cliffside and I caught the smell of smoke riding on a gust of wind that blew past my face. There in the distance was Frank; he stood near the cliff edge with an orange glow pulsating on his face as he tried to light his cigarette. I took two steps before Frank broke the silence.
“Perfect, you’re right on time. You got a clear head now? We really can’t afford any more fuck ups,” he smoked with his back to me.
“Of course. I realized it was more trouble than it's worth to worry about,” I replied.
“That’s what I like to hear,” Frank responded. “Now, Just one more thing. What the hell do you think you’re trying to do, Dave.”
“Just taking care of the trash,” I finished, pistol in hand.
“ I see,” he finished.
A split second went by before I pulled the trigger twice. Frank had dashed around in the same amount of time and fired one shot off with his pistol. Another split second went by, but none of us moved. It felt like time had dropped everything it was doing to watch two guys fight to the death. The wind fizzled out, the waves stopped roaring, and we held our breaths.
I watched in slow motion as Frank’s pistol left his hand and fell onto the ground with a metallic clank. After that, everything seemed to resume all at once; the wind blew back to life, the waves cried out in anger, and the two of us breathed in and out faster than any cheetah had ever run.
Frank clutched his chest as thick blood spilled out like a ruptured hose. He sputtered and spat while looking at me with unbridled hatred.
“W-Why!?” he choked. “What we had was good! Why would you ruin this!?”
“I realized after yesterday that you don’t care about anyone but yourself. You pulled me along for far too long in this game of death and deceit. I’ve finally decided enough is enough.” I finished.
“Dave, you can’t be serious. You won’t last a second without me!” He screamed.
I didn’t say anything else. I simply put my pistol against his forehead. Frank’s eyes widened and his rage became replaced by pure terror.
“Wait! Dave, we can talk about this can’t we? He laughed. I’m sure we c-”.
I pulled the trigger and Frank stopped speaking. He leaned back over the cliff edge, plummeting down into the fiery waves which consumed every bit of him. I took one last look at the scenery with a blank expression. A normal person would describe the view as beautiful, but it only served as a reminder of what I’ve done. I threw my pistol down into the waves as well and never looked back.
I wobbled out of my car and entered the phone booth. I called the police department and told them the road and location of that poor man. With a breath of relief, I slumped down the booth wall as my vision started to blur. My hands were stained with my own blood. It was a wonder how I managed to leave that cliff long enough to do all this. I took another breath and looked out of the phone booth window. The thick grey clouds dissipated to reveal the rising morning sun and the hazy blue sky. It was truly beautiful and with my last ounce of energy, I smiled honestly from ear to ear.