The first thing I’ll say is you should never dig a grave in January. It’s damned hard work and in the end, you’ve got mostly nothing to show for it. Then again, if digging a grave is at the top of your to-do list, you might have bigger problems than the weather.
The truth is, I never should’ve opened the door. My Great Dane Clarence had gone missing earlier in the day and I was feeling down. But if I’d ignored the doorbell and stayed inside, Fred would have gone away, eventually, and I wouldn’t have gone out with him for that one beer, that turned into six, and I wouldn’t have winked at that girl with the jealous boyfriend, and we wouldn’t have had to run away when he pulled that gun, and knocking over those garbage cans wouldn’t have seemed like such a good idea, and … well, to make a long-assed story short, we wouldn’t have needed to be out there in the cold burying the fat man. But what’s done is done. I opened the door, and I can’t go back in time and unopen it. So, there we were with a plus sized problem on our hands.
I rubbed my icy digits together. The night was clear and the moon full. The snowy ground gave the clearing a soft glow. The fat man lay on the ground nearby, slowing the steady drift of the snow. The woods were thick enough to hide us from view, but still close enough to hear the traffic from the road.
“Hey, Fred?” I shivered and blew cold breath on my freezing fingers.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“We need more beer?”
“No. We need to get someplace to warm up before we turn to ice.”
“Yeah,” Fred considered for a moment. “I could use another beer though.”
We dropped our shovels and hurried toward the road. I’d had some bad days in my time, but this was surely the worst. I’d sworn off drinking beer as a New Year’s resolution, and here it was barely two weeks in, and I’d already let slip all my good intentions. Fred was a bad influence on me, that was for sure. But it wasn’t his fault we ran into the fat man. That was just bad luck. There’s no other explanation.
We’d left the truck alongside the road, and we slipped inside, shivering. Fred cranked the engine, but it took a few turns to start. When it finally caught, we blasted the heat but all it did was blow more cold air on us. I hugged myself tight and prayed for warmth.
“Maybe we could leave him,” Fred said.
“Just leave him, out in the open like that?”
“No one will find him. Not for a while anyways.”
As stupid as the idea was, it was tempting. We could just leave him be and I could head home to my nice, warm bed. I’d go to sleep, and everything would be fine in the morning. I’d go on with my old life like nothing happened, and it would all be peaches and cream. Until somebody came banging on the door asking about what happened to Mr. Big, and then it would all turn into a poop pie. But that was sometime down the road, and with a little luck, who knows? It might not even happen.
“You really think it could work?” I don’t know why I asked. Fred was an idiot.
“Sure, it could work,” he nodded. “Why wouldn’t it?”
I considered it some more. The warm air was starting to blow, and I began to imagine a rosier version of the future. Maybe it could work. Yeah, sure it could. No one would find him, and no one would ever make a connection with us.
Red and blue lights flashed over the inside of the car and a siren blared from right behind us. My stomach crashed into my butt, and I knew we were screwed.
The siren cut out and a microphone squelched.
“Balls!” Fred yelled.
“Stay in the car.” The voice came over the microphone. “Keep your hands visible.”
“Holy freaking forks!”
It was over now. How did they know about the fat man? They were going to arrest us and drag us away in chains, but that wouldn’t be the worst of it. The fat man’s thugs would find out it was us and shank us in jail or smother us with a pillow. We’d never live to see the morning.
“Maybe we should run,” Fred said.
“No!” I nearly yelled. “No way, if you run they’ll think we did something wrong.”
“They already think we did something wrong. That’s why they’re here.”
I swallowed hard and thought for a second. I couldn’t fault his logic. “Maybe we should run,” I said.