“TEC, it’s the Police. They’ve come for us.” Petey quivered all over me.
“Don’t be an idiot!” I snarled, then shoved him. “Did you call them?” I will smite him if he’d lost his mind and called the damn Police.
“No, I didn’t!” Petey’s eyes were round with terror and denial. “But they are the Police. Maybe they sniffed us out.”
“Sniffed us…” I gritted my teeth. God save me from this level of stupidity!
“Open the damn door!” The raspy deep voice yelled again. “Open it now!”
“We’ve got to open the door before they start shooting through it, Tec.” Petey was literally vibrating. “I don’t want to be shot. I don’t want to die.”
“Grab a hold of your balls, Petey!” I shoved him out of my way, crept to the end of the corridor and peered through the open connecting entrance. Didn’t see anyone.
“I don’t think grabbing them will help, Tec.” Petey muttered behind me. He was back to leaning against me. “Maybe he called them. He’s the only other person here.”
“He… who?” Then I hissed through my teeth. “Anonymous John Doe, you mean?”
“Don’t know his name, Tec. Meant the dead guy.”
“Dead guys don’t call the police.” I hissed, shoved and glared at Petey. “Dead guys don’t do nothing except be freaking dead!”
“You sure about that, Tec?” Petey looked doubtful. “If he didn’t call them and I didn’t call them, and you didn’t call them… then who did?”
God, I hated him! I swear to God, moments like this make me swear that I hate Peton.
“Save me your questions from cuckoo land.” I needed to think. I needed to find an escape route. “We need to get out of here. We should probably creep out through the kitchen backdoor. But backyard ends at the fence. We probably have to jump that.”
“But the dead guy is right there at the door.” Petey’s voice was hitching as he whimpered. “What if he tries to stop us, or tells the Police when they break down the door and come in?”
“The dead can’t talk, you brainless jackass!” How did we end up blood related? “He is dead. He can’t stop us and he can’t say a word.”
“But he can become a ghost and stop us. Oh God!” Petey started to tremble afresh. “Maybe he is already a ghost and now he is after us. What if he is the one at the door?”
I slapped him. Goddamn it! I had to slap him. Brainless fool was beginning to scare me.
“Ghosts are not real!” I snarled out in a raspy whisper. “This is not a damn movie. This is real life, and in real God-made life, ghosts don’t exist.”
“Saw a ghost once, Tec.” Petey rubbed his cheek and eyed me with reproach. “And you got to stop hitting me.”
“Just shut up and let’s get out of here!” I stooped and dragged him down with me. “You shush that mouth of yours and stay down low. Don’t want them peering through the window and seeing us.”
“The window’s still closed, Tec. We should just run.”
“THECLA! You gutless wimp, open the door.”
I stopped right at the kitchen entrance door and swiped around to face Petey. “You called Berlin? Didn’t I tell you not to call anyone?”
“She’s your best friend and I thought she could help.” Petey shrugged defensively.
“I don’t do best friends and she can’t help unless she became an undertaker overnight.” I glared at his lean, bony face, tempted to slap him again. “Why the heck did you call her?”
“Figured two heads are better than one.”
“Two heads…” I literally gaped. Then I thought about it and pulled up my own shoulders. “Guess you got a point since I’m the only one here with a working head up until now.”
I heaved off the floor, dusted the butt of my cut-off jeans and headed for the front door.
“I’m not a gutless wimp.” I grated as I yanked open the door. “And you know that, Berlin.”
“I know you had a panicky moment hearing Leye yell.” Berlin slammed her a bit too curvy body against mine in a hug before walking around me. “We thought it’d be fun to mess with you guys, and it sure was. Could hear your hearts pounding right outside the door.”
“That would be Petey’s heart.” Back in control, I hated that I momentarily lost control. “And why the hell are you two here?” I didn’t exactly like, or hate, Leye, so I glared at him.
He was dressed up as usual. Oversized denims and way-too-snug T-shirt. And then his one-pack framing out of his midsection like an overfed whale. God, wonder why Berlin always liked the extra body-size type. And don’t start wondering about her name Berlin. Her parents were in Germany at the time of her birth. Not in Berlin though. But her mother was nuts about that populous city for some reason.
“What do you mean, why the hell are we here?” Berlin stared at me. “Petey called me about the body.” She swiped her eyes to Petey. “Where is it, by the way?”
“At the back door.” But Petey was frowning ever so slightly. “How come you two got here fast? Called you only minutes ago.”
“We were driving by to the new fast food place for breakfast when your call came in.” It was Leye who spoke and he was slumping his extra Michelin size into my couch. The exercise of walking up to my door and playing spooky with his yells was talking its toll. “So who’s the dead dude? You’re certain it’s a dude, right?”
“How about you come take a look and see if you can define his sex, physician?” What did he do again? I couldn’t recall. But then again, I hardly ever recalled anything about Berlin’s unfitting boyfriends. And I hated that one of them had been brought into my private affair. “Body is this way, so you guys come along.” I started towards the kitchen.
And heard my couch whine and rumble as Leye heaved off it. Podgy whale!
“You guys are eating eba for breakfast?” Berlin sounded dismayed. “Isn’t that a little unhealthy?”
“That’s what I told Tec.” Petey said.
He wasn’t trembling now. Probably because he believed in the safety of numbers.
“Nothing unhealthy about eba for breakfast.” I pulled back all the locks on the door and yanked it open. “There he is. Still flat on his back, beautifying my backyard.”
Leye shoved past me and peered down at the body. “He looks dead.”
“That’s because he is freaking dead.” Were a specie of brainless men on the loose?
“Darn it!” Leye shuddered. Or I thought he did, couldn’t tell with the extra tissues. “Who the heck is he?”
“Certainly not the jackass I had in my bed two nights ago.” Since Anonymous John Doe had enough audience, I shifted back and dropped into a kitchen stool. I believe it was one I found in the store when I moved in three years ago.
“Tec knows his name.” Petey piped as he craned his neck between Berlin and Leye.
“I don’t know his freaking name, idiot.” I glared at him, slipped my hand into the bowl to check if the soup’s defrosted and pulled the plastic container out of the water. “I called him Anonymous John Doe because that’s what he is—a freaking nameless anonymous who chose to come die on my backyard. Self-centred prick!”
“Don’t cuss the dead, Tec.”
“Shut up, Petey!”
“How did he get to be on your backyard, not out front?” Leye was now the situation analysis guy and he was looking over the body like he was some kind of medical examiner. “He probably came in through the front, then walked all the way back here and… died.”
“I always told you you got to fix that broken down side of the fence upfront, Thecla.” Berlin said. “Anyone can just walk right in and now a dead man had chosen to.”
“I am not fixing the damn fence. Called the money-grubby landlord on it.” I hated when she called me Thecla. “And the idiot man didn’t have to walk in, he should have kept walking on until he got someplace else to die.”
“You keep talking ill of the dead, Tec. It might wake up and smite you.”
“Again, dead guys don’t wake up or smite anyone, Petey.”
“That’s what you’ll say until this one smites you.”
“Just shut it!”
“We can’t get the Police involved in this. That’ll be self-annihilation.” Leye, once again, came in between our verbal squabble.
“First sensible thing you’ve ever said.” I muttered in between my teeth.
“You should bury him.”
“What?” I yanked my head out of the eba I was contemplating making and gaped at Leye. “Did you say, bury him?” At his single nod, I actually stuttered. “What? And where… where the heck do you want me burying him?”
“Right here where he’s lying.” Leye jerked his uncombed-hair head in repeated nods. “It’d be poetic justice. Lay him where he died.”
“Poetic…” Now I remembered what I didn’t like about him. He was an idiot just like Petey, only with extra pounds. “I am not burying anyone on my backyard.”
“You’ve got to get rid of the body. Can’t leave it lying here.” Leye threw me a glance. “Will start stinking up the place soon. And I promise you, you can’t stand the stink of the dead. Worse than a skunk.”
“I’m not burying John Doe on my backyard.” I gritted. “He doesn’t belong here and he is not having a space on my yard like he does.”
“Then what are we going to do about him?” Berlin demanded. She was tired looking and was now slumped against my wood counter. “If we are not going to call the Police, then we ought to get rid of the body. You can’t just leave it there, Tec.”
Because she called me Tec, I managed not to snarl off her head. “I don’t plan on leaving it there, Berlin.” I spoke slowly and with patience I didn’t have. “But I don’t plan on burying him either—here or anywhere else.”
“You can’t toss him over the fence and just dust off your hands.” Leye reasoned, itched closer and gave one trainers covered foot a kick. “I think he is stiffening up already.”
“You can tell that with one kick to his foot?” I couldn’t help my cynicism.
“Leye’s brilliant about such things.” Berlin instantly defended. As she usually did when I criticised her boyfriends. “He worked once in a morgue, you know.”
“Did he?” I seriously doubted Leye had ever worked anywhere in his life. Anywhere legit, that is. “Well, stiffening up or not, I am not having him on my grounds.”
“You can’t leave him right there on your doorstep either.” Leye argued, and gave the foot another kick. “Dude’s got to get out of the way and best way, is right into the hard earth he’s sprawled out on.”
“I don’t know how he plans on getting out my yard but he’s not getting into my ground.” I insisted. “And do you mind stop booting him? We don’t want him coming awake and scaring a zillion years of Petey, do we?”
Leye chuckled and stepped back from booting John Doe. “If you are not willing to bury him, then we’ll have to carve him and bag him for disposal.”
“Ew, Leye!” Berlin pulled a face at him.
Petey shuddered—multiple times.
While I narrowed my eyes. I always knew there was something off about that guy. “Carve him?” I snorted. “That what they do at the morgue, Leye?”
“Not officially.” He gave a sideways grin. “But it’s one way of getting rid of a body.”
“You gotten rid of plenty bodies in your time?” My eyes were still narrowed.
Leye’s grin broadened. “No. But I’ve seen movies.”
“And this is not a movie.” I heaved off my stool. So much for two heads being better than one. I had three here and I was still the only one thinking. “I need to figure out a more acceptable way of getting rid of John Doe. I’m not carving him and I’m not burying him.”
A bang came at my door, and we all swiped around at the loud noise.
“Bloody hell! You called anyone else?” I shot a killing stare at Petey.
“No, I didn’t.”
“You two invited more of your cronies?” I glanced at the other pair.
“Nope.” Berlin answered, and added. “Who can it be?”
“Don’t know. I’ll get it.” I wasn’t thinking the Police this time and I wasn’t worried. “You all get into the parlour and shut that damned door.” I instructed. Wasn’t taking any chances either.
I pulled open the door and bit back my hiss. It was my neighbour right next door and she was the neighbourhood tattler.
“Hi, Tec.” Tracy beamed.
She always beamed. And those beams have sent more men out of her life than into it.
Or was it the tattling tongue that did that?
“Hey, Trace.” I gave her a nod. “Want something?”
“Ocimum gratissum.” Tracy liked to brag with botanical names. “I’m making banga soup and those scented leaves give it a special aroma. Alex is coming over.” She beamed again. I didn’t know who the heck Alex was and didn’t care. “I’ll just go right back and pick some.”
And she was sweeping through the door and straight for the kitchen.
“Holy shit!” Berlin muttered.
DEDICATION: For August celebrants. Blessings in eighth fold.