I found it behind a stack of wooden pallets.
Or rather, I found him, my would-be john, the rat-faced asshole who’d leaped over his car and started this merry chase. He was naked, face-down on the filthy concrete, his skinny—and hairless—body slicked with sweat. It looked like he’d crawled until his body gave up. His right arm was outstretched, the hand under an old sofa, like he’d been about to hide under it. His nose was mashed against the ground, his eyelids at half-mast. Blood puddled under his face. The coppery stink of it was overpowering. I pressed the back of my hand against my nose and breathed through my mouth. Mistake. Now I could taste it.
“Elizabeth!” Louder now. Brian’s voice.
I took a step back from the body. The last time I had seen him, he had been a mostly furry, two-legged murder beast. Now he was an unarmed, naked man whose only crime had been shoving me down and running. And I didn’t even have a chewed-up arm to help plead self-defense.
My arm . . . I rubbed it, took another step back. There was a blanket on my right by a Little Caesar’s pizza box and a deflated tent, remnants of a half-assed campsite. Trying not to think too hard about what horrors that blanket had seen, I used it to scrub the still-wet blood off my arm, grimacing at its stiffness.
The right thing to do would be to summon the other deputies to this crime scene and let things play out. If I were lucky, I would avoid jail and just wind up unemployed. If I hadn’t spent the last year being a useless piece of shit, I might have done just that.
Also, it was an election year for our dear sheriff. Tossing a cold-blooded, murdering deputy into the nearest prison would be good press for him. Bonus points for her being an ex-pill head who may or may not have stolen various illicit substances from the evidence room.
Which I totally had, by the way. But only that one time.
The wrong thing to do would be what I did: I tucked his arm by his side, and, quietly as I could, dragged the sofa over him. Fortunately, he was short and thin, and the sofa had just enough clearance. It was covered in a grotesque green-and-purple floral print, and I thought there was a good chance his ghost would haunt me for that. But it was only temporary; I would be back later that night to move the body somewhere else.
Just where, I had no idea, but I’d come up with something. Until then, I holstered the gun and wound my way back to the guys. They peppered me with questions, chief among them
Was that a gunshot and Where the fuck did the asshole go?
Yes, it was a gunshot, I said. The asshole knocked me down, and the gun went off when I hit the ground. It didn’t hit him, though.
As to where he’d gone, I said, he’d ran away after the accidental discharge, farther inside the warehouse. I had gotten to my feet and went after him, but I hadn’t gotten very far before seeing a flash of daylight at the front of the warehouse. And then Brian had been yelling for me, and, well . . .
“Screw it,” Brian sighed. He armed sweat off his forehead. “I’ve had enough.”
The other deputy, Pierce Kemp, had unclipped his portable radio from his belt. “You sure? That door leads back to the street. He might be getting back in his car.”
“Then he’s already gone. Come on, let’s get outta here.”
He wasn’t gone, of course. The car was still there, and the keys were in the ignition, until Brian yanked them out. He opened the trunk while Pierce and I searched the interior for anything interesting. We found squat. The glovebox was full of fast food napkins and a Tru Valu Insurance card with the name, we assumed, of our lost john: Christopher H. Ferris. The address was printed on the card too, some town in Oklahoma none of us had heard of.
I stared at the card while I polished off the bottle of water Brian had given me from the cooler inside the Suburban, memorizing the name and address of the man I had killed, wondering why I didn’t feel bad about it. Wondering why I felt no way about it, actually. It was like the shooting hadn’t happened, like it had occurred exactly as I’d said: he’d gotten away, he was gone, he was alive and maybe watching us from a cop-safe distance away, waiting for us to leave so he could hop in this shitty Cutlass and finish his getaway.
The trunk yielded nothing except a couple of garbage bags filled with dirty clothes. Brian slammed the lid down. “You find anything?”
I folded the card in half and stuck it in a back pocket. Maybe the fact that he had been covered in fur and a second away from ripping out my throat out something to do with my lack of emotion. “No.”
Kemp closed the passenger door. “Jack all. Not even a pack of cigarettes.”
“Asshole must have his wallet with him. Too bad.” Brian looked around, saw a storm drain a few feet away. He tossed the keys down it, laughing. “Fuck ‘im. Call the guys at the motel in. We’re going home.”
– – – – –
Brian drove while I sat in the passenger seat and Pierce sprawled out across the bench seat in the back, headphones on, his music—“Pyro”, by Kings of Leon—loud enough that Brian had turned off the radio. I wasn’t looking forward to the hour or so it would take to do my report; I had a headache, and I was worried about my arm, and, oh yeah, that dead body that I had stashed under the world’s ugliest couch—
Brian said something.
“Huh?” was my witty reply.
“I said we’re not gonna run that guy’s plate. We’re not gonna mention that we had a third stop. We’re gonna say that it was hot, and the hookers told everybody what was happening, so we got two really stupid dipshits and then we packed it in.”
I glanced at him. It took me a second to realize that he was pissed. “Brian?”
“You fired your fucking gun, Elizabeth. Harris would have a field day with that. She’d have your head. Mine too, since I’m in charge of this fucking thing.”
I rubbed my forehead. Damn head was just pounding. “I know.”
“Goddamn it. I thought you had your shit together.”
A muscle in my jaw jumped. “I do.”
“Don’t seem like it.”
“It was an accident—”
“Stop.” He slowed, made a left on Sunset. We were two miles from the Sheriff’s office. “Just . . . stop.”