Short crime story about what happens when lending a helping hand goes too far.
| During my 25th year on earth, I found myself the victim to a horribly unlucky series of events. First, my wife miscarried just a week after finding out we had finally conceived. Then, I found out she had cheated on me in the first place and the kid wasn’t mine. In fact, we had taken tests before the pregnancy that came back the day after the miscarriage stating I was infertile. As you can guess, this led to the demise of our relationship and we begin living separate lives a few towns apart. She kept the house I had worked so hard for, she kept my dog; she even kept my Nintendo gaming system from childhood.
I moved in with my older brother, Mike, who had been divorced years before and hadn’t been the same since. He was successful in work, unsuccessful in covering up his receding hairline, and somewhat successful in co-parenting his ten year-old twin daughters who lived with their mother a couple miles away. Mike’s best advice was to drink a lot of alcohol and find other girls to help me get over my soon-to-be ex-wife.
It was mid-November and I had been living with Mike for all of three weeks. I didn’t really see him much because he spent so much time at his accounting job. We communicated through a series of post-it notes on the refrigerator while I took his advice of going out to local bars and banging it out with the lovely locals who were probably trying to forget their past, too. I had started working out and was proud to already see results. My confidence was through the roof after six years of a relationship with someone who was only physically attracted to me for maybe half of them. I was in a good state of mind, reminding myself that I was only twenty-five, after all, and at least I hadn’t inherited my brother’s receding hairline. I guess it wouldn’t be fair for me to say that for a few more years though.
I brought home a few girls in that time and I pretty much felt like a single guy living in a bachelor pad, as Mike was always asleep by the time I got home. One night in particular, I had a strange time at the bar when a girl tried to hook up with me in the parking lot, and then slapped me across the face when her boyfriend showed up. I had barely escaped what would have probably been a violent bar brawl and was just ready to crash out in my bed.
When I got home, Mike was sitting on the living room couch, without the tv on, just wringing his hands and staring at the wall. “Hey, man. You’re up late,” I said, throwing my coat on the back of the recliner and taking a seat. I had never seen my brother look so spaced out before. The color had been drained from his face and he looked about forty-five instead of thirty. “You’re never going to believe what just happened to me. This chick’s all over me while we’re waiting for our cab, I mean, she’s not wasting any time. Outta nowhere this big, hulk of a dude just runs up and li-“
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Huh? What did you say?”
“She just wouldn’t stop,” he turned to me, his gray eyes hollow.
I could barely hear his whispering voice. This was not my rambunctious, loud brother sitting just a couple feet away from me. “Who wouldn’t stop what? What are you talking about?”
“Rose. She was just yelling, I couldn’t get her to just shut up. I only wanted her to shut up.”
“Rose, as in, ex-wife Rose? You guys got in another fight?” I stretched my legs out, letting myself relax. He was always on edge after an argument with her. “You know, she’s really draining your energy, man. You guys need to get your shit figured out.”
Mike stood then, walked to the edge of the room and leaned his head against the wall there. He turned sharply. “You know, she really was. She was a thorn in my side. And the girls, I mean, they don’t deserve all this fighting.”
I must have been really drunk that night, or maybe I’m just thick, because I could not understand what was happening for the life of me. I think in different circumstances, in a sober mind, I could have seen that this wasn’t a normal situation. If I could go back, I wouldn’t have come home that night. I would have let that girl’s boyfriend beat me to a pulp. I would have spent a couple days in the hospital. I could live with those scars.
In my dim state of mind, I couldn’t have foreseen what happened next. Mike strode the room in just a few long steps and said, close to my face so I could tell he had been drinking too, “You have to help me, Rob. You’re my brother. I’ve always been there for you. I will never ask another favor from you in my life. But right now, I need you to come with me.”
“You’re going back over to her place? No, man, neither of us are in the condition to drive right now. I think you should just sleep this off, see how you feel about it in the morning.
“Just come with me!” He bellowed, his full voice back so suddenly, it made me jump out of my seat.
He led me down the narrow hallway to the one bathroom in the apartment. He was muttering to himself, something about how she just wouldn’t shut up. When we rounded the corner, I smelled metal. Mike stood outside the dark bathroom, just pointed in, and avoiding eye contact. My mind still couldn’t piece it together, but I was getting closer. I know now that I knew this was going to be bad because my hand was shaking as I reached for the light switch.
The first thing I saw was the clear shower curtain covering the bathtub. There were red stains splashed all over it. I think I started shaking my head and saying ‘no’ over and over. I turned to run, but Mike blocked the entrance, standing several inches taller than me. “What have you done?”
“You have to help me,” he repeated again, and I understood, finally, what was happening.
Have you ever tried to dig a shovel into dirt frozen solid during the wicked promise of the devil’s hour? I have. It doesn’t work very well, especially when you’re so intoxicated that not even the murder of someone you’ve known for twelve years can sober you up. “This isn’t working,” I hear Mike whisper, sounding so weak and scared in the dark of the woods. “Hunters use these woods. Even if we do break the soil, someone will notice it has been dug up.”
“Do you have a better idea?” I snap, a cold sweat breaking out across my forehead. He was right though. We both stood over six feet and hadn’t even gotten a shovelful of dirt out. This would never do.
“Maybe we should take her to Red Lake in Belmont? It’s a bit of a drive, but we have her car, we can make it look like a car accident.”
“Jesus. What were you thinking?” I ask for the first time, then almost laugh out of the pure insanity of this entire situation I’ve been placed in. I should call the police, I think, not for the first time. I feel a tightening in my throat as I think of what my brother is capable of. Before tonight, I would have never thought him capable of hurting someone, not like this. My heart feels like it's beating out of my chest as I realize that Mike could kill me too, if I choose not to help him. What would he do if I turned right now and told him I was calling the police? “She can’t be found. Don’t you get that? Even if they believe she was in a car accident at first, they’re going to get her body out. See the wounds,” I wince, the thought of her wounds too much to bear. She was wrapped in a sheet now, but I would never forget the way she looked, lying there in the bathtub, head cocked at an unnatural angle. She looked so frail there, so weak and helpless.
“We have to torch it. That’s it. We have to torch her in her car.”
“No way. No. I’m done; I’m not doing this. We need to go to the police. Mike, we have to tell them what happened. Think of your daughters.”
“I was thinking of my daughters! Why do you think this happened in the first place? You know she was taking them away. Yep, she was going to take them to New York with her new boyfriend, the one who smacked Macy across the face for not finishing all of her food.” He starts crying, head in his hands, he falls down right in front of me. “I had to. I couldn’t let her do that! I’m a good father. I didn’t want this. She was violent with me first.”
“That’s perfect. Tell the cops. Please, Mike. Tell them that she hit you first. Yes, you went way overboard, but if you don’t tell them, they’re going to get you on first-degree murder. Please,” I begged him, feeling tears well up in my eyes.
Just then, timing being perfectly righteous, a flashlight beamed onto us. “What’s going on here?” a powerful voice asked, like God himself.
I froze there, taking in the scene from the cop’s perspective. Me, standing there with a shovel, at four in the morning. Mike, on his knees in front of me, crying into the sleeve of his coat. And worse yet, Rose, wrapped tightly in a black sheet on the ground about a foot away from me. I let the tears fall down my cheeks as I saw the officer pull his gun and begin screaming, “Let me see your hands. Both of you. Hands up. Down on your knees!” He reached for the walkie on his shoulder. “This is Officer Hancock requesting backup to the mile 8 marker of Old Sawmill Road. Possible homicide.”