Family Murders: A Thriller (12 page)

“Yeah?” Alvin had been called many things, but shrewd wasn’t one of them.

“Oh yeah,” Marty said. “You should hear people go on. Sharp as a tack, that Alvin Farris. That’s what they’re saying.”

Alvin puffed up like a blow fish. His shoulders went back a notch, his chin angled up. “Yeah,” he said, “you bet I am. Let’s get it all out in the open.”

Marty nodded and took a step closer, ready to lend a sympathetic ear.

“Here’s the deal. I tell you where it’s hid at,” Alvin said, “and I help you get rid of just one more body, and then we’re all square. Nobody owes anybody anything anymore.”

Marty nodded, excited now. “That’s the ticket. It’s like a trade, see? You give me the hiding spot, I give you a body.” He threw back his head and cackled. The thick night air sucked up his laugh, whittled it down to nothing at all.

Alvin thought about that for a minute.

“Well shoot, the hole is already dug,” he said. “Seems like we got ourselves a deal.”

Marty stood patiently, waiting.

Over by the edge of the hole, Cowboy still spun the shovel. He was doing karate moves now, chopping at the darkness.

Alvin dug into the bib of his overalls, came up with a crinkled piece of paper. “I wrote it down on this. Ain’t no particular place, you’d never find it otherwise. I used one of those GPS units, noted the coordinates.”

He squeezed the scrap of paper one more time and rolled it into a tight little ball. Then he plopped it into Marty’s outstretched hand.

“Thanks,” Marty said.

They all stood there another few moments. Marty’s smile faded away and he searched Alvin’s face.

“I gotta ask one more time. It’s all there?”

“It’s all there,” Alvin said. “All of it.”

The creases on Marty’s forehead collapsed and went smooth. He grinned. “You know what?”

“What?”

“I believe you, you son of a bitch.” He punched Alvin lightly on the shoulder.

Alvin punched him back, lit another Lucky.

“Come on,” Marty said. “Help me get the tailgate down and let’s get this guy in the hole. That means you too, Cowboy.”

Cowboy grunted, apparently displeased to have his high-speed tai chi interrupted.

“My pleasure,” Alvin said. The knot in his stomach started to unravel itself. This meeting could have been a disaster. Parker could be unpredictable, but he had successfully navigated the shark-infested waters. It was no surprise.
That Alvin Farris is as sharp as a tack,
he thought.

Marty and Alvin reached up and lifted on either side of the truck’s tailgate. It was heavy, and only popped up and out on the second try before flopping down with a thud.

Inside, the truck bed was flat and clean. It was also totally empty.

“Uh, I think you guys forgot the body,” Alvin said.

“Yeah,” Marty said, “about that.”

Cowboy shuffled forward two steps, like a batter settling in next to the plate. He had the shovel handle in a two-handed grip, and he swung it like a baseball bat. He did it just like his little league coach had taught him, turning from the hips for extra power, making sure to follow through. The spade connected edge on with the back of Alvin Farris’s skull, and something gave.

Marty and Cowboy both heard it, a sickening, wet crunch that sounded like a dropped watermelon.

“Oh shit,” Cowboy said.

Alvin Farris heard it. He felt it too, felt the back of his head giving way, separating. It flexed and then snapped like a popsicle stick bent too far. The spot there suddenly went cold. He tried to reach up and touch it, but only got halfway. His arm, extended right out in front of him, froze in place, and he tipped over, face first, into the soft brown dirt.

Dirt went up his nose, into his mouth, into his eyes. It ground in farther when Cowboy started dragging him towards the hole.

“Little help?” Cowboy said.

Marty got him by the wrists. Together they lifted Alvin a few inches off the ground, swung him a bit, let go. He rolled over the edge and landed on his side at the bottom. His face pointed straight up but his body was bent double. One of his legs rested under him at an impossible angle. Somehow, he didn’t feel a thing.

“Get to work,” Marty said. “I don’t have all night.”

“What about that thing?” Cowboy pointed at the backhoe.

“You know how to drive it?”

“Naw,” Cowboy said.

“Me neither. Why do you think I brought you?”

Cowboy unzipped one of the zippers on his jacket and shrugged it off. He hung it very carefully on the passenger side mirror of the truck, then picked the shovel up off the ground, scooped up some dirt, and threw it in.

Alvin Farris felt the loose earth beneath his head begin to soften even more, like it was wet. His eyes had been frozen up until a moment ago. Now they pinwheeled in their sockets. He tried to scream.

He coughed instead and sputtered dirt, a little gout of loam shooting up toward the stars, their light diffuse in the subtropical heat.

Cowboy shook his head in disbelief. “Oh my God, Marty, this guy’s still alive.”

“You didn’t hit him hard enough.”

“I don’t know,” Cowboy said, incredulous, “I hit him pretty hard.”

“Whatever,” Marty said.

“What do you want me to do?”

“You can get down there and hit him again, if you want.”

Cowboy examined the vertical sides of the grave. The soil here was sandy. The walls were already threatening to crumble.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

“Well, there you go. Just keep shoveling and the rest will take care of itself.” Marty cackled again.

Cowboy brightened. “Hey, I never thought of it like that. I guess that’s true.”

Alvin Farris tried to scream again, tried to tell them they’d made a mistake, tried to call for help, tried to pray. Not even dirt came out of his mouth this time.

Earth started raining down from above, soft and cool. It pressed its way around his body, fitting itself to his crumpled form like a precision mold. There was something comforting it about. It made Alvin think about being in the womb. For one strange moment an image of his son flashed through his mind. Then it vanished.

He looked up at the stars, so high and cold and dim, shrieking silently in the night sky. He watched them dance and tremble, until they too disappeared.

>

WHEN IT was nearly there, the bus broke down.

People filed off in an orderly fashion and stood on the shoulder. The bus driver walked backward down the travel lane and tossed out a few orange cones. When he came back, he opened up the bus’s side panels, revealing the luggage compartments. People started to collect their baggage.

The driver climbed back on board to see if anyone was still left.

In the very last row, forehead pressed to the glass, was a man in his late twenties. He had a two-day growth of beard, shaggy black hair that could have used a cut a month ago, and a chest that stretched his flannel shirt like it was stuffed with a beer keg.

“Engine’s shot,” the driver said.

“Can you fix it?” the man asked.

“Nope. Another bus will come out and get us, but it’ll take three hours or so. Or you could try to make your way into town. Won’t take you three hours. We’re pretty close.”

The man nodded and climbed down the narrow steps, a small canvas bag slung over one shoulder. He had no luggage other than that. Other passengers milled around, wondering exactly what to do. So did he.

In the end he decided to hitch a ride, but so did a lot of other people trapped there on the side of an empty rural highway. Drivers willing to offer a lift had their pick of the litter. He noticed their rescue was proceeding in a very orderly fashion, like loading the lifeboats on the Titanic. The women were picked up first, then a couple with a kid got taken in by some other family in a minivan. It wasn’t until later that a few truckers came past willing to take on the lone men.

Finally it was just him and some old man wearing a beaten down bowler standing there by the side of the road. The clouds had just changed colors near the horizon, threatening rain, when a big rig painted orange hissed its air brakes and stopped.

“Got room for one passenger,” the trucker called out his window.

The old man looked at him. “Going anywhere important?”

“No,” he said, “take it. It’s yours.”

“Well, son, thank you.” The old man tipped his dusty bowler hat. “Standing here by the side of the road, competing as it were, I’m ashamed to say I never asked your name.”

“It’s Clay,” he said. “Clay Farris.”

“Thank you again, Mr. Farris,” the old man said, and slung himself up into the big rig and was gone.

Clay Farris studied the closing clouds. Then he tightened the strap of his canvas bag and started walking.

When his father inexplicably vanishes, Clay Farris returns home for the first time in ten years determined to find him, and starts with a collective of outlaw motorcycle clubs known as the Brotherhood.
But the Brotherhood is also looking for Clay. His father stole something from them, something of great value. They have every reason to believe he knows where it's hidden, and they want to ask him some questions—the hard way.
Now Clay is on the run, turning over every stone, determined to uncover the truth behind his father's disappearance. When the dust settles, the earth will be stained with someone's blood. The only question is: whose?

Bloodstained: A Thriller
, now available for Kindle.

Family Murders: A Thriller

Copyright © 2012 Henry Carver / FlashBang Books

All rights reserved.

This book is licensed under the Standard Copyright License, and is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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