Jeff signaled and turned left into a gravel lot. He could hear crunching under his tires and immediately felt less substantial. He pulled around back of the warehouse and shut off the engine. It wasn’t quiet. The warehouse was under an overpass. The roar and hiss of cars screeching by just feet above him made Jeff think of banshees howling on the wind.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.
Jeff stepped out of his car. The ground was wet. It had rained overnight. The gravel sank in the mud just below it.
The warehouse was abandoned. It had been for a long time. Cinderblock walls were stained with moss and filth. Graphiti-artist-wannabes had practiced here before changing careers. Broken glass windows let the inside blackness out. Jeff crunched around the building looking for a door. It wasn’t locked. The corrugated steel man-door was rusted off its hinges. Jeff pulled on the handle and the door groaned, painfully. The door handle was wet and Jeff wiped his hand on his Levis. He hoped it was only water.
“I knew you would come.” A woman stepped around the corner of the building. Her voice had a note of helplessness to it. Jeff suspected it was put on.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. She was wearing high heels and an overcoat, forties noir. He didn’t think you could even buy clothes like that anymore.
“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.”
“Oh come on,” Jeff shouted, “I’m trying to be authentic, and all you do is come up with clichés.”
“Oh, please. You’re the one who put the dead body in an abandoned warehouse. Talk about cliché.”
“I didn’t put a body in there.”
“Then, why are you here?”
The woman laughed. “You should go inside.”
“The body. Remember?”
“There is no body inside this warehouse!”
“Do you always talk to yourself?” Jeff jumped and turned around. A large man stood in shadow just inside the doorframe.
“I wasn’t talking to myself.” Jeff looked over to where the woman was standing. She was still there.
I might be losing it.
“Could you give me a hand?”
Jeff squinted against the light to get a better picture of the man in the doorway. He could tell the man had a shovel.
“What do you need?” Jeff asked.
“I’ve got this body in the trunk of my car. I could use your help burying it?”
“Now this is getting interesting,” the woman said.
Jeff looked toward the woman. She smiled sweetly. “What are you going to do?”
“Why are you still here?”
“This story’s just getting started.”
“Let’s go.” Now Jeff could now see the man also had a gun.
“You’d better help him.”
“Because you want to know what happens next.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You need to know.”
The large man stepped through the doorway. He had a shovel in one hand and the gun in the other, pointed at Jeff. In the light, Jeff could see he had dark hair, a lumberjack build, three-day stubble and an award-winning smile.
“Cheer up, Jeff. What’s the worst that could happen?” They walked to the man’s car like old friends.
“How do you know my name?”
The man popped the trunk. “I think you know how.”
The man reached into the trunk and rolled a body over, a woman, blond. The hair on the back of Jeff’s neck stood up. He felt the blood drain from his face. He wanted to throw-up and pass out at the same time. His wife, Jill, stared up at him.
“You take her feet. I’ll take her arms.”
Jeff couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. He turned to look back at the woman.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“You did this. This is your fault. I told you, NOT MY FAMILY.”
“You wrote the words, Jeff. You made it real.”
The man cocked his gun.
Crazy, unhinged, Jeff turned back around and shouted at the man, “YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT ME?” Jeff took a step toward the man. “SHOOT ME!”
The man smiled. “You’re going to help me.”
Jeff leaped at the man, fury and rage driving him forward.
BOOM. Jeff saw the muzzle flame in slow motion. He watched the bullet enter his stomach, cold, then searing hot. For a moment he felt like he was flying, backwards.
If I hit the ground, will I die?
“This is my story, Jeff.” Jeff was on his back, looking up. The man stood over him, pointing the gun at his face. “I make the rules now.”
Jeff opened his eyes. It was dark. His heart was pounding in his chest, thumping in his ears. Jeff felt for his stomach, where the gunshot tore into him, slamming him backward.
Jeff could see moonlight through his bedroom window. It was late, quiet. He sat up in bed. Memory of the pain was still there. He wiped sweat from his forehead. He felt like throwing up.
Jill stirred in bed beside him. Jeff tried to calm his breathing, his heart rate.
“You should write this down, Jeffrey.” The woman was silhouetted against his bedroom window, black curves against mini-blinds.
Jeff jumped out of bed, the anger returning, adrenaline pumping.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Jill sat up, sleepily.
Jeff turned to look at Jill, then back toward the woman. She was gone. He slowly turned back to Jill. “Bad dream,” he whispered.
Jill lay back down. “Come to bed.”
Jeff stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. With the light off, he turned on the faucet and splashed his face with water.
I don’t think I can do this.
He sat down on the floor.
“I’m going crazy.”
In the distance, Jeff could hear the woman laughing.