Gavin found Sean in the kitchen, staring out through blinds held open between two fingers, the room lit only by streetlights. The cupboards were paint-flecked and scratched, the counters dirty, the sink full of dishes and silverware that were starting to smell rank. There was a butcher’s block in the middle of the floor a little above belt-height, upon it only a large carving knife. Gavin closed the basement door behind him and locked it with the old skeleton that was still perched in the lock. He took the key out and put it on the little nail nearby, then walked over to turn on the lights.
‘No, don’t! They’ll know we’re here!’
‘Who’ll know we’re here?’
‘The people outside!’
‘What people?’ Gavin walked over to one of the windows and peered out. The street was lit by the dim amber of the streetlights and the passing reds and whites of the cars that occasionally drove through the neighborhood. Most of the other house lights on the street were out, it being long past most normal peoples’ bedtimes, but there was an occasional window light here or there, mostly on the second floors, if the house had a second floor. Not that there were any silhouettes in them or anything. Gavin checked the cars that were parked along the street, but they all looked empty, and absolutely none had their lights on. ‘There are no people. And even if there are, so what? We turn the lights on, what’s that matter to them?’
Sean gave Gavin a look like Gavin had just grown an extra head. ‘I told you. They’ll know were here!’
‘Well they won’t need fucking lights to know that, Sean! We fucking live here!’
‘They’ll know we’re up to something!’
‘Up to something? In our own place? Why would they care? We’re always up to something in our own place. So are they. And we’ve never been bothered yet.’
Sean didn’t say anything, just went back to staring out the window. Gavin sighed. He took his finger off the light switch, walked over to the stove and used it to light a cigarette. A real one. Sean took another hit on his meth pipe. Gavin took drags in silence, trying not to shake or stare at the basement door.
After a couple more hits, Sean said, ‘We got to get rid of the body.’
A quick sharp drag from Gavin. ‘How?’
Sean hesitated. ‘I think I saw some show once? Where they filled this big plastic tub with some chemical, and then put the body in it. That shit dissolved everything, skin, hair, bone. Then they just poured it down the toilet. It worked great!’
Gavin grimaced. He didn’t like the look of their toilet already. He would never be able to stomach using it if they poured Billy down it. ‘What was the chemical?’
‘Uh, I don’t know.’
‘Well, what was the show?’
‘I can’t remember,’ whispered Sean in defeat.
‘Probably just a television show anyways.’
Sean took another hit.
‘Okay,’ he said, shaking anew, ‘why don’t we chop him up and feed the parts into the furnace?’
Gavin shook his head. ‘We don’t have that kind of furnace. There’s no opening for you to shovel things in.’
‘Fuck.’ Sean set down his pipe and picked up the carving knife. Gavin slid over to the far wall. ‘We are going to have to chop him up,’ said Sean, holding out the knife.
‘Well, don’t use that. Use a meat cleaver, or a saw. With plastic underneath.’
‘After that, we drag him out to the car, right? In bags? Then drive him to the dump and through the parts in there.’
Gavin shook his head again. ‘We can’t risk anyone finding the parts. They’ll know we did it. There can’t be a body.’
‘Oh shit,’ said Sean. He set the knife back down, put his head in his hands and started sobbing.
Gavin reached over the butcher’s block and scooped up the pipe. ‘You’ve had enough of this tonight. I’m going to bed.’ He walked out of the kitchen, down the hallway towards his room.
In the morning, Sean woke up to sounds coming from below. He jumped into his pants and ran down to investigate. The door was unlocked again. Downstairs, the television was on. It was Saturday, and cartoons were playing. Sean was on the couch, still wrapped in his blanket, eating a bowl of Count Chocula.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’
‘He looks better,’ said Sean, motioning towards the body. ‘I mean, he doesn’t look worse.’
Gavin looked at Billy. His face was white like a silent film star’s. His eyes were made of glass, and his mouth was tilted open like he was about to start drooling. He almost seemed like he had been stuffed and posed. The hunting knife was still jutting out of his stomach. It hadn’t settled or anything.
‘We should really pull that thing out,’ said Gavin. He didn’t.
‘He hasn’t even started smelling,’ chipped in Sean. ‘Maybe he’ll just stay like that.’
‘He just hasn’t started decomposing yet. Wait a couple days, and everyone on this street will know that something in here is dead.’
‘So we have a couple of days.’
Gavin looked over at the coffee table. There was a pipe there, loaded with weed. From the look of his eyes Sean had taken a few tokes. Gavin walked over, picked it up, and took one himself. ‘Yeah, we have a couple days.’ He looked around. ‘C’mon man, we have a TV upstairs. Let’s get out of here. This place is giving me bad vibes.’
When they were back upstairs, Gavin locked the door again, and hung the skeleton key back on the nail. He made himself a bowl of Captain Crunch as Sean watched cartoons. When, he was finished, he put on his brown bomber jacket and combat boots, filled up his pockets with product, and told Sean he was going out. He rode the El Train for a couple of hours, just going from one stop to the end, then getting off and taking another line to somewhere else. Eventually he ended up at the Quad of the campus. Saturday was college day, at least for him. He hung out around the periphery, in the shadows, waiting, and when one of the students came up to him, they would shake hands, and Gavin would pass them a small plastic bag, and they would pass him a ten or a twenty. He was all out, around five o’clock, he took the El back downtown to a bar he liked, had a beer and watched nothing on TV, watched some of the cougars hit on the young professionals. None came near him though. He respected that, the sense of a mark they had. They knew he was the kind of trouble they didn’t want. Not that he minded. Gavin’s taste in strange ran a lot younger. There was this one girl he had been thinking about a lot lately, late at night before bed, this little street urchin girl he had seen in a squatter’s nest near the bombed out industrial district. Short, pale, skinny, with purple hair and wide eyes. Didn’t say a word. She was maybe sixteen, if that.
Gavin only dealt pot. He got it from this old hippie, the kind who had gotten into the drug trade long ago and who was lowdown enough and professional enough and dealt with harmless enough product that no one had bothered to get rid of him when the organization above him got shaken up, which was rare as it was. Pot wasn’t like Coke or Horse or Meth. No one really got into shooting matches about it. That’s why Gavin kept to it, and not Meth and Coke like Sean. Though Sean spent more time using than dealing.
Billy though. Billy had been different. Billy had been hardcore into psychedelics, acid, shrooms, peyote, prescription antipsychotics. That and the occasional hit of heroin, they were almost like a religion for him. He was always listening to Timothy Leary tapes, videos of Ram Dass, whoever that was. Oh, and reading books by Anton LeVey, Alistair Crowley. Black magic, black metal, and opiate and psychedelic drugs. That was Billy, in a nutshell. Intense motherfucker. He was always staring at you, making eye contact and not blinking, like he could hold that eye contact, he could convince you of anything, because whatever he was talking about was something he had to convince you of. And now he was just staring at the floor, at nothing at all. Because he had gotten it into his head to perform an actual black magic ritual and stick a hunting knife in his chest. ‘Dumb motherfucker,’ Gavin whispered to himself. ‘Stupid, stupid, needy dumb crazy motherfucker.’ He finished his beer, paid his tab and left.
He got back to the house a little after sundown. Sean was still watching television. What had been cartoons was now an edited-for-television movie. They used to have cable, but after the three of them kept forgetting to pay the bill it had gotten cut off. Gavin went to his room, took the wad of twenties and tens out, put them in a rubber band and hid them in his sock drawer, in one of his socks. He went out to the kitchen, took a Hot Pocket out of the freezer and put it in the microwave.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ said Sean. He was smoking a massive blunt.
‘Yeah?’ said Gavin, leaning against the archway between hallway and living room. ‘What about?’
‘About Billy,’ said Sean, with a look like, ‘what else would I be thinking about?’
‘Yes, but, what about Billy have you been thinking?’
‘So, this magic book, that Billy used? He got it from Damien, right? In fact, he maybe stole it, right?’
‘Well, Damien might be angry at Billy. And we don’t want him angry at us, do we?’
‘Right. So we should give him the book back. Tell him we had nothing to do with it, honest, it was all Billy. He’ll be really angry probably, because the book is probably really expensive, right? So then we tell him that Billy is dead…’
Gavin caught on. ‘And ask him if he knows anything about what to do with a body like Billy’s…’
‘Yeah. I mean, either he knows some occult shit for dealing with this kind of thing, or, you know, he deals heroin. He probably knows people who know how to deal with bodies, make them disappear.’
Gavin ran his fingers down his jaw. ‘It’s risky. He might decide to blame us anyways. Throw us in with Billy.’
Sean shook his head. ‘He wouldn’t. He would have to kill us, yeah? But why would he want to do that? That’s two more bodies to deal with, which become his deal not ours. And he needs someone who knows Billy’s clientele. And that’s us. He helps us with Billy, we can move into Billy’s territory, and Damien will know we’re loyal, because he has dirt on us.’
‘If he had dirt on us, why doesn’t he just go over to the police?’
Sean shook his head again. ‘Heroin dealers are never gonna mix it up with pigs, especially when a body’s involved.’
Gavin nodded his head. ‘Yeah, yeah, that might work…’
The basement door shook.
Gavin looked at the basement door. Then he looked at Sean. Sean was looking at him. The basement door shook again. The knob was turning back and forth.
Neither of them moved.
‘Guys?’ called out Billy weakly. ‘Guys? Are you there? The door’s locked. Are you there? Guys?’
The microwave dinged. Gavin’s Hot Pocket was done.