Dani Taylor Neal

Summer 2000

One Good Deed

Tom, if that had really been his name, had a space between his front teeth.  That was something that Becky had not noticed when he was alive, but in death his mouth sagged open a little and she stared at that gap for a long time.  She didn’t want to look at the rest of him.  Imagining how so much blood could pour from such a seemingly small wound was enough for now.  Of course, she didn’t know what he looked like from the back.  A strange surge of energy was coursing through her body not allowing her to sit down and cry, though she thought that’s exactly what she should be doing.

Where to lay the blame for this was not an easy thing to do and Becky just wanted to stare into that space between Tom’s two front teeth until all of this disappeared and time slid back just three hours so this didn’t have to happen. Lisa would blame her.  Becky was sure of that.  Fault, blame, a dead man sprawled in prairie grass under a brilliant, sun filled, sky.  How far were they from the car?  How far had they come?  Involuntarily she slapped at a fly on her arm.  She looked at Lisa.

"Come on. Let’s go.”  Lisa tucked the dull, black gun into the back of the waist of her jeans after rifling through Tom’s pockets.  Inside his dirty denim jacket she had found a hunting knife, a pack of chewing gum, a stub from a movie theater, the keys to Becky’s car and the keys to the handcuffs that were still dangling from Becky’s left arm.

After stepping over Tom, Lisa pulled Becky’s arm up by the handcuffs, unlocked them, wiped them clean with the tail of her shirt before throwing them and the keys on ground next to Tom.

Becky realized that the gun must’ve been tucked into Lisa’s jeans all along.  She looked back at Tom and thought, “Obviously you weren’t ready for that little trick… or things would be very different now.”  Becky hadn’t known about the gun either.

"We can’t just leave him here.”  She said.

Lisa’s jaws tensed.  “Oh yes we can.   It’ll just be him and the vultures, and that’s all he deserves.”  Lisa turned and started walking back toward the car.

Becky looked at Tom lying in the grass, soaked in his own blood.  He wasn’t an ugly man, even with all the color drained from his face, his eyes open and dull.  He looked a little like an actor she’d seen before.  Flies were starting to buzz around the sticky wet spot beneath him. One fly walked along his bottom lip and disappeared into his mouth.  For some reason it didn’t bother her as much as she thought it should.   She turned and followed her friend.

"Lisa!  For Christ’s sake will you slow down.”  She had to jog until she reached Lisa’s side. “Don’t we need to mark the spot or something so we can tell the police where he is?”  She was a little out of breath.

Abruptly Lisa stopped, her nose flared as she spoke, “We’re not telling anyone where that son-of-bitch is rotting.  What’s the matter with you?  If I hadn’t shot him that would be you and me laying back there decomposing.  We’re not telling anybody. You hear me?  Do you hear me?” She started walking again. 

Becky looked back, but from where she stood she could only see the tops of his shoes sticking up in the mid-summer, prairie grass.   Again, she wondered how far he had made them walk.  She chastised herself, for not sticking to her diet and exercise and then wondered if that was what she was supposed to be thinking about.  A dead man behind her, Lisa in front of her, and she was worried about not exercising enough.

"Please…” Becky cried out after Lisa, “you’re running.  Will you wait?”

Lisa slowed down at the top of a small hill.  From that distance and with the sun shining behind her, she didn’t look at all familiar.  Becky tried to imagine this same petite woman sitting behind her desk at their office.  Lisa’s hair was usually pulled back and her suits always accentuated her small waist and slender legs.  That image of her just wasn’t there anymore.  At the moment she couldn’t even remember what Lisa looked like when she smiled.  There was a year of history between them, but Becky couldn’t remember any farther back than the last three hours.  Lisa’s face was red and streaked with sweat.  There were still finger marks across her cheek where Tom had slapped her to the ground for saying something he didn’t like.  Becky couldn’t remember what it was she had said.  She could still see Lisa wiping at the blood that had covered her teeth after she picked herself up out of the field, but that woman didn’t look like Lisa Blair, Million Dollar a year realtor.

"Come on.”  Lisa called back.

When Becky caught up she thought that she might actually cry or vomit.  She had cried earlier when Tom had been prodding them through the field, describing in vivid detail all of the disgusting things that he had planned for them before and after he killed them.  Becky had cried, blubbered, begged for her life, and offered him money that she didn’t have.  He had laughed and poked her in the ribs with his gun.  Lisa had walked in silence only responding to his questions with short, terse answers.  She had even been sarcastic with him.  That’s probably why he slapped her.  He’d also clucked his tongue and promised to give her an especially good time before he killed her.

He enjoyed talking about killing them.  “Which one ov-ya wants to go first?  One ov-ya’s gonna have to watch while I kill the other one.  You, Curly locks, you wanna watch while I choke the life out of old Sour Puss over there?” 

Becky wanted to stop remembering but...

There in the spot where he lay dead he had told them to stop and commanded Lisa to handcuff Becky’s hands behind her back.  He’d thrown the cuffs at Lisa’s feet and stood with his hip cocked to the side, the gun hanging in his hand from a limp wrist.  He had not been worried or nervous.  Complete confidence and a sadistic excitement made him smile and laugh to himself, as he’d watched them.  Becky was still surprised that she had even heard Lisa whisper “Run.”  She had looked back at Tom as she felt the cold metal of the cuffs close around her left wrist.  “Run.” The soft command had come again as Lisa started to reach for her right arm.

So she’d run.  Screaming, she had pushed one foot in front of the other across the dried grass.  She plunged head long into the emptiness of the field.  When the shot rang out she was sure it was hurtling toward her.

If Lisa had not caught up to her, grabbed her and screamed, “stop,” she was convinced that she might still be running.  Now she watched her co-worker and friend walk, looking straight ahead, without a backward glance toward the dead man. 

"When did you…where did you have the gun?”  Becky asked.

"I always carry it or something.  It was in my belt bag until you decided we had to stop and help. Be good fucking-Samaritans.  ‘What if that was us stuck out here in the middle of nowhere needing help?  I always stop to help people on the side of the road.  I’ve done it hundreds of times and nothing has ever happened’ you said.” Her voice was high and whiny as she quoted Becky.

Becky didn’t attempt to argue with her.  She’d known that was coming. “Aren’t you worried that they’ll trace the gun? Or find your finger prints or something?”  Becky didn’t see how they could just walk away from this.

"Even if they could trace that bullet back to this gun, this gun was reported stolen years ago.  I wiped everything I touched.  Anyway, by the time they find him, or what’s left of him, that kind of evidence won’t be available anymore.”  She strode on so fast that Becky had difficulty keeping up.

"But…” Becky started. Lisa cut her off.

"Look,” her words came through clenched teeth, “if you want to run to the nearest police station to tell them that we killed some guy with a gun that was reported stolen five years ago, and left his body to rot in the middle of a fucking cow pasture, you go right ahead.  And while you’re at it, be sure to explain to them why we went all the way out into the middle of the field with him with a .38 tucked in my pants.  Tell them why we don’t have any bruises or rope burns.  And by all means, explain to them why we picked him up in the first place; two stupid women…No make that one stupid woman and one idiotic woman stuck in the car with her, out alone in the middle of B.F.E.  You go ahead, and when they ask me who shot that son-of-bitch and why, I’m going to tell them you did it and that I don’t know why.  I’m going to tell them that I never understood why you picked him up in the first place. You better hear me now, I am not going to jail for killing a psychopath because you’re a fucking ninny…” By the time she was through, beads of sweat were standing on her upper lip and nose.  Becky turned and started to walk toward the car.

“Stolen?”  Becky stopped and asked.  “Why would you be carrying a gun that was reported stolen?”

“It was one of my dad’s.  After he died, Mom inventoried his gun collection and when she couldn’t find this one she reported it stolen.  I just never bothered to correct the situation.  My brother was being such a prick about the whole ordeal anyway, I figured, ‘what the fuck.’”

Crying again, Becky turned and walked ahead because she didn’t want Lisa to see her.  All of it was starting to make her feel weak and nauseated.  She was sure that something wasn’t right about this, but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was yet. How could Lisa blame her?  The police would understand.

They walked in silence until Becky noticed one lone tree sitting next to an erosion crack.  She made for the tree and the shade beneath it.  Lisa followed, to Becky’s surprise, without comment.

Collapsing in the shade, Becky closed her eyes.  She wanted to shut the world and Lisa out of her head for a few minutes.  When she sat up again and looked across the field, she wondered how there could be so much emptiness, so few trees, and if they were headed in the right direction at all.  She could hear Lisa breathing, but she refused to look at her.  She wasn’t her friend, she couldn’t be.  A friend wouldn’t lay the blame on her; threaten to lie about what happened.  She hadn’t even known that Lisa carried a gun.  A sick feeling rose up from her stomach again. The image of Tom and the flies would be with her forever and whose fault was that?

“I’m sorry I called you a ninny.”  Lisa said.

“It’s not my fault that he turned out to be a psychopath.”  Becky answered.  “I just think that if we tell the truth…”

“Oh my God!” Lisa threw her head back, exasperated.  “You just aren’t listening.  It was his fault, but ‘they’ won’t see it that way.  They’ll blame us just for putting ourselves in harm’s way.  No matter what the truth is or was, they’ll have to hang somebody for killing him.  Then again, maybe I’m wrong, maybe they would believe us, maybe he had a record for killing women and leaving their bodies to decompose in deserted fields; or perhaps he had just escaped from a mental hospital for the criminally insane.  Yea, there’s a chance that any of that could be true, but if not, then no matter which way you look at it, we’re screwed if we talk.”  Lisa looked away.  Her jaw was clenched so tight that Becky could see the muscles flexing along her jawbone.

“Why did you wait?” Becky asked.

“Wait for what?” Lisa pushed her hair back from her face and held it up off of her neck.

“You said earlier that they would want to know why we went so far out into the field with him when we had a gun ourselves.  Why did you wait?  Why didn’t you stop him in the car when he first pulled his gun out?  Becky waited.

Lisa let her hair drop and stood up, “We can talk and walk.  If we don’t get moving we’re gonna get caught out here in the dark.”

Becky looked up at the sun, stood and dusted herself off.

Lisa went on as they walked. “My dad was a cop for most of my life, so I was shooting guns before I could drive a car.  I hesitated pulling my gun out in the car because I was afraid that he would use you against me and end up with my gun.  Besides, we were better off with him bleeding all over the field and not the inside of your car.”

“He could have shot me in the field.”  Becky said.

“He wasn’t going to shoot you, not then.  He was laughing; he hadn’t even raised his own gun to aim at you when I shot him.  You’re the reason I had the chance.  If you hadn’t run I don’t know how I would have pulled it off.  I still can’t believe I did…Thank God!  There’s the car.”  Lisa broke into a run down the last hill.

Becky walked behind, biting the skin around her fingernails.  Hunger and thirst were making her feel queasy and she longed for her own bed, but that was a six-hour drive behind them and she wasn’t driving that far tonight.  The idea of being used as a target had started to eat her.  What if he had taken aim?  What if Lisa had been wrong?

Lisa unlocked the car and pulled out a warm bottle of water.  She drank, letting some of it dibble down her chin and neck before offering it to Becky.

Becky took the bottle, looking closely at her friend.  “What if he had taken aim?” Becky lowered the bottle and waited, not offering it back.  Lisa reached for it, but she pulled it just out of her reach.  “What if he had taken aim?” She asked again.

“Then you’d be dead and I’d be drinking all that fucking water by myself.  Is that what you want me to say?  He didn’t.  You’re alive.  I’m alive.  You should be thanking me, not giving me a world of shit about it!  You’re the one who wanted to stop and help, but I’m the one who had to kill somebody!  So fuck you!  I can’t help you didn’t like being used as a target for five seconds.  I carried that gun in my pants for two hours waiting for an opportunity that wouldn’t get one or both of us killed.  I didn’t hear you coming up with any brilliant ideas.  Oh, he was obviously taken with your offers of money and moved by your begging.  Yea, I could tell, behind that insidious laugh, he was starting to feel real bad.”  Lisa reached out and jerked the bottle from Becky’s hand.

Becky stepped away from her friend and stared back up the hill, toward the field.  Both of their paths were still evident in the bent, dry grass.

“He was going to kill us, Beck.  Not just kill us, but rape and torture us first.  That’s not our fault.  It’s not your fault or mine.” Lisa whispered.

They finished the water and started driving back toward interstate 70.  They drove in silence for about a half an hour before taking the first exit marked “Gas, Food, and Lodging.” They got out at a truck stop called the “Dixie Haven,” which boasted of being a trucker’s heaven with home style cooking.

“I hope this place is better than the last place we stopped.”  Lisa opened the door and stepped out onto the asphalt parking lot.

Becky got out and looked at her from across the roof of the car.  “Well, I just hope that you don’t have to kill anybody this time.”

Lisa looked up from straitening her clothes.  Becky was laughing.  They both started to laugh.  They laughed on the way to the bathroom.  They laughed while they waited to be seated.  They laughed when the hostess asked them if they preferred smoking or non-smoking.  They laughed until they cried and their sides ached. They held each other’s warm, living hands across the table and laughed.    

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