The door was unlocked. Liam cursed himself. He’d been in such a hurry to get Ashley to school that he’d forgotten to lock the door. Horrible. He couldn’t do things like that. Doing things like that could be really bad.
But he supposed it was fine, because he’d also forgotten his keys again. He kept his house keys on a different chain from his car keys, because they where always pressing buttons on the car keys if they were in his pocket together. The trunk would open, or the alarm would go off, and everyone would have a heart attack. Liam got the mail out of the mailbox, took a note that the duct tape holding the extra key in place was starting to come loose, and went inside.
Liam was a man of predictable habits. He flipped through the mail, separated the bills from the spam, and headed to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of root beer. Maybe it was childish, but after the stress of getting Ashley to school, he needed something, and it was too late for coffee, and too early for beer.
Liam sipped a mouthful of fizzy, excessively sweet goodness, and headed upstairs. He wondered where his dog was. “Bowser! Bowser?” When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw that the English Bulldog was asleep under Ashley’s bed. Typical. Some guard dog.
Liam yawned. Being a single parent was exhausting. He treasured the hours with Ashely, but honestly he treasured the time he could grab alone just as much. Any time without a little girl’s voice shouting at him was golden. He settled into his office, leaving the door open so that Bowser could come in when he woke up. He opened up his laptop. No client email.
Liam leaned back in his office chair, finished his root beer, and opened twitter. He had a couple of files to package up and send off, but there was no pressure on that.
The screen began to get blurry. Liam rubbed his eyes, and sat forward in his chair. He never got enough sleep, these days. His email pinged. It was Sonifey wanting that spreadsheet — better send it off. The mouse cursor wandered randomly across the screen, trying to get to his FTP client. Liam rubbed his eyes again. He wasn’t usually this sleepy in the morning. Another ping — a twitter notification this time, from a handle he hadn’t seen in years.
Too Much Free Time @bloody_wendy345 1m ago
Hey, @RootBeerSaint, long time no see. Check this out.
There was a link under that. It went to a Boston.com report of an escape from the women’s wing at Bridgewater State Mental Institution. Two guards killed. His mouth suddenly went dry. The floorboards of the hallway creaked behind him.
He swiveled in his chair. Wendy, still holding her phone, smiled, and gave a little wave.
Liam slid out of his chair and onto the floor, and he was gone.
The world came back into focus. The ugly, baby poop brown wallpaper of the guest bedroom was strangely blurry. Liam blinked, and tried to reach up to rub his eyes. He couldn’t — he was tied to the bed. His left hand hurt like crazy. Bowser stuck his head up over the edge of the bed, drool dripping from his lolling tongue.
“Oh, you’re finally both awake!” Wendy’s voice came from the other side of the bed. She was wearing a trash bag poncho over clothes that were too big for her, and her beautiful hair had been buzz cut down to a ginger fuzz. She turned from whatever she was doing on the old roll-top desk in the corner to come lean over the bed. “Are you feeling all right? I got the rofinol off one of the guards we killed, so he probably deserved to die.”
She touched her head. “Oh, I got lice. It was pretty bad.”
“Wendy. What… what are you doing?”
Wendy grimaced. “I kind of have a whole soliloquy, planned, sweetie. Give me some time to unpack.” She turned back to the desk, and picked up a paring knife. “The dog’s a good boy. What’s his name?”
“Nerd.” She said it affectionately, just the way she used to.
“I still love you, Wendy.”
“I love you, too, Liam. It’s just that things are complicated, now.” Bowser had figured out Liam wasn’t going to pet him, and had lumbered back over to Wendy, where he shuffled his forefeet hungrily on the carpet. The desk had a plastic drop cloth over it. So did the walls. There was a little bit of blood dripping down the plastic on the desk. Wendy stopped cutting long enough to set a small bone on the desk next to her. “Just a minute, Bowser. I don’t want you choking on any of the little bones.”
Liam’s hand really hurt. He tried to twist so he could get a good look at it, but all he could see were blood and white bandages. He tried to count his fingers. He kept coming up short.
“You’re so predictable, Liam. Still keeping the key in the same place, still drinking cheap root beer from the big bottles every day. Still not paying attention to the details around you. Though, if you paid more attention, I guess we might not have been together long enough to have Ashley.” She sighed. She had a small pile of bloody bones, by now. She scooped them up, and put them in a plastic trash bag. “The bones are always the hardest thing to get rid of. Meat just looks like meat. Easy to hide, especially if you have animals around.”
There was a small pile of meat on the desk. Wendy came back to the desk, picked up a piece, and held it over Bowser’s nose. He scrabbled his paws frantically. She let the piece go, and Bowser jumped up to grab it out of mid-air.
“Oh, Bowser, no,” Liam groaned.
Wendy smirked, and picked up another piece of meat. “When I was little, I killed animals. It’s what you do, you know? It’s how most people get started. But I stopped sooner than most. They didn’t deserve it. Animals, I mean. They are innocent. Their souls are pure. Aren’t they, Bowser? Yes they are. Yes they are!” She put a piece of meat on the tip of his nose. “Wait… wait…”
Bowser shuffled his paws on the floor.
“Okay!” said Wendy.
Bowser slurped the bloody morsel off his nose, and panted happily. He looked at the meat on the table. He shuffled his feet again.
Liam turned his head away, and puked across the plastic covering the bed.
When he looked up again, Wendy was standing over him, holding another scrap of meat.
“How does the betrayal feel, Liam?”
“Wendy, I had to. I’m so sorry. I had to. You know I had to!”
“I bet you love this dog. He’s adorable. And so loyal, isn’t he? But to a dog, meat’s just meat.” She tossed the scrap in her hand casually behind her. Bowser popped up and snapped it out of the air, then vanished out of Liam’s view again.
“Any they’re right. Meat’s meat.” Wendy walked back to the desk, picked up another scrap, and popped it into her mouth. “You want some?” she mumbled.
Liam shook his head weakly. “Why are you doing this, Wendy?”
”Oh, you know why.” She swallowed, and scooped up the remaining meat and put it on the floor. “You’re pretty good. A little gamey, but that’s to be expected.” Out of Liam’s view, Bowser snorted and grunted.
Wendy stood over him, the backs of her hands on her narrow hips. “You turned me in. You betrayed me.”
“I… I had to!” Liam remembered walking into his wife’s rented storage unit. The medical saws, the industrial sausage maker, the barrels of acid. The freezer. Oh, God, the freezer. “I had to. It was the right thing to do.”
She patted Liam on the belly. “Yes. You did what you you had to do. You took away my life. You took away my baby. But you did the right thing. You were a good man.” She walked back to the desk, and began to roll up the plastic covering it. A trickle of blood rolled over the edge. “I never killed near our home. I never killed anyone who didn’t have it coming. I never had a pattern for the police to track. I would never have been caught. But you. You!”
Liam closed his eyes, listening to the wet noises of Bowser licking the plastic covered floor. “Are you going to kill me?”
Wendy laughed. “No. No, baby. We’re done with your punishment. I forgive you.”
Bowser jumped up on the bed between them, and began to lick Liam’s face.
“Anyway. I need you to get us across the border. And to buy us plane tickets, once we get to Canada. What do you think? Brazil? Argentina? Maybe Russia?”
“Mommy!” Liam opened the back door and Ashely climbed into the car seat. Wendy wriggled around to fasten her in. Ashley squealed as Bowser climbed on her and lapped at her face. “Bowser, Mommy’s back!”
“Yes,” said Wendy, “Mommy got out of the hospital early.”
“Are you better now?”
“Mommy was never really sick, honey.”
Ashely looked serious. “Daddy hurt his hand.”
Wendy nodded, fastened her seat belt and started the car. “Daddy had an accident, honey. So, do you want to go on a trip?”
Liam slouched in the passenger seat, and stared out the window as they pulled away from Ashely’s school.