Bloodthirsty Chapter 1 of 11

BT.SMALL.jpgRoger and Aggie held hands as they watched the kid bleed out. He was on his back, head flopped to the left. The gurgling in his windpipe had stopped, and now there was just a silent stream, as if Roger had left the tap open.

“Practice makes perfect,” Aggie said.

Roger accepted the compliment by giving her hand a gentle squeeze. He was definitely not the type to slit somebody’s throat without doing some serious prep work. So he had practiced. On pigs. He tracked down a copy of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Pig at the Texas A&M library. After that it was just a matter of working on his technique.

“Did you know that swine have the same basic characteristics as people?” he had said to Aggie. “That’s why they use ’em in bio- medical research. You could live for years with a pig heart in you.”

“I think Ermaline Hofsteader’s already got one in her,” Aggie said. “You see how that girl eats?”

Roger slaughtered four hogs in all. By the third one he got the hang of it, but he did one more for insurance.

“You sure you can’t switch over to cows or chickens?” Aggie said one night at dinner. “I’m getting pretty damn sick of pork.”

Four pigs, one Mexican, Roger thought, looking down at the kid. The only difference was that the kid’s blood wasn’t bright red like the pigs’. In the murky light under the freeway it looked more like Hershey’s syrup.

The pool of chocolate soup got wider, caught a crack in the concrete, and one satellite stream oozed its way toward Roger’s left foot.

“Careful it don’t get on your boots,” Aggie said.

Roger backed up a few steps. “The boots are fine,” he said. “More’n I can say for my…” His lips started to form the F-word, but he caught himself. He had given up profanity for Lent. The results had been spotty at best, so on Easter Sunday he made a silent vow to try and hold off cursing another fifty days till Pentecost. “More’n I can say for my dang shirt.”

He looked down at his right sleeve, sopping with the kid’s juices. “Darn kid spurted. Got blood all over my good Roper.”

“Told you ten times not to wear that shirt,” she said.

“I must not have heard you,” he said. “And it was more like a hundred and ten times.”

“Don’t worry. I can get it out. I’ll take it to a laundromat tonight.”

“Good idea,” he said. “And make sure you buy a big box of that new Tide with DNA Remover.”

“I can get out the blood.”

“Blood’s not DNA. Trust me, this muchacho’s genetic code is in this shirt till I burn it. Besides, a lot of these laundromats in Los Angeles have security cameras, and I don’t want to star in no movie about you and me washing blood out of no shirt.”

“It wouldn’t be you and me in the movie,” she said, “because when in the past twenty-seven years did you ever help one time with the washing?”

“Same amount of times you ever split one stick of firewood.”

Aggie looked down at the body. Eighty feet over her head she could hear the hum of tires rolling along concrete. She inhaled a noseful of freeway fumes and caught a whiff of garlic. The kid’s last meal, probably.

Roger knelt down beside the body and tightened his grip on the knife. It was a seven-inch Ka-bar, the same Marine Corps fighting knife he had carried with him since Nam. “Let me get this over with,” he said.

“Don’t,” Aggie said, grabbing his arm. The shirt was wet and sticky, but she didn’t let go. “Leave him be.”

“Ag,” he said, “we decided.”

It had made sense when they were planning it. Make the murder look like a rival gang did it. Mutilate the kid’s face beyond cosmetic repair, so that even his own mother couldn’t look at him. Street revenge.

“It ain’t necessary,” she said. “The cops won’t investigate a dead gangbanger. How old is he? Fourteen? Fifteen? You gave some poor woman a dead son. At least give her one she can bury in an open coffin.”

“I don’t know why I bother planning, if you’re gonna change everything last minute.” Roger felt the F-word welling up in his throat. “Fine,” it came out.

She released the grip on his arm and rubbed her hands together to dry off the blood. “Thank you. You saying he got his DNA in your shirt?”

Roger stood up and slipped the Ka-bar back into its leather sheath. “Yep. Never get it out.”

“Then fair is fair. We should leave him a little DNA of our own.”

She puckered her lips and sucked them in and out, gathering up a generous gob. She let it fly. The frothy mix of saliva and bile hit the kid’s vacant left eye and trickled down his brown cheek toward an ear.

A few minutes later, they were in the Chevy pickup creeping along the freeway with the rest of the rush-hour traffic. He could feel her eyes on him. Reading him. “You upset?” she finally said.

“About what?”

“About the high cost of chintz in China. You just cut a boy’s throat. You upset about killing someone?”

Roger forced a little laugh. “No big deal. I’ve killed people before.”

“But that was always in the line of duty.”

Roger wiped one watery eye with a wrinkled blue bandana.

“Yeah. Well, that’s what this was, Aggie. Killing this little fucker was the line of duty.”

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