"Jesus, what the hell did you do to her?"
I am wearing a white tank undershirt, plaid flannel shirt, light denims, and my work boots. I haven't yet changed, and I was about to light a cigarette. But who the hell could smoke now? Besides, ciggies drowse me up.
"I'll be damned if I was about to get her blood all over my car!"
We are standing in the driveway that comes off the alley. It's not so much a driveway but a hole in the fence where the owners before me put a gate and never bothered to let grass grow. I don't mind so much, my whole back yard being dirt. At least I don't have to pay to get it mowed. I got enough on my hands as it is. I don't need no extra expense of mowing. My front yard? What front yard--that sidewalk comes right up to my porch almost, and I got bushes in front of the windows.
"I mean, them's new seat covers in the back!"
Deep down, I know Marty has a point. I mean, if it was my car, and if it was my girl, I wouldn't want anything messed up, either. Of course, it wouldn't be my girl. It would never be my girl. And it would never be my car, neither. Guys like me don't get girls like that, and guys like me just don't have cars. If we've got anything at all, it's trucks. And I don't even have one of those.
"Well hell, Marty, what're you gonna do with her?"
I can't even believe I'm asking. He brought her to my house at two in the morning. I live behind a river. What the hell did I think he was gonna do with her? Surely not come pick me up and suggest we three haul off and dance the night away!
He jerks his head out towards the river. Of course. He's done this before, but it's not one of his more appealing habits. Some people got these weird eccentricities that you get used to after a while. My uncle always had to have a coffee and a newspaper each day after work before he'd talk to me. And my grandma was quite in the habit of bringing home neighbors' cats and dogs for the weekends, almost holding them hostage, and also of going into grocery stores and asking the cashiers if they could read her shopping list to her over the loud speaker while she was on the floor so she wouldn't have to keep looking at it. As much as all that annoyed me, I liked it. Marty's habits were not half so attractive.
"Aw... damn it all, it's two in the morning! Just go do it yourself."
Sometimes, I just don't understand him. Known him almost my whole life, but I think I'll just never understand him. We're just two different mentalities, I guess. We're funny that way.
"I just got home from work. Ain't even unwind yet, you come knocking."
This is true. I'd just gotten in about a half hour before. I'm still wearing my work clothes. We're not really supposed to work so late, but my boss makes me. And he shaves our hours, too, but what are we gonna do about it, he asks us. Gonna report him? He's illegally employing ex-cons with government money. We only told him verbally we'd been felons, so he ain't got written proof from us. If anyone questions him, he could just say he didn't know and we all lied on our applications. Then it's our meat that's in the grinder, not his. We ain't even supposed to take jobs like that. And they don't go so easy on you the second or third or fourth time back in custody, so just imagine if someone did try to call him on it. He's an upstanding citizen, ain't he? It's a double-edged sword, yeah, but at least one side is a little duller than the other.
He calls me Jazz because he thinks it'll sway me to help him. He's right, of course. I love it when people call me Jazz, and he hates calling me that. So I know that if he pulls himself up to use that name, he's in need of my help.
"For you, Marty."
I smile at him, and he knows what I'm smiling at and I like that. So I strip off the flannel, getting down onto my knees in front of the open door to try to pull the girl out. She's a weight like a bag of sand, except that sand shifts around.
"Jesus, how long you been towing her about?"
She's over my shoulder. By now, the neighbors are used to seeing me with girls slung over my shoulder, and they don't even bat an eye, if any of them's up at this hour. I got into the habit of carrying girls over my shoulder about a year ago. Of course, they were all living then, kicking and giggling, and we'd head on down to the river for other purposes. But over the past few months, there's been a few silent ones mixed in with the ones who laugh and writhe.
"When I first drove up, you was still at work."
The tape around her throat is cold against my back. I can't quite tell the tape from her skin, for the temperature, but the tape sticks to me a little because I'm sweating. I always seem to sweat when Marty pulls up in that car. I guess I just know something bad's about to happen.
I light the ciggie now, walking down the alley in the dark. I can feel Marty watching me. He's always said that he'll dump the bodies if he's gotta, but I know he's too weak. Hell, he ain't even as heavy as the girl I'm carrying now. How's he supposed to carry a thing like this with a build like his? Truth is, he can't. Never could.
"C'mon now... aw, you's pretty."
I am looking the dead girl right in the face. Marty was nice enough to close the eyes on this one. I got real pissed when the last one I looked at was staring right back at me. I brush her hair out of her face and then chuck her in, far out as she'll go. She hardly splashes at all. I don't know what that means. How many's that? Sixteen? Seventeen? I lost count after the tenth, I think. Slowly, I walk back to Marty.
"You the best, Jazz."
For some reason, I can't even look at him. I won't support his hobby any more, I tell myself. I stub out my cigarette. I won't let him use me again. He won't come by no more at two in the morning, or if he does, I ain't helping him, no matter what he asks. No matter if he calls me Jazz. It ain't happening anymore. I start to go inside without speaking to him, because I don't wanna know him. But his words stop me--always do. But this time, there won't be a next time, so I answer. I gotta give him my last words.
"I know I can always count on you, Jazz."
"Call me Denny, would you?"