– EXCERPT –
He slammed the truck door shut angrily, almost catching his boot toe in the door, and jammed the key in the ignition. His clothes were wet and partially decayed leaves clung as if trying to hold him back from leaving. The hike through the damp underbrush had been taxing for him and he tried to get his breathing under control. He was in good shape, but not used to hauling a hundred and ten pounds of dead weight through dense foliage.
He shook involuntarily and gripped the steering wheel to steady himself. How could this have happened? He wasn’t a cold-blooded killer. It had started out as an accident, not premeditated certainly. A crime of passion which was inevitable. He questioned himself and then rejected any responsibility. It was much easier to blame Rainey.
She generated such anger, such frustration in him. Plans she’d messed up with her stubbornness, what she’d taken from him. He settled back in the truck seat and could feel the cool leather through his flannel shirt. He wondered what Rainey felt as the life drained out of her and had a twinge of guilt. He shouldn’t be so happy she was gone. It would break her mother’s heart. He would have to help Beverly get past it.
But the anger he’d felt at the time warranted hitting Rainey. A lot of problems would be resolved with her gone and she would no longer suck time from his life, control everything, and leave him in limbo. He knew he should feel remorse and searched for a thread of sadness for a moment but satisfaction over-ruled. No sense dwelling on it. It’s done. He’d get past this, too. Get on with life. He’d been waiting a long time for things to change.
Rainey bore the fault anyway, for coming back to Alaska. If she’d stayed in California plans would have worked out all the way around. At least he’d resisted torturing her – like she’d emotionally tortured him for so long. After the initial strike he’d wanted to watch her suffer some more, wanted to make her feel the pain he’d endured all this time, but he controlled himself. He was proud of that fact. Knowing she would die terrified and alone in the woods would be satisfaction enough for him. She deserved it.
He smiled, remembering the sound of the baseball bat striking her skull. The thought both disturbed and satisfied him. Afterward, when he saw her chest rise, he had a moment of indecision but knew there would be no going back. A little time in the remote woods would finish the job without him since she wouldn’t survive the night. So he didn’t really kill her and everything could go back to normal, better than normal now that Rainey couldn’t jerk everyone around.
He had to buy some time, so she could have her peaceful death. Like a child falling asleep after a bedtime story, drifting off into the great unknown on a cloud of mist, like a Princess. Yes, like a little princess, he thought and smiled.
He snapped back to reality. He had to have a story, an alibi, and a convincing reaction to Rainey’s ‘unknown whereabouts’. This was all happening so fast. Excitement coursed through his veins as he thought about his options. He was smart. He could pull this off. He turned the ignition and the truck backfired, then choked to life. He needed to get that spark plug replaced he thought as he put the truck in gear and pulled out onto the highway, taking a deep cleansing breath.
It would take at least an hour to get home. His conscience slunk off into the dark recesses of his mind while cold rationale slithered in and wrapped itself around his brain stem, twanging the emotional tightrope he walked between sane and insane.
Rainey lay silent in the cold wet foliage, hardly daring to breathe, feeling the spidery tree branches reaching up from the dying underbrush and tentatively poking, then jabbing her legs and back. The vicious throbbing in her head kept her from losing consciousness again while the coarsely woven blanket cocooning her allowed only a dimly filtered view of her surroundings.
Shadowy outlines of heavy tree boughs waved through the frigid air overhead, accompanied by the smell of northern spruce, decaying needles and rotting ground cover. Rough fibers of the blanket wicked moisture from beneath her where pressure points of her body contacted the ground. The duct tape bindings cut into her flesh chilling her core, stiffening her joints, but she dare not move.
She didn’t know how long she’d been lying there and strained her eyes, trying to recognize something, anything that might identify her surroundings. The brittle overgrowth of the forest floor gave way to wet spongy moss that depressed with the weight of her small body, pulling her deeper into the sodden earth. It would be her final resting place if she wasn’t found soon.
Her left eyelid continued to swell, blocking her vision as she tried to blink away the warm stickiness gluing the edges. Layers of duct tape constricted her chest and knees, adding more misery as they curled into thin strips and rubbed her skin raw through the damp blanket.
A fearful rush of adrenalin shot through her and she fought to control her shivering; resisted the need to gulp oxygen. She knew she must try to remain deathly still, control her panic attacks.
She listened for the sound of anyone nearby – did she hear a shovel turning the earth? She tried to ignore how badly her body ached, her nose itched.
She startled at the thought of being buried alive, her mind batting away the fog that enveloped it, fighting for clarity. Maybe if she moved to indicate she was still alive he would be relieved. Maybe it was all just a tragic mistake in the heat of the moment. Maybe he never meant for it to go this far.
Maybe, if she moved, he would make sure she was dead…