I’ve just reached for the bleach bottle, my fingers tight on the cap, when she closes her hand around my wrist.
“Hold up, baby girl. What’s this here?”
She shifts her grip to under my arms and pulls me upright. I’m myopic enough from my time bent over the half-butchered corpse in the bathtub that the blot on the floor wobbles in my vision for a second before it resolves, and I feel the press of her covered boots against the outsides of my own.
A single spot of blood between my feet, between hers. She takes the back of my neck and squeezes hard, forces my head down and holds me there. “Now, baby girl, we’ve talked about this.”
And we have, but never about the things I’ve done right: how small-caliber rounds rattle around in the skull and don’t come out; how to accommodate the way the carotids can hide when the head’s pulled back; how to unfold plastic sheeting so it doesn’t even crinkle. For Christ’s sake, I’m wearing three pairs of nitrile gloves right now.
No, it’s always the other things: the cut that isn’t deep enough, the noise that isn’t muffled properly, this single drop of blood on a bathroom floor.
I reach blindly for the bleach. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Honey, I don’t think you realize how serious this is.” She presses on my neck. “We don’t leave traces. You know what I say about mistakes.”
“Mistakes get you caught,” I mumble.
“Damn right. And how many is this?”
She shakes me like a dog shakes a stuffed toy. I can feel my own carotids pulsing as I try to think. “Two…no…three.”
“And one I can forgive. Maybe two. You’ve been learning,” she says. “But not this one, missy, oh no.”
She lets go of my neck and grabs my hair, plastic cap and all, and yanks me to full height, spinning me around. The movement is dizzying. My vision swims.
When it clears, I’m looking out the open bathroom doorway down the hall, toward the kitchen. Two drops. Three. Dozens. Maybe hundreds.
I’ve left a blood trail.
She rips the surgical mask from my face. The elastic snaps. I whimper.
“You do the crime, chickadee, you’re damn sure gonna do the cleanup. And this time, you’re doing it the hard way.”
When she shoves me, I fold, topple straight down on my knees. She plants the toe of one boot in my side. “I warned you how it would be. Now get started.”
Knees burning, eyes watering into my safety goggles, I bend my face to the floor and start to lick.
~Scarlett R. Algee
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