By Gratia Serpento
“Goddammit, Arthur. Tell me that isn’t a dead body on my brand new couch.”
“That isn’t a dead body on your brand new couch.” He rolled his eyes. “Of course it’s a dead body. Look at it!”
“I don’t want to look at it!” His wife, Lorna hissed, wringing her hands. “Why is it on my couch?”
It wasn’t a beautiful sight—neither the couch nor the body bag. The black trash bag with strips of duct tape had mud smeared across the plastic, pine needles and small twigs sticking to the side. The couch was one of dark green, with black floral print. A sheet of plastic sat over the fabric, sealing it so it wouldn’t get dirty.
Arthur had hated that couch since the moment his wife bought it. But, to be fair, he said she could pick any couch she wanted, after ruining the couch before.
“If I left it there, it would have violated my contract,” Arthur said, pulling off his bloody gloves, tossing them into a cereal box before throwing it into the trash can. “You know it says ‘cannot leave body at the scene of death.’” And Lorna did know—she read her husband’s contracts before he signed them. “And it’s Memorial Day—too many people at the cemetery.”
“Then why didn’t you make a plan for it?”
“I forgot it was Memorial Day.”
“How—” Lorna broke off when a timer pierced the air. “That’s dinner. By the time I get it on the table, you better have a plan on what to do with that body, because it will not be staying here.”
“Just for the night—”
“Uh-uh!” She snapped at him, moving towards the kitchen. “It’ll stink up the house. Put it in the back of your car if you want.”
She gave him a look that had him biting his tongue, before disappearing around the corner. She pulled on her oven mitts, left the timer on—just to anger her husband—and opened the oven door. A delicious whiff slunk through the air, the shepard’s pie she made from a box hot and ready for eating.
As much as she wished to say otherwise, this was not the first time a dead body had been brought into her house. And, as much as she hated it, it wouldn’t be the last.
For all sakes and appearances, Arthur and Lorna Shaws were a normal couple. Both in their late sixties, they complained about cell phones and the younger generation as they combed their sparse white hair. They saw their children and grandchildren for birthdays, reunions, and holidays. They watched old TV reruns, and loaned sugar out to whoever asked. If you asked anyone in the small town of River’s Creek, they would’ve said Arthur and Lorna were nice and kind, the typical elders.
But they were anything but.
Arthur was a hitman for hire—and a damn successful one at that. A down on his luck teenager with hardly a penny to his name, he was ready to do anything to keep a roof over his head. 1978 gave him luck—he found a brand new brokerage that sent him out anonymously to do hits. No stranger to violence, he took it without hesitation, the pay high enough to keep his stomach full and his electricity on.
Lorna was a woman born into wealth, with many connections. At the tender age of fourteen, she was sick and tired of dealing with half those connections. So she looked into finding a hitman to take care of her issues. When all the brokerages offered arm-twisting contracts, she gave up and started her own, where each contract was fair to the broker, the hitman, and the client.
That was the year Arthur started work for Lorna.
They met accidentally in the late 80’s, when Lorna hired him to do a hit on a druggie who happened to be her cousin. She had a strange irking to meet him, and so she did. Two weeks later, they were married. Ten months later, they had their first baby. During those ten months, Arthur moved up to being Lorna’s partner in the business.
But that wasn’t the story they told people. Supposedly, they met at a disco and clicked. But that wasn’t relevant at this time. Now was the time for dinner and a discussion.
Arthur shuffled in through the kitchen door, plopping down onto a worn out chair. The table was already set—well, as best as Lorna cared. There were two napkins, so sets of silverware, and two plates thrown on a stained tablecloth.
“I’m surprised you haven’t covered the table in plastic.”
“Don’t start giving me ideas. Use the brain power to figure out what you’re going to do with the body.” Lorna slammed the shepherd’s pie against the table with a low thud. She wasn’t very impressed with her husband’s behavior today—though they were partners, she was still the broker.
“I was thinking of tossing it out in the river, but it’s closed because of fireworks.” Arthur tapped his chin as he thought. Lorna began scooping the shepherd’s pie before handing him the ladle. “Maybe we should go for a drive in the park and drop it off there.”
“Too obvious.” Lorna sighed, blowing on a bite of her food. “I think you’re getting too old for this job, Arthur.”
“Remember our plan? Faking our deaths, using my inheritance to buy a bungalow in Costa Rica, spend the rest of our lives sipping water from coconuts?” She gave her husband a stare so piercing he felt it ricochet through his chest. “What happened to that, huh?”
“I’m not old enough to retire.”
“Legally you are.”
“But I don’t feel old,” Arthur argued, pushing his food around. “And I’m tired of being treated like I’m weak because I was born in the nineteen-hundreds. Lorna, you know I can’t stop, it’s what keeps me young.”
“I’ll stop using you for hits.”
“Arthur,” Lorna’s tone was stiff and solid. “I’m tired of brokering. I have another five years in me at best, another two at worst. I want to go to Costa Rica.”
Arthur sighed, his life flashing through his eyes. All the hits he did had only led him closer to Lorna, and he wasn’t sure how they’d be without them…but the warm beaches sounded much better than Massachusetts, even he could admit.
“Think we could celebrate my seventy-fifth before leaving the kids?”
“I suppose I can last this long,” Lorna said with a nod.
“And I can get hits during this time?”
“Once every six months, I’m tired of cleaning up blood.”
“Looks like we have a deal,” he reached over and picked up her hand, kissing it as he did so many years ago when they first met.
A fire lit in Lorna’s eyes, giving her a twinkle, before snuffing out. She looked at the oven as she pursed her lips, deep in thought. “Say, Arthur?”
“Yes, my love?”
“What would we do if we cooked it?”
Gratia Serpento is a poet with a love for dogs, food, and books. She realizes that, despite her love for food, most of her horror stories end up with someone getting cooked. Her work has appeared with Wingless Dreamer, Poor Yorick, Meditating Cat Zine, The Scriblerus, Havik, Purplelipglosszine, The Graveyard Zine, Crystal Crush Magazine, Wild Greens Zine, The Yard: Crime Blog, among others. Her stories on The Yard, include “The Canary, The Shadow and The Knife”, “Loraine“, and “The Robinsons“
Find her on Instagram, @poet_serpento.