Mad was going to be sick. It was gonna come up, hot and wretched – he could already feel his stomach knotting and threatening to fling its contents up onto the concrete like the world’s worst catapult. He was gonna vomit, and it was gonna be Bluto’s fault. Not that would stop the big bastard and his equally wall-like brother, Brick, from taking the piss out of him for it.
He could hear the saw, digging into flesh, wet and thick, like someone trying to cut through a ham shank with one of those old electric knives. He could hear the sound of blood hitting the floor, and Bluto, cursing occasionally as the saw got hung up on a bit of bone or an extra tough tendon. The funny thing was, it wasn’t the worst thing he’d ever seen. He’d done wetwork before – every now and then someone needed to get dead, and Mad had never shied away from that. But this – it just seemed like butchery.
There was a thud-squelch, and Mad’s stomach jumped. It was the sound of a couple pounds of flesh hitting the floor and rolling a few inches. He peeked around the big man’s back, and saw toes, still pink, pointing into the air like a fucked-up weathervane. He leaned back and tried to breathe through his nose.
“You done yet?” he called out.
Bluto turned his head, the folds on his neck piling up like Oscar Meyer wieners. His dark brow beetled, and he waved the gloved hand holding the saw in the air.
“This shit takes time.” he said. “You want the cops to find her?”
Mad watched the saw drip gore on the floor and considered his answer. He dug a cigarette out and lit it, blowing smoke into the air, and praying it would settle his stomach.
“Given the choice, I wish she’d never walked in.”
Bluto had turned back to his work; the saw digging away at what Mad could only guess was a thigh. He shrugged.
“Shit happens, man. What the hell was she doing this far south? Nice clothes, pedicure -”
“Probably looking to score.”
“Yeah. Maybe. Maybe she was looking for something else.”
“Little rough trade? Little strange. Lots of tough men and swingin’ dicks down here.”
Mad grunted and reached under his chair, to where he’d tossed the girl’s purse. He unsnapped the clasp and started digging things out. Tampons, lipstick, compact. Phone – he tinkered with it for a minute or two, flipping through texts and photos. Damn shame. She was pretty. Sociable, too. Someone was gonna miss her. He dropped the phone in his pocket and kept digging.
Receipts, ticket stubs – he shook his head – purses were goddamn black holes. He tossed things to the side as he found them, hoping to find something interesting. Wallet – here we go, he thought. He opened it and found the usual credit cards and reward cards and ID cards. Inside the middle flap, he found a grand in cash, which he took as well, and pocketed, then tossed the wallet to the side.
The purse was almost empty. Mad shook it and heard something rattle around in the bottom. He stuck a hand in and came out with two things – a bottle of some pill with no label, and a plastic baggie. The baggie had a little bit of white residue in the corners – Columbian marching powder – he never touched the shit. He tossed the baggie to the side and popped the top on the pill bottle. Inside were two or three small yellow pills, embossed with a symbol he’d never seen before. Probably some sort of Molly. He threw it back in the bag and tossed the purse into the pile he’d made, and then added his cigarette butt.
Brick wandered in from the front hallway, Glock in his hand. He’d earned the name for being wide as a wall and thick as his namesake. Mad took a look at the pistol and shook his head.
“You had that out the whole time?”
Brick looked down at it, as if he were surprised it was there. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“What was your plan?”
“You know, if the cops showed up?”
Brick frowned again.
“Were you planning on shooting all of them?”
“Because they will start shooting when they see you with that.”
“Oh.” He tucked the pistol into his waistband and trudged over to his brother, where he watched him work in silence for a bit.
Mad’s stomach finally settled. It wasn’t that he wasn’t hearing the sounds of the saw or smelling the charnel-house stench anymore, it was just that some things you could get used to if you were around them long enough. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He could hear the saw, rhythmic, steady. He drifted off.
He woke when something soft and heavy landed in his lap with a crinkle of plastic. Still bleary, he looked down and saw a face staring back at him through the plastic, slightly distorted, like a drowning victim. He screamed and tossed it off, and the room was filled with the booming sound of Bluto’s laughter.
“How – how -” the big man wheezed between laughs and sucked in a breath. “How about a little head?” He collapsed, laughing.
Mad stood, disgusted, and stalked to the far end of the room. He thought of the pistol in its holster under his arm and thought maybe he should just blow the big dumb bastard’s brains out now. Instead, he took a breath, counted to the requisite ten, and lit a smoke. He let the nicotine calm him while Bluto recovered. When the big man had quit laughing, he turned back to him and gestured to the bag.
“That the last of her?” Mad asked.
“Yeah,” Bluto said, wiping tears from his eyes. “Brick’s out back tossing the rest in the dumpster.”
Mad dropped back into the chair, while Bluto went to find a hose to rinse the floor off. For a while, there was only the sound of water against concrete and gurgling down the drain. Mad looked at his watch. He frowned.
“How far away is the dumpster?”
Bluto turned off the water. “What?”
“Your brother’s been gone a while. Did he get lost?”
Bluto shrugged, and pulled the apron and gloves off and stuffed them into another bag. He tied it shut, and flicked off the light in that room.
“Got to get rid of these. I’ll check on him. Dumbass probably fell in the bin.”
He lumbered off toward the back hall that led to the alley, leaving Mad alone. Water dripped from somewhere in the dark. Mad checked his watch again after the sound of dripping water had driven him to near distraction. Bluto had been gone a while. Still no sign of Brick, either. His stomach tightened, and he took a deep breath.
They’d probably just knocked off and took the car back to Shanahan’s. It wasn’t unlike them, to leave him sitting. Then again, they were supposed to do this job together. They didn’t think they were gonna do it and take the commission themselves, did they? He shook his head. Nah. They needed him to get past the alarms. Then what? He looked at the darkened room Bluto had left behind. Probably sneaking up, pulling another bullshit prank.
He got up and snapped the light on. It flooded the room in harsh fluorescence, lighting up pink puddles of water and cracked cream colored tiles. The room was empty. He turned back to the chair and sat. Maybe they’d been nicked. Cops could be sitting outside right now, waiting for him. He pulled out his pistol and tapped it against his leg, trying to think.
They didn’t have anything on him. Just a guy sitting in an old butcher plant with a mess on the floor. He could probably walk right out after a few hours in the station. Then again, if they looked in the dumpster, and they might – cops weren’t blind or stupid – he might just be seven different kinds of fucked. He stood and started to pace. He wondered if he could just stay in here and hide. If Bluto and Brick were smart enough they wouldn’t mention him. He rolled his eyes and knew that wasn’t going to fly. If those two put their brains in one basket, they still wouldn’t be able to tie a shoe.
“You should totally turn yourself in.”
The voice was high and female, and Mad thought, a little pissy, which was a strange thing to think about a disembodied voice, but he was too busy trying not to piss himself when he heard it to worry about normal.
He snapped the gun down and level, and looked around. “Who’s there?”
“Down here, dipshit.”
He looked. The brothers had forgotten one bag – of course they had – the one with the head in it. As Mad watched, the plastic writhed.
“Hey, fuck all for brains. Pick me up.”
Mad screamed and fired a shot at the bag. It went wide, digging a furrow in the concrete, and ricocheting down the hall.
“Really?” The voice was acerbic, with a touch of Valley Girl. “Already dead, you moron. Put the gun away.”
Mad stood for a minute, trying to make sense of what was happening. He thought maybe Bluto had pulled another prank – slipped him a funny cigarette – or, shit. He’d touched those pills the girl had in her purse. He put the pistol away and scrubbed his palms against his pants, then sat down heavily in the chair. He was just gonna have to ride it out.
“Hello?” It came out Hell-O.
“Shut up,” Mad said.
“As if,” the head said.
God, stuck here with Tiffani from Omega Bitchy Theta. He briefly considered sticking his pistol in his mouth.
“Pick me up. I can’t see a fucking thing in this bag.”
Mad thought about punting the bag across the room. A morbid part of him wondered instead what it might be like to talk to a severed head. He wrestled with himself for a moment, and the morbid part won out. He picked up the bag and tore open the plastic. A trickle of gore slipped out, staining his pants, and he cursed. The head rolled its eyes.
“It’s not like they were Boss.”
He sat down and set the head in his lap. They stared at each other for a minute. She had been blonde, though that was stained now with blood and spinal fluid, and matted down. Mascara ran in rivulets from pretty blue eyes, and lipstick was smudged across one cheek from her lips, like tire tracks from a runaway car. Her neck ended in a ragged stump that was black at the edges. She was probably stunning before their unfortunate run-in. Her lips curled into a smirk.
“Nice, at least you’re a DILF.”
Mad frowned. “I should cut your tongue out.”
“Like I need it to talk. Not even a voice box, genius, and yet words. Totes amazing, right?”
“This is a guilt complex, right? Some sort of goddamn subconscious reaction to touching those drugs. This is what I get for not setting a watch on the door. Could’ve avoided this entirely.”
“Oh my God. Whine much?”
“Jesus, you’re a bitch.”
“And you’re a murderer. Most people wouldn’t react this well to being killed.”
Mad opened his mouth to reply and was cut off by a bang in the back of the building. He thought it sounded like the door slamming shut, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Brick or Bluto must finally be done.
“Waiting on your bros, your brahs, your bromigos?” she asked, contempt in her voice.
“Something like that.”
There was a low wet sound from the back hallway, and something squished against the floor. Mad put the girl’s head down and pulled his pistol.
“Brick?” he called. “Bluto?” No answer.
“Like OMG, what if it’s totes a monster?”
He turned to her, a scowl on his face. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She opened her eyes wide, and her mouth made an O. “OOOH, scary monster, don’t eat me!” She giggled, like she had just seen something filthy on her phone.
Something squished-slid across the tile floor behind him, and he turned. His stomach lurched when he saw the thing shambling toward him. It was an amalgamation, some sort of hodgepodge of life that had crawled its way from the gutter of the world. All of its parts were human, though bloody and ragged, and in the wrong order. Block fleshy ropes grew from where the body parts ended in their ragged incisions and held the thing together in an angry, pulsating mass.
As he watched, it lurched forward with a plorp, and black tentacles quested out from a raw stump, searching. He screamed and emptied the pistol’s clip into the thing, but it had as much effect as setting a fire on fire.
“See, you dumb sonovabitch? Scary monster.”
The tentacles found the girl’s head and pulled it to its mass, wrapping around it and attaching as still more black ropes grew from the stump of her neck and sutured her to the flesh. When it was done, it crawled toward him, its motion surer now that it was guided by the gift of vision.
Mad backed into a corner, tears welling in his eyes as it came on. He threw the pistol at it and uttered a dismayed groan when it just bounced off. He saw the blue of the girl’s eyes were black and deep and cold. She opened her mouth.
“You are so. Totally. Fucked.”
Mad screamed until she stuffed black ropes down his throat, and though he wanted to retch, it was far too late.