“There’s going to be a party tonight,” said the voice at the end of the line. It pauses.
I wait patiently for it to continue. In my line of business, you don’t get party invitations. You get instructions for the clean-up.
“The boat’s name is ARTEMIS. The man in question will drop off the side at exactly nine-fifteen-pee-em. Have you written that down?”
I glance at the blank notebook page in front of me. I don’t even have a pen. “Yup,” I say to the caller. “All here. Let’s talk coordinates. And money, of course.”
“Money?” The tone rises to accommodate the caller’s incredulity. ”I thought you people were a charity?”
“No,” I say, stretching the syllable to make it clear I think I’m speaking to a Grade A Moron. “Those are the other guys. They do the good stuff for free; I do the bad stuff for a fee. It keeps the balance.”
“A hundred and fifty.”
Have you ever heard someone go puce with rage? I have, and increasingly on the regs. Once you get an ear for it, you can hear the whoosh of red blood cells scrambling up arteries and having a freak-out session in a caller’s cheeks. It’s a nice sound, one of my favourites.
I prepare myself for the less welcome – but usual – negotiations, shouting, and threats. To my surprise, however, they don’t come. The caller must be in a hurry. Probably wants to check on his vol-au-vents.
We swap details about the “boat” (undoubtedly a yacht), the coordinates, and my NatWest bank account details. Then I hang up.
“A hundred and fifty?” Jonas looks as disapproving as he can behind his luxuriously conditioned, combed, and waxed beard. “That’s just greed.”
“Hmm,” I reply, not disagreeing. “But if you get there first, you get half the deposit. That’s almost £38k, Jonas.”
“I know what half is.”
Jonas and I have an agreement. He’s Teignmouth’s branch manager for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, also known as the RNLI. My little business is the RNDI.
That’s the Royal National Deadboat Institution.
There’s nothing national or royal about it. But my enterprise is too niche to be noticed by anyone who’d haul me up for copyright violations. Besides, I thought it was funny.
My name is none of your business, but I’m Teignmouth’s first freelance water-specialising hitman. That’s killing and disposing of bodies in water, not killing with water. The latter’s similar and we share a union, but it’s a different line of the profession.
There’s a call for what I’m doing. Nine calls in the last ten months, actually.
As for Jonas, I’d met him six months ago during what should’ve been a simple job. It was a total balls-up on my end as I’d been running about twelve minutes late.
My then-target had been dumped out of his yacht at eleven-thirty-five-pee-em, and the sky that night was a gorgeous navy sprinkled with stars. I had the target’s photo, my crappy boat, the coordinates, and a fat five grand already deposited in my account. My instructions were the usual: make sure the guy never makes it back to land and the body can’t be found, blah-blah-blah.
This client sounded sure of what he was doing, which was a new one. I’d had a few medium-fry drug smugglers who were all hard-man bluster over the phone but obviously trying to hide the fact they were thick as shit. More recently, I’d had a wife who was bored with waiting for her husband to die. She admitted to wanting his goodies before getting too old to ensnare another rich schmuck. That had been it so far.
However, as he delivered the job’s details, this new client sounded laid back, almost sanguine. I got no whoosh noises from him when I said my price – which, to be fair, was lower back then. He even volunteered some information I’d been too wary of asking for.
“That’s what I heard about you. Gets it done, but does it cheap.”
Only one client had called me “cheap” before – and I’d guess the only cocaine smuggling they’d done was sneak a baggy into brunch with the girls.
Anyway, this was all interesting, but I was feeling cautious. My client sounded like an overly-oiled machine, which told me this wasn’t the first time he’d dipped his toes into the world of freelance water-specialising hitmen. And, though he sounded cheery, something in his tone told me I’d be curling into a permanent ball of agony if I mucked this up.
Thankfully, he didn’t leave me guessing. He confirmed it thirty seconds before I cut the call.
“I shouldn’t have to say this, but some people try to take advantage of my natural leniency and good spirit. If the gentleman ends up ‘reanimating’ himself and making it to shore, I’ll make sure you never get to perform the same miracle.”
I was careful to make my gulp inaudible.
“The same goes if the gentleman’s remains – God Rest His Soul – spark the curiosity of the police in whatever country they end up in. Are we on the same page?”
“Repeat it back to me.”
“What, all of it?”
“Um…” I was panicking. “I might be paraphrasing here, but –”
“Fuck it.” The client cut me short. ”Half now, half when it’s done. You’ll find five thousand pounds in your account within the next three minutes.”
And that was it.
In two minutes, I checked my bank account on my phone. £735. I refreshed the page and was greeted with the same amount. I closed my eyes, counted to ten, and refreshed. £735.
The guy was a great big liar. A bullshitter. The scum that covered park ponds and suffocated the fish. I threw my phone at the bed and heard the screen crack as it ricocheted off the metal frame.
It bleeped and refreshed before it hit the carpet. £5735.
Well, I figured the first digit was a five. The smashed screen made it hard to tell.
He’d made the transfer in precisely three minutes. I’ll admit it, I was impressed. This client was the nectar and ambrosia we freelance water-specialising hitmen deserved. He was a fine-postured god that towered over the slumped shoulders of men.
The first thing I did was buy a new phone. A mid-range one with a decent internet data bundle and enough memory for five or six game apps. Then I purchased a couple of new shirts and a pair of black jeans that made my legs look lean and sexy. At four-twenty-pee-em, I treated myself to a full fry-up for sustenance.
By six-thirty-pee-em, I felt like rodents were trying to force their way into my arsehole.
That meant I was nervous. Some people have ants in their pants when they get skittish. I get “bum-rats,” as my mother used to call them before dragging me to see a doctor. I’d been diagnosed with nothing, but she’d been handed the damning judgement of “a disturbing turn of phrase.”
By seven-pee-em, my bum-rats had stopped trying to force their way into my rectum and were content with nibbling the delicate rim of my anus. Perverted mind-rodents aside, I hoped I wasn’t due another bout of haemorrhoids. I chugged a litre of water, made a pot of peppermint and fennel tea, and called my girlfriend on my new phone.
When my girlfriend eventually made it to my mother’s house (I had money now, but the tail end of COVID-19 meant the housing market reeked), I was sound asleep in my bedroom with one hand buried halfway up my backside. She left again without saying a word, and I woke up at eleven-oh-six-pee-em.
By the time I’d grabbed a torch, got to the beach, started the boat, and found the right place, I was almost fifteen minutes late. The yacht was now just a speck on the horizon, and the target had probably swept fifty metres in any direction.
I had no choice but to scour the murky surroundings with my shitty wind-up torch and the power of a desperate prayer.
Ten minutes on – which felt like a panicked lifetime – I’d lowered myself to bobbing around and yelling the guy’s name when I heard the roar of a fast-approaching speedboat. In it sat Jonas, though I didn’t know his name then, looking dashing and noble in his fluorescent Sou’wester and matching waterproof poncho.
His eyes gleamed with utmost concentration and the courage of his convictions. His glorious beard hadn’t fizzled into a matted mass of pubic-looking hair and sea salt. It was as luxurious and well cared for as I’ve ever seen it since, with beads of seawater clinging to the curls and glittering like opals.
He looked how I imagined Poseidon to look. I wanted nothing more than for him to hold me tight, pull me down into the depths, and turn me into his merman-in-waiting.
I haven’t felt the same way since, but sometimes I dream about it and wake up all flustered and embarrassed.
I was gawping at Jonas like a moron when I noticed he’d killed the speedboat engine and was talking at my dopey, unresponsive face. A split second after I’d realised this, he started snapping his meaty fingers near my eyes and ears.
“Hey,” he said over and over, “can you hear me?”
My tongue felt as dry as an old carpet in a hot country somewhere, like Spain, maybe, or Burkina Faso, but I managed to snatch at his hand and sweep it from under my nose. His warm palm felt knobbly with callouses. I held on for a smidge longer than I should have.
“Yeah,” I croaked, stepping back and feeling the boat lurch beneath my trainers. “I’m fine.”
Jonas didn’t look all that impressed. “Are you the one who called us?”
His eyes darkened with annoyance. “I need you to stay with me,” he said and started clicking at me again. “Your friend could drown.”
I couldn’t let that happen. Drowned bodies are dead bodies, but unweighted corpses have a nasty habit of washing up with the tide. If I didn’t find this guy, my business and bollocks would be toast.
“Yeah, I called you,” I began – but quickly changed my mind. “I mean… no, I didn’t.”
If we weren’t standing in wibbly-wobbly boats, I think Jonas would have taken a swing at me. He’s not a patient man.
“I’m also looking for the dude,” I said truthfully. “I got a call about nine hours ago.”
“You’re wasting my time.” Jonas started his engine, his eyes sunken with rage under his stupid yellow hat. “I have a good mind to report you to the police.”
“No, don’t do that!” I said, startled. My voice got lost under the roar of churning water as Jonas sped off.
“Shit,” I thought again, aloud this time. This was going to be my first failure. I knew the combination of semi-skill, cunning, and wicked good luck couldn’t keep me going forever, but I wasn’t ready to hit my “First Fuck-up” milestone yet. I’d been in business for less than a year and had done fewer than ten jobs. I had bills to pay and a mouth to feed, even if it was only my own.
After the third job, I’d also decided to “splash out” (ha, freelance water-specialising hitman humour) and ordered a set of wall-installed lasers that pulse out light shows in response to soundwaves. I’d gone for the “pay in instalments” option, and it was past the 30-day returns policy. If this guy didn’t die properly at sea, I’m the one who’d be drowned.
In debt, but still.
I could see Jonas, who’d stopped about a hundred metres away. His boat was better than mine, as was his torch, which looked like it had the power of a trillion candles. He was shouting into a megaphone, repeating the guy’s name and sounding more urgent by the second. I was about to trail after him when something caught my eye near the side of the boat.
The beam of my shitty wind-up torch had finally proved more than worthless. I could see crimson silk, the sodden object shaped like two fishtails smushed together.
The target must be close.
Without turning on my engine, I started jabbing my torch beam around the same patch of sea. If Jonas happened to look over, I’d look like I was losing the plot. But he thought that anyway, and I shouldn’t even care.
He could’ve pulled it off when swimming to shore, I thought, growing more doubtful as nothing revealed itself. But the water was calm, and the tie remained in sight.
I threw the torch beam out a stretch further and saw something. It was a hand, lily-white and surfing the gentle waves. If my luck came in, an arm – and hopefully the rest of the body – would still be attached.
I didn’t have the patience to be subtle. Revving up my boat engine, I chucked a light, strong net in the hand’s direction and zoomed forward, holding on to the net’s edge. My boat seemed surprised by the sudden surge, and the bow dipped violently. I lost my balance as I pitched forward, my arm muscles effing and blinding as I dragged whatever I’d caught on board.
The dude was as dead as a drowned whatever, but I recognised his puffy face from the client’s photograph. His already considerable stomach was bloated with party nibbles and seawater. His dress shirt had come untucked, and I could see a roll of pale, hair-speckled belly underneath. The guy clearly never waxed.
By the looks of it, he’d also never taken swimming lessons. My calculations (i.e., I glanced at my watch) told me he’d hit the water about fifty minutes ago. If he’d struck his head or broken a limb, then drowning was on the probable end of the possible scale. But there wasn’t a bruise or bloodied gash on him. Likewise, both legs would’ve been in total working order if the guy’s lungs had bothered to keep up.
“It’s like you didn’t try,” I said, smacking his stomach with the boat’s emergency oar. His blubber roiled like a blancmange on a high-speed vibration plate. Revolted and delighted in equal measure, I hit him again.
“Ten grand!” I squealed, whapping and whupping at this guy with the paddle. “I get paid ten grand for this!”
My pounding began to get rhythmic, which was the first sign of me getting bored. Hitting this dude had become a chore, and I still needed to make sure his corpse was untraceable.
Meanwhile, the inside of my speedboat was mottled with blood. I’d whacked the guy a couple of times with the oar’s tapered side, and one blow had ripped into his torso. In the moonlight, I saw the glisten of pulsing organs. The stench was foul.
The dude coughed.
Before I could react, I was caught off-guard by a bellowed “OI!” and the rough buzz of another speedboat eating up waves.
“Jeepers,” I said, lurching over the body to get to the stern. “I forgot about the other one.”
The guy tried to grab my ankle, but I kicked his hand hard enough for me to almost slip. The blood slicked everywhere meant he couldn’t get a good grasp anyway. I slammed the start button to “ON” and yanked at the ripcord, which promptly snapped. More annoyingly, the engine sputtered like a nursing home resident choking on rice pudding and clapped out.
I told you I had a crappy boat.
The guy hacking up blood and seawater on the deck screamed, clutching his blubbery belly. He looked like Carrie from that old Stephen King book seconds after she’d been voted Prom Queen. His hands were trying to push his intestines back in, so he was probably in pain.
“Not now,” I snapped as he tried to scream again. I grabbed the emergency oar. I wasn’t thick enough to think I could out-paddle a working speedboat, but if I smacked the RNLI fella before he’d pulled up, I could take his head clean off.
That would make two bodies for me to hide. Still, I’d only have to buy a tin of paint rather than a whole new boat.
I braced myself as Jonas came closer (though I hadn’t learned his name yet). I stood like I was trying to trap a sheep between my legs and practised swooshing the oar upwards to make perfect, direct contact with Jonas’ chin. My arm muscles were twanging like crazy, fizzling like conga eels dumped in a salt pit.
I felt very, very tired.
It didn’t help the guy had started rolling around, squealing like a stuck pig. The boat was going to capsize if he kept it up.
My overworked mind was threatening to blow a fuse. I stared at the guy who was supposed to be dead, holding the oar aloft as if I’d single-handedly won the Oxford v. Cambridge Boat Race. All I could think about was the paramedic who’d visited my school over twenty years ago.
“If you ever come across a multiple car pile-up,” he’d said, “ignore the ones that are screaming and focus on the ones that aren’t. They’re the ones who’re really fucked. The people, not the cars. Cars don’t scream, stupid.”
That probably wasn’t the exact quote, but the sentiment is the same.
This dude had drowned, been violently assaulted with a paddle, and disembowelled within the last hour. Why was he less dead NOW than he was twenty minutes ago? Rasputin had nothing on him, and that was making me mad.
I could hear Jonas shouting into his megaphone, but knocking the head from his shoulders had lost its appeal. I was hyperfocusing like crazy on this prick on my deck.
He was weakly kicking his in-perfect-working-order legs and blowing his globby cheeks in and out like a pufferfish. His eyes were spongey and waterlogged, like overcooked poached eggs. I knew I’d vomit like no tomorrow when I got home.
Being a creature of bad habit, I decided my best option was to start whacking this bloke again, but in the head this time rather than the stomach.
I brought the oar down full force, feeling the vibrations through the wood as I shattered his nose. His face looked weirdly gooey when I brought the paddle back up for a second smackeroo. Then I noticed that half of it had stuck to the oar.
I hit him again, and it sounded like slapping cold custard. I’d never seen a skull crumple before, and I can’t say I enjoyed it.
But when I was about to deliver my third strike (dude was dead, but in for a penny, in for ten grand), something yanked at me so hard I fell backwards into the water.
I could – and can – swim just fine, but the sea was cold. I was also covered in this guy’s pulped-up face, really freaking shattered, and starting to feel like ten grand wasn’t worth it. I’d get an office job. I’d pull pints. I’d start an underground fight club for Wine Mums if I still felt sadistic the day after.
Unfortunately, the party was just getting started.
When Jonas saw Half-Face on the deck of my clapped-out boat, he started bellowing like a wounded hippo. I wondered if he’d known the guy, which would account for all the distress, but then I realised that the RNLI bloke was one of those Really Good People who cared about stuff and other human beings. The kind of person who washes and separates his recycling and walks instead of taking his car. He probably took the “Get Off One Stop Early!” bus campaign seriously.
Part of me wanted to swim away. It was all over; I’d dispatched the target, but there was no way I’d get out of this without a ruined business and a hefty prison sentence. Or, I thought, remembering the client, something even worse.
If I started swimming now, I would be back on the beach within an hour and maybe have thirty minutes or so before the police turned up. That would be enough time to apologise to my mother and explain that she needed to pay off the credit card debt for the lasers. I’d go with the pigs, admit to everything, and the client wouldn’t be able to get me as easily in prison. I’d do my twenty years and then become a better man. Give to the community. Teach kids how to read and cheat at Texas Hold ‘Em. I could open my own casino if giving back to the community ended up being profitable.
Then something felt slimy against my ankle, and I started kicking and shouting in panic. It got tighter the more I thrashed, and I was plagued by horrible images of octopuses sticking themselves all over my body and sucking at my peach-like skin until I turned into a bloodless sponge.
I’d hated octopuses since seeing one through the curvilinear lens window at Plymouth aquarium. It looked mean and had eyes like a goat’s. I cried for the rest of the day, and Nan-Nan got shitty with me after the first few hours. Days like that stay with you.
A hard, calloused hand gripped my arm and pulled. I screamed louder and kicked out at the millions of cubic litres of seawater pressing against me.
“Stop struggling.” He was deathly cold in his calm, and I stopped jerking about at once. “You’ll have the boat over.”
He yanked again, and I thought my arm would dislocate from my shoulder. So I reached up my other arm the way toddlers do when they want Daddy to pick them up for a cuddle. Jonas obliged, but I swear I saw his eyes roll as he did it. I’d ask now whether I was wrong, but the guy frightens me.
As he hauled me over the gunwale, I took the opportunity to lightly squeeze his biceps. Nothing creepy – just a few butterfly-light flutters with the tips of my fingers and thumbs. Jonas probably mistook my curiosity for shivering or a twitch.
Once I could tell what was under his sou’wester and (at least) two knitted jumpers, I figured Jonas was ripped. Like, not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ripped, that would be alarming, but Brad Pitt from Fight Club ripped. Which was weird because his blue-green eyes looked haunted by a grim, salt-speckled weariness, and his eyelids were more wrinkled than the old Oggy Oggy Pasty uniform balled up underneath my bed.
I couldn’t see the rest of his face because it was hidden by his yellow hat and a bathroom rug-sized beard. I guessed he was about fifty, maybe fifty-one.
“How old are you?” I asked once he’d dumped me unceremoniously back into my boat.
“What?” he snapped.
As my heartbeat slowed to a more even pace and the floaters cleared from my vision, I noticed my left calf was tightly bound with seaweed. So, not a malevolent, leg-sucking family of octopuses. Phew.
But as the feeling oozed back into my frozen extremities, I noted that my right hand was dipped in refrigerated beef mince. I looked down and saw I’d been stroking the gaping wound in Half-Face’s half-face. Practically rubbing my fingers against his newly-exposed back teeth. Ew.
“How old are you?” I repeated, more to stop myself from screaming and soiling my pants than anything.
Especially when the three-time corpse opened his remaining eye.
“Actually, forget it,” I said, my voice high enough to attract any dogfish hanging around. “Age is just a number… shall we go back to your boat?”
“Nope,” said Jonas, hooking what was probably a hook to my ring bolt. “I’m going back to my boat and towing you in. I radioed for the police while you took a dip.”
“Are they coming out here?” I asked, despite seeing Half-Face start to prop himself up on a flabby elbow. The boat rocked with the shift of dead weight.
“No. I said I’d be fine. I said it’s a small guy. Not that bright. Easily incapacitated. But I am going to tie you up.”
A thrill ran through my entire body, though I genuinely couldn’t tell if it was down to the corpse trying to sit up or Jonas turning to me with an arm full of rope.
Sadly, Jonas didn’t appear to have any confusing thoughts about binding my limbs together. Still, he sure was perplexed when Half-Face shambled to his feet. I tried to make the situation better by shrinking down out of harm’s way – and got flicked in the eye by Half-Face’s dangling small intestine for my trouble. I wondered if that was something likely to cause an infection.
“Not dead?” said Jonas, sounding puzzled. His eyes travelled down Half-Face’s soaked dress shirt (water and blood) and saw he’d been split open like a piñata at a psychopath’s birthday party. “Oh.”
For a dead guy, Half-Face could move fast. One second, he and Jonas were gawping at each other; a second later, he’d lifted Jonas off his feet and was trying to chew off his chin. Luckily, the RNLI guy had a lot of beard to get through first.
I’m not going to sound very heroic here, but I had no idea what to do. Jonas’ feet were going crazy, like he was auditioning for Singing in the Rain on Air. When I tried to stand up, I got a noseful of yellow welly boot. When I ducked a second flailing kick, I nearly caught my head in Half-Face’s gaping torso cavity. Crawling around would cause the boat to capsize, and I didn’t know if Half-Face would let go of Jonas without some more serious bodily harm thrown his way. I was stuck.
Half-Face was obviously a zombie. I didn’t know how or why it had happened but knowing the basic facts gave me something to work with. I also knew that a zombie would keep going without eyes, limbs, or even a few vital organs until someone destroyed its brain.
Just one snag; I’d already done that ages ago. I had the chunks littering my boat to prove it. Even now, globs of brain matter were coming loose and hitting the deck like fat, ripe raspberries shaken from their bush.
But I had to do something. I didn’t like Jonas, the way he’d insulted me, or the fact he was a GIANT GRASS, but leaving him to get his face ripped off by a zombie seemed a tad harsh.
My knife had got lost in the seaweed/bloodsucking octopus struggle, and the oar was on the other side of the boat. I peered over the side into the water for either inspiration or the resurgence of my Suddenly Magical, Floating Knife.
That’s when I saw her.
It was Nan-Nan, looking like she did when she was fresh from her divorce, with a face like a pickled walnut and her mouth pursed tighter than a cat’s anus. “The problem with your grandfather,” she said, as she lifted the cigarette to her lips, “is that he keeps his brains in his trousers.”
I knew it wasn’t actually Nan-Nan, who was hopefully still alive since dinner at Mum’s last night. It was a memory-based mirage born from a man’s desperation to live.
“Do you forgive me for ruining the day at the aquarium?” I asked Mirage Nan-Nan.
“Of course, honey. I’ve definitely not clung on and treated it as the defining facet of your personality for almost a quarter of a century.”
Definitely not Nan-Nan. Last night she refused to walk with me to the shop. But I had the answer I needed.
“Thanks, Nan-Nan,” I said to the water and flexed my fingers. Then my arm shot out, cobra-like, as my hand burrowed itself between the zombie’s legs.
I didn’t just squeeze. I squeezed, twisted, and yanked downwards as hard as I could.
Even Jonas, with the tip of his nose in the zombie’s mouth, looked disapproving as he heard the wet rip of saggy flesh. Thankfully, Half-Face had trousers on, so I didn’t come away with a handful of scrotum or anything.
He also dropped Jonas.
And, inevitably, turned to lunge at the dick-wad with his dick still wadded in his hand.
As I gazed into the milk-white jelly of his remaining eye, his flayed jaw opening wide like a snake preparing to swallow an egg, I felt the bum-rats go absolutely fucking insane.
Thankfully, Jonas turned out to be 1) far less distractible than me and 2) an ex-hockey champ or something. With a mighty swing that would’ve left me spinning with the momentum, he oared the zombie without as much as a teeter.
The body crashed backwards into the water as the head sailed twenty metres away on the other side.
“Dead now?” Jonas asked.
We watched as the headless corpse flipped itself over and started a brisk front crawl towards Teignmouth beach. He could swim, the lying bastard!
“We’d better catch him,” said Jonas, not looking at me but pulling his boat closer so he could step on. “Get in.”
“Get the head first,” I said, seeing that it was also floating towards the shore, albeit at a much slower pace. For the first time, my client’s words echoed in my memory.
“If the gentleman ends up ‘reanimating’ himself and making it to shore, I’ll make sure you never get to perform the same miracle.”
GOD, I WAS MAD.
“Get the head! Get the head! Get the head!” I screamed like an enthusiastic onlooker at an orgy. I expected Jonas to argue, but he unhooked the rope connecting his boat to mine, revved the engine, and surged forward.
Catching a wet, slippery head in churned-up water is no easy feat, but I managed it. Then Jonas and I took turns stomping on it until it turned to a gushy pulp. It screamed a bit, but we didn’t care. Jonas looked annoyed as heck about his beard, which was half the length it was before. I even saw a few beard hairs stuck between the zombie’s teeth.
Then Jonas started racing towards the shore. A good job, too, as Half-Face was obviously an Olympic swimmer in his afterlife.
“You a monster hunter?” Jonas asked as sea spray slammed its way into my eyeballs.
“Uh, not really, no.”
Jonas stared straight ahead.
“Hold onto something,” he said when Half-Face came in sight. I went for his hand, but he removed mine the same way you’d pull a tiny jellyfish out of your belly button. I settled for holding on as tightly to the boat side as possible.
As we ran over Half-Face, I felt the propellers slice into his dead back.
“Keep holding on.”
Obviously, Jonas was bitter about something because he ran over Half-Face twelve times. It felt like sitting in a Smart car and going 50mph over a dozen speed bumps with the roof torn off.
Then we hauled in the remains, and Jonas tossed me a knife that looked like one you’d use for skinning elk. “Cut him small.”
As I started with an arm, chipping away like I was whittling wood, I felt like I owed the RNLI guy the whole story.
“I’m a freelance water-specialising –”
“I don’t care.”
“My company’s called the RNDI.”
Finally, in desperation, I blurted:
“What’s your name, then?”
We managed to eventually work it out as we cut the body into steak-cut chip-sized pieces, chucked them overboard, went back to sink my boat, had a swim to wash off as much blood and gore from ourselves as possible, and then started the journey back to shore.
We both agreed that Jonas would now be in as much trouble as I’d be if the police decided to have a forensics team investigate his boat. He also made no bones about obviously hating me and thinking I was a waste of space. He wrestled with turning me in and accepting his punishment as a necessary sacrifice or letting “scum” back onto the streets of Teignmouth and getting off scot-free.
So, I struck a deal in exchange for his silence:
I tell him about all my jobs. Every detail. If Jonas gets there first, half the deposit goes to his charity, and the “victim” gets to see another day.
If I get there first, the money and the life are mine.
Whether I’m successful or not, I get paid some, but fouling up too many jobs is bad for business. Before Jonas, I had five stars on YELP. Only three months post-Jonas, it went down to four-point-five.
I’ve not had another zombie (?) since, but if I do, I need to flash the red torch, and Jonas and I will momentarily join forces.
He’s unhappy about this agreement, but I’m looking forward to it.
Oh, and the client apologised when Jonas ripped him a new one. I called to let him know the deed was done (using the landline back at the RNLI cabin – my new phone was fucked), and Jonas grabbed the receiver and started ranting.
I got a shame-voiced “sorry” and an extra ten grand, which Jonas took for his charity.
I wasn’t stupid enough to argue. He’d earned it.
P. J. Brown has recently delved into fiction writing, with a particular interest in horror, the absurd, and comedy mash-ups of both. She’s a content manager and (occasional) stand-up comedian from Devon, United Kingdom.
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