Chapter Thirty-Eight

Posted: January 19, 2015 in Chapters, Love in the ZA
Tags: , , ,

     They argued, very briefly, over the right course of action.  The merit of waiting until after dark, when they’d be less likely to be seen hauling around a dead body, was weighed against the risk that the moldering corpse on the doorstep would draw others’ attention.  In the end, it was Vinnie who spurred them to act immediately; none of them wanted him to come back downstairs and feel compelled to participate in the removal of his friend.  He’d done enough already.

     Once things were decided, Jessie smoothly took charge, a shift Maddie was only too happy to allow.  She’d slept through the aftermath of the Summer debacle; Jessie, on the other hand, had worked beside Vinnie to clean up that mess, making her uniquely, albeit grotesquely, suited to the task at hand.

     “Run upstairs and find sheets,” Jessie told Hannah.  “A lot of them.  There’s a closet in the master bathroom.”  She cocked her head, listening to Caleb’s continued screaming from the bedroom upstairs.  “And shut him up.”

     Hannah rushed off, taking the stairs two at a time.  “Grab my shoes!” Maddie called after her.  She didn’t relish the thought of going outside barefoot under the best of times, and it certainly wasn’t appropriate now.

     When Hannah returned, arms full of sheets, Jessie continued.  “We’ll need to wrap him,” she explained.  “That’s what we did with Summer.  He’ll be heavy, and…gross.”  She shuddered.  “Using the sheets will keep us clean, and make it easier to move him.”

     “Move him where?” Maddie asked.

     Jessie chewed the inside of her cheek, thinking.  “There’s probably an alley behind the garden.”  She shook her head.  “Who knows what’s out there, though.  And getting him down the street and around will take too long.”

     “We could drag him through the house,” Hannah suggested.  “Take him out through the gate.”

     Jessie nodded.  “Through the house is good,” she agreed.  “But I don’t want to open the gate.”

     They stood in silence for a moment, lost in thought.

     “There’s a shed,” Maddie finally offered.  She felt terrible suggesting it – a rundown garden shed was no place to bury a person – but there seemed to be no other options.  It’s better than Summer got, she told herself.

     Jessie smiled, clearly pleased.  “Good!  Safe, and private.”  She nodded, decided.  “Okay.  Let’s go.”

     They surveyed the street carefully first, checking to be sure that no one had appeared in the time it had taken for them to get a plan together.  Maddie was surprised when they saw nothing; if there were people holed up in the houses around them, they apparently weren’t the type to venture out and investigate gun shots.  On the other hand, no dead had been drawn by the sound of the shots either.  That was good.  Hopefully they could get this job done before any stumbled down the road and decided they’d found a dinner buffet.

     The task was far worse than Maddie had imagined.  Rain continued to pour down, soaking them the moment they stepped onto the porch; the sheets sagged and flopped around their knees when they tried to shake them out, and water ran into their eyes.  They struggled with the wet blankets, and then with the dead body, which proved much heavier than any of them had anticipated.

     They tried lifting him by the feet, intending to shift him onto the sheets they’d placed on the pavement, bottom half first, then the top.  A good plan, had they not forgotten one thing: his prosthetic leg.  Jessie grabbed it and tugged, grunting with effort, and the whole thing flew off in her hands; she stumbled backwards into the porch stairs and landed hard on her side, cursing.  Maddie felt a crazed laugh bubble in her throat and clamped down on it quickly.

     “Fuck!”  Jessie got back on her feet, wincing, and threw the leg down on the sheet.  “Let’s roll him.”

They did, working together and using his clothes as the leverage they needed to get him up and over.  Maddie averted her eyes from the back of his head, grateful that the rain had already washed away much of the blood but disinclined nonetheless to get a good look at the damage Vinnie’s little gun had caused.  She thought again of Summer, and struggled to keep her stomach under control.  Don’t puke, she told herself sternly.  Just breathe.

     Jessie started to wrap the sheet around him.


     She looked up, annoyed.  “What?”

     Maddie reached down and grabbed the pack on Shawn’s back, a rough canvas bag that had seen better days.  “We should take this.”  When Jessie rolled her eyes and moved to cover him again, Maddie warded her off.  “Vinnie might want it,” she said.

     Wiping streaming water from her face, Maddie bent down and worked to move the bag’s straps down Shawn’s arms.  Jessie helped, tugging his arms around so Maddie could get the bag off.

     “Happy?” she asked, huffing.

     Maddie nodded.  She ran up the stairs and dropped the bag in the foyer, wincing at the heavy clunk it made when it hit the floor.  Hope that wasn’t breakable.

     She never knew how long it took them to get him up the stairs and inside, through the house, and back into the garden.  It felt like hours.  Before long, the muscles in her shoulders were screaming in pain; her thighs shook with each step and her ears rang, filled with the hum of over-exertion.  The others, she saw, weren’t doing much better – Hannah’s face was beet red by the time they were done, and Jessie’s eyes held a wild, faraway look, like she’d checked out of what they were doing some time ago and didn’t know how to come back.  The ground in the garden was soft and wet, sucking at their shoes as they trudged from the back door to the shed, slowing them down and miring the whole enterprise in thick, black mud.  When the wind picked up, wrenching the shed door from Maddie’s hand and sending it slamming into the metal side of the shed with a loud bang, she sobbed.  She wanted to be done.

     Finally, it was.  They wrestled him into an empty spot in the shed and left him there, propped against a box labeled “X-Mas Lites” and a snow shovel with a broken handle.  The sheet covering Shawn’s face had fallen down in the process, revealing one glassy eye that seemed to stare at Maddie as she moved around him; whispering an apology, she flipped the corner back over and backed out quickly, slamming the shed door behind her.

     Re-entering the house, Maddie felt the intense urge to change out of her clothes.  They were wet and dirty, which certainly contributed to her sense of discomfort.  But more than that, she was acutely aware that she was wearing one of Shawn’s t-shirts, swiped from his drawer when she’d run out of clean clothes.  The feel of the damp cotton as it clung to her back made her skin crawl.

     Hannah must have sensed her unease.  “Go get changed,” she said kindly.  “Both of you.  I’ll go up when you’re done.”

     Smiling gratefully, Maddie grabbed a lantern from the kitchen table and headed up the stairs, not bothering to wait for her sister.  She felt foolish for needing the light – she’d grown used to moving through the house in the dark over the last few days, and it wasn’t quite evening outside yet anyway – but she couldn’t bring herself to go upstairs without it.  The air inside seemed heavier than it had earlier, as if the house knew that its owner was gone.  She’d thought it had seemed sad when they’d first arrived.  Now it felt darkly depressed.

     She hesitated outside the bedroom door, even debated knocking, for politeness’ sake.  She didn’t want to bother Vinnie, nor answer any questions he might have about what they’d been doing – their trip through the house had not been silent, and she could only imagine what he’d been picturing, sitting up here alone in the dark.

     “Vinnie?” she called softly as she entered.

     She lifted the lantern, regretting that she’d grabbed one of the crappy blue lights instead of a regular one; it did little to dispel the deep shadows in the bedroom.  She saw the shape of him, perched on the edge of the bed, seemingly staring at the wall in front of him.  As far as she could tell, he still wore his wet clothes.

     “Just give me a minute,” she said.  She changed quickly, draping her jeans over the bedpost to dry; the shirt she threw in the corner, not caring when it would be suitable to wear as she had no intention of putting it on again, ever.  She slipped into the first clean clothes she could find, sweatpants and a sweater, a combination that looked ridiculous but was at least warm and dry.  She cast surreptitious glances in Vinnie’s direction, but his gaze remained fixed on the wall.

     Once she was dressed, she went to him, not sure what to do but unable to leave him sitting there in his still-wet clothes.  The light from the lantern gave his face a cold, bruised appearance; his eyes were dark holes.  Swallowing hard, she reached out to touch him.

     “Vinnie,” she said.  “You need to change.”

     When he grabbed her, she jumped; his fingers were icy and damp, digging into her forearm.  Slowly, he leaned forward, tilting toward her until his forehead rested on her chest.  He moved deliberately, giving her time to shift away, but she remained still, allowing him to pillow his face against her.  He did not melt, or sigh; it occurred to her, as he sat there stiff and awkward, that he was unused to seeking out or receiving comfort.  Her heart flooded with sympathy.

     “Ssshh,” she whispered.  Carefully, she ran the fingers of her loose hand through his hair, stroking his head until she felt his grip on her other arm relax.  “I’m sorry,” she told him quietly.  “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

     After a few minutes, she felt him let go; he sagged against her as the tension drained away from his body.  She let him rest for a moment longer, then coaxed him into sitting up straight so she could tug at the hem of his wet shirt.  “Come on,” she encouraged.  “Let’s get you dry.”

     He complied wordlessly, lifting his arms as she pulled the shirt over his head and then standing so she could undo his belt.  She remembered when he’d helped her the same way, after Summer had died, and the memory imbued her with renewed tenderness.  This is worse, she thought sadly.  Seeing Vinnie like this, limp and defeated, made her ache.

     She moved to find him new clothes, and he grabbed her again, gentler this time but still insistent.  His hands shook as they fumbled at the buttons of her sweater; one went spiraling off into the darkness, popped from its thread when he gave a frustrated tug.  She covered his hands with her own, trying to stop him.

     “This isn’t a good idea,” she said.

     He lifted his face to hers.  Even in the poor light of the lantern, she could see the shiny track of tears that coursed down his left cheek.

     “Please,” he said hoarsely.  His fingers clenched at her shirt.  “Please.”

     Maddie hesitated, but only for a moment.  She knew she was right – this was no doubt a terrible idea, especially after she’d spent days distancing herself for the sake of her own heart.  But the need in his voice ignited her own.  They both needed to forget, if only for a little while.

     Taking a deep breath, she undid her sweater.

     His lips, like his hands, were cold on her skin; she shivered when he kissed her chest.  His tongue, on the other hand, was warm; he dragged it across her breasts, tracing the line of each cup of her bra, leaving behind a trail of heat that raced straight through her body.  When he pulled the fabric down, to lap at her nipples, she clutched his hair and moaned.

     Moving slowly, he kissed his way down the length of her torso, stopping in places to lick and nip.  His fingers danced around her waist, stroking the soft, sensitive skin of her belly.  He started to drag her pants down from around her hips, and she stopped him again.  She ached at the thought of having his mouth on her – god knew she’d thought about it enough since the last time – but it didn’t seem entirely fair.  Instead, she pushed against his chest until he fell back onto the bed, and dropped to her knees.

     He tried valiantly to control her movements, tangling his fingers into her hair and pushing her down, but she refused to be rushed; each time she felt pressure on the back of her head she paused, waiting until he released her before accepting more of him into her mouth.  He groaned in frustration and thrashed on the bed.  She waited until he was still, then raked her nails down the inside of his thighs.  He pulsed against her tongue, and she did it again.

     “Harder,” he gasped.

     She complied, and was rewarded with a deep, satisfied moan.  She stroked her fingers along the same path that she’d scratched, hoping she hadn’t left marks on his skin.  Like the others.

     The reminder brought her up short.  She sat back, releasing him abruptly, and swiped the back of her hand across her mouth.  Vinnie didn’t notice the change in her demeanor; that, or he pretended not to.  He sat up swiftly, cupped her face in his hands and leaned down, kissing her hard.  Her mouth opened automatically under his.  When his tongue swept across hers, she wondered if he could taste himself, a thought that made her clit throb.

     He gripped her shoulders and pulled her to feet.  Her pants were gone before she could blink, tossed across the room, and then he helped her onto his lap.  She balanced her knees on either side of him while his hand slipped down between them, finding her wet and more than ready.  His fingers plunged inside her, and she gasped.

     “Madelyn,” he moaned, burrowing his face between her breasts.  “Oh baby…oh god…Madelyn.”

     She grasped his shoulders and arched her back, urging him deeper.  She saw herself as if from a distance: naked from the waist down, torn sweater hanging open, breasts exposed and trussed high by the bra she still wore.  For just a moment she was embarrassed to be here again, preparing to fuck this man when she wasn’t sure they even liked each other all that much.

     Then his hands were on her hips, guiding her down onto him, and she forgot about everything but the way he felt inside of her.  He gripped her firmly and nipped at her neck.  “Ride,” he growled in her ear.

     Obeying that order, she found, required no thought at all.



     She waited again until he’d fallen asleep, then dressed in the dark.  It occurred to her, as she searched for her sweats, that they’d slept together twice now, and both times she’d been the one to slip away after, like someone escaping a bad one-night stand.  After the fight they’d had about him being uncaring, she felt hypocritical and guilty – though not guilty enough to get back in the bed.

     Instead, she crept from the bedroom as quietly as possible, shut the door behind her, and headed back downstairs.  She’d come to a decision as she lay in the dark, waiting for Vinnie’s breathing to deepen and slow.  She hoped that her sister was still in the mood to lead for a little while longer.

     It was time for Maddie to learn everything she could about the guns.

  1. mxcoot says:

    I feel bad but I kinda giggled when Jessie pulled the guys fake leg off. What a great chapter. I certainly can’t wait for the next one.

  2. Thea Landen says:

    I always appreciate the “fuck the pain away” trope when it’s well-done, which it is here. Yay!

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