Travis Osanu pushed the door to the hotel room open with the butt of his gun. His eyes widened behind his sunglasses.
“Well, shit,” he said, as if announcing himself to the room.
There was a corpse on the floor, a fat, middle-aged man. Travis approached it, wrinkling his nose at the smell of blood and excrement and filth. Though it was past sundown, the room was still warm; flies buzzed over the body and the rotting food that had somehow wound up on the floor, though Travis did not think the murder could have happened more than a few hours ago.
As he drew nearer, Travis was able to make out the bullet holes in the man’s head more clearly. All six. The killer had presumably emptied his clip into the man’s brain.
“She sure misjudged you, didn’t she?” Travis said, even louder this time. He flicked the safety back on before putting the handgun back in his inside jacket pocket, and instead pulled out his phone. He tapped the screen a few times to place a call.
“Travis, hello?” Charlotte Rosen said.
“Charlotte, how are you?” He tried to inflect some sympathy in his voice. He might as well at least appear to care.
“Fine. Do you have news?”
It was good that she did not care if he cared about her condition – she always got straight to business, which he liked. Travis began pacing back and forth across the room, giving the guy’s corpse a wide berth. “He killed Barrett. Guess you were wrong about him.”
“He did?” Charlotte’s tone, professional and curt a moment ago, turned suddenly hollow.
“Very much so. Looks like he attempted to blow the fucker’s head off. Probably couldn’t stand Barrett’s blubbering. Can’t say I blame him.”
Silence on the other line.
“Hey, you there?” Travis said.
“Yes, yes,” Charlotte said quickly, as though embarrassed at the pause. Her voice sounded thick. “You didn’t like Barrett, then?”
“Hated the guy. Kinda wish I had gotten to do this.” He blinked. Charlotte knew very well that he had hated Malcolm Barrett. Why reiterate the point?
“Because he worked for Choler?”
“That doesn’t score him any points, but no. I hated him because I hate lazy pieces of shit. What does this matter, anyway?”
“It doesn’t.” Charlotte seemed to be gathering herself again. Travis scratched the back of his neck. This was not like her at all. It was like seeing a private part of her life she did her best to keep hidden.
“So do I let someone report this?”
“Ye… No. No. Get rid of the body.”
“You sure? Maybe it will lead them to chasing down Choler. Could distract him.”
“I said no. Get rid of it.”
Travis grimaced. “I'm doing this… for free?”
Charlotte sighed into the mouthpiece so the speaker crackled. “Well you can hardly get a check from Choler when Nick already killed the guy, can you?”
"Well no, but you could at least come to dinner with me or something.” Travis grinned, his mind split between going on a date with Charlotte and how she had used Vincent Choler’s last name, yet Nick’s first. Did she know him?
“I’m not dating you – I think I’ve said that a few hundred times before.”
“As friends then.”
“Am I paying?”
“We’ll split it instead of me paying for all of it.”
“You know I probably won’t have any hair soon, right?”
“I could dig that.”
“...I guess I’d have to see it. I could shave my head too, if it makes you feel better.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” It sounded like she was trying to be harsh, but he thought she might be smiling by her tone.
“Unless you’re dating this Nick guy.”
Silence on the line again.
“Why do you say that?”
“You called him by his first name. Who is he?”
“He… I’m not dating him.”
“Wait a minute!” Travis stopped his pacing. He swiveled around, staring at the corpse on the floor. “Is Nick…?”
But Charlotte interrupted him. “Get rid of the body. No traces.”
She hung up.
Rubber gloves, a gas mask, an apron, a trash bag, a knife, a saw, a screwdriver, a big iron barrel with a lid, and several gallons of water and lye. Travis had the lot under a tarp in the back of his truck. It was all quite easy at this point, except the part about not being noticed, which could always be tricky.
Under cover of darkness, Travis pulled the barrel out from the back, shoving everything except the water, the lye, and the lid of the barrel into the bottom. He lugged it back up to the second-floor apartment where Malcolm Barrett’s corpse still lay on the ground like a discarded rag doll.
The first concern was to figure out where the bullets had gotten to. It did not really matter that the blood had sunk deep into the carpet and spattered the wall; the leasing office would not hesitate to tell the police, whenever they arrived, the name of the man who had lived here. There was no hiding who had been killed.
What mattered, Travis knew, was who had done the killing, and making sure they did not figure out who that was.
Of course, Travis could not be sure what this Nick guy had touched in this room, but the most likely culprits were the bullets, the doorknob, and the body itself, and there were no guarantees that he had been wearing gloves. So, after dumping everything out of the barrel and putting on the gloves and apron, he used the screwdriver to remove the doorknob and the saw to cut the pieces of carpet and wood out of the wall and floor where the bullets had lodged themselves. He piled the detritus in the barrel.
The next problem was how heavy Barrett’s body was. Travis laid the barrel sideways and tried to shove the whole rotting corpse inside, but the barrel was not deep enough; it did not quite reach to his shoulders. So Travis, gritting his teeth a little, cut the man’s bullet-riddled head off with the knife, blood spilling all over his apron and the floor. Travis shoved Barrett’s head in the bottom of the barrel by the feet, then wrapped the trash bag over the top of the body’s shoulders, tucking the bag into the barrel the way a man tucks his shirt into the waist of his pants.
Travis paused for a moment, panting. The fat, deadweight corpse was exhausting to move around. He stared at it for a moment, and began to whistle “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go” to himself, feeling he could use seven dwarves right now to give him a hand.
Steeling himself, he twined the gas mask’s strap around his belt, gripped the knife, saw, and screwdriver in one hand, and began rolling the barrel toward the door, one hand open, the other balled in a fist to hold the tools. He stopped by the door and opened it a bit, looking around. There was no one in the hall. Travis had only seen one person around the apartment complex today, a woman who had been departing for what he presumed to be a party based on her fancy dress, which made him wonder how many of these rooms were leased out. After all, Nick seemed to have been able to shoot six bullets through Malcolm’s head without a soul hearing it. Perhaps the sound of gunshots was normal here.
Travis opened the door all the way and rolled the barrel toward it. It was too wide to fit through the door, so he rotated it ninety degrees and pushed hard, the carpet tugging against the lip of the barrel.
Ultimately it went through. Travis shut the door behind him and stood up straight, breathing hard again. He whistled the Snow White song quieter in spite of himself now that he was out here. Travis did not fear being caught, but one could not help but be nervous while disposing of a body.
Travis gave the barrel a shove with his foot. It rolled a little ways, then came to a stop.
He grinned and chased after the barrel, kicking it down the hall as he whistled until he reached the stairwell at the end.
Unfortunately, this particular stairwell was not going to do him any favors. It descended eight steps, turned one hundred eighty-degrees at the landing, and then went down another eight steps. Travis turned and peered down the dim hallway behind him. Still completely empty.
Travis kicked the barrel down the stairs. It bounced against the thin carpet, a deep, sonorous bong sounding each time it landed. Travis hurried down the stairs after it, swiveled it around, and repeated the action down the second short flight of stairs. He had expected it to be loud, but in his anxiety and the preceding silence, the crashing of the barrel seemed magnified a hundred times over.
This needed to end now, quickly. Travis rolled the barrel around to the door that led out of the apartment building, opened it, and shoved the barrel through the same way he had gotten it out of Barrett’s room.
“Such a… fat… motherfucker… to the end…”
Travis rolled the barrel to the dumpster, and, with great effort, tipped the barrel upright. The body sunk in a little bit deeper, but the broad shoulders still refused to fit. Travis put the gas mask on and grabbed several barrels of lye from the back of his truck, unscrewing them and dumping them into the barrel. A faint sizzling noise met his ears as the chemicals began melting the decapitated head, the feet, and the pieces of wood and carpet that contained Nick’s bullets.
Travis gathered some of the bottles of water and poured those in after the lye. The sizzling grew much louder. Travis held his breath in spite of the gas mask, trying hard to stay away from the fumes. He went on dumping lye and water in, pouring it all over the body so any fingerprints Nick may have left behind dissolved sooner rather than later.
He threw the empty bottles and tools in the back of the truck again so he could dispose of them elsewhere, piled the gas mask, apron, and gloves in beside them, and drove off at exactly the speed limit.