Home > Gun Shy(2)

Gun Shy(2)
Author: Lili St. Germain

I laughed, turning back to the well. Fifty feet or so and I was there, bracing myself and holding my breath as I lifted up the lid. The water had been fine the day before, so the dead thing must have been pretty recent.

I folded the heavy wooden lid back on its hinge and peered inside. The sides of the well were made from stone, and cold stale air rose up to greet my face. I shivered, my flashlight landing on something large and unmoving as Cass came to a standstill beside me.

Shit.

It wasn’t a mouse. It wasn’t a raccoon, either. It might be a fucking dog. A small calf. I thought of my younger brothers, little band of shitheads they could be, and wondered what accident they’d tried to hide in the well.

Course, when you were six or seven years old, you didn’t understand that by killing animals from neighboring farms, you were marking yourself as a potential serial killer. The triplets, we called them, because there were three of them. Matty was five, Richie was six, and Beau was seven. They loved to break shit, kill shit, steal shit, and then lie about it.

My mom excelled at breeding. She’d really hit her stride when she met the triplets’ father and banged out three in as many years before he OD’d in her bed and she left his corpse tangled in her bedsheets for three days thinking he was asleep.

My mom was fucking crazy.

Hence having my own makeshift room, as far away from her as I could get.

“It’s something big,” I said to Cass. Her cheery demeanor quieted a little. When we were talking about things stuck down wells, big was more serious than small.

“You think—”

I knew what she was thinking. Her mind always went to the worst possibility.

“Nah,” I said, shaking my head. “Definitely not. Not big enough. I bet you anything those little shitheads killed something and threw it down here.”

Cassie opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again. “You can shower at my house?” she said, her tone trying to be helpful, as though we could just shut the well and be done with it.

I was the oldest. I was the man of the house. It was my responsibility.

“We need water,” I said. “They all need water.”

“You want me to try lowering you down?” she asked dubiously. I shook my head. We both knew she was too small to bear my weight.

“Get Pike,” I said, flicking the flashlight off. “I can climb down there okay, but he needs to hoist me back up.”

She nodded, standing on her tiptoes to kiss my cheek. I remembered again that I’d washed my face with the dirty water. Gross. After I fixed this, I was going to run the water clear and have a scalding hot shower for like, three hours.

“Be careful,” Cass murmured. “You know what, just wait. I’ll get Pike and we can both lower you down with the rope. Last thing we need is you breaking an ankle before football finals.”

Cass was going to get out of Gun Creek based on her smarts, and I was going to get out based on my athletic abilities. Old Tanner Bentley may not have gifted my brother and I with money or any kind of upbringing. However, he had passed down to me his ability to smash anyone I was up against in football. Cass and I were scholarship bound, baby. We were on our way.

I stood there for a moment as I watched Cass disappear up to the main trailer. I was impatient, my major downfall in life. I never could wait around for anything the way I should.

I should have waited like she said, but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d climb down, bracing my bare feet against the rock walls like I’d done countless times as a kid. I’d fix the problem, save the day, and then they’d bring me back up in a few minutes. Hot showers for all. And after I was clean, after I’d scrubbed my skin and my teeth clean, I’d take Cassie into the shower with me.

I swung a leg over the lip of the well and got a good grip with my hands. Then I inched one leg down, the flashlight under one arm and my feet better than any rock climbing shoe as I shimmied down.

The problem wasn’t getting into the well because the rocks were relatively dry up top near the surface. It was getting out, because once you were down the bottom, the rocks became smooth and wet, and it was impossible to gain purchase against them.

Once you were in the well, you were in.

Still, how bad could it be? Whatever was down there smelled, so it was dead, and therefore it couldn’t hurt me. That was the logic I applied, anyway.

I gripped my feet against the rocks, my heart rate accelerating as I got closer to the dark lump of something in the bottom. Whatever it was, was against one wall, so I made my way down and winced as my feet touched freezing cold water. It came up to my ankles, sloshing about as I kept the flashlight gripped tightly under my arm. If I dropped it, I’d be screwed.

The smell down here wasn’t as bad for some reason. It was as if the water had absorbed some of the scent and the rest had risen, bilious gases searching for freedom outside the confines of the narrow stone walls. But despite the smell improving, the feeling in my stomach only got worse.

My skin crawled as I tried not to think about what was in the water, my teeth clenched tight as I braced my bare feet on the bottom of the well and took the flashlight in hand, aiming it at the mysterious lump.

For a moment, I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. Dark hair. Blood. A dog? I’d been expecting a dog. Those fucking brothers of mine had killed a dog before, last summer, slit the poor Labrador’s throat and dumped it in the creek.

The thing in front of me wasn’t a dog.

It was a girl.

Or — half of a girl, cut from under one shoulder to over the other hip, the top half of her staring eternally forward with milky blue eyes as parts of things that had once been inside her seeped out of the spot where she’d been brutally split.

I screamed.

I dropped the fucking flashlight.

I kept screaming.

Not just because of the girl. Not just because she’d been butchered, her lower half nowhere to be seen. I wondered, briefly, if I was standing on the rest of her body parts. Her legs. Where the fuck were her legs?

I screamed until it felt like my throat would bleed. I screamed for Cassie, for Pike, for Jesus and for God. I didn’t believe in the last two, but my subconscious didn’t care about that minor detail.

JESUSCHRISTOHMYGODCASSIEPIKE

Over and over again.

I think I even called for my mother.

Cassie’s face appeared above me. She was so high up I could barely make out her expression. “What is it?” she called out. “Leo, what is it?”

Beside her, I saw Pike, lowering the rope down. Too slow. Too fucking slow and I was stuck next to the dead girl and I was still screaming.

I started to hyperventilate.

“Karen!” I screamed. “It’s fucking KAREN!”

I saw Pike speed up, heard Cassie gasp loudly.

Karen was a girl we went to school with.

Karen had been missing for almost a week.

Everybody thought Karen had run away or been swept up in a trucker’s rig, or just plain gone and died somewhere nobody knew about. The police were searching for her, but you could tell it was kind of a half-hearted thing.

Because girls like Karen went missing, but they weren’t always missed. Girls like Karen were trouble, and she had been in trouble. With drugs. With stealing.

Karen was the girl who’d given hand jobs to the entire male side of our class by the time she was thirteen.

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