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When she finally arrived, she didn’t pull into his driveway like he thought she would. She had come in a neighbor’s car, and parked a couple of blocks away. He let her in and she made him walk through the events with her three times.
Then they sat at his dinning table and talked about her plan. She thought it would be best for him if she didn’t tell him too much. She promised to answer his questions if he asked them, but he would have to feign ignorance, and do so convincingly, if the police questioned him. Once the decisions were made, they set about the list of chores that Erica had given him.
Erica had brought a large bag of supplies. She gave him a pair of latex gloves. They were long, the wrists reaching well up his forearms. She secured the gloves in place with electrical tape. They worked together to get the body into the bath tub. She stripped the body, collected blood in a sandwich bag, and then left him so she could work on another project.
She had told him what he needed to do. Rinse the body in bleach, focus on the fingernails. She had been very matter of fact, emotionless. He hated himself for putting her through this. He tried to tell her that he wanted to back out, but she told him it was too late. If he called the police now, they would both go to prison. She was the brains of this operation. This was her area of expertise, so to speak, and he would have to trust her.
So, he did what he needed to do. He covered the body in bleach and scrubbed the fingers on each hand. When he was done, he left the body in the bathroom with the shower nozzle aimed at the foot of the tub to let the cold spray run down the body, head to foot and then drain away, taking trace evidence with it. He could hear Erica in the living room. When he rounded the corner, he found Jackie on her knees cleaning the blood off the hardwood floor.
In less than a second he crossed the room and jerked the woman off the floor. The fury in his mind took his reason from him; not just hiding it in a far place somewhere in an inaccessible alcove of his psyche, but wiping it out completely.
“What are you doing?!”
He was shaking the woman. Her teeth chattered giving the one-word response an extra syllable and preventing his already rattled brain from discerning its meaning. The expression of fear and confusion he saw on her face was a kind of fun-house mirror that reflected his mind’s unexpressed concerns, the image distorted and almost unrecognizable. Her blue eyes held his and he found stability there. He found his ground in the pale blue-gray swirls and navy border. These eyes were not just a mirror of his, but his as surely as if he were looking at himself.
“Daddy?” He had stopped shaking her, and if the white noise in his head not been so loud, he might have recognized his daughter sooner. As it was, Erica, the only child of his to inherit the Sutherland blue eyes, had to force him to sit and listen. She repeated, in soft tones, the necessity of what she was doing. Eventually, the fury lessened enough for Edward’s reason to return allowing his brain to settle into its usual structured, practical mode of operation.
Erica had put a red rinse on her hair and donned Jackie’s blouse and boots. Now that Edward was sober, he could tell that Erica would not pass for the older woman, not to someone that knew her, and not up close.
She brought him a glass of water and went back to her current task: pouring bleach on the blood pooled at the foot of the sofa table. She quietly explained that the idea was not to clean the stain, but to ruin any DNA evidence. Edward sat down the glass and moved to help. He reached to wipe the table, but she stopped him. She told him that that specific evidence had to stay and, if he needed something to do, he could scrub the floor. After scrubbing and soaking the spot for about an hour, her best guess estimate on the time, he should pour the bottle of blood-red nail polish over the stain, completely covering the discolored planks.
While Edward worked on that project, she left the room. She returned a moment later, Jackie’s car keys in hand.
“I have to go, but I’ll be back. Keep working. Do not go anywhere. Do not open the door. Do not call anyone. Understand? It’s important that this go as smoothly as possible. I don’t want to go to prison either.”