Chef opened the car door, hauling on its frame to open it. Metal groaned on metal as the crumpled door opened wide enough to admit him.
“Sure, Chef, just let the whole world know we’re watching this guy,” Liz said.
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault you’re stupid. What took you so long?”
“I told you, it’s game night with my girls,” Chef said. “I’m not available until after ten on game nights.”
Liz shook her head. “Still hard to imagine you as a family man. I thought you were going to stay a bachelor until you died from alcohol poisoning at thirty.”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
“Widdle Chef Grew up.”
Chef drew a deep breath and held it, the old days always seemed to sneak up on him. So too did his attraction to the woman in the driver’s seat. He found that he was smiling, despite himself.
“How did Skip find this guy?”
“Charles Heinegger is an idiot,” Liz said. “And with a computer, so are you. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that he might as well have logged onto Facebook. I could have found him, with the footprint he left, which means –“
“Which means that the cops have probably tracked him down, as well.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this one,” Liz said, half to herself. “I think we should just leave this one alone and go home.”
Chef looked at her, and back at the house, its loose outer walls sagging, daring Chef to blow it down with a huff, and possibly a puff. He considered Liz’s advice of just leaving Charles for the police, wishing he had more than minutes to do the job and leave.
“If the police had found what Skip has, they’d be all over this place by now. Let’s do it.”
Liz pursed her lips, obviously dissenting, but said nothing.
“Give me five minutes, and back the car up the driveway.” Chef reached back into the backseat of her car – he insisted on keeping the murder weapon in her car, a kind of insurance he knew wasn’t necessary. He smiled at her before leaving the car, not seeing her return it with a halfhearted, yet exaggerated smile of her own.
Chef stalked up the street toward the house, hammer hanging loose in his hand. As he passed out of the glow of the streetlight, he thought of his wife, waiting for him at home. He was tempted to put it all away, go home, maybe have some sex, and live the rest of his life without killing another person.
But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t just let this man live to kill again. He couldn’t give him the chance to hurt his girls.
Chef shivered as he approached the dilapidated house, the tremors had nothing to do with the cold. Paint chips littered the grass around the base of the house, looking like fallen snow. He stepped up onto the porch, little more than a concrete square, and reached his hammer up to tap the bare bulb. It shattered with a little pop. Chef’s eyes took a moment to readjust to the darkness around him.
He tried the doorknob, finding to his surprise that it was unlocked. He stepped inside, boards creaking beneath his feet. Chef’s heart beat harder and faster, he was sure it must be audible, even above the creaking of the boards. It took deep concentration, but he was able to keep his breathing below hyperventilation levels. The hammer sought a tighter grip and a vantage point so it could better see its target.
Nothing was in the cramped living room, except loads of takeout boxes and stinking leftovers. The kitchen held much of the same, with the addition of stacks of dishes with crusted-on food left haphazard on every horizontal surface.
Though he wore solid boots, Chef stepped lightly, the only sounds made in his passing were the creaks beneath his feet that couldn’t be as loud as he heard them. He stepped into the hallway. Light from the moon streamed in from the window at the end of the hall, revealing piles of clothes littering the floor.
A silhouette moved in front of the window.
Chef stopped. His breath caught in his throat.
The figure moved into the door on the right. Closed the door behind it. When the sounds of peeing began, Chef trusted himself to move again. He couldn’t tell if the shape was Charles Heinegger, but he decided to take a chance and slip into the room the shape had come from. He raised his hammer and waited, pressed against the inside wall.
The toilet flushed.
Chef’s heart began pounding in double-time.
The bathroom door creaked open, and the form shuffled back into the room.
Once the shape had passed into the bedroom, Chef reached his free hand over to flick on the bedroom light.
“What the fuck are you – !“
Chef swung his hammer at Charles Heinegger’s head and, with a muted crack, ensured that he would never kill again. His girls were safe from him.
* * *
It had been a short trip to the farm to drop off the body. Charles had been hanged upside-down and left to bleed out next to a pig, a lamb, and a side of beef so Chef could go home and sleep for a few hours.
The drive from the farm was as long as his Queen’s Greatest Hits album, and he sang along to every song. With the windows down, wind rushed through his hair and out the window again, happy with its quick visit. Chef drummed the steering wheel, keeping perfect time with Don’t Stop Me Now, blaring out the windows along with his own voice.
Chef saw the flashing lights before he turned onto his street. Red and white alternating, coming from multiple sources. His body felt doused in freezing water.
“What the fuck is going on?” He pressed his foot harder on the gas pedal, skidding through the turn onto his street.
Waiting for him was the sight of three ambulances, a fire engine, and six police cars gathered around the front of his house. Floodlights illuminated the front and sides of his house. Chef drove up and onto his front lawn. His car’s tires tore up tracks of grass as he slid to a halt, but he didn’t care. He slammed the car into park and leapt from the car, forgetting to kill the engine, and hurtled over a bush to get to the front door.