Lewis had worked out a simple plan: Load the old propane tank on the ton truck. Back over the gas pump by the old barn. The truck’s hot tailpipe and some fortunate sparks ignite both the gasoline storage tank and the fume-filled propane tank. Half the farm goes up in a massive explosion.
It should be a quick death, he figured, and best of all it would look like an accident; the insurance company would pay off.
Lorna would be at work at the diner, and Sarah would be in school. They wouldn’t get hurt, and they wouldn’t be around to see it happen. He’d sent them both off that morning with smiles and hugs and kisses, so there would be no reason to suspect he’d taken his own life. And they’d have a last happy memory of him.
Lewis walked out of the house and down the little hill to the new barn. He tugged on the door of the 40-year-old Chevy ton truck; it squeaked open and he climbed in. He started it up and, of long habit, looked in the rearview mirror. There was Dusty, his four-year-old German shepherd mix, sitting in her spot on the truck’s flatbed.
He looked at his dog for a long moment, and she looked back at him, patiently waiting for him to go.
Lewis knew that he couldn’t chain Dusty out of harm’s way. He never chained her up. And it would require too much imagination for anyone to consider that Dusty had heard the truck start and hadn’t hopped aboard.
No, if Dusty’s charred remains weren’t found near his, someone — notably his wife and daughter — would suspect something. They might figure out it wasn’t an accident. Wind of that could get to the insurance company.
Worse, they’d just know.
Dusty continued to look at her master, eagerness to get on with whatever chore he had in mind shining in her eyes.
“Oh, Dusty,” he said quietly, and there was the question: was he depressed enough to take not just his own life but Dusty’s, too?
Her death would cement in everyone’s mind that it was an accident. Who would ever believe he was capable of both suicide and killing his own dog? There were obvious advantages to that.
Lewis put his foot on the clutch and his hand on the gearshift. Dusty continued to wait, trusting that they would go in the man’s own good time.
Lewis finally looked away from her and made the truck move. He drove them over to the old barn and stopped by the old propane tank. It was beginning to rust away but was still intact. He already had the tank on blocks at the level of the flatbed; it would be a relatively simple job to move it over. He did that and secured it so it wouldn’t move around.
Dusty sniffed at the tank briefly and then turned her attention back to Lewis. He got in the truck and started it again. Habit once more directed his attention to the mirror and the dog. He turned his gaze through the windshield and sighed. Then he put the truck in gear and drove forward.
He neared the gas pump and kept driving past it to the gravel driveway and onto the road. He turned south to go to Melvorsen’s scrap yard where he could maybe get a few dollars for the old tank.
A quick check in the mirror him showed Dusty in her place behind the cab, sniffing contentedly at the fresh air.
“A perfectly good plan,” he muttered.