First, Stephanie killed Grant, which he hadn’t been expecting. Then Loren killed Stephanie, which she hadn’t been expecting.
Now Loren had two dead bodies on his hands, which he had been expecting, but he still had no idea how to proceed. That part of the plan had never coalesced in Loren’s mind.
All the shooting had taken place in Loren’s cabin in the woods, so there were no witnesses and no concerned neighbors to call the police. There was simply the matter of the two corpses bleeding on the thick rug that protected the hardwood floor.
Spring had loosened winter’s grip on the soil, but Loren’s back began to ache as he thought of all the trouble it would be to dig graves, or even a grave. That sort of manual labor just wasn’t normal. Nor did he know how to use a backhoe even if he had had access to one.
He also lacked a vat of acid in which to dissolve his victims. The nearest river was miles away over rough terrain, and drought had turned it into more of a creek than an actual hide-the-body-in-the-depths river.
Burning the bodies wasn’t a great option, either; the stench would be unbearable. He could burn the entire cabin with the bodies in it, but Loren was fond of his retreat.
A scene from a movie came to him, but Loren didn’t own a wood chipper, nor did he believe he possessed the necessary sang froid to put the two former humans through one, anyway. Killing, with a tidy, convenient pistol at more than arm’s length, was one thing; feeding bodies into a mangling machine was very much another.
Literature — Edgar Allan Poe specifically — was no more help than the cinema. Loren’s soft stomach precluded hacking up the bodies and putting them underneath the floorboards, as in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The cabin lacked a basement, so he couldn’t hide the bodies behind a new brick wall, a la “A Cask of Amontillado.” Besides, that would also have been strenuous work.
He sat in his favorite chair in the cabin’s main room and stared balefully at the corpses. Stephanie and Grant were proving to be the same terrible nuisances dead as they were alive. For just a moment, Loren regretted their deaths. Then he remembered his reasons for wanting them dead, and the moment passed.
Loren’s stomach growled. He snapped his fingers, suddenly remembering the food they had left inside the car. He stepped over Grant’s body and went outside.
The interior of the car was heating up as the day progressed. It was getting muggy and clouds were building to the southwest. Loren put the key in the car’s ignition so he could roll down the windows. Then he reached into the back seat and grabbed the large sack. The three had stopped at a sandwich shop, and they had each purchased a footlong to eat on their arrival at the cabin. Stephanie had sat next to the sack on the way up, but she had been so intent upon killing Grant that she hadn’t taken it inside.
Loren opened one of the wrapped sandwiches and wrinkled his nose; it was Grant’s unholy tuna and pastrami. He dropped it back into the sack and opened another one: Stephanie’s meatball sandwich. Sighing at his poor luck with the odds, he took out his own turkey and swiss cheese sandwich and set the bag on the front passenger seat.
Back inside his cabin, Loren opened a beer and moodily ate his sandwich at the table as he contemplated the bodies on the floor. He berated himself for not having planned this end of the task.
Hikers largely avoided the area. Perhaps, he thought, he could simply drag his former associates out into the woods and leave them for nature to deal with: let the bugs and the worms and the scavenger birds and the bears clean up the mess.
Loren had been warned when he bought the cabin that there were often bears in the area. Yes, indeed! That was it. The bears would eat the meat and gnaw on the bones and ruin the evidence of the bullets. With luck, the bears would drag the bodies far from the cabin.
Loren laughed in triumph. “It’s feeding time at the zoo,” he said to the dead people, “and you are permitted to feed the bears.”
He finished half his sandwich and his beer and stood up. All his scheming, all his plotting, all the mental and social effort required to get to the beautiful moment of the murders had been nothing compared to the physical effort that would now be required.
Loren bent down and grabbed the edge of the heavy area rug. He pulled and nearly threw his back out.
“Fine. One thing at a time.”
He took Stephanie’s still-warm hands and dragged her through the doorway, down the steps, and around the side of the cabin. He walked what seemed to be a great distance – he couldn’t see the cabin, anyway – and left her there. Returning to the cabin, he took hold of Grant’s ankles and similarly deposited him next to Stephanie.
Loren then rolled up the big rug and, huffing and grunting, carried it past the bodies another thousand feet before unloading it. His shoulders ached and his legs were getting tired. He kept a wary watch for bears as he neared his victims and staggered back to his cabin. He looked up through the trees and noted the darkening sky.
He claimed another beer from his little refrigerator and collapsed into his comfortable chair.
“I did it,” he wheezed. “They’re dead, and I’m happy.” He removed his shoes and took a long pull on his beer.
Eventually, the other half of his sandwich beckoned. He heaved himself out of his chair and lumbered over to the table, plopping heavily onto the wooden chair there.
“You work up quite an appetite getting rid of bodies and rugs.”
Loren wolfed down the turkey and swiss and drained his beer. He looked around his cabin, master of all he surveyed, and gazed most happily upon the bare place where the rug and corpses had been.
A rumble of thunder interrupted his satisfaction, and he remembered rolling down the car windows. Revived by his rest and his meal, Loren charged out the front door and down the steps toward his car. As his feet were clad only in socks, he looked at the ground to try to miss any sharp objects. This is why he walked, without warning, straight into the bear.
The bear had caught the scent of food in the car and ate the sandwiches as an appetizer. A wave of a giant paw dashed Loren to the ground, ending his scream.
As the bear’s jaws clamped down on his skull, Loren’s last addled words quoted the sign at the city zoo: “Please do not feed the bears.”