Bernita waited a week before revealing the secret. She was surprised it lasted this long, that no one thought to search her house or wander into her garage and discover the decaying stench coming from a heavy duty trash bag next to the chest freezer…
Because she couldn’t fit him inside. Because she was no butcher, and no matter how many times you salt and pepper it, or drop a bouillon cube into the boiling pot, you can’t make human flesh taste like chicken.
Detective Maye motioned for her to take a seat across from him. She was thankful to be talking to him and not the other guy, his partner, Spence. Spence had the whole bad cop routine nailed to a science. The permanent frown on his face, how he never blinked, walked with a stomp, accusation always in his voice. He was the reason she decided to come clean.
Lori had called her hysterical, said Spence was hellbent on sending her to prison for Gordon’s disappearance, pressing her to confess. After four hours in the interrogation room he had Lori convinced that she was somehow involved because of the fight she and Gordon had the night before. It was loud. Everyone could hear, even from across the street Bernita heard it, as if they were screaming in her backyard, right under her bedroom window.
Gordon had confronted Lori about the affair. Bernita and Lori had been sloppy, both assuming that Gordon wasn’t bright enough to figure them out, or that he wouldn’t be too upset if he did. Wasn’t it every man’s sexual fantasy, anyway? To have a girlfriend with a girlfriend—to screw them both.
Then again, Gordon never thought of Bernita as a girl. Not her baggy clothes, her deep voice, her cornrow braids.
“I have some information on Gordon.”
“Something you forgot to tell us yesterday?”
She’d invited Maye and Spence over after they had finished interviewing a neighbor. She wanted to be caught. She didn’t realize how hard it would be to dismember a body, get rid of the evidence.
The head went fairly easily, and she plopped it in a greased aluminum roasting pan. But sawing through raw bone with conventional kitchen knives proved fruitless. His left leg and thigh lay on a cutting board while the police stood outside on the front porch, listening to her concoct a story about Gordon’s online poker addiction, how he was strapped for cash and had people after him. They didn’t smell the hair burning in the oven because she’d forgotten to shave Gordon’s head. They didn’t notice the blood splatters on her apron after her unsuccessful attempts to hack his leg in half at the knee.
Or maybe they did notice. Maybe they were already on to her. Maybe nosy neighbor and devout Catholic, Mrs. Munson, told them about Bernita’s early morning exits from Lori’s house minutes before Gordon was due home from his graveyard shift at work. Maybe they were able to break Lori, and to remove suspicion from herself, she told them how on the night he disappeared, Bernita burst into their house, wielding a gun, threatening to kill Gordon because Lori disserved better.
The gun wasn’t loaded, and it turned out to be much easier to kill Gordon than pulling a trigger.
Gordon was allergic to nuts. His throat closed completely in three minutes flat after she gave him fries cooked in peanut oil.
Detective Maye reached for his side. Bernita fidgeted when she saw the glint of metal handcuffs.
“Why don’t we just start with where is he?”
Bernita bit her bottom lip. The cooking part came much later, when she realized she wasn’t strong enough to lift him into her trunk and discard him in the woods miles from town. Gordon was 245 pounds alive; dead and bloated, even after the excrement was discharged from his body, he weighed twice as much. She’d pulled her hamstring dragging him down the stairs into the garage, and then left him there three days while she figured out a plan B.
“Lori had nothing to do with it. She doesn’t know.”
Maye nodded, leaned back in his seat, and crossed his leg over his knee. “Why’d you do it?”
Bernita stared at the wall, sterile white like a hospital. She wondered if there was a reason behind the interrogation room’s wall color, if it affected a suspect’s mind, made it difficult for them think or say anything but the truth.
In her red t-shirt, against the white, she imagined the room bleeding.
It is Short Story A Day May! Today’s prompt, “The Secret,” comes from Marta Pelrine-Bacon. This story was inspired by an episode of Snapped. It has a strange ending, but oddly enough, it feels complete. But that could also be because it’s nearly midnight and I’m on the verge of sleep. By the way does one of the characters sound familiar? Yes, Detective Maye is back! He didn’t make is as a main character in my A to Z novel, Lost Boy, but you might see him in a few short stories here on the blog!