James J. Dominguez was born in Wagga Wagga, Australia in 1974, and has spent most of his life since then with his nose in a book or his fingers on a keyboard. "Angela" is his first published story.
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by James J. Dominguez
Joe slammed the door behind him without looking and ran straight to Simon, his terrified eyes wide. He grabbed the taller youth's shirt and pulled him close, almost nose to nose.
"You lying bastard!" he rasped between hoarse breaths. "I saw her down the street. She's not dead, she's walking around down the street. You lied to me you worthless shit! You told me she was dead!"
Cool and collected as Simon was always proud of being, Joe's mania had caught him completely off guard. He pushed his assailant away.
"What in God's name are you talking about?" he demanded.
"Angela, of course! Angela! Down the street! Down the bloody street for God's sake."
"You couldn't have seen her. She is dead."
"I saw her!"
"No, you didn't!"
"I did! She was watching --"
"It was someone who looked like her."
"No! It was her! She was wearing the same jacket she was wearing the night we ... the night you ... the night it ... happened ...." Joe stuttered a little, confused for a second, but quickly regained his train of thought. "She was standing across the road, just standing there, not frowning or smiling or anything, just looking. When I saw her I froze up, just stared. I couldn't believe it. I must have just stared at her for ... for ...."
"It wasn't her!" Simon was getting angry. He knew it wasn't her. It was impossible, as simple as that, because Angela was dead. Simon had killed her himself, and he had made sure she was dead. There was no way she could have survived, not after ... what he did.
Joe calmed a little, and he spoke slower and quieter than before.
"What if she's still alive Simon? She'll tell the police what we did, and we'll both go to jail. It's not fair, I didn't want to, it just happened, and you were doing it, and I was drunk and oh God don't let me go to jail ...." Joe was beginning to sob. Simon took him by the shoulders and shook him slightly.
"You're not going to jail, Joseph. Neither of are are going to jail. Angela won't be telling anyone anything, because Angela is dead. There is no way she could have survived. No way. And even if she did, how could she ever have dug herself out of the hole I buried her in? She couldn't. Forget about her and move on."
"But I saw her --"
"It was --"
It took ten minutes of quiet reassurance to finally calm Joe enough that he would go home. He was still frightened, but his fear was slowly being overtaken by reason. Of course she was dead. Simon had said she was, and Simon did not lie. Well, not to him anyway. It must have been someone else there on the street, some other girl, who looked exactly like Angela, and looked at him that way, that knowing way, that "I've got a secret" kind of way that had shaken him so badly. Coincidence. That was the last word he said as he left - "coincidence" - repeating it dutifully after Simon. He waved goodbye ("...coincidence...") and shut the door.
After a few minutes of half-expecting him to return in another fit of madness, Simon decided that Joe was gone for good, and wearily trudged to the bathroom and began to undress for his morning shower. Joe's visit had shaken him a lot, and brought back a lot of memories that he thought, hoped, he had left behind. Memories of that night.
The two of them had been very drunk, and Angela had looked so gorgeous. Both he and Joseph had seen her dancing and had gone over to talk to her. She had led them on, he was sure of it. After all, she had a reputation for being a bit easy. The things she said had been so obviously flirtatious. No, more than flirtatious. They had been blatant invitations, and she had led them on. How else would the three of them have ended up on the dark side of the levee, unless she had wanted them to --
His thoughts were cut off as he glanced in the mirror and saw Angela looking over his shoulder.
With a yell he spun around. He was alone.
Simon stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. The water had done him a lot of good, almost as if it had washed the memories away. It had taken some fancy talking and running around on his part to clear himself and Joe, but they finally got away without a single black mark. The police were now convinced that Angela had left town. The grave was never found - Simon had hidden it thoroughly - he and Joe were home safe.
As he pulled on the last of his clothes, Simon noticed something strange. Something was written on the mirror. Etched into the steam on the glass were three letters, dribbling thin streaks of condensation, drawn very recently by somebody's finger:
j o e
"You are dead, you bitch," Simon growled aloud as he drove. "Dead!" He swore again as he took a roundabout too quickly and his tire jumped the curb. Knocked forward by the impact, his forehead connected savagely with the steering wheel. He snarled more curses. "Leave me alone you dead slut!" He knew she was dead. Memories started to erupt from that out-of-the-way place where they don't like to be kept, like a reservoir of poisonous gas, building pressure beneath a black volcano.
Memories of that horrific Friday night, all those long tense months earlier. After the mood had died down, she had started crying and wouldn't stop. Simon had told her to shut up. He warned her, twice, three times. She had called both of them horrible things, Simon especially. "Rapists." "Bastards." "Animals." "Rapists." Always she returned to that one. But it could not be true. She had wanted it. She had wanted both of them -- hadn't she? Simon had warned her again, and again, shouted at her, screamed at her, and grabbed her by her tear-streaked face. When she had screamed and hit him, he had gone berserk. Oh God, the blood ... both his hands hurt for two weeks after that. Afterwards, she was so pale just laying there, and she had bled so much. All he did was hit her, okay, a few times, but she fell down, hit her head, and the blood, so much, on his hands, on his clothes, and on Angela. She looked dead.
But the contrary bitch wasn't dead after all. After he had gone to the trouble of getting a shovel, finding the place to bury her, then digging the hole, she had started kicking again, just before he was going to drop her in. Joe had gone home by then. He had looked ready to throw up, and was on the verge of either hysterical panic or total emotional breakdown, so Simon had ordered him to go home. Ordered him to get away, get home, get an alibi.
So it had just been Simon and Angela, and she started squirming again, as he was carrying her to the hole. How could she move after losing so much blood? So he dropped her, kicked her, clubbed her with the flat of the shovel, anything to stop her moving.
Then, once she was in the hole, she had started crying again, and tried to crawl out. She could barely move, maybe half her bones were broken, and her cries were just mumbled whimpers, but she was somehow aware that she was in danger, and, unbelievably, she was trying to get out of the hole. Simon had been holding the shovel, so he had used it. He grinned strangely to himself at the thought of her walking down the street now. No Joe, she wasn't down the street, not with her head in that state.
Simon stopped the car. Just fifty metres ahead of him, the bridge was blocked by police cars and a rapidly growing crowd of police and other people. An ambulance, the rear open and empty, was parked beside the shattered wooden guard rail.
He opened the car door and stepped out, fear rising inside him. The feeling was totally alien to him. Simon never panicked, and that made the fear inside him so much worse. He walked closer, drawn by something undefinable, irresistable. He knew what had happened before he saw the flashing lights, when he saw the word on the mirror. "Joe" it had said. But he knew what it really said. It was like a sentence. It all meant the same thing. It began with a capital J, Joe's entrance, and though the sentence was yet to finish, Simon knew exactly what it was going to say.
Joe's car, broken and twisted at the foot of the bridge, was just the full stop at the end of the sentence. The final mark. Simon looked down at it and knew that Joe was inside it, poor stupid Joe, the friendly sheep. Joe was not a rapist or a murderer. Joe was just an idiot. A pleasant, likeable idiot, but an idiot. Joe was now dead, as dead as Angela. Maybe more so. Angela was dead ... wasn't she?
Simon looked around him and spoke to the air. "You are dead, Angela." Looking at nothing in particular, Simon ignored his tears. Perhaps he did not even notice them at all. "Joe couldn't handle the guilt, and he cracked. He killed himself." He suddenly shouted, "You can't kill anyone! You are DEAD! No more! No fucking less! Can you hear me Angela?" Curious eyes turned toward him, but he was unaware of the attention he was attracting.
Again, Simon ran. Hot tears, strangers to his face, flowed freely as he dashed madly across the front of a service station, down the sidestreet, approaching the levee bank. With a single jump he cleared the concrete wall and started sliding down the slope to the riverbank. When he reached the spot, he fell to his knees and began to dig frantically, panting and sobbing. Even after so many weeks, the soil there was still loose and came away easily. After only a minute, what was left of Angela's face stared up at him.
Her eyes were long gone, and the smell that rose from her exhumed body was horrible. Though the blood and dirt had caked caked together into a deep brown outer flesh, the crescent-shaped split in her skull was obvious. Fluid seeped from it, and small things moved in it. One gold earring still dangled from a bluish lobe.
Despite the horror, Simon laughed. "See, you are dead. I knew you were dead, I told you! I should know, I put you here. Joe was an idiot. I knew you were dead, I told him, I made sure of it." Simon spoke as he would to a friend who had doubted him on some mundane issue. "You see, Angela," he explained, "you are dead, and you can't do anything to anyone anymore." He was still laughing and talking to the putrid cadaver at his knees when a heavy hand fell upon his shoulder.
"I think you should come with me, son," the policeman said quietly. Simon looked up into his serious face, then dropped his eyes to the ground and nodded meekly.
"She just wouldn't die, officer," he said as he was half led, half pulled up the steep riverbank. "I hit her, and kicked her, and broke her head right open, but even then she just wouldn't keep still ...." A thought stopped him and looked the police officer directly in the eye. "Make sure you bury Joe good and deep. I don't want him coming back, too." The officer's only reply was to pull Simon roughly by the arm, toward the waiting van. Simon looked behind as he was pushed into the rear of the police wagon.
Angela waved to him from the shade of the trees near the levee. He waved back, and smiled.