“Even the best things are not equal to their fame.” Henry David Thoreau
To me the desert has always represented death.
With its murderous heat and its air so dry it sucks the moisture out of you. Its spiky needle grass and cactus, its scorpions and vultures, its occasional cattle skull. All around you is death.
No more so than tonight, with the big star-filled sky above me, the dark craggy mountains ahead of me, and the city with its lights and glamour behind me.
I can just make out the flashing glow of the last casino in my rearview mirror.
The city. Sin City some call it. A bastion of revelry surrounded by miles and miles of desert. A place where no one thinks of anything but entertainment and lust and carousing—and winning. The most important thing of all. Perhaps because I’ve lived in it so long, I’ve become numb to it all. How else could I do what I was about to?
Here, I think, looking off to the shoulder of the road. Right here.
I slow the car and pull to the side. Again I check my mirror. No one coming. No one traveling this way at this time of night. I turn off the engine and get out of the car.
The silence of the desert is all around me, the dry sand in the wind caresses my face. How did Shakespeare put it? The road to dusty death? Something like that.
At any rate, it was the perfect place to dump the body.
I go to the hatch and open it. There she is, wrapped in plastic like a mannequin. And under that, her bathrobe. The frozen expression on her lifeless face still stuns me. I can’t believe it. My heart races, and I feel nauseated and sick as I pull the wheelbarrow out and tug on her until she tumbles into the tray. Who knew a body could be so heavy? Dead weight, I suppose.
Laughing at my own morbid joke, I close the hatch.
Under the moon and the stars, I roll the barrow out onto the sandy dirt. It sways from the rocks and the uneven ground beneath the tires. I struggle to cross the patches of desert weed and shrubbery. But the slope of the ground here is perfect. Though I’ll have to cover up these tracks. And my footprints. Any trace of the car, too.
This was going to be more work than I’d bargained for.
About twenty feet from the road, I stop and turn the wheelbarrow over. The body, still wrapped in the plastic sheet I put her in, tumbles onto the sand. I bend down to arrange it, the gloves I pulled on hours ago still on my hands. I stop and stare down at her. Even in the middle of the night, the wind is hot. Once more it blows the dry dust against my face.
“This is your own fault, you know,” I tell her. “If you hadn’t been so worried about your looks, about what everyone thought of you, about being a has-been—”
I stop. It’s too late for words. She wouldn’t listen, anyway. She never listened to me.
I gaze back at the road. Yes, this is just the right spot. Far enough to look like someone meant to hide the body. Close enough for it to be found, anyway.
Just one more thing I need to complete the job.
I kneel down and take the tool from my pocket. The utensil I took from the kitchen. I’ve used it before, but never for a task like this. As I hold her head steady with my other hand, for a moment I stare down at that gorgeous face. The perfect features, the high cheek bones, the almost wanton mouth. The face so many have adored for so long. What a shame to disfigure it like this.
But it has to be done. It has to.
Bracing myself for the nausea I’m sure will come, I raise the tool and get to work.