The apartment walls were thin, so when Logan howled, I heard him. The sound was shrill, penetrating my headphones, drowning out Behemoth, bringing every hair on my body to attention.
I didn’t move. What the hell could have caused Logan to make a sound like that? On second thought, I didn’t want to know. What Logan and Denise did in his room wasn’t my business. When she came over, I put on my headphones and turned up my music, shutting out their bangs and moans.
But that howl was different. It rattled me. Echoed in my head. I waited, listened. Heard nothing unusual.
I put my earphones back on, turned up the music. And then it happened again. Another howl, lower, slower. Unnatural.
I got to my feet to go find out what he was doing. But before I got to my door, he was pounding on it.
“DeLuca!” Logan bellowed. “Open up—Are you in there? DeLuca?”
I opened the door, and he fell onto me, grabbing my shirt. “DeLuca. DeLuca. Oh man. DeLuca!” He clawed at me, looking over his shoulder into the hall.
I’m bigger than Logan, heavier by thirty pounds. I shoved him away, said things like, “Get off me. What the hell’s wrong with you?” but he kept coming at me, swimming through air. Saying my name as if it were the only sound he could manage, gesturing. Pulling me out the door. Down the hall to his. Into his room.
Where I began to understand his howl.
I stood frozen, gaping at her. She wasn’t Denise. She was taller, muscled and long, lying on his bed naked except for a corner of sheet that draped the arch of her butt.
She didn’t move.
Logan clutched my arm, didn’t say anything. Looked up at me as if I’d be able to help him, and began bawling.
“I don’t know what happened,” he wailed. “DeLuca. I haven’t a frickin’ clue what went down.”
I peeled his hand off my arm, stepped over to the bed. Lifted her wrist. She didn’t resist, didn’t look to see who was touching her. Her skin was cool, her arm limp. I felt for a pulse. Found none.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Logan was keening. “What are we going to do, DeLuca?”
I stared at the body, trying to absorb what I saw.
“DeLuca. She’s dead, isn’t she? I knew it. Oh God. Denise is going to kill me.”
Denise? “You’re worried about Denise?”
He squatted, smeared tears across his face. “I cheated. She’s going to find out.”
I blinked at him. “Logan, you got more to worry about than Denise.”
He looked at the wall clock, jumped to his feet. “Oh God. She’ll be here in an hour.” He pulled his hair.
“Calm down.” I said to myself as much as to Logan.
“Okay. Okay. I’m calm,” he panted. He continued tugging his hair.
“Just call Denise—”
“Call her?” He repeated. “And say what?”
What was wrong with him? “Say anything. Tell her you’re sick.”
“Okay. Okay. You’re right.”
He made the call. I used the time to look around. Logan’s books were scattered on the floor beside a couple of laptops. Some half-eaten food and a few beer bottles sat on the desk, a trail of shoes and discarded clothes led to the bed. The only thing out of the ordinary was a dead girl. I studied her, the slope of her shoulders. Her smooth, unblemished skin. She looked perfect, uninjured. Not a single scrape marred her body. Wait, why was I checking for wounds? Logan wouldn’t have hurt her. He couldn’t. So then, how come she was dead? Drugs, maybe? Or some medical condition, like a bad heart? Maybe sex had been too much, caused an attack. Damn. This was seriously bad.
Logan was still on the phone, whining at Denise. I stood beside the girl, pushed her hair back off her face. I understood why Logan had cheated. Buttery skin. Long lashes. Elegant nose. I stroked her cheek, couldn’t help it. Poor girl. What the hell had happened? I stared, noticed that her lips looked swollen. Was her mouth naturally purple?
Maybe swollen and purple was normal for dead lips. What did I know?
My mouth was dry. I wobbled, unsteady. Who was this girl? Why was her corpse in Logan’s room?
Logan was off the phone, pacing in a circle. “Denise says I sound awful so she’s coming by to bring me soup. In like an hour. Oh God.”
I crossed my arms. “Logan, you need to call the police.”
“The police?” He froze. Turned white.
“Yes,” I spoke slowly. “You need to report it.”
He took a step back, shook his head. “I can’t. I’ll be kicked off the team. I’m already on probation.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That frat party. Last spring. If I get one more disciplinary issue, I’m done. Plus Denise will find out. And my parents.” His hands covered his eyes.
He wasn’t thinking, wasn’t himself. The normal Logan was pretty much a straight arrow. Always down at the river, practicing for crew. Okay, so he drank some beer, smoked a little weed. And yes, the semester before, he’d gotten busted for underage drinking, but, I’d known him since high school, and he’d always been a Boy Scout. Hell, he didn’t even curse. The shock of the moment was muddling his priorities. Of course he’d call the police. He had nothing to hide.
Then again, I never would have thought he’d cheat on Denise.
“Logan,” I faced him, realized I was shivering. “What happened here? This girl. Did you do anything to her?”
His mouth dropped. “Are you crazy? You think I killed her?”
“I didn’t say that—”
“How could you think that? DeLuca, you’ve known me my whole life.” His eyes bugged.
I waited a beat. “So who is she?”
He bent his head, paced back and forth. “Name’s Katie. She’s a rower.”
“So you know her from crew?”
“Yeah.” He stopped pacing, faced the bed. “DeLuca, we’ve got to get her out of here.” He rushed to the body, grabbed at the sheets. “Come on. Help me—”
“Hold on. Not till you tell me what happened.”
“I told you. I don’t know. She died, that’s all. After practice, we got cheeesteaks from a truck and brought them back here. One thing led to another. I dozed off. Then I woke up…That’s all. I swear.”
“You think she took something before? Pills?”
“I don’t know. She seemed fine.”
“Well, something killed her. People don’t just die.”
“So what are you saying? You think I did something to her? Because if, knowing me for all these years, you think that, imagine what the cops’ll think. Oh man.” He bent over, clutched his stomach. Ran to the john.
I stood beside the bed, hearing him retch. Trying to think straight. Logan hadn’t killed her. Simply hadn’t. Logan Walsh wasn’t a killer. And he’d had no reason to kill her, according to what he’d said. Assuming it was true.
Of course it was true. Why was I doubting my oldest friend? I wasn’t. This girl was dead probably because she’d taken some bad drugs, or too many. And now, because of her stupidity, her death was Logan’s problem. And apparently mine. I looked at the clock. Ten of nine. Denise would show up before ten.
Logan’s skin was pea green when he returned from the bathroom. His eyes were glassy and dazed.
“Find her panties,” I said. “We have to get her dressed before Denise gets here.”
Logan dashed around, tossing clothes onto the bed. A sock, a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans. Finally, he held up a skimpy piece of white lace and elastic. “Voila.”
Okay, I’ve had my share of girlfriends. So I wouldn’t be bragging if I said that I’ve taken the clothes off of more than a few young ladies. But never in my life had I had the task of putting clothes onto a woman.
Let alone a dead one.
Still, the job seemed like it should be easy enough. After all, we knew where everything went. Should be a simple matter of matching clothing with body parts. I grabbed a foot, intending to pick it up and pop it into the panties.
Except that the foot was surprisingly heavy. I stared at her legs, their solid muscles. Understood the term “dead weight.”
This was going to take teamwork.
I slipped the panties onto her right toes, and Logan lifted the ankle so I could put the rest of the foot through the leg hole. Then he lifted the other ankle, but the elastic didn’t stretch far enough to reach it. Her legs were too far apart.
“Move it closer,” I said.
Logan wailed, dropped her ankle, and coiled into a fetal position on the bed. “I can’t do this. Sorry, but I can’t. I’ve never touched a dead person before.”
And what, I had? I’d never even seen a dead person except for my grandfather, when I was ten. “Okay, so act like she isn’t dead,” I told him. “Pretend she just passed out.”
He ventured a look at her feet. Picked up the left one again. She had blue polish on her toenails, chipped on the big toe. Shit. Why did I know that? I had no business knowing the color of this girl Katie’s toenail polish. I’d never even met her. And here I was touching her all over, smelling her lavender body wash, seeing her blue toenails and everything else. What the hell was going on? My chest tightened, skin got hot. My hands started shaking so bad that I misaimed, jabbed her toes into the elastic band a few times before finally getting the foot through the hole.
Logan set her ankle down, wiped his forehead with his wrist. Great. We’d gotten her panties past her ankles. We still had to deal with the entire length of her legs.
We worked like that, him lifting her leg and me sliding the panties up a few inches at a time. After lifting and flopping, yanking of sleeves, twisting of straps, and hooking her bra, we finally got her dressed. I was sweating, aching. Convinced that my sex-drive had been quashed forever. I looked at the clock. Nine-twenty.
It had taken half an hour to dress Katie.
Logan’s eyes darted back and forth between me and the clock. “We have to get her out of here. Before Denise comes over.”
Again, I thought we should call the police. But we’d already messed with the body. Had waited too long. Logan was right. We had to move her. “Where should we put her?”
No way. “Uh uh.”
I didn’t know. But I wasn’t having her in my room. “Out back? In the alley?”
Logan went to the window, looked out. The street was dark. “No, that’s too close to the apartment.”
Campus? Was he nuts? “Logan. Cops are all over campus. And there are lights—”
“We have time if we hurry.” He seemed not to have heard me. Grabbed a blanket and began wrapping her up.
I saw myself in handcuffs, squinting into the flashing lights of a cop car.
“We just have to act normal,” he went on, “like nothing’s wrong, and no one will stop us. And if they do, we’ll just grin and say we’re just making a delivery.”
A delivery. “Are you effing nuts?”
“Like an art project. And we’ll leave her in one of those nooks with hedges and benches. Like that place across from the Bell Tower. Right off 13th. When they find her, they’ll think she’s just another college kid who OD’d. No connection to us.”
“Come on, DeLuca. Hurry.”
Some part of my mind knew his plan was a bad idea, but I’d lost all traces of rational thought. Together, we shoved the blanket under her, wrapped her up with her handbag and her computer. Then he took her knees, and I reached under her shoulders, strained against her weight. Finally managed to lift her. Logan hefted her legs and backed out of his room, bumping the doorknob, the living room couch, a random chair, a few empty beer bottles until we made it to the door, where he stopped and peered out.
“Coast is clear,” he whispered.
Adrenalin pumping, we carried her outside, checking behind and in front and up and down to make sure no one was watching. We kept going, step by torturous lumbering step, over to 13th Street, then south until we came to the walkway opposite the Bell Tower. We turned, trudged into the alcove and laid our bundle out on a well-shaded bench. Pulled off the blanket and arranged her as if she were resting.
My whole body hurt. My lungs raged and I was drenched with sweat. But it was done.
We didn’t talk the whole way back to the apartment. When we got there, amazingly, Denise still hadn’t arrived.
“Better check my room. Make sure we got everything.”
I followed him. Saw nothing that wasn’t Logan’s.
Except the food.
Katie’s unfinished cheesesteak.
Logan grabbed it. “Man, that looks good. I’m starved.” He took a bite. “Want some?”
The smell of it made me sick. I shook my head, couldn’t think of eating. Looked at the bed and pictured Katie’s body, her long strong legs. Looked away. Wondered if cops could find our fingerprints on Katie’s skin.
“Jeez. Who gets a cheesesteak without?” He chewed with gusto. “Even ketchup doesn’t do it. No onions, a cheesesteak isn’t done. It’s like naked.” He chomped, swallowed. Grabbed a half-empty beer and drank.
I went back to my room. Shut the door. Sat in the dark, shaking.
Denise had her own key. A while later, I heard her come in, call Logan’s name.
And not a minute later, I heard her howl.