“Instructions for Disposal of Dangerous Materials” by Gerri Brightwell

To wrap a body takes thirty-five minutes and a blue tarp (large and without holes or tears), duct tape (most of a roll to do the job properly), plastic sheeting (if you have it) or, in a pinch, newspaper to lay in the car trunk to catch fluids that might leak out, and rope—don’t forget the rope because without it you’ll have nothing to grab hold of when you need to drag that body to your car, and from your car to its final resting place; rope, properly tied, will give you a handle of sorts to pull with, especially if you think to tie it into loops, or better yet to cover those loops with rags to prevent the rope biting through your gloves because, if you didn’t know it before, you’ll soon find out what dead weight means.

To clean away the evidence of someone dying from a gunshot wound in a bathroom takes three times as long as wrapping the body, and a lot more equipment. If you’ve had experience as a housekeeper, cleaning motel rooms, for example, you’ll know instinctively what you need: rubber gloves, buckets of soapy water, a scrubbing brush, bleach to rub into grouting where blood has stained it, spackle to fill in the hole in the wall left by the bullet (unless it has by a miracle, lodged in the body), paper towels to wipe down mirrors and tiles, a washing machine to launder towels and the bathmat. It helps if you haven’t vomited into the toilet. If you have, count in an extra five minutes to scrub it clean, and you’ll want to do that—who knows if vomit contains enough DNA evidence to identify you, but you’ll worry that it does.

Lastly, you’ll need to take a break, however hard that is at a time like this, and come back up to that room with fresh eyes that will catch the tiny red flecks that would otherwise give the game away, the white chip that looks like a sliver of bone, the grey smear down by the baseboard heater that you think might be brain but might also be something more innocuous. You’ll worry that the place is too clean—cleaner than the rest of the house, for chrissakes!—but you’ll tell yourself that’s just too bad, and who, really, is going to notice?

To amuse yourself while the washing’s on—bathmat, towels, perhaps even your own clothes (it’s hard to avoid getting blood on them, after all, but in the end you can’t bring yourself to sit around in your underwear at a time like this)—watch the tv, something mindless but not violent (or it’ll remind you of what you’ve been doing and you won’t be able to finish the soda you took from the fridge without thinking, and that’s another thing to remember, as you’ll need to wipe the empty can of prints or take it with you, which reminds you that you must not forget the bags of garbage with their bloodied paper towels and rags you’ve set by the stairs).

Best of all, bring a friend you can count on. Not one more interested in rooting through the bathroom cabinets, or hunting for the keys to the gun lockers in the den, and looking over the desktop computers and laptops and flat-screen tvs, the jewellery, the watch left on the nightstand. Not one who can’t mop a floor, or who disappears downstairs and tries every key he can find on the gun lockers, never mind that he’s supposed to load the towels and bathmat into the dryer when the washer’s finished. And when all that’s done, don’t forget to pack a bag with clothes, and a shaving kit, and even the poor dead sucker’s wallet and passport, to write on the bag’s label his name and the address of some hotel you invent down in Colorado, because this guy’s leaving town. Permanently.

And when you’ve heaved him over the edge of the river and he’s broken through the ice and disappeared (as far as you can tell because it’s night for chrissakes), don’t think about what you might’ve missed. The imprint of your boot in the hall, the door-handle you forgot to wipe when you left the house. Instead go home and stroke your dog’s head, and push him away when he sniffs at some stain drying on your pants. Go to sleep and don’t set your alarm, because when it goes off that ringing’ll scare the crap out of you. But then, a lot of things are going to scare the crap out of you now. Maybe you should get used to it.

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