Billy hobbled along the dusty driveway. His crippled frame belied his incredible strength. Making sure he was alone, he opened the grid, covered by leaves that hid the deep ditch in the road. He needed supplies and the next poor sod that came along that road, would provide them. He hunkered down in the bushes a short way back from the hole and waited.
It was hot and he put his hat over his face, finally falling asleep as the insects buzzed him a lullaby. He heard the car long before he saw it, the “rrrrr” of the engine pulling him from sleep. He waited, tense, crouching in the bushes. He loved this cat and mouse game, even if the mouse didn’t know it was playing. Yellowed teeth showed through his grin.
The truck hit the ditch at a speed, swung up and over into the bushes bursting its left front tyre. He heard a man swear and the bang of the door as he got out. Billy waited a while, then hobbled over to help.
‘Car trouble?’ he asked the unhappy owner who was surveying the ditch.
‘I’ve travelled this road a 100 times, never seen this ditch.’ The driver looked Billy over then made the mistake of dismissing him as no threat. Kneeling next to the tyre, he swore again. Billy stepped lightly up to the truck driver and drove his knife deep into his back, making sure to hit his kidney. The driver screamed sounding like a ”hiiii”, swung around to face Billy, shocked and in pain. The man scratched at his belt and Billy saw the butt of a gun, but the dying man couldn’t open the clip. He swung but Billy easily stepped away and waited. The driver, blood pooling around his polished shoes, fell to his knees then dropped to the dust.
‘Bye!’ Billy giggled, grabbing his feet he dragged him onto the back of the truck. He had brought canvas with but didn’t need it, there was some in the back of the truck and he pulled it over the body. Heaving and sweating he quickly changed the tyre, covered the blood with sand and reset the grate over the ditch. Whistling, he drove the truck back home and into the barn where he could strip it at leisure.
Taking his knife he made a notch on the mid beam in his barn, there were many others.
Billy took his time stripping the car. Engine parts were easy to sell. John’s wallet had some cash in which he pocketed, tossing it back into the car. He knew not to try and use credit cards, that’s how you get caught. He pulled the seat release lever, they fell forward and Billy spied a gift. It was sweetly wrapped in pink paper and purple ribbons. He shook it. Nothing. Ripping it open with no thought of the recipient, he found himself staring at a baby doll. Its huge eyes gazing straight into his and a shiver walked down his back.
‘Mama.’ It said, scaring the life out of him. He dropped it on the seat, then kicked it to the floor. Wiping his hand down his face he calmed his frantic heart. ‘Stupid doll.’ He laughed a little hysterically then carried on stripping the car.
Billy always got rid of the car and bodies as soon as possible. He had bought the property for the steep drop-off at the end of the field behind his house. It ended in a deep, tree-covered marsh, perfect for hiding evidence. Over the years Billy had hidden 17 cars, trucks and even a minivan. The marsh stank of decay and death. It kept people away which was what he wanted.
Picking a new spot, he grunted and huffed to push the truck off, he couldn’t risk it being found. The tyres crunched as it gathered speed, hitting the mud with a ‘flump’. He watched it sink, glad to be rid of it. The truck got halfway and stopped, he waited holding his breath but it would go no further. The whole tail end and some of the cab was visible. Anyone in the area could see the glint of metal and find the truck. Swearing he made his way down the bank to the black mud, gagging as the smell worsened.
He never went down the bank, he knew what was down there.
‘Sink. Sink you bitch!” he swore jumping up and down in terror and frustration. A far cry from the cripple who had met the cops earlier. They had shown up looking for the man. Billy dragged his foot and they didn’t need much convincing that he couldn’t have had anything to do with the disappearance of John Thornton.
‘How do you make a living?’ the Sheriff asked.
‘I do odd jobs and farm a little.’
‘Did you see or hear anything?
‘A UFO went past this morning’ he said convincingly staring into the distance.
‘Maybe you heard a car accident or the like?’
Spitting his tobacco, Billy shook his head.
‘Nah Sir. Nothing like that.’
‘Well let us know if anything turns up.’ Billy vigorously nodded, again giving them the impression that he was simple. It worked and the police left, soon forgetting the simpleton. It was a mistake.
Now he was staring at the back of the truck that could be his undoing if he didn’t get it deep into the marsh. Screaming in frustration he pulled his shoes and shirt off and slipped his way down the bank. The mud was cold and felt like icy glue fingers pulling at his legs trying to suck him under.
‘Don’t lose it now Billy, its just mud’.
Climbing into the cab he started the car, miraculously is started and Billy put it in gear and pulled forward. It moved a little but not enough. Reverse, forward. Reverse, forward. He rocked the car into the mud until the engine coughed, spat and died. He hoped like hell it was far enough in that it would sink under, or he was screwed.
He got out onto the roof of the truck, happily watching the fetid mud and black water, slowly, slowly eating at the truck. Sighing with relief, he looked back at the bank he realised he was far from it. There was only sucking black mud between him and safety and he knew he had to cross it to get out. Cold water trickled over his feet as soon as he jumped into the back of the truck, he didn’t notice – he was focused on the edge. He ran 3 steps, stood on the tailgate and pushed off.
Several things happened at once. He slipped and fell directly behind the truck. The mud gripped him like concrete and it was all he could manage to pull his face out of it. Having gained NO ground from his jump he knew he had to push or die. Trying to stand, he pulled his arms out and focused on pulling his feet when he felt something clutch onto his ankle. It was tight and he screamed again in fear and pain.
‘What the hell…’
Shapes began rising from the black water. A head, an arm, a murky skull, leeches whipping around inside, unhappy to have been pulled from their feast. He stared, his mouth a perfect “O” as his breath stopped in his throat. More arose, slowly making their way towards him. It couldn’t be! He shook his head and slapped himself leaving a filthy handprint on his cheek. The shapes kept coming, 3, 4 7, 10. Rotting bones reached for him as grinning skulls stared into his face.
He wondered how many corpses were here and if they would listen to reason. Hysterically he realised you can’t reason with a corpse. Screaming and flailing, he flopped around in the mud, trying to free his ankle and get away as they closed in.
‘Get away. Get awaaaaaay!’ he screamed and fought until by sheer numbers they pulled him under the mud. His gargling stopped as soon as black mud found its way into his lungs.
Birds chirruped and insects buzzed, oblivious to the horror that had just taken place in their home.
It would be 30 years and only when the swamp was drained to make way for housing, that the horrors under the mud would be discovered.