His girlfriend had just told them they were splits. “Ethan, I’ve been seeing someone else for the last three weeks. I’m leaving for Europe tonight. This is the last time we’ll see each other.” There wasn’t a scene. It was calculated and controlled. She’d planned it for some time. Her performance was impeccably cold.
Ethan closed the door behind him and walked down the hallway to the elevator. Put his hands inside his pocket, rolling his tongue inside of his mouth. Slammed his fist against the wall, cursing. Grabbed his cell, called a few friends to vilify his ex. Heard a beep, the phone shutting off as the battery was dead. He pressed the elevator button repeatedly and was about to resign himself to the stairs when the door finally opened. There was a lone male in the corner. It was dark and he didn’t say anything. Ethan jumped in and saw the L for the lower lobby was already lit.
He’d been going steady with his girlfriend for two years. She was a programmer who retired early after her startup was bought out, leaving her a millionaire. He was a struggling chef who just wanted to make great steaks, perfect because eating big chops of meat was her favorite type of meal. They’d met at a birthday party for a mutual friend. A married 50-year old had been trying to hit on her when she’d grabbed Ethan and said, “Meet my boyfriend.” After making up the history of their relationship, they walked outside and he said to her, “Nice to meet you. What’s your name?”
The elevator door opened and Ethan was ready to step out when he noticed a couple warmly embracing. The man in the corner of the elevator suddenly collapsed, blood splattering on the ground. The woman outside screamed and the pair ran away. Ethan kneeled down and confirmed that the man wasn’t breathing. Is he— is he— He got his cell but remembered the battery was dead. His breath accelerated as he felt dizzy and nauseous. What the hell is going on? He rubbed his head, trying to ease his nerves, but his breath intensified. He got up, when the male half of the couple returned.
“Look, there’s been a misunde—”
“How many times have I told you guys to make it bloodless?” the man yelled. “I told you she doesn’t like blood.”
His eyes dilated as he stared in shock. “Huh?”
“Don’t play stupid. You got carried away, fine. But just clean it up before you bring it over next time, alright? Now she says she won’t come back. You’re gonna have to help me carry him to the van. Grab the legs.”
Ethan was too stunned to refuse. He complied numbly and ignored the blood staining his shirt.
“Weren’t there supposed to be two of them?” the man asked. “Did orders change? I hate when they do that without telling us.”
The body was heavy and lifeless. The two carried it out to the lower lobby and into the adjacent parking lot where a van awaited. They opened the back door and there was a plastic casket where they placed the corpse.
The man shook his head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just, when Sarah gets that way, I get frustrated.” He lifted his hand which Ethan shook without feeling. “I’ll leave you to do the rest of your work champ.”
The van rolled away.
He suddenly realized there was still blood on the floor of the elevator. He rushed back but the elevator door had closed. He pressed the button and waited for what seemed an eternity. The door finally slid open. There was a man standing with another corpse in his arms.
“Thank god,” he said with a slight Cantonese accent. “I was worried about where the body went. The door just closed when I went away to pick up the second one…. Sorry about the mess on the first. I’ve heard you like ‘em bloodless, but they gave a little scuffle…” He strained to lift the body back into position. “Can’t believe these two are the ones who stole all of Boss Zhang’s money. Give me a hand, will you? She’s heavy.”
Ethan stepped in and saw it was his ex.
“I didn’t mean to keep you waiting, but right when I was about to do it, her boyfriend came in and I had to wait till he left,” the man said. “Dumb bastard. He had no idea how she saved his life by breaking up with him.”
Ethan stared blankly, trembling.
Peter Tieryas Liu’s collection of twenty short stories, Watering Heaven, is coming out on October 16, 2012 from Signal 8 Press.