Gunny only nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets. He’d started shaking at hearing the word ‘bodies,’ but he wanted to try and make sure that Mickey didn’t see it — even as he was pretty sure Mickey would notice, anyway.
If Laddow did notice, the older boy made no indication of it, walking away from Gunny, headed around toward the other side of the Dirt Clod, with Jay following close behind him.
Rick stayed with Gunny as the two went over to the shovels. “You get one; I’ll get two.” He grabbed his share of the shovels and looked expectantly toward Gunny, as if annoyed that the other boy hadn’t done his part already. “Come on!” he snapped.
“Okay! Okay!” Gunny kind of felt like taking a swing at Rick — for the attitude — but didn’t. Instead, he picked up a shovel and went just went along with Mickey and Rick. As Gunny came around to the other side of the Clod, the other three biking kids all silently left — one-by-one, heading away in different directions. And, although Gunny hadn’t seen any sign that Mickey had signaled the bikers, he couldn’t help but be suspicious that both their earlier presence and their departure now had been pre-planned. Something about that really bothered Gunny, down in his stomach, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
And that sickening feeling was magnified when Gunny caught sight of the garbage bags.
Mickey and Jay had come to a stop next two two large black plastic bags — the kind they said you could really fill and stretch in those commercials on TV. The bags didn’t look too full, but they looked full enough — especially considering what Mickey had said about Secret Mission Two. “So let’s you all get to work,” Mickey said. “Jay? Rick? Gunny? Start digging.” Mickey stuffed the pocket knife Gunny had given him into his front left pants pocket and then lit a cigarette.
Jay yanked a shovel away from Rick before the taller boy had even offered it to him. “This one’s mine,” Jay said, possessively. With that, the short redhead began to dig. Because the shovel Jay had claimed was pretty close to being as tall as Jay was, the little kid kept hopping up onto the metal shovelhead, using what little weight he had to help him break up the dirt.
Rick took his remaining shovel and started digging close to Jay’s efforts.
“Help dig the hole, Gunny,” Mickey said between puffs.
Gunny gritted his teeth and walked over toward the diggers.
“So what’s in the bags?” Gunny asked Jay.
“Mick said. Bodies,” Jay hopped up onto the shovel head again. “Dead ones.” He scooped away more dirt.
Rick dug without saying a word to the other diggers, without even making eye contact with him. His gaze was firmly fixed on the hole he was digging.
“Seriously?” Gunny tipped his head. He couldn’t help the thought that was racing through his head, that all of this might be some big joke on him instead of his father. Either way, Gunny couldn’t figure it out, and he didn’t like how that felt.
Jay paused in his efforts, eyed Gunny for a long moment, and then went back to digging. “‘Seriously?'” Jay mocked, making fun of how Gunny had asked. “That’s you. Don’t be a retard.”
Gunny felt his face flush. In that moment, he really wanted to take a hard swing at Jay. But he didn’t. Instead, he shrugged and continued to dig. “Who’d he kill?”
“He didn’t. I did.” Jay sounded proud.
“You did?” Gunny asked. His voice squeaked a little.
“Yeah.” Jay was smiling now, showing a mouth of yellowed, uneven teeth — and a few gaps where teeth may or may not ever have been. “Been killin’ for days.” His grin got wider.
“Days?” Gunny felt a little sick, and he suddenly didn’t want to look at Jay. Just as suddenly, Gunny found that he really didn’t want to be there. He wanted to run to his bike and pedal off into the woods. He wanted to find Penny, and help her with whatever had been so important. But he didn’t run. He just continued digging. Somehow, it felt less dangerous to dig than to run.
Jay looked over toward Mickey. “He’s lookin’ at me like a spaz, man. I want to show him the bodies.”
“Hole’s not dug yet, Jay.”
“Bite me, Mick — I’m showin’ him the bodies.” Jay threw his shovel down onto the ground and gestured for Gunny to follow him. ”
Mickey shrugged. “Whatev.”
Gunny followed Jay, who walked hurriedly over toward the trash bags. “You put ice in the bag, and then you put the body in,” Jay explained. “That way, it doesn’t rot as fast. Still reeks, though.” He wrinkled his dot of a nose. “You been warned.” Jay grabbed a hold of the bag with one hand and used a different pocket knife from his pocket to cut open the side of the trash bag.
A staggering, eggy smell overwhelmed Gunny.
Jay didn’t seem too bothered by the odor coming from the opened bag. Nor did he look particularly bothered by its contents, or the way bloody ice-water dribbled out from the opening Jay had cut to spill onto the ground. True to Jay’s word, the bag did contain bodies; there were five of them, and they were all raccoons.