“...And then...then I saw his body and I--”
The voice broke into tears. Alex loved his new job. He never even had to go into the office anymore. Since all he did was transcribe verbatim psychological interviews, mostly with traumatized veterans, many of whom lived on the street and were considered depressed, of poor mental health, and some were even suicide risks. The suicide risks were his favorites, he viewed them as problems to solve. He had their address, their phone number, their social security number, thanks to the information held in their online files, which he had access to, so all he had to do was figure out how this one or that one would kill himself. It was like the best game in the world. Of course, he couldn't do it often, but it was something to look forward to.
Alex took off his headphones and ate his last two spoonfuls of oatmeal. It was tepid by now, and distasteful to him, but it was good for him, and he planned to live a long, healthy, entertaining life.
He stretched his arms and rolled his shoulders, working out the stress of typing. He looked around his room. It was small, but he always reminded himself that it was cheap, and he never had much need for things anyway. He liked to compare it to a monk's cell. Bathroom and kitchen were down the hall, so his room was just a bed, elevated on concrete blocks so there was storage space underneath it, and a small dining room table. One half of the table was his work desk, the other was left open. On the work side was his laptop and a comfortable work chair, a printer, and underneath, the transcription pedal. This was where Michael Miller earned his legitimate living. At the foot of his bed rested a mini-fridge with a microwave on top of it, which he used to make his oatmeal and low sodium soup, which were his staples. The center of the room, between the bed and the table, was left open. A single small bookshelf sat next to the bed, a gooseneck lamp on it, pointing toward the bed. On it were mostly textbooks and manuals, police procedures, forensics, anatomy, psychology.
Alex looked back at his computer and minimized his work. His Google homepage showed no new emails from work, which was good. The week before had been heavy, with extra patient interviews, which meant he'd had to do file summaries as well as his usual interview transcription. He found it very boring now to do anything other than listen to psychology patients pour out their hearts. He didn't want to lose this job, however, it offered too many opportunities. Over the past few years, Alex had grown into a model employee. He would have never guessed that his calling would have driven him to be so good at his job.
He scanned his Google homepage. Shitty weather starting today, which he knew from the rain pattering quietly on his window. The news ticker referred to something about the president, which he didn't care about, the mortgage crisis, blah blah, and...
Fuck. He clicked the link. CNN had a wire story taken from the Seattle Times about a mass grave found in Auburn.
Fuck. They'd found them. All those bodies that he'd been collecting over the years. All those glorious lives brought to beautiful ends, all that work and they were just going to dig it up and...
And what would they do with it? They'd sift it for evidence. They'd try to use it against him. This was the first true challenge he'd ever faced. He racked his brain to think of anything that he'd missed, but he could not. He was fine. So what if they discovered the bodies. He'd have to find another dumping ground and start over. So what? He'd moved before, it would be like moving without most of the hassle. He'd been going up there enough as it was, maybe too much lately, after all, he couldn't fall into too many predictable patterns.
Alex did what he always did when he was angry with himself. He got down on his back on the rough, cheap carpet that stretched between his bed and his table and began to do crunches. He placed his hands behind his head but did not use them to pull himself up. He did it with nothing but core muscles, clenching his abdominal muscles until his elbows met his thighs. He did them until his stomach burned and sweat burned in his eyes. He lost count after 86, just kept doing them until his body shook with the effort and began to fight him. He lay there, on the floor, panting, his stomach muscles seizing, mentally berating himself for not being stronger.
Then the thought hit Alex and the color drained from his face. They would find Liz. Fuck the rest of the bodies, those sons of bitches were going to find her. They were going to take Liz away from him. At this thought, he began to shake, all thoughts of fatigue abandoned.