Melanie Kiehl | Proof

“We have to go back.”

“What? Ramona, we’re not going back.”

“But who’s going to take care of Bones?”

“Bones can fend for himself. He’s smart.”

“No he can’t, Ted! We left him inside! There isn’t much food in his bowl and he won’t be able to go out to pee and—”

“Would you forget about the damn dog? We’re hours from home and we aren’t turning back!”

Ramona drummed her fingers on her leg and looked out the window. “I’ll just call the neighbors and have them pop over . . .” She pulled out her smart phone and began searching for the Thompson’s number in her contacts. Ted snatched the phone from her grip. “Hey!”

“Honey, we can’t call the Thompsons’, there’s a body in the kitchen.”

“We should have buried it or let the dog out or . . . something!”

They sat in silence. Ted put the phone in his pocket and drove on through the countryside. The scene in front of them seemed far too peaceful given the events of the night. The road they were traveling stretched on farther than the eye could see. The pavement was cracked and the lines on the road were faded. The road curved through a large forest filled with evergreens. Two deer grazed at the edge of the forest, a few birds flying overhead. The sky was cloudless.

“We’re going to Hell.”

“Would you stop that?”

“Hell, Michigan, Ted. Christ, we’re going to Hell, Michigan. The town.” Ramona pointed out the windshield at a large green sign that read “Hell 200 Miles.”

“Oh . . .”

“Yeah.”

“Look, I’m sorry ‘Mona. I’m just on edge and I’ve been driving all night . . .”

“We should have at least picked up my sister.”

“Maya? She’s the one that got us into this mess!”

“No she isn’t, Ted. I stabbed him, not her.”

“Well you wouldn’t have had to if she wasn’t–”

“Enough,” Ramona shouted, “just stop.”

Ted said nothing.

Ramona stared vacantly out the window. She couldn’t bring herself to look at her husband or his bloodstained shirt. “We should stop soon, get some rest.”

“You think we can? Our faces could be plastered all over the news by now.”

“Who’s to say anyone knows we were even involved? Besides, we’re hours from home and it’ll be a while before anyone finds . . . never mind.”

“Well at any rate I’m not leaving this car without a new shirt.” Ted glanced down at his pale blue, blood-spattered polo.

Ramona sighed. “I told you we shouldn’t have left so quickly. You should have at least changed.”

“Oh yeah, and we should have sat down for a while, maybe taken a nap or had a cup of tea.” Ted rolled his eyes. “Why the hell would we have stayed?”

Ramona clenched her fists. “We don’t even know where we’re going.”

“Sorry, next time you stab someone, I’ll be sure to plan accordingly.”

“Really Ted? Really? He would’ve killed you! What else could I have done . . .” Ramona faltered and took a deep breath. “I guess we can stop at a store and I’ll run in and get you a shirt. But there’s no way I’m going into a public place with this.” She rummaged through the large brown handbag sitting on the floor at her feet. She pulled out a chef’s knife and held it up for her husband to see. It was covered in partially dried blood and it gleamed wickedly in the morning sunlight.

Ted glanced at the knife and slammed on the brakes. “What the hell, Ramona! I told you to get rid of that, not stash it in your purse!”

“Well I certainly wasn’t going to leave it at the scene of the crime! I’m not an idiot, Ted.”

“Considering your actions tonight, that’s hard to believe.”

“Excuse me?” Ramona’s tone was harsh, but her eyes began to tear.

Ted looked at her and sighed. He pulled off the road and put the car in park. “Look, I’m sorry. Please just . . . don’t cry.”

“I’m not stupid,” Ramona said quietly, wiping the tears out of her eyes before they could fall.

“I know, it’s just . . . why would you ever tell your sister you’d pay her drug dealer?” Ted tried to keep the accusation out of his tone. “You knew we didn’t have the money.”

“I know,” Ramona said softly, “but I knew she didn’t either.”

“After all we’ve done for her,” Ted’s voice was dripping with bitterness.

“Ted . . .”

“We paid for her schooling, then she dropped out. We paid for her rehab and then she started injecting again. And now . . .”

“I know, it’s just,” Ramona’s voice broke, “she’s my sister. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her . . . or you.”

Ted smiled weakly. “We can fix this, ok? Just give me the knife.”

Ted grabbed his green jacket from the back seat of the car and slipped it on, covering his bloodstained shirt. He held his hand out for the knife and Ramona gingerly handed it to him. Ted got out of the car and walked towards the forest. Stopping at the edge, he chucked the knife as far as he could. He took a deep breath and walked back to the car.

“There, now no one will ever find it. No weapon, no proof,” Ted said, getting into the car. He saw the confused look on Ramona’s face and said, “Who’s going to look for a murder weapon in a forest hundreds of miles from the crime scene?” He put on his seatbelt, put the car in gear, and got back on the road. “Feel better?”

Ramona closed her eyes, “I would if there wasn’t a dead body in our kitchen.”

“We took a sudden vacation. In a few days we’ll go back. We’ll call the police and say we just found the body when we got home. No weapon, no proof,” he repeated, although this time it sounded more like he was trying to convince himself.

They drove on in silence for an hour before they heard the sirens. Ted looked in the rearview mirror nervously. “Do we pull over?”

“They might not be looking for us. We have to.”

Ted wasn’t convinced, but he pulled over nonetheless. Sure enough, the police car pulled up behind them. Ted swore as an officer stepped out of the vehicle. This was it. There would be no starting over, no getting out of this now. Ted wondered fleetingly if it was too late to put the car in drive and gun it. He looked at Ramona who was looking back at him, the same worry in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry. This is all my fault,” she said.

He took a hard look at her and replied matter-of-factly, “I love you.”

The officer walked purposefully toward their car. “License and registration please,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Yes Ma’am,” Ted replied. Ramona rummaged through the glove compartment with surprisingly steady hands and handed Ted the registration. He pulled his license out of his wallet and gave both to the officer with shaking hands.

The officer looked over the paperwork. “Mr. Ted Lawrence,” she read. “Sir, do you know why I pulled you over today?”

“No Ma’am,” Ted replied. His voice wavered slightly. He stared at the steering wheel, holding onto it so tightly his knuckles turned white.

“Your tail light’s out. Get it fixed or next time I’ll have to give you a ticket.”

Ted looked up in surprise. “Thank you. We’ll get it fixed right away.”

“You two have a good day now,” the officer said. She handed Ted the license and registration. “Oh, you’ve got a little ketchup on your shirt.”

“D-do I? Thanks,” he said, fingers stumbling to zip up his jacket further.

“No problem.” The officer smiled, turned on her heel, and walked back to her car.

Ted and Ramona watched as the police car drove away. “No weapon, no proof . . .” Ramona murmured in a relieved daze.

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