Quake, p.31
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       Quake, p.31

           Richard Laymon

  'I don't hear him complaining,' Stanley said.

  ' Please.'

  'You want out, don't you?'

  'No. You can't do that to him.'

  'Sure I can. Just watch.'

  He pushed again at the saw, its blade through the shallow, raw groove on the side of Crash's neck.


  'Shut up! Look what you've already done with that mouth of yours. I wouldn't have to be doing this, at all, if you'd just kept it shut in the first place.'

  She gazed up at Stanley, gasping and jerking her head from side to side.

  'That's better.' He started sawing again, and grinned when Sheila squeezed her mouth shut. 'Good idea,' he said. 'You wouldn't want to swallow some of this.'

  Soon, she covered her face with both arms. Stanley kept a good grip on Crash's hair. The sawing took a while; he had to keep the angle of the blade just right and use very short strokes to avoid gouging Sheila. At last, however, he severed the spinal column. He pumped the saw a few more times. Then he hoisted the head. A few remaining shreds of tissue were still connected to the stump of the neck. They stretched and wouldn't let go, so he ripped through them with the saw. He flung the head away. It tumbled high, vanished beyond the broken flooring, and thumped into the debris with a sound like a hurled brick.

  'I bet you feel lighter already,' Stanley said.

  'You… you sick bastard,' Sheila said from underneath her crossed arms.

  'Let me just take care of his arms, then we'll see if we can't haul him off you. Sure hope so. If I've gotta saw him off at the waist, we'll have an incredible mess.'

  One at a time, he sawed off Crash's arms and flung them away.

  'That's got him whittled down pretty good,' he said.

  Sheila uncovered her face. She glanced at the remains of Crash, whimpered and shut her eyes tight.

  'I did it with my little saw,' Stanley said, and laughed. Then he made his way forward on the rims of the tub, turned around, and sat on the beam above Sheila's head. Reaching out to set aside the saw, he smiled and lowered the flat of its blade onto the eyeless face of Crash's buddy, Eagle. Then he bent at the waist and peered through his spread legs. Sheila's face was upside-down. She looked up at him from the shadows. The pulpy stump of Crash's neck was still leaking onto her, spilling red fluid through the valley between her breasts.

  'You are a mess,' Stanley said. 'But don't worry, we'll wash you squeaky clean as soon as we've got you out of here. I know where there's a swimming pool. Now, let's see you stick your hands under this boy's chest and shove him.'

  'What if I don't?'

  'Do you think I was bluffing when I said I'd cut him in half?. I wasn't, you know. You either give me some help here, or I'll saw him off at the waist. You think things are messy now…'

  'Okay,' she muttered. 'Okay. But I won't be able to do much. The leverage is all wrong. Don't think I haven't tried.'

  'Just do your best. That's all that we can ask, isn't it? You shove him up, and I'll do the rest with my feet.'

  'Why don't you just come down and lift him off me. All you'd need to do is bend over and pick him up by his shoulders. It'd be easy.'

  He thought about her suggestion. After a few moments, he said, 'Nah.’

  'Why not?’

  'Because say so.’

  'But it'll work.'

  'So what? It'll be more fun my way. Anyhow, I'm all done with women giving me orders. We do it my way. You push him up, and then I'll shove him off.' She glared up at Stanley. 'Do it. Now.’

  'Okay. Okay.'

  Watching her, Stanley saw what she'd meant about poor leverage. With the tub against her back, she had no way of lowering her elbows far enough; she couldn't simply lift Crash up like a barbell. Even if she'd had the elbow room, Stanley supposed the position of Crash's body might've given her trouble. His massive shoulders, just below her breasts, were too low for a straight upward push. Sheila didn't waste much time with awkward thrusts -just tentative tries to see whether Crash's sudden loss had improved the situation. Then she brought her arms in close to her sides, elbows bent, fists in front of her own shoulders. She took a few deep breaths. Gritting her teeth, she drove her elbows upward against the front of Crash's shoulders. The headless torso started to rise. Stanley didn't care about that, cared only about what was happening to Sheila.

  Oh, look at her! Look at her! Bulges of straining arm muscles, shoulder muscles, chest muscles. Breasts so much larger than before, squeezed together by her arms, the valley between them gone, a long sloping crease where they met. Her skin bloody and sweaty. And the tremors! Look at her shake! Magnificent! Her right breast suddenly lurched free as she chopped her forearm down over the top of it and into the space under Crash's chest. Her lips peeled back. Grunting, she thrust at the body and rammed her left arm down beneath it. Stanley couldn't see her forearms, now. But he knew they must be crossed in the space between her lower ribcage and Crash's upper chest. And they were raising him.

  'Thata way!' Stanley blurted.

  'Do it!' she gasped through clenched teeth.

  'Get him higher.'

  She pushed the body higher. 'Do it!’


  There was no need for more height. But Stanley didn't want this to end. Sheila the Magnificent. Struggling, suffering, sweating, muscles and veins and tendons all there and showing under her shiny skin, and every part of her shuddering, shaking, trembling, quaking.

  'Do it!’

  'Here goes.'

  He raised his feet off the edges of the tub, leaned back and braced himself against the broken floorboards, then bent his knees and shot his feet forward. They slammed the tops of Crash's shoulders. A red gob leaped from the neck stump. The headless and armless torso teetered backward, rising from the waist. Then it dropped. For a moment, it seemed to be kneeling behind the beam. Then it tumbled away and smashed against the other end of the tub.'Bravo!' Stanley yelled. Below him, Sheila panted for air.

  'Get me out,' she gasped.

  'We still have the small matter of sawing through the wood. '

  'Do it.'

  He pursed his lips. 'Oooo. Are you telling me what to do?’


  'Good. We wouldn't want that.'

  'Do… whatever you want.'

  'Thank you. I think will.'

  He brought up his feet, one at a time, and peeled off the moccasins. Then he lowered his bare feet toward Sheila's chest. Before they could touch her, she clutched his ankles.

  'What do you think you're doing?' he asked.

  'You're not doing that.'

  'I do whatever I want.' He grinned.

  'You told me could.’

  'I lied.'

  'You'd better let go.'

  She didn't let go. Stanley shot his arm out, grabbed the saw by its handle and swept it down between his legs. He jabbed the steel tip into Sheila just below her sternum. With all the blood down there from Crash, he couldn't tell whether the point broke her skin. But she flinched. And tightened her grip on his ankles.

  'Let go, damn it!' She didn't.

  And Stanley suddenly imagined Sheila giving his ankles a tug that would drag him off the four-by-eight. He could almost feel the heavy beam scraping the skin off his back as he fell. He would land rump-first on her chest. And there he would be, sitting on her, his back braced up by the beam, his arms nearly useless because she would be under him and so hard to reach.

  With her strength…She could kill me! Scared, Stanley shoved the saw. It gouged a shallow furrow down toward her navel.

  Crying out, she let go of his ankles and tried to snatch the blade. He jerked it clear. He kicked his legs high as she grabbed for them. She kept trying to catch them as he drew them but he battered at her hands and arms with the saw, and cutting her, finally planting his heels on the top beam, springing up and leaping to safety.


  Barbara felt Pete's buttocks flex underneath the calf of her outstretched leg. Neither moving nor opening her eyes, s
he whispered, 'Lie still.’

  'They're gone.'

  'Let's give it a little longer.'


  They probably are gone, she told herself. Some time ago, the gang had wandered down the alley, laughing and jabbering and arguing, and gone on by without any mention or inspection of the pickup truck where Barbara and Pete were hiding. Which had seemed too good to be true. So Barbara hadn't allowed herself to believe it. Must be a trick, she'd thought. They know we're here. They're just pretending to leave. Wanta see what happens. So wait, just wait. If we think the coast is clear and show ourselves, it'll blow any chance of playing dead. We'll end up dead for real. Maybe they're sneaking up on us. They startle us, she'd thought, and we'll probably both jump and that'll be it. Not that our little dead act is gonna fool someone, anyhow. A long time had gone by since the footsteps and voices of the gang had faded and vanished. It seemed like at least an hour. But Barbara knew how time had a way of stretching and slowing down when things were bad. It probably hadn't been an hour, at all. At least half an hour, she told herself. They've gotta be gone by now. They wouldn't have much patience. They never had any idea we were here and they just kept on walking. We could've kept our clothes on, she realized. I didn't need to cut myself. Now we're both naked and bloody and I've got a nice cut on my arm. And if we stay here long enough, someone else might come along. Earl, for instance. She wondered what had happened to him. He must've seen the gang come running into the alley on the heels of scavenger. Either they hadn't spotted him, though, or they hadn't cared. Maybe they had seen him, but were only interested in nailing the scavenger. They'd sure spent a lot of time on her. On them. Don't forget the guy in the shopping cart. Another good reason to stay here, Barbara told herself. Who wants to see those bodies? But I sure don't want Earl showing up and finding me like this. Even if he did warn us, he's still a major creep. Better get a move on.

  She opened her eyes. Seven or eight feet above her was the dim, raftered ceiling of the parking stall. Nothing up there to worry about. She glanced from side to side. Nobody leered down at her over the truck's side panels. Raising her head, she checked the rear window of the cab. Nobody there. So she tipped her head back. The area above the tailgate was upside-down. She saw no one.

  'Maybe it is safe by now,' she whispered.

  'I think they're long gone.'

  'And if they aren't, we've got our guns.'

  'Yeah,' Pete whispered.

  'Okay.' She looked at him and saw that his head was still turned away from her.

  'Stay like that, okay? I'll tell you when to look.'


  'Thanks.' She pulled the Colt out from under her back, and then shoved herself up with her elbows and studied their sprawled, naked bodies. Maybe we could've passed, after all. The back of Pete's head and neck, where she'd dumped a couple of handloads of blood, looked as if he might've suffered some sort of fatal wound. Not much blood lower down, though - and the tan on his back seemed too glowing for a dead guy. Guess we'll never know, she thought. Her own body was good and bloody, but she could see hand and fingerprints in the brownish-red smears that might make it pretty obvious she'd spread the blood around, herself. And she'd entirely neglected the area below her waist. Her legs were wide apart, one draped across Pete's rump. Between them, she'd spread no blood, she had no tan, and her tuft of blonde curls was too sparse to hide the skin beneath it. A sudden heat rushed through her body. Thank God nobody saw me like this! 'What're you doing?' Pete asked.

  'Nothing,' Barbara said. 'Just looking?' She hesitated.

  'You are, aren't you?'

  'Sort of.' She raised her leg and swung it away from Pete. It left behind a ruddy hue. 'I just wanted to see if we looked all right. You know, bloody and dead.'

  'How do we look?’

  'Pretty good.'

  'Too bad we didn't get a chance to see if it worked.

  'We're really lucky, is what we are.'

  'I thought you said we look pretty good.'

  'Yeah. We just don't look especially dead.' Pete laughed a little.

  'I guess the whole thing was a dumb idea,' Barbara 'It was sure extreme. How's your cut?'

  She looked down at the gash on the underside forearm. All around it, the skin was stained with dry blood. The wound itself was a raw, dark slit two inches long.

  'I'm not bleeding anymore,' she said. 'But it's kind of sore.'

  'That was really a brave thing, cutting yourself like 'Naw, just stupid.'

  'No, it wasn't. It was heroic. You might've saved our doing that.'

  'Might've. Except nobody even looked at us.’

  'Including me,' Pete said, and made a soft laugh. 'Including you?'

  He wants to look. Oh, my God.

  'I'm… never mind,' he muttered. 'I just thought… you know, we're playing dead in the back of a pickup truck. It doesn't, like happen every day.'

  'That's for sure.'

  'It's all right,' he said. 'I mean, I know I can't look.'

  The pounding of Barbara's heart quickened. 'Do you want to?' Her voice sounded shaky.'Me? No. Jeez!'

  Heart pounding very hard, she sank down against the floor. She couldn't believe she was planning to go through with this. And she couldn't believe how much she wanted it. 'Yes, you do,' she said.'No, really.'

  'Wait a second. I'll make it the way it was.' She swung her leg onto Pete's rump, stuck the Colt beneath her back, and ran through the position in her mind to make sure it was the same as before. The same except for her head and eyes. Because she had to watch Pete. 'Okay. You can look now.’

  'No, really, I…'

  'Come on. It's okay. I want you to.'

  I almost sound sort of calm, she thought. Amazing.

  'Like you said,' she went on, 'we don't go around playing dead every day. We've got all this blood on us… I don't want you regretting how you blew your chance to see how we looked.'

  'Are you kidding?'

  'I mean it. Come on.'

  She watched Pete raise his head and turn it toward her. He pushed himself up with his elbows. He stared into her eyes. Then his gaze moved slowly down her body. He licked his dry, cracked lips. He blinked a few times. Barbara could that he was shaking slightly. She wondered if her own shaking showed. More than likely. Bracing himself up with his right elbow, Pete twisted his torso and peered back at her. He can see everything! She thought about trying to cover up - flinging an arm across her breasts, clapping a hand between her legs. But she stayed on her back and didn't move her arms, and found breathing a very hard thing to do.

  'A lot of blood,' he said, his voice quiet and trembling. 'Yeah.'

  'You're right, though. We don't look very dead.'

  'Not very.' Lifting her head, she looked at Pete. The way he was turned and holding himself up, she could see the red imprint that the rifle had made on his chest and belly. The rifle was on the floor beneath him, its stock pinned down by his left thigh. If the rifle wasn't in the way… Glad it is, she told herself. Who'd wanta see something like that, anyway? She turned her attention to his face. He almost looked as if he were in pain. His eyes kept jerking this way and that as if he couldn't make up his mind about what he would rather stare at.

  'Hey,' Barbara whispered.

  He flinched, then met her eyes. She couldn't help but smile. 'Are you all right?'

  'Oh, man.'

  She lifted her leg off his rump, then turned onto her side. Facing Pete, she pushed herself up on one elbow. His gaze flicked to her breasts, but quickly returned to her eyes.

  'Sorry,' he muttered. 'It's okay.'

  'I've never seen…, you know…, a girl…, a real one without, you know, clothes on.'

  'Do I look okay?'

  'Are you kidding? You're… God, nobody would believe this!'

  'You aren't going to tell anyone, are you?'

  'No! No way! I'd never tell anyone.'

  Reaching out with her right hand, Barbara caressed the side of his face. His cheek felt wet and hot. H
er fingertips, curled over the edge of his ear, stroked through dripping hair. She slid her hand down the side of his neck, and up over the solid mound of his shoulder. His eyes never strayed from her face. 'This'll be our secret,' she said. 'Yeah.'

  She followed his arm to the wrist, wrapped her fingers around it, and guided his hand to her breast. She gasped when he touched her. She went rigid and moaned when he squeezed. He let go fast. 'Did I hurt you?’

  'No. No, no.'

  His hand returned. But it was more gentle this time. His fingertips brushed lightly over her breast. She felt her skin go crawly with goosebumps, felt the nipples of both breasts squirm and rise hard. She shut her eyes. When the hand went away, she thought it was going to her other breast. Instead, it pressed against her back. The bed of the pickup wobbled slightly. For a moment, she thought there was an aftershock. Then she saw the motion came from Pete scooting toward her. He made scraping sounds. Pete's hand went away again.

  'I'll put this behind you,' he whispered.

  Not such a hot idea, she thought. The rifle between us… we oughta keep something. It clamored against the floor behind her back. Then Pete's arm was on her back, his hand at the nape of her neck, urging her closer to him. His lips found her mouth.

  Just like in the pool, she thought. But different. Very, very different. Because in the pool they'd had clothes on, and now they didn't, and she wasn't ready for anything, not at all, and it scared her but she wanted it. She didn't want to stop kissing, she just wished she didn't have to be scared about the… Maybe not all that scared, she thought, realizing she was squirming on her side closer to him. Closer until her breasts pushed against his chest. Closer until she felt his penis bump against her belly. The shock of its touch pounded her breath out. Oh, my God! It felt slippery and smooth and enormous.

  With a sudden gasp that was almost a whimper, Pete pulled himself away from her. He flopped over, rolled onto his other side, and curled up. Barbara gaped at him, stunned. A little frightened. What's going on?

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