Justin moved silently along the passageway, stopping twice to listen for the sound of someone following him. So far, so good. He thought he’d left without waking Denny or Luke, but you couldn’t be too careful. Fortunately, he’d been the one to drive back from Vegas last night. The others had both been so drunk that the car would have gone off the road if he hadn’t.
The Vegas trip had actually been his idea. Justin liked the lights, the noise, the clubs, the whole thing. And he was on a lucky streak too; he’d won five hundred bucks. Denny and Luke had managed to win, too. And that was the reason Justin was moving as quietly as he was. Their seven hundred dollars made a very nice addition to his own takings. As long as they didn’t remember much about what had happened – and he didn’t think they would, as hammered as they’d been – he’d be all right.
Then he heard a door slam. And the low rumble of angry voices trying not to attract attention.
‘Where is that sonofabitch?’ That was Luke.
‘I didn’t hear his car. He’s got to be around here somewhere,’ Denny growled back.
Damn! They were awake! And they were not going to be happy with him.
That was when Justin saw it. The door straight ahead on the right side of the passage wasn’t quite closed. He didn’t know who lived in that apartment, but right now it didn’t matter. He glanced around when he got to the door, and then turned the knob, holding it tightly so it wouldn’t make any noise.
Within seconds he was inside. He stood still, trying to figure out whether whoever lived here was asleep or maybe in the bathroom. Hearing nothing, he took three steps to the middle of the living room. If he had to, he could go out the door from the living room to the patio. Getting off the patio would be easy, since this was a ground-floor apartment.
Then Justin heard what sounded like a cross between a moan and a loud gurgle. The sound seemed to be coming from the hallway just beyond the living room. He moved over a little so he could see the entire length of the hall. His throat closed as he saw the man lying on the floor just outside of what looked like the bathroom door. There were large, rusty stains on his light-blue T-shirt, and what looked like blood pooling on the carpet next to him.
Justin fought the urge to retch as he backed away from the scene. He’d better leave right now, before anyone knew he was here. He’d call the police – maybe – but not until he was clear of this place. Just as he was about to leave, the front door opened and he heard a gasp. He whirled around and looked right at the woman at the door. She had a messy sable brown ponytail and wore a loose-fitting grey t-shirt and track pants.
‘Thank God!’ she said. ‘You got the bastard!’
‘Me? No! I didn’t – Oh, my God! I was just – I – ’
‘You don’t have to explain anything, OK? I hated him. He made my life miserable. You helped me out.’
Justin shook his head. ‘I – I didn’t…’ he started.
‘I told you, it’s OK. Look, my name’s Chloe, what’s yours?’
‘I got to get out of here.’ Justin started towards the patio door.
‘Wait!’ Chloe’s voice stopped him. ‘I’ll even help you. That’s what you used, right?’ she said, pointing to a large carving knife lying next to the body.
‘But I didn’t!’
‘I’m not going to ask any questions. We just need to get rid of the body. First, get the knife and we’ll clean it. I have bleach.’
Numb with shock, Justin moved slowly over to the body. He looked up at Chloe. She nodded encouragingly, and he reached out and picked up the knife. Stretching his arm out, he carried it as far in front of him as he could towards where she was still waiting.
Then he saw a cold smile start to curl the corners of her mouth. His eyes widened as she said, ‘This is perfect!’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘How stupid are you? I’ve wanted Ash dead for a long time. Now here you are, all ready to take the blame for it. I should actually thank you.’
Now Justin was angry. ‘I don’t know who the hell you think you are, lady, but I’m not going to play your sick game.’
‘You already are,’ she said as her smile got a bit wider. ‘I saw you from outside, through the patio door. I’ve already called the cops. They’ll be here any minute. You tried to rob the place, Ash tried to be the big he-man – typical – and you killed him. Poor little me, I saw the whole thing from outside while I was throwing away some trash.’
They were both silent for a second. In the distance, Justin could hear the faint sound of a siren. It started to get louder as the police car got closer. Completely forgetting he was still holding the knife, Justin started to move towards the patio door again. As he did, he could hear familiar voices outside calling to each other. Denny and Luke were still looking for him, and they would be in no hurry to help him.
Seconds later, official-sounding footsteps pounded down the hall. Two uniformed officers appeared at the door. Chloe turned to face them. Fake tears had already filled her eyes as she told them her story.