Joy

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fifteen

She stares down at the body. What was his name? She doesn’t even remember.

Joy chews on her thumbnail, hugging her chest with her other arm. This was not supposed to happen today. It was not supposed to happen again.

Fuck.

The Queen City Strangler, they were calling her. The cops were following her. She couldn’t leave them another body to find. This shit was getting more dangerous by the minute. She’d just wanted… just some affection, attention.

She enjoys hanging out with the good Detective, but she doesn’t want to sleep with him. Well, she does. She just doesn’t want to be tempted to murder him in the middle of it. That could be all kinds of messy. Killing randos is one thing, killing a cop is an entirely different thing. What she doesn’t want to admit to herself either, is that she kind of likes the guy.

“He’s cute, okay?” she snaps at the lifeless corpse in front of her. “He’s funny and he’s shy and he has such an adorable concerned face when his eyebrows get all broody…” She puts a finger between her eyebrows and pushes down, trying to mimic the face.

Realization hits her like a splash of ice water.

“I’m talking to a dead body.” She scratches her fingers down her cheeks, digging in enough that it’s uncomfortable. She feels like she deserves some discomfort. “What the fuck am I gonna do?”

She turns away from the body that has no name, and clenches and unclenches her fists a few times. I need to get rid of this body. The thought makes her laugh out loud, a bitter and dry sound that seems to hover in the air like a plague. I don’t even think I can lift this guy. What the hell am I thinking?

A thought niggled at the back of her brain and she rummaged in her purse for her phone. She scrolled until she reached Tyrone’s name and mashed it with her thumb, chewing a fingernail again as she silently prayed for him to pick up.

“Hey, baby,” he greets, his deep bass thrumming into her ear like stones wrapped in silk. “How’s it going?”

Joy pauses. What is she supposed to say? “I have a fucked up situation.”

“Are you in trouble?” His voice turns completely serious.

She closes her eyes. Sweet, sweet Tyrone. How on Earth do I deserve such a friend? “Yeah, I’m in trouble. But I made the trouble. I shouldn’t even be asking you for help.”

“Girl, you know I’ll always help you out,” he replies immediately.

What’s this ball of emotion? Shame? “I probably shouldn’t talk about this over the phone. But I don’t think I should be springing something like this on you, either.”

“Where are you?” He’s so concerned.

She chews her lip. She knows she shouldn’t drag him into this. She knows she should hang up, call the cops, and turn herself in.

“Joy, honey.” He’s so gentle. “Tell me where you are. I’m coming.”

Shame. “Okay.” She gives him the address, and after a quick goodbye, the line goes dead. She clutches her phone in her hand with white knuckles. This isn’t right. This isn’t good.

She’s still staring at her hand when he knocks on the door. She doesn’t open it, just turns towards it as he lets himself in. He stops short. Stares at the body. Then back to her.

“What did he do to you?” His voice is stern, but his eyes are not. There’s fear there.

Joy shakes her head. “It’s not what you think. I did this… unprovoked.”

The silence is heavy. She chews her lip some more, and tastes copper as it splits open.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” He crosses his arms.

She runs her fingers through her hair, gripping it at the roots, tugging. “I don’t fucking know! I don’t know what to fucking do with it. I shouldn’t have called you.”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” he agrees. “But I’m here now. And I guess you were hoping I could carry a body.”

She shakes her head. “I was panicking…”

“Joy, girl, I know you, and you don’t panic.” He reaches out and puts his hands on her shoulders, those gigantic hands that have cupped her body in ways that are inappropriate to think about at this juncture. “So cut the shit. Do you want me to get rid of this body?”

She finally looks up at him, meets his eyes. It’s not fear, she realizes. He’s not afraid. Just worried. For her or himself, she doesn’t know. If he were smart, he’d be more focused on himself. He probably knows that the only way to get out of this is to just do the thing, and then erase Joy DeVries from his life altogether.

“Yes, please.” She swallows hard. It hurts. Her throat is so dry.

Tyrone nods. “Go see if you can find a suitcase somewhere. Or a big bag.”

Joy’s gut churns. Why do things that feel so good in the moment always feel horrible after?

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