Milford Booth stood in the kitchen of his 450 square foot apartment. Expressionless, he stared into the living room at the lumpy mass under the pastel blue bed sheet covering the length of the couch. There was no getting around it. The bitch was definitely starting to stink. He noted the dark, wet stains beginning to appear through the cheap cotton bedding. Bitch. He’d have to get more sheets.

He turned his gaze toward the papers and envelopes scattered on the small chair-less table against the wall. He didn’t need to read them to know exactly how much was left in the account. $62,890.16. After today, there would be $9,000 less. Just enough to move as much as he could and avoid the cash transaction report. No sense drawing attention. He was almost done. He visualized himself on a Mexican beach with a chair and beers in a bucket of ice, just like in the commercials. He’d never been to Mexico. In fact, he’d never been outside of the city. But he was sure it looked just like that. The only problem he foresaw was that he’d probably have to live around Mexicans. He frowned at the thought.

He walked over to the window closest to the couch where the air conditioning unit sat on the sill. Precariously perched on frame as if it might fall on some unsuspecting passerby below at any moment, it was flanked by hand-torn cardboard panels to fill the gap. He recalled he ripped the pieces from a washing machine box he’d found behind the building next down the street. He’d seen signs someone might be living in it at the time: bedding and plastic bags full of seemingly random junk collected by some homeless person, no doubt. Whatever. Not his problem.

The window a/c hummed, blowing cool air from the holes at the top. He turned the dial to the left as far as it would go. The rectangular box hummed a little louder. That ought to help slow things down and, with a little luck, buy him some more time.

Milford walked into his small bedroom through the well-traveled path between the empty boxes of pot pies and microwavable lasagna. He grabbed his pants off the bed and put them on, stuffing his back pocket with his fat wallet. That reminded him that he’d have to pay the rent early again.

That landlord bitch had threatened to evict him last year, but his luck changed when grandma had her stroke. Milford was the only one left to care for her, the hospital lawyer had said. His mother was long dead. He’d never even met his father. He really didn’t know his grandmother since she’d basically ignored him after his mother died, but when that lawyer started talking about how she needed someone to have power of attorney over managing her assets, Milford blubbered like a baby and signed the papers. It was Oscar material. He was quite proud of that. The trophy would be his fat ass on that beach in Mexico, wherever it was.

The stench of decomposition assaulted his sinuses again as he walked out of the bedroom. His stomach involuntarily wretched, but he held it down. He went to the small kitchen window and opened it, then looked back at the couch. The fabric was brown, but the cushions at one end were stained darker from bile and God knows what else she had puked up before finally quieting down permanently. Maybe he needed something like a tarp. Yes, perfect, he thought. A tarp would hide the smell and give him the extra days he needed. He’d visit the camping section. He didn’t want that nosy apartment manager knocking on his door. He briefly thought about getting a tarp for that bitch too, but dismissed it. He wasn’t a killer.

He glanced at the couch again as he opened the door to leave. Air freshener. The plug-in kind. He made a mental note as he walked out, locking the door behind him.

~ fin ~

Shannon M. Bryant is a new author working on his first crime novel while disguised as a criminal prosecutor during the weekdays (and some weekends). He lives with his wife and two boys in Northern Nevada. In his free time, when he is not writing, Shannon is usually brewing beer or trying to get his Jeep dirty.