The fat man approached with a package wrapped in a blanket under his arm. Mick took one more drag, dropped his cigarette, and ground the butt into the pavement with the heel of his shoe. He moved his head slightly, just a light nod, and the fat man joined him at the edge of the shadows.
“You’re him? Mr. Jenkins?” The fat man patted his forehead with a stained handkerchief.
Mick nodded. “Is it,” he looked at the parcel, “healthy.”
“Yes. A clean specimen… from a car accident this morning. Tragic really, but fortunate for you, eh?” The fat man chuckled before catching himself and returning to a more serious tone. “For a family member?”
“Someone close, yes.” Mick pushed one hand into his jacket and pulled it out with a stack of bills. “Enough.”
The fat man’s eyes swelled. “Yes.” He took the package in both hands. “Don’t you want to check, make sure I’m not scamming you?”
Mick stepped closer. “You wouldn’t do that.” His eyes, rimmed in red as dark as blood in the shadowed alley, narrowed. “Think of the consequences.” He took the parcel.
The fat man smiled — a nervous, trembling smile, and snatched the money from Mick’s hand. “Thanks…if — ” He caught himself before saying more, turned quickly, and waddled back the way he came, head wavering from side to side.
Mick slipped the thin blanket aside and drummed his fingers on the white Styrofoam beneath. “God, another car wreck…”
Mick Jenkins entered his bungalow through the back door, the door facing the alley. The kitchen light flickered as he flipped the switch. When the light came to life, Mick sloughed off his hard demeanor and slumped his shoulders with a sigh. He tossed his keys on the counter, nearly toppling a crooked tower of unread mail, and dropped the small cooler next to the sink. Cupping his hands under the faucet, he ran some cold water and splashed his face. The house carried a faint odor of decay — something rotten lurking in the silence.
Next to the sink, posted on a cabinet door, a series of newspaper clippings caught Mick’s eyes. Finding the oldest article, he touched the yellowing paper with one damp finger, tracing the headline. “Goddamn car wrecks,” he muttered.
Taking up the Styrofoam box, he started down the stairs to the cellar. The old wood groaned and protested, and the temperature dropped like Mick had stepped into a walk-in cooler. Unlike the rest of the house, the cellar was clean and devoid of anything except an old upright freezer and a stainless steel work table — the latter purchased from a restaurant second-hand when they remodeled their kitchen. He moved toward the freezer.
The door opened with a sucking pop, spilling tendrils of frosty air onto the floor. Mick set the cooler on the ground and flipped off the lid. He lifted out a plastic bag — a human liver floating in a thin layer of dark, syrupy blood, and held it in both hands. It felt cold and quite heavy. Healthy. He pushed the liver into the freezer and stashed his new purchase on the bottom shelf next to other plastic-wrapped parts — a slender upper arm and two delicate hands. He clicked the door shut and turned to leave.
Halfway up the stairs, Mick stopped and tilted his head as though listening to something. Slowly, he descended the stairs, returning to the freezer. He hesitated before pulling the door open again. This time, his eyes met hers — her severed head resting on the top wire shelf with bluish, nearly translucent skin and eyes frozen open in a look of surprise. He reached into the freezer and touched her stiff lips with a trembling finger.
“Almost have everything I need, babe.” He fidgeted with his wedding ring. “Then I’ll make things right.”
Aaron Polson is a high school English teacher and freelance writer. He currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. His short fiction has appeared in various places, including Reflection’s Edge, GlassFire Magazine, Big Pulp, Johnny America, and Permuted Press’s Monstrous anthology. You can visit him on the web at www.aaronpolson.com.