I. The Burial

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Gia Killmore hated burying bodies after a heavy rain. Really, she hated the burying bodies part entirely. It was like cooking a good meal--she liked the eating part, but despised having to wash the dishes afterwards. The burials were the cleaning up.

"Don't let him drag like that," her mom, Virginia Killmore, instructed. At least, that's what Gia thought she said. It was hard to tell exactly due to the tiny flashlight shoved between her mom's teeth so that her hands were free to lift Connor Donoghue up by the armpits. Wheezing breaths filled the air with thick vapor as they were both labored by the boy's weight.

Gia stumbled trying to get his butt from dragging along the muddy ground of Beckett Forest, named after the founding family of Beckett Hill. They were still the only people who ever ran for office, claiming it as their God given birthright. "It'd be a lot easier if he could walk there himself," Gia groaned, heaving his feet up by the ankles to better her grip. But that was an empty wish if there ever was one. Seeing as how Connor Donoghue was dead.

Virginia stopped, sending the flashlight beam in an arc over the forest floor with a slow turn of her head. She let the flashlight drop to the ground with a pop of her lips. "This is good." Both of them dropped the body unceremoniously. It made a slurping sound as it impacted with the mud. Gia's stomach turned. It was a strange thing that someone who saw so much blood could still get so queasy.

The dropped flashlight cast a split shadow over Connor's face, lighting him up from the nostrils. His eyes were open, glassy, as they stared off into the distance. But it wasn't just a symptom of death to have eyes wide open and still be unable to see what was right in front of you. Gia turned away from the already gaunt-like contours of his face, the side turned away from the light ghostly pale. 

"I'll get the shovels," Gia offered, desperate to get away from the body that was already starting to cast off a putrid odor. It happened quickly, the rotting. Connor had been dead for no more than two hours.

Gia and her mother had their strengths. Gia was the plotter, the bait, who could lure a teenage boy down a darkened alley with a whip of her ponytail. She was good at murder. Live bodies were pliable, almost beautiful in the ways they clung to life. But this, the bodies when they had emptied of breath, this wasn't her strength.

Virginia, recognizing the discomfort in her daughter, grabbed the flashlight from the ground and held it out. "Be quick about it. If the dirt hardens, we'll be here all night."

Gia grabbed the flashlight and trudged back the way they had come. On the walk up the slightly inclined hill, she smoothed over patches of mud that Connor's body had disturbed with the bottom of her rainboot. She had spent months rubbing away at the rubber soles to get rid of the identifiable checkered pattern along the bottom of each boot. They were two sizes too big, to contend with the fact that she had identifiably small feet. She watched enough true crime to know exactly what it took to get away with murder.

Their old Volvo sat at the edge of the treeline. Gia slipped into the driver's seat for a moment, turning the keys her mother had left in the ignition. The car filled with a blast of heat and she held her hands against the air vents to increase the blood flow. They had gone almost completely numb from the crisp New England air.

She pulled her phone from her back pocket, pressing her knees against the steering wheel to lift herself up. The metal phone case was cold against her fingers and it took multiple tries to position her shivering lip just right for the face recognition to register. According to her texts, the beginning of senior year bonfire was still going, despite the temperature dipping into the mid- forties this time of night. If they dug fast enough, she might be able to make it back before the fireworks were set off on the edge of Granger Canyon. They always made an extra loud pop as they exploded, as if it took extra effort to come to life in the frigid welcoming of Fall in Maine.

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