Ashes On The Water
Bob was in a good mood as he drove down the country road on a glorious day. He chatted amiably to his wife, even though he knew she wasn’t listening. The incessant rain and all of the troubles of the past week were finally over. It was the first true summer day of the year and the classic rock station was playing all of his favorite songs back to back. But the real reason for his good mood was that he knew now that he had succeeded. There had been some tense moments in the last few weeks; the plans he had so carefully drawn out had really been put to the test. All the plans in the world cannot prepare one for the way things play out in reality. But he was proud of himself. When the story deviated from the script he had written, he reacted as an actor inspired. He realized flaws in his story when questioned and adapted to the situation. And now he was on the final stretch. He had merely to dispose of the ashes of his victim and the last traces of the murder he committed would be gone forever.
He looked over at his wife, who was on the front seat next to him in a little black plastic box. He missed her company and wished he could share this moment with her. He patted the box gently in remembrance. He didn’t hate her—far from it, he had always been fond of her. It seemed somewhat regrettable that she had to be the victim of his plot. It’s just that the idea had taken hold of him. Surely everyone at one time or another has wondered if they could commit murder and get away with it. Well he was no different, he just took the idea to its conclusion. It’s hard to explain how an idea can grow in the mind until it becomes a compulsion, but sometimes the only way to get rid of a temptation is to give in to it.
“Wish You Were Here” came on the radio, ruining for him the streak of upbeat tunes. He switched stations just in time to catch the weather. Sunny and warm for the next few days, it said. Good. He was driving up to the cabin to dispose of his wife’s ashes. The good weather would give him the opportunity to do a little work on the property they…he had inherited from his wife’s parents.
The radio was still on, and the local news followed the weather. It seemed that a body was discovered floating in the river somewhere outside of town. Bob immediately wondered if there was another murderer in town. “Dumb”, he thought to himself. To leave a body is to leave evidence. He was aware of how clever the police could be once their suspicion was aroused. Pride arose in him again as he started to compare himself to this possible new murderer. He had seen too many criminal investigation shows to make his plan complicated. His scheme rested solely on not leaving any evidence behind. There was no murder weapon; he had poisoned her using chemicals that were in their house, that were in most households. The result was similar to a heart attack. She was in her mid-fifties with a family history of heart disease so there was no real reason for anyone to dig too deeply for explanations for her death. And he had always been both a model citizen and husband. His whole plan rested upon him being able to get rid of the body before anyone could suspect something. As long as they did not have a body on which to perform an autopsy, he would be home free. Fortunatately, the Tri-State Crematory had taken care of that detail for him. All that was left was ashes now. He did not know if modern technology could decipher anything from these, but they would be gone soon too, scattered on the lake he and his wife had so often looked out upon from their cabin. And then he would be free.
It was a three hour trip to their cabin up north, and he continued to listen for further news on the body discovered in the river. After a time, an update was given. Two more bodies had been found and police were reporting body parts of several more. “Wow”, he thought, “I give this guy credit for quantity at least. Good, let him get all the notoriety. This ought to keep the police busy and off of my case.”
This news item held Bob’s attention now. He turned to the all-news station in order to get the latest updates. He felt some kinship with this presumed mass-murderer, felt as they were both members of an elite club. The count was at least six people now, and Bob suspected, half-hoped, that there would be more. It was about two hours into his trip that the newest information was given: a storage shed filled with stacked corpses was found upriver from town. A thrill of vicarious excitement went up Bob’s back as he realized the accomplishment of this imagined murderer. Here was a real killer, a psychopath. He imagined this man in his mind, tried to re-construct his experiences using his own as a blueprint.
As he drove into the town nearest his cabin retreat, the radio revealed the story behind the mystery. The serial killer was a figment of his imagination, no murders had taken place. He pulled the car over and sat in stunned silence as the radio report continued. It was unclear why, but it seems that the Tri-State Crematory had not been doing its job. Bodies had been hidden in the woods, stored in sheds or buried in shallow graves. The recent heavy rains had unearthed some of the bodies, washing several of them into the river. Autopsies would have to be performed on the corpses to determine identity so that loved ones could be alerted. As the radio moved on to other news, Bob sat with his head in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
This short story was based upon a real-life occurrence, a crematory that never got around to cremating many of their customers and instead gave concrete dust to the loved ones of the deceased. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-State_Crematory