slowly focused on me. He opened his mouth to speak but closed it.
“I have a nice spot picked out back,” I said, breaking the silence.
With thin lips, he carefully wrapped the collie into the towel and followed me. He clutched his precious package against him and kissed her before setting her down gently in the center of the hole. I intentionally moved slowly and dropped the first shovel of dirt carefully onto the bloodied towel. Jase clasped his hands together and his lips moved as he recited prayers.
“I didn’t bury them,” he said aloud. “Mom and Dad. I-I couldn’t do it.”
I paused. “I’ll see that they get a proper burial.”
He swallowed visibly, and then nodded.
I went back to shoveling. The hole filled in quickly, until a small mound of black soil was all that remained of Betsy. Leaning on the shovel, I looked at Jase. He was clearly exhausted. The poor kid should be at school, hanging with his friends, not burying his family. We had about an hour before the sunset. “I’m going to get started on dinner,” I said. “Take all the time you need.”
With that, I left Jase to mourn. If he hadn’t turned yet, I figured the odds were low that he would. I returned the shovel to the shed, and headed back inside, locking the front door behind me, just to play it safe. Jase knocked just a few minutes later. I grabbed a garbage bag and went out to meet him. He’d already kicked off his tennis shoes. I held open the bag. “Anything with blood on it goes. Leave the shoes outside.” Though I had my doubts, I added, “We’ll see if we can scrub them clean tomorrow.”
“I packed clothes. They’re still outside,” Jase said in a daze.
“You can grab them in the morning,” I said, still holding out the bag.
In went his T-shirt, then his jeans and socks, and I looked him over for bites. Other than some bruises and a few scratches, he looked unharmed. But the scratches worried me.
When he went to pull his boxers off, I stopped him. “If there’s no blood on them, toss them into the washer in the mudroom on your way in. The shower is on the second floor. I’ll grab some clothes for you, and set them outside the bathroom door for you.”
“Thanks, Cash,” he said and I moved to let him in.
“And be sure to scrub good and hard.” After a moment, it hit me that I’d just echoed words Clutch had told me the first night.
While Jase showered, I set three steaks under the broiler, skipping the sides. I was simply too hungry and too tired to go to the effort. I jogged upstairs and stopped outside Clutch’s bedroom door. I reached for the handle but paused. I’d never been in there, and it felt almost like I’d breach some unspoken rule by stepping inside.
Instead, I turned and headed into my room and grabbed a pair of long johns and a T-shirt from my pile. They’d fit Jase better than they fit me and would get him through the night. Dropping the clothes at the bathroom door, I hustled back downstairs and finished cooking the steaks.
I wrapped Clutch’s steak in tinfoil and set it in the refrigerator. Each of the remaining steaks went on a plate. Just like Clutch had done, I drizzled steak sauce over each steak and grabbed a bag of potato chips.
Jase came down the stairs. “I’m not very hungry tonight.”
I dumped some chips on both plates, and handed him a plate. “Eat. You need to keep your energy up.”
He followed me like a lost puppy into the living room, much like I’d felt four days earlier. I took an edge of the couch and motioned for Jase to sit. I wolfed my steak down while he pecked at his. After cleaning off my plate, I grabbed a beer. I’d almost grabbed two but changed my mind and poured a glass of water instead for Jase. After a quick stop in Clutch’s office for something I’d need later, I scanned through the TV and radio stations but came across nothing but static.
Clutch had left his phone at home, and I sent an email to my parents. Even though I suspected no