Jaime held a finger to his lips, reminding his asshole partner to be quiet. It was instruction Jaime didn’t need; creeping through the embalming room had stolen his voice.
“The fuck is that smell?” Tommy asked again.
“Embalming fluid,” Jaime said. “I’ll find you a bottle if you promise to drink it.” He was tired of Tommy’s bullshit. The guy had enough focus to pick a lock but after that, his meager intellect was spent and he liked to fuck around.
Two years ago Jaime had cased a triple-decker near Tufts with apartment doors that weren’t visible from the street. A fresh batch of students moved in every fall—it was a bottomless treasure trove of laptops, smartphones, and tablets. All they had to do was get through the common door and Jaime and Tommy could toss the place like it was The Rapture.
The second time they’d hit it, however, Tommy found a bunch of dildos in some chick’s top drawer. Lots of them. Big ones. He’d skipped around her room swinging a sparkly black cock overhead until Jaime forced him to put it back. They emptied the place and left. Less than a month later there were bars on the windows to compliment the shiny new alarm system.
Tommy had laughed. “Steal all the expensive do-dads you want, but leave a rubber dick on a pillow and the management gets spooked.”
Jaime wanted to kill him. Instead, he broke up with his partner in crime, swearing never to work with him again.
Then his tío died and he needed the guy to get into the funeral home.
“You know where it is?” Tommy asked. He poked at something that looked like an oversized blender with a rubber hose coming out of it.
“How should I know? Just stay quiet and keep a lookout.” The thought of what went on in the room made Jaime want to take a shower that lasted a year.
He wanted Uncle Angel’s teeth more.
They weren’t worth much—maybe fifty bucks apiece—but he’d read about some stiff stacker down in New Jersey who got popped for stealing his customers’ gold teeth. Had thousands of dollars worth of them stashed away. When Jaime’s auntie didn’t get Angel’s crowns after the cremation, he figured it couldn’t hurt to take a look around. He knew the deep-six director wasn’t going to keep his little treasures out in a dish like lemon candies. They’d be in the office—probably in one of those fireproof safes.
Jaime heard a chuk sound and a faint pop that reminded him of the walk-in freezer at his tío’s restaurant. He looked around to see Tommy peeking into the corpse cooler. “Get the fuck out of there.”
“I just wanna look. I never seen a dead body before,” Tommy said, slipping into the industrial freezer. Jaime followed, furious and half-tempted to strangle him.
Inside the narrow room, shelves with pull-out trays lined the walls, floor to ceiling. A pair of corpses lay wrapped in white shrouds. Tommy read the orange tag hanging off of one. “Todd Robbins. Fuck, dude! I went to school with Todd Robbin’s son. That kid was the biggest douche in Dorchester.”
“Whatever. Let’s go.” Jaime rubbed his arms. He was dressed for the balmy summer evening outside—not a meat locker. On a high shelf deep in the cooler, a half dozen butcher paper bundles caught his eye. He pushed past Tommy and stepped up on a low shelf to get a better look. He shone his light on a handwritten label. Backstrap/tenderloin—Zimmerman. Beneath that: sirloin/round/rump—Colón.
“That’s your name; don’t wear it out,” Tommy said.
No one ever looked in a dead man’s mouth at a funeral. Who would notice if he had his gold teeth?
No one looked at a dead man’s back or thighs either.
The chuk of the closing door echoed in the freezer followed by the scraping sound of a pin sliding into the handle outside. Jaime turned, shining his light on their only way out.
“Hey!” Tommy shouted. He banged his reddened fists against the frost encrusted steel. “Let us out!”
The freezer compressor kicked on, drowning out his cries.
The machine’s droning vibrated Jaime’s body until he couldn’t breathe. Tommy’s screams pounded against the inside of his skull until he could barely think. Fucking freezing. I’m in here because of him, and I’m going to fucking freeze to death!
Jaime’s arms trembled as he bashed Tommy’s head into the door, but he held on and did it again. And again. When he finished, his hands were completely numb. Feet too. He stripped Tommy and dressed in his clothes. Then he sat on his partner’s cooling blue body and waited.
His gold-capped tooth ached in the cold.