Creative Loafing Tampa Fiction Contest 2019: "Mistakes Were Made"

I’m starting to think calling an Uber to move the body was a mistake.

Not that calling an Uber was a terrible idea, I stand by the premise, I just didn't really prepare enough. It's not like that's how the date was supposed to end, and I didn't mean for it to happen. Not the first one, at least, that wasn't on purpose, I swear. I'd tell you if it was. I know it's what people say every time they screw up, but it really was an accident.

It's a really weird thing killing somebody, but not in the way you'd think. From watching movies or whatever crime drama was topping the ratings on network TV, you'd assume it would have some kind of lasting impact, some gravitas. Sometimes it's an accident, sometimes it's on purpose, but either way It's actually fairly easy. You just decide to do it, you do it, and you go home. Maybe it's just me, but I stress out a little more about paying for gas with cash. The worst part of it's getting rid of the body. That can be difficult.

I swear, what kicked everything off was absolutely an accident, it was supposed to be a funny thing I said to make a girl like me. I made a light-hearted joke about coyotes, pushed her on the shoulder, and she fell over. It was a Tinder date, for God's sake, and it had gone pretty well as far as those things can. I'm not much of a Tinder guy, really, and I like to get to know someone before, you know, but she seemed to be having a good time.

I was trying to be cute, trying to be the kind of person she'd call again, or at least go home with that night. I didn't know there was a curb there to land on, I didn't know she'd fall onto it, and I certainly didn't know I'd hear that awful crunch when her head met it. To tell you the truth, it sounded just like when you're cracking crab claws with one of those — oh, I forget the name, but you know what I mean. I guess it's a little strange the sound made me hungry, and I thought of garlic butter, but I had bigger problems to deal with than errant musings on the sound of a human skull breaking.

The one thing I did know was that I couldn't have all that blood in my car. I have cable, I watch those shows about forensics and murder when I can't sleep. You know the type. You never want the blood or hair or skin cells or whatever else on your stuff. I did what any normal person would do: I scoured that ratty parking garage's garbage cans for bags, I wrapped her up, I tried not to get too much of it on me, and I got on my phone to make sure anyone's car but mine was going to have that DNA in it.

Looking back on it, sure, it was kind of a stupid idea. Who doesn't look at you strangely when you're loading something heavy wrapped in a couple of garbage bags into their trunk? You can't really tip your way out of that, but at least it got the car moving, the promise of a few extra bucks. The guy didn't even ask why I was going from Ybor to some random, Google Maps-found town across the Skyway. I told him I was drunk when we got near the top of it, told him to pull over, told him I didn't want to get sick on his upholstery. He only got weird about it when I asked him to pop the trunk and tossed the body. At that point, yeah, he knew what I was doing. I think he did, at least. But in the moment, I didn't think I had a choice.

I got a new car out of it. Temporarily, at least, I didn't want to be tied to it. I tossed his phone over the bridge to meet the body somewhere in the bay, and I put him in the back seat. At that point, I had a new problem.

I still feel bad about it, I really do. It was just a reflex; he got out of the driver's seat right after I overhanded my date into the gulf like a hundred pound football, and I just pushed him a little too hard against the guard rail. He was being really loud about it, I just wanted him to stop. I didn't mean to hurt him, I just wanted him to shut his mouth for a second, and he kept going on about calling the police. I couldn't have that. It was a totally rational decision, if you think about it. Anybody would have done it. The noise in your head's enough sometimes, you don't need someone adding to it.

I know what you're thinking — I should have just tossed the driver in too, but I was too worried about customer logs and GPS and all of that stuff you see on TV. They do fish those bodies out; there's a whole club at a local college who does emergency response to jumpers, and I guess the people who get tossed as well. I knew I couldn't get rid of him there, but Tampa's a big city, and there's a lot of dark places. If you're gonna toss someone off that bridge, you better make sure nobody sees it, or else they send the boats out. I got lucky, that time.

So that was the first driver, and I guess the second body. What's the saying — play stupid games, win stupid prizes? I thought it would be a good idea to ditch his car, a Prius no less, which if I'm being honest made me resent him a bit, somewhere people wouldn't go looking. Tampa has a lot of parking lots. It did look like a bit of an accident, maybe he got mugged, or got into an argument and slipped and fell. I was smart about it though, I couldn't just leave the body in the car, someone was bound to notice eventually, and I was his last listed customer.

I used his thumb to unlock his phone, closed out my ride through his app, and on my end made sure I left him a good tip. He did deserve the five-star rating, all things considered. Standing there in the middle of the night in an empty parking lot, I realized I was going to need a ride home. And you can't just leave bodies lying around, so I did what I thought was going to work the first time. I called another one.

I had to wait around for a while, of course. And I had to make sure my new companion and I weren't picked up too close to where the car was, or people would start putting it together. It's a good thing that stretch of Dale Mabry Highway isn't populated by the sort of people who act shocked when you're dragging your "drunk" friend down the sidewalk at three in the morning, or I could have been in some trouble. It's amazing what people will ignore if you just say, "bachelor party."

The second driver looked exactly how you'd expect a guy picking you up near the strip clubs at 3am on a Thursday night would look; a little rough around the edges, a ball cap covering what was left of his greasy hair, unkempt and unshaven, and a lot of food wrappers in his ashtray of a car. He was perfect. This was the sort of guy who, no matter what he was up to, just did not give a shit.

My "friend" and I piled into the backseat, and I just told the guy to head east. There's plenty of strange creatures living in the swamp around the river, even more than on Dale Mabry, I'm was sure one of them would clean things up for me. True to his appearance and relative professionalism, no questions were asked; the driver just shouted "don't let him puke back there" as he lit a joint and cranked the classic rock.

We ended up somewhere out on the east side of town, where for some reason every street's got a road crossing the river, and everything beyond that bridge is somehow a swamp. Couldn't have asked for a better place, and if you think about it, and the driver himself kind of gave me an idea. I just said, "you might want to pull over, I think he's going to be sick."

That's the thing with the Uber guys, all you have to do is suggest someone's going to throw up, and they pull over quick. I dragged my friend out of the car, leaned him over the side of the safety wall, and made it seem like he was just feeding the fish for a second. The driver never got out, but he must have been looking, because when I lifted the feet and the body went over the side, he shouted at me. And, well, if you've been listening this far, you know how that ends.

I'm telling you, I couldn't catch a break. This wasn't the kind of thing that was supposed to happen to a guy like me. I paid my taxes, I was nice to my neighbors, I didn't even download music. Sometimes you're just on the wrong end of things, I guess. At least we were in the middle of nowhere. Once again, I found myself driving someone else's car, looking for somewhere to put it. I cruised around those little streets on the east side of town for a while, just looking for somewhere to put the guy, until I ended up somewhere so lost I wasn't sure I'd find him again if I went looking.

That part of town wasn't supposed to be busy in the middle of the night, but I guess that's my fault, being so close to a Waffle House. I sat there for almost an hour, just waiting until I hadn't seen headlights for a few minutes, when I could drag him into the underpass and stuff him up under I-75 where nobody but wild animals would find him. Sitting there, fiddling with his radio presets, I eventually looked up and saw two sets of lights coming toward me. The second car added more lights, red and blue ones, so I had to move. I was stuck with this one for a while.

I didn't know what else to do. I'd closed the ride out, and tossed the phone, but I still had the car, and I still had the body. I drove close to home, but not too close, and left the body in the bushes. I was starting to get sloppy, so I'd have to move fast, and just hope that nobody was paying too much attention. I dropped the car off outside of a bar down the street and walked home. That wasn't a great time, it's always so hot here in the summer, even at night. And I wasn't even done exercising.

I had to roll my garbage can down the street a bit to pick the body up, but at that time of night if it did wake anyone, my neighbors were probably just happy I was actually taking my garbage out for once. I stuffed him in, closed the lid, and rolled my everything back up to the house. That was dangerous, and the whole thing wasn't getting any easier. Bodies are really, really heavy.

I had to get out of this loop. It was taking up almost all of my free time, and If i'm being honest about it, I never really was that big of a guy, and dragging corpses around town gets old. I thought about it for a good long while, and eventually came to a realization: I'd been using Uber drivers to move the bodies because I didn't want the evidence in my own car.

If I could put the evidence on the car, couldn't I just as easily put the evidence on a customer? I could become an Uber driver myself, and then the first poor sap to sit in my back seat would have hair, fibers, maybe even a little blood all over him. And I'd have a reason for all of that to be in my car.

It's kind of scary how easy it was to sign up as an Uber driver. I took the day off of work, applied, filled out all of their background check information, submitted everything they'd ever want to know about my driving history, and I was set. I'm not sure they even had time to run a background check, but I wasn't worried. I was a good guy, not so much as a speeding ticket.

Less than a day later, I was ready to start my new night job. I actually kind of enjoyed it, even if I did get a few complaints about the smell coming from the trunk. There's something really nice about driving back and forth across the bay on those long bridges, just staring out over the water, seeing the moon's reflection rippling on the shallow waves. Making conversation with strangers, asking them about their lives, hearing about their days. I'm a people person.

After a few hours, I finally picked a guy up who was so rude to me, I didn't mind putting things off on him. It doesn't take much effort to be polite, you almost have to try to be mean to someone you don't know, really.

He was standing at the curb, a suitcase on each side of him, and he was really kind of pushy. He didn't even ask me if I needed help getting his suitcases into the car, he just kept looking around and telling me to hurry up, and he was in such a rush he didn't even notice I was loading that really, incredibly heavy luggage haphazardly over a rolled up tarp.

The guy got into the back of my car, and he was sweating, even though I'd done all the work. A total jerk, I'm telling you, he didn't even say thanks when I loaded his bags, he just really wanted to get moving sooner than later. I don't think he was the kind of guy who was ever really concerned with manners. Credit where it's due, he didn't complain about the smell, at least. He didn't smell so great himself.

I started driving, and after a while, I realized I hadn't even asked him where we were headed. He seemed a little confused by the question, but he finally managed to muster up enough energy to grunt at me, "just take the bridge, please."

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