Read an extract of Jesse Sutanto’s hilarious and highly original debut novel, Dial A for Aunties!
There’s a dead man in my car.
A man. Dead. In the driver’s seat of my Subaru. This is not at all on-brand for Subaru. Subarus aren’t killers’ cars. Jeep Wranglers are. Or um, whoever makes those windowless white vans. Who makes those, anyway? I mean, those are creepy AF—
A sob warbles out. No. I can’t afford to freak out right now. If I start crying, I’m never going to stop. What do I do?
Yeah. 911. Right.
I open the back seat and reach inside, shielding my gaze from Jake’s body—focus on finding my purse—there it is. Cell phone. Nothing happens when I hit the power button. I moan. No, please. Out of power. I inhale shakily and reach for Jake’s pocket. Maybe his phone’s in there. My teeth grit so hard when the tips of my fingers brush against his pants that I almost crack my molars.
The thought of groping about his pants for his phone is nauseating.
Okay. This is fine. This is totally and utterly okay. I’ll just… I’ll wait here until a car drives by.
Except. Except god knows how long we’ve been here, and no one’s driven past. There are no houses or convenience stores or anything that might contain human life around me. The factories look like they haven’t been used in years; many of the windows are broken and they’re completely silent. I can’t wait here much longer. I can’t stand it. I glance back at the car. Incredibly, despite having crashed into a tree, it looks largely okay. The hood’s dented, obviously, and there’s a large crack running up one side of the windshield, but aside from that, it looks . . . drivable.
“No,” I mutter to myself. I can’t possibly drive it. Not least because there is a dead guy in the driver’s seat.
Then move him.
My whole body recoils at the thought of touching him again. But my mind is like a caged wild animal, throwing itself against the bars and hissing. I need to get out of here. I can’t stay here another minute, hoping for someone to drive by, hoping they’d be nice enough to stop.
Gulping in shallow gasps of air, I open the door to the driver’s side, yelping when Jake’s body slumps onto the pavement. Oh god, I was definitely not expecting that to happen. Hang on. I should check for a pulse. Or should I? He’s so clearly dead. Yes, yes, I should. Whimpering slightly, I press a trembling finger against his wrist. I manage to keep it there for all of two seconds before I yank my hand back and wipe it furiously on my shirt. Dead. Very dead. I take another deep breath, fanning at my face, trying to put out the flames in my cheeks, then I reach out and grab Jake’s arms.
They’re still warm. Argh. Somehow, that makes it so much worse. Bile rushes up, but I grit my teeth and pull hard. Thanks to my job, I’ve had to work out religiously — carrying my two heavy cameras plus all those lenses for ten hours straight is hell on my back and shoulders, so I do everything possible to increase my strength and endurance. I even splurge on a weekly session with Dinah, the best personal trainer that my gym has to offer. Which means when I pull, Jake’s body actually moves, surprisingly easily. Dinah would be proud.
Okay, Dinah would definitely not be proud of the fact that I can move a 180-pound man whom I’ve killed. And why am I even thinking of Dinah right now? Because—my mind argues as I yank Jake across the pavement, to the back of the car—because you need to think of anything and everything else that isn’t, “Holy shit, I’m moving a dead body!”
Holy shit, I’m moving a dead body.
Where? Where do I move him to? I can’t leave him here. That’s way too cruel. But I can’t stomach the thought of having it— him—in the backseat of the car while I’m driving. I eye the trunk. Okay. Trunk it is.
As an afterthought, I take a hoodie that I keep in the back seat and drape it over his face. Jake was an asshole when he was alive, but now that he’s dead, I feel an inexplicable need to treat him with respect. I’m going to need so much therapy to unpack all of this.
Once I slam the trunk shut and Jake’s out of sight, I feel some- what better. More in control. In control? Who am I kidding? I have a literal corpse in my car. I shake my head. Let’s not dwell on that. Shuddering to myself, I slide back into the car. Please, start, please—
The engine rumbles to life as soon as I turn the key. My breath releases in a whoosh, and I take a moment to calm down. Or try to, anyway. I’ll just drive until I find a payphone, and then I’ll call 911. Right.
I back out slowly, wincing at the scraping sound my bumper makes along the road. Maybe I should get out and try to fix that, but no. I really can’t stomach another second at this cursed spot. My breath is still coming out in shallow, panicked gasps as I drive along the road, and the brighter the streets become, the more panicky I feel. This is nuts. What have I done? I’ve put a body in the trunk of my car. What would the cops say when I call them? What would I even say? Why the hell did I do that? What kind of sane person would do that?
Question after question assaults my mind, until a scream rips out of me and in that instant, I realize: I can’t go to the cops. They’ll think I’m guilty of murder, that I’m some crazed killer, and they’ll arrest me.
There’s a gas station in the distance. This is my chance. I can stop there, rush inside, and beg for help. But my foot presses down on the gas pedal, refusing to let up, and I zoom right past it. It’s as though my subconscious has gotten hold of my body and is forcing it to keep driving, not looking back, until I hit the entrance to the 405. I take it, heart drumming painfully at the familiar road sign, head throbbing as I join the traffic zooming down the freeway. I’m driving down the 405 with a dead body in my trunk. A hysterical laugh bubbles out. It sounds cracked, slightly mad. Tears spring into my eyes when I see the sign for the 10. So close to home. To safety. A lump catches in my throat. For the first time in years, I can’t wait to get home to Ma.