THE PRICE OF COPPER - CHAD EAGLETON
They worked in the dark and in the cold, not stopping until morning lay just on the other side of the ridge. A few headlights had just begun breaking through the thin spots in the tree line to flare briefly before vanishing and reappearing farther down the highway’s snake curves.
Hank lit a menthol and offered the pack. “Nice someone’s still got a job.”
Pete refused the cigarettes. “Yeah, must be nice,” he said. “A regular paycheck.”
Hank looked at his friend. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”
“No,” he said. “This was my idea, remember?”
“And you know where we can unload this?”
“Yeah, I do. Unload it with no questions and a fair price.”
“Just making sure.” Hank sat the Folger’s can beside him and tapped the ash off his cigarette. “How much is a fair price?” Hank patted the tarp covering the truck bed full of copper wiring and copper pipes. “What’s the price of copper?”
“Fair,” Pete said again and then added, “but not nearly enough.”
Hank nodded. “How’s Cinda?”
Pete looked at him. “She’s fine.”
“Does she know what we’re doing?”
“Course not. Do you think she’d be fine with all this?”
Hank stared at the three vacant houses and the skeletons of two more unfinished.
“No, she’s a good woman.”
“How long before they notice?”
Pete looked up into the brightening sky. “If we get out of here before the snows come...once we turn the security lights back on...hopefully, at least a week.”
“They’ll probably blame it on meth heads.”
“That’s the idea,” Pete said, pulling his work gloves from his back pocket.
Hank killed his smoke. “We really need to turn those back on?”
“If we get as much snow as they say we’re supposed to, someone’s going to at least do a drive-by. If all the lights are dark, that’s gonna raise suspicions.”
“Don’t want that.”
“We don’t want that.”
As Pete walked from the truck to the first security light, the snow had just begun to fall. He took a chilled breath and scaled the pole.
Hank waited by the truck and lit another cigarette. “Maybe, we could all go to dinner next week?” he yelled up at Pete.
“Maybe we can all go to dinner next week? You, me and Cinda?”
“No,” he yelled down. “She’ll wonder where we got the money.”
Hank nodded. “Maybe I’ll take her to dinner,” he said quietly.
“Hey,” Pete yelled down.
Hank startled. Fuck, he heard—the security lights brightened to life. Hank relaxed.
“We’re set. Go flip the junction box. It’s the one in the blue house.”
“What?” he asked even though he had heard.
“Go flip the junction box.”
Hank tossed his cigarette in the can and gave Pete a thumbs-up.
From his perch, he watched Hank enter the house and walk past the kitchen windows. A flashlight kicked on. The security lights flared, dimmed, and then darkened.
Pete climbed down the pole. He moved around the left side of the house and opened one side of the kitchen doors. He crouched and looked through the door.
Hank lay on the floor, hands clenched in awkward claws while little wisps of smoke rose from his clothes. He made a noise. An awful, pained noise.
Pete wiped snot from his lip. “You didn’t fucking think I’d know?”
Hank didn’t answer.
“Well, I do know, you fucking motherfucker.”
Hank answered with a right hand spasm, a nail-blackened dance. He tried to open his mouth. The soldered fillings kept it closed.
“You wanted to know how much we’d get for this? Well, now you know. This is the price of copper.”
BIO: Chad Eagleton lives in Indiana. He has been published in DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash, Pulp Pusher, Bad Things, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Darkest Before The Dawn (in collaboration with Keith Rawson) and Beat To A Pulp.