It was a thunder-clap from both outside and inside that left his ears ringing. He also felt the sting of the hot shell casing as it ejected into his left palm. He could see through his ever-dilating pupils, the large flakes of snow as they felt from the cloudy skies. And as the bullet passed through his brain, a final thought registered: “Died instantly – bullshit!”
Bobby Davis was nothing, if not meticulous when it came to planning and he’d been planning this final event since Spring of the following year. A man who enjoyed puzzles, when he set his mind to doing something, he didn’t hold back, even when it meant his own death.
Claiming to be rock-hunting, he’d found a secluded patch of earth that he began to work. He started by digging a small ditch, seven feet long and four-and-a-half feet wide. By the time he’d finished digging, he was down five feet deep.
Quietly, over many weeks and a few months, Bobby moved the necessary supplies to the site and began construction on what he knew to be a most elaborate puzzle known to man ‘since the Pyramid’s were built.’ This was going to be a monument to himself, created by himself.
After five-years of nothing, a lack of work, increasing bills and a shortened sense of self-worth and an inability to continue another year of the same, Bobby suddenly felt alive again. He had something worth doing, to working on, a schedule to maintain and it felt good to him.
Prior to his construction project, Bobby had concluded that perhaps there was something to the cheesy, tired old line: “I’m worth more dead, than alive.” Holding that in his mind, he had secretly taken out extra insurance on himself and though it was a struggle, managed to keep up the monthly payments and keep the fact that he’d done so from his wife.
“If I’m gonna do this, I wanna make sure she’s taken care of after I’m gone,” he told himself. Sure, it would take a few years before she could have him legally declared dead, but in the end the million-and-a-half dollar payout would make the hassle worth it.
It began with three 10-foot long four-by-four’s and a piece of six-by-four plywood. He nailed the plywood to the four-by-fours, so that four-and-a-half feet of each timber would fit properly in the hole he was digging. To that, Bobby pounded a foot wide piece of pine planking across the base and another to the ends of each post.
To protect the plywood, Bobby coated it with two layers of white paint, followed up by some black to highlight it. He then covered it with a plastic tarp to let it dry. All the while he continued to dig deeper and deeper into the ground.
Once his pit was deep enough, he moved an old log to the edge of the pit, then dragged his recently constructed contraption onto it. He spent most of the afternoon adjusting and readjusting the three four-by-fours and plywood so that the form was perfectly balanced on the log, which was now a fulcrum.
To fill some time as he waited for the paint to finish drying, he moved some of the stones he’d pulled from the pit and used them to line the hole. It didn’t take long for the summer sun to dry the paint he’d applied to the board, which meant he could begin moving the dirt he’d shoveled from the hole onto the board.
As he did this, he consulted the math he’d created to make certain everything fell into place as planned. An adjustment here and an adjustment there and soon he had the four-by-fours and plywood, covered in dirt and rocks, balanced so the slightest weight would set the entire thing falling into the hole.
Under the boards that extended out and over the hole, he’d slipped two solid tree branches to prevent the thing from being prematurely triggered. The entire set up was so precarious that Bobby felt certain that anything over 30-pounds coming in contact with the any of the three posts could set the whole thing off. He didn’t want to start over.
By the first days of winter, he had finished the majority his work on the project. He was at peace with himself and because he’d stayed busy for so long, he didn’t have time to grow anymore depressed than he had been before the start of the pit’s construction. Because of this, Bobby’s wife didn’t recognize the slight change in his demeanor as they turned in for the night.
As it began to snow heavily, Bobby went to the market for his wife, who wanted to bake a cake and needed some milk. He was gone longer than he should have been, claiming to have run into a former co-worker and having gotten lost in conversation. Though angry with him, she accepted his story as fact, when in reality, Bobby had spent the extra time drawing blood from himself and filling an empty ketchup bottle half-full.
He left the ketchup bottle in his truck and enjoyed a piece of German chocolate cake with a cup of coffee that evening ahead of bed. By the time the couple retired for the night, his wife was no longer angry and Bobby felt at peace with himself.
The following morning he awoke at four with his wife, as was their custom. He made coffee as she showered, dressed and got ready for work. He opened their garage door and started her car. Next he shoveled the thick layer of snow from the driveway, so it would be easier for his wife to back out and watched as she left.
Without showering, Bobby got dressed, grabbed his pistol and an unopened bottle of whiskey, shoving them in his jacket pocket, said a final goodbye to his dogs and headed outside to his snow-covered truck. He brushed away the snow that encased the windshield and doors, started the engine, turned on the headlights and the heater. He placed his wallet and cellphone inside the center console as he usually did, then retrieved the now frozen ketchup bottle of blood and tucked it in his jacket to thaw it out.
He knew that because the blood had frozen, investigators would soon figure out that the ‘crime scene’ was staged. He also knew that it would take some time for anyone to figure this out since it was snowing and much of the ‘evidence’ would be covered in snow by the time daylight arrived
Bobby did his best to make it look as if he’d been attacked in the driveway; a few drops of blood straight downward to simulate a nose-bleed, followed by a frenzied scattering of blood droplets in all directions, a bloody hand print on the steering wheel and on the inside of the driver’s door, ending in a single spray of blood aimed towards the passenger window, that also covered the seat and dashboard. Lastly, using a tissue, he removed a spent shell casing from his coat pocket and placed it under the gas pedal, then stuffed the tissue in his pants pocket.
Finished, Bobby flipped the hood up on his jacket and walk up the street and turned the corner without looking back. He quick stepped through the neighborhood, dropping the ketchup bottle in a random neighbor’s garbage can, that they’d left out on the street following that weeks trash pick up, and into the wilderness above the homes, marching the five miles to the site of his pit. He arrived jus’ as morning broke and a soft gray light filled the sky and then the valley.
He took his time removing the snow from the three four-by-fours as they hung over the pit. He was glad that he’d taken the time to cover and secure the dirt and rock, he’d piled up in the board. He carefully peeled the blue plastic back, folded it and dropped in the hole. Finally, he gently removed the two branches that kept the entire thing from falling into the hole before he was ready to make it fall.
As the snow continued dropping feather-like, Bobby opened the bottle of whiskey and drew a mouthful, swallowing the liquid in a single gulp, enjoying the burning-sensation in his throat and on his tongue that it left behind. After three more pulls from the bottle, it was empty and he slipped it back into his pocket.
From his other pocket, he withdrew his pistol. He pulled back the slider, charging the weapon, placing a single round in the chamber. With gun in hand he lowered his head and said a silent prayer, hoping for forgiveness for what he was about to do. Finally, he cocked his head back, forcing his face to the sky, and using his right hand, placed the firearm under his chin, opened his mouth slightly, placed his left hand over the ejector port and with his thumb inside the trigger guard, took a deep breath, letting it out before pushing down on the trigger.
Bobby knew that because he had his head positioned back, his body would fall in that direction. He toppled over onto the pine boards that secured the three four-by-four’s together. His weight unbalanced the set-up and as planned, it quickly dropped him into the pit, causing the board to stand upright, emptying the dirt and rock into the hole, covering Bobby’s dead body.
Anyone that knew Bobby, knew his ironic sense of humor, but since nobody had any idea what became of him, there was no one around to get his final joke. And after a few months, should anyone have happened upon the site, they’d have found nothing more than a dilapidated plywood sign, nailed to three four-by-four fence posts, reading: “Know Jesus, Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace.”