How To Hide A Body In Illinois
The following is an excerpt from the new novel The Lyrebird Threat by J.L. Thurston, now available.
HER BODY WAS CRUMPLED IN POST-MORTEM YOGA. Folded like a greeting card. Her ass stuck straight up in the air and her face was smashed into the white plush carpet.
She was a fresh corpse, still warm and scented with flowery perfume. Doing the downward dog next to the dining room table in the Attorney General of Illinois’ home.
The dead woman was in her mid-sixties but appeared older by the way she dressed and by the gray bun at the top of her head. She had been in excellent health up until the poisoning.
There were no signs of trauma. No blood, no gore to soil the cleanliness of the barely-used home.
Standing over the body was a woman who looked exactly like the Attorney General, Magda Loughty. But she wasn’t. This was a woman of many faces and many voices. A true master of disguise.
She was the Mimic.
Born with a voice that could make any sound, imitate anyone, and with the right connections to special effects makeup artists, the Mimic had everything she needed to overthrow the country’s biggest and darkest secret.
Her heels clicked on the wood floors on her way to the garage. She refused to break character, even when no one was around. The Mimic wore her face like a mask, maintaining Loughty’s trademark mild disappointment. She had studied her for years. She could perfectly mimic the way Loughty made sure most people avoided speaking to her unless they had to. The way she intimidated all those who had the misfortune to meet her.
If Loughty wasn’t tearing someone’s confidence down, she wasn’t awake.
Inside the three-door garage was the victim’s SUV. Beneath the backseat was a tightly folded black tarp and roll of duct tape, both of which the Mimic removed and carried inside to the body.
She moved as quickly as she could, not caring for the noise she made. Speed outweighed stealth.
The body was heavy despite its slender habitus. It flopped and sagged as the Mimic pushed and rolled it onto the tarp.
Sweat began to form on her brow. It would take buckets of sweat to get the facial prosthetics to come unglued, but she worried about her makeup. Too much sweat and she’d begin to look partially melted.
The body was finally tucked into the tarp, rolled and folded. The duct tape made obscenely loud noises as she ripped off strip after strip.
The Mimic was racing against the clock. Her breathing was ragged, her heart thumping high in her throat. She hadn’t felt this exhilarated in years. She reveled in the quaking sensation in her knees. It was all finally happening.
The Mimic dragged the body through the hall to the garage, where she let it roll roughly down the three cement steps to the cold gray floor. She opened the tailgate to the SUV. The body flopped only slightly in the tight tarp roll-up while the Mimic loaded it in and piled on a blanket. Panting, sweating, she threw herself into the driver’s seat and allowed herself time to reapply powder and crank the air conditioning.
According to the dashboard clock, she had just enough time to dump the body, change disguises, and make it to morning coffee at work before being noticeably late.
While she made her way out of Chicago, her mind replayed the old woman’s death. Her graying face choking on the poison, eyes bulging as her heart and lungs failed her. The imagery would be disturbing if it wasn’t so liberating. Nothing that happened in Loughty’s dining room that morning was undeserved.
The long drive took her passed the suburbs where only farmland and woodland could be seen in all directions. She knew of a perfect little pond deep in a heavily wooded area. It was the final resting place for a few Eagle agents. There was room for one more.
The Mimic parked the SUV on the side of the road near a thin deer trail. She kicked off Loughty’s high heels and laced on some hiking boots. She hoisted the tarped body around her shoulders and stomped off into the woods.
Yellow light filtered through a heavy ceiling of green. White tufts of cottonwood pollen drifted whimsically all around. The humidity was high that day. It caused sweat to sting her eyes and soak her back.
She had to rest often. The facial prosthetics began to slide out of place and wilt, but she did not concern herself with them now that she was out of the city. She was careful not to lose anything, however, as she would have to become Loughty again for another murder. Or a suicide, depending on how one looked at it.
The pond seemingly materialized out of the trees. A forgotten water hole surrounded by a ring of mud and rocks, the water was a dark brown speckled with floating blobs of algae.
Panting, muscles aching, the Mimic chose six large rocks to weigh the tarp down. Once they were secured by duct tape, she dragged the body into the water and began to swim out to the center. The weight of the tarp pulled her under and she struggled to swim to the center of the pond with it.
When the effort was too much, she released her package and scrambled to the surface, gasping and choking on the murk. She had swallowed some of the fishy water and nausea was trying to cramp her gut. She paddled to shore and lay in the mud, staring up at the blue morning sky until she caught her breath.
The ticking clock forced her to press on. Once she reached the SUV, she stripped off her ruined business suit and stuffed them under a bush. Underneath the passenger seat in the SUV was a shirt and sweat pants. She still reeked of fish water, but at least she was in dry clothes.
Smiling placidly to herself, she drove back into the city. To Lyrebird Headquarters.
In the puzzling, tightly-packed buildings that filled Chicago, it was easy to overlook the abandoned places. Factories, warehouses, hotels, apartment buildings. All shut down and boarded up. Left to decay until someone with money tears it down for another parking garage, or mall, or restaurant. The Lyrebirds had many options for their headquarters when they moved to Chicago.
The Mimic pulled into a small underground parking lot. Water pooled on the severely cracked pavement where she parked. The brick building that loomed overhead was once a giant in Chicago, but now was overshadowed by skyscrapers four times its size.
It had originally been a thread factory, then its upper levels were used as apartments, then it was abandoned and condemned and used mostly as a crack house until the Lyrebirds moved in.
She parked the SUV and dodged dark and dirty puddles on her way to the door.
Feeling time wasting away, she hurried through the building that had been her home for the past year. The first two levels were uninhabitable. Old, rusted factory equipment made homes for spiders and rats. A metal staircase took her to the third floor where the building had been renovated in the 1960s for apartments.
Due to the work of her Lyrebirds, they had a clean living space, some creature comforts, and- most importantly- running water in the four bathrooms. A generator provided electricity, but sparingly.
She showered in the bathroom at the end of the hall, closest to her room. The water was ice cold, but it rejuvenated her. At that point, being clean was all that mattered to her.
The long hallway had peeling wallpaper and faded carpet. The Mimic toweled off, naked as she moved from the bathroom to the dressing room down the hall. She passed no one. Her Lyrebirds were busy, finishing the last steps editing the film. She hoped to be able to look it over tonight, or perhaps tomorrow.
She passed by bedrooms, a locked office, and a conference room. The bedroom doors were open, exposing the cots, sleeping bags, and other belongings that filled the living spaces. It looked like a refuge in a zombie apocalypse flick.
The last room on the right was the dressing room. It was the place where she underwent her transformations, almost as if by magic. Toby Bennett was a special effects makeup artist who was a genius of the highest caliber in his field.
She found him lounging in a chair by the window, reading. He did not blink at her naked form. Her body was not a secret to him. She was a canvas on which his art came to life. At the makeup table, her new set of prosthetics and palettes awaited. Her new identity awaited.
As the hour passed, Toby worked up a sweat while he transformed the Mimic into a completely different person. She ran information over in her head as though memorizing a script. All the people she’d impersonated had been a challenge, but this was the ultimate test. Any mistake would be blaringly obvious. She had to focus, to alter her mind so that it ran parallel with her latest victim’s.
This new disguise would be her ticket to the final moves in her revenge scheme. She was so close to her checkmate and Eagle was still completely unaware of her existence. But that was about to change. She had plenty of mind games in store for Loughty. That bitch would know the Mimic was closing in on her, and she would be helpless in stopping her.
But, best of all, the world would know about Eagle when it was all said and done. The world would hate Eagle, and Eagle would be no more. Soon.
Now a different person, but still pressed by time, the Mimic drove her SUV back to the Attorney General’s house for a quick errand. She had a delivery to make. A wooden lyrebird, ornate and handcrafted in Australia, found a new home at the front door, facing the sidewalk.
The bird gave her comfort, gave her purpose. But to the Attorney General, the bird would send a message of fear. She will know pain is coming.
Agent Ben Ridley is a mentally unstable Eagle Operative in Chicago, tormented by his past and his many secrets. The Lyrebird Threat is a thriller that will bring upon you a sudden rush of emotions and excitement. It is a unique- and often heart wrenching- first chapter on the next great literary friendship.