First, Norm had to get the right tools. Knowing he’d be digging in loose soil, he looked over his tool rack. Spying the implements he would need—folding shovel, lamp, and a tarp—he gathered them together and put them on the workbench. When the time came, tying them together would allow for easy movement, especially in the dark. To insure there would be no metallic banging sounds when moved, Norm cushioned the tools by wrapping a cloth around each item.

When he saw Laura return to the house, he walked out front and watched the crew dig a gaping hole in his front yard. Once done, he looked at the loosened Fremont sour soil. The area in the hole was large enough to fit an adult human body. He began to estimate how long it would take to scrap out a grave for Laura.

For his plan to work, Norm needed more cover than just the streetlights being off. It had to be something that didn’t produce a lot of moisture but obscured vision on the ground. Try as he might, he couldn’t think of anything that would block the neighbors from seeing what he was doing. The excavation site would only be open a short time, no more than a day or two. Once refilled, his opportunity to bury Laura there would be lost.

It looked like he would have to chance going with just the streetlights being down when, checking his weather app, he noticed that the National Weather Service issued a heavy fog warning for his area that evening. He looked at the projected path of the fog bank. It would arrive around midnight.

This stroke of good luck meant Norm had to figure out how to kill Laura, get her from the house into the hole, and bury her that evening. Uneasy at having to move so quickly, he also bristled at the thought of bloody violence to incapacitate her. Then he remembered there was a full bottle of hydrocodone pills in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. He got another idea and went into the house.

“Laura, are you hungry? How about me making some stew?” Laura was surprised, but her anger about the construction project had tired her out. She had not prepared dinner. She answered, “How long will it take? I’m hungry now. You know it’s getting late to eat.”

“I can get it done pretty fast.” A good stew and soup maker, Norm prepared their dinner. Sneaking the hydrocodone pills from the medicine chest, he added twenty, then crushed ten milligram pills and a little codeine cough syrup into the stew. Fearing Laura would taste it, he poured some red wine in to cover any unsavory flavor from the cough syrup.

While she was waiting and the stew was cooking, Laura developed a headache from not eating, so she went to the medicine cabinet for some aspirin. She noticed the hydrocodone pill bottle was empty but said nothing.

She then heard Norm say, “Laura, it’s ready.” She sat at the dinner table as he ladled out a portion of stew into a large bowl. He then made up an excuse to step outside without eating any. While outside he placed a short cell phone call, all he said was “latte to go,” then hung up.

He was only outside a couple of minutes, but Laura suspected he was trying to drug her. The empty pill bottle and his not eating meant something must be in the stew. Figuring Norm had spiked it, she decided to play along to see what he was up to.

When he returned, Laura’s bowl was empty. After a few minutes, she seemed to be getting woozy and disoriented. Soon after, she put her head down on the table and appeared to be asleep. Norm figured with the amount of hydrocodone he had put in the stew, she might soon be dead. Satisfied she was incapacitated, all he needed to do now was to get her body from the house to the excavation site.

As darkness fell, he moved Laura to the floor next to the kitchen table. He went to his shed, gathered the tarp and his tools, and brought them into the garage. Leaving the tools there, he then brought the tarp to the kitchen, placed it on the floor next to Laura, rolled her onto it and then pulled her into the garage. Once in the garage, he folded the tarp over her body.

So far, Norm’s plan was working. The anticipated weather front arrived as predicted. The gathering mist became a thick fog. With the street lights out, the neighborhood was as dark as he had ever seen it. He needed to move Laura, but first, he had to get to the hole and dig down into the loosened sour soil, making a spot to bury her body. Norm shut off all the lights in the garage and house and looked out the window to be sure there were no people outside.

As the fog thickened, visibility in his yard was about two feet leading to the excavation site. The coast seemed clear. Leaving Laura on the tarp, he took his tools toward the hole. The crew had erected an orange plastic safety fence around the hole. When he got to it, he pushed the fence aside with the intent of replacing it later when he completed his task.

Norm lowered his tools into the hole, jumped down, and quietly scraped out a depression in the loose sour soil. It took him about an hour and a half to get down three feet deep. Piling the dirt posed something of a problem because of the confined space. He was able to dig deep enough to inter a body and cover it up. He was confident it would not be seen from ground level. He was now ready to move Laura into the hole.

Leaving the shovel and lamp, he came back to the garage. With the lights still off, as Norm reached down to pull the tarp toward the hole, Laura’s body was gone. He began to panic, The drugs didn’t knock her out, he thought.  Although it was dark, he turned to look around the garage to see if she had crawled off; as he did, he felt a hard crack on the back of his head.

While Norm was out cold, Laura placed a cell phone call to Sully. She had met him at her book club. Not long after, they became lovers. Just like Norm and Tina, they had spoken at length about her unhappy marriage. They, too, had their own plan to get rid of Norm using the excavation outside Laura’s house, but he had beaten them to the punch. Now, forced to react to Norm’s moves, they had to improvise.

Laura told Sully what had happened and asked for help. She said, “What do I do? He’s trying to kill me. This fog gave him the cover he needed. Get over here.”

Sully said, “Find some duct tape, tape his hands and legs together. Then put some tape over his mouth. I’m on my way. We’ll take care of him when I get there.”

She found the duct tape and did as instructed. When Norm came to, he found his feet and hands taped together and a piece of duct tape across his mouth. The back of his head ached. He was on the tarp, being pulled, first across the garage floor, then the grass, toward the street. As the tarp started moving faster, Norm realized two people were dragging it.

Arriving at the open hole, and about to be rolled into the spot he had prepared for Laura, he saw Sully, who dropped him into the hole. Sully jumped in and found the tools Norm had used to dig the grave in the sour soil. He positioned Norm in the makeshift grave, but before he covered Norm completely, he said, “Pal, remember I told you the bigger hole on your property was just luck. Well, it’s your bad luck. We loosened the soil for you. Thanks for digging your own grave.”

As Sully finished his task, he made sure to rough up the soil to obscure any footprints. Once out of the hole, he hugged Laura, then said, “Honey, I have to get out of here and get some sleep so I can arrive to work on time tomorrow. I’ll get the crew to fill in the hole; they won’t ask any questions. Don’t stay out here. It’s not safe. Someone might see you. We have to stay off the phone, so don’t call me. After we finish work at the site tomorrow, come outside. I’ll see you then.” He then turned and walked through the fog, heading for his car parked a couple of streets away. Laura stood alone at the top of the hole.

Ignoring his warning, she stayed for a few minutes after he left. She wanted to lay one last insult on Norm. She knelt down by the rim and said, “Thought you’d kill me, huh? You’re as stupid as you are worthless. No one is gonna miss you. Oh yeah, I’m still hungry, jerk.”

With her attention focused on Norm, she didn’t notice a person coming up on her. Tina Morado, having received Norm’s message, had arrived and was watching from behind a tree.

Because she knew Norm’s plan, she knew something was off. Norm should have been at the hole but wasn’t. Emerging out of the fog, she could see two figures dragging something toward the hole. The fog made seeing difficult, but she could hear a shovel digging into the soil. She couldn’t get closer to see what was going on. When she saw a man climb out of the hole, hug the other person, and then leave, she knew something went wrong and decided to move.

Tina, the barista, was a former mixed martial arts fighter. She snuck up behind Laura and, using her arm, put a chokehold around Laura’s neck. As Tina applied more pressure, Laura’s hyoid bone fractured and she could no longer breathe. Tina kept her hand over Laura’s mouth to try to keep her quiet. Death soon followed. Norm was Tina’s chance at a decent life; Laura was not going to steal that from her. Tina would do anything to save Norm. Removing her hand but with her arm still around Laura’s neck, she laid Laura’s limp body on the ground. Checking for a pulse, she found none.

She then jumped into the hole and, using her hands, started scratching around in the sour soil for Norm. She dug as fast as she could to find and uncover his head. The loose soil was easy to get through. She uncovered his head and ripped off the duct tape covering his mouth. He coughed quite a bit but soon was breathing normally. He had a nasty, bloody gash on the back of his head but seemed to be coming around.

Tina was a strong woman, but it still took a great deal of effort for her to get Norm upright to the point she could push him up the side of the hole and above the rim. She then climbed out and pulled him onto the grass. Grabbing the shovel left on the ground, she went back into the hole and cleared the spot where Norm had been. It took her some time to re-dig the grave deep enough for Laura’s body. The fog was still thick but beginning to dissipate. She knew she had to hurry to avoid detection. Tina maneuvered Laura’s body into the grave, then covered her with the sour soil.

Covering Laura’s body so that it could not be seen from the top of the opening, Tina made sure to get rid of any footprints from the bottom of the hole and around the rim. She then got Norm back into his house along with the tools. She cleaned him up the best she could, piled him in his car and, although it was slow going in the fog, took him to the hospital. Upon arrival, she told the emergency room staff Norm had slipped backward and hit his head on the edge of a countertop.

Although the nurses thought the gash on Norm’s head looked like the result of a blunt force trauma, on Tina’s urging, they noted “accident in home” as the cause. The staff then worked to clean and close the wound.


The next day, the workers returned to the cul-de-sac. Sully told them they needed to complete the work on the excavation site in front of Norm’s house before moving on to other sites. He personally installed the conduit and the communication cables. Once finished, he put in the access tube and manhole cover in the open hole. Replacing the soil around the tube to prevent subsidence, Sully personally used a compacter on the fill. Grading the excavation area to match the level of the yard, the job was completed.

Sully smiled and was relieved that everything went without incident. No one on the crew knew they helped to bury a body. Sully thought, Norm’s down there forever. The acid in the soil would soon eliminate all traces of him. He couldn’t wait to see Laura and tell her everything was done. When she didn’t come out to talk to him, he figured she was sleeping in. He’d catch up with her later.

Sully and the crew were getting ready to leave when he noticed a car coming down the cul-de-sac. Driven by a woman he didn’t recognize, as it passed him, his eyes widened; his jaw slackened. From the front seat of the car, Norm Bellaire, his head heavily bandaged, waved as he and Tina drove by and pulled into the driveway. They got out of the car and went into the house. It was then Sully realized who he buried in the Fremont sour soil at the bottom of the hole.


For all installments of “Fremont Sour Soil,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1