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Connected: Sanger Road

CONNECTED: SANGER ROAD

Copyright 2016 W. W. Watson, all rights reserved foreign and domestic.

 

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

Portions of this novel are Copyright © 2010 – 2015 W. W. Watson. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

SANGER ROAD

ONE

Friday

Carl Evers came awake all at once: He had been dozing in front of the television. He had come home about two A.M. from work. He’d picked up beer and cigarettes for the weekend, he didn’t work Fridays, that was the beginning of his weekend. He’d debated and then decided to stay up a little while, have a few beers and watch TV. The Canadian station was coming in pretty good and there had been some foreign film on. It was in French, or at least he supposed it was in French. He heard enough French living so close to Canada, and he had even been to Canada a few times, so he was pretty sure it was French. He couldn’t understand a word of it, but you didn’t have to speak French to understand nudity. And there had been a lot of nudity in the film. The film had been about a group of young college girls who kept finding themselves in trouble, or naked, or both. Somewhere along in there he had fallen asleep.

The clock said 7:30 AM. The sun was up. The trailer was cold, a litter of empty beer cans and an overflowing ashtray sat on the coffee table in front of the couch.

He got up, his body stiff. He had run a buffer nearly all of his eight hour shift and his back and shoulders were sore. It would go away, he told himself. It always did. Go to sleep get up tonight and… Well, sit alone and drink beer, watch TV. Whoopee, he told himself. He dropped the beer cans into the bag for empties under the sink: He never bothered to rinse them. He dumped the ashtray and wandered down the hallway to bed.

 

Friday Night

Carl sat up and scratched his head. It was late, he’d slept pretty good. He’d woke up once when he heard a siren down the road, and that was it. He’d gone right back to sleep and slept straight through. Probably a fight in the trailer park again, he thought.

He got up, walked through to the kitchen and grabbed what turned out to be his last beer. On his way back through the living room he turned the TV on; went back and got dressed. He was on his way back to the living room when the lead in for the evening news started, a pretty blond, probably not much older than he himself was, smiled into the camera and began to talk as he yawned. Six P.M. then, he thought. Her words grabbed him and he snapped to attention.

Coming up on News Fifteen in about ten minutes, your local headlines, sports and weather. Topping our headlines this morning the grisly discovery of the body of a young woman earlier this morning on Sanger road. Police are releasing no details, but a source has told News Fifteen that they do suspect foul play. The body was discovered in a drainage ditch by a passing motorist. All that and more inside of ten minutes. First these messages from our sponsors…”

Carl’s mouth snapped closed. Well, he thought, it wasn’t the first body to be found out here. Just before he had moved here they found the body of a local prostitute whose throat had been cut. She’d been dumped nearly in front of his house. Probably the same thing again, he thought. Welcome to your night off, Carl. He stood in front of the TV, suddenly not so interested in the news.

There were only the local stations that he could get, plus the one from Canada when the weather was right, or what-ever had to be right for an antenna to work. Today it wasn’t working: Excuse me, he corrected himself, this evening; whatever needed to be right wasn’t. He clicked from channel to channel, stopping to watch the picture snap to perfectly clear, then dissolve into horizontal bars only to snap clear a few seconds later. He finally settled for an old war movie on one of the local stations. He settled back into the couch.

He was nursing the beer. He’d been sure that there was one more left, but he’d been wrong. Somehow he had miscounted and that was unlike him. He always knew how many beers he had to the can: Somehow he’d messed up the count. There were no more. He’d even moved the green loaf of bread which he had hated to do, but he had moved it only to find nothing behind it. He had hoped the one remaining can had rolled behind it, but it had not been behind the moldy bread. He had been wrong.

It hadn’t occurred to him to throw out the moldy loaf of bread while he was at it. Instead, he had gotten one of the spatulas from the silverware drawer, levered it under the bread and then pushed it to the side only to find no beer can hiding there. He had then levered the loaf of bread back into the original position it had been in.

So he had been nursing his last beer. Last beer and no money for beer. And it was Friday: That meant the rest of Friday night, and the whole weekend loomed ahead dry. It was too depressing to think about. He tried to focus on the movie instead.

Carl’s trailer was located at the end of Sanger road, a dirt road on the outskirts of the city, two miles beyond the county dump. Nobody really wanted to live on Sanger road it seemed, except Carl, and if he were honest with himself he didn’t really want to live here either, he simply had no choice. His crappy job only paid him enough for a crappy place to live. This was it. The crappiest of the crappiest. He knew that for a fact because he had gone looking. There were no crappier places. Except maybe the trailer park down the road, he thought, but that was also part of Sanger road, so it didn’t count.

He owned neither the trailer nor the lot. He did own the furniture, that had been easy. He had simply cruised every street in the city on garbage days. Each area had different days. The richer side of town seemed to throw away much better stuff, but people in the poorer sections got evicted pretty regularly too, and all of their possessions ended up at the curb: A chair here, another one there. The mattress and box springs he’d gotten from the Salvation Army: Thirty bucks and only pee stained on one side, well mostly only the one side. There was some other stain on the other side, but he wasn’t sure what that stain was. It didn’t exactly look like a pee stain. Anyway, it was barely noticeable and the guy in the store had sworn that they weren’t really pee stains, but water stains. Carl wasn’t too sure about that. His own brother had wet the bed until he was ten and they had slept in the same bed. He knew what a pee stain looked like and this looked like a pee stain. Still, it had been a good deal and stains couldn’t hurt him: After all when his brother had been wetting the bed he had probably peed on him a time or two, if he could live with that he could live with a little pee stain; if it was a pee stain; and if they were pee stains, they were on the other side of the mattress, he had added optimistically. Besides, they disinfected those things. The guy said so. Sprayed them down with something that killed everything on them and in them. He had grinned, tipped his beer, nearly took a large swallow, took a small sip instead and then lowered the can, depressed all over again about the long, dry weekend ahead of him.

Five or six garbage runs and one trip to the city dump, where they didn’t mind if you took half the dump away with you, and he had been furnished. It was amazing the things people threw away. He sipped carefully at his beer as he reminisced, pulled a crumpled cigarette from his pack and lit it with a long, wooden kitchen match.

There was an old fashioned wood stove store in town and he stopped there once or twice a week for kitchen matches. Not that they gave them away for free, but they used them for the stoves so there was always a box or two lying around that he could help himself to.

Day old bread and doughnuts at the bakery twice a week, those cheap ten pound bags of chicken and what they had called Crack Head soups in Jail, noodle soups to the rest of the world, and there was his weekly food budget. The only other things he needed were gas and of course beer and cigarettes.

The rest of his paycheck went for the rent and utilities. Sometimes it was close, but he always made it somehow. The real bummer this morning was that he had today off and the whole weekend too and he’d have to stay here watching the crappy T.V. … Sober…

His job Monday through Thursday was cleaning for a maintenance company. They only required that you showed up. They ran you all over the city to clean supermarkets; banks, mall shops that were closed. He worked the nights away pretty quickly. Go to work at five P.M. Next thing you knew it was one thirty in the morning and they were through for another night. He kept telling himself that he would have to get a better job if he ever wanted to be better off in the world. A job that paid more than minimum wage had to be in his future. He was sure there were plenty of them out there, he just didn’t know where to look. Some day, he told himself, some day.

He took another deep drag off his cigarette and then sipped carefully at his beer. He thought about the girl’s body and realized she could have been killed while he had been sleeping. The thought had made him shudder, he hated this place.

He had just set the beer down carefully on the coffee table: It was scared with cigarette burns and missing the tip of one leg, but it had been free and an old paperback novel held up that corner of the table well enough. As he had looked back up from the coffee table, lights had swept across the living room wall, bouncing up and down and back and forth. Because his was the last place on the road, every car that came down the road lit up his living room. These headlights, however seemed a little more frantic, bobbing, darting across the wall and then a second set shot up onto the wall too, jittering and jumping across the cheap wood paneling.

Twice now cars had come down the road, shot right across the bare dirt of his front yard and into the woods before they had been stopped by the trees. Carl had a fear about some car, some day hitting the bedroom wall while he slept. So far it had just been the woods, but you could never tell. He had jumped up quickly and run to the window.

It had been immediately obvious that this was something different from just some drunk not realizing that the road was about to end. The lead car had been flat out. He had heard the whine of the engine as it came. The car behind had been trying to stay close, tapping the back bumper of the lead car, causing it to slew all over the dirt road. Apparently that hadn’t been good enough because a second later the passenger had leaned out of the car’s window and opened up on the lead car with what had looked to be some sort of hand held machine pistol. Carl had let out a startled squawk, ducked below the window and then popped right back up. Now he found himself staring out the window, breathing fast, where what seemed like only seconds ago he had been carefully sipping at his beer watching the TV.

The shots had taken out the rear window of the lead car, traveled through the car and taken out part of the front windshield too. And from the large red stain on the spiderwebbed remains of that window Carl guessed it had taken out the driver too. Maybe even the passenger, had there been one. There was a lot of red.

‘Shit,’ Carl thought. That meant that the lead car was not going to be able to stop and it was nearly on the trailer already as it screamed forward. Carl calculated quickly and realized the car would miss the trailer. At the same time the driver of the rear car locked up his brakes, suddenly realizing that he was on a dead end road, and the car began to slide in the dirt. Carl’s eyes shifted back to the front car which hit the end of the road, jumped up over the drainage ditch and roared through the front yard just missing the edge of the trailer, shaking the thin walls; engine screaming. It was out of his eyesight for only a split second before he heard the crash. The big oak in the back yard, he thought.

His eyes came back to the second car long enough to see it slide down into the drainage ditch at full speed, catch its nose on the opposite edge and then flip end over end across an empty lot before it crashed down on the edge of a cement slab that was trailer-less and had been since he, Carl, had moved out here. Carl crouched down quickly to the floor, grabbed his boots and wedged his feet into them. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed a flashlight off the counter and headed out the front door at a run.

In It

The smell of hot metal filled the air. Carl looked first to the car down the road, partway onto the cement pad: The trunk had popped open and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood onto the concrete. The front roof line was crushed flat to the top of the driver’s seats. The backseat area seemed untouched.

He slipped around the end of the trailer and looked at the other car. A newer Ford: He could see the badge on the rear deck. The front end of the car was wrapped around the oak in the backyard just as he had thought and steam was rising up into the air. The Ford first, he decided. The car across the road would have to wait.

The Ford had hit the tree and climbed it a few feet before it came to a complete stop. Carl had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, that had been the huge stain on the windshield. There was no passenger. Looking out from the inside it was not just red but gray and black too: Bone, hair and brain matter. His stomach did a quick flip and he began to close his eyes as he turned away.

As he turned, his eyes caught on the floorboard and a blue duffel bag that was jammed into the space with the drivers legs. There was no way that the door was going to open, but the glass was gone from the window. He balanced over the edge of the door trying to stay as far away as he could from the dead man as he did, leaned in and tried to snag the duffel bag. His fingers brushed the two plastic handles, but he could not get a grip on them.

Carl levered himself further over the window sill and nearly came down into the dead man’s lap as he lost his balance and his feet left the ground. His hand shot down quickly, bounced off the dead man’s thigh and hit the seat, stopping him just a few inches above the man’s lap and a small splattering of bone and blood that was there. His hand slipped, but he pressed down harder and held himself.

He could feel the slick blood and splinters of bone under his hand, but he pushed the knowledge out of his mind, took a deep breath, braced himself and then reached down with his free hand and snatched the handles pulling the heavy bag free.

He pulled back, but the bag was so heavy that he had to hold on tight and push off the seat with his other hand. For one alarming second it seemed he would fall forward into the dead man’s lap. After a second of indecision his body dropped back down to the ground, the bag in his hand. He thought about the trunk as he started to turn away, reached back in, shut off the dead ignition, pulled the keys free and hurried around the car.

The trunk held nothing but a black suitcase. He debated briefly, then reached in and took it. He went back, put the keys back into the ignition, and turned it back to the ON position. What else! What else! His mind asked.

His heart felt like it was beating a mile a minute, skipping beats, and his breath was tearing in and out of his lungs so quickly that it was painful. He could think of nothing he had forgotten. He told himself there was nothing else and then immediately he thought of the glove compartment. He ran back around the passenger’s side of the car, dropped the bags and pushed the button on the glove box. A small paper bag and a dull, black pistol rested inside.

He took a deep breath, thought for a moment and then took both, slammed the glove box shut, picked up the bags and ran for the trailer. He booted the door open, threw the bags inside, slammed the door and then started for the other car down the road at a dead run. He stopped mid stride, bent double and threw up. He caught himself as he stumbled, forced himself to take several slow breaths and stood experimentally. It seemed as though his stomach had decided the remains of the beer could stay for now and so he trotted off down the road to the other car.

This was an older Chevy, not one of the small ones though, one of the ones that seemed almost as big as a Cadillac. He stopped thirty feet away. Two large plastic garbage bags had fallen from the popped trunk. They were both crisscrossed with gray duct tape, bound tightly. Two black duffel bags were jumbled in a heap nearby, along with what looked like a cheap foam ice chest. The ice chest had ruptured, splintered when it hit the ground, spilling beer, soda and packages of lunch meat and cheese out onto the ground. Mixed in, and what had really caught his attention, were large brick sized packages, also bound with duct tape.

His heart was still racing hard. There was no one anywhere yet. No sirens. The nearest neighbors were at Suncrest Trailer Park, nearly a mile back down the road… No car lights… Nothing.

He tried to carry both bales, but they were too heavy. He had to make two trips. The duct taped bricks, which could only mean one thing to his way of thinking, both duffel bags and two six packs of the beer that hadn’t ruptured went next. He had debated about the beer but decided he could not leave it. He came back one more time, looked at a few more cans of beer and the packages of bologna and cheese and decided what the hell. He quickly picked them up and took them too. It would be something to put into the ‘fridge besides the moldy loaf of bread he told himself.

He walked back down the road once more. He reached the car where it lay flipped onto its roof and had just started around the hood when he heard a soft pop. He stopped as the hood area suddenly burst into flames. The sharp smell of gasoline hit his nose and he jumped backwards just that fast. The car didn’t blow, but he stayed clear watching it as it began to burn, allowing his thoughts and breathing to began to slow down. It had seemed like a log jamb of thoughts all trying to be expressed at the same time. He thought back as he watched the flames begin to build from under the hood.

Not long ago a car had plowed into that same oak in his back yard where the other car was now. It was just the way that oak lined up with the road. That driver had not hit as hard. He had jumped from the car and run for the woods that began in back of the trailer. Carl had come out to look over the wreck a little closer. The jimmied ignition told him the story. The car had been stolen. He had heard sirens in the distance and said to hell with it, reached into the car and grabbed a cheap 22. pistol from the front seat, and an unopened and miraculously unbroken bottle of whiskey from the floorboards. He’d had plenty of time to stash them before the cops had shown up.

He had stood on the sidelines and watched as the cops had popped the trunk to expose a large collection of electronic gear. Flat screen televisions, game consoles, DVD players, a shotgun and several more bottles of whiskey too. He had kicked himself over that one and vowed not to let something like that happen again should providence ever grace him with a second chance: Here was that second chance.

He had no phone, but the way the flames were leaping into the air he was sure someone farther down the road would be calling the fire department soon. The heat was already intense.

He squatted down, shaded his eyes against the glare of the flames, and tried to see into the back seat. No one, or if there was anyone else in the car he couldn’t see them, but he did see a large suitcase resting on the roof of the car just inside the shattered rear door glass. He debated for a split second and then ran forward and grabbed for the bag, pulling it from inside the wreck. It was heavy and hot to the touch. The imitation brown leather, sticky on one corner and melting. Whatever was in it, he told himself, would not have lasted much longer. He was headed back up the road from the wreck when he spotted a grocery bag spilled into the ditch. It was mainly intact so he picked that up too and ran for the trailer.

Behind him he could hear the sirens now. They were on their way and that meant there would probably be neighbors on the way too… Any minute, he told himself. He got the trailer door opened, jumped inside and closed it. He set the grocery bag on the counter. His heart was beginning to slam in his chest once more. He picked up the suitcases and duffel bags and hurried them back to the bedroom. He came back, threw the grocery bag and the packages of lunch meat and cheese into the refrigerator, debated briefly about the loaf of moldy bread, but decided to leave it. He looked back into the fridge. It looked crowded. Beer, lunch meat, cheese, bread. It was the most he could ever recall seeing in there at one time before.

He stepped back letting the door swing shut and looked around the kitchen-living room area: Nothing looked out of place. He could not imagine that the cops would want to come in here for any reason, but if they did they wouldn’t find anything.

He looked down at his hands, grimaced at the blood and specks of bone. A smear of drying blood decorated one shirtsleeve. He looked down at the front of the shirt and saw it was streaked with blood and gore. He turned and ran to the bathroom stripping off the shirt as he went: As he looked down at his jeans he noticed they were gore spattered to. He peeled them off just as quickly, kicking his boots aside. He washed up and then left the bathroom and went to the bedroom where he dug a wrinkled pair of jeans from the basket there, a clean shirt from the dresser, and quickly re-dressed. He sat back on the bed, pulled the jeans up and shoved his left foot into one of his sneakers lying next to the bed where he had left them the night before. He stood, jammed his right foot into the other sneaker, danced around unbalanced for a moment as he tugged the zipper home, buttoned the top and threw himself back down onto the tangle of sheets to work the sneakers on the rest of the way and lace them.

His heart had become a racing engine once again, all high speed and flat out, and he tried to calm down as he smoothed the sheets out flat and then walked down the short hall, opened the door and stepped down the rickety steps and into the bare dirt front yard.

He could not see the fire engines or police cars, whichever it was that were coming. Both eventually, he told himself, but the sirens were loud and a half dozen people were walking down the road toward his place and the car that was burning. They were still a quarter of a mile away. He forced his breathing to slow down for the second time, and sat down on the top step waiting. The smoke from the burning car was thick and black, spiraling up into the air. The smells of cooking meat, hot metal and burning plastic hung in the air, competing with each other, causing his stomach to flip once more. The smoke seemed to catch in the trees, unable to rise further: Pools of it snaked along the ground, drifting slowly.

The lights came into view. They were far down the road, but closing fast. Within a few seconds a city police car skidded to a shuddering stop on the dirt road, followed by two sheriff cars. Two fire engines came next, coasting to a stop behind the sheriff cars, then swinging around them, angling down toward the burning car. Carl Evers rose from the steps and began walking down the road to meet them.

TWO

Cops

All the cops were calling on their radios at once it seemed to Carl. He broke into a run and the city cop looked his way.

“There’s another one in my back yard with a dead guy,” he yelled.

The cop looked amazed for a moment and then went back to talking on his radio once more. He finished, threw the radio handset back into his car, and glancing once more at the burning car, he turned and followed Carl into his back yard.

“Jesus,” the young cop said. “That happened when he hit the tree? No way!”

“The other car was shooting at them,” Carl said. He immediately wished he had kept his mouth shut.

“You saw that?” the cop asked.

Providence again, Carl thought. “Well, no, I didn’t. I heard shots… I didn’t see ‘em,” he lied.

“So there’s people in that other car?” the cop asked.

“I think so,” Carl answered. He took a few moments to formulate a lie. He didn’t need a complicated lie. Something simple. Something close to the truth so he could remember it, but something that wouldn’t make him an eye witness.

“When I got out, I seen the car laying on its top. I didn’t know about the other one. I had to get dressed. Once I got out of the house and headed down the road the car made this little popping sound and flames shot out of the engine compartment: When I turned away I saw the other one in the back yard. I knew something had crashed, because a few months back another car crashed into that same tree, and this sounded the same to me,” Carl said.

The cop nodded. “You go near either car?” he asked.

“The one out back. I leaned through the window to see if the guy was okay… Had to catch my hand on the seat… It was gross… I realized the guy was dead and got away from the car as quick as I could… Waited for you guys,” Carl said.

The cop nodded, pulled a small notebook from his shirt pocket and wrote in it. He asked Carl for his name and the address and wrote that down too.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Carl thought. He hadn’t wanted to link himself to anything, but he had been afraid that they would find the hand print on the seat. An area of the seat that had been covered with blood and splatter and he had left noticeably cleaner in the shape of a hand. What else could he do?

“You okay?” the cop asked.

“Not really,” Carl admitted.

“Go sit down… I’ll have somebody talk to you.” He looked intently at Carl for a moment. “How much you had to drink, Carl?”

“Uh… About a six pack… It’s my night off,” Carl explained.

“Easy, Carl… I’m not here to bust your balls. They’ll want to know… Impairs your judgment. It will determine whether they will take what you say or look for other witnesses, you see?” the cop asked.

“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “I do see.”

“So?” The cop asked.

“Oh… Right. I had about a twelve pack,” Carl said. He shrugged.

“Night off,” the young cop said.

“Night off,” Carl agreed.

“All right, Carl. Go have a seat and when the detectives get here I’ll send them over,” he told him.

Carl went and sat down on his front steps and waited for the rest of the cops to show up. He watched the lead fire truck drown the burning car in foam, and in just a few seconds the fire was out, the car sat smoking: Steam rising into the air. The smell of burned meat thick and heavy.

The Detectives

“I understand you had quite a lot to drink during the evening,” a big, blonde haired cop said to him.

“Well, yes,” Carl admitted. “But it’s my day off,” he added.

“Easy, son, nobody’s blaming you. You’re home. Day off. No reason why you shouldn’t have a few drinks. It’s not like you knew a car was going to crash into your back yard.” He smiled to put Carl more at ease, and although Carl knew that was why he smiled he felt more at ease anyway.

“Did you know?” the shorter dark haired cop asked.

“What?”

“Did you know the car was going to crash into your back yard?”

“No… Of course, I didn’t,” Carl told him.

“You look familiar to me,” The dark haired cop continued.

“Did a little county time a few years back,” Carl admitted.

He looked at him.

“Possession with intent,” Carl added. “Eighteen months.”

“Out in a year with the good time though, right?” the blonde haired cop said.

“Still fucking around with pot, Carl?” The dark haired one asked.

“No… Not no more,” Carl told him.

“So we could check the house and find nothing,” he asked.

“Sure… Sure…. Go ahead,” Carl said. “There’s nothing there at all.”

“But we aren’t going to do that,” The blonde said. “Your past is your past, Carl. I said I ain’t here to give you a hard time and I meant that.” He turned and looked over at the Chevy which had been lifted into the air. The roof had been cut away and two bodies had been taken out as they talked. They had set the car back down and were now winching it over onto its wheels so they could pull it up onto the flatbed wrecker that waited. He glanced back to the backyard. They were still working to pry the car in the back yard away from the tree. The body was long gone. They were using metal saws to cut the car away. Once enough had been cut away to move the car, it would go on a flat bed too. The cop’s eyes came back to Carl.

“You think of anything that might help us?” he asked.

“The gunshots,” Carl said and shrugged.

The blonde nodded. “We have an eyewitness to that. Says she was walking down the road when she saw the two cars coming, jumped in the woods. She saw the passenger lean out the window and fire at the car ahead… The dude in the car in your back yard, Carl. That’s how he got dead.”

To Carl, it felt as though his eyes had bugged right out of his head, but he struggled to maintain his composure. She? Who was she? He had seen no one at all, but whoever she was, she had described exactly what he himself had seen, so she must have been there. What else did she see?

“You okay?” the blonde asked.

“Tired… Sickened too, to be honest,” Carl said.

“Yeah… Pauls, that’s the name of the officer that spoke to you, J. Pauls, said you leaned into the car to check on the guy… Found a hand print there…. I assume it’s yours. I guess if I had found that I wouldn’t be feeling too good either.” He sighed. “We’ll be out of here in a few minutes,” he added. “But if you think of something.”

He closed his own little notebook that he had pulled from his pocket and looked at the other detective. He shook his head.

“I guess we have nothing else, Carl. Like I said, if you think of anything,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. He handed the card to Carl. “Give me a call, okay?”

Carl nodded, looked over the card and then shoved it into his pocket.

They all stood and watched as the Chevy flipped back over onto its wheels: Metal screeching, the car lurching from side to side on its ruined suspension as it slammed down. The men began hooking up the cables to winch the car up onto the flat bed truck. A few seconds later a second flat bed truck drove around the first and then backed down Carl’s driveway to the back yard. A steady Beep… Beep… Beep sounding as it backed up. The three, Carl and both cops, watched in silence as two men hooked up the remains of the Ford and then winched it backwards and up onto the flat bed.

A second later the two cops walked away without another word. Carl sat back down on his wooden steps and watched them get into their car and drive away. The trucks followed, and a few seconds later the silence descended once more on Sanger road. Carl sat and watched the dust settle back down to the dirt lane.

There was a little gray seeping into the sky above the tree tops. Dawn was not far away. Carl walked up the steps and into the trailer He took one of the beers from the refrigerator, went back outside and sat down on the steps once more.

She, whoever she was, was on his mind. If there had been someone else there, why hadn’t she let him know? Had she been afraid? Most likely, he thought. What had she seen? Had she seen him take the stuff from the Chevy? The Ford?

The Ford he found hard to believe. She would have pretty much had to have been in plain view to have seen the Ford in his back yard, but the Chevy was a different matter. He had been exposed, she could have been anywhere, but if she had seen what he had done why hadn’t she told the cops? She couldn’t have or they would have confronted him and taken those items back, probably arrested him too.

He sipped at the beer, remembered that he had eleven more: Wished he had, had time to check the one guys wallet, maybe there had been money it, in fact probably there had been money in it; then he tipped the beer and chugged it. Got up, went back inside, got two more beers and then came back out and sat down on the steps once more.

He really wanted nothing more than to go back inside to the bedroom and see what he had gotten, but he was too worried about the witness the cops had told him about. Who could it be? Would she eventually tell the cops? Had she, and they were just playing it cool to see if he would lie? Questions and questions and no answers.

He popped the top on one of the beers and took a deep drink. His mind seemed to clear a little.

The big bags were almost certainly pot. That wasn’t cash money, but it could be soon. The bricks that had been hidden in the ice chest were probably cocaine That was scary, but it was also money. And he knew who to go to, to get rid of all of that. That would be a very large sum of money. He sipped at the beer and thought about it, playing it over in his head.

The two bags of pot were huge. Too heavy for him to carry both bags. That was a lot of pot. A lot of money… The guns… And what else was in the other bags? More drugs? Money? Guns? Dirty gym clothes?

He reached to pop the top on the beer, was surprised to find it was already open, and took a deep gulp: As he lowered his hand he caught movement down the road. A shadow at the side of the road, but it quickly turned into a shape. Someone walking down the side of the road.

Carl pulled out his cigarettes, lit one and watched. He knew it was a young woman long before she got to his driveway and started up it. Nineteen… Twenty, give or take. A little younger than himself. Dark hair, slim; jeans and a Baby-T that showed a lot of skin and a pierced belly button. She walked up and stopped in front of him.

“Got another smoke?” she asked.

And suddenly Carl was not sure she was that old. She sounded younger. He shook out a cigarette and lit it for her. She reached down, picked up the second can of beer, popped the top and took a deep drink. No, Carl told himself. She must be older.

“Ami,” she said. “I’ve seen you around. I live down at the trailer park.”

The trailer park was a worse dump than his own place. “Carl,” he said.

She took a deep pull on the cigarette; blew the smoke out and then locked her eyes on his. “I saw you,” she said simply. “I saw you take that shit from the cars, but I didn’t tell the cops.” She smiled.

Ami Anderson

He held the door for her as she stepped into the trailer. Her eyes seemed to take in everything in one sweeping gaze.

“Hey,” she said as she walked to the couch. “Not bad… Thing is, a trailer is always going to be a trailer, you know?” She sat down

Carl snapped his mouth shut. He had been going to tell her how he had found the place, worked to clean it up and get it into shape. Now it didn’t seem like such great news.

He opened the refrigerator and checked the sack he had picked up from the ditch. Bread, crackers, two bags of chips, probably smashed, he told himself, and a broken jar of mayonnaise. He turned around to ask her if she wanted a sandwich and some chips, but she was right behind him.

“Too bad about the mayo,” she told him.

“Yeah… But we got bread, cheese, bologna, and…” He picked up the other packs of meat, “Salami, ham and olive loaf too,” he told her. “Oh, and chips.”

“I’ll take the white bread for mine,” she said and laughed.

Carl looked at the green loaf of bread. “I guess it’s no good, huh?” he asked.

“It was probably no good two months ago,” Ami told him as she pushed him aside. She took out the new loaf of bread, the cheese and the olive loaf. “What kind do you want?”

“Salami,” Carl answered.

“I’ll make the sandwiches.” She picked up a squeeze bottle of mustard and looked at it critically, shook it and then looked at Carl.

“It’s good… Just bought it last week… Besides, mustard don’t go bad, does it?” he asked.

“Everything can go bad,” Ami said. She picked up the salami and the mustard. “You can get the beers and chips,” she said.

She sat everything down on the counter top and then dragged the steel trash can over to the refrigerator: Got the same spatula out of the sink, and levered the green bread into the trash can. She took everything else out of the bag with the broken mayonnaise and then carefully dropped the bag into the can too. A cup that had something that seemed to be growing black hair. An expired container of milk, and that was it. She dragged the can away, pulled out the bag and looked at Carl.

“Under the sink is fresh bags,” he told her. She handed him the bag.

After he had taken the trash out to the steel bin down by the road, he came back, washed his hands, and she had the sandwiches made. Carl pushed a pile of newspapers off the end of the couch and sat down. The TV was still showing the old war movie, he saw, but that was impossible. It seemed like hours had gone by.

She carried the sandwiches over and handed one to Carl and then settled down on the opposite end of the couch. He looked at her funny as he ate his sandwich, a question in his eyes.

“You want to know about the stuff from the cars?” she asked.

Carl nodded. “Like, how did you see me out back?”

“I was in the woods. I ran. I didn’t know what those guys would do. I knew you lived here. I was walking back from the quarry when I saw you come out. I wouldn’t have done that, what you did… I couldn’t have. Especially when you fell inside the car. It made me gag.”

She paused and met his eyes for a second, then looked away once more. She closed her eyes like she was recalling the scene, or it was playing out again behind her closed lids. Carl supposed it was. The quarry was back past the dump, a long walk, not well known. She continued in a lower, measured voice.

“When you got done, I was surprised how fast you did it, I just stayed in the woods for a few minutes… Like I didn’t know what to do… I guess I didn’t,” she shook her head. “Then I walked down the road through the woods across from the other car. I was going to tell you… Call out… But you seemed so focused… I guess that’s the word… Intent might be better. And anyway, next thing you know you were done with that too. Then the cops… I came out of the woods when the cops got here. You didn’t see me ‘cause you were talking to one of them…” She looked back at him and held his eyes with her own. That was pretty easy to do: Carl seemed unable to look away. “You mad?” she asked after a few moments.

“How old are you?” Carl asked.

“Huh?” she asked.

“You know… How old are you. I look at you and I keep thinking you are younger. Then you talk and I start thinking you are older,” Carl said.

“Fifteen,” she said. “Still wanna do me?” she asked and smiled.

“God,” Carl said, nearly choking.

“I’m kidding,” she laughed. “I’m eighteen.” She pulled out her driver’s license and showed it to him.

Carl looked from her to the license. “Doesn’t really look like you.”

She sighed, took the license and stuck it back into her pocket. “Now who else would it be?” she asked.

“Your older sister?”

She narrowed her eyes.

“That was mean,” Carl said. “I’m sorry. No one ever looks like themselves in a license photo.”

“Yeah… But the upside is I’m legal and I bet that matters, doesn’t it?” Ami asked.

He opened his mouth to respond and then snapped it shut just as quickly. She giggled.

“So… You didn’t peek at all? Look in the bags?”

Carl cleared his throat and hoped his face wasn’t too red. “No… But you could tell what some of it was. At least I’m pretty sure. There’s two huge bags of pot. I mean huge,” Carl told her.

“I know. I saw you had a hard time lifting them. You could only carry one at a time,” Ami agreed.

“You really were watching the whole thing?” Carl said.

“I told you,” Ami agreed.

“Yeah… Well, anyway I could only carry one bag at a time. I mean, how heavy is that? How much pot is that? A lot, a freakin’ lot. And then there’s four bricks of cocaine. Probably cocaine, but what else do you package like that and shoot other people over? They’re actually brick size. Like a real brick. That has to be worth a lot too.” He paused and looked at her.

“The rest?” she asked.

“The rest we’ll have to see. I didn’t have time to look at it,” Carl told her.

“When?” she asked. “When will we see?”

“Well… We should come to some sort of deal first, right?” Carl asked.

“Deal… What do you mean deal?” Ami asked.

Carl looked away and then turned back and met her eyes. “Deal as in I did all the work,” he said.

She nodded. “And I kept my mouth shut or you wouldn’t have it. And you would probably be sitting in county jail right now too,” she told him.

Carl finished his sandwich and then licked his fingers. Ami finished her own and they both sat in the silence for a while. The refrigerator clicked on and the compressor began to hum loudly from the kitchen. Carl drank down the entire can of beer waiting for her to speak, letting the minutes play out. When she didn’t speak he got up for another can, offered her one, but she shook her head and so he sat back down with the fresh can.

“So,” Carl said reluctantly. “What do you want? You want to split it fifty, fifty?”

“That would be the fairest… If you consider it all, we’re both in on it from go. I intended to look in those cars too, you just got there first. I kept my mouth shut. I would have yelled to you if I had seen someone coming… It was an equal thing… Equal risk, so it should be equal profit,” Ami finished.

“Really? You’re not just saying that?” Carl asked.

“What? Calling out to you if someone came? Going for the cars myself? Of course, I meant it. I would have. I ain’t rich. I don’t have no one that helps me. I don’t have shit. I could use some money too. I got a crappy little job. Life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere… It’s tough,” she said.

Carl finished his beer and sat it down on the coffee table. “Three things,” he said. “First, we’ll do fifty, fifty. I know someone who can take that pot from us… It’ll be good money… Probably take the coke too…” He paused and brushed at the side of his face.

“Second… We risk everything just like we share everything. Fifty, fifty. We put the same work into it, whatever there is to do… Cool?” he asked.

“Cool,” she said. “What’s three?”

“Were you kidding about me and you? … Just teasing?”

“Nope,” she said. “I think you do want me… I think you’re cute too.”

“Alright… Come on,” Carl said. He got up and walked off down the short hallway. Ami followed.

The Goods

“You don’t think I’m easy, do you?” Ami asked.

They were in the bedroom. She had gotten up and followed him down the hall to the bedroom, unsure what he had in mind. She looked at the bed which appeared to be made. That was surprising: A guy making his own bed.

Carl looked at her confused, and then looked down at the bed. “Oh,” he said and turned red. “I put the stuff here. I put it here because I really couldn’t think of a better place to put it, and I heard the sirens coming… So I stuffed it under the bed.” He explained.

“Oh,” she said. “I thought… Never mind.”

Carl turned a deeper red. He moved to the side of the bed and picked up the blanket that trailed onto the floor. The underside of the bed was crammed with duffel bags and suitcases.

“I’ll pick up the box springs and you pull the stuff out. It’s the only way I could get it under there quick.” He squatted, picked up one corner of the box springs and mattress and lifted it from the frame. Ami began pulling everything out onto the floor.

Outside a car door slammed.

Fuck,” Carl squeaked.

Ami picked up bags and began shoving them back under the bed. Pushing them deep under the bed with her feet. Carl wrenched the mattress and box springs back up and she dumped the rest back in, struggling with the suitcases.

Carl lowered the box spring, starting to breathe hard with panic. He took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. He smoothed the blanket over the corner of the bed once more, and then turned and headed out of the bed room: As he walked into the living room someone began to knock on the front door that opened into the kitchen. Carl looked out the peephole only to find a young guy with thick, curly black hair staring back at him. A camera hung around his neck, a clip board in his hand.

Carl took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and then opened the door.

“Mister Evers?” the young guy asked. He looked even younger than Carl was.

“Yeah,” Carl said. It was never good when someone called you by your government name.

“Gotta take some pictures. You know, out back, that okay?” He held up the camera.

“Yeah… Go ahead,” Carl said relieved. He started to shut the door.

“Uh… Hold on… You got to sign.” He smiled and offered Carl the clipboard, tapping with one finger where the signature should go.

Carl had let go of the door when he took the clipboard. The door swung open to reveal Ami who stood behind him. The young guy looked up at her from his place on the rickety wooden steps.

“Oh… Hey,” the guy said.

“Hey,” Ami returned. She turned on her best three hundred watt smile and the guy returned it.

Carl scratched out a reasonable version of his name and then handed the clip board back to the kid.

“Cool,” he said. He glanced at Ami once more. “I won’t be long.” He turned away and walked toward the end of the trailer and the back yard. Carl shut the door and they both sighed.

“Says he won’t be long… Hopefully he won’t… I’m going to have another beer… Want one?” Carl asked.

“Sure,” Ami agreed. She wandered over to the couch and sat down. Carl took a beer to her and then sat down at the other end of the couch. The T.V. was still playing low and it amazed Carl that it could still be playing after all that had happened. An infomercial for a new mini washing machine that washed just a few items at a time came on and caught his attention for a few moments. Ami pulled his attention away from the T.V.

“What was in the paper bag?” she asked.

“Don’t know. It was in the glove box of the Ford…. The car out back,” he finished.

“I can tell a Ford from a Chevy,” Ami said. “So three duffel bags and two suitcases?”

He nodded.

“That one suitcase looked heavy… The melted one?”

He nodded. “That’s the one I pulled out of the Chevy while it was burning… That blue duffel bag I pulled out of the Ford is heavy too.”

“That was crazy,” Ami said. “It could have blown up or something.”

“Yeah… I thought about that afterward,” Carl admitted. He got up and crossed to the T.V., pushing aside the curtain that covered the window that looked out over the back yard.

The guy was taking measurements, and both close up and distant shots of the tree with a digital camera. He looked up and saw Carl at the window and waved. Carl waved back and then came back over to the couch and sat down.

“Do you realize it’s almost two hours after the fact?” Carl asked her.

Ami looked at him.

“Just makes me wonder if we’ll ever look inside those bags today or not. And eventually I have to get hold of someone for that pot… Probably the coke too,” he added.

“Is that smart?” Ami asked.

“What do you mean?” Carl returned.

“Just that, that’s a lot of stuff. Somebody’s gonna miss it… If we show up with it, it could be bad, right?” she asked.

“I thought about that,” Carl said. “We could just get rid of some of it… A little today… A little next week… Like that, until it’s all gone. I only know one person who could take it all… I was going to do that, then I thought about it like you said, and realized it could be stupid… Same reasons… I only know that the guy deals big time… Not with who,” Carl said.

“Could be money in one of those suitcases… Or duffel bags,” Ami said.

“I hope so… It makes sense, right? If they were doing a big drug deal that went bad and the drugs are there why wouldn’t the money be there too,” Carl said.

“Or,” Ami said. “If it went bad maybe they were trying to rip the guy off… Maybe they had no money.”

“Maybe,” Carl agreed reluctantly. He sipped at the beer, got up and went back to the window. The guy was gone. He walked to the front door just in time to hear the door slam and the motor start on the car the guy was driving. He watched through the peephole until the car turned out of the driveway and headed down the road. He turned to Ami and shrugged.

“Try again?” he asked. She followed him back to the bedroom once more.

THREE

They decided on the blue duffel bag that Carl had pulled from the floorboard of the Ford. The bag was a mess, something he hadn’t noticed at the time, and Ami made him take it to the shower and clean off the outside of the dark blue nylon first.

Ten bricks of the duct tape wrapped stuff that Carl assumed was cocaine, two more of the flat black hand guns. Several spare clips and boxes of 9 mm ammunition, and two thick wads of bills, rubber banded. They appeared to be all one hundred dollar bills. Carl handed them over to Ami to count, while he pulled out his pocket knife and dug into the side of one of the bricks. Brown instead of white.

“Heroin,” he said as he showed Ami.

She raised her eyebrows.

“Worth more than coke anyway,” Carl said. He dug into the remaining bricks. Two more were heroin and the remaining bricks were cocaine He closed the holes with pieces of the duct tape they were wrapped with.

“Jesus,” Ami said. “There’s almost eighty thousand dollars here.”

Carl looked at her and licked his lips. He added the other four bricks he had grabbed from the trunk of the car. Two were cocaine, the other two heroin. “Six and Eight,” Carl told her. “There has to be close to a quarter mil. here at least… I don’t really even know what something this big sells for.”

Ami picked up the paper bag from the glove box. It felt like something was rolled up inside the bag. Solid… A brick shape, but smaller than the other bricks… More cash maybe, she thought. She unrolled the bag and shook it out. Two smaller bundles of cash, again all hundreds, and a wallet. She handed the wallet to Carl as she counted the cash.

“Dello Green,” Carl said aloud. He pulled a thick wad of cash from the wallet and handed it to Ami.

“Dello Green?” she asked.

“The dude,” Carl explained. “License, credit cards… That cash. A key,” he said, holding up a brass key.

“Probably his house,” Ami said. “Where’s he live?”

“Springfield… Lake Avenue,” Carl said, reading from his license.

Ami shrugged.

“Me either,” Carl said. “Bet the key fits his door though. And it’s not like he’ll need it if he was the guy in the Ford.”

“Yeah,” Ami agreed. “Twenty thousand more. Dello Green… That has to be a fake name,” she looked down at the money again. “Carl, we got over a hundred thousand dollars here… We’re rich.”

Carl turned away and looked at the duffel bags and suitcases. “Eenie meenie miney moe,” Carl said and picked up one of the black duffel bags from the Chevy.

Clean change of clothing, sneakers and a silenced chrome 45 caliber pistol. Another wallet, a razor and a deadly looking eight inch switchblade with a long, sharp two sided blade. Carl picked up the wallet. Driver’s license, debit card, all in the name of Daniel Gaynor. Thirty five hundred in cash, all hundreds.

“I think these guys must have made a deal. Something went wrong after the deal. They all have some of these hundreds. Well so far.” He handed Ami the cash and snagged the other duffel bag. It was bulky, but not overly so, a little heavier than the other one had been.

Carl pulled the zipper and recoiled from the smell that came from the bag. Ami leaned close to see what was in the bag and then recoiled herself.

“What the hell?” she asked.

Carl opened the bag wider, but saw nothing except crumpled up newspapers. Tentatively he pushed aside the newspapers and a pair of dead, dusty eyes stared up at him through the newspapers. He flung the bag away from him, reacting simply on impulse. The bag hit the wall and the head, along with a pair of hands, rolled out onto the floor.

“Oh, God,” Ami said. “Put it back in the bag, Carl, put it back in the bag and get it out of here!” She jumped off the other side of the bed and pressed into the wall as far away from the bag as she could get. Carl looked at her and then grabbed one of the shirts that had been in the other duffel bag; he lunged forward quickly, picked up the head so he wouldn’t have to think about it too long and tried to jam it back into the bag. It wouldn’t go. The shirt, or the head, or both kept catching the side of the bag and collapsing it. He finally laid the bag on its side and managed to hold it open as he scooped the head back inside of it: Once it was in he zipped up the bag. He stood quickly and started to walk from the room.

“Carl, where are you going?” Ami asked.

He stopped. He had been heading for the door, but he had no idea where he would go from there.

“Carl… The handsCarl,” she pointed.

Carl looked back by the wall where the two hands lay. The fingers curled slightly. It looked like they used to be pretty good hands, Carl thought. One had a small narrow gold ring on the pinky finger. Carl grabbed another one of the shirts, carefully picked up the hands, bought them to the duffel bag and dropped them in. He calmed down a little, taking the time to pick up the crumpled pieces of newspaper that lay on the floor and stuff them back into the bag too. He had a hard time picking the bag up, but finally managed.

“I can… I can dig a hole in the backyard and bury it,” he told Ami.

“Not now, in the middle of the morning? No… What if those cops came back… Or another guy taking more pictures? No… Besides, we can take them and drop them in the river. They should sink to the bottom. Problem over… Was there anything else in the bag?” she asked.

“I… I didn’t see anything else,” Carl said.

“We’ll have to check. Make sure you didn’t accidentally include something of your own from the floor. There’s one sock there,” she pointed to where the head and hands had fallen. “Were there two?” she asked.

Carl looked sick as he nodded.

“Well then, you got to open it back up… Make sure. Make sure there’s nothing else in the bag, Carl,” Ami said.

“All I wanna do is throw this into the river like you said,” Carl said.

“I know. I know, but what if it did float up? What if they did find something to track it back to us… What then, huh? And what if there’s something else in the bag? You see?” she asked.

“I see fifty-fifty. It’s your turn, Ami. Not trying to be an asshole, but really it’s your turn,” Carl said.

She stared at him. “I got a weak stomach. I’ll puke,” she said.

“So what!” Carl protested. “So will I!”

“Please, Carl… Don’t make me do it,” Ami shot back.

“Fair’s fair,” Carl said.

She glared at him. “Oh for Christ’s sake!” she scrambled off the bed, dragged the duffel bag over to a clean area of the rug, laid out another t-shirt from the other duffel bag, and then unzipped the bag. She took one more t-shirt and used it to fish out the hands and then the head. One by one she pulled the wadded up newspapers out of the bag and laid them on the floor. She peeked into the bag once more. “There’s something… I… Oh, Jesus, Carl,” she covered her mouth and scrambled back away from the bag. “I can’t… I can’t.”

“What… Why?” Carl asked. She said nothing.

Carl got off the bed and walked over to the bag. “It’s just my fuckin’ sock,” Carl said. His sock was crumpled into the corner of the bag, stuck there is some congealed blood.

“Well you’ll have to get it,” Ami said. “You’ll have to.”

“Fifty, fifty!” Carl said. His eyes were insistent.

“I did my fifty. The ball’s back in your court,” Ami told him.

“Well how about I just throw the other sock in there,” Carl said suddenly. “That would solve it.”

“Sure,” Ami agreed. “You’ll give them two samples of your DNA.”

Carl frowned, reached down, grabbed a piece of the crumpled up newspaper and fished his sock out of the bag. A fat, white maggot clung to the sock and Carl nearly threw up as it dropped off and fell back into the bag. He carefully piled everything else back into the bag and zipped it back up. He rolled his socks up and took them out and dropped them into the garbage. He took the duffel bag outside and stuck it into the back of his pickup truck and covered it with a tarp. He went back in, waited for Ami to come out of the bathroom and then went in and washed his hands and face. He met her back in the bedroom.

“We’ll have to get rid of that today,” Carl said.

“We should do it right now. Right down the road and onto the main highway. Drop it off the bridge,” Ami said

“It’s still morning, too early, you just said that yourself. We’ll have to wait until tonight,” Carl said. “What next?”

Ami dragged one of the big plastic bags over, borrowed Carl’s knife and burrowed a hole through the heavy, black plastic.

“Pot,” she said. “Packed tight… That’s a lot of pot, Carl.”

“Maybe we should try it. Make sure it’s good,” Carl said.

“So you can get all messed up and screw something up? Forget to get rid of the head?” Ami said.

“I didn’t think about that,” Carl agreed.

“Later, Carl. Later tonight,” Ami said. “Okay, your turn,” she finished nodding at the unopened bags.

Carl dragged the black suitcase from the trunk of the Ford over. He took a deep breath and pushed the latches back. They were locked. He used his pocketknife to Jimmy them and then slowly lifted the lid.

“Clothes,” he said. “All clothes… Wait, another stack of hundred dollar bills.” He took everything out and searched more carefully. A man’s watch and diamond ring were hidden inside a sock and that was it.

“Thirty thousand in cash,” Ami said. “Over a hundred and thirty five thousand dollars,” She looked at the brown suitcase. “That’s from the Chevy, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “It’s heavy… Maybe the body that goes to the head and hands… Maybe money… More drugs?”

Ami was nodding. “I had to do the last body parts,” she said.

“Yeah, but it might not be body parts,” Carl said.

“Good. You’ll get over then, but either way it’s yours,” Ami said.

“I just opened the black one, it could’ve been a body too, but I did it. It’s your turn,” Carl said.

“No, it’s a body. I can feel it, and if it’s a body that’s not my turn it’s yours. I already opened a package of body parts. It’s your turn and that’s final, Carl.” Ami said. She locked her eyes on his. Blue gray, Carl noticed. Long lashes. She had beautiful eyes. He nodded.

Carl leaned close to the brown suitcase he had pulled from the Chevy and sniffed, but all he could smell was the burned vinyl that covered the case. A sharp chemical smell he smelled every time he burned plastic in his own burning barrel. He pulled the case over, stood to one side to open it and that was when the sound of dogs snarling and fighting came through the thin walls of the trailer. The sounds of claws scrambling on metal.

Oh fuck,” Carl said and jumped up.

“What, what?” Ami asked.

“The head… The duffel bag,” Carl spluttered. He bolted out of the bedroom through the front door and around the end of the trailer. He was too late. Fifty feet away, going into the tree line, a rottweiler he recognized from down the road was dragging the duffel bag backwards into the woods. A scrawny yellow dog was running alongside the bag, biting at it as it bumped over the ground. A second later they were both gone.

Carl walked over and looked into the back of his truck. At least they hadn’t made a mess… Now what, he wondered. He turned and went back inside, listening to the two dogs still fighting over the bag somewhere off in the woods. He walked back into the bedroom.

“Gone,” Carl said.

“Gone?” Ami echoed.

“Gone. Two dogs. A big rottweiler from down the road?”

She nodded.

“And some stray… A yellow dog… Never seen it before. They took it. Dragged the whole bag off into the woods where they’re fighting over who gets what… It sounds like that anyway.” Carl said

“What do we do now?” Ami asked.

“Nothing,” Carl said. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“Somebody will find it,” Ami said.

“Probably… Eventually… Whatever is left,” Carl said.

“Don’t say that,” Ami said.

“Well, Ami, they’re dogs. Sort of like wolves only better manners… Sometimes anyway.” Carl said.

They both looked down at the other suitcase. “If that’s another part or parts or whatever, maybe we can leave it for the dogs,” Carl said.

“That’s not funny, Carl,” Ami said.

“Okay,” Carl agreed. “Not funny.” He wrestled the suitcase closer, popped the top, it wasn’t locked and begin to raise the lid. “Here goes,” he said.

“Oh God,” Ami gasped as the lid opened. She stared into the suitcase.

The Cops

Detective Don Wright pushed his thick knot of black hair out of his eyes and leaned in closer to look at the key which was still in the ignition of the Ford.

“It was taken out,” the tech said. “See?” He pointed out a disruption in the spray patterns of blood, brain and bone around the sides of the ignition switch. “Probably a thumb and a forefinger,” the tech said. “Should be able to get good prints.”

“Got to be the kid,” his partner Sammy Simons said. He pushed his own hand across his forehead to catch the sweat that threatened to roll out of his blond hair and into his eyes.

Don nodded. “Couldn’t be anyone else… But why? And why not tell us?” he asked.

“Also,” the tech said. “There’s another intrusion into the glove box. Two actually. What’s probably a perfect thumbprint, and then the palm print. Perfectly outlined in the fine spray of blood.” Don and Sammy walked over to the passenger side of the car and looked at the glove box. It was clear as day. It hadn’t been so clear in the half light of morning, but here with all the light trained on it, it was easy to see.

“Kid must’ve been looking for something. Might have even found something,” Sammy said.

“He probably did… How long until you ID those prints?” Don asked.

“Tomorrow… Late afternoon at the soonest…” He blinked and then shook his head. “Nope, tomorrow is Saturday. Monday afternoon at the soonest,” the tech amended. “And that’s if we got them in the system.”

“I’m sure they are in the system,” Don said absently.

“Well what do we do until then?” Sammy asked. He was younger, less seniority and the case was Don’s anyway.

“Nothing without proof. We can’t prove that anything is missing. Or what his intent was. Or even that it is him, yet. I guess we wait until Monday afternoon, maybe between now and then we’ll get something solid.” Don said.

“Go out and talk to him?” Sammy asked.

“We could, but I don’t want to until I have something concrete,” Don said. He gestured toward the tech as he began to walk away. “Maybe they’ll come up with something else. Something concrete,” Don said. He made his way over to the other side of the garage where the Chevy sat with its own techs going over it. It smelled like burnt, roasted meat. He pushed the smell out of his mind and watched the techs work.

Carl and Ami

“Has to be… I don’t even know,” she breathed.

“A couple a million dollars,” Carl finished.

“I was gonna say that,” Ami agreed. “Except it’s all hundreds again. It’s packed full… Might be more.” She sounded breathless.

“It’s a lot of money,” Carl said. “Somebody’s gonna be coming back for this money… It’s too much.”

“How can it be too much?” Ami asked. She looked up again.

Carl shook his head. “Nobody turns loose of that much money and doesn’t come back for it… Those guys had to be flunkies… Just dudes doing their job. Somebody higher up is gonna miss all of this. And if this was payment for all of that,” he gestured at the bricks and bags, “Someone will probably be coming for that too.” Carl said.

Carl fell silent for a few minutes.

“Well it’s ours,” Ami said finally.

“Is it worth dying for?” Carl asked her.

Her lower lip quivered.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to scare you,” Carl said. He seemed thoughtful for a moment. “The cops might be back too. If it’s big, someone will snitch, tell the cops what was here and is now missing. They’ll be back, I know it.”

“But what can they do? They need warrants to search, right? It’s not like they have fingerprints, right? They need all that shit. I watch TV. They need that stuff,” Ami said.

“That’s television, Ami. This is the real world, they search first and cover their asses later… And maybe there are prints. I touched the car… I took the key from the ignition… I wasn’t thinking about prints. Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he said as he pounded one fist against the floor.

“You left fingerprints?” Ami asked.

He nodded.

“Well I spoke to them. They’ll know I lied,” she said.

“Sorry,” Carl said. He looked up quickly. “We have to get out of here,” he finished. His eyes widened. “But we have all the money in the world. We can get lost right now, today right?” he asked.

She just stared for a moment and then she looked at the suitcase. “Yeah,” she said finally. “We could.”

“You said you don’t have anybody, well neither do I,” Carl said. “Who would miss us? Who would we miss?” he asked.

“Nobody,” Ami said, seeming to warm to the idea. “Where would we go though, Carl? They’ll look for us, right? They’ll know your truck… We’ll have to be careful,” she finished.

“We can be, we’ll have to be too. They’ll know. The cops will know, maybe already do. And if the cops know the guys who own the drugs and money will know too. They’ll read our names in the paper and come after us,” Carl said.

“Then we’ll have to go,” Ami said. “We’ll have to go right now.”

“We have a little time,” Carl said. He thought for a few minutes. “We need a truck… An SUV. Yeah, an SUV is closed in and we can put everything in there with us. We need to buy one… With cash… Maybe get the paper and find a used one for sale by owner… Take the plates off my truck and put them on it… Leave my truck somewhere where they won’t find it right away,” Carl said.

“Can’t we do that from the road,” Ami asked. “You’re scaring me a little. Maybe we should already be gone.”

“Yeah… We can… Should… C’mon, let’s get the truck loaded and get the hell out of here.” He jumped from the bed and Ami’s hand caught him as he did.

“Are we going to be okay?” she asked. Her eyes were bright. Her voice shaky. She pulled herself to him from across the bed as he stood there and hugged him. “I’m scared,” she said.

Carl was so surprised that he couldn’t react for a second. “I won’t let anything happen to you,” he told her. He sank down onto the bed as her hands pulled him, body pressed against hers. He could feel her breasts pressing against him. The hard and soft parts of her body. She looked up at him. “You promise?” she asked.

“I promise,” he told her.

She looked at him a few seconds longer and then kissed him softly. It just seemed to go on forever to Carl and even though he hated himself for it he felt himself grow hard, he couldn’t help it. She looked back up and smiled. She shifted and her body pressed a little more firmly against his erection.

“We’ll take care of that later,” she said, “Okay?”

Carl nodded and reluctantly let her go when she pulled away. He fell back against the bed for a second as she began getting everything ready to go. A half hour later the truck was loaded, a tarp tied down across the back and they were driving down Sanger road toward the main highway. The money in the suitcase between them.

FOUR

Springfield New York

“It’s the right straight ahead,” Ami said. She looked back down at the directions she had written down.

They were on Lyell Avenue in Springfield looking for a street that would take them away from downtown. The used car lot they were looking for would be right on the corner.

“Take the next right… That was the right, right behind us. The car lot must be close to here,” Ami told him. She twisted and looked back shaking her head.

Carl made the next corner and then the next right again to take them back to the avenue.

They both looked from the corner, but saw nothing.

“I don’t know, but there’s one down that way,” Carl said. He pointed further down the street to where there were two used car lots right across the street from one another.

Ami sighed in exasperation. “Might as well, I guess this guy doesn’t care enough about our money to give us good directions.” Ami had spent ten minutes talking to the guy on the phone already. She picked up the prepaid cell phone they were using, one of half a dozen: The clerk had looked at them like they were crazy. She turned it on and called up the recent-calls readout.

Carl continued down the street and pulled into one of the car lots, Bob’s Easy Auto, the sign over a small trailer office said.

“We’re on Lexington Avenue,” Ami was saying. “Bobs Easy Auto… All there are…” She twisted around and looked back toward Lyell Avenue. “All I see is signs, no cars, nothing. No place to park even… Across from the corner… You said on the corner… I thought you said on the corner,” she said.

An old guy walked over from the trailer and knocked on Carl’s window.

“Help you kids?” he asked. He smiled, the kind of perfect, white square-toothed smile his grandmother had always smiled with her plastic dentures.

“We’re looking for Denny’s Auto Body,” Carl told him. “A Jeep Cherokee they have for sale.”

The guy nodded. “Well it’s good for you that you stopped here instead. That old bastard buys wrecks, fixes them up, doesn’t even tell you. You could be buying anything.” He stared at Carl.

Carl heard Ami in the background.

“Has that car ever been wrecked,” she asked into the cell phone.

“Sure, honey, ask him,” the old guy said. “Junk. Pure and simple.”

“It hasn’t?” Ami asked into the phone.

The old guy scoffed. “Tell him you want a body-man to take a look at it,” he said wisely and winked at Ami.

“Would you care if we came and picked it up and let a body guy look it over?” Ami asked. She listened for a few minutes and then simply closed the phone.

“He had a few choice words for you,” Ami said. “You must be Bob?” she asked.

“Robert Robello,” the old guy said. “At your service.”

“Might as well pull in, honey,” Ami said smiling.

“Might as well,” the old guy said and nodded at Carl.

Carl pulled in, parked his truck, got out and stretched his legs. It was early afternoon, they had just driven three hours straight. This was the first time out of the truck.

“Miss…?” Robert Robello asked her.

“Ami Anderson,” Ami said.

“Well, Ami, and…?” He looked at Carl.

“Carl,” Carl told him. They were supposed to be playing it like they were husband and wife. She should have said Evers.

“So it was a Jeep Cherokee… Late model? Anything else that might come close?” the old guy asked.

“We had called on the price,” Ami said. “And then we went and got the money from the bank… We’re kind of on a tight budget,” she said and smiled.

“I’m used to working with budgets…” He paused waiting for Ami to tell him the amount, but she stayed silent.

“You’ll be trading in the pickup?” he asked.

“No… I need the truck for work,” Carl told him.

“So a Sport-Ute… Does it have to be a Jeep? I ask because I got this really nice blazer and a low mileage Nissan… Wanna take a look at them? I do have a one owner Commander with low mileage… Big V8 though, kind of hard on gas the way things are,” he apologized. He was walking as he talked and they followed along behind him a few paces. Carl did not want to get too far from the truck. Finally, he turned and walked back to the truck. Started it and pulled up close to the building and then locked it up before he came back to them.

“He really likes that truck,” Ami said to Robert’s raised eyebrows.

“I can see. Well, loyalty is good… I could give him a good price for it though… Help you folks out. Pickup trucks are in demand. Even though it’s rough,” he told her. He had pegged her as the head of the relationship. The one who made the decisions.

“He’d never let it go,” she said. “It was his dad’s,” she decided spur of the moment.

Carl walked back over. “Sorry,” he said, “it’s just that…” Ami cut him off.

“I told him it used to be your dad’s, honey,” she said.

“Huh,” Carl said. He focused on Robello. “Yeah.” He spread his palms out in front of his body pointed at the ground. “He’s passed on.”

“I understand the deal,” Robello said and nodded solemnly.

They ended up choosing the commander. It was really the same thing as the Cherokee they had been interested in when it came to space, only this one had the benefit of the big V8 motor.

“So it was Carl and Ami Anderson?” Robello asked.

They both nodded as Robello pulled out the paperwork. “I can send my guy for the plates if you can get proof of insurance,” he looked at his watch. “There’s time.” He looked at them.

“I didn’t think about the insurance. I thought we’d drive it home and worry about it tomorrow,” Carl said.

“We just moved down here from up north. I don’t even know an insurance agent here,” Ami added.

“I got a guy a lot of my customers use,” Robello said. “Cash up front for three months fee and you’re on your way… I can call him, get his guy to bring around the insurance cards,” Robello told them. “Say the word and I’ll call him.”

A few minutes later and it was done, another eleven hundred dollars which someone was there to pick up. Shortly after that his own man was off to the DMV office.

“Okay,” Carl agreed. “Only,” he looked embarrassed. “Just Ami’s name… I got a couple of tickets… You know.” He frowned.

“I do know,” Robello said and winked. He smiled at Ami as she handed him her drivers license.

Carl and Ami stood and watched the traffic go by while they waited. They drank cokes from the machine outside of the dealership.

“Good on that only Ami’s name thing,” Ami said and laughed.

“I thought I did it well,” Carl said and smiled.

“Made me believe it,” she laughed again and then looked out at the street and the traffic.“We’re not far from Lake Avenue,” she said after a few moments of silence.

“Dello Green… Sounds like a fake name, doesn’t it?” Carl asked.

She nodded. “But it’s what I put down for the address for the registration and insurance.”

“I don’t know if it’s smart to go by there,” Carl said. “Who knows? Maybe he’s got a girl… A wife… Kids… Dogs. Maybe the cops are there already too,” he said.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Ami said. “Wouldn’t hurt to look, would it?” she asked.

Carl looked at her. “We have all the money we could ever use. Too much… And the drugs and pot to get rid of too. Why do you wanna go?”

“Just to see how a dude that makes deals like that lives, I guess,” Ami said.

“I guess we could drive by… See how it looks,” Carl agreed at last. “But no stopping unless it looks really good. Even then I don’t know.”

“I just wanna see how it looks,” Ami said.

Robello walked out of the office as his guy, a skinny pimple-faced kid got back and pulled onto the lot. He handed the kid a screwdriver so he could put the plates on the Commander.

A few minutes later Carl was following Ami as she made her way through the late afternoon traffic and onto Lake Avenue.

Dello Green’s Place

The house was nondescript and set back from the street on its own. The driveways on both sides of it were empty. They drove by twice before Ami pulled into the driveway. Carl had no choice but to follow her in. He locked the truck and got out. She met him coming from the Jeep. “Nobody’s here,” she said.

“This is crazy, Ami. What do you mean nobody’s here? You can’t see inside! Could be a dog, wife, girlfriend. Could be that some dude across the street looks after his place while he’s gone,” Carl said.

“There’s a dude across the street watching the place?” Ami asked. She looked comically across the street, hiding behind his arm, looking frightened. She smiled. “It’s a big city. Nobody cares who does what or who they do it too. There’s nobody here. Let’s just go in for a few minutes… Just to see,” she said.

“I must be nuts,” Carl said.

“It would probably help to be with me,” Ami said. “Well?” she asked.

“Maybe the key won’t fit,” Carl said.

“Maybe,” Ami agreed. She walked right over to the front door and rang the doorbell. Chimes sounded loudly somewhere inside. She waited and tried again before she pulled the brass key from her pocket and slipped it into the lock. It slid in easily and Ami turned it unlocking the door.

“I don’t like this,” Carl said.

“Oh don’t be a baby,” Ami said. “Come on. Anybody asks, we’re friends who stopped by to water his plants.” She stepped boldly inside and Carl closed and locked the door behind them.

Ami went through each room opening doors as she went.

“Fingerprints,” Carl said. “You know they will come here.”

“Should have bought gloves,” Ami said.

“I didn’t know we’d be doing a B and E,” Carl said.

“Ha, ha. You watch too much Law and Order, a B and E, Jesus, we had a key,” Ami said. “That’s not a B and E.”

“Dead people can’t give permission,” Carl said.

“Dello wouldn’t have minded,” Ami said and tried a smile on her face.

“Famous last words,” Carl said. … “What are we looking for?”

They had come into a bedroom and Ami chose a pair of socks from a drawer and slipped them on her hands. Carl did the same.

“This will work?” Carl asked.

She nodded. “I saw it in a movie. Remind me to wipe down those door knobs.” She searched through the drawers and came up with two guns and another $15,000 in cash in a thick white envelope. “See?” she said.

Carl went back and checked the other rooms, wiping the doorknobs as he went. They met back in the kitchen and searched it together. Carl checked the bathroom, and then pulled back the shower curtain. He jumped back out of the bathroom, and then quickly slammed the door.

“What?” Ami asked. She walked over to him.

“Fuck… It’s a body… One that just happens to be missing a head and hands,” Carl said.

He wiped off the door handle. They both stopped. She looked at him.

“What?” he asked.

“What else was in there?” she asked.

“A fuckin’ body! Christ, isn’t that enough?” Carl asked.

“We should check it is all,” Ami said.

“For what? To make sure it’s the same dude?”

“Yes,” Ami agreed. “And to make sure there isn’t anything else… Like money… A gun, drugs, I don’t know, Carl”

“I didn’t see,” Carl said. “Just the body… In the tub… With the curtain drawn.”

“You’re going to have to,” Ami said. “… Money, guns… Drugs. I don’t know, but we have to check,” she said after a pause.

“Yeah? It’s your turn, you know. And don’t say it isn’t,” Carl said.

“Yeah? Well, just so you know, looking at dead guys with missing parts might just put me right off sex for a while,” Ami said.

Carl stared at her, his mouth open. “Fuck! Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!” He said loudly. He crossed back to the door opening it a little too fast. The door flew open, banged loudly off the wall and they stood looking for a few minutes.

“Well,” Ami asked.

“Thinking,” Carl said.

“About what, for Christ’s sake?”

He stepped into the small room and then tugged the curtain back before he could change his mind.

Ami stifled a scream. “Look at that,” she managed at last.

“Well, what did you think it would look like?” Carl said. He made himself look into the tub. There was a puddle of blood in the bottom of the tub, dried and cracked, but nothing else. “All that and there’s nothing in here in all,” Carl said.

“He has a wallet,” Ami said, pointing.

Carl looked. A light colored leather bulge that protruded from his back pocket. He reached down carefully and pulled free the wallet which was gummed together with blood. “Jesus, Ami,” Carl complained. “Why do we have to look inside everything?” he complained.

“You never know,” she said.

“Never know what?” Carl asked. “What is it you never know?”

“See,” Ami said. “You don’t know because you never took the time to find out. See what I mean? You’ll never know.”

Carl stared at her for a few minutes. “I have no clue what the fuck you just said it was all about even,” he said.

“Exactly,” Ami said.

Carl shook his head, pried the wallet open to look inside. Money, ID, a few credit cards, all of it stuck together with blood. He showed her.

“It washes off,” Ami said.

He stared at her, “You’re serious?”

She came, took the wallet, pulled out the ID and money, searching through the rest of the stuff. She walked to the sink, turned on the water and began to rinse the two credit cards and driver’s license: When she finished she rinsed off the money too. Carl watched the pink water run down the drain. He walked over and picked up a driver’s license. It was the head from the duffel bag. “This is him,” Carl said. “Carlos Sanchez,” he read from the license.

“Yeah, he looked a little better when his head wasn’t in a duffel bag,” Ami said.

“You’re so cold,” Carl said.

“I’m not cold. Just truthful. What else can I say? He looks better without a body? His neck was too long anyway? It’s a shame, he just lost his head? He’s in no shape to critique me anyway that’s for sure,” she said.

“Can we go now?” Carl asked.

“Yeah,” Ami said. “We have another twelve hundred bucks by the way.”

“How much does that make?” Carl asked.

“I don’t know, we haven’t counted it all yet, remember?” Ami asked. “Like a gazillion or so, I guess. You got to turn him back over… Like he was… Otherwise, the cops will know he was moved,” she said.

Carl bent, picked up the body, but no matter how he twisted and shoved it he couldn’t get it back in the right position. “You’ll have to help me,” he told her.

“If I do I’ll get blood all over me like you,” Ami said.

“Well, blood washes off,” Carl said.

“Smart ass,” Ami said. “I’ll take his legs and hold them down, then the rest should be easy,” she said. She grabbed his legs, forced them to bend, swung them into the bottom of the tub, then helped as Carl shoved the rest of the body down and in.

They were both smeared with blood.

“We have to get this blood cleaned up off the floor,” Ami said. “I’m going up to the other bathroom to get cleaned up and changed. You clean it up and then get yourself cleaned up… He has clothes upstairs that will fit you… I saw some that will fit me well enough,” Ami said. She was slightly out of breath.

“This was a bad idea,” Carl said.

“Not really,” Ami said.

“No, it really was, Ami. What did we accomplish?” Carl asked.

“We know who the dead guy is… We know nobody else is here… We got another twelve hundred bucks…”

“Plus the fifteen grand. Don’t forget that. We found that without having to get covered with blood and who knows what else.”

“Carl, I Gotta get this shit off me… It’s creeping me out,” she said. There was pleading in her voice.

“Okay… Go on… I’ll clean this up, bag it all, then I’ll be up,” Carl said.

“Well,” she turned and pinned him with a stare. “This ain’t no peep show, or an excuse to look me over… Wait until I come out.” She didn’t wait for his answer, but turned and walked away.

The Cops

“Oh yeah, it’s a match,” Don said. He showed Sammy the two thumbprints.

“But I thought we wouldn’t know until Monday afternoon at the earliest?” Sammy said.

“Technically, officially we won’t. I just suspected it was the kid. He did time so I pulled his card. The prints match, but I’m not a qualified expert, so we have to wait officially until they give us the word on Monday,” Don said.

“So we still can’t do anything this weekend?” Sammy said.

“Might give us a little leverage,” Don said. He walked across the garage and returned the fingerprint to a tech.

“Got our guy?” the tech asked.

“A strong possibility,” Don said. “Very strong. I’d like you to keep that between us… Chain of custody… Don’t wanna fuck with that shit,” Don said.

“Hell no,” the tech said. “That would be my ass.” He walked away and then came back. “Same print on the trunk lid too… Glad it helped… It did help, right?” he asked.

“It did,” Don said in a low voice. “And thanks.”

“So now we know why he needed the keys, to check the trunk,” Sammy said.

Don nodded… “Want to go rattle his cage a little?” he asked.

“I do. And I’m wondering why our witness didn’t see him do it?” Sammy said.

“Easy,” Don said. “The car was out of sight at the back of the trailer.”

“Probably,” Sammy agreed. “But I want to hear her say that. What was her name anyway, Ali… Amy… Something like that.”

“Ami,” Don supplied before Sammy could look it up in his notebook. “Yeah, Ami with an i. Why does someone name their daughter something like that? Or Brandy, or Misty, you just know every guy in school is gonna be banging her,” Don said.

“Banging the shit right out of her,” Sammy agreed. They both laughed.

“Let’s go,” Don said. They headed out of the garage into the late afternoon sunlight. It was fall and even with the strong sunlight there wasn’t a lot of warmth in the air.

“I fucking hate fall,” Sammy said.

“And winter soon,” Don said. He unlocked the car: Leaned across to unlock the passenger side; started the car and pulled out of the lot.

FIVE

On The Run

Ami waited as Carl gathered up their clothes and stuffed them in a green, plastic garbage bag.

“What do you think?” Ami asked. She turned completely around, one hand on her hip. She was wearing clothes almost identical to the ones she had been wearing. A baby tee, and jeans two sizes too small.

“I think I like your taste in clothes,” Carl said. He smiled. The clothes he was wearing were at least three sizes too big. “What are the odds of finding another chick with your tastes and sizes? Maybe you found your long lost twin.”

“Yeah, maybe I did,” Ami agreed.

They drove over to the West side of the city. Ami followed as Carl searched for an abandoned piece of property. The problem wasn’t finding one, the problem was finding one that wasn’t already being used by drug dealers or that had a place to pull behind it. He found one by an abandoned apartment house on a side street and pulled behind it. Ami pulled in behind him.

“This makes the trailer park look high class,” she said.

“We better hurry before we attract a crowd,” Carl said. They transferred everything to the Jeep in just a few minutes, and then Carl used a screwdriver to take the plates off the truck. He emptied the glove box and behind the seat, then used a hammer to smash one corner out of the windshield and a pair of pliers along with a screwdriver to remove the VIN plate.

He had no doubt the truck would be gone ten minutes after they were gone, but once it did turn up, if it ever did, it would be hard to trace without the VIN plate. There were other areas that had identifying tags or stamps, motor, frame, but usually no tow yard was going to go through the trouble of checking. They’d tow it in and store it in the yard and eventually auction it off. Even then it would probably go for parts so there would be no need to find the VIN and run it through DMV.

Most likely one of the several pairs of eye’s watching them would steal it and keep it for themselves. He left the key in the switch: As they were leaving three guys were walking down the block toward the house. Or at least it seemed that way to Carl. They stopped and flipped off the Jeep as they rode by them, then they ran down to the house: Before they had turned off the block Carl saw the nose of the truck poke out of the driveway.

“Better get us away quicker, Ami. Make a few fast turns. Those guys might chase us with our own truck,” Carl said.

Ami took the next left then a right and another quick left and they popped out on Genesee Street. Carl looked, but he didn’t see his truck anywhere.

“Looks good,” he managed, before something hit them from behind. He nearly broke his neck getting turned around only to see it was his own truck with one of the three guys driving.

“Can you drive this hard?” Carl asked. “If not we’re going to have to find a way to switch.”

Ami dropped the shifter into low and floored the Jeep. She shot around a line of traffic swerving out into the oncoming lanes, then skidded into a hard left and shot down a side street. Instead of slowing she kept the Commander floored and ran the next several blocks flat out. Checking in her mirrors as she left the truck behind.

She slowed just enough to make a slight curve and then sped up again. She locked up the brakes halfway down the block to make a fast right. She drove hard for the next three blocks, and then made a left. The truck was nowhere in sight, but she made another fast right before she slowed down.

She cursed under her breath. It was a dead end street, mostly abandoned properties. She got the Jeep turned around and headed back, but halfway down the block Carl’s truck shot across the mouth of the street, and she could hear the tires scream as the driver locked up the brakes. She made the next intersection and headed back the way they had come.

She floored the truck again and blew by a half dozen two way stop sign intersections that bisected the street they were traveling on. She finally locked up the brakes again and slid the Jeep into a left and they were coming up on Genesee Street once more.

Ami skirted a small line of cars waiting at the red light and slid out into the street, tires smoking.

She punched the gas hard and got the Jeep two streets down before she turned again and shot up two blocks and then made a right onto a side street.

“Christ,” Carl said as she flew by a stopped dump truck and he heard something scrape down the entire passenger side of the Jeep. “You’re gonna get us killed!”

“Those guys are gonna get us killed,” she said, as behind her the pickup truck swung out around the dump truck and then sideswiped a car parked nearby before the driver got it straightened out again.

They were driving into one of the more run down areas and she made a quick left and then another quick left trying to lose them on the short, narrow streets. Carl reached forward and pulled one of the flat black 9 MM guns from the glove box, flipped off the safety and laid it on the seat top. He looked at Ami who snatched it up and dropped it into her lap.

Carl took a second gun out and got it ready.

“Fuck,” Ami said. “Dead end! Dead end again!

“Fuck it, get it turned around,” Carl yelled.

Ami floored it, jumped the curb and tore up the front yard of a house before turning around. She came back down onto the street, slammed the gearshift into park and jumped out of the Jeep.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Carl Screamed. He jumped out of the truck too, leaving the door ajar. He could hear his own truck engine screaming as it came. Ami stopped and then raised the pistol. Carl stared at her incredulously for second and then lifted his own gun.

The truck came screaming down the bisecting street, the driver saw them and locked up the brakes. Ami took careful aim and began firing, Carl fell in with her. The driver got the truck turned toward them, floored it and then the windshield blew apart.

One of the guys on the passenger side leaned out with a pistol and opened up on them, but he was shooting wild. Carl was surprised at his own calm as he turned, took careful aim and then fired at the side of the truck. The pistol fell from the guy’s hand and then both of them had to jump out of the way to miss the truck as it roared by them and cannon balled down the street.

The truck continued a half block before it jumped the curb and plowed into an abandoned house. Ami and Carl were up and scrambling for the Jeep even as flames begin to shoot up from the house and the wreckage of the truck.

Carl ran for the Jeep only to find a young guy sprinting for it too.… He saw Carl and Ami and let his pistol drop to the ground.

“Don’t… Don’t… Don’t shoot me,” the kid yelled. He stood, a frightened look in his eyes as blood dripped down one side of his face. His breath came in ragged gasps.

Carl ignored him, jumped into the Commander just behind Ami and slammed the door.

Ami gunned the engine and ran hard for about ten blocks, then slowed, working her way to the outskirts of the city on the back streets, finally pulling into a huge mall parking lot and parking in the first spot she found.

“That was fucking crazy,” Carl said. He was still breathing hard.

Ami nodded and then burst into tears.

Carl leaned over and pulled her to him. She curled into him and cried harder: After a few minutes she pulled away.

“It’s over,” Carl said.

She nodded and set up straighter on the seat. She looked at him again. “I’ve never been so scared,” she said, her voice hitching. “Kiss me, Carl. Kiss me.”

Carl kissed her and she leaned hard into him. He could feel her trembling under his hands as her own hands roamed his body… “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she breathed.

“For what?” Carl asked, out of breath.

“I’m all fucked up… Scared… But there’s something about it all that has me turned on too… We have to get somewhere… I shouldn’t be starting something right here. Right now,” she said. She straightened up and tilted the rear view mirror towards her face. “Jesus,” She moaned. She took out a brush and went to work on her hair. A few minutes later they left the Jeep and went into the mall. They split up going their separate ways.

Two hours later, just as the sun was sinking, they met back at a food court on the second floor and ate. She seemed to be in much better spirits. They ate their food and talked quietly and then they wandered back through the mall toward the exit they needed to get back to the parking lot.

“Carl, look,” Ami said. She looked over at an old photo booth, Four pictures for Five Dollars, the sign advertised.

“Probably doesn’t work,” Carl said. Ami cut her eyes at his and frowned slightly, just enough to make him immediately wish he had said something else. “But we could try it,” he amended quickly. He dug a five from his pocket and showed it to her.

She smiled as she took the five from his hand. “I wouldn’t make you… But I’m going to.” She handed her packages to Carl and walked away.

Carl nodded nervously at a young guy that walked by a few moments later as he waited and smiled. She seemed to be taking forever. He had actually decided to go to the booth and check to see if something was wrong when she stepped out, drew the curtain back across the entrance and walked back to him.

“Didn’t work,” he asked.

She smiled and handed him a row of four pictures.

“Hey…” Ami’s face appeared in four frames making faces or laughing. “That is kind of cool, I…” he stopped as she pulled another strip from her pocket.

“These you keep in your wallet. Just in case you forget,” she told him.

He looked at the pictures and his face began to color. She laughed.

“Your wallet… Stop drooling!” She laughed once more as Carl tucked the pictures away in his wallet and began to follow her from the mall. He followed her to the Jeep, but before he could climb into the passenger side she stopped him.

“You drive, Carl. Let’s go somewhere for the night, Okay? Let’s call it a day.”

Carl nodded and climbed into the driver’s side after helping her load her bags in the back.

They drove slowly out of the parking lot and then turned onto the expressway once Carl caught an exit. A few minutes after that Carl took another exit and pulled into a motel. “The last stop for the day,” he said.

Ami smiled and followed him inside.

Hiding Out

The lights were off in the room. The TV dead. The curtains parted just enough to allow some light from the sodium arc lights in the parking lot to spill into the room. It was late, but Carl had lost track of time, he had no idea how late it was, only that it was late.

They had made love for a long time. It had really started in the shower; from there they had eventually made it back to the bed.

He had never made love to anyone like her. Not that there was a long list, there wasn’t: Three counting her. So maybe he just hadn’t had the right experience, but he didn’t think it was that simple. He thought it was her. Who she was, how she was. She was resting her head on his shoulder. They were both still breathing heavy. He could feel the heaviness of her breasts resting against him. One was pressed into his side, the other resting against his rib cage. Her hand was playing with the small hairs that framed his belly button. Something about that was erotic. Maybe it was just the feel of her hand, her breasts pressed against him, but he was hard all over again.

His hand dropped down and caressed her hip, then traveled down into her dark curls and her legs parted like magic. A minute later he was kissing his way across her breasts and downward.

Later

More time slipped by; he opened his eyes once more and found himself in the same position, holding her as she curled into his side. Her head was resting against his shoulder.

“Tell me something you never told anyone else,” she said.

“I don’t like to fight. I only do it because if I don’t other guys might get stupid, think I’m stupid… Think I’m soft, won’t stick up for myself. I’d rather just get along with people, you know?” he asked.

“Yeah. Shit the world makes you do… I like that. You didn’t seem like the kinda guy to want that kinda life… But you did time, right?” she asked.

“Yeah… County jail time,” Carl admitted.

“It could have made you mean. I’m glad it didn’t,” Ami said. Her voice was soft, her breath light against his side as she spoke.

“County’s not so bad. You’re mostly hanging around the same guys you hang around with on the street. State prison is where it gets tough… Things happen there,” Carl said. “Tell me something about you that nobody else knows.”

She laughed. “I’m not afraid of most of the things that scare other people until they are over. Then I get scared. Kind of reversed from what it should be, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “Like today. You were like… I don’t know… Like some warrior woman. You just stood there and blew that guy away. He could have killed you, but you were like ice. I’ve never seen anything like that before, except in movies.”

“Yeah and then I was so scared I cried like a baby,” Ami said. “Your turn.”

“Okay I’ve only been with girls, I mean like back in high school before you, and one of them was back in junior high. So she really doesn’t count,” Carl said.

“So really? I’m the only woman? The only one?” Ami said. “Did you compare?” she asked. She lifted her head up and smiled at him.

“Yeah. It was no comparison at all and I’m not just saying that. You do things to me just looking at me,” Carl said. “Your turn.”

“Okay, I’ve only been with two people before you, and you’re much better. You took time with me, made me feel good,” she said.

“People?” Carl asked.

“No fair, that’s two questions… Okay… One guy… And one girl back in high school last year. The guy treated me so bad I kinda swore off guys for a while… I’m glad I changed my mind now,” she said… “Your turn.”

“I used to deal drugs. Small time… Four years ago. I started that because my uncle was a dealer, and all my friends would hit me up for coke or pot because I could get it, and then they didn’t want to pay. They wanted to party for free… One of those friends got caught and turned me in… I went to jail, my uncle and a few of my friends at the same time,” Carl said.

“I forgot I promised we would smoke… Do you still want to?” Ami asked.

“No, I’m good… Go ahead if you want to…” He let the silence hang for a moment “Where are we going from here, Ami. I mean… I mean you and me, not physically where are we gonna go, but us, as a… A couple, I guess…” Carl asked.

“I’m going wherever you go. I mean we’re together now, right?” Ami asked.

“Yeah, I wanted to hear you say it though. I want the same thing, but how come I never met you in all this time?” he asked.

“Because all you do is work and watch TV. I used to walk down that road every night hoping you’d be sitting on your steps so I could say hello. I told you when all this happened I knew where you’ve lived,” Ami said. “I would have run to you. Thought about it, almost did it.”

“You trusted me like that with all the wackos in the world?” Carl asked.

“Hey there were guys shooting at each other. I’m pretty sure they saw me before I could get off the road and into the woods. They would have killed me for sure. You? You seemed like a nice guy even though I only saw you a few times. Yeah, I would trust you that much,” she answered.

They fell silent for a few minutes.

“Are you sorry you did this,” she asked. “I mean the whole thing… It’s not even an entire day yet and look at where we are, on the run… Are you sorry? Do you wish we would have stayed in the trailer and just let it all go?”

“No,” Carl said. “I’m not sorry. First, money aside, I wouldn’t have met you. Second, how does someone like me… Or you… How does someone like us get ahead otherwise? I can see me working my crappy job until I could afford to buy my own trailer… Maybe or maybe not. I was starting to care more about drinking than anything else. I can’t be sorry. Everything has changed. It wouldn’t have,” Carl said.

“Yeah,” Ami said. “If you hadn’t been there I might have done it myself if I could’ve worked up the nerve. I… I had a plan… I did have a plan.” She shook her head as though to clear it. “What worries me is I might have been too afraid. Tonight I could be sitting alone like every other night, watching TV… I couldn’t have stayed alone for much longer in that trailer park though. Eventually I would’ve taken one of those guys as a boyfriend just to be safe. It’s crazy there. Especially on the weekends. Tomorrow night there will be two disappointed guys. They come around every Saturday night… The trailers on either side of me. One has a sister that lives there; the other is just a guy he works with, but all they really come for is to talk to me. I pretty much have to stay inside, hiding, trying to stay away from them. So that’s what I do, I stay inside. Lately they’ve been getting braver, coming over and knocking. Then last weekend they got into a fight over me. I don’t even know them! Either of them. And they’re out there fighting over who gets to knock on the door. I can imagine what tomorrow will be like…”

“I’m not sorry either. I’m not sorry at all. I’m glad I’m here and I’m glad I’m here with you,” she said. “Another few months, maybe even less, and I would have said to hell with it, given in. In a few years I’d have a kid or two running around and that trailer park would be home, and he’d be gone.” She looked up at him and frowned. “It’s how that life gets you if you’re a woman on your own, Carl… You get scared…”

He pulled her closer: She lifted up and came up even with him and then smiled and bought her mouth down on his. Just that fast he was ready again. He kissed her back slowly, took his time, his hands traveling along her body. She dropped one hand and guided him into her without breaking the kiss. He brought his hands up and let them play across her breasts.

 

The Cops

“The kid’s truck is not out back,” Sammy said as he came back around the trailer. “Maybe he’s at work.”

“No, day off. He was already drinking since last night, remember? The kid had nowhere to go,” Don said. He stopped for a second. “What the hell is that noise?” he asked.

“Dogs. You can hear them out back. Sounds like a couple of dogs out in the woods fighting over something. Probably a dead woodchuck or something. Dump’s close by. I get that shit all the time at my house,” Sammy said.

Don looked around, pulled a card from his pocket, wrote on the back of it and then stuck it in the door.

“Maybe the girl… Maybe he’s down there… Somewhere. I think everybody on this road knows each other. The girl said she knew him. I should have asked how well,” he said as they walked away.

They both got into the unmarked car. Don turned it around and headed back down the road to the trailer park.

The Owner Of The Goods

“Mr. White, excuse me sir. I told them you shouldn’t be disturbed, but they insisted,” the waiter told him. He passed Jojo White a phone on a tray with its cord coiled next to it. White smiled at the others at the table. They all worked for him in one capacity or another. He picked up the phone.

He listened quietly. His face gave nothing at all away. “I see… I see,” he said at last. “Yes… We’ll take care of it.” He smiled, closed the phone and handed it back to the waiter along with a fifty dollar bill. “Scott, thank you. The call was important,” he said as he passed him the phone and the folded bill. The waiter thanked him and left. White turned back to the table.

“Enjoy yourselves,” he said. “Jimmy and I have some business to discuss, and after that I’ll be back… Jimmy?” he asked the tall, older man on the other side of the table. They both got up and left the dining room; walking out onto the wide rear deck that faced the mountains. Here in the Catskills it was early fall, but it was cool, even cold this time of year. For that reason the deck was deserted: If it had not been he would have had it cleared before he came outside.

“The deal went bad,” White told him. “Green is dead. Emilio’s boys are dead too. And funny thing, the cops haven’t put any drugs or large sums of money into evidence yet.”

Jimmy West nodded and continued to listen. White reached into his pocket and peeled off several hundred-dollar bills.

“Travel money, Jimmy. I don’t know if there’s someone else involved or the cops got it. I want my money back. Emilio will want his product back… You work for me, but this time you shall be working this for both of us. I don’t want this deal between Emilio and me to fall apart. Find the problem, fix it, bring this to that happy conclusion I need, Jimmy,” he reached over and placed one hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.

“Got you,” Jimmy said. He turned and took the stairs that lead from the deck down to the parking lot. White watched him go and then stepped back into the restaurant.

Ami’s Place

“Hey, somebody call the cops?” an old guy asked. He was sitting on the back bumper of a rusted Ford pickup drinking beer at the trailer next door to Ami Anderson’s place.

Don looked at him. Not old. Just hard faced from all the drinking. His eyes slid to the trailer. The lights were off.

“Seen Ami around tonight?” Don asked.

“Maybe,” the guy answered. He took a pull of his beer and smiled.

“Well, if you maybe saw her, would you maybe know where she is?” Don asked.

“Maybe,” the guy agreed. He lit a cigarette, blew out the smoke and then laughed at his own private joke.

“Uh huh,” Don said. “Let’s see some ID. I’m thinking drunk and disorderly, Sammy. Did you hear him just call me a cocksucker? That hurt my feelings.” He looked back down at the guy who hadn’t moved.

“Yeah, I heard him. I couldn’t believe it myself, but the guy called you a cocksucker all right. He must not know you too well,” Sammy said. He looked down where the man sat. “Don doesn’t suck cock. I have never seen him suck a cock. He’s not a cocksucker. You must have him confused with your father or something.”

Fuck, I didn’t say no such thing at all,” the guy said now, sitting up straight. “You fuckers lie so bad.” He glared at one then the other, but his eyes held panic.

“ID, sir,” Don said stepping closer now. “Or I’ll help you to get it.”

The guy shut up and dug out his wallet. He seemed nervous.

“Anything you want to say before I run this ID?” Don asked.

“Why you fuckin’ with me?” he asked.

“Because I asked you a question and you decided to fuck with me.” He looked at the ID and then slipped it into his pocket. “You see how that works? … Of course, we could start over again,” he offered.

“Yeah… I’m not a bad guy. Let’s start over again. The thing is, I can’t help you with Ami. She ain’t home. I wish she was. I’ve been here half the day and she ain’t been around. That’s all I know.”

Don reached into his pocket and flipped the guy’s driver’s license back to him.

“She works on Friday nights?” Don asked.

“Not usually… She’s around Friday nights. Works overnights down to the Shop and Stock… store at the end of the road… Comes home real early mornings… Like sun coming up early… Cashier… Good girl,” he said.

“She got a boyfriend?” Don asked. “Specifically, you know this young guy down at the end of the road, Carl?” Don asked. “Carl Evers?”

“Ain’t never seen her with a boyfriend… I know Carl, a little anyhow… At least I use too… He used to do a little dealing, if you know what I mean. Went to jail… He ain’t done shit since then… And I never seen him around here. I don’t think she’d be his type,” the man said.

“What do you mean not his type?” Don asked.

“She don’t date… He was always hanging around with the guys, following the partying. She don’t party either,” the man said.

“Make you sad?” Don asked with a smile.

“Of course… She’s pretty… Needs a man,” the man said.

Don took another of his cards, wrote Call me on the back and walked over to the trailer door, and pushed it into the gap. He handed another card to the guy when he came back. “John, you call me when she gets home. I don’t care how late it is, okay?” Don said.

The man took the card. “Hey… How do you know my name?” he asked.

“The license,” Don told him. “I’m good like that. It comes with the job.”

“I’ll call,” John said.

“You do that,” Don said as he walked back to the car with Sammy.

John watched them as they drove away and then went back to smoking and drinking. Wondering to himself where Ami had gotten to.

The Cops

Hey! Hey! You dogs, get away from there!” Don yelled.

He was tempted to shoot his gun into the ground to scare them, but the department frowned on discharging firearms without good reason. You had to fill out paperwork, which was exactly why he usually carried a few extra rounds with him. Only today he was out. He took the gun out anyway: If one of them charged him he could shoot it. There were three of them, a big rottweiler, a mangy looking yellow shepherd mix, and some sort of chow mix. The chow worried him the most.

“Shoot that goddamned Chow…” Don started to say, when beside him Sammy raised his pistol and shot the chow.

Jesus,” Don said. “You shot the fuckin’ Chow!”

You said to,” Sammy said.

“I wasn’t done speaking. I was going to say, shoot that goddamned Chow if it charges us,” Don said.

“Huh,” Sammy said. “Guess it charged us.”

The other two dogs had taken off, well, like a shot, Don thought and chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Sammy said.

“The other two dogs took off like a shot,” Don said and smiled.

“Well, yeah. They were probably scared,” Sammy said.

“Gonna cost you some paper work though,” Don said.

“Uh uh, got extras,” Sammy told him.

“Well fuck,” Don said and stopped. “I was out or I would have shot that fucker myself.”

Sammy laughed. “Well he’s shot.”

Don shook his head and then started into the clearing to see what about that duffel bag had them so agitated. He walked around the side and saw that they had gnawed a hole into the side of the bag.

The two of them almost had not come back. They had been nearly to the end of the road when Sammy had said, “What if it’s not a woodchuck?”

Don had turned around and headed back down to the trailer without another word.

He squatted now and looked at the side of the bag and what was outside the bag too. He leaned forward and used his pen to push aside leaves and blades of grass to see the bones and scattered pieces without disturbing anything. He rose back to his feet.

This was no woodchuck, Sammy had been right. Something raw and red showed inside the bag. Outside the bag was a scattering of small bones and something meaty that wasn’t really recognizable until you really looked at it, let your mind put it together, and realized it was part of a human hand. The palm part to be specific. And those little bones were finger bones, all except that one piece right up against the bag. That was a finger with a manicured fingernail still on it. He looked at his pen, debated and then slipped a plastic bag from his pocket, dropped the pen inside and sealed the bag.

“Better go call for the crime scene guys,” Don told Sammy. “Guess you’ll have to do the paperwork after all.” Sammy nodded and took off back through the woods with their only flashlight. There was a moon and that helped, but he didn’t feel particularly good knowing those other two dogs were around somewhere.

He reached into his pocket, fished out his pack of cigarettes: Sammy was gonna pitch a fit: He didn’t smoke. Didn’t like the smell of it, but right now Don needed one. And something was rustling in the underbrush close by. No telling what it was, but smoke, cigarette smoke, would keep most of the wildlife away. They hated it even more than Sammy did.

He lit the cigarette and drew the smoke deep into his lungs. It immediately calmed him. He shifted gears in his head and began to wonder about the duffel bag and what was in it. No way could it hold a whole body. It was a small bag. The girl was small, but not that small. It may have nothing to do with the two of them, but he thought it did. It was too much coincidence. It was either parts of one of them… Or… He just didn’t know. He smoked and waited for Sammy to return, occasionally rustling the tree limbs and scrub brush around him to let any animals nearby know that he was there.

 

Carl and Ami

It was even later. Once again Ami was curled into him with her head resting on his shoulder, but this time they were both back from another shower and under the covers.

“You think we’ll be okay?” Ami asked.

“Yeah… I think we have to move on. We might have to get another vehicle after today…… Besides, we need one that’s not in either of our names,” Carl added.

“What about that Green guy… You look a little like him, if you get it right they would never guess it wasn’t you. I mean make yourself up to look like him, you see?” Ami asked.

Carl nodded. “It could work, but we should wait until we’re out of this state. Just in case. That way no one can remember seeing us… Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Mexico… There are so many nice places down there. You can live like a queen on almost nothing too, but we got to get rid of the pot and the heavy stuff before we go down there,” Ami said. “They are not kidding if you get caught with that kind of shit over there… Prison there is not like here… You better have family or someone to pay money to feed you or you’ll die… Bad.”

Carl looked at her and she met his eyes with her own.

“T.V. show… Saw it on a T.V. show a few years ago. A girl with her boyfriend. She didn’t even know he had the stuff… He got out of it and she was stuck for it. It was bad…” Her eyes went away and her hand came up and rubbed across his belly.

“We’d have better luck selling it down south anyway, before we cross. We just got to look for the right guy. I could call my friend tomorrow, ask him if he knows anyone down there that would buy a lot,” Carl said.

“Should we chance it?” Ami asked.

“It’ll be okay. I’ll call from a prepaid phone. He won’t know where I am. He’s a big deal, he don’t mess with the cops. No one will know.” Carl said.

“Okay,” Ami said. “Then, Mexico?”

“Mexico,” Carl agreed.

They were both silent for a while. Carl started to drift off into real sleep. Ami felt so good against his side. So won…

Carl?” she said softly. Unwilling to wake him if he were sleeping.

“Yeah?” Carl answered.

“I want to build a house… I mean build it ourselves… And I want babies, Carl. I want babies.”

“We’ll build one then,” Carl said. “And we’ll have babies.”

She snuggled closer to him and kissed his chest. In a few minutes both of them were fast asleep.

Carl and Ami

“Its three A.M., we should probably get going,” Carl said. Ami stirred beside him, circled one arm around him, and pulled him to her.

“I don’t think we really need to go right now,” she said in a sleepy voice. Her face was against his chest and she took one nipple into her mouth and nibbled softly, holding it between her teeth.

It turned out she was right.

 

Jimmy West

Jimmy looked at his watch, 3:15 AM. He had been in the sleepy little city for two hours. He had spoken personally with White’s man in the Sheriff’s department, and another he had in the city police department.

It was no mystery to him what had happened now. He had driven out to Carl Evers’ trailer. The cops were all over it. The kid was missing. And a young girl from down the road that had supposedly witnessed the crash was also missing. The money. The drugs. All gone. Blood, brain tissue and bone, found in Evers’ bedroom. The head and hands and the rest that was in the duffel bag that had been found in the woods behind the kid’s trailer, he knew about that. He knew who Carlos Sanchez was, and he knew how he ended up in the duffel bag and why. It didn’t concern him.

What did concern him was that he had turned up behind the kid’s trailer. The duffel bag should have been down the road at the Chevy crash site, or still in Green’s car. That meant someone had moved it, taken it. And that said to him that someone had taken everything they could grab from the Chevy before it caught fire and took it down the road to the kid’s trailer, as well as the stuff from the Ford. That was the only thing that made sense.

He had pushed his thinking a little further: The girl had told the cops she had witnessed the wreck, but she had said nothing at all about seeing anyone take anything from either car. The kid, Evers, had also said he had seen part of the chase, and heard the wreck. They were both lying, had to be, because neither one of them had mentioned seeing anybody taking the drugs and money from the two cars, yet they were missing. And the head and hands had turned up right behind the kid’s trailer. That was not coincidence.

The cops had found the duffel bag behind the trailer, but they did not find the girl’s body or Evers’ body. They thought he had killed her in the trailer, but Jimmy knew that the blood and the brain matter that had been found with it had more than likely come from the bags, not Evers killing the girl, or the girl killing him, for that matter. Thus the two of them were working together. Had to be.

There had been a girl’s body found in the woods nearby, and that had thrown him for a bit, but that, he had found when he asked, had been a day prior. That girl and this girl had nothing to do with each other at all. No. This girl and Evers had to be in it together. He had wondered how that might have happened. Had they both come upon it and hooked up? Had they known beforehand? He doubted the later. Most likely they had both come running at the sound and made some sort of alliance right there on the spot. Jimmy smiled. He knew he had it figured out right and the cops had it all wrong. It was pretty hard to slip something by him. Let the cops sniff down their dead end road. He was already well on the way to getting some real information about where they might have gotten to.

Jimmy sipped at his coffee. He was sitting in front of an all night doughnut shop on State Street, drinking his coffee and eating a pastry. It was where the cops hung out. His window was partially down. The air was cold, crisp, and it helped to keep him alert. It had been a while since he had slept and would probably be a while more. He dug two more small pills from his pocket, and popped them into his mouth. That would help. In about ten minutes he would be back on his game.

It only stood to reason, in his mind, that if the two of them had cleaned out the Chevy, then they had cleaned out the Ford that Green had been driving too. After they had realized what they had stumbled into, it was only a matter of seconds, most likely, before they had figured out the rest. And they had to know that someone would be on their tail, and soon. It was too much money. Too much heroin. Too much coke. And they had to have taken all of it with them too. The cops had found nothing at all. And cops would maybe take a little here or there, but this was a lot more than a little. No cop had taken it.

They would be searching the girl’s trailer soon, but Jimmy was convinced that they would find nothing there either. They were gone. They were gone together. And wherever they had gone to they had everything with them.

The money couldn’t be traced. It was all clean. The cocaine and heroin could be traced. That would be a lot to turn up in one place. The pot, so-so, it was a lot, but any small city could easily absorb that much without a blip coming up on radar. The cocaine and heroin would make a splash no matter where it came down, if it came down all together. He wondered if the kids would know that, or be smart enough to think about that and try to split it up and sell it.

He finished the pastry, stuck the napkins and waste back into the bag, crumpled it up, rolled down the window and tossed it toward the steel can that sat on the sidewalk. It missed. Jimmy sighed.

He sat his coffee on the dashboard, got out, picked up the bag and tossed it into the container. He lit a cigarette and pulled the smoke deep into his lungs.

New York, Syracuse, Springfield, Buffalo. One of those four places. If he had to narrow it down even further, he’d choose Syracuse or Springfield. They were the closest. If you we’re here and needed to hide, those would be the two places to choose from. Narrow it further and you’d come up with Springfield. Syracuse would seem too close. He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and punched in a number.

The Criminal Network

Vinny Westley answered the phone behind his bar and listened. He dragged a pad over and wrote as he listened. “Yeah… That’s their names?” He wrote as he listened to Jimmy West spell the names. “Yeah,” he said at last. “I’ll make some calls in a few hours… Maybe… I’ll call you back, Jimmy. I’ll see.” He hung up the phone and looked down at the pad. Jojo White was looking for a couple of young kids on the run with cash and drugs. There would be of good reward for finding them in any condition. Jojo only cared about the merchandise. Not the kids. If they tried to unload any of it here, he’d know. He looked at his watch, 3:45 A.M., fuck it, he thought. He picked up the phone and began to make his phone calls. After all, it was Jojo White. Best to get on it fast. Not fuck it up. Jojo had a long memory, and that could be good, or it could be very bad.

 

Carl and Ami

“We really should get going, Carl,” Ami said.

“Oh, like I didn’t say that myself?” Carl asked.

“You may have,” Ami agreed. She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up at him.

“Okay,” Carl agreed. Ami sat up and then stood from the bed. She padded to a large suitcase she had bought yesterday. She stood naked and pondered what to wear. She looked back over her shoulder at Carl, catching him watching. “Put your eyes back in your head, Carl. We have to go,” she told him.

Carl sighed deeply. “But you’re so beautiful.” The sheet was tented around his waist. She smiled and then walked back to the bed. One hand slid under the sheet and circled him.

“How are we ever gonna get anything done?” she asked in a husky voice as her lips settled on his own.

He pulled her onto the bed.

Clues

The phone rang.

“No… Nothing at all,” Robert Robello said as he picked it up. “Well… Hey, I know that name… That… Ami Anderson… That was…” He dragged forward some paperwork on his desk from the day before, nearly spilling his coffee as he did.

“Yeah… Sold her car yesterday… Cash… Her and her husband, Carl… Carl and Ami Anderson… And… They coughed up about six grand altogether… Cash… From the bank they said… All hundred dollar bills. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that money is there?” he asked. “… Oh? … Who! … Jesus, who wants to piss him off… No… No… I don’t wanna know. Got a pen?” He rattled off the vehicle description and the plate number into the phone. “Just tell him it was me who passed it along… Fucking-A I will! … I see them again I’ll snatch them right up… Yeah… Yeah… You got it, Vinny.”

He hung up the phone and picked up the coffee cup. How did a couple of young kids like that rip off Jojo White, he wondered? Best not to think about it, he told himself. He only wished he had known yesterday. He could have snatched them both up right then… Would have been a good pay off too, probably. Fuck… Well, he told himself, at least Jojo White would know the lead had come from him. That could pay off in the future, he told himself.

He took a sip from his coffee and then snagged an ‘eclair from the box on the desk. He glanced at his watch. 4:30 A.M.. “Fuck the clogged arteries,” he muttered. He took a huge bite from the ‘eclair.

Carl and Ami

“Its five-thirty,” Ami said. They were on the road heading for the Pennsylvania border. From there they would have to work their way down to the coast: Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Once in Alabama they would stick to the coastline and cut across to Texas and then into Mexico.

“I need to buy a watch,” Carl said.

“I can’t believe you didn’t,” Ami answered. She was making an account of the money, which was out of the big melted brown suitcase and going into two neon-pink knapsacks. The big kind used by hikers. It seemed less conspicuous to her than the big heavy half burned suitcase. Besides that, the suitcase had a bad smell. Gasoline, fire, and a lingering meaty smell. They had both noticed it this morning when they woke up. Ami had taken the Jeep back into the city and picked up the knapsacks, a large ice cooler, sodas, sandwich stuff and bread.

“I don’t like mustard, I like mayo,” Ami said now. “In a squeeze bottle. I got mayo. I got a lot of junk food too, chips, cakes, cookies, candy bars. We shouldn’t have to stop until we hit the coast.” She had also had him pull through the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant where she had picked up a half dozen breakfast sandwiches along with hot coffee.

“I like mayo to,” Carl agreed. He was eating a large pastry as he drove. She had picked them up, about two dozen of them wrapped in cellophane. 600 calories each, the packet said. “It’s all fat and sugar, cholesterol, all the bad stuff,” he grinned as he finished the pastry and tore open another one.

Ami looked at him and laughed. She was in the back, seat folded down, with all the money piled up around her. “So you eat something for breakfast that’s half fat. Do you realize that one more of those will cover your calorie intake for the whole day?” she asked.

“Yeah… But something made me hungry,” he grinned at her.

“Me too, but I think I’ll stick to the breakfast sandwich,” she said. “Besides, our bodies are different. If I ate one of those things, tonight I’d have wobbly thighs or something.”

“Really?”

“Really… I’m sticking to the three hundred calorie breakfast sandwich.”

“I ate one of those too, but I was still hungry,” Carl said.

“Poor, baby,” Ami said. “I should feed you better. Now, shush so I can count this.”

Carl turned his attention back to the road.

He had checked over the Commander this morning by the sodium vapor lights in the parking lot. It seemed okay. One long scrape along the passenger side. The back bumper was a little banged up, but he saw nothing that would get them pulled over. The tires seemed okay and all the fluids were good too. It should be fine for now, he had told himself.

“No way,” Ami said from behind him.

“What, honey?” he said a little self consciously.

She looked up and smiled and then looked back down. He looked back out at the road, his face red.

“Okay, each stack is $80,000,” she said. “I didn’t count every stack, but every stack that I did count was $80,000. They were packed into the suitcase 15 wide by 12 deep. There were a few broken stacks, but I think we got all that money back and replaced it. I got another hundred grand that wouldn’t fit into the suitcase. So, twelve by fifteen times eighty grand,” she said. “I must suck in math, because I keep coming up with an unreal amount,” she said.

“But you’re a cashier?” Carl said.

“Yeah, in a store, not a bank. I never had to add up nearly fifteen million dollars before,” she said quietly.

He turned around. “You’re kidding?” Carl said.

“Honey, the road,” Ami said.

“Oh!” He turned around. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“I’ve counted it six times, fourteen and a half million, counting the extra hundred grand. Plus some more I didn’t count,” she said.

“But that’s crazy,” Carl said.

“But that’s what it is,” Ami told him. “We could just dump the drugs… We don’t need it,” she added.

“We could… But why throw away money. Wasn’t it you that made me check everywhere… Every bag? Get everything?” he asked.

“Yeah… But almost fifteen million,” Ami said.

“It could be almost thirty though. I mean, the drugs must be worth that much too… All that coke… All that heroin… So we could probably double our money,” Carl said.

“Jesus,” Ami said.

“That reminds me, I gotta make that call,” Carl said.

Ami worked on packing the bills into the two knapsacks. She set them into the back cargo area, pushed the seat back up, and then climbed into the passenger seat up front. She listened to one side of the conversation as Carl talked, after a few minutes he hung up.

“I’m going to get back to him in a couple of hours or so. He has to make some phone calls. But he said he knows a few guys down south. Two in Florida, one in Alabama, and another one over in Texas that could handle it all. I asked how much. He said it didn’t matter. So I said, listen, I’m talking multiple millions in coke and Heroin. He said that knocked out the Texas guy, and one of the guys in Florida, but he said he’d call the Alabama guy and the other one in Florida. We might really do this, babe. We might really do this,” Carl said.

“This is crazy,” Ami said. “Are you sure this guy won’t go to the cops? Let them know where we are?”

“He can’t, Ami, because he’d be in the shit too. He deals. Not on this level, but big for there. What can he say? He can say nothing. In fact, he thought I was kidding. He told me I didn’t want to play games with the guys that play at that level. When I told him I wasn’t playing games, he said okay,” Carl said.

“Do you think we have anything to worry about? Making a deal, honey?” Ami asked.

“No. I think it will be fine… We’ll be careful. That’s all we have to do is be careful, Ami.” Carl said.

“Hey,” Ami said after a few minutes.

“Yeah?” Carl asked.

“I like Baby a lot better, although I do like the way you say my name.”

Carl smiled. “Okay, babe.” He looked at the clock, 6:20 A.M.. “Is that right, babe?” He motioned at the clock.

“Pretty much, a little faster than mine, or I’m slow,” Ami said. “Why?”

“I have to call Rich back at about 8:00 AM. I don’t want to forget it,” he said.

“I’ll remind you, baby,” Ami said. She patted his thigh. Her hand was like electricity on his skin. She noticed he jumped and she strayed her hand over to his crotch and rubbed lightly.

“What are you doing! I’ll wreck the truck,” Carl said in a squeaky voice.

“Will you really?” Ami asked. “Then I guess I better not do what I was gonna do,” she said. She took her hand away.

“What… What we’re you gonna do?” Carl asked.

“You said you will wreck… Just something I heard about,” she said. Her hand came back. “But watch the road carefully so you don’t wreck because I won’t be able to see it.” She said.

“Oh, god… I won’t wreck… I’ll watch the road… Also the cruise control so I won’t speed,” Carl blabbered.

“So you do want me to show you what I was talking about?” Ami asked.

“Yeah. I would. I do. I really would,” Carl told her.

She showed him.

SIX

Jimmy West

Jimmy picked up his cell phone and dialed Jojo’s number as he pulled out of the parking lot and passed the empty toll booths.

“It’s Jimmy,” he said when the phone was answered. “Here’s the license number of the vehicle were looking for.” He ran off the license number, make and model of the Jeep that Carl and Ami had purchased from Bob’s Easy Auto. He gave their names and descriptions, and then went into an explanation of what he believed had happened. Jojo assured him that he would have the vehicle looked for and let Jimmy know if it was spotted.

“They have the drugs. All of them. The cops have part of Carlos. I imagine the rest of him is at Green’s… I’ll take care of that,” Jimmy told him.

“I’ll let Emilio know about Carlos. I’m sure he’ll be happy. I’ll fill him in on the rest too… What else is there?” Jojo asked.

“Nothing for now,” Jimmy told him. “I’ll be in Springfield in a few hours. I’ll let you know later in the day what I find.” He hung up and concentrated on driving. A few miles down the road he called Vinny back.

“Yeah… I appreciate it… Jojo appreciates it… Listen, those two kids got a large amount of… Let’s say product on them. I’m talking huge. Pounds. Up into the millions, high multiples of them… There can’t be too many people that could handle a buy like that, still… I thought you would… No… No… Yeah, keep your nose to the ground. Let me know… Jojo will be very generous… Thank you,” he hung up and concentrated on driving. He glanced down at his watch, almost 6:00 AM.

The Southern Connection

“Why would you tell them something like that?” Ronnie Lee asked.

“Listen,” Rich said. “It’s a couple of kids. The one kid used to work for me. Not the brightest…” He sighed “They have some shit that’s hot. I mean real hot. I don’t know where they came by it, but I know where it came from, and all of those guys are dead. All you gotta do is take it off their hands. Sell it, you and me split the profit,” he said.

“And how does that work. Take it off their hands? Steal it? Is that what you mean?” Ronnie Lee asked.

“Yeah, well, yeah, you’ll have to. I mean you deal on a big level. You’ve done some shit, same as me… Don’t tell me you haven’t… Look I’ll be blunt. I can send them right to you. Right to you. They will walk right into where ever you need them to walk into. Put a bullet in both of their heads and dump them in the nearest swamp. Take the shit off their hands. It’s that simple, Ronnie lee. That simple,” Rich told him.

“You are crazy, Rich. You want me to kill a couple of kids for a few pounds a weed? A little coke? How much H? Even if it’s an ounce I’m not killing anyone for it. You’re fuckin’ crazy, Rich,” Ronnie Lee told him.

“Listen, goddamn it! Do you know who Jojo White is? Huh? Or Emilio Rodriguez? Eh? Names ring some bells? Those are the guys who got ripped off. I’m talking serious, large amounts of money. It’s out there that they want it back, and how much it is too. You just haven’t heard about it yet,” Rich said.

“And I don’t want to hear about it if they’re involved. It would be like stealing from them. They’ll send someone to take care of me. Make me dead. No fuckin’ thanks. How much, If it’s so much, how much? I know I wouldn’t touch it if it was a half million bucks. No fuckin’ way. No way. It wouldn’t be worth it,” Ronnie lee said over the phone.

Rich held the phone away from his ear, when Ronnie was done he spoke. “Neither would I. How much would you do it for Ronnie? How much?” Richard asked.

“Don’t be stupid, Rich. Don’t be.” Rich cut him off.

“How much? Just say it so I know where we’re at,” Rich said.

“I’m serious, man, you’re talking shit. Just bullshit,” Ronnie lee said. “I don’t know man… I guess I probably would do it for a half a mil. That means a real mil. split between us,” he said at last.

“Fifteen to twenty” Rich said.

“Time?” Ronnie lee asked. “Sure, if we get caught, that’s why I’m …”

“No, I mean fifteen to twenty million dollars of product. Those two kids are carrying it around the fuckin’ country. Fuck the shit right out of half a mil. each. Do you think I’d fuck around with turning on Emilio for any reason? I wouldn’t, so you know it’s got to be big. Fifty, fifty. Seven to ten mil. each,” Rich said. “It’s fucking incredible just to say it like that.”

“Yeah… Yeah, I’m down with that shit, man… Why didn’t you just say so, man? Holy fuck. Yeah… Yeah… Okay, what do I got to know?” Ronnie lee asked.

Rich laughed and began to explain the situation and describe Carl and Ami. He looked at his watch, 8:00 AM he saw. “They’ll be to you in about twenty five hours or so if they drive straight through,” he said. “I’ll let you know as I know.”

Rich

“Hey,” Carl said. They were stopped by the side of the road where he had been able to get a signal.

“Carl,” Rich said. “I got it covered, but it’s gonna cost you a little for me, setting it up for you… Are you okay to, say, a hundred grand?” Rich asked.

“You can guarantee it for that?” Carl asked.

“Right to his door. Money’s not an object. He’s a legit businessman too. Owns a couple of businesses down there, he won’t screw you over. Whatever it’s worth is what he’ll pay. Only thing is,” Rich said.

“A catch? I figured there would have to be a catch,” Carl said.

“It’s small. I can vouch for you. And I did, but he’s not going to bring that kind of money someplace. You’ll have to meet him on his turf. Where he says to, where he feels comfortable… That’s all. You play by his rules, you get your money, he gets the stuff… Will that work?” Rich asked.

“Hang on a minute,” Carl said. He turned to Ami and explained the deal. She agreed to the hundred grand, and Carl took his hand off the phone.

“Okay, but how do I get your money to you?” he asked.

“Easy. Get one of those air express envelopes, drop it inside and mail it to me,” Rich said.

“After the deal is done?” Carl asked.

“Hell yeah. I Trust you, man. After the deal is done,” Rich said.

“Okay,” Carl agreed. “We’re good with that.”

“Cool,” Rich said. “Call me tomorrow and I’ll have better directions. For now, it’s just Southern Alabama. You’re going to Mobile. I’ll talk to my man, his name is Ronnie lee. Think of it just like that, Ronnie lee, all one name. I’ll talk to Ronnie lee and get you directions… It might be him who calls you back… I’ll give him the number you gave me… Tomorrow morning? About this time?”

“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “Until then,” he clicked off.

Carl turned to Ami. She looked back at him.

“He did everything just right. Kissed my ass hard too, but it feels wrong,” Carl said. “Rich was never that impressed with me. I wasn’t in his crowd, you know? I didn’t sell really big like some of those other guys. Now he treats me like gold? Like we were best buds? And he’s okay with me sending his hundred grand fee after we make a deal.” Carl shook his head, glanced off into the scrub brush that lined the side of the road and then continued “The Rich I know would never do that… Something just feels wrong about it,” Carl said.

“Then we won’t do it,” Ami said. “We don’t even need it, Carl… You’re right… We could just say to hell with it. Throw it in the river or something.”

“We’ll play it by ear,” Carl said. “Maybe we’ll set some rules of our own tomorrow… For now, we’ll just keep driving, what do you think?” he asked.

“The same thing. We have to go through there to get to Mexico or at least around there to go that way. If it feels bad, we’ll back out. Just keep it moving,” Ami agreed.

They got back into the Jeep and backed out onto the highway.

The Road Trip

The tire came apart on highway 90 just outside Cleveland Ohio. It took Carl most of an hour to get the space saver spare on and then get the Jeep back onto the ground. He drove off the interstate and into Cleveland. It took some turning around, but he finally made it onto a feeder strip that took him out and around the city. They stopped at a burger place, already sick of cold food; picked up lunch and then Carl pulled into a mall parking lot and Ami went to work on him.

She put Dello Green’s driver’s license next to his own face and then started with the hair. She used a razor to take Carl’s hairline back to match Dello Green’s own receding hairline. Green was almost ten years older, so she used eye shadow to make the skin under his eyes look a little more baggy, and she bought a cheap pair of plastic reading glasses in a mall store that looked similar to Green’s glasses. She combed his hair straight back and into a small ponytail at the base of his skull and examined her work. A little more eye shadow under his chin, just below his lip, made his chin seem bigger. She looked him over.

“It’s pretty good,” she said at last.

“Yeah?” Carl asked. She handed him the mirror.

“Whoa,” he said, looking side to side in the mirror. “It doesn’t even look like me.”

“It’s not supposed to. You look really good. You look a lot like him… We’re gonna do it now?” Ami asked.

“We may as well,” Carl said. “We had to stop, so we may as well. We’d just have to do it later anyway,” he said.

They drove to the first dealership they saw: If this one didn’t work out the road was crowded with them farther down.

Carl found a used Chevy SUV: Low miles, big price tag, but in a city this size he didn’t think anyone would scoff at a large cash transaction.

He spotted the salesman as the salesman spotted him.

“Ray,” the salesman told him as he walked up and offered his hand.

“Dello,” Carl told him. He shook his hand and then turned back to the SUV.

“Nice truck,” Ray told him, launching straight into his spiel. “Best on the lot. Close to new. In fact the only way I could do better for you would be to sell you a new one.” Ray smiled.

“I don’t know about that,” Carl said. “I don’t know if I have the credit for something like that.”

“Easy enough to find out. I can run it in just a few minutes,” Ray told him. He turned back to the dealership as if he really could just walk back and retrieve Benjamin Green’s information. Like it was sitting on his desk just waiting for him to come and get it. He turned back and smiled at Carl, and then turned once more. His eyes urging Carl on.

Carl opened his wallet and handed him the Green ID. “Really?” Carl asked.

“Really… Let me go see. Find out where you stand. Go and look around… The new trucks are over on the other side. Go take a look, I’ll be right back.” He left with the Dello Green driver license and social security number he had jotted down on a small pad he carried in his shirt pocket. Probably for just that sort of thing too, Carl thought. Maybe it was as simple as a quick walk back inside. Maybe it was very nearly sitting on his desktop, or would be soon enough. So soon that it wouldn’t matter that it hadn’t been.

Carl walked around the lot and looked at some new vehicles. He would’ve liked to walk over and talk with Ami where she had parked in the Burger Joint lot next door, but they had decided not to be seen together just in case. The salesman came back just a few minutes later.

“Dello, I see no problem. You paid off the house on Lake Avenue?” he asked.

“Yes, yes I did,” Carl said, hoping it was true.

“So your credit report is good right now. Nothing outstanding except your other car, the Ford Taurus. And that’s almost paid off… Same employer?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Carl said, “same. Guess I don’t change too much.”

“And that is why your credit rating is so good and your score is so high. What exactly were you looking for?” Ray asked him.

“Well I’m looking for something four wheel drive. That’s why I looked at the blazer. I’m going to do some traveling. I’m going all the way out to California to look at property,” Carl lied. “Maybe I’ll be spending a little time in the desert too while I’m there.”

“Have you thought GMC Suburban? It’s a bigger vehicle, but so much nicer. Let me show you one. I ordered it special: Captains chairs, dual AC, then the guy couldn’t make the loan happen. This truck is nice, Dello, very nice,” Ray said.

Ray sold him on the GMC. He also lined him up with a local agent who took cash and wrote an insurance policy for the truck. The loan was approved with no problem. Carl had been prepared to put several thousand dollars down, but Ray had told him with all the incentives and rebates he wouldn’t have to put any of his own money down at all.

Two hours after he had pulled onto the lot he drove the suburban off the lot, licensed, insured and with a full tank of gas. They unloaded the commander; locked it up and left it sitting in a mall parking lot, the keys resting on the top of the roof like the owner had forgotten them.

Ami took over the driving, enjoying the way the big suburban felt on the highway.

 

Jimmy West

“Yeah?” Jimmy said. He put the cell phone to his ear, the other hand on the steering wheel.

“Jojo,” Jojo White said in his ear. “I got a little tip. A guy I know down in Florida gets a call from a small time drug dealer up north. Wants to know if he can handle a large amount of coke and heroin that is about to be southbound. Says to my friend, he can make it come right to him. My friend says he’s a little overextended right now. He doesn’t want to spook the guy, you see? Hangs up, calls me. What I want for you to do is go back there and talk to the other guy… Richard Dean… Rich to his friends… He thinks he’s something too. Even has a couple bodyguards,” Jojo laughed.

Jimmy joined him. “On my way. And Green’s place is taken care of. I had to clean up a little,” Jimmy said. “I left nothing.”

“I appreciate that Jimmy,” Jojo said. He gave Jimmy the address for Richard dean. “You’re on your way?” he asked.

“I’m on my way,” Jimmy said and clicked off.

He pointed the car back toward route three and Watertown, set the cruise control and settled back into the seat.

The Cops

“If we were in a bigger city we wouldn’t have to wait for so much,” Don said.

Sammy nodded.

The tall brunette walked back from the front dispatch office and looked at Don. “Ami Anderson?” she asked.

“Yeah?” he said.

“She bought a car in Springfield yesterday, it’s on the DMV Computer. Must have just got in before the close of business yesterday,” she told him. “Late model Jeep Commander,” she said. She read off the license number as she handed the printout to Don.

“Jenny?” Don asked. “How fast can you get this out?” he looked at her.

“I’m off in ten minutes.” She sighed… “Okay… About twenty minutes. I’ll do it before I go,” she smiled. “You owe me, Donnie, right?” she teased. She swung her hips and walked back out of the room.

“Lucky bastard,” Sammy said.

Don laughed. “Hey, things are looking up. You call Springfield City, I’ll call the Sheriff’s department. Maybe someone spotted it.”

They both picked up phones and went to work.

 

Carl and Ami

The rest of Ohio went quickly and soon they were cruising through Kentucky, the traffic light, talking to each other to keep themselves awake.

“We don’t have to drive straight through,” Carl said.

“I think I’d like to get some sleep then,” Ami admitted.

She pulled off interstate seventy-one in Lagrange and they took a room for the night.

Once they got everything into the room it was after 9:00 P.M. according to Ami’s watch. She stripped down and curled into Carl’s side. She was asleep before Carl had even closed his eyes.

He held her and listened to her breath. He felt her soft breaths against his chest. Her skin against his skin. Her warmth.

Carl was worried. He was worried that somehow he would miss something: Even now he was trying to think around every angle and corner. He was afraid they would fail to see some little thing and it would be their undoing. It would most probably kill them. Literally.

He was mostly flying blind. Trusting to the same instinct that had kept him alive for all of his life: Steered him away from the bad guys; caused him to be somewhere else when the bad shit went down. Not every time, not for every thing, but most of the time, for most things in his life. At least all the big things that had gone bad around him Even the drug deal. His uncles had been caught with over a pound of cocaine. A pound of cocaine that Carl had just delivered to them. It never came back on him and his uncles had taken the rap completely. Small stuff he had sold to the friend that had turned was all they had him for. He could have spent years in prison, but it had kept him clear of that.

He didn’t know what to call it so he called it God. Or, he thought, he believed it was God: As close as he could come to understanding God anyway: If God was anything else he didn’t know what that could be.

All he wanted was to get to Mexico with Ami. Find a place to live. The money was the only thing that could make that happen. It couldn’t happen any other way: If it could happen some other way they could simply have walked away from the whole mess. Leave it for someone else. Make their way to Mexico like she wanted to and just stop.

Except, then what? Then what always came up. No money meant no land. No house. No way to live. No anything, so it came full circle. Right back to the money. No money was a bad idea. The exact opposite of what they wanted. So here they were dragging fourteen and a half million dollars across the country. And enough illegal drugs to put them both away for a hundred lifetimes if they got caught with them. The amounts just boggled his mind. He would start to think about it and get all tangled up in the numbers.

She moved against him, mumbled something low in her throat, and then quieted again as he stroked her hair with one hand. He pulled the blanket up further to keep her warm.

It was late night when he finally drifted off himself. He held her and a few minutes later his eyes slipped closed and he drifted off to sleep himself.

J*immy West*

Saturday Night

Jimmy had parked his car two blocks away and walked. He hadn’t liked it, but he had, had no choice. He had now been watching Richard Dean’s place for over an hour. Two bodyguards, girlfriend: An anorexic crack head with silicone implants. Two kids from another woman, not his ex-wife. A couple of phone calls had supplied him with names and everything else he had needed to know.

He had watched the girlfriend come and go, same with the two kids. The bodyguards, big, beefy dumb looking bastards, passing by the hallway windows that lead from the garage as they let people in and out. There had been five or six small drug deals, or what he assumed were drug deals: The car pulled into the drive, the garage door rose of its own accord; the car drove in and the door came down. A few moments later out came the car again: The body guards moved back through the hallway. Currently the girlfriend and the kids were in the house.

The garage seemed to be the preferred entrance into the house. He had seen no one use the actual front door of the place. This guy had to be the dumbest bastard he’d ever seen. Everything right there to make him talk.

He’d seen two big pickups so far too. People that worked for Richard Dean. They had also driven straight into the garage, just a faster in and out, like the stuff was right there waiting for them. He had moved over to the door and waited, hidden in the expensive looking hedges. Another dumb move on this bozos part, or his security. You never planted shrubbery that close to the house or doorway. Somebody had fucked up, but it would work out well for him.

He didn’t wait long: The next car came, the door went up and Jimmy rolled under the door as it was on its way back down, ending up right behind the Camaro rag top that had pulled in. A long legged black girl got out of the car and started up the steps that lead into the house. Jimmy took a couple of fast strides and ended up beside her.

“Sorry, honey,” he said as he shot her in the back of the head with the silenced 22. He caught her and eased her to the floor. “Better for you,” he told her. “Believe me, much better.” He took three deep breaths and then tested the doorknob… Unlocked. He paused, flexed his legs, and then burst through the door.

Both bodyguards were standing, arms folded, chatting with Richard Dean’s teenage daughter he had spotted going into the house earlier. He shot both bodyguards before they could move, and then punched the girl hard, knocking her out. Richard Dean himself came running to see what the excitement was about: He tried to play it tough.

“Do you know who I am?” Richard Dean asked.

“A fuckin’ dead guy if you don’t shut the fuck up,” Jimmy told him. He put the gun barrel to his head. “Pick up your daughter. Where is everyone else?”

“Elsie is in the shower… The shower… Ja… Jamie is upstairs in her rrr room,” he managed at last.

“Pick her up now,” Jimmy told him motioning to the unconscious girl where she lay blocking the hallway. Richard bent down and picked up Denise and carried her into the living room. Twenty minutes later Jimmy had, had the three women in the exercise room, just off the living area, tied up. He was tying up Richard Dean.

Richard Dean had let him kill his girlfriend. He wouldn’t say anything. And he waited until Jimmy had started in on his youngest daughter before he’d wanted to talk: Frantic beneath his gag, but he had pissed Jimmy off, so Jimmy had kept on a few minutes before he had stopped. Besides, he’d been enjoying it, he had told himself. And how often did that happen?

He had gotten it all: Cell number the kids would call back to, where they were heading. Who they would meet, and the rest that was planned. After he was done talking and it was time for Jimmy to turn him and his daughters loose as he had promised, Jimmy had broken the bad news to him by gagging him and finishing off his daughters in front of him. He saved Richard for last. “That’s for making me wait,” Jimmy told him as he slit his throat.

It had been impossible to stay out of the blood, so he helped himself to some of Richard Dean’s clothes. Not exactly his style, but a good fit anyway. He went back out to the garage, and looked at the Camaro once again. Nice fuckin’ car, he told himself. He turned, slipped out the side door of the garage, locking the handle set and then shutting the door. He walked calmly down the street.

When he got to the corner of the street where he had left his car, he saw a cop car sitting halfway down the block. Waiting silently in the shadows… Watching his car? Probably, he had told himself, but it made no difference if it was there for some totally unrelated problem. There was no way that Jimmy would be heading back to that car ever.

He had simply pretended that he was looking both ways for traffic and continued on, passing the street by. He walked up the street, circled back around the next block up and then made his way back to Richard Dean’s house. He forced the side door that he had locked behind him and slipped back into the garage. He searched the dead girl and came up with a thick wad of cash and the keys to the Camaro.

Usually Jimmy never took anything with him, but he decided on the spur of the moment that the Camaro and the cash were his. He was sure that there was more inside: If he took his time he could probably come up with more cash. He thought about it for a few seconds, but not too long. It was free money after all. There was no sense in passing it up. In any case he had been forced to come back, or he would have left it. It was like fate or something, he told himself as he pulled the side door shut tighter to hide the damage. He headed back into the house.

He left an hour later with close to a quarter million dollars in cash in two small, black gym bags and two new prepaid cell phones. Richard Dean had, had dozens of them in a cupboard over the sink. His old backup, another prepaid throwaway was in his car that he had, had to leave.

He sent the door up on its track after covering the dead girl with an old piece of carpet, and then backed the Camaro out into the driveway. He ran back in: Shut the door down and then exited the side door. He closed the side door as well as he could and then walked back to the Camaro.

He called Jojo and drove as he explained the situation: He waited for Jojo to make the call.

“I could have someone there to do it. I know people, but I want you there, Jimmy. Get a flight out of Syracuse and fly down there. Rent a car and take care of things,” Jojo told him.

“On my way,” Jimmy told him. He rattled off the phone numbers for the new prepaid phones and then hung up. He drove the Camaro to route 81 and called the airport for reservations once he was on the way. He had three hours before he had to catch his flight. Time to drop the car at his place, a small farm in Central Square. That would give him time to shower and change clothes and then he could drive his SUV to the Airport and leave it in the long-term lot.

He turned on the radio, tuned it to a classical station and listened as he drove. Life was good, Jimmy decided. Life was very good.

 

Cops

Don batted at the alarm clock and its incessant low beeping, finally hitting the snooze button and silencing it for a few more minutes.

“You have to go right now?” Jennie asked in a sleepy voice from beside him.

“Soon, Jen, soon,” Don said. He let one hand roam down her side, felt the swell of her hip, her breasts heavy against his side.

Her hand came across his belly and ran through the tangles of hair on his chest. His own hand slipped over her hip, and stroked the length of her upper thigh.

“Stay, Donny… Just a little while?” she said. She raised up on one elbow and let her hand drift back down across his stomach and wrap around his shaft.

He shifted his weight and pulled her over onto him, his mouth finding her breasts and suckling her nipples as she rested her thighs on his hips. He was inside her just a few seconds later.

 

Highways and Byways

Carl and Ami

The Suburban was so smooth it was like being in another world, Carl thought. The sun was up, early morning, 9:00 A.M. his watch said. All the money in the world and he had walked into a Kmart and bought himself a $29.00 Timex. He liked it. It suited him.

They had passed over into Tennessee. It was not far to the border and then they would be in Alabama. From there they would follow I-65 down to Mobile. He had tried to call Rich at 8:00 A.M. as they had arranged, but no one had answered. It bothered him. He knew two numbers for Rich. The one just rang. The other just beeped and then hung up on him after a few seconds, which meant the messages were full. The one that rang and rang was Rich’s cell phone. It made no sense that it should ring and ring. Rich was a businessman. He never missed phone calls.

He picked up the phone and tried the cell phone again. It rang on and on, a dozen times. He was just about to hang up when he heard the click of an answer. No hello, no anything. Just an open line.

“Rich… That you, Rich?” Carl asked.

Nothing, then “Carl?… Carl Evers… Don’t hang up, Carl, just listen to me. Don’t…”

Carl clicked off the phone, looked at it as if it had betrayed him, pushed a button for the window and tossed the phone out onto the highway. He watched in the mirror: Just an explosion of parts catching the sunlight as the phone came apart.

Jesus, what?” Ami asked.

“Some dude answered Rich’s phone, but it wasn’t Rich,” he said.

“Might not be bad,” Ami said. “Doesn’t have to be anyway.”

“He knew my name,” Carl said.

“Shit,” Ami said.

“Yeah. Tried to keep me talking. Told me not to hang up,” Carl told her.

“Don’t panic,” Ami said. “They don’t know anything. Think about it. They can’t know anything or they would have us. Might have been a lucky guess on their part. Maybe they… Maybe they were supposed to answer. Supposed to see if it was you,” Ami reasoned.

“Maybe, but it felt wrong. And how are we going to know where to go. We’ll probably be in Mobile sometime tonight,” Carl said.

“Baby,” Ami said. “We’ll do what we said. If we don’t hear back or we don’t feel right about it, we’ll just drive on through. We don’t need the money or the headache. There’s nothing wrong. We don’t have to do it.”

“Yeah,” Carl said. He tried a smile back on. “Yeah. Okay.”

The phone lay on the seat between them. It suddenly began to chime. Ami picked it up.

The Cops

The phone rang and rang. Don wasn’t going to pick it up, but it was still ringing when he finally got a latex glove on. What the hell, he thought. He clicked the button and listened. The sound of travel. Tires singing on pavement. A radio low in the background, nothing else for a minute. He was about to say hello when the kids voice spoke. “Rich?… That you Rich?”

He was usually quicker; maybe it had been the lack of sleep. He knew the voice from somewhere, it just took a few extra seconds to figure out where from. The kid. Carl Evers. It was his voice, Carl Evers’ voice…

Carl!… Carl Evers?” he had said. “Don’t hang up, Carl. Listen to me. Don’t trust these guys. Rich is dead. They’ll kill you too… Carl?… Carl?… Fuck,” Don said and slammed the phone into his free hand.

Sammy looked at him over the small bar where he had found the phone sitting on a high shelf along with two rubber banded stacks of fifties.

“Hung up,” Don said. “It was the kid. I know the voice. He hung up.” Don ran his fingers through his hair. His eyes were shot with red. His temper was frayed, even after the time he had spent with Jenny. Maybe because of it. He would sure rather be back with her than here looking through the glass at the horrors in the exercise room.

He looked back at the high shelf. It went back deep. Impossible to see what else might be up there. He pulled over a stool and climbed up on top of it. Sammy walked away toward the garage to let the techs know the scene was secure. He looked for a long time at what was hidden in the dust.

 

Jimmy West

Jimmy punched in the number Rich had given him. No answer, the phone just rang and rang. He folded his phone, dug up a small piece of paper and reread the phone number to make sure he had gotten it right. He had. He chose the alternate number and punched that in. It rang four times before it was answered. The young woman’s voice. The kids’ girl, Ami. Had to be. “Is Carl right there? This is Ronnie Lee. I’ve been trying to reach him.” He tried to make the accent believable. Not too heavy, but there nonetheless.

Nothing but silence. He moved around the counter top. He had driven straight from the airport to this place, a music shop in a crowded strip mall. The shop was quiet, dark, a little dirty light coming through the front glass. Ronnie lee was tied to a tall metal backed chair: His eyes were missing.

“Did I dial a wrong number?” he asked.

“No,” Ami said at last. “Carl can’t talk right now, Ronnie lee. John told us about you,” Ami said.

“Who the fuck is John?” Jimmy asked. “There shouldn’t be anyone in this, but us and Richie.”

“I meant to say Richie,” Ami lied.

Sure you did you little bitch, Jimmy thought.

“Well, who are you. You know who I am… The girl, I know that. Rich told me, but he didn’t say your name,” Jimmy said

“Annie,” Ami lied.

“Annie, okay. Annie, do we have a deal? I pulled together an amount of money that should work, but I can’t seem to reach Rich at all. His phone just rings. I’m a little spooked, I don’t mind telling you, Annie,” Jimmy said. “Know what I mean? Then you guys don’t answer on the other cell phone number… Made me wonder, you know?”

“We can’t reach Rich either,” Ami said.

“So it isn’t just me?” Jimmy said.

“Carl called, someone picked up. He thinks it was a cop. We nearly changed our minds about this. I mean it’s squirrelly. Burned the phone… Pieces on the highway, man,” Ami told him.

“Annie, I went to a lot of trouble to get all this money together. I wish the two of you wouldn’t pull out. I’d understand it if you did, I just wish you wouldn’t,” Jimmy said.

“I didn’t say we would. It’s just… It just spooked us too, I guess,” Ami said.

The silence hung for a few minutes.

“Eleven mil.,” Jimmy said… “All cash.”

“I know… I know,” Ami told him.

“Where we at, girl?” Jimmy said at last, figuring he would play it a little hard.

“Don’t call me girl,” Ami said.

“Sorry,” Jimmy said. “It’s my Alabama showing. I don’t mean nothing by it.”

“Let me talk to Carl… Where can I call you back?” she asked.

“Call me on my cell,” he ran off the number that went with the throwaway phone he was using.

“When?” Ami said.

“When you’re ready… It’s all about you now, Annie. You and Carl. I’ll be here,” Jimmy told her.

“Okay,” Ami said and clicked off.

The Cops

Sammy came back in with the techs. “Okay, Don?” he asked.

“Yeah, let them do that exercise room after the hallway. At least that way we’ll have someplace to go where we don’t have to look at death.” Don said.

Sammy nodded and led the techs into the living room. They stopped just inside the doorway.

“Who else?” the lead guy asked. His name was Dennis Jones. Sammy had worked with him before. “Just me and Don,” Sammy answered.

Dennis looked around. “Probably the kitchen is okay, since you have already been in here. Anything in there?” he asked. He looked down at the bottles in the rack, the refrigerator that sat under the bar, then back up. Don wagged his head no, and then pointed at a phone and two stacks of fifties that sat on the counter top. Sammy walked over and whistled. “Where?” Sammy asked.

“Up next to the phone,” Don said.

“Did you touch them?” the tech asked.

Don held up his gloved hands. “But before you do the hall, do the kitchen and the phone, bag the money. I will need to answer the phone if it rings and we need a place to set up, okay, Dennis?” Don asked.

”Yeah, just,” he looked around and spotted the short hall that led to the front door. “I’ll just hit the hallway first, then this. That way you guys got an entrance and a place to wait… The rest is gonna take a while.”

Dennis crossed to the short hall and printed the door. Vacuumed the short hallway and bagged it, then turned it over to them. He bought the phone to Don a few minutes later.

Don walked out to the car he had parked at the curb, and pulled it up onto the lawn next to the front door. He took his jacket off, folded it carefully and put it on the back seat. The day was warming up a little, although the forecast said cold later. Either way the jacket was off and would stay off. He walked back inside the hallway and stepped up beside Sammy. They watched as the techs worked the other end of the hall that picked up on the opposite side of the kitchen and led to the garage.

“Twenty five grand in those fifties,” Sammy said.

Don nodded.

“Would have been tough for me to turn that in,” Sammy said.

“Not you, Sammy, you’re a straight arrow; you would’ve done the same thing,” Don said.

“Yeah, but it still would’ve been hard,” he sighed. “You and me are both the same… I think that’s what happened to the kid. Temptation. There all at once. Something he must’ve saw in the cars,” Sammy asked.

“Positive of it,” Don agreed quietly. “Temptation’s a bitch. I’m sure the kid just folded. Sometimes it’s hard to walk away, even when you know you should.”

Sammy nodded and glanced back up at the mess in the hallway.

Don’s own cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pants pocket. “Yeah?” he answered. He listened and then pulled out his note pad and began to write. “Slow, slower,” he said. “I guess all the information comes at one time,” he whispered to Sammy. He wrote as he listened, watching the techs work the hallway.

SEVEN

Mobile

They were parked in a rest area just off I 65.

“Did you believe him?” Carl asked.

Ami shrugged. “He sounded real. It’s the right name. He knew your name. He didn’t know my name, but he knew I was here. I told him my name was Annie. I figured it was close enough. I figured if he said he thought it was Ami I could fake it. He didn’t. He didn’t even hesitate when he said Annie, or if he did, I didn’t catch it. I just don’t know. He even said he was a little spooked by not being able to reach Rich himself. He told me we could call it all off if we wanted to. He doesn’t want us to, but he said he would understand. Would someone trying to set a trap try to push us away? I wouldn’t think so, baby, but I don’t know. Even so, something about it has got me bugged big time,” Ami finished.

“I can’t see Richie setting us up, but I also can’t see Richie not answering his phone either.” He looked at the map. “It looks,” he traced the route down I 65 with his finger and compared it to the scale. “Just a couple hours to go and we’ll be in Mobile. If we crash for the rest of the day, get some sleep, we can leave early evening, be there at midnight. I don’t wanna get there tomorrow… Come in late tonight and he won’t be ready for us, just in case some funny shit is going on.”

Ami nodded. “We should get another vehicle as soon as we get there too. I like this truck, but it’s too hard to maneuver in tight places. We need a car. Something fast so we can get away if we need too.”

“Look, let’s go to Mississippi,” he traced a route with his finger. “We could rent a car and a room in Pascagoula. That’s maybe an hour drive from Mobile. We’ll leave the Suburban somewhere there; maybe we can leave it in the airport’s long-term lot, something like that. That will allow us to cruise by the meeting place tonight. We’ll call him back, tell him we’ll be a little late, sometime early tomorrow morning. We’ll ask for the directions to the place now. That will give us some level of protection. About the best we can do,” Carl said.

“That makes sense,” Ami said. “But we still call it off if it feels wrong, right?”

“Absolutely. If we get a bad feeling, we just take the car back and head for Mexico,” Carl agreed.

“All right,” Ami said. She leaned forward and kissed him.

“Call him,” Carl said, he handed her the phone.

The Cops

“Okay… We know it was a drug deal, but there’s word on the street, not our streets, Manhattan, that it was a deal between Jojo White and Emilio Rodriguez that went bad. A couple of million dollars in cocaine, heroin, and some high grade pot thrown in for good measure. And I mean their prices, and that means that not only were the drugs there, but the money was there too,” Don said.

“Holy shit, no wonder so many people are getting dead,” Sammy said.

“Yeah,” Don agreed. “There’s a contract out on both of them, Carl and Ami. They don’t care how they get them either, so long as they get the money and drugs back.”

“And let me guess, if they’re admitting to a few million dollars it’s probably a lot more, right?” Sammy asked.

“No doubt,” Don looked at his notes. “They found the kids truck in Springfield. Wrecked into a house and burned out. Two local gang bangers roasted inside the truck. The rumors say a chase and shootout prior to that, two white kids in a Jeep. Some say two guys, some say a guy and a girl,” he read from his notes.

“So the gang bangers steal the truck somehow?” Sammy asked.

Don shrugged. “The dead guy in the Ford, missing the top of his head? Benjamin Green,” Don said.

“Yeah?” Sammy said.

“Fake name… Real name’s… Rustle Roberts. Funny thing is, other than an arrest twenty years ago for an assault charge, he has absolutely no record under that name. Doesn’t own anything. Hasn’t paid taxes. Nothing. Benjamin Green on the other hand owns three homes, two in Springfield, one in Barbados.”

Don raised his eyebrows.

“Nice,” Sammy said.

“And guess what, yesterday he bought himself a brand new GMC suburban. I mean top of the line, over seventy-five grand for the price tag,” Don said.

“Our two?” Sammy asked.

Don shook his head. “The salesman swears the guy was Benjamin Green. No girl with him. Said the guy had ID.”

“Not hard if they took it from the car,” Sammy interjected.

Don nodded. “There’s an APB out on the suburban, but we also got the Jeep that Ami Anderson bought. Hasn’t been a single sighting, but it sounds like the Jeep that was involved in the thing in Springfield.”

“So why did they each buy vehicles?” Sammy asked.

“Well, it’s a day apart in different states. They bought the Suburban in Ohio, Cleveland… Maybe the Jeep was damaged in the thing in Springfield, so they had a ditch it,” Don shrugged. “The thing is, with White and Rodriguez gunning for them they won’t last long. Gang intelligence in Springfield says the shootout was probably motivated by the drugs and the money.”

“You think they knew?” Sammy asked.

“Yeah. The word’s out there. It’s a big reward. Plus a direct in with two of the biggest names in the dope business. Whoever finds them can probably write their own ticket.” Don looked toward the hallway, where the techs were cutting out sections of the carpet. At least the bodies we’re gone, he saw with relief.

“That’s probably what this was all about,” Don continued. “The drug unit says Richard Dean has a BMW, but it isn’t here, and there isn’t one registered to him in his name. Or his Ex’s name. Or the girlfriend’s name. I even checked the oldest daughter. Nada. They think they have a surveillance tape that might have the plate number. But they’re not too hopeful. If it was there they would’ve already gotten it and had it in their files. So I had Jenny put out a description of it from their files. Best I could do, but we have no idea who might be driving it. And no proof that it was used in the crime. So it’s not statewide. Probably won’t be either,” Don said.

“Anything on the head, the hands in the bag?” Sammy asked.

Don nodded. “Carlos Sanchez. Fingerprints from the one good hand still in the bag. Long record. And surprise, surprise, he was Emilio’s right hand man. Not a clue why most of him is gone.”

“So we don’t know where anybody is. We know that Carl had something going on with Rich. He called. I doubt he’ll call back. The cops have searched all three of Green’s places. Sanchez’ too. Nothing and nothing. No bodies.” He flipped a page in his notebook.

“The DB in the garage, there wasn’t likely to be anything there and there wasn’t. And, anyway, nothing was found. Popped in the back of the head… Base of the skull… Pro,” Don said. He sighed, closed the cover of his notebook, rubbed at his temples, and then slipped the notebook back into his shirt pocket. “I Gotta have a smoke, Sammy.” He walked through the short hallway and out of the house. There were neighbors out on their lawns watching the show. Don walked around back and Sammy followed him. He stopped out of sight and lit up.

“This is a fuckin’ mess, Sammy. And we don’t even know where those kids are. Not even a rumor that’s solid, although the route looks, if it was really them that bought the suburban in Ohio, the route looks to be south, but that’s really a wild guess.” He sucked in the smoke, felt the familiar ache in his lungs and ignored it.

“It’s fucked up all right,” Sammy agreed. “While you were on the phone I talked to Dennis, he said it looks like all three of the women here were raped. Nothing from the bodies. He had to have used a condom. No ID in the car, but two good sets of prints. So far nothing on them though. And we don’t know if the car had anything to do with this, but we think it did,” Sammy said.

“I thought Dennis was off until tomorrow?” Don said.

“We’re drawing attention. This is a major crime wave for here. The mayor’s taking a lot a shit. Everybody’s in and working for us. I mean the overtime overfloweth. That’s what I was told anyway. Same goes for us, just turn the hours in,” Sammy said.

“It’s about time. They should’ve done it two days ago,” Don said.

Sammy nodded. “Better late than never,” he said.

Don sighed deeply and nodded.

Later

Don managed to get the bedside phone on the third ring, by then it had awakened Jenny too.

“Goddamn cops,” Jennie muttered as she buried her head back under the blankets.

“Yeah?” Don managed.

“Sammy,” Sammy told him. “You gotta get down here, we’re out of here, like, 3 hours ago… You there, Donny?” Sammy asked.

Don set up in bed which caused Jennie to complain even more. “What the fuck are you talking about, Sammy. Say it slower. My brain has no caffeine yet.” He glanced at the clock, 5:30 A.M.. He rubbed his face with one of his large hands.

“We’re going to Alabama… Mobile. Several tips put the Suburban on I65 yesterday, just outside of Mobile. Nothing after that. The chief thinks they went to ground, and there are rumors of a big deal that’s going to happen there with an associate of the late Richard Dean. We don’t have names yet, but they’re working on it. The guy is a big drug dealer in that area. We’re going down on a flight out of Syracuse in 2 hours. The chief wants us to be there when the whole thing goes down. Sort of like the New York liaison,” Sammy said.

“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Don said. He reached for the night stand and got a cigarette. He lit it and then tossed the heavy silver Zippo back onto the table with a metallic clunk. Jenny raised her head.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“Fuck,” Don said.

“Fuck ain’t the half of it,” Sammy agreed. “You’re awake now? I’ll be there in about twenty minutes, we have to hurry,” Sammy finished. He clicked off before Don answered.

Don slammed the phone down. “The chief, Mr. Political aspirations himself, has decided in all of his wisdom to send us to Mobile-Fucking-Alabama of all places, because some tips came in that placed the GMC on I65 yesterday and nothing since then,” Don said as he worked his way out of bed and headed toward the shower. “I65 empties out in Mobile. Sounds like they got a tip that the kids are going there to do a big drug deal, so…”

He continued from the shower. “Brilliant, over-react now to cover his ass for not reacting when he should have… Jen, could you get me out a suit of clothes?” He called as he turned on the shower. He kicked off his boxers and stepped under the spray which was still slightly cold, forgetting about the cigarette in his mouth. He caught the soggy mess in one hand and tossed it toward the toilet. It landed on the lid with a wet plop.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “That’s why the lid should always be up.”

 

The Next Day: Morning

Jimmy West

Jimmy looked at his watch, 11:30 A.M., and then started for the back door when the phone rang. He picked it up and listened.

“Ronnie Lee?” the girl’s voice asked.

“Annie,” Jimmy said. He had almost slipped up and said Ami. “I’ve been concerned… Worried, I guess. Where you two at?” he asked.

“Never mind, Ronnie, we’re on our way to you… Maybe about 2 hours… You’ll be there with the money?” She asked.

“About that,” Jimmy said aloud. “This is a place of business. It’s late now, you know? I’m open. I’ve got people to run it, I guess I’m saying I can’t do it here. I had thought, easy, we’ll do it early in the morning. I could send you out with the money packed in one of my guitar cases… Who would know? … But now it’s late morning, almost noon in fact… I got employees here… Customers… It’s too busy, you see?” Jimmy said.

“I see you’re sounding like you wanna back out,” Ami said.

“No… No, no… See, that’s not what I’m saying, darling,” Jimmy said. “I’m saying, there are people here now. Too many people. Let’s pick another place… Any place… I got the money in my car… We’ll meet, you choose the place… Let’s get this done, little lady,” Jimmy said.

“You talk to me like I’m a sex object,” Ami said. “Darling, girl, little lady, and I really don’t like that, Ronnie Lee,” Ami said.

“Well… Well, that’s just me… I don’t mean to sound that way. I’m sorry, man… I truly am. I’m just giving southern men a bad name. It won’t happen again… Come on, can we get this done, Annie… Can we?” he asked. He was barely holding his temper in check.

“We’ll call you back when we get into Mobile… Let you know where to meet us,” Ami said.

“But, wait… Call my cell number… I won’t be here, I have to leave to meet a shipment at one of my other stores.” Silence on the line. “Annie?”

“What is it, Ronnie Lee?”

“The cell, Annie.“ She hung up without speaking again.

Jimmy sat alone in the guitar shop. He wasn’t all that good at planning things on the cuff.

He had called from the road and told Ronnie Lee he would meet him here: Business he had told him, and he had used Jojo’s name. A few calls to the right people and Jimmy had checked out. Ronnie had called him back with a time to meet him. The meeting had been brief. He had introduced Ronnie Lee to his silenced 22 after he had gotten what he needed from him. He had moved his body, it was in the back of the shop under a tarp. It would keep for now, and it had creeped him out having it sagging from the chair he had tied him to: No eyes staring out at him. Sometimes he wondered about himself and the things he did.

He had heard back from Jojo. The cops were now looking for the suburban too. Well that’s the way it went, Jimmy told himself. Sometimes you drew the dumb half-ass cop who went through the motions, other times you drew the worker. They had drawn the worker. According to Jojo the cops were in or on their way to Mobile. They had found out about Ronnie Lee somehow.

He could see that souring the whole deal, but if the cops picked them up that would also sour the deal. In fact, that would be the end of it. No money, no drugs. The cops would know the whole thing then. And Jimmy’s ass would be out in the wind. He had no doubt that Jojo would have him killed. None at all, but he had absolutely no intention of turning any of it over to Jojo: Once he got it he was gone. Long gone. Jojo would never find him. Emilio either. He might keep the girl alive for a while. She was supposed to be a looker. He’d take the kid out fast: He owed him that; he was a dumb fuck, but a ballsy dumb fuck. He had to hand it to him, for making the play. So he’d do him quick. A little honor returned, he thought.

He stared out the big front window at the nearly empty parking lot. Today sometime, he was nearly sure.

He pulled the cell phone from his pocket and punched in the number. It rang twice before the girl answered it.

Carl and Ami

“Yeah,” Ami asked.

“Ronnie Lee… Look, something came to my attention, call it a tip,” he said… A bonus. The cops know about the white Commander… They also know about the Suburban. I would get them off the road if I was you.” He rattled off the license numbers for both vehicles and even told them where they had bought them.

“And you know all this how,” Ami asked.

“I know this because of who I am. I got a couple of cop friends without whom I would not be able to do the business I do. Also, your shit is all over the news in New York… Not hard to put it together. How many large cocaine deals go bad? They say you have killed a few people… As of right now they don’t know you’re down here, but if someone sees one of those cars it’s a wrap.”

“Fuck,” Ami swore into the phone. A second later the phone beeped She almost clicked to take the second call, but realized she couldn’t. “Wait… Wait,” she said, she turned away from Carl, her hand was hidden when she clicked for the other call. “How am I supposed to believe you? How do I know it’s true,” she asked.

“On my way,” a voice said.

“Yeah, I got you,” Ami said. She clicked back to the other call. “I don’t know, I just don’t… Have to call you back.” She hung up and turned back to Carl.

The Lie

“He could be lying,” Carl said.

“Maybe so, but if nothing else, he knows what we’re driving, where we got it and even the license number. That alone is a reason to lose the Suburban,” Ami said.

“I thought we did so well,” Carl said.

“We did. Apparently the cops wanted Dello Green, or us. It’s just the way it went,” Ami said.

They had crossed back over into Mississippi, the border of Alabama and less than a half hour from Mobile. They had stopped and called after they had traveled all the way across three states and part of another with an APB out on the truck and hadn’t even known it. They had seen cop cars several times, but not a single one had bothered them. If Ronnie Lee was telling the truth, they had been extremely lucky.

“Okay,” Carl said. “We can’t use any ID’s that we have. Me, you, Green or even Sanchez, because there’s no way you can make me look Spanish… How about,” he pulled the other set of ID’s out that he had taken from the wrecked Chevy. One of the black duffel bags, the one that didn’t have a surprise in it, he reminded himself as he took the ID out of his wallet. “Dan Gaynor,” Carl said. He held the driver’s license photo up to his face.

“Maybe,” Ami said. She turned her head one way, then the other. “We’ll need some stuff though.” She looked around the parking lot that they were in. She spotted a drug store and turned back to him. “I’ll be right back,” she said.

Carl kissed her as she jumped out and headed across the parking lot.

 

The Cops

The Friendly Skies

“Detective, right?” the flight attendant asked. She looked from Don to Sammy.

“Me,” Don said. She handed him a phone.

“Jennie?” Don asked when he heard her voice.

“Don’t worry, it’s official. Listen,” Jennie said. “They think they have a line on the meet. It’s a Burger Joint off Airport…” she spelled it.

She spent a few seconds telling him where the information had come from. “It’s maybe five minutes from the airport. I’m looking at a map. It’s not far. So the plan is to get in the rental car and drive right to where they are,” she gave him a short list of directions, which he wrote on a small pad the flight attendant had given him along with a pencil.

“I got it, Jen,” Don said. “Alabama know about it yet?”

“Not yet… They will in the next little while. In fact I’m on to them next, get them rolling.”

“Jen… Jen, slow that down would you? … Let Sammy and I in there first.”

“Donny, what if it goes bad… You could get yourself shot, they roll in they won’t even know you’re cops!”

“Tell them… When you call, just delay it… Okay, Jen?”

“Okay… They’ll be pissy about it, I bet.”

“I would be,” Don agreed.

“ Hey… You be careful… Come back to me, Donnie,” Jennie said.

“You know it, Jen,” Don said.

“I love you, Donny,” she said.

“I… I know you do… You know,” Don said.

“Sammy right there? Well, I know you love me, tough guy. Just bring yourself home in one piece… Start thinking about making an honest woman out of me too… I’m really tired of all this secret agent stuff,” she clicked off.

Carl and Ami

He sat, the window rolled down, waiting when another Suburban rolled in next to his. Same color, lifted, a few years older. The old guy driving it gave him the thumbs up and walked over after he parked. His wife stood nearby him. “Brand new?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Carl said.

“I’m thinking of a new one soon. Trading in, but the price tag is rough,” he said.

“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “But with the rebates, incentives, it knocked a big chunk right off the top. Plus I paid cash so I got an even better deal.” Carl lied.

“Jesus Christ, boy, I don’t know anyone that carries that kind of money around,” the old guy said.

“I don’t carry that much around, but I work off-shore. It’s just me and my girlfriend. It’s easy to save the money,” Carl told him. He had watched a documentary not long ago about an offshore oil crew.

The old man nodded. “Make it while you’re young, kid. Believe me the age catches up to you.”

His wife had waited for him for a few minutes, but now started toward the store on her own.

“Well, I guess I better get before I find myself in deep shit with the old lady. Nice truck, kid.” He grinned and turned away.

Carl watched him until he was inside the store, then he climbed out with a screwdriver and switched plates as quickly as he could. He wondered whether the old man would notice right away or not. The plates were different. He just hoped that Ami came back out before the old guy did.

He lit a cigarette, inhaled, and let the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth. He’d seen the license plate thing in a movie, but he’d never done it before. With all the cameras there were these days, he wouldn’t be surprised if one had caught him in the act, but they never checked on those cameras unless some serious crime happened, so he should be okay.

The old man and his wife came back first. Carl was nervous, but it turned out to be for nothing. The old man waved, climbed up into his truck and drove away. Ami came out a few minutes later.

He told her about the old man and switching the plates as she worked on his face. Twenty minutes later she showed him what she had done, and he was surprised how closely his face matched the face on the license.

“People don’t realize that it’s usually only a few key things that people see when they look at someone: If you can duplicate a few of those things you’re good.” Ami said.

“Where did you learn to do this though?” Carl asked as he started the truck and pulled out of the lot.

“Um, school. We had a whole segment on identity theft. Two cops came in and talked to us. They showed us how it’s done. I mean they weren’t showing us so that we could do it, but I understood it and it interested me. I paid attention. They even showed us a video where they made an older policewoman look like a teenager. I mean you wouldn’t have known it was the same woman,” Ami said. She looked at the street they were cruising down. A used car lot was coming up on the left. A line of cars graced the cracked, street facing lot. “How about there?” she asked.

The place looked a little tacky. Santiago’s, Buy Here Pay Here, a sign proclaimed.

“That Camaro would do if it’s an eight,” Carl agreed. He was eyeing a Camaro parked in the spotlights in front of all the other cars.

They spent a half hour dickering for the Camaro. It was late Sunday night, but they had cash, so the young guy stayed to close the deal past the normal closing time. For an extra fifty bucks, he sold them an inspection sticker. “I don’t suppose that you got a set of plates hanging around back there too, do you?” Carl had asked half joking.

“A hundred bucks,” the young guy had said. “Clean. No problem… Need a fake insurance card?” he asked.

In the end, Carl slipped a kid an extra 500 bucks to make the car look legal. Plates, paperwork, insurance and title.

“You do this every day?” Carl asked.

“Fuck, man, I don’t get paid shit. You gotta have a hustle, you know? This is mine. All you got to do is show any cop that pulls you over the paperwork. Looks like you ain’t had time to get it registered, so it wouldn’t show up in their database, see? I can get it painted for you too… Cheap, real cheap. Nice, fast too.”

“No, I… What about my Suburban?” Carl asked.

“Yeah… I could get that done,” the kid said.

Carl stopped and turned around. “See, the bank, man… The repo-guy,” Carl shrugged. “A different color… Maybe bigger tires… A lift… Plates of course… Make it seem to be a different truck, you know?” Carl asked.

“You fuckin’ serious, man?” the young guy asked. “Ese, I can get it done, but not now, today, it’ll take a couple of days… Cost… Not fucking cheap though, man. Maybe five grand… Maybe a little less, a little more… If you’re serious.” He looked at Carl and tried to judge whether he was having him on or not.

“I’m serious. Let me get it unloaded right now, man, and I’ll leave it with you.” He turned away and then turned back toward the kid. “I’ll give you four up front, the rest… Tuesday?”

The kid was nodding. “Except, Tuesday night. Can’t be when the boss is here, you see?”

“Yeah,” Carl said. “I see. Tuesday night then. Give me a few minutes to empty it out.”

Carl and Ami worked together and moved everything over into the Camaro’s trunk. Carl took about a pound of the weed and gave it to the kid along with the cash.

“What’s this?” the kid asked, taking the plastic shopping bag that Carl offered.

“A present… Do right by me and my truck and there will be more,” Carl promised.

The kid peeked into the bag. “Shit, Ese.” He closed the bag up tight. “See you on Tuesday night, dude… Hey, man… What color?”

“What?” Carl asked.

“You know, your truck, man. What color?” the guy smiled and laughed.

“What do you think?” Carl asked Ami. “Red?… Black?”

“Green… Maybe metallic,” Ami said.

“The boss has spoken,” the young guy said.

They all laughed.

“My uncle had this green Ford Pinto. Metallic. I liked that color. It was… Deep, really rich looking. Expensive. A lot of gold flake in it. I remember it because that Pinto was a cheap car and they had this paint job that looked like it should be on a Lincoln instead of the pinto,” Ami said.

“Green metallic it is,” the young guy said. “Hey, my friends call me Dougie.” He extended his hand and they shook. “Okay then, see you all on Tuesday night… You’re gonna like your truck.”

They said their goodbyes and left.

“You think to really come back for that truck?” Ami asked.

“No… But the way things are it’s there if we need it and we know it’s safe too,” Carl said.

“If he don’t steal it,” Ami said as Carl signaled and headed back for the expressway.

Carl nodded. “I don’t get that from him. Yeah, I know, the kid is obviously a little under the table, but so are we… No. I think if we need it, it really will be there Tuesday night: If we don’t the guy has himself a free truck.”

The Camaro felt good to Carl. He opened it up a little on the expressway for a few miles and then let Ami drive it.

“Powerful,” Ami agreed. She looked at her watch; 4:20 PM, the day was flying by. “We going?” she asked.

“Call him… Let’s get it over with.” Carl said.

“Sounds good, baby,” Ami agreed.

 

Jimmy West

Jimmy’s phone rang several times before he managed to click it on. Nothing. He swore at himself, stuffed the phone back into his pocket where it began ringing again. He retrieved it, clicked it back on and said hello.

“Why didn’t you answer before?” Ami asked.

“I was about to, in fact I did and you weren’t there. I took too long,” he told her.

“Things like that make me wonder,” Ami said.

“My fault,” Jimmy managed. “My Fault.” I‘m going to take days killing you, he thought… Days.

“Do you know where Airport Boulevard is?” Ami asked. “Right off I 65?”

“Yes,” Jimmy said. You just told me, he thought.

“There’s a Burger Joint on the right. Just past the Check Inn. What are you driving?”

Rental car, Jimmy thought. “A… A Ford Taurus,” he said. “Silver. A burger joint, or one of those places called Burger Joint?”

“The brand name… What did I say? … Pull out in back of the Burger Joint, we’ll watch for you,” Ami said.

“Are you kidding? In public?” Jimmy asked.

“It’s all dumpsters back there. It’s late afternoon, no one will see us. No one will care. Take it or leave it, Ronnie Lee,” Ami said.

“Okay… Okay… I’m on my way,” Jimmy said. He closed the phone and dropped it back into his pocket. His eyes darted up to the exit signs, he was driving in the wrong direction, and he nearly caused a wreck when he locked the brakes up and shot across the median. He thought for a second that the car was going to get hung up on the concrete divider, but the car lunged clumsily over it and slammed back down to the road. Sparks shot across the blacktop and the exhaust suddenly took on a much deeper note. He locked the brakes up and slid across three empty lanes into the breakdown lane and then off the edge of the pavement before it stalled. He sat for a moment, caught his breath and then turned the key hopefully. The car started and he got himself back out on the road, heading in the right direction. He laughed to himself at the craziness of it: Little traffic or he would never had made it, he told himself.

A few miles down the road he caught the right exit, and emptied out onto Airport boulevard. The traffic was non-existent, it seemed and he located the right restaurant in just a few seconds. He pulled off the main road onto the feeder road and stopped in the entrance driveway. He was not about to get himself trapped in there. He had to be ready. He took a breath, eased his foot off the gas, slipped his 22 out and idled along to the back of the lot. Empty. A high wooden fence and dumpsters. That and the back concrete block wall of the Burger Joint. He turned the car in a tight circle and made his way back to the front of the restaurant. He backed in between two other cars and slouched down into the seat. A left turn would take him behind the building, a right back to the street. He sat and waited.

He had been there less than ten minutes when the Camaro drove slowly from the feeder road, angled up onto the blacktop and cruised slowly out in back of the restaurant.

Carl and Ami

They were sitting in the Camaro in the back of the Burger Joint waiting for Ronnie Lee.

“Here,” Ami said. She pulled two guns out from under the seat and gave him one. “It’s loaded… Just in case,” she said.

Carl looked at the gun, flicked off the safety and watched the mouth of the alley the car would have to turn into.

“Ami,” Carl said softly. “Why not just go and be satisfied with what we have?” Carl asked. “Why not just drive out of this lot and go?”

“You’re sweet, Carl.” Ami frowned. She looked at him. “But you’re not too bright.” She bought her gun up and pointed it at him. “Don’t hate me, Carl,” she said. She pressed the gun against the middle of his forehead.

“Why, Ami,” Carl said.

“Nothing personal, Carl. It’s just money… Nikki figured this whole thing out so it could work for us. She set this whole thing up, only it should have been a straight shot from the wreck to me, but you came along and fucked it all up.” She looked out at the night dark lot. Nothing. She turned her eyes back to Carl.

“I wanted to kill you right then, Carl. All of this?” She lifted her hands to include the entire lot. “All of this was Nikki’s idea. She said; to hell with it… Let him get the money out for us, she said. Let him take all the risks. I gotta admit… It was smart.”

“I don’t get it, Ami. I don’t.”

“It’s easy, Carl.” She frowned. “Okay… I guess you’re a little slow at absorbing this, I’ll go slower… Okay, Dello took a lot of time setting up that drug deal… Even getting them to chase him down that road. You have no idea how much work went into it. Nikki was there to take him away… The drugs? The rest of the Cash? He couldn’t have cared less, because he had his own money already cut from it: Half, set aside. He never planned for that half to be found in the wreck. The rest would be, and if anyone got ideas they would think the cops took the other half… Someone else… He was using this as a way out of the game. He would be dead in the wreck. Faked, but well faked. No reason to look for him. No reason to think he was even alive.”

She eyed him, a slight smile working the corners of her mouth. “He knew that the rest of the money and the drugs would get him killed. In fact that is what is going to get you killed in just a short time when Jimmy West gets here.” She laughed. “That’s the way it will look anyway. You know him as Ronnie Lee, but, baby, Ronnie Lee is dead. Has been for a few days, the cop told me yesterday… Thank God, right? We could have walked right into that: Bang dead.”

“Jimmy West works for the same people that Dello worked for. I say worked for, because Dello is dead… Can’t work for anyone anymore. He is officially retired. And you,” she leaned forward and kissed him on the nose. “Helped to get the money here for Nikki and I. A chance in a lifetime. All that cash, we just had to figure out a way to make it all work out right. See, Dello and Jimmy were fixers… They fixed bad things for bad people. Now if Jimmy West was to get here and find me here? Trouble… He thinks he knows who I am, just some trailer-park trash, but if he knew the truth he would kill me… Nikki too if he could… See, we hooked up… Short story long, she’s in Cali waiting on me to bring the other half of the money. Works perfectly, and it gets hung on you… So, you see it’s you who have come to the end of the road. Believe me when I say it, this is the best solution, because if Jimmy did it he would make you tell him about us, Nikki, and once he found out about us he would hurt you badly before he killed you. Then he would track Nikki and me down and kill us, and I am not ready to die. I am ready to help Nikki spend that money. I deserve it. I did my part.”

“Jesus, Ami… How could you just do it, how?”

“How? I called the cop… Remember the card? I assume he gave you one, he gave me one after he spoke to me… Do you know that you sometimes take forever to fall asleep? Well, you do. I had to wait until you were asleep, sneak out, call the cop. Or go in and run the shower and call him. Bad cop: Dello was supposed to kill him, but it just didn’t work out that way. The cop made it through in one piece, but he knew about the drugs, the money, and he’s been on to the deal for a while. That’s because he works for Jojo White, Jimmy’s boss… Green’s boss, so everything Jojo White knows the cop knows, and everything the cop knows Jojo White knows, and he knew enough to keep me going in the right direction. He picked this place, in fact. He picked it a few days ago too. I knew where we were going all along. See… And this is brilliant, but we gotta hurry things up… He called the cops… A cop calling the cops to tip them off, you gotta love it, but he tipped them off, and he tipped off Jojo. So Jimmy knew where to come to find us. The cop’s here too, he called me… We’re just early for the party, Carl.” She smiled and laughed harshly. “This place will be packed in a few more minutes.”

“Why Ami,” Carl asked. “Why do it?”

“Never mind, Carl. Never mind. I got to go… It’s a long way to Cali, and I need to get there…” She smiled once more. “I can’t keep talking… This ain’t personal… Same as this.”

She pulled the trigger. The gun clicked: Her eyes widened in fear.

Carl frowned, lifted his own gun and shot her between the eyes. Her head bounced off the side glass and it shattered.

He looked at her. “I was hoping I was wrong. I switched clips, baby. Guess I’m not as stupid as you thought.” He reached over, pulled the keys from the switch and walked calmly around to the trunk. He unlocked it, pulled the two pink backpacks out and slipped one over his shoulders. The second one he held on to by the straps. He looked around: Spotted a six foot fence behind the dumpster and headed for it. A few seconds later he was on the other side of the fence, running past the end of a tractor trailer.

 

The Cops

Don forced himself to pull into the parking lot slowly. He rounded the end of the building and swung out past where the dumpster sat.

At first the Camaro looked fine, but then he saw the glass and blood on the driver’s side of the car. He stopped the car and jumped out, Sammy coming out of his side at the same time. He looked through the open passenger door at the girl’s body, slumped against the door. The back of her head was gone. A small, blood-spattered hole in her forehead. One eye stared sightlessly: Washed out blue. The other was closed. His eyes went to the ignition switch, empty, he saw. Sammy passed by on his way toward the back of the car.

“Somebody killed her,” Don said as he came to the back of the car. The trunk lid was up and a blue duffel bag rested inside on the floor. Two large taped bags of pot sat close to it. “We got it,” Don said. He looked up into the barrel of a gun. He fell before he ever heard the shot. Sammy ran around the side of the car, thinking the shot had to have come from Don for some reason.

“The money,” the man said as Sammy stumbled to a stop, his own gun was up but he had hesitated too long: The guy had him. “Where is it?”

“Hey… Hey,” Sammy said, “Easy… we’re cops… You don’t want to…” The guy bought his gun up and shot Sammy twice in the chest.

Jimmy West stood for a second. In the background he could hear sirens growing closer, he had to move. He had to go. He turned, took two steps, and sat down. The pain was incredible, the shoulder.

Jimmy pushed himself back to his feet and moved as quickly as he could to the open trunk of the car. Drugs, no money, he would just have to hope Jojo could see he had done his best… The sirens were closer still. Too close to go back out the front. The pot was baled, too heavy to carry and not worth the risk. He shouldered two duffel bags that held the heroin and cocaine. It would have to be enough. There was no time for more. He’d have to leave the rental car behind. He made the fence and hauled himself up and over with his one good arm. A few seconds later he was stumbling across the blacktop, holding his cell phone and waiting for someone to answer.

Aftermath

The cop

He found himself looking up into the clear blue sky. No clouds… He was… He was going to do something, but it seemed unimportant now. Like it didn’t matter. He swallowed. He could taste blood in his throat. He tried to bring his good arm up to shade his eyes, but it stopped halfway up and then slowly sank back down to the pavement.

Rebecca Monet

The truck rolled into the parking lot and people poured out of it. The satellite dish came up, aligned itself, and acquired a signal. The techs began un-spooling cable as others set up the monitors, finished establishing the feed to the station and got ready to go live.

Rebecca Monet stepped out last, Cindy with her, brushing a few errant hairs from her suit coat and straightening the collars.

“Remember, sad. No smile. The body count is one, two critical in route to the hospital. You can’t say two of them were New York cops, you can say sources tell us blah blah blah… It’s unclear who shot who first. The janitor says there was one shot before the cops came in…” She circled janitor and his name and then handed Rebecca the pad. “It’s gonna be a break in and Bob is standing by to give you a ten second lead in,” Cindy said. She placed Rebecca so that the edge of the Camaro could be seen with a spray of glass and blood on the asphalt. It was far enough away so that it would not be too gory. But close enough to be an attention getter. The yellow police tape fluttered in between them, closing off the back of the Burger Joint. She told the camera operator to pull the focus out so that it caught the tape clearly. She looked at her watch. Clicked her own mic. button and said, “Okay.” She waited until Bob was going, then… “… And, eight… Seven… Six… Get rid of that smile, Becca, sad, sad… And three… Two… One.” She pointed at Rebecca Monet.

“Thanks, Bob,” Rebecca said. “We’re here at the scene of a tragedy. The young woman who is believed to have been held hostage in a drama that has played out over the last few days across several states, is dead. Seventeen year old Ami Anderson…”

Mobile General Hospital

Emergency Surgical Suite

The surgeon looked up and shook his head. “Don’t. You won’t be doing him any favors.” He looked to his assistant who had grabbed a set of paddles. “Too much damage. There isn’t enough left…” He looked at the wall. “8:47 PM… How are they doing with the other one?” he asked.

“Hanging on… Bullet missed the heart, Nicked an artery below… Spinal damage. No way to tell how bad it is yet. It’ll be touch and go, I guess,” his assistant said.

“Well, we’ll let them know. I hate it when we lose one of the good guys though.” He took one more look at the body and then stripped off his gloves and gown, dropped them to the floor and left the operating suite.

EIGHT

Tuesday Night

Carl

Carl stepped down from the cab of the tractor trailer and waited for the truck to take off before he crossed the road and came onto the lot. He glanced at his watch, almost 9:00 P.M.. The place looked deserted. He walked up to the office, cupped his hands to the glass and looked through the windows. Empty. There was a garage out back. Maybe he was there. He walked toward the back of the lot, one hand holding the gun inside his jacket pocket. Just before he got to the door it opened and the kid stepped out into the darkness. He fired up a cigarette, apparently not seeing Carl standing a few feet away in the darkness.

“Hey,” Carl said.

The kid squeaked. “Christ,” he said.

Carl laughed, pulled his own cigarette out of his pack and lit it. “Sorry, Dougie, I was trying to think of a way to let you know I was here.”

“Ese, you took ten years off my life,” Doug said. “At least ten.”

“Sorry. I really am,” Carl said wearily.

The kid smiled. “Teach me to pay attention, Danny. Hey man, you did some crazy shit to your hair, man? It’s not bad… Not bad,” he looked around, “Where’s your chick, man. I thought she’d be hot for this truck. I got the right green, I think,” Doug said.

“Yeah, well, she’s gone. Flew the coop… Another gig if you know what I mean. It’s just me… Flying solo,” Carl said.

“Tough. I know how that shit goes though, been there myself… Hey? You got any of that shit left? The good shit?” he asked.

“Saved out two pounds just for you, the rest is gone. I got a little something else for you too. Coke… A little heroin too… I don’t know if you mess with that stuff, but I saved out a little of each for you. The thing is, you got to be careful with this shit. It’s a hundred percent pure… I mean it’s not cut at all. You don’t want to mess with it straight, the shit will kill you,” Carl said. He pulled the package from the top of the one backpack. “It’s all in there, including your cash… There’s a little bit extra too,” Carl said.

“Hey, I got family inside. You mind? We’re going someplace… Wifey… Her sister… Maybe we’ll do a little weed first, have a few more beers,” Doug said. “Can you kick it for a while?”

“I don’t mind,” Carl said.

“Well come on in then, man. The truck is inside. You’re gonna love it. I didn’t go crazy with the lift… Nice tires.” He reached the side door, opened it and motioned Carl inside. Carl stepped inside, a little nervous, apprehensive, but it was as he said: Two women stood inside the door talking and looking over the truck.

“You nervous. You okay?” Doug asked.

“Eh, not bad. Been a rough few days, I guess,” he said. “Anyway,” he turned and looked at the truck, but not before his eyes had slid across the two women. They were nearly carbon copies. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Spanish blood or Indian, he thought, mixed with… African, he asked himself? Something like that. Dark skinned. They both noticed the look. The one gave it back, the other smiled and turned to Doug, slipping her arm around his waist.

“My wife, Mayte,” Doug said. She took his hand and smiled. “Her sister, Mary.”

Mary smiled and took his hand.

“I heard you had a girlfriend?” Mary said.

“Did,” Carl said.

“She found another guy,” Doug supplied.

“Too bad for her,” Mary said and smiled.

 

Six Months Later

Mexico

Carl sat on the deck and looked out over the gulf. There were no other houses for a few miles except Doug and Mayte’s place. Poza Rica was the closest town and that was not really close. He liked it that way.

A small fire burned nearby to take the chill out of the gulf air. He opened his wallet and took out two creased strips of photos and looked at them. Time spun away and he sighed as he began to shove the photos back down into his worn wallet, but his hand froze as his eyes caught the fire. A second later he was watching the edges of the strips of photos began to curl as the flames caught and took them.

Most days he didn’t think of his old life and what had brought him here at all, but when he did it wasn’t with regrets. The hardest thing of all had been shooting the girl.

All he had known at the time was that she had not been entirely honest with him. He had caught her more than once doing things that were stupid, outright dangerous when they had been on the run. And she would play stupid when he would catch her. You can’t be stupid one minute and smart the next. The skill as a makeup artist had thrown him, but he just hadn’t been able to believe she only learned it in school from a onetime class: And there was always that thing about her that made her appear older or maybe more mature to him than a girl that age would be. He had even mentioned it to her and she had laughed it off.

She had left the car to use the ladies room and he had checked the guns. He knew then that something was wrong. She had them parked in an enclosed area: There would be no place to run if something went wrong, and one of the guns had an empty clip. They were both the same model, one chrome, one blued-steel. The clips mounted exactly the same. So he’d switched the clips. It made the gun with the full clip heavier, but he doubted that she would notice. She knew which gun she had put the empty clip into.

He had been hoping she’d simply screwed up with the guns, but when she had looked at them both before she handed him the one that had been empty, he had known then she either meant to kill him or have him killed.

He didn’t feel guilty about it at the time, only sad: Now he didn’t even feel sad, only grateful that her plans had fallen through.

Doug had a small fishing boat. They went out most days and fished, selling their catch in Poza Rica. Life couldn’t be better or more laid back: The house on the beach. The way time seemed to stand still, even so he was going.

The word had come to him late last night that La Policia were looking for him, and not the local Policia, these guys were rumored to be dressed in military garb and carrying automatic weapons, the Federales, Dougie had said. All kinds of bad, especially for an American in the country illegally. They had been asking around Poza Rica: It was only a matter of time before someone pointed them in the right direction.

He had been expecting it, just hoping it would hold off a while longer. He had briefly wondered what had led them to him, but in the end it hadn’t mattered. He had driven three towns away and purchased an old truck today, rolled a fifty-five gallon drum into the bed and chained it down. He had filled it with gasoline and once the sun set he would be on his way through the desert: California… Texas if that didn’t work out: Or maybe he’d work his way up the west coast and head for Alaska. There were a million places there to disappear.

“Second thoughts?” Dougie asked. He wore a funny little half smile on his face.

“No, I was just thinking about how lucky I’ve been… Hope it holds out.” He took a deep drink from his beer, draining it. Dougie handed him another, but he refused it. The sun was right on the edge of setting and he wanted to be as far way into the great nothing before the moon came up as he could be. He reached down, gathered the two heavy backpacks and stood. He had offered some money to Dougie, but he had refused. Carl understood that: He often found himself wishing that he had never touched it.

He left the deck and walked across the sand to the old truck. It would be a wonder if it didn’t leave him stranded somewhere in the desert, but he couldn’t chance taking the Suburban. He climbed in, dropped the backpacks to the passenger side floor, shut the door with a rusty screech and raised one hand to Dougie and Mayte as he started the truck. They waved back, and a few seconds later he dropped the old truck in gear and lumbered off into the desert.


Connected: Sanger Road

Connected, a series from W. W. Watson. Sanger Road: Book one... Pulled from his mundane life, Carl finds a world where anything is possible if you are willing to risk everything... The smell of hot metal filled the air. Carl looked first to the car down the road, partway onto the cement pad: The trunk had popped open and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood onto the concrete. The front roof line was crushed flat to the top of the driver's seats. The backseat area seemed untouched. He slipped around the end of the trailer and looked at the other car. A newer Ford: He could see the badge on the rear deck. The front end of the car was wrapped around the oak in the backyard just as he had thought and steam was rising up into the air. The Ford first, he decided. The car across the road would have to wait. The Ford had hit the tree and climbed it a few feet before it came to a complete stop. Carl had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, that had been the huge stain on the windshield. There was no passenger. Looking out from the inside it was not just red but gray and black too: Bone, hair and brain matter. His stomach did a quick flip and he began to close his eyes as he turned away. As he turned, his eyes caught on the floorboard and a blue duffel bag that was jammed into the space with the drivers legs. There was no way that the door was going to open, but the glass was gone from the window. He balanced over the edge of the door trying to stay as far away as he could from the dead man as he did, leaned in and tried to snag the duffel bag. His fingers brushed the two plastic handles, but he could not get a grip on them. Carl levered himself further over the window sill and nearly came down into the dead man's lap as he lost his balance and his feet left the ground. His hand shot down quickly, bounced off the dead man's thigh and hit the seat, stopping him just a few inches above the man's lap and a small splattering of bone and blood that was there. His hand slipped, but he pressed down harder and held himself. He could feel the slick blood and splinters of bone under his hand, but he pushed the knowledge out of his mind, took a deep breath, braced himself and then reached down with his free hand and snatched the handles pulling the heavy bag free. Read more with a free preview right now...

  • ISBN: 9781370809240
  • Author: independAntwriters Publishing
  • Published: 2016-09-25 06:35:17
  • Words: 41026
Connected: Sanger Road Connected: Sanger Road