White Trash a fast paced crime thriller from author Dell Sweet

Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers, a drug dealer, and two organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York into the Deep South…

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White Trash

By Dell Sweet Adult
Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers, a drug dealer, and two organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York into the Deep South as they head for what they think will be safety in Mexico. Adult orientated. Sex, language and Graphic Violence… 18+ No preview is available due to the Adult Content.Drug Use. Less Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers, a drug dealer, and two organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York into the Deep South as they head for what they think will be safety in Mexico. Adult orientated. Sex, language and Graphic Violence… 18+ No preview is available due to the Adult Content. Drug Use…


“I was in the woods. I ran. I didn’t know what those guys would do. I knew you lived here. I was heading here when I saw you come out. I wouldn’t have done that… 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 remembering the scene, or it was playing out again behind her closed lids. David supposed it was. 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: Intense 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: David seemed unable to look away. “You mad?” she asked after a few moments.
“How old are you?” David asked.
“Huh?” she asked.
“You know… How old are you. I look at you and I keep thinking you’re younger. Then you talk and I start thinking you’re older,” David said.
“Fifteen,” she said. “Still wanna do me?” she asked and smiled.
“God,” David said, nearly choking.
“I’m kidding,” she laughed. “I’m eighteen.” She pulled out her driver’s license and showed it to him.
David 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.
“That was mean,” David said. No one ever looked like themselves on a license photo.
“Yeah, but the upside is I’m legal and I bet that matters, doesn’t it?” April asked.


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White Trash. A fast paced crime thriller you won’t forget

WHITE TRASH

By Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2018 by Dell Sweet

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet; all rights reserved

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. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. All rights are retained by the Author.

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

Cover art Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet, all rights Reserved


The Cops

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 have got to 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 rubbed his face with one of his large hands.

“We’re going to Alabama… Mobile. Several tips put the Suburban on I-65 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. We’re going to meet with the locals, it’s their ballgame, but 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 I-65 yesterday and nothing since then,” Don said as he worked his way out of bed and headed toward the shower.

He called 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 be up.”

~

Jimmy stared at the TV. The weatherman was on now talking about the fall weather and the start of the hurricane season.

He had been out once to dispose of Ronnie Lee. It was a large shop, but a body couldn’t hang around too long without air conditioning and this place had none.

He had found a state park next to a swamp, they called them bogues here, according to the sign, but they were still swamps. He had tossed the body in. There were alligators all over down here. The body wouldn’t last long. He hadn’t wanted to wait that long to do it, but he had been afraid to leave: As the night wore on though he became convinced that they were not coming by. Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe what he would do wasn’t necessarily what a couple of green kids would do.

He wondered about the other kid. The paper boy, but he had no idea who he was or where he’d come from. And if he was honest with himself he didn’t care either. The kid was one of those anomalies: A fly in the ointment; a nothing, at least to him.

It bothered him that the cops had such a lock on the two vehicles. Every red neck with eyes would be calling every time they saw a Suburban of any kind. It would be a bad couple of days for anyone who owned a white suburban.

He wondered about Neo. He was positive that Neo was dead. Or he had been. If he was honest now there was more than a little doubt in his mind. It could have been anyone in that car. Neo could be smart enough to be behind this whole thing. He could be pulling the kids strings: Both of them. And if that was the case he himself would have to be very careful. Getting shot in the back of the head in a car chase was one thing. Facing Ben Neo in a one on one situation was not something he wanted to do. His phone rang. His own cell phone and he knew who it was before he answered it.

“Jimmy,” Tommy’s voice rasped. “I got a fuckin’ cold so bear with me… And now I’m getting a fuckin’ headache. I’m hearing Ben Neo might still be alive. My own, turned against me… You heard that shit, Jimmy?” Tommy asked.

“I just heard it,” Jimmy acknowledged.

“You think these cops are jerking our chains? You hear they’re talking organized crime ties? This is getting out of control, Jimmy. Out of control… I need the truth, Jimmy. If it is Neo, can you handle him? … Can you handle him? I need to know that, Jimmy. If this fucker has turned on me… Like… Like some fuckin’ dog that don’t know his master… Like that, Jimmy, I need to know that you can fix that, Jimmy… A thing like that has got to be fixed, and I need you to tell me that you can fix it,” Tommy said.

“I’ll get him,” Jimmy said. “I’ll be honest, Neo is no joke, but you know I’m not one either. I’ll get him,” Jimmy said.

“Or else?” Tommy asked.

“Or else he’ll have to fuckin’ kill me… I know my job. You know where my loyalties lay, Tommy. He’ll have to kill me, but he won’t. He won’t because he has nothing on me at all. I know him. I know how he operates: His methods. He’s a dead man, Tommy. He just don’t know it yet. When I get him, believe me, he’ll wish he did die in that car with the top of his head blown off,” Jimmy said.

“I don’t ever doubt you, Jimmy. I don’t. Get this done for me. Make it all work out and I’ll take care of you. You know that,” Tommy said.

“I know that,” Jimmy said.

“You need something, you call these people. They’re right there. They’ll help,” Tommy said. He rattled off two local phone numbers.

“Okay,” Jimmy said. He clicked off, tore off the square of paper with the two numbers on it from the pad. Folded it, and slipped it into his pocket. He wandered over to a long display of acoustic guitars, took one down and strummed the open strings. He had never learned. He couldn’t figure out how anyone could learn. It was killer on your fingers. He hung the guitar back up, walked back to the stool where he had been sitting and sat back down. There was nothing he could do, but wait.


Smashwords eBooks: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/902330


White Trash is available at Google Play

WHITE TRASH

By Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2018 by Dell Sweet

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet; all rights reserved

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. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. All rights are retained by the Author.

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

Cover art Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet, all rights Reserved


Saturday morning

“Last one,” Sammy said.

It was 2:00 AM and they had just come back from 6 hours of sleep to get a jump on the day. The last half hour they had been interviewing the people who worked the same shifts as April Evans.

“Candace loi,” Sammy added.

Don looked up and stopped writing in his little notebook.  “How do you,” spell her name, he had meant to ask Sammy, but she was right in front of him.

“EL. OH. EYE,” she said with a smile.

“Vietnamese?” Don asked. She was obviously mixed race, African American and Asian, he questioned himself.

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Sammy said, “Candace.”

Beautiful girl, Don thought. “Did you know April Evans?  Sometimes works this shift?” he asked.

“Not really,” she answered. “I mean I met her, but only in passing… I just started here myself.”

She really was beautiful, Don thought. “You wouldn’t know if she had a boyfriend… Other friends?” he asked.

Candace shook her head. “Sorry,” she said… “What has she done?”

“Nothing: She’s gone missing,” Sammy supplied.

“She was an eye witness to a serious case and then went missing,” Don said. “She’s not in trouble we just want to ask her a few questions… And, really make sure she’s okay.”

Candace shook her head. “I just started here a few weeks back, and like I said, I don’t really know her… but I heard it might be a girlfriend not a boyfriend though.”

Don looked at her. “You wouldn’t know who?”

“No. It’s just a rumor. Someone said to me… I don’t even remember who… but I’ve never seen her with a guy. And I have seen her with other girls… Maybe also the way she looked at me a few times… That’s all I know. I hope you find her though. She seems like a nice girl,” Candace said.

“You don’t seem the type for this… Bagging groceries at 2:00 am,” Don said.

Candace laughed. “I had this idea of dancing… Tough to get a foot in a door though.”

“Any good,” Sammy asked.

“Excuse mister smooth there,” Don told her. Sammy feigned a hurt look and Candace laughed. “He meant have you done some dancing? I know somebody… Might be interested.”

Candace arched her eyebrows. “I can dance. I just need to prove it to the right person.”

“Probably start out serving drinks… Dance a little… Then if he likes you he’ll put you in.”

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

Sammy passed her a white business card with his own name scrawled across the back. “Tell him I sent you… That’s my name on the back.”

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Candace asked.

“Just V… Jimmy V. Good guy,” Sammy said.

Candace nodded and tucked the card into her front jean pocket. “I’ll call him… Thanks. Look…” Her voice dropped to a near whisper. “I’m pretty sure she had a girlfriend here… I just don’t know who,” Candace added quietly.

Don finished writing in his notebook, nodded once he met her eyes and then shook the hand she offered. She walked away.

“Beautiful,” Sammy said.

“Absolutely,” Don agreed. “You ain’t getting none of that though.”

“Yeah? Well if Jimmy V hires her? It’ll be the next best thing.”

Don shook his head, but smiled. His eyes rose and watched as Candace walked away. “Guess I’ll have to have a few drinks at the club if that happens.”

Sammy chuckled low. “You and me both,” he agreed.

They had spent most of the previous night at David Cross’s trailer. The techs hadn’t picked up much, but what they had picked up was telling. Blood stains under the bed and beside one wall in the bedroom. A splatter of small pink stains that had tested positive for blood in the kitchen sink. Two rolled up socks drenched in blood in the kitchen garbage. Blood spatters in the bathroom sink too. All his clothes seemed to be gone, or at least there were none in the battered dresser in the bedroom. The forensic team had come up with two sets of fingerprints in the bedroom, his and someone else. Hair samples from the bed, from the couch in the living room. Foot prints out back and in the soft dirt of the front yard. And best of all, a tech that had been sent back to get pictures put the girl in the trailer yesterday afternoon.

The tech said the girl had seemed quiet, subdued, standing behind Cross, like Cross didn’t want her to be seen.

Questioning her friends was fill-in work while they waited on the warrant for her place. The tech that had put her at Cross’s trailer would probably clinch that. There had been bits of bone and brain matter along with the bloodstains under the bed and by the wall too. That bothered Don. It probably meant that something had happened. He didn’t have a lot of hope of seeing April Evans alive again.

He circled the word gay that he had written on his note pad.  Maybe he had been asking the wrong questions.

“This girl,” Don said and underlined the name Alice Chambers in his notebook. “Knew her well. Or at least better than anyone else here. Why didn’t she mention a possible lesbian thing?”

“They were in high school together… She’s still here, maybe we should have a conversation with her again?” Sammy said.

“Maybe,” Don agreed. He looked up, spotted the girl working one of the checkouts and walked over to the manager; a young kid who didn’t even look old enough to shave yet. The manager himself went over and relieved her and sent her over to Don and Sammy.

It was clear as she made her way over to them that she was worried. “You be the bad guy,” Don whispered to Sammy, “I’ll be the understanding father figure.” Sammy nodded almost imperceptibly.

Alice Chambers smiled weakly as she walked up. Sammy scowled at her and her smile melted.

“Don’t worry,” Don said. “I’m sure we’ll get this cleared right up. Sit down, Alice.”

“Why is he so upset?” she asked looking at Sammy who continued to scowl. 

“Because I don’t like being lied too, missy,” Sammy told her.  “Pisses me off.”

“I didn’t lie,” Alice said, going on the defensive. 

“Yes you did,” Sammy said, as he leaned toward her across the table. “You lied, and now you’re lying about having lied.”

She cringed away from him, looking ready to cry.

“Alice, I’m sure Sam here will be fine,” Don told her. “We work around hardened criminals all the time. I guess he forgot you’re a young lady, not a criminal.” Don sent Sammy a potent stare, and Sammy sighed and turned away. “It’s this lesbian thing… It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to mention it, but this girl’s life could be at stake…” He made eye contact with her and made her hold it. Her eyes filled up and began to overflow. “Alice?” Don asked. She looked back toward the front of the store where she had been working and then looked back at them, swiping at the tears with the back of her hand and she did. “You want to tell me?”Don asked. She nodded.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She took a few seconds, seeming to fight to gain control. Don left and came back with some tissues that he handed to her. She thanked him, blew her nose, and then took several deep breaths.

Don mentally looked her over as she got herself under control. Alice Chambers was on the skinny side. Almost no breasts. A body like a boy, no hips, short, bobbed blonde hair. Nose ring, tongue ring, probably a dozen other piercings in her ears and who knew where else. He had taken her look for punk, not gay, but now that he was really looking at her she seemed more boyish than girlish. It seemed like maybe it was more than just a subtle statement, and he had overlooked it: Seen it wrong. It wasn’t just that she didn’t look all that attractive as a woman, she just looked more like a boy. And it looked like most of it was by choice.

“We were together in high school,” Alice said in a near whisper.

Don nodded like he’d known it all along. “Here at work too?” he asked.

“No… Of course not. April isn’t… April’s not… She likes boys…  It was… It was just a thing for a little while… This guy…” She took a deep breath and swiped at her eyes. “This guy forced her, you know and so she stayed away from guys after that for awhile.” She focused on Don, refusing to look at Sammy.

“This guy… Know his name? The one who raped her?” Don asked.

“She didn’t say raped, she said forced,” Alice corrected.

“Okay, forced… but you can see, Alice, that even if you don’t say it’s rape, it’s still rape, right? Are you saying there was no intercourse?” Don asked.

“No… There was,” she admitted.

“Then its rape, Alice. Let’s not cut the guy any slack at all on that, okay?” Don asked.

“Okay,” Alice agreed.

“So, his name?”

“He’s dead,” Alice said. “Tyler Matthews. Died in a car crash a few months back, remember?”

“Yeah… The local football star,” Sammy said.

Don just nodded. “So it was just the two of you. What came between you?” he asked.

“I told you, guys. She’s not like me,” she looked down at the table and then back up. “But I don’t know this David. I never heard her say anything about him. Maybe a cute guy that lived at the end of the road. And two guys on either side of the trailer who have been bothering her,” Alice said.

Sometimes you failed to ask the right questions, Don thought.  Sometimes the answers were right there. “Okay… Tell me about this cute guy who lived at the end of the road? You mean the trailer park road or Lott road?” he asked.

“Lott road. I don’t know about him. She said she saw him a few times. She thought he was cute, but she couldn’t get him to notice her,” Alice said. She blew her nose once more. The tears seemed to be dried up, Don thought: At least for now.

“Anything else about him… Anything at all?” Don asked.

“She said he worked nights… Drove a truck back and forth to work… That’s all I know, honest,” she looked over at Sammy who nodded. Done with his bad cop routine.

“Did you know David Cross at all… I can’t remember if I asked you that before,” Don said. He knew he had asked her; he simply wanted her to answer again.

“No,” Alice said.

“Didn’t know he lived at the end of Lott road… All the way at the end?” don asked.

She looked surprised. “No. I didn’t know that. I guess that means it was him she thought was cute… Did he do something to her…? Is that it? Did he?” her voice rose slightly and panic crept into it.

“I don’t know… I certainly hope not, Alice, but I don’t know,” Don said. “He’s a bad guy though… I can tell you that. Did time… If there’s any other thing you remember I could use the help. He may have done something to her… We just don’t know yet,” Don finished. Actually he was pretty sure that David Cross had killed April Evans in the back bedroom of the trailer at the end of Lott road that he called home: All, but positive.

She looked at him and her eyes began to spill over again. “I couldn’t stand that,” Alice whispered. “I couldn’t.”

He nodded. “You want me to talk to your boss, get you the rest of the day off, Alice?” Don asked.

“No, no,” she said. “I think I’ll go have a cigarette… Then I’ll be fine.”

“You know, I was thinking of having one too,” Don said. He reached out and took her hand and she came to her feet, “Come on.” He made his way to the front door taking her with him. Everyone in the store watched them walk out. The manager raised his hands slightly and looked at Sammy.

Sammy made a calm-down gesture with both hands. “It’s fine,” he said. “It’s fine.”


Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=VyKzDwAAQBAJ


White Trash. A free peek at one hell of a crime thriller

WHITE TRASH

By Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2018 by Dell Sweet

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet; all rights reserved

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. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. All rights are retained by the Author.

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

Cover art Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet, all rights Reserved


Jimmy

He had her tied to the top of the picnic table, nude, but he had to wrap things up, the sun was coming up.

She hadn’t known anything. Nothing at all. If she had, she would’ve told him, Jimmy knew, but he had enjoyed discovering what she didn’t know.

He finished his cigarette, one of hers actually, and crushed it out on the table top. He wore latex gloves on his hands. A plastic slip over suit covered his clothes. He put the butt in a plastic bag that also held the condoms he had used.

He walked back over to the table and Alice’s frightened eyes met his. Pleaded with him. He reached down and pushed the hair away from her eyes. Her mouth was gagged and wrapped with duct tape. She tried to talk as he walked around behind her.

“I’m sorry, Alice, I can’t understand you,” he said. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a switchblade and held it close to his leg. She was already familiar with the switchblade. “It’s time,” he told her. He bought the switchblade up and showed it to her. Her eyes seemed to bulge from their sockets, but before she could more than barely react he bought the knife down into her throat and ran it from side to side in one quick, practiced motion.

He watched her eyes as the light flickered and then went out.  Finally he let her head go and walked away. He stripped off the gloves, the plastic suit, and stuffed it all in the black plastic bag. He lit one more cigarette and looked over his handiwork as he smoked. Perfect he thought. He finally crushed out the last cigarette, dropped the butt into the bag and walked away.

He wondered how soon they would find her, or if the birds and other wildlife would find her first. He would love to stick around and watch, but he had to be moving.

He thought about what Alice had told him about being April Evans lover. He could use that. He could use that when he caught up to April Evans. Now they both had something in common. They had both been Alice’s lover. He chuckled at the thought. He reached his car, climbed in and started it up. He picked up the cell phone and dialed Tommy’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 David and April 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. Tommy 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 Neo’s… I’ll take care of that,” Jimmy told him.

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

“Nothing for now,” Jimmy told him. “I’ll be in Liberty 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… Tommy 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… Tommy will be very generous… Thank you,” he hung up and concentrated on driving. He glanced down at his watch, almost 6:00 AM.

The Cops

The sun was up and Don circled carefully round the picnic table looking down at Alice. The gulls had been at her, but only for a little while. The rest of the cuts and missing pieces had been done by somebody with a sharp knife.

He was still in shock. He had been at the trailer park; April’s trailer had held nothing: Missing clothes, same as David’s place, when he and Don had been called to respond to the public beach which was only 10 miles down the road. They had only told him that it might be his missing female. He and Sammy had made it in less than ten minutes.

He had been shocked when he had seen it was Alice tied to the table. And the torture marks on her body had been an even bigger shock. He had just left her at work a few hours before. How could it be her? A call to the young kid, her boss, had revealed that someone he believed to be another cop had walked her to his car shortly after Don and Sammy had left. He had gotten to the bottom of that, and the description, tall, short cropped black hair, the gray at the temples, hard looking, casual clothes, pullover sweater in a dark colored coat had hit home: The guy who had walked into the store. He had replayed it two dozen times and the guy’s description was now out on the radio. The car had been a gray sedan, and he had remembered the first three digits of the license plate number. It was the best he could do. The whole ID would get pushed statewide in a short while.

The techs arriving even now were shocked. It was a small area, crime happened, even murder, but not like this, not usually. They set about doing their jobs though. Don stepped back to where Sammy was, lit a cigarette and watched.

Sammy looked up at him.

“Sorry,” Don said. Without offering to snuff the cigarette.

“Don’t be,” Sammy said. “This shit keeps up, I might take up smoking again myself.” Sammy looked down at his watch. “Only seven. It’s going to be a long god damn day,” he said.

Mobile

“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 those guys are dead. All you got to do is take it off their hands. Sell it, you and I 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 in to where ever you need them to walk in to. 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 any one for it. Your fuckin’ crazy, Rich,” Ronnie Lee told him.

“Listen, goddamn it! Do you know who Tommy Murphy is?  Huh? Or Jefferson Prescott? 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.

“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 Jefferson 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 David and April. 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.”


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A Crime Story you must read

WHITE TRASH

By Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2018 by Dell Sweet

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet; all rights reserved

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. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. All rights are retained by the Author.

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

Cover art Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet, all rights Reserved


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

David 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 heading here when I saw you come out. I wouldn’t have done that… 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 remembering the scene, or it was playing out again behind her closed lids. David supposed it was. 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: Intense 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: David seemed unable to look away. “You mad?” she asked after a few moments.

“How old are you?” David asked.

“Huh?” she asked.

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

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

“God,” David said, nearly choking.

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

David 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.

“That was mean,” David said. No one ever looked like themselves on a license photo.

“Yeah, but the upside is I’m legal and I bet that matters, doesn’t it?” April 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?”

David 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 are two huge bags of pot. I mean huge,” David told her.

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

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

“I told you,” April 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 fuckin’ lot. And then there are two 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,” David told her.

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

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

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

David looked away and then turned back and met her eyes. “Deal as in I did all of 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.

David finished his sandwich and then licked his fingers. April finished and they both sat in the silence for awhile. The refrigerator clicked on and the compressor began to hum loudly from the kitchen. David 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,” David 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,” April finished.

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

“What? Calling out to you if someone came? Going for the cars myself? Of course I mean it. I would have. I ain’t rich. I don’t have anyone 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.

David 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.”

~

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

They were in the bedroom. She had simply got up and followed him down the hall to the bedroom. She looked at the bed which appeared to be made. That was surprising: A guy making his own bed.

David 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.”

David 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. April began pulling everything out onto the floor.

Outside a car door slammed.

“Fuck,” David squeaked.

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

David 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. David 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 was in his hand.

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

“Mister Cross?” the young guy asked. He looked even younger than David was.

“Yeah,” David said. It was never any 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,” David said, relieved. He started to shut the door.

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

David had let go of the door when he took the clipboard. The door swung open to reveal April 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,” April returned. She turned on her best three hundred watt smile and the guy returned it.

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

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

“Says he won’t be long… Hopefully he won’t… Want another beer?” David asked.

“Sure,” April agreed. She wandered over to the couch and sat down. David 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 David 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. April 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 Toyota,” April said. “So, three duffel bags and two suitcases?”

He nodded.

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

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

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

“Yeah… I thought about that afterward,” David 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 David at the window and waved. David waved back and then came back over to the couch and sat down.

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

April 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?” April asked.

“What do you mean?” David returned.

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

“I thought about that,” David 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, and 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,” David said.

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

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

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

“Maybe,” David 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 April and shrugged.

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

~

They decided on the blue duffel bag that David had pulled from the floorboard of the Ford. The bag was a mess, something he hadn’t noticed at the time, and April 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 David assumed was Cocaine. Two more of the flat-black hand guns. Several spare clips and boxes of 9mm ammunition, and two thick wads of bills, rubber banded. They appeared to be all one hundred dollar bills. David handed them over to April 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 April.

She raised her eyebrows.

“Worth more than coke anyway,” David 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,” April said. “There’s almost eighty thousand dollars here.”

David looked at her and licked his lips. He added the other two bricks he had grabbed from the trunk of the car. They were both heroin. “Six and six,” David 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.”

April 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 David as she counted the cash.

“Ben Neo,” David said aloud. He pulled a thick wad of cash from the wallet and handed it to April.

“Ben Neo?” she asked.

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

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

“Liberty… Lake Avenue,” David said.

April shrugged.

“Me either,” David 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,” April agreed. “Twenty thousand more. Ben Neo… That has to be a fake name,” she looked down at the money again. “David, we got over a hundred thousand dollars here… We’re rich.”

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

Clean changes of clothes, 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. David picked up the wallet.  Driver’s license, credit cards, all in the name of Dan 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 April the cash and snagged the other duffel bag. It was bulky, but not overly so, a little heavier than the other one had been.

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

“What the fuck?” she asked.

David 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.


Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/white-trash/id1439875867


White Trash from Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

By Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2018 by Dell Sweet

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet; all rights reserved

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. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. All rights are retained by the Author.

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

Cover art Copyright © 2018 Dell Sweet

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet, all rights Reserved

ONE

Friday Morning: Glennville, N.Y. …

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

“What the fuck?” she asked.

David 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,” April said.  “Put it back in the bag, David, 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 and she could get. David 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. Finally he laid the bag down on one side and managed to hold one side of it open and kind of scooped the head back into the bag. Once it was in he quickly zipped up the bag. He stood quickly and started to walk from the room.

“David, where are you going?” April asked.

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

“David… The hands… David,” she pointed…

EARLIER

David Cross sat watching his television: An old war movie, boring, but it was three A.M. and there were only the local stations that he could get, plus the one from Canada when the weather was right, or what-ever-the-fuck had to be right for an antenna to work. Tonight it wasn’t working. Excuse me, he corrected himself, this morning. Whatever needed to be right wasn’t. It had looked like a foreign film with all kinds of nudity too, but the goddamn thing had kept fading in and out so much that he had gotten a headache trying to watch it. He’d finally settled for the old war movie on one of the local stations.

He was trying to nurse his last 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, but somehow he’d messed up the count tonight. 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 was nursing his last beer: Last beer and no money for beer. And it was Friday: That meant the rest of Friday, Friday night, and the whole weekend loomed ahead dry. It was too depressing to think about. He tried to focus on the movie.

His trailer was located at the end of Lott road, a dirt road on the outskirts of the city two miles beyond the county dump. Nobody really wanted to live on Lott road it seemed, except David, 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. In fact the morning before the cops had taken the body of a young girl out of the ditch just down the road. Found by someone driving by. She hadn’t been there very long either. Someone had killed her and dumped her there. It was definitely a crappy place to live. 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 part of Lott road too so it didn’t count.

He owned neither the trailer nor the lot. He did own the furniture, which had been easy. He had simply cruised every street in the city on garbage day: 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 pee. Anyway, it was barely noticeable and the guy in the store had sworn that they weren’t really pee stains, but water stains. David 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 peed on him too. 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 added optimistically. Besides, they disinfected those things. The guy said so: Sprayed them down with something that killed everything on them. He 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, 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 laying 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 a 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. He shuddered. He hated this place.

He 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 looked back up from the coffee table lights 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 frantic, bobbing, darting across the wall and then a second set shot up onto the wall too, jittering and jumping across the cheap 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. David 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 got up quickly and walked to the window.

It was immediately obvious that this was something different than just some drunk not realizing that the road was about to end. The lead car was flat out. He could hear the whine of the engine now as it came. The car behind was trying to stay close, tapping the back bumper of the lead car, causing it to slew all over the dirt road. Apparently that wasn’t good enough because a second later the passenger leaned out of the car’s window and opened up on the lead car with what looked to be some sort of a hand held machine pistol. David let out a startled squawk, ducked below the window and then popped right back up.

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

Shit, David thought. That meant that the lead car was not going to be able to stop. David 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. David’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 still screaming. It was out of sight for 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, David, had moved out here. David 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…

~

The smell of hot metal filled the air. David looked to the car on the cement pad first: The trunk had popped and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood and onto the concrete. The front roof line was smashed 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. David had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, which explained the huge stain on the windshield. He was past dead, he was dead bad. 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.

David 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 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 to the trunk.

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. He stopped mid stride, bent double, and nearly threw up. He caught himself, 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 old Toyota, not one of the small ones though, one of the ones that seemed almost as big as an American car. 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 and 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 small 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 nearly a mile back down the road… No car lights… Nothing at all.

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 except the moldy loaf of bread he told himself.

He walked back to the car 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 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 as it began to burn, allowing his thoughts and breathing to begin 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 at a dead run. David 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. caliber pistol from the front seat, and an unopened, and miraculously unbroken bottle of whiskey from the floorboards. He had barely stashed 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. 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 left the bathroom and went quickly to the bedroom where he dug a wrinkled pair of jeans from the basket there, a clean shirt from the dresser, and quickly got 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 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 towards 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 fire was thick and black, spiraling up into the air. The smells of cooking meat 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 within a few seconds. 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 swung around them angling down toward the burning car. David Cross rose from the steps and began walking to the road to meet them.

~

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

“There’s another one in my back yard with a dead guy too,” 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 back into his car, and glancing once more at the burning car, he turned and followed David 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,” David said. He immediately wished he had kept his mouth shut.

“You saw that?” the cop asked.

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

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

“I think so,” David 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 saw the car lying 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,” David 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,” David said.

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

Stupid, stupid, stupid, David 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 was now noticeably cleaner in the shape of a hand. What else could he do?

“You okay?” the cop asked.

“Not really,” David admitted.

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

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

“Easy, David… 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,” David agreed. “I do see.”

“So?” The cop asked.

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

“Night off,” the young cop said.

“Night off,” David agreed.

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

David 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 cops were brief:

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

“Well, yes,” David 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 David more at ease. And although David knew that was why he smiled he felt more at ease anyway.

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

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

He looked at him.

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

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

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

“No… Not no more,” David told him.

“So we could check the house and find nothing,” the shorter, dark haired detective said.

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

“But we aren’t going to do that,” The blonde said. “Your past is your past, David. I said I am not here to bust your balls and I meant that.” He turned and looked over at the Toyota 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 David.

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

“The gunshots,” David said and shrugged.

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

To David it felt as though his eyes had bugged 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 had seen himself. So she must have been there. What else did she see?

“You okay?” the blonde asked.

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

“Yeah… Pauls-that’s the name of the officer that spoke to you, Jay Pauls-said you leaned into the car to check 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.

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

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

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

They all stood and watched as the Toyota 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 David’s driveway to the back yard: A steady Beep, Beep, Beep sounding as it backed up. They 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. David 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 Lott road. David sat and watched the dust settle back down to the dirt lane.


Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers, a drug dealer, and two organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York into the Deep South as they head for what they think will be safety in Mexico. Adult orientated. Sex, language and Graphic Violence… 18+ No preview is available due to the Adult Content. Drug Use…


Kobo Books: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/white-trash-21

A GOOD PLAN

“Okay,” Paul said. “Morbid… Sure it is. I know that, dick-wad, but death is always morbid, man, for real. The thing is what happens after and that is that life goes on am I right? I mean, my Bro. flies back to Seattle, he don’t like me anyhow… Randy goes back to work bustin’ his ass down the paper mill and so do you. End of story. Oh, maybe you think of me tenderly from time to time.”

This material is copyright protected. It is not edited for content. You may not use this material for any purpose with the express permission of Wendell Sweet, and, or his assignee.

A GOOD PLAN

“No,” Paul slurred, as he shifted around on his bar stool and looked directly at Jack, “I mean dead as in gone! As in outta here, friggin’ history, get it?”

“Yeah, dead as in dead, as in suicidal again as in I told you I don’t know how many times you can’t do that. You got resposisilillyties? No, resposabilities. To-hell-with-it, you know what I mean.”

Apparently Jack couldn’t talk any better than he could, Paul thought, but they had both been drinking since eight this morning and it was now nearing four PM what else could you expect? Paul asked himself. And not beer either. If they had stuck to just beer they would have been be fine. But Jack had got him going on the ginger brandy chasers. Beer… Shot of ginger brandy… Beer… Shot of ginger brandy. And that was the way the day had gone. “I knoooh,” Paul said, still slurring his words, “that I got them things, respectabilities, but I. Have. Had-it. Fuck it! I mean, less say I croaked right now. Jess sittin’ right here on this beer-stool-Beer-stool was a private joke. Neither of them could remember which had started calling it a beer-stool, but they both knew one of them had-drinkin’ and then I croaked. Say a freakin’ heart attack, prob’ly would be, or a stroke. Anyway! Dead, like, right now… You’re sitting right freakin’ there and I buy the farm. Then what?”

“Hey for real, man, like, mental health might be a thing to think about here.”

“Uh uh, you ain’t got it yet is all. I don’t mean dead as in dead I mean dead as in gone, get-it?”

“Same thing, man, same…”

“No it ain’t,” Paul said as he leaned forward from his stool nearly surprising Jack into falling off his own stool. “I mean the supposing thing is the same, but the premise ain’t. Hey, I said premise right I ain’t too far gone. In other words, just play along for a quick sec., okay?”

“Fine,” Jack said wearily. He tipped back his glass of beer, drained it, and looked at Paul.

Paul nodded.

“Two more, and a couple a more shots too,” Jack said, once he got the beertenders attention.

Beertender was another private joke, but one they had picked up rather than invented. “Okay,” Jack said once the beers and shots had come and he had downed his shot and chased it with some of the beer. “Gotta piss like a race horse, man. Then we’ll get back to this.”

“Again? Man you’re pissin’ like every ten minutes,” Paul said, quickly cutting his eyes to the darkened rear area of the bar.

“Yeah? Well so are you, man,” he got up and staggered back towards the men’s room. Laughing as he went.

Paul cut his eyes quickly toward the darkened rear area once more, as a shadow parted from the darkness and came forward quickly. Jack was back a few seconds later.

“Okay,” Jack said picking up the conversation once again. “You’re croak city right here. Right now so… I guess I call the cops, right? Friggin’ CSI time or somethin’?”

“Sure you do, or the beertender does, but I mean after. After they come and get me and drag my ass down to the city morgue or whatever it is they do, then what?”

“Well…” he thought for a moment, not sure where Paul was trying to lead him. “Okay, the funeral. Me, probly Randy from work, your brother’d fly down from Seattle probly. We all cry, an… An then we plant you. Over and done.”

“And?”

“And what? You’re frigging worm food there ain’t no and then what.”

“Sure there is. There always is.”

“Got me swingin’, man. I don’t know where the hell you’re goin’ with this and I’m seeing two of you sittin’ there and I ain’t really sure which one of you came up with this bull-shit, but it sucks. It’s morbid, man, kinda sick.”

“Yeah? well now I gotta piss, but you hold that thought, man. I’ll be back in a flash.”

Jack watched him go, and then turned away from the dark area at the rear of the bar. He ignored the slight rustling noise beside him. Concentrating instead on the back bar. Counting the bottles. He didn’t turn back around until Paul came back and seated himself on the barstool once again.

“Okay,” Paul said. “Morbid… Sure it is. I know that, dick-wad, but death is always morbid, man, for real. The thing is what happens after and that is that life goes on am I right? I mean, my Bro. flies back to Seattle, he don’t like me anyhow… Randy goes back to work bustin’ his ass down the paper mill and so do you. End of story. Oh, maybe you think of me tenderly from time to time.”

“Not friggin’ hardly… I got somethin’ you can tenderize, man,” Jack said laughing.

Paul laughed right along with him. “Okay,” he said at last, “that was cute, but for real life will go on; end of story. I don’t have that ever-lovin’ Mortgage comp’ny on my ass. Same for the bank that has my truck loan. Joan can’t grab me for no more fuckin’ alimony, it’s the end… The real end, it’s over and life goes on.”

Jack stared back speculatively. “Listen, for real now, you’re startin’ to scare me, man. There’s no reason to do somethin’ like that. Hire a friggin’ lawyer, man. Go to court and fight her. Hand the goddamn keys to the truck back and the keys to the house and file bankruptcy. The end, problems gone, fini.”

“Not true, man I thought about it. Even talked to a lawyer. As long as Joan doesn’t ever remarry I gotta pay her. If I don’t have the money they’ll throw me in the slammer until I come up with it. As for the house I could give a shit. The truck’s nearly paid for why should I hand over the keys just because we can’t get no hours down the mill? Uh uh; I spoke to the same lawyer bout that. They’d make me pay it. I’m single, no dependents. They’d grab my whole fuckin’ check and send it off to the court every week. I’d end up bustin’ my ass for nothin’.”

“Okay… Okay fine, but dead? Being dead ain’t the answer, Paul, for real.”

“I agree.”

“Well, what the hell! You been arguing that bein’ dead is the answer!”

“It is… But not really dead: As good as dead, but still alive.”

“Okay, splain this one to me.”

“Easy… I been thinkin’ for over a year about it; here’s my plan. I go huntin’, right?”

“Right.”

“That’s it. I never come back.”

“A year? A whole friggin’ year and that’s the best you came up with?”

“Uh uh. I got a plan… A real good plan too… I’m about average size, right?”

“Right.”

“Do you know how many guys are average size?”

“Like, a real number?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, since it’s average I guess a lot would be.”

“Zactly. Friggin-a. In fact you’re average, am I right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well since I’m average all I need is another guy that’s average, to make my plan work.”

“Uh uh, flawed to the max., man. What about, like, dental records. Or, like, blood type, or, like, I don’t know there’s a friggin’ million other things they can compare. Scars, uh, shit, I really don’t know, but I do know there are a lot of things.”

“All true,” Paul said, as he took a deep drink from his glass. “All true, but who gives a damn.”

“You would. See, if you do what you’re thinkin’, like switchin’ a body for your own, they’ll know, and… And why in hell am I even discussing this with you? Do you know how crazy this sounds?”

“Prolly does sound crazy, but I worked it all out. You know I got this partial plate, on account of that football thing back in school right?” Jack nodded. “Well last year when I went up to Canada huntin’ I had a new one made. I wear it a lot too, to get used to it. It’s a little bit different than the one Doc. Freiler made me, but I am used to it.”

“So a persons mouth is different. A lot different,” he signaled the beertender once more, and waited for the fresh shot and beer. “How you gonna find someone with the same teeth missing in the front like you? And even if you did they’d have to be average and then the partial plate would have to fit. A lotta if’s, if you ask me.”

“Well the thing is I didn’t ask you, but if I did you’d have to give it the same amount of thought as I did, and you’d see it ain’t rilly a big deal. A pair a pliers, pull out the teeth so it’ll fit…”

“Jesus, Paul that’s sick. You tellin’ me I don’t know you? You tellin’ me you’re the sort of man that could do somethin’ like that?”

Paul grinned. “No. Just bustin’ your balls, Jack. You fall so friggin’ easy that I can’t resist it.”

Jack broke into a huge bray of laughter. “Oh shit. Oh shit, you had me… I gotta admit it, you had me hook line and sinker, Paul. Oh that was good, Jesus that was good, really I mean it.”

Paul laughed right along with him. “So’d you tell your old lady you were goin’ huntin’ with me this weekend?” he asked once he got the laughter under control.

“Christ no! She’d have a shit-fit if she thought I was out enjoying myself. Uh uh. She thinks I’m doin’ my hitch with the guard this weekend. She don’t know my hitch ended last year. You know… It’s so Cindy and I can have some time alone occasionally.” Cindy was Jack’s girlfriend, Paul knew. They’d all gone to school together and knew each other well.

Paul nodded. “Well, I’m for the woods for an hour or two. Pick a good spot. I’d like to get one this year. Then we can rent a room for the weekend, stay the hell outa this bar and bag somethin’ decent tomorrow, hopefully.”

“With ya,” Jack said, as he tossed back the last of his beer. He followed Paul out of the bar.

Paul drove the twenty miles up into the forest preserve in silence. Jack had passed out beside him nearly as soon as they had left the bars parking lot. He parked and shut off the truck. Jack came awake.

“There?” he asked foggily.

“Uh huh,” Paul agreed, his voice blurry, and indistinct. He levered the door handle open, and nearly fell getting out of the truck. Jack tumbled out from the other side, and they stumbled off up a nearby trail into the late afternoon darkness of the forest.

“So,” Paul said, after they had walked a few hundred yards. “I never finished my idea.”

“But I thought you said you were kiddin’?”

“Did.”

“So?”

“Wasn’t,” Paul said simply.

“You’d really be able to do that?” Jack asked looking directly at Paul for the first time since they’d left the truck. He had his rifle with him. Not only was it with him, but it was in his hands, and he’d come to a dead stop in the middle of the trail.

“It ain’t so much that I want to,” Paul said softly. “I have to. The banks really are drivin’ me crazy, Jack and I’m sorry, but it has to be this way…” He raised the rifle slowly as he finished speaking.

“Hey,” Jack said in a near whisper. “It was funny before, but this ain’t, man. This ain’t even slightly funny.”

“I don’t suppose it is… Do you want to hear the rest of my story?”

“Uh uh. You’re sick man, you’re goin’ too far with this… Jesus Christ, we’re friends, Paul, we’ve…”

“Been friends since first grade,” Paul finished. “That’s why I chose you, Jack. I know you, in and out. We’re built the same, we look a lot alike…”

Jack stared back at him.

“so,” Paul said quietly. “What you have to do is burn the body. I lied, it can’t work as a huntin’ accident. But as a drinkin’ and drivin’ accident while you’re huntin’, especially with all these curves up here. It’ll do just fine. It’s gotta look real obvious too. Real obvious so they don’t check too close.”

“First grade, man, think about it…” Jack blubbered.

“I did and the trouble is how am I goin’ to get you to voluntarily hop in that truck and drive it off a cliff? So I said to myself shoot his ass, stuff him in the truck and then set the pedal and let it drive itself off the cliff. Won’t work though, or it could, but a bullet’s a chancy thing. Could hit a bone, leave a hole that ain’t natural, tip them off. Uh uh, I sez finally, won’t work. Won’t work at all,” his hand fell down to the side of his belt buckle, where his knife case was. He patted it affectionately. “Knife? That’s risky too though. Nick a bone, leave a mark that ain’t supposed to be there, who knows what could happen? And besides it’s too messy to deal with,” his hand fell away from the knife case. “so I decided the thing to do is put you out some other way so’s I can get you into that truck… You agree?”

“Jesus, Paul, first grade and all. First grade!” he pleaded.

“Yeah… I know… First grade… And there was someone else there in the first grade with us wasn’t there? There was and I knew I would need help and I knew it had to be somebody I could trust too.”

“Huh? Hey come on, man. Think it over, Paul… Please?”

“You know. I didn’t expect that you’d go jelly on me, Jack, I really didn’t… Cindy? Our Cindy? Wasn’t Cindy there in the first grade too?” he raised his eyes up and past Jack. Staring into the woods. “Come on out, honey. It’s okay.”

A tall dark-haired woman stepped slowly from the trees.

“You-You, knew?” Jack managed.

She said nothing.

“So… Gangs all here, and all that leaves is the how of it. So I said to Cindy-Did you know about Cindy and me? Obviously you didn’t-So I said, how? No gun… No knife, how? Oh she’s good, Jack,” he stopped and wiped the sweat that was running in his eyes away. He had gone easy on the beer, but even so he had drank quite a bit. And he was feeling it. Dizzy, sick even and now was not the time for that. He drew a deep breath before he spoke again. “So, Ciny… I mean, Cindy said, the thing to do is to slip a sedative into a drink… But how? I asked, Well easy, she sez. He slips off to the bathroom and you slip it in. No big deal. He comes back, he drinks it, you get the both of you the fuck out of Dodge, he passes out, plop him in the truck… The end, she said,” he took two steps backwards. The friggin’ ground was all the sudden moving, he thought with alarm.

Jack suddenly straightened and stood from the ground where he had been curled nearly into a ball. The mask of fear gone from his face. A wide smile setting comfortably there now. Paul took two more steps, lost his struggle to keep his balance, and sat down hard.

“Good plan,” Jack said softly.

Paul tried to raise the rifle, but it seemed to be glued to the ground. He pulled the trigger anyway. Nothing… A dry click. He was positive he had loaded it before they had gone into the bar.

“If you hadn’t of told Cindy,” Jack said as he stumbled forward, “it would have worked. I knew about you all right. I figured it out a long time ago, buddy-boy. Cindy always was a slut. Never could keep those legs shut… But we both know that don’t we. I went right to her, Paul. Laid it all out and man was she sorry. She begged me to forgive her and she told me what you had been planning. She ain’t as sick as you are, Paul. She couldn’t and wouldn’t go through with it,” he paused and stared down at Paul who was still trying to stand up. He was having no success at all. Jack giggled before he continued.

“I can do it, though. That’s why I drank so much today. It ain’t goin’ to be easy, but I’ll make it: I’m drunk enough to do it. Switched the beers while you were in the can… Ain’t that friggin’ funny? Ain’t it?” he asked. The truth was though, that Cindy had switched the beers, he hadn’t been able to do it… She’d been in the bar, hiding back at one of the dark corner tables towards the rear and Paul had never once looked in her direction. He’d gotten the rear area where the light wasn’t so good so she could do the thing while he was in the can, for just that reason. But he’d drank maybe a little too much beer trying to work his courage up, and far too many shots. He wasn’t feeling all that good, and there were three Paul’s looking up at him from the ground. He stumbled again himself.

“Cindy switched ’em,” Paul mumbled from the ground.

Now how the hell’d he know that? Jack wondered. He stumbled again, and finally found himself sitting back on the ground. One second up the next second down. He swiveled his eyes toward Cindy.

“Had enough,” Cindy said quietly. “Had enough of you promising to leave your old lady for me. Had enough of both of you treating me like shit… Like a slut. I switched them all right. To you, when you were in the bathroom and then back to Paul when he was in the bathroom.” she smiled thinly.

Paul groaned from the ground, and his eyes suddenly slipped shut.

Jack tried to hold his eyes open, but they just wouldn’t stay.

“Shoulda treated me better. Shoulda treated me like a lady. Shouldn’ta told all your buddies about what we did in bed. Shoulda…”

Jack lost the battle to keep his eyes open, and they finally slipped shut. Darkness… A bird calling from far away in the forest… Cindy’s voice droning on and on from far away… Fading away, farther and farther, and…


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Earth’s Survivors: Rising from the AshesWhite Trash


White Trash

WHITE TRASH

Copyright 2019 Wendell G Sweet all rights reserved

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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.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. 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.

The smell of hot metal filled the air. David looked to the car on the cement pad first: The trunk had popped and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood and onto the concrete. The front roof line was smashed 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. David had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, which explained the huge stain on the windshield. He was past dead, he was dead bad. 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.

David 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.

—-

A chance early morning crash on a dead end road turns into a chase across America, as two kids try to outrun the mob, hit men, the cops and everyone else, and somehow hang on to the stolen money and drugs in their possession…

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MEXICO

About three years of my life had been spent like that. From the day Lilly told me goodbye, until the day I woke up in the alley that runs down the back of West Broad, behind the Chinese restaurant. The back of my head had been lumped up with something, maybe the wall of the Chinese restaurant, or maybe by someone.

MEXICO

This material is copyright protected. It is not edited for content. This material may not be used without the express permission of Wendell Sweet or his Assignee…

SUNDAY NIGHT

I buried the Mexican just after sundown. I can’t say much about the sort of man he was in life, but I can say he was a strong man in death.

The Moon has led my way and I’m on my way across the desert through Mexico of all places. What did they say, hide in plain sight? There I’m going to be. Already passed the border, and once I find a little border town I’ll find a small town to buy gasoline enough so I can reach South America.

I’ve played the events of the last week over and over in my head as I’ve driven. It still makes no sense to me at all. They say shit happens, we’ll sometimes it does, and I tell myself that’s exactly what happened here. Some shit decided to happen and I just happened to be there.

Is that a good way to look at it? An accurate analysis of the situation, as we used to say in group a few years back? Maybe, but I can’t help thinking that sometimes I must be part of making that shit happen because I find myself right in the middle of it too often.

Last Saturday night everything was fine in my world. Maybe a little boring, but whose world isn’t at least a little boring, right? Tonight I am burying one man and trying to count the people that wound up dead in the last week and I have to admit I lost track. Was it ten? More?

I am bone weary. I know what that means exactly now. I need sleep but I can’t stop for sleep, and even though I need it I doubt my brain would shut down long enough for me to get it. I just got to keep driving…

LAST SATURDAY EVENING

It was early. I had nothing better to do so I took a walk downtown just to take a look at the buildings. Thinking, as I walked, how just a few short years ago I had spent almost all of my time down there. Chasing a high, drunk or both. And sometimes a third thing: Taking a little comfort with the ladies. It all came back to me as I walked the streets.

About three years of my life had been spent like that. From the day Lilly told me goodbye, until the day I woke up in the alley that runs down the back of West Broad, behind the Chinese restaurant. The back of my head had been lumped up with something, maybe the wall of the Chinese restaurant, or maybe by someone.

Someone, I had decided as I began to blink the cobwebs away and felt carefully with my fingers. A lump only, no blood. Probably a closed fist…

Two feet away from me was a dead rat. A big dead rat, and a few even larger rats were breakfasting on him. And, suddenly, just like that, I was done. That gave me a clear message about the world. And I heard it.

Of course that didn’t mean I got off Scot free. There were many little things I’d done during my long slide, and it took time to fix those things. Rehab, jail for some bad checks I couldn’t remember. Bad teeth, health, bad ideas, depression, suicide, and finally a night where I felt strong enough to take a walk through the worst of my nightmares and see if I was truly over the drugs, the life, and the weaknesses that had led me there in the first place.

So that’s how I came to be there last Saturday evening. Getting my feet wet. Seeing how strong I was… Or wasn’t. And it turns out I was strong enough for the temptation of the streets but not for the bad habits I had picked up there. And that’s what got me… I cannot believe it has been only a week since all this started.

I had walked by the mouth of the alley twice and both times I saw the old Ford sitting there in the deep shadows… Heard the soft murmur of its engine running: Some guy and some girl, I thought or some guy with some guy… or boy who knows what. It was downtown. Shit like that happened all the time. They didn’t call this area the meat market for nothing, but I thought after the second time that this guy must be trying to set a record. He’d been there for fifteen minutes by my watch, not that it was my business, all the same fifteen minutes is a long time for a trick. Or to shoot up. Fifteen minutes could bring a cop. In the street world it was just too long for almost anything. In fifteen minutes you could get your thing on, your drug of choice, your sex of choice, cop that stolen watch, and be a half mile away and have forgotten all about that last little space of time. So why was this guy still there?

And that was the street part of me that was not gone. The street part of me that was still looking for trouble. And I found it…

The third time by, which was just a few minutes later, I was too curious. My evening had bought me some excitement. The drugs: I could see the flow all over the avenue. Easy to see if you knew what to look for. The ladies were calling too. I knew what that was about. I didn’t look at them like they were whores or something less than human. It was a line I couldn’t draw, had confused many times so I came back fast to see what this was. That Ford was calling.

I had stopped at the mouth of the alley. Same Ford. An old one; like a classic. Nice shape to. Maybe somewhere in the sixties, but I wasn’t good with cars like that. I only knew old, classic, nice looking.

Nobody around. Of course that didn’t mean there was no one in the car. I hesitated for only a second, and then walked quietly down the alley, staying in the shadows as I went.

As I stole silently up the driver’s side of the car I found the Mexican slumped over behind the wheel. Blood dripping down the side of his head. What looked like a 45 on the seat beside him. Another guy was slumped over into the floorboards on the passenger side: That one was dead for sure. A large, bloodless hole on one side of his chest. An even larger hole behind that shoulder I saw when I reached over to move him.

And why are you still here, a little voice in my head whispered. Why are you touching him? What are you doing? But I pushed those warning voices away and continued to look.

There was blood and gore all over the seat on that side. The coppery stench of blood was thick and nauseating. Something else mixed in with it, tugging at my brain: Blood and… Fear? Something. That was when the Mexican spoke in all that silence and nearly made me jump out of my skin.

“Don’t call the cops!” and… “No Policia.” His head came away from wheel. He shook it and drops of blood went flying. I felt a drop hit my face, but I was still too stunned to move.

“Hey! … You hear me, blanquito? Habla English? … No Policia?” He muttered under his breath “Dios Christos,” he focused his eyes on me once more. “What’s the matter with you?”

“I thought you were dead,” I managed. I should’ve run. I chose to talk.

“Yeah… I get that a lot, but I ain’t dead.” He picked up the 45 from the seat and before I knew it, it was in my face. “Come around the side, blanquito. Get Lopez out of the car.” He waved the pistol and I moved.

Lopez pretty much helped himself out of the car. When I opened the door he spilled out into the alley leaving a mess on the seat and a large smear of blood on the seat back and the door panel as he went.

“Good… Good,” the Mexican said. “Now get in the fuckin’ car… No… No… This side. Come back around to this side. I can’t drive no car, blanquito… Dios!” He waved the gun once more and I moved. Racing around the hood of the car to the door.

The Mexican did a fair job of getting himself over into the passenger seat. I was glad it was him sitting in Lopez’s blood and not me although I had been about to sit in it. I slid into the driver’s seat.

“You got some kind of car… Truck… Something like that?” The Mexican asked.

I didn’t have a vehicle, but my grandfather had, had a truck. It was sitting in the garage in back of my house on Logan street. That house had also been my grandfather’s. They were the only two things, the house and the truck that had survived those three years on the streets.

“Sort of.”

“Sort of?” He looked around “Get this car moving. That’s the first thing… You got a place?… Close by? How does anybody sort of own a fuckin’ car anyway?”

“Yeah, I got a place” I said. I was afraid to answer, but more afraid of not answering fast enough.

“Let’s get there, Amigo.” He slumped back against the seat. I shifted into drive, worried I might drive over Lopez as I went and drove us out of the alley.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Never mind, blanquito… Just drive the fuckin’ car.”

~

The house was dark. I had thought to leave a light on, but somehow I had forgotten. I drove the Ford right into the garage pulled the garage door back down and helped the Mexican out. He looked over at my grandfather’s truck.

“That your sort of truck? Looks fine to me, man. Doesn’t it run?”

The thing is it did run. I had been working on it here and there. I like to tinker with things. And I had a lot of spare time to fill when I quit drugging so I had turned it to the truck.

It was an old truck, but I had in the back of my mind to fix it up and drive it. So I had started with an oil change and then installed a new headlight on the driver’s side, that sort of stuff, when I had time.

I nodded. “No plates though.”

The Mexican nodded. “Don’t worry about that… Got gas in it?”

“Some… Enough to get you away.”

“Ha, amigo.” He laughed and then clutched the side of his head where the blood still drizzled and spilled down the side of his face, spat some blood from his mouth, and looked back at me. “Us,” he said. “Us.”

I saw an amazing thing as he spoke. The Mexican had a small blue hole just above the stream of blood. A hole from a bullet In his head. The blood just pulsed out of it as I watched. I wondered how he could even be alive.

I switched the plates to the truck and left the Ford sitting in the garage. I unloaded four big suitcases from the trunk of the Ford into the bed of the pickup truck. The Mexican shoved two machine pistols under the front seat and stuffed a second pistol into his waistband. He had me stretch a tarp over the bed of the pickup and tie it off and we were on the road. Heading into the night on the Arizona back roads.

Out Of The Desert

The name of the place was Tonopah Arizona. I had eased the truck up onto I10, the tires bouncing over the broken asphalt.

“Not a big city… A town from the looks of it. Phoenix is close: Ten, fifteen miles maybe I can’t really tell from the map,” I said. A gas station loomed out of the early morning gray and I wheeled the truck under the roof that covered the pumps. I shut off the motor and we both listened to the tick of the cooling motor for a few seconds.

“Coffee would be real nice, amigo,” the Mexican said. “No way do we want to go into Phoenix… Too dangerous.” He yawned and then covered his mouth and laughed. “Jesus… Morning breath.” The wound in his head had stopped bleeding; a thin crust of blood covered the hole and making it look like just an ordinary scab to me. It made me wonder if I had been wrong after all if it really had been no more than a flesh wound. The Mexican stepped from the truck.

I opened my door and settled my feet onto the pavement. It wasn’t just old pavement, I thought as I looked it over, it was gray, like it was completely washed out, used up. There was no black left in it. the Mexican stood slightly in front of the truck, his gun in one hand. The other hand was reaching for the machine pistol which was just coming free of his shoulder. I shrugged the machine pistol the Mexican had given me from my own shoulder and into my hand before I really saw what had alarmed him: Three men stepped out of the shadows of the open garage bay.

They were kids, I saw. Or at least not much more than kids. They walked slowly forward.

The Mexican raised the rifle and pointed it at the lead kid. “That’s it right there,” he said.

He didn’t scream it, softly spoke it, I thought later, but the kid stopped in his tracks.

“You just walk into someone’s place like this? Guns ready?” The kid asked. He waited for one of us to answer, but I had no intention of talking and the Mexican stayed silent.

“What’s with the fuckin’ guns?” The kid asked when it became obvious that neither of us intended to speak.

“Ours weren’t aimed at you until you aimed yours at us,” I said. I hoped I sounded as cool as the Mexican had.

“Bullshit,” one of the other kids said. “You had it in your hands when I looked at you. That’s why I got mine ready.”

“I don’t want to kill anyone today,” the Mexican said. I looked at him quickly. You could tell just how serious he was. Maybe the kids didn’t see that look in his eyes, but they should be able to piece it together from the blood spattered shirt and jeans the Mexican wore.

“It really don’t matter to me, you know? Dead or alive? This world sucks either way. You just don’t have to feel it when you’re dead.” The third kid said. His eyes were blood shot. We had interrupted him while he was sleeping it seemed; or he was using meth. He had that look. Eyes twitchy, skin gray. He kept rubbing at his eyes, I saw.

“I think you’re right. Can’t matter if you’re dead, puto” the Mexican said.

“Pretty funny… What did you just call me? … So you know a little Spanish, big fuckin’ deal,” the kid responded.

“I’m Mexican, so.”

“Big fuckin’ deal… Mexico’s that way,” he jerked one thumb toward the desert at his back.

The Mexican leaned forward and spat on the ground.

The kid squinted hard and then spoke again. “Okay… Okay, a couple of very bad asses, but look… It’s our town. We ain’t the only ones here. You shoot there will be twenty more here in seconds. Then everybody dies.”

The one in the back, the one with the sleepy eyes, stiffed a yawn and reflexively raised one hand to his mouth as his eyes slipped shut for a split second. The Mexican shot the lead kid in that split second, I had the second guy a moment later. The third kid opened his eyes to a changed situation.

“Just give me a reason,” the Mexican said. “Any reason.” The kid released the rifle he held and it dropped from his hands to the pavement. He spun and looked off toward a rag tag collection of trailers that lined a dirt road in back of the station. “Johnny!” he screamed. He turned back to Billy and the Mexican. “Don’t shoot me… I ain’t done nothin’ at all…” The Mexican shot him.

A second later the truck roared to life and I spun the wheel hard heading out into the desert that bordered the road.

The Mexican bounced around the cab and smacked his head hard enough on the windshield to star the glass when the truck left the pavement at better than fifty miles an hour and hit the hard packed dirt that ran alongside I10. He swore in Spanish, but finally got his balance, swept one hand across his forehead, looked at the fresh blood and cursed again. Behind us three trucks had launched off the pavement and were running hard to catch us.

“Fuck me,” I said. I pushed the pedal to the floor there was nothing else for it. The glass in the back window starred a second later as the Mexican rammed the wire machine pistol stock into it. Another hit and the glass fell out into the pickup bed area. He raised the machine pistol and began to fire back at the trucks. A second later a hole punched through the windshield to my left. I sucked a deep breath and mashed the pedal harder into the floorboard feeling the old truck skate across the hardscrabble of the desert as we flew beside the highway.

“We have to get north, the other side of the highway, blanquito. If they squeeze us south we’ll be in the goddamn desert,” the Mexican yelled above the scream of the engine.

“There’s cars up there,” I yelled back. “On the highway!”

“There are bullets down here and they’re gaining on us,” the Mexican yelled back. “They’ll just drop off the highway soon and get us.”

“Better sit down,” I yelled.

“Just do it! Dios!” He continued to fire out the back window.

I turned the wheel hard right and the truck lurched hard to the left, threatening to roll over as the center of gravity changed. It nearly did roll before it hit the edge of the pavement, broke over, and then became airborne. It came within ten feet of a fast moving, sun bleached car full of wide eyed kids and then it plunged off the other side of the highway so smoothly that I couldn’t believe it had actually landed. I skimmed past the edge of an old, wrecked truck, abandoned years ago as I fought for control of the wheel: I missed it by mere inches. I heard the scream of rubber up on the highway as the car locked up its brakes just before the tires bit into the hard scrabble and I once again mashed the pedal to the floor.

“Nearly broke my neck slamming it into the ceiling,” the Mexican yelled. He fell silent. “I…” He started, but an explosion from the highway stopped his words.

“Hit that fucking truck,” I screamed. “Has to be.”

“Keep it floored, Amigo. Keep it floored ’cause there was three trucks up there.” He stayed where he was, staring out the back window, knees driven into the seat top. My eyes strayed to the rear view mirror, empty and then snapped back to the road. I watched the hard packed earth fly by.

“Roads coming up… Like dirt roads,” I said. I had no sooner said it than the truck hit the slight rise and flew across it.

“Back roads, looks like,” the Mexican said.” He was trying his best to read a map as the truck bounced and tilted. One hand clutching the seat back held him in a somewhat stable position as he looked at the roads. “Looks like all dirt roads, back roads and then it falls away to nothing. Just keep it pointed at the mountains in the distance.” He turned completely around and sat down with the map in his lap. “Must have hit the truck or each other. Whatever it was I don’t think they feel like coming after us again… I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking letting my guard down like that.”

I said nothing; the Mexican went back to reading the map.

“Start breaking left, blanquito. There’s a river… No; maybe some sort of waterway not a river, too straight. It ends and then picks up again a few miles later. We can get through and into the desert from there.” He looked at the map for a few more minutes, “Maybe twenty miles or so. Just run right by I10 and we should be good.” He turned and peeked over the back seat once more. “We’re leaving a lot of dust.”

I looked over at him. The head wound was seeping again, and a new cut welled blood just above one eyebrow. Probably when he hit the roof.

“We gotta figure this out too. I mean, we’re going backwards, back to where we came,” the Mexican said.

“I could loop out deep and then swing back,” I said.

“Yeah, except in this desert you can see dust for miles… The dust is the problem.” He leaned over and looked at the gas gauge. “Less than a half tank,” He frowned.

“We’ve got gas in the back,” I threw in.

“I’m thinking this, amigo: We hit that water way or an out building; has to be something around here. We stop and kill the day, and then tonight we run across the desert to the other side of Phoenix… I got to meet someone there.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I agreed.

“Okay, so take the next road that crosses, slow down to keep the dust down and let’s start looking for a place to hide out for the day… We’ve got enough gas in the back we can get a long way before we need to find a station if we don’t burn it up running in circles and backtracking.”

I slowed the truck and began heading to the right, east.

“One of those towers will do… High voltage lines? Something like that, but that will hide us if we drive right up to it,” the Mexican said.

We drove to a tower in the distance on a dirt service road that circled it and continued to the north: I had my doubts, but I pulled the truck up close to the tower and shut it down. The silence held for a few moments, I rubbed at my eyes with a thumb and forefinger, “Jesus, I’m shot.”

The Mexican laughed and then began to choke. He rolled down the window and spat a mouthful of blood onto the dry sand. “Poor choice of words,” he said. He chuckled once more and then closed his eyes and sagged against the door.

I swallowed hard, leaned against my own door, and watched the dust thicken as it settled onto the battered hood of the old truck.

Back On The Road

I awakened just after sundown. The desert was already turning cold, the sweat from the day drying on my face and giving me chills. The Mexican sat stoically, smoking, flipping the ashes out the open window. The head wound had stopped again, and the new gash over the eyebrow had crusted over. I shivered once more as I started the truck and drove out onto the service road. Funny place, the desert; boiling hot all day long yet extremely cold at night. I drove as he gave me directions.

We stopped just before dawn at a gas station in the middle of a small desert town on the other side of Phoenix. The Mexican directed me past the dimly lit islands and over to the side of the station and the shadowy side lot.

I saw that there was a big hound sleeping in an open bay doorway on one side of the garage. On the other side a thin man with long, greasy-black hair was turning wrenches on an old Plymouth. He glanced up, nodded and I nodded back as we pulled around the side of the station and parked in the shadows.

There were payphones bolted to the side wall just past the Men’s room door. An oddity in almost any city, but apparently rural desert towns were an exception. A young girl with black hair, her back to us, was talking. She glanced around, her eyes wide as we pulled in, then she turned away and continued talking.

I had thought that payphones were a thing of the past, but I had also thought gas stations were a thing of the past too come to think of it.

“Get the chica off that phone,” the Mexican told me. He waved his gun from the seat and I opened the door and stepped out quickly.

She was waiting on me. “Fuck you, blanco, this is my fuckin’ phone.” Her face was unreadable, dark mahogany in the sparse light on the side of the station. I turned back to the car but the Mexican was watching me. He waved the gun and shook his head.

“Listen,” I tried again.

“I’m talking to my boyfriend,” She said in a angry whisper. “What? … Some asshole, some blanco,” she told the phone.

I reached out and took the phone, held it to my ear. Nothing but the wha, wha, wha of a broken connection. I took the phone and hung it up.

She turned on me, but whatever she intended to say flew away when she spotted the Mexican sitting in the open doorway of the car with the gun pointing at her. She clenched her jaw shut and stepped away into the shadows at the back of the lot.

I helped the Mexican to the phone. “Muchacho, you watch that bitch… See where she goes… What she does,” he ran about six dollars worth of change into the phone and then he just stood there, leaned against the wall, panting hard for what seemed like ten minutes. Blood dripped on his shoes: Impossibly loud in the silence; I backed up and watched the girl who was hanging in the shadows of the back lot.

He finally began to speak in a stream of Spanish so heavily accented and fast that I could make no sense of anything he said. Not even the gist of it, and I was usually pretty good when it came to Spanish. I heard a lot of it in my life on the streets and it was best to know what was being said, what might be coming your way. Play dumb like you don’t understand and they would usually spill all kinds of information.

The girl walked up and stood next to me as if waiting for permission to speak. I looked at her. Young, but not as young as I had thought she was at first glance. She was probably somewhere south of thirty, but maybe only a little south. There were hard lines around her eyes, slight pouches under them. Her skin, in the sodium lights of the lot, was a soft brown that seemed flawless and made her look so much younger at that first glance. Either way she was beautiful. My eyes fell to her breasts and just as quickly rose back up, but she had caught me. A smile rested on her mouth. She leaned in close.

“What’s up with your friend?” She asked.

I laughed. “Really? That’s what you want to know? He ain’t my friend. He’d as soon kill me as you. So you should get the fuck gone, disappear. Know what I mean?”

The Mexican coughed and then went into a brief choking spell before he recovered. He sprayed blood from his mouth and then resumed talking. Blood from the bullet wound in his lower chest was smeared all over the wall he was leaning against.

“I need some help,” she said.

“I ain’t the one you need it from: I meant what I said; he ain’t my friend and he’d kill me as soon as you.”

The Mexican glanced over. The girl stayed silent for a few moments. “Kat,” she said at last.

“Billy,” I allowed, ”but this ain’t the time…”

“Well when is the time? I’m stuck here, I need a ride. That creep-fuck in the garage wants me to…” She stopped abruptly. I shook my head and paid attention to the Mexican who kept cutting his eyes to me. Pissed off, I was sure, because the girl was hanging so close. I stayed silent.

“Well where are you from? Here?” I asked.

“Alabama,” she said.

I shook my head. She was a long way from home or hope of home.

The Mexican’s conversation was winding down. I could tell because he spoke less and less. He finally went on a long coughing spasm, spat a few more quick streams of Spanish into the phone and then just dropped the handset. He came staggering off the wall and back to the truck. I rushed to help him back in, the girl right at my side.

He was breathing hard. “We got to kill some time: Find a place.” He looked at the girl. “What the fuck is it you want, manita?” He showed her the 45 just in case she hadn’t seen it.

She turned and looked to the back of the lot, motioning with one hand as she did, and spat out a stream of Spanish that was lost on me. At the end I caught the gist of it, she was asking for a ride. I expected the Mexican to tell her no, maybe even shoot her: The guy had a bullet hole in his head and he was walking around. What could you expect from a guy like that?

When she finished she planted her feet firmly and locked eyes with him, occasionally turning to include me in her stare down.

“Okay, okay, manita. You are a little… What the fuck is it,” he turned to me smiling, ”Loca? …”

“Crazy,” the girl said, but she laughed.

“Yeah, you got that right, manita, loca, big crazy… Alabama loca… You think I’m out here playing games in the middle of the night? These mens… Compadres, they want to kill me.“ He raised the gun. “Maybe you too.”

She said nothing, but the smile left her face.

“Okay,” he waved her up into the truck to the middle of the seat. “You travel on our time… Means you stay where we stay when we stay… We move along you move along,” he shrugged. “You get where you get when you get there. No special stuff, manita. You want to get out, you get out.” He turned to me. “Kat… Loca… Means she is crazy… she’s from Mexico by way of Mississippi by way of Alabama,” he shook his head, but stopped and held it briefly.

She smiled slightly and nodded her head.

I was appalled. I never expected that, but I just nodded myself, like anyone had to ask my permission. I was tempted to clean off the wall, pick up the handset and put it back on the phone. Someone might see that, but instead I helped him into the truck and then wheeled out of the parking lot.

The Mexican passed Kat the dirty, creased map. “Make yourself useful, chica, find us a place to kill a few hours.”

The moon was fully up. The desert seemed almost as if it were lit with streetlights to me. I found a dirt road and followed it to a concrete building that was part of a complex of buildings in the middle of nowhere. The place didn’t look like it had much going for it. A collection of buildings in the desert. A few trucks sitting around. Company trucks of some sort, painted the same colors, but no name on them. I passed through the complex slowly on the dirt road that fed it. No guard, no cameras, no fencing, nothing.

“Spooky,” Kat said from beside me. Her voice startled me. I glanced over, the Mexican was sleeping or maybe dead. How long could you live with a bullet hole in your head? As if he had read my mind the Mexican opened the eye that faced me and winked. I looked away quickly; back to the complex taking a longer, harder look. I turned around and drove through it more slowly. Nothing again.

I stared out into the night. The moon was moving past the halfway point, there wouldn’t be much of the night left. I looked over at the Mexican where he sat, head back, breathing slowly. At some point the bleeding had stopped again. I looked back around at the buildings. Maybe ten, unless I had miscounted. A dozen trucks and cars sat around buildings. A large building that was probably a garage, or at least appeared to be. Doors down. A side door, closed. I drove slowly, circling the building. A back door, also closed. Maybe, I thought, the back door would be the best way inside.

I pulled back out front of the building, shifted the truck into park and left it running. The door was fifteen feet away. I waited a second and then leaned across to the Mexican.

“Hey, man… Hey, man I got to go… You hear me?” Nothing. His breathing didn’t change and it scared me. I took his machine pistol and handed it to Kat. Kat sighed, fingered the safety on it to make sure it was off, and then we stepped from the truck.

The door chuffed closed behind us nearly silently. Silence; or at least it seemed silent for a moment. The desert wind reached my ears, just a soft rising and falling of sighs as it slipped around the buildings. Nothing else. I made myself search the entire area once more with my eyes and then we walked to the door, took one more look back at the old truck, turned the knob and stepped inside the building.

I stood in the darkness and listened to the wind slip around the metal building. Kat bumped up against me. I could smell her in the darkness: Some light perfume and I began to let my mind wander, but snapped it back quickly. My hand skittered along the wall and found the light switch. Kat batted my hand away before I could turn it on though.

“Jesus… Someone will see it maybe.”

Old habits die hard, I told myself. I forced my heart to slow down and then I pulled a deep breath: Once I had my shit together again I looked around the area, my eyes now used to the lack of light.

The building was much more than a garage. There was a garage area to pull trucks into. One sat inside now, two large rolls of fencing in the back and dozens of long steel fence posts. I stepped forward toward a glassed in room just past the truck. A lunchroom of sorts, or a break room. Vending machines lined the walls and three tables sat in the middle of the room with plastic chairs scattered about them. Empty.

Off to the left a steel door separated another area. I was beginning to panic about the Mexican. We had been gone a long time, but I forced myself to twist the knob on the door. It led to a hallway. A small office, bathrooms, and the door that lead outside. I walked to the door and locked it, Kat trailing behind me. Her hand suddenly reached out and grabbed my shirt back. She gasped loudly as she dragged me to a stop. There was a glass wall that looked into the office and my eye caught something I had missed as I had walked past. There was a chair that had been pulled over to a window that looked out on the desert. A man sat in that chair, head cocked back, sleeping. I sucked a deeper breath.

I took one small step into the room, not sure what my intentions were, when Kat slipped by me, machine pistol in her hand and walked right up to the chair. The guard never moved as she flicked the safety off and fired twice into the back of his head at point blank range. I was so shocked that I froze. Time spun out, probably less than a second, but it seemed like hours. I could hear heavy breathing in the closed in room and I assumed it was me. I fought to slow it down for a few moments before I realized it was the guard. Heavy tortured breaths. He pulled one more and then let it out slowly. His chest stilled, mouth sagged open as his body relaxed and he sagged back into the chair as he had been once more.

“Got to get him out of here,” Kat said. She seemed so calm, and it made good sense. I grabbed the armrest closest to me and together we dragged the chair from the office and out into the garage. We rolled it up to the doors and looked them over. Electric, but they could be manually raised and closed with a set of pull chains that hung beside them. Probably a nod toward electricity that might not always be available in the desert. I pulled on the chains that dropped from the ceiling and the door went up easily, squeaking as it went. We pushed the chair out across the cracked pavement and left it in back of one of the other buildings. The truck rumbled close by, the motor turning over smoothly. I could see the Mexican, head back against the seat back. A minute later we drove the truck into the garage and then worked the chains, lowering the door down once more.

Early Morning

We were on the road long before sunup. The Mexican was paranoid that the workers would be showing up before sunrise. I drove the truck with the fencing and posts in the back and Kat drove the old truck. We left it abandoned in a dry wash a few miles away. With any luck it would never be discovered. Just another weathered junker sinking into the sand.

We made another small gas station just after daybreak and waited in the truck as the Mexican made a phone call. He was back in just a few minutes.

“A little town… Somewhere up ahead,” he was looking the map over. “We get there and spend the daylight there. We go back to the other gas station tonight.”

I nodded. What else could I do. Kat said nothing, but Kat was good at saying nothing. It made me wonder when she had ever found the time to say or do anything to get herself into the jam she was in. We were somewhere far south of Arizona, most probably in Mexico, the country and the few people we saw had that look.

Trouble

I was less than a mile from the town limits when I saw the road block. I bought the truck to a screeching halt, more than a half mile away at the crest of a slight rise, nearly as soon as it had come into sight. I could see better than a half dozen heavily armed men standing along the sides of two stripped out desert trucks pulled crosswise nose to nose blocking the road. The men had immediately snapped to attention when they spotted the truck and were now staring in our direction. One of the men had quickly jumped into one of the parked trucks, and I assumed, after seeing him speaking into a hand held microphone, had probably radioed someone about them. Not good at all, I thought.

“I know these,” the Mexican said, “see that red pickup off the shoulder?”

I nodded my head.

“The ones that ambushed me earlier tonight… I recognize it. Somehow they have followed me… Only was two of them then, looks like they found company,” he cursed and then spat blood out the window.

I forced my heartbeat to slow down so I could think clearly. At first I had been positive that the men would get in the trucks and come screaming down the road after us. They hadn’t, and in fact they seemed to be watching us to see what we were going to do. “I’m open to suggestions,” I said.

“First thing, Billy,” Kat replied, “is to get the hell off the road: If they did radio someone they’re probably on the way. I saw a dirt road that cuts off to the right about a half mile back, might be smart for us to get down that so we can think this thing out, before we’re forced to fight it out right here.”

“That group will kill us,” the Mexican agreed. “Back it up and go, blanquito.”

“How far?” I asked as I punched the gas and squeezed the wheel of the truck. I bounced the truck down off the road, and the rear tires threw up rooster tails of dirt and grass as it slewed around and came back up onto the road. The tires spun momentarily dislodging the sand, then they found their purchase and propelled us back down the road and away from the road block. Behind us we could hear the low pop of rifle fire from the direction of the road block.

“Half mile, no more,” Kat said.

We were no more than a hundred feet down the road, when a pair of headlights appeared in the lane ahead of us, a beat up sedan moving toward us. A blonde haired man leaned out the driver’s side window holding what looked to be a sawed off shotgun.

“Shit,” I muttered, “What the fuck?”

“Got it,” I heard from the Mexican. I heard the wind suddenly rushing into the truck interior and I realized that the Mexican had opened the window just before I heard the loud chattering of one of the machine pistols.

The blonde haired man fired the shotgun at the same time the Mexican began to fire. I saw the flash from the gun, and heard a rattle from the front of the truck that sounded like hundreds of stones hitting the front bumper.

The machine pistol continued to chatter from the passenger side seat, and I watched as dozens of holes appeared in the body of the old sedan, almost in a straight line along the driver’s side. The front driver side tire blew out, and the car veered sharply toward our lane.

“Hold on!” I yelled as I spun the wheel and we left the road. The truck bounced when it dropped from the road and entered the ditch, but I kept it under control and without letting up on the gas angled it back toward the highway just as the car began to flip into the ditch a few feet away. I knew it would be close. Very close, I amended: A line of trees flew by on the passenger side of the truck, scant inches from the glass, and then the truck lurched once more as it left the ditch and rocketed back up onto the highway. The two vehicles missed by only inches and I had found myself looking into the lifeless eyes of the blonde haired man, hanging loosely out of the window for just an instant before the car was by us and rolling into the ditch.

I got the truck back up onto the road and floored it. When I came to the dirt road I almost blew right by it, but I managed to slow down enough to slide into the entrance somewhat under control. The tires screamed and the smell of rubber burning was strong inside the truck. I barreled through the first curve at better than fifty miles an hour. Once I was around it, and hidden from the road I slowed down. I rounded two more curves before I stopped the truck, and turned around facing back toward the main road.

Thick, choking dust from the dirt road raftered up into the air. No way are they going to sneak up on me, I thought as I watched the road and strained to listen. A few seconds later I heard the high whine of a vehicle on the highway, but it didn’t slow down and the high pitched whine of the motor dwindled away to silence in a few seconds as it continued onward, apparently looking for us on the highway.

“Must not have seen the dust we kicked up,” I said.

“Or pretended not to see it.” Kat said. When she spoke we heard a muffled explosion in the distance. “Think that was that car?”

“Could’ve been,” the Mexican said.

Kat was studying the Mexican’s map once more. “It’s a good thing we didn’t break off to the left,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“River,” she stated calmly, “about a mile or so in the opposite direction, we would have been trapped if we’d gone that way. It looks like we got open land ahead here: At least it looks that way it’s hard to tell.”

I looked back along the dirt road. Thick dust still hung above it. “There’s no way they missed us,” I said, “unless they’re blind. They had to see that dust hanging in the air, and if we keep going we’re going to kick up even more, and they’ll be able to follow it right to us.”

“I think you are right, amigo, but what else can we do?” the Mexican asked.

“Turn around and go back,” I said. I held up my hand to silence the outburst that erupted at the suggestion. “Listen; if we sit here they’re going to come back, probably with more men. If we head back to the road block now we have the advantage. I would bet the sound we heard of a passing car was one of the trucks. If so that leaves only one, and far fewer men to contend with back there. If we wait the odds will only get worse… See?”

“He is right, I think,” Kat said, “I don’t want to die any more than any of us do. Sitting here isn’t going to help us at all, going back before they have a chance to regroup might.”

“Only thing to do,” the Mexican sighed, “if I gotta die I’d rather die fighting.” He reached under the seat, felt around, pulled the last pistol out and handed it to Kat. “Don’t shoot me, chica.” He turned to me. “And don’t think this means you are running this deal, blanquito… You either, chica.”

I nodded. “So?” I asked.

“We go back,” Kat said decisively. She thumbed the safety off the pistol. The Mexican grunted a short “Yeah” which we could both tell he was not enthusiastic about.

I dropped the truck back into drive and began to move down the dirt road, gaining momentum as I neared the highway. I slowed and turned onto the highway after looking in both directions and seeing nothing. Ahead, approximately where the car had wrecked we could see greasy black smoke billowing into the hot, still air.

“Could be some of them there too,” Kat said, as she stared toward the greasy smoke in the distance. “If so I’ll be ready for ’em.” I nodded my head and brought the truck up to speed slowly to hide the whine of the motor, which would hopefully allow us to take the road block or whoever might be at the burning car by surprise.

As we neared the burning car I could see one of the stripped out desert trucks off to the side of the road, along with the red pickup that the Mexican had pointed out to me. “Looks like it,” I said calmly, as I leaned back into the seat to give Kat a clear shot through the driver’s side window.

The young, blonde haired kid from the car was a lifeless lump on the side of the road along with two other crumpled forms that I assumed must also had been in the car. A group of three men stood over the bodies. They heard the approaching truck and suddenly jumped for cover as we roared by. Kat’s pistol chattered briefly directly in front of my face and the tires of the red pickup exploded loudly. I pressed the gas pedal as close to the floor as it would go as we passed and almost simultaneously heard the sound of breaking glass from the rear of the truck, along with a steady, plunk, plunk, plunk, as bullets slammed into the tailgate. A sudden cry of pain came from Kat a split second later as several small crystals of glass flew forward striking the dashboard and the back of my head.

“What happened?” I shouted. “You okay?” I was trying to look her over and drive at the same time

“Got her,” the Mexican shouted above the roar of the engine. A second later, “Chica don’t look so good, Billy.” It sounded like, Cheeka doan luke so good, Beelee.

“Shit,” I muttered as I tried to press the gas pedal further into the floorboard. “Shit.”

The intersection where the road block had been appeared in front of us a few seconds later. Whatever had gone by us on the highway had not been the second truck. It still sat across the road, blocking the right hand lane. The left hand lane was blocked by the second truck and four men, who were not armed with shotguns I noticed as we neared, but some sort of machine pistols similar to the ones we carried. I was just about to slam on the brakes and try to turn around once more when a quick glance in the mirror showed the other truck coming up behind us. What the hell, I thought, these guy’s must think they’re playing some sort of fucking game with us. Aloud I said. “We’re screwed they’re in front of us and behind us…”

“Here,” the Mexican shoved the second machine pistol at me.

I took it and nodded grimly. ”Fuck it, we’re going through. Hold on.” I leaned partway out the window and began firing as I drove right at the road block.

The Mexican pushed Kat down flat on the seat top. He turned, leaned out the blown out rear window facing the car behind us and began firing.

Two of the four at the roadblock dropped immediately, but the other two were returning fire even as they ran for the cover of the right side truck and I could feel and hear the bullets slamming into the truck both front and rear.

I looked up at the rear view mirror and watched the truck behind us suddenly swerve and then flip. The Mexican let out a scream of triumph as he turned back to the front, and began to fire at the roadblock ahead of us. The side of the truck began to take on a chewed-appearance within seconds as both machine pistols were trained on it. Still the men behind it returned fire.

We were now less than a hundred feet from the roadblock I saw.

“Sit down!” I yelled, “Now!” I aimed the truck toward the truck nose on the right, just close enough so that I could clip the front end of it as we went past. The two men behind it realized what I intended to do too late.

The heavy work truck hit the front of the other truck harder than I expected, so hard in fact that it sent it spinning into the ditch like a toy. My rib cage collided with the steering wheel hard, but I rebounded just as quickly. The Mexican sat stiff legged, one arm jammed into the steel dashboard on that side, the other wrapped protectively around Kat where she lay half on and half off the front seat, partly spilled into the floorboards. The Airbag let go, a chunk of thick plastic hit my forehead, and then my entire sight line turned white.

The collision with the corner of the one truck and the full front fender of the other truck ripped the front fender from our truck along with most of the passenger door, but our truck was heavier by far and it passed through; scattering both of the other trucks like toys. I saw the Mexican lower himself toward the seat, folded over Kat protectively and I felt a few splinters of glass embed themselves in my cheek before I squeezed my eyes shut to protect them. The bag billowed and I thrust one hand pushing away and down so I could see.

I felt the heavy bumper of the truck torn half off in the collision let go and I opened my eyes to see it shoot up a shower of sparks as we bounced over it leaving it behind in the road. I kept the gas pedal jammed to the floor boards even though steam was beginning to pour from the front of the truck and the motor was starting to wheeze ominously.

A heavy vibration ran through the truck and as it gained more speed the vibration became a heavy shuddering that threatened to shake the truck to pieces. Two miles down the road I spotted a used truck dealership and slid the dying truck to a stop in the cracked asphalt parking lot.

“OUT!” I shouted as I quickly jumped from the truck and ran around to the passenger side. The Mexican tumbled out the window Kat in his arms and we carried her between us; struggling to reach the small doors of the office. Chained, I saw: The place was closed. I turned and fired a short burst at the aluminum and glass doors without slowing, and they shattered into a million crystals. I kicked a remaining sharp edge of glass out of the frame and we hurried inside with Kat.

I stared back out at the small parking lot expecting to see the remaining truck come screaming in, or some other truck if the one behind us had truly wrecked. I didn’t think either truck at the roadblock would be moving anytime soon.

“The suitcases,” the Mexican said turning toward the doors, “no way am I leaving them in the truck.” He was moving pretty good for a man with holes in his head and his chest.

I nodded. “I guess that other car will be along any minute. Why don’t you wait with Kat, I’ll get it,” I told him.

“I got it,” the Mexican said. As he nodded, blood once again dribbled from his forehead.

“Dude… You have a fucking hole in your head,” I told him.

“It’s not a hole… Grazed me.” He replied quickly.

My mouth fell open. I forced it shut after a second. What happened when you made the guy realize that he really did have a hole in his head? He died probably.

“Okay… Grazed… Still it’s bleeding a lot… Take care of the girl… I’ll get the suitcases before that truck comes, be right back.”

“I don’t think so,” the Mexican replied icily, “it flipped. I blew out the front tires, and I’m pretty damn sure the driver was dead at that point.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t question what he said at all. “I’ll go … See what you can do for Kat?” He nodded his head as I turned and ran back out of the showroom toward the truck where it sat still smoking.

The truck was totaled.

The metal grill-work was gone along with the bumper, and I could see now why the Mexican had jumped through the window when we stopped instead of opening the door. The door was crushed shut. Along with that both of the front tires were rapidly going flat. Probably from running over the bumper, a bullet would have blown them out immediately. A huge puddle of oil was spreading from under the truck, and green anti-freeze dripped from what was left of the radiator.

I climbed into the rear of the truck and grabbed two of the suitcases; heavy and ran for the showroom. I threw them inside, watched them slide across the wooden floor and then ran back to the truck for the other two: As I was making the second trip back to the showroom I wished I had thought to pull the truck out of sight. The steam still rising in the air from the hood area would serve as a beacon if there were others. And I was pretty sure there were. I was remembering the sound of a vehicle screaming by on the highway when we had been hiding on the dirt road. There had to be at least one more of them.

I reached the relative safety of the small office and set down the suitcases. The Mexican stood and slowly shook his head as I approached. I looked down and saw that Kat’s shirt had been cut away. One large hole had punched through her upper shoulder leaving a blue-black, bloodless hole. Her eyes blinked rapidly as I knelt beside her.

“Hey,” I said. She looked at me, pulled another breath and then her eyes slipped shut. She had a small smile on her face as if she knew some secret that I could only guess at.

I froze for a moment and then reached down and shook her shoulders.

“She’s okay, Billy,” The Mexican said. “I gave her something… We need to get her somewhere where I can stitch her up… Or you. Listen, I don’t want to sound hard or as if I don’t care, but right now, unless we want to just give up and die, we need to get ourselves in gear. If it wasn’t one of the trucks that blew by us while we were on that dirt road, and we know it wasn’t that red pickup… someone is still out there, and once they get their shit together they’ll come back for us, amigo. And there has to be some locals of some sort around here, eventually one of them is gonna show up. Federales… Maybe locals… What you need to do Billy is get us another truck so we can get back across the border and make that meeting… Put this behind us,” the Mexican said.

I looked around the showroom. “I don’t see any here, which means I’m going to have to go back outside to find one. Which means,” I looked at the Mexican, “I need you to keep watch in front; I’m going out the back door.”

I walked over to a small plywood board to one side of the double doors, and began to search through the key-tags that hung from it. “Hey, take a quick look out front and tell me whether you see a light green Ram out there, about ten years old or so,” I continued to search through the keys as he looked.

“Si, out by the road,” he replied.

“How about a two-tone red and white Chevy?”

“No veda nada… No, not out here.”

“Good,” I said as I dropped the remaining keys in a heap by the board. I had kept two sets out, apparently there were two green Ram’s, another out back somewhere along with a tu-tone Chevy that had possibilities. “Okay I’m going to get it,” I said as I turned and walked down a hallway in the direction of the back of the building, I turned back. “Kat?” I asked.

“She’s safe, amigo… Go, I’ll keep watch on her.”

I turned and walked down the hallway through a set of double steel doors and into a small garage area. I searched the garage quickly, but no red and white Chevy or green Ram resided in the shadowy interior. I walked to a set of double steel doors set into the back of the garage, pressed the bar handle, and stepped out into the back lot.

I found the Ram first directly behind the rear of the garage checked the stock numbers and after determining which set of keys went to it opened the door and got in. A low chiming greeted me as I opened the door. The Ram was one of the upper level models; it was also not four wheel drive. The tires were not much more than passenger tires and when I turned on the ignition to check the gas gauge the needle stopped just above empty.

“Fuck,” I said to myself. “this one isn’t going to do us a hell-of-a-lot-of good.”

I found the other truck farther back in the lot. It was a low end model; built more with a hunter or some other type of sportsman in mind and much better suited to our needs. Plain stark vinyl interior and the gas gauge leveled out at half when I checked it. Not great, but a lot better than the other truck and we didn’t have the time to pick and choose.

“This is her,” I told myself. I started the truck and drove out of the back lot toward the front of the dealership.

I had been tensed, expecting to hear the chatter of machine pistols while I was out back, and when I drove by the glass encased showroom and saw the Mexican crouched by the side of a car on the showroom floor I breathed a sigh of relief. I just caught his waving hands out of the corner of my eye before two men jumped out from behind one of the trucks in the front row and opened fire on me.

Too late, I thought as I realized I had left the machine pistol lying on the front seat instead of keeping it in my right hand where it should have been. I could hear the sound of a machine pistol behind me as the Mexican opened up. I did what I could. I aimed the truck at the two men; levered the door-handle and prepared to jump just as the windshield hit by several of the rounds fired by the two men was blown inward: My world faded to black.

Aftermath

I came awake with sunlight streaming in through the windshield of the wrecked truck. I looked around at the ditch but there was nothing to see in any direction. I was somewhere in Mexico, but where, I wondered. I thought back to what I could remember.

The drive into the town in the early morning had seemed uneventful right up until the attack had come. Afterward I had berated myself, cursed myself for not taking all of it more seriously, but I knew that the truth was that none of us had. None of us had and now I was the only one left. The only one left and I was alone because of that decision.

One second it had been silent; birds whistling from the trees and the next a roaring fireball had erupted from the two gunmen. The truck had lifted into the air engulfed with flame, and had come back down a split second later a twisted, shattered wreck. The roof ripped open crudely as if a giant can opener had done the job: Glass gone, body twisted. Blackened shapes, still moving, clearly seen through the flames.

I had hit the brakes, somehow convinced I had driven over something in the road. The Mexican, maybe Kat and that had distracted me further. As I had lifted my eyes I had seen the men squatting beside another truck, run forward toward the car dealership office. The truck had bounced back down, all but destroyed, and meandered across the road where it had rolled down into the ditch. That was all I had, probably all there was until now.

How long ago had that been, I wondered as I pushed my way from the steering wheel and the crumpled remains of a scorched airbag. The door levered open, a miracle, I thought, and I went to step down to the ground and fell instead. My hand clutched at the seat as I fell sideways and the strap of the machine pistol that was there came with me as I went.

A truck burned nearby. I puzzled over that, I couldn’t remember the truck at all, as I passed it I could feel the heat from the fire. I froze for what seemed like a long time trying to orient myself, make sense of what I last remembered, and what I now saw. Time did nothing to sort it out. It still made no sense. All I knew for sure was that time was disappearing and the locals, Federales or whatever there might be around these parts would be here soon. Pain had flared everywhere and the black curtain had threatened to descend once more.

I looked up, the moon was high in the sky, bloated, bright silver.

I moved slower, and while it had been close I had managed to fight past the first pain when I had moved.

My left leg was bad. Not broken, but cut badly, maybe sprung. I used part of my shirt to wrap my leg as I let my head clear. That was when the Mexican had staggered up to me dragging Kat. He said something, but I had no real comprehension of his words. I blinked and he was gone, and that was when I realized he had never been there at all.

My head was worse. Pain inside every time I tried to move too fast. It felt like liquid sloshing around inside my head, my brain shifting with it, slamming into the bone cage of my skull, and I wondered if it were true: If my brain really was sloshing around in a sea of blood, slamming into the bone cage that was my skull or just something my mind provided in explanation of the pain. As I sat the pain eased enough for me to stand. Standing helped to ease it even more and I began to search.

What was left was hard to understand at first. Pieces. An arm here, a leg there, bones blackened in the wreckage. A pool of blood where someone had lain. No other blood anywhere, and more than enough pieces and bones to make me sick. The office was empty. There was a small puddle of blood near the steel doors put I refused to believe that meant anything at all. I carefully walked the back lot, nothing. I may have gone on until I ended up in a Mexican prison cell if I had not suddenly remembered where I was and what my situation was. I had limped back into the office. Took the set of keys for the Red and White Chevy pickup and headed out back to find it. I had found the truck and yanked the door open, when I found myself doubled up and vomiting on the broken asphalt.

Vomiting had pulled the pain back full force and I found myself curled into a ball of pain once again. I forced myself up into the truck, started it and drove to the back door. A few moments later I had wrestled the black bags into the truck and was diving from the lot. I passed a small group of villagers a few hundred feet past the car lot and idled to a stop.

“Habla English?” I tried. “Habla?” I was rusty, no doubt. Was it Habla or Hablo? I couldn’t get my brain to work it seemed.

“Si,” an old woman said with a heavy accent.

“Man?… Amigo? Chica? My friends, a girl and a man? Did you see them?”

A young girl, maybe ten spoke up instead. “They took them…” She turned and pointed down the road. The old woman spoke and the child waited. “Sonora… A little place outside of Sonora. Mother thinks they will kill them or they are dead already: If they live they will ransom them. She says, Vamoose, la Federales will be here soon.”

I nodded. It was enough to know, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it now. Right now I needed to get somewhere and fix myself up. I nodded once more, and the black cloud that had been drifting closer to me descended completely and I slipped over the edge into the darkness.

Mary

The room was dark. The walls were adobe, or something made to look like adobe. I reached out one hand and touched the wall. Adobe. Smooth, cool to the touch. The little girls face suddenly appeared from the darkness. She had apparently been lying next to the bed.

“Why are you sleeping there,” I asked her. It was a wonder that I thought to whisper, and it was probably only due to my lack of water that I had.

“You are sleeping in my bed,” she whispered back.

My head was better, but my leg seemed worse. I had no idea how I had gotten here. I tried to move, to sit up and she stopped me. I got far enough up to see that my leg was heavily bandaged up past the knee. A second later I had passed out once more, sunken down into the black hole that seemed to draw me.

Sunday

I looked down at the car’s interior. Key’s hung from the switch. I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I twisted the key and the starter began to turn over: Slow, barely there, but then it picked up speed in a rush and the car stuttered to life, coughed, nearly quit, and then smoothed out and began to warm up.

The car had come from cash I had found in one of the bags. Mary, that was the little girl, had an uncle who had purchased the car and delivered it to me early that morning. I had given her some cash, but her grandmother had made her give it back. In the end that was probably for the best. I was out of whatever was going on, but all four of the bags held a great deal of cash. I had no doubt that someone would come looking for it. No sense sending up alarms by giving a poor family what amounted to a fortune. Neighbors would know: Friends; there would be no hiding it.

The muffler was loud, one side of the windshield was a stared mess, but the gas gauge stood at three quarters of a tank. I shifted the car into first and pulled from the side of the road bumping over the cracked and tilted pavement as I went.

The driving was slow going, but four hours later I reached the outskirts of Phoenix. Was I really this close to home the last few days and nights? How much time had slipped by, I wondered, but I had no answers.

When I reached Logan street I pulled into the garage and shut the door..

The old Ford sat where we had left it, blood and gore baked a deep marron to black in the heat of the garage.

Home

The leg was bad, swollen against the pants material, the rags that had been wrapped around it had stopped the blood flow, but had done nothing for infection. I sat in a kitchen chair, peeled the rags away now, taking a good part of my skin with it and looked the wound over.

Something had punched a deep hole into my leg. The area that had pulled away was oozing puss now the skin around it red and swollen. I had taken a bottle of peroxide from the bathroom, some antibiotic creme, iodine and some bandage; all of it old, but still, I hoped, useful. I scrounged up a fast meal while I worked up the nerve to work on the leg. I probably wouldn’t feel like eating afterwards.

I had no fever, and I counted that as a good thing. I finished some crackers and three bottles of cheap beer before I limped off to find what I still needed. In an old box in my grandmothers bedroom I found a small knitting needle. The point was sharp. It was wide enough to allow me to push it in to get to the abscess I was sure was there. I carried it back to the kitchen then decided maybe something more than the beer to help with the pain might help: I searched, but there was nothing stronger than the beer.

The drug store nearby probably had some pain pills I could get without a prescription, but I would have to get dressed, chance driving the little car, or worse yet the old Ford, and that was too much risk. Maybe later, I decided. I had an old prescription for antibiotics I had filled and never used. The doctor had given me enough samples to see me through, and so I had never taken the prescription. It had sat in the medicine cabinet for a few months, but I was sure that it would still be okay. Besides, it would have to be; it was all that I had. Reluctantly I limped back to the kitchen and sat on the floor with my back against the cabinets as I arranged the items I needed around me.

The peroxide came first. I poured half the bottle over the wound. It bubbled and then ran across the worn kitchen floor as it dripped from my leg. There was some pain, but the bubbling and foam that appeared told me what I had already guessed, the infection was bad.

I spun the top off the iodine, spilled a little into the dimple of the puncture wound and then inserted the knitting needle into the bottle and left it to soak in the iodine. I was reasonably sure it would disinfect it. The pain was intense when the iodine hit the raw wound, but it abated after a few moments. I picked up the needle, but just touching the wound with it sent shock waves of pain up my leg.

I stopped, stretched backwards against the cabinets bracing myself firmly. My breathing was hard and fast, tears had squirted from my eyes and stained my dirty cheeks as they rolled away to my jaw line. Sweat had instantly broke out on my brow: I couldn’t stop at a mere touch; I had to shove the needle down far enough to be sure I punctured the abscess so it would drain. I steeled myself, took a deep breath, centered the needle over the dimple and drove it down into my leg before I could think any more about it. The pain came fast, but my mind shut down just as quickly.

I had awakened hours later; the sunlight lower through the front windows. The leg was draining freely, fresh blood now, but I could see that the poison had also drained. My head felt better, my stomach more settled. I took my time and grimaced only slightly as I poured first the remaining peroxide into the wound and then the balance of the iodine. Both hurt, but the pain was nothing like it had been. Antibiotic cream and some bandage and I was finished. I sat staring down at my hands. Dirt, blood, who knew what else. I made my feet and limped off to my bedroom. A few moments later I closed my eyes where I was stretched out on the bed. The blackness finally closing in completely.

WEDNESDAY

A few days of rest had made a huge difference in how I felt and my leg had responded as I had hoped it would. It was still stiff, something was wrong in the knee, maybe, but I could walk and the more I walked the better I felt. I sat in a chair on my front porch now, drinking hot coffee: Morning was coming on: It was still early, the neighborhood was a crazy place at night, but during the daylight hours you would never know just how dangerous it could be after dark.

I had believed I would never see my own house on Logan Street again. It was both amazing and unbelievable at the same time. Like I was simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something was still going to happen. Just that uneasiness in you after something really bad happens to you. I guess you might not know about that if nothing really bad has ever happened to you.

A little work and I had managed to clean up the Ford: All while I was doing it I had no idea why I was doing it. I had driven it to the drug store, picked up more supplies and even managed to get the antibiotics prescription refilled. It had, had a refill and it had been good for ninety days. I had just made that deadline. The grocery store. There was a cord of wood that had been stacked outside the back steps that led down into the basement forever. I couldn’t remember how many years. I had never used the wood stove after the new heating system had been put in, but in the old days my grandfather had heated the entire house with it. I had promised myself that someday I would yank it out. I was glad I had never gotten around to it.

I had taken another dose of antibiotics, along with three aspirin, and had fallen asleep in my own bed and slept for… I don’t know how long, but time didn’t really matter a great deal anymore. I had slept a long time. I didn’t know how long a period and I didn’t care. I only cared that I had awakened with the headache gone, the swelling in my leg lessened, and the redness mostly gone when I redressed the wounds, and it had been Wednesday morning. That seemed unbelievable to me, but it was true. I had taken another dose of the antibiotics, skipped the aspirin, and restocked the wood stove before I ate a breakfast of canned meat and toast made on the top of the glowing wood stove.

I had been sitting there trying to figure out what to do. Something, maybe while I had slept, had worked its way into my brain and it would not leave. What if, my thoughts had asked, What if Kat was not dead? What if she had survived? Wouldn’t they have wanted to keep her alive? And the Mexican?

It troubled me because how could I know it? I had been badly injured, I had looked around, but right now in the clear light of a day removed by a few days of rest I couldn’t be sure what I had seen. What I had looked at. How well I had searched. Whether she was there, gone, dead, alive. There was no way to know, except… Well, except to go back and find out, my mind supplied.

I sat there sipping at the hot coffee looking for reasons to ignore the thought that had just seemed to drop in on me, but I could not. I had four bags full of money and who knew what all: I still had not completely checked them over, yet I had to go back. I had to be sure. And it wasn’t just about Kat, maybe she was gone, maybe she wasn’t, but what about the Mexican? They had probably ignored me because I had appeared dead. I must have appeared dead. Hell, I had been halfway to dead. They must have checked the truck, thought I was dead and left me. Didn’t that mean that the other two were alive? Wouldn’t they be? Wouldn’t they have left them if they had been dead? What good to them would they have been?

I sighed, leaned forward, and the legs of the chair came back down to the floorboards of the porch. There was nothing for it and no reason to put it off. There was nothing here. This life was dead. Dead as dog shit, as they used to say. What had happened had completely changed me. I didn’t belong here anymore. But going could get me killed, I thought.

“It could get you killed,” I said aloud. And it could, I agreed with myself, with my own thoughts, but that made no difference either. I stood drained the cup and set it down empty on the rail. A half hour later I was winding through the stalled traffic heading out of Phoenix toward Mexico.

Thursday

I sat quietly in the dark, my weapons gathered around me. I had gathered them from their own arsenals and they hadn’t even missed them. They, the people running this section of the small town in the Sonora, might think they had their shit together, but they were nothing but amateurs. They were brave because they did not expect anyone to attack them. They believed that they had bribed the right politicians and police and the townspeople were thoroughly frightened of them. Who could touch them? So they had taken no precautions at all. They took no care with what they did or how they did it. They posted guards who whiled away their guard duty playing cards and drinking.

I had looked the weapons over several times. Thought out my plans more than a dozen times: There was nothing left, but to do it.

I had seen enough to know what was going on here. The entire territory had been divided by different gangs. I had watched for the last two days and nights. Walking boldly where I wished to in the daylight, sticking to the hard shadows through the night. I couldn’t ask for a better picture. At night the small village lit up, the soldiers walked the streets. Whores that worked for the gangs plied their trade: Drunken fights erupted.

The village lights gave the outlaws a false sense of security at night. I had worked my way in and seen everything I needed to see, and then made my way back out in the gray light of morning that first day. Since then I had slipped easily back and forth across their lines as if they didn’t exist.

I had started with the wreck. It sat where I had left it, on the outskirts of the city, resting in the ditch. I had walked by on the road with some locals on their way into the outlaw village and looked it over as we passed. The car lot itself had been full of workers, but no police or Federales had been there.

Nightfall had paid dividends. I had followed a returning group on foot with prisoners and slipped right back into their protected area along with them. From there I had simply followed those they had bought in as they were pulled and shoved along the streets to a small hovel of run down shacks that bordered a huge open dumping area.

The shacks were guarded, but again they were guarded to make sure no one escaped, not to keep people from slipping in. And even that was slip shod. It had been late today before I had seen her, and I had wept freely as they had dragged her from the buildings front door along with the Mexican and a few others I didn’t recognize. Apparently they kidnapped anyone along the roads that lead through Sonora. The ransom business paid well in some cases. In other cases where ransom could not be obtained, life was cheap. They could sell those they could not ransom, work the others to death in the desert heat.

I had shuddered to think of what they might have been through over the last few days before I had made my escape and then finally decided to come back. It was too much to take in, and so I had to shut it down and follow them as they were dragged through the hard packed streets, barefoot, to another building and turned over to armed men there.

My mind had screamed at me, Do something! Do something right now! But my common sense had fought it down. That would be suicide. It would benefit no one. It would surely get me killed and probably them too if they realized that I had come here to free them.

They had not been long at the building, those that had bought them had stood around talking. Low tones, subdued, it seems they were none too happy about their own circumstances. It had been on the way back, after they had brought them back out and were headed back to their prison that I had overheard their conversation.

The Mexican was alive because they suspected that he had connections and that those connections would pay for his release. So far he had failed to contact them, but they had beaten him several times. Most likely they would kill him soon if he didn’t reach them.

Kat was a different story. She had been brought over to be looked over by a rival gang who might purchase her as part of some trade. From the sounds of the conversation they had liked what they had seen. The deal would go down tomorrow if they decided to go with it: If I intended to get them out alive it would have to be tonight.

It had not taken long to gather what I needed. I had found weapons of every kind. Rifles, pistols, knives, hand grenades even. I had stolen them and bought them to the open dump in back of the ramshackle housing where I had been hiding and watching the prison. There was nothing left to do.

The dump was the perfect place to wait out nightfall. The smell of fresh garbage loads as they were dumped had made me sure at first that I would not be able to stay there, but the same things that nearly drove me out kept everyone else away and several hours into my wait I realized I could no longer smell the putrid mounds of garbage.

A few minutes before as I sat watching the guard had changed. The night shift consisted of only two guards and they were already sharing a joint together out back of the buildings. I heard their low voices and laughter as I worked my way through the twisting mounds of garbage, bringing only what I needed, and around to the front of the house.

I hesitated at the front door. I was fairly certain there was no one inside, but I couldn’t be positive. Anyone could have slipped in while I was out in the dump and unable to see the front of the house. I closed my eyes for a moment, shifted the pistol in my hand slightly and then reached down and turned the knob.

The door swung open to a dark interior. Cold, no heat… No sounds. I stepped inside.

Midnight

It had almost gone without a hitch. It had taken me a few minutes for my eyes to adjust, but once they had I had set off through the house. I thought back on it as I bent my weight to the shovel I was using, digging more out of the bottom of the shallow grave…

As I had searched my ears had begun to tell me things too: They were upstairs; I could hear minute creaks as body weight shifted on the floors above me. I could hear weeping from somewhere above me too. The sound made a sob catch in my throat before I choked it back and headed for the stairs.

The Mexican had been out in the open, tied to a post for the railing. I had caught him in the process of trying to fight his way free. His mouth was gagged, but he immediately stopped his struggles when I came into view at the top of the stairs. I bent forward carefully, the step creaking loudly and cut the bonds on his wrists. A second later I was passing The Mexican a pistol as he worked to free his jaw up. I passed him a canteen, and The Mexican sipped carefully, his lips blistered and cut, before he handed it back. His voice was scratchy, rusted.

“Kill the ones out there?” The Mexican asked in his whisper croak. His eyes were hard.

I shook my head. “They’re getting high… Won’t be a problem… Where is Kat?”

The Mexican motioned with his head and we started down the hallway. He stopped in front of a door. “One of the guards went in a little while ago… Probably… Probably…” He shook his head.

I whispered, “We’ll go on three, fast, but don’t let the door make a lot of noise. Try to stab him, not shoot… Don’t want to alert those others.” I held the Mexican’s eyes until he nodded.

I turned the knob slowly and counted down quickly. My shoulder hit the door, but it didn’t give completely, just flexed, cracked loudly, and then sprang back at us. I cursed under my breath.

“Take it down, take it fuckin’ down,” the Mexican whisper croaked.”

The door splintered and finally opened. The guard inside was waiting, a gun in one hand, the form of a nude female beside him, a vague shape tied to a chair across the room. A hand rose and pulled the gun down. The gun went off as we were tackling the man, and then everything went bad fast.

I drew my knife across his throat to cut off a scream that had begun, but I knew it was too late. The Mexican scrambled up and made his way to the chair and began untying the woman there. I bent, pushed the man aside and saw Kat. She moved quickly and I pulled her to her feet. We were out the door seconds later, all armed with the pistols I had bought, scrambling down the stairs two at a time. The front door burst in as we hit the bottom of the stairs and the two men that burst through never stood a chance. We shoot them point blank and then ran over the top of them as they were still falling and spilled out into the night.

The whole area was on alert. The guards were out, dogs running everywhere, I saw. The dogs were no problem. It wasn’t like the movies, the dogs didn’t know who they were looking for. We managed to make it three blocks north, nearly out, before I realized that the other girl the Mexican had grabbed had been hit. She stumbled, he pulled her to her feet, but she stumbled again and when I looked back I saw the blood that covered her entire side and soaked her leg. There was no time, I bent and took her over my shoulder, hearing her cry out in pain as I did, feeling my leg scream out as well; threatening to buckle, but there had been no other option. We had made the open desert a few moments later and had, had to stop while we planned our next move.

There were too many of them. Dozens searching, but they were not trained to do it. Most of them had never hunted, didn’t know how to watch or even what to look for. I had lain the girl, Amber I found out later, on the ground and Kat had pulled her into her arms and held her, both crying silently. Behind us, several blocks back at the house where they had been held the grenades I had rigged to a timer finally went off. The men scattered, ran, started to regroup and then began to run through the streets back to where they had been. I picked up Amber again and ran through the darkness, sticking to the deepest shadows for the next half mile until we were well beyond the city and the gangs that were out looking for us.

The Mexican and I collapsed onto the ground and Kat held Amber as she died. Dawn had not been far away so we had taken refuge in a nearby barn and waited the day away. No one had come near. We had rested up during that time and when it was dark once more we had left the shelter and brought Amber with us…

Now I bent to the shovel once again. We had all taken turns and the hole was nearly done. I took a deep breath, stepped away from the hole and the others nodded. A second later we were lowering Amber into the hole.

She was dressed in the same blood soaked clothing we had taken her from the house in just a short time before: Her face pasty white and smeared with dried blood, but peaceful nonetheless. A half hour later we were moving again, staying to the fields as we went and away from the dirt road that meandered through the countryside. We had a half mile to travel, a short distance, I had thought when I had hidden the old Ford I had driven here in, but a long walk now that we knew they might be anywhere looking for us. We finished up the trip a short time later and made our way to the falling down garage next to a flattened diner where I had hidden the truck.

We had traveled through the long night with virtually nothing. No water. No food, a couple of coats and that was it. The truck was a welcome sight with its cache of food and water, and we had spent the next hour just sitting quietly, eating, replenishing our fluids, not talking.

“You were dead,” Kat said at last. “The guy went over, kicked you in the head, was going to shoot you in the head, but he decided not to because you were dead.” Her eyes were bright, tears perched on the lids ready to fall. They fell as The Mexican spoke.

“I couldn’t do anything, Billy. Nothing.”

I caught my own emotions. They had been right on my sleeve for days, it seemed. I took a minute and composed myself.

“Alive. I was alive. I came to and thought all of you had died. I was in bad shape, bleeding, leg messed up… I thought you were dead.” I stopped, gained my composure once more and then started again. “ Later, back in Phoenix, I couldn’t remember if I looked well enough: If I remembered it right, If I made sure you were dead, but I decided I didn’t. I didn’t and it ate at me.” My throat tightened up and I had to stop. “So I came back,” I said at last.

Kat came to him and hugged him. “Thank you,” she said. “I am glad you did.”

The Mexican nodded and we all fell silent once more. Kat wiped at her eyes and then stood and walked away. “Sorry… They were about to trade us… Amber…” She choked. “Amber and me.” The tears nearly overtook her once more, but she fought them back.

“Okay… So we go back to Phoenix again… I have my house set up. We go back and decide what’s next.” He looked down at his leg. Blood had seeped through the bandages. “Leg’s shot,” I said by way of explanation. The silence held for a second.

“I should look at that,” Kat said.

“Later,” I agreed. I looked at the Mexican. “Ready.”

“Yeah. Yeah I am.”

“Okay, let’s get going. I want to be as far away from this fucking place as I can be by daylight tomorrow.” A few minutes later we were running a fast as we dared in the moonlight, heading back toward Phoenix.

Phoenix

I sat on my front steps and quietly stared over Linden street. The Mexican had made a few phone calls and set up a new meet to conclude whatever deal he had been meaning to conclude. We were nearly a week to the day late, but he was determined to conclude it and no amount of argument from me could dissuade him. In the next few hours we would leave and head back to the garage where we had met Kat and conclude the deal.

His head wound looked ominous to me. Swollen. Discolored and angry red at the edges of the entry wound and oozing puss. I had caught him looking it over in the mirror, but he had refused to discuss it. How could you live like that I asked myself for the hundredth time. You couldn’t, I acknowledged. You couldn’t.

“Hey,” Kat from beside him. I had been slipping deeper into thought again.

“You were drifting away,” She said, as if she had read my thoughts.

She did that a lot lately, caught me, or I drifted a lot lately, maybe both. “I was… I was thinking about all of it. I think we should go with him and then light out on our own once it’s over,” I raised my eyes to hers. We hadn’t spoken of the change in our relationship but we were spending the nights together. It had simply happened and I didn’t want to lose that.

“As legit as anything in this world,” she shrugged. She looked around the street and other houses. “Can’t stay here… I know you know that.”

“I know.” I looked at her and waited for her acknowledging nod.

“We can head to Alabama… I know the coast pretty well… We can be there in a few days,” Kat added.

“Anybody join this conversation?” The Mexican asked as he walked out of the house and sat down next to Billy. Billy Laughed.

“Join in. We were talking about Alabama… After,” Kat said.

“Ah… It’s a no-brainer though, isn’t it?” The Mexican asked.

“We think so,” Billy agreed. His face was pensive.

“Got concerns, amigo?” The Mexican asked.

“Same old stuff. Really it’s all about whether you are coming with us or not,” Billy said.

The Mexican nodded. “I think so… I’ve been thinking about it too,” he sighed.

Kat raised her eyebrows.

“The finality of it all. I mean finishing this is a matter of honor… Not to these scum… These putas, but to me,” The Mexican said after a lengthy pause.

Billy nodded. “I get it. It’s the same for me. That’s what we were just talking about. So,” Billy brushed his hands against his, jeans and then stood from the step. He flexed his leg. Stiff but pain free. It needed exercise to work it out. “I guess we should go get a truck and get moving.”

Kat and The Mexican stood with him. “Where you think for a decent truck?” The Mexican asked.

“Probably check out on the strip. There are a few custom shops out there, about a dozen car dealerships and a few truck dealerships. I’d like to find something setup for off road. Save us some time screwing around… Probably save road time too. Those places are used to cash deals. It won’t raise eyebrows.”

“Makes sense,” The Mexican agreed.

Billy reached over and retrieved his rifle from where it rested against the porch post. He slung it over his shoulder and shrugged once to make it comfortable. “We,” he stared into the open doorway into the house and then stopped. “We don’t need anything here. We were running low all the way around, about time to resupply.” He took two quick steps to the door, tugged at the handle and began to close it. He stopped with the door still partway open and laughed uneasily. “Guess it doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. Kat smiled, a small, sad smile and she shrugged and turned away.

“Not really,” The Mexican agreed.

Billy released the door handle, turned and stepped down off the porch. He turned and looked at the house once they were a few hundred feet away. He walked backwards, taking it in for the last time. He turned and caught up to Kat and The Mexican. He didn’t look back again.

The Gas Station Again

We almost made it in one piece. We stopped at a little diner just over the border to wait out the afternoon. The place looked mostly deserted, empty at least of bad guys. A half dozen vehicles scattered across the lot. A worn out church bus, parked to one side with a dozen villagers gathered around it. Flies buzzing, the sun beating down hotly and a few scrawny chickens pecking at the hard pan of the parking lot.

We had all three climbed out of the truck to stretch our legs after looking around, but all three of us had not been so complacent as to leave our weapons behind and it was good we had brought them with us as just as we crossed through the glass front doors into the cool interior of the small diner they had opened up on us from the direction of the bus. We scattered in different directions. I turned as I jumped sideways through the storm of flying glass and saw the old church bus lurch forward, back around and then head for the diner at a crawl, the driver ducking down behind the wheel and then stealing looks over the top of it occasionally to adjust course. I shut everything else out, focused on the spot on the steering wheel rim where I had seen him and then squeezed off a shot when he popped back up. He went down; I was sure I hit him but there was not time to wonder.

As the truck lumbered toward us we opened up on it in an effort to stop it. I rolled, re-gained my feet, and opened up on two men running alongside it and trying to use it for cover. We had the advantage. The diner was cool and dark inside, the parking lot was bright sunshine and we had no trouble seeing the men in it. They were both dead before the bus rolled over them, dragging one of the men with it as it suddenly turned hard right and skimmed past the front doors; the driver bouncing lifelessly behind the wheel, and then headed back toward the road and crashed into the ditch on the opposite side, a long red smear marked its trail across the road.

I turned to look back for the Mexican, but he was already stepping through the shattered glass and stepping around the long countertop he had apparently been behind: Limping I saw; an alarming amount of blood seeping from one leg, staining that leg of his pants nearly red. I became aware of a stinging sensation on the side of my cheek, and just as I raised my hand to touch my face the Mexican spoke up.

“Let me see,” he said, pushing my hand away from my face, “Amigo, you got hit.”

I thought at first that it had been the flying glass from the front windows, but he quickly crushed that train of thought when he said. “Looks like one of the rounds that took out the windows got you, Billy. It’s gonna scar, but you’ll live.” He sounded calm as he spoke.

I raised my eyebrows, “You okay?”

“Took one in the leg, I think,” he replied.

The entire right pant leg was shredded as well as being soaked with blood, and as he carefully pulled the material away from his leg to get a better look, I could see the torn flesh beneath. I remember thinking, It didn’t look good. I had him lean on me as we hurriedly headed for one of the booths at the front of the diner. I brushed the glass away from the cheap vinyl set top and eased the Mexican down on it. I pulled out a small pocket knife, and quickly cut away the remainder of the pants leg.

The wound was bad, I could see, but thankfully it didn’t look life threatening. With all the blood I had been convinced I would find that one of the large arteries of the leg had been nicked or even severed. That wasn’t the case however and the flow of blood was already beginning to slow. I folded the pant leg into a small square, and held it over the wound to further slow the bleeding. “Billy,” he said, “I got a first aid kit in the suitcase. Stitch it up. Green one… Bolsillo… Side pocket… Zippered.”

“Going,” I said. I sprinted across the parking lot, looking everywhere at once, I saw nothing at all, but, I reminded myself, we had seen nothing at all when we had driven in here. I grabbed the green suitcase and opened the side flap like he told me and pulled out a flat leather wrapped package from inside. I kept my eyes searching outside as I came back, but I saw nothing. The only sound was of the bus which was still running in the ditch across the road. I opened the first aid kit, knelt and the Mexican took a container of dental floss and threaded the curved needle.

“You’ll have to do it,” he said.

I nodded, took the needle and began stitching as best I could: A rough job, but the Mexican said nothing as I did it. I clipped the ends with a pair of fingernail clippers that were in the kit.

“Dios,” he said as I finished, but a small smile appeared over the tight set of his teeth.

I smiled back, surprised that either of us could, but a glance over at the crumpled form of Kat’s body quickly wiped away the smile She was pushed up against the back of the counter. Even from here I could see that her head looked strangely misshapen. I began to rise, on auto pilot I guess and the Mexican caught my forearm and pulled me back down.

“Don’t,” the Mexican said. “It isn’t pretty. They got her immediately… Nothing we can do for her…”

I swallowed hard several times, fighting back tears. “I’m getting another truck,” I said as I turned and walked over to the front doors. “Stands to reason they know what we are driving.”

Three of the vehicles in the lot were trucks. I found a set of keys in an old sun faded GMC. This truck was old and stripped down with a bare interior, and nearly bald tires. It turned right over though and I thanked God mentally for being in ranch country where most trucks were like this, got in and a few minutes later we were idling our way back across the lot. The Mexican was quiet, resting against the passenger door. “How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Not bad, but I am about to feel much better, amigo,” he said, raising a small pint of whiskey. He took a deep sip and then offered it to me. I took a pretty good hit and the heat that burned its way into my belly seemed to straighten my head out quickly. I handed the bottle back and he made it disappear inside his jacket.

I eased up onto the roadway. It was clear in both directions. My eyes swept over the drying smear of blood across the road, that was now drawing flies, and I shuddered involuntarily. I turned right and found a small campground a few miles back down the road, just outside of the town.

The place was deserted so I drove down into the dirt parking area and parked by what was advertised as a lake but looked more like a swampy pond. The roof line of a rusted Chevy Impala rose just above the foul smelling water. It was near dawn. The sun a red line on the horizon. I wore no watch, but the Mexican kept track of time on his.

The Mexican was bad off, coughing and spitting blood out of the window every few minutes. But he said nothing. Never complained.

We sat and watched the sunrise, listening as the birds woke in the trees and began to call back and forth to each other. Finally he looked at his wrist one last time, just as morning was coming on full, and told me to drive to the gas station.

Along The Border

I had thought the place would be crowded with cops; gunmen, something, but I was wrong. The hound dog still slept in the open garage bay doorway, and the thin man with the greasy-black hair was now wrenching on an old Chevy. The hanging phone handset had been replaced, the blood cleaned away except on the wall where it had dried to a maroon smear. Untouched.

“Check that fuckin’ phone… Make sure it works,” the Mexican said. I got out and checked for a dial tone, nodded at the Mexican, just hung it back on the hook and it immediately rang in my hand.

“Well answer the thing… Dios,” the Mexican spat. He went into a coughing spasm. I picked up the phone, and an unintelligible string of Spanish launched itself into my ear. I held it away. “For you,” I said.

He groaned and levered himself from the truck, stumbled, and then made his way to the pay phone. He took the gun with him. He spoke calmly into the phone for a short time. No rushed spate of Spanish this time, but a low murmur that I could not make any more sense of than I had the rushed torrent. After a time he took the headset from his ear, pressed it against his chest and spoke to me in a near whisper.

“Take this fuckin’ gun, amigo.” He handed me the gun that was all splattered with gore and he pulled a second one, equally messy, from his coat pocket. “Watch our backs, blanquito” he told me. Thankfully when the gun hit my palm I automatically thumbed off the safety.

As I stood there, feeling how solid the weight of that gun was in my hand. How calming that could be, I heard the suck of rubber against the asphalt, the way it will when the road is really hot; the way it will get sometimes in the desert. And the morning was hot, the road hotter still.

The car slowed and pulled into the station. I saw none of that but only perceived it from what my ears told me. A short conversation in Spanish between someone in the car and probably the thin man with the greasy-black hair wrenching on the Chevy, and I knew that someone would be coming around the side of the gas station in a matter of seconds.

The Mexican heard the same things. He hung up the phone and put one finger to his lips, lurched his way back over to the truck and leaned against the front of the grill for support. His gun pointed over the hood. Not knowing what else to do I slipped back behind the passenger door and followed suit.

“We should be good… Don’t just start killing… But you be ready ’cause you never know, muchacho.”

Three of them came around the corner. Two men I hadn’t seen, and the greasy-haired thin man. He stopped short when he saw the guns aimed at him.

“Dios Mio,” he stuttered.

“Vamos,” the Mexican said. The greasy-haired thin man slipped backwards and then disappeared around the corner. The other two, hard eyed older men, stood their ground. No weapons in their hands. Silence held for what seemed a long while.

“Well, you got it,” one of the oldsters asked. It came with such a thick accent that I had to take the time to figure out what he’d said… “Chew gat et?”

The conversation switched to a quick flurry of Spanish then. That went back and forth between the two men and the Mexican for a few minutes and then silence came back so hard I could hear a bird calling in the distance: The sound of a big rig on the highway, and that was a few miles away. One of the oldsters nodded, turned, and walked away. He came back around the corner of the building a few minutes later with two large duffel bags and tossed them on the ground between us. They slid a couple of feet towards us and then stopped in front of the truck.

“Get them bags, amigo,” the Mexican told me.

I looked at him like he was crazy. But of course he was crazy and there was nothing I could do except come around the hood; pistol in one hand and my eyes on those two older men.

I stopped by the hood when I suddenly realized that I had a problem. I could not pick up both duffel bags without putting the gun away. I debated briefly, stuffed the gun into the waistband of my pants and picked up the bags.

“In the cab,” the Mexican said. I Levered the door of the cab open and set them inside. “Get them suitcases.”

The two men came forward and lifted out the suitcases from the bed of the truck. The Mexican and the two others stared at each other for a few moments, then the oldsters walked away. I watched them turn the corner and they were gone.

I started to get back into the truck when the Mexican wagged his head and put one finger to his lips. I pulled my gun back out, scared to death. It was maybe a second after I got the gun back in my hand that the two came back around the corner, looking to take us out.

I shot first. Unintended: Pure reaction; the gun was in my hand and happened to be pointed in that direction and I fired out of reflex. One of the oldsters heads exploded. Something tugged at my collar and then the Mexican dropped the other guy. A second… Less than a second and it was over. The silence didn’t come again, this time there were sounds in the silence. The hound dog up and baying. Excited voices in Spanish somewhere close by.

“Now we go,” the Mexican said. “Now we go, amigo.”

I needed no coaching I was in the truck and backing out of the gas station fast. The rear tires hopping and screeching on the pavement. A black Caddy sat on the tarmac, just past the pumps, engine idling. The doors hung open.

“Stop!… Stop!” The Mexican yelled. “Get them bags back!”

I stalled the truck; stopping without pushing the clutch in, ran to the Caddy and got the bags along with two others from the back seat. I threw them all into the back of the truck and I had started back to the driver side when the Mexican shot.

I didn’t think I just hit the ground and I didn’t come back up until the Mexican began cursing at me to get back in the truck. I looked back at the gas station when I did. The man with the greasy-black hair lay sprawled in the open stall. A shot gun off to one side. The hound dog stood stiffly, head in the air, howling. Blood ran from the man’s body toward a floor drain. Voices raised in Spanish, loud; somewhere close by. And the Mexican yelling at me. I threw myself into the cab, got the truck started and got out of there fast. And here I am now running across the desert heading to Mexico.

Sunday Night

The rest of this time has been fast driving. I kept expecting the cops at any moment, but they never showed up. I didn’t even know the Mexican had been shot again until later on when I realized he was coughing up less blood and sounded as though we were drowning instead. I could not even say when it was that he died, but sometime late afternoon if I had to guess. He had not spoken in some time and when I looked over at him his lips had turned gray.

When I pulled him out to bury him in a little dry wash off the highway I saw a new hole in the upper part of his chest. Right through the shirt and into the lung on that side, I guessed. Two chest shots, and a head shot, and he had still been going. I couldn’t see how he had lived so I wasn’t surprised that he had died.

He died well. As well as can be expected considering it’s dead after all. He didn’t cry or beg, or curse. He just died: Slipped away.

More than a week of hell with this man and I didn’t even know his name. There had to be some sort of irony in there, didn’t there?

I thought about the girl, Kat, what had she been doing out in the border towns all alone? No answers. No answers for any of it.

After I buried the Mexican I checked the suitcases and duffel bags. After all, they were mine now and I wanted to know what everybody was in such a hurry to die for.

The duffel bags were no surprise. They were stuffed full of money and guns. They were big duffel bags. They held a lot: An awful lot.

Two of the suitcases were surprises. I thought drugs, what else do people get killed for? But, no.

Of the others, one held more money, clothes and passports. I.D. That sort of stuff. All with the Mexican’s picture. It was the other two suitcases that shocked me. One contained the body of a dead dog. Shot full of holes and stuffed in there.

The other held the head and hands of someone I was sure was wishing he had them back. The last two suitcases did contain drugs. More than I’d ever seen in one place before. cocaine. Neat little bricks of it. Had to be a few million dollars right there, And maybe easy money too, I found myself thinking. Then I thought of the girl again, Kat and I shuddered. She was dead because of it. So was the Mexican, but the Mexican had been in it. She and I hadn’t.

I took out the money and added it to the duffel bags. I buried the cocaine and the dog along with the Mexican. I had no idea what the suitcases were all about. I still don’t and I don’t want to know. I do know there was a fortune in cocaine and I did not want to tempt myself with it.

I got the truck cleaned up at one of those self car washes on the Mexican side of the border, turned off the highway with a full tank of gas a few miles up the road from there, and I’m running in the moonlight. I’ve got the Mexican’s map. I hope to find a road before I run out of gas. I figure I’ll work my way down deep into Mexico as far as I can go. I don’t know from there, there hasn’t been time to think about where…


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Mexico BoundHay Vida SeriesAmerica the Dead: Manhattan