"That's it! That's it! I'm changing my number! It's one thing
when you've got the telemarketers calling you until you could
puke. It's a whole other thing when someone else's bill
collectors are bugging you every day," I said to no one but
I slammed my phone down on the table. The number was mine for almost three years now and they were still calling for some chick named Cassie. Evidently, this was a chick that didn't know how to work and pay her bills, but when I get a phone call from the county sheriff's office stating there was a warrant out for her arrest that was the last straw!
The sheriff's office was more than cooperative when I complained to them about the situation. They took my number off their list, but I still needed to change it. After all, what kind of wacko was this woman anyways?
It took only minutes to call the phone company and get the number changed. I was glad. It'd been a scorching 101 degrees outside that day and I was in no mood to put up with anyone else's shit.
I grabbed an ice cold beer and sat in front of my air conditioner watching my favorite detective show. The sun finally went down and I started to doze. It'd been a long, hard day at work already and I just wanted to get some sleep before I had to go to work again.
The hours passed slowly and the house was quiet.
The phone rang.
I rubbed my eyes and moved my red hair out of my face.
The phone rang again.
"What the hell?" I said into the darkness as I picked up the phone.
"It's done. We don't have to worry about her anymore. I've taken care of it."
"Who is this?"
"Oh come on, don't give me a raft of crap dude, you know who this is... You know we're not supposed to say our names over the phones."
"No, really, who is this?" My heart raced.
"Don't play games with me! I said it's done. I'll call you in a couple of hours and we'll go from there." He hung up.
I didn't know what to do.
It's probably one of those idiot friends of mine playing a joke on me.
I know who it is, it's Dan getting me back for last weekend when I skipped out on the family camping trip. That's who it is! I started to call Dan's number.
Wait a minute, I thought, I didn't give my new number out to anyone. I only had it for a few minutes when I fell asleep. It couldn't be Dan.
Am I dreaming? That's it. I'm having a dream. That's what it is, that's exactly what it is. I'm having a dream.
Okay, so we're going to try this again. I'm going back to sleep. It's three a.m. and I still have time for a cat nap before I have to go to work.
If I get to sleep right now I have three hours left. Not a problem..
I couldn't concentrate on anything at work all day. I left my phone at home, in hopes to ignore any and all phone calls which was really sad because I just got the new number last night. My buddy, Dan hadn't even gotten the phone number,yet, and I was reluctant to give it to him.
Dan called me on the office phone and we'd decided to hit the coffee shop for lunch. I figure a boost of energy might help me out a little with the pile of paperwork on my desk.
We ordered our coffee and sat down at the booth next to the window overlooking the ocean.
"What the hell's wrong with you today, man? You look like hell. Shit, I got an ex wife that looks better than you do today."
I grinned at Dan. He always had a joke for every occasion and I appreciated it.
The story of the new number came blurting out of me like I hadn't talked to anyone in days. Dan probably thought I sounded like some stupid school girl, but I couldn't help it.
"So, what you're saying is some dude offe'd some bitch because he got pissed at her and she wasn't worth a shit. Now come on, Jerry. Let's get a clue here, he probably thought you were his buddy and he was just telling him he felt like he wanted to off that bitch, that's all. We all talk smack when we get hurt by someone we love. We're human, sometimes we're dumb like that," he shrugged his shoulders.
"Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just putting too much into one lousy phone call. I'm sure that's what he meant," I didn't believe myself. I don't think Dan believed me either, but he dropped the subject.
"So, you up for a Friday night beer night or what?" Dan said, paying for the coffee.
"Yeah, I could pound down a couple of beers," it might take the edge off of things, I thought as I got into Dan's vehicle.
"I'll be at your place about 5:30 tonight."
The rest of the ride back to work was spent in silence. The only thing we heard was the car's engine and the hustle and bustle of the town at work.
The last five hours of work dragged. There wasn't enough paper work to keep my mind off my troubles or the phone calls. The five o'clock bell rang and I practically ran for my car.
I smiled when I saw my Mustang. It certainly was a beautiful car and I loved it. There was nothing better than cruising around in my convertable, red Mustang on a hot day.
I started up the engine and listened to it's purr. I smiled at myself as I took the top down and sped out of the parking garage. I felt my red hair whip around in the wind. It made me smile after a long, hard day at the office.
Dan and I were best friends. We'd been best friends since the beginning of time. We caught salamandors together. We hated girls together. We liked girls together. We shared everything life had to offer and we did it together. We were so tight that skinny jeans would've been jealous.
Now we worked together. Last week we went car shopping and bought our first expensive vehicle together. He wound up with one of those stuffed shirts Mercedez Benz. He said the black matched his dark hair and brown eyes. I told him he settled down so much he'd be married before the end of next year. Me? I was sticking with the car I'd always wanted. My Ford Mustang convertable and it was red. I told Dan it'd match my red hair and green eyes.
I smiled at the thought.
The nearest convenience store was up the road. I stopped there to purchase the beer and head for home.
The town of Belmont, Washington was a small town (Dan used to complain that he could spit through the whole thing). The population of Belmont was a whopping 5000 people. It drove Dan completely out of his mind. I always tried to tell him that he belonged in the big city, but he wouldn't move with me.
Home sounded extremely inviting this evening and it was even more inviting with a twelve pack of beer and a pizza for dinner. I smiled as I got out of my car and headed to the apartment.
The cops were already out in front of my apartment building, arresting drunks. I didn't understand how people who didn't work could afford to drink. Or how someone could start so early in the day, but, clearly, were drunk and clearly,had a disagreement of some kind already.
I shook my head and unlocked my door. My phone blinked telling me there was a message on it.
"Damn it," I didn't want to see it. I put the beer in the fridge and cracked one open. I grabbed the remote and turned on the tv.
The phone kept blinking at me and I kept staring at it.
"Damn it," I said, and picked up the phone to listen to my messages.
"Where the hell are you?" The male voice on the other end of the message sounded irritated, "You said you'd meet me at the restaurant an hour ago. What happened? Belmont and 5th at 6:00~Be there!"
"You have no more messages," the female voice said.
I hung up the phone.
What the hell was going on here? I slammed the phone down on the table and opened up the pack of cigarettes I bought at the convenience store.
I took a long, hard chug of my beer.
What's going to happen at 6:00 on Belmont and 5th street? I almost didn't want to know.
I'd be freaking crazy if I went over there to look. If something bad was going to happen, or already happened, I could phone the cops. If it was a party I'd be up for that.
I doubt its a party.
No, that would be the stupidest thing I'd done since I dated my cousin a year ago. I didn't know she was my cousin. It's not stupid if you don't know it's just dumb.
Yea, but this is different. I do know. There's something that's telling me not to go. There's something in the back of my mind that's telling me all of this is wrong. Whatever this is terribly wrong. I know it. I can feel it. Every part of my being is telling me not to go.
My God, my hands are sweaty. I've got goosebumps up and down my arms. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up, and my heart is pounding out of my chest.
That should tell you enough, dumb shit, you know you shouldn't go. Why are you even contemplating it?
I don't get it.
The phone rang.
"Oh shit," I said out-loud. "Don't answer it. Let the answering machine pick it up. They should be used to that by now," I wiped my sweaty hands on my blue jeans and took another long, hard swallow of my beer.
Man, that tasted good.
I looked at the clock. It was 5:55 pm.
I waited for the light to flash and listened to my messages.
"I'm here. Where the fuck are you?" Male voice.
"You have no more messages," the female operator said.
By the time Dan walked in I'd worn a hole in the floor.
"What the hell's wrong with you?" He asked me giving me the I-think-you've-gone-crazy-look.
I dialed my messages and handed him the phone.
His eyes were huge and I knew what he was thinking. I knew exactly what he was thinking.
"Oh God, what are we going to do?" Dan grabbed a beer and chugged.
"We? What are we going to do? We aren't going to do anything. We are going to sit here and watch some sports, play some cards and gamble away our frickin' money like we do every Friday night. We are going to drink us some beer. That's what we are going to do," I concluded. It sounded reasonable. In fact, it was the only time our Friday nights sounded reasonable.
"I'm game," Dan said and chugged his beer again, "Get some cards and deal us a hand," Dan said as he sat down on the chair next to the coffee table.
I dealt the cards. Dan took one look at his hand, sat it down and said, "Gin," I laughed.
"We're not playing Gin," I chuckled some more.
"You didn't tell me what we were playing. I assumed because you dealt me a Gin we were playing Gin."
"Who the fuck are we kiddin'?" Dan said, "We both know what we're doing. Now whose car are we taking?"
"Dan, we can't go. My heart is beating so freaking fast and hard that I can't hardly breathe."
"Are you a man or a mouse, Jerry?" He started laughing remembering the Tom and Jerry cartoon we used to watch when we were younger and I just glared at him.
"We're taking my car. Shit, yours can't take the corners." I said as I chugged my last beer, grabbed my keys and headed outside.
"What do you mean my car can't take the corners? Are you making fun of my Benz?"
He looked hurt.
"Damn right, get in."
"Did you get the phone?" Dan said.
"Of course I got the phone. You think I'm stupid or something?"
Dan raised one eyebrow at me as we squealed tires pulling out of the parking lot.
"Holy crap, dude, slow down! What the hell are you doing? You want the cops?" He asked, grabbing the dashboard.
I slowed down. He was right. If we kept going like that I'd be in jail for a DUII for sure as I beer burped the chug of beer I just took out of the bottle.
"Charming," Dan said with a look of disgust on his face.
"What are you all of a sudden Mr. Manners?"
I screeched the car to a halt. "What the hell are we doing?" I asked, looking at Dan. "What the hell do we expect to find? If we do find something how in the hell are we going to tell the cops we found something? Then, if we get caught by the bad guys how in the hell are we going to tell them we knew where they were? Are they going to believe they told me?"
I looked at Dan.
He sat in complete silence.
I waited. I wanted an answer to the questions.
"We are having an adventure! That's what we are doing and we'll cross those roads when we get there....if we get there," he said picking at his manicured fingernails.
"Let s just go see what we got at the address that's all," he concluded. "Drive, Nerd, drive!"
"Okay, this is 5th street and Belmont is right around the corner and down the block," Dan said motioning to the right.
"No kidding? I've lived here all my life, too," I couldn't stand it when Dan acted like he knew it all. It really drove me crazy. Especially since we've both lived here all of our lives and he knew I knew where it was. Maybe he's just nervous, I thought as we rounded the corner of Belmont.
The street looked deserted. Old buildings and warehouses stood on the sides of the streets, alone. Their walls torn and dilapidated. Paint peeling off the sides and gang artists leaving their signatures on every wall.
We searched the area and didn't find anything funky. An old man, walking a couple of dogs, stopped by the large garbage can with a huge bag of garbage. He dragged it along the sidewalk until he reached the can. It was such a large bag he had to use all of his body weight just to lift it over his head and roll it into the can.
Dan and I looked at each other.
"You never know, Dan, you never know..." I said and shrugged my shoulders.
"We'll wait until he leaves and then we'll see what's in that bag," Dan said.
"Who died and voted you in as president? I say we wait until he leaves and then we'll see what's in that bag," I grinned.
"Whatever you say, Cheif, it's your call," Dan saluted me and we waited.
I'd parked the car several yards away from the garbage can and waited. He threw the garbage in the can, looked both ways and he left.
My phone rang. I let the answering machine get it.
"The job is done," the message said.
My heart skipped a beat. We waited for a while and got out of the car.
The sun slowly went down and the stars sparkled brightly in the sky. I grabbed the flashlight out of my glove box. The gravel crunched beneath us as we tip toed to the garbage can.
"Shh, Dan, why do you have to make so much noise?" I motioned for Dan to be quiet.
"What the hell?" He whispered, "You act like this is a crime or something," he laughed.
We reached the garbage can. I looked around. There wasn't a soul in sight. I climbed the side of the can.
"Do you see anything?" Dan said.
"No, but I smell something really bad," I said covering my mouth and nose with my hand.
"Of course you do, its a damn garbage can," he laughed.
"Help boost me up," I said, trying to kick one leg over the side.
Dan started to push up. I kicked one leg over the side.
"Hello," an Italian sounding voice said from the ground.
My heart jumped, I squealed, lost my balance and fell into the garbage can.
"What are you doing?" The man asked.
"Jesus, you scared the crap out of me," Dan said. "I'm not doing anything. I'm just standing here by the garbage," he said nervously.
"What kind of idiot do you take me for," the Italian voice said again, this time a little rougher than before, "Jerry, what are you doing in the garbage can?"
"You know him?" Dan said, recognizing the dog walker.
"Of course, I know him, that's my cousin. I was his Uncle Tony's third kid out of four. I was trying to reach him for the last two days. Don't you ever answer the phone?" he sounded irritated.
"Oh shit, I didn't know it was you," I said, as I poked my head out of the garbage can. "How'd you get my number anyways? I just changed it."
"I work for the phone company! I know when you change your number before you do! Your name and number came up on my list and I jotted it down. Besides, you were supposed to be helping me with this dog walking business and you never did. You said you'd help at the last family reunion!" He shouted, a little irritated at me. I felt my face burn with embarrassment. Dan started laughing.
"I'm sorry, I've been so busy with work," I started to apologize but Dan interrupted.
"Don't let him fool you, he only wishes he had a life," Dan said and I growled at him.
I kept getting a weird feeling from all of this. I wasn't sure what it was. I searched my mind for memories of the family reunion, but I didn't have too many. I'd drank lots of wine that evening and remembered waking up at the butt crack of dawn with the hangover from hell.
"The least I can do is help you out now with those dogs. Where's the next address you're going?"
"Down two blocks and around the corner. Here you take this one, she's a fiesty bitch." He smiled.
"Thanks cousin. By the way, what did you mean by you offe'd the bitch?"
"Oh, the damned dog bit me and I took her back home. I had you really worried huh?" He laughed.
"You don't even know. This is going to be a great story at the water cooler tomorrow!" Dan laughed again.
I rolled my eyes around.
"Just remember, brother, you were with me!"
I climbed out of the garbage can and landed butt first on the ground. Dan laughed some more and I wanted to hit him.
I grabbed the leash from my cousin and started to walk with him to the next destination. The dogs barked and the little one wiggled around everywhere, but where we were supposed to go.
"She's irritating huh?" My cousin asked.
"No more than any other bitch, I know," and we all laughed.
I noticed something attached to the dog collar. I shined my flashlight on it. It looked like a small pouch made of leather.
"What's that?" I asked him, feeling the pouch. It felt soft.
"I don't know. I don't ask questions. I just walk the dog," he said.
It was a quiet walk to the next destination. I kept looking at the bag on the dog's neck and kept wondering what it could be. I didn't want to be a jerk and open it up to find out. I didn't want to piss off my cousin.
We stopped in front of an old apartment building an my cousin rang the bell.
"Who is it?" A female voice came over the loud speaker.
"It's Vinnie, let me in. I've got your dog," he said.
Dan and I looked at each other. I found this a little odd. They should've known he had their dog. The buzzer sounded and the door opened.
"Wait here," Vinnie said, "I'll be right back."
He swung the door open and headed upstairs. I noticed the light on the door bell said #23.
I glanced up just in time to see Vinnie being pulled into the apartment across the hall. It read #24.
Dan and I looked at each other. I knew he was thinking the same thing. If he rang apartment #23 how come he went in to 24?
"I'm going in," I told Dan.
"You going to save your cousin?"
"He isn't my cousin," I replied.
"What do you mean he isn't your cousin?"
"Just what I said Dan, he isn't my cousin. There is no Uncle Antonio with my family. I don't care how drunk I got at my family reunion. There is no Uncle Antonio. In fact, I don't think we have one Italian in the bunch!"
"Then why the hell are you going? What the hell would you care?" He whispered, as we went up the stairs.
"I'm not going to be made a fool of at the water cooler in the morning!"
Dan started spouting off again and I shushed him as soon as we reached the top of the stairs.
"What the hell are you doing bringing those punks here, Vinnie? You know how dangerous that is?"
"It... It's okay," Vinnie stuttered, "They aren't going to do nothing. The one is my cousin on my Papa's side."
"Bullshit, Vinnie, there ain't no Italian in this world with red hair!" He shouted.
Things got quiet.
"Where's the stuff?" The older Italian voice asked.
"I put it on the dog's collar. That way, no one would ever know what it was," Vinnie answered nervously.
"No one better know what it is or you're a dead man, Vinnie. I can't believe you brought those two with you, man. Papa's going to kill you if he finds out."
"He ain't never finding out. They think its a dog walking business. What my cousin doesn't know, is he is the one who was walking the dog carrying all the dope. I would never tell him nothing!"
"That's just great," Dan whispered, "Now we're criminals!"
"Who is that? Is someone there?" A voice from across the hall called out and started to open the door.
Dan and I ran down the stairs as fast as our feet could go, and jumped into my car. We sped down the street so fast I knew the gas pedal hit the floor.
The tires squealed as we sped around the corner. I kept my eye out for the cops, but as usual, when I wanted them to follow me they weren't there.
"Ah oh, Cheif, I think we're being followed," Dan said, looking out his side mirror, "Step on it!"
A black Cadillac Escalade pulled up behind us. It's windows were tinted making it impossible for anyone to tell who it was.
"I can't step on it anymore, Dan, I'm pulling into the police station. They'll help us," I turned the next corner and knew the police station was just a few blocks away.
A loud bang came from behind as the back windshield of my car exploded.
"Oh my God, they're shooting at us!" Dan squealed and ducked in the front seat. "Duck!" He yelled at me.
"And drive?" I asked him.
I sped around two corners trying to lose them, but nothing helped. They were on our tail and they weren't giving up. The tires squealed again as two more gunshots were fired.
A surge of pain went through my right shoulder.
"Fuck, I've been shot," I said, grabbing my shoulder. Blood seeped through my fingers and I felt woozy. I wanted to cry, but I didn't want to be a wussy in front of Dan. I felt sorry for him. He got wrapped up in my shit again and he didn't deserve any of it.
Sirens screamed in the distance and I felt a sense of relief, but they couldn't catch up to us soon enough, I thought, feeling that wave of wooziness flood through me again. I wanted to pass out, but I didn't dare.
The streets were too small, the sidewalks too wide as we swerved back and forth from one to the other. My heart beat in sheer panic as we barely missed an old lady crossing the cross walk.
I kept glancing out my rear view mirror, but the Escalade's
windows were too tinted to get a glimpse of who was
Sweat poured from my brow as three police cars squealed around corners behind us. No one was slowing down or even stopping when they got on the horn and told us to pull over.
"This is going to go on forever! What the hell should I do?"
Dan raised his head and looked at me.
"Stop." He said calmly.
"STOP? What do you mean STOP?"
"Exactly what I said, STOP. They can't hurt us now. The police are right here. What are they going to do? Just stop!"
I squealed the car to a stop and it spun around in the circle barely missing the following Escalade, whom also squealed to a stop. Three cop cars following them, squealed to a stop surrounding all of our cars so no one could escape.
My head felt light and dizzy. I reached over my right shoulder and put pressure on the wound. Dan took off his shirt and held it on my shoulder.
The police surrounded our cars with their guns drawn. Vinnie and his partner in crime stepped out of the car behind us. Vinnie dropped his gun to the ground. They loaded me on a stretcher.
Dan looked at the cop and said, "I'm going with him. I'm his best friend and I can get a hold of his family." They nodded and let him in the ambulance with me. I was grateful.
Two police officers rode in the ambulance with me and were discussing the case.
The dark haired officer said, "I only want to know one thing, if this was a murder case, where's the body? Where did Ashley Segroi's body go?"
"I can tell you that," I said, sleepily from the stretcher, "Did you check the garbage can on Belmont and 5th street? There's a dead body in it."
Everything went black.