Two Dolts and Too Many Cigarettes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 23, 2018

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Submitted: September 23, 2018

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It was a time of quiet and of waiting. The hot air burned into their skin. A light breeze from the North came down South and the lightest particles from the topmost layer of the desert sand, brittle as glass, blew backwards. The two men, bloody and beaten but still armed with a magnum in one hand each, kept their heads tilted downwards, watching as the sand particles were picked up and scattered behind their boots.

It was easier to look at the sand than at the horizon. The horizon line was faded, but the contrasting colors of baby blue and burnt orange exploded on the canvas of their vision. Normally it would have been a simple task to tell where the sky was and where the ground was, but today, out in the desert, it boggled their minds when they physically looked ahead. Looking straight ahead was to invite an invisible needle to go straight through the cornea. It didn’t matter much however, because there was really nothing to look at. The horizon was empty, the line faded. There seemed to be a midpoint, where the burning orange ground extinguished into a rustling baby blue, but sun was beating hard and the air was boiling. Swimming in their own sweat, the two men’s brains, both nearly melted and sloshing around in their skulls, could still make out with unique precision each individual heat wave shimmering in the air. Granted, they also thought they were hearings seagulls, but in reality it was only the occasional cawing of vultures circling above.

And so, unable to look ahead, they looked at the ground and focused their thoughts on getting to the main road. Maybe they were close, it felt like they were, but that might not be true. They liked to think that the next step would be the last step and they just had to take it. That’s what Will Volta was thinking of, but he couldn’t help but also think about his own breathing. With each step he took a haggard breath rung out through his lips. His lungs were caked in tar, but he had the shakes, the memory of the explosions still ingrained in his bones. He had a magnum in his hand and it burned his skin, but there was nowhere to put it. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the shadow of vultures twisting around and around.

His hands were shaking, the magnum twitching back and forth. He glanced to the side at the other guy but Larry wasn’t shaking at all. Oh well. Will knew he had to calm down, and he knew a way. Granted, this wasn’t the best place for it, but if he didn’t have one than he’d have one latter, and Zarva might be upset if he smoked in one of his nicer minivans. Although not ideal, it was best to have one right here, right now, under the desert sun. Digging in his pocket, Will took out a cigarette, put it between his lips, and pulled out a lighter.

Will flicked the lighter and smiled as an abrupt flame sprung to life. The air was hot, and the flame shot up large like a phoenix spreading its wings. He lit the cigarette quickly before putting the lighter back in his left pocket. He could feel the lighter more distinctly now, and he focused on the feeling of it resting against his thigh instead of those vultures beside him. Smoke in, smoke out. The magnum still hurt his hand, but he loosened his grip and the soft flesh of his palm began to throb a little less. Plus, he was breathing easier now, more calmly. It hurt to walk, but it had been hurting to walk for a while and still he kept going. He kept his eyes to the ground, smoking gently, and the smoke wafted to the side of his face and seemed to fog up the shadow of vultures, even if it was just faintly.

Then the wind died down, the smoke drifted around Will’s face and to the sky, and then there was this chittering crack as quickened footsteps marched faster and faster across the brittle sand. Glancing to the side, Will saw Larry was pumping his arms, sluggishly jogging ahead. Curious, Will looked up. He intended to only give a brief glance, but when he looked up he couldn’t look back down. The faded brown wood grew more prominent as they drew closer to that wooden bench sitting on the edge of a dirt road.

Taking the cigarette out of his mouth, Will quickened his walk. Larry sped up, and Will stretched out an arm and ran forwards, the red end of the cigarette blazing bright. Oh, the air was much kinder now. The sun seemed to lay off them. The air was warm and they didn’t care that their upper thighs were chaffing.

Magnum in hand, Larry took a seat at the end of the bench and put the suitcase between his legs. He sighed as Will sat beside him. Larry was left handed and his magnum was on the furthest side of the bench from Will. Will placed his magnum right beside him furthest away from Larry and held his cigarette in his right hand.

“We’re finally here,” Will said, blowing out a wisp of smoke that trailed above them. The sun was beating hard again. It felt like tiny critters were crawling across Will’s face. Larry was looking down at the black leather handle of his suitcase between his legs. Will looked down too, sighed, and took another drag from his cigarette. “What’s the time?” he asked.

Larry shuffled around in his pocket and pulled out his phone. The black screen shined like tar. “Last I checked it was eight-thirty, but that was when we left,” he said, slipping his phone back in his pocket.

“Well, they’ll be here soon, I’m sure,” Will said, taking another drag.

Larry flung his head up. “Everyone who smokes cigarettes is a closet fag,” he said.

“What?” Will asked, taking the cigarette from his mouth and letting it rest between two fingers. He placed his hand on his knee, the hot ember facing Larry like a single red eye.

“Trust me on this,” Larry turned and looked directly at Will, speaking fast. “They all take this little thing, this long pecker-shaped object, and put it between their lips and gently suck on it for two to five minutes,” he was mimicking the action with his hands, “All of them, fags. And that’s not anything against gay people,” he put both hands out in front of him.

Will’s eyes narrowed. Larry was an ugly little man. His eyes, heavy and glassy, were as wide as a frog’s eyes and he had a tiny egg-shaped head with about as much hair as a horse’s asshole.

“I love gay people,” Larry continued, “The manliest man I know, my brother, is probably gay. See, he’s into bikes and trucks. Big penis obsession there. Might be a problem down there, or it might be because he’s always thinking about it!”

Will placed his left hand over the magnum. “Your brother’s not gay for smoking cigarettes,” he said, staring at his cigarette.

“He smokes cigars,” Larry said, “That’s big cock right there. Those things are thick.”

Both of their shirts were soaked through with blood and sweat. Will thought about how Larry’s face glistened like a golf ball recently retrieved from the lake. His own face was dirty. He felt grime between the creases on the right side of his forehead and around his nose and he felt the dust still stuck in the locks of his hair. Will had a ponytail, and it was sticking to the back of his neck. “How do you even get enough spit to talk that much?” Will asked in a soft, single, flat tone. On the other side, out of Larry’s sight, Will’s grip around the magnum was tightening.

Larry shrugged. His thick protruding lips stayed flat on his face, barely moving, rarely lifting up to form the smallest smile. “I don’t think about the pain,” he said, “And, if case you want to know why I don’t smoke, I don’t think about fucking all the time.”

“Oh, I don’t even want to smoke this now,” Will said, his eyes following the trail of smoke back down to the cigarette between his fingers. “I just bought this and I don’t want to smoke it now because of you,” he said, flicking the cigarette to the ground.

“You should thank me for potentially saving your life,” Larry said, “I mean, man, you’ve been sucking on those things all day. At the meetup, at the drive over here, at the meeting, and now in the desert. Four times. And you’re probably going to have one latter. Five a day. Man, you just love putting it in your mouth and sucking and blowing out that wispy thin shit. Blow, dude, and keep saying you’re not gay.”

Will watched the half cigarette sizzle onto of the sand. He reached out a foot, and stomped on it. Then he turned swung his body around and Larry could see how Will’s right hand was resting on his knee, the magnum in his grip.

“If I wanted to suck dick,” Will said, angling his hand so the magnum was pointed upwards, like a cannon, towards Larry’s heart, “I’d put a dick in my mouth.”

Larry shrugged. “Or maybe you’re just ashamed at the thought of having dick in your mouth.”

“Ashamed? You’re projecting.”

“What are you talking about?” Larry threw up both his hands as though he were surrendering. “I’m just making an observation. I’m like a psychologist, a therapist for the ones who can’t afford it.”

Will smiled. “I can afford whatever I want, thank you very much.”

“I’m just saying that a man who wants to suck will suck.”

“I’m done with this,” Will’s jaw tightened. Heart pounding, he went to pull the trigger.

“Normally,” Larry sputtered, “A cocksucker sucks.”

Will stopped himself. “Oh, a cocksucker sucks,” he hissed, “Tell me more. I’ve never knew that a cocksucker sucks.”

“You got something on your mind, man?” Larry asked, hands still up in the air, “You’re very passive aggressive.”

His tongue was caught in his throat. For a moment, Will wondered if Larry had noticed that he couldn’t pull the trigger. Both of their clothes were soaked in blood and dirt yet still they breathed new air and could walk and talk and grab ahold of their magnums. They were alive and, for whatever reason, Will liked the idea that someone came out of this whole mess with him, but Larry didn’t seem to understand any of this.

“Oh, you’re an idiot,” Will muttered.

Larry’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not an idiot,” he said.

“Yes, you are an idiot,” Will growled, “And you know how I know that?” he paused, couldn’t think of anything. “Because you’re stupid,” he snarled, hoping that sounded good enough.

Larry just nodded. His hands were still up in the air. “Even through you have a gun on me,” he said, “I like you better because you’re not smoking and blowing it all over the place.”

Will snorted. “You coulda just said you didn’t like the smoke, but you had to call me a fag.”

“Hey, someone has to bring it up,” Larry, his hands still up in the air, tried to raise his shoulders, “Imagine how uncomfortable you made me. I mean, we’re both hot and sweaty. Plus, you have that fag thing going on with your hair. You a rock star or something?”

Will shook his head, and the ponytail slapped the sides of his neck. “You’re uncomfortable because I was smoking, and now I’m uncomfortable smoking next to an idiot,” he said, and the magnum’s eye surged forward like an oncoming train straight to Larry’s heart.

“You can’t shoot me,” Larry said.

“Why not?” Will asked, and he stilled his arm.

“It’s better if it’s me and you both talking to Zarva. I mean, he might skin us either way but we double our chances if we both came back.”

Will blinked. He hadn’t thought of that. Chances? They were sent out to get some money, and they got the money. Yes, the minivan with the bullet proof windows was gone, but…

“They’re not going to shoot us,” Will said.

“I’d shoot us.”

“Oh, give me an excuse.”

“Let’s break it down, okay? It’s pretty complex.”

“You’re projecting again.”

“We got the cash. That’s one good point. We lost the car. We lost the third guy.”

“Was he important?”

“Probably not. But we had to murder some of our customers. And, judging by how heavy this suitcase is,” he knocked it with his leg, “they were rich customers. How much you know about ‘The Spider’?”

Will’s face was blank.

“Zarva’s boss. Don’t tell me you didn’t ask any questions. You always have to ask questions. Like how I asked you if you were gay.”

“You didn’t ask me if I was gay.”

“Point is you gotta learn about people. The Spider is what they call him. Web of crime, that type of jazz. Point is the guy has got some power behind him,” Larry said, speaking slowly, gravely, “And we just left behind a car and some bodies. That’s called evidence. They’re going to come after us, William.”

“Don’t call me William,” Will snapped, “And put your chubby little hands down.”

Larry did and proceeded to stare at his hands. Lowering his magnum, Will reached back down deep in his pocket and pulled out a lighter and a pack.  Keeping his eyes on Larry, Will put the magnum down beside him and plucked out a cigarette from his pack. He lit a second cigarette and, after putting his pack and lighter back in his pocket, grabbed ahold of the magnum and angled it like a cannon again, aimed right at Larry’s heart.

“I didn’t start shooting back there,” Will said, blowing out smoke.

Larry tilted his head. “I thought you did,” he said.

“Give me a break,” Will held up his cigarette, its red end looking glossy in the shimmering air. “Because of the cigarette?” he asked, taking a drag.

“No, you were very good with that,” Larry pointed to Will’s shirt pocket. “Putting the DNA in your stinky pocket there,” Larry said, reaching out.

“Don’t finger my pocket.”

Larry snapped back. He shrugged. “But I thought I heard you fire. Guess it was the third guy. Well, we got the cash. But that minivan was expensive. Bulletproof glass. He might make us pay for that. Plus, the DNA.”

“The car was torched.”

“The kid’s dental records,” Larry said. He tapped the suitcase again with his leg. “We just need a plan.”

“Canada,” Will blurted out.

“Canada?”
“No,” Will said, and his grip tightened again. “We can’t go there, it’s a dead-end.”

“Why not? You got a friend who can help us across the border? Is it a guy?”

“What? No, put it out of your mind” Will said. He couldn’t trust her after the last time.

“If you say so...”

“We can’t just walk across the border. They’ll follow us. We need a head start, and I know your fat ass can’t run across the desert any more than my fat ass can. They’re coming for us, and we have to face them,” Will said, and he watched the smoke from his cigarette fade into the sun.

Larry leaned on the bench until his back cracked. “Should we shoot them when they see us?” he wondered aloud.

“No.”

“I’m starting to think you want to die.”

“Oh, please tell me why.”

“Because I saw the way you dove to the ground.”

Eyes perked up, Will looked over. His hand was still on the magnum, but Larry’s were still holding onto the suitcase handle between his legs.

“Thought you were trying to save the boy after his head exploded. Then I thought ‘that’s stupid, he must have wanted to make himself an easy target so they could put him out of his misery’.”

“I made a dumb move, Larry. Just like you did.”

Larry looked into the distance. “When did I make a dumb move?”

“When you took this job.”

“Sounds about right.”

Will put the magnum beside him. He looked into the distance and stared at the center of the horizon when burning orange became baby blue. Both he and Larry couldn’t see the small shack where they had begun. It felt as though they had walked out of the sky just to sit on this bench.

“When we hear the van coming, we fire.”

“No, each person will have at least two guns, and they’re probably be three people at least,” Will shook his head, “We just have to play it safe. Even if they tie us up, we can talk our way out of it. Just remember that the customers shot at us first.”

Larry looked over at Will. He put a hand on his shoulder, “We’re not going to die, kid. We’ve survived too much to die.”

Will smiled. Ever since they had walked out of the fire, Will had thought of them as two passengers stranded on a raft. “We’re in this together,” he said, and for a moment he thought they were both thinking the same thing: The ship was coming, and they had to get out of the ocean.

“So you like any songs?” Larry asked after a while.

“Music is the bane of my existence,” Will said, exhaling smoke. On the ground they were black circles twisting around, shadows of the vultures flying up above. Will laughed at the sight, “Of course I like songs. All bunch of types. From hip-hop to rap.”

Larry nodded. “I used to love the sound of engine rattling in the morning,” he said.

“So did I,” Will replied.

It wasn’t a minivan that came bustling down the road, but a gray compact car that pushed up so much dust smoke behind it looked like the tail fin of a whale. Will glanced at Larry, whose head was still turned to the horizon. Larry’s magnum was resting next to him, flat on the bench, and his big arms were crossed. Will put his hands on his knees, two cigarette pointed to the sky. They would be okay, Will thought, they just had to be smart about this. Their breathing was shallow and hard, but it was in tune.

The car skittered to a stop beside the bench. The dust settled, and the engine’s roar quieted to a gentle but rickety purr. Larry kept looking at the horizon, but Will had his head turned to the car.

The driver’s door opened up and out came a man in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt. His skin was brown from the sun and he had a cleaver face with small slanted eyes like a snake. The driver stood there, waiting as a giant emerged from the back passenger side, furthest away from Will and Larry, and pounded around the car. Small pillows of dust flew up as the giant’s heavy boots hit the ground.

The giant stood beside the driver, casting a shadow that covered Larry completely. The shadow began to engulf Will as the giant lumbered forwards, the driver slithering beside him. There was a clinking of metal as both the driver and the giant took out both of their Glock 17s.

Larry never turned his head, but Will found his eyes were turning behind him. Realizing what they were doing, Will snapped his head back to the horizon. His eyes filled with the canvas of oranges and blues as the cold lips of a Glock 17 rested on his hot neck. Then he felt the Glock 17 press just above his pelvis. Stay calm, he thought, but the giant was behind him, his streaming breath squirting from his wide nostrils and onto the top of Will’s skull. Don’t make any sudden movements, Will thought, and his cigarette began to smolder between his two fingers.

A click and the passenger door closet to them opened. Will heard it, and he knew from the soft pat on the ground that two brown penny loafers had hit the ground. He listened to the soft shuffle over. He watched as the horizon was replaced by a thin man dressed in a suit and tie. This man, with skin the color of marble, had a short black crew cut and small insect eyes that Will could faintly make out as they flickered and skittered behind cheap sunglasses.

“Do you have any cigarettes, Will?” he asked softly, barely moving his lips, although it was always hard to tell if this man, Zarva, even had any lips to begin with.

Will glanced down at the cigarette between his two fingers, still burning under the sun, smoke traveling above their heads. “You can have mine,” he said.

Zarva leaned forwards. “Thank you, but no, not that one,” and then for the first time since Will and Larry had met him Zarva smiled. His lips seemed to curl back and peel apart. He had dimples, but they cut like grooves in stone.

Heart pounding, Will lifted his hand and put his cigarette between his shaking lips. A Glock 17 was on the back of his neck. He reached in a pocket and pulled out the pack. A Glock 17 pushed into pelvis. Will plucked out a second cigarette from his pack and reached out, hands shaking.

“What about a light?”

Will swallowed. He put the pack back in his pocket. The Glock 17s pressed against his pelvis and cranium as Will pulled out a lighter and held it out, not realizing he was holding his breath.

Zarva snatched the lighter and Will exhaled and it all came out like a wind storm and he was inhaling and exhaling and trying to stay still, hoping not to give this giant any excuse to gun him down for moving too much.

“Calm down, Will” Zarva said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Look at your co-” he paused for effect, “-worker,” and pointed a finger to Larry.

Will’s eyes drifted over. Larry, already drenched, was sweating heavily.

“He’s got the money between his legs,” Zarva chuckled.

Larry nodded quickly.

“We’re just tired,” Will said.

“You know, Will,” Zarva said, ignoring him as he lit up his cigarette. “I think I smoke too much,” he mused, “Too many cigarettes.”

“It’s because you’re not sucking enough dick,” Larry replied.

Zarva put the lighter in his pocket, knelt down in a squatting position, and took off his glasses. His black eyes flared at Larry. He inhaled on his cigarette and blew the smoke into his face. “You see that?” Zarva asked, inhaling again, “That’s me sucking on a cigarette. Now do I look gay, or pissed off?”

Larry bit his lower lip, trying not to cough.

“Well?” Zarva said, snatching Larry’s magnum away from him.

Will swallowed.

The giant and the driver were waiting.

“You can be both,” Larry finally said.

Zarva stood up straight and put his glasses back on. In the other hand he was holding Larry’s magnum. “You can be both,” he mused, placing the barrel of Larry’s magnum in an open palm. “You’ve always been a funny guy, Larry. Are you nervous?”

Will’s mouth was clamped shut. His heart was in his throat.

Larry spoke slowly, “We’ve been through a lot, boss.”

Zarva aimed Larry’s magnum at Larry’s own head. “You don’t say so. Honestly, you both look like shit,” he said, swiveling the magnum over to Will.

“We have the money,” Will blurted out.

“No, I have the money,” Zarva said, dropping the cigarette onto the ground and grabbing the suitcase away from Larry with his free hand. Putting Larry’s magnum in his waistband, Zarva stepped over in front of Will. “You believe this guy?” he asked, pointing over at Larry.

“I can’t boss,” Will stammered, “He’s out of his mind. He said the same thing to me earlier.”

Zarva put the suitcase off to the side. “Did you beat the shit out of him?”

A smile, then some nervous laughter. “No,” Will said.

Like a cobra lashing out, Zarva grabbed Will’s shirt collar and pulled him towards him.

“What’s wrong with the side of your face?” Zarva asked, speaking quickly, “Looks scraped up. Hey, what do you got over there?” he asked, reaching down and grabbing Will’s magnum.

“It’s yours,” Will said.

“Thank you,” Zarva gently let go of Will’s shirt, stilling holding onto Will’s magnum. “It’s a nice gesture Will. I thank you. Now, you’re going to have to tell me what happened, Will, since your head is clear.

Will’s mouth was dry as sandpaper. “Sure, but, um,” he stammered. There was so much so say and yet he wasn’t sure where to start.

“I understand,” Zarva said, plucking the cigarette bud away from Will’s finger. He stepped back and looked directly above Larry. “Driver, pop the trunk. Oh, thank you, you have your keys on you. Well, we have a long ways to go before we’re back in town. Follow me.”

Zarva took a puff of Will’s cigarette and then dropped it to the ground. Then he put Will’s magnum in his waistband, opposite side of Larry’s, grabbed ahold of the suitcase. Turning around, Zarva carried the suitcase away and the sun came back shooting at Will’s face. He was blinded, his eyes closed tight, and for a moment he swam around somewhere dark. Like a raft in the ocean he was lost. Whether he got on the ship or sunk was left to him. If he stayed with Larry, stupid and insolent, he’d be left on the raft to die.

And so Will stood up, cigarette still smoldering in his hand. He stepped forward and the giant shuffled around the bench, pushing the muzzles of his Glock 17s back onto Will’s neck and just above his pelvis. Zarva sprinted off to the trunk, opened it, threw a magnum and a suitcase inside while the driver ushered Larry to his feet and guided him towards the car. He had to spit on the back of his neck so Larry could understand he had to open the passenger door.

Once Larry got in, Zarva got in right beside him, Will’s magnum in his hand, and he shut the door. The driver got in the driver’s side, and the giant led Will around the car.

Suddenly, the giant holstered a Glock 17 and grabbed a mess of Will’s ponytail, yanked upwards, and manhandled Will until Will was looking at the passenger side door. Will opened up the door, and the giant let go of his hair and lumbered to the back passenger side. Will took shotgun, his hair nearly rung out of his scalp.

“Lower the windows,” Zarva said, and the driver he clicked two buttons. Both Will and Zarva’s windows rolled down and Will reached in his pocket for his pack and a lighter.

“Give it here boy. And take one for yourself,” Zarva said.

Will reached back and Zarva took the cigarette and lighter from him. He lit his cigarette, then tossed the lighter back on an angle where it hit Will directly the groin and nearly slid off his lap. Will grabbed the lighter and soon he had one arm flat on his lap and the other arm outside the window, trying to casually flick cigarette ashes into the wind.

In the back, Zarva put one arm outside the window, flicking away ash just like Will, but his other hand wasn’t flat on his lip. It was on an angle, arching Will’s own magnum like a cannon so it could shoot just above the center console and right into the side of Will’s face.

Then there was the giant, who sat behind Will and right next to Larry. His massive arm, thick as an oak, jammed itself behind Larry and was digging a single Glock 17 into his back. The other Glock 17 was holstered, the giant’s large palm resting on it.

The driver started up the engines and they made a u turn, rolling back into town.

“I notice that you smoke very slowly, William,” Zarva said, flicking away his cigarette ash, “You waiting for something?”

The giant pressed his Glock 17 into Larry’s back. Larry winched, and Will watched this through the rearview mirror. “Yes, sir,” Will said. The wind thrashing beside his head bit down on his cigarette.

“That’s a good man right there,” Zarva cheered, sucking on his cigarette. He turned over to Larry, “And you, Larry,” he said, nearly spitting in Larry’s red face from laughter, “No wonder you thought this man was gay. Must have made you mighty uncomfortable.”

Through the windshield Will watched as they seemed to drive straight into where the burning orange ground extinguished into a baby blue sky. Will wondered if he would fly, or if he would burn. He brought his arm back in the car and took a drag of his cigarette.

Zarva was looking back at Will. “You like making people uncomfortable, Will?” he asked, sucking on the end of his cigarette so its single burning red eye gazed straight at Will.

The air conditioner was on, and it rattled with the engine. Then they hit a pothole, and the interior of the air conditioner crackled and clanked like a box full of glass, and Will’s body shivered, and he put his arm back outside the car.

“What was that, Will?”

“I’d anything to make you feel comfortable, sir,” Will said.

“Good,” Zarva nodded, “Now, let me get this straight, and I’ll need your help as I go along. You guys don’t have the drugs, but you have the money. That makes sense. Now, answer me this, where is my little black beetle car?”

The sun’s hard light beat through the car. The air conditioner was rattling out cold air that spit out ice water on Will’s face. Squinting hard and shivering even harder, Will took a breath, “They changed the spot, sir. Texted us on the kid’s phone saying they’d call off the deal.”

“And where is the kid?”

“Dead, sir.”

“Continue.”

“Well, we followed them.”

“And what happened to my little black beetle car, Will?”

“It blew up sir,” he started, “And we-”

“How do cars blow up?”

“It got shot apart by five people until it exploded to bits.”

“Okay. So you idiots let the other team make the rules. Got it. Will, take another drag from your cigarette.”

Shaking, Will obliged, then put his arm back out the window.

“Let’s keep going from here. My little black beetle car exploded,” Zarva arched his back like a panther, the rear view mirror filling up with his black sunglasses, “Did the flames from that explosion kill the kid who was with you?” he asked, the cigarette close to his body as smoke rose above his face.

“His body burned, but he died when they shot at us,” Larry blurted out, and the giant tried to dig the Glock 17’s muzzle into Larry’s spine.

“Quiet you!” Zarva shouted, still staring at Will.

What was Larry doing? Didn’t he know that his heart was pounding, that he was breaking out in a cold sweat, that he could barely see and he didn’t want to turn around because then he might get shot and he had to say the right thing or else he’d be shot.

“I dove to save the kid,” Will said. His mouth was dry. His chest pained. Take the focus off you, he thought. Shivering like a fish out of water, Will added, “Just ask Larry.”

Zarva took a drag off his cigarette. “So you agree with Larry?” he asked.

Idiot, Will thought. He needed to get on the ship and he was stuck on a raft, trying to save Larry and himself. Idiot. He had to survive. He had to get out of this. Okay, so you agree with Larry when he’s not being stupid. Say that.

“Only right now,” Will answered.

Zarva turned his gaze to Larry. Will swallowed. It was up to Larry now. No matter what, just say it wasn’t their fault.

“So Larry,” Zarva hissed, the magnum still pointed towards Will, “Who shot first?”

“The kid shot first,” Larry said.

“No!” Will shouted, “The customers fired at us and we fired-”

“Won’t you can that asshole you call a mouth?” Zarva shouted, “You had your turn, boy. Now Larry, the kid shot first, yes or no?”

Will’s tongue was sticking to his mouth. His throat burned like he had been gargling seawater. The wind was thrashing beside his ears. Larry had just screwed himself, that’s why he said, “Yes.” Because he had to, lest Zarva call him a liar.

“And the customers turned on you and it cost me my car,” Zarva nodded, “Now walk me through this. You follow them like a couple of fools and you get somewhere nicer and you park, and then the customers, they shoot their headlights on you and you freeze like a fucking deer.”

Zarva was staring right into Larry’s eyes, but Will was frozen still. He had screwed himself by teaming with this man. The wind bit the end of his cigarette down.

“No, that’s not the way it was,” Larry said calmly.

“Then why are your eyes bugging out?” Zarva said, but Will could see through the rear view mirror and knew that was not true. “Will,” Zarva said, looking back where Will’s magnum was pointing, “Walk me through the rest of the story.”

The black eyes, Zarva’s and Will’s own magnum, were gazing at the sides of Will’s face. “They dropped the drugs and got the cash,” his voice was shaking, “and before I could turn around there was a gunshot.”

“From the kid,” Zarva nodded.

Will kept his eyes on the rearview mirror, on Zarva’s black sunglasses. It was harder to see through the lenses now. Will’s eyes were throbbing from the glare through the window. “I don’t think the gunshot was from the kid.”

“You said you agreed with Larry, but now you don’t agree with Larry. If that’s the case, who shot first?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must know. You were there.”

“Gunshots rang out. The kid got shot and I dove to the ground.”

“After he got shot you dove towards the corpse?” Zarva gave a toothy grin. “Why? It get you hot?” he hollered, then he looked back over at Larry. “You ever hear something like that, boy? Diving after a corpse in the middle of a gunfight. Crazy.”

With a Glock 17 jammed in his back, Larry shrugged. “I’ve never heard anyone call a minivan a beetle, so what do I know?”

Zarva’s nostrils flared. “My car was black like a beetle so I’ll call it a black beetle, thank you very much. Now, what happened,” he looked back at the rear view mirror, “Will?”

“A shotgun rang out and we dove to the ground and fired back. They shot at the beetle-”

“It’s a van, Will.”

“-and it blew up and we hustled out of there,” Will spat out. His heart was going fast. He had to calm himself. In the rearview mirror he saw Zarva take a drag of his cigarette. He also had about an inch left. Zarva was smiling, wide and lipless. “You hear this looney tune, Will?” he asked, the cigarette aimed at the mirror, the red eye floating like a traffic light. “Oh, I’d kiss him but I’m afraid I’ll bite off his tongue instead!”

Ignore Larry, ignore Zarva. Will spoke quickly, “They had the drugs and we had the money, just as we planned.”

Larry added, “We ran from them like pansies.”

Zarva threw his cigarette onto the ground and stomped on it, and Will heard that stomp like someone hit the gong inside his head. Zarva still had a half cigarette left, but Larry got him excited and he acted out. Now, as Zarva rubbed his foot into the ground, Will realized that he and Larry weren’t lost on the raft, they were already on the ship. They just had to command it.

“Lucky you,” Zarva barked, “Two pansies and a dead psycho. Tell me again, Larry, who shot first?”

The magnum pointed back at Will, but Zarva’s eyes were on Larry. Will glanced down at his hand. His half cigarette was held between two of his fingers. They were outnumbered, outgunned, but he still had a weapon.

Shrugging, Larry said, “The kid shot first.”

Zarva tilted his head.

Larry took a breath. “I heard him fire,” he said, and paused again.

Reaching out with his free hand, Zarva clicked a button and his window rose up. It was like fate, Will thought, and it was all coming together quite nicely.

The giant twisted the Glock 17 around in Larry’s back so he flinched. “I was standing behind Will,” Larry squealed, “and I saw the kid taking his gun out his side and start firing. Coming up, he was talking about taking the money and keeping the drugs. We tried to talk him out of it.”

Zarva turned away from Larry, and the giant eased up. Magnum pointed at Will, Zarva leaned forward like a snake through the leaves, leaning on the center console, aiming Will’s own magnum at the side of Will’s head.

“Smoke your cigarette,” Zarva chimed.

Will lifted up his hand and took a small puff, then exhaled into the window. Heart pounding, he shifted his body.

Zarva tilted his head. Will shuffled until his back was facing the window, the thrashing wind slapping against his ponytail. His body blocked most of the wind from entering the car, but he was directly facing Zarva, who smiled at him and said, “Comfortable now?”

“Do I make you uncomfortable, sir?” Will asked.

“Never, my boy. Just answer me this: Is that true, Will? Was the kid talking shit?”

“Yes, and no,” Will sighed. I need to waste time, he thought, glancing down at his cigarette. He could milk the thing, and he had the weather on his side. The car was already burning up.

“What do you mean by that? Speak up, my boy, and look me right in the face.”

The magnum was facing Will’s neck. Will kept his gaze level on those big sunglasses, watching those black tar lenses that hid those human eyes behind it. Those eyes were probably tearing up the way his were from the scorching heat. “Well,” Will started, “I heard faint murmurs and words. He never spoke to me directly, he mostly spoke to Larry, but since you want to hear my side of the story, sir…”

“Don’t stop now.”

“I heard him talk about money a lot. He said he didn’t need it, but he wanted he said something about ‘selling the drugs twice’ so we could make some extra cash. Said he wanted to show some people the extra cash. I don’t know who. I mean, we never got much information on him. No blame to you.”

Zarva’s face was inches from his. “No blame to me,” Zarva said, and Will could smell his minty breath. “That’s all I need,” and his smile opened up and stank rose past his jagged yellow teeth.

“I have a lot more to say,” Will said, speaking quickly. In between the little hairs on his arms Will could feel how wet his skin was. “I never thought much of it, but he was talking about at the meetup how he had driven every type of car, a bunch of boats, a plane even. I told him I would drive, and he laughed and said we outta get going. I don’t know. I liked his attitude. Good kid, and I drove him and Larry down happily, but along the way he kept talking about money.”

“Look me in the eyes.”

There were so close there was no choice but to look anywhere but.

“How did my car blow up, Will?” Zarva asked.

The wind was slamming in his ears. His ponytail made these wet slaps as it tousled around in the wind. Will took a breath. “We hid behind it and they shot it. When it went up in flames, we went running with what we had.”

“And why didn’t you call me when the kid was talking nonsense?”

“I told him not to,” Larry blurted out.

Leaning back, Zarva turned and looked back at Larry. Then the magnum swiveled away from Will, and Will turned his head, careful to keep his back against the window. He could see Larry’s hands were on his knees, his body pushed upwards from the giant’s massive arm jammed behind him. His eyes were bulging out of their skull as Zarva jammed the magnum into the bottom of his jaw and pushed his head upwards. “Why didn’t you call me about the kid?” Zarva hissed, pushing his wide lipless mouth closer to Larry’s ear, spitting inside it.

“He was just some kid talking shit,” Larry hissed, teeth gritted.

The giant continued to dig the Glock 17 into Larry’s back. Will couldn’t see the giant, but he could hear those raspy haggard breaths.

Zarva jammed his magnum harder into Larry’s throat. “You were told to protect him. How did you think you were going to protect a crazy person? Please, tell me the logic!”

“Should we open up another window, sir?” Will asked loudly.

In the sudden silence that followed Zarva heard those same haggard breaths, rasping and wheezing from the tired heavy lungs of the giant. “Good idea,” Zarva said softly. The driver went, “Oh,” and he clicked a button and the window beside the giant lowered.

The giant took a large breath of cool air. Zarva took the magnum away from Larry’s throat. “Now that’s the moment’s gone,” he aimed the magnum back at Will, “I must ask again, why did either of you boys call me?” he asked, looking around.

“You said this was the kid’s first big gig, Mark,” Larry said, “Shit happens.”

Will glanced down at his cigarette. There was about a quarter of it left. He decided to leave it up to fate, and so he tossed the cigarette out the window.

“He was the boss’s son, dipshit,” Zarva spat on the ground. “Normally, I would say I understand the situation, but-”

The wind threw the cigarette back into the car and its burning filter slammed right into the giant’s eye. Dropping the Glock 17 right behind Larry, the giant grabbed his face with both hands as he let out a bellowing scream.

Lurching out of his seat, Will latched onto the driver’s neck with one hand, pressing hard as purple veins popped out of the driver’s scrawny throat, the other arm reaching for his holstered Glock 17.

Zarva, eyes wide, aimed the magnum towards Will but Larry reached over and grabbed his wrists and yanked them to the side just as Zarva pulled the trigger and the bullet tore through the giant’s stomach and he, screaming like he was on fire, lunged forwards and started clutching his stomach as Larry threw Zarva towards the door and grabbed ahold of the Glock 17 that had been mercilessly digging into his back. He grabbed it, angled it, then fired, and the bullet shattered the back of the giant’s head into red and pink chunks.

Grabbing ahold of the driver’s Glock 17, Will forced it upwards and the driver managed to fire it through his own jaw so his scalp popped off like a bottle cap. Glock 17 in hand, Will looked over and gasped as Zarva fired once and Larry’s left shoulder burst open. Gritting his teeth, Larry held up the pistol with his good arm and fired into Zarva’s chest and Zarva’s suit jacket tore and his shirt was ripped and there was a pop! as the bullet hit his body armor. Zarva smiled, aimed the magnum, and Will, holding a Glock 17, jerked the steering wheel to the right.

Dropping the magnum to the floor, Zarva flew towards Larry and Larry aimed and fired. Will reached out and slammed his foot down, the car coming to a halt, and he turned around and saw Zarva was lying on top of Larry. Zarva stretched his free hands forward but Larry fired the Glock 17, causing Zarva to shriek out. Groaning now, Zarva grabbed the giant’s second Glock 17 as Will turned around and, before Will, could fire his Glock 17, Zarva reached up and blindly fired at Will.

Will’s shoulder exploded like a geyser and he dropped his Glock 17 right in front of their feet. Screaming, Larry took one hand and grabbed ahold of Zarva’s wrist and twisted. Zarva yelped, dropped the Glock 17, and Larry went to pull his Glock 17out from under Zarva’s chest, reaching up to his neck. Zarva felt this and grabbed Larry’s arms. Larry fired, the bullet went through the ceiling and the light shone on them through a hole the size of a quarter. Will was lying on the driver’s lap, whimpering softly, and then his ears filled up with the Larry’s bloodcurdling screams as Zarva dug his fingers into Larry’s open shoulder, his pointed nails scratching like talons into the splintered bone. Larry kept ahold of the gun, and Zarva pushed off him and scrambled around, unlocking the door and jumping out of the car as it gently rolled forwards.

Pushing himself off the driver’s corpse, Will threw the car into park, reached down with his good hand and grabbed both Glock 17s and rushed out the car. He ran around and saw Zarva’s slender shadow running across the desert landscape. His head was pounding, but Will held up both Glock 17s and kept firing. Once. Twice. On the third Zarva fell and the fourth one flew over him. Then Zarva picked himself up and kept running and Will got him on the second time, but again Zarva picked himself up and ran until he was a blimp on the horizon.

His shoulder was pouring blood and his neck burned from the sun. Coming to the passenger side, Will opened up the car door and placed the two Glock 17s on the passenger’s seat. Then he pulled out a pack of cigarettes. They were crushed, except for two. He looked over as Larry picked himself up. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he said, reaching for the magnum.

“Rest easy,” Will said, and Larry tossed the magnum onto the front passenger seat. Will nodded, and he placed the two cigarettes and a lighter beside the guns.

Will then opened up the back passenger side and pulled out the giant’s corpse. It slumped on the side road and caused a small pillow of dust to be flung into the air. Larry got out and helped Will as they took off his two holsters. Larry and Will lumbered side by side over to the driver’s side. They opened the door, and the driver’s just fell out. They both then took off his holsters. Then Will and Larry looked each other, their shoulders drizzling blood.

“I get shotgun,” Larry said, and he went over to the passenger side as Will got behind the wheel.

Larry holstered the two Glock 17s, put the magnum in the glove compartment, and placed two cigarettes on his lap as he got inside. The whole time his face was twisted in a grimace.

Will’s face was contorted from the pain. Even starting up the car, Will couldn’t help but grit and grind his teeth. His shirt was freshly drenched with blood over his sheets of sweat. He closed up both the windows. “Sorry I called you an idiot,” Will said as he tapped the accelerator, “That was a really smart idea.”

“Fucking shit this dick!” Larry said breathlessly, holding onto his bad arm with his good arm, “All it, trash. Can I have one of these cigarettes?”

Will looked over at him. “Sure, man,” he said, and he watched as Larry put a cigarette between his lips and then used the lighter. There was so little he knew about this man, but he trusted him and now they were in command of the ship, speeding across the open ocean.

Larry held out the last cigarette and Will put it between his lips. Larry flicked the lighter and lit Will’s cigarette.

“When you want that thing out of your mouth, ask me,” Larry said, shaking his cigarette around as though he were a teacher with a ruler, “You always need one hand on the wheel for driving.”

“Got it,” Will said.

“By the way, where are we going?”

Seeing the orange road below the visor, Will smiled. The light was easy on his eyes. He was heading for an island’s shores.

 “There’s someone I know. It’ll be a long shot, but she’s a doctor and if we pay her she can get us into Canada.”

“Sounds like a lot of money.”

“You said that suitcase was heavy.”

Will and Larry, they shared a smile with their cigarettes as they headed into the sunset.


© Copyright 2018 Shawn Douglas Cunningham. All rights reserved.

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