The Desert

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A brother struggles to find his identity in the unforgiving town of Las Vegas.

Submitted: October 14, 2014

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Submitted: October 14, 2014

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Dry shrubs, open untouched land divided by black, paved highway.  And at night it's dark.  Darker than dark.  Nothing but ghosts, snakes lizards spiders and bones.

 

Russell gleans the vastness of dried, hard, red dirt in between cities.  A wasteland full of brutal mysteries.  Fluorescent structures peak over the horizon like curious children. Lit buildings, giant Christmas trees large as the mountains themselves, fester, rising larger than mountains.

 

Horace, glossy eyed, ablaze and thirsty for refreshments but a half day on the road wheeling the white juggernaut of a truck numbed his brain to fuzz, his eyes hardly blinked.  Communication static between the thin wires craving a conversation between the eye lids and primal brain.

 

Grey behind shadow.  The sleepy eyed receding hair lined nomad with a few days growth on his baby face and a red permanent red, throbbing scar across his forehead restrains curiosity of the whereabouts of Horace, the captain of their two man family unit.  Ever since the queen the great mother lost and never returned consciousness his strong willed and unpredictable brother assumed responsibility.  In the backseat of the truck, sleep gives way to thought, and Russell investigates a pulsating yellow stream of light emanating from a sign that blinks "casino" "casino" "casino" "casino" "casino".

 

 

Russ walks through unseated slot machines with all sorts of features. He wanders aimlessly through the casino only finding white haired ladies sucking  cigarettes smacking buttons.  Along the way a Casino Bar, there he recognizes a familiar face.  Two, inebriated, weathered men with a constellation of shot glasses and empty, frothy cups point up at them.  One is a drunken Horace, the other is wide eyed, bearded, long Jesus hair.  Horace drunkenly turns his head with eyes barely staying open at the approaching figure he recognizes as his younger brother, he straightens and muffles a few slow weary words.

 

"We got a place to stay.  Stacey here says'" Horace gestures as Stacey, nods in agreement, "we can crash."  Horace delivers a mighty slap on Stacey's curved spine, Stacey straightens up and looks into his drink.

 

Russ nods his head at the notion, but Stacey, the Jesus like man, is insistent to prove a good gesture and extends a friendly unflinching arm to his unexpected guest.

 

Russ reciprocates, and grasps the long sinewy fingers in a binding pact, with his own dirt stained hand, but he did not expect an inspection from Stacey's piercing deconstructive observations piercing into a soul he thought might be there.

 

Horace and Russ walk into a decorated apartments the Ritz Carlton compared to their dirty smelling odorous Toyota Tacoma.  They carry all worldly possessions in duffles.  Stacy flicks the lights with a curled finger.  A giant woman's shoe that doubles as a chair, glass dining table, soft plush comfortable couches.  Flat screened high def tv pronounced itself as the luxurious epicenter of the room.  Russ expected a meek rustic, musty place, but here a space where two in love with hopes and dreams of co existing for eternity could reside.

 

"Nice place."  Horace contemplates how a shoddy looking man like Stacey might have acquired such a habitable apartment.

 

"Make yourselves at home. A couple lives here, but they'll be in Hawaii for a few months."  Stacey says.

 

"Are you keeping the place up for them?"  Russell asks, genuinely impressed by the decorative choices of the couple who call this apartment on Flamingo and Arville home.  He's touched by the romance in the air.

 

Anger flashes over Horace's eyebrows barely noticeable but Russ can always tell when his curly haired brother was annoyed.

 

Stacy catches on to Russell’s intrigue and delivers a deeply sincere response.  "They don't know I'm here and they won't know when I'm gone,"  he ironically bemoans.

 

Sleep, deep slumbers.  Nothing stirring, a police siren goes off but no one stirs except for Russell, who lays in a catatonic state of relaxed bliss.  He stares ahead blankly, pupils contracting constricting to the dark and light tones of the hd 1080p flat screen, he's not accustomed to late night television especially of this definition.  He remembers a smaller tv, tube, with wiry bunny eared antennae on top. He revisits his younger days where a dark haired, mustached, suited man he called Pop Pop, would appear now and again. Russell never asked where Pop Pop disappeared to, sometimes for months, though he wanted to, and mother would wait up nights for the mustache's unlikely return, all the while Horace devised new plans to murder ants, and shoplift beef jerky.  The unwelcome memories blend in with an infomercial selling The Wonder Years complete series DVD set as Russell, glossy eyed wished he could watch the actual show instead of the infomercial.

 

The next day, at a Subway, Horace spends his last 7 bucks on an Italian sub, and Russell orders two cheap sandwiches and stashes one in his coat.  The tan brothers enjoy the first meal they've had in the last few days, the  hunger pains subside.  Stacey doesn't eat.

 

"Where y'all from?"  Stacey breaks the silence.

 

"New Mexico."  Russ replies.

 

"Albuquerque?"  Stacy asks.

 

"Close enough."  Horace interjects.

 

"I lived there once, I hated it, but that's ‘cause I hate The Lobos."  Stacey admitted.

 

"They're not so bad."  Russ responds.

 

"Why'd you leave?"  Stacey's curiosity is peaking. Russ wants to open up about how much he misses home, but doesn't to avoid a cut-down from Horace later.

 

"Owed some money to some not so good people."  This is more info than Horace would like to admit but he felt the need to indulge Stacey, slightly.

 

"What about you, why didn't you stay?"  Stacey turns to Russ.

 

"If they couldn't find him then they'd be after me for his debts." Russ declares.  Horace, takes pride that he is still alive despite past dealings.

 

"So you both are no strangers to this, I'm gonna need a favor, and it's worth your while, we're gonna be sweeping up cash when it's all said and done, the three of us."  Stacey says as he glares at the two with opportunity in his eyes.

 

"What is it?"  Russ says, cynical.

 

"Well all these gas stations have little casinos."  Stacey divulges.

 

"You want us to hit a gas station, that's asking for the cops to shove a baton up your ass, for chump change!"  Horace laughs and remembers his teenage years of hitting gas stations, it never ended well for him, usually in county jail or almost getting shot by the attendant.

 

“Please, let me finish.  The gas stations don't pay the jackpots, it's some guy floating around the city at any given time.  Just driving around with a barrel full of cash waiting for someone to hit, you hear me?  Well, I know a few guys with their ears to the ground got description of the vehicle and where it might pass through."  Stacey lays out.

 

"I don't know, man.  This was supposed to be a fresh start, we don't want to get involved in this again."  Russ says hesitant to be involved.

 

"Will you stop being a bitch?  We roll up really scary, he shits his pants and hands over the money, how much money we talking?"  Horace probes, the smell of money exciting him.

 

"These guys can carry up to 15 thousand at any given time."  Stacey pulls on the reel the hook Slides steadfastly into Horace's lip, and digs in.

 

"Not exactly worth killing a man, but it'd definitely help our predicament."  Horace says completely invested.

 

"You're gonna kill someone?"  Russell questions as if it were not the first time.

Stacey's eyebrows raise, and his mustache twitches with a shred of guilt. "Nah, don't have to kill him absolutely not, these guys are trained to not be the hero in these types of situations."

 

"Where do we find him?"  Horace cuts to the chase.

 

"That's the thing, I know what area he drives around in, the model and the license plate, but it's up to y'all to find him."  Stacey looks over at Horace awaiting a final assurance.  Horace glimpses back and nods.

 

That night Russ slept peacefully until an aggressive shake on his shoulder woke him.

 

"Let's go."  Horace orders as he zips up his hoodie.

 

"Where now?"  Russ asks, hazy.

 

"Money ain't gonna make itself."  Horace muses.

 

Horace, nervously chews on a toothpick, and Russell  enjoys a cigarette, they wait patiently under a street light in the cab of their white truck.  Cars cascade along the Vegas surface road, reminding Russ of what the sounds of unceasing waves of the ocean might sound like.

 

"Is this really worth it?"  Russell asks.

 

"Why you gotta smoke that cigarette, it's giving me a headache."  Horace replies, irritated.

 

Russell shrugs off the last comment  "so when we spot the car what happens?" he asks.

 

"I got something worked out."  Horace states.  "Just follow him, but from a distance, I'll handle the rest."

 

Russ tightens his grip on the steering wheel with his black leather gloves on.

 

Russ and Horace wait at the side of the road.

"What if the guys armed?" Russ asks.

 

"Fuck him."  Horace says with conviction.

 

"After this I kinda wanna leave, go to Cali or something.  Never seen the ocean."  Russ says as he loosens his grip on the wheel now.

 

"There's a lot of money floating around here."  Horace states.

 

"Is that all you think about?"  Russ questions for a genuine response.

 

"Most of the time."  Horace admits.

 

"There's girls in California."  Russ says, trying to persuade his brother.

 

"Girls here too, girls with a price, and we're gonna have plenty."  Horace says, as if this was better.

 

"If that's what you're looking for,"  Russ finally concedes.

 

"Nothing wrong with that.  Shut the fuck up.  I see him."  They slide on ski masks, and Russell starts the engined reflexively, and merges into what little traffic there is on the small cracked road.

 

Jerry, dressed casual, blue jeans, flannel shirt, brown leather boots, tassel necktie with a jade stone dangles over his chest.  He appears more like a cattle rancher than a delivery man as he coasts in the silver Hyundai with a full thermos of coffee tucked into the cup holder in his dash, occasionally he takes a hearty sip, ignoring the burn of the piping hot drink.  His phone rings a country tune, he turns the wheel, takes another sip of coffee and answers.  "Is there a reason I have 30 thousand tonight?  He slaps the briefcase next to him in the passenger seat.  Is it because it's a full moon?  Or that it's the first of the month?  Or that it's a Friday?  Or that you finally loosened these goddamn slots? If so I'm gambling tonight."  Jerry laughs at his own joke as whoever on the other end of the line reveals the purpose of the call.  "Somebody hit a jackpot already huh?  I'll be there in 9 minutes."  Jerry ends the call and places his phone down.  He drives passed homeless men, bus stops, hookers, and local casinos before he arrives at a Terrible Herbst.  He grabs the vintage burgundy case filled with bills and enters the gas station.

 

Moments later a ski masked Horace smashes the car's window unlocks the door and crawls in.  He waits under the fluorescence of the street lamps encompassing the gas station as Jerry exits lighting a cigarette heading back to his silver Hyundai.  He calmly notices shattered glass on the ground, while an Al Qeada executioner looking Horace points a gun at him.  "What are you doin' boy?"  Jerry inquires calmly.

 

Russell can hear yelling, a gunshot, boots running, and the truck door open as Horace lands on the passenger seat with a burgundy briefcase.  Russ puts the car in reverse and whirls the white truck  putting it back in drive before Horace can even close the door behind him engine screaming tires screeching.

 

Horace urgently opens the briefcase.  "There's gotta be at least 30k in here!" He notices.  "Pull over, let me drive!"  Horace requests like some kind of dictator.  Russ complies, pulls over and they switch seats.

 

"Stacey actually came through.  Too bad we gotta ditch him."  Horace says as he cruises along.

 

"But he set the whole thing up."  Russell reminds his brother.

 

"We did all the work.  And I shot the sap, that changes the equation a bit."  Horace retorts.

 

Russ grows silent. "You shot that guy, was he trying to be a hero or something?" Russ asked.

 

"No, he gave me the briefcase right off the bat, but he looked at me funny, like he knew me, and my finger slipped, probably for the best, so where do you wanna stay?  The Belagio?  Mandalay Bay?  Anywhere you want bro."  Horace's eyes are wide and excited.

 

"We gotta meet Stacey."  Russ says, killing Horace's buzz.

 

"Man fuck that Jesus looking guy."  Horace angrily responds.  Can't trust anyone I guess."  Horace admires the irony in his own statement.

 

"That's bad business, think about it.  He said there was only 15,000 right?  So we keep the extra  15k and don't tell him about it, we also keep the 7 that was our cut.  He'll never know the difference, and we get more jobs, because let's face it, with your habits you might burn through that money,"  Russ quips.

 

"Yeah. Alright.  You're right, for once you're right." Horace flips a bitch as he chuckles to himself.

 

A desert, Stacey waits in a lounge chair.  Horace and Russ arrive with the burgundy briefcase.

 

"Y'all did good,"  Stacey acknowledges as the brothers approach.

 

"Went down, had to take some drastic measures, but you know, that's the nature of the business."  Horace's arrogance stinks as he hands over the case.

 

"Could've been the beginning of a beautiful friendship but you have a way of disrupting the order of things."  Stacey looks over Horace's shoulder and gives a nod to a hidden accomplice.  Horace turns around to see what Stacey was acknowledging and a bullet rips through his brain.  He drops like a bag of potatoes.  A crack from a rifle thunders across the valley.  Russ glances over at his brother's cold, lifeless eyes.  Blood flows and pools then sinks as dirt sponges it up.  Russ, though shocked by the sudden turn of events, is not surprised.  This was bound to happen eventually, he thought, his brother owed too much money to too many seedy people, and now he was going to lose his life because of his brother's itchy finger, he felt no sympathy.  He closed his eyes to smooth the transition of consciousness to non.  It was odd, he was curious if he would hear the crack of the rifle while the bullet ripped through his brain, but Stacey's easing voice cut through the silence instead.

 

"He killed my comrade, Good guy too, good soldier.  Your brother had to go, you should probably go to, being that I think it was your brother's decision, so give me one good reason why I shouldn't nod at my sharpshooter right now?"  Stacey propositioned.

 

For a brief moment Russ wanted to get on his knees, tears streaming, pleading  he had nothing to do with the murder, and if the performance worked if Stacey took pity, he could leave with the extra 15 grand stashed in the truck, free.  He could not bring himself to underestimate Stacey, because Stacey might be fully aware that it was all a show.  He felt nothing for his own life.

 

Stacey stands tall, eager for a reason not to nod at his hidden man thirsty for a second kill.  Russell's chest trembles as he struggles to speak, his hands raised in the air "because there's another 15 thousand under the passenger seat."

 

"You sneaky bastards.  Thanks for your honesty,"  Stacey discloses with a smirk on his face as he saunters past Russ like he doesn't exist, and grabs the remainder of the money from under the passenger seat.

 

"Santa Barbara's nice, you can sleep on the beach over there, climate is just right," Stacey suggests, with that the rifleman makes himself visible out of the thorny bushes 100 feet away.  He limps toward Stacey with a scraggly red beard and tattered clothes as he zips up his two toned m4 in it's gun case.  The sharpshooter and Stacey walk into the desert shadows with an understanding acquired from serving together, they are cut from the same cloth as soldier's trained to kill with no more war or duty, and a head full of memories they would care to forget.

 

Russ stands stunned for seconds, minutes or maybe even hours before he comes to, his brother's collapsed corpse a few feet away.  He kneels down, wrestles the truck keys out of Horace's blue jeans along with a Polaroid of their mother ,smiling, happy, frozen in time, stashed away in a wallet.  He climbs into the truck and slams the door, starts the ignition, exhales the weight on his shoulders, as he drives off kicking up a cloud of dirt behind.

 

A large green sign hangs over.  I-15 South to Los  Angeles 240 mi.  The time is a neon turquoise 12:36am.  Russ slows the truck with second thoughts.  Avoids the exit ramp, and continues to the nearest surface street.  Little specks of speckled his cheek.  He is sweating profusely from the aftermath of adrenaline.  He resolves that he can't leave his brother's body out there in the desert.  He makes a right at a Home Depot.  Thank God this is a 24 hr town, the body might be starting to stink in the morning, or worse eaten by coyotes he thought.

Russ purchases a yellow shovel, throws it into the bed of the truck.

 

Dawn.  Russ is filling up the grave with iron rich.  He pats down the fresh mound with the head of the shovel.  Russell needs this makeshift funeral to have a final ingredient for Russ to begin to feel closure.  The ruby cross dangling from the rear view mirror.  Russ rips it off.  Pulls off the chain, and sticks it in the ground above the body.  A coyote approaches quizzically, Russ throws a rock at it.  The coyote yelps as he scampers off.

 

Waves, aqua marine, beautiful bubbling water spreads across a sandy beach like an expanding blanket.


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