Sunday, 9 August 2009
A BETTER PLACE - by Mike Wilkerson
A BETTER PLACE
Riding shotgun and time’s not on my side. Streetlights, neon signs- blips as we pass them by - 65 in a 45. Jimmy’s driving and he’s as cool as the other side of the pillow. Jimmy’s always cool and tonight, he’s doing me a grand favor. This time, it’s not about business - this is strictly a personal run, for me: little brother did bad things, to the wrong people. Now, he’s in deep.
Can we help him? Maybe.
Will blood be spilled?
Jimmy says, count on it.
Four blocks off Coquina Key. In two minutes time, you move from waterfront property to the other side of life. The side you never hear about, because they try to hide that it even exists. It’s our destination.
There, on the corner: a Florida style ranch with a craaaazy safety orange paint job. Christmas lights in the windows; plastic, glowing Jack-o-lantern on the porch - funny: it’s mid-August. We pull up, two blocks off, hump it to the front door. Me and Jimmy stand there, look at each other. Jimmy nods. Jimmy goes six foot four and two forty five. Jimmy puts a foot to the door and turns the entryway into shitloads of kindling. He’s done this before.
I go in first. Six people inside; four men, two women - flat ass stunned. Boxes of opened kitty litter, mask that funky, meth lab smell. I locate little brother first- he’s bent over a chair, sans clothes; sans integrity.
Only, I don’t know it.
He’s bleeding- everywhere. He’s missing a strip of hair, right down the middle - reverse mohawk: grotesque, modern art in the middle of the room. Surveying takes me five seconds, tops. Lounging dead heads are starting to stir - too late. Jimmy, is already going to work, he’s put two to the ground: bleeding, gagging - larynx’s crushed. The place is a frenzy.
Women, can be the most dangerous animal. One carries a knife, runs it deep into my lower back, kidney area. I turn towards her and put a shotgun butt against her head. I see her pinned pupils roll upwards. I see her body go limp, hit the floor. I didn’t want to do it- reactions, betrayed me.
I stumble to little brother. A body flies across the room, hits the other wall, twelve foot across - Jimmy’s third victim. I scout for the fourth man, the second woman - they’ve split, they’ve seen enough to know the odds.
Jimmy says: “Get your brother untied and get the fuck out of here!” then starts running a search of the house.
Something’s not right. I’m feeling tired and a blast furnace goes off in my head. I fumble with the knots in the ropes. Little brother’s not moving and my hands feel swollen.
“What the fuck’s wrong?” I say to myself. Nobody hears me. My lips, never move.
Jimmy’s back. A knife, cuts through little brothers ropes. Double time: he grabs both of us and we’re back out the door and in the car. All things considered, the job went smooth: no shots fired, noise to a minimum- just the way we wanted it.
Not even close.
Full circle - riding shotgun and time’s no longer an issue. Streetlights, neon signs - blips as we pass them by - 65 in a 45. Jimmy’s driving and he’s still as cool as the other side of the pillow. Jimmy’s always cool and tonight, he’s done me a grand favor. This time, it wasn’t about business- it was strictly a personal run, for me: little brother did bad things, to the wrong people.
Now, his debts are paid.
Epitaph that will never be written: a blood smeared corpse in the back seat of a car. A life extinguished. Some will say too young. Others, will say he was lucky to make it this far. Latter trumps former.
Did we help him? No.
Was there blood.
My God, the blood.
Jimmy looks over to me. I know his look, know he’s right. He can only take us so far and we’re reaching the limit.
Bayfront Emergency Center: Jimmy’s still doing 50. People are zigging, people are zagging, people are fucking screaming. Jimmy’s out of the car, disguise improv: hat down low, sunglasses on; dragging me and little brother, out into the sticky night air. I’m hanging on, but won’t last long; internal bleeding= invisible killer.
I give Jimmy his out: “Beat it, amigo,”
Jimmy’s still playing it cool - it’s who he is. “Will do,” he says. “I’ll see about the two that got away and I’ll see you around.” And, he’s on his way.
Jumbled figures, in baby blue scrubs, descend on the two of us: prodding, grabbing, asking questions. I watch Jimmy drive away, knowing he’ll be fine: tags, car, will go untraced. He’s done this before.
“I’ll see you around”- I want to believe his words. I want to believe, that my brother will wake up tomorrow. Hope resigns, but I hold on to it. Even as I slip away, I want to believe that there’s a better place for us, somewhere…
Mike Wilkerson is currently hard at work on a crime novel, based where he resides in St. Petersburg, FL. His short fiction appears on A Twist Of Noir and Thrillers, Killers N Chillers.