“Holy shit,” I mutter in disbelief.
At a loss for what to do, I toggle the windshield wipers on. They make a sickly grinding noise as they struggle to start. Breaking free, they make five passes back and forth before I switch them off with a sigh. The windshield remains covered in blood. The blades only helped to push the blood deeper into corners it had not initially reached. I press the button on the end of the controls. I’m rewarded with a light spritzing of wiper fluid on top of the broken glass. The now bubbly blood interacts with the wipers once more. The frothy mix navigates its way through the cracks in the windshield, seeping in and dripping onto the tan interior dash.
I look across to my passenger, Retarded Joey. His eyes are wide in befuddlement, mouth open and gaping like some sorta damn fish drowning on the docks. I can’t tell if he’s in shock from what just happened. He doesn’t appear much different from his usual simpleminded, mouth-breathing look.
I look in the rear-view mirror, praying to myself I did not see what I know I had. Please be a deer. Please be some upright walking two-legged animal that’s not a human girl. Bigfoot. We’re in the northern woods of Washington. There’s always reports of Bigfoot on these wooded back roads, right?
The mirror reflects the reality that my mind does not wish to accept. There, framed in that small rectangle, is a limp body. A tangled swirl of blonde hair wrapped around limbs that jut out in directions they were not originally designed for, illuminated in the red glow of the brake lights that came on way too late.
Turning my attention back to my partner, I ask, “R.J., you all good, man?”
He shifts to look at me. Well, the eye that’s capable of looking in the right direction does, at least. Goddamn cousin fucking. Will these backwoods yokels never learn?
“Joey’s good. Was that a people?”
“Yeah, R.J., I’m afraid that was a people,” I reply. Damn, I hope the past year working with Retarded Joey doesn’t leave me speaking like him. “Look, you stay here, OK? I’m gonna go check on the girl.”
I pull the metal car door handle and pop open the driver’s side door with a gentle shove from my shoulder. I get out, feeling the stretch in my legs as I release the tension from a couple of hours of driving. I take a moment to breathe in the night air and then belch it out, tainting the area with the aroma of drive-through onions and grease.
I glance past the rear of the car and see the body still lying there, unmoved, except for the blonde hair flapping in the wind like a tattered flag. Confident that there’s not much to be done there, I cast my gaze upon the more important body—that of my ’88 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
As I walk to the front of the car, glass crunches underfoot and grinds into a powder upon the black asphalt. The right headlight is gone, and there is an indentation in the grille. We must have been going close to 70 mph at the time. In the battle of steel versus flesh, steel always wins out.
I sense movement behind me and whirl around.
Lit by the solitary headlight, my shadow casts a long, lonely figure down the empty highway. As the light falls off, the road curves into the darkness and it’s impossible to tell where shadow ends and night begins. There is no noise, save for the rustling of leaves across the fall ground and the slow churning pistons of the idling Oldsmobile.
Content that there is no oncoming vehicle, an unlikely scenario on this back highway, I return to assessing the damage. The dirt-brown hood of the car is remarkably clean. The girl must have been lifted straight over it. The windshield, well, that was a lost cause. A large impact point released circular waves outward before splintering into thinner lines that appear to have been created by a spider on a liberal dose of LSD. Through the bloody mess of glass, I see Retarded Joey has turned the car’s dome light on and is bobbing his head up and down to the sound of Depeche Mode in the tape deck. The brainless grin on his face is a disturbing picture as it refracts through the shattered glass. People are people, my ass. Apparently, Depeche Mode didn’t spend much time with the mentals.
Shaking the image of R.J. out of my head, I continue my inspection of the car. The roof has become a shallow bowl. At the bottom of the bowl is the leftovers of someone’s tomato soup. Descending the rear of the car is an almost perfectly straight red stripe, about six inches across. It begins halfway down the back window and continues across and over the trunk as if a paint roller had smoothly rolled across. I stare at the trunk of the car. I place my hand upon it and feel the chill of the metal in my fingertips. I glance to R.J. inside the car, still happily dancing away to his music. I give a soft rap on the trunk and place my ear to it. What I hear satisfies me for now.
Taking a deep breath, I decide it’s time to take a look at the non-metallic damage. I walk the 30-foot distance behind the car, following the trail of black scorch marks the tires left behind when the brakes slammed on.
The woman’s body is a modern Picasso sculpture, one of those pieces where he stopped giving a fuck if the anatomy was in the correct position or shape. Genius, whatever. “Hey lady, you alive?” I ask rhetorically.
I give her body a gentle kick with my brown cowboy boot. The flesh gives way with a shplorg sucking noise, and the toe of the boot submerges inside her abdomen. “God fuckin’ damn!” I scream out, jumping back from the body. The blonde strands of hair whip after me in mockery.
There’s a creaking sound of a car door, and the night briefly fills with the twinkling of synthesizers before becoming muffled once more as the door crunches back shut. R.J.’s heavy feet shuffle their way over to me. His 6-foot-tall, lean farmer’s body is wrapped in a tan workman’s coat and dark jeans. He’s also wearing the green trucker hat I got him last year. Across it reads the band name The Specials. He never got that joke, unsurprisingly.
“No, Joey, she’s not OK. You grab her head, and I’ll grab her legs. We can chuck her off into the woods over there and be on our way. Who knows what the hell she was doing out here, and we don’t need to stick around any longer. ’Kay?”
R.J. kneels by her head and wipes the hair away from her face. Her left eye hangs halfway out. The flesh of her cheek is scraped away to reveal shattered bone. Nothing left but tenderized road rash meat.
“She was pretty,” he says.
“Jesus! You look at that and think sexy, huh? I guess it’s better than the chicken fuckin’ back home, but come on!”
Joey moves on me with unexpected speed. His nose is touching the tip of mine. His eyes are pure black, like the night, and for a change, both focus in the same direction. “Don’t talk about Jesus. I ain’t never done nothing with no chicken.” And like that, it’s over. His eyes glass over to their usual dullard state. The lazy eye slowly drifts off to the corner. “She was pretty.” There’s a bittersweet empathy that wavers in his quiet voice.
“Yeah, all right, R.J., but she’s not now, so let’s get her moving.”
We lift the body up, and I try not to notice how much of her sticks behind to the road. We have her moved not a foot off the road when I hear the sound I’ve been dreading the whole time. It’s faint. It’s distant still, but there is no denying that a car is fast approaching.
“Fuck me,” I mutter and weigh the options. We can’t risk being seen carrying a body off into the woods. I look toward the trunk of the car and then at R.J. Yeah, fuck me hard, I think to myself. “The trunk, Joey. Quick!”
He nods in affirmation and we shuffle step to the back of the car. The body folds between us into a U shape. I cast a furtive glance and see the white glow beginning to cut through the forest. The purr of the approaching vehicle grows louder.
Setting my side of the body down, I race to the driver’s side door and throw it open. Melodic voices sing at me and then die as I remove the key from the ignition. I run back to the trunk and insert the key. Before turning it, I peek back once more. The headlights begin to crest the last curve.
“Joey, be cool, OK?” I say, and before I have a chance to get an answer or second-guess myself, I pop the trunk and throw it open. Inside, gagged with a bandana and bound in duct tape, is the boss’s 23-year-old daughter, Myra Torres.
R.J. releases his grip on the body in surprise. The already destroyed face bounces off the lip of the trunk, the chrome bumper, and finally the ground in a series of grotesque splats. R.J.’s one good eye wavers back and forth between the woman in the trunk and myself. His mind tries its feeble best to comprehend.
I throw the legs of the body into the trunk. The feet land on the head of the bound woman. Myra screams through her gag, a white foam of saliva coating the edge of her brown lips. Her eyes speak in tones of murder.
“Look, R.J., I’ll explain later! Right now we gotta get this closed up!”
He takes another look at Myra and then back at myself before bending down, picking up the body, and gently setting it inside the vehicle. I wipe my bloody hands clean on Myra’s green evening dress and R.J. follows suit. With that, I slam the trunk closed.
The headlights of the approaching car slow. They come to a complete stop 40 feet behind us. The lights are bright, blinding me. I put my forearm up to shield my eyes and attempt to make out the vehicle. It sits there, idly watching R.J. and myself. We wait, frozen in a moment of time.
The forest erupts in hues of blue and red as the rotating emergency lights of the highway patrol vehicle turn on. My luck today is truly astounding. I hear the driver’s side door open and then close. Still blinded by the lights, I can just make out the state trooper approaching in silhouette. Damn Yogi Bear hat and all.
“You boys having car trouble?” a gruff, yet sincere voice calls out.
“A deer jumped out at us, Officer. We’re just about to get back on the road,” I reply.
The trooper crosses the distance between us. He’s an older black man. He looks me over and then studies R.J. who’s leaning uncomfortably on the trunk of the car, swaying back and forth in a slow grind.
“No, no, we’re all good.”
“Yeah? And how about you?” he asks Retarded Joey.
“Joey’s good,” he answers. I sigh a breath of relief.
The officer gives R.J. a brief stare before beginning a walk around the Cutlass. “Well boys, I’m afraid that windshield is done for. I can’t let you drive with it damaged like that, especially at night. Where’s the deer at?”
“Sorry, sir, but I have to call out the tow truck. If you could please hand me your license and registration, I will call in the truck for you. I’ll need to see your ID as well. Joey, was it?”
“Joey,” I ask, “would you mind getting the officer the papers out of the glove box?”
Joey gives a slight nod. He moves to the passenger door, opening it once more, and rummages in the glove box.
The trooper wanders to the spot where the deer’s body had landed in the road. He looks from the bloody spot to the woods and back. He squats down, his black-gloved hand reaching to the asphalt, and picks up a long strand of blonde hair, dyed with spots of red. He springs up and turns back to us with surprising speed for a man his age. His right hand has unclipped his sidearm and brought it bearing on me at the same time.
“Fuckin’ niggers!” R.J. screams out from beside the car. In his hand is the pistol he retrieved from the glove box. He sprints at the state trooper in his lurching manner, firing wildly as each heavy footstep takes him closer. The officer takes a hit in his right shoulder before squeezing off two shots in return. The first shot shatters the rear window of the Oldsmobile. It’s unclear where the second lands, but a loud metallic ring hints at the car taking the damage from that shot as well. Joey, on his fifth shot, plants a bullet in the trooper’s gut, sending him to the ground. The Yogi Bear hat blows off his head and rolls to the tire of the patrol car. I walk up to the downed officer and remove the gun from his fingertips.
“Please…,” he groans out. The writhing pain of the gut shot reverberates through his voice.
R.J. lays the tip of his pistol to the back of the trooper’s head. He pulls the trigger. “Niggers,” he says with a smile.
I sigh. I’ll never understand how they can’t get basic math to stick in these Southern bastards’ heads, but niggers, now that they have no problem learning.
“Well, what else can go wrong tonight?” I ask aloud to no one. God gives me a reply anyway. I notice where the trooper’s second shot went. In the trunk of the car is a newly formed round hole.
“No,” I shout while running over to the car. With shaking hands, I scrape the keys into the lock and twist.
The trunk lifts partially. I throw it open wide. Inside, there are now two bodies. The first, the mangled corpse of a blonde woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. The second, Myra Torres, who has a gaping hole in her forehead where the misfired shot found home.
I hang my head in disbelief. That shot would have been impossible if the trooper had been trying to make it. But here I am, with the dead daughter of one of the biggest crime bosses in western America. Kidnapping her and seeking a ransom from the man may not have been the smartest of my plans, but I had Retarded Joey set to take the fall and I’d have been able to disappear with millions in cash. Now everything is fucked. Think, Eugene, think. Keep it simple.
“Hey, R.J., come here for a moment, will you?”
I hear the lame legs dragging their way over to me. My grip on the trooper’s gun tightens.
“I got some bad news, R.J.,” I say. “It’s a shame that trooper shot you.”
I turn to face R.J. To my surprise, he’s inches away from me, his gun at the ready. The focused black eyes of a killer have returned. He smiles.
“Joey may be slow,” he says, “but I’m not retarded.”
I’ll never know who pulled their trigger first. In the end, it would not matter for either of us.
S.M. Fedor has previously appeared in Punk Noir Magazine, Burning Love & Bleeding Hearts, and will be in the forthcoming Mickey Finn vol. 2 from Down & Out Books. Scott splits his time between writing neo-noir & new-weird influenced crime/horror thrillers and creating award-winning VFX for film/TV. He resides in Montreal and is currently at work on his debut novel. @s_m_fedor & smfedor.com