mostly blood and bones and pain

diary of a professional antagonist

Category Archives: Film

You’ll Never Work in This Town Again

I started life as an actor, a jobbing, useless motherfucker desperate for attention and cursed to serve my more supple skin days in the car parks outside parties I wished to be invited to. I did it all, park cars, take tickets, find keys, keep wives at bay while their director husbands had their cocks sucked on by my coat-check girl colleagues – all of whom found careers in the spotlight, even if they still bow down before they get the green light. Me, I took the hard road into the light and had to pave that same road in blood before I got my shot… and then blew it.

It was a cold, crisp December night. The Ritz looked prettier than a supernova and I felt like shit. 2:30am and only one set of keys was left. I told the others to go, hoping on a big tip but really waiting on the owner for something else, an introduction. Then he staggered out, the director of what would turn out to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The 70’s were already flying but this was going to change things. I helped him to his car, he fell in before vomiting all over my shoes, then apologized. I played it cool, said I was waiting for an excuse to get a new pair of brogans anyway. I told him I was an actor and would love to work for him.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Drive me home, kid, I’m late.”

The wait was worth it, I had a foot in the door and one of the icons of the 70’s now owed me. Then we got to the house he was staying at in the hills and things changed. A black sedan was parked outside. I helped him to the door, it was already open. Something was off, the air was dead and I didn’t like the way the floorboards creaked inside. Deliberate. Expectant. He pushed the door open to reveal an abyss of darkness beyond.

“Come back tomorra’, kid. We’ll work something out.”

“Thanks, Mister –”

Suddenly, an electrical cable whipped through the air behind him, wrapped around his throat and dragged him inside. I ran – into an elbow. When I woke I had a view of the stars I hadn’t asked for and a gun pointed at my head. The director was on his knees, begging for his life, saying I was his nephew and that we would do anything to live. These weren’t the kind of guys you fucked with. These weren’t actors, these weren’t Hollywood. This was a different ball game that jumped the fence and invited itself to the party. Nobody was going to tell these guys ‘no’, not the cops, not their wives and, as piss leaked into my shitty brogans, I realized I wasn’t going to say it either.

They told the director to fuck off back to New York and never look back unless he wanted me, his ‘nephew’, to experience the digestive system of a fish. Naturally he agreed and after he crashed his car twice trying to get out the front gate they took me as collateral into the dregs of the city’s slum in the back of a car, despite my pleas of mistaken identity. A couple of seconds later I knew life was about to change in a very real way when a .38 revolver was placed in my hands. The fingers that pressed it into my grip were colder than the devil’s and harder than the bit of a jackhammer.

“Get a feel for it, kid.”

They raised it, forced me to point it at the back of the driver’s head.

“Go ahead. Pull the trigger.”

The driver flashed a look at me in the rear-view, his black eyes filled with dead fury and burning intensity. He winked at me then said –

“What’cha waitin’ for?”

I looked at the man in the shadows next to me. The brim of his hat bobbed ever so slightly and I caught a brief reflection of silver light in the black coals where his eyes once used to be. I couldn’t tell which of them said it, but someone whispered –

“Snap back the hammer, then squeeze. It’s that easy.”

I admit, I thought twice about putting it in my own mouth and doing just that, then a hard *snap* jolted me to my senses as a blade jabbed me in the ribs and cut the skin. I pulled back the hammer and held my breath. Time stood still. Snow flakes seemed like they were floating for an eternity toward the front windshield.

*CLICK*

The gun was empty. A booming laugh filled the car, my arm was still locked forward. Something like post-traumatic stress was setting in but then I noticed what they noticed –

“Look at that.”

“Rock steady.”

My arm, unflinching, holding that weapon like it had been born with it. The man in the shadows started to clap, he stopped when I pulled the trigger a second time, then a third and my eyes locked on those black coals of his.

“I’m hoping for your sake four, five and six are just as hollow.”

He didn’t move, but the driver did. I had his attention, he was worried. He knew how to count and knew the score.

Four.

Five.

*BAM*

The tires screeched, we hit an embankment then slammed through a wall. The accelerator was still down when I came to, blood dripped from my face, none of it my own. The man in the shadows stood outside looking in and I could feel cold steel against the skin on my neck.

“That was a first, kid. You’ve some nerve, but you’ve got balls, too.”

“I don’t know what I was –”

“You’re workin’ for me now.”

He pointed at the driver.

“I’m a man short and the work’s backed up.”

“What kind of work.”

“Cleanin’.”

It wasn’t long before another car pulled in beside us. He got in but before he left threw the .38 to one of his goons and pointed at me. I was left with an edgy, semi-psychotic looking waif.

“When you’re ready, kid. Let’s do this.”

He took me to a warehouse where this fat bastard was tied to a chair with a bag over his head. This was to be my training. Over the course of the next eight hours he showed me the how’s and where’s of the trade then made me finish the job. Details aren’t important, suffice it to say my stomach was long since gone and the shred of sanity that remained was going to leave me on the breadline or in bottom dollar jobs for the rest of my life. Somehow I made it through and they set me up in an office on the strip with nothing more than a phone and a poster of the ocean – one a reminder of where they wanted me at all times, the other a reminder of where I’d end up if I tried to run.

So, for four years I sat there, took the odd call and rid the world of one more scumbag. I started to decorate the place, decided if I was going to have an office on the strip I might as well act the part, so I had a guy engrave my name on the door and put ‘productions’ after it. I never made it as an actor, fuck that game, I was going to be top dog, hot as shit producer, no credits to his name but a shit load of firepower backing me up. They dropped in once or twice, thought the idea was funny then realized there was an angle and put some money behind me. I was legit, I was making porn, but I was legit. They ran drugs, guns, everything through that little office, made connections they couldn’t have before and introduced me to all the wrong people. It wasn’t to last and the fun was about to come to a dead stop.

Word had spread about an indie producer who kept a low profile, they were billing me as a Howard Hughes type and some buzz started to build. The guys didn’t like it and I got the feeling they were about to send me to the ocean for a long swim. A knock on the door saved my life. A hero of mine, a real life, big shot producer walked in the room, introduced himself and said –

“What’s your story, kid? You’re starting to steal my thunder.”

I had the cover story down but my mistake was underestimating this guy, a guy who had heard every bullshit pitch from A to Z and knew a phoney when he saw one. Somehow, all that blood and firepower made me forget that I was stupid. He had heard things, names of people seen up here and knew I was knee deep in shit so rancid I’d leave a stink on the strip that would outlast the next four generations of my seed. Then he dropped a bomb on me, he was talking to the feds and guaranteed that if I gave up what I knew there would be a way out. The weight of the last four years buckled my knees and I finally gave up.

They moved hard and fast. It was a blitz, and before I could breathe the first breath of the next morning all my employers were behind bars or full of lead. With nowhere else to go I went back to the office and found my hero waiting with a big, fat cigar in his mouth, directing the removal men as they cleared out all of my shit.

“You did a good job, kid, but I promise you this – you’ll never work in this town again.”

He patted me on the back on his way out. A fed took me out of town then dumped me in Salt Lake City to lie low. I stayed there for a few years, living out a shitty, boring existence and to fill in the time started to write. Lucky for me my hero’s promise didn’t have the legs to outrun cancer. He sank into the dirt a few years back and the door to the strip opened once more. Sure, I’m a hack, a bum, a screenwriter, the lowest of the low, surviving on that one shred of sanity, but that’s all they ask in Hollywood, and if you last long enough someone will make a movie about you, too.

Murder Blues

Standing over his coffin wasn’t the hardest thing. Putting him there was. Despite my success, something felt wrong, didn’t add up and as my presence as a mourner began to cause a disturbance, the pieces began to click together.

A week prior I was on my way home from another failed script pitch I’d made to a barely C-list production company, to a bottle of cheap label whisky with the power to pile drive my consciousness into a dark abyss for at least three days, when a young lady approached me. There wasn’t anything remarkable about her, a bit dumpy, a bit needy looking and it seemed like she had tried to make an effort to spruce up, though the lipstick on her teeth and the mascara in her eyebrows said she didn’t know too much about how. She slapped me in the face then screamed that a man like me had fucked her life up completely as she attempted to claw my face. I was in no mood to take the blame for some other fucker’s mess and even if I could turn the situation around into a quick lay against an alley skip I figured that considering the day, there was only a case of something itchy at the bottom of it. I cut my loses and gave it to her straight and hard.

“Fuck off back to the Crayola box you fell out of.”

As I walked away, the reality of just how bad the studio rejection was had begun to fester. Feeling like a hooker who offered a free one to a convict on death row and got a “maybe next time” response, I continued on home, slammed the bottle back and fell into another, warmer world, though that was likely down to having periodically pissed myself while out for the count. I woke up smelling worse than a chemical attack and while this wasn’t unfamiliar, the slender, if slightly stubbly pair of crossed legs a few feet away, were.

As the deep set crust on my eyes dropped off and blur gave way to focus, I followed those unkempt pins upward and it soon became clear that they belonged to the young lady from before. She hadn’t figured out how to paint her face during my downtime but with half a skull-load of old brain cells continuing to slide out my nostrils onto the solidified remains of their already departed cousins, my sharpness was back and I figured I knew her face from somewhere. Then it hit me, she was a pretty damn close fit for my wife, Selina. This was not necessarily a good thing but, considering the neurological gene pool, it made the lack of make-up expertise and the incompetence with a razor make a lot more sense.

Last I’d heard Selina was trying to fight her imprisonment seeing as she’d been locked away on testimony taken from one of the motel employees who was under heavy sedation at the time of trial, and as her lawyer argued, was therefore susceptible to being coerced into telling the truth the jury needed to hear. It was bullshit but she had nothing to lose and a new date had been set for the plea three months down the line. Judging by the facial ticks and the inability to retain gas, or at least pass it silently, the unshaven ‘babe’ before me was her sister. Somewhere inside me I felt responsible for her, which says a lot about my own mental function. In an effort to bond, and at least have something to defend myself against Selina with, and buy time should we ever cross paths again, I struck up conversation.

“What’s your name, honey?”

“Barb”.

“Barbara?”.

“No, just Barb, y’know, like, Barbrilla.”

Fish in a barrel. She admitted the kinship with my ball and chain and told me that Selina had said that if she was ever in trouble to come find me. The heat of the moment had gotten to her three days earlier and just finding me had given her hope that her nightmare was about to end. Some guy she’d been banging had slapped her around and tossed her out on her ear, and he’d taken the last bit of cash she had – fifty bucks. I couldn’t understand why the idiot would put any amount of time into a tray of nuts like Barb and was about to throw her out myself but then she mentioned that ‘Ol Garth didn’t need her cash and it began to make sense.

He was relatively new in town, had moved from a more tropical climate, and was loaded. A payout from an accident at work had left him crippled and somewhat deformed. She didn’t get into details, I didn’t care enough to ask. All she said was that once his bosses cut the check he severed his ties and decided to move back to his old stomping ground. But ‘Ol Garth had been reduced to Barb after he was ripped off by a couple of hookers who got wise to his fortune and were tag team bleeding him dry until he shot one of them then claimed it was self-defense after having been broken in to by two prostitutes. Naturally the cops found enough at the second hooker’s pad to lock her away and ‘ol Garth went looking for a more long term, reliable female. Enter Barb, fifty bucks in her purse and kinda dumb – jackpot. Turns out she was the penance he had to pay for his previous wrongdoings and after a month he’d had enough and pitched her out of his house with two black eyes and an option to visit the dentist. It’s a shame his crippled ass didn’t think to look up the family tree online.

Brass tacks, the guy had close to a quarter mill at his fingertips and kept a lot of it in his attic. We cased the house over a couple of days, she showed me the ins and outs, his favored places to watch T.V., and most importantly the routine of the meals-on-wheels he had going. In all fairness, she had the vengeance thing down and even had a nine millimeter of ‘Ol Garth’s with a full clip, with which he was to be killed. It was damn near poetic. I was still debating whether to get involved but Barb’s instincts proved similar to those of her sister’s and she blew me stupid me for the guts of two hours before draining me dry through the night. Sperm nor scruple was left when she put the nine milli in my hand and told me that I had a five minute window to get in and hide while the meal man was on site. I hobbled across the road, a big stupid fucking smile on my face, as if the twenty four hour bout of coitus was somehow going to make everything run smooth.

Once inside I settled on upstairs as the best place to find a hiding place, seeing as the meal man wouldn’t be going there and ‘Ol Garth wasn’t about to jog up any time soon. It was, of course, a mistake. I settled in a wardrobe on some rolled up linen and before I knew it I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of my car horn blaring outside like a fucked alarm clock. All over the place, I staggered out into the bedroom where Garth was sitting, buck naked, using one of those elderly person can openers to twist the last bit of jizz out of the remains of his fucked up looking johnson.

“What the fuck?”

“Uh…”

“Who the fuck are you? What the fuck are you doing in my fucking house?”

“I, uh…”

He’d heard enough and smashed me in the face with the can opener. Garth was spry, there was no getting away from that, and he quickly sent the nine milli flying out of my grip before cracking two of my ribs and loosening a few teeth for me. I had mobility on my side though and in my panicked state, shoved him out the door to buy time. What followed was the sound of springs, something rolling then crashing down the stairs. Garth was lying at the foot of the steps, a wheelchair wrapped around him, the can opener in his hair and a pool of blood growing larger by the second. I found the attic, the shoebox with the cash, it was going to work out. I opened the box, there wasn’t a quarter mill, more like five grand. Why was I even surprised? Then the doorbell rang and instead of biding my time and making a clean escape, I jumped through the bedroom window into a hedge and compounded the damage to my ribs. Back at the car, no sign of Barb – then she came running, from the house.

“Where the fuck were you?”

“I rang the doorbell to create a distraction.”

“Fucking idiot, get in.”

“I don’t know how to drive.”

“Get out.”

“Is that the cops?”

“Gimmie the fucking keys, you clown-faced cretin!”

Somehow we made it out of there. Two hours later after I stopped shouting at her for exaggerating the truth about the amount of money in the house I felt very ill, remembering that I’d neglected to collect the nine milli before leaving. The cops would have it, I was a goner. Reluctantly, I turned on the news. There wasn’t too much coverage then the story of a local man found dead after an accident in own home started up. No foul play was suspected, the victim seemingly died during a sex act. Turns out the quarter mill wasn’t an exaggeration but ‘Ol Garth had blown the majority of it on hookers and porn. I figured I was off the hook and wanted to let it go but knew a gun with my fingerprints was still in the house of a deadman and it wouldn’t be long before his kin started to pack up his things.

The funeral was scheduled a couple of days later. An open house for mourners to pay their sympathies. I had Barb iron my suit. She made a complete fucking mess of it, but all I needed it for was a half hour so let it slide. Barb said she was going to stay home and count her share of the loot – fifty bucks, that’s all she wanted. Honest. I didn’t argue seeing as I was secretly hoping she’d be gone when I’d get back so I wouldn’t have to actually use the gun. That said, I wouldn’t get the chance if I didn’t find it. Into the lion’s den I walked.

I furled my lips together, nodded sympathetically, raised my eyebrows, all the cliché body language as I made my way through the mourners toward the coffin. I closed in, noticed a few odd looks, some whispers but paid no mind. Of course I was the stranger in the crowd and would draw some attention, but all I had to do was fit in then slip upstairs. I looked down at ‘Ol Garth and couldn’t help thinking that the mortician had done a pretty decent job to get all the cum out of his hair. The murmurs got louder then I thought I heard my name. I looked around, saw a picture of ‘Ol Garth from his heyday and something sank deep inside me.

I wish I had been on acid and that it was all a fucking insane flashback, but I was clean and this was a legit memory kicking in. ‘Ol Garth was a face from the past, a past I’d tried to distance myself from but one which Barb had clearly been trying to force back into my life. Selina was the accident that left ‘Ol Garth deformed and crippled, he was the motel employee whose testimony sent her down. This wasn’t about fifty bucks, or a quarter mill, this was about me in the house of a dead man whose violent past I and my wife were very much a memorable part of. I’d been set up. As if figuring it out wasn’t bad enough, or the fact that everyone in the room had simultaneously tuned into the same frequency, the cops had also just walked in and I knew then that Barb had made the call, and had done the same on the night when they showed up just as we were leaving, far too soon for anyone to have known.

They found the gun in the linen. Chance had landed it there. Barb was nowhere to be found, the money was gone with her and I knew that in three months Selina would likely be free or in a facility with much lower security and far more options when considering an escape. As for me, I stooped to a new low in a desperate attempt to maintain my freedom. When asked what I was doing there I said I was hired by ‘Ol Garth to strip for him. I mentioned my lack of success as a screenwriter and having been reduced to giving hand and blow-jobs out the back of a 7/11, which is where he picked me up, I agreed to go back to give him a private show.

The gun I had was his and ‘Ol Garth wanted to whack off while I threatened him with it. I also felt it necessary to tell them that he wanted me to pretend I was the hooker he shot when he caught her stealing from him. Naturally this didn’t go down too well with his surviving family members but the gun checked out and every studio in town wholeheartedly backed up my inability to get a writing job. They had no choice but to let me go on condition that ‘Ol Garth’s story die with him and the family be allowed to move on. Dignity, reputation and self-worth all flushed down the fucking toilet, I agreed.

I decided to ‘celebrate’ by buying a bottle of pile driver and driving home at speeds which would normally result in a fatal collision with a wall, or into an embankment, but no. Of course Barb was there, waiting for me when I walked in. A thin trickle of piss leaked down my leg as she kissed me, then whispered in my ear:

“Selina said to tell you that she’ll pay you back when she gets out.”

She left me with the bottle, my sorrows and a bad case of the blues. Penance, it would seem, was only just beginning.

Desert Death Rattle

It was gone when I woke. She’d taken it. There was no doubt in my mind. I stumbled out of the cot, legs still working their way back into sensation. My head was pounding and I was numb from the waist down, that is until I pulled on my slacks, wrenched the zipper and tore a landing strip off the shaft of my still erect prick. My legacy, my name, my next two weeks were fucked, and catching the bitch wasn’t going to be easy.

The engine rattled a strained growl as it barreled down the highway. The desert sun was hot as hell, crossing lizards popped beneath the rubber and bugs kamikazied into my windshield. All this ending life and impending death didn’t cost me a thought, all that was on my mind was the box. All I hoped was that she hadn’t undone the leather belt that held it together. All I knew was my crotch was warm with blood and I hadn’t yet taken the time to piss out the last bottle of dollar wine. I prayed I was still limber enough to bend around the stream and save myself the sting, but with God in absentia and my middle aged legs shriveling under the weight of time, win or lose pain was on the horizon.

Then I saw saw a flicker just ahead. Was it a mirage? And if it wasn’t, was it even her? I jammed my foot down hard on the gas and soon realized it was. The taillights were broken, one on each side, just like I’d left them. The rusted silver side panel jarring against the sun bleached red of the rest of the machine. That blonde hair trailing in the breeze off a head so fuck-me-now beautiful even the man in hell would be tempted to ignore the conniving glint in her gold digging eyes and take a dip. I decided to play it cool. This time she wouldn’t get the drop on me. I eased off and followed until she stopped at gas station then pulled in the other side of the cashier building, grabbed the tire iron and carefully negotiated the side wall.

The cashier was a dope in his late teens, drooling over the counter at her tits like a sloped fucking yak as he handed her a pack of cigarettes. She’d probably already done enough to convince him to say “on the house ma’am”. I convinced myself this was the case as she kissed him on the cheek then collected a pack of chips from a low shelf. He was good as dead the way that short red skirt was bobbing and weaving off her hips and didn’t even notice when she collected a bottle of suds from the fridge on the way out. I don’t know what made me madder, the fact that she was getting away with it again, or that I’d fallen for the same routine twice already and was still watching her in action instead of taking it.

I bucked up and slid into the passenger seat just as the car pulled away. She wasn’t even shocked, just looked at me like another bump in the road she had to run over. But at least with the tire iron I had her attention. I asked where the box was. She didn’t have it any more, she’d stashed it somewhere safe and if I wanted it I was going to have to do something for her. I asked what, considering I had a tool worthy of trying my hand at dentistry in my grip. Naturally she used the tools at her disposal but the second her hand contacted my crotch I yelped like a scolded pup. Most people would retract, but she knew the score and spun the wheel into off-road terrain and dug in. The car filled with dust and in the blinding pain of confusion and with gravel adding to the problem I suddenly realized I was alone.

The trunk creaked open, a shotgun was racked and a deafening boom of buck pelted my door and shattered the window. I crawled over, knocked it into drive and revved hard. Dust sprayed everywhere. I couldn’t see her. BOOM! This time the back window exploded into pieces. I sliced my hand open on the seat debris then out of nowhere there was clarity and a drop into a drainage ditch. Two teeth hung from my mouth from a long, thick glob of blood then parted company with me once and for all. I shoved the door open and toppled out. The sun vanished as she stood above me then cracked the butt of the gun into my forehead. All I hoped was that when I woke I wasn’t tied to a cactus getting gang-banged by a bunch of vultures.

Consciousness came before sight. I figured I was in the trunk of a car, which had to mean that she had an accomplice. Just then the car slowed to a stop. Two people got out and I waited until their footsteps had cleared earshot. After some more kicking sunlight washed over me and when my retinas had adjusted I clambered out. We were at a junk yard, a lost and forgotten wasteland filled with every trash and crap-mobile since the forties. I saw her disappear into the hut set in the center of it all a couple of hundred yards away. They were going to sell the box – had to be why they were in such an isolated dump. I was fucked, then, realized the car was the heap I’d driven to the gas station, I grabbed the spare key from the glove box, started it up and turned to face the road. “Get far away” ricocheted inside my skull but then something came over me. Maybe it was pride, or self loathing at my cowardice, or just that plain old nasty instinct that usually put me in that position, but as I looked in the rearview I knew that I couldn’t just let her get away with it.

My brain started working around two seconds before I plowed the car into the shack, but by then it was too late and when the dust settled I’d slammed some fat guy I didn’t know into a spike on the wall and was face to face with the shotgun, in her hands. She told me to get out. She was teary eyed, it looked like genuine sorrow but it might have been rage, I wasn’t sure. As I got out I stumbled on something rubbery and only after I found equilibrium again did I notice the gas station cashier’s head sticking out from under the chassis. It was rage. I took another shotgun butt in the nose, it broke, and given the number of previous breaks I knew that after this I was going to resemble some sort of a retarded puffin for whatever number of days I had left. She didn’t like that notion, though and as she racked the gun one last time I knew I was seconds from oblivion.

SNAP. All out. SLAP. Knocked out. I caught her before she fell. Bad a bitch as she was it would have been a crime to let that body bruise. I tied her hands to the wheel then looked for the box. She came to after five or so minutes and laughed in my face. This wasn’t a sale, this was a negotiation. The box was not here. The money was not here. There was nothing here except two dead men one hot broad and a retarded puffin. I’d killed the only party interested this side of the Grand Canyon and her partner in crime, the only one who could safely retrieve the box without drawing unnecessary attention. She was out of friends and I was out of luck so against my better judgement, which I’d last seen the night I turned twenty one, I teamed up with her one last time.

The gas station was quiet at night. The passing trade was slow. Then the night cashier came into view, resembling an aggression repressed MMA fighter, which was just perfect. She was about to take him down all by her lonesome, one bat of the eyelids and a long deep breath and he would be in the back toilet working her for all she was worth, but then the law rolled in. They questioned Mister MMA, showed him a photo or two, then pointed at the CCTV. Someone was looking for the goober I’d crushed back at the junk yard, and the only person of interest on those tapes was my red hot passenger. It was only a matter of time before they searched the place and found his locker. It was all or nothing time, so I headed for the back toilet window.

Once inside I could hear them bantering away out front. The muscle bound freak manning the desk was doing a wonderful job of not making the cops’ job easy, simply because he had the mental capacity of a grape and was getting pissed at the questioning.

“Go in back and get the God-damn feed from today”.

“Fuck you, pig – make me”

“I’ll get it myself.”

“Not on my watch, mother fucker.”

“Get outta my way, dummy.”

SLAP. SLAP. SLAP. I couldn’t help but look. MMA and the two cops were fighting full tilt. I found the locker, nabbed the box and got out the window without any of them noticing a thing. Everything was golden, all I had to do was get around the corner, back in the car and drop over the horizon before the next squad car arrived and I was made. The only problem was that the car was gone. Bitch.

I ran off into the desert, knowing that if I was caught with it that’d put me down for everything and clear her slate. I made it as far as the Canyon just before dawn. I stank and vultures were circling overhead by noon. A tour bus had pulled in a few hundred yards ahead. I couldn’t risk exposing them to it, fuck that, letting anyone near enough to swipe it so I decided to climb down into the red rock and hide it. I didn’t get far before my sense were crippled with fear but luck was on my side and I stashed it in a crevice. The markers were decent, a flagpole, a wood cabin and a memorial plaque for some dead guys who went down the canyon river in row boats back in the day. I was choosing a forth when I saw her.

Taser in hand, approaching at pace, she jabbed it into my side, knocking me to the ground.  I scrambled to stay clear of the edge. This time she wasn’t letting me get any sort of a second chance and kicked me in the face. I gripped pathetically at the earth as I slipped over the side. Then I felt the pain. She dropped her stiletto hard, stabbing it through the bones in my hand and pinning me to the wall. Some of the tourists noticed the activity and unsurprisingly started to take photos and video as gravity conspired with her stiletto against me and began to tear a slow line through the tendons, inching me closer to death by the second. She looked at me, didn’t have to say anything by way of stating the obvious. I nodded. She dropped the taser, reached down and took my free hand. Dumb broad. I fucked her into the canyon and climbed to safety.

The stiletto came in handy. I managed to latch onto the leather belt around the box and drag it up as distant sirens rang out. I had no choice left but open it. Fuck the fortune it was worth, fuck the loss, fuck the death it had brought by my hands – if I was going to walk, this was the only way. I crawled under some shrubs, unclasped the belt and wrapped it around my hands. The latch broke apart on contact. I sat there for a moment, listening to the rush of footsteps on approach. The words I picked up indicated that the cops knew what I had. They were cordoning off the area. The flesh on my fingers slipped between the lid and the bulk then prized it open. The last thing I remember is the blinding light.

I woke in the desert, close to the highway, the box lying empty by my hand. A tour bus was pulling away. The windows were blacked out. I sat up, scanned the horizon until I saw the flashing blue lights way out in the distance. It’s value was gone, she was gone and I was back at square one again. I sat by the highway until sunset when I began to slump. Maybe it was the dehydration setting in, but the last time I looked the belt was clasped tight around the box and a car was on approach. The driver’s blonde hair was trailing in the breeze.

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