Shared Frequency

09/26/23

A day and a night locked up in Century Regional before they grill her in the box room, but she’s still the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. A porcelain doll in the SoCal heat.

They cut her loose late afternoon. Not enough evidence.

He tails her to a cocktail lounge on Del Amo. The sun bleeds fuchsia across the sky.

She spots him by the bar. A flicker of unease—then a smile.

She asks if his partner knows he’s here.

Vergano ran the interrogation that morning.

Tony Vegas. The showman always working angles.

He played the brooding type instead. Pure FBI vaudeville.

She lights a cigarette now and the smoke frames her face.

Awed by her hardscrabble glamor. Unwilling to hide it.

Does he really think she’ll turn on Bobby and start talking about the cash they found?

He shakes his head. His turn to smile.

She sips a Mai-Tai heavy with white rum. “What do you want?”

• • •

He wants to talk, and they do.  

Long into the LA night.

Like two steel blades in conflict—but they find a shared frequency.

She tells him about Nebraska. Her aunt who drank all day and the cousins who taught her how to hunt. How to aim for the kill. She turned eighteen and headed west. Chasing the sun, or maybe running from the dark.

He talks about hopscotching up and down the Eastern Seaboard with a mom chasing after men who had left her. She passed away from lung cancer and he landed in Wilmington. Got himself a degree in Criminal Justice. Played football to work out his rage. He left Delaware and went straight to the FBI recruitment office armed with summa cum laude arrogance and a need to belong.

She talks about those first few months that turned into years. Dead end jobs. TV auditions went nowhere fast. Dead end guys. She kept at it.

Always looking at the horizon. Never looking back.

He tells her about Quantico. They pushed him but he never broke. He moved around the country on the job, living in apartments he would never call home. Not so different from his life as a kid. He took down big names in Chicago. Carved out a name for himself too.

Bending the rules—never quite breaking them.

It started going bad for her. Hollywood went Hollyweird. She took it to the edge. Mule runs across the border. Quick cash, high risk.

He moved to Los Angeles and clicked up with Vergano. They started out small, cutting corners on procedure. They ran protection schemes. They hit Armenian money launderers and skimmed off the top.

Bobby took her in. He kept her safe. Bobby ran his own crew but his vision was always small-time. Too busy thinking about now. Never looking at the horizon. She had ideas. She had big dreams.

Now all she wants is a way out.

He has a way to make it happen.

• • •

He’s at a Motel 6 out in Palm Springs overlooking a Denny’s. He kills another Wild Turkey miniature watching CNN with the sound on mute. Santa Ana winds blow crazy at night.

Three million in unmarked bills. But it won’t mean anything without her.

It was easy getting the cash out of the evidence room. There are always blindspots.

He has a few days before they notice it’s gone.

Or maybe they’re already onto him. Maybe they saw this coming.

There are always blindspots.

• • •

She knocks early. He knows it’s trouble. He’s watching from the Denny’s. Hiding by the side of the door is a man with a gun, coiled and ready for when the chain comes off the lock.

Vergano. Always working angles.

He slides a twenty to the waitress and then he’s heading east moments later. A straight drive through to Arizona. He’ll cross the border at Camino Real.

Always looking at the horizon. Never looking back.

He sheds his skin. A new life.

There would be others. Other women too.

One of them would leave him bleeding out on a beach in Costa Rica years later. And even then, he thought of her. The only one who ever broke his heart.

~ fin ~

truong_mellor

Thomas Trang is a French/Vietnamese writer currently living in the UK after stints in Australia, New York, and Singapore. His stories have previously appeared in FutureQuake, Full House Literary and the Revolutions 2 anthology. He is currently working on a SF trilogy which mixes cyberpunk with the gritty realpolitik of The Wire and Cold War spy fiction.