Tonight

02/20/24

Somewhere in Los Angels tonight there is a body in a trunk. The car is traveling south on the 110 from Compton to San Pedro. The man driving the car doesn’t know who it is, or why they are there. He doesn’t care.

The car is a four-door sedan and the ads when it was new bragged that it could fit two bags of golf clubs in the storage area. The smarter set in Detroit never contemplated what else it could fit.

The body is wrapped neatly, ready for disposal and protected against leaving behind any evidence it was ever there. Gone and forgotten as soon as it leaves the trunk, like the person will be forgotten now that they have left this world.

Lights on the electronic billboards light the sky daylight bright as they advertise a life neither the driver of the car nor the body in the trunk ever knew, or could even dream of.

The driver doesn’t think about the body. He is thinking about eating after he is finished. He remembers a taco place down there, birria and consumé, cold beer, salsa that lingers on your tongue longer than the memory of this job.

All across the city, actions are taken. Some might land someone in the trunk of car tomorrow. Most will go by unremembered. Fighting and fucking and stiff silences between people fill the night air like smog so dense you can’t see the lights from the helicopters above. They buzz the city, peering down and going unheard. Screw the trees in the woods, if nobody hears and nobody cares about the helicopters, do they make a sound?

Does it make a sound if the pleas and whimpering of a man doomed to die fall on indifferent ears? If his begging and crying goes unheeded, did it matter at all?

The driver is listening to music so familiar and heard so many times it passes through him like a shadow. Gun to his head he couldn’t tell you what song just played. Too busy thinking about tacos. Too busy ignoring the body.

A thousand reasons why someone would end up back there, being driven to San Pedro. A thousand headlights winking anonymous hellos to each other as they pass like flirting lovers never to meet. A thousand other people carrying their own troubles with them tonight.

And one body in the trunk of a car.

~ fin ~

Eric Beetner - Photo by Mark Krajnak

Eric Beetner has been described as “the James Brown of crime fiction – the hardest working man in noir.” (Crime Fiction Lover) and “The 21st Century’s answer to Jim Thompson” (LitReactor). He has written more than 20 novels including Rumrunners, Leadfoot, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, The Year I Died 7 Times and Criminal Economics. His award-winning short stories have appeared in over three dozen anthologies.  He co-hosts the podcast Writer Types and the Noir at the Bar reading series in Los Angeles where he lives and works as a television editor. For more visit ericbeetner.com