Victims

01/09/24

After midnight, they pulled up to the house that matched the street number written with ballpoint pen on a cocktail napkin. The kid was still talking.

“I know you haven’t seen me in action, but I’m here to work. What I bring to the table is, I watch. I listen. And when the time comes…”  He drew his thumb across his throat. “Fuckers don’t even know what happened to them.”

The passenger slowly turned his head like some enormous owl, his bald scalp scraping against the roof of the ’88 Chrysler Fifth Avenue the kid borrowed for the evening. Hot date, he had told his uncle.

“Kid,” the passenger said. The veins in his neck were pulsing. “Shut the fuck up.”

“I’m just trying to break the ice here. I’m–”

The man pulled an immense silver revolver from his jacket. It was the length of the kid’s forearm and the passenger held it between them for a moment, letting the gun reflect the moonlight. Then he said, “Keep the car running. I’ll be back momentarily.”

He opened the door and unfolded his great bulk out of the car. After the interior of the car went dark again, the kid saw the man crossing the lawn. The kid pointed his finger like a gun at him, taking aim through the windshield as the man disappeared through a side gate into the backyard. There was no call for him to talk like that. He needed the kid to drive him on account his license was taken away because of DUIs, and every other gun-for-hire was out of pocket because of the shitstorm in Salt Lake.

The passenger side door opened and a big silver-haired woman with the wildest eyes got in the car. Her shoulders were nearly as wide as the kid’s partner and she wore a white sleeping gown with jeans hastily pulled on under them. The assassin’s silver revolver was in her hand. Everything she touched in the car came away with blood.

“Hi,” the kid said, feeling dumb at hearing his own voice say it.

“Let’s go for a drive.”

It rained as they drove, casino neon bleary through the downpour. She directed him out to the highway, then onto a dark blacktop road. Leaving the city behind for the empty desert.

“Stop here,” she said. “Let’s take in the air. Find somewhere private.”

As he walked across desert, leaving the vapor headlights of the car behind, she followed with a flashlight. The cold rain falling on them in the dark. The lights of Las Vegas shimmering far off.

“Stop,” she told him. Then, “How much money were you going to be paid for murdering me?”

“Listen, they just told me to drive. I promise. I had no idea what that guy back there was going to do. They didn’t tell me anything. I had nothing to do with it. I swear it on my mother’s life.”

“How much?”

“I can just disappear. I’ll leave town tonight. I’ll be a ghost, no one will hear from me again, no one will know what happened. Deal?”

She raised the pistol at him. Clicked back the safety.

“How much?”

“I… a thousand dollars.”

“A thousand dollars,” she repeated, looking up at the night sky as if something was written in the stars.

“Split two ways,” he said. “If you let me go, I’ll tell you who hired me.”

“I know who hired you. The worst woman in the world. My sister.”

The kid had to pee. He began to talk. He told the woman everything. The direction his life had gone, why he had made the choices that led to this moment on this night. How, in many ways, he was just as much a victim as her. If only he could make her understand, open his chest and show her his beating heart, then maybe, just maybe…

“Jesus Christ,” she said. “It’s like someone once pointed a gun at you and told you to never stop talking. Shut up. For just once in your life, will you shut the fuck up?”

~ fin ~

Shane Joaquin Jimenez

Shane Joaquin Jimenez is the author of the forthcoming novel Bondage. His recent writing has appeared in Bristol Noir, Punk Noir Magazine, and Roi Fainéant Press. A native Las Vegan, he now lives in Canada. Check him out at www.shanejoaquinjimenez.com