In the cool night beneath light tower 13 of the near-empty Target parking lot, the two of them sat in her boyfriend’s car, the motor off, its windows only just beginning to fog from the slow, thought-filled breathing of their long-held simmering silence. It was Erin, who sat behind the wheel, who finally opened the relief valve.
”You never told me you loved me in any of your letters the whole time you were away,” Erin said to Jack.
“I wrote you every week, Erin, even while I was in the hospital ward. Just because I didn’t…”
“Look at you. Your face is turning red. You know I’m right and you’re embarrassed by the fact you never could admit you loved me. Even from 180 miles away. Even while you had nothing but time to think about it,” Erin said.
Jack turned and grabbed Erin by her arm and twisted her closer to him. One-time muscle for an upstate criminal crew, Jack was a mountain of a man whose mere prospect of a thundering avalanche was enough to frighten other large men into obeisant compliance with his or his benefactors’ wishes. But Erin was his sole conqueror. Only she knew the safe way to the top.
“You’re hurting me again, Jack. Please let go of my arm,” she said with a calm certainty. “I’m driving back to the halfway house. This conversation is going nowhere, just like our relationship. In fact, that IS our relationship. I do the driving and you go halfway.”
“Baby, you gotta understand. They read every letter that comes in and goes out. Emails, especially. Just think about that. I was trying to protect you,” Jack said as he released her arm.
“From what, Jack? I mean, really. Who gives a shit about me? Including you. Besides, you know I can take care of myself.”
“Honey, it’s different this time. You don’t really know what I did this last time. The simple assault beef was my short-time payoff. Trust me, you just can’t…”
Swirling red and blue lights bounced off the car’s interior, blinding Erin and Jack with their reflection in the mirrors, stopping the conversation. Jack’s attempt at softness pivoted from the embarrassed pink to a cold blue, as well.
“You let me handle this, Erin.”
“You aren’t in the driver’s seat here, Jack, in any sense at all,” Erin said. “You just do what you do best. Act dumb.”I’ll do what I had to learn to do while you left me.”
The bright white beam of a flashlight ignited at the police cruiser’s driver side door and swung from Erin’s rear license plate through the back as the cop approached the driver’s window. He tapped on it and Erin rolled it down, echoing the flashlight’s brightness with her own radiant smile.
“Good evening, officer. I don’t suppose I was driving over the speed limit, so is this one of those “protect and serve” situations?” Erin said.
The name plate on the cop’s chest read R J Diaz, and he replied, “License and registration, ma’am. Just trying to keep the parking area clear of teen make-out sessions and other….” He swung the flashlight beam over to Jack in the passenger seat, who was opening the glove box to grab Erin’s registration.
“Hey, Jack, good to see you. Now you just put your hands on the dashboard where I can see them.”
Diaz’s free hand didn’t pull his 9-millimeter service pistol from its holster. Instead he retrieved a .22-caliber Beretta 71 from inside his jacket and trained its business end, for Diaz was in the business, on the new parolee. He clicked back the hammer and said, “Papi Esteves sends his regards. Congratulations on your parole. Hands where I can see ’em! Thank you, baby.”
The phony cop was about to squeeze off the quiet round or two of head shots above the eyes that was his trademark, when the crack-crack of another .22 dropped Diaz to the oil stained black top. Erin placed the pistol she’d pulled from beneath her seat onto the center console and turned toward Jack.
“Honey! What the hell? You capped that guy like a pro. I told you I was worried about you. Esteves swore he’d get me for busting up his son for Primo Donatelli. Let’s get the hell out of…” Then a dim light switched on in Jack’s cold dull eyes. “Wait, what the hell did he thank you for?”
Another pair of small-caliber shots rang within the car and blood flowed from between Jack’s eyes, which went wide and ultimately dull. Diaz’s Baretta had fallen into Erin’s lap and she couldn’t let the opportunity slip by after all Jack had put her through over the years.
“You were dumb as a box of rocks, Jack. I’m sure Papi’s offer was a sweet one for Diaz, or whatever the hell his real name was. And Primo? The guy who was your rabbi and protector? He knew you for what you were, a low-life, blabbermouth loser. Either one could’ve ordered this hit.” Erin said.
She thought about how Jack always refused to believe the baby was his and about the botched abortion and how it left her. She really had learned to take care of herself. Erin positioned her .22 Beretta in Jack’s hand. She then dropped the thoroughly wiped down preferred pistol of the assassins’ class next to its owner’s gloved hand.
Before she walked away from the scene, she poked her head into the car once more and said, “All I ever asked you to do was tell me you loved me, you stupid prick.”
Trying to catch up best I can for missed days of my Story-A-Day death march. Today’s is about who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist/villain when everyone’s moral compass has been smashed by the street life and criminal culture. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much, does it?