Daryl and I watched in silence, as the mortally wounded man’s frantically flailing limbs quickly lessened to a palsied twitch followed by stillness, as his life’s blood drained out into the filthy carpet. Ordinarily, I would have been horrified by my actions and the sight of blood spurting from the man’s neck with each beat of his heart.
The blitz of emotions brought on by my assault had left me emotionally drained and numb. I slowly moved closer, furtively reclaimed the now bloody metal nail file, wiped it off on the carpet and concealed it in my sleeve. When the man stilled, Daryl looked over at me with a unreadible expression. I braced myself for another attack. We sat staring at one another for a few moments. He suddenly laughed.
“Damn girl, I guess you really didn’t have that phone.”
“I told you I didn’t have it.”
“I don’t really care one way or another. I made a good faith effort to get it back now I’m done with it. They ain’t paying me to risk my life for no phone.”
“What are they paying you to do?”
Daryl didn’t answer me. Instead, he sat back and called out.
“What,” came the shouted reply from somewhere along the hallway.
“Don’t ‘what’ me. Get your ass out here.”
A squat, bull necked man came waddling into the living room pulling a sleeveless wife beater t-shirt over his head. His eyes went to me sitting on the floor holding my torn shirt closed and his lips split into a knowing grin. I gripped my shirt tighter to ward off his lascivious gaze. He chuckled and treated himself to another lingering look at my breasts. Turning towards Daryl, he finally saw his friend sprawled on the floor.
“Oh my damn, what happened to Dom?”
“Ask her,” said Daryl.
“Yo you took out Dom? Yuse a bad bitch!”
“Never mind her, get this place wiped down. I’m gonna be ready to roll out when I get back.”
“What are you going to do about the body,” I blurted without thinking.
“Not a damn thing. We was just squatting here long enough to do a coupla jobs. We’ll be long gone by the time he starts stinking” crowed Manny.
Daryl stood and cuffed him upside his head. “What’d I tell you ’bout running your mouth? Wipe this place down and get everything loaded up. C’mon killer, let’s go,” said Daryl motioning for me to accompany him out of the house.
“I’m not going anywhere with my shirt ripped open,” I snapped.
“Get your ass up and quit wasting my time.”
I remained motionless, defiantly staring up at him from my seat on the floor. Daryl pulled a gun from the waistband at the small of his back and leveled it in my face. My gaze never wavered. Manny’s insolent once-over of my body had reignited my anger. It was bad enough to suffer the indignity of being assaulted while this man sat back and watched. I was not about to go outside and allow more strangers to feast their eyes on my nudity.
Daryl’s finger rested on the trigger and I thought how pleasant it might be to escape all my troubles once and for all. I was tired of being used and abused by people I barely knew. Just thinking about the assault made me feel a rising sense of panic. The sensation of his rough hands still burned my skin. It took all of my willpower to keep pushing it to the back of my mind so that I could focus on what was happening.
My body was battered and bruised. I had no idea what Daryl had in mind for me next. Whatever it was couldn’t be pleasant. If it wasn’t in the cards for me to survive to the end of the day, then I wanted to get it over with quickly. Daryl pressed the muzzle of the gun to my forehead and still I steadily gazed up at him. He relented with a shrug.
“Ah, what the hell. I don’t have time for this shit. We’re behind schedule as it is. Hey Manny, bring me a shirt.”
“It don’t matter. Just bring a shirt for her.”
Manny retrieved a t-shirt and tossed it to me. I gratefully pulled on the shirt and instantly felt a little better. I swept my belongings back into my purse and followed Daryl out to his car. Surprisingly, he led me to a nondescript white economy car. I got in, took one look at the cracked steering column and understood that the car was stolen. I held out until we pulled out into the flow if traffic, before I felt compelled to ask. The suspense was eating away at me.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To work the job.”
“And what exactly is the job?”
“You’ll be assisting me.”
“Assisting you how?”
“You’ll find out when we get there. Stop asking me so many damn questions!”
We rode the rest of the way in silence, leaving the depressed section of the city and moving into the county. He parked in an alley and led me through an overgrown backyard up to the back door of a modest house in the middle of the street. A couple of light raps brought a scantily clad woman to the door. She opened it and stood back while pulling on a pair of lime green platform heels.
Judging from her garish appearance, I supposed the woman was a prostitute. She held a finger to her lips, pointed above our heads and mimed sleeping. Daryl quietly led the way upstairs. The bedroom door at the head of the stairs was standing open. I could see someone lying in the bed. Daryl pushed me into the room ahead of him. He kicked the end of the bed until the sleeper stirred and turned over. I almost fell over when I realized that it was Mr. Canfield. Our eyes met.
“You? What the hell are you doing in my house? I tell you never to call me again so you sneak into my house?”
“Believe me, I’m not here by choice. I didn’t even know it was your house.”
Daryl suddenly spoke up, “Hey old man, you need to be worried about me not her. I’m the one with the gun.”
Canfield looked over at him and seemed to see the gun for the first time. His surly attitude evaporated. I took a step back out of the line of fire and waited to see what would develop. Canfield looked confusedly from Daryl to me and back again.
“What is this about?”
“You know what the hell this is about snitch!”
The gunshot sounded deafening in the cramped bedroom. It happened so fast that it took a moment for my startled eyes to process the burn hole in Canfield’s blanket and Daryl writhing on the floor with a gaping hole in his chest. Canfield leapt out of bed with his gun still trained on Daryl. He stood over him and kicked away Daryl’s weapon before putting the safety on his own weapon and stowing it in his waistband. He bent down and grabbed Daryl’s arms.
“Make yourself useful kid. Grab his legs.”
“Why did you shoot him?”
“Why the hell do you think I shot him? He was gonna shoot me.”
“How do you know that?”
“For one thing, I really did throw a few people under the bus. I had to, those feds meant business and I have no intentions of spending the rest of my days in prison. I knew that sooner or later, someone was coming for me. I’ve been sleeping with my gun. When I opened my eyes and saw you standing there, it threw me. But you came in handy. I got you talking to distract him long enough aim my weapon. I figured I would only get one shot.”
“What do you mean?”
“We don’t have time for the third degree. Help me get him up on the bed.”
“Answer my question.”
“Isn’t it obvious? He was gonna shoot me and then pull out a second gun and shoot you, making it look like the two of us had it out. Check his ankles.”
I lifted his pants legs and found a pistol in an ankle holster on his right leg.
“He was gonna shoot me? Why would he do that?”
“Evidently, you’ve outlived your usefulness. Now come on kid chop, chop.”
We hauled Daryl onto the bed. Canfield took off Daryl’s cap and put it on his own head. He retrieved a can of lighter fluid from his nightstand and squirted the entire can over Daryl’s body.
“What are you doing,” I asked.
“Buying myself some time. The longer it takes them to figure out that he’s not me the further away I can get.”
“But I don’t think he’s dead yet.”
“He will be in a minute.”