Ok, let me get this straight. You're in the hotel room. You've got God knows how many thugs outside. And they've already shot this "Gabriel" guy. So, pretty much, you have no way out and nowhere to go.
That's the gist of it, yeah.
Sounds to me like you should be a dead man.
I probably should be.
So how is it that you're talking to me today?
Well, after Gabriel hit the ground, I kind of freaked out. Ok, I fucking panicked. I just kind of stood there a second, frozen. If I hadn't been over to the side of the window, who knows, they could have put a bullet in my head next. I mean, what's another body to them anyway?
But after awhile, a few seconds I guess, it sure seemed longer though, I heard their car doors open and I ran over to the gap between the beds and got down. I don't know what I was planning to do mind you, but I got down and just waited for that door to open. From where I was on my stomach I could see the door and I was just waiting for that doorknob to start turning. All that I could think, was that I was lying there like a bearskin rug and I was about to be as dead as one and the money in my pockets wasn't going to save me from that.
Anyway, the door never opened. I couldn't have been on the ground long before I heard the sound of sirens coming up the road. Soon enough, I could see blue and white lights all along the bottom of the window and it sounded like the entire parking lot was filling up with cop cars.
Then I heard what sounded like a dozen car doors opening and slamming all over the lot followed by, as if on cue, one of thugs yelling out "Fuckin' pigs!"
Then what happened?
Then there was shooting, lots and lots of shooting. I heard big guns, small guns, guns that shot fast, guns that shot slow. It sounded like a damn war out there and I was just waiting for a few stray bullets to come in my window. I honestly thought I was as good as dead, or at least as good as arrested.
But then, I don't know, something kicked in. You know, in college I learned about the fight of flight instinct that we all have. That thing where, in extreme situations, we either automatically fight or run, whichever we think will keep us alive the longest. Well, I chose the latter, I ran like hell.
Without even knowing what I was doing, I sprang up, grabbed the suitcase off the ground by Gabriel, dashed out the door, ran along the walkway, around a corner, down the stairs and I didn't stop moving until I was a block and a half away flagging down a taxi like a madman.
Personally, I'm just grateful that the cops and the thugs were too busy shooting at each other to even notice my escape. I mean, I don't know for sure but I don't think any stray shots came my way.
Wait a minute, go back a second, did you say you grabbed the suitcase?
Yeah, I did.
Now, what the hell made you do that?
I don't know. I had a hundred grand in my pockets, I probably could have gotten a new identity and a new life with that and that alone, but, I don't know. I guess it was just an instinct. I wasn't really thinking right then you know? Besides, the way Gabriel dropped it, the case was almost blocking the door. Maybe I just went to move it but never put it down. I don't know, ok? It was stupid.
Yeah, because now everyone has over half a million reasons to hunt you down.
Don't remind me, I feel dumb enough as it is. Maybe I'm just more greedy than I thought. Why isn't important though, what is important is the fact that I took the case and I got the cab with no unwanted holes in my body.
Alright, you're in the cab, then what?
Well, the only plan I had was that stupid one I'd cooked up while wringing my hands in the hotel room. Though I'd already forgotten the name of the dealership I had chosen, I figured it was as good of an idea as any and I asked the cab to take me to a car dealership where I could get a used car cheap if I paid cash.
At first I didn't want to tell him everything I wanted, I didn't want to make him suspicious or anything. But after looking at his picture, I realized he'd probably paid a few debts to society and halfway down the block I added, "Oh, and I don't want to sign too many papers either."
He looked over his shoulder at me and with a wink said, "I gotcha buddy, I know just the place." After that, he just turned around, faced the road and didn't say another word the rest of the trip.
And that was a long cab ride too. I thought Atlanta was bad, man, we must have gone for nearly an hour, even racked up a forty dollar cab fare. Turns out though he was taking me to this small dealership on the Greenville side of I-85. I probably even passed it on the way into town but never noticed. It was one of those dumps with a bunch of old cars out front and a trailer for an office. Though I never caught the name of it, I kind of pictured it to be an "Honest Bob's Used Car Lot" or something like that.
Anyway, he dropped me off there and told me to talk to Mike inside. I didn't even think twice about it at this point, I'd been relying on strangers so long that I didn't even wince at the thought of walking into this dump and asking a perfect stranger for help with illegal activities. I know that sounds crazy, but that's the way it was.
Sounds like you were getting used to your life of crime a little bit more.
Doubt it, it was probably more just a mixture of fear and confusion. I mean, that day is still a blur to me now, right then it was a huge mess.
Regardless, I walked in there and was startled when the door beeped at me as I walked through, so much so I almost kicked the little speaker out of reflex. After I got my composure back a little, I looked up and saw a young secretary carefully polishing her nails at her desk.
"Can I help you?" she asked without even looking up from her buffing.
"Yeah, I need to talk to Mike."
"MIKE!" she shouted into the back of the building, "You got a customer!"
Literally a second later a short, kind of round man, came power-walking into the room. He had thinning hair, a real ugly, pit bull-like face and a bad, bad suit that, while I guess not really hideous, just looked horrible on him. Maybe elbow pads aren't his thing, but even though he didn't fit the bill of your slick car salesman in a plaid suit, he sure looked cheesy enough.
He kind of thrust his hand out at me and said, "I'm Mike, Mike Warshowski, what can I do for ya!"
I shook his hand as firmly as I could, "My name's Daniel," I said using my now-standard fake name, "And I need your help."
"Well, what do you need?" he said looking around nervously.
I looked over at the secretary, "Can we discuss this in private, as in, your office?"
"Sure thing buddy, come on in," he said as he turned and gave me a signal to follow him, "Right this way."
He led me around the back of where the secretary was and into his office. His office, just for the record, was a laugh. He had this huge, overstated oak desk that, when combined with the two large faux leather chairs, almost took up the whole room. That isn't saying much though because the whole thing wasn't much bigger than a large kitchen. The bottom half of his walls were covered by this cheesy wood paneling and the top half was so cluttered with photos of himself and his family you almost couldn't see the hideous green wallpaper beneath it. It was like he was trying to make a shrine to himself or something like that.
Sounds like a pretty disturbing guy. Not the type of person I'd want to buy a car from if you ask me…
I didn't want to either, but I really didn't have much in the way of a choice. Besides, even if he was a bit of narcissist, he was nice enough. I mean, I didn't want to hit him or anything.
Anyway, we sat down, he behind the desk and me in one of those overstuffed chairs, and he leaned in and asked, "So what can I do for ya?"
"I need to buy a car in a hurry and I'm willing to pay cash."
A stupid grin came across his face, "Well, I think we can help you there. Whatcha lookin' for exactly?"
"You didn't let me finish," I interrupted, "I have a few catches."
"First, I don't want to pay a lot, something cheap but sturdy is the best thing for me. Second, I don't want to fill out any paperwork. I've got some people following me and I can't leave a paper trail."
He rolled back in his chair and dragged the palm of his hand down his face, "I see."
I leaned in and placed my elbows on his desk, "Can you help me?"
"Well, I can help you, that's not a problem," he said still leaning back in his chair, "It's just that this paperwork stipulation isn't going to be easy."
"What do you mean?"
He stood up and started pacing behind his desk, "You see, if I give you the keys to a car without any paperwork and you get pulled over, you won't have any registration, right? Well, the cops are going to think that it's a stolen car and call me to check it out and I'll have to tell them that yes, it is stolen because I don't want no trouble from the cops. They're in my business enough as it is. I could get you a stolen car, I know some guys who work in that, but why don't I just slap a bullseye on your ass and call you target practice for the cops."
At that point, I realized how stupid my idea was. I mean, what the hell was I thinking? In this day and age you can't buy a box of cereal without having a record of the transaction, where was I going to get a car without leaving a trail?
"So what do we do," I asked feebly.
He sat down in his chair and spun around to the side, propping his feet up on the corner of his desk, "I don't know. Let me think a minute though and see if I can come up with something."
He then kind of went off into this trance, it was weird actually. He just closed his eyes and seemed to drift off. Though my chair squeaked every time I moved in it, it never phased him. He was almost like a monk or something, I never thought I'd see that out of this guy.
Then, after about three minutes, he snapped out of it and said, "Follow me I got an idea," as he stood up and headed out of the room.
He took me around to the back of the building, if you can call it a building, where, on a patch of gravel in the middle of a field, he had this hideous maroon tank of a car parked. Pointing to it he said, "You like it? It's an '86 Buick."
"I know, I think my grandmother drove one…"
"Then she was a smart woman," he said, obviously in full salesman mode, "These things are real beauties. A bit hard on the old gas pump, but they run like dreams and are as safe can be."
"I know, nothing can get within ten feet of you…"
"Best of all for you, it's my loaner car. Right now anyone can drive it anytime they want. I'm willing offer you, shall we say, and 'extended loan' for eight hundred dollars."
"Eight hundred, that's pretty damn steep for this. Does it work?"
"Try it for yourself," he said rummaging through his jacket pockets and tossing me the key, "Everything on it works, even the tape deck and the AC."
I opened the door and almost choked on the smell. It was like an odd mixture of body odor, cigar smoke and dirty diapers. After getting behind the wheel, setting my bag down on the seat next to me and adjusting the driver's seat so I could reach the pedals, I slid the key in the ignition and gave it a firm turn. Just like he said it would, the motor came to life immediately and a few quick taps of the gas pedal proved it was still responsive enough to move.
"Now," Mike continued, "If you want to take it for a test drive we can go around the block once or twice."
"I don't have time for that," I shot back, "Will this thing get me to Greenville?"
"Greenville and anywhere else you want to go. I'd bet my life on it."
"That's good, because I am," I responded snidely.
"So, ya gonna take it?"
"I don't have much choice. I need to get moving and fast, I said as I reached into my pocket and began counting out $800 worth of fifty dollar bills.
Mike's eyes got real big when they saw my wad of cash, "You made the right choice son, this is one of the best cars I got. But tell me, what in the hell are you in such a hurry to get to Greenville for?"
"I've got a friend to see and I need to see him ASAP," I said handing over the cash.
"Well, I won't keep you then, but is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Yeah, I'll take one of those pine air fresheners if you've got one."
"Sorry, we're plum out," he said as he finished counting the money I'd given him.
With that, I shut the door, rolled up the window, put the car in gear and started driving off with only a rough idea of where the Interstate was and enough fear to push me all the way to Greenville.
Well, that and 750 thousand dollars in the passenger seat.