Must have been a long wait for eleven o’clock the next day?
Oh it was. When I hatched this wonderfully brilliant scheme, I set the time so far into the future to make sure that I could get them there. Unfortunately, after about an hour of waiting, I realized I’d sold myself short. We probably could have done it right then, that night but instead I was left with almost a full 24 hours until the big showdown.
Wow, one day to live, I thought that only came up in psychology and philosophy classes.
Me too and every time I got asked one of those questions, I always had this really long answer of all these incredible things I wanted to do. Things like, eat a big ice cream sundae, kiss a beautiful woman, all of that stuff. But there I was, sitting on a ton of cash, with 24 hours until possibly the last meeting of my life and I couldn’t do a damn thing.
Every time I thought about eating, I wanted to throw up. Every time I thought about leaving, I was afraid that Miguel or one of his followers would nail me. Every time I thought about doing anything, fear just shut me down.
I ended up spending most of my time alternating between pacing rapidly in the hotel room and just curling up on the bed, choking back tears.
Sounds like a miserable way to spend your last day.
I know, but I couldn’t help it. I thought that I was so brave for running away like that, for taking charge of my miserable life and doing something, no matter how stupid, to fix it. You know? I felt like I was in charge of my own destiny, my own man sort of. Instead, well, there I was possibly hours away from death too frightened to move. No dignity.
It’s kind of hard to think back on you know? Not something I want to remember.
Still though, time moved on.
Yeah, it did. Sure, the second hand seemed to move slower with every tick, but it move forward. Just painfully slow.
Well, I can understand that. So what happened when you left?
Well, I got directions to the Greyhound station from the hotel clerk and drove myself down there, being careful to park the car about three blocks away from the station. Then I found myself trying to walk through the shadows in order to get to the lot behind the station.
It’s funny though, it used to be if I ever had to walk through the bad part of town, which is where bus stations always are, I’d be careful to always walk under the lights. This time though, I was scared of the light. Even with the gun in my pocket, I didn’t feel safe in the light, especially considering what was in that damn case.
Unfortunately, the small back lot was too well lit. Though it only had four lights to cover the whole area and two of those were blinking like the bulbs were dying, there area still seemed flooded with light. Well, comparatively I guess. After all, it was the black of night.
Anyway, I stood there in the middle of this lot trying to get a feeling for my surroundings. I realized immediately that I’d picked a bad spot for this. Though the lot itself was lit, the whole back of the building wasn’t and either way around the sides of the building you went, there was nothing but shadows.
Of course, the only reason I picked that spot was I wanted an outside location that no one would be at. On that note, I guess I did pretty good, there wasn’t a car or a person to be found.
Must have made it scary though.
That’s putting it mildly. I was nervous, so nervous I was twitching. I could feel my hand shaking, shaking so violently you could see the case move. I’d always had a nervous twitch, it was real bad growing up, but now it was driving me nuts.
But I did get lucky on one front, Stan didn’t sneak up on me. He came out of the shadows in such a way that I could hear his footsteps long before he became visible. Though it was a tense moment hearing the steps but not knowing who they belonged to, if he’d crept up on me, I probably would have shot him dead away.
Instead, he just approached me slowly, calmly, with his hands in his pockets and his head low. It kind of put me at ease a bit. I know that you’re supposed to watch someone’s hands when they’re approaching you in a tense moment like that, but he was just so cool and calm about it, I don’t know, it stopped me from shaking, that’s for certain.
“Stan,” I said trying not to let my voice crack.
“Jake,” he replied stepping closer to me. When he looked up at me he had this focused look in his eyes. I couldn’t read it. It was like he was mad at me, but was all business about this.
So you’re saying he was hostile?
Yeah, but not in a threatening way. More like a mad parent or something like that.
“Is that the money?” he asked pointing at the bag.
Then I panicked. Stan was here, but no Miguel. If he was just late or a no-show, I had no idea, but I knew I had to stall.
“Yeah, it’s here, but first we need to talk about something?”
“What’s that?” Stan asked flatly.
My brain was tap-dancing as fast as it could. I didn’t have a stall plan and, in addition to looking like it was all made up in advance, I needed to be calm about it as so not to do anything stupid. Not any easy job for a guy who’s toughest decision before hand was saying “I do.”
“I don’t want any trouble from you or those Gorillas. I’ve been through enough Hell for one lifetime and I don’t need to spend the rest of my life running from them. I want a second chance, that’s why I came to you in the first place.
I had to congratulate myself. It’s was some Grade-A bullshit. How I spilled that out while thinking “Hurry up Miguel” over and over again, I had no idea.
“What the Hell makes you think I can fix your problem with the Gorillas when I can’t fix my own? Not to mention the police and everyone else that wants a piece of me. What makes you think I could protect you?”
I froze. I just totally froze. I’d run out of BS and getting shot down like that caused my brain to lock up.
“You… you’ve got the money, can’t you, you know, work something out with them?” was all I could stammer.
“Miguel isn’t the type to ‘work’ anything out,” Stan said without missing a beat, “He’s a killer, that’s all he knows because it’s what he grew up around.”
“You talking about me hombres!” a voice called out from the other side of the lot.
Stan and I both locked up and slowly turned our heads to the side, sure enough, there was Miguel, standing there huffing mad power walking his way toward us.
Wait a second, how’d you know it was Miguel? You’d never seen him, right?
Well, first off, he fit Little John’s description to a T. The guy looked like a gorilla, short, stocky and all of that. But the main thing, for me, was that voice, I remember it from the phone and I’ll never forget it as long as I live. It sounds like gravel being poured on a megaphone. There’s no mistaking it.
Anyway, he started coming over toward us and said, “I knew I couldn’t trust you man, don’t trust a rich gringo to keep his word.”
“What the Hell is he doing here?” Stan asked me under his breath,
It tried to eek out an “I don’t know” but Miguel spoke up again drowning us out.
“You got my money there in that case?” he said.
“I wanted to talk about the money Miguel,” I said, trying to sound forceful, “I wanted to work something out.”
Miguel’s body language changed, he started walking faster swinging his shoulders wider. Then, when got within a few paces of us, he slid his hand down the back of his pants, pulled out a gun and started waving it at us.
“There ain’t nothing to discuss chicos, just you giving me my money.”
Hold up, I thought you told him to show up unarmed?
I did. But he didn’t listen did he? Not that it’s a shock, after all, I was armed and I wasn’t alone. I was halfway expecting Stan to pull out a weapon and for the three of us to get into a shootout or something like that.
Instead though, Miguel just stood there waving this freaking hand cannon at us. I mean, this gun was huge. Must have been a forty-five, at least. It looked like it could take your whole head off in one blast. Not a pretty image to say the least.
Anyway, Miguel just stood there and pointed the gun at me. He looked down at the bag and said, “That the money?”
“Yes,” I said weakly.
Miguel took three slow steps backwards, “Then toss that shit over here, let me see it.”
With a slow, smooth motion I hurled the bag as close to him as I could get it. But since I didn’t want to make any sudden movements, the bag fell a few feet short of him making him walk over to it.
Miguel opened the case and carelessly knelt down to look at the money. While he was distracted by the cash, I thought briefly about either pulling out my gun and shooting him or taking flight, but all I could do instead was start at his gun, which was still firmly in his hand, the one resting on top of the open lid.
But after a few seconds of poking around in the case, he suddenly shot up and shouted, “What the fuck is this? It ain’t all here.”
I glanced over at Stan who had a puzzled look on his face. He couldn’t believe it and, frankly neither could I. I thought I’d planned it perfectly.
Wait a second, you planned this?
Well, when I left the hotel, I left about half of the cash in the safe on purpose.
What? Why did you get greedy now?
It wasn’t greed. I figured if they couldn’t work anything out and one of them stole the case, I could give the other one what’s left and maybe, just maybe, smooth things over a bit. Kind of hedging my bets a little.
Yeah, almost. But wasn’t playing horseshoes or hand grenades so close only got me in deeper trouble. “I hid the rest of the money Miguel, if you want it, you have to keep us both alive.
“How much you hid?” he asked.
“About a quarter of a million,” I said flatly, trying to be brave.
He walked up to me and held the gun so close to my face I flinched fearing it would poke me, “It might be worth a quarter of a million just to kill your ass.”
Stan finally spoke up and put his hand on Miguel’s, “Easy there, he ain’t your problem, the kid was just being safe. You know, like you would.”
Stan said that?
Yeah, he did, I couldn’t believe it either. Maybe he was just trying to avoid bloodshed or didn’t want things to get any worse, but what he said calmed Miguel down, for about a second.
Then, he pointed the gun at Stan and said, “You stay out of this asshole, you’re the one who got us in this shit. You should just go home to mamma now and let me get my money.”
“It’s my money Miguel,” Stan said, “You know that, we had a deal.”
“A deal that you fucked up hombre, it’s my money now. You should just go home and forget all about it alright.”
Stan shuffled on his feet for a second and started down Miguel and his gun, “I’m not leaving Miguel, If you’re going to take my money, you’re going to earn it.”
Miguel looked puzzled, his eyes darted back and forth between me and Stan, “Alright then, you can die with this asshole,” he said motioning to me. “Your funeral.”
I nearly choked, it finally sank in that I wasn’t going to get out of this alive. Even if I gave him all of the money, Miguel wasn’t going to let me live and Stan, well, I knew he wasn’t too happy with me.
I started wishing I’d gone for that last meal or something. Most of all though, I wanted to run away again, or better yet, never have run away at all.