Frank’s text message said Hide. I rushed around the room, picking up anything that obviously didn’t belong to Frank: candy wrappers and my blue sneakers and the tuft of blond hair I’d have to kill him for tearing out of my head this morning. If I was being forced to hide that meant company, and there was only one person it could be: Charlie.
Then I remembered that not only did Frank never eat candy, wear blue sneakers, or have white blond hair, he also wouldn’t throw his clothes around the room like he was trying to reupholster the furniture in black Armani. I did another quick sweep of our hotel, tossed my dirty clothes into Frank’s duffel bag, took the deadbolt off the door, and crawled under the bed to wait.
For an hour.
By the time I heard them at the door I had perfected my plot of revenge on Frank for making me miss As the World Turns. I would leap out from under the bed with no clothes on, thereby causing Charlie to die of shock on the spot. Then I would grab the gun from under Frank’s pillow and shoot him in the upper arm where it would cause more inconvenience than injury. He’d naturally be so upset about the old man’s well deserved demise that he wouldn’t even think to punish me for shooting him.
The sound of Charlie’s voice dragged me kicking and screaming from my fantasy when I remembered that as much as I would love to murder him with my nude glory, I didn’t actually want to be in the same room with the man, much less have him ever see me naked. “This place is a dump, kiddo,” Charlie laughed.
I scowled at his ankles. As if I hadn’t just spent five whole minutes tidying up the place. It was a dump, but a man who couldn’t even match his socks had no say in quality.
“It serves its purpose,” Frank said. “Was there anything else?”
“Let me know when you want to do this thing. I can—”
“I don’t need your help, Charlie.”
“You expect to just walk away from it?”
Walk away from what? I took a deep breath, my heart starting to pound. Frank stepped closer to the bed, as if to silently reassure me. “I’ll manage, Charlie. I always do.”
“If you say so. Call me as soon as it’s finished. I’d hate to leave you stranded on the side of the road somewhere.”
“Will do,” Frank said. I knew he would be moping at that comment. Charlie may have been his father figure, but that didn’t mean Frank needed to be babied. And besides, if he did need help, I’d be there for him. “I’ll drive you back.”
Drive him back? That explained why I hadn’t heard Charlie’s beast of a car. But why come to our hotel just to complain about the decor? I waited several minutes after they left before crawling out from under the bed. There was a set of car keys on the bed near where Frank had been standing, along with an envelope full of money and a photograph. The keys were for a Buick, and probably and ancient one at that. I couldn’t imagine a Buick driver being worth a hundred thousand dollars dead, and even if he were, Frank wouldn’t have his car keys.
I pulled some pants on and looked out the peephole just in case they were hanging out in the parking lot. There was the white Buick parked in front of our hotel room, but Frank and Charlie were nowhere to be seen. I went outside with the key. The car wasn’t particularly pleasing to the eye and it smelled like mothballs inside, but it seemed to be in good working order when I started it. Old lady car. Very low miles. The pink slip was in the glove compartment, along with a prayer card. I went back inside.
Charlie had offered to help. He was concerned about Frank being stranded on the side of the road. I counted our money. Four grand short. So we’d paid for the car. The weapon. “Vehicular homicide,” I said to myself. The drunk who’d killed my parents was charged with that. Two counts. I set down the keys and turned on the TV. As the World Turns was still on. Maybe it hadn’t been as long of a wait as I thought. I wasn’t known for my patience.
Frank came home with a cheeseburger and French fries and a chocolate milkshake the size of my head. I eagerly dug in, asking between bites, “Are you bringing me a peace offering because you expect me to be upset, or because I’m not going to get to do this hit?”
“You figured it out then?”
“Have you done this sort of hit before?”
“Why didn’t you mention it?”
“That I’ve killed someone the same way your parents died?”
“You’ve killed a lot of people a lot of ways, Frank. And besides, it’s not the same way. You’ll be in control of the car, not drunk. And you were paid to do it.”
He sat next to me on the bed, stealing one of my fries when it became apparent I wasn’t upset enough to bite. “I’ll need you to follow me in our car. The Buick probably won’t be drivable when we’re finished.”
“Is this why you made me learn to drive? For hits like this?”
“No, I made you learn to drive because you love cars and I knew you would enjoy it.”
“Not all cars. And Charlie got ripped off if he spent four thousand dollars on that old thing.”
“Charlie is not the one who got ripped off.” He gave me a kiss, but I suspected he was really after my ice cream. “Do you think the car’s okay? It looks like a piece of junk.”
“What’s the mark driving?”
I laughed. “If you can actually catch it in that old Buick, the ‘vette’s toast.”
Frank raised his eyebrows. “Really?”
“Yeah. The Buick’s a boat. Nice and heavy. You’ll be all right.”
“Hmm. That’s good to know.”
Charlie had probably told him the exact same thing, but Frank believed me. I smiled to myself as I looked over the photo of the Corvette driver. He was a walking mid-life crisis; earring, sports car, a leathery tan and highlighted hair. He had the same cheesy smile as a lawyer I used to live with who liked to smack me in the face with his cock.
“Are you going to be okay with this job? It might be difficult to watch.”
Teeth meet dashboard. I handed him his new car keys. “I’ll manage.”
Guy’s night out was at a three story mansion turned brothel in the middle of nowhere. There was a forty mile stretch of road to get there, which Mr. Corvette took at a speed that reflected his eagerness on the way there, and his satisfaction on the way home. We’d get him on the way back when he was slower.
I sat in Frank’s BMW, waiting on the shoulder with my headlights off. Frank was fifteen miles up the road doing the same thing in the Buick. As soon as I heard the Corvette’s engine rumbling through the night I called Frank and started the car.
Our mark came tearing up the road and I peeled out behind him, keeping my distance with my lights off. I was going forty so the mark had to be going at least fifty-five, and I switched on cruise control, tucking back my feet so I wouldn’t instinctively slam on the breaks when he slammed into Frank. We couldn’t risk skid marks from a third vehicle and have the cops out looking for witnesses to the accident.
The Corvette flew past the mile marker and I turned on my headlights, flashing my high beams and honking my horn to get his attention. The darkened back of the Buick suddenly came into view and he braked hard, swerving to the other lane to avoid hitting it. Frank swerved along with him and I switched off my lights so I wouldn’t see it, my whole body clenching as I braced for impact.
The sound was horrific, like the death cry of a huge metal monster. With all the accidents we’d caused during my driver’s education classes, it never sounded like that. I turned my headlights back on just in time to see Frank stepping out of the car, no blood on his face and only metaphorical blood on his hands. I slowed to a stop beside the wreckage and ran to him, reigning myself in so I wouldn’t jump in his arms and kiss him all over. He set his hand on my shoulder, but I didn’t know whether it was to steady me or him. “Are you okay?”
“I am fine. Is he dead?”
I bit my lip and turned back to the Corvette. I’d run right past him to get to Frank, but I was right about the ‘vette being toast. It looked like a snake that tried to swallow larger prey and choked on it, the front torn open around the rear of the Buick. I’d disabled his airbag while he was inside playing with Vietnamese youth, and the mark’s forehead was caved in from the steering wheel, blood pouring out his ears, nose, and mouth. His smile was no longer cheesy. It wasn’t there at all. I glanced back at Frank to make sure it was okay before gently resting my fingers against his neck. “He still has a pulse.” Frank was already getting the gas can from the trunk of the BMW. He was walking a little slower than usual, but he seemed to be all right. I turned back to our mark, realizing that he was staring right at me. “He’s awake.”
Frank came up beside me, affectionately resting his hand on my ass and peering into the car.
“What should I do?”
He shrugged, which looked like it hurt. “Break his neck.”
I hesitated, not actually sure how to break someone’s neck. “Just...twist?”
Frank smiled and said, “Sometimes I forget that you’re new at this.” He held my hand and guided it from our mark’s pulse to his jaw, turning his head to the side. Then he took my other hand in his and gripped our mark’s shoulder, pulling him slightly forward away from his seat. The guy watched us the whole time, his eyes glassy and his pupils slightly different sizes. “Push hard and fast.”
“Hard and fast,” I repeated with a slight grin. “Just how I like it.”
He rolled his eyes. “Push.”
“Urrrrrr,” the guy mumbled. I shoved his head while Frank yanked his opposite shoulder, then POP and he stopped mumbling.
“There you are then.” Frank poured some gasoline on the grass, then splashed it up the side of the Buick.
“Can I light it?”
“You can throw a match from the car.”
I followed him back to the BMW, keeping an eye on him just in case he wasn't fit to drive after crashing the other car. Then of course I tripped on my shoelace and skinned my poor little knee.
Frank smirked and held open the passenger side door for me. “I've taught you to murder, shall I teach you how to walk?”
I rolled my eyes as I got in the car, unrolling the window and grabbing the book of matches. “You have to kiss it better.”
“As soon as we stop,” he said, as if he knew ahead of time that my knee was just the beginning and he didn't have time to really kiss it better.
He drove close to the car and I lit a match, practically bouncing with excitement when I tossed it out the window, eager to watch a fireball the size of and atom bomb explode as we drove into the sunrise. But the match went out before igniting everything. Frank stopped the car, turning his face a little so I wouldn't see his smile. I lit another one. That went out too.
“Shall I teach you how—”
I lit the entire book and tossed it, leaning my head out the window while Frank drove away. “Where's the fireball?” I pouted.
“You watch too much television. And speaking of, what happened on our show?”
“As the World Turns?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
I glared at him. “Gee, Frank, shall I teach you how to text?”