“Then, last minute, he sees the sun or somethin’ flash on the wire, you know,” Muller, the tall convict with crazy eyes slapped his thigh, laughed like a hyena, “an then he puts the bike down inna skid, under it, the wire, Arnie does, you know, and comes up blastin’ these fuckers –”
“Van Damme,” Dawson said. “That was Van Damme. Not Schwarzenegger.”
“I tink,” Usman backhanded Dawson’s upper arm, “was Chock Nordis maybe?”
“Norris?” Muller hit hyena again. “That old pussy? If it wasn’t Arnie it was Segal. You ever seen that fucker’s feet, Segal? Goddam, man, you know, I was standin’ next to him in L.A one time, at the airport, and he was wearin’ some kinda chukka boots,” Muller held his hands about two feet apart. “Man, they were like suede fuckin’ snowshoes!”
“You’re making that shit up, Muller,” Dawson, sitting in the middle, wasn’t having it. “You and Segal ever in the same state. Besides, Segal, he went under a trailer, or a truck. Like in an alley, he was shooting at somebody, or they were shooting at him…Or…Fuck…was that Van Damme?”
“Now you’re makin’ shit up, man, not me.” Muller’s hyena fell short when he coughed, waved the Marlboro he was smoking, some teacher trying to keep everyone’s attention. “’Sides, dumb motherfucker, LAX, and Terminal Island are in the same fuckin’ county.” He coughed again, reached across to shoulder punch Usman, “And, Norris, you know, he was always blowin’ up renegade gooks and shit off in a jungle somewhere with palm trees, not on motorcycles.”
“Delta Force, ‘dumb motherfucker.’” Dawson had his finger damn near in Muller’s good eye, “Norris had a dirt bike shot rockets out its ass the same way you’re talking out yours.”
They laughed like they were the convict version of Hollywood Squares, sitting lined up on the end of the bed across from Moreno who was trapped on the chipped Formica suitcase storage wing of the TV stand-dresser. She sat, right leg over left, forearms crossed on her knee, impassive, unlike me, to their bullshit barrage.
Moreno had told me on the way over not to piss them off, not to shoot at anyone. And shaken by the picture of the resurrected Woody, the biker at the bomb site and the bomb, she didn’t want to tell them about the money I’d brought. Much less give it to them. She’d said we needed what they had in the van, for whatever might go down tomorrow. Like we knew what, aside from her playing Post Office to snag the sixty-four-million-dollar flash drive, was going down tomorrow.
I’d played along, followed orders and listened to their convicts making action movie scene casserole shit for at least twenty minutes because I’d lost it on them last time and had failed to inventory their arsenal. But damn, my ears hurt, my face burned, my back ached. I had sandy mortar funk in my hair, down my pants. I itched all over, my knees and palms were scraped and I’d had enough. I walked into the dingy linoleum and mold bathroom, picked up the can of Hawaiian Memories air spray, flipped it end over end, baton-style, got between the convicts and Moreno and aerated the end of the bed. The spray, settled, mingled with the funk of BO, zoo breath and locker room laundry. Instead of helping, I’d managed to make the small room at the Texian smell like Godzilla had dropped a deuce in the Hilton Waikiki lobby.
“All the action figure hot dogs have pulled that sideways bike and sparks stunt.” I hit the spray again. “For the last time, we aren’t stringing wire across the road. We aren’t parking a fucking semi across the road. No one is putting their fucking bike down sideways and coming out the other side of anything, to blast anything. Who can tell me why?”
In unison, they mumbled, “Because they aren’t getting that close.”
“Thank you.” It was quiet.
“Who peezed in yor Pawstuh Tawsties, Pilot?”
“Maybe you,” I grabbed the front of Usman’s grimy blue shirt, against Moreno’s orders to be nice.
“Now you tink maybe we can talk da showp?” He snickered. “Da news gurl wit da tits, her face doan move? She say all da sirens go right past us to a gas explosion. Nashural gas, Pilot.” He checked in with his playmates. “You say to us maybe you fart up too much in dat olt buildink?” They all hyenaed.
“It wasn’t gas, asshole. It was dynamite.”
“Oh no, Pilot!” He made a big-eyed, round mouthed hands-to-cheeks clown face. “Not dyndamite!” More laughter. “Dyndamite iz for chilldaren, eh?” He checked his partners again. “Chock Nordis maybe even.” He pulled up the corners of his eyes “Ah so, you bro up machine gun trower! Dis time I krill you, Chocky Norree!”
God help me. I let him go, looked around the room. “Forget it, Cav. I couldn’t give two shits and a nickel if this room full of comedians were are all dead this time tomorrow.” She gave me an almost imperceptible nod, handed me the keys she’d picked up from the nightstand when we arrived. I walked out. The hyena roar crescendoed behind me.
I unlocked the van, thought about Rip’s electrocution anti-theft scheme, the brick wall pushing me into Route 66, went back in, dragged Usman out. “Open it.”
“You unlock already?”
I nodded. His face went whiter than a Clorox commercial sweat sock, his eyes said cornered rabbit.
“I uh, I uh…I…”
What I thought. “Open it.”
“Yah…Yah, I do dat. Quick, maybe.” He tensed up, wiped his hands and reached up under the front fender well. There was a series of beeps, followed by one longer beep. He relaxed by half, exhaled. He turned back to me, sweat staining his pits and the front of his shirt. “Nex time do da codes first, den da door, hokay? Sheet gawdamighty jeezis da fockin’ christ, Pilot…da way you do it, maybe we all go up to da big bye-bye…” He clicked the handle, pushed the sliding van door open.
To the casual observer, the convicts could be a band transporting music gear in the half dozen Gator ABS cases where the middle row of seats should have been. I flipped the latches on the closest large one. Jesus…an M32 six-round 40mm grenade launcher and a twenty-four round ordnance belt. I flipped a pouch open.
“All High Impact?”
“Yah. Who da fock robes bank wit flares?” He picked up the grenade launcher. It looked a lot larger in his hands than it did in Schwarzenegger’s.
“Five loaded. Not so big bang like Hollyvood Arnie’s,” he slapped my back. “Do da yawb, dey do, dough.”
Do-da-do-da–day…I popped open the next larger case, resisted the urge to drop my head.
“Doan like doze so mooch maybe?” He didn’t laugh, made a nasty sort of wheeze through his nose.
“Two. One for dem. One maybe for you,” he hooked his thumbs, made a bird out of his hands, flapped them upward, “Boom!” and flipped them apart. “You tink twize maybe to fly wit da money now, eh?” He latched the surface-to-air missile case, slapped my back again, waved off the other cases. “Dat one dare iss RPG 7. Some ARs, AKs maybe, two riot guns…Hey, why dey called dat way? Dey da riot to shot somebodies wit!” He mimed a waist-high shotgun blast, “Boom!” his face expanded in happy. “Ka-splooey!”
“How do I lock this thing?”
“First da code, Pilot. Two buttons, over da tire. Lock, unlock, same tink. Left, right, left, left, right. Den da door. Den da keys, turty seconds.”
“Or Boom, Pilot. BOOM!” He started to walk off, I grabbed his arm, hauled him back.
“Hang with me while I try this.”
“Sure ting. Left, left, right, left, right.”
Asshole. I reached under the wheel well, got the beeps. He grinned. I’d never wanted to introduce someone’s face to parking lot asphalt more in my entire life.
“Looks like Tavius brought your ride back.” I pulled up next to Rip’s new pickup in the Holiday Inn lot, leaned my arms and forehead on the steering wheel.
“Gracias, Paro.” She squeezed my forearm. “For not losing your temper with them. I know it was difficult.”
“I see that Usman fucker, I lose my temper. Men like him’re the reason so many…”
“I said I know. Columbia was the same, si? One more day, Paro. It will, as you say, ‘play out.’ They’ll help us, they’ll get their money, be off with the wind and we’ll never see them again.”
“You don’t trust them to stick around, help build the convict run wildlife park?”
“No.” She checked out Rip’s truck. “No more than I trust your amigo Tavius. Perhaps he is upstairs, waiting for us? No…He is too much the Señor Misterioso who sneaks his way to you when I am gone.” She squeezed my arm again, smiled. “Come upstairs, Paro. Take a shower. I’ll put your clothes in the laundry on the way to get us some food that’s not McDonalds.”
“Does this mean you’re not mad anymore?”
“It means you’re a filthy mess and I’m hungry, Pendejo.”
Pendejo was a good sign. “I still have three million dollars locked in the bed of this truck.”
“Three people only know that. You, Señor Taylor, me.”
“Tres Amigos, solamente?”
“Tres amigos, amor.” She killed the old Ram, grabbed the keys, leaned over, and kissed me on the lips, quick.
“You need my keys, too, Cav?”
“I’ll need something to drive in the event I’m mistaken and your Señor Misterioso is waiting.” She glanced over her shoulder on the way out, smiled again. “Don’t worry if I have to take your truck. I have my own money.”
I wanted to hate her. I wanted to confront her. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to ask her what the hell her game was. I wanted to ask did she know about the exploding van. I wanted her not to smile like that last one. At least not for anyone but me.
Photo (edited) Credit – Chuck Norris in Delta Force