“What happened to Eddie?” I stood in the warehouse parking lot ready for my weekly run up North.
“Eddie retired,” said the man with dark eyes. “I’m Paolo. I run things now.”
“What’s that mean for me?”
“Relax, kid.” Paolo smiled to show crooked teeth. “I’m giving all his people a chance to audition.”
“Great, Eddie had me t–”
Paolo held up his hand. “I have my own ideas about the audition. You’re going to drive the rabbit.”
“Rabbit? Like an old Volkswagen?”
He chuckled. “This is the rabbit.” He pointed to a tan Camry with Florida plates.
“What am I hauling?”
“One of my people will do the transporting. Your job is to drive eight-five, ninety on the Interstate in front of him and flush out any cops.”
“You want me to get pulled over?”
He nodded. “You’ll be reimbursed for any tickets.”
“Where am I headed?”
“Delaware or North Carolina?”
“Delaware.” He gave me a flip phone. “If my guy has to stop, he’ll text you. You get pulled over, you text him.”
“What if I have to take a leak?”
“Hold it or use this.” Paolo handed me an empty twenty-ounce Powerade bottle. “Prove yourself and there’s a spot for you in my organization.”
“When’s the trip?”
“Ten minutes? But I need to pack and g–”
“No, you don’t. Operational security. Got your license with you and enough cash for gas to Delaware and back?”
“Then you’re all set.”
* * *
One of Paolo’s lieutenants gave me a bag of McDonald’s and a map. My path was highlighted: I-85 north out of Atlanta to I-95 in Virginia, around the DC Beltway to US 301 over the Chesapeake, and up the Eastern Shore to Wilmington.
Outside of Atlanta the radio was nothing but country, country and more country, until I found the Braves playing the Giants. I set the cruise control for ninety, passing through South Carolina without incident. Beyond Charlotte I got a text telling me to pull over. I filled up and grabbed a two-liter of Mountain Dew and a couple of Hostess cherry pies, the kind with the sugar-coated crust.
Nearing midnight, I crossed into Virginia. The Giants rallied to tie in the ninth. Pressure built on my bladder. I grabbed the empty Powerade bottle. Do truckers execute this maneuver while driving? I pictured the logistics in my mind. That only made the pressure worse.
Bottom of the thirteenth, the Giants had men on second and third with one out when red-and-blue lights flashed in my rearview mirror.
I texted: Cops pulling me over. I powered off the phone, stopped on the shoulder and rolled down the window.
Troopers approached on both sides shining their flashlights into the car.
“Sir, can I see your license, registration and insurance, please?”
Cursing myself for not asking Paolo about insurance and registration, I fumbled open the glove compartment, found the papers and handed them and my license to the trooper.
“Mr. Case?” He shined the flashlight in my eyes.
“Who is Dominic Gutierrez?”
“The registered owner of this car.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s my cousin. He lent me the car.”
“Do you have any illegal substances or weapons in the vehicle, Mr. Case?”
I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Then you won’t mind if we search the vehicle?”
I shrugged. “Not at all.”
I stepped out of the car and the trooper instructed me to place my hands on the hood.
“Nothing,” said the partner after the search.
“Told you,” I said.
“How about popping the trunk, Mr. Case?” asked the first trooper.
“Sure.” I slipped the keys out of my pocket and stepped toward the back.
He put his hand on my chest. “I’d prefer to open it myself.”
The trooper took the keys and headed to the back of the car. The trunk lid lifted up, blocking my view. The troopers said something, but I couldn’t make out what.
Both approached me with serious looks on their faces and hands on their weapons. The first trooper slammed my head against the hood.
“Shut up!” he roared. “You’re under arrest.” He grabbed my wrists, handcuffed me, and dragged me to the rear. As he stuffed me into the patrol car, I caught a glimpse of the open trunk.
There lay Eddie with lifeless blue eyes and a gunshot wound in his forehead.
James Blakey is a network engineer living in suburban Philadelphia.
Copyright © 2018 James Blakey. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.