The windows were rolled up as the AC fed on my nervous perspiration and our mingled breath. He had put on thick rubber dishwashing gloves, which made me smile, but he pointed out that latex tears and these would be better for the work he was going to do. When he touched me, the heat of him still reached through it.
The shotgun laid across the back seat. A pump action with a pistol grip coated in black rubber to support a firm grip. He had taken it apart, cleaned and checked every action before loading it himself. There was a canvas bandolier with additional shells tucked into canvas loops like sleeping babies. It would be the next thing he laid his rough, clever hands upon.
‘I want you to stay in the car, baby girl. Like we agreed. You handle the plants and the distribution, I take care of the public relations.’
The exoticism of how his accent moved around phrases and nicknames we had never ceased to thrill me. Despite what was happening tonight, his charm still held and made me shift in my seat with a dangerous urgency. I nodded, feeling sparks of cold excitement rising in my veins.
We were like any other business, creating and maintaining a brand. My degree in botany had not panned out as I hoped, but after a few months of low-end retail jobs and chasing funding, I wandered into the green church and found my true north. Blending strains and testing the indica and sativa balances had me working at it like a junkie getting a fix and soon I found myself amidst a growing industry.
Growth is pain sometimes. I was not a person predisposed to violence, my interest was in the quality of my product and the money that enabled me to do more of it.
He had been stood behind me in a coffee shop, reading a paperback of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves when the guy who had been hitting me with a brute, blind succession of pleas started to take my polite indifference personally. Before the guy could lay a hand on me, he stepped forward and swung the closed paperback, spine first into the bridge of his nose and pushed him out of the door with no more emotion than he would shooing a spider away. When he returned, he went to the back of his queue and he did not meet my eyes.
He was a long way from home, I learned He carried himself with a sense of place, that he may be alone but not always lonely. Much of my dating had been fraught with bullshit and self-deception but his amused stoicism proved refreshing and his capacity for action thrilled me with its perfect, symphonic elegance.
He did not flinch when I told him about the business.
Nor when I asked him if he wanted to get involved.
Squeak had been a good courier. He rode his custom Italian racing bike everywhere, unafraid of looking faintly ridiculous in lycra because it meant no one stopped him from his work. When he delivered to the diseased knot of tweakers, they decided not to pay him and one of them, known as Spit, caved his skull in with a baseball bat. He had a kilo on him plus the rest of the cash from his run. No one told me formally, but the action warranted a response.
Another invoice to be chased up for payment.
He did not hesitate, even offering to go it alone in the prosaic, gruff way that he did with everything. In a phone call, he got their names and the places they hung out and an hour later, he had gotten the shotgun from a storage locker he had rented in a friend’s name. I insisted on going with him, and still had the piece of paper with the address written on it, turning it over in my hands until the ink had blurred to mush. My mouth tasted of coppery excitement and amidst the churn of my fears, swam a visceral excitement that had made me urgent and unbearably aroused.
He checked the time and kissed me again. His lips were warm and soft, and I leaned into the kiss, shutting my eyes like it might be the last time. When he drew back, his eyes gleamed with the twisting lust and determination that burned beneath his exterior.
‘Park at the next block, keep the engine running?’ I said.
He smiled and winked at me.
‘The piece in the glove compartment. If things go south, what do you do?’
His voice had altered, gained a metallic clarity that made my breath quicken in my lungs.
‘Aim low, squeeze the trigger until it’s empty. Toss the gun.’
My thighs ached from where I had been squeezing them, enjoying the hum of sensation building in my stomach.
He kissed me on the forehead.
‘I won’t be long, love.’
He got the gun from the back, strapped the bandolier on and then took off his spectacles, passed them to me and smiled before he set off, striding with a slow, deliberate strength as he brought the shotgun to bear.
I drove to the next block and waited. My heart thumped in my chest and I looked out through the windshield. The seconds ticked past, fat and slow with dread until my phone rang.
‘You can come in.’
I had not heard the shotgun go off. I was pinned to my seat with fear and confusion, struggling for the right thing to say against the tumult of fears that whispered a million possible fates.
‘Is it safe?’ I said.
I drove back and took the gun from the glove compartment, checking the load before I walked into the trailer park. The door was open and I caught the greasy, garbage taste of too many people living in one space, the fog of cigarettes and the sour wheat of cheap alcohol. He stepped into the doorway, larger than God, with the shotgun aimed away from him. He nodded to me without smiling and on instinct, I took the gun out and held it by my side.
The carpet stuck to the soles of my shoes and I grimaced as I went in. The shotgun was aimed down the length of the trailer, and at the back, on a couch as broken as a prison snitch, sat Spit. Five feet eight, the kind of skinny that comes from a diet of whatever he could cop to, all his clothes stained and worn to a uniform skin of despair that hung from him. His hair was shaved up at the sides and back, with a single greasy lock of purple hair that hung over his forehead. His face was crowded with piercings, some of them fringed with halos of infected tissue.
His eyes widened, but, but he controlled the expression and turned it into a sneer.
‘You that fruity fucker’s widow or something?’ he said.
What came to me was my lack of fear in this place. If anything, I was offended that Squeak had died at the hands of this man. I looked over my shoulder at my lover, who gave a slow nod. My heart was full, with a hard, robust love for him in that moment. He was not a man for words in love, but actions and intentions. Our silence, much like the rest said all that we ever needed it to.
He was a soldier.
I was his country.
I raised the gun and turned to look at Spit. His sneer fell apart before the force of my will.
‘No, I’m his employer.’
For a.22, it was loud in the trailer. I aimed low but the kick of the gun pinged the bullet between his overly plucked eyebrows, snapping his head backwards. His legs kicked out and he died as he had lived, subject to the perpetual indifference of the universe.
The product was there, and most of the cash. We would find the others, and after they had found Spit, they would be keen to settle the matter.
We left the trailer, got back into the car and drove home in silence.
I had always read that funerals made people horny, but that night, I would have been able to add murder to the list.