The Hitman's Last Job by Aaliyah Jackson

Anna mumbled in her sleep, words she’d said a thousand times before. She was having a dream…THAT dream, all over again, like she’d had almost every night of her life. She always stayed 9 years old in her nightmares. Maybe because at that age everything changed forever or maybe it was because deep down she still was that 9 year old girl. She flayed her arms as if fighting an invisible attacker and tears squeezed out from her clenched eyelids.
The Hitman's Last Job
The Hitman's Last Job by Aaliyah Jackson
“No! I don’t wanna!” she cried as if protesting would stop it happening. It was the day after her ninth birthday when she noticed the look in her father’s eyes change. He lingered on her for just that second longer and the intention on his face was something she had never seen before. Was it love? Hunger? She’d soon find out. She’d gone to bed like she always and climbed beneath the covers with her favorite stuffed toy, an owl named Archimedes who she often spoke to as if he was her best friend. She rubbed her face against his soft, fake feathers and felt the blissful relaxation that only came in the twilight seconds of sleep taking hold. But something snapped her from the comfort… the creak of her bedroom door. “Daddy?” “Be quiet sweety,” “Why? Is there something wrong?” “Just be quiet,” he grunted. He smelled terrible but that was no surprise. Anna had left her father in a drunken stupor on the couch with an old Western playing loudly on the TV. He was filthy and sour and as Anna wondered whether she should lean over and kiss him goodnight, she looked to his corpulent body and found him repulsive. His disgruntled face was crumpled into folds of gray skin with a five o’clock shadow peppering his chin. His hands looked as if they’d seen a fight that day and the stains on his clothes showed themselves as a map of his daily habits. Anna hurried up the stairs and hoped that in the morning he’d be in a good mood. But here he was in the middle of the night standing in her bedroom, swaying like he always did when he was drunk and wanted to start an argument. Then he moved in closer and for a moment, Anna thought he was going to pounce onto the bed like a wild animal. She was almost right. He lingered for a moment by the side of the bed… just watching. Anna could see sweat begin to form on his brow. “Are you sick Daddy?” she tried to reason why he looked so strange. “Just sick of not having you,” was his peculiar reply that she didn’t understand. He pulled back the bedsheets. Anna shifted herself away quickly but soon found she was trapped in the corner, with her father blocking any escape. Her eyes were wide in fear and confusion. She clutched at Archimedes in a futile attempt at gaining protection. Used to being afraid of her father, she sensed this was different. There was an insidious look in his dark eyes. He grabbed at the stuffed owl and tried to pull it from Anna’s arms but she held on as desperately. A struggle broke out and soon the pair was fighting over the toy. Fake fur and cotton stuffing flew out over the bed like a scattering of artificial snow. Her father won the battle quickly and tossed the artificial owl carcass on the floor. Anna looked to it with tears clinging at her eyelashes. But a sharp pain in her wrist made her turn back to her father. He was gripping her arm hard and pushing her down underneath him. He was sitting astride her now with that vile stench of his permeating her nostrils. She tried to struggle but it was pointless. Her meagre frame was like a matchstick beneath his bearish body. All she could do was try to breathe. His attack was relentless that night and Anna thought that nothing could be so painful again. Of course she was wrong. Her father’s nightly visits became a routine and like clockwork for the next ten years his depraved and torturous acts would become a normal part of her life. Normal for him anyway… Now aged 19 she barely thought of anything else once she closed her eyes at, even though he didn’t creak open her door as much as he used to. His fists though… she was still at the receiving end of those. Animalistic and visceral her father’s anger was like an untamed wolf. Each night she’d try to dream of freedom but as always his face would intrude on her serenity and the attacks would begin all over again in her mind. This night was different though because her dream was stopped in its tracks by something alien, something loud, something… deadly. A gunshot. It echoed through the house and drifted up the stairs. At first Anna thought that she was still dreaming but that was until she could smell the gunpowder and she sat bolt upright in bed. This isn’t a dream, this is really happening! For a confusing moment she genuinely cared for her father and her instinct was to run downstairs to check on him. “Dad?” Her bare feet slapped on the wooden floorboards as she hurried. She reached the living room and the sight hit her. Death and blood, shock and horror… Her father was lying in the position she left him in but his nicotine stained vest was now running with a cascade of blood that sprung from an open wound in his head. Anna immediately gagged and clutched a hand to her mouth. The blood ran a river from his body to hers and seeped in between her toes. Total fear racked her body for a moment until the reality of the situation hit her… he would never hurt her again! But who hurt him? As if her thoughts were mysteriously read a floorboard creaked behind her and she spun round in the dark to see a figure so tall it towered over her. The demonic shadow loomed in closer and Anna began to shake. Then a hand as strong as a vice spun her back around. Her arms were violently and expertly pulled behind her back. CHAPTER 2 She screamed an animalistic cry for help but was soon silenced by the cold steel of a gun against her temple. Anna assumed death would come in a second and she began to pray but it never arrived. The murderer in her house appeared to be hesitating or was he just playing with her, trying to make her last few seconds on earth as terrifying as possible? She felt his hot breath on the back off her neck and the clean smell of his aftershave. She wanted to see his face and put a name to her father’s killer but the tight grip on her never wavered. Meanwhile the killer was looking at her intently. She’s a pretty one, he thought. Real pretty... He looked over every inch of her body as he held the gun to her head. She was shaking in her underwear. He could smell the fear coming off her. Wondering what to do with her, he looked her up and down again. He killed the men easily. That was what he was paid to do. But the women? He never got involved with them, but this time he had no choice. She was a witness after all wasn’t she? But she didn’t see his face. Still… she’d complicate things. She’d have to die too. But something was stopping him pulling the trigger. He’d never killed a girl before, and he found himself not being able to even contemplate it. But his boss specified, ordered even, to kill everyone and that meant the girl too. He looked her over once again and saw the fragility of her body, the coyness in her face and the sheer terror in her eyes. He couldn’t do it, instead he felt the deep compulsion to wrap his arms around her and tell her he’d save her. It was an odd thought to have considering he had just put a bullet hole in her father. He hesitated for a moment longer and then an idea flashed in his head. “Come with me,” he spoke gruffly and let her arms go. “But don’t say a word or I’ll kill you.” The killer walked briskly and silently through the house and, noticing one of Anna’s coats hanging in the hallway, tossed it to her. “Wrap up warm, there’s no heat where we’re going,” he said rather enigmatically. What the hell does that mean! A thousand thoughts a second were flying through Anna’s mind. Why didn’t he kill me? What’s he going to do instead? She was too scared to resist, and so dutifully followed him out of the house and onto the street. A black SUV stood proudly amongst the battered, second hand cars of the neighbours. She looked to see where her father’s van was and was surprised to see it wasn’t in its usual parking space. “Hurry,” the killer whispered through the frosty darkness. “In the car…” he pulled open the passenger door. “Come on… get in quickly,” Anna’s freezing bare feet ran quickly on the cold tarmac as she hurried to the vehicle. She jumped in the passenger side and he slammed the door behind her. As he moved round and sat in the driver’s seat the soft light from the street lamps showed his features and Anna saw him clearly for the first time. She was immediately struck by how handsome he was. Square jawed and blonde, young and athletic… he wasn’t what she expected him to be. He looked so normal and respectable, the kind of guy you proudly took home to your parents. He started the ignition and softly pulled away from the curb, driving gently away down the street, gliding silently like a ghost. No one would have noticed a thing… except for the gunshot, but in this neighbourhood people heard them often and knew not to stick their neck out by calling the cops. For a long while they drove silently through the streets of Chicago with nothing but the sound of silence and Anna’s rapid breathing. Anna was desperate to ask who he was, where they were going and what he was going to do with her but she couldn’t get the words out. She just watched him, trying to figure out what was going on in his head by the expression on his face, but there wasn’t one. He was a true professional, strong and silent, foreboding and solemn. He said nothing until they reached a depressing looking motel that stood rickety and old off the side of the freeway. It would have looked abandoned if it wasn’t for the neon sign that flickered red in the night. It flashed the words “Sleep Eazy.” “You know, I always wondered why they bothered with the second ‘E’ and the ‘P’.” The man commented dryly, turning to Anna, and smiling at her confused expression. “If you co-operate, you won’t get hurt. Now get out the car.” She was lead roughly to a room at the end of the building. Far away from everyone else and containing nothing but a bed, a wicker chair, a lamp and an ancient television. It was only slightly dirtier than the house she had been taken from. “Sit there,” he said flatly and pointed to the bed. She did as she was told and shook nervously under her coat. She pulled it tighter around her and began to cry. “Stop crying,” he said angrily. “It won’t bring your father back,” “I wouldn’t want it to,” her words hung mysteriously in the air. The killer looked to her face and saw her delicate features accentuated perfectly in the auburn lamplight. He wondered how someone so dainty and perfect could have sprouted from the cesspit of her neighbourhood. He felt himself soften to her but wished that he wouldn’t. Straightening himself in his chair he tried to make his body look more masculine, erect… strong. Anna responded by shrinking inside her coat even more. He felt guilty for scaring her but at the same time wanted to keep the upper hand. He stood up and walked over to her. “Look kid, just do as I say and you won’t get hurt,” She looked up to him with her big, pale eyes. There was uneasiness inside her as if she wasn’t sure if he was tricking her into something. “Just do as I say… Ok?” and he got up and walked over to a backpack. As he opened it Anna thought it looked military issued, and her eyes lingered on his buzz cut and stoney expression. Ex-marine? She wondered. He can’t still be in service. He pulled out a length of rope from the bag and began to make shapes with it between his hands. Anna panicked and scurried away from him but the furthest she could get was the headboard. He leaned in closer to her and his height and muscles couldn’t have been more intimidating. But as he held her limbs and tied her hands and feet together she noticed that he did so softly. It seemed to Anna that he was only doing it as a token gesture of dominance, he didn’t want to hurt her…but at the same time he clearly didn’t want her escaping. He finished off by tying the loose strands of rope around the legs of the bed. He felt the peculiar urge to pat her on the head or comfort her in some way, but held back. Ridiculous, he thought. What am I thinking? And he left the motel room with a stomach full of raw nerves. Anna wriggled on the bed trying to free her body from the rope. She knew it would be impossible but would never forgive herself if she didn’t try. The more she struggled the more the rope burnt the skin on her wrists and she eventually gave up. Catching her breath she tried to gauge what was happening. An hour ago she was asleep in her own bed and now she was here….wherever that was. She tried to remember the journey over here and was confused as to why the gunman hadn’t blindfolded her. Isn’t that what they usually do? She didn’t know. She wasn’t an expert on these things like her father was. Her father… she remembered his pathetic, lifeless body on the couch. The Western movie long ended and there was only the sound of the late night TV commercials to keep him company. He must have looked a sorry state when the killer arrived, probably thought he was doing the old man a favour. She wondered whether he woke up just in time to see the face of his own murderer. She worried that he would have been scared. But she stopped herself. Why should she care? She should be grateful that monster in her life was gone. He was a bastard, a coward, a criminal, an absolute dirty dog of a man. She looked at the door and wondered if she had just been delivered from one monster to another. ~ Carl’s mind was running ragged as he sped through the night. Soon enough he’d be at his boss’ house and would have to tell him everything. But did he? He couldn’t possibly tell him that he’d spared the life of a witness, the Don would kill him. But he felt wrong killing innocents - that’s what his Navy SEAL training had taught him to do, and years after leaving the military, he still tried to fight for freedom and honor. But that was more difficult to do now he was tangled into the Mob. He ran a hand through his hair as he looked in the mirror at the stoplight. He was only a few minutes away from the Don and was trying to get his story straight in his head. Just tell him you killed the girl, no one has to know otherwise. He repeated the phrase in his head like a mantra. He hated waiting at stoplights. The position of his legs while driving always made his back hurt even more than it usually did. He fidgeted in his seat to try and make the pain go away but as ever it was a strong presence that refused to leave. The light went green and he moved away slowly. He was the only vehicle on the road and he was in no hurry. If anything he wanted to make the journey last as long as possible. He had to control his nerves and he took a few deep breaths. Everything was going to be ok. It wasn’t as if it would be more terrifying than Afghanistan and he’d survived that. He tried to remember this as he made his way down the immaculate long drive of the luxurious house in Naperville. One last look in the mirror and he saw dark circles around the rims of his icy blue eyes. He’d seen better days. The job really took a toll on him. A burly man in a black, mohair suit was ready at the front door to greet him. As ever the size of the house took Carl aback. It was the biggest house, on the most exclusive street, in the most expensive suburb. He often wondered what the Don’s neighbors thought of him. The burly man was called Jerry and was always a pleasant and friendly gentleman to Carl. He always imagined him as a playful bulldog, all fat and stupid with a heart of gold. Jerry shook his hand firmly as he jumped out the SUV. “You’ve taken your time tonight ain’t ya?” he laughed as he looked up to the hitman. “Hey! I was you know… stuck in traffic,” They both laughed. “Of course you were,” Jerry smirked. “Say how’s the boss doin? He waitin’ for me?” Carl asked nervously. “Sure is! Getting all angsty cos you’ve been taken your sweet ass time,” “Well… you better show me the way,” They walked through the Don’s house, and Carl admired every detail. He always dreamed that someday he could have all the Don had, but without having to resort to violence and extortion. At least they know what they want, Carl mused. On one hand he worked hard to be a fine citizen that upheld the law… on the other, he killed for cash. It wasn’t his fault that the military wouldn’t compensate him after Afghanistan though. He always had to remind himself that. Jerry led Cark down a grand hallway that was colored in cream and gold. The decadence was almost too much, as the gargantuan walls framed the priceless treasures that adorned the place. A crypt, a chapel, a private museum, Carl wasn’t sure but he was eager to see. He was then rather titillated when the doors were pulled back to reveal a bathroom. The largest bathroom he had ever seen. To Carl the room could have fitted a train station, and he looked around to see why they were taking him to a goddamn bathroom. But all that lay inside the marble walls was a bath and in that bath sat Angelo De Lorenzo. He was pushing the last piece of a sandwich into his mouth and sucking mayonnaise from his fingers. He looked up to his two employees with an irritated look on his tanned face. “Hey kid, what took ya so long?” he said angrily to Carl. “Urgh… things got a little complicated, but it’s all sorted,” he lied smoothly. “Complicated eh?” Angelo squinted his eyes suspiciously. “But the girl? You got her too didn’t ya?” “Yup,” Carl nodded, praying he wouldn’t ask more questions. “Good work,” Angelo began to swim over to the other side of the bath where a briefcase lay. “As always, you never let me down,” and he slid the briefcase over the wet floor in the direction of the two men. Carl picked it up gratefully and nodded in appreciation. “Jerry here’ll show you out,” and Angelo swam back to his original spot. As Carl was led out of the house and back to his car, he couldn’t believe that lying was so easy. He couldn’t believe that he’d bullshitted the Don and gotten away with it! He could feel the sweat clinging to the inside of his clothes as he started the engine and drove away. He gave a friendly wave to Jerry who was walking back in the house with a cheery expression and focused his eyes on the road. CHAPTER 3 Carl looked to the passenger seat where the briefcase of money lay. $50,000. It wasn’t lottery money but it would keep him comfortable and settled for long enough. And anyway, he only needed a few more hits and then he could retire and make a fresh start. He always thought he’d head south and live somewhere warm, and cheap. The heat would help his back recover and he liked the idea of having a little plot of land to himself. A little orchard maybe and some farm animals. Or maybe he’d get a condo somewhere like Miami and party hard, living the bachelor’s dream on the beach. As he pulled into the parking lot of the motel he felt a twinge of panic. He’d managed to get away with not killing the girl for now but what next? He’d get found out eventually wouldn’t he? He opened the door to the room and looked inside half expecting to see that Anna had escaped but was almost disappointed to see she was obediently lying still. He walked over to her and saw that she didn’t even seem angry, just inpatient. “Who are you?” she spoke in hushed tones. “What are you going to do with me?” “Shhhh…. You’ll find out soon enough,” he said rather harshly and regretted it. Anna withdrew back into herself and sighed. “Look, there’s no use getting all pouty and bratty,” joked Carl. “I ain’t lettin’ you go,” “Well can you at least untie me…please? It hurts,” Carl immediately felt like a brute. She was so tiny after all. What did he need to tie her up for? “Ok fine… but don’t act up or I’ll shoot,” he put a finger on the handle of his gun that sat on his hip and Anna nodded. He pulled the knots apart and let the rope fall to the ground. Anna stretched out her limbs and sat up feeling grateful. “Thanks… I knew you weren’t that much of a bad guy,” “Oh yeah… Why’s that?” “Well if you were gonna do something, you would have done it already,” She had a point. Carl almost smiled but stopped himself. “Don’t get too complacent. There’s still time left,” he said menacingly. But Anna was used to being threatened, and he wasn’t the first man that had showed her a gun to get their way. She could see the kindness behind the façade of machismo and she wasn’t as scared as she should have been. “You can get some sleep if you want,” Carl nodded to the bed, “And where will you sleep?” “I’m fine right here,” he shifted in his seat and winced in pain. His back was hurting again but it wasn’t anything a shot of vodka and a couple aspirin couldn’t fix. Anna shuffled into bed and pulled the covers up around her. They were dirty and smelled musty but at least they were warm. She huddled up into the foetal position and closed her eyes for just a second. She never for a moment imagined that she could sleep but slumber came easily and she drifted off peacefully. ~ The sun was already shining through the venetian blinds when Carl woke up. He had his head on his shoulder and he felt instantly stiff and in pain when he woke. “Urgh…” he grumbled to himself. Anna, having heard him, also began to stir and for a brief moment Carl was certain he saw a pained expression on her face. It was as if she’d remembered something tragic. But then she opened her eyes and looked to the ceiling as she realized where she was. She didn’t seem even slightly perturbed and just sat up in bed, still wearing her coat, with a dishevelled look. “Sleep well?” he asked sarcastically. “Never better,” Anna said so seriously it surprised Carl. “Are you hungry?” “Always,” she replied. And as Carl looked to her legs that hung from her coat he noticed that she was frightfully thin with bruises covering her pale skin like fading leopard spots. “I’ll be right back with breakfast,” he spoke gruffly and yawned before leaving the hotel room and jumping in the SUV. As he put his keys in the ignition he worried whether she would try and escape. Leaving her alone for a while was somewhat of a test. If she ran away she’d go straight to the police but they could never penetrate the protection of the mob. But what if she escaped and the Don found out? He decided to stay in the parking lot for a while longer and see what she did. He had the key to the motel room but she could easily smash a window. He could see her figure a little bit through the gaps in the blinds. She appeared to just be sitting on the edge of the bed. She leaned forward and flicked on the TV. So she’s getting comfy, he thought. She won’t be moving. As he drove out onto the freeway, he wondered why. Back in the motel room Anna grabbed the remote and put on some cartoons. She’d never really seen them before. Her father was a strict man and wouldn’t allow her much freedom so she could never choose what she watched. Most of the time her Dad had on some ball game, or gangster movie. In a moment of sadness Anna realized that this was one of the few times in her life she had just chilled out and watched TV. A sense of calm washed over her as she enjoyed the precious minutes to herself in the motel room she was held captive in. The tragedy of the situation did not elude her though, since her freedom came at the price of her father’s death. Thinking of him dead, she didn’t know how to feel about it. Part of her wanted to cry because….he was her father. He raised her, clothed her, fed her and gave her a life. Granted it wasn’t a life she wanted, but it was hers, and now that he was gone she could do anything with it. Her mind wandered to the mysterious man who kidnapped her. Her feelings for him were conflicted too. She wanted to hate him, to feel distraught and angry. She knew that other girls in her position would try to escape but something inside Anna didn’t want to. She felt safe somehow and wanted to at least say thank you to him, to explain that in a way, she felt rescued. She pondered on why he didn’t kill her. Maybe he was sent by a stranger to kill her father and rescue her? The thought optimistically hung in her mind before she dismissed it as fantastical. Her Dad was a notorious scumbag but no one knew about the things he did to her. She saw the way people looked at her though. They knew something was wrong but they could never have guessed the lengths of depravity her father would go to for immediate gratification. She flung herself back in between the pillows and relished the thought of never being hit again, of never having to be pinned down into the bed and have her legs forced apart. She’d never smell that rancid stench that came from his unwashed body and she’d never feel that dirty way again. Anna thought back to all those times she’d put a capful of bleach into the bath water and how she’d smell her clothes over and over again and each time they only seemed to smell dirtier. She looked over to the doorway of the bathroom and thought about taking a shower. It would be the first time she had bathed privately in her whole life. Her father always made her keep the door open but now she’d be able to finally enjoy the warmth of the water on her skin like the way she was supposed to. She leapt up with a sense of joy in her heart. It was amazing what little acts of freedom could do to you. She walked into the bathroom she saw that there was no lock. She hesitated for a second worried her captor would come back at any moment and find her naked. But then she reasoned that he could have raped her in her own bed back home if he wanted to. He could have taken advantage of her when she was tied up but he chose to sleep upright in a rickety chair instead of sharing a bed with her. Something in her gut told her she was safe. She pulled off her coat and turned on the hot water. CHAPTER 4 Carl pulled into the diner and saw a familiar vehicle. It was Lucas’ Dodge Viper, it had to be. No one else around here gave much love to that ostentatious shade of yellow. As he parked nearby he saw him, one of the Don’s cronies. He was leaving the diner with a coffee, a donut and that smirk of satisfaction he never washed off. Despite the fact that Carl tried to stay hidden Lucas noticed him immediately! “Carl! Buddy, how’s it goin?” “Good….yeah…. Good,” “Hey, you don’t look so great. Rough night?” he asked before realizing what he said. “Oh yeah! Of course! That hit over on the south side. That god damn rat bastard Tommy, it was comin’ to him alright,” Lucas chewed on his donut for a moment in thought. “Say, let me get ya breakfast,” “Oh…No it’s cool… thanks. I can’t stay long,” Lucas eyed him for a second. “Well at least let me walk you in,” “Ok,” Carl relented. Maybe he was being paranoid but he couldn’t shake the feeling this young associate of the Don was trying to keep an eye on him. They walked into the simple diner and Carl ordered two breakfasts and two coffees. The men sat in a nearby booth while they waited. “So…. Was it messy?” Lucas asked while sipping on his coffee. “I mean like… loadsa blood?” He was speaking so glibly he could have been talking about baseball or making an omelette. “It was yeah… But nothing too bad,” Carl thought back to the incident and was disgusted with himself for realizing that he couldn’t actually remember what Thomas Martin’s body looked like after he shot him in the head. He’d been too preoccupied with the girl…and too used to the job. “And his daughter? Such a shame she had to go too,” “Yuh… It’s always bad when it’s a lady,” Carl tried to talk calmly. “Sure is,” “But seriously that Tommy,” Lucas swallowed the last bite of his donut and licked his fingers. “Was a real lowlife… a proper cunt,” “I can’t say I knew him,” “Well ain’t that a blessing,” Lucas laughed. “What did he do that was so bad anyway?” “Always chasin’ something that doesn’t belong to him, he might have been alright before he got addicted to whatever the fuck he was addicted to. Got caught drink drivin’ and when the cops pulled him over he was carrying a shipment of the Don’s cash… We think he squealed,” “Jesus! That’s heavy!” “Sure was! And it was 100k too….not exactly pocket change,” “What a dope,” was all Carl could say as he thought about the girl’s father. Slowly a little piece of the picture was slotting into place as he caught a glimpse into the girl’s family life. “Dope ain’t even half of it. That man beat his daughter Anna black and blue her whole life…. Such a shame, she never really had a chance,” Carl thought back to the bruises on her shins and the way she acted so demure and delicate. “Your order, Sir,” a waitress interrupted them and the two men looked up almost offended at her intrusion. “Thanks,” Carl said flatly. “Well, I better let you get back to your day. We should catch a beer soon,” “Sure!” Carl lied. He didn’t like fraternizing with the mob unless he really had to. The two men walked back out to their cars and drove away. That was weird… Carl thought to himself. Lucas had never been so friendly before. He hoped he wasn’t on to him. But then how could he be? He arrived back at the motel and felt hungry as he caught the smell of bacon and warm bread on the seat beside him. He couldn’t wait to eat but first…pain meds. ~ Anna was enjoying the hot water as it ran through her hair. It warmed her mind as well as her body and she couldn’t believe that such a simple daily chore could be so enjoyable if it was done alone. She had to admit though that the motel bathroom was a rather slimy and dirty room. As she looked around she noted the mould on the walls, the lime scale on the taps and the hole in the ceiling. Then she noticed something else. Something metallic and precious glimmered through the steam on the side of the sink. It looked like a necklace. Anna reached out to look closer and saw that she was looking at dog tags. The name said Carl Reiner. Now she knew who he was! Or at least she had something to call him by. Suddenly she could hear the sound of the bedroom door opening and she placed the dog tags back before jumping in the shower again. A gentle knock sounded from the door. “You still hungry?” “Starving!,” “Sure,” Anna felt grateful that he didn’t just barge into the bathroom unannounced. In fact he had been more polite to her in the last twenty seconds than her father had ever been. She dried herself quickly and wrapped a towel around her body. “Thanks for breakfast!” she smiled as she exited the bathroom. “Haha!” “What are you laughing at?” Anna seemed perplexed. Carl kept laughing and shook his head. “I just killed your father and kidnapped you and you’re just standing there in a towel thanking me for some bacon,” She suddenly felt silly and childish and sat back down on the bed sadly. She didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong. “Look,” Carl took a mouthful of his sandwich. “I didn’t mean to poke fun at ya, it’s just strange that’s all. Don’t ya think?” “Well yeah….. but… I was just being polite,” she began to nibble on the crust of her breakfast nervously. Carl remembered what Lucas had said about her father. “So… I’m guessing your old man wasn’t such a nice guy then?” “You could say that again….” “You don’t miss him do ya?” “Nuhuh…” she shook her head. Carl watched her eat hungrily and could see her frail body as the towel hung limply from her. Meanwhile Anna was thinking back to the dog tags. “So you’re military?” she hit out. “That obvious?” Carl smiled and Anna loved the sight of his happy face. He obviously had fond memories of his service days. “Yeah I’d say pretty obvious. The backpack, the hair…the dog tags in the bathroom you left behind with your name on,” she smirked. “Rooky mistake,” she giggled. Carl couldn’t believe how stupid he’d been. She could have escaped and told the police his name. He was sleepy and sloppy, and he’d fucked up. “Why didn’t you run? You could have escaped and told a cop that Carl Reiner had held you captive,” “Yeah but you were comin’ back right? You said you were coming back. I was waiting for you,” Her words were so innocent and naïve to Carl’s ears. They were so peculiar and sad. It was as if she didn’t want to leave, that she wasn’t afraid of him at all but instead was rather attached. Like she had transitioned from her father to him in one slick move and wasn’t looking back. He didn’t realize Stockholm Syndrome could develop so quickly. He had to make a decision fast…either kill her or dump her somewhere where she could get help. “Well….” He began to choose his words carefully. “Is there not somewhere you’d rather be?” Anna thought for a moment and then shook her head. “Nope. I mean… I don’t have anywhere else,” “What about friends, other family members?” “I wasn’t allowed friends and no… no family. They all left us in the end,” Jesus what have I got myself into? Carl cursed himself. If he killed her he wouldn’t have this dilemma but he just couldn’t do it. She was so sweet, so fragile and docile. He wanted to envelope her in clean clothes and hugs and tell her everything would be alright. “Are you not even a little sad your father’s dead?” “Nah,” she finished her sandwich and tossed the empty wrapper in the trash. “You don’t even wanna know WHY he died?” “He was a son of a bitch. I’m guessing that’s why,” she spat. “Well yeah, I mean, from what I heard he wasn’t the greatest but still… he was your old man,” “I’m glad he’s gone and I have you to thank,” Anna’s face turned from childish to churlish in a split second as she remembered her childhood with anger. “That man didn’t know how to be a father. Each night of my life I prayed before I went to sleep and I prayed that he couldn’t touch me again. I prayed that God would kill him and set me free and you know what? He answered my prayers. He set me free and he brought you into my life to give me wings. I’ll never grieve over that asshole. If that makes me a bad person then fine but I had time to think when I lay here all tied up last night. And I thought of you and how grateful I am. Carl from the bottom of my heart I thank you… I thank you for putting an end to my misery,” she had worked herself up into a frenzy of anger and her cheeks raged red. Carl was taken aback and sat in his seat with a blank expression on his face and his mouth wide open. Was this a trick? Or could someone really hate their own father that much? “He really hurt you that bad?” “Like you wouldn’t believe, since I was nine years old,” Carl quickly realized what she meant and decided to drop the subject. CHAPTER 5 Don Angelo De Lorenzo was relaxing in the busy restaurant. His pockmarked skin shone with oil under the dim lamp light and his hair was slicked back immaculately. He was devouring a bowl of lobster bisque with his rubbery lipped mouth. “Hey, you know who I saw this morning?” asked Lucas. “Who?” Angelo didn’t bother looking up from his food. “That Carl guy…. You know the Navy Seal,” “I know who Carl is,” Angelo said angrily. “What about it?” “Well…. I dunno he was just like…real shifty,” “Shifty?” “Yeah! Like all weird….” “Yeah well he’s a bit of a weird guy. These military types are comin’ back from the middle east with all sortsa problems these days,” “No nothin’ like that, I mean he seemed nervous talking, kinda eager to get away. And when I mentioned Tommy’s daughter he started blushin’. Went as red as that lobster there,” Lucas nodded to the almost empty bowl. “Oh yeah? You think somethin’s goin’ on?” “I dunno… I mean maybe,” Lucas chewed on a bread stick and took a sip of wine. “I just can’t put my finger on it,” “It’s probably nothing,” the Don shrugged as he focused on his food. “But you know what? He ordered two breakfasts… but he was there alone,” “So what?” the Don wiped his mouth with a napkin. “He’s probably a hungry guy!” “Yeah but he didn’t go home. I followed him for a little bit. He pulled into the motel off the freeway on the south side, only a few miles from Tommy’s place,” “Oh yeah?” Angelo’s eyes widened and he scowled. “I wonder why he’d do that….” The cogs in his mind started whirring. “He sure was slow gettin’ to mine last night,” “Yeah, and I just can’t trust the guy. I reckon he’s up to something,” “We’ll see…” Angelo swept back his hair. “I want you to go out there to the motel. Tell me what you find and be quiet about it. Don’t go knocking on any doors or nothin’,” “Sure… I’ll be in touch,” Lucas threw a 50 dollar note on the table as he left. ~ Carl and Anna were lying on the bed side by side. She felt the impulsive urge to cuddle into him but couldn’t’ bring herself to do it. What if he got the wrong idea about her? But over the course of the morning he had softened to her more than he thought was possible. She reminded him so much of someone he knew when he was younger. Someone he couldn’t help anymore. “There’s a sad look in your eyes,” said Anna. She was as far as she could be on her side of the bed without falling onto the floor. She wanted to be closer but at the same time was worried she’d scare him away. All she really wanted to do though was hold his hand and look in his eyes, to hug him tightly, to just say thank you. Carl wasn’t sure what to say to Anna. He had so many conflicting thoughts running through his head. To him she looked so beautiful and sweet, so pure and kind. And she also looked so beautiful… lying there on the bed with her wet hair tumbling off the pillow. Her body even looked glamorous with the cheap motel towel wrapped around her. He wanted so badly to be closer to her but he kept his distance and made sure not to touch her. He didn’t want to give the impression that he was some sort of sexual predator that kidnapped her for his own pleasure. Looking at her bruised limbs as they fell out from the towel he felt that he wanted to buy her beautiful clothes. He wanted to make her feel pretty for once in her life. “So are you sad?” Anna asked with wide eyes. “I guess I am… well kinda,” his furtive words were guarded. He didn’t want to have to explain. “Well why’s that? Are you missing your family?” “I have no family….” Carl spoke heavily. “Well that makes you and me alike. We’re both orphans in an evil world,” “How old are you?” Carl had to ask, her mind seemed so much older than her face. “19,” “At college?” “No… I wasn’t allowed to go,” she sighed. “But you wanted to I take it?” “Always wanted to study anthropology, call it a pipe dream I dunno….” she looked away awkwardly. “Hey you’re still a kid! You’ll get yourself back to school someday,” “I hope so…. but stop changing the subject. I can tell you’re hiding something you’re bursting to talk about. Your eyes betray you,” “Well….” Carl didn’t have to tell her but he thought he’d like to. “You just remind me of someone I use to know,” “Oh yeah? Like an old girlfriend?” “Kinda….” The truth was that she couldn’t have been more like Eileen unless she was her ghost. Pale and curvy with red hair, he used to have a crush on her when they were neighbours as children. She was the quintessential girl next door, all smiles and flirtatious chatter. Carl and she used to meet up on their front lawns and wile away the summers together listening to classic rock on the radio and eating ice cream. They even found a novel way to get drunk. Raiding their parents’ liquor cabinets they’d freeze vodka in Popsicle holders and tell everyone it was lemonade. But they didn’t have to lie because her parents never asked. They didn’t care whether she drank or not. Behind the closed doors of idyllic suburban life Eileen hid a dark and violent secret. Only her bruises told Carl the story and each day he saw her, another one would be added to her collection. Her father, who looked not too dissimilar to Thomas Martin, was a brute. An alcoholic and ex-Vietnam veteran, he ran his home like a prison camp. And he obviously had little trust in women, as he brought his fists down on his wife and daughter at even the slightest hint of disobedience. Eileen never said a word though, and Carl never asked. But he desperately wanted her to explain everything. It wasn’t like he didn’t care. He was just emotionally ill equipped and too young to articulate that he wanted to help. Often at night he’d lie in bed and look across at the house next door. But one night he didn’t get to sleep and the pleasant dreams never came. Instead sirens alerted him to the fact that he was too late. If he’d only made his dreams come true one night earlier everything would be ok. He watched in silent tears from the darkness of his bedroom as they took Eileen’s body away. Her father said it was an accident, a mistake. In a moment of drunken anger he’s struck her hard, and she’d lost her balance. Stumbling into the fireplace she’d hit her head against the cold marble and died. Carl’s father tried to claim that it was a fluke accident, a one in a million chance, there was nothing he could have done, but he knew better. Luckily, the judge disagreed. Here in the motel he looked to the flaming, red hair of Anna and knew that he’d done the right thing. She was his Eileen and this time he’d made her dreams come true. “You’ve drifted away in thought again,” Anna smiled. “Do you always do that?” “No, I don’t think so,” “Maybe it’s your pain meds?” “Maybe….I dunno,” “Why do you take those anyway?” she asked with genuine concern. “My back… It got hurt real bad when I was on tour,” “In Afghanistan? “Yuh….” “What happened?” “I’ll tell you sometime,” There’ll be a sometime…. Anna thought. I guess that means he won’t kill me….not too soon anyway. They lay in silence for a long while, just listening to the television and resting. Anna didn’t know if there was a protocol for a hitman the morning after. What were they supposed to do? She wanted to know more about the Mob, to know more about this mysterious man… but she also didn’t. “So you know why my father had to die?” Carl rolled over to face her. “Cops pulled him over drunk and he had mob money in his car,” “Oh…. It almost seems too tame,” “What do you mean?” Anna rolled to face away into the sunlight. “I always thought if he had to die it would be over something more dramatic but I guess he didn’t deserve it. He wasn’t exactly an interesting man,” Carl thought it was an odd thing to say but he didn’t have time to mull it over because he suddenly caught something out the corner of his eye. It was a shape, a fleeting movement. He sat bolt upright and immediately put his hand on his gun. “What’s wrong?” Anna was worried. “Is someone here?” “Shhhh…. Stay there…” But Anna didn’t want to stay there. In a panic she grabbed her coat and ran into the bathroom slamming the door shut. She sat on the floor and doubted her minimal weight would be able to keep the door closed if an intruder attempted to open it. She tried to hear what was happening but all she heard were the muffled footsteps of Carl as he edged his way to the window. Then silence… It seemed to last forever. A thousand scenarios ran through her head as she worried about what could possibly be happening. Was it just Carl’s paranoia? Or was someone actually there? Someone dangerous… But her questions were answered when she heard two popping sounds that could have only been bullet’s travelling through a silencer, then the sound of a body falling onto the venetian blinds… and then the floor. She felt incapacitated with fear. She never was any good in a crisis. Creaking the door open gently she looked for signs of a body but all she could see was the back of Carl as he stood cautiously next to the window. As she got up she finally saw it. Obscured by the bed and lying lifeless in a heap was a body. She screamed and reeled back, jumping on the bed. “Be quiet!” Carl barked. She instantly shut up and sat shaking in her coat. “Who is that?” she whispered ever so quietly as if talking to herself. “This,” Carl pointed his gun to the ground. “This is trouble….” She could see the redness in his cheeks and hear the panic in his voice. His eyes were wide with worry and he was losing his calm demeanour. He began to pace nervously with his gun still in his hand. Every minute or so he’d look through the blinds into the parking lot as if he thought someone would arrive any second. “Are there more of them comin?” Anna asked innocently. “Fuck I don’t know. Fuck. FUCK!” he paced even quicker and in a frenzy of panic began to kick frantically at the dresser. The TV toppled and fell to the ground. Smashed pieces of screen glittered all over the carpet. Anna wanted to run straight back to the bathroom but couldn’t move. She just sat there huddled and shaking with tears in her eyes. Carl looked to her and saw the fear in her eyes. He could smell her sweat, feel her fragility “Right. Quick. Move. Into the car,” he ordered. Carl grabbed his backpack then his dog tags and hurried out the room while dragging Anna by her coat sleeves. As they climbed in the SUV Anna hadn’t even closed her door properly before Carl had begun to drive away. He pulled out quickly onto the freeway and sped as fast as he could out of Chicago. CHAPTER 6 “Shit! You’re supposed to be dead, shit!” Carl was so angry as he drove that Anna was petrified he’d start head butting the steering wheel. “What are you saying?” she whimpered. “You were supposed to die! You were meant to die too…. I wasn’t supposed to leave a witness!” “Is that why they came to the motel?” “I think so….I mean yeah! Of course! Why else would Lucas be there? I knew there was something weird about that kid…knew he couldn’t be trusted,” “Who’s Lucas?” “Just one of the Don’s boys, a foot soldier,” “What are we gonna do?” “Be quiet….just let me think….” and they drove in silence for a few miles until Carl could regain his breath. “Thank you…” a timid little whisper suddenly came from the passenger seat. Carl looked over to see if he’d heard right. “What?” “Thank you,” it came again. “What the fuck for?” he was confused, stressed. “For keeping me alive,” “Oh….” he didn’t think of himself as a good person to be thanked. “You’re welcome…” “But why? I mean why didn’t you kill me like you were paid to. It was your job after all,” “I had my reasons,” and he didn’t elaborate. Anna took the hint to not ask more questions and instead lay her head against the window and looked out to the country. They were far out of the city now and speeding headlong into obscurity. She’d never been out of Chicago before and she guessed that he knew where they were heading as much as she did. She wondered how long it would take for Carl’s boss to find them. She knew nothing about him but she could guess that he was incredibly rich and insanely dangerous. She thought of all the gangster movies she saw with her Dad as a kid and knew people like her and Carl didn’t live long. She closed her eyes and began to pray. Carl looked over to her and guessed she had fallen asleep. Poor kid, he thought. She’d been through so much recently. She looked so beautiful lying there against the window and he felt the compulsion to lean over and stroke her hair, to tell her everything would be ok. ~ The door to the abandoned motel room was flapping in the night time breeze. The Don never came to do his own dirty work never mind attend the scene of a crime but Lucas was family…or at least it felt that way. He stood over the corpse with a cigar in between his chunky fingers. He blew out smoke into the moonlight. “And you’re sure no one else has been here?” “No…. just me,” the motel manager was having a panic attack in the presence of the Don and his cronies. “Good…You better not be lying to me,” “Never! I wouldn’t do that,” his voice was shaking and his hands were trembling. He was growing paler by the second. “Well you better get this cleaned up, we’ll take the body,” and a quick nod in his men’s direction made them sprint into action and take Lucas away and into a nearby van. Angelo stood in the room for a moment longer feeling more angry than upset. What had that dumb bastard Carl got himself into? He was supposed to be one of the good guys! Urgh never mind, Angelo thought as he chucked the end of the cigar away and thoughtlessly left the carpet to singe. He’d be taken care of. He pulled a wad of fifty dollar notes out of his blazer pocket and threw an indiscriminate amount onto the floor next to the motel manager. He was scrubbing nervously at the carpet with ammonia. “Here….keep ya mouth shut,” and Angelo walked away. ~ “Urgh….where are we?” Anna woke up with a stiff neck. “We’re somewhere near St Louis I think,” Carl yawned and fidgeted in his seat. It was pitch black outside and they were parked at the side of the road. Too tired to drive anymore, and having no idea what to do, Carl had eventually given up and pulled over for the night. “Do you know where we’re going?” “Nah….” was all Carl could say. “They’ll be onto us. They’ll be looking for our car and they’ll have every bagman and hitter in the state looking for us,” Anna realized the danger they were in and her face was stricken with fear. “So…. What now? We can’t just sit here waiting to die!” Anna shivered and pushed her toes into the floor to try and drive some feeling back into them. She looked down and saw that they were turning purple. “Well what do you suggest?” Carl asked angrily. “Torch it,” “What?” “Torch the fuckin’ SUV Carl! It’ll be the first thing they’ll be looking for. Hopefully if they stumble across the burnt out husk of the vehicle whoever finds us will think someone got to us first. But at the very least it’ll throw them off track, make them hit a dead end.” “You’ve been watching too much TV,” Carl smirked. He looked to her face that was so sweet and innocent yet had just been so forthright. She was a real hard ass and could take care of herself more than he’d given her credit for. And the more he thought about it the more he realized. Her childhood was a crazy catastrophe of living the Mob life with a drunken father who treated her like an animal, who brutalized her and kept her in squalor but she rose above that with grace. “I bet you know what you’re doing?” “Er….kinda,” Anna hesitated as she fiddled with a rag she pulled from the trunk, pushing it into the gas tank. “Right ok…pass me your lighter,” Carl handed it over and watched as she expertly set the end alight. “Now RUN!” she screamed. And the pair pumped their legs headlong down the empty road. They made it about 200 yards away before Anna had to stop to catch her breath. Her feet were in tremendous pain from running barefoot and she was breaking out in a nervous cold sweat. They watched from a distance as the SUV caught alight. Giant auburn flames grew up into the air like fiery tendrils that were reaching for the stars. “Any second now,” said Carl as he hoped they were far away enough. Anna prayed that no one would accidentally stumble on them out there, but she doubted it. All around her was wilderness and frost. Nobody apart from them had any reason to be stranded out here. The two watched the flames for a moment as if hypnotized by the beauty of the fire and just as they relaxed into the vision….BOOM! The noise was deafening and flocks of sleeping birds instantly flew screeching into the night. The stars were quickly hidden by the smoke that trailed from the vehicle and the flames grew even taller as they gained a new lease on life. Carl looked on sadly as he thought about all the time he’d spent driving his prized car, but his and Anna’s life weren’t worth risking over a heap of metal and glass. He was however glad he’d taken the precious seconds to grab his trusted backpack. He’d rescued it from the flames at the last minute as if reaching for an old friend and that’s what it felt like as it hung from his shoulders. It was his only remnant of his former life and as the two walked away he began to wonder what his next life would look like. “First thing tomorrow I’m gonna get you some clothes. Promise,” Carl put his hand on Anna’s back to comfort her. “Thanks…” she said weakly. “I’d appreciate that,” CHAPTER 7 They’d walked for nearly 4 miles and Anna was on the brink of passing out when they reached the lonely motel at the edge of St Louis. Carl had gotten them both a double room with separate beds and as soon as Anna’s head hit the pillow she fell into a deep sleep. Carl wasn’t so lucky though, and he wriggled in his bed trying to alleviate the pain that was striking into his back like a flaming dagger. He felt like he needed more than painkillers, he needed a goddamn drink. He couldn’t believe the situation he had found himself in, but as he looked over to Anna he felt it was worth it and he’d do it again if he had to. Anna’s toes were poking out from the side of the bed and Carl could see the cuts and blisters. She was a tough lady though and never complained once despite the fact she had to walk barefoot in the cold for miles through the country. But it was probably just a walk in the park for her and as he thought about all the violence she must have experienced growing up, he felt angry. So angry, that he began to swell with pride at the thought of killing her father. Bastards like him should always get what’s coming to them. His only regret was not taking his time with him. If he knew what a monster he was he would have used a knife instead… or his fists. He flicked on the TV just to hear some noise. He wanted to feel some normality. An old movie was on. He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but he knew it was something he saw as a kid because it instantly reminded him of his own parents. He missed them both terribly. Anna started to whimper in her sleep and he looked over to see her struggling as if pinned down by a ghost. She was a having a nightmare and Carl could guess what was happening. Her whimpering turned to loud cries and soon enough she started to flail her arms around. She was petrified and he couldn’t watch anymore. He tip toed over to her and whispered. “Hey…. You’re having a nightmare, wake up,” he lightly touched her arms but it made no difference. He tried again. “Hey….Anna,” he shook her arm but again it did nothing. She looked so afraid and childlike, so small and frail he couldn’t stand to see her so upset. He pulled the covers off of her and shook her hard. “Anna! Wake up!” and he cried louder as her eyes opened. For a moment she looked so terrified and confused as she adjusted her eyes to the surroundings. It seemed as though her thoughts were stuck in limbo for a few seconds. “You’re in the motel remember? We just torched the car….” It all came back to her now. The fire, the long walk… the body they left behind. She looked up to Carl as he sat on the edge of her bed and felt enormous relief and comfort to have him by her side. She always woke up afraid in the night, it was normal for her. But now she felt relaxed and cared for. Something she’d never felt before in her life. “Thanks… For waking me up, I hate nightmares,” “I couldn’t watch you cry, could I?” Carl smiled. “You look better when you smile you know that?” Carl laughed awkwardly. He couldn’t remember the last time he was complimented by a woman. “What were you dreaming about? Seemed pretty crazy…” “Just the usual,” Anna said flatly. “The usual?” he asked but knew exactly what that meant. He nodded solemnly and held her hand. “He can’t hurt you anymore,” “But his memory can! You know I thought this would be the end but it’s just changing. The fear’s just evolving into something different. He’s still got a hold of me!” “You have to let him go! He’s not here anymore!” “I wish it was that easy,” and she turned away as a tear fell from her cheek. “Will you put your arms around me?” The simple request was music to Carl’s ears. He’d wanted to grab hold of her for hours. “Of course, let me in,” He slid off his shoes and shimmied in beside her. She was still cold and so tiny underneath her coat. As he held her it felt like embracing a broken doll, one he wanted to fix and put back together. “I’m here for you now,” he whispered into her hair. “He can’t get you anymore, not if I’m here. Not even in your dreams,” He looked down and saw that she had fallen asleep already. He kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes. ~ The morning came too quickly and when Carl awoke he found he was exhausted. But his heart raced when he looked down to see that Anna was still in his arms. She looked like a princess as she slept peacefully and Carl found great comfort in smelling her warm skin and playing with wisps of her soft hair. She was gorgeous and he hoped that she wouldn’t wake too soon. He didn’t want her to regret having him in her bed and he didn’t want to let her go. But she woke up as soon as the sunlight flitted in through the window and caressed her face. Her big green eyes shone like emeralds when she looked up to Carl. “Hmmmm….Good morning,” she stretched her body underneath his touch. He felt her figure properly for the first time and felt guilty for wanting more. He wanted to bend down and kiss her stomach. He wanted to trail his fingers through the space in between her breasts while kissing her neck. However he did nothing but smile at her and bop her on the nose. “Morning…Sleep well?” “Urgh…..yeah,” she grinned. “You’re the best teddy bear I’ve ever had,” Carl loved to hear that she was comfortable with him. Maybe she’d like it too if he were to bend down and gently kiss her. The moment seemed perfect. He lowered his head and for a brief second their lips were only millimetres apart. But he couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to take advantage of her. She was probably only behaving this way out of some bizarre symptom of Stockholm Syndrome. There’s no way she could be falling for him so easily. It must just be some primitive part of her brain responding to being captive, a natural way to try and survive the situation. He pulled away and got out of bed. Anna instantly looked sad and pouted. “Hey…it’s cold in here without you!” Carl pulled the covers over her and tucked her in. “You know that’s not what I meant,” she seemed annoyed. “I think you need space to recover,” Carl reasoned. “Try and get back to sleep,” Anna huffed and pulled the covers back. “Well if you change your mind I’ll be in the shower,” she blustered and walked to the bathroom. Carl sat awkwardly on his bed listening to the sound of the running water. If he wasn’t mistaken she had just invited him in there with her but how could she? How could she be attracted to a murderous scumbag like him? She’s deluded, in shock, a girl that’s been abused. She doesn’t know what she’s thinking. He tried to think logically. But after a long while he noticed that the water wasn’t being turned off. Either she was just hanging out in there for the longest shower he’d ever known or she was waiting for him. That couldn’t be could it? He stood up and found himself walking to the bathroom despite the fact that he knew he shouldn’t. But maybe if he just creaked open the door… Maybe if he just peeked inside. He pushed the door open slowly and watched the steam escape from the bathroom. He could see a foggy form behind the shower door. If he wanted he could jump in there and have her but he wasn’t that type of guy. “Anna! Maybe it’s time we go grab breakfast!” he called over to her. “Oh yeah? Or maybe we could just hang out here?” “Or…. His voice trailed off as his eyes roamed over her naked back through the fogged up glass,” “What?” she spun around in the shower and faced him. He could see her naked body in all its perfection, her tiny waist that led up to large breasts. He needed to feel his hands on her wet skin as he kissed her passionately. But he just couldn’t, he didn’t want to be the next man to take advantage of her. “I’ll… I think I’m just going to go out and get you some clothes,” he shouted over the sound of running water. “What size are you?” No answer. She was playing with him now. “Anna? What size are you?” Still no answer. He pushed the bathroom door back open and was shocked to see that she had the shower door wide open and was standing there as if waiting to usher him inside. “Why are you playing games with me?” she asked. “Are you trying to offend me?” Carl felt lost for words and he stuttered. “No….I just…. Didn’t want to… you know….” “Didn’t want to what?” Gazing at her naked body, Carl threw his fleeting morals out of the window. “Urgh….Well I tried to be good. Don’t think otherwise,” a gigantic smile swept across his face as he gave in and tore off his sweater and shirt. Anna could see the muscles in his body ripple and couldn’t wait to be surrounded by those big strong arms. “Christ, you’re taking your time,” she laughed. “Hurry up!” And he raced to rip off his jeans. He stood awkwardly for a moment in his underwear unsure if he should take them off or not. But his erection was showing obviously and there was no use trying to hide it. Sliding off his underwear he stepped in the shower with a fast beating heart. Anna closed the door behind him and the steam enveloped the two new lovers. Carl bent down and kissed her gently. She melted under his touch and leaned into him close, her breasts pressing up against his chest. They kissed hungrily and Anna felt as though she couldn’t stop herself from running her hands all over his body. She loved the feeling of the wetness running slick over his muscles, and how solidly he was built compared to her tiny frame. Carl meanwhile was finding it difficult to control himself. She was so small beneath his hands that he felt the compulsion to pick her up and press her against the wall hard as he pushed his way inside of her. But he knew that’s not the way he wanted their first time to be. Instead he knelt down in front of her, with the water rushing over his face and placed his head between her legs. Anna felt the heat rise inside of her. It was the first time she had been genuinely aroused and she desperately wanted to sit on Carl’s face and ride it hard. But she held back and obediently stood still. The first kiss he gave her was euphoric and Anna felt the pleasure gush through her. Carl could feel the ecstasy coming from her and listened to the sound of her moaning. It made him harder than he’d ever known and he lapped at her faster and faster as he grabbed her buttocks hard in his hands and pressed her into his mouth. She came fast in a torrent of shaking and screaming as he wrapped his lips around her clitoris and sucked hard. She screamed one last time as her thighs trembled and then she was too sensitive to touch anymore. Pulling herself off of him she giggled and squirmed. “Aaaah! I can’t take anymore! Stop!” Carl pulled away with a smile on his face and stood up. He kissed her despite the fact she hadn’t caught her breath yet and held her tight. “It’s your turn now…” Anna purred as she held him in her hand. He was bigger than she thought he would be, thick and strong with a girth she wasn’t sure she could take. She ran her fingers up the length and then slowly tickled just the tip. She felt him swell under her touch and Carl groaned loudly. “Urgh….yeah. Just like that,” he leant back against the wall and closed his eyes. “Like this?” she pumped her hand up and down quickly and he instantly began to breathe heavier and groan louder. “Urgh… fuck yeah!” he moved his hips to meet her hand. “Slow down though,” he gasped. “I’m too close,” And Anna pulled away. “I didn’t say stop!” Carl protested. “Oh…. I thought you did,” she smirked playfully. “Fuck you’re such a tease! Come here!” and he grabbed her by the waist. Bending forward he grabbed her breasts hard and sucked hungrily on a nipple. He loved the way her hard and bumpy areola felt in his mouth and the way the water ran over her soft skin. She felt incredible and he couldn’t hold it in much longer. He picked her up by the waist and held her against the wall. Being careful not to hurt her he kissed her gently as she wrapped her legs around him. “You don’t have to be so soft,” she smiled. “I’m ready,” And Carl took the hint. He pushed himself inside her, moaning softly as felt the ecstasy of her warmth. She was tight and inexperienced, but that was the biggest turn on. Every inch he moved inside her she’d scream louder and hold onto him tighter. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he whispered. “I can stop if you want,” “NO! I want you so much,” and she pushed herself onto him more. He ploughed hard and felt the inside of her grow hotter and wetter the more he thrust. Her screams were louder now as she struggled to get used to his size. She’d never known anything like it, the way she felt full and satisfied and the way he made her feel so close to someone, so full of desire. “Urgh… I’m gonna cum!” he struggled to get the words out as he grunted into her breasts, feeling his way over their wet curves with his mouth. One final push sent him to the brink and his thighs almost gave way as he ejaculated inside her. His breath was hard to regain and he gasped for air as the water ran over his face. He looked to Anna’s face and saw her glowing and smiling against the cold tiles. “I’ve never felt anything like that,” she kissed him. “Wow,” Carl carefully lowered her down to the ground and for a moment they held each other as the water cascaded over their weakened muscles. “You’re so god damn beautiful you know that?” he moved the hair from her eyes and kissed her forehead. She leaned into his chest and sighed happily. Although she was nearly twenty she had never had a likable let alone satisfying sexual encounter. She started to think that they were just a myth. That no woman actually enjoyed sex but she was happy to be proven wrong. “Can we go again?” she asked flirtatiously as she looked up to him. “Oh God, give me a minute,” he laughed as he turned off the water. The couple made their way onto the bed where they both collapsed in a heap of wet towels and damp bodies. Carl looked to the girl that lay beside him like a goddess and wondered how this could have happened. It had been a dramatic twenty four hours and he worried how it would affect her. Yet he saw that something had come out of her over the last day. Something buried deep within her that had never been allowed out. Personal freedom? A sense of self? He had no idea but he saw a sparkle come into her eyes. But what was next for her? He didn’t have a home anymore and the both of them couldn’t exactly spend the rest of their lives as fugitives dodging Mob justice moving from one motel to another. They needed a plan. But Anna didn’t have the future on her mind right now. Her thighs were still hot from the shower when Carl felt them straddle him, as she pulled away his towel. “Do you think you’re ready yet?” she giggled. He grunted his approval as he held onto her waist, and she lowered herself down onto his erect penis. For a moment she enjoyed teasing him and enjoying his lust-filled expression, and so only let the tip inside of her. She rocked back and forth on it gently and felt the way she spread around its size. It felt so good that she was certain she could orgasm just from this simple act, so she pulled away. “Urgh… why are you stopping?” Carl asked desperately. But he got no answer. Instead Anna let her body do the talking. He watched her writhe her body lower and lower and until she was resting her lips on his navel. She kissed delicately and trailed her tongue down the small patch of hair that led from his belly button. Then she skipped down and began to nuzzle on the inside of his thighs. It tickled him at first and he felt the need to push her away but then she kissed harder and he felt the deep sensual pleasure of her lips running up… and up until they were on the soft skin of his testicles. He groaned and leaned back into bed as she ran her tongue slowly but eagerly over his silky skin. Eventually she placed one in her mouth and sucked gently as he groaned louder. Then she ran her tongue up the length of his shaft before her hands joined his body too. She let her fingers gently touch him. The look on his face showed that he loved what he was feeling, but Anna wanted to get off on the sight of him being driven wild. She wanted to see the pleasure in his eyes and the desperate desire on his face. She held him firmly in one hand and swept up and down him fast, almost too fast and he instantly started to groan so loudly Anna was certain that the room next door could hear. “Fuck!” he shouted. “Oh fuck!” But she didn’t slow down, she only went faster and faster until she was sure he was on the brink of coming and then…she stopped. His face was bright red in a mixture of ecstasy and frustration. “Oh God!” he was gasping as he felt the desperate need to cum. But she was eager to deny him for now, as she lingered in the moment of enjoying him. She loved to watch him gasp and clench his eyes shut as he lost himself to the feeling of her touch, and she wanted to see how long she could make it last. Making sure to look him in the eyes she reached out her tongue and felt the soft and swollen head of his penis. She kissed it gently and watched as his face grew redder as he bit his lip. He was dying to watch her hold him in her mouth, and he couldn’t think of anything he’d want more than to feel the hot wetness as she sucked hard on him. But she wasn’t going to make release come easily. She loved the tease and the control she had over his body and so lingered for a little while longer, with just the tip of her tongue making swirling movements over the head. Then she wrapped her lips around him and sucked hungrily. He immediately felt a wave of pleasure ripple through his entire body and he threw his hips up to thrust into her mouth harder. But she stopped him and pulled away. “Easy boy…” she purred. “Don’t get carried away,” and she firmly pushed his hips back down into the bed and resumed sucking slowly on him. He felt like he was going to explode any second and wanted so desperately to writhe up into her. He wanted to clutch the back of her head and slam it down on top of his dick over and over until he could cum in the hot hole of her throat. But he did no such thing. Instead he waited patiently for her to make the next move and she did so by pulling herself away from him again. “I think I’ll die if you do that again. You’re such a tease!” and he reached out to hold her but she moved back. “You wait your turn….” She giggled before moving on top of him again. Like before she pushed just the tip inside of her and felt that it was even bigger and harder than before. She felt the pre cum slide out from him and it made her slicker and wetter. Even she had to admit now that she couldn’t hold back any longer and so after holding his gaze for a second she sat down on him hard. His enormous length pushed inside her and she screamed instantly. Carl felt he was only seconds away from coming and held his head in his hands so that he wouldn’t grab her too hard. She bounced up and down twice then three times and then screamed so loud that she surprised herself. On the final thrust she came hard and fell forward as she shuddered onto him. He wrapped his arms around her and held tightly onto her hips. He pushed her onto him deeply one last time and he felt himself cum hard. His muscles were strained as he struggled to breathe but then they both fell away from each other’s sweat covered bodies as they tried to recover from the rush of feelings. After a few minutes Carl had rolled over to put an arm around her and she moved in to hold him closer. The intimacy felt so peaceful and natural to them both and they kissed sweetly. They lay in each other’s arms just enjoying the affection and warmth that they gave each other. Soon, Carl felt as though he was about to drift off into sleep but then he felt a nudge in his ribs as Anna woke him. “Hey…” she said and kissed him on the cheek. “Think we can go again?” “No way! Are you serious?” “Absolutely. I need you so much,” “Are you sure it won’t hurt?” “I don’t break easily,” she winked as she pulled his body onto hers. “I can take you again,” And Carl felt hard again. He couldn’t remember the last time he had experienced such endless pleasure and relished the thought of a third time. Suddenly, being holed up in a cheap motel room seemed romantic and cosy rather than dangerous and seedy. He looked into Anna’s eyes as he opened her up with his fingers before sliding himself into her slowly. At first she gasped as though she was in pain and he pulled back. “I’m ok,” she reassured him. “I can keep going,” And he entered her again but this time slower. He felt her melt and ease into the moment as he held her beneath him. He watched as her breasts swelled. He leant down and nuzzled on her and she let out a tiny whimper as she ground her hips to meet his. Wrapping her arms around him she spread her legs wider and clasped them around his back. “Can you go harder?” she cried and Carl couldn’t stop himself from obliging. He thrust hard and fast and felt as though another orgasm was fast approaching but this time he was in control and he didn’t feel much like playing games. He thrust a little faster and then a faster again until the headboard started to bang furiously on the wall as Anna’s screams grew louder. Then he ejaculated once more so hard and so quickly that his balls ached as he pulled out of her. He looked down to her as he sat up and watched the sweat run down the space between her enormous breasts. He had never seen anyone so sexy and beautiful and he thought he would never be able to look away. Anna was still gasping for breath and lay for a moment with her eyes closed feeling both exhausted but satisfied. She had never felt so present in her emotions as though her thoughts had left her body. It took several minutes until she felt like she’d floated back into her body and she opened her eyes. “Hmmmm…..” she mumbled dreamily. “Won’t you hold me?” “Of course sweetheart,” Carl whispered as he lay beside her. They curled up close beneath the sheets and fell quickly into a deep sleep. When Carl eventually woke up it was pitch black outside. CHAPTER 8 Angelo sat angrily in his favorite restaurant waiting impatiently for his food to arrive. He sipped sloppily from a Martini glass and crossed his arms in a temper. “God damn waiters in here take forever!” and he snapped his fingers at a nearby member of staff who looked as though she might faint from fright at the sight of him. “Hey! HEY! Order over here, sometime today kid,” he pointed at the table. “I’ll see what I can do,” the waitress dropped what she was doing and scurried off into the kitchen with a beet red face. “Fuckin’ teenagers,” Angelo grumbled. “Anyhow, everyone’s here right?” He looked around the table and saw his most beloved henchmen around him. They all nodded respectfully. “Good…Well I’m sure you all know why I’ve brought you here today?” Again they all nodded. “It seems as though we have a real problem. One I’m quite frankly surprised to have,” he shook his head in disappointment,” “I have to say, I’m as shocked as you are,” Jerry leaned in. “That Carl was a good kid. Knew him for years I did…. And Lucas was like a brother to me,” “Yuh…it’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for,” explained Angelo solemnly. “So what’s the plan? What do we know about him?” “Well he’s an ex-Navy man,” one of the young ones said from the bottom of the table while flicking through his phone. “And pretty much a loner. Only 4 friends on Facebook, no Tumblr account, not even an Instagram. Has a Twitter but hasn’t posted anything in nearly six months and that was just a retweet,” “I literally have no idea what you just said kid,” Angelo laughed. “Again in English?” “What I mean to say is that this Carl guy has no online presence, and no social life that we know about. So unless he has some sort of underground, super-secret life then he kinda flies under the radar don’t he?” “Hmmm…..” Jerry was deep in thought. “What about those Facebook friends? Anyone we know?” “Hang on let me check,” the young man flicked through his phone furiously before finding the details. “Ah! Got’em. Well three of the guys are Navy too but are still in service so we can’t get close to them. But the last guy….it looks like his old man!” “Ah! So we have a start,” smiled the Don as he leant forward, and placed his fingers together in thought. The waiter interrupted with a plate of food and Angelo looked irritated but then was quickly pleased when he saw the pile of fries. “So…internet kid,” he spoke with a mouth full of food. “You get me the father’s address and you,” he pointed to a small and silent man with sinister eyes and a nervous twitch. “Jorge, you’re coming with us,” And Jorge grinned maniacally. ~ It was early morning. Carl was walking through the streets of the little town on the edge of St Louis while constantly looking over his shoulder. The anxiety was unbearable and although he knew that it was unlikely the Don and his men would know where he was, he knew that it wouldn’t be long until they did. He turned around to check he wasn’t being followed one last time and then swerved into a women’s clothing store. If he was seen buying women’s clothes they’d know he had Anna and he’d be a dead man for sure. He felt the ridiculous need to dive in amongst the clothes racks but tried to retain some composure. He quickly picked out some basic underwear, half a dozen comfortable looking t-shirts, sweaters and a few pairs of leggings before taking them up to the counter. “Oooh is it someone’s birthday?” the attractive sales assistant asked as she began to ring through the clothes. “My girlfriend’s,” he lied smoothly and the word stuck in his head and sounded strange as he said it. It didn’t seem weird to think of Anna as his girlfriend but it was strangely comforting. He felt slightly dizzy as he paid and left the store. Things had moved so fast and so dramatically that he felt as though he was dreaming. He raced back to the motel and found Anna watching TV with a scared look on her face. “What is it?” he said as he placed the bags down beside her. Her hair was tumbling down over her pale naked body and she was staring wide eyed at the television. She pointed weakly to the screen. “Look,” she whimpered. “Do you think it’s a warning of some kind?” Carl sat down beside her. A news report was blaring loudly and he could see the female reporter standing in front of a burning building. Her words hit him fast: “I’m standing here at the Sleep Eazy Motel in Chicago’s south side, where a mysteriously set alight fire in the middle of the night took the lives of 6 guests as they slept, and 2 members of staff,” Carl felt his hands begin to shake and he gripped the bedsheets to steady himself. “This is more than a warning,” he grimaced. “This is a preview. We need to move….and now,” The couple quickly set into motion as they packed up their belongings and Anna threw on some clean clothes. She didn’t think that she had ever worn new clothes in her life, she was always given her cousin’s hand me downs. The feel of the new labels and freshness of the fabric was new to her. She breathed in the smell as Carl closed to door behind them. The TV was left on in the background and as they ran across the parking lot Anna could still hear the news reporter. “We’ve had many acts of arson in this state in recent years but nothing on a scale like this. The police have declined to comment,” ~ Jorge had got the details from the internet kid and was now sitting in his Buick while admiring his new shoes. He had a real penchant for snakeskin boots and these were super fine. He bent down to graze his fingers over the purple scales and they felt divine. Quickly turning his attention back to the house he saw there was still no movement. This was the boring part of the job, the waiting, the boredom. It was a job of two worlds - either hectic, villainous excitement or just waiting. He flicked open his lighter and lit a cigarette. Something about the way Zippo’s burned always pleased him and he remembered the smell of the motel walls from last night as they peeled down in flames before his eyes. Arson wasn’t his favorite act of violence. He thought it would maybe come second to slashing. He sat in his car and remembered his childhood fondly; summers in Puerto Rico with his grandparents, and cold winters in Chicago in a neighbourhood he pretty much had free reign over. One of his favorite hobbies was to torch random people’s cars just to watch the ensuing chaos. But that fun came to an end when he set fire to a young mother’s VW as she jumped out for a moment to run an errand. He hadn’t realized that her six month old son was in the back fast asleep. He had to lay low after that even though the kid survived but still…. He had gotten cocky and complacent, sloppy even. After that he just stuck to abandoned buildings and stolen vehicles, and as he got older the habit faded he only threw lit matches for cash. It was a peculiar skill he was rather good at. In the wing mirror he noticed an old, beaten up people carrier in that particular shade of beige that only old folk like. “That must be him,” Jorge whispered to no one in particular as he lit a cigarette. He breathed out the blue smoke and watched it dance on the breeze. Across the road an old yet athletic man was carrying in groceries from his car while talking into an outdated cell phone. Jorge watched him from the comfort of his car through his beady eyes and smiled as he thought about what he’d do with him. He eventually tucked his cigarette into his cars ashtray instead of flicking it out the window – they weren’t finding his DNA on the crime scene - and swaggered over the street. He pressed the doorbell. Silence. He knew the old man was in there, he was just playing hard to get. Reaching out a sweaty hand he pressed the doorbell again. Still silence. Jorge soon tired of the old dude playing coy and he knocked on the door loudly. “Who is it?” the old man called. Jorge could hear the panic in his voice. He obviously wasn’t used to visitors. In his strongest Puerto Rican accent, he put on especially for privileged white people, he playfully yelled: “Yo man! Girl Scouts! You wanna buy some cookies?” The old man immediately blustered into the hallway and Jorge could see him through the blurred glass. “What do you want?” he was terrified but nevertheless tried to stand his ground. “I have a gun you know?” “So do I,” came the glib reply from the Puerto Rican with the dazzling smile. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” that playful voice again. “I have no cash in the house!” was all the man could say to try and placate the terror he was feeling. “Look man I don’t want your money. I just need to talk,” “Please leave! Or I’m phoning the police!” But it was too late. As he reached out to the phone that lay by the front door Jorge had smashed in the glass with the handle of his gun and unlocked the door. He instantly grabbed the man by his cardigan and pushed him into the wall. “Don’t play games grandpa….” “What do you want?” “You’re Carl Reiner’s father ain’t ya?” Suddenly the old man’s face turned pale and Jorge could see the fear in his eyes. “Take that as a yes,” he put him back down on his feet. “So what can you tell me about him? Is he here?” “No he’s not here. Hasn’t been in a long while,” his voice shook with sadness. “Well you won’t mind if I take a look around then?” Jorge said menacingly as he began to knock ornaments from the mantel piece and books from the shelves. He was enjoying himself and this was part of the interrogation process that Jorge loved. The fear in people’s eyes as he violated their personal space was priceless. But more than anything he loved the way they looked so helpless. He glanced over to Reiner Senior who wasn’t trying to stop him from trashing the place. Jorge walked into the dining room and knocked a glass off the table like a naughty child. It shattered loudly on the floorboards and Reiner flinched at the noise. Jorge saw how scared he really was. “Look please….I don’t know what you want and I don’t know where my son is. Haven’t seen him in years,” “Is that so?” Jorge could see honesty behind the old man’s eyes. He knew he was telling the truth but still…. He wanted his playtime. Pulling out the rope from the inside of his jacket, he wound the ends around his hands while looking Reiner in the eye. Next he strode over and quickly grabbed him by the arm and twisted it behind his back. The old man screamed and grimaced in pain, but Jorge didn’t care. He just pulled at the other arm and secured both wrists together. Reiner made a pained and pathetic noise as he was dragged by his shirt collar down the stairs into the basement. It was a dark yet strangely homely space filled with Reiner’s various hobby crafts and old photographs. It wasn’t the usual dungeon that Jorge was used to but it would do. He placed his captive in the corner and tied the rope to a water pipe. He looked down to check that it was tight enough and he saw that Reiner’s hands were quickly turning purple. “Good job,” he muttered to himself. “Soon the pain will be unbearable,” And for good measure he kicked his prisoner in the groin. He yelped in agony but again Jorge didn’t care. He liked to watch the struggling. It was times like this he wished he was prepared, and he thought it would have been nice to have some snacks to hand. He’d sit in front of the old guy and kick back, relax and watch the torture. All he had though was cigarettes. He lit one and blew the smoke into Reiner’s face who immediately began to cough. “Why are you doing this?” his voice was becoming increasingly desperate. “I won’t have to do anything if you tell me where Carl is,” “But I don’t know! I mean I wish I knew… I miss my son,” “Urgh…. You’re a real sorry son of a bitch you know that?” Jorge spat on the ground. He looked down at the pitiful state of Reiner Snr and compared him to the young hitman that he knew. “How did that man even come outta you?” he asked mockingly. “He’s twice the man you’ll ever be,” and he watched the old man begin to cry. This was getting nowhere. Old Reiner obviously knew nothing and was only likely to piss himself rather than give up any useful information. “When was the last time you saw him?” Jorge prodded one last time. “About 4 years ago. We had a big argument. He’s never been back,” and he looked genuinely sorry. “Hmmmm…..” Something about his expression made Jorge believe him. But he wasn’t the sort of guy that just let people go. Instead he left him there in the corner and turned the light off as he walked up the stairs. CHAPTER 9 Carl and Anna were running headlong into nowhere with nothing but what they carried. “We’ve got to stick to the back roads and away from the motels. They’ll be checking every single one in the state,” “But how can they have that many men on the ground? They can’t really have eyes everywhere!” “Believe me girl they do… more than you could know,” he blurted out angrily as he dipped into an alley way. “What are we to do?” Anna was frantic. “Where do we go?” “Shut up a minute, I’m thinking,” he winced in pain as his back ached. He leaned against the wall for support and looked to the sky. Something caught his eye and he placed his hand over his brows to block the sun. “Hey… I think I see something” and he jogged up the alleyway slowly with a slight limp. “Fuck! Don’t leave me,” she ran after him. Carl stopped halfway down the alley and looked up the side of the building. He was eyeing up an apartment that looked abandoned. “Wait here,” “No! Don’t leave me!” “I’ll be two seconds,” and he disappeared out the alley. He came back a few moments later with a look of optimism. “There a sign on the front. It’s been foreclosed,” “So?” “It means it’s empty dummy,” he laughed. “Come on,” Carl led Anna up the fire escape taking two steps at a time. “Now what?” Anna was both confused and exhilarated at the top. “Now we get in…. believe me I know what I’m doing,” “I don’t wanna know how!” she looked away as Carl pulled out a pen knife and expertly opened the window. He slid it up with a smile. “Home sweet home… now let’s hope there’s no alarm. “This is fucking crazy,” Anna was outraged. “Well you got a better idea?” “Guess not,” she mumbled. “Uhuh,” And they climbed in to find an apartment that had an atmosphere akin to the Mary Celeste. The furniture was intact and there were cups and personal objects scattered about the place, as though the owner left this morning. But the thick layer of dust showed otherwise. Anna thought that it was terribly sad someone’s home had to be evacuated in such way. She wandered into a bedroom and saw the bed sheets were turned back. It was a sorry thought that some poor soul awoke to start the day but then never returned. Meanwhile Carl was searching for more important things. He opened a cupboard in the hallway. “Urgh... The power’s off,” Anna turned a tap on in the bathroom. “But the water’s on!” she was at least happy at that. “Well that’s a start,” They both eventually came back to the living room that was connected to an open plan kitchen. It would have been a cosy bachelor pad for someone at some point. Anna looked through the cupboards and was pleased to see that there was food still in them, albeit terribly unhealthy food. “Well we won’t run out of Ramen anytime soon,” “Ah well… it’ll prepare you for college, if you decide to go” She smiled. “Hey! At least there’s this,” she held out a bottle of vodka. “I didn’t think you’d be much of a drinker?” “I’m not… but if there’s ever a better time to start I’d like to know,” and she opened the bottle and smelled it. She immediately winced. “Argh!” Carl laughed and took it from her. “Never tried vodka before?” “Not straight, no,” He looked to her and remembered what a kid she was. But it was refreshing to meet a woman her age that wasn’t an obnoxious party animal for once. He pulled out a couple of shot glasses from the cupboard and led her to the couch. They sat down comfortably and Anna settled in a nook under his arm. Feeling his warmth she snuggled in close and smelled his cologne. Meanwhile Carl felt so grateful to have her company and felt like the luckiest man in the world, despite the impossible situation they were in. He kissed the top of her head and weaved a strand of her silky, auburn hair between his fingers. Sensing his mood she turned up to look at him with those big eyes. “What are you thinking about?” she asked nosily. “I dunno…. I guess I was thinking about you,” She sat up feeling unconvinced and filled up the shot glasses. “This stuff smells awful,” she winced again as she held it to her lips. “You probably shouldn’t start drinking by beginning with shots,” Carl laughed. “Just have half,” And she sipped the vodka with tears in her eyes. She chewed it for a while not knowing whether she should spit it out but then she swallowed it and felt the heat descend her throat. “Fuck! How can people get addicted to this?” “Quite easily,” he answered as he expertly knocked his drink back. Anna very quickly felt the effects of the vodka on her empty stomach and she started to feel unbelievably relaxed and light headed. “Hey! You know what we should play?” “Tell me,” “Truth or dare!” Anna seemed excited at the idea. “What are we schoolgirls?” “Well… I can’t think of a better way to pass the time and get to know each other,” she had a twinkle in her eye as she lightly brushed her lips over Carl’s but then she pulled away abruptly. “Urgh… you got me,” he smiled as he got the hint. “You first,” “Fine! I choose…… truth!” “Hmmm……… Who was your first kiss with?” “A girl called Tracy,” she blushed. “A girl?” “Yup! I was twelve and a half and she was thirteen,” “You’re kidding me!” Carl looked in deep thought for a moment. “Ok it’s my turn. I choose dare!” Anna immediately began to giggle as she thought of all the things she could tell him to do. “Hmmmm… I think I want you to….” She hesitated for a moment. “I know! I want you to kiss my neck,” “That’s it!” he laughed. “Come ‘ere,” Anna sat astride him and leaned in. He gently pulled her hair back from her neck and played with it for a moment, pulling it through his fingers and letting it fall loosely down her back. Then he wrapped his arms around her tightly and brought her in closer. She let out a heavy sigh as she relaxed into him and gasped as she felt the warmth of his breath against her skin. It sent goose bumps down her arms as she leaned in closer. The softness of his lips gave her butterflies as he kissed her and she let out a tiny moan that was barely more than a whisper. Then he pulled away before she could enjoy anymore. “Now you’re the tease,” she bopped him on the nose and giggled. “I believe it’s your turn again,” he traced a finger down her neck as he looked down her body. “Ok… Now I think I want a dare,” she bounced up and down excitedly on top of him. “Yeah? Ok I think I have a very special dare but I’m not sure if you’re up to the challenge,” he winked to show he was joking. “Oh yeah? I’m up to it. You can tell me what it is,” “Ok then,” and he leaned in close to her ear and whispered. “I want you to make me cum without touching me,” Anna felt wet at hearing his words and she thought he was right, it WAS a challenge. One she would be pleased to try. “Ok mister, you stay right there,” and she pulled her legs in between his and slid down the length of his body. She felt his rock hard penis against her stomach as she moved and as it pressed up against her breasts she made sure to linger for a moment. Now kneeling in front of him she playfully bent down, flicked out her tongue and moved it across the space above his jeans. He felt the need to rise up to meet her mouth but she pulled away and sat on the floor in front of him. For a little while she just sat and looked Carl in the eye as she bit her lip. She wanted him to feel as though it was only the two of them in the whole world. As she made sure she could hold his gaze she began to slide off her top and pull it over her head. Her breasts felt swollen in her hands and she squeezed them hard. She bent down to lick a nipple. It was hard in her mouth and she sucked on it gently while still looking Carl in the eye. She could see him writhe in his pants, desperate to be touched. And he was gasping softly as he pressed his hardness up to feel some pressure against his zipper. His eyes grew wider as she stroked her sides gently with her fingers brushing softly down the sides of her ribs. It tickled her and made the tiny hairs on her body stand on end. She pushed her thumbs into the side of her jeans and began to wriggle them off over her bottom and down her legs. Then she stood up to make the big reveal. Kicking her jeans to the side she stood wearing only her panties and Carl could see a little wet patch growing in between her legs. He wanted so desperately to grab hold of her, to pin her to the floor and push into her over and over again. Meanwhile sweat was collecting on his brow and he had the urge to pull out his penis and hold it tightly in his hand as he stroked it hard. Anna could see the lust in his eyes and felt wetter at the thought of him watching her. She wanted to make a big show of her body and bring him to the brink of excitement. Kneeling down on all fours in front of him she slowly gripped the sides of her panties and pulled them down. Carl leaned forward to get a closer look but he held himself back from touching her. As her panties came all the way down Anna revealed her plump and wet pussy that she was desperate to touch. Carl felt as though he was ready to cum as he looked at her press two fingers in between her lips. She slid them through the sticky wetness over her clit and felt the immense pleasure it brought her. Moaning loudly she worked her fingers fast in circular motions until she too felt close to coming. Holding off she moved away from Carl and sat facing him with her legs apart. She could see that his cheeks were burning red. “I didn’t think you’d actually do this you know,” his voice was raspy through laboured breaths. “Why… you think I’m too much of a good girl?” she giggled. The truth was that the alcohol had loosened her up and helped her relax and it brought out a feeling of confidence she’d never had before. For only the second time in her life she felt as though she was a free and sexual being and she wanted to make the most of it. Holding Carl’s gaze she held out her hand and proceeded to spit into it. She held the string of spit and let it hang until it touched her clitoris. It made Carl groan as he pushed up into his pants more. Seeing her wetness and how confident she was made him hornier than ever and he wanted to kneel down in front of her and worship her body. Sensing his restlessness Anna shook her head with a smirk. “Not yet…. I can’t touch you remember?” And he nodded as he watched her massage the spit into her lips. She moaned loudly as she became swollen beneath her fingertips. She’d never felt so aroused or so comfortable with her own exhibitionism. Feeling that she was close to climax however, she pulled her hand away. “Why did you stop?” Carl asked desperately as he watched her stand up. “You’ll see,” she stepped forward and bent down. Pulling down his zipper she saw his enormous cock spring out from under his pants and she watched as the pre cum oozed from the tip. “You’re not supposed to touch me!” Carl laughed. “But who am I to stop you?” “Shhh….” she pressed a finger to her mouth. “Do you like lap dances?” “Yeah……” Carl groaned as he tried to keep his hands off her. “We didn’t say anything about you not touching me though,” and she grabbed his hands as she began to sway. She was only inches away from his erect penis as she moved. And the feel of her breasts in his hands was so good that Carl felt he would come of only she touched him for a second. Anna though knew how close he was and enjoyed every second of teasing him. She looked down at his purple head and saw that it was swollen and sensitive. She wanted to grab hold of it and sit on it. And she wished she could bounce up and down on it over and over as it filled her up. But they had a deal and so she stayed away… Although barely. Bending over to show him her pussy she moved and swayed so close to him that she was only millimetres away from his penis. “Oh God I can’t stand this!” he was wildly frustrated. Anna returned her hand to her clitoris and began moving her fingers quickly as she approached orgasm. “Oh fuck! I’m nearly there,” And so was Carl because he began to feel the vibrations within his thighs that signalled he couldn’t hold it any longer. He kept his eyes firmly on Anna who was working herself into a frenzy as she pushed two then three fingers inside herself as she pushed her clitoris into the palm of her hand. She began to feel something inside herself that she hadn’t felt before and as she felt orgasm approach she felt the compulsion to push. Soon enough a wave of heat and pleasure moved through her and she shook with the most violent and intense orgasm. And as she pushed she found herself squirting for the first time. It came out of her in a flood of ecstasy as it covered Carl’s penis. He instantly ejaculated in a torrent of pleasure and shuddered as he fell forward. He grabbed hold of her hips and sat her onto him, holding her tight as he felt the emotions flow threw him. They sat for a moment in each other’s arms regaining their breath and feeling each other’s warmth. Eventually Anna turned round to look into Carl’s eyes. They were gleaming with happiness and satisfaction and she kissed him hungrily. “Do you think you’re ready for round two?” she whispered. He nodded. Facing away from him she slid onto him and felt his full size inside her. He was still erect and his tip was throbbing against her g spot. She immediately felt herself pulse on him and grow wet again. Bouncing up and down she found a steady rhythm before moving faster and then faster until she wanted it so hard she was begging him for more. “Fuck! Harder! Harder!” And Carl was happy to oblige. He pushed her down onto all fours on the ground and thrust into her deep and hard. She screamed louder than before and for a moment he was worried that he was hurting her. But as he slowed down she got angry and started to push herself onto him more. She turned her head to look at him. “What’s wrong? Why are you slowing down?” “I don’t…” he spoke gruffly. “I don’t wanna hurt you,” “Don’t worry, you won’t” and she placed her hands around her bottom and pulled up her cheeks to make more room for him inside her. Their mood was frantic and hungry as they couldn’t get enough of each other’s bodies. Carl had never made love in such an animalistic way. He had never felt anything so visceral and wild and he loved it rough. He grabbed at her hair and yanked her head back. It only made her wetter and scream louder as she felt the pain against her scalp. She leaned back to grab one of his hands and pulled it forward so it was around her neck. “Are you sure?” he whispered. “Yes!” and he choked her as he drove himself into her. She climaxed with a loud scream and a quiver and he loved the feeling of her contracting onto him. For the second time in only minutes he climaxed again. Exhausted, he held her body close to him and gasped. She loved the feeling of his hot breath on the back of her neck and she leaned back into him more. “You’re the best,” she gasped. He kissed her back softly and ran a hand down her spine to feel the sweat run between her shoulder blades. For a long while they held each other. Kissing in between labored breaths they eventually regained their strength and looked into each other’s eyes. “I could never get enough of you,” Carl kissed her forehead as they lay side by side. There was a distant look in Anna’s eyes as she sighed. “What’s the matter?” he asked as he swept the hair back from her face and kissed her cheek. “This is… an impossible situation,” was all she said before she closed her eyes as if shutting herself away from the moment. Carl had been so caught up in enjoying Anna that he had temporarily forgotten where they were. He looked around them at the chaotic apartment. They had broken into a stranger’s home and were essentially fugitives. “Yeah… it’s crazy. But I don’t know what to do anymore?” “I guess all we can do is take it day by day knowing we have each other,” Carl nodded in agreement although he was very much unsatisfied. He had to come up with a solution and quickly. Scenarios of escape ran through his mind but they all seemed outlandish and unattainable. Anna didn’t have a passport so they couldn’t get the next flight out of the country and he couldn’t return home because Angelo’s men would no doubt be there waiting. But this meant he couldn’t reach his savings. All he had in the world was this beautiful girl, a briefcase containing $50’000, his trusted back pack and the open road, just as long as he could survive long enough to enjoy it. But the more he thought about it the more it didn’t seem at all bad. He looked down to Anna and saw a tear escape the clutched of her closed eyelids. “Hey,” he whispered. “We’re gonna be ok,” “How can you know that?” “I just know sweetheart. I’m gonna get us to safety,” But she didn’t seem convinced and rolled over to face the other way. “Look… all we need is a car. If we can get to Mexico then we’re clear. In a way… At least we’ll have more of a chance to disappear,” “Mexico?” Anna rolled back round outraged. “And what are we supposed to do when we’re there,” “I have money and somewhere I know we can stay. We can do it but you gotta believe me. We definitely can’t stay here,” Anna thought deeply for a moment and knew he was right. It was their best bet. Carl was imagining the cogs of her mind whirring as he looked at the concentration on her face. “If we leave tonight we can make it over the border within a day or two,” he tried to convince her. She thought it over again and nodded in quiet resignation. “Whatever you decide I’ll support you,” And they kissed in agreement. Anna pressed herself up closer to Carl to feel his support and warmth. He was now the only person in her world and her life depended on the next couple days and whether he could save her or not. She felt his heart beating quickly against her chest and knew that he was just as terrified as she was. They were two young lovers in an impossible world but at least they had each other. “Hey,” she whispered. “Promise you won’t leave,” “I promise,” he lifted up her chin to meet her lips to his. They kissed softly, feeling each other’s bodies writhe together. Soon enough Anna felt that she needed him again. She needed that feeling of being wanted and of the protection his muscular body gave her. More than anything she wanted to feel as though she was possessed by him. Carl felt her yield beneath his touch and rolled on top of her. Anna loved the feeling on her fingertips of his stomach muscles as they rippled beneath her hands. He was so strong and she looked up to him with awe in her eyes. “Take me,” she whispered into his neck. And he pushed himself into her gently. She moaned immediately as she felt him linger for a moment. He didn’t want to be rough this time. He wanted to take his time and show her that he could be loving and caring. He pushed only the tip inside her and moved it slowly in and out. He felt her wetness spill out over him and the warmth of it excited him more but he held back from going all the way. Instead he gently held his penis in his hand and ran the tip around her wet petals before pushing himself in slightly and doing it again. He saw that her clitoris was swollen and for a few seconds he bounced himself off it. It made Anna grit her teeth and moan loudly as she flung her head back. “Oh yeah….. Can you do it again?” And he did just to watch the ecstasy on her face. “Can you do it harder?” she asked even though she hurt slightly from coming twice already. He pushed his head up and down over her clitoris and listened to her scream louder as she began to shake again. Within seconds she climaxed and squirted a torrent onto his testicles. “Oh God it won’t stop!” she was shaking uncontrollably while gasping for air. Carl meanwhile couldn’t control himself as he watched and he stroked his penis gently until he too climaxed. He ejaculated onto her and Anna groaned as she felt it land on her burning hot clitoris. Exhausted, Carl fell on top of her still groaning and the couple wrapped themselves around each other. “OH! I’ve never cum so many times in my life!” Carl grunted as he thought over the last 24 hours. “Me neither,” Anna sighed. CHAPTER 10 Jorge was standing in the basement looking down at the specimen of a man that he found so pathetic. Don Angelo was beside him with a look of contempt in his eyes. “So this is old man Reiner?” he pointed his cigarette into the corner. “Yuh…. Says he ain’t seen Carl in years,” “Is that so?” Angelo didn’t believe it either. “Please. You gotta know I’m tellin’ the truth,” Reiner was desperate for them to listen. “Be quiet!” Jorge lost his temper and kicked the old man in the side. “I’m thinking!” Silence was brought to the basement momentarily as Jorge figured out a plan. “You have Carl’s number?” “Of course,” rasped the Don as he pulled his smart phone from his suit jacket. “I have an idea,” grinned Jorge. “May I?” and he reached out for Angelo’s phone. The Don handed it over with a sceptical look. Jorge opened the camera and pointed it at the man on the floor. “Hey, say cheese!” he mocked. The old man could do nothing but cower, so said nothing. “Hey! I said say cheese!” and Jorge kicked him the face. Blood began to seep from his nose and cover his shirt. Reiner Senior seemed distraught at the attack and began to howl in pain. Meanwhile the other two men were oblivious, and laughed as they looked down at him. Jorge took a photo and examined it. “Yep… Looks just as good as I expected,” and he handed the phone back to the Don. “Good idea kid,” Angelo playfully punched his little assassin in the arm. “Now all we have to do is send this to Carl and he’ll be hurryin’ into our arms in no time,” Angelo pressed the send button and breathed a sigh of satisfaction. Now all they had to do was wait. ~ Carl and Anna were still entwined on the couch. “You know with you in my arms it’s easy to forget that we’re in this God forsaken hellhole,” he looked around at the abandoned apartment. “It’s a shame. Would have been nice once,” “Hmmm…. Yeah,” Anna agreed sleepily. “I wonder who lived here,” “Some poor bastard,” Carl looked up to the ceiling and started to feel sleepy too. The couple were enjoying each other’s company so much and Anna wished they could lie here forever. But they knew they had to run. “Would it be cool if we could just move in here and be you know… normal. And no one would ever find us,” “That would be kinda nice,” Carl thought about what life could be if they were a regular couple. He looked out the window and saw it was getting dark. “We better make a move soon,” he stroked the top of Anna’s head and gave her a kiss. “Yeah…” she seemed sad at the idea of having to run again. Carl could tell she was desperate for a normal life and he wasn’t sure he could ever give her that. But what choice did she have? He at least vowed to try and make her happy. He got up from the couch and strode over the window. Lighting a cigarette he poked his head out on the fire escape and looked down. This truly was a gruesome neighbourhood, but in this moment they were part of the degenerate demographic and were fitting in nicely. The air was frigid as it drifted across his face. It blew his smoke into the distance and Carl watched it fly away out of sight. He pulled himself away from his thoughts and turned to Anna who was sitting on the edge of the couch dressing herself. “I’ll be two minutes,” she smiled at him. To look at her, you could never have imagined the things she had been through; the pain, the violence and the loss. She was a real diamond in the rough. “Hey Carl….” She seemed to be hesitating. “What are we doing?” “We need a car,” he blew smoke out the window and looked down to the street. “And there’s a couple down there that look like they might not be missed,” “Really?” Anna came over to join him. “Like that old Hyundai over there,” he pointed down the way. “Hmmm…. Think you can hotwire it?” “I know I can,” “Well… what are we waiting for?” As they climbed out the window and onto the fire escape steps the wind caught them and Anna stumbled for a moment with her fiery hair drifting up to the sky like flames. They moved quickly and before long they were at the old, battered Hyundai. “You really don’t think someone owns this do you?” “Fuck, I hope not,” he laughed. “The state of it!” And he pulled out a multi tool from his back pack and got to work. Soon they were inside the vehicle and were protected from the cold wind. “Nearly there!” Carl’s lips were pursed with concentration as pulled out wires from inside the dashboard. With a few adept movements and some muttering under Carl’s breath he soon got the car started. The engine roared sadly into action and soon they were away and back out on the open road. The highway stretched before them in streams of light. “So Mexico…. Are you sure?” she asked “I think so,” he wasn’t sure at all. “Have you been before?” “A few times?” he didn’t elaborate and quickly changed the subject. “So have you been outta Chicago before…. You know until recently?” “Nope. Not ever,” she admitted sadly. “That’s a shame. But you can go anywhere you like now…” Carl trailed off as he realized the ridiculousness of his statement. She’d never be able to live normally. There was an eerie silence in the car and all that could be heard above the sound of the engine was the heating as it pumped hot, dusty air into the vehicle. Anna was looking straight ahead at the future and couldn’t believe the things that had happened over the last few days. She nibbled on a fingernail and shivered into her coat, feeling the constant need to keep glancing at Carl as though he’d disappear if she looked away too long. “Hey. What’s up?” he sensed her unease. “Just thinking…” “About what?” “About a million things,” she looked back to the road and all the cars they were passing. She wondered where the people were going. Were they in as much trouble as her? “I hear ya kid. I got countless things runnin’ through my mind too. We’ll be ok though. Just don’t look back. It’s not where we’re headed,” and he reached a hand out and squeezed her thigh. She smiled weakly at him with her thumb still in her mouth. “But you gotta stop this,” Carl pulled her hand down. “Try not to be so nervous,” “I can’t help it!” He couldn’t imagine how terrified she must have been. He’d make things alright for her soon though. They just had to get over the border. The hours passed by quickly and soon they were the only car on the road. Anna was scared they they’d break down and not be able to get help or worse… they’d be found by the Mob and have no method of escape. But she calmed herself down eventually and dismissed her thoughts as childish. As she looked into the darkness of the highway it seemed as though everything came to a head, or rather, she was suddenly conscious of her situation and the reality of everything hit her. For the first time she was acutely aware that her father was dead. She surmised that this was because the shock of the situation was eventually wearing off and leaving her raw with emotion. She looked to Carl, her saviour and her father’s murderer. She had given herself to him freely but did she even know who he was. He sensed her anxiety straight away and looked to her: “What?” “I don’t know very much about you at all Carl Reiner…. If that’s even your name,” “Where did this come from, eh?” he seemed amused at her befuddlement yet also offended. “What’s up? You can ask me anything you know,” “Fine,” she thought for a second. “You said I reminded you of an old girlfriend, who was she?” Carl shuffled in his seat anxiously and felt a twinge in his back. “She was… she wasn’t really anything,” he lied. She looked at him in disbelief. Jesus, this girl can already see right through me… He thought to himself. “Listen. I wasn’t gonna say anything but actually…. Your situation was so much like my old childhood neighbour. But she wasn’t so lucky. Her father killed her,” “Oh……” Anna didn’t know what to say about that. “That’s terrible,” “It was awful. It’s stayed with me forever. I always dreamed of saving her, you know, but I was too late. But at least I wasn’t with you,” he looked to her tenderly. Anna felt tremendously special all of a sudden. “Thank you,” was all that came out. No words were good enough to describe what he’d done for her. “Anything else you’d like to know?” there was a hint of annoyance in his voice because he didn’t understand why she cared about his past. “Your family, you never talk about them,” “I don’t have a family,” “Not even a mother or father anywhere? Or a random cousin?” “I’ve got no one but you kid. Like you said earlier we’re just orphans in an evil world,” his words came out sounding venomous. The silence resumed to the car and Carl lit a cigarette with his eyes still on the road. “Actually I’ve not been entirely truthful,” he exhaled smoke over the windscreen. Anna looked to him suspiciously. “I have a father….and a mother” “Oh? Was your father as bad as mine? Is that why you never mentioned him before?” “Not quite. In fact my Dad was pretty much perfect growing up. We were the best of pals. And he was prouder than anything the day I signed up for the navy,” “So what happened?” “Well… when I came back from Afghanistan… I had my problems for sure and not just my back. Just like you Anna, I have nightmares that haunt me every night. I can’t close my eyes without seeing them. But my Dad didn’t understand. Thought that all that crap was in my head and it was! But he thought I was just being overdramatic, that I was weak, that illnesses in the mind didn’t really exist,” Anna looked out the passenger window with unflinching sadness. “I’m so sorry to hear that. That changes everything then,” “No, it doesn’t,” he wound down the window and tossed his cigarette end into the road. “Anyway the last time I saw him, he said I was a lazy good for nothing for not being able to hold down a regular job after I was discharged. Said I enjoyed pretending to be ill, that I was doing it for attention. I’ve never spoken to him since.,” The moment felt profound to Anna as she looked to the man beside her. She’d finally found someone that had stuck by her happiness and sorrow. In that second as the little car sped down the empty highway there was a palpable sense of trust between the new couple. They held hands and looked straight ahead. “It won’t be long until we’re there. Just gotta keep going,” Carl nodded as he spoke. CHAPTER 11 Don Angelo was in his favorite bathtub watching his favorite movie, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ The tears always came to his eyes at the same point like clockwork and he was getting himself ready. He always loved ending his day with a luxurious soak but wished at times that he had someone to share it with. A nice lady perhaps, but he was rather romantically illiterate and often had to resort to paying for a woman’s company. It turns out that money can’t always buy you love. He lay back and lifted his eyes to the gold ceiling as if he could see into heaven. He wondered if his parents ever looked down on him and felt proud of his wealth. They had the best marriage and were together until the very end. What he wouldn’t do for a love like that… There was a knock at the door and it interrupted his thoughts. “Who the fuck is it?” “It’s Jerry!” “Yeah yeah, come on in,” The small, tubby man walked in with a plateful of fries. “You read my mind pal, I’m starvin’” and Angelo tucked in. “Any news on Carl?” “Nothin’ nada,” Jerry waved his arm passionately. “With any luck he’s wacked himself and that girl too,” “Chance would be a fine thing,” the Don mumbled with chubby, food filled cheeks. The two men watched the TV for a few minutes until Jerry interrupted. “This shit’s miserable pal. You watch this all the time and cry like a baby,” “I can’t help it. It’s beautiful. Anyway… listen. I think I have an idea,” “Oh yeah?” “That cop you know… the Irish one,” Angelo thought hard. “Callahan?” “Yup, him. I think you oughta pay him a visit. Maybe time we enlist some more help,” “Sure thing, I’ll call you if – I mean when - he agrees” and Jerry closed the door quietly to not disturb the movie anymore. ~ The sun was beating off Anna’s face as she woke. “Fuck,” she rubbed her neck. “How long was I asleep?” “Ages. Like 6 hours,” “Urgh… must have needed it,” she looked about at the unfamiliar landscape and then to Carl who had dark circles under his eyes. “Where are we?” “Somewhere on the edge of Oklahoma city,” “Looks kinda bleak?” she looked out to the country. “Bleaker than Chicago?” he laughed. “I think I prefer it here,” and he quickly pulled off the highway into a diner. “You hungry kid?” “Always!” He laughed and kissed her on the cheek. She hugged him tight and kissed him back. “Hang on, I just need my backpack,” and Carl moved round to the trunk. Pulling out the briefcase, then his backpack, something tumbled out but he didn’t notice. He never realized as he closed the door, that his phone had toppled out and fallen into a little nook in the trunk. The couple ventured inside and sat down ready to order. “What can I get ya?” asked the overly polite waitress with the ginger Buffon. “Coffee, black and pancakes,” Anna yawned. “And I’ll have the same,” Carl nodded and smiled. The waitress scribbled down their order while batting her false eyelashes before sashaying away into the kitchen in her kitten heels. “She must get up real early to look like that first thing in the morning,” Anna thought out loud. “Well I guess you’re lucky to get the chance to lie in then,” They attempted to make small talk through their exhaustion but it was excruciating. There was no excusing the situation they were in. They were surviving hour by hour on the run in a stolen car and they hadn’t even known each other 3 days. Carl especially was feeling the pressure and as he looked to the young, gorgeous girl across the table, he couldn’t help but think of what would have happened if he killed her. He’d have his freedom, his house, his savings, his car and his life. But the more he pondered on it the more he thought he’d done the right thing in sacrificing all of those things for the safety of Anna. For the rest of his life he could sleep easy knowing he’d done the honourable thing. However, in the moment Carl’s thoughts were scattered and bordered on paranoid. He felt that everyone was looking at them, and he saw danger in the eyes of all the diner’s customers. He began tearing at a sugar packet and pouring its contents onto the table. When he finished he opened another one. “Hey,” Anna held his hand to soothe him. “What’s goin’ on?” “Just stressed out. Just feel like I’m goin’ crazy,” “I get it. I feel the same,” “Of course you do. But I can’t help shake the feeling that we stand out. That people are noticing us,” “Well I think that crazy crackhead over there is watchin’ us for sure,” she signalled with her eyes and Carl turned round. His gaze was immediately met by the wide eyed insanity of a matchstick thin man in leathers. “Shit. He looks…. Interesting,” Carl grimaced. Anna looked to the man and saw him scratch wildly at his hands before muttering to himself and drinking a mug of coffee in one go. “He’s freakin’ wired,” “Poor guy,” “Yeah. Some folk get all the luck,” Anna thought about how things could always be worse. “Well at least we’ve always got our health,” she held Carl’s hand. The waitress strode over with the pancakes and winked at Carl before she left. Anna was instantly infuriated but did nothing. Instead she chewed on the cuff of her coat and began chopping up her pancakes into little pieces with her fork. “You eat like a child,” Carl laughed. “I wish I still was a child, kinda,” she mumbled into her plate. Carl opened his mouth to speak but was quickly interrupted by a figure passing by the table. He looked up to see the poor, crack addicted man walk slowly past the table while making intense eye contact. He then twitched maniacally and started to scratch at the inside of his arm like a wild animal. Then as mysteriously as he disappeared he left. The couple watched him exit the diner furtively. “That was…. Weird,” mumbled Anna with a mouthful of pancakes. Carl had an uneasy feeling he couldn’t articulate. There was something about the guy he didn’t like. Something he just couldn’t trust. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost baby, what’s up?” Anna asked him worriedly. “I just really don’t like the look of that guy,” They both looked out the window to see him standing in the parking lot with his eyes darting all over the place. “You think he’s connected to the mob in some way?” “I doubt it. I mean they notoriously hate junkies and degenerates. But there’s something about him. It’s like he’s onto us,” “I thought that too,” Anna agreed. Then the waitress came back over. “Refills?” “Yes please,” Anna held out her mug. “Say I heard you talking about old Squeaky out there,” she pointed to the crazy guy in leathers. “He givin’ you trouble?” “He just scared us that’s all,” Anna’s voice was horse. “Ah don’t worry about him. He’s a weird kid but everyone round here knows him. He’s just special, he don’t mean no harm,” “Oh, I see,” Anna smiled timidly. “He probably just likes you cos you’re pretty and he’s not seen you around here before. Are you on vacation?” “Yeah kinda, just passin’ through,” Anna tried her best to make normal conversation. “That’s nice. You two make a cute couple,” the waitress smiled but as she turned to leave there was an almighty screech of tires and the revving of an engine. The crackling of the gravel was so loud and as the vehicle spun its tires at speed, small stones were thrown in the air and hit the diner windows like miniature gunshots. Carl stood up outraged and angry. “That fucker’s stolen my car!” he yelled. And the small, battered Hyundai was soon disappearing into a speck on the horizon. CHAPTER 12 The phone was answered on the third ring and Jerry spoke jovially. “Hey pal? Callahan?” “That’s me!” the parochial accent came thick. “It’s Jerry,” “I know that voice anywhere,” Callahan laughed. “What’s the matter?” “Well… we’ve got a little situation over here,” “Oh no…” “Yuh like… we need ya to do us a favour,” “Well I guess I ain’t got a choice have I?” Callahan joked. “Ha you’re funny. But no. You do not have a choice,” Callahan exhaled deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Tell me straight Jerry. What I gotta do this time?” “We’re looking for someone. An ex- Navy Seal on the run, a Carl Reiner. You gotta help us find him,” “What am I supposed to do? Put out an APB?” Callahan was laughing but he felt like crying. “Just do what you gotta do,” and Jerry hung up. “Shit,” Callahan threw the phone on the desk. “Fuck!” ~ Carl and Anna raced to the parking lot but all was left of the car was the smoke that had drifted from the tires. The waitress was in hot pursuit in her heels and she seemed angrier than the both of them “That son of a bitch! I’ll have to tell his mother about this,” she fumed. “I’m so sorry folks,” she turned to the couple. “Let’s call the police,” “NO!” they both shouted in unison. “I mean no thanks, we’ll do it ourselves,” Anna touched the waitress’ arm as a sign of good faith. “Well if you’re sure,” she didn’t seem convinced. “Yeah we’re sure,” Carl interrupted. “But thanks,” And the waitress shrugged and walked back indoors thinking they were odd. “Shit! What are we to do now?” Anna was panicked. “I don’t know… but I guess that car has the worst luck in the world,” “Where are we anyway?” “I’ll have to look it up on my phone. Two seconds, it’s in my backpack,” and he quickly hurried into the diner to grab it. He walked back out while searching through it frantically. “Shit I can’t find my phone!” he emptied the contents of the bag onto the ground and ran his fingers through everything. “Oh my God please don’t let it be true,” but it was. “My God damn phone is in the car!” Anna felt like kicking at the earth and screaming. She wanted to just give up and lie in the middle of the road. She wandered away from Carl for a moment to take a deep breath. On either side of the diner laid vast expanses of empty road. She turned her head from left to right and back again. Wherever they were going next was on foot and it was going to take forever. “How the fuck are we going to get to Mexico from here?” asked Carl as he joined her. “I guess we’ll find out soon,” “I’m sorry,” Carl wrapped his arms around her. He wanted her to feel safe. “What for?” she looked up to him. “I’m a real lousy protector. I took you to save you and now look at us,” “Hmmmm…. It’s just crazy,” no other words seemed to make sense of the situation. “But if it’s any consolation. If we’re lost, then so are the Mob,” “What do you mean?” “I mean if we can’t even find where we are then what hope have they got. I reckon they won’t be having much luck either,” “I guess not,” he felt a little better seeing her logic. “So what now?” he asked. “That way’s south right?” she pointed down the road. “Yup,” “Well we’ll walk that way,” and she placed her hand in his. “Let’s go,” ~ Jorge was blowing plumes of thick smoke up from the basement floor. He was sat cross legged in front of Reiner Snr with a wicked smile on his face. Exhaling again he tried to make the smoke reach the detector. “Yo man. You need new batteries. Been blowin’ into it for like two days,” The old man raised his head a few inches but then collapsed. “Still no word from your kid… Guess you must have done something real bad for him to hate you like this,” He looked down and saw a tear fall from the old man’s face. “Hey why you always cryin’ man?” he kicked the old man in the shin but he didn’t flinch this time. Reiner Senior began to make a quiet croaking sound as he struggled to speak through his parched throat. Jorge knelt down beside him and held his ear close. “I…. love my son,” the old man rasped. “Tell him that,” But Jorge didn’t have time for soppy sentimentalism. Instead he spat on the ground as he stood up. “Ah shut the hell up. Like I give a shit,” and he threw his cigarette end on the floor. “You gotta tell us where he is old man!” and he pulled his gun out and pointed it to his head. “But I don’t know,” Reiner croaked. “I just don’t know. I promise,” Jorge knew he was telling the truth. He’d beaten him endlessly and threatened him at gun point, starved him and denied him water and still the old man said he knew nothing. But it wasn’t Mob style to leave people alive. He knelt back down and whispered into his face. “Carl knows we got you, old man, and he doesn’t care. He wants you dead…. And so do I,” and Jorge pulled out his favourite knife from the inside of his snakeskin boots. CHAPTER 13 “Who was your high school crush?” Anna asked Carl as though they were on a normal date meandering through the trees. “Oh God! Her name was Cassie Yates and I swear to God she was the hottest thing ever when I was twelve. Everyone fancied her but she had braces and makeup that was like this thick,” he held out his thumb and forefinger. “I hear she has six kids now,” he looked into the distance. “What about you?” “His name was Brody McKenzie. He was a real dork but that’s what I liked. He wasn’t a jock or a bully or one of the weird goth kids,” Anna laughed. “He was real sweet to me,” and she shoved her hands in her pockets. “This is a real nice place,” she looked all around her. “And it’s not as cold as Chicago. Shame we’re not here for fun,” “Don’t worry about that. Once we’re sorted and settled I’ll take you all around the world,” Carl kissed her cheek and she smiled. They were silent for a moment and all they could hear was the sound of their own footsteps interspersed with the chirping of wild birds. “I think they’re circling us,” Anna joked. “I hope not,” Carl looked up into the sky. “Hey… So I gotta ask you now, or I won’t ever,” Anna blurted out quickly. “Go for it,” “That briefcase you carry everywhere. It’s got money in it hasn’t it?” “Yes it has,” he nodded. “The money you got for killing my father?” “Yeah,” he looked to the ground ashamed of himself. “Well at least he’s good for something,” she grimaced at the thought of him. Carl was taken aback by her attitude. “You constantly surprise me you know that?” “Why’s that?” “You just take everything in your stride,” “And I always will,” Anna shrugged. They stopped walking and stood idly in the center of the empty road. Carl brushed his fingers through her hair and held her face. They kissed sweetly under the midday sun. They were enjoying the moment so much that they barely heard the sound of a car horn tooting furiously. As they pulled themselves apart, Anna took the chance and flagged down the car. A tremendously unhappy gentleman in an old tweed suit was behind the wheel. “What the hell were you doin’ out there? Just kissin’ were ya? Just kissin’ in the middle of the damn road?” he raged. “We’re so sorry sir. We’re very lost and well…,” she trailed off The man in the car eyed them suspiciously. “Where are you headin?” he asked just so he could look at Anna for a little while longer. “The plan was to get to Mexico,” “Oh really?” the man was even more suspicious now. He eyed them up again and saw their lack of belongings and their exhausted demeanour. “Hmmmm…. How old are you?” “19,” smiled Anna. “And you?” the man pointed to Carl. “32,” And again the man behind the wheel grew even more suspicious. “Well… I can’t say Jesus would approve of your public cavorting and your delinquent ways. But I’ll drop you a little closer – I’m not taking you to no damn Mexican town. Get yourselves in the back there,” “Thank you so much!” Anna was delirious with joy. As they climbed into the back of the car they instantly felt the pain being relieved from their limbs. “Urgh… we’ve been walking for hours,” “You weren’t planning on walking to Mexico were you?” “Maybe,” Carl said dryly. “Well I’m goin’ as far as Austin, Texas. I can drop you there,” “That is so kind of you. Really, just so kind,” Anna gripped the man’s shoulder. “Any chance to be a Good Samaritan,” the man smiled in the rear view mirror at Anna. “I’m Gerald by the way,” “Please to meet you Gerald,” mumbled Carl before he leaned back and fell asleep. CHAPTER 14 Detective Callahan felt the acid reflux rise within him as he sat at his desk. Reaching into the top drawer he pulled out an almost empty bottle of Pepto-Bismol and drank from it thirstily. “Urgh….” he rested his head in his hands and sighed sadly. This was the second time he had been asked to do dirty work for the mob and just like the first time it scared the hell out of him. He knew they were using him for the type of dirty work he was supposed to prevent, but what could he do? If he said no they’d kill him, but if he said yes and his chief found out he’d be fired and he’d probably lose his pension too. The thought of explaining that to his wife Cathy was painful and he could hear her nagging voice already. It made the acid reflux return and he finished off the bottle. All he had on this Carl Reiner was what Jerry had told him. He was an ex-Navy Seal and he was in Chicago somewhere. He ran his name and saw that he had one conviction a couple years back, a DUI. It was his only offence and it was just after he’d been discharged. Since then it looked as though he’d been keeping his nose clean… well not really, if he was wanted by the Mob. The licence plate for the vehicle he was in at the time of arrest was in the file and he ran that too. A result popped up quicker than he thought. He grabbed his phone and called Jerry back. “Hey. I got somethin’,” he was eager to finish this whole thing. “Gimme it,” “His SUV was found on the edge of St Louis two days ago,” “St Louis? Was he there?” “Nope it was just the vehicle. And it was burnt to a crisp. I mean destroyed,” “I see….” Jerry was in deep thought. “And a girl?” “There were no bodies in the vehicle. It was really just the husk left,” “Can you gimme the exact location?” “Yuh… Two seconds,” there was a ruffling noise on the line as Callahan searched through the file. “It was really in the ass end of nowhere pal. I mean two point five miles northwest of a town called Brunton on Gibson Rd. Nothin’ but fields everywhere,” “Hmmmm….” Jerry’s mind went blank. “I wonder where the fuck they went,” “Well if you don’t mind me havin’ a say. I have a brother in law in St Louis. Drove down there plenty of times. If he’s not hidin’ in a field, which I suppose he’s not, then he’s probably wondered into one of those quaint motels on the edge of town,” “Are there many near where the car was found?” Jerry asked desperately, his excitement was palpable. “Hang on,” frantic typing sounded. “Yuh… well four miles away. A little place called Evergreen Motel,” “Thanks Callahan. I owe you one!” and Jerry hung up abruptly. Suddenly a heavy feeling swept through the detective as he became riddled with guilt. Something told him this Carl was a good guy. A military boy that got himself in with the wrong crowd and he wished he’d never said anything. But what could he have done? He reached into the top drawer again and pulled out a hip flask. He sipped from it gingerly and felt the burn as the liquor washed down his gullet. As soon as the winter was up he was going on holiday. ~ The sun was shining bright through the window of the little VW Beatle. Anna had seen one of these cars once in a movie, but she’d never been in one. She soon realized it was a rather disappointing experience. The seats were hard and each tiny pebble that went under the wheels felt like a bolder. Still, she was appreciative of the ride and she looked down to her feet in her new sneakers and felt the blisters throb. She looked over to Carl and saw him sleeping heavily. His eyelids were twitching as he dreamt and she wondered what was going through his mind. “Gerald?” she broke the silence. “Yuh?” “Do you always pick up hitch hikers?” “Hmmmm… not always. But I’m always on the road so maybe every week or so I’ll pick up someone nice like yourself and help them out,” “That’s real nice of you,” Anna smiled in the rear view mirror. “Oh really it’s nothing. It’s just what the scripture teaches,” and he smiled happily. She had never met anyone so innocent and carefree before and figured he’d never had a bad experience in his life. “So do you travel for work?” she asked. “Uhuh… I’m a good old fashioned Bible salesman,” “You’re kidding? I didn’t know those actually existed,” “Well,” Gerald shrugged. “Here I am,” and he smiled that goofy grin again. He was so kind and friendly that Anna couldn’t help but be suspicious. She’d seen enough horror movies in her lifetime to know how scenes like this ended. She looked out to the desolate landscape and realized the predicament of their situation. The sheer wild terrain all around them and the sense of isolation, it terrified her. “You look like you’re contemplating something there?” Gerald talked to her through the mirror. “Just that… Don’t you get lonely and frightened out here on the open road?” “Frightened? No!” he laughed. “This is freedom. This is the true spirit of America,” And Anna churned over his words in her mind. “Have you always travelled alone?” “Oh no. No. I had a wife once. She used to come with me on all my trips. But we were just married two years when the cancer took hold of her. She died before I could make it home to say goodbye,” the severity of his words however were not impacted on his face. He was still smiling at Anna in the mirror as she turned towards Carl. Seeing him beside her warmed her heart. “May I ask if you’ve been married long?” Gerald asked so innocently that it made Anna blush. “Er… not that long at all,” she didn’t care to elaborate. “Well ain’t that nice. You should appreciate every moment you have together. You never know when you’ll have to say goodbye,” and he looked to the sky as if he could see to heaven. “But everyone waits up there for us when we have to go,” “Do you think everyone is reunited with their loved ones?” she quickly felt terrified at the thought of being with her father for all eternity. “Yeah I really do. The way I see it is that we are all in debt to God and then person by person he makes us repay that debt. That’s when it’s our time to go back,” Anna didn’t know what to say to that and she just looked out the window as the trees passed by. “I don’t know if I like the sound of that,” she mumbled under her breath. CHAPTER 15 Jerry was trying his hardest to run up the stairs in the Don’s home but in true Angelo style it was the longest and most exhausting staircase Jerry had ever seen. He was sweating as he got to the top and he had to stand for a moment to catch his breath. In the distance he could hear the music of Frank Sinatra playing. He followed the sound until he reached the door of Don Angelo’s office. Knocking gently he waited for an answer. Silence. He knocked again. “Yuh, who is it?” “It’s Jerry, boss,” “Sure come in,” As he opened the door he was instantly startled to see a young girl about twenty years old emerge from under the Don’s desk. As she stood up he could see she was only in her bra and panties. “Don’t mind her she was just leavin’” Angelo zipped up his pants and leaned over his desk to pick up a cigarette. The girl scurried out the office and down the hallway, with a wad of cash clutched in her hand. “Oh, I didn’t know you’d finally met someone. How romantic,” the sarcasm was dripping from Jerry’s voice. “Don’t talk shit, Jerry, I’m not in the mood,” “Havin’ pecker troubles again boss? If you don’t mind me askin’,” “Yuh… the doc said it’s on account of my weight but what the fuck does he know? Anyway….” He lit his cigarette and exhaled. “You got news for me?” “Sure have! Callahan tracked down Carl’s SUV to a quaint little country road on the edge of St Louis,” “St Louis? What the fuck’s he doin’ there?” “And there’s somethin’ else. The car was on fire. I mean literally burnt to cinders. But no bodies,” “The clever bastard…” Angelo sucked on his cigarette angrily. “He thought he could lose us….” “I reckon he walked the four miles to a small truck stop on the edge of town,” and Jerry rifled through his pocket to look for the scrap of paper he’d written the name down on. “An Evergreen Motel… that’s where I think he went,” “What’s with the motels? He seems to have a thing for them,” “I reckon it’s where he keeps the girl,” “The girl…. Such a shame she got dragged into this,” Angelo looked to the smoke drifting from his cigarette. “But too bad,” Jerry nodded solemnly. “So… Call Jorge. I want the both of you out there immediately. With a bit of luck you’ll find them both holed up in their new love nest,” “On it boss,” and Jerry gave a thumbs up as he turned to leave. ~ When Carl finally woke up it was dark. “Shit… how long was I out?” “Pretty much all day,” Anna held onto his hand. His head was foggy as he looked out the window to figure out where they were. He squinted into the darkness and Gerald saw his confused look. “We’re just comin’ up to Austin,” he announced. “Already?” “Yup… So your wife here has been telling me all about you being a Navy Seal!” Carl looked to Anna with a befuddled expression. “Wife?” he silently mouthed to her. She shrugged nervously and rolled her eyes. “Oh… yeah. Just a regular job you know,” he lied to end the awkwardness. “Oh. Nonsense Sir. You’re a real hero,” “Thanks,” “So… Folks, where should I drop you off?” “Anywhere I guess,” Carl replied. And they drove in silence until central Austin came into view. Anna thought it looked like a charmingly modern yet clean kinda place. A place she wished she had more time to explore, but as had become normality over the last few days, they had to dash. “How about here?” Gerald asked as he pointed at an empty parking spot. “Lovely,” and Gerald pulled in. “Well I guess it’s goodbye,” As Anna looked to Carl, he had that fierce look of control and determination that she loved so much. He sensed her fear and held her hand tightly. “We’ll be fine,” he whispered. “We’re nearly there,” And she nodded. “Ok… Let’s go,” They jumped out the car with Carl making sure he definitely had everything this time. Gerald tipped his hat and smiled as they closed the doors and thanked him profusely. “Good luck!” he waved and then he was gone. His car disappeared to a pin point in the distance, and Anna wondered where the night would take him. “It’s funny… meetin’ people like that. They’re the most important person in your life for a little while and then they just go,” Carl remarked. “I wonder what happens to them,” Anna was still looking into the distance. “And I wonder if they think about us,” and Carl put his arm around her. He kissed her on the cheek and swept her hair back behind her ear. He leant in and kissed her cheek softly. She cuddled into him close and turned to kiss him back. But then she pulled away. Carl felt her tension and looked her in the eye. “What’s wrong?” “Now what? Another empty road… another night on the run,” “I promise as soon as the night is over we’ll be hurrying our way over to Mexico. We can get the first bus and we’ll be there in no time,” “Hmmmm…..” “You don’t seem happy about that,” “I’m just scared….” and she cuddled back into him. “Come on… let’s go find somewhere for the night,” “Yeah, hopefully we can find a cheap motel around here.!” Carl laughed and looked to the briefcase of money under his arm. “I think I can do better than that,” And he led her down the street until they arrived outside an old, opulent looking hotel. “Wow, this must be five stars!” Anna looked up in awe. “I think it is. Come on… we deserve a treat,” And they entered the magnificent hallway, to be greeted by a concierge who eyed them up somewhat suspiciously as they walked to the reception. After convincing the arrogant girl at the desk that he could indeed afford it he booked the most expensive suite they had, a penthouse on the top floor. As the bellboy took them up in the elevator they smirked to one another and burst out laughing the second they walked out onto the top floor. “That girl…. With the bad smell under her nose,” Anna giggled. “Her face when you just showed her all that cash,” “Yeah, I wish I’d taken a picture,” he held out the key as their door approached. “I hope you’re ready. This should be really special?” and he slid in the key card. As he pushed open the door the most spectacular scene was revealed. Anna gasped as she looked around at the plush living area that looked out through tall glass windows. Next she popped her head around the bathroom door and squealed when she saw the Jacuzzi. “I’ve always wanted to sit in one of these!” “Ah you just want to sit on the bubbles,” he laughed and tickled her in the ribs. She giggled and squirmed under his touch and he picked her up and carried her away. “You gotta see the bedroom,” he declared. And he carried her through the suite before playfully tumbling her onto the bed. “Oh my God. This bed is huuuuuuuuge!” “Yeah… King sizes are the best,” “We have loads of room to play,” Anna lay on her back and flirtatiously opened her legs while she stared at him seductively. Carl couldn’t resist and jumped on top of her. Kissing her passionately he held her tight as if he could never get enough. She wrapped her legs around him and they pressed up against each other as if they never wanted to let go. Eventually Carl broke away and glanced to the phone. “What’s up?” Anna asked anxiously. “Fancy ordering room service?” CHAPTER 16 The two men were in Jorge’s Buick as the night descended on them. “You ever been to St Louis?” asked Jorge. “Never, but I hear it’s a shithole,” Jerry answered grumpily. All he wanted was to grab a beer and get some sleep but here he was carpooling with a psychopath on the hunt for a runaway hit man. If anybody came out alive from this scenario it would be a miracle. Jorge was looking straight ahead into the night with his hands loosely on the wheel. He was also getting anxious with the lack of sleep and he bent over and rifled through the glovebox for some cigarettes. “Fuck man, I’m all out,” But Jerry held up one of his and Jorge took it from his chubby fingers with his thin lips. He expertly lit the end while driving. “So you have no luck with Carl’s old man?” Jerry wondered. “That pussy just cried for three days. Didn’t tell me shit,” Jorge was furious and spat out the words. “Bummer,” Jerry yawned and scrubbed at his face with his meaty hands. “So are we nearly there yet?” “What are you? A kid?” Jorge smiled wryly. “You shut the hell up,” And silence resumed to the car. After a long while Jerry grew irritated and he switched on the radio. But being in the middle of nowhere all they could pick up was a late night local radio station. The dulcet tones of two faceless killjoys spoke solemnly about local crime rates. “… and cars are being burned out too James. I mean one was found just recently,” a woman’s voice was borderline delirious. “That’s right Suzanne. Looks like the work of upstate vandals that have spurned their decadent vehicles on our land and set them on fire,” Jorge and Jerry turned to each other with sheer amusement in their eyes. “What the fuck is this shit?” Jorge pointed his cigarette at the radio. Jerry turned it back off preferring the silence. “Upstate vandals,” and he shook his head. “Hey,” Jorge pointed to a sign that was hung back in the bushes. It read Gibson Rd and Jerry finally perked up. “Finally!” “Yup. So four miles from here,” and they carried on. Jorge sped up for the last stretch of road and was driving so fast that he nearly missed the turn off for the Evergreen Motel. He screeched to a halt at the last minute and they jumped out. “Right, Jorge I want you to look around. I’m gonna go have a little chat with the manager,” Jorge nodded and they went their separate ways. The motel was a clean and quaint building that had none of the usual sleaziness of its urban counterparts. It was instead surrounded by a beautiful forest and a multitude of flowers were outside each door in little hanging baskets. He wondered how a man like Reiner would have been accepted here with his hostage in tow. It looked like the kinda place where everyone noticed everything. The bell above the door rang as Jerry entered the reception. A short, obese man with an asymmetrical toupee was behind the desk. He smiled awkwardly as Jerry approached. “How can I help sir? We have basic rooms starting from $49.99 or….” “No I’m not looking for a room,” Jerry interrupted. It took the manager aback and he stood slack jawed for a moment. “Are you police?” was all he could think to say to the intimidating man “Er…. Yeah…. I’m police. Chicago PD,” he placed his hand into his jacket as if he was going to pull out his ID but he didn’t. “Chicago? What are you doing down here?” Jerry didn’t have a good answer for that so he began talking quickly and gesticulating his hands wildly. “We’re looking for guy who was seen staying here a couple nights back, a Carl Reiner. Does the name ring a bell?” “Hmmmm…. It does not,” the little manager shook his head nervously. “Well can you check your book?” “Sure. Two seconds,” and he started to flick through pages of names. “Nope, no Carl Reiner,” he finally concluded. “May I?” Jerry held the edge of the book to signify he was taking it with or without permission. He traced a finger down the middle of the pages to try and see a name that stuck out. Eventually he found one. “Joe Adonis!” Jerry was outraged. “You didn’t think a name like that was suspicious?” he angrily chucked the book back at the manager. “Wha…. Who…. Who’s Joe Adonis?” he stuttered. “Are you serious? Please don’t tell me you’re being serious! Joe Adonis was one of the most infamous Mafia hitmen of all time. Freakin’ Joe Adonis,” and Jerry shook his head in disbelief. “Why would I know who that is?” the manager was deeply confused. Jerry just looked to him with sheer hatred. “Anyway... He still here?” “No! Actually he and his girlfriend did a runner,” “Oh yeah? Where to?” “I have no idea!” the manager shrugged. “Hmmm. So that’s it?” “I assume so. The last I saw of them they were running out of their room with their belongings,” “Did you notice anything else? Jerry prodded for more information. “No… I mean they left the TV on in their room but that’s no big deal,” “What was on?” “Eh?” “What was on the TV when they left?” “Well I went in to check the room was ok and I saw that they’d left the news on,” “Hmmmm….” Jerry thought hard. “So you think it was something on the news that made them run?” “Again I’m sorry. I have no idea,” the manager swallowed nervously. Jerry was scratching his chin in thought. They must have seen the reports of their previous motel being burned down. There was no other reason they’d flee while the news was on. They must have thought they were being threatened. “Ok thanks. But one last thing,” “Yes?” “Which direction did they run?” “That way,” the manager pointed south. “In the direction of the Richardson neighbourhood,” “Is there anything special about the place?” Jerry asked as he stifled a yawn. “Not really. Just a rundown area with loads of foreclosed houses,” “Ok thank you for your time. Appreciated.” and Jerry turned to leave. But as he put his hand on the door handle there was an almighty scream. CHAPTER 17 Anna thought the night was passing too quickly. She looked to Carl as he sat in bed beside her and saw the stress on his face. More than anything she wanted to hold him and make him believe his sacrifice was worth it. She’d be lying if she said in her moments of doubt she hadn’t wondered whether he should have killed her or not. Now he was in all this trouble and it was because of her and the kindness in his heart. She leaned into his side and watched the flicker of the TV screen against the pale skin of his chest. She didn’t know what they were watching and she didn’t much care. She just wanted to feel like she was doing something normal. Carl put his arm around her, and kissed the top of her head. “You OK sweetheart?” he asked while knowing full well she was not. “Yeah… As ok as I’ll ever be I guess,” “Is there anything I can do to make you ok?” he stroked her arm. “Just hold onto me as tight as you can,” “That I CAN do,” and he wrapped her up in his arms and pulled the covers up over their heads. He kissed her softly, moving downwards steadily. Anna wriggled as she felt the softness of his lips tickle her skin. She squirmed for a second but then stopped as she felt his mouth drift over the top of her panties. Then she felt his strong fingers pull them to the side and she felt the pleasure of his tongue run slickly over her slippery lips. She groaned and flung her head back. “Fu…..uck!” she screamed as he hit a sensitive spot. Her legs quivered as her thighs contracted around Carl as she reached orgasm quickly. He pulled the covers back and took a deep breath. He kissed her softly and then lay beside her. “What about your turn?” she asked. “No. Tonight can be all about you.” he breathed into the side of her neck. He brushed her hair back as he stroked her head and soon she could feel her eyelids grow heavy. “Carl?” she asked with a yawn. “What do you see in me?” “What do you mean?” he kissed her on the shoulder. “I mean… like what do you actually like about me?” “I like just about everything,” he spoke honestly. And she could hear a genuine quality to his voice. Finally, feeling safe and free she relaxed into his arms and fell asleep. ~ When Jerry exited the reception the first thing he saw was Jorge running for his life. His nimble and fast legs were carrying him at speed as his snakeskin boots crackled on the gravel. Behind him was a burly man wearing nothing but socks and boxer shorts. He was trying his best to keep up with Jorge and was maniacally swinging a bike chain. “What the actual fuck?” Jerry was flummoxed. The manager was close behind him and looked panic stricken at the scene unfolding in front of him. “Hey!” the manager shouted. “The police are here!” And the two men stopped dead in their tracks. “Yeah police!” Jerry shouted while looking Jorge dead in the eye. The man with the bike chain looked mildly embarrassed but he stepped forward and eventually dropped his weapon. “This fucker was looking in through the window as I was having sex with my girlfriend!” Jerry looked to his partner with a look of total exhaustion. “Well I’ll take it from here,” and he walked over to Jorge and held his arms from behind. “You’re comin’ with me pal,” he said in his best cop voice while bundling him into his own Buick and driving away. “What the fuck man?” Jorge was livid. “You’re police now?” “Yeah sure I’m police. What the fuck were YOU doin?” “I was lookin’ around like you said!” “Whatever. Did you see anything?” “Nah. He’s definitely long gone from here. But I did find this?” he pulled something metallic out of his jacket pocket. “What are those? Dog tags?” Jerry tried to focus on them while driving. “Yup,” and Jorge dangled them even closer to Jerry’s face. “And it has his name right on them?” “You’re kiddin’ me!” “Look!” Jerry screeched to a halt in the middle of the empty road. And Jorge was right. Carl Reiner’s name was etched expertly into the dog tags. “Where the fuck you find these?” “Outside that maniac’s room, in the gravel. He must have dropped it as he ran away,” “He couldn’t have got very far without his car though could he?” And he looked ahead into Richardson. CHAPTER 18 The Texan sun was beaming like heaven through the tall windows of the penthouse suite. Anna had slept soundly but as she woke up she was confused as to where she was. It took her a moment to recognize the room. Carl was at the window looking out to the city with a cup of coffee in one hand. He had a serious expression on his face as he stood in deep thought and Anna thought it was best to not disturb him. Eventually though he sensed she was awake and turned to her. “I thought you were still asleep,” he yawned and sipped at his coffee. “Hmmmmm….” She stretched out on the bed and hoped he’d come back and join her. “How do you look so beautiful first thing in the morning?” he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. Running a finger down the side of her face he felt her perfect, porcelain complexion. “Won’t you come back to join me?” she grinned cheekily. “How could I not,” he smiled and jumped under the covers. For a long while they kissed and held each other. They savoured the moment and pressed themselves to each other’s bodies. Anna loved the feeling of his strong and sturdy hands on her body and she let them roam freely. As he nuzzled into her neck his cupped her breasts gently and pinched softly at a nipple. She immediately gasped and opened her legs. He rolled on top and grew hard as he felt her wetness soak through her panties and onto him. “You’re ready so soon,” he whispered into her ear. “I can’t help it. You’re so perfect,” and she rose her hips up to meet his. They kissed softly as they moved their bodies together. It wasn’t long until they climaxed in unison and wrenched themselves apart as they gasped for breath. Anna looked out to the clear sky and wondered what it covered. Grabbing the bed sheets she wound them around herself and walked to the tall windows. She looked down to Austin at all the people on their way to work. She envied their routine and their normalcy. “Do you think I’ll ever have a job?” she was still looking down. “A job? Right now we have to focus on getting away. Money and work can come later,” “But seriously. Do you ever think I can be normal?” “No,” he sounded harsh but he didn’t mean to. “I think you’re too good for that,” and he joined her by the window. He wrapped his arms around her and they both looked out to the world. “If it wasn’t for everything…. This would be a perfect day,” he thought out loud. “It is a perfect day,” and she turned round to kiss him. “So what now?” “We need to get a bus,” “But how do I get over the border? I don’t have a passport,” “It’s ok. I have an idea,” and he held her tighter. “I’ll make sure you’re safe.” ~ Jorge and Jerry had spent all night searching the Richardson neighborhood but found nothing at all. For a moment Jerry had looked up to an abandoned apartment and wondered if they’d been in there but he thought they probably hadn’t. It looked to him as if they were long gone. After a fruitless evening they had returned to the car and sat in the sunshine. Jorge had his feet poking out the window and he studied the way the sunlight glinted off the scales of the snakeskin. He lit his fourth cigarette of the morning. “This is kinda nice,” he relaxed back in his seat. “Yeah for you maybe, I’m exhausted AND starving by the way. We should get outta here and find breakfast,” he yawned. “Then what?” “Fuck I dunno, we can’t go back to Angelo without a result,” “No we cannot,” Jorge blew out smoke and watched it drift across the front of the car. A heavy silence was settling inside the car. Jerry was picking at a nail nervously and making furtive glances all around. “Fuck!” he eventually lashed out and punched the dashboard. He instantly regretted it and winced in agony as he cradled his hand. Looking down he saw that it was definitely broken. Feeling livid Jorge watched as his face became redder and redder. “Yo man what’s happened to you?” “I’m just so fucking frustrated. Where could he have gone? He gotta be around here!” and he stepped out of the car and kicked at the dirt on the side of the road. The wind wafted it across the bonnet of the car and it made Jorge fume. “Mind the car you asshole!” he shouted as he tossed his cigarette end out the window. Jerry clapped his hands to his head and looked up to the sky. “We’re fucked,” he whispered. “If we don’t find him we’re fucked,” Jorge was watching his breakdown from inside and he watched as the chubby man in the sweaty, crumpled suit walked away down the road. He let him cool off for a few minutes and then started the engine and drove forward. Catching up with Jerry he talked through the window. “Hey…. Come back won’t ya? We’ll not find him if you throw a hissy fit,” Jorge tried to reason. But Jerry was too frustrated, too angry to care about what he was saying. Instead he just kept walking while staring at the ground. Jorge found it amusing watching the big Mafia henchman act like a spoiled kid. He humored him for a while and then eventually braked and reached over to open the passenger door. “Get in you dummy,” he laughed. And Jerry got back in the car with a furrowed brow and a pout. He leant against the window and held his head in his hand. All he had was Carl’s dog tags and he couldn’t go back to Angelo with just that. “If you were a Navy-Seal and you were tryin’ to escape… where would you go?” he asked his new partner “Hmmm…. California? Ain’t there a base there?” Jorge suggested. “How would I know?” It looked like they’d hit a dead end. Jerry sighed heavily and looked to the dog tags that were hanging from the rear view mirror. “And you’re telling me that he didn’t even bite at his old man gettin’ a beaten?” “Nope…” Jorge shook his head in disgust. “Either he didn’t get the message or he doesn’t care. “Harsh stuff,” “Yuh,” “I wonder what happened between the two,” “None of my business,” Jorge shrugged. CHAPTER 19 John Reiner had the most pain in his right side. That’s where the Puerto Rican had kicked him the most. He was certain he was close to death and after a few days he had resigned himself to it, thinking it was a punishment for not loving his son enough. He’d suffered greatly this last year and more than ever he appreciated what it meant to be a father. He was still in the basement on the floor and despite the fact the sadist in snakeskin had cut him free he still hadn’t moved. Thinking back to that very moment made him shudder… The way he had pulled a knife out from his boot and brandished it in his face, and John remembered the exact moment when he saw the look in the young man’s eyes change. It looked as though a light flickered inside him as he was reminded to own a conscience. Instead of plunging the knife into the old man’s gut like he promised he slashed the blade through the rope and John had tumbled over. Free at last he felt his wrists regain blood flow as he watched his captor walk away and not come back. Now all Reiner Senior had to do was summon the strength to sit up. If he could sit he could stand. If he could stand he could walk, and if he could do that he could tackle the stairs. The rest would follow. The pain was indescribable as he wrapped an arthritic hand around a water pipe to hoist himself up. Finally he was resting against the wall and he felt the chill of the concrete. It soothed him momentarily. He then gripped the same pipe again and with all his strength, pulled his weight up from the cold floor and stood up. Feeling dizzy at first he leaned against the wall to steady himself. It was in this moment that he appreciated the pain in a warped way, because it was the only thing stimulating his mind enough to keep him awake. Three days without food and only the occasional glass of water hadn’t kept him in good health. And in those first few moments of being vertical the thought of food and water propelled him to walk. Taking it inch by inch in baby steps he shuffled to leave the wall. He wobbled at first but he was determined to keep going despite him being certain he had at least one fractured rib and a broken nose he could barely breathe through. He shuffled a little further and soon he was at the halfway mark to the stairs. Blinkered vision developed quickly as he kept his eyes on the prize. The stairs would lead him from this squalor. They would take him to the bathroom, to the phone, to food and water and most importantly to his son. John didn’t know what trouble his boy was in but it had to be serious and every second he was away from him made him more impatient and terrified for his safety. He may have been an old man but he loved his child and he would die for him. So close to the stairs now he could almost smell the fresh air that came from above. With a mighty exertion of effort he made one last big step and he was at the bottom. He clung onto the bannister and readied himself for the climb. It may have only been his basement steps that he’d walked up a thousand times, but in the moment they looked like Everest. He placed his right foot out first and he winced in pain as he felt a twinge in his side. Looking down to his sweater he saw crusted, dried blood on the matted wool and it angered him. He was outraged that such a degenerate could enter his home and hurt him because he felt like it, because he somehow felt entitled to. The rage motivated him. He was going to find out who these bastards were before they got to his boy and he was going to make them pay. Before he knew it, he was five steps up and then another one, and another one, until he was at the top of the staircase looking down. The achievement that was aglow in his heart was immeasurable, and he looked down to the corner of the room that became his dungeon. It looked pathetic and he wondered why he had let himself stay there so long. Managing to shuffle himself along the walls he found his way to the kitchen table. He collapsed on one of the chairs but was proud to get there. A week old bottle of warm, orange juice was sat before him and he threw it down his throat. Despite its sour taste it revitalized him enough to stand up and make his way to the sink. He bent over with his head under the cold tap and drank freely. Then he let the water glide over the injuries on his face to numb the pain. It felt good as it cascaded over his nose and washed away the blood. Drying himself with a tea towel he looked down to his pants and was aghast to see that he had soiled himself. He thought that he may have done it on the first day of him being captive but he wasn’t sure. Fear can do strange things to your mind and body. He decided his next port of call was the downstairs bathroom. He edged his way through the corridor and before he knew it he was almost there. The pain was constant in his mind but he managed to imagine it as living outside his body. He visualized seeing it as though it was a flaming, red orb outside of his body and he could control it at will. It was a technique he learned many years ago when working under cover. He sadly remembered having to teach it to his wife when her body was gripped by the cancer. As he entered the bathroom he was instantly hit by the sight of her things still on the counter. He couldn’t bring himself to throw them away, and as he ran the shower he brushed his fingertips over a pair of her earrings. She had removed them before taking her last bath in the house and they’d sat there ever since. That was six months ago now and as he tentatively picked them up, he noticed they were starting to get covered in a fine layer of dust. He placed them back on the counter and removed his clothes. It was agony as he bent down to take off his shoes but he’d come this far and wasn’t going to let himself be defeated by a pair of Hush Puppies. Climbing into the shower and pulling the curtain across, he let the warm water caress his body. He had never felt a pleasure like it. However he’d always been fond of water. No water where or who you were, water washed away your troubles. It never judged you, made you feel bad or asked anything of you. It was merely there day or night. It could give you life or wash away your sins. Either way John imagined it to be proof in some way of God’s existence. Yet as he stood naked and bruised, he wondered if there really could be a God with all the terrible things happening in the world. He sure hoped there was. As he reached for the soap his eyes caught sight of the little, ornate bottle with pink writing. This was Miriam’s favourite shampoo. She’d been buying the same brand since she was nineteen and all John had to do was open the bottle, and he’d be right back on their first date at the drive-thru. How much he longed to see Miriam even if it was just one last time to say how much he loved her. Not that she didn’t know this. John had given her the best life any woman could have wanted and treated her like a princess. He hoped if he passed down one trait to Carl it would the way you should treat a lady. He imagined his son would someday make a great husband and father, and for all he knew he could be already. He placed the shampoo bottle back on the side of the bath and sighed solemnly. More than ever he missed Miriam. But in a way he was thankful she was dead. That way she would never have had to live through the ordeal he did. Despite working in law enforcement for his entire adult life he tried his best to shelter her from what happened in the world. He hoped she went to the grave thinking everybody’s life was rainbows and lollipops. As John dried himself he focussed on feeling better. His strength was coming back to him along with his motivation and he was eager to get on the road. But he needed to formulate a plan. As he dressed in clean clothes and looked into the bedroom mirror he noticed the liver spots on his hands, his thinning hair and of course his injuries. For a moment he doubted himself. Who did he think he was? He was no spring chicken and could barely walk let alone save his son. But he could at least try. He could never live out his remaining years knowing he didn’t try. Carl thought his father didn’t know him at all but John knew that was wrong. He knew his son more than he knew himself because he’d created him hadn’t he? He was made in his father’s image and as he grew up he saw the young man grow up to be a spitting image of him. He sat on the edge of the bed for a moment to gather his thoughts. So the kid was in trouble but where would he hide out? And why wasn’t he fighting his way out of trouble? The questions perplexed him and he felt the need to look through his old photo albums for inspiration. He picked out one labelled Mexico ’88. He saw Carl’s smiling face in each photo as he ran through the landscape of Monterrey. It was such a beautiful place, and with John’s early retirement money he’d managed to buy a luxurious holiday home in the city. His family and friends often wondered why he’d pick such a place, but it was somewhere he’d often travelled to as a child to visit distant cousins. He had an affinity for the landscape and as Carl grew up he did too. As he flicked through the photos, he thought this was the time in which his boy was his happiest. His last vacation there was just before he enlisted in the Navy. And when he came back home the light had gone out of his eyes. John had a feeling that if anywhere could recapture Carl’s happiness that was it. John Reiner quickly packed a small suitcase, grabbed as much packaged food out the kitchen cupboards as he could and hurried to his car. Mexico was a long way from Chicago but he’d make it. CHAPTER 20 The line at the bus station was exhausting Anna, and she leaned against Carl. “What’s taking so long,” she huffed. “I don’t know sweetheart,” Carl put his arm around her. “Shouldn’t be much longer,” “And I still don’t understand how you’re getting me to Mexico. I don’t have a passport and just… I dunno. It all seems so crazy,” “Look, trust me,” he spun her round to meet his gaze. “I know what I’m doing…. Kinda. At least I have a plan. We’re gonna get on a bus to San Antonio first,” “Why the hell are we going there?” Anna seemed tired of it all and outraged. “I have a person…. Who I can call,” “Who?” “I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to wait and see. But after that we’ll be only a couple hours away from the border I promise. Then we’ll be in Mexico,” “But where will we live?” tears began to sting her eyes. “Don’t worry, I have a place. Besides, there’s a lot to do in Mexico. There’s a nice art museum I’d love for you to see,” Anna raised her eyebrows. “An art museum? Now you’re some lover of art?” He laughed. “Not in general, but this museum is very important to me. I’m just trying to cheer you up. Everything will be fine.” Anna remained unconvinced. “You’re acting real weird,” and she worried about what she’d got herself into. There was a change that drifted over Carl since the first time she met him. Granted the situation they were in wasn’t one conducive to acting normally but still… he seemed to become increasingly paranoid. He was becoming jittery and strange when he talked. And when Anna looked to him she’d occasionally find him lost in the moment as if his mind had drifted away to another era. She figured he was harbouring some demons but only time would tell if he would open up to her about them. The lined moved slowly but steadily and soon enough they were at the window buying their tickets. “Have a nice trip!” the girl behind the counter smiled. But Anna could tell she looked at them strangely. They did, after all, look like peculiar kids on the run, except Carl wasn’t so much of a kid anymore. As they walked through the bus station she thought they couldn’t have looked more suspicious and prominent if they tried. But maybe she was the one becoming paranoid. “Is that our bus over there?” Anna pointed. “Sure is,” “It looks kinda old and dirty,” she grimaced. “You never been on a coach before?” Carl laughed. “Nope,” Anna shook her head. “Well let me give you the grand tour,” and he placed a hand on her lower back to comfort her as she walked ahead. She climbed the steps up into the coach and showed the driver her ticket. He smiled and nodded at her politely and she was good to go. She hovered in the gangway for a moment feeling afraid and confused. A queue began to form behind her, and people were agitated as the entrance to the bus became congested. But Anna didn’t notice. She was too busy running different scenarios in her mind. There was something so terrifying about being trapped in a tin can for hour after hour with strangers pressed up against you wherever you looked. “Anna, what’s wrong?” Carl nudged her to move forward and she did so apprehensively. “I just don’t like this it feels weird. I feel trapped,” “Don’t worry, nobody really likes buses, but we’re safer in here than anywhere else,” he squeezed her hand. “I guess so,” she relented and sat down at the back. “See? It’s not so bad. We’re like the cool kids at the back of the bus,” Carl chuckled. But Anna didn’t notice him. She was busy staring out the window at a city she wished she could become more acquainted with. Watching the hustle and bustle of the bus station she wondered where everyone had to go, and why they were in such a hurry. She pondered on the idea that there were countless people like her out there, on the run and in peril. Scanning her eyes over the other passengers as they took their seats she thought everyone seemed so normal to her. That was until she caught sight of the last passenger to come on board. The girl couldn’t have been more than sixteen but had the confidence of a woman more than twice her age. She popped gum and glared at each passenger with disgust. Her headphones were blaring loudly but for some reason she had them dangling down the front of her chequered shirt. Her eyeliner was thick around her eyes and it looked as though she’d been wearing it for days. Acne covered her chin but somehow it didn’t make her any less pretty. The girl walked to the back of the bus and nodded in acknowledgment of the runaway couple. She made eye contact with Anna for a split second before she sat in front of them. It was as if the turmoil in her respected the turmoil in Anna. There was a roar of the engine as the driver reversed the bus out of its bay. And as he pulled out of the station she wondered if she would see Austin again someday, she hoped so. Soon they were back out on the open road with danger behind them and a life full of opportunity ahead. Carl looked to Anna and noticed the despair on her face and the thunder in her eyes. “You know you’re coping with this really well,” he whispered into her ear. She flinched at the words and looked to him surprised. “What do you mean?” “I mean most people would have gone bat shit crazy living your childhood, but you’ve gone one step further. You survived it, conquered it and moved on,” “But what have I moved on to?” she questioned him and looked back out the window at the desert that was moving quickly passed her. The bus reached its first stop and the girl in front of them departed. Anna watched as she descended the steps from the bus with a real attitude. But as Anna looked to see where she was heading she saw nothing in the distance. This looked like a ghost town and she felt panicked for the strange girl. As the bus pulled away from the stop Anna craned her neck to look behind her and saw the girl stick out her thumb. A car stopped beside her immediately. It seemed like such a cruel and peculiar world. Carl meanwhile followed her gaze and looked out the back window. “Kids these days are in all sorts of trouble. Try not to think about it,” “That’s not right though. That’s not normal,” “Just try and focus on us and the here and now,” Carl squeezed her hand. But it wasn’t working. She couldn’t quite shake the image of the lost girl getting in a stranger’s car. Something about the situation screamed that she wouldn’t get back out. Anna shivered at the thought despite the warm sun beaming through the windows. “Are you cold?” Carl asked. And he took his jacket off and wrapped it round her. “Thanks,” she spoke weakly. And she pulled the jacket around her frail body and lay down on across the back seats. Letting sleep take hold of her worries she let her eyes close. ~ When she woke up the sun was dipping down over the hills. She looked out the window to see the bus pull into another bustling station and soon the sign revealed it to be San Antonio. Looking over to Carl she saw him fast asleep against the opposite window. She nudged him with her foot and he woke with a start. “We’re here,” she yawned and sat up. “Urgh…. Fuck,” “You ok?” “Yuh…. Just weird dreams,” he scrubbed at his eyes with his fingers. “Well forget about them, we’re here!” Anna giggled and stood up while grabbing her things. “You seem in a better mood,” Carl kissed her cheek. “Sleep can make people reborn,” she shrugged and waited for the people in front of them to depart. As they stepped out into the station Anna felt the night descend on the city and she wondered what that meant for the couple. Another night meant another place to hide. “So tell me,” nudged Carl playfully. “This plan of yours… Why’s it so secret,” “It’s not secret… I just… I dunno I’m just not entirely sure it’ll work yet,” “So it’s not really a plan then,” she rolled her eyes and readied herself for another night in a random hotel. “No… no. Don’t be so quick to judge,” he smirked and placed his hands on her waist. “Now I want you to trust me ok?” “Ok,” she nodded and they kissed. “Now I want you to wait right here, on this bench. And I mean it. Don’t move an inch,” “What? Where are YOU going?” “I’m going to find someone…. I think. I’ll be two minutes,” “Carl I don’t like this one bit…. What’s going on?” “Please…. Just give me two minutes,” She thought for a minute then relented. “Fine… But promise you’ll come back,” “I told you already I’ll be back. Now please……” his eyes were pleading with her desperately. “Fine….” and she slumped onto a metal bench that was somehow even less comfortable than the bus seats that she still ached from. She watched as Carl disappeared into the crowd and out the station into the city center. If she wasn’t sure she would have guessed that he was ditching her, that he was trying to run away and leave her behind. After all how well did she know him? They’d only met four days ago. She nibbled on a nail and kept her eyes fixed on the distance. Every second she waited the more she was certain he wasn’t coming back. “Fuck,” she mumbled into her sleeve. “He’s not coming back,” and tears came to her eyes. “Oh God please….. Come back,” And the reality of the situation hit her. She was alone and lost in a strange city and the only person she trusted and who her entire life depended on, had disappeared into the city. She felt like a lost child as she swung her legs from the bench. What would happen if he never came back? A thousand scenarios ran through her head in a panicked sequence. He was the one with the money. All she had were the clothes on her back and what she held in her pockets. She twisted her fingers into the tight jeans pocket on her thigh. She had one stick of gum left and she placed into her mouth, her last worldly possession. Fiddling with the wrapper in her hand she crumpled it a dozen different ways as she tried to expel nervous energy. When that didn’t work she threw it to the ground and it accidentally hit an old lady on the shin. “How rude, how very rude,” the old woman had a dried, shrunken face like a gnarly weasel and she glared with hatred at Anna. “I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there,” “Tsk….” the old lady rolled her eyes. “Kids,” And Anna was confused at that last remark. She wasn’t a kid at all! Although the more she waited the more she felt someone at the bus station could take her into an office and talk through a microphone. They’d report her as a missing child and her parents would run into the office to collect her. But of course there were no happy endings or simple procedures for a lost adult. The best case scenario would be if someone kind took pity on her. Her eyes were still fixed in the distance. She was looking out for Carl’s tall stature and blonde hair and she longed to see his buzz cut through the crowd. But it didn’t come. ~ Carl’s thoughts were focused and laser sharp as he ran from the bus station with his eyes on the lookout for a payphone. There was one close by but as he approached he saw the booth was occupied by a homeless man yelling into the receiver while knocking back a forty of beer. Jogging round the block he saw another one but yet again it was taken too, this time by a teenage girl who was in tears. “Please God just give me a break!” Carl angered. And his prayer was answered, because as he jogged a few yards up the street he finally found one available. He crammed his bag and briefcase into the booth and fished in his pockets for loose change. He pushed the coins into the machine and prayed that the guy’s number hadn’t changed. To his delight it answered on the third ring. “Hello?” “Yuh… Chuck? Dude, it’s Carl. You know Carl Reiner?” he asked with his fingers crossed behind his back. “Holy shit dude! Carl! My God, how are ya buddy?” “Well good. I mean no, not good. Actually things are rough,” “Damn man, that don’t sound great,” “Yeah… well it’s not. And I’m so sorry to ask but… you think you can help me out? I seriously wouldn’t’ ask if it wasn’t a proper emergency,” “Well sure! I mean… I owe you a lot buddy,” “Aaw man, thank you so much! You have no idea what this means to me,” “Save your words pal. Just get your ass here and old uncle Chuck here will take care of ya,” he chuckled. “Sweet, thanks,” “So where are ya? Chicago still?” “Actually I’m right here in San Antonio, at the bus station,” “You’re kidding right? Holy Hell I’ll be right there! You still rockin’ that buzz cut?” “I sure am,” Carl laughed as his money ran out and he hung up. Now that his plan was in action, he had a spring in his step and he could finally tell Anna that things were gonna be ok. That they’d be in Mexico and on their way to safety in only a matter of hours but as he ran back into the station - he saw she was gone. CHAPTER 21 John Reiner’s back was aching tremendously as he shuffled in the driver’s seat. He couldn’t believe that a man of his age in his condition was driving this far, but he wasn’t your average guy. Braking at a stop light he shifted in his seat again to try and eliminate the pain but it was no use, it only seemed to make it worse. Changing gear though was more painful as he leaned down, stretching his broken ribs. Every few hours he’d pull open his shirt to inspect his injuries and it always looked steadily more grotesque. His side was now covered in a mottled purple that got more inflamed and angrier with each passing mile. Soon though he’d be south of the border and that either meant he’d have Carl back or he’d have some place to rest and recover. Hopefully he’d have both those things, but he tried to stay realistic. The light turned green and he pulled away. As he approached St Louis he couldn’t help but notice a giant scorch mark in the road and he wondered what caused it. Probably just some car torched by vandals, he thought as he carried on moving. He reached another stoplight and cursed himself for managing to hit every single red light along the road. But he took the moment to pull out the photo from his inside jacket pocket. It was of Miriam and her eyes were so bright that it looked as though the photo was alive. He kissed it for good luck and placed it back in his pocket. “We’ll find him baby. We’ll make sure he’s ok,” and the light turned green. ~ Jorge and Jerry were holed up in the Evergreen Motel. The manager was confused at first as to how the two men knew each other. The last he’d seen of them Jerry was bundling the little Puerto Rican into his car. But as the two men entered reception and asked for a room the manager wasn’t dumb enough to question it. He handed over the keys with a smile and scratched nervously at his head as they left. Now each of them lay on a single bed and stared blankly at the small TV at the bottom of the room. “This place isn’t the four seasons now is it?” Jerry said out loud to himself as he nursed his broken hand. “Yeah… so what?” Jorge pulled his knife out from inside his boot and began cleaning his teeth with it. “Hey, you better have cleaned that thing since you took it out of old man Reiner,” Jerry laughed and his enormous belly jiggled up and down. Meanwhile Jorge thought back to the old man and how he’d let him go. He felt conflicted at letting him live. He’d never cared about a victim before. Still didn’t, really. But something at the back of his mind told him he’d done the right thing. “Hey, what you look so serious for?” Jerry asked with genuine concern. “Looks like your mind’s all churned up in there,” “Ah just nothin’,” Jorge lied and resumed cleaning his teeth. The news came on the TV but neither of them paid attention. They were too lost in their thoughts and too exhausted. Jerry’s phone rang and he pulled it out his pocket. “Shit! It’s Don Angelo!” Jorge’s eyes were wide like saucers. Jerry answered the phone and immediately started babbling. “Boss…. Not a good time boss. We got him. We’ll bring him to ya soon. Just tidying up some of the messy stuff you know,” and he giggled nervously like a child. Jorge rolled his eyes and turned his gaze back to the television. Images of a flood somewhere in the East flashed before him but he didn’t care. He was just hoping Jerry wouldn’t say anything stupid. “Yeah OK Boss. See ya soon,” and Jerry threw his phone on the bed as if it wouldn’t be able to hurt him that way. “So?” Jorge looked to him expectantly. “So…. Angelo thinks we got him already. He asked for us to bring him his head…. Like right away,” “Cool….. So ….. Well done there Jerry,” “What the hell was I supposed to say?” “I dunno,” Jorge picked up his pack of cigarettes. “You coulda not answered the phone. You ain’t his lap dog,” They both went silent as they felt equally fearful and frustrated. Turning their eyes back to the television as if they were somehow connected to it, they tried to distract themselves from the impending shit storm. Jerry prayed they’d find him somehow, that Carl would just appear out of thin air. Jorge on the other hand was more cunning. If his father wouldn’t lure him away what else would? He thought to his old Navy Seal buddies and immediately dismissed the thought of paying them a visit. They would be trained and impenetrable and also probably didn’t know where he was. Carl wouldn’t have burdened them with the trouble of housing him. He respected them too much for that. But there must be something or someone else. Then an idea went off in his head like a firework. “Jerry!” he said a little too loudly making the fat man jump. “You were friends weren’t you? You and Carl? He trusted you,” “Yuh… Knew him for ages, thought of him as one of the boys you know,” “So… He’d probably think that you would be on his side right?” Jorge grinned. “What exactly are you getting at?” Jerry leaned in closer. ~ Carl was in panic mode when he returned to the empty bench. An old woman with a stick and a blue rinse sat nearby and he approached her. “Excuse me ma’am. Have you seen a girl here? Red hair, real pretty?” “You mean that little scoundrel! She went that way,” and she pointed a bony finger in the direction of the confectionary kiosk. “Thanks!” and he raced to find her but what did she mean by a scoundrel? As he made his way through the crowd he caught sight of a mass of red hair that blew in the wind. “Anna!” he grabbed her from behind but as she turned to face him Carl was confronted by an angry woman. “Hey! Who the hell are you?” she popped gum in his face but instantly softened when she saw what he looked like. “Oh hey…. You lookin’ for company?” she grinned widely and showed a fuchsia pink lipstick smudge on her cracked, front tooth. “Sorry ma’am,” he pushed her away. He ran the length of the bus station three times but still he couldn’t see her. His heart was beating hard and his mouth became dry. The city seemed to be swirling around his head as intense fear set in. But then from one of the entrances came a voice he had learned to love so much. “No! Just leave me alone. I’m waiting on my boyfriend,” Anna’s voice danced over to him. As he walked over, he saw her being cornered by a teenage boy with pants fastened half way down his thighs. “Hey, what you think you’re doing?” Carl pushed the kid in the chest and he almost fell to the ground. “Sorry man. I was just saying hi,” “Yeah well don’t,” Carl shouted and the kid scuttled away into the distance. Cark immediately dropped his things and grabbed Anna tight. He pulled her close to his chest and felt the relief of her warm body against his. “Thank God you’re ok. I should never have left you alone! I’ll never do it again,” “I’m fine!” she protested and looked up to him with her eyes sparkling. “I just needed the bathroom but that guy wouldn’t leave me alone,” “Ah, that’s the price you pay for being as beautiful as you are. I should keep you on a chain,” And Anna raised her eyebrows. “Oh yeah? And then what would you do?” she bit her lips and smiled. “Oh God don’t do that…,” and he laughed. “Now this way, the plan’s working,” he grinned as he picked up his bag and briefcase. And he led her out the building. As they walked he couldn’t help but notice that he’d heard her refer to him as her boyfriend and it made him smile. They turned a corner and Carl was immediately confronted with the wild, curly hair of his old friend Chuck. “Shit Carl! I’ve been walkin’ around all over lookin’ for you,” the young man was complaining but still had a huge smile across his face. He pulled Carl into a bear hug and smacked him on the back. “Long time no see buddy,” he ran his hand through his curls. “Yeah, it’s been a while,” Carl was still holding onto him. Then Chuck noticed the impossibly pretty girl next to his friend and grinned. Meanwhile Anna looked him up and down cautiously. CHAPTER 22 Carl and Chuck were becoming reacquainted and spoke quickly as they updated each other on their lives. “Yeah man I was discharged a few years back,” “Ah, that’s tough. Hey, I can’t believe you’ve not met my wife yet,” Meanwhile Anna was lagging behind with her hands stuffed into her pockets. She worried about who the new guy was and why he was suddenly an addition in their runaway plan. Feeling like a third wheel, she let the guys get on with their catching up. She watched from behind at the way the new guy walked. A mean swagger propelled him forward with his arms swinging wildly. Anna thought he looked more animal than man especially with the shock of fair, curly hair that swung in the wind. And she couldn’t decide what look he was going for. Giant leather boots with huge metal buckles travelled halfway up his legs and a baggy, black coat covered the rest of him. He must have been part of some type of subculture but Anna hadn’t been exposed to any of them. Chuck pulled a big set of keys from his inside pocket as they approached a warehouse somewhere on the edge of the city center. Anna immediately didn’t like the look of it. The building was dark and tall with bricked up windows and barbed wire covering the perimeter. “What’s with all the secrecy?” she asked Chuck. He tapped the side of his nose. “Shhh…. I’ll tell you once we’re inside,” and he looked nervously to a delivery truck that drove passed innocently. Anna thought he was insane or at least paranoid. She watched as he rolled up a metal shutter. The noise made her jump but Carl squeezed her hand. He looked down to her. “It’s ok. I’ve known this guy forever,” “Why didn’t you tell me about all this?” she was angry and whispered through gritted teeth. “I just… just wasn’t sure it would pan out,” “Whatever,” she let go of his hand and crossed her arms in a huff. “This way guys,” Chuck spoke softly and led them inside the building. From what Anna could see it was a warehouse and as he rolled down the shutter behind them she jumped again. “Welcome to my humble abode,” Chuck bowed dramatically and laughed. “Still good to see you’ve got the operation up and running,” Carl walked over to a large piece of metal equipment. Anna didn’t know what it was and she joined him, running her hand over the smooth surface. “What’s this for?” she asked. “It’s a printing press,” Chuck explained. “You never seen one before?” She shook her head. “Well there’s a first for everything,” he smiled and moved in closer to her. Anna edged herself away. “What do you print? Like newspapers?” “Almost…. Magazines,” “About what? Why is it all so hidden? What’s going on?” she looked up to Carl angrily. He moved next to her and kissed the top of her head. Taking hold of her hand again he looked into her eyes and then nodded at Chuck. “Well I guess it’s time we brought you up to date,” ~ Through the back of the warehouse was a large industrial kitchen, but it had been made homely by Chuck and his wife Mathilda. She was a thin, ethereal blonde with a doll’s face peppered with freckles and a penchant for the rockabilly style. She brought plates of food over to the table as she smiled through her vivid red lipstick. “Here you go guys! Vegan lasagne and gluten free bread rolls,” and she sashayed away. Anna looked to her plate and realized how hungry she was. She hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days and she dug her fork in eagerly. “You OK baby?” Carl asked as he ran a finger through her hair. She nodded as she chewed and Carl thought she looked beautiful despite her cheeks becoming fat as she stuffed them with bread. “So,” he continued. “I think it’s time I officially introduce you to Chuck. This guy here is one of my best buddies,” Carl outstretched an arm to his friend. “Known him since my old Navy training days,” “Yup! Except I was never cut out for a life in the military,” Chuck chuckled as he mopped up sauce with a piece of bread. “So what did you do instead?” Anna asked. There was an awkward silence across the table before finally Mathilda sat down and answered. “He illegally prints an anti-government conspiracy magazine. Don’t you sweetheart?” she kissed him on the cheek and he blushed. Anna wasn’t sure she heard right and stared blankly at Carl for more of an answer. “What’s an anti-government conspiracy?” she eventually asked. “Hey, it’s not as dirty as it sounds,” Chuck interjected. “I mainly write about aliens, the moon landing hoax, hybrid human-animal creations you know, stuff like that. But she didn’t know what he was talking about and asked, “What moon landing hoax? And how is that ‘illegal’?” “Oh God, don’t get him started,” Carl smacked his old friend on the back. “So what are we doing here? I mean, no offence Chuck,” and she looked to her plate nervously. “Well this good man has a side business and is somewhat of a master of printing,” “Well if you say so,” Chuck winked. “But yeah I can print anything you can think of. And I think I can guess what you’re looking for……Hmmmm… Would it be ID by any chance?” “Bingo,” laughed Carl. “But why? What’s going on?” “I won’t bore you with the details,” Carl began. “But we need my… friend over the border in the next twenty four hours and she doesn’t have a passport,” “Ooohh bummer,” smiled Chuck. “But yeah, that’s no bother. Anything for a friend,” ~ Dinner passed slowly with the two men regaling the girls with tales of their Navy days. But after a while Anna started to feel her eyelids grow heavy. A clock on the kitchen wall read midnight and more than anything she wanted to go to bed. She looked around behind her into the warehouse and couldn’t imagine where the couple slept. “You tired sweetheart?” Carl placed a hand affectionately on her back and rubbed her gently. “Urgh… yeah,” Anna yawned and rubbed her eyes. “Well I’ll show you where you can stay,” Chuck stood up to clear the table. “Just give me two minutes,” and the eccentric couple disappeared over to the sink. Meanwhile Anna and Carl shuffled back into the warehouse area and found a dark corner. “I don’t like this,” Anna fumed once again. “What the hell is going on? You knew we were coming here the whole time didn’t you?” she pushed him in the chest. “Woah, calm down,” he held her by the shoulders. “Don’t get all worked up. I had an idea that perhaps he could help us out if we ever got to San Antonio. I promise. I wasn’t conspiring against you or something like that. He’s here to help us. He’ll get you a passport,” “He’s a freakin’ wackjob Carl…and a vegan. Plus he runs an underground, illegal alien magazine. That’s completely insane,” Anna felt as though she was about to tear out her hair. “Look I can understand that you’re on edge. You’re tired, stressed, terrified I get it ok. But we’ll be outta here in the morning and on our way. I’m here for you, you know that?” he held her under her chin and lifted her face to look him in the eye. She nodded sheepishly. “Yeah I know,” she sighed. Carl smiled weakly, “It’s just to get you a passport, then we’re done,” “I dunno. There’s still something that’s really creeping me out. How do you know this guy? And why does he owe you a favour?” “I told you, we trained together. Well… there’s something else but I’ll wait until we’re in bed until I tell you,” “And where exactly is this bed?” Anna huffed again and leaned against the wall. Despite the mild temperature the building felt cold and damp. She’d never wanted out of anywhere so much in a long time. Why did a married couple live in a converted warehouse. Something just seemed so crazy. And Chuck… she imagined him going to sleep wearing a tin hat. “Hey guys, hiding in dark corners I see. That’s the spirit!” Chuck laughed heartily as he found them. “Now let me show you to your room,” he gestured with his hand for them to follow him. And he led them to a flight of stairs that looked as though it plummeted into total darkness. “I’m not going down there,” Anna was adamant. “I promise it’s not as bad as you think,” Chuck grinned as though he were onto a great secret. Carl squeezed her hand and dragged her down the stairs as Chuck lit the way with a torch. Once they reached the bottom they found themselves in the entrance to a vast, echoic basement. It looked like a scene from a horror film and came complete with the sound of indeterminate dripping. “What is this place?” she grimaced. “Ah this is just for storage. But don’t worry it’s not where you’re sleeping,” And Chuck jogged about forty feet into the center of the basement before resting over a manhole cover. He bent down and pulled a screwdriver out his back pocket. Unscrewing the cover carefully he placed the screws in his back pocket and lifted off the lid. “We’re not sleeping in a sewer are we?” Anna asked aghast. “Don’t worry, there’s no alligators down here,” Chuck smirked at Carl. “Come on,” Carl whispered. As Anna looked down into the manhole she was surprised to see there was no sewer. But rather what looked like a fairly ordinary room. Chuck bent down again and reached his hand under. Reaching a light switch he illuminated the room and Anna and Carl gasped as they were confronted with a beautiful bedroom. “Ladies first,” Chuck ushered Anna down the ladder. “Hey this is great!” she beamed up at Carl. She looked around and couldn’t believe that such a place existed. The room must have been about twenty feet long and came complete with a four poster bed, a mini bar, a large television and several computers. Pushing open a door at the end of the room Anna saw a bathroom that was as pristine and white as the one in their penthouse in Austin. “This place is like a spa,” she giggled to Carl as he jumped down. “Wow, I wonder what your own bedroom looks like if this is for guests,” Carl looked to his friend. “Ah, we have the whole loft space converted. It’s a real humdinger. But this place is just in case we get tipped off you know,” “Sure thing,” Carl nodded albeit with a sceptical look on his face. “Anyway I’ll leave you to it,” and Chuck disappeared up the ladder. “If you need me just ring the bell in the corner,” And the couple looked over to see a big, black box housing an oversized red button. Anna thought if she punched it a superhero might turn up. “It leads to the loft,” Chuck explained. “Anyway, see you in the morning and we’ll get that passport sorted. That’s when the printing presses are up and running. Anyway, you kids stay safe,” And finally the couple were alone. “This is…. Crazy,” Anna jumped into Carl’s arms now they had their privacy. “Sure is. I bet you’re glad my plan worked after all ain’t ya?” “Well….. I guess,” she laughed and bit her lip. Jumping onto the bed she jokingly pulled all the curtains closed so she was encased. “Hey,” Carl pulled one back and jumped in after her. “This is kinda sexy ain’t it? Enveloped in a four poster bed, just you and me hidden away somewhere safe for once. Anna ran a hand down his chest and kissed him. “It’s the most romantic thing ever,” and she leaned back to run her hand across the bed’s curtains. They were dark, red velvet and felt so soft she wanted to rub them across her face. Flinging herself back on the bed she felt how comfortable it was, so soft and big. She wondered why Chuck needed such a luxurious bed. “So I believe you have a story to tell me,” she traced her fingers along the side of Carl’s leg and he leaned over closer. “I do,” he held her hand and moved it to his groin. He was already hard and he breathed heavily as she cupped him in her hand. “Urrhhhhh…. I could just devour you right now,” he leaned in and kissed her biting at her lip playfully. “But aren’t you going to tell me how you know Chuck?” “Can’t I kiss you some more?” “No Carl,” “Fine,” he pulled away. “For a very short while I worked in a special forces unit. Chuck and I were close at the time but he eventually got discharged long before I did. That’s it,” “But special forces? What’s that?” “I can’t tell you. Or rather I might tell you some other time,” “Carl! I wanna know more. So you guys met in like… a super-secret spy job?” Carl didn’t want to answer any more and rolled on top of her. He pushed his hardness onto her and pinned her arms behind her head. “If I fuck you, will you stop asking questions?” he smiled. Anna could smell the heat from his body mixed with sweat. It was intoxicating and she rose her hips up to meet his. Breathing heavily she held her lips close to his and whispered. “I’d do anything for you,” she whispered. He moved his tongue into her mouth gently and felt her yield to his touch. Reaching his hand down, he pulled back the top of her shirt and let a nipple pop out. Holding it in his fingers he rubbed it firmly and felt it go hard in his hand. Sucking on it he longed to taste every part of her body and he pulled away to tear her clothes off. Exposing her breasts as he lifted off her top he grabbed them hard and held them to his face as he licked hungrily at her. Anna loved watching him so turned on, the way he moved and the way he gasped as he wanted more of her. Spreading her legs for him she placed her fingers on her clitoris and was surprised to feel how wet she was. Rubbing herself in small circles she made a little gasp that sounded like a whimper as she felt the start of pleasure throb inside her. “Is that good? You like that?” Carl asked as he unzipped his jeans. He pulled them down to reveal his penis that stood so erect it reached up passed his belly button. Gripping it firmly he began to pump it into his closed hand with his hips moving steadily. Even though he was pleasuring himself it had never felt to intense as he kept his eyes on Anna who’s fingers were moving slowly. She felt herself opening up to him as she ground herself on her hand. More than anything she wanted to feel him inside her. But as they looked into each other’s eyes there seemed to be an unspoken agreement as if they knew to hold off. “I know how much you love to be teased,” Anna winked as she bit her lip harder. “Oh yeah…. I just love to watch you,” he moved his hand faster. Within a few minutes he was close to orgasm and he pulled his hand away. He lay in between Anna’s legs and buried his face in her eagerly. She screamed as she felt him latch onto her and quivered as she felt the flick of his tongue. Gripping his hair hard she held onto his head as it moved quickly up and down. Then Carl began to suck and pulled at her clitoris with his lips. Feeling as though she’d cum at any second she pushed his head away. “I want us to cum at the same time,” she gasped. Carl leaned forward and affectionately swept away the loose hair that was clinging to her forehead. She smiled at him to signify she was ready and he eased on top of her. Kissing her sweetly he felt her breath tickle his lips. The warmth from her breasts touched his chest and he held them tight as he gripped her tighter. “What are you waiting for?” she asked. “I just wanna take my time,” he leaned into her neck and whispered. It sent shockwaves of goose bumps down her body and he giggled. “Come on… I need you right now,” she breathed. “You don’t have to tell me again,” and he pushed her hands into the bed. Holding her in place he inched his way inside of her and felt her hot wetness caress him. He immediately felt a wave of pleasure and shook slightly as he tried to control himself. “Fuuuck,” he gasped as he slid in and out slowly. “Oh God, I’m so wet. Can you do it harder,” Anna moaned. And of course he obliged. Gripping her hands tighter he began to quickly thrust into her. He lifted himself up onto his knees so he could see her better and relished the site of her breasts moving in time to his thrusts. He stroked her body and traced his hands down the centre of her navel. He loved the feeling of the sweat on her skin and the way it made her sticky yet slippery. The more wet she became the more he wanted to be deeper inside her. Lifting up her legs he placed her feet against his chest and moved faster. She instantly began to scream. “Oh God! Oh GOD!” she cried out but she wanted more of him. She reached out her hands next to her hips and he grabbed onto them tightly to hold her in position. And she loved that he was in control and took charge of her body as if he owned it. She started to whisper something and Carl stopped moving. Crawling back on top of her he listened intently. “Carl…. Fuck me like an animal,” she rasped. He felt his heart race at hearing her words. Holding her by her sides and pushing her onto her front he held her by the hair and pulled back her head. She loved the roughness of it and the way the pain stung her scalp. “Now show me that ass,” he ordered. And she pushed it up in the air with her head still pushed into the pillow. He rammed his penis inside her hard and she moaned loudly. Her screams were so loud that Carl was petrified they could hear them upstairs, but he stopped caring the second he felt himself reach climax. “Urrrhhhhhh…. I’m nearly there Anna, I’m nearly there,” “Cum for me baby,” she yelped as she turned round to make eye contact. Seeing the look on her face was too much and he came hard and fast into her. Anna thought his groans would never stop as she felt him fall exhausted onto her back. As he lay on top of her she felt the contractions in him against her thighs and she smiled as she grabbed hold of his hand. “That good baby?” “Urghhhh fuck yeah,” he was still out of breath. She kissed his hand. “You’re so sexy when you cum,” he gasped into the back of her head as he felt his sweat mix with her hair. She began to suck on one of his fingers and liked the feeling of him being near the back of her throat. Putting two fingers into her mouth she pushed them down as far as she could. “I think you want to deepthroat me,” Carl joked. “Of course I do,” and she smacked his side to signal for him to move. She pushed him back into the bed and looked at his face for a moment. He was so handsome and gorgeous but such a dark horse. She knew there was a dark side to him and she needed to bring it out. “I’ve never done it before. You’ll need to show me how,” “It would be my pleasure,” he smirked sexily and put his hands to her head. “Be careful though. I’m still sensitive,” She nodded to show she understood and took one last look at him with her big eyes before moving down. Sliding the head into her mouth she felt him shake again. Then he grew rock solid in between her lips. “Yeah just like that,” he was still gripping her by the hair. “Now just a little further sweetheart,” he pushed her head down another inch and waited for her to reel back. But she didn’t and instead took more of him in her mouth until he was grazing the back of her throat. She moaned as she swallowed him and the feeling up his shaft was intense. Struggling for a few seconds she eventually took him all in and held her breath for a moment. He lingered in the heat of her body and the way he felt completely smothered by her. Then she gasped for air and pulled herself off him. Watching her take him whole again took his breath away and he grabbed her hair even tighter. She moaned and for a second he was scared he was hurting her. But then he saw her move her hand between her legs and rub at herself furiously. Her moans became louder as a long strand of spit dripped from her mouth as she held it to the base of his penis. Meanwhile Anna loved every new sensation that was taking place in her body. She felt so consumed by her desire for him that she wanted to possess his body and feel him own hers. She wanted them to melt together in an endless circle of pleasure and she didn’t want the feeling to end. Loving the way he grabbed her hair she felt between her legs and rubbed at the slick wetness between her lips. Pushing in one finger at first then two, she pushed them against her g spot and felt herself open up even more. She’d never been so aroused and she wanted to feel him in every new way imaginable. Feeling the tip of his penis against the back of her throat, she was scared at first but after the second and third stroke she developed a steady rhythm and matched his movements to her breaths. She loved the way he thrust into her while gripping her head, but more than anything she loved the way he grunted. “Yeah that’s real good. Just like that,” he moved her head up and down. After only a few minutes he couldn’t wait any longer and the wave of pleasure intensified within him. “I’m gonna cum baby,” he tried to move her off him but she refused to budge. Instead she bobbed her head up and down faster and faster taking more and more of him until he climaxed with a violent shudder. He roared as he ejaculated into her throat and held onto her head so tight she thought he pulled her hair out. Anna pulled herself off his penis carefully as she took in a deep breath of air. Gasping heavily she wiped at her mouth. “That was…. Amazing,” she smiled. “You’re telling me,” Carl’s words were barely audible as he collapsed back on the bed. For a moment he thought his sight would never come back to him and he held his hands over his eyes as he regained his strength. Eventually he felt Anna lay down beside him and he rolled over to hold her. “You’re so incredible,” he kissed her cheek. “And you’re the best,” she was still breathless. Cuddling into each other they breathed in each other’s scent and gripped on tight. Anna ran her fingernails up the length of his back as she straddled his thigh. He could feel the heat permeate from her as his leg became wet. “I think you need more…” he held the back of her head tenderly as he looked into her eyes. “Really?” she kissed him softly as she moved his hand to her sex. He instantly felt her open up for him and he pushed in two fingers, enjoying the expression on her face. She instantly began to scream but stifled herself as she reached forward and bit into his chest. Tasting his body made her only hornier as she felt his tangy sweat on her tongue. “Harder!” she screamed as she bit into him again. She wanted to feel him more and more as though he could take over her body. Wanting to feel entirely owned by him she pressed herself into him and wrapped her arms and legs around his torso. More than anything she wanted to feel as though they’d never be apart, that he was her protector and that he’d hold onto her forever. As her orgasm ripped through her body she shuddered and clenched onto his fingers. Still biting him hard she was certain she could begin to taste blood. Pulling away she looked to his body and saw a fine red trickle fall down into the bed. “I’m so sorry,” she breathed. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” and she stroked the side of his face tenderly. “Don’t worry. You didn’t,” he took her hand and kissed it. For a long while they held each other in silence as they merged their senses together. Feeling each other’s warmth and listening to the sound of each other’s breath. Anna felt the beat of his heart against her and it made her smile to know he was so close. Somewhere in the distance a truck rumbled passed and Anna wondered where it was going and who was driving it. But then as the sound of the morning traffic began to sound Anna imagined it was the sea and she fell asleep peacefully. When she awoke it was the middle of the morning and the sound of the printing press overhead was banging itself into life. It was louder than she could have ever imagined and it made her jump out of the bed petrified before she realized what it was. “Don’t worry sweetheart,” Carl called. “Come back,” And she did so to feel the strength of his arms once more. He cradled her close and kissed her forehead. “You’re awfully jumpy this morning, what’s up?” “Nothing, just…. I can never remember where I am when I wake up,” “I know that feeling but it’ll be over in a couple days. Once we get over the border I’ve got a place to live,” “Really? Is this owned by another one of your Special Forces friends?” she spat the words sarcastically and regretted it. “Look I’m sorry. It’s just all so crazy and stressful,” “I know. I get it,” and he kissed her again. “That’s so loud up there!” she resumed her complaining. “Yeah, but I guess it has its perks,” “And what would that be?” she wasn’t in the mood for games. “Well… no one would be able to hear you scream,” he joked. And she took the hint. Rolling on top of him she felt him go hard immediately. Placing his penis flat against his stomach she slid onto his and caressed it with her lips. Sliding along it rhythmically she felt his length and girth stimulate her and soon she was dripping her wetness all over making him slick and slippery. She moaned as she moved and clenched her eyes shut as she felt the pressure against her clitoris. Keeping her eyes closed she focused on the pleasure and the sound it made when she glided up and down him. When she opened her eyes she saw Carl’s face so enraptured in ecstasy that he almost looked pained. He was staring down at her pussy intently and loved the sight of seeing them both pushed together. Then the time came when Anna needed more and she let the tip of his penis slide inside her. It felt incredible and she quickly let out a primal cry as she felt his width inside her. But it wasn’t enough and she wanted more. Pushing herself onto his entire length in one go it hurt only for a second before she needed to feel him quicker and harder against her g spot. Finding a quick rhythm she bounced up and down as fast as she could. Looking down she saw the way Carl’s stomach muscles contracted as he thrust and she placed a hand on his navel. Feeling the hardness of his muscles and watching the way he gyrated as he moved his hips to meet hers. She wanted to feel him as hard as possible and she became wetter by the second. Before long she needed to feel his weight on top of her. She needed to see his strength at work on her tiny body and the way his muscles worked to hold her down. Pulling herself away from him momentarily she bent down to kiss him hard. “Fuck me as hard as you can. I can take it,” And he didn’t need to hear anymore. Holding her down on her back he lifted up her legs and pinned her knees behind her ears. It revealed her sex to him and he lightly slapped at it to tease her, to feel the juice smack against his hand. “Do it harder!” “You want me to slap you harder? Are you sure?” He saw her nod and look at him with those big wide eyes. Then he spanked her pussy hard and saw that it was turning a dark pink. “Aw, yeah!” she screamed. “Harder!” And he slapped her again. “One more time! As hard as you can,” Carl hesitated for a moment not wanting to hurt her but when he looked to her face she mouthed the words, “Pretty please….” and pouted. Readying himself he looked to her increasingly reddening lips and kissed her gently. She moaned softly feeling the tenderness of his kiss against the stinging pain of her lips. Then without warning he smacked her hard and she squirted instantly. “Oh FUCK!” she screamed and her pussy quivered as she ejaculated onto his chest. CHAPTER 23 John Reiner handed over his passport as the midday sun poured through the windscreen. It hurt his chapped lips and as it made him squint, his broken nose ached terribly. “Thank you, Sir,” the border guard smiled politely and handed his passport back through the window. John nodded in acknowledgement and drove away. The journey had been arduous but he knew it was worth it. However his side was aching more with every hour he spent on the road. After a few miles into the Mexican desert he had no choice but to pull over and inspect his injuries. Lifting up his shirt he saw the swollen mess that was his ribcage. To his untrained eye it seemed one of the cuts was becoming infected and the bruising was spreading rapidly. He’d seen enough television to guess he was bleeding internally. Still though, he felt he must plod on to reach Carl. He couldn’t stop until he saw his face and apologized. Glancing back at his side he saw the bruising and infection was so rampant in his body that his ribcage began to look distorted. He felt as though he were looking at the body of someone else. There was no way this monstrosity could be attached to him. Breathing through the pain he pulled his shirt back down and pulled back out onto the highway. It was only a couple hours to the house. He knew he kept painkillers there and other supplies, he just had to grit his teeth and bear it for a little while longer. But the more Carl’s father drove the more his teeth began to grind together as pain took hold of him. He began to sweat profusely as he felt a fever fast approaching. It wouldn’t be long until he couldn’t sit up any longer. ~ Anna looked at her passport as it hung from a miniature washing line. She never imagined it would take so long to dry but she was happy to sip at her coffee for a little while longer. “So….” Chuck grinned at the couple. “Mexico… How romantic. Gonna check out one of those donkey shows?” he joked. “No… we are not,” Carl placed his mug down with a clunk and wiped at some rogue milk foam on his chin. “What’s a donkey show?” asked Anna innocently and then she remembered a TV show she’d seen once. “Oooooohhhh,” Both boys laughed and she blushed. Chuck prodded at her passport gently and concluded it was ready. “And boom! Here you go madam,” he pulled it carefully from the line and placed it inside a Ziploc bag for safe keeping. “Now this will grant you only three wishes so you must choose wisely,” he handed it over. “Shut up Chuck,” Carl pretended to slap him across the face and they both laughed. “But seriously we’re so grateful. You’ve done us the biggest favour anyone could have ever done,” “Really man it’s no worries. If I’m not mistaken you actually saved my life back in the Congo,” “The Congo?” Anna was flabbergasted. “Another story for another time,” Carl patted her on the back and kissed her cheek. The more she found out about Carl the less she knew. He was a human enigma. “Well we better be on our way. Hope I’ll see you again someday,” the two men hugged. “Don’t be a stranger,” Chuck looked slightly tearful at his friend’s departure. ~ When the couple arrived at the bus station it was as if they had a second wind and were more excited than ever. If everything worked out they’d be over the border in only a few hours. But as they took their seats at the back of the bus something niggled inside Anna. Carl could see something brewing in her eyes. “Penny for your thoughts?” “What if the Mob find us over there? Surely it’s possible,” “Well anything is possible,” Carl nodded in agreement. “But believe me this place is on the outskirts of a beautiful city and surrounded by so much land. You can see for miles and the locals are known to be pretty hostile to strangers,” “So how are they gonna respond to us?” Anna asked irritated. “I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Have some distant cousins in the area,” “I thought you had no family!” “They’re not really family. More like cousins of cousins,” “I’m confused again. This is starting to get old,” “What is?” he looked upset at her sudden bad mood. “This whole God damn rigmarole of you and your secrets, just tell us where we’re going Carl. I don’t wanna have to ask again,” she sighed heavily and pleaded with her eyes. “Fine… We’re going to my Dad’s holiday home in Monterrey. It’s where his parents grew up and well… That’s it,” “Why didn’t you just say that? Why would that possibly be so difficult for you to explain?” “Because….. Because…. My Dad comes from a long line of cops. I thought you’d be suspicious of that. Bein’ a Mob kid and all,” “Well I’m suspicious of a lot of things about you but not that!” she was so delirious with the whole situation she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Yeah but…. You know when you hold something small back for a moment and it just snowballs. And suddenly you feel like you have to cover up everything and not let anyone in?” he was squeezing her hand so tight his knuckles were turning white. It was then she realized he had more problems than she initially thought and that he was wounded in places she was only just starting to discover. “I understand that more than you can know,” she smiled faintly and kissed his cheek. He nodded to show he understood. Then their conversation was broken by the sound of the engine clanking into gear. The sun streamed through the window as San Antonio said goodbye. “Can we come back here again someday?” Anna asked. “Of course we can. One day we’ll travel the world,” he leaned over to look out the window beside her. “But do you think we’ll always have people chasing us?” “I can’t answer that,” Carl sounded sad. As the bus pulled out onto the highway they relaxed back in their seats and looked forward. This time the bus was nearly empty and Anna only spotted two other people to keep them company. There was a young, skater kid about fourteen years old and a scruffy older man who looked as though he’d just been released from prison. It was amazing what characters you saw on public transport and Anna wondered whether it was a good thing she grew up so sheltered. At least a lot of the world had been hidden from her. But at what cost? The desert passed by the window in a haze of brown. And after a while Anna stopped noticing the landscape. Instead of looking out she began to turn her thoughts inward. A week ago she couldn’t imagine the journey she had been on. And the journey of both mind and body had taken her to a place she didn’t know existed, a place of strength. She looked to Carl and thought anybody could do anything if they had the right person by their side. Of course there would be problems and every person came with baggage but wasn’t that what made us all human? So engrossed was Anna in her thoughts that she barely noticed the sound of the engine stutter. Carl however was instantly panicked and he looked out the window to see where they were. They appeared to be in the suburbs of a town he didn’t know and he prayed the bus would make it to the station. But of course his prayers weren’t answered and instead the bus eventually staggered as it died a slow death. It broke down just off the highway on the edge of a rundown neighborhood. “Shit!” the bus driver could be heard shouting from his seat. The four passengers watched as he jumped down onto the road and inspected the smoke rising from under the hood. He looked outraged at the incident and they could hear him complaining as he looked into the engine. After a while he pulled out his cell phone and the passengers watched as he paced anxiously up and down the side of the bus while shouting at whoever was on the other end. After a few excruciating and confusing minutes he eventually came back on the bus and addressed the passengers. “Sorry guys. Looks like this ole mule ain’t goin’ anywhere anytime soon,” and he huffed and crossed his arms angrily. “But where are we?” Carl leaned forward and looked out the window again. “On the edge of Corpus Christi,” sighed the driver as he took his hat off and wiped his bald head. “But now what?” the skater kid at the front of the bus was angry. “Yeah they gonna send another bus or what?” the older guy was incensed. “Calm down guys,” the driver raised his hands as if he was surrendering. “Another bus is on the way as soon as they find someone to drive it. Then they’ll be taking you guys back to San Antonio where they’ll compensate you,” “But we don’t wanna go back to San Antonio! That’s stupid!” Anna stood up enraged. “Yeah we’re not going back! Can’t the new bus just take us where we’re going?” the skater kid stood up next. “Look all I know is what the guy said on the phone and he said you’re all being picked up and taken back home,” “This is fuckin’ stupid,” the skater kid lost his temper and stormed off the bus. Then the older guy took his turn. “Fuck this. I’ll just hitch the rest of the way,” Carl looked over to Anna who was bright red with anger. “And what do you wanna do?” he asked. “I’m sure as hell not going back. Anyway can we just keep moving somehow?” she suggested. But the driver interjected. “There’s a hotel not too far from here. You could always head there and make a trip of it,” he put the idea out there to placate the situation. “Aaw fuck. We’ve really gotta be over the border like today,” Carl cupped his face in his hands and leaned forward onto his lap. “That bad eh?” the driver approached the couple cautiously and sat a couple seats in front of them. Anna nodded to show the severity of the situation. “Family emergency?” he asked. “Yeah…..” Carl fumed. “It’s a family emergency,” “Damn, I’m so sorry,” the driver sighed. “If there was a way I could pay for you to travel I would happily oblige. Just hate seeing people in trouble,” he looked to the floor genuinely upset. “I guess we could jump out now and start walking. Just hail a cab to the next station?” “Seems like a plan to me,” Carl looked up to her and nodded. “Well I guess it’s a goodbye from me then,” and the driver waved farewell as they jumped down onto the street. Yet again the couple found themselves walking aimlessly in the middle of nowhere. “This is just….. Shit. I have no other words I really don’t,” Carl fumed. “I’m just tired of all this,” “You think God’s testing us?” Anna asked him as she jogged to catch up with his long, angry strides. “You think there’s a God?” he replied dryly. “I’m not even sure anymore,” Anna looked to her sneakers as she pounded her blistered feet on the sidewalk. They walked in silence for a few minutes until a little row of shops came into view. Carl spotted a grotty looking bar and nodded to it. “Fancy a drink?” he asked. “Shouldn’t we be trying to hail a cab?” Anna protested. “Come on, live a little,” Carl smiled. “Ok fine. But don’t get in trouble for giving booze to a minor,” “Ah shut up. When I was your age I could drink any old timer under the table,” and he pushed open the door. Anna had never seen a dive bar in real-life before and the first thing that hit her was the smell. Stale tobacco and watered down beer mixed with cheap aftershave. “Urgh…. God,” she felt the need to cover her mouth. “Just relax,” Carl laughed at her. “It’s cool. What you havin?” “I dunno,” she shrugged. “Same as you I guess,” “Good luck,” he grinned cheekily as he approached the gnarly looking barman. He looked up from the glass he was cleaning as if he had been interrupted from an important job. “Two double scotch and sodas,” Carl asked and the barman nodded without saying a word. He slid two glasses down the bar as the couple climbed onto stools that sat between the local patrons. Anna leaned into Carl’s side. “This place is scary,” she gripped his arm. “And everything we left behind wasn’t?” he asked sarcastically. “I guess,” she shrunk back and wrapped her fingers around her glass. But as she got settled into her surroundings she noticed that all the guys along the length of the bar were staring at her. Some gawped at her chest while others tried to flirt and make eye contact. She shivered as she was reminded of her father in every one of their faces. “Hey, I need the bathroom. Will you be ok for two minutes?” Carl asked. “I guess,” she spoke optimistically. The last thing she wanted was to be left alone with these creeps. And as Carl disappeared into the restroom her fears were confirmed. The guy closest to her was eager to take Carl’s seat and he leaned into her close. She could smell the disease from his rotting teeth and the way it mingled with cheap beer. She imagined his dirty hair to be crawling underneath his trucker hat and she prayed he would leave her alone. Of course he only leaned in closer. “Hey… pretty lady,” “Oh God,” she looked to her shoes hoping her rudeness would make him go away. “Hey, pretty lady, I said. You sure are beautiful,” Anna shuddered and zipped up her coat to hide her body. “Don’t go hiding from me pretty girl. You can show me your fine body any time,” “Fuck sake Larry leave the girl alone,” the bar manager came out from the back. “I’m sorry miss. This loser has never seen a lady before,” “Oh it’s ok,” she sipped at her drink and winced. The manager came out from behind the bar and shooed away Larry like a mischievous cat. Anna looked up to his friendly face and felt safe in his company. His furry eyebrows framed a chubby face. And he appeared to be in a perpetual state of sniffing in order to stop his glasses from falling off his little snub nose. “You look too nice to be working in here. You actually don’t smell of anything,” Anna laughed. “And you definitely look to nice to be drinking here and far too young I may add. Do your parents know you’re here? You need a ride somewhere?” he asked seriously. “Oh no. I’m fine. My boyfriend’s just in the bathroom,” and as she spoke he strode back over to the bar and the manager shrunk away in his company. “I see you’re getting creeped on again. I can’t take you anywhere!” he ran a hand through her hair. “You don’t know the half of it,” she huffed and attempted her drink once more. “I’m sorry this is just rancid. It’s yours,” and she pushed it over to Carl. He knocked both his and Anna’s drinks back in seconds. Then fumbling in his jacket pocket he pulled out a little bottle of Vicodin and took two. “For my back pain,” he explained to the manager who was eyeing the couple suspiciously. “But…” Carl continued. “I’m gonna find us a cab to town. Hey you!” he pointed at the manager who seemed to be grossly offended at his behaviour. “You have a payphone?” “No. We do not. But there’s one around the corner. Just on your left there,” and he pointed towards the back wall of the bar. “Thanks buddy,” and Carl got up to leave. “Don’t leave me again. Please!” “You’ll be fine! I’ll only be gone two minutes. You don’t mind watching my stuff do you?” “No, that’s cool,” and she grabbed hold of the briefcase. Carl swaggered out the bar and headed to the payphone with the manager glaring into his back as he left. Anna thought he wanted to come back and talk to her but was too afraid. Carl had that effect on people though. His size always seemed to mean no one chanced their luck. Meanwhile outside, Carl meandered to the payphone and rifled through his pocket for change. But before he reached the booth someone stood in his way. “You lookin’ for a good time honey?” he looked over at an attractive, blonde girl who would have been of average height if it wasn’t for her eight inch heels. “I don’t pay for it,” he spoke sternly and moved to dodge passed her. But she wasn’t going anywhere and she stepped over to block him. “But you’re so sexy baby. I can show you a real good time. And cos you’re so hot I could always give you a discount?” she was pushing her luck. “No,” he answered firmly. “Not interested,” and he tried to edge around her again. But it only made her more determined. Zipping down the first few inches of her dress she exposed the top of her fake breasts. “You like?” “Not really,” “Oh you talk lies honey. Everybody likes!” her voice was gravelly and intoxicated. And once again he tried to get around her. And once again she blocked his path. This time she pushed right up close to him and caressed his face with her long acrylic finger nails. “I can take you to the moon and back,” she whispered into his ear. But Carl stood as straight as a board, scared to move in case she did something else. He hoped if he didn’t react at all then she’d get bored and move away. But he had no such luck. Instead she leaned in and kissed his lips grotesquely with her tongue writhing wildly. He thought for a moment he would throw up as he smelled her toxic breath. Eventually he regained his senses and pushed her away. “Are you stupid? I said no!” he lost his temper and the woman stepped back upset. “Just get the fuck away from me immediately. Seriously, just go!” and his face was beet red. With a deflated ego the girl scurried away and Carl saw her approach another man in the distance. He shook his head sadly and finally reached the phone booth. ~ Anna was waiting at the bar for what felt like forever when she decided she couldn’t escape the other customers’ flirtatious glances anymore. Sliding Carl’s backpack onto her shoulders and gripping onto his briefcase she ventured back outside to find him. She was sure the bar manager said to go left so she followed the sidewalk around the corner hoping to see Carl on his way back. But instead her stomach churned and her heart felt as though it stopped. Right there in front of her stood Carl with the arms of another woman around him. They were kissing passionately and tears instantly began to fall down her face despite her not being conscious of it. As she ran back to the bar she didn’t remember much of what the girl looked like except for the fact she was tall and blonde with enormous breasts. She was in shock, she didn’t know what was going on anymore, but the world swirling around her and the anger that burned inside her made her want to run. Her teeth began to hurt as she clenched her jaw in rage but what hurt most of all was the betrayal. Losing his trust made her feel as though she’d bottomed out and she wretched onto the sidewalk. “Men are bastards,” she whispered to herself. “How could he?” her thinking was carrying her away to a dark place. Pushing her way back into the bar she found the manager cleaning a table. Tapping him on the shoulder she saw his face light up as he saw her again. He saw her tears and his smile fell. “Hey… you ok?” “Still OK to get that ride?” she asked. ~ When Carl walked back into the bar he thought his eyes were deceiving him for a moment when he didn’t see Anna waiting for him. As he returned to his seat he desperately asked the barman. “You seen my girlfriend?” “The pretty red head who ran in here crying a minute ago? Yeah I seen her. And she just left,” “She left? Did you say she was crying?” “She sure was. Was sad as hell when she came back from outside,” he appeared to be enjoying breaking Carl’s heart. Suddenly the penny dropped as Carl realized what she must have seen. “FUCK!” Was all he could scream in the moment, “Where did she go?” “I dunno. I’m no psychic,” the barman sniggered and picked up a dirty glass. CHAPTER 24 Vultures were circling the people carrier as John Reiner traversed the dusty desert. He was beginning to feel dizzy but he was sure it was just because of the heat. As soon as he reached the house he could lie down and cool off. And it wasn’t long until he’d get there. If he was right then he was less than half an hour away. But he noticed as the day moved on he was starting to forget little things. He noticed he was getting confused at just the smallest task but again he put it down to the heat. Refusing to acknowledge the aching, growing wound in his side he only focused on getting to the house. He had family nearby and they’d help him for sure. That was if they remembered him though. An open patch of empty road stretched out before John and the effect of the heat on the horizon gave off a peculiar illusion. John was certain the road ahead was melting, that the landscape was swaying. But it wasn’t until he consciously felt the car move him from one side of the lane to the other that he realized he was veering off the road. Quickly righting himself he pulled the vehicle back into the center of the lane. He wondered what the hell had just happened. Had he momentarily gone mad? Had he lost his sight? Or was he starting to succumb to his injuries? He concluded that it was the heat making him tired and he drove on towards Monterrey. ~ Anna was sat in the passenger seat of the bar manager’s sedan clutching at the briefcase of money. “That bastard,” she muttered to herself. “That dirty dog,” Meanwhile the bar manager kept sneaking glances at her. “I’m Tony by the way. Just realized I never told you,” he felt so awkward in her presence he almost croaked out the words. “I’m Anna,” she grumbled. “I’m sorry I’m not much company right now,” “Oh don’t worry about such a tiny thing,” he smiled at her. “We’ll get you to the station soon,” “Thanks,” and she looked out the window to another strange town with new people and new accents, new experiences she couldn’t explore and different cultures she wouldn’t learn about. As the car pulled into the station parking lot she felt the need to hug Tony hard. He was both surprised and ecstatic and hugged her back eagerly. “Good luck kid,” he smiled at her. “And I hope whatever’s upset you goes away,” She waved goodbye to him and disappeared into the crowd. When she emerged out the other side she was scanning her eyes for a payphone. Delving into Carl’s backpack she found lose change swimming between his belongings. Stepping into the nearest booth she slid the coins in and felt the sweat on her palms as she clutched the receiver. “Hello Chicago PD, how may I help?” Anna hesitated for a moment before choosing her words carefully. Her voice shaking as she spoke, she hesitantly uttered the hardest six words she’d ever said. “I want to report a murder,” She filled them in making sure they knew every detail. “He’s in Corpus Christi right now. I left him in a bar called The Bison. About three miles to the south, just off the highway,” And she hung up with a heavy heart. “What have I done?” she stared into space for a second but she was too angry to think about it much more. All men were dogs who treated women like filth. At least that’s what was going through her mind in the moment. Making her way over to the bays she looked over the various busses about to depart. Her eyes caught sight of the nearest one that was heading over the border. She fumbled in the briefcase as subtly as she could then joined the queue to get on board. Holding her cash out to the bus driver as she climbed the stairs, she tried to stifle the tears flowing from her face. But it was no use and she could tell passengers were staring at her. “One way please,” ~ Carl was so enraged and panicked that he ran up and down the length of the street desperately trying to find her. Little did he know she had already boarded a bus… with all his possessions. When he exhausted himself he returned to the bar. “Have you seen her?” he felt like throttling the barman. “For like the tenth time, no I haven’t seen her,” Carl felt like crying as he climbed back on his stool. He pushed his fingers into his jeans pockets and counted what cash he had left. It amounted to $115. “Hey, can I get bourbon? Actually can you just give me the bottle?” and he slid over twenty dollars. “Look I don’t want you to get blind drunk and pass out here,” the barman explained glibly. “How about your find yourself a motel and crash there? If your girlfriend comes back I’ll send her your way,” Carl nodded glumly. “There’s a place two minutes from here. Just cross the road and take a right down that alley. They’ve got cheap rooms and cable TV, if you don’t mind the cockroaches,” “Carl slid off his stool clumsily. “Thanks buddy,” he clutched at the bottle of bourbon and made his way out the door. ~ Detective Callahan was sitting at his desk with his head in his hands. He had a migraine coming on and still had six hours left before he could go home. Not that he wanted to do that either. He thought back to his wife’s hollering from last night and felt his stomach churn. Suddenly another detective swaggered up to his desk with a crisp, new file. “Hey Callahan, that mob hit on the south side from earlier this week. That’s your case ain’t it?” “Yup,” he sighed and prayed he wasn’t getting more work to do. “Well we got a suspect. A Carl Reiner,” and he dropped the file on his desk. Callahan pricked up his ears at the name and hurried through the file. “Son of a bitch!” he declared. “Thanks buddy,” And the other detective walked away. Callahan fumbled in a hurry for his cell phone. Dialling Jerry’s number he jogged to the bathroom. Checking no one was in there he opened the file and began babbling. “Hey buddy,” Jerry sounded pleased to hear from him. “I got news! Your Mr. Reiner just turned up. Call just came in from an anonymous young woman who reported him for murdering her father, Thomas Martin,” “Holy shit!” “Yuh… but you better book the next flight south. He’s hiding in Corpus Christi,” “Sometimes you’re alright, Callahan. Regards to your wife,” and Jerry hung up. The detective shimmied back to his desk feeling like a disgraceful human being. ~ Jorge was still lying on the bed as the sunlight spilled onto his lithe body through the blinds. He blew smoke up into the air and watched it dance on the ceiling. He was listening in on Jerry’s phone call and it sounded like good news. Jerry hung up the phone and grinned. “Get your shit. We’re goin’ to Texas,” “Ah fuck,” Jorge couldn’t be bothered getting up from his bed let alone fly to the other end of the country. “Do I have to? I already put in overtime with old man Reiner,” “Stop being a jerk Jorge and move,” “Urgh…” and he stood up like a petulant teenager and pulled on his boots. ~ Anna was still in tears as the bus approached the Mexican border. Gripping hold of her fake passport she mentally pleaded that no one be suspicious of it. She wasn’t an expert on these things but as she looked at it she was certain it looked real. Plus she had her looks on her side and knew that counted for something. She couldn’t take her mind off Carl though. What was he doing? She’d replayed the moment a thousand times in her head. He was definitely kissing someone she was sure of it. But who was she and how did he know her? Was it just someone who looked just like him? Or was he falling prey to a moment of weakness? She cast her mind back to seeing his tall stature with the blonde buzz cut. And the way he stood with confidence. She even remembered seeing the way he slanted his posture to one side because of his back injury. It was him alright. The jerk. As she handed her passport over to the border guard she held her breath for what seemed like an eternity. But he seemed barely interested in it compared to looking at her body. He smiled adoringly at her as he handed it back. “Have a lovely day Miss Martin,” and he winked She smiled back falsely and hoped her tears hadn’t puffed up her face too much. Then she watched as the bus pulled away as they crossed the border. Her stomach lurched as they entered Mexico and she felt a peculiar anxiety within her that signalled both excitement and fear. Where she was going she didn’t know. All she knew was that the idyllic sun streaming through the window warmed and comforted her. Still clutching the briefcase she opened it while making sure none of the passengers could see inside. There was still thousands in there and she figured it would carry her a long way in Mexico. As long as no one robbed it from her... Then it hit her. She was a single teenager with a case full of cash in a foreign country. She didn’t speak any Spanish and she’d never left her home town until this week let alone know how to move abroad. “Fuck,” she cursed herself. The first thing she was going to figure out when the bus stopped was how to protect herself. She’d buy a handgun or some pepper spray. It was gonna be a steep learning curve. CHAPTER 25 It was dark when the plane arrived in Corpus Christi and Jerry had a stiff neck as it landed. He hated travelling at the best of times. Meanwhile Jorge was fast asleep and snoring loudly beside him. Jerry nudged him. “Hey pal, we’re here,” And the little Puerto Rican woke up looking dazed. “Urgh…..” “I hear ya,” Jerry sympathized with his discomfort. “Hey I’ll rock paper scissors you for the price of the rental car?” “Sure,” And as people began to stand up and grab their suitcases all around them, the two men shook their fists. Jorge showed Jerry scissors and he simultaneously threw rock. “Ah fuck. Fair enough,” Jerry chuckled. “You can buy me breakfast,” “It’s always with the food with you,” Jorge yawned as they stepped down onto the tarmac. After travelling through the airport they hired themselves a bland, dark green sedan. Jorge slid into the passenger seat and lamented the aesthetics. “What is this? A car or a God damn electric shaver? No shape, no soul. I miss my Buick,” and he thought back to where he left it. Alone and cold in the Chicago Airport he dreamed of kissing its hood as he arrived home. Meanwhile Jerry started the engine and headed in the direction of The Bison Bar. “It’s not far from here,” he spoke to himself as he tapped the details into the sat nav. And they drove in silence through the dark streets until they reached the dilapidated neighborhood. “This better not be a joke,” Jorge seemed suddenly angry. “I don’t wanna come all the way down here and not find him,” “Callahan wouldn’t lie to us. Believe me he knows better,” And out of nowhere the neon sign for The Bison came into view. A rag tag bunch of heavy drinkers and bikers hung out the front smoking and jostling at each other. “Lovely,” Jerry’s face drooped at the sight. “I hate dive bars,” and he parked a few yards away to keep his distance. Entering the building they found it to be packed tight with a colourful array of degenerates. The two Mafia henchmen stood out as they entered in their suits. Everyone turned to regard them with hostility as they approached the bar. “Save your bad manners. We don’t want a drink,” Jerry declared and slapped his hands on the bar which he immediately discovered was sticky. The gnarly barman looked relieved and picked up a towel to begin drying a glass. “Well what can I help you with?” “We’re looking for a guy. Tall, ex-Navy, cocky as hell,” “Oh, I know exactly where that douche is. Had a domestic with his girlfriend and I sent him over across the street to a motel. He was driving me crazy,” Jerry and Jorge looked to each other amused. Jorge’s eyes were sparkling as he imagined what he’d do to him. His fingers began to twitch with the excitement of anticipating a kill. “And where would this motel be?” Jerry leaned forward. “Fifty yards that way,” the barman pointed. “And take a right up the alley. You can’t miss it,” “You’re a good man,” and Jerry pulled out a fifty dollar bill and placed it in the barman’s top pocket. ~ Carl was lying face down in a stupor. Feeling both enraged and terrified for Anna’s safety, he couldn’t even imagine where she’d gone. And she’d taken everything he owned. He had that backpack through his entire tour of Afghanistan. It had survived a bomb blast but now sat on the back of a runaway teen who misinterpreted a situation and didn’t think to confront him. He was fuming mad when he checked into the motel, and almost penniless. Deciding he’d worry about the money in the morning he just wanted to drink himself into a coma as he pined after Anna. How could she leave him? He’d only known her less than a week but he felt as if he’d fall apart if he never saw her again. Despite her running off he’d take her back in a split second just to see her smile in his arms again. Swallowing three Vicodin and half a bottle of bourbon he fell asleep on the grubby bed. Luckily his senses were so intoxicated that he couldn’t smell the previous guest’s scent on the bedsheets. He drifted into slumber dreaming of holding Anna. When he woke, it was because he thought he heard the door rattling. But the noise stopped as quickly as it started and he drifted off again. When he woke again it was because it sounded like a lightning strike went off in his room. He smelled the gunpowder that rose from the small hole next to his face and he rolled over in time to see Jorge fixing the gun directly between his eyes. Moving quickly Carl threw the sheets up towards Jorge and rolled to the edge of the bed, and as his reflexes kicked in, he kicked Jorge in the chest as a shot rang out. Jorge stumbled back whilst raising the gun, and with the reaction time only a Navy Seal is capable of he lurched forward and grabbed Jorge’s arm, taking advantage of the brief moment of opportunity. Running forward with one hand on Jorge’s arm and the other on his chest, he pushed him up against the wall before throwing repeated right hooks Eventually Jorge’s expression dropped, his jaw slacked and his grip was soft enough for Carl to grab the gun. Firing three rounds into his chest, the little assassin fell to the ground and bled out. Carl watched as he took his last breath. Then with one last bodily spasm, he was gone. Jerry meanwhile was standing at the back of the room, and as Carl approached he started to plead for his life. “Hey! I was trying to talk him outta killing you,” he lied. “We’re old pals you and me. We go back a long way,” “How could you Jerry? I thought we were friends,” “We are! We are it’s just….” “Just what?” Carl asked although he knew what the answer would be. “It’s just what Don Angelo orders…. Right?” And Jerry fell backwards into the wall as a bullet hit him straight in the center of his forehead, tearing off a chunk of his head. It bled down his face and covered his shirt as he slumped to the ground. Carl looked to him with disgust. He knew there would be Mob revenge. He knew people would be sent to kill him, but he was disappointed it had to be Jerry. He rifled through the dead men’s pockets and took what little cash they had, and the car keys in Jerry’s pocket. Then something else fell out, his dog tags. He picked them up, feeling a moment of serendipity. As he ran out into the parking lot he pressed the button on the key fob and saw the flashing of headlights on a green sedan. Climbing in, he could still smell Jorge’s cigarettes and overpowering cologne. He looked to the clock. It was five in the morning. Checking his own pockets he felt his passport. “Thank fuck,” he whispered in the dark. It wouldn’t be long until the cops were here. There was no way no one heard the gunshots. More than ever he needed to escape over the border. Luckily the roads were practically empty at this time, and if he drove steadily and quickly he’d be in Mexico in two hours. ~ Anna had arrived in Monterrey hours ago and had no idea what she was doing. Walking the streets for hour after hour, she tried to dodge the admiring looks of strangers and look as inconspicuous as possible. But it was difficult with her flaming, red hair and ethereal complexion. She stood out more than anyone. Whiling away most of the evening she sat in a coffee shop and perused the local papers. She understood nothing but loved the look and feel of another culture. Then she saw an advert in one of the pages for a local art history museum. She ripped out the segment carefully and placed it in her back pocket. Now she was still walking the streets and absorbing the feel of the place. She knew she’d have to find a place to stay soon but right now she was exhilarated with the feeling of being somewhere fresh. She had money and her youth, what more could she ever desire to start a new life? But she knew she desired someone to share her new life with and the tears sprung to her eyes again. Walking passed a busy nightclub a middle aged gentleman in a beige suit caught sight of her. Chasing her down the street he tapped her on the shoulder. She spun round terrified and clutched at the briefcase tight. She knew there would a come a time when she’d need to stick up for herself. “Are you lost?” the man seemed genuinely concerned. “Are you alone?” he asked in perfect English. “I’m just on my way to meet someone,” she lied unconvincingly. “I don’t think I believe you,” he looked deep into her eyes as though he were trying to read her mind. “What are you really doing here? American girls don’t come here alone. This isn’t your average spring break destination,” he smirked. Anna couldn’t figure out if he had ulterior intentions or not. But exhausted, lost and deflated she relented. “I ran away,” “Oh?” “And I just arrived here,” “And you have nowhere to stay?” “No. But I can afford to rent a place,” she instantly regretted admitting she had money. He was going to rob her for sure. “So why Monterrey? Why not one of the usual hotspots for runaways? Maybe Tijuana? Cancun?” he was mocking her and she didn’t like it. “I just had an affinity for this place I guess. Thought maybe I’d bump into someone,” she slumped her shoulders and sighed as she wished she’d never left Carl. Thinking she’d probably made a mistake in seeing him with someone else, she surmised that stress can cause an anxious person to see just about anything. “You are a mysterious lady,” the man offered her a cigarette and she politely declined. “On the run, waiting for the universe to reunite her with a lost love. Am I right?” She nodded. “You could say that,” ~ The sun was rising as Carl reached the edge of the city. He hadn’t been back here in years and he was instantly hit with the memories of running through the landscape with his cousins. And then he thought of his parents. He shouldn’t have fled America without telling them. And he suddenly had a craving to hug his mother. It had been too long since he’d spoken to her and he was sorry she’d been caught in the crossfire between him and his father. Still…. She took his side and that was unforgivable. She should have cared for her child no matter what any man told her to believe. As he entered the center of the city he longed to see Anna again. There was just about nothing he wouldn’t do to hold her again, to say sorry for what she’d been through this last week. He couldn’t imagine what damage it had done to her. It wasn’t too far to his father’s holiday home but he had a niggling feeling that stopped him from going straight there. He thought back to Anna and he had to be honest in that he didn’t know her as well as he wanted to. It had only been days, not months or years. But still, he had a slight inkling as to where she might have been headed – that is, if she did ever want to see him again. He remembered back to a place his parents had taken him as a boy. “Don’t forget how important art is to human kind,” his father had said as he led him up the step. “It can give your mind wings and inspire you to do anything you think of,” The art history museum was close by and it was worth a shot. He had told her that’s where he would take her once they were in Mexico, after all. But when he parked the car and looked up at the building as it shone in the sun, he thought he was being ridiculous. She had mentioned she loved art, but what were the chances of her ending up here? She obviously hated him. He estimated it was astronomically small. She was probably halfway back to Chicago right now with his cash and his trusted backpack. He felt like shouting the word “bitch” but couldn’t bring himself to think of her that way. She was just doing what anyone would have done in that situation. Anna was only trying to protect herself in the craziest of times. He probably would have done the same. ~ Anna walked into the building as soon as the doors opened and yawned. She hadn’t slept at all the night before and had spent the last few hours sitting in a park hiding from people. The man in the beige suit had eventually left her alone after she lied to him, saying she had a gun in her briefcase. She didn’t think he believed her but it looked as though she was more trouble than she was worth. The museum was bright and airy and it was a pleasant contrast to the hot Mexican sun. Anna was still clad in her big parka coat. It was the closest thing she had to a friend right now and despite the growing temperature she kept it wrapped around her. She didn’t care how peculiar it looked. Meandering her way through the museum she loved the healing quality that the building possessed and the way it calmed her nerves. She loved the big open walls that were only covered in the most beautiful images and she loved the sculptures. It was a place of pure creation, a place that showed the potential of what the human mind had to offer. Art to her represented a meditational state of the human psyche. She thought people were in their true state when they poured their thoughts and soul into making something unique. After an hour she found that one painting attracted her attention more than any other. It was gloriously bright red, abstract and full of destruction. In a way it reminded her of herself. Sitting down on the bench across from it, she regarded the painting for a long time. The more she stared the more her eyes got lost in the shapes. Then she felt a weight on the other end of the bench. “She was just some random whore looking for business. I pushed her away you know,” Anna felt goosebumps as she turned to look at Carl. After spending so long on the run with hardly any sleep or time to think, she felt like she was in a dream. “That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard,” she turned to face Carl who looked as though he’d just been through a war. She thought for a second she could see tears in his eyes but then he blinked and turned away. “I didn’t think I’d be happy again until I could look at you,” he explained. “I can’t even believe this is real,” “I made a mistake Carl,” she threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his body as tight as she could. “But how did you know where to find me?” “A lucky guess…. When I said I would take you here, I didn’t think it would be like this.” They both smiled as they cosied into each other’s bodies. Then they kissed passionately. “Please don’t ever leave me again,” he begged. “I won’t, not ever,” and she clutched at the sides of his face and looked him in the eyes. As they climbed in the car Anna was deeply confused. “Where did this car come from?” “Urgh… I’ll tell you sometime,” Carl couldn’t bring himself to tell her about Jorge and Jerry just yet. “What did I tell you about mysterious secrets!” she was annoyed. But Carl just rolled his eyes and drove away down the open main road. “You hungry?” he asked. “Always! You don’t need to ask me that, you should just know,” she laughed playfully and leaned over to run her fingers through his hair. Soon they were pulling into the drive of John Reiner’s holiday home. It looked just as Carl remembered. Modest, but bright and spacious, with a lovely front garden covered in an immaculate lawn. Giant trees were scattered all around. “This is gorgeous!” Anna looked around as she jumped out the car. “Have you got keys?” “No,” Carl frowned. “But I’m an expert remember?” And he walked up to the front door ready to pull out his multi tool to force the door open. But as he got closer he realized the door was ajar. He pushed it open and could sense the presence of someone else, and a smell lingered in the air. Taking a deep breath he realized it was his father’s aftershave. Then something caught his eye. A photograph was lying in the middle of the staircase. He recognized it instantly as he picked it up. “Mom?” Then Anna came in the door behind him. “Carl… before we go any further I just have to tell you something. When I was mad yesterday I reported….” “Shhhh,” he interrupted her. Tip toeing up the stairs he wondered what he’d find at the top. As he reached the landing he saw the door to his father’s bedroom door wide open. He could see a man’s foot hanging off the end of the bed and it appeared to be covered in blood. Walking into the bedroom, he gasped as he saw his father lying face down on the bed. “Dad?”

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