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By Sun & Lightning
  • January 05, 2014 : 23:01
  • comments

The lights crackle and flicker before they come on.

She helps him to the bed and gently lays him down.

“Baby,” he says, “I’m hurting.”

“I know, baby,” she says.

Shannon breaks the ampoule of morphine, pulls the drug into the syringe and finds a vein in Danny’s arm. A former nurse, she’s good with a needle and injects him smoothly.

The morphine will ease the pain. It won’t stop the bleeding.

Danny won’t bleed out.

He’ll bleed in.

“Baby,” Danny groans.

His pain is hers. It stabs at her. Hurts her heart.

“It’s okay, baby,” she says. “It will take a minute for the morphine to kick in.”

She strokes his hair. His face is pale and sweaty.

Danny hollers and grabs his stomach. Shannon pulls his hands away. “Don’t do that, baby.”

Don’t touch the wound and don’t yell.

Motel walls are thin and there was a TV in the office. The six o’clock news will be on soon and if there’s a story about a bank robbery the woman behind the desk might get ideas and make a call.

Shannon pulled off the road first chance she got, Danny crumpled up in the passenger seat groaning and holding his stomach. One of those motels with the separate cabins, like in the 1950s, she guesses. Maybe it was the 1930s. She pulled the car into the driveway behind a big tree.

He could have died while she checked in.

Got a room, got a key—an old-fashioned real key, not one of those plastic cards—checked to see no one was looking and then got him out of the car. Propped him up against the wall as she got the key in the lock and the door open, then laid him down as gently as she could on the bed.

Mustard yellow spread.

Cheap.

Ugly.

Bloodstains on it, now they’ll have to throw it away.

“Gotta get a clean car,” he says through clenched teeth.

Then the morphine hits him like a sucker punch in a biker bar. His fists unclench, his head falls back, his eyes focus on a place that only he can see, a place that’s near and somehow far away.

She looks at his stomach.

No exit wound—bullet still in there, already starting to infect. Low-caliber, low-velocity piece of shit. Goes in, doesn’t go through. If he doesn’t have a fever now he will soon. She takes tweezers from her bag, splashes alcohol, then picks shreds of his shirt out of the wound.

She remembers the shirt. That time in Arizona, up in the mountains, that town with the weird name what was it—Sho-Lo. They drove around it seemed like forever to find a place for dinner and when they did there was this great guitar player who could play everything and Danny gave him a $100 bill and asked him to do Sinatra tunes and they danced. The only ones on the floor, everyone watching them and she knew how good they looked, him with his black hair and flashing white teeth, her with her long legs in the black heels and her red hair swirling and when they danced slow and close she could feel him pressed against her and he told her all the things he was going to do to her when he got her back to the room and he did he did all those things and the next day they hit the bank in Payson and that night she bought him that shirt in Scottsdale, one of those soft summer desert nights, a flowered Hawaiian that she said made him look like Montgomery Clift in that old movie she couldn’t remember the name of and he told her it was From Here to Eternity.

Now she dumps sulfa in the wound and then gets a compression bandage on it.

There’s nothing she can do about the internal hemorrhaging. He needs a hospital, surgery, and even then it could go wrong. A bullet in the stomach—the bleeding, the infection, the sepsis. He could make it through the initial trauma and still die, days or even weeks later, and then he dies bad, he dies ugly. Beautiful Danny dies ugly under the sickly yellow light of a hospital room.

But there isn’t going to be any hospital anyway.

Not on this side of the border.

Walk into an e-room with a bullet wound and that’s it. They’re reading Danny his rights as they’re rolling him into the OR.

You too, Shannon thinks, because this isn’t hard to put together. They’re already looking for a man and a woman, the man with a bullet in his gut, the woman pretty with long legs and long blonde hair, and that reminds her to take off the wig, not that it will slow the cops down more than a few seconds. You take him to the hospital here it’s a death sentence for the both of you—life without parole, the same thing—because there’s a dead guard on the sidewalk outside the bank.

She has to get Danny to the other side. Across the border. A Mexican hospital, a Mexican doctor, sounds sketchy but the truth is that the Tijuana doctors are great and God knows they see enough gunshot trauma.

They’ve crossed the border hot before, but never bloody. First time they did Danny said it was like The Getaway and she asked him which one, the new one or the old one, and he said, “The old one, baby, the only one, the one with Steve McQueen.” Danny loves Steve McQueen, could watch Bullitt all day and all night, come on, that chase scene, of course Danny could.

So she has to get Danny to Mexico but Shannon’s not even sure she can get him back in a car. Getting him out was hard enough. She’s a tall girl but not a big girl, and she had to jerk and pull. Agony for him. She finally got him under his shoulder and dragged him into the room, but she’s not sure she can carry him back out.

Or that he’d even survive it.

She opens the curtains a sliver and risks a look out into the parking lot. Even though the window looks out to the east and not the west the sky is crimson. One break is that it’s winter and it gets dark early. The motel’s neon sign comes on—pink against the crimson.

There are only four other cars in the lot—a Camry, a CR-V, a Lexus and a Bimmer—and she wonders who they are. Tourists on a budget, or travelers who just like the funky places, or married lovers squeezing in a dirty hour before they go home to their spouses. It’s going to be hard, she thinks, to explain how the car got stolen from the Surf Inn.

She’ll boost one of them but she wants to wait until it’s darker.

Shannon goes into the bathroom and shuts the door behind her. One fluorescent light on the ceiling. A shower with a plastic curtain, toilet, wall heater, the porcelain on the sink is chipped. She scrubs Danny’s blood off her hands, watches it swirl diluted down the drain. Then she digs her cell phone out of her jeans pocket and hits Mendoza’s number.

They can trust Carlos, worked with him for years.

He answers on the first ring.

Shannon says, “He got hit—”

“I saw the news. I already have a doctor.” Mendoza’s voice is calm, steady, soothing, a relief.

“I can’t get him there,” she says. “Not by myself.”

Even if I can get him in the car and down to the border, she thinks, I can’t get him across. But Mendoza’s people can. They’ll know which line to get into, which agent is on the arm. “Can you come get us? Send someone?”

“That’s not our deal,” Mendoza says.

Their deal is he protects them on the other side. Them getting there is not his problem, and he’s not going to risk one of his people sending him into the shit to pull them out. One thing to hump dirty money over the border, or even narcos on the run from a grand jury gone bad.

A whole other thing to run bank robbers who are fresh hot and bloody, one of them with evidence in his belly.

She gets it.

They go back, but business is business.

“It could be the deal,” Shannon says. “I’ll sweeten your taste.”

Because business is business. In the silence she hears him thinking about it.

“How sweet?” Mendoza asks.

“Thirty? That’s a 10-point bump.” Ten more points on money we earned. We took the risk, we took the bullet, and I’ll give up a third to get Danny across the border to a hospital.

“I don’t know,” Mendoza says.

What don’t you know, you greedy prick? “Okay, how’s this deal? How’s the deal where we take our business somewhere else in the future?”

He doesn’t answer and Shannon knows he’s debating whether there’s going to be a future, so she pulls up the past. “How much money have we made you over the years, ’Los?”

An appeal to loyalty, she thinks, in this business. And it gets the answer she expects.

Silence.

If money won’t do it and loyalty won’t do it, she has to find something else.

“You get us across,” Shannon says. “I’ll come across.”

“What are you saying?”

“You want a dictionary?” she asks. “Come on, ’Los, I see the way you look at me when Danny turns his back.”

You’re in her business you know your assets. It’s not a matter of ego or conceit, it’s a matter of inventory, knowing what you have on the shelf. You give money away, it’s gone, you give points—gone. You give what you have between your legs it’s still there in the morning. A little of yourself is gone, but she knows there’s a lot of her, she’s more than that, and she’ll do it for Danny.

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read more: entertainment, fiction, issue january 2014

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