The air over the phone gets heavy. She knows he is thinking about it, imagining it, fighting a battle between his brain and his dick. If it’s a fight between his brain and his dick, get the towel ready to throw and spare his brain a beating. If it’s between his dick and his wallet, though, then you got a fight.
Sweet Danny never has that issue.
Dick, every time. The needle on that compass always points true north.
Sex, sun, laughter and life.
She’s the more practical one, worries about budgets and expenses.
“Life pays for itself, darlin’,” Danny would say. “Sun comes up every day without charge.”
“I can get you across,” Carlos says now.
Fuck you, ’Los. Danny’s old friend, his amigo, sits there out by the pool in Ensenada drinking tequila, telling jokes, while he checks out my legs under the table. Big, heavy sensuous blue eyes, mane of silver hair over his big wide forehead. Turquoise jewelry, vain as a diva, always with a woman, most of them whores.
I should put one right between the blue and the silver, you think I’d dump Danny for the likes of you.
“Both of us, ’Los,” she says, “or it’s no deal.”
“Plus the 30, though, right?”
The man keeps his wallet in his front pants pocket, right by his dick.
“Yeah,” she says. “One night, I’ll do anything you want. Only you never tell Danny.”
Because that would kill him.
Worse than the bullet.
She’d say she did it because she loves him and he’d believe her and that would make it worse, not better. They could never look at each other again and that would kill her.
“I’ll get back to you,” Carlos says.
She clicks off and goes back into the bedroom.
Danny’s staring at a painting on the wall. A bad painting of a couple of horses in a field behind a white fence.
“I called Mendoza,” Shannon says. “He’s sending someone.”
“Let me just rest for a few minutes,” Danny says, “then I’m good to go.”
That’s Danny. Always the optimist, always sunny-side up, even his eggs. Tomorrow is always going to be better, you’ll see, baby. We’re going to be just fine.
That time after the job in El Centro. Sitting there with a bag of hot glass in the cab of an old pickup truck, lost as lambs on some desert back road and then the engine overheated. Out there where the sun can kill you if the cops or the coyotes—the human kind—don’t get you first and Danny hopped out of the cab and flipped open the trunk and he was whistling—whistling—out there in the sun as he fiddled and fooled around and then he slammed the hood shut, climbed back in and said, “Good to go, now which way is old Mexico?” and he looked at the sun like he was Magellan or something and then he pointed the truck and sure enough about an hour later they were at the border and Mendoza was waiting for them and Danny said, “I told you it would be all right.”
“You rest,” she says.
He gives her that brave smile. “We’re a team, baby.”
We’re a team, she thinks. Best gun-and-wheel team there is because the trust is there. It’s like Danny says, “No one wants to come out of that bank and see an empty sidewalk, have to hoof it or call a cab. You want to come out of that bank, open the door and roll.”
He goes out again now. Unconscious.
But pale, so pale.
Shannon sits down on the bed next to him and turns on the television. There’s the usual crap on—some judge dispensing small-claims justice, a family fighting in front of a TV shrink, all fake, all phony. Say what you will about life with Danny, it’s never fake or phony. Whatever it is, it’s real. The local news. Bank in Carlsbad robbed. Police are looking for—
She changes the channel. Cheap motel, no premium cable, no HBO or Showtime.
Why doesn’t Carlos call? She punches in his number. Busy. Okay, okay, maybe he’s working it, making his calls, setting things up.
That time down in Cabo where they went until things cooled off. The sun never stopped shining, beat down on her skin warming it she wore a big hat to keep it off her face because she doesn’t want her skin to be leather when she’s 40 and she’d lay out on the chaise reading magazines but mostly looking at the pictures wondering how she’d look in this dress or that one. And that one day Danny got up and went inside and stretched out on the couch to watch TV, he was so cute he was pouting and she went inside and asked, “What’s up?” and he said she looked so hot out there in that black bikini and the hat he just really wanted her and she said, “You can have me anytime you want, just ask,” and he did and also asked her to leave the hat on, like that song, and she did. Two weeks later it was all straightened out and they came back and drove all the way to Colorado and stayed in that cabin outside Steamboat that she loved.
Shannon opens the bag and counts the money.
Two hundred and thirty K, give or take. Not enough to retire, but even with Mendoza’s cut enough to get away for a while. Let Danny recover. Maybe that place in Cabo, maybe Cozumel. Somewhere sunny and warm.
If they can get there.
She hits Mendoza’s number again.
Danny groans in his sleep.
She only has one more ampoule and decides she’d better save it because he’s going to need it on the move.
It was supposed to be an easy bank. An old man of a bank, fat and sleepy. And it was. But out in the street some security guard on his lunch break had to be a hero. Wasn’t even the bank’s guard but some guy from the mall down the street. She saw him first and then saw Danny see him and she told Danny, don’t. Don’t. But he pulled his gun and now he has a bullet in his stomach, there’s a dead guard on the sidewalk and the charge is felony murder whether you robbed the bank or you just drove.
The needle or life without possibility.
She didn’t sign up for either.
Those days up north, in Little River. Just him and her, in the cottage overlooking the ocean, with the big fireplace. Stretched out on the rug, her long red hair a carpet of its own, him coming on her like one of the waves below the cliff, washing over her, she loved to feel his arms when they lock like that, holding her in place, her place, in his arms.
After they made love they were hungry. She threw on a black sweater and jeans and they walked up the hill to the hotel. Sat at the bar and ate nachos as they looked out the window at the ocean and joked with the bartender who had to be in her early 70s easy and had been behind that bar for 30 years, and when they walked back Danny said he’d never been in the same place for 30 days unless you counted jail and she said it didn’t count because it wasn’t by choice and anyway she liked this life on the road, it never got boring, it was like that song, Baby we were born to run.
“Did Carlos call?” he asks now.
It’s too bad he’s conscious, she thinks.
“Not yet. He will.”
Shannon turns her back to him, takes out her cell phone and holds it by her waist, goes to “settings” and then to “sound.” Slides the volume up so it rings, then quickly says, “Carlos?”
“Okay, okay, five minutes,” she says. Turns back to Danny and says, “Someone’s here in five.”
He tries to sit up.
“Wait, baby,” she says. “When they get here, we’ll help you, okay?”
He’s so weak.
The night they met Danny came to her e-room with a dislocated little finger pointed toward Reno. He hit on her right away, like every other drunk in Fallon. But Danny wasn’t drunk, he just started out with the whole “What’s a beautiful creature like you” thing and when she answered, “Patching up assholes like you,” he whooped with laughter. “You can wait a couple of hours to see a doctor,” she said, “or you can just let me pop it back in and give you a pill.” “Will it put me to sleep?” “Maybe.” “But you’ll tuck me in, right?” Usually that would get a guy a big needle in the ass but she knew she was going to do him that night and she counted “one,” “two” and popped the joint back in before she counted “three” and he said, “That was slick.” “You haven’t seen slick, slick.” “Well, I’d like to.” Later, in that dark studio apartment she kept in those days, she propped herself up on her elbow, smiled at him and said, “Well, we know you can do that. But can you drive?”
Oh hell yes he could drive.
He was a car thief, for Christ’s sake.
Could drive anything, anywhere, anytime. Been boosting rides since before he had a driver’s license, shit, he stole his first Big Wheel and made it all the way to downtown Deming before they caught him. Baby, I can drive anything with a gas pedal and if you want to throw in four tires and a steering wheel, well, that’s just a bonus.
Danny, her best and her last driver.