He could feel the cool evening breeze in his hair, 90 miles per hour, windows half rolled down in his late model pickup. It was a cool brisk evening for the middle of summer in upstate New York, he reached under the seat to make sure his father’s service revolver was still there, it had been a gift from his father on his deathbed. The wind from the window dried the blood on his face, he lights a cigarette and realizes that his clothes were still soaked with blood. As he saw the city lights disappear in the rear view he felt the cold beads of sweat as they ran down his neck. As the streetlights disappear and the yellow lines become mere dots on the highway, he feels overcome by emotion. Why did I think any of this was a good idea?
Suddenly, all he could see were brake lights in front of him. As any normal man would, he braced himself on the wheel and stood on the brake pedal. The tires were screeching but the anti- lock system had failed, the vehicles ahead were still approaching his truck as fast as he could pump the pedals. Fuck! I didn’t even make it twenty miles out of town and I’m about to be in the middle of a pile-up. His head nervously shifting from left to right looking, hoping, for some kind of exit, there had to be a way out of this or he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. Absolutely blind, he cranks the wheel to the left, as the back of the truck kisses the back bumper of the grey Mazda Miata just ahead. The front end barrels across the grassy median and into oncoming traffic. “Fuck!” He’s shrieking in the cab, “how the fuck am I gettin myself out of this?” In a panic, he jerks the wheel to the left again, sixty miles an hour right through the median. Like a boss. He glances to the right just to see the barrage of sirens and police lights collected at the front of the pileup. Now, a little more in control, the truck maneuvers back onto the interstate, watching the mirrors carefully, hoping to god they weren’t paying attention to anything going on outside of the accident at hand, no lights in mirror, safe for now.
Continuing west on interstate ninety, he can’t shake the painful images from his head. The very reason he’s running now. The entire scene is on a video loop in his mind, the coffee shop, his old job, the last job, the last shot, and every last detail of the previous days fluttering on a video screen in his mind.
One year ago Mike was an average construction jerk. He would wake up every morning, make his coffee and take a shit. A regular Joe, he used to call himself. Smokes his cigarettes full flavor, coffee black, whiskey neat, and women a little crazy. Early thirties good build, strong and lean, but with a face of infinite comfort. Short brown hair and tender green eyes, pale with strong noticeable features, straight narrow jawline, thick well-trimmed beard, muscular neck and shoulders. A man of his trade, a carpenter by day and whiskey enthusiast by night. His Birth name was Michael, but everyone he knew always called him Shock. He would joke around with the others saying it stood for the Shock value that came from his sideways comments and twisted sense of humor, it was really because his last name was Shockency. Natalie didn’t enter into the equation until about a year ago, he had always looked back in fond remembrance of the night they had met. Not anymore, not after everything that’s happened! He desperately tried to shake the images in his head, those days seemed so long ago. Another lifetime even, yet there it was, just the next in a long line of reels to play on the screen of his mind.
He always met his coworkers at a bar called O’Flaherty’s on Thursday nights. The ads boasted of ten cent wings, live music, and dollar drafts. He could hear the band playing in the background while he waited for the others to arrive. “Jameson on the rocks”, he told the mid-sixties, short, red, Irish barkeep. As the thin old man came back with the order, Mike looked at him for a good long time before finally asking, “So how long you think you can keep this place up? It’s gotta be quite a bit to maintain almost all by yourself?” Dean O’Flaherty looked at him quizzically, thought for a few minutes, and slowly replied, his Irish accent almost entirely hidden by the years spent in this city. “So tell me Shock, do you ever sit around and ask yourself if you can still do your work? Or do you just do it? We have no questions to be asked, why would I even consider the idea of my physical inability to do the thing I’ve always done? Have you been a carpenter all your life?"
Mike looked down and mumbled into his glass, “For the most part yea I guess, I mean I had a few low level gigs when I was younger, food service, worked a hospital for a few months when I was in my teens, but yea I dropped out of school to learn carpentry when I was seventeen.”
“And since that day have you ever questioned your ability to do your job? Have you ever wondered how much longer you could keep up?"
“I can’t say I’ve had much time with the thought yet, but considering my occupation is one for the young and strong I will most certainly have to confront my own mortality within the next decade yes!”
Triumphantly, Dean asked, “And what will you do after? Once you are no longer fit for the job you have? What will you do then, will you have made enough money to survive long after you have killed yourself working in your field?”
“I always tried to avoid those thoughts Dean, this is all I have, it’s all I know, I build, I smoke, I drink, I fuck, and I fight. What else is there for me?”
“THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD YOU IGNORANT FUCK!!!!! Are you so goddamned stupid that you expect this and only this for the rest of your life? Are you so feeble and lacking of critical thought that you honestly picture your life as being over once you can no longer work? It sounds to me like your fucking lazy!!! Too lazy to make a change, too lazy to look inside yourself and see what your truly good at. You, Michael Fucking Shockency, are too afraid of yourself to realize the infinite potential that you actually have! Do you think this is it for me? That I just run this bar from nine in the morning until last call and that’s it there’s nothing else for me?”
In an almost defeated tone, Mike replied, “Well I don’t see how this place leaves you any time for the things you love.”
“I love myself, and inside that, all things are possible!”
Dean swelled with pride, “I lived a long eventful life before I decided to settle down in this shit town. I’ve been a refugee, a small business owner, a poet, an educator, a bar owner, an airplane pilot, a student. I have held many titles in this short existence of mine, and the one thing I have learned from it all, the one thing I took away from every experience I’ve had is to love and respect myself above all others. If I’m not to put myself first what good can I be to anyone else or humanity in general?”
Just as Dean was about to elaborate on his last point, the rest of the men from the site came storming in the backdoor, like a title wave of asshole to swallow the bar! “Hey, Shock you’re here early! Dean! Let me get two drafts and two shots of turkey! We got the new guy with us tonight! He thinks he can keep up, Shock, you think he’s got it in him?”
Shock looked up, in a dry unimpressed tone, “Sure if pussy means powerful and the Skins are the super bowl champions.”
The entire bar boomed with laughter! Dean was slinging drinks the whole length of the bar, pouring eight, ten, twelve, shots at a time. There was a certain eeriness to the amount of fun this old man experienced behind his bar. Everyone in the place agreed that Dean was far too content. He was filling draft glasses and sliding them down the old saloon style bar like an old school barkeep from the Wild West; he was in his glory. All of a sudden the new guy spins around on his barstool and everyone knew what was coming. Barely in his twenties, tripping over his own feet, and spinning in circles searching for a bathroom. Then it happened, in the middle of the dancefloor. He spat out all of liquor he had taken in, almost like a scene from The Exorcist. Projectile vomit spewed onto the white and black checkered floor, causing the two older women dancing, to run in panic, gripping their own mouths in route for the bathroom. Shock leans toward Dean and snarks, “Poor bastard has no idea he still has to work tomorrow.”
Dean sent someone to clean up the mess, and the guys picked up the kid and laid him in the back of Shocks pickup. Just as everyone was returning to the bar, they heard the back door open. The entire bar went silent except for the sound of the men’s jaws dropping to the floor, in quiet admiration of the biological perfection that had just stepped inside the door. A couple of the guys even lost grip of their glasses, causing them to smash on the hardwood with a sinister echo. Five foot five inches tall, legs clear up to the ceiling. Wearing black pumps and stockings to cover her luxurious long legs, a black pinstripe pencil skirt showed a slim figure, with intimately proportionate features. The white undershirt and pinstripe coat accented her chest in the most angelic fashion. Shock wasn’t sure if anyone even noticed her bright green eyes reaching out like a laser that could slice men in half. Her pale skin had just a hint of freckles, those eyes were the deepest green he had ever seen, and sharp enough to cut a block of ice. Her long straight copper hair graced her shoulders with the elegance of royalty, as she coyly asked “you guys gonna keep undressing me with your eyes, or can someone get me a drink?”
Dean marched down the bar and asked, “Well whataya have dear?”
“Tullamore Dew, Neat”
Almost in a whisper he replied, “We don’t stock Tully's here miss, can I get ya Jameson?”
“Sure whatever, make it Irish and neat, none of that pussy ice cube and water bullshit”
“OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO called you out buddy! Sittin there with yer cute little rocks glass and watered down whiskey! Shit, Mike she’s more of a man than you.”
He could hear the guys taunting him, he just sat with a smirk on his face, not paying attention to them, but lost in those deep green eyes. He had to have been staring at her for close to ten minutes before he finally realized he had just been caught. He watched as he saw just one small corner of those perfect red lips open up in a half smirk, almost nervously. He could feel his pulse quicken as he saw her stand up, now with an inquiring smile, and begin to walk toward him. “You gonna just smile at me all night cowboy or you wanna introduce yourself?”
“M…..m..Miike my name’s Mike. Tis a pleasure miss.” He hoped she hadn’t noticed, but he already knew.
“Why the pleasure is all mine Mike, are you sure that’s your name, you did stutter a bit?”
“Of course doll, I was just takin a bit off guard, wasn’t actually sure it was me you were walkin' up to.”
“And why wouldn’t I be? If my eyes don’t deceive me I’d say you’re about the only man in this joint”
You could hear the heckling of the crowd, “ooos” and “ahhs” and “hey waits”. The entire bar was focused directly on the two of them; like vultures around a cage match. Watching and listening with anticipation, trying to get a good listen. Shock looked around nervously, and asked if she would like to step outside for a bit more privacy, “You smoke darling?” With a slight smile shifting to the right of his face, he patiently waited for her response.
“Why yes I do Mr. Man”
“Would you care to join me out back, where we might indulge together?”
As they stepped outside he could hear everyone behind them talking shit, up until now there had never been any reason for him to exercise his vocabulary. He had only ever seen these guys on a construction site or the bar, there was no reason to use words these people wouldn’t understand anyway. He kept things simple at work, he wasn’t there to make friends, just a job and go home. Turns out the people he acquainted himself with weren’t used to this kind of of behavior out of him. One man at the bar looked at Dean, “why if I didn’t know better I’d say that bastard was smitten already.”
“I’ll say,” Dean replied. “I don’t think I've ever seen him like this”
Meanwhile, theres three men shouting from the door every move either one of them made, while the rest of the bar rats sat around hootin and hollerin about Shock and his brand new girlfriend. A couple of random shouts come from the crowd, and slowly they each go back to their drinks, as the two people outside finally get a chance to talk, “So now that I’ve rescued you from that pack of vultures inside, think you could afford me a name?”
“Well, I’m not sure Mike, what makes you feel like you deserve that type of sensitive information?”
“Well, darling I had assumed that when you meet a new person, it is only customary that you both introduce yourselves.”
“Oh is that so? And what in the world made you assume that I was a customary woman?”
“Well I suppose I would have to think about it, but at first glance I would say the way you dress tells me that you’re not from this type of area because were a little bit more informal, If I had to guess I would assume you were a lawyer, a psychologist, maybe a social worker? The way you hold yourself speaks of confidence and humility, and your smile shows me that you’re not afraid of our way of life, but it certainly isn’t the existence you have grown accustomed to yourself.”
“You sir, are quite an observant character. While just a hair sideways in your descriptions, your statements hold some relative accuracy. My name is Natalie.”
As she spoke, the syllables of her name seemed to float out of her deep red smile, as she held up her hand in customary fashion. Without hesitation, Mike lifted his hand to catch hers and raise it to his mouth. He bowed, barely noticeable, and gently placed one smooth soft kiss on the back of her hand. “Well I must say that it’s not only an honor but a privilege to make your acquaintance.” She giggled for a moment and then stepped back almost nervously.
“So tell me, Natalie, what in the world brings an angel like you to a trash can like this?”
Again she chuckled, “Well first you probably shouldn’t assume I’m an angel! Second I’m in town on business. I work for a law firm that specializes in cleanup. Messy scandals, broken marriages, accidental murders, I’m the fixer, I come in and clean up the mess. This could be my last ditch effort as saving my job.”
“Dare I ask?”
“Probably better that you don’t just yet, but maybe if you’re lucky, you might see me around again real soon.” With that she lifted the short glass to drain the last of liquid into her perfect red lips, slammed the cup on the railing outside, nodded to Mike, “good evening sir, it has been a real pleasure to share your company.” Before he could utter a syllable she had turned and began to saunter back to her car. He caught himself staring hopelessly at her ass as she scurried along. My god, what an amazing specimen of biological perfection!
He turned around and walked back toward the bar, fully aware of the heckling he was about to receive. He approached the door, reached out to grab it, nope, not tonight boys, I need to get out of here, I know the kindof ammo you guys were just given. He turned around got into his truck and went home.
He walked up the steps to his second floor apartment, the hallway smelled like mildew and cat piss. He had to fight back the urge to vomit nearly every time he went home. He slid the key in the lock and pushed open the door. As usual, he had left the light on over in the corner by the bed. His walls were lined with old vinyl records of the classic rock greats, Bob Dylan concert posters, and random empty liquor bottles placed in strategic locations, to make him feel like he was a man of class, even if it was low class, it’s still class.
Ninety miles an hour on the Ohio freeway, lost in thought and drowning in memories. Still, he has not felt a single tinge of regret. Everything that he had done, every decision up until this point, were just the building blocks for the life he was driving toward. What am I gonna do? Shouldn’t I have some sort of game plan? I know my father and grandmother still live on the west coast, I could go there and lay low for a little while. I can see what they have for work. Could I go back to being a carpenter though? After this entire year with her, would I ever be able to go back to a normal style life? Again, he began to think back to all of the memories they had shared together, but one single conversation, with one astonishing woman, had changed the course of his life, forever.
The second time they had ever come together, he was sitting in a small coffee house where he liked to grab dinner on Wednesday nights. Wednesday was open mic night, so anybody with a set of balls could sing, dance, tell jokes, or even stories. It wasn’t a large place in general, but had enough room to fit ten or twelve tables, made of old electrical spools and stained a dark brown. A small bar, made from pine, sat at the far left side of the room, next to the stage. The bar made sure to have room to fit the coffee pots, steam wand, expresso machine, a sink and plenty of room for mugs and plates. On the stage there was a young blonde girl, Mike estimated she couldn’t be more than twenty one or twenty two years old. He found himself fascinated by the way her fingers moved up and down the frets, producing a country jazz combination unlike anything he had ever heard. He walked up to the bar and ordered himself a tuna melt and a cup of coffee with an expresso shot. “Cream only”, he said just as she was about to ask. The barista happily filled the drink order and started the sandwich. He took his coffee and walked back to an empty table along the back wall. The young girl was moving onto her fourth of fifth song, as he sat quietly admiring her talents from across the room. Once the counter girl delivered his sandwich, there was no hesitation, he began to wolf it down. Suddenly, he heard a bell ring, and realized that it was the front entrance. As he looked over, mouth full of tuna and swiss, he almost choked as he made eye contact with the women from the bar. Looking as immaculate as ever, she stopped for a second, surveyed the establishment, gave an approving nod, and moved forward to place her order. He sat there, nervously trying to choke down the food still lodged in his throat. That same copper flowing hair, curled this time, danced across her shoulders on the white tank top she was wearing. He was fixated on her eyes, out of every immaculate feature on this woman, he could not look beyond those eyes.
As the barista returned with Natalie’s coffee, she gracefully picked it up and walked directly towards Mike’s table. “Mind if I join ya,” She asked softly.
“Why not at all gorgeous, the pleasure would be mine.”
She set her coffee down, and pulled the chair in behind her, as she sat down she lifted her head just enough to make eye contact. Pulling the cup up to her deep red lips she paused in his glance. After allowing herself a moment to gaze, she set the cup down and asked, “So where did we leave off at the bar?”
Mike paused for a second and responded, “I think you were about to tell me a little bit more about what you do.”
“My work? We can leave that for another monotonous conversation. What about you what’s your work like?”
He stuttered for a second, “Well to be honest it sucks, I kill myself for long hours all day for a company that couldn’t spell the word benefits if the dictionary was opened to the page. Don’t get me wrong, I do alright financially, the pay isn’t terrible, but the work is gonna start catchin up soon.”
She chuckled, “That’s tragic and all, buuuuut you still haven’t told me what you do.”
“Oh Jesus, sorry, I’m a carpenter. I work for the largest non-union commercial carpentry company in the state.”
Curious, she asked, “So you build things, like houses? Or sky scrapers?”
He chuckled for a second and replied: “Well both. We do a lot of jobs in the city, for the most part, we do medical office buildings, hotels, dorm rooms, and we actually just finished a fourteen story dorm house over by the college.”
“So you really are a real man?”
He looked up for a second, as if in deep thought, and nervously boasted, “In the truest sense of the word.”
“Is it fulfilling? Like is this the line of work that makes you happy?”
“Well, I started working in the building trades when I was about seventeen. In all honesty, it’s really all I know. There is most certainly a sense of pride that comes from being able to step back, look at something, and know that it wouldn’t be standing if not for you. I’m proud whenever I drive past any of the buildings I’ve worked on. It’s a tough trade and there’s a lot of people who just aren’t cut out for it.”
More intent this time, she asked, “But is it fulfilling? Is this the thing you feel like you were put on earth to do? Is this the legacy you want to leave behind for your kids? At the end of your life will you be able to rest easy knowing you’ve actually lived your life?”
“Those are some awfully deep questions doll. I’m not entirely sure how to answer. First, I don’t have any children, and at this point in my life, I feel like the older I get, the less likely it is to happen. So scratch that one.” He chuckled under his breath for a minute. “As for what I was put here to do, well I’m really not sure. I had a lot of dreams as a child, I wanted to be a fireman when I was six, by the time I was nine, I was convinced I was going to be a cop, and by thirteen I was fantasizing about how thrilling it would be to be part of a large-scale robbery of some sort. I’m pretty sure I have heist plans in an old trapper keeper somewhere, I’m into organized crime.”
They both started laughing so loud they interrupted the young man who was reciting a poem about: “Grabbing your life by the balls” and “How we should follow our internal inclinations, be spontaneous.” He said, speaking as if he had been publicly shamed, “Did you find something entertaining about that?” Mike stood up and apologized openly, and explained they were in their own little world over there. That’s when he realized that he had forgotten about everything else going on in the shop while they were talking. It was like the two of them had their own private room, and nothing could penetrate the doors. He hadn’t experienced anything like this since his high school sweetheart, who left to go to college years ago, ended up married with a family.
He felt his heart skip a little, and they leaned toward the center of the table to finish their conversation. He spoke softly “the last year or so I have had this one constant struggle, I’ve been struggling with whether or not this is the extent of my life. I feel like I haven’t taken a second to actually live. I just get up and go to work so I can pay my bills and fulfill my responsibility. It seems so dry and lifeless, it certainly isn’t the carpe diem I had expected of myself.”
“You do know you can start living at any time right?”
He looked at her curiously, “What do you mean? I can’t just up and leave my job, or just pack the truck up and move west, even after all the years I fantasized about running out west for a new start, a recreation of myself.”
With a more serious tone in her voice, she said, “Why not? What’s stopping you? What is it that’s holding you back from every dream you’ve ever dreamt?”
“My job, my home, my bills, my life, this is the life I have built for myself! What am I supposed to do, wake up one day and decide I want to live, then start robbing banks?”
She laughed, “Well I’m not saying it’s the best option, but lord knows it would be a start! Something to drag you out of this mundane existence you call a life. Haven’t you ever gone and done something just because you wanted to?”
“Aside from getting up and going to the bar, or maybe a concert that was coming around, I guess I haven’t. I just discarded all those crazy ideas as foolish. I won’t lie though, I have always had a Bonnie and Clyde fantasy. Man and Woman in love versus the rest of the civilized world!”
Quizzically and cold she responded, “So why haven’t you?”
“I guess its cuz I haven’t met that woman that awakens that part of me yet. I’ve always dreamed that a woman would come along and shred everything I thought I knew, help me rediscover myself.”
“What if you’ve already met her?”
He sighed, “I’ve thought about that too, what if I didn’t notice her, or looked past her, or missed my chance? What if my one true love is already in my past?”
Excited she asked, “What if she’s sitting right across the table?”
A smile twisted all the way across his overworked face, “A little early to confess your love for me isn’t it?”
“Well, we certainly won’t know if we don’t give it a chance!”
With a curious look, he said, “So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying we meet at your place later this week, and we can look over that trapper keeper you have!”
“You can’t be serious?”
“Serious as a heart attack!”
She leaned across the table and planted a small peck on his lips. “C’mon let's go for a walk.” He dropped a couple of singles on the table as they walked out arm in arm. As soon as they were outside, he heard the door close, he gently grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him. He could feel his heart, beating out of his chest, as he pulled her body close to his. With one hand around her waist, pulling her closer, and other with a small handful of hair, held at the base of her neck, he pushed his mouth into her deep red lips, as he closed his eyes, he could feel her warmth, and they both came together in an explosion of passion and lust.
When his attention focused back toward reality, he was blinded by the, “Welcome to Illinois” sign that reflected his headlights directly back into his eyes. Temporary blindness, just like love. Isn’t it ironic that we can look past just about anything in the name of love? Human beings will follow each other through the pits of hell, because it’s easier than being alone, they just label it love. People will overlook any shortcoming or character flaw for the sake of not being alone; how sad has our world become? He could feel the rumbling in his stomach and knew that he could use nourishment. He looked down and remembered he was still covered in blood, and with the sun coming up he was going to have to find a way to change soon. Beginning to feel the effects of all night driving, he could feel his eyelids gaining weight. His heart had finally calmed down from the near miss a few hours back, but he couldn’t calm his thoughts. Try as he may, there was no way of preventing the memories from surfacing. He thought about their first night, their first date, even their first job. Even though he was on the run, he couldn’t escape the fact that the last year of his life had been the most full, most explosive point in his life. Natalie was that woman, a better half, the peanut butter to his jelly. The one, as many people claim. Sometimes, maybe once in a lifetime, a person is shown a true reflection of themselves. They find that other half. The person who brings out every wonderful quality, at the same time surfacing every negative characteristic. That person that will set your heart on fire, to spend a lifetime with you in that inferno. That was Natalie, she showed me everything about myself, all the good, bad, or indifferent, she was my one.
He began to feel his eyelids growing heavy and decided that it was most likely best to stop off for a rest. There was a service station just ahead, he slowly pulled to the right so that he could park and rest. He found a parking place in the back right corner of the parking lot, there was a curb line that outlined the parameter of the area, with small patches of grass at each corner. He pulled the full-size white pickup into its place. He took great care to make sure the transmission was in neutral before engaging the parking break. He lifted the center console so that he could lay down on the bench and hopefully get a few minutes of shuteye. He remembered he kept a sweatshirt behind the seat, in case it got cold at night and he wasn’t home. He reached back to grab it, pulled it over his head and down his torso, He was surprised to find that the hoodie covered most of the blood stains on his clothes. Now I might actually be able to get out of the truck. I know my filthy ass sure could use a shower, and a shave. He slowly leaned towards the passenger side of the truck, and let his head come to rest on the passenger side arm rest. And he dozed off.
It took him a second to realize where he was and exactly what was going on. As his vision cleared he saw the large green marble floors and the renaissance pillars that reached up to the massive vaulted ceiling. Ornate detail every inch of the pillars, Greek maybe. Beyond the massive architecture he could see the teller booths, green marble countertops with dark wood partitions separating each of the tellers, and affording the clients some privacy. He looked around astonished as he began to realize where he was standing. He was in the main lobby of the Chautauqua National Bank. He hadn’t been here since the very first job they ever pulled together. All of a sudden he hears a feminine voice that has always reminded him of angels singing, and there she was, shouting orders in all her majestic mercy. “EVERYONE GET YOUR SORRY ASSES ON THE FUCKING GROUND!!! YOU START TO THINK FOR ONE SECOND I WONT PULL THIS FUCKING TRIGGER YOULL BE THE FIRST ONE WHO MAKES THE NIGHTLY NEWS.” He had to be dreaming. Natalie tossed him a burlap sack and told him to get the money from the tellers, just as she was walking forward shouting for the bank manager. “Who’s running this place? Where the fuck is the goddamned manager? Show yourself coward!!!” Just then a small man, well-kept and courteous, popped up from behind the counter. Just as quick as his head popped up from behind, her shotgun was raised to her shoulder, and he in the crosshair. “Go open your safe NOW!!!!” She screamed.
“R…Ri..Right this way ma’am”
As they disappeared into the back, Mike had jumped the counter and began pacing back and forth furiously waiting for the tellers to fill the bags with cash. What am I doing? Never in a million years would I have dreamt that I would be here on this day, with a gun in my hand? Robbing a bank? It’s too late now, I’m already in it, if you’re gonna do it, do it right ol buddy do it right. Just then he let a shot into the air while screaming “HURRY THE FUCK UP YOU DEGENERATES THINK I GOT ALL FUCKING DAY? LET’S GO!” The last teller handed him back the bag and he ran into the back to find out where Natalie was. She was standing in the safe filling up her burlap sacks while the manager stood nervously behind her. He walked up slowly behind the bank manager and put his left arm around the front of the man while he slid the muzzle of the Beretta 9mm into his neck. “Don’t make any sudden moves. Show us the back door NOW!”
Shifting uneasily he replied, “R..Right this way sir” The manager took them to the back door and punched in the code for the emergency escape. Shock stepped out first holding the door for his love. She said “Oh Wait a second” just as she turned around and lifted the shotgun up to the smurfy portly old man’s forehead. “Thanks for the help” she spoke quietly as she could feel her finger tighten around the trigger of the gun, as she squeezed the gun exploded with sound. The entire top half of the small man’s skull was separated instantly. As the shot penetrated his face, his body went limp and fell to the ground with an evilness that would have made devils shrink in fear. He looked at her and coyly asked “now was that entirely necessary?” He grabbed her by her hips and pulled her close to him, aggressively, he shoved his lips onto hers and kissed her with a passion that could have lit them both on fire. “C’mon we gotta get the fuck outta here!”
He was abruptly awoken by a knocking on the glass of the pickup. As his eyes began to focus, he noticed a man standing just outside the truck. The shiny gold badge on the man’s left breast was the first thing to catch his eye. Fuck, shit shit shit shit. What do I do? His thoughts shifted nervously he had absolutely no way out. He slowly sat up, making clear to the officer that he was very asleep when he was rudely interrupted. Finally, he sat up straight and began to role the window down. “C..can I help you officer?”
“Yes, what’s your name fella, you know you’re not supposed to be parked here for more than an hour?”
“No sir I had no idea, I was driving on the interstate when I started to doze off a little so I decided to pull in here and take a little nap.”
“You’ve been napping for close to thirteen hours son. That’s the reason I woke you up, the girls working said that you had been here since they finished their shift this morning, and found you still here tonight. All the girls inside, they all thought you were dead. That’s why I’m here.”
“Holy shit sir, I had no idea it had been that long, I was driving straight through the night though, that’s probably why I was out so long, I’ll bet it’s been a full twenty-four hours since the last time I even closed my eyes.”
“Maybe you should consider stopping sooner, either way, next time you get the idea to stop at a random truck stop for a short nap, make sure you let the people inside know that’s what you’re doing, otherwise a guy like me is going to wake ya up every time.”
“Thank you, sir I appreciate it. My apologies if I have caused any type of trouble.”
“You’re ok bud just make sure you stay awake and try not to die at any more truck stops.”
The officer nodded politely and stepped back to return to his own vehicle. As Mike watched the Chevy Suburban labeled Illinois State Police drive off, he finally let out one massive sigh of relief as the SUV disappeared from sight. He could feel a small amount of excitement rising from him as he put his foot on the clutch and started the truck. First things first, I gotta get myself some clean clothes and a bite to eat. He pulled out of the truck stop and made sure to get off at the very next exit. Luckily, that led to a commercial district in whatever small town he had landed in. There was an Applebee’s on the right, with an Outback Steak House right next door, the entrance road leading past the two restaurants opened up to a Wal-Mart supercenter. He put on his turn signal and carefully pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot. He ran in quick just to grab a few essentials. Razors, deodorant, shaving cream, body wash, shampoo, and a fresh change of clothes. After he paid at the register he walked right into the bathroom to get changed. As he was climbing back into the truck he went to put the rest of things he had just purchased behind the seat and that’s when he saw it. The light brown leather bag that had all of the money from the last job. There had to be at least half a million in cash, and he still had it on him. Shit, with all the bullshit I totally forgot that I still had half the money left. Well at least I’ll have money when I get out west.
He snatched a stack of twenty dollar bills out of the bag and organized them into his wallet, climbed into the truck, depressed the clutch, and started the vehicle. He knew that he needed to get some food or he might actually shrivel and die. He pulled back out on the main drag, heading away from the highway, searching for a place to grab a bite. Ahead on the left there was a place with a tall neon sign outside said “Rusty Nail, Brews, Booze, Broads, and of course FOOD.” He decided that would be the best place to eat quick, and get back on the road. Pulling in he noticed that it was made almost identical to an old west cabin. Massive logs layed on top of one another, interlocking on all four corners of the building. As he parked and walked inside, he noticed all of the wooden fixtures all around the bar. Deep cherry colored paneling lined the outside walls, a smooth redwood bar right in the center, surrounded by homemade looking barstools. Shaved twigs held up the base and the backrest, while cross-sections of pine made the seat, all stained a deep red, but still allowing the tree rings to show. Rustic, from the debarked logs that made the base of the bar, to the moose antler chandeliers. He liked it. This is the kind of place I could come for breakfast every day. After surveying the room, he nodded in approval and moved forward to take his place at the bar, directly in front of one of the flat screen TVs playing the news. He sat and looked around at the few people who were obviously here for an early liquid lunch. There were two older men in the corner, directly across from him. Balding white hair, button up checkered shirts, and beards, big white bushy beards, with leather cuts on their backs from some local M.C. He couldn’t make out the patches but he knew that’s what motorcycle clubs wore to show who they are. I’ve always wanted a bike he thought, and there will be no shortage of bikes out west, and I get an extra four months to ride!!!! Well now I’m getting excited.
A mid-thirties brown haired woman approached him asking how she can help him. “Well it’s early so how about a Jameson and ginger ale, could I also get a bacon cheeseburger with swiss please?”
“Anything you need darling, let me put this order in and I’ll be right back with your drink.”
She seemed to float across the hardwood floor, as she was walking away, he closely examined her features. She was short, brown hair, brown eyes, generous rack, and an ass that almost knocked him off the stool when she turned around. She had to be about his age, he turned thirty back in February, he and Natalie had celebrated together. They went and got the honeymoon suite at the Homewood Suites, the same place she stayed when she first moved to town. Suddenly, his attention was turned to the television screen as he heard the news anchor, “ATTENTION EVERYONE, AUTHORITIES ARE LOOKING FOR A MAN WHO RECENTLY ROBBED THE COMMUNITY BANK IN CLIFTON SPRINGS, NEW YORK. THIS MAN MICHAEL C. SHOCKENCY OF CLIFTON SPRINGS, AND NATALIE SMITH OF MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, WALKED INTO THE COMMUNITY BANK IN CLIFTON SPRINGS WITH GUNS DRAWN AND PROCEEDED TO ROB THE BANK AT GUN POINT.”
He was in shock, staring at the television while his picture filled the small screen. He looked over and realized that everyone in the bar was looking directly at him. “SUSPECT IS CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APPREHEND SUSPECT YOURSELF PLEASE CALL LOCAL AUTHORITIES.”
FUCK!! He looked over to the bartender and saw her picking up the phone and that’s when he realized he needed to bail. He spilled his drink and knocked over the home made wooden stool on his way to the door, in a dead sprint he ran and jumped into the pickup truck. He pulled the break release as he jumped in. As he began to roll backwards, jammed it into reverse, depressed the clutch and turned the key. The truck fired up with a roar as he put it into first and dropped the clutch leaving a trail of rubber and smoke behind him. He reached under the seat and grabbed his father’s pistol, tucked it neatly underneath his right leg so he could get to it faster. As he red lined through all five gears he pulled back onto the highway and began heading west again on interstate 90. Checking the rearview in hopes that she hadn’t caught the license plate, or make and model. As he was rolling down the interstate at 90 mph, he knew as soon as he hit 100 the engine would shut down. He needed to keep a steady ninety. He knew they didn’t have a description of this truck because they had stolen a Porsche as the getaway vehicle, he had parked five miles away, so nobody would know they made the switch. As he heard the news anchors voice in the back of his head “suspect is considered armed and dangerous, do not try to apprehend the suspect yourself,” he felt himself drift back to that one last job.
This was supposed to be the last one. Once they hit the bank downtown they would have enough money to move away and start again. They had planned meticulously. Everything down to the exit route was planned out. When they showed up they stole a Porsche from a garage the next town over. They had a friend that knew the owner, it was well-known the owner was in Florida for two weeks out of every summer, it would be at least a week before they were home, making the car was a safe bet for temporary use. He drove the Porsche behind her while she parked the truck in the back parking lot of an abandon building. Once parked, she jumped in the car with the duffle bags and began loading the shotguns. As soon as each sawed off had five shells in it she reached in for the revolvers. His was a Colt .45 he had gotten from his father on his deathbed, and hers was a Berretta 9mm she had taken from a former client of hers. She was sliding the full clip into the berretta as he pulled up in front of the bank. He left it running as they slid the pistols into their belts behind their backs and let the shotguns hang under their coats. His pulse quickened as he felt beads of sweat gather on his forehead, his breath was short, Natalie gazed for a second before she spoke, “One deep breath, get it together, if this goes right were out of here to start the life we want. Let me ask you one question Mike.”
“What’s that babe?”
“HAVE YOU EVER FELT SO FUCKING ALIVE?”
Triumphantly he hollered, “NEVER BEFORE MY LOVE, ARE YOU READY?”
“I AM DARLING!”
The bank doors swung open, as they both let a shot into the air. This time he took control, his deep, raspy voice booming throughout the bank. “EVERYBODY GET ON THE FUCKING FLOOR THIS IS A ROBBERY. ANY ONE OF YOU MOTHERLESS FUCKS MOVE ONE GODDAMN MUSCLE I MAKE YOUR KIDS ORPHANS YOU UNDER FUCKING STAND?”
She tossed him the leather bag as he walked over to the countertop. The bank had short dropped ceilings and black marble all around for the desks and countertops. This one was like all of the rest, wooden partitions between each of the tellers, with the safe located on the back wall. He jumped over the counter pointing the shotgun at each teller as they filled the leather sack from their cash drawers. She grabbed the manager, a small, older woman, with white hair who was more round then tall. Natalie spoke to her: “you’re gonna open that fucking safe for me within the next thirty seconds or you’re every birthday and Christmas from this point forword.” The manager shrieked as Natalie shoved the sawed off barrel into her back. “Go Now CUNT.” Nervously, the manager walked briskly over to the safe door and began to put in the code. Just as she was walking into the safe room she heard a gunshot blast, and Mike screaming: “I TOLD YOU NOT TO EVEN CONSIDER THE SILENT ALARM MOTHERFUCKER! GUESS YOU WONT MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN!”
Natalie peeked around the corner just in time to see the brain fragments settle on the counter, and the first few people who were in line. “ANYBODY ELSE THINK THIS IS A FUCKING JOKE?” Mike belted into the silence. After the last teller emptied her drawer he ordered them to jump over the counter to lay with the patrons, that way no one would be tempted to hit the alarm. He followed the small hallway that led behind the front corner office and went to the safe. As he arrived at the safe door he saw her trying to stuff more money into the bag then would fit. “Let’s go babe we gotta get outta here.” He pulled the sawed off up to his shoulder and put the bank manager in the center of the sights. He felt his heart skip a little just before he tried to squeeze the trigger. “I cant do it.” He said as he lowered the weapon.
“You have to!” Natalie belted. Finally, without a second thought, she pulled the Beretta from the back of her waist line. She mumbled, “Somebodies gotta.” As she slowly squeezed the trigger, the shot rendered them temporarily deaf. As soon as the shot pierced the old woman’s face, they both watched as her limp corpse fell to the floor with everything above the lower jaw sliding down the walls of the safe. They wiped the blood off their faces and, they both turned and started to bolt for the door. They were about three steps away from the door when they heard “FREEZE POLICE. TAKE ANOTHER STEP AND ILL PUT ONE IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEADS.” They wouldn’t stop, they couldn’t and as soon as they both had their hands on the handle of the main entrance they heard one solitary shot from the service weapon. He looked over to her just in time to see her face separated from the rest of her head. Her face detached entirely and bounced off the door, their momentum driving her straight into the door He watched as her limp body slid down the glass, leaving streaks of blood in its wake. Natalie, MY GOD NO!!! He grabbed his daddy’s gun from his belt line and pulled it up just in time to put one in the pigs forehead as he was about to take the second shot. Tears running down his face he turned around and ran out the door. He threw the bag of money and the pistol into the passenger seat of the Porsche, jumped into the driver seat and took off. He drove as fast as he could straight to the truck, he threw the money behind the seat, put the gun under the front of the seat, started the truck and headed towards the highway.
As his focus shifted back to reality, he looked into the rearview mirror to see two patrol cars behind him. Red and blue lights were flashing as they were following close. Further in his mirror three more, one motorcycle, were gaining on the first two. One pulled up on his driver side while the other stayed tight to his rear bumper. The pig on the driver side was motioning for him to pull over. Mike looked at him, smiled a jovial smile, and raised his middle finger as he dropped the truck in fourth and tried to pull ahead. As his back tires moved up next the cop’s front bumper, the officer jerked his wheel to the right, at ninety miles an hour! He could feel him losing the ass end of the truck as he tried to compensate in his steering. Battling each other, he tried to brake fast, in hopes the one to his left would miss and pull past him. As the cruiser pulled ahead of him he felt the front bumper of the car behind hit his ass end. Because of the speed, the trucks rear spun around just in time for him to slide into first and drop the clutch. Now heading towards the other three oncoming police, he jerked his wheel to the right, pulling into the grassy median, and over to the eastbound land. How many times in a 48 hour period am I gonna play this game? It wasn’t long before the five police vehicles had turned around and were coming up behind him, fast! This time the cops didn’t waste any time. One on each side of him, and the other three behind, they had him boxed in. The officer on the right dropped back so that his front bumper was even with Mike’s back tires. He could feel himself losing control as the officer collided with his back tires. Fuck!! He could feel the rear start sliding around again, but this time the cops had all the control. As he was sliding he felt the sideways tires catch pavement. As the passenger side tires gripped the road the truck lifted itself into the air.
From inside the truck the world was spinning as the vehicle lifted a good twenty feet off the pavement and flipped twice in the air. The gained momentum caused the truck to flip 4 more times after landing. Just as he was ejected out of the passenger window into the air he realized he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. The officers watched as his body shot from the truck like a bullet and landed in the field next to them. The public servants then exited their vehicles and began running over to him. About this time six or seven more police vehicles pulled up to the scene. Cruisers and suv’s, all parked and emptied out a small army of police officers. Somehow he managed to grab his pistol in the mist of the crash. He knew he only had five bullets left, but at least he was a good shot. He thought to himself this is where my life ends. I’m not going to prison or the chair so I’m takin as many of you cocksuckers as I can and I’ll let someone’s god figure it out, at least I’ll die actually living!
Laying in the middle of the field he tried to get up and realized both of his legs were broken. He was once again covered in blood but at least this time it was his own, and not the love of his life’s blood. He gripped the pistol in his last moments. Eight or ten officers were running up him with their service weapons drawn, him in the cross hairs. He lifted up the arm that wearily clenched the gun. As soon as the gun was high enough for him to take sight he felt a barrage of bullets ripping through his torso. Emptying the wind from his chest, he tried to let off the rest of the bullets in the chamber. One officer caught one directly in his shoulder, and another in his chest. Weaker now he just himself fall backwards, while the pistol fell out of his hands. Fighting for his last few breaths, images of her danced through his head. His last moments spent inside his own mind fantasizing about the love of his life. At least I can actually say that I lived. He still couldn’t breathe and he could feel his heart rate slowing down considerably. He let his head drop as the militia of officers surrounded him, watching as he tried to take his last breath. With every ounce of energy he could summon, with blood spilling out of his mouth, adding to the puddle he was already laying in, he said his last and final words: “Don’t ever be afraid to acutally live!” His body went limp, one of the officers reached down and placed two fingers above his eyes and pulled his eyelids closed.