She climbed into the truck’s cab with a muffled sigh. The veiled mask over her head shifting to the right—it wasn’t a good fit.
“We all set?” Craig grinned ear to ear.
“In a sec.” She raised a gloved finger.
Craig drummed a beat on the steering wheel. “Telling yah, I already got three farmers lined up. They’ll pay through the teeth for this shit. With a hundred hives, we’ll be sitting pretty.”
She ignored him. Stared up at the full moon. Kept her right hand clenched. Felt like they were crawling all over her.
A knock on the back of the truck. Craig looked into the rearview and got a gloved thumbs up from Danny—the last minute helper she insisted upon. Danny turned and made his way back to his Chevy.
“You still mad at me?” Craig gave her shoulder a little pinch. “You’ll feel better once we get paid.” He leaned in. “Take off that stupid mask. You look like a fucking astronaut.”
“Not yet. The bees.” She forced the words out. Her leg bounced up and down.
“There ain’t any bees in here.”
“Yes there are.” She turned and opened her right hand. Pressed it palm side up against his face and released the handful of honeybees she smuggled into the cab. A small cloud of gossamer-winged fury spread to life over him. She knew the facts—memorized all the essentials. Her grip already had them aggressive, bouncing attack pheromones in their prison in the event there would be a chance to strike back. His initial yelp made them aware of his breath. Now he was a target.
Craig batted at the air. “Jesus Christ!” It made the cloud more aggressive. There were stingers left behind on his cheek and brow—even one on his lip. That would make things worse. Stingers pumped venom in and pumped pheromones out. Any bee still alive now had a singular purpose for the rest of their short, short lives: kill Craig Bailey.
He leaned over to the driver’s side door and pulled the latch. Spilled out to the ground in a thud, but couldn’t muster the strength to stand, so he rolled over.
She opened her door and climbed out. Walked around the front of the truck and found him where he landed. His breathing was ragged and shallow. His hands up in the air, fingers swollen and reaching for nothing. When she was next to him and the cloud was only a straggler force of less than ten, she removed her beekeeper’s veil and looked down on him. Craig’s head looked fit to pop. His eyes were swollen shut and his lips were in a permanent cartoon pucker. She noticed they got his one cauliflower ear—now the size of a tennis ball. A few bees crawled over their conquered territory. She thought she even saw one emerge from a nostril.
Craig wheezed. Grabbed at his neck.
She leaned down and frowned. “I ever tell you I was afraid of bees?”
“This?” She slipped a glove off and dug into his jeans pocket. Took out his epi-pen.
The epi-pen was sent flying into the darkness. “Yeah, no. See, I needed my cash back, asshole. Agreed to this after all that big talk you had about ‘easy money’.” She kicked his left flank hard. He was too far gone to react. “Then you take me here? With fucking bees?” She mounted him and began to punch his fat, blue face. Took care to aim at the remaining bees with each hit. Stopped when she realized he wasn’t breathing anymore.
Danny brushed her shoulder from behind. “Regina, we gotta go.” He helped her up.
“Motherfucker.” She spit on Craig.
“I’ll drive the truck, you take the car.” Danny smoothed her hair. Kissed her lips.
“Okay.” Regina walked to the Chevy. Heard the roar of the truck’s engine coming to life. Stripped off the rest of the beekeeping gear and got into the car.
* * *
Three miles into the drive back from the apiary, she noticed a lone honeybee crawling on her forearm. Flicked it out the window without a care.