“I hate Florida.”
Mitch looks up at me, startled. “Crud, Billy! You almost made me crap my pants!” He frowns at me. “How long you been standing there?” Reaching across the bench, he casually picks up the orange that’s been sitting beside him for the past fifteen minutes.
“Long enough,” I say.
He shrugs. “So I guess this is it, huh?”
“Yeah, it is,” I say, slapping yet another mosquito trying to burrow into the back of my neck. “Man! These things are everywhere! I’m dyin’ down here!”
“Can’t take the heat, huh?”
“Better’n Vegas, that’s for sure,” he says, frowning. “That place is messed up.”
I stare at him, sizing him up. “So, level with me. Why’d you do it? I mean, you seriously thought you could steal sixty-seven thousand and skip town?”
He shrugs again, staring out across the bay. “Had to try.”
I shake my head. “Mitch. You’re not some hotshot, big league pitcher anymore. You’re done. A has-been whose only play left is pitching money away on sorry bets.”
“Says you,” he mumbles, tossing the orange between his hands. He’s obviously hurt. Or angry. Or both.
“Says me? Buddy, I been watching you for a week down here. Everyday it’s the same. You sleep all day, eat a sub from the corner shop an’ then come down here with your two freaking oranges to watch the sunset.”
“Every. Single. Night.”
“So what?” he says, sounding irritated.
“So what? Don’t you see? Mitch. You’re pathetic. A washed-up belly-itcher who screwed with the wrong guys, an’ now they sent me to clean up your sorry mess.”
Mitch nods, says nothing.
“So where is it?”
“Where’s…” I shake my head, exasperated. “The money, you moron!”
He shrugs. “Spent it.”
“In Vegas. Where else?”
“All of it?”
“Pretty much,” he says, then cocks his head. “Why? You want some?”
“Crap, Mitch. You really are a loser, you know that?”
“Well, that’s what you keep telling me.”
I stare at him and shake my head, sweat soaking a slick streak down the back of my shirt. “Look,” I say, removing my knife from inside my jacket. “I’m not sadistic or nothin’. I can make it quick. One deep cut and you’ll bleed out. It’ll feel like going to sleep or something.”
He snickers. “Or something,” he repeats quietly, shaking his head slowly. He stares out at the sun, still fiddling with the orange in his hands. “Guess everybody dies sometime,” he says, getting up from the bench.
“I’m not gonna run…”
“Good. ‘Cause I’m not in the mood.” I take a step forward, then pause. “There’s one thing I gotta know, first.”
“Oh yeah? And what’s that?” he says, frowning at the ground.
“What’s with the other orange?”
He looks up at me, confused. “What?”
“The orange.” I nod toward his hands. “Every single day I been watching you, an’ every single day you come out here at sunset, sit on the bench and eat an orange. Then a half hour later you pitch the other one into the pond and walk away.”
“You saw that, huh?”
“So I like oranges…”
“So, is it some kinda therapy or something? Somehow makes you feel better about your crap life?”
Mitch stares at me. “Look,” he says finally, “I’ll tell you the answer, but I got two problems.”
“One, you’re not going to believe me.”
“You won’t like my answer.”
A sneer flashes across my face. “Try me.”
He suddenly flashes a grin at me, and I notice he’s planted his feet a split-second too late. The look in his eye flips from dejected to determined.
He cocks his arm back and I know I’m in serious trouble.
“It’s frozen,” he says.
My left eye explodes as the iced orange pegs it dead center, shattering my skull. A thousand diamonds dance through my head, and as I hit the ground and start to fade, a singular, final thought shoots into the forefront of my mind.
I really hate Florida.