Dave drove the yellow Crown Vic while I sat in the back, tapping a can of pepper spray against my knee. Earlier that evening we had attached an advertisement board to the car’s roof and stuck taxi decals on its sides.
We slowed in front of an alley that was squeezed between a paint-chipped office building and a Vietnamese restaurant. Like the rest of the street, both buildings were dark and looked empty. We were ten minutes from the drunken shouts and neon lights of the nightlife district, caught in the shadows of a city where residents wait out the night behind barred windows and locked doors.
“This is a good spot,” Dave said.
I got out and walked into alley. Dave drove to the bars. Letting my eyes adjust to the dim light, I leaned against the cool brick wall and waited for him to return.
When Dave arrived, he was smiling at the rear view mirror and talking to whoever wasn’t smart or sober enough to realize they weren’t in a real taxi. He pulled into the alley and I jumped out and opened the door. Inside was a woman, maybe fifty years old. She didn’t look scared, just confused.
Confusion turned to hysteria when I squirted her in the face with pepper spray. She screamed until the spray clogged her throat and then she gasped for air, her arms wrapped around her face, her chest heaving as she sputtered snot drenched coughs. My own eyes began to sting so I backed out of the car and slammed the door.
Dave drove further into the alley and I jogged after him. He stepped out of the car with the woman’s purse and tossed it to me. The woman got a few screams out before Dave pistol-whipped her. He dragged her to the side of the alley, her heels scraping pavement. She didn’t move after he dropped her.
“That was easy,” Dave said. “Let’s get out of here.”
I opened the car door but my eyes started to sting again. “It burns just to look in there,” I said.
“We can wait a minute for it to air out,” Dave said. He pointed at the woman, who was still sprawled, eyes closed and mouth open, where he had dropped her. “She won’t cause any trouble.”
I nodded, watching the woman until I saw her chest move. I wasn’t rich or connected enough to catch a murder charge.
Dave walked to the opposite wall and unzipped his pants. Piss splattered against brick. “She told me she lives by herself,” he said, “so we’ll hit her house on the way home.”
I shuffled through her purse and pocketed a credit card my girlfriend would use. I found the woman’s license and tried to read the address in the dark. Then I heard a spraying sound below me.
My head throbbed and it burned to breathe. My eyes shut themselves and gushed tears. I blindly tried to kick the woman, for my good as much as hers, but I didn’t know where she was. A gun fired and the spraying stopped.
“Next time, don’t drop your pepper spray,” Dave said. He said something else but I didn’t hear it because my ears were ringing.
He pressed a towel to my face. I grabbed it and wiped away snot and tears. The can of pepper spray rolled in semicircles on the pavement, back and forth like a pendulum, the arcs getting smaller until the can eventually stopped. Dave dragged the woman behind the dumpster and shot her again. I didn’t see him do it but I can in my memories.
He returned to the car, wiping his hands on his jeans.
“Why’d you shoot her again?” I asked.
He shrugged, like he had decided to buy two six-packs instead of one. He got in the car and turned it on. He leaned his head out the door. “Smell’s gone,” he said.
I got in the car and we drove to rob the woman’s house. The spray hadn’t cleared out much from before.