Indistinct shapes danced in the windows as the stolen Toyota’s speedometer twitched toward ninety. Small tremors filled the cab and Joel wondered if the pickup truck would make it to Elvis Leary’s apartment on Newtown Road. He had some things to say to the man.
Joel tightened his grip on the vibrating steering wheel and reflected on the events that brought him to this moment. The easy in-and-out job that went tits up, the subsequent arrest and too-quick trial all floated dreamily through his consciousness, like they were scenes from a movie. The most damning memory appeared clear, however: He had served five years’ hard time in Brunswick because his partner went canary on him. Angrily, he took a pull from his cigarette and opened the window. The crisp December air stung his bald head like alcohol on razor cuts. His jaw clamped tighter.
He looked in the rearview mirror and smiled at the pump-action shotgun resting in the gun rack. Prudence suggested that a recently paroled convict should keep a low profile, but years of enclosed spaces and the mind-numbing routine of prison can morph rationality to rationalization. It didn’t take a shrink to realize that once this shit was over Joel was going to check into a cheap motel room, buy a gallon of Jack and self-medicate until he burned a hole in his stomach. He shook his head to clear his mind and lined his eyes up with the blurring white lines of the highway.
Moths were congregating around the haze of a dim street light when Joel skidded into the apartment complex. Apt. 201 was written in tiny white letters on a shabby wooden door. They accented the spray of splinters as he shot the lock and kicked the door in. Elvis was sitting in front of the TV watching some reality-trash in a ratty pair of boxers and spooning some Chinese noodles into his face.
“Shit, you’re out already?” Elvis asked, putting the bowl in his lap and reaching toward a side table.
“Don’t even try it,” Joel snarled. Elvis relaxed his grip on a Smith and Wesson revolver he kept close by.
“So, what’s up?” Elvis asked, self-consciously adjusting himself.
“That’s all you have to say to me?”
“What do you want me to say? I got scared. Those detectives were threatening some crazy shit, said I was looking at ten years. At least, I didn’t do it intentionally. I only implied that the plan was your idea.”
“All you had to do was stay quiet. They didn’t have enough to convict…until you opened your god damn mouth.”
Elvis pulled a cigarette from a pack on the side table. He placed it in his mouth and took his time lighting it. The cigarette bobbed when he talked.
“Look man, I said I was sorry. You’re out now. So, no harm, no foul, right?”
Joel stepped closer and slapped Elvis in the mouth. The cigarette flew across the room trailing ash like a trashy comet. Blood and drool dripped from Elvis’s busted lip.
“Fine, what do you want? It’s not like I’ve been living it up while you were in the joint. This look like Graceland to you? I have some money over there in the cabinet by the refrigerator. You’re welcome to it, if you think it’ll make us square.”
Joel took his eyes off Elvis to look at the cabinet. Elvis grabbed for the revolver. He got one shaky shot off. He missed. Joel smiled as he leveled the shotgun and squeezed the trigger. The blast sent Elvis flying back in a spray of blood, tissue and noodles. His last thoughts became a red smear on the wall.
“Now we’re square,” Joel said, leaning down to make sure Elvis was dead. On his way out of the apartment, Joel opened the cabinet above the refrigerator and found nothing more than an assortment of plastic silverware and some empty cigarette cartons.
The fast moving sirens in the distance signified it was time to go. Joel stepped through the doorway. Taking a deep breath of the winter air, he wondered if the liquor stores were still open.