With firm strides she cleared the shop  and pushed open the back exit, sweeping the  door wide for him to pass through. He followed, unbidden. As she held the door for him and he noted the sweat patch under her arms with relief, glad that she perhaps found the situation as strange and intense as he did. Striding past the door, he couldn’t help sense the urgency of her eyes scanning the shop, as if seeking trouble. He instinctively, as always, threw his glance backwards. She locked the door as soon as he was through, and made purposefully for the driver’s door of the hulking car parked in the back alley.

The sudden blast of light in the courtyard  dazzled him as he heard her dusky tones  say loud and clear “Get in. This is my brother’s car.” He obeyed, and once again instinctively glanced behind him. The car was a battered orange pickup truck, with a flatbed behind and a dusty bench out front. A working man’s ride. Turning her midnight eyes on him, she snatched the keys from behind the sunshield and gunned the motor. “There’s some work clothes in the back. Put em on, stretch. Right now. With that hair and your skinny carcass, you’ll pass for an LA farm hand”. Abashed by the sudden intimacy of undressing  he shot her a glance, and immediately turned away as he unbuttoned his shirt.

” Won’t your brother be sore, with you taking it and all”? He couldn’t help but try to assert some control, even if only by talking.  “He’s dead” was her reply, spat with a renewed appearance of the delicate lines about her lips. He offered no response. She glared at the road,  driving quickly out of town and turning on to the highway, glancing continually in to the mirror behind her. The seconds and minutes rolled onward. Unaccustomed to speaking,  he waited.”Why’d you call me Aztec lady, stretch”? Again, he was struck by the depth of her voice.  He grinned, and shucked two more cigarettes from the battered pack in his pocket. Lighting them, he placed one carefully between her readily parted, rouged lips, the second in his own mouth.He was transfixed by the languorous drag that she made.

“Hell, this is  like a first date. Well, I guess cos to me you look like you’re hiding somethin. When  was a kid I saw this mask in the County museum. Aztec Mexican. All glass and sharp  tiles. All fire and sass, and ready to cause hell. I figured today that’s you too, because there’s somethin underneath with you, just yammerin to get out. And I can’t tell what that is, and it scares me.” Looking at her eyes, he felt rather than saw her grip the steering wheel tighten, then smack the indicator to the right towards a sign for ‘Oasis Motel’.  Her jaw reflected the morning sun as she said “If them trenchcoat  guys are really are following you, then we need to change your appearance, swiftways. Change and get ready  for a revelation”. She pulled up in front of a row of low chalets.

He stretched behind him and grabbed the bundle of clothes, lashed tight with a brown belt. By the time he’d gathered himself, Aztec lady had pulled in to the forecourt, parked, and was already headed for the motel office, the hem of her housedress swaying in the wind. He waited for her, until he saw her open up a door and beckon him forward. Her face was expressionless. The room was plain and simple, and lit  by the reflection from the communal pool at the centre of the building. He resisted the urge to jump in, then followed her in to the room. Immediately a feeling of deep weariness took him, and he slumped in to a chair, falling in to a fitful asleep. When he woke tje light was a deep orange, and the reflection from the pool had gone. She was standing over him. She gestured towards a chair directly under the one and only light. He saw a steaming bowl of water and a long barber’s razor with a black handle.

” You need a shave, sleepy. Just relax. I’m going to take years off of you, Mr Cash”, she whispered. As ever, he obeyed. He sat,  reclined and tilted his head as she placed  a hot towel over his face. He heard a dull click, and a pressure on his chest. Again, that shock of intimacy. Sudden. He felt the resistance of the razor as it met his neck and dragged upward. Upward, then stopped. When she lifted off the towel, her eyes were huge, and bored in to his own. Her hair fell loosely about his ear, and as she bent to him he heard her whisper “you killed my brother because he tried to stop a robbery. I know you were the driver. I know you mowed him down with your car when he tried to stop you.  Do you have anything to say stretch?

He gritted his teeth for an instant, and then tilted his head backwards. The woman’s eyes glinted, her pupils narrowed, then she grasped the blade tight.  With a trembling hand she turned the blade inwards.


© Tom Tide 2016

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