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By:Amanda Lance

The doors slamming shut snapped me out of it. Luck let Wallace be the first one out with Polo being close behind, but it didn’t do anything to make The Red go away. Polo was like a little kid, real easy to take advantage of and real trusting of everybody. Wallace was the kinda scumbag to take advantage of that sort of thing. I could just see him getting Polo to confess to the cops to take the heat off him or maybe getting him to do something real nasty without Polo even being aware of it. Leave it to a jerk-off like that to use and abuse.

I followed behind the guys and did my best to keep an eye out while they talked to the driver of the truck. I could tell right away he was real nervous just by the way he had his feet tapping and was jingling the change in his pocket. We’d never worked with him before, and that made me even more leery. For all we knew, he was an undercover.

“So everything on this truck,” I began, “is it insured?”

This poor guy was looking back and forth like he had no idea how to answer, and when a charter bus flicked its headlights on and then back off again across the way, I swear I thought he was gonna have a heart attack and drop dead right then and there.

“W-what does that matter?”

Though I’d just started it, I threw my smoke at him. I figured it was better than my fists. “It matters, jackass, ’cause a lotta insurance companies put trackers on this stuff.” Just as this guy looked like he was ’bout to soil himself, and Yuri was trying to keep Polo from juggling garbage he found, I turned to Wallace. It pissed me off that he obviously hadn’t even thought about this.

“I thought you said this guy was on the level.”

“Again, Hillbilly, relax. It’s insured, but not enough to put GPS on anything. Only enough to save the trucking company’s ass, should a theft go down.”

“Yeah, yeah!” The trucker lowered his hat and looked over his shoulder again. For the second time, I wondered if he was one of them meth-heads but didn’t bother to ask. Maybe he just really didn’t know what the hell he was doing. But then there was something about the sound of Polo laughin’ and the horns honking in the distance that made The Red come back again. Like a heavy wave, it dragged me down, making me clench my neck, as I tried to hold myself above water.

“If you try to tell me to relax one more time, motherfucker, I swear to God I’m gonna rip out your tongue and stomp it into the pavement!”

My voice musta got a little high, ’cause then Polo and Yuri were quiet, and that poor driver paled over like a sheet.

“Charlie,” Yuri started, “why don’t you take a walk?”

“Yeah,” I scoffed. “Why don’t I go and do that?”

I walked away fast enough to make a difference, but not so much that somebody who might happen to be looking would notice. Hell, if they wanted to do all the heavy lifting they could be my guests. I was on edge enough already; I hadn’t slept in days and couldn’t risk falling asleep on the ride back.

Maybe a decent leg stretch and some caffeine would change my attitude.

It wasn’t even funny, but the idea of “being on edge” made me laugh for some reason.

I was real quick in grabbing my hat and glasses, and though it was as hot as hell, I kept my jacket on so nobody could see the guns or scars on my arms. At first, I thought that it was kind of a stupid idea, but the place was so damn busy that I got lost fast in a hundred different bodies and faces, tourists and old folks who shouldn’t even be driving at night, screaming kids and their tired-lookin’ parents who were all probably thinking the same thing I was: when does school start up again?

I headed for the bathroom straight away. I didn’t have to go or anything, but my thought was that throwing some water on my face might cool me off. It probably wasn’t real smart to take my hat and glasses off, but I did it anyway, ’cause nothing ’bout that job up ’til that point had been smart, so what difference would it make anyways?

I watched the water drip off my chin. The fluorescent light brought out the white of the scar from where I busted it on a coffee table as a kid. It’s probably the oldest scar I got, though there are a few I’m not too sure of. Maybe if I didn’t have ’em I’d be better looking, but who knows for sure. Like my old man, I gotta full head of hair, and I’ve been pretty lucky that my face isn’t a weird shape or anything like that. Still, maybe it’s better to be a plain-looking guy; other than my neck tattoo (or my unemployment stamp), I’m real average and people tend not to look at me twice.

I glanced at my phone on the way out of the bathroom. I’d only been gone a couple of minutes, and I wasn’t lookin’ forward to gettin’ back to it, so right away I started looking ’round for a good excuse not to go back out there. The bad feeling was still in my gut, getting a little bigger every second, and I knew going back out there wasn’t gonna do nothing but make it worse. I gritted my teeth when I found the solution; the crowd moved away ’nough for me to see it. I was already on edge, so the last thing I needed was a booster, but on the other hand, caffeine was a better excuse to stay away than anything else I could think of. And I sure as hell wasn’t ’bout to admit I was scared.