Heart jumps into my throat.
“Joanne,” I say. “Look.”
She peers out the passenger side window.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” she says. “It’s them.”
I drive past the gas station, but then pull into the McDonald’s parking lot directly next door. Here’s what’s going through my speeding brain: For certain, the gangster, along with the gangsters hiding behind all that tinted glass, are the same gangsters who just shot up our hotel room and killed Sean. But are they also the same ones who tried to kill my son? My gut, it’s speaking to me again. It says, “Yes, Bradley. The motherfuckers are one in the same.”
My beating heart fills not with blood, but rage. But here’s what else fills my veins. An epiphany of sorts.
“Listen, Jo,” I say, “what if we do one more bad thing in the name of all that’s good and decent in this world?”
I listen to the idling engine while Joanne stares at the young gangster. He’s pumping the gas with one hand and looking at stuff on his iPhone with the other. He’s a got a big smile on his face, like he’s having a fun night. Just then, a flash of lightning. It takes me and Joanne a little by surprise. It’s followed by some rain drops that pelt the windshield. Then comes the thunder. It’s an unexpected, Fall thunderstorm. A change of weather storm.
“What if we shoot back?” I say.
“We shoot back?” Joanne questions.
“Kill the drive-by shooters with a drive-by shooting of our own.”
Scooching up, I pull out Sean’s 9mm. I might be a post office nerd deep down inside, but I accompanied Sean more than once to the range. Rather, he’d drag me to the range, not kicking and screaming necessarily because I really like guns, but so that we’d have something else to do besides drink beer and watch football. The point being, I’ve shot this very pistol maybe a half dozen times before. I’ve also fired his AR15 and had a lot of fun doing it. It means I’m familiar with both weapons. But I have to wonder about my wife.
“Your gun,” I say. “You know how to use it?”
“Sean showed me,” she says, grabbing it out of her bag. “He’s been giving me shooting lessons for weeks, including firing his AR…AR…”
“AR15,” I interject.
“That’s it,” she says.
He showed you a lot of things, I want to say, but I rein myself in.
She pulls the slide back on her pistol just enough to show me she’s got a round stored in the chamber. I guess she does know what she’s doing. But it’s yet one more thing about my wife that’s so different from the woman she used to be. Not too long ago, she never in a million years would have considered owning a gun, much less having the knowhow to keep a round stored in the chamber to get it off quick should a drug crazed bad guy be coming after you.
I give her a long, hard look.
“What?” she says.
“Who are you?” I say.
As if God timed it this way, lightning strikes again, and then comes the thunder. The rain is now pelting the windshield. I turn on the wipers. They make a rhythmic swishing sound as they clear the windshield of rainwater.
Joanne makes a sly grin.
“We’ve all changed, Bradley,” she says. “You too have become a different man. But one thing hasn’t changed. I still love you. I know I did a bad thing with Sean.” She shakes her head, and I see the reflection of the gas station/convenience store exterior lights in the tears filling her eyes. “I seriously don’t know what came over me when he and I…” Her voice trails off. “Well, you know.”
“Yes,” I say, somberly. “I know. I saw it with my own two eyes.”
“Now Brad Junior is shot, and I feel responsible,” she says. Placing her free hand on my thigh. “Will you ever forgive me, Bradley?”
In my head, I see the bullet penetrating Sean’s head, his brains and facial tissue spattering all over the shot-up bed. He’s out of our lives now. Gone forever, just like those shoe boxes filled with all that cash. So yeah, maybe it sucks that my wife was balling another man. But he’s dead, and when this thing is finished, if we’re not dead yet, she and my son will be all I’ll have left in the world. They will be all I think about when they slam those steel prison doors shut on my cell at night.
I set my hand on hers, squeeze it. In my mind, it’s answer enough to her question.
Another lightning strike and more thunder. A blast of wind buffet’s the car. Tattooed Gangster replaces the nozzle to the gas pump, and takes his printed receipt from the pump dispenser, shoves it into the pocket on his overly baggy jeans. He then opens the driver’s side door on the Suburban, hops inside, slams the door closed. Firing the engine up, he pulls out of the pump station and crosses the lot to the main road.
“Let’s do this,” I say.
Joanne slips her hand off my thigh, and I back out of the parking space, put the transmission in drive and head for the road. The rain is steady now, but still coming down heavy. I put the wipers on the highest setting they will go and turn onto the road, heading south in the same direction as the Perez gangsters.
This is the country, so I’m able to maintain a decent enough distance between them without losing sight of their taillights. More lightning strikes, more thunder, more rain. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t ask for better weather.
Joanne is nervously holding her short barreled semi-automatic in her hand.
“So what’s the plan, Bradley?” she asks.
“I know it’s not much of a plan,” I say. “But just follow my lead. Eventually they’re going to have to stop at a red light. When that happens, we pull up beside them, and let them have it.”
“You sound like Jimmy Cagney in some old black and white gangster movie.”
“Take a good look around you,” I say. “We are in a black and white gangster movie.”
We drive for another few miles. I’m doing about fifty. The road is winding and thick with second growth woods that flank it. The thunder and lightning has pretty much moved on, but the rain is still coming down hard. Up head, maybe a quarter mile in the distance, a traffic light. It’s signaling green right now, but if I had to guess, by the time the Suburban pulls up to it, it will turn red.
I give the Volkswagen more gas. The car speeds up. It only takes a few seconds to come up on the Suburban’s tail.
“Get ready,” I say. “When they stop, I’m going to pull around them. We get out. I shoot the driver and you go for the passenger in the shotgun seat. We also take out the assholes in the back. Don’t stop shooting until I tell you to. You got it?”
I shoot her a quick glance. Her eyes are wide open. If she had an Adam’s apple it would be bobbing up and down in her neck. Her pulse must be pounding, because I know mine is. A quick glance at my watch. It’s a little past eleven. If this were even four months ago, I would be in bed on my back, my eyes struggling to stay open, but sleep overtaking them. My belly would be full from dinner of Hamburger Helper or maybe meatloaf, and too much cheap beer. I would place my hand on it and feel the extra layer of fat.
Joanne would still be sitting up in bed, her readers covering her eyes while she watches another episode of some crime series on Netflix. Her favorite shows were about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Nice, God fearing people, forced to take on a life of crime. It all seemed so far-fetched to me at the time, I never paid much attention to them. I just lived my day-to-day existence, delivering the mail and minding my own business, and at the same time, always carrying around the worry over a bank account that was constantly in the red.
The traffic light turns red. The driver of the Suburban hits the brakes. The white taillights are now accompanied by bright red brake lights. I too hit the brakes.
“This is it,” I say. “Remember, don’t stop shooting until I tell you too. And whatever we do, let’s not shoot one another in the crossfire by mistake. Make sure you shoot into the vehicle but not at me. I’ll do the same.”
“Okay,” she says. “Let’s just get it over with already.”
The Suburban comes to a full stop. That’s when I turn the wheel sharply, and pull all the way around it, blocking it from going forward.
Thanks for reading. For a FREE novel, go to WWW.VINZANDRI.COM
Grab the brand new releases: Desperate Measure: A Short Thriller Collection!
Grab the first novel in the bestselling, award winning Chase Baker Thriller Series: The Shroud Key!
NOTE: Book links are Amazon affiliate links