Monday, December 28, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 310 - Bruce Brown


Black decided to jump from the van after two hours of pushing through three states worth of back country. Lost. The whine of the engine kept notching octaves as Vokes pushed the engine. Black knew it wouldn’t last much longer. Second to second he expected a rod to punch the hood and the engine to disembowel, belts and oil spilling onto the road behind them. The wheelman was wrecked on Desoxyn and panic and Black was tired of climbing him down. He was tired of the Reach brothers.

The younger brother Big was a bull-thick pile of twitch temper who moved like a falling brick wall. Big had fixated on stacking the bundles of money into a tower until the swerve of the van toppled his work. Black kicked Big’s latest tower and stuffed his cut into a nylon duffle bag. Black waited until they approached a hard left hand snake in the road and then unlocked his door.

The van fishtailed through a patch of gravel before righting on the red clay hardpack. The undercarriage drummed with ricochet. Black looked behind them. It had been months since the last rains and the van was kicking up a fierce rooster tail of dust. Added to the oil-rich boil of exhaust from the van’s abused engine, it felt like signal smoke.

“On this curve, I’m out,” Black said.

“You’re not going anywhere. I’m not stopping,” Vokes said. He didn’t turn to look at Black.

“I’m not asking you to stop,” Black said.

“What about the money?” Vokes said.

“I’m taking my share, probably less,” Black said.

“We’re out in nowhere,” Big said.

“I know. I’m heading somewhere else,” Black said. Black moved his hand, pulling the door handle and maintaining the pressure with his resting weight. Vokes looked over at Black quick and then back to the road. Vokes angled to take the curve.

“He’s not going anywhere. Big?” Vokes said.

The van accelerated, sliding into the curve, kicking spurs of dirt. Black saw Big Reach swivel with a shotgun. Black shifted and pushed into the door following the force of the turn. One moment he was in the car watching Big Reach draw on him and the next he was in the vibrating wake of the van. He heard the sound of the shotgun popping the window and enjoyed the half second freefall before he was snatched hard by the ground.

He rolled with the fall, spinning in the dust, nylon bag tucked to his head, rolling away from the shoulder and into the ditch. He splayed out his limbs, breaking the roll and stilling movement.

He gripped onto loose pebble and furrows of dead grass and pressed himself close to the earth. He tried to think himself invisible. He watched the van through the blur of dust and dioxide. The van hesitated, brake lights flicking. And then it accelerated away, squirting another burst of exhaust.

Black brushed himself and walked away from the road into a copse of Bristlecone. He sat with the pine needles, his back straight against the tree and he relaxed. Black pulled his cell and dialed.

“I need a pickup. I can talk you in for some of it,” Black said, “but pack a fucking GPS.”

BIO: Bruce is somewhere out in America.

1 comment:

walter conley said...

As graceful as it is heart-pounding. Lee Marvin would have approved.