I focused on breathing regularly, eyes closed, muscles completely relaxed. I had hoped I’d fit in Randy’s trunk, but storage spaced isn’t what hundred grand sports cars are known for. The trunk of the Lamborghini hardly held more than a spare tire, jack, and the ties, bag, and gag They had given him. I was pretty flexible, but even I couldn’t shove myself in there. I think Randy had been relieved.
After he had called the number, I told him to hit me over the head with my gun. I gave him my gun, but kept my knife. No need to go in empty handed. Randy held my gun with two fingers by the tip of the handle. I reminded him that the safety was on. It wouldn’t fire itself. It’s impossible to hit yourself over the head with a gun hard enough to make it look real. So Randy had to do it. But he didn’t want to.
Eventually, after I punched him in the nose he managed a weak swing, which I stepped into, making it stronger. It wasn’t enough to make my eyes go blurry, but enough to draw blood. There would be a bruise. Hopefully, they would buy it. I tied the bandanna as a gag on myself. I made him tie my legs tight, then wrists. Finally, the bag over the head. Then Randy carried me back and stuck me in the passenger’s seat. I tried to adjust myself in a way that would not leave me cramped and stiff, but also looked natural. It was essential that they thought I was unconscious.
We had a about an hour-long drive back to town. They wanted the drop to happen in an old parking lot that services a thrift store, tattoo parlor, tanning salon, and a couple abandoned units. Randy didn’t drive fast. With the bag over my head, I couldn’t see the speedometer, but I would guess he was going about five under the speed limit.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” he asked after we got back to the highway.
I wanted to say something sarcastic, like, “I’ve been better,” but with the gag, all I could do was say, “um, hum,” or something like that, which Randy interpreted correctly, as yes.
He decided not to talk after that, though I sensed that he wanted to review the plan again. We’d gone over it before he made the call. Twice. Randy didn’t like it, but he didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t want to leave me with Them. It wasn’t much of a plan. He was going to hand me over, and that was it. I told him I would take it from there.
“What am I supposed to do after that?” He had asked when I first explained it to him.
“That really depends on what They do,” I replied. “If They make you do something, do it. Just stay alive, and if you can manage, don’t get hurt. If they let you go, ask when you get the money, but don’t push it. If they won’t give it to you, just get out.”
“Go home and stay there.”
“I could call the police. Or Gary,” he replied.
I had contemplated that. I had a feeling Gary might end up involved at some point, which I wasn’t sure was a bad thing. But not yet. “Not the police. And not Garry, at least not right away. Listen, you’re going to have to play it by ear. If it seems like you’re being watched, or your life is threatened, then you might call Gary, or leave him a note or something. The police won’t believe you though. You’re a punk kid and your story is crazy. They would just complicate things.”
“What are you going to do?” Randy asked then.
“See how it goes. I need to get a feel for these guys, see what I’m dealing with.” I thought about telling him to contact Ethan, but decided against it. It might put Randy further in harm’s way. Ethan would do what he had to do.
“I don’t like just leaving you there,” Randy said. “What if they just shoot you on the spot. You’re tied up. You couldn’t do anything about it.”
He had a point. “Then, I guess I’d be dead,” I said. There were always risks. “But I don’t think that’s what will happen. They told you they wanted me alive. If I do end up dead, I suggest you take off. Find a different pretty girl, go to Vegas and disappear.”
“I might not even know,” Randy said. “Until too late.”
“True. I guess you better hope I don’t die.” He had looked long and hard at me then. Both our lives depended on me figuring this thing out. “Sorry,” I had said again. He had shrugged. I couldn’t tell why.
Waiting is always hard. It’s the hardest part, and it’s what separates the good from the great. Genius is in the waiting. Knowing how to wait, how long to wait, when to wait. And when to act. Never act too soon. Of course, acting too late may get you killed. Now, I just had to wait. Whenever you are waiting, take the amount of time you think has passed, and divide by four. If you think if has been twenty minutes, it’s really only been five.
After what seemed like four hours, I felt the car slowing and pulling to the right. We were exiting the freeway. I concentrated on slowing my pulse, breathing evenly. Randy’s life, more than mine, depended on Them believing I was unconscious. I relaxed every muscle I could think of. We turned, and my head rolled to the side. We stopped at a light and I let the deceleration push me forward, slumped against the side. I’d fall out if the car door opened.
I felt Randy edge his way into the parking lot. He drove slow and sinuously to avoid the abundant potholes. He made his way to the abandoned corner, and rolled to a stop. I focused on breathing. His car door opened, and I heard him step out. It didn’t close behind him.
“Woah,” I heard Randy say, and imagined someone had just pulled a gun on him, his hands were probably up. “Hey, I’m just doing what you said.”
Another voice, adult male age twenties or thirties, callus, confident said, “We’ll see about that.”
“Wait,” Randy said. “How do I know you’re with the right guy? Where’s the guy I talked to?”
I heard a grunt, then a pause. Finally, another voice, male, middle aged, cool, calm, scary, said, “Hello, Randy, have you brought me what I asked for?”
“I want the money first,” Randy said. I hear a scuffle and someone backed into the car. I felt it shake.
“I think I will decide when you get your reward,” The older man, the boss, said. I imagined they had shoved Randy up against his car. They probably had a gun right to his chest.
“So do your thing then,” Randy said, sounding much shakier this time. I heard footsteps approaching the passenger’s side. Randy was still against the car. That made at least three of Them: the boss and two henchmen. I re-relaxed all my muscles just in case.
The man opened the car door and as it slowly rose, I let myself slide down, tip out of the car, and fall onto the pavement. It smelled of asphalt and cigarettes. No one spoke, and I still could not see, despite the hood having slid up in the fall. I heard the breath of a man. He was leaning close. I closed my eyes, just as the hood was yanked off.
“Well?” the boss said. A pause, then a kick to my stomach. It was hard, and I hadn’t been expecting it. A person reacts to a kick in the stomach very differently when awake than they would asleep. I fought not to cough and wheeze as my body rolled and slid along the ground. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t suck in air, or they’d know. I let a moan escaped, and I thought I really might pass out. I felt like throwing up or curling in a ball, or both. I did neither, but let my body stay limp. The attention shifted away from me.
“So, how’d you do it?” the boss said, his words even and cold.
Randy answered, “I hit her over the head. With her own gun.”
“So she was carrying a gun,” he stated. “Where is it now?”
“In the trunk,” Randy said. I heard a pause, then shifting. A sound: it must have been the trunk opening. More shifting.
“Nice little weapon. Could do a little damage if put in the right hands,” the boss said. He would be examining my gun. I hated guns. I hardly used them, but this time I was glad I’d had it to give up. I wouldn’t have wanted to part with my knife.
“Did she have anything else?” the boss said.
“No,” Randy said.
“You checked?” Randy must have nodded. The boss sounded more casual when he spoke next, but not more relaxed. He was closer. “I must admit, when you let her drive a hundred miles an hour into the desert, we were a little nervous.” They had been watching. Randy didn’t answer. “It’s hard to keep up with such a fine car. Tell me what you did. No one else, even her best friend succeeded.”
There was a moment where no one spoke, and I figured Randy was pulling his thoughts together. There were worse people I could have been with than Randy. “I had to gain her trust you know. That’s why I let her drive. She told me all about Crystal. Her version at least,” he added quickly. He was telling as much truth as he could, which is always the best way to do it. “I didn’t know she’d drive that fast. I also didn’t know you were watching,” I sensed that he must be glaring at the man now.
The boss chuckled. “Go on.”
Randy continued, “She drove and talked and I told her a little road to turn on where we could have some privacy. We got out, and… after she was distracted, I took her gun and knocked her over the head, tied her up, and called you.”
“How’d you get her gun before you knocked her out?”
“I told you, she trusted me,” Randy said contemptuously. “She show it to me after we stopped, after she told me about Crystal.
“But you checked for more weapons?” the boss asked.
“I said I did, didn’t I?”
I felt a shoe on the back of my head, there was pressure. The foot turned my head in an awkward, painful angle, face up. “Looks like that hit made a bloody mess. I hope your car didn’t get too messy.”
“With a few grand, I think I can afford to get it detailed,” Randy hinted, sounding like an annoyed teenager.
“Ah, yes, well you have delivered on your end,” the boss said. There was a pause, more movement.
“How do I know it’s all here,” Randy said, but I sensed he had moved a step or two away.
“You can trust me,” the boss said. “But wait, young man, I believe there was another part to our deal. I still owe you some…quality time with the young woman.”
I heard Randy snort a laugh out. “How do you think I distracted her? I filled that part of the bargain myself.” He stepped further away again. Would they let him go?
“I see,” the boss said, and it sounded like he was smiling. “Well in that case, I suppose you are free to go.”
I heard shuffling again. A car door shut. That would be the passenger’s side. More movement. Please let him go. I imagined Randy walking around to the driver’s side. He would have his hand on the door now, ducking to slide in. “Oh young man,” the boss said, stopping him. I imagined Randy looking up. “I was a pleasure doing business with you.” A foot slammed into my head tearing it around. Pain exploded inside me. Before I lost consciousness, I thought I heard the rev of the Lamborghini engine. Then everything went black.