I had no real connections and she could smell it. I had the finest reputation money could buy, but I was a hack, and she was on top of me.
“I wasn’t aware this was a job interview. I told you I can do it, so I can do it. That’s why you called me.”
“He called you,” she said. “And I tend not to trust the whispers of rats and scum. 150 pounds is impossible.”
“So, this was a test?”
“Darling, hasn’t anyone ever told you that it’s rude to say everything out loud? Yes, I wanted to hear what you would say, and your cock is certainly doing you justice.”
I chewed her words with bitterness.
“But,” she continued, “you may still be of some use to us. We only require one third of that amount per week. A manageable sum for someone of your stature.”
“Then make is 75.”
She cocked her eyebrow and leaned over the table. The sun dimmed as she lowered her voice. “Very well. But I need not remind you of what would happen if—“
“To the future,” I interrupted her raising my glass.
She smiled and raised hers. “You have thirty days.” Then she gulped the whole glass down and slammed it onto the table.
It was a week before my meeting with Marcus. We had been stationed together in San Antonio before assignment and hadn’t spoken sense. I had received a letter with no return address with instructions on where to meet him.
The drive took about five hours. I arrived at the small motel around seven at night. The setting sun painted the sky a thousand colors behind the summer bleached teal pant outlining a cracking white plaster.
My orders were to to book room 128 and await further instructions
The room was dark even with the light on, and it reeked of mildew. The fresh sheets were sprinkled with splatter stains. On the bed was a paperback copy of the bible. I tossed it onto the nightstand and laid on the bed. I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep.
My eyes were just growing heavy when three thumps smashed against the wall above my head board. I slowly rose and rubbed my eyes. Thump, thump, thump, again. This time I returned the message.
A few moments later the same knocks were at my door. Marcus was almost unrecognizable. He had on a touristy long brimmed baseball cap with some Spanish soccer team embroidered on it, an offensively bright Hawaiian shirt, and pink shaded aviators with gold rims. His khakis reached above his knees and exposed the meat of his wire haired thighs. The cigarette in his mouth bobbled as he mumbled, “Jeremy, how the fuck are ya,” and he walked inside.
He strode into the room mumbling to himself, then paced back and forth at the foot of the bed. He sucked on his cigarette until the fiberglass began to sizzle. “For fucks sake,” he murmured, and then threw the butt on the ground.
“Javier Cortez?” He asked.
“Yeah, there’s a girl too. He calls her Angela,” I said.
“Blackheart?” His eyes widened then he stroked his bald chin.
“Is that what they call her?”
“If it is who I think it is. He’s been rumored to do business with her. But we never thought…”
“Thought he was big enough?”
“Stupid enough. Not a whole lot of people who deal with Blackheart live to talk about it. That girl o’yours is a myth.”
I smiled at him accidentally then forced a dull expression. “They have a sub too.”
I could sense he was scrutinizing the lines on my face; I could trace the steps his gaze took over my every motion. “You’re in deep here, huh?” He said finally.
The words hovered for a moment, and then painfully yielded to a stern silence. His face was hard beneath his plastic costume. The man was fierce and his muscles throbbed inside his ridiculous shirt. Every pulse launched searing blood from his collar to the veins on his forehead. He was the DEA’s hound and he was on point. Just outside, fluorescent men with guns could soon be sweeping in. All he had to do was bark.
“There’s only one way to do this job,” I told him. “You’d know that if you took assignments. It’s easy to know what home feels like when you go back every night.”
“I’m just askin’ man. It’s my job.” His shoulders released.
“You have your reports?” He asked.
“They’re all here.” I handed him a manila envelope stuffed with papers. “You’ll see I’ve been at it for a while now.”
He nodded his head then looked at the door. “How much do you need?”
“75 pounds of crystal.”
“Shouldn’t be an issue”
“Good. I need it within three days.
He nodded again, “I guess I’ll be seein’ ya?” he said.
“Yeah,” I answered hesitantly. I could have asked him to stay, and he would have, but the costumes had carved canyons between us. When we looked at one another we only saw strangers. The door slammed behind Marcus as he left.
The drive home was deaf and cradled beneath a thick sheet of darkness. Sleep was a fond memory and the incessant beating of my heart became a burden. The night’s sky unfolded over and over, stretching for hours over desperate space. It was almost sunrise when I got back to my rockabilly motel. There was a running car waiting for me in the parking lot.
“Where have you been?” Her sharp voice pierced the rumble of her engine as my stepped out of my car.
“Talking to some friends. Do you always visit your business partners so often?”
“I don’t do anything often.”
“I needed to talk to some people.”
“I’m sure you did,” she answered. She smiled
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“She smiled, unlocked her car, then opened the passenger door. Why don’t you come find out?”