Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 14
It was early evening when Miro dropped us off in front of Doctor Molina's building.
Three or four people crowded every stoop, hanging out at the end of another hot day.
A steaming pool of water covered the dead end side of the street. More water dribbled from the fire hydrant.
The doctor got out of the Towncar without a word to anyone and headed for her building. She stopped to talk to an old woman in a lawn chair by the curb.
Pilar and I opened our doors.
“You understand what Lefty meant, Josh?” asked Miro. “You and the Empire State? Splitsville. Permanently. Don't forget it.”
“Got it. I'm not going back.”
We stepped out of the car.
Miro got out too and turned to face me.
“What about Rafael's sister?” I asked.
“She's got nothin' to worry about. Not from us, anyway.”
I nodded. If Lefty said she'd be all right, she'd be all right.
He dropped a beefy hand on my shoulder.
“I'm glad I didn't have to kill you, druzhok.”
“I'm glad I didn't have to kill you,” replied Pilar.
She shut the door and walked over to the doctor.
“Me too.” He grinned and dropped back into the driver's seat.
I waved as he pulled away.
I took a deep breath of stagnant city air. The smell of somebody's fish supper lingered.
The first signs of red sky peeked through the pale white clouds. A warm breeze swirled around the block.
I leaned against the car and let it envelop me as I watched the sunset I didn't think I'd live to see.
We hung around Dr. Molina's place long enough to retrieve Pilar's gun and check her apartment-- and the building-- for any surprises. Then we hiked back to the Pinto and gave her a lift to Rafael's houseboat.
The door hung from one hinge and the futon had been flipped over. The lava lamp, in all its glory, sat, untouched, on its crate.
We found Rafael where we left him, crumpled on the floor in front of the wall.
He eyeballed me and I eyeballed him. He made a point of not eyeballing Pilar.
Dr. Molina cut our sweet reunion short. She took Pilar and me by the hands and led us outside.
“He'll be fine,” she said. “The man is nothing, if not resilient.”
She left us with one final admonition.
“You must rest,” she told Pilar, then turned to me. “You must see that she does.”
She retreated into the houseboat to avoid our bullshit assurances.
“You cannot ever go back to New York,” said Pilar
It was the first thing she'd said since we gassed up near the city limits and started the long drive back to the safe house.
She lounged in the passenger seat, one bare foot propped up on the dash, drinking beer from the bottle.
The beer's five siblings sang to me from the bag of provisions we'd picked up at the gas station. I ignored them, and the sandwiches too, wanting to put some more miles between us and the city.
“That's right. Lefty's gonna put the word out that he took care of me down here. Then he's gonna start putting guys in the ground 'til he finds the men responsible for Roksana's murder.”
“Then you are free?”
I watched the darkness zip by the window. It was the same in any direction-- endless black, broken up by an occasional shack or rock outcropping.
The moon hid behind a cloud, reluctant to show its face alone in a starless sky.
“No guarantees,” I said. “The law'll hear that Lefty found me and they'll probably file the case for someone else to solve twenty years from now. Probably.”
“I am sorry, Mateo.”
“It's all right. Wasn't planning to go back anyway. I said my goodbyes when I took off. You screw up, make contact with someone in your life-- that's how they find you. A phone call. A letter. Anything. One time. That's all it takes.”
“You have not contacted your family?”
“Not once. Wanted to, but I can't do it. Puts too much pressure on them if law enforcement's listening in.”
We rode in silence, listening to the Pinto's engine chugging along the empty road.
“New York is dead to you,” said Pilar.
“Yeah. It is.”
“And Joshua Rucinsky?”
I looked out the window again. A hint of blue light showed at the horizon.
“He's dead too.”
Diego and Manuel, shirtless and smoking cigarettes, came out to meet us as we pulled up in front of the safe house.
Both men shone their flashlights into the Pinto's back seat, then looked to Pilar.
She shook her head and got out of the car.
I reached into the back seat and grabbed the sack of grub.
Pilar refused my help as we went into the house.
Manuel and Diego hung back, allowing her to limp through the front room and down the hall before coming all the way inside.
They'd spread bedrolls on the floor, one on each side of the door. An oil lamp, set on a cinder block, provided some light.
I took handed the bag of sandwiches to Diego and followed after Pilar.
I found her in the bedroom, half out of her jeans. I got up beside her and stood there until she relented and rested her hand on my shoulder while I got her other leg free.
She sighed and lay back on the bed.
I stretched out next to her.
“What now? I asked.
She thought it over.
“We find my father. Now.”
I know she wanted to sit up. Didn't happen.
“Got another plan?”
“That is the only plan, Mateo.”
“You need to rest. You're hurt.”
She didn't dignify that with a reply.
“Maybe the guy you left in the basement know something”
“Do you really think he is still down there?”
I let that go.
“Look, you have people,” I said. “Why not let 'em do the legwork on this? When they get a location I'll back you one hundred percent on going in to get him. But until then? You need to heal.”
I dropped my head on the pillow and waited for her answer. I waited until her breathing grew shallow and easy, then got off the bed and pulled the blanket up over her.
Manuel and Diego were dressed for work and making ready to head out when I got to the front room. They'd changed into khaki cargo pants and black t-shirts and carried rifles slung over their shoulders.
They lit cigarettes in unison and nodded at me.
“Si,” grunted Diego. “Sabemos. Buscamos para Don Gerardo.”
They nodded again and opened the door.
Diego looked back at me and pointed to the bag on his bedroll.
“Eat. Parece un hombre muerto.”
I shut the door behind them and stood there, listening, as the pickup truck started up and rolled out.
“A dead man,” I said.
I walked to Diego's bedroll and pulled a bottle of beer out of the sack. I found a church-key on the cinder block, next to the lamp.
The still-cool beer tasted wonderful. I polished off the bottle and set it on the floor next to the empties left by Diego and Manuel.“I'm not dead anymore.”
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.