After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention. But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep. How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?
Rain fell against the windshield of the parked ‘94 Lincoln as it sat in the back of the grocery store parking lot away from customers and light. Inside the car two men, Conrad and Marcus, sat contemplating their fates and what one of them had done. Conrad, the younger of the two, looked out through the splattered rain drops into the night sky. He wanted to confess something they both knew. He wanted to say it even though it didn’t seem rational.
There had been minutes of silence between them after Marcus had picked him up and driven him to the lot. Marcus had been a mentor and his lover for over two years. He was a strong man, tough and unsympathetic. He had decried sentimentality and empathy on a regular basis. And Conrad was afraid how the man would react.
“Marcus, I shot someone,” Conrad said.
When Marcus didn’t respond he looked to the older man who sat next to him blowing smoke out of the partially open window. Marcus knocked ash onto the floor. He stroked his beard, scratched at his throat as if he were massaging the words there.
“Tell me about it,” Marcus said.
“I was over at Tina’s. It was early morning so no one was there. I was playing 9-Ball alone just to hone my skills. I had been up a few days snorting Ritalin and whatever else so I was scratching and getting frustrated. I was lining up a shot and not paying attention, bam, he blindsides me.”
Conrad thought about the way the enforcer hit him, lifted him from the ground and sent him flying into a nearby table, the feeling of the edge against his back, falling to the ground, and the way the carpet felt on his hands. He shook off the memory.
“I look up and it’s Dylan. He never liked me and he’s got this look in his eye because for once he’s justified to kick the shit out of me.”
“But how did you get mixed up with that sadistic bastard?” Marcus asked.
“He had that pharmaceutical connection. I thought it would be easy money. Everyone at the clubs and parties wants the pills because they know it’s uncut and high quality and I knew I could overcharge them. It would be a hustle but still it would be worth it. The weed from you was good but this was... I’m sorry.”
“Hey, it’s your life. You were being an entrepreneur.”
“Anyway, he’s on me but it’s like he’s toying with me. That was the worst part. I’m saying anything I can to get him to stop. I say, ‘I’ll do anything’ and he laughs at me. He tells me he had a bet that I’d try to bribe him with sex and how fags were good earners but could never be real members.
“I start to get to my knees but I’m dizzy and he grabs hold of my hair, I fall against him. He starts laughing. That’s when I got my gun from the ankle holster and I press the barrel up into his balls. Fucker turned white as a ghost, he was scared of me or some freak accident.
“I had him good. He lets me go and backs away. I get to my feet but stagger. He moves like he’s coming at me but there’s too much distance and I steady myself. I can feel as I look at him, this maggot is mine.”
“You shot him?”
“No, not like that. I was ready to let him go. I just wanted some sleep. He starts saying things like how this isn’t over and how I owe money, and how the next time he sees me it’s personal, that he’ll take my head off and let guys use it for a toilet. It all felt so weird. I knew what I was doing but I don’t know. He says to me, ‘Next time I-’ and that’s when I pointed my gun at his chest.
“He held out his hand and you know the funny thing is that I shot it. I shot his hand. I’ve barely used a gun but it just popped up, bam. I see him start to go weak but I’m thinking I have to finish this so I shoot at him. One shot hits the wall, another hits some glass, and I’m panicking so I close on him and bam, bam, he’s down and out.”
Marcus sat in the passenger seat slowly nodding.
“What do I do now?”
“Now you run,” Marcus said.
“What? Why? No one else saw me. Did they?”
“Some waitress named Brenda saw the whole thing from behind the door. She called the police, said you shot him in cold blood. The police have a sketch of your face and a description. They don’t know your name but they’ll probably find fingerprints. The Brotherhood got to her after that which is how I know. I heard it from her directly, and they know your name. They’re coming after you.”
Marcus gave him a look and Conrad let out a nervous laugh.
“I care about you but this can’t be fixed. You have to get out of this city and start over somewhere. You can’t go home and you can’t go to any relative’s place. Drive out to the West Coast and get lost there.”
“What about us?”
“Maybe one day, when I retire or maybe I can meet up with you sometime, somewhere on a vacation but you know everything I do is with the club.”
“I’ll be alone,” he said. He didn’t know if he loved the man. He didn’t believe in love. But he did need the man. He could rely on him.
Some part of him wanted to be just cold and calculating. Some part of him wanted to believe Marcus cared. He wanted to believe it wasn’t a facade like when he pretended to be tough and when he pretended to be straight. He had to find out. He had to make the man feel something for him. He winced and looked to his hands. He felt like he could cry but he knew that would be too weak to Marcus. He had to have strength enough to hold the tears back.
“Do you have enough?”
“I’ve got a little of what I was selling, some cash I was going to pay him, a few things but nothing of real value.”
Marcus reached into the breast pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a roll of bills wrapped in rubber bands. The wad had been stuck together for some time and was old and not bills recently taken from a cash machine.
“There’s three grand there in small bills mostly. That’s the best I can come up with right now from my squirrel fund.”
“I need more than this,” Conrad said. “I can’t live like I did before when I was on the street. I can’t go back to that.”
“Do you have some place you can stay for a while? I can get you some more money unless you find some of your own.”
Conrad slouched in his seat as he tried to think over his friends in life, someone the police and the gang wouldn’t know about, couldn’t find through a simple background check. There was one name that came to mind, they had been close once for a brief time but never stayed in contact. It would be easy enough to track him down.
“Yeah, I might know someone,” Conrad said.
“Good, take the car and drive out now, as far as you can. No one knows what you’re driving so don’t get panicked. You find a place off the main road somewhere and crash for a few days to sleep this off. We’ll stay in contact through my second burner phone, no one knows about it.”
“This guy, he lives-”
Marcus silenced him with a finger.
“I don’t want to know where. You need to get safe, let this blow over, and I’ll contact you.”
“Thank you,” Conrad said.
“Come here,” Marcus replied.
Conrad leaned over to hug Marcus but was lifted to his lap where they embraced and kissed as the older man ran his hands under the younger man’s shirt to his shoulder blades where he grasped at the skin there.
Buy The Book