We've reached the climax now, and it's almost over. I'm sorry if you feel I'vedragged this for too long. I swear every scene serves a purpose... at least on my mind, and hopefully it'll all come together properly at the end.
By the way, not that it matters much, but this is the blog's 600th. post.
Saturday – 10:12 pm.
The three of them barely spoke at all during the rest of the trip. They wanted to end this for good, and yet they didn’t feel prepared for what was to come. In all, they all felt they arrived to the rendezvous point much quicker than they would have wished.
Sure enough, there was an ominous couple of black vans parked in the otherwise deserted middle of the road. It was fully dark, except for their headlights and the now-somewhat distant neon lights of Vegas.
David stopped his own car about a couple of yards behind the two expectant vehicles. He didn’t want to make the first move, and he didn’t have to: the side door of one van slid open and three men in dark suits got out, guns out. Then another, squat, yet oddly massive figure also stepped out.
This was Salty himself, no doubt. What he lacked in stature, he had in body fat, and yet he didn’t look ridiculous but quite intimidating. David gulped involuntarily, oblivious to the fact that his two female companions were doing the same. A few seconds passed, then, also in unplanned unison, all three of them got out.
Felicia was holding the bag with the money, but David took it from her arms. He wanted to deal with Salty himself, leaving the girls as distanced as possible.
“So, you managed to pull it off,” Salty said, his voice sounding as dangerous as his looks. “Congratulations. It was time Hubalu found a crew worthy of himself, not idiots like that guy,” he added, looking in direction of the second van.
The children immediately knew that was where they were holding Vincent. Was Joy in there too? If so, they were so close to the end of this nightmare…
“We did alright,” grunted David, trying to sound like a professional and not like a scared kid.
“That you did,” agreed Salty, looking way up to the towering man. He seemed to be studying him, and for the looks of it, he liked what he saw. “We could use a guy like you. You’ve got meat on your bones, but you’re more than that, aren’t you? You’ve got presence. That’s something a lot of people in this business lack nowadays.”
He then looked at Tanya and Felicia, who were standing a few steps away.
“But as I understand it, you were integral to this too. I didn’t know Hubalu was hiring girls now. But they tell me you pulled this job mostly using a woman’s touch, didn’t you?”
He laughed shortly.
“Anyway, I believe our paths will cross again, and I’m sure your talents will be further tested. Then, if you’re as good as you showed today… My offer stands. You don’t have to keep working for such a small-timer as Hubalu. You’ll be welcome to join the big leagues.”
It seemed to David that this flattery was maybe a customary welcome for Salty.
“So, let’s see the money. And we’ll give you back your people, though as I’ve said, Hubalu would do much better without those types.”
Salty made a quick gesture and his men took action so instantly that they looked mind-controlled: as one of them took the bag of money from David’s hand, two others walked towards the second van and extracted a couple of people with sacks over their heads and their wrists bound with a rope.
Tanya wheezed in relief. Even from a distance, and with her face covered, she could recognize the female figure, since she was wearing a jacket that Tanya remembered Joy had purchased at Anancy’s. The man was wearing jeans and a simple tank undershirt. She had no idea how Vincent looked, but that had to be him.
The tension of everyone present then focused on the henchman counting the money on the bag. Then he turned to Salty, declared “It’s all here” and the atmosphere relaxed visibly.
“Okay, let them free,” said the mobster, and the two prisoners were pushed towards David, then they started to walk on their own accord, still bound with the sacks and ropes.
David’s excitement grew, but so did his impatience. Why couldn’t they walk a bit faster? What if something went wrong at the last minute?
And of course, it did.
Suddenly, about a dozen new headlights turned on, a few yards from where their own vehicles stood. Then a magnified voice filled the night air:
“Chris Larson. This is the police. Please do not resist. Walk towards us with your hands to the air.”
The world seemed to stop. Salty looked at David inquisitively.
Fuck, thought David. Chris Larson. That was the name he had given to the cops when they had caught him in the morning. Somehow they had found him.
Salty’s hand started to tremble, his face frowning furiously. David knew the man wanted to kill him then and there.
“Look,” said David, quickly thinking the only way to make the best out of the situation. “They want me. Just me. I’ll turn myself in, then you just carry on. Let the girls go, all of them. I don’t think the cops have seen…”
But then the voice of one of the officers was heard and David knew he had overestimated the cover of darkness:
“Don’t those two people have sacks over their heads?”
Then, a second, horrified voice, yelled loudly.
“Fuck, that’s Salty Bosanno!”
Felicia understood what was going to happen a second before it did. Now that their boss had been identified and caught in the act, there’s was only one way Salty’s men could save him: they opened fire towards the policemen, who responded in kind.
Tanya felt a hand grabbing her neck, and she was forced to the ground by Felicia. A couple of steps in front of her, she saw David doing the same after getting hold of the hostages.
“Take cover!” he yelled to Tanya and his sister, then crawled behind one of the vans.
David was pinned down. Bullets were flying all around him, and he just wanted to cry and call for his mom. But right now, he had to keep his head clear. He wondered why the girls hadn’t arrived yet to where he was covering; they were just behind him… Then he heard the sound of someone coming and he sighed in relief.
But the face that appeared wasn’t Tanya’s or Felicia’s. Salty had run to take cover behind the same van he had picked.
“You fucking pig! You brought them right to me!”
David hadn’t time for this. He punched Salty’s face with all the considerable strength his muscled arms now possessed. Blood immediately sprouted from the man’s nose, but he was too heavy to be knocked out. David knew this was it: Salty produced a gun from the back of his pants and pointed it at his head.
“That’s the best you can do? I boxed for twenty years! I was a champion, I won the-“
But David couldn’t hear exactly what he had won, for Salty suddenly went silent and this time he did fell unconscious face-first to the pavement, a big bloody mess on the back of his head: Tanya had finally arrived and she had hit the mobster with one of her knife-like stiletto heels, probably a first for the ex-boxer. She stood there smirking, pleased with her handiwork.
David could have kissed her, but now wasn’t the time. He knew one of Salty’s men could be the next one to appear; they probably were looking for their boss in the middle of the shootout. So he instead grabbed each of the hostages with one arm and helped them into the van.
“Get in now!” he yelled. “Felicia, leave that!”
For his sister had also emerged, dragging the bag of money behind her.
She dropped it reluctantly and ran towards the van along Tanya. It seemed both the cops and the thugs had noticed what they were doing, because the shooting intensified. In all the confusion, it was Felicia who sat at the driver’s seat instead of David.
Tanya put her hands over her eyes as the van started, heading in the opposite direction of the shootout at full speed. Bullets impacted on the back of the vehicle, but it didn’t stop, nor did it hit any of the passengers.
“We’ve got a good head start. They probably can’t pursue us until they stop shooting each other!” said Felicia, who was actually driving quite expertly. “Where should we go now?”
“Turn left, turn left!” said another male voice.
Vincent’s hood had fallen off in all the chaos, and he seemed to have caught on the fact that these three strangers were on his side, or at least against Salty’s.
“I know a safe way!”
Between her intuition and the specific instructions of a man who knew Nevada’s underbelly, Felicia choose for the later. She did as she was told.
“Wow, Felicia. You’re doing great,” said Tanya impressed, finally looking through her fingers. “You must be really good at video games.”
“What? No, I said David was good at them. I’ve never played one in my life. This is beginner’s luck!”
Tanya felt faint. She closed her eyes again.
“Well, let’s not test that luck further, sis,” said David from the back seat. “Put on your seatbelt like we did.”
“Sorry, I can’t right now, I’m driving!”
“Let’s put it this way… I’m probably the best endowed 11-years-old in the world. A seatbelt isn’t high on my list of comfortable appliances at the moment.”
Vincent probably would have found those words a bit strange, but he wasn’t listening at the moment.
“Stop here!”, he yelled. “Ditch the car!”
He opened the door and threw himself down a hill at the side of the road. The others followed him, Felicia pleased about leaving the wheel.
“Grab Joy!” said Tanya, and David held gently one of the hooded girl’s arms.
They ran for a few minutes behind Vincent and then, inexplicably, they emerged from an alley into a parking lot. They were back to crowded Vegas, but they were mostly alone at the moment. There was just a drunken man on a corner and an amorous couple kissing inside a distant car and not minding them at all.
“Help me out here,” said Vincent, as his hands were still bound.
But the attention of the other three was on his female companion. David was undoing her rope.
“We’ve got you, Joy. We’ll get you back home and we’ll break the spe…”
David interrupted himself mid-sentence. The woman’s face that had emerged when he removed the sack wasn’t Joy’s.
“But…” he was speechless. After all they had gone through… He looked at Felicia and Tanya, who wore an identical expression. It was beyond disappointment. It was sorrow.
“You’re not Joy!” said Felicia, who looked like she could cry.
“Who the hell is Joy?” asked the newly-freed hostage. She was beautiful, but something in her makeup and her behavior betrayed her for what she was: a prostitute.
“Wait, they all told us you were with Joy!” said David looking at Vincent. It was almost like a demand, and the smaller bloke winced.
“Look, man, I don’t know who you are, and I’m grateful for what you just did. But I’ve never heard about any Joy before now…”
“Hold on, but you’re wearing her jacket!” said Tanya aloud, pointing at the woman. “And we found Joy’s cellphone at your place!”
At that, Vincent and the prostitute exchanged a look of understanding.
“Oh, you mean her!”
“Of course her! You picked her up at Matt Frakes’ party!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know who you’re talking about,” said Vincent holding up two conciliatory hands. He had endured enough for the day and seemed scared that David would hit him. “I don’t know where she is.”
“But you took her to your place!” said an indignant Felicia. “And then you practically raped her!”
“What? No, I did not! Okay, I admit I was planning to bring her home, and she was quite willing, but she was too damn drunk! She fell asleep almost as soon she left that party, I swear!”
“I swear, I swear! I had to carry her to the park and I left her on a bench. That’s when I found my pal Wanda here.”
He gestured towards the woman.
“So she’s the one you screwed, not Joy?” asked Felicia, not sure if she felt relieved or not.
“Of course. We go way back, Wanda and me, don’t we? Anyway, Wanda saw me carrying your unconscious friend and…”
“You thought you’d pinch something from her,” added David with a menacing grunt.
“Okay, geez! It’s just a sweater,” said the woman, taking it off. “Here, you can have it back. Anyway, I liked it, but there was nothing of value except for the phone, and I left it back with his junkie friend when those mobsters came and snatched us.”
Tanya turned her back and leaned against an old car. This was it. They were screwed.
“Can’t you tell us where she is, then?” she asked one last time, hope vanishing.
“No, I’m sorry,” said Vincent and he explained where the park where he had left her was. It was unlikely that she was still there after so many hours had passed. “Listen… I’m sorry, but we should skip town, lay down for a while… Salty is going to hit us hard next time he sees any of us.”
They didn’t even say another word as Vincent and Wanda broke the window of one of the cars and stole it after hotwiring it with amazing ease.
The three of them walked silently out of the parking lot and sat defeated on the curb. Felicia was actually weeping as she wrapped her body in the discarded jacked that had belonged to Joy.
“Well, let’s see the positive side… At least Joy wasn’t raped,” said Tanya, tears also crossing her face. David put a comforting arm over her shoulders as he looked at the time. It was simply too late now. Even if they kept searching for Joy and found her, they wouldn’t be able to break the spell in time. It was over.
“I guess we’ll have to get used to being grownups now,” he commented.
“Getting familiar with this overnight won’t be exactly easy…” started Felicia, crying even harder.
“Plus, the cops and the mob are looking for us in these forms. And… we should try to think how to break the news to our families,” continued David. “I’m especially sorry about you, Tanya. Your parents will hate us forever.”
“Yeah, I can imagine it: «Here’s your daughter, and she’s safe. She’s just twice as old as she was last week. Sorry about that»” said Felicia and she laughed briefly, but it turned back into a desperate wailing.
She hiccupped and tried to put herself together.
“Sorry, guys. Do you have a tissue, or something?”
Her companions shook their heads, but they searched for one in their pockets. Felicia also looked for something in Joy’s jacket. She only found one tiny piece of lilac cardboard caught on one of the zippers.
She held it up. She had stopped crying quite suddenly.
Then she said in a slow, composed manner: