The Driver spent a long time in Dallas, longer than he should have. It had taken him a day to get there from Wichita, one of the slowest drives he'd ever made in his life. He was still jilted from B's confession, and he moved around in a haze, an air so thick you could cut it with a knife. He had kept checking his rear view mirror, half-expecting to see her there, her brilliant eyes staring back at him, her lips curled in a little half smile.
But she wasn't there, and he was alone. He'd never been so alone in all his life, and that was saying something.
He pretended to watch CSPAN in the motel room, keeping one eye on the door, the other on the forty in his hand, a paper bag rolled around its shoulders like a white trash feather boa. He hardly ever drank - it reeked of disappointment and a nasty childhood - but these days, the alcohol seemed to be his only comfort. The sun shone in the window, splintering through the blinds and assaulting his eyes. He hadn't showered in a few days, his five o'clock shadow had started to make its way down his neck. His face ached, his broken nose housing a boring physical pain that B had left in her wake. Here and there it would begin to bleed again, as if his body were desperately trying to purge the memory of her. His knuckles were bloody and cracked from a bar room brawl the night before, the flesh beginning to bruise over, black and blue.
If you'd had happened upon him there, you might have thought he was dead. The man on the television spoke, but he heard nothing, saw nothing. The silence had descended on him like a shroud, the numbness of alcohol washing over him in a wave.
Very suddenly, a ringing noise broke the silence, harsh and full of the ferocity of the Hell his life had become. He did nothing, thinking for a moment that it was all in his head, that he was dreaming.
Then it rang again.
His eyes flickered about the room. He'd never kept a cell phone - too easy to trace - and wherever this one was, it wasn't making itself obvious. It rang a third time, shaking the surface that housed it violently. He stood up for the first time in hours, his head reeling from the sudden rush of blood. He steadied himself on the bed and spied it - the lamp on the bedside table was vibrating ever so slightly.
He rushed to it and opened the drawer, batting the bible aside. Sure enough, a red Blackberry sat beneath it, impatiently dancing around the wooden box it sat in. He picked it up and studied it, the caller ID sending a chill up his spine.
"Rose," he whispered to himself.
A pulse of disbelief, of cynicism rushed through him. Someone had left it here, someone's girlfriend was named Rose, and now she was calling this missing phone. It's just a coincidence.
In all your life as what you are, have you ever been privy to coincidences?
"No," he said. He pressed the talk button and lifted it to his ear.
He didn't have to say anything for the other end to start speaking.
"What is it with you and pretty girls?" asked a high pitched, yet menacing voice.
The Driver paused and listened to the man's steady breathing, the static white noise that filled in over it. He swallowed hard. "Bernie," he said softly.
"As much as I'd like to dwell on sentiment, I don't really have the time, so I'll make this quick. You stabbed me in a parking lot and left me for dead. After everything I did for you, you turned around and fucked me. So, that being said, I'd like to meet somewhere. Maybe have a little chat. I'm not a man of romance, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want vengeance, a little tit for tat. You know what I'm saying?"
The Driver swallowed and rushed to the blinds, spreading them hastily and scanning the empty parking lot.
As if he knew the Driver's panic, Bernie said, "Don't worry, there's no one watching you. There's no one around to make you do anything. That, actually, is the beauty of this entire thing. You don't necessarily have to do what I say. But I came prepared for that."
There were clicking noises as the phone was handed off to someone else, a long pause of dead air, then the sound of heavy breathing.
"D?" asked a weak voice on the other end.
A feeling of sadness, of rage and fear expanded within him all at the same time. His eyes flickered, and he staggered backward and fell to the bed again. "B," he said, his voice shaking.
She let out a sigh and a slight sob, then sniffled until she had calmed herself. "Listen," she said, and her voice was suddenly stronger, determined even, "whatever they tell you, do not come and get me. Please. There is nothing but death for you here -"
She yelped as a smacking noise came from the other end of the line. He winced. The clicking noises came again.
"So," said Bernie, "now that you know I mean business, here's what I want. B, as you've so affectionately named her, owes me $500,000, a sum which she has failed to work off."
The Driver swallowed. "You want the money?"
There was a pause as the click of saliva on the other end let him know that Bernie was smiling that awful smile of his. "There's a warehouse not too far from the Dallas Cowboys Stadium - a place where they used to make candy bars. If you're not here in three hours with the cash, she dies. But so help me God - and I want to make this very clear - if you come here and try to pull anything, I will gut her right in front of you. Do you understand me?"
"Bernie," he said suddenly, a slight panic in his voice, "wait. Can I speak to her? Please?"
Bernie laughed a terrible laugh, a laugh which went on for an exorbitant amount of time. "Sure kid."
There were clicks as the phone was passed to her again. "Hello?" she asked. Her voice was strained, damaged, all the pain and suffering he had felt for her personified in one word.
He smiled a little, despite the situation. He knew it was hopeless, knew that today, he would die. But to hear her voice again - that was enough for him.
"Hi, B," he said softly, a tear coming to his eye. "I just wanted to let you know that I made a mistake. I just wanted to tell you that...that I love-"
"I know. I love you too."
He swallowed again, and sighed. "I'm coming to get you."
"Don't," she said, her voice broken with tears.
He paused, a deafening silence to end all silences. "You have given me something I never thought I could have. Thank you, B."
"Avery. My name is Avery."
He smiled wider than he had in his entire life, and a tear made its way down his cheek. "Thank you, Avery. I'll see you in three hours."
She cleared her throat. "I'll see you in two." Click.