“Why aren’t shoes ever abandoned in pairs?” She said.
Soft, under her breath, the question floated out. I saw her reflection in the flickering black window. She stared out into the night. Light occasionally showered over her, bathing her in an unnatural glow as headlights swung across glass from oncoming cars. It gave her an ethereal ghostly pallor. Mary Lou didn’t blink.
“What about shoes?” I asked.
She said nothing. Not even a turn of the head. Stared out into the night, watching sign posts and mile markers race by.
“You can’t stay mad all night, Mar. I need the company.”
Mary Lou hadn’t talked in three hours. Not since Colorado. Now she didn’t acknowledge me.
“Mary?” I said again.
Mary Lou got that way when she was upset. Cold. Silent. A real ice queen.
She had learned silence hurt more than words. Not that she wouldn’t throw an occasional tantrum. Screaming. Slamming fists. We had had some epic fights. Followed by the best sex.
Not tonight. Not after Colorado.
I reached out to touch her red hair. The curls were inviting. Soft. Supple. How many times had I run my fingers through Mary Lou’s hair? Whispered in her ear? Told her we were going to take the world by storm? Too many, too many for sure.
The windshield flooded with light. A big farm truck wound around the bend half in our lane, half in theirs. I withdrew my hand quickly, gripping the wheel hard and swerved along the gravel shoulder. The car stalled, coming to a stop.
I looked back as the lights vanished around the next bend. I slammed my hands against the wheel
“Fuck all. That bastard nearly killed us, Mary.”
I cranked the car. It coughed back to life after the third time.
“You OK? Did you see that asshole? Must have been half asleep and didn’t even stop to see if we’re alright?”
Mary Lou didn’t answer me.
“I have half a mind to tear off after him. Catch up and put a pounding to him. What do you think? Mar?”
She wasn’t buying my bravado. Not since I let that cop pull us over in Colorado.
“You can’t let them push you around, Lester. They can smell a cunt.”
What was I supposed to do? Race the cop to the border. Hope he didn’t chase us right across into Kansas?
“Mar, don’t worry. I got this.”
I didn’t. What was I thinking? Driving a stolen car belonging to that old man in Elizabeth. He was probably dead. That was a mistake. I tried to tell the cop. Tried to explain it was all a mistake.
All he wanted to do was tell me was my tail light was out. I spilled the beans.
He cuffed me. Sat me on the rear of the stolen sedan and called for back-up.
Mary Lou pushed open the passenger door.
“Don’t get out of the car.” He said, hand on his service revolver. “Ma’am. Do. Not. Move.”
She stumbled out anyway. Toppled onto the dusty shoulder.
Unlatching the gun, the cop repeated “Ma’am. Do not move. Are you alright?” He stepped cautiously.
Mary Lou vomited. Her body convulsed.
He dropped any pretense and rushed to her side. Rolled her on her back and looked over at me.
“Does she have any medical conditions? Has she taken anything?”
Shocked, I shook my head. And before I could say anything Mary Lou had grabbed his gun and slammed an elbow deep into his crotch.
She patted him for keys. The cop rolled his body, knocking her hard to the ground. They were a ball rolling in a tangle, fighting for the gun. The gun went off.
She stood, then wedged a red pump firmly into his balls. “Bastard!” She spat at him.
Thank god. He wasn’t dead.
“Mary, lets get out of here.”
I shook my cuffed hands.
“We’re going to get, Lester.” She unlocked the cuffs and handed me the gun.
The gun was uneasy in my hand. The cop groaned again, hands clamped to whatever manhood he had left. I was shaking.
“Lester. Fuck sakes. Do it.”
I couldn’t. Not again.
Mary Lou grabbed the gun back. “Start the car.”
I did. The gun popped twice. She got back into the car.
“Mary” was all I could manage to say.
She cut me off with glare.
“Cunt.” She turned away. That was the last thing she said.
I was. I shouldn’t have let the cop pull me over. Shouldn’t have spilled my guts.
Mary Lou knew what I was now. A coward. All the brave words in the world weren’t going to change that.
So I pulled back onto the road, driving deeper into the night. In silence.
A couple more hours wheeled by. The dash clock flicked past 4 am. I hadn’t seen a car or a truck in more than an hour. The passing darkness was slowly lulling me to sleep.
We’d pulled all-nighters before. We robbed twenty seven houses in four states. Stolen at least a dozen cars. I was the wheelman and Mary Lou the navigator. Not tonight. I was defined. I was the guy who crumbled under pressure. A cunt who let her do the dirty work.
When the old man walked in on us, fucking on his couch, it was the first time we’d been caught. He wasn’t supposed to be home for a week. Plenty of time for us to play house and loot the home. Maybe steal the car. But he caught us.
He went for the phone. I tackled him and his body crunched under me. He didn’t move. Silent.
Mary Lou was silent. I wondered if she was even awake. I could see her faint reflection on the passenger window, but I couldn’t tell if she was asleep.
If she’s asleep, I wondered, should I wake her? Two hours of Mary Lou chiding me was better than struggling against sleep. Once we got into Missouri she could zip her lips for a week and I wouldn’t care.
I pushed against her shoulder.
Her head lolled. She was knocked out.
I was going to give her another shove, but I saw the pack of L&Ms sticking out of the dash.
Mary Lou hated me smoking. She was asleep, so what would she care. If she woke up, at least I’d have some company again.
Seemed like a win-win to me. I lifted the pack and shook one loose.
L&M wasn’t my brand but I wasn’t going to complain. I bent forward and pushed the lighter. After a moment it popped and I yanked it out of the dash. The hot coiled lighter flung from my hand, falling down onto the passenger side floor. I could see the cooling amber light next to Mary Lou’s bare foot. She was missing a shoe. I bolted down to grab it before it burnt her.
“There’s a cop.”
“What?” I said. I barely heard Mary Lou’s words.
The county cruiser’s light slashed through the night. Lifting up, I could see the pooled blood in Mary Lou’s lap. It stained the flowered pattern of her dress.
I didn’t bother to grab the wheel as we missed the turn and the car tumbled through a cornfield. Stalks flattening as the car rolled.
Mary Lou’s body hung from the passenger’s chair, buckled in safe.
I couldn’t feel my legs and my head hammered. Lying with my back against the ceiling of the car, my head dangled out of the shattered window. I saw the body of a cop step into view. His gun was extended.
I hadn’t planned on it. He spoke into a walkie on his shoulder.
“County. We’re going to need an ambulance. Two suspects. One’s a possible DOA.”
I saw more lights on the horizon. Another voice, more shuffling. I couldn’t turn my head to see the approaching voice.
“So which one do you think is the shooter?”
I looked over to Mary Lou. Silent. Red hair flowing, curls dangled down.
“It doesn’t matter. They’re both dead.”
There was a twinge in my neck and the night went black.