The black SUV slid out from the residential neighborhood as a police cruiser sped by. Cero was putting great effort into controlling his rage. Pain scorched the left side of his face and he could not tell how much damage had been done. The peppering of wounds could have been caused either by buck shot or the shrapnel from the door frame as he dove inside. It was anyone’s guess how much of it was permanent. He couldn’t see out of his left eye, blood was congealing into a crust over his eyelid.
Willy groaned from the passenger seat and Cero pressed down on the accelerator as they moved onto I-15. The vehicle had been parked a block and a half away from the detective’s home and they had wasted too much time trying to move unnoticed to it after the botched shooting. He shifted the car over to the right lane and set the cruise control to sixty-five not wanting to risk being pulled over for something stupid like speeding.
“He fucking shot me!” Willy moaned as he gently cradled his arm.
Cero had to suppress another surge of rage at his passenger.Never had this happened before to Cero. Never. How had the detective known they were there? They hadn’t left any signs, they hadn’t even gone through the front door when they first arrived. Cero’s mind could only think of one reason.
It was worse now. Maybe it was the open wound, but Willy’s fishy smell was magnified into the small car, making Cero want to vomit. How did other people not smell that? It was impossible not to. That was the only explanation. The detective had smelled his partner and known they were there.
“He shot me!” Willy moaned again.
“Of course he fucking shot you. You fired first!” Cero snapped.
“But he knew we were there. How did he know?!”
Cero felt no need to apprise his partner of his theory on the subject. It didn’t matter really. All they would’ve had to do was wait. This Detective Burton would have come in eventually and they would still have had enough of the element of surprise to get the jump on him.
“I could’ve sworn that I hit him when I first shot through the door.” Willy said with a frown.
“Oh c’mon Willy, are you as stupid as a whale too?” Cero said as the SUV rocketed southbound.
“What?” The man’s face flushed red from either anger or embarrassment, Cero didn’t care which.
“You’re firing a SIG auto-pistol with nine millimeter rounds. Add in that you attached a suppressor and you should be happy that your bullets even penetrated an oak godamned door.” Cero said calmly, “How have you made it this long in our business being this stupid?”
As they moved out of Salt Lake County, there was a down slope where Utah County begins. It was known to locals as the point of the mountain. Cero pulled the SUV onto the right shoulder and parked.
“What are you doing?” Willy asked warily.
“I can’t risk that someone noticed the SUV. I need a different vehicle.”
Willy wasn't the sharpest, but he noticed the use of the singular. ‘I’ not ‘we’. He started to move, but before he could do anything Cero had slid across the seat and jammed a combat knife up into the fleshy jowls of Willy’s chin.
“I also need to get rid of a lot of dead weight.” Cero said. He moved the blade around and heard a gurgling sound as blood was pouring out of his severed carotid and into his lungs. The man tried to move but his strength was gone. Cero watched excitedly as the life drained out of Willy’s eyes.
He pulled the knife out and stared at the obese corpse. The wound was stretched and ugly and Cero removed his glove. He gently ran his fingers over the edges of the severed flesh. Excitement caused each hair on his skin to rise and he felt his groin swell. Gently, reverently, he pushed his fingers into the wound, probing at the death he had created.
He removed his hand from the hole and brought it up to his face, staring at the blood that moistened his fingertips. Slowly he brought it closer, lifting his pointer finger to his lips and suckling at the digit. The smell was gone now. No fishiness; just death. He lapped up the blood and a shiver of pleasure moved up his spine. The metallic taste glided satisfyingly across his taste buds. He could smell, touch, taste, hear, and see the killing with ultra clarity. He loved the unbridled power that one feels.
A semi passed next to the SUV causing the vehicle to sway and bring Cero back to the present. He sat up straight and clicked on the vehicle’s hazard lights. There was still work to be done.
Jessica pulled on a coat and felt goose pimples rise against the freezing night as she hurried across the parking lot. The time of her church had been moved to 8:30 in the morning and it was now midnight. She wouldn’t get much sleep before the services but she would be there. She needed it.
She sat down in her car and felt the wad of money in her back pocket press against her right cheek; her share of the tips for the night. Jessica was once again debating her current job as a cocktail waitress. She didn’t drink, or anything, but still she felt that just doing her job was staining a little more of her soul. She came to work each night wearing tank-tops and tight shorts that barely covered her bum and let men ogle her for hours just so she could get great tips. It was demeaning, but the money was excellent and she needed it.
She clicked open her glove compartment and felt around for her ring. She found it and slid it onto her left hand and instantly her mood lightened. Craig would be home from his mission in three short months. They would finally get married and she could finish school with a normal job.
Jessica gently rubbed the diamond ring tracing the letters CTR: Choose the Right.When Craig left for his mission he had wanted to give her and engagement ring but also didn’t want her to feel obligated to wait two years for his return. But she was young and in love and would have waited a hundred years for him. She would’ve accepted the engagement ring and had written him letters nearly every day for the last twenty-one months.
The further she moved away from the bar, the more her mood lifted. By the time she was at the point of the mountain she had turned on her CD player and was happily humming along to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She reached the top of the point and saw the SUV parked on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. Helping someone in need might be just what she needed to fully clear away this depressing cloud following in her wake. She clicked on her blinker, moved to the side of the road, and pulled up behind the black vehicle.
There was a silhouette of a man at the front of the vehicle where the hood stood open. He stepped to the side and moved towards her car. He looked like he was moving with a limp and as he was illuminated by Jessica’s headlights, she gasped. The left side of his face was a bloody wreck.
“Oh my gosh! Are you alright?!” She said jumping out of the car. “Were you in an accident?”
He limped forward and a gun smoothly appeared in his hand. Jessica yelped but he held up his left hand to silence her.
“Look, Miss, I don’t want to hurt you. Just stay calm.” His voice was measured and composed.
Jessica wanted to scream, but instinctively she kept quiet. Now that the man was closer, she could see black marks on his skin.
Spiders. He had spiders tattooed all across his skin. They looked horrifyingly realistic.
He opened the back seat of his vehicle and motioned for her to get in. The traffic was light and he had the pistol positioned so that anyone passing would not see it. Jessica sat in the back and felt tears begin to trickle down the side of her face.
“Good. I don’t want to hurt you.” He repeated. “Just keep calm and quiet and I won’t have to.”
Jessica nodded and the man went to work. He had a bunch of metallic briefcases in the very back of the SUV which he moved to her trunk. Fear coursed through her veins and she prayed silently to God that she could stay calm. She heard a faint noise in the background and recognized her stereo was still playing. To calm herself she concentrated on the music gliding into the night. The song, 'Testimony' had just started; it was one of her favorites.
The man finished moving all the bags and closed her trunk. Hundreds of righteous men and women provided a soundtrack to his movements.
“As testimony fills my heart; it dulls my pain of days!”
The man walked back to her and smiled.
“Thank you for making this easy. You smell like cinnamon, did you know that?”
She shook her head slowly.
“It’s faint but it’s there. Cinnamon is innocence and normally I can only find it on children.” He leaned in closer to her and she mewled but tried to keep her calm. “You must live that life of yours in a bubble. I would’ve loved to take away the smell. To take away your cinnamon, but, as the good poet, Robert Frost, would say; I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
“For one brief moment heaven’s view, Appears before my gaze.”
The man glanced over his shoulder towards the oncoming traffic. There was none.
“First promise. No pain.” He said as he brought the pistol up and pressed it against her forehead.
Darkness burrowed into her skull and the man had not lied. She felt no pain in the end.