Junk for Two- A Short from ‘A Trinity of Wicked Tales’
An old black minivan sat in the parking lot of a convenience store on a dead-end street. The street’s patrons were non-existent at the hour as the street was lined with factories; half of them were closed for the evening, the rest, abandoned.
The van’s black paint was chipping off the hood, leaving the bare spots to be overtaken by corrosion. The left fender was smashed in, as was the sliding side door. The right taillight was busted, showing the white light underneath, and the left was covered with red tape. The bumper was barely hanging on to its position, and a rope was being used as a quick fix to keep it in place. Each tire was a donut, one of which stood as a misfit and another had a white patch.
Inside the unkempt van sat a young couple. Trev rested uneasily in the driver’s seat while Suzie frantically dug around in a sterling silver jewelry box, clumsily spilling its contents on the garbage-filled floor of the van. Cursing, she retrieved the pieces of jewelry after anxiously digging around fast-food wrappers, potato-chip bags, empty beer bottles, grocery bags, and several used needles. She lifted one up in front of her face and studied the details in the moonlight that danced upon the dashboard. She continued this practice as she studied each of the contents of the box.
Trev concentrated on an old Vietnamese man in the store, who was sweeping the floor, and his daughter, who was restocking the beer fridge. Closing time. The time Trev and Suzie had waited for.
Trev looked down in his lap where his mother’s Berretta sat. He studied the details of the weapon. The nooks and crannies. The lever known as the trigger, which, once pulled, forced out a bullet that traveled fast enough to kill a man. The barrel, the part of the gun that acted as a cannon, housing for propellants used to push the bullet out. All components were enough to inflict harm on another, something that Trev was reluctant to do.
But the need for heroin was great. He and Suzie had gone two days without it. They had to satisfy a debt so they could once again enjoy their vice. Trev looked over at Suzie, who was still rattling around in the jewelry box that she had stolen from her mother earlier that day. Suzie began trying the gems on, pretending to be on the red carpet, signing autographs. She slid on a diamond necklace, 18-karat gold earrings, and a platinum bracelet. She looked into the rearview mirror and formed a vertical fist, placed it near her mouth, and said, “Oh, the movie is going great! Now that the Academy notices my talent, I can now go shoot up and suck my boyfriend off with peace of mind. What do you think, boyfriend?”
She looked over at Trev, forcing her fist close to his lips, enough to feel the warm exhalation from his nose on her skin. Trev smiled, showing his grimy, tinted yellow teeth in the moonlight. “I think you’re having a lot of fun.”
Suzie, irritated, threw her fist down onto her thigh. She knew Trev was nervous. He was showing no enthusiasm for her playing pretend, when he usually played along. “Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts about this. Are you?” asked Suzie.
“I never said that,” Trev protested.
“We have a plan, and you need to stick to it,” demanded Suzie.
“I am, okay!” Trev snapped. The jitters from withdrawal were putting him on edge.
“Look,” Suzie began calmly, “I know you’re nervous. I mean, look at us, about to rob a store. I mean, come on.” Suzie began to chuckle, the moonlight waltzing on the fine jewelry she was playing dress-up with. “It must be pretty serious for us to resort to this.”
“I’ve never robbed a place with a gun before,” said Trev. His nerves were mixing with a cold sweat, making him feel annoyingly uncomfortable. His stomach felt like it was folding in on itself, as if he had just taken a swift punch in the gut. Trev placed his pointy elbow on the driver’s side window and rested his ear on his bony fingers. He could feel the grime in his dark, stringy hair. He hadn’t washed or combed it in weeks.
“I know you can, baby. Remember, we have to do this,” Suzie said. “We can’t dodge Rodney forever. We have to pay him. This is the only way to be sure we have all the money.”
Suzie removed the 18-karat gold earrings from her earlobes, threw them into the jewelry box, and replaced them with rubies.
“Just go in there, point the gun at them, and demand the cash. They’ll give it to you because they’ll be scared, so just take the bag and get the fuck outta there. Easy!”
Suzie continued admiring the fine jewelry she was trying on for size in the rearview mirror. She thought she looked like a starlet. “Don’t you want another fix?” she asked as she tried various poses with the ruby earrings.
Trev knew Suzie was right. He owed Rodney, a long-time friend and drug dealer, money for heroin that he’d fronted over to Trev. Trev could never keep up with the tab. In his permanently high state, he was sure he owed Rodney $251. The jewelry and the money from the robbery would be more than enough to pay the debt and buy their next fix, and perhaps some food. Or maybe a few fixes and a bottle of water.
“Listen to me, Trev.” Suzie leaned in and placed her hands on both sides of Trev’s face, turning him away from the window towards her. Eager for a distraction, Trev fixated on how beautiful the rubies looked on her ears. They offset her beautiful, upturned, glossy blue eyes. Her face was heart shaped with a button nose. The drugs had sucked her skin in on her cheeks and formed unforgivable craters and blackheads, but that didn’t matter to Trev, as he had the same issue with his face. “I love you. You have to do this for me and you. For us.” Suzie kissed him on his dry lips. It felt as though her lips had adopted splinters from the lovable exchange, and she fought back the urge to cringe. “I will be here looking out.”
Trev was taken by Suzie’s plump lips as his face rested between her soft hands. He still saw Prom Queen 2008 of Loyola High School, although the promise that her eye sparkled with back then was no longer there. She was supposed to be at Harvard studying law or in Los Angeles pursuing a modeling or acting career. Instead, she was here, helping Trev execute robbing a convenience store in the industrial district. She was here, helping Trev get money for a debt they owed to their drug dealer. She was here, a heroin addict, living in a crappy minivan, with him. He loved her for that. She made him feel like he wasn’t an inadequate drug addict who’d nearly dragged his rich parents into bankruptcy. He would do anything for Suzie, as this was where his loyalties were.
Trev inhaled the stale garbage scent that lingered in the old van. The smell sent a shudder up his spine. Or maybe it was the withdrawal. He didn’t have time to figure it out; he knew he was stalling. He sharply expelled the air out of his lungs. His stomach was still aggravated from the absence of food, water, and the lack of heroin. The need for another fix inspired him. Suzie had done her part by stealing the jewelry from her mother. Now it was his turn to deliver—at gunpoint.
Trev smiled at Suzie as he gently removed her hands from his cheeks. “Okay,” he said. “Here goes something!” He was so close to getting another fix, he could taste it. Suzie smiled and cheered him on.
Through the window of the store the elder Vietnamese man was counting up the register. This was Trev’s opportunity.
Trev covered his oblong, gray-tinted, thin face with a ski mask, grabbed a plastic grocery bag from underneath the passenger seat, and got out of the van. He walked up to the entrance of the store, opened the door, and allowed himself in. He briskly approached the register. His stomach was full of flutters, and he felt like he might throw up.
“We are closed,” said the man in a heavy Vietnamese accent. He looked as his daughter with disgust. She was supposed to lock the door.
Trev walked up to the counter, pulled the gun from his waistband, and aimed it at the man’s head. “Put the money in the fucking bag,” Trev demanded. Trev could feel the old man’s worry as he shoved the grocery bag into his weak chest, and he nearly knocked the man off balance. The man began to shake. His old hands clumsily staggered about the drawer, causing him to fumble the dollar bills and drop the plastic bag.
“PUT THE MONEY IN THE BAG! NOW!” Trev shouted as he continued to point the gun at the man’s head. “HURRY THE FUCK UP!”
The man reluctantly shoved the crumpled dollar bills of his day’s earnings in the plastic grocery bag. The old man was more ashamed than afraid. He hung his head, nearly closing his eyes as he continued to fill Trev’s bag. As Trev watched the man comply with his demand, he was distracted by the subtle crackle of a landline receiver.
Trev’s attention was immediately taken by the Vietnamese woman, who was standing at the far end behind the counter, next to the landline phone. The receiver laid next to the dial pad on the counter. The woman had raised her hands to show the deranged addict that she wasn’t a threat. She was shaking and whimpering, pure horror in her eyes. This infuriated Trev. He’d planned on leaving them alive. All he wanted was the money. Not lives. He couldn’t go to jail. He had to pay his debt. He had to do this for Suzie. These people were getting in the way of that. He had to teach her a lesson.
Thoroughly enraged and flustered, Trev shifted the barrel in her direction and pulled the trigger. He watched as a bullet formed a hole in the woman’s throat and her blood shot outward, spritzing the counter and the wall behind her. She stumbled back into the wall, firmly grasping her throat, choking uncontrollably as she drowned in her blood. The woman dropped to her knees and fell forward onto the crisp white-tiled floor. Her eyes leveled with a puddle of blood forming around her face.
“NO! MY CAI! MY CAI! What have you done you, you JUNKIE!” the man wailed.
“SHUT UP!” Trev screamed as he pointed the gun back at the man’s face. “HURRY UP!”
The adrenaline from shooting the woman bought an eerie warm feeling over Trev’s body. He loved this feeling. It was almost as good as a fix. This was what power felt like.
The man sobbed as he finished putting the money in the grocery bag. As soon as the man finished, Trev snatched the plastic bag from the man, and without another thought, pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the man’s head, carrying brain matter and blood with it as it forced its way through a beer poster. The man fell to the floor with a loud thud, like a tree falling. The store owner laid dead next to his daughter, resting in a pool of their blood, now running together.
Trev made a swift exit out of the store, dashed across the parking lot, and hopped into the driver’s seat of the van. He threw the bag into Suzie’s lap, put the car in drive, and sped off.
The adrenaline flowing through Trev’s body was something he’d never felt before. It was an unforeseen euphoria. He never thought he would get such a rush from taking a life, or two. He felt like he could make a career out of it. He rocked back and forth as he began to heavily press the accelerator, doing 70 mph in a 50 mph zone. The adrenaline pumped through him, a much higher feeling than heroin had ever given him.
Trev howled, “OWWOOOOO!!!! Did you see that shit, baby? SHIT!!!” He felt the static flowing through his body. “Shit, baby. SHIT!! How much money is in there?”
Suzie had been counting the crumpled-up bills. She easily organized the bills by notation. She was sure to count several times before reporting. “$542.62,” Suzie replied as she leaned over and softly planted her lips on Trev’s neck. Although Trev reeked worse than the dump they lived in, she couldn’t resist reaching into his lap and caressing him as she continued to massage his neck with her lips and tongue.
“Not now, babe,” he said as he passively cuffed her flat stomach and pushed her away. “Let’s go pay Rodney, get some smack and xannies going, and then we can chill out. We can do anything you want!”
Trev’s enthusiasm was at a peak Suzie was unfamiliar with. She could see the aura he’d adopted from killing two people for drugs. He seemed more powerful, confident. She wondered how this would mix with heroin.
“Okay, baby,” she whispered in his ear as she retreated comfortably back into the passenger seat.
The couple pulled up to an abandoned house. It was a traditional-style house with gray vinyl sidings and black trimmings. The wood around the window frames was rotted and the cement that formed the stairs of the porch was riddled with cracks and holes, a result of many harsh winters and abandonment. All of the windows and doors were boarded up with old planks from the inside, which were also rotted. There was a sign on the front door that read ‘Neighborhood Watch’ with a pair of eyes with exaggerated eyebrows and eyelashes underneath.
“Stay here, Suzie,” Trev said as he counted out $270 and grabbed the jewelry box from the back seat. He started for the gun, but stopped. He looked at it, thinking about how much power it had given him just moments before and handed it to Suzie. “We are going to keep this,” he said. “With this, we will never be broke or go without a fix again.” He kissed her on the lips, opened the door, and hopped out of the van.
He walked along the side of the house and knocked on the side door, which was boarded up from the top to the middle, right above the doorknob. Trev used the pointy knuckles of his fist to make a single knock on the door. “Titty jiggler,” Trev said to the door.
The door opened. There was a man who stood no less than 6’5” tall and 400 pounds heavy. Trev climbed under the planks that covered the top half of the door. He struggled to make room for himself to stand in the doorway, as the big man was taking up most of the space at the top of the stairs that led to the basement.
“Go downstairs,” the man commanded.
“I know the drill, man,” Trev said cynically.
Trev made his way down the dark stairway, carefully stepping off the platform of one step, using his toes to tap and lead him to the next platform. He could feel the man’s belly rubbing against the back of his head as he followed Trev down to the basement. The basement reeked of mildew and sewage. The smell made Trev sick to his stomach each time he came to make a purchase. The fact that the basement was pitch black put Trev on edge even more. Who knew what Rodney and his henchmen hid in the shadows of such a disgusting, forbidden place. As Trev got closer to the bottom, he could see a flicker of candlelight playing along the cement walls. This was always their only source of light.
When Trev reached the dark, humid basement, he found himself facing his longtime friend, Rodney. Rodney was sitting at an old, long rectangular table. The table was so old and rotten that Trev couldn’t tell what kind of wood it was made of. Next to Rodney stood two men just as big as the man who escorted Trev to the basement.
“Just in time. I was wondering if you were ever going to show up,” Rodney said.
“I got something for you,” Trev said. He presented the $270 and the jewelry box.
“Thanks for delivering. I have to say, I was getting worried that you wouldn’t follow through,” Rodney said.
“What are you talking about, man? You know I will always pay up and then st—”
“Not you. Her.”
Trev turned to see Suzie standing behind him, the candlelight playing off her big blue eyes.
“What’s going on?” Trev asked.
The big man and the other two men grabbed Trev, slammed him on the table, and tied him down with nylon cables. Trev cried out as the old wood from the table pierced his skin. They tied the knots so tight that Trev could feel an uncomfortable bulging in his fingers. He tried to fight the restraints, but the knots didn’t budge.
“Thanks, Suzie,” Rodney said. “You can keep the money. I’ll take the jewelry.” Rodney tossed the money onto the cement floor near Suzie, who scrambled to retrieve it.
“And the H?” Suzie asked as she found her footing after finding only half of the money.
“Oh. Yes. Can’t forget that,” Rodney said while chuckling. He tossed the heroin on the floor and laughed as she shuffled about, trying to pick it up. “Now leave,” Rodney snarled. Suzie did just that.
Rodney turned to Trev, who was fussing about on the table. The knots remained unfazed.
“RODNEY, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, MAN?” Trev screamed.
“How much money do you owe me, Trev?” Rodney asked. The basement was so dark Trev could only follow Rodney’s voice to figure out where he stalked the shadows. He had no choice but to stare at the dark ceiling, if there was one. Trev was unsure.
“Like two hundred bucks, dude,” Trev whined desperately. “What? I fucking have it here! I don’t fucking know what Suzie told you, but I brought the money! It was all there!”
“You fucking junkie piece of shit! I gave you twenty-five hundred dollars of heroin to sell. You were to keep fifty percent of the profit, I was to get the twenty-five hundred dollars and the other fifty percent. Do you not remember that conversation? You wanted to work for me, right?”
In truth, Trev had forgotten about the arrangement the very night it was initiated. He and Suzie celebrated his new career as a drug dealer and did the heroin in a weeks’ time. He forgot about the front, he forgot about the job, he forgot it had been longer than a week that he’d been dodging Rodney, his employer. Funny how time flew when you lived every waking moment high and well beyond your means.
Trev’s return to reality was interrupted by Rodney.
“Oh, wait. You decided to use that shit, right? Just say fuck my money, right? Make me look for you, trick you into coming here? I don’t like when people think that because they’re your friend they can get away with not paying me. So your junkie bitch promised to lure you here, for a fix. That’s all it took. You stole from me and then cowered like a bitch and hid! You made me look for you! I don’t look for junkies! They look for me! Sorry, bro.” Rodney laughed manically.
The sound of Rodney’s laughter haunted Trev as he laid tied down to the table, his mind racing. If he died here, he would never be found.
“Well, no. No. No. No. I am not sorry because you ain’t shit. Nothing but a piece of fucking junkie smut!” Rodney looked over at the big man, who was standing at the foot of the table where Trev’s feet were tied down. “Take care of this asshole, Vinny. I don’t want to ruin my new shoes.” Rodney stepped back several feet to ensure his expensive clothes and jewelry stayed free of debris.
One of the men who stood firmly and undisturbed at the foot of the table made his way to the base of the stairway and picked up the candle that sat on the floor. He carried it closer to the table, where Trev continued to fight to break loose. He stood next to the table, holding the candle, offering light. Trev could now make out the structure of the ceiling. It was cement with old cables and rusty brown pipes zigzagging throughout. There was an abundance of cobwebs that had taken up residence between the gaps where the pipes met. At that moment, Trev realized this was the last thing he would see.
The big man who escorted Trev into the basement walked over to the end of the table, where Trev’s head rested uneasily, and picked up something heavy from under the table. A cinder block. The big man lifted the cinder block over his head and positioned it over Trev’s face. The stones embedded into the cement block glimmered in the candlelight. Trev held his breath. He didn’t want to die this way. He tried once more to shake free. His attempts made the men laugh. He was like a fish out of water, squirming, begging for dissolved oxygen. Trev couldn’t plea. He couldn’t speak. He was officially freaking out. He braced his body into the old wooden table. This made the men laugh even louder.
Trev began to think about his life and how his death would affect the world. He imagined his family looking for him, wanting to persuade him to try rehab again. He imagined some kids being knocked off their bikes by the smell of rotting flesh as they rode past the creepy house on a hot summer day. He imagined Suzie moving on to another addict, using him for smack and turning him over to their drug dealer once he became a risk or there was no use for him anymore. He thought of how he would have a closed-casket funeral as his face would be impossible to identify. He saw the faces of the people he’d killed less than an hour before. Their deaths fed him his last high. The power he felt over life and death was terrifying, but empowering. He thought of how no one gave a shit about a junkie. A sloppy, murdering, forgetful, dead, lonely junkie. Trev felt a new hatred for himself. Everyone would be happy that he was dead.
“Any last words, Trev?” Rodney asked.
“Please…” Trev sobbed. “Please, not like this, Rodney.”
Rodney shushed Trev and calmly said, “Goodbye.”
The big man dropped the cinder block, and it hit with a sickening smack.