Chapter 15: "On the Banks of the Wabash"
Everyone should ride in the trunk of a car at least once in their lives. Not that it’s some profound rite of passage or an impetus to a great epiphany, it’s just that I’d hate to think I was the only schmuck that ever had to do it.
However, waking up inside the trunk of a car is an altogether different situation. At first there’s the disorientation, then the panic, and finally the remembering of the painful events that led to you being bound in total darkness and covered in your own vomit.
My mouth tasted like I had eaten a car battery. Thankfully, I no longer felt nauseated but my head was on the verge of falling apart. Between the stitched wound over my left eye and the dull ache in the back of my head, it felt as if my skull had been skewered with a flagpole. Of course the pain and nasty taste in my mouth were small prices to pay to have seen Benoit eat a face full of sick.
My hands were bound behind my back and my feet were hobbled in a way that I couldn’t spread them more than eight inches apart. I felt around but didn’t find anything I could use to cut through whatever it was that held me so I tried to weasel my legs through my arms. It didn’t work.
The sound of the tires changed. Instead of the dull whine of rubber on pavement, I heard the crunch of gravel and then the soft whir of dirt underneath. I bounced around as we hit several bumps and holes. A few minutes later, the car stopped and the engine shut off. I couldn’t hear any other traffic.
At one time or another, just about everyone ponders what their last moments might be like. Car accident, cancer, skydiving malfunction, and—the always preferable—in bed of old age. But of the dozen different ways I thought it would end for me, being driven out to the middle of nowhere and shot like a rabid dog was…well to be honest, it was always one of the more likely scenarios. But on the bright side, there were always worse ways to die.
The car doors opened and the vehicle’s weight shifted as people stepped out. I wriggled onto my back and pulled my knees into my chest. As soon as the trunk started to open, I kicked as hard as I could. There was a dull thud and a muffled curse. The trunk flew open and two men reached in and grabbed me.
“That son of a bitch!”
As they pulled me out of the trunk, I saw that Benoit had his head tilted back and was pinching his nose. Blood was running over the dry vomit stains on the front of his suit. Darby was standing with her hands on her hips, scowling at me while my two handlers shook me until I stopped struggling.
We were somewhere on the edge of town, just north of campus judging by the angle of the dormitories visible over the trees. There were street lamps off in the distance and there was the constant drone of traffic somewhere out of sight. The car was parked next to a set of railroad tracks that ran off into a cluster of trees before disappearing into the darkness.
“You should have stayed in
“I have to agree with you on that.”
Darby closed the trunk then hopped onto the back of the car. “Hold him up straighter, boys. I want to get one last good look at him.” She lit a cigarette and leaned back to admire me. Her lips were tilted in a half smile as her eyes roamed over me. She shook her head. “What the hell was I thinking when I married you?”
“Darby, don’t do this. Please.”
“Oh God, please, no begging.” She blew a cloud of smoke at me. “If you start with all that sniveling, don’t-kill-me shit, I’ll end up puking on poor Julius.”
Benoit tilted his head to the side and gave her the bird.
“Kill me?” I laughed. “Please, do me a favor. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you killed me, Darby. I’m just asking you to please not do anything with it.”
“Oh, I’m not going to use it,” she said. “I’m going to sell it.”
It looked like Sarah was right, as she usually was. “Well then let me buy it,” I said. “I’ll pay any amount you want. Just tell me how much.”
Now Darby laughed. It was a beautiful sound, made only more so by the way it echoed through the trees around us. “You’re a fuckin’ heavy for B-rate porn stars, Dingo. You can barely pay your rent. Besides,” she looked at her watch, “the auction ends in a couple of hours and I don’t think you’re going to be around to place any bids.” She crossed her arms and pursed her lips.
“Hold on a second. Back up.” I took a penguin step forward. “You mean to tell me that you’re selling my brother’s soul…on eBay?”
“Well,” she shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah.”
I honestly thought I could feel the sanity oozing out of all the holes in my head. “Okay, look. I know I’m broke. But Rick has money. He can give me—”
“I’m not selling it for money, Dingo.”
My heart felt like it had just turned to lead and fell through my abdomen. Sarah had called it. The Graeae wanted her dowry back.
Well, good news was that I’d most likely be dead when Darby finally got it. “There’s got to be another way to get what you want,” I said.
“Really? How?” She kicked herself off the back of the car. “Tell me Dingo because I REALLY want to know.”
“Goddammit, woman, listen to me!” One of the thugs punched me in the gut and dropped me to my knees. But it didn’t matter. I figured I had only minutes left to convince her of how bad her idea was. “He murdered children, Darby! Do you understand that? Some of those people were kids. Is getting your dowry back worth letting that out into the world again?”
Darby was all fists when she came at me. I fell onto my back, my tied hands pinned underneath me. She was always a tiny thing, but when her knees landed on my chest I couldn’t catch my breath. “It was everything to me you unfaithful prick! I gave up everything for you and I want it back!” She grabbed at the wound over my left eye and started pinching out my stitches with her fingernails. I tried to fight but she grabbed my hair with her other hand. “Hold him still!” More hands grabbed me. “I became mortal for you, Dingo, and then you went off and fucked some whore! So I don’t give a shit if your brother skull-fucked a convent of dead nuns, you owe me!”
Darby was a wild thing. All claws and spittle tearing away at my face. Somewhere in the middle of it all I screamed. My throat strained and I tasted the familiar tang of blood pooling in my mouth, but all I could hear was her. “Is that how you show love? By screwing some slut? Answer me, mother fucker! I sacrificed my birthright to be with you and you do that to me? Is that how you show love?!” Her fingers started digging into the wound. “I swear I’m going to pull the face from your skull and use it as a God! Damned! PURSE!”
Bright lights flashed over me for a second. The thugs that were holding me down while Darby played NipTuck were now pulling her off of me. She was still screaming at me but her words were unintelligible now. Darby had become completely unhinged. She kicked and spat at me, but I hardly noticed over the warm wetness drooling down the side of my head.
I leaned to my side and saw another vehicle parked a few feet away. Darby was being ushered to the open rear door. Someone was waiting in the back seat but there was too much blood in my eyes for me to see who it was. But once they got Darby to the car, she shrugged them off of her and said, “Dump him.” She got inside, closed the door, and the car sped off, leaving me covered in a fresh layer of dust.
“Now you’re going to get yours, asshole.” Julius’ voice was cracked and nasal. “Cut his feet loose. I ain’t carrying the bastard.” One of the thugs pulled a knife and slit the bonds at my feet. “Now walk.”
They pushed me onto the train tracks and started moving me into the darkness. “You going to tie me to the tracks like some old-school villain now?”
Benoit smacked me on the back of the head. “Shut the fuck up.” Normally it wouldn’t have fazed me, but he hit me on the same bloody spot he hit me earlier and my feet buckled. The thugs caught me before I completely collapsed.
Once I got my feet under me I said, “You know, smacking me around isn’t very good for your wardrobe.”
“I can buy new clothes, now shut up.”
I wanted to argue with him, taunt him, and generally just be a pain in his ass. But my energy was gone and my head was a mess. I blinked some of the blood out of my eyes and saw the silhouette of a large metal structure up ahead. As we got closer I saw that it was the support system to the train trestle that went over the
The ground beside the tracks gradually fell away as we moved closer to the banks of the river. I smelled the sweet scent of dew and wild grass as well as something that reminded me of marijuana. The air was heavy and wet. Mosquitoes flocked to the open feast on the side of my face. After about twenty yards, the tracks were too high off the ground to safely jump. I could hear the sound of water moving up ahead.
The two thugs each had an arm as they carried me to the center of the bridge and brought me to the edge. Benoit stepped up next to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “This is actually kind of nice,” he said. “Out in Vegas we have to dig holes in the desert for people like you. But here,” he waved his hand out to the black mass of flowing water beneath us, “we don’t even need shovels.”
“My body will wash up on shore sooner or later.” That was a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say. Then again, I didn't know why not. This was pretty high on my list of ways I thought I was going to die.
“Yeah, well I don’t feel like going back for bricks. It doesn’t matter anyway. If your body shows up, boss-man’ll make sure none of this comes back to us or your ex.” He patted my shoulder.
One of the thugs hit Benoit on the shoulder and pointed up the tracks. “Train’s coming.”
“Shit.” Being in the middle of the trestle meant they’d have to outrun the train since the only quick way off the tracks was either in the water or climbing the support structure. And none of these guys looked like the climbing type.
“All right, throw him over.”
“Should we shoot him first?”
Benoit laughed. “And let him miss out on the fun of drowning?” He wrapped his massive arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. “I want you to think of me on your way down.”
“Train’s coming fast. We gotta go.”
I tried to pull my hands apart, but the rope was too tight. Benoit put his large hand to my back. “‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,’” he said. “You idiot.” He laughed as he pushed me over the edge.