The young man wrapped his hands around his coffee mug, the heat creeping into his frozen fingers. He glanced at the bulky bag sitting next to him, thousand-bucks notes bounded with rubber bands stunk out from the small gap in the zipper. His hands shook, making ripples on the coffee surface. He took a deep breath but it was useless, nothing he could do to calm himself down. He was looking out of the window for the last time when it finally came to his recognition that he was about three hundred miles out of city range, that he was the safest he could manage to be. When he became motionless at last, he mumbled to himself, “The cops aren’t going to find me…they aren’t, they aren’t.” At least he hoped so.
The mother watched her daughter flying a kite, a bright smile on her face. How innocent she looks, she thought, if only I could see her grow up. The young girl turned around and said to her mother, “Can I go inside now? I’m hungry.”
“If you wish,” the mother said, wrapping her arms around her daughter’s agile body, carrying her into the house. She wondered if her hands would make her little girl shiver.
He could be dead if the money wasn’t delivered before daybreak. He was overwhelmed by a new wave of panic. Someone would come and kill him if they didn’t get what they asked for. He placed his heavy hands on the dull green bag. He had to get it sent out today, but not without exposing himself in the public, where people that knew what he had done were packed in.
Perhaps if, by very little chance, he made it out without getting caught, he could come home to his family before his wife…perhaps he could see her again. Across the Pacific Ocean, where he would be free of worry and fear.
“Would you really do it? Expose him? Tell everyone about the murder?” a voice in the room said.
“If the money wasn’t here at the appointed time? Yes,” a thicker voice answered. Fingers tapping against the glass table. “But we wait until dawn, and not any longer.”
“It is not about the money at all, isn’t it?”
The tapping stopped. “No.”
“Then I bet again it is not about the murder either.”
“It is the best thing he had done.”
“Who’s the one you’re against? The murdered or the murderer?”
A humourless chuckle. “Both.”
The smell of cooked spaghetti made her nauseated, but she did it anyway. For her daughter.
She felt it, it was getting worse day after day, like a balloon keeps growing and growing near the point which it bursts into a million tiny pieces. Like a bomb. Tick tock tick tock tick tock.
Malaria. She touched her fingertips to the healed mosquito bite, where the infection took place. It wouldn’t be long now. She closed her eyes and imagined her husband walking through the front door, she ran to embrace him. Tick tock.
He felt the painful touch of winter as he stepped out into the balcony of the abandoned house he had hidden in for a week. Thirty minutes to two in the morning.
He had put on the coat that stank of gasoline, the one he stole from one of the employee at the gas station on his way here. The boots he wore were the ones he picked up from a dumpster next to the gas station. Now his whole body smelt of gasoline and petrol. He snatched the bag from the dusty gray counter and started his truck. It had been covered thickly with snow to an extent of at least three inches on the roof.
He had become more and more certain of his enemy’s incoming execution as the clock ticked away. His fingertips had started to ache from the continuous tapping every second, a slow smile crept up onto his face.
He snapped his fingers. A moment later, his assistant came in through the back door of his office.
“How can I be at your service, sir?”
“Get my men ready. We are going to play chase.”
Several armed men loaded into the black cargo truck. Their eyes followed the tall, double-chinned man with his head up high that slowly climbed into the front seat.
He dug for his cell in his suit’s pockets and punched in numbers. A shallow voice answered, “I’m coming.”
“You see, I need that money and I am in quite a hurry, I gave you my best advice and it would be your greatest responsibility if anyone got hurt, you see…” The fat man inclined his head and looked disapprovingly at his nails.
“No. No, no. Please, I’ll be there soon,” the voice pleaded, “you made your promise.”
“Well, looks like you could have done better.” He began to pull the speaker away from his ear.
“Oh no, no. Please don’t hurt them…” The other voice continued, but it turned into a buzz that no one in the cargo truck cared about.
The silence in the house was excruciating. Everything stood so still that it seemed even such thing as breathing no longer existed.
She had stared blankly at the far wall in the living room for so long a time she could not remember. She started to wonder if she was still alive, but stopped momentarily when she saw her daughter pacing back and forth now and then.
A loud clang suddenly shook the house.
She spun and grabbed hold of her daughter’s wrists, backing away from the intruders’ view. The little girl sobbed in short breaths.
“Hush baby, I am not gonna let anybody hurt you.” The mother said, though she felt as hopeless as the girl did.
They hid in the kitchen behind the door. Voices of men echoed in the empty house.
His own life didn’t matter anymore. Not when he needed to protect his family.
He witnessed the break-in of his own house from thirty yards away. He ran.
He entered through the back door from the garden, peeked around the corner, and crawled to the kitchen. He knew his wife too well.
The men who had gone searching for them were upstairs. He stood and looked into the kitchen through the translucent glass in the kitchen door. Four terrified eyes pierced into his before he heard the scream and knew all was over.
Shouting from upstairs and quick footsteps announced their approach. The woman’s face twisted in anguish as she stared back at his husband, her hand clamping over her daughter’s mouth. But it was too late and it was doomed that all would be broken.
If only I had come here sooner, the father thought, who the hell cares about the money anyway? He had brought this to his family, invited death into his own home. He should have known it was a trap, should have known it was about his life instead of the money he had been told to steal.
He now faced the four built men and…his blackmailer. The cat caught its bait. The game had begun without his notice.
The man in a suit stood the closest to him and had a silver gun in his hand, his men had their strong grips on his body, pressing him on his knees. He struggled against the weight but the hands went tighter around his shoulders.
In his head he had heard his wife and daughter screaming, they were calling for help but no one answered. The silver gun cocked.
He closed his eyes and everything flashed on his eyelids, every happy moment he had with his family, every tear he made his wife shed. He clung to them as he flinched away from the ice-cold spot placed on his forehead.
“Don’t be afraid,” he heard his wife and daughter said to him in their lovely voices. It was the last thing he heard.