FICTION: Jailbait by Caspar Vega

We pull into the motel parking lot a little after nine in the morning. I park the old black pick-up a few spaces from the door to the front desk. My trusty first generation Chevy. I’ve come close to selling it so many times but never did. Thank god I didn’t. I love that car. I’d miss it dearly. Daisy asks me which one I need. I say I reckon I’ll be Jimmy Robson today. She hands me the driver’s license and I head to the front desk. A fat brownish woman without a name tag greets me almost immediately. She asks me what she can do for me today. I say I’d like a room for one night, please. She asks if I’m alone. I say I’m with my wife. She glances out of the glass doors to check if said wife is nearby. There’s a vending machine blocking the Chevy so she doesn’t see Daisy.

“Married already, huh?” she asks.

“Already?” I ask.

“Yeah, well, you looking so young.”

“How young do I look?”

“Well…”

She narrows her eyes, thinking really hard about this. I can tell she likes doing this type of thing with everyone. Guessing their age, their height, their ethnicity, their dress size. She’s probably wrong half the time but still prides herself on having a keen eye for that sort of thing. Super satisfied whenever someone’s impressed by her skills.

“I’d say you look about nineteen.”

“I see,” I reply, smirking.

“Oh, don’t leave me hanging! Am I close? You know, I’m usually real good at this sort of thing.”

“I’m thirty-one. But thank you.”

“You’re kidding!” she exclaims.

“I wish. I’d love to be nineteen again.”

“Well, they say you’re only as young as you feel, right?”

“Or as young as the girls you’re with…” I mutter.

“Come again now?”

“Forget it. So room for two?”

“Yeah, sorry. Look at me, babbling away when you probably have business to attend to. First floor, second floor, any preference?”

“Second floor would be better. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

Her voice trails off while she slams her fingers on the keyboard.

“Hey, sugar?” she asks, holding up the driver’s license.

“Yeah.”

“According to this here, you’re thirty?”

“Oh. Well. You know how it is. Always thinking ahead. I’ll be thirty-one soon enough.”

“But you won’t be for another six months!” she says, laughing.

“What can I say? Guess my glass is half-empty.”

“How old do you think I am? Sorry, I’m not just wasting time, I’m waiting for this slow-ass computer to process your booking.”

“No problem,” I say, thinking she’s probably in her mid-thirties.

“Oh, I bet you won’t guess right, either!”

“I’m going to say you’re twenty-six.”

She blushes, as far as I can make out, and lets out an odd snort-giggle.

“You’re too sweet, Jimmy!”

“Oh, I can’t be too far off?”

“I’m thirty-six! You’re off by a whole decade!”

“Well, I’ll be damned! You sure don’t look it.”

She’s laughing now, really heartily, and I can tell I’ve made her day. She says the booking is all confirmed and I’m in room forty-one. She hands me the key. I thank her, wish her a lovely day, and head back to the car. Daisy looks less restless than she usually does.

“That took a while,” she comments.

“Sure did. I think she was flirting with me.”

“You wish.”

“No, she was. Fat chicks love me.”

“Oh, so I’m fat now?”

“Not what I meant and you know it.”

“I do need to drop a few more pounds…” she trails off.

“You obviously don’t. Besides…”

“Besides what?”

“Never mind. Room forty-one, let’s go.”

Besides, you don’t love me anyway. That’s what I was going to say. I’m not sure if she ever did but I’m damn sure she doesn’t anymore. We get up to the room. Standard motel interior. I turn the TV on, then turn it off and say quickie. She doesn’t say anything. She takes her clothes off and lies on her stomach.

I like that we have this rapport. At least in one way, we were both always wired the same. No matter how much we argued, no matter how much we disagreed. Even if something truly horrible had happened between us, we both always needed the physical release and were able to separate it from whatever crap we were dealing with outside the protected holy realm of the sack.

I look at her beautiful tanned skin, her butt up in the air like a ripe peach. I take my belt off, hit her with it twice, and get into position. It doesn’t take long for either of us when I use the belt. She reaches for a cigarette after we’re done.

“I don’t think you can smoke in here.”

“Let them come get me then,” she says and lights it. I take it out of her mouth, go into the bathroom, toss it in the bowl and flush. She half-seriously says I’m a bastard.

“We’re supposed to be careful. This is not being careful. This is being an asshole. Don’t pretend like you don’t understand what I’m talking about.”

“I’m not pretending anything, I just want to have a damn smoke,” she says, playing dumb.

“Then go find some discreet place outside. Christ.”

“Why are you so paranoid?”

“Because I’m taking all the risks!”

“I set this up. Remember that.”

“Oh, I remember. Except I checked into the room using a fake ID and no doubt got clocked by the camera. I’m the one who needs to drive it across state lines while you’re comfortably sitting on a god damn bus! Maybe that’s why I’m a little on edge about shit like this?”

“Don’t forget the carnal knowledge of a minor you’ve previously committed. And again just now.”

I’m at the end of my rope, too angry to explode at her or slam anything. I just groan and sit down on the side of the bed, silently heaving. I guess I deserve this. I guess I have it coming. I know I should know better and I keep getting in these situations anyway.

She was fifteen when I first met her, almost eighteen months ago now. I had just moved to Track City from Lexington and somehow ended up at a house party she was at. We got to talking. I probably suspected her real age although that didn’t stop me. It’s a real double-edged sword with that. On the one hand, I realize that it might look a little creepy for a guy my age to be dating a girl, or girls, that age. Like the maturity levels are mismatched and all. In theory anyway. But then I think, here I am looking younger, people thinking I’m nineteen when I’m thirty-one. Maybe I’m just immature myself. Girls mature quicker than boys, you know. Of course you know. Everyone knows that.

So say I’m attracted to girls that age from whenever I first got interested in girls, around the age of thirteen, I reckon. So at some point during my what, early twenties, I’m supposed to just stop being attracted to what I’ve been attracted to for over half my life? That’s not really how it works, is it? I don’t know. I’m not even into younger looking girls, it’s that knowledge that they’re younger that always attracted me.

Like say I meet a girl who I’ll guess is about twenty-three or twenty-four but then I find out that she’s actually sixteen or seventeen. Oh boy, would I go wild for that. And don’t think I approach younger looking girls while telling myself they look older to be surprised and delude myself into thinking this happened by accident. It genuinely often does happen by accident. Often. Well, sometimes. One time I got arrested for it.

During a time in my life when I thought everything was going good. I was going to college, telling myself that this would lead to good things. Really, I just wanted to party and delay the onset of adulthood, of course. So I meet these two girls at a shopping mall one time and I reckon they’re about twenty but it turns out they’re actually younger. So I take them to this bar, and me and some friends have some drinks, and then I take them back to my place. We have a few more drinks, one thing leads to another and well, you know.

One of the girls apparently regretted the experience later, claiming I coerced them into it using alcohol. Can you believe that? Coerced them! With my irresistible charm maybe! So she went to her parents who went to the cops. The other girl remained silent, bless her. The first girl did eventually drop the charges because she was convinced by some lawyer that she didn’t have a real case against me. I was twenty and she was sixteen so there was some law that applied that spared me from any real prison time. Didn’t end up on any god damn registry, either.

Still, it was never the same after that. I don’t quite know how it happened but something inside me changed. It’s like this feeling came over me that I was never going to amount to anything. Not an overwhelming panicky type feeling, more like this inner calmness but not a good one, rather one that assures you you’re a loser and will remain that way forever. A real puzzler.

I was kicked out of college. Whatever family I had left wouldn’t have anything to do with me despite the fact that I wasn’t charged with anything. Drugging and drinking and some petty crime. That’s how I’ve been living this past decade. Always waking up in the morning with a feeling of freshness, feeling like this new day might be something special but then feeling that feeling again and realizing that this day will likely be okay, just okay, unless I manage to mess it up yet again. I don’t know what it was that pushed this feeling into me but I’ve never been able to get rid of it. Not since that initial arrest. Just haven’t been the same.

So I met Daisy at that house party and we started going out. Track City is not actually a city by any definition, it might as well only have two thousand people. It claims to have ten thousand but I don’t know, it feels real small. So we go out every now and then, and she’s so mature. Not just mature for her age, more like she has some actual wisdom and she’s been waiting for someone to listen to her prepared rants and speeches about life and love and all kinds of other things. She talks a lot but not like a chatty Cathy who talks about nothing just to talk about something. She talks like she’s read all the books in the world and is constantly analyzing them in some weird way and…

It’s odd that she was even in Track City when I met her. I imagine she could’ve left at the age of ten and somehow made a life for herself somewhere else.

First crime we ever did together was rob a liquor store. Not in the way you’re thinking, with us bursting in with shotguns and robbing the register, no no.

What happened was I hadn’t been paid yet from that crappy job I was working at the time but it was Friday. She had spent all her allowance on something or other, so we didn’t have any cash to celebrate the Friday. So she wore this beautiful blue button-down shirt with short sleeves, tying it at the middle, leaving her delicious flat stomach and her belly button piercing exposed, and a pair of jean shorts that left her ass almost bursting out, they were so tight. So we go into this liquor store and she gets all flirty with the foreign clerk while I sneakily steal us a bottle of bourbon. That was good. I liked doing that with her. Forrest Lyndon and his teenage bride. The unstoppable crime duo. Heh.

She doesn’t know yet that I’m going to kill her. As smart as she is, I don’t think this option has occurred to her. I just can’t take any more chances. Maybe it’s that feeling I described earlier that’s driving me to it but what she’s threatened can’t be ignored. You can only push a person so far. I don’t quite remember when she first turned to me, or turned on me rather, with that talk about the police. I’m sure we must have been dating and doing mischievous things together for nearly a year before the subject ever came up.

It must have been a little while after I’d told her my history, what with the arrest and all. I think maybe the way I described that hopeless feeling earlier made her look at me differently. Made her look at me like less of a man or something, kind of a loser, as opposed to whatever she had seen in me before. Some slightly cooler, slightly dangerous older dude? Oh, who knows.

Anyway, we were in the middle of another one of our explosive domestic battles and I guess I had threatened to leave again so she said that if I ever leave her, she will go to the police instantly. She’ll tell them I drugged her the first night at that house party. She’ll tell them I raped her after that. She’ll tell them I got her hooked on grass and exchanged it for sexual favors while also playing mind games. They could check her blood to see the presence of marijuana, of course. She’ll tell them I lied about my age. She’ll tell them she never agreed to be spanked. She’ll tell them that was all my idea and she was too high to fight back. She’ll say I caused those scars. I caused maybe half of them, at her damn request.

She’ll tell them about all the petty crime. When I pointed out that this would get her in trouble, too – an indication of my panic, I guess, even humoring her with a reply while she was being like this – she said that didn’t matter. She was sixteen, she’d be tried as a minor. I’d be lucky if I got less than ten years in federal. She was right.

We made up after that, the way we’d made up dozens of times before. This time it was different, though. There was none of that relief, none of that toxicity being washed away like there usually is after a rough argument. We went back to our definition of normal but something hung in the background ever since. She never brought it up again in quite that manner but she’d give me a look sometimes. This look that… Well, we both knew what it meant. A reminder of that power she now had over me.

So I realized I have to kill her. What else can I do? Even if I somehow through clenched teeth managed to stay with her for another two years until she turns eighteen, she could still get me charged with things. Hell, she might be crazy enough to go to prison herself just to get me into prison. Because she knows I’m young-looking, fairly handsome, and wouldn’t do well in prison. She, on the other hand, would be running a god damn empire from her cell within a year. We both know that. I kept that thought in the background for a long time. It sort of just lingered there. The kind of thought that can apply to other situations, too. Like when you’re going to cheat on somebody. You know something’s going to happen and you can’t say it out loud. But you know that if you follow a certain line, it’ll come true and you’ll be free of most culpability in making it happen.

So the deal is to take fifteen kilos of weed across state lines to North Carolina. There’s a real nice paycheck for us in that. Almost makes it worth the risk. It never quite does but oh well. She set it up through some shady people from Track City I thankfully never had the displeasure of meeting. She’s going to take a bus and meet me in Raleigh after I’ve unloaded the stuff and collected the money.

Nothing upfront. That’s how they do business. Figures. We made a plan to stay in Raleigh for a night after the deal is done, then head to West Virginia – haven’t picked a town yet – and lay low for a while. Maybe stay if we like it enough.

How am I going to do it? Well, I haven’t quite worked out the logistics yet but I reckon I’ll do it once we’ve met and crossed the state lines into West Virginia, before we arrive at whatever place we end up choosing. I can’t well show up in a small town with a hot young girl and then have her mysteriously disappear on me a few days later. So it will be me, her and the open road. At some point maybe a pee break. Maybe a forest. Maybe a sneaky bullet, quick and painless. I love her, for Christ’s sake, I’m not going to torture her. She won’t even know what’s coming. I’ve looked up all kinds of information on how to get rid of a body, acids and whatnot. This high-tech world does scumbags like me favors every now and again, you know.

I’m sure there will be times when I’ll miss her. But then I’ll realize I’m finally living that idyllic small town life that I’ve always wanted. A nice wad of cash with me, no more shitty day jobs. Just being me, free at last. Maybe I’ll even find a way to get rid of that feeling I kept describing. Maybe just being me, fully free of all commitment and pain and sorrow and worry, is what it will take for me to finally be cleansed. Sounds like a sweet thought, doesn’t it? Yes, sir.

A few hours after our lovemaking session, followed by the standard fighting session, we’re watching TV in the room when I hear a beep. Daisy checks her phone. She says they’ve made the drop. I say all righty then. She hates it when I say all righty then. I put my clothes back on and head outside.

I walk through the parking lot and cross the street to that fast food joint. I go behind the place, passing the drive-thru windows as I stroll, and find the green Dumpster they were talking about. I look around making sure no one sees me. No one’s around except for some hobo wheeling a buggy, talking to himself. Poor bastard.

I open the Dumpster and stick my hand in. Thankfully it’s almost empty. I hear some yelling but don’t stop what I’m doing since I really don’t want to spend too long with my hand in a dirty god damn Dumpster. I pull out the bag and start to make my way back. The yelling gets louder so I turn around and see it’s the stinky damn hobo running towards me, yelling about how that’s his Dumpster and no one else’s. Afraid I’ll draw needless attention to myself if I fight him, I sprint back to the motel.Besides the attention, what if I break the skin on one of my knuckles as well as his lip, and our blood mixes together and I end up with some high-powered hobo blood virus? Nasty thought.

“You smell like shit,” she says.

“I know. I’ll toss these clothes and shower.”

“Good. Do you still want to stay the night?”

“Yeah. I don’t reckon there are any more buses we could put you on now, it’s pretty late.”

“I could get a bus tomorrow and you could start driving tonight.”

“I could but what’s the rush?”

“Just thinking. I don’t really care,” she says.

“You just want this sweet-ass room to yourself for the night, don’t you?”

“Maybe…” she says coyly, giving me a sweet little smile.

There’s my girl. I like the remnants of her I still see every now and again. I convince her it makes more sense for both of us to leave together tomorrow, especially with that nosy receptionist there, doubtlessly thinking up all kinds of stories about us. Not that I can blame her for it too much, I’ve had some awful jobs in my day and you do whatever you can to pass the time. Besides, it’s only a four-hour drive, where’s the sense in my getting there at an hour when even the postmen haven’t woken up yet?

We wake up early the next morning. I hide the bag in the truck real well. We’re feeling all immature so we decide to have breakfast at that fast food joint across the road. It’s not bad, I have a bagel with some fries and a cup of surprisingly decent coffee. She also has coffee, two cups actually, and some kind of a breakfast wrap. I drive her to the bus station and kiss her goodbye, real heavy with the tongue and all.

There’s some traffic but I manage to make it there in just under four and a half hours. Not too bad all things considered. No hassle anywhere. I sure do love the open road. Just me and my trusty pick-up. Without a care in the world, except for all of those cares in the world. Daisy won’t be here for at least another nine hours. She wanted to hitchhike at first but I balked at the idea. The plan is for me to go make the deal and then pick her up from the bus station just before midnight, then get a motel. Or maybe a hotel what with all that money we’ll have made. Maybe it’s best to be inconspicuous, though, and stick to a motel for now.

Then wake up, have breakfast and start driving towards the rest of our lives. Which for Daisy will last a maximum of two days while I hope to make it to at least sixty years. Live as long as I have until now. Maybe sixty-five then. It’s still so weird for me to think that I’m closer to forty now than I am to twenty. Oh well.

I drive to the rendezvous which is at a club, one of those modern techno ones a few miles from the center of town. At first I thought it was strange that they would have me go there instead of having me drop it off somewhere like their associates did. That I’d be a liability of some sort if I knew where their official front was. Then I realized these cats probably have their fingers in all sorts of different pies. I’m a small-town hustler in their eyes, a random crook who can’t really do them any real damage.

I drive to the side of the club like the message instructed me, get the suitcase from the trunk, and get out of the truck. A burly man with a shaved head asks me if I’m there to see The Dingo. I say correct. They instructed me to say correct and nothing else. The man with a shaved head pats me down and opens the door. I’m lead to an office somewhere at the very back of the club where you can barely hear the disgusting music I heard earlier. Thank god for that. How do people dance to this?

An average looking guy with blond hair is sitting at the table. He has two large bodyguards behind him. I think those two and the guy by the side door are triplets.

“Hey there,” he says, friendly.

“Howdy,” I reply.

“I take it you’re Daisy’s guy.”

“That’s me.”

“Well, let’s see it.”

I drop the bag on his desk. He opens it up and takes out the product. He grabs a knife from a drawer, makes a little incision, smells it and laughs.

“Have a sniff,” he says, holding it out to the bodyguards. They don’t move a muscle.

“All good?” I ask, looking around and wondering to myself just how the heck Daisy got acquainted with these people. What kind of connections had to be made for this deal to happen? I think the worst for a second, then realize that’s silly because she’s been with me most of the time. When would she have had time to run off and do sexual favors for some blond mobster? Or their associates or-

Oh, well, whatever.

“All good,” says the blond guy, stands up from his desk, takes a revolver from the holster of one of his bodyguards, aims it at me, and pulls the trigger, the bullet going through my frontal lobe, and right into my brain.

It’s a weird thing, dying. I’m still fully awake, aware and conscious as I’m falling to the floor in slow motion. I reckon it takes at least two full minutes before I drop to the ground and the lights go out. All sorts of things go through my head at the time besides the bullet, more than anything the question of how long she had been planning this.

I wonder if she caught onto my plan as soon as I started considering it and made her own arrangements. Or perhaps she didn’t know anything about my plan. If that’s the case, then I guess we really did deserve each other.

I wonder if this is a casual connection. I wonder if she had to take a pay cut from the deal so she could order the hit on me. I wonder if this guy might actually be related to her somehow. They both have blond hair, the age difference seems appropriate for a brother or a cousin or an uncle or hell, even a father. I never did know much about her family.

I wonder whether, if the connection was a casual one as opposed to a family one, they’ll still pay her properly and let her go or if they’ll just pop one into her head, too. She’ll have two full minutes to contemplate before she dies. I wonder if it will take the same amount of time for her. I wonder if it was that damn feeling again that convinced me that I was one step ahead of her with this thing. If it was that feeling that essentially made me allow myself to get killed.

I wonder if she ever really loved me.

I wonder…

p

From supernatural pulp fiction to hard-boiled noir to musings on politics and pop culture, Caspar Vega knows how to surprise, disgust, and entertain.

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