A Sudden Change of Plans

I seldom attempt anything drastic without having a sense of certainty regarding the outcome. I require no guarantees, but there must be some logical expectation of success. Unfortunately I set out that morning without such expectations, instead simply counting on Jacques’s greed or, failing that, being prepared to use force- the latter option not being looked upon with any favor whatsoever. I would have taken more time to plan, but events were moving so quickly there was no other choice. If we simply ran Jacques would send people after us. I had the resources to make it easier, but I knew that would bring everything crashing down: we were the four of us against the world and that was the only strength holding Dalene together and through her, Neff and Aiko as well. Even this plan, assuming I could see it through successfully, was fraught with potential for disaster

The morning air was thick, the temperature passing the eighty degree mark even though it was barely seven o’clock. If there was sweat upon my brow it was as much from nerves as from the heat. The heavy overnight bag pulled at my shoulder as I made my way to the hotel to meet with Jacques, but the pistol taped to my back was the heaviest weight to bear. Those few people out and about paid me little attention as I was dressed like a tourist rather than a whore. I passed people who knew me and they never looked up, a symptom of the human predilection for placing people into categories: I could not be Angie because I did not look like a whore and Angie was a whore. A predictably flawed bit of logic, but it relieves one of the need to think about what one sees and it served my purpose that day.

I reached the hotel and paused at the steps. There was no doorman. In the fourteen months I had spent here I had never once seen the door unguarded. I stood for nearly a minute waiting for somebody to appear, but it became an uncomfortably long time and I had to either go inside or move on. I climbed the steps and entered the lobby only to find another oddity: there was nobody at the desk. Jacques’s mother always watched the desk Sunday mornings since there was little business going on. Jacques liked to believe she knew nothing of what he did, but in truth her sweet, grandmotherly exterior was home to the heart of a toad and soul of a crocodile.

I peered over the desk and found the small chair tossed on its side, but nothing else seemed amiss. Still, there were too many things out of place and I reached back under my blouse to peel the heavy snub-nosed revolver from my lower back. I wadded up the duct tape that had secured it and stuffed that in my pocket, then held the revolver low as I carefully made my way back to Jacques’s office. The entire building was eerily quiet and when I turned the corner I saw the door to the office was ajar. I set the overnight bag down against the wall and stepped quietly to the door, listening for a moment before pushing it open with my toe. I took in the scene with a single glance, then turned and took up the bag, heading for the front door. At the front desk I scooped up Ham’s car keys from the ashtray where he always left them, then went out the door, crossed the street and dashed down the alley to the parking lot.

The Falcon convertible started with a simple twist of the key and the temperature gauge showed it was still quiet warm- it could not have been parked more than fifteen or twenty minutes. I pulled out of the lot and headed north, away from our flat, then stopped at a gas station to put the top down. Next I turned towards the canal, crossing at the first bridge with no traffic, and the gun went over the rail and into the brown water. After that I followed a circuitous route back to our flat, parking in the alley behind the building.

“Get up!” I hissed at Aiko when she opened a blurry eye to see who had walked in.

She shook her head and sat up as I went to the couch and nudged Dalene hard. She lashed out at me and I grabbed her wrist, pulling her off the couch where she landed on Neff who was only just stirring.

“Damn, Angie!” Aiko moaned, “What time is it?”

“It’s early, get up. We need to get out of here right now.” Dalene started to say something and I stamped my foot emphatically. “No questions! Get moving- we’re leaving in ten minutes.”

“What’s wrong?” Dalene finally asked as she struggled into a pair of hot pants.

“Jacques is dead. So’s Ham, Gillie and Aggie, maybe more.”

All three of them froze, staring at me.

“Oh my God, will you three just move!”

It was more like twenty minutes before I could get them out to the car even though we left almost everything behind. Each had a change of clothes and we’d brought two guitars since most of our instruments were junk. When we reached the alley and they realized I had Ham’s car all of the doubt left them. Ham never let anyone drive his car, ever.

“Where are we going? Why are we going?” Dalene asked as we left Metairie on the Causeway, striking out across the lake.

“Right now we just want to get out of Louisiana and lose this car, then I was thinking New York City. Why? I’d think that’s obvious.”

I described for them the scene at the hotel- Gillie and Ham face down with their hands tied behind their backs, each with a bloody hole on the back of the head. Jacques slumped over his desk and from the amount of blood it looked like his throat had been cut. His mother had been sitting on the couch against the wall, looking like she was simply napping except for the small red hole in her forehead. It was clearly not a simple robbery- somebody was moving in and taking over and that somebody was pretty ruthless.

“I’m not sure I like New York,” Dalene said, and I could read her mind just by looking at her face: too close to home.

“Me, either,” Neff shouted from the back seat, “You think New Orleans is bad, wait’ll you’re on the street in the Big Apple.”

“We aren’t going to be on the streets in New York!” I laughed, suddenly feeling the tension and uncertainty drain away. “Look in the bag on the floor back there.”

Aiko reached down and unzipped the overnight bag, then almost screamed at what she saw.

“Where did you get this?” she shouted, almost laughing herself as she held up a bundle of twenty-dollar bills.

“I knew where the key to the locked box was hidden, so I cleaned it out,” I lied. Dalene looked at me with a mixture of awe and suspicion, but said nothing.

“How much?” Neff asked, and I told her I had no idea, but that was also a lie.

The bag contained two hundred thousand dollars in twenties, fifties and hundreds, Jacques’s price for our freedom. I still wonder to this day what his reaction would have been had he lived to receive it. That it became our lifeline over the next three years seems nearly karmic.

3 Responses to “A Sudden Change of Plans”

  1. I’m not sure I believe you. About fidning them dead I mean. I’ve always thought you did it.

  2. I know. I never attempted to dissuade you from that notion, though when I think of it today I do wish I had. Neff felt the same way, I am certain of it, though she was never so open about it as were you.

    Does it change things? Would you feel better knowing I had nothing to do with those deaths?

  3. Fuck you.

    I f you didnt taste like her I’d have killed you on my doorstep