Jade and I consummated our love for the first and only time on a blood stained bed in a safehouse in Juarez, once considered the most dangerous city in the world. Paco insisted on referring it as a budget hotel, though it didn’t appear on any of the maps they handed out repeatedly to the few tourists that remained.
A few minutes earlier, Jade had sent her boyfriend away to buy more cigarettes and summoned me into their room. This was the moment I’d been living for the past three months, that and the money. My head was spinning as I tried to summon up the concentration to fuck Jade properly. I was drunk and dirty and spent from jerking off in the car, and the safehouse was the loudest place in the world. I kept telling Jade to keep quiet, thinking about some other girl to goad myself into cumming. She squealed as I pulled out my firehose and dribbled a load on her back.
Seconds later, Paco knocked as he was entering to ask us if we needed more towels. I rushed to cover myself. Jade just lay there like Venus.
Wonderful, she said. Just wonderful.
I was never sure that Jade liked me until she saw me with a gun. Two days earlier, back home in Minnesota, two people had died, ostensibly by our hand. I’d known both men forever, or at least chatted with them every day, and didn’t feel a damn bit sorry, because I’d never intended to do anyone any harm. I really only wanted the money.
I’d been a loyal-enough employee of Associated Allied for more than 20 years, and resentment had settled in my belly like a heavy breakfast. All I knew about the company was everything, and yet I was required to bow and scrape to younger men with a haircut and an Ivy League education.
My plans for fixing the situation remained largely theoretical until I met Jade at a bar called the Hide-A-Way. She flirted over to my table to get my extra chair, the one I was resting my coat on, and triumphantly presented it to her boyfriend. Soon their conversation spilled over to my table. They were arguing about the split from some robbery they’d temporarily gotten away with. The liquor led me to explain how Associated Allied receives large shipments of cash from the branch offices every Tuesday. I’d pretend to be scared while Hal tended to the hostages, Ben would grab the money and Jade would perch at the guard desk, giving him the whole five-day forecast. The job would be easy, and we’d make a million at least.
When the big day came, I inserted a gun into my waistband to make I got my split, and when my friend Larry came creeping up behind Hal I fired, then shot Sam when he was foolish enough to chase us. It was easy, easier than asking out a pretty girl. And after a brief stop to pick up our clothes, we piled into Hal’s car and headed straight for the border. I insisted on carrying the money.
Three days later we arrived at the safehouse. Paco greeted us at the door, rambling on about the local attractions like an autistic concierge. We hated the way he looked at us, a full-bellied dog begging for food. I handed him fifty cents to carry my trash bag full of clothes to the room. He told us he had family in Chicago.
We aint from Chicago, I replied. The idiots laughed.
That night, I left most of the money in the hotel safe. Paco warned me not to put anything too valuable there. I told him it was just a bunch of old paper.
Once the liquor had served its purpose, Jade and I returned to our bed. I was too drunk to check on the money. The best part was seeing Hal’s reaction as he skulked off to the room he and Ben were now sharing.
I made a halfhearted pass; too tired.
I slept until five in the morning, when the combined police forces of two countries came knocking at our door. We were sure it was Paco who turned us in; later we found out Jade had left her cell phone at the bar. They shot me first because I had the temerity to pick up my gun, then shot Jade as she tried to get away. Blood squirted onto the lens of my glasses, rendering me temporarily blind. I was wounded, but otherwise fine. Jade kept wandering down the hall, leaving a hemoglobin trail to remind herself of where we’d left the money. Hal and Ben got away, for three days at least.
The cops asked Jade and me where the money was, then gave us a ride to the hospital. People are always so kind when you’re bleeding. The doctors made heroic efforts to save her. They wanted to know where the money was too. I told the police the truth, that I’d been duped, and they allowed me to testify against the other three. They’re on death row, waiting on their own special day.
The cops never did find the money. It was the one thing that kept me alive, throughout my five-year ordeal.
As soon as I regained my freedom, I returned to Juarez to settle my business with Paco, in violation of my parole. People said he now owned a large tourist hotel. As soon as I saw his bodyguards, I realized I’d never get back my money.
Where the fuck is my money?, I said to the smiling fat man sitting behind a fat man’s desk, teeth crunching fistfuls of hard candy. Paco pretended I was joking as his bodyguards swept me out with the offer of free drink tokens.
I sat at the bar, soaking in bullshit margaritas drowned out by tourist mariachi, trying to get up my courage for the ass-kicking that was soon to follow. And then I headed back to my room.
Copyright ©2015 Michael Koenig. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.
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Michael Koenig is a writer, editor, and designer in Oakland, California whose stories have appeared in recent issues of The MacGuffin, Harpur Palate, Hardboiled, and the Paterson Literary Review. His work has also been anthologized in Awake! A Reader for the Sleepless (Soft Skull Press) and The Shamus Sampler 2, an international detective fiction collection.