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Friday, April 20, 2012

Details, details


Another flash fiction challenge from

These are addictive!

     He’d bought the ticket on the internet, off his iPod on the cab ride to the airport. Sure, he’d had to use his credit card, but he’d be safely in Argentina before anyone even knew he was gone, so the paper trail would end at the airport. Was this the best idea? Mark didn’t know. He thought he was lucky to even have a single cohesive thought, let alone a fool proof plan. Sitting on the edge of the back seat in the air conditioned taxi, he felt a trickle of nervous sweat break from his sideburn and trail down the side of his face. The black night made a mirror of the cab’s door window, and he looked away from the reflection of his worried expression. He hadn’t meant to do it, but it had happened. He was still in shock. Today had been like any other day; dragging himself through another tension filled mundane day at a job that he’d loathed, his only goal to clock out and head home for a couple cold ones. But when he’d come home, she’d been in the mood to fight. If he’d just been able to have a few beers… but no; she lit into him. It was the same old same old. When are you going to do something about that job? You should’ve advanced by now, not been demoted to a lower pay scale. And why home so early? Did you beg off the overtime that you were supposed to work today? We’ve got bills, you know. Mother said you’d be the death of me!
     That’s when he hit her. Harder than he ever had before. He knew it was bad when he could see her left eye was aimed towards the bridge of her nose, as if examining a fly that wasn’t there. She cursed him the whole time he helped her. He got the cold compress, stopped the bleeding. That’s when he saw her cheek bone protruding through the skin. She cried in jags, saying how he was going to pay. That’s when Mark ended it. She lay on the couch, cold compress on her face, eyes closed. Mark told her to be still and he’d call the police; an ambulance. But instead, he got a pillow from the bedroom. She kicked and flailed, even scratching his neck, but it was quicker than he thought it would be. Then he called American Taxi.
     Mark hunched his shoulders, pushing his forearms down on the tops of his thighs, fingers interlaced, squeezing till his knuckles were white. He shivered spasmodically, listening to his teeth grind through his jawbone. When they pulled up to the departing flights drop off, he became aware that he had been rocking himself back and forth.
     “You okay, Bub?” came the Middle Eastern accent from the cabby.
     “Yeah. Like the taxi cold, do you?”
     “No air conditioning like this where I’m from, my friend. Need help with your bags?”
     “I’m good. Here’s fifty. Keep the change.”
     “Thank you. Good day,” said the cabby, handing Mark a receipt, which he crumpled and left in the cab. Grabbing his carry-on and one suitcase, he pulled himself from the cool interior of the taxi into the humid exhaust perfumed air of the airport. Buzzing sodium lights made Mark squint as he hurried past the baggage handlers to his flight. Mark dropped his suitcase off at the counter and headed for the security checkpoint. There was a line of shoeless business men waiting to have their carry-ons scanned. As each proceeded through the metal detector, Mark became more and more nervous. What if they were looking for him? Is it possible that someone had found Sally? Sally’s body; he morbidly corrected himself. It had been an hour and a half cab ride; two hours including the half hour he’d had to wait for the cab. Her nosey sister may have stopped by. That bitch was there three nights a week, and usually without as much as a heads-up. But no, no one bothered him. No one gave him a second look. Soon he was sitting in a thinly padded chair, nursing a Coke, hoping it would help settle the butterflies that had decided to roost in his stomach. Still nervous as hell, Mark took the opportunity to pat himself on the back. He hadn’t wanted it to happen, but it had. He was going to be free; starting over. He had to admit that he’d had fantasies, daydreams, about getting rid of her. First he’d imagined divorce, but in reality, that would’ve been worse than staying put. Cheaper to keep her, they used to say as kids. He’d dreamed of just taking off and hiding. That’s what her old man had done, but it wasn’t quite as easy in the modern world. Maybe he’d intended this outcome for a while. Mark thought, and if so, so what?
     Mark boarded the plane and as he’d hoped, got a row to himself. The flight was long, but uneventful. It was daylight when they landed; the air hot but dry, the sun warm on his face as he walked across the tarmac to the baggage pick up. The first thing on his mind was a cool shower, a cocktail and a soft bed. The ten thousand he had withdrawn from his personal account would last a year if he were careful. He’d have plenty of time to figure out his next step.
     “Mr. Hartford?” came a voice from behind him, “Mr. Hartford. Please stop.”
Mark turned. Two Argentinian Policemen were approaching him, hands on holstered revolvers.
     “Yes? What’s this about?”
     “May we see your satchel, please sir?”
Mark handed over his carry-on innocently. There was nothing inside but toiletries.
     “Looks to be heroin. You are under arrest…”
     “What? Heroin? There’s some mistake…”
That’s when Mark noticed it wasn’t his bag. Similar, but definitely not it.
     “No mistake. Drug trafficking is a very serious offense here, Mr. Hartford. A life term. You must come with us, Mr. Hartford.”

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  1. Excellent story. Nemesis always gets her target, no matter how far they run.

  2. Names like O'Henry and H.H.Muroe popped into my head. Either would have liked the snappy ending that tied up (or handcuffed) the story perfectly. Cool.