Saturday, November 23, 2013
Running on Empty
There was no time to answer, as she found herself unceremoniously dumped with shriek into the front seat of a strange car.
"Stay low, baby. Keep your head down." In shock she watched him take aim, and fire off several shots of his own before sliding into the seat next to her. Before she could utter a single word, the back windshield exploded into a million tiny pieces, and she clutched the seat as the car lurched into motion. She felt Ted's hand on the back of her head, holding it firmly down, as the car seemed to spin 180 degrees, and then accelerate. Hot air and dust blew in from the shattered back window, and she felt queasy and disoriented in the small space under the dashboard. Through it all, her husband of three days remained silent, running his hand over her head and back, knocking away fragments of glass, shushing away any questions, and keeping the car out of a ditch at 80 mph.
This went on for nearly thirty terror- filled minutes, until the vehicle came to a slow stop, and she felt the pressure of his touch loosen up. "I think we've lost them. You can come sit up on the seat now if you'd like."
It wasn't the words that shocked her. It was the manner in which they were delivered. Maureen lifted her sweaty face off the vinyl upholstery, and looked at her husband. His face was was a mask of absolute calm, a bland topography showing none of the stress or strain of the past events. It was totally unnatural, and more than a bit freaky, and not for the first time she wondered who the hell this man was that she had so firmly tied her life to. She swatted away his offer to pull her up, and carefully worked at maneuvering herself out of the tight space, and into the seat next to him.
Gathering as much dignity as one could wearing next to nothing, she folded her arms across her chest, and glared at him. For a second, she thought she might have seen the corner of his mouth twitch, but if he showed any sign of normal human angst, it was gone in a flash. "I want to know what the hell is going on, Ted. Right now. This very instant. Why were those men shooting at us? Just what the shit is happening here."
His answer was to motion to her to use the seat belt, which, all things considered, seemed utterly ridiculous. Seeing he didn't intend to say a single thing until she was buckled in, she grabbed at the belt with an exaggerated sigh, and clicked it into place. "Satisfied?" When he nodded, and pulled the car back onto the road, Maureen returned to the conversation at hand. "I deserve to know what's going on here, Ted. You leave me sitting in that filthy jail cell for over five hours. In a foreign country. Alone." When her statements earned no response, she pushed harder. "Then, when you finally decide to get off your lazy ass and come get me, we end up in some crazy made for TV gun battle. People were shooting at us, Ted! Real bullets! I want to know why."
"I'm sorry, baby. Really I am. After you left. I fell back to sleep. Next thing I know, housekeeping is looking to clean the room, and it's after 3:00 PM." His words were measured and slow, as if he were talking to a five year old, or possibly the village idiot. "Then I couldn't find you anywhere. Luckily, one the kids selling shit on the beach saw what happened, and told me the story. I had to round up some transportation, and then I came to get to get you." Satisfied with his story, and looking to change the subject, he smiled. "Can you dig around in the glove box, and pull out the cell phone I left there?"
His little explanation revealed nothing, but she complied with his request, and located the needed item. He reached out to take it, but she pulled it away, and hid it behind her back. "No so fast there, dear husband. You still haven't explained why those men were trying to kill us."
He frowned, and put his hand out again for the phone. "It isn't important. I'll take care of what needs to be done. Just hand over that cell. I need to make contact with someone."
She pushed her hands further behind her, and scrunched as far away from him as she could. "I beg to differ, Mr. Beckett. When someone is trying to put a bullet into me, I consider it very important. Explain. Right now."
He narrowed his eyes into two sky blue slits, and she knew that if they didn't end up dead along some deserted road in Mexico, he wouldn't forget her little attempt at dominance. "It's best that you remain in the dark, but I can see that you are unwilling to let me handle this as I see fit." He raised an eyebrow, and for a brief second, she considered handing over the item, and closing her mouth. But her need to have all the facts over rode her better judgment, and she held her ground. Beckett sensed her stubbornness, and continued. "This all has to do with my other...profession. The one I discussed with you on the day of our wedding."
"The government thing? The spy stuff?"
He simply nodded, adding no explanation, and the craziness of it all pushed her over the top. "You're telling me that you were doing spy business? Here in Mexico? On our honeymoon?" She waited for him to say something in his defense, but his eyes remained focused straight ahead on the road, and he offered no additional information. Angry and confused, she tossed the cell phone into his lap, then stared out the passenger window at the bucolic Mexican scenery along their route. She listened as he spoke softly to someone, picking out words like "mule", "safe house", and "extraction". They drove on in silence for several miles, until he pulled in front of a small gas station, complete with a broken down building, and a few rusted pumps.
Shutting off the engine, he turned and spoke. "I'm stopping here for some gas. Do you need to use the bathroom? Are you hungry? Should I get you something to eat or drink?" When she didn't answer, he continued. "I think it better that you stay here in the car, dressed as you are. I'll see if I can't remedy that situation. Be right back."
Maureen watched as he disappeared into the small building. She looked around at the scene painted around her, and tears welled in her eyes. They were in the middle of God knows where. The place was deserted except for an old man sitting on a bench near the store's entrance, and a young woman, very pregnant, feeding a handful of squawking chickens. At the sight of the woman's round belly, Maureen's hand moved protectively to her own. She figured to be about 12 weeks along now, her stomach still flat and toned, with just the beginning of fuller boobs. She wondered how it would be, when she was ripe and round like the woman here in Mexico. Wondered what their baby...she and Ted's... would look like. And then the enormity of the entire situation hit, and the tears began in earnest. Seeing her husband make his way back to the car, she wiped at them with the back of her hand, embarrassed at the thought he'd come back find her weak and crying.
He deposited a large bag on the hood of the trunk, and then turned to the pumps to fill the car, checking his cell phone several times during the process. When he finished, he retrieved the bag, and returned to the car, frowning at her red, swollen eyes. From the bag, he pulled a white cotton dress, elastic at the collar, and embroidered with flowers in brilliant shades of red gold and green. Where and how he had procured such a thing in this remote location was a mystery, but she'd be damned if she was going to give him the satisfaction of asking.
He laid the dress in her lap, and continued foraging in the bag, until he came up with two bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola, wet with condensation, and a covered tin, smelling fragrant and delicious. Her resolve to ignore him was severely tested, as her stomach rumbled with hunger. Sensing he had a little red headed fish on the line, Beckett opened the lid on the tin, releasing the delicious aromas into the car.
"Fresh tortillas, roast chicken and avocados. Plus some sliced papaya for dessert. I hope that's satisfactory?"
She wanted the will power to tell him to take his meal, and shove it up his ass. Prayed she'd be able to turn away and ignore his smug, arrogant face. But in truth, she was tired, scared and starving, and right this very minute, that meal looked like the greatest feast ever created. She reached out for the container, but he pulled it back, much as she had done earlier with the cell phone. For a second, she figured it was pay back time, but instead, he placed the meal on the dashboard, and took the dress from her lap.
"First, let me help make you more...presentable." He fiddled with the seat belt, untied the beach jacket, then tossed the dress over her head, pulling her arms through the sleeves, and spending more time than was necessary adjusting her boobs into the elasticized bodice. When he finished, he spread the empty bag on her lap, placed the container on it, and opened the bottle of Coke using a enormous knife that some how appeared from under the seat. "Bon appetite, baby. I expect you to finish the entire thing, including the fruit."
"Aren't you going to have any?"
"No. I'm fine. That's all for you. Go ahead. Eat."
Giving into her hunger, she began to stack the meat and the avocado onto the steaming tortillas, as Beckett turned the key in the ignition, and pulled back on to the deserted road. They had gone only a few feet, when he suddenly pulled to the side, and hopped out of the car, leaving the driver's side open. Alarmed, Maureen looked up from her food, only to see her husband fuss at the plants growing wild along side the road. She watched in amazement as he made his way back to the car, a large white plumeria blossom in his hand. Once inside the car, he leaned over and tucked the perfumed bloom behind her ear, kissing her long and hard as he did so.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2013
All Rights Reserved