Back to the World

by James Shaffer

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

part 25, conclusion


It was 2:00 a.m. Tucumcari time. I told Kelly Jo we’d have to empty all four hotel rooms: bags, clothes, toiletries — everything. We couldn’t leave a clue behind. An easy getaway meant no connections. The six dead bodies were all that would remain. We could do nothing for them.

The police would eventually connect Ed and his buddies to the Texas syndicate. Since it was an interstate operation, they should call in the FBI. The only wild cards were my daddy and Jamie Sue. I didn’t know what they’d find out about them in an investigation. I hoped by that time we’d be far enough away in time and space that it wouldn’t matter.

I helped Kelly Jo wipe down the rooms and gather the baggage. While she loaded up Darlene’s T-Bird, I made a quick visit to the hotel office. There was a light on inside, but no one was behind the desk. I pushed open the door and stood a moment just inside listening. Ed said Bryan had taken care of the girl.

I stepped forward and rounded the desk. The girl’s body was stretched out on the floor in a pool of blood. Bryan had left a mess. I could do nothing for the girl.

I searched the desk for our registration slips. We couldn’t leave any record behind: neither our names nor the car registration. It would do no good to run if we could be traced.

Kelly Jo had fired four shots. We’d expected to hear sirens and see police cars any minute, but none showed. The shoot-em-up party downtown had covered any curiosity about Kelly's gunshots. We were lucky. At 2:00 a.m., the businesses around the hotel were closed. The adjacent hotel rooms were dark, their occupants still out partying.

I hoped our run of luck would stay with us and not run out, as it had for my daddy. I felt all the more strongly about the one-horse town: Tucumcari was definitely a place to be from, not a place to stay. I found the slips I was looking for and left the office the way I’d found it.

* * *

We headed west. It was a two and a half hour drive to Albuquerque. On the way, I told Kelly Jo the whole story. I held one thing back: I didn’t tell her my real name. I figured it was better she didn’t know. Not yet. We weren’t far enough away from our troubles.

In Albuquerque, we found an all-night diner that had a phone booth in the parking lot. Kelly Jo grabbed a pen from the glove compartment. We both agreed we had to let Darlene know the score and had settled on what to tell her.

The eastern sky was brightening behind the Sandia Mountain range. To the west, the sunrise colored the edge of the Santa Ana Mesa a burnt orange. I squeezed into the booth next to Kelly Jo and listened in to the conversation.

“Hello. Can I please speak with Darlene?” There was a silence.

“Hello? Tell her it’s Kelly Jo.” Again there was a silence, then a voice.

“Darlene. Listen. Bad news all around. Jamie Sue is dead. Jake and I have taken your car. We gotta get as far away from New Mexico as possible. Do not go back to the motel. We have your stuff in the trunk of the car...

“Yeah, she’s dead. I'll explain it all later. Keep Brad happy. Do not go back to the motel, you hear? Stay on the ranch for a few days, so I can reach you. Give me your address so I can mail you the keys and the car's location.” Kelly Jo wrote the address on her wrist with the ballpoint pen.

“Hey Darlene, make something up to tell Brad, okay? And Darlene, you and Brad seem to have a good thing going. Jake and I wish you both the best of luck. Got to go.” She hung up before Darlene could say anything else.

An hour later, Kelly Jo and I dumped the T-Bird in Santa Fe, across from a bar called The Rouge Cat. We put the top up, locked the car. Now we’d call Darlene and tell her we’d mailed her the keys. She would have to come fetch the car later.

* * *

Heading north might throw off anyone following our trail. We caught a bus to Denver then, further north, to Cheyenne. The plan was to catch the Route 80 bus across the Rockies through Salt Lake City and on to San Francisco.

At the bus stop at the top of the Rockies in Rock Springs, Wyoming, I entered a bathroom stall and locked the door behind me. I wiped down the .45 and dropped it in the toilet tank. Their janitorial service deserved a commendation. The tank water was dark blue. The gun was invisible.

I had wanted to disappear for a long time. In every scenario, I saw myself alone, never with a woman as smart and beautiful and capable as Kelly Jo. I couldn’t know how long we might have together, but it didn’t really matter now. I still held the secrets of Ed’s account book.

We all come back to the world, in one way or the other, only to discover it’s not so different from the one we left behind. And then we see it’s not really our perception of the world that’s changed, it’s us. Watch and pray.


Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer

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