Anywhere But Texas

What would be left of mankind if we took away his dreams?

No matter where you are on life's ladder, it's important to move up.

Anywhere But Texas by Bill Baber

She said, “Maybe it’s time to get the hell out of California. We just can’t get ahead. And we’ll never be able to afford a house here. Shit, half the time we can’t pay the rent on this goddamn trailer.”

I thought about that for a minute. She did have a point. Sort of. We had nothing saved and our prospects were dim. And Chico was a shithole, true. But, our financial situation might be better if not for the copious amounts of blow she snorted. Try telling her that, though. It would have started a fight so I didn’t go there. Instead I said, “Leave and go where?”

To which she said, “I dunno, you can get a nice house in Atlanta or North Carolina for a hundred and fifty thousand.”

“Shit,” I said. “You watch too much of that goddamn House Hunters show.” Which she did when we could pay the cable bill. “Hey I got an idea; maybe you could sell real estate when we get there. You’re such an expert.”

“Fuck you.” she said.

But for once, we agreed. It might be better to start over. One more real good score. We discussed our options. Rusty Landreaux was the biggest crank dealer around. There were a lot of bikers in Chico. And a glut of trailer trash, so Rusty had a large customer base. He kept a stash house out on Highway 18 on the way to Hamilton City.

We knew Rusty pretty well. Knew some of his habits. We took a couple of weeks to kind of study his comings and goings.

On a Tuesday morning in mid-April when the surrounding countryside was abloom in green and spring had arrived in the great Central Valley, a couple of bikers visited Rusty at his in town house. Just after they left, he headed for the stash house. That meant the cash was in place. That afternoon, he drove north into the foothills near Paradise. He turned off onto a deeply rutted road that disappeared into thick Manzanita brush. Couple of hours later, he was headed back to the stash house. That was the supply. It was time for us to act.

Four AM. The stars were bright and somewhere in the distance a rooster was crowing and I could hear cattle. We parked in an oak grove halfway between the highway and the dark house.

She was carrying the S&W nine with thirty rounds in the mag. I had an 870 with the plug removed and eight shells full of #4 shot.

The back door was locked. It was one of those standard farmhouse doors, bottom half wood and the top half glass. The only thing we didn’t know was how many people might be inside. In the two weeks we had been watching it, we had never seen anyone but Rusty come and go from the house.

With a gloved hand, I punched through the glass, reached in and turned the knob. A small amount of light spilled into the kitchen we had just entered. Just enough to see the place was filthy. So fucking foul that even in the dim light I knew who was watching the place for Rusty. And I also knew he was the only one there.

We knew Chet Cable from days gone by. No one had seen him for quite a while and everyone assumed he was dead, that the meth had done him in. He was the dirtiest human being I'd ever seen. His hair was like an old doormat full of leaves, small twigs, and other debris. His soiled clothes seemed to be a second skin that never came off and what was left of his teeth were a couple of brown stumps, like old trees that had died from disease.

We heard footsteps coming from the back of the house and his stench arrived before he did. Rusty was smart. Chet never did say much and he was loyal. Rusty supplied him with the best crank around and he wasn’t going to talk.

He was carrying an axe and as he entered the kitchen he saw us. He looked at me and growled. It was a primal sound and he looked like a feral beast. He started toward me, raising the axe.

I don’t know how many shots she fired but I know I hit him with four slugs. Chet was cut damn near in half.

It took a while to find the cash. It was in a locked room in a hole under the floorboards covered by a rug. And the meth—five pounds of it—was tucked into an interior wall behind a loose baseboard.

There was a golden glow in the east when we hit the highway toward Chico. She started counting the cash and before we got to the city limits and said, “Holy shit, there’s over two hundred grand here.” Between that and the weight it was a helluva haul. And I didn’t feel bad about killing Chet. Poor bastard was pretty much dead as it was. I looked at it as putting him out of his misery.

We stopped at the trailer and packed, other than clothes, there wasn’t much that was worth anything. It was a fine spring morning and we headed south on I-5. In Modesto, we stopped and saw a guy I had known when I was in Chino. The shit was high grade and we got top price for it. Truth was I would have taken less.

That night we stopped in L.A., ate in a nice restaurant, had a good bottle of wine and slept at a fine hotel.

The next morning, we headed east. She looked at me and smiled. “Atlanta or North Carolina?” She frowned for just a second. “Anywhere but Texas. I hate Texas. And hey, I’ve been thinking about what you said. I might look into that real estate thing. Beats the hell out of what we’ve been doing.”

Bill Baber lives with his wife and a spoiled dog in Tucson. His crime fiction has appeared at any number of places on the net. He has had a book of poetry published. He has been known to drive across the border for a cold beer.