Latest Flash

Duke City Getaway

You can run, you can hide. 

In The Gutter, you're always back to where you started. 

Duke City Getaway by Bill Baber

It had been two days and three states since I’d showered. I had the speed sweats and could smell the stink coming from my body. And I could smell fear. Yeah, I was scared.

By now, Lester Morales knew his brother Eddie was dead. He also knew a quarter-million dollars of his money was missing. After taking inventory of his dealers, he’d know I was guilty on both counts. So I ran as fast as I could from Albuquerque.

I was betting Lester thought I’d head for El Paso, the only other place I had ever lived. But the Morales brothers had people there and I wouldn’t last as long as a six-pack on a summer Saturday night. I stole a car in the last hour before dawn and headed west on I -40. Just outside of Grants, as the sun lifted above the eastern horizon, I torched the car on a dead-end dirt reservation road just outside of town. I walked three miles to a used car dealer on the outskirts of town, waited an hour for the owner to show, and paid cash for a five-year-old Chevy pickup. Then, I dropped to the south through El Malpais: the badlands.

It was early on a Monday morning and a monsoon storm was raging. Lightning was right overhead and thunderous bursts of what sounded like the end of the world were synonymous with the flashes. Just like gunshots.

There was a light on at the house, Eddie’s Lincoln the only car in front. I walked in and threw the money on the table.

“You’re late, ese. Ain’t the first time. Ought to dock you,” Eddie said.

“See that storm out there? Damn, it was nasty out in Rio Rico. Closed roads and shit.”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about that. Drop’s supposed to by two, it’s three thirty. I don’t like it, Lester sure don’t like it. He gets nervous when some little pendejo is late with his cash. This don’t happen again. Comprende?

I never liked Eddie. I’d been loyal and never tried to fuck Lester over in the five years I’d worked for him. But Eddie, he wouldn’t be nothing without his big brother – and he tried to take advantage of it, always trying to be a hard ass. He just came off as a dick. Lester was a good cat to work for so I surprised myself when Eddie started to gather all the night’s take and I shot him in the back. Guess it was the sight of all that cash and the thought that I could be out of the life. I didn’t give it much thought, just did it. Loaded all the cash in his Lincoln and got the fuck out of there. I stole a car and left The Q in the rear-view.

I stuck to back roads through New Mexico, Arizona, and now Nevada, watching the rear-view constantly. I began to regret what I’d done instantly but I did it. So, scared or not, I would deal with what came my way. I passed Vegas and headed north on 93.

I was running with no end in sight. I had looked at a map, thought maybe I would be safe somewhere in Oregon or Montana.  But I knew Lester wouldn’t forget. Sooner or later he would find me.

So I did the only thing that seemed to make sense.

I took another hit of Lester’s speed and backtracked, made it to Flagstaff that night, got a room, and slept for twelve hours. 

By two the next afternoon, I pulled into Albuquerque. Lester hung out at a west-side dive called Leo’s. I circled the lot and didn’t see his car.

Other than Carl Vasquez behind the bar, the joint was empty. “You’re crazy,” he said with a smile. “Morales has his whole crew looking for you. And there’s a nice little price on your head. Ought to waste you myself.”

But Carl and me were tight. We bumped fists. “Man, can’t believe you had that bigga stones. Either that or you’re plain fucking loco,” he said.

“Look, man,” I said. “I’m gonna waste Lester. It’s my only play.”

He gave me a long look. “You are crazy. Vaya con Dios.”

I finished my beer and left.

Lester had put a guy named Carlos on my old route. When he collected at his last stop, I was waiting for him to walk out the door. I hit him in the back of the head with the butt of my gun, gagged him, tied him up, and left him in the backseat of his car.

It was a little after three when I pulled in front of the drop house. Lester’s car was in front. I opened the door, gun in hand.

“Damnit, you’re late,” Lester started before looking up from the stacks of money he was counting. He saw it was me. A thin smile parted his lips. 

I didn’t say a word, just pulled the trigger until it clicked. 

Just like a few nights earlier, I gathered up the money and left Duke City. This time I wasn’t scared of anything. I headed south toward El Paso. I might stop and say hello, but my final destination was farther south, much farther. And I didn’t plan on coming back.

BILL BABER’S crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.