Hitchhiker Blues – Part Two (Final)
Read from the beginning (Part One) here
The sun was still fighting the grey but it seemed to be getting an upper hand. The Skyline was parked up where they had stopped and the two old friends were sitting on the hood of the Skyline staring up at the clouds. Chris handed Lou a joint but he refused. Chris gave him the hard stare and Lou relented and took the joint taking a tentative drag on the joint like a teenager sucking on their first cigarette.
There’s something you want to tell me? Chris mocked.
In response Lou took a massive drag and held onto it.
Then he let it out and coughed.
Chris laughed at his old friend and took the joint back off him.
The car was parked up at an abandoned layby. The air was still full of moisture and the clouds threatened to release their payload but they so far held off.
It was a while before anything was said. The two old friends passing the joint back and forth just enjoying getting stoned. The sky was getting greyer and the air cooler but it didn’t matter to the boys. It was just good to be hanging out.
I heard you went to Iraq? Chris stated handing the joint back to Lou
What? Lou said.
Yeah. Word around the campfire was you went traveling around Europe then headed to Iraq. To Mesopotamia.
Word around the campfire?
Yeah. Did you?
Go to Mesopotamia?
Lou handed the joint back to Chris who wasn’t letting the matter drop. He refused the joint to emphasise the point… but only for a moment.
Who told you that? He said taking a deep drag of the joint.
He’s still alive?
Yeah. Just about. A few less teeth… though he just got some new gnashers.
Chris nodded. Lou tried to keep a straight face. The word was funny coming out of Chris’s mouth. Somehow seems incorrect.
Lou thought he felt a solitary rain drop he looked to the sky trying to find another.
So you didn’t go to mesopotamia? Chris continued taking the joint back of Lou.
Cause it’s in Iraq. There’s a war there. Or was. or is. I don’t know. It’s fucked up either way.
Yeah I didn’t believe it. Pete’s full of shit.
Does he still dress like a pirate?
Chris pissed himself nearly choking on the joint. He handed the joint to Lou and cleared his throat.
Somethings never change.
The two fist bumped each other with wiggling fingers for the falling debris. The move shocked them both a little but not much. Just like old times.
There was another raindrop. Large round. Lou and Chris both saw it. Then another and another then the sky opened up and fell on them.
The rain was now in full force. A torrent that could have rivaled an african waterfall. Chris could barely see a hundred metres down the road not that they needed to see too far and they were now stuck in slow moving traffic hemmed in by the storm.
Chris turned on the radio and searched for a channel found a local news channel and waited for the weather report.
Lou was on his phone.
They say it’s going to be a big one. Came out of nowhere.
Fucking weather men, Chris cursed. It’s supposed to be a week of bright balmy skies. That’s what they said last night.
Fucking weather men.
Lou’s watch bleeped again.
I forgot something.
You want to go back?
No. I forgot to do something. Need to pull over.
Lou checked his hand and rubbed away the numbness.
For a long time they sat in silence listening to Elton John.
After the Album finished Chris let the sound system sit there gently buzzing allowing the sound of the rain and wheels against the tarmac create their own tune.
For a while this was how it was. The two in silence. Enjoying just being.
So are we going to talk about it?
Ok. Up to you.
The silence wasn’t like the last time. The not talking had become cold. Old tensions rose. Lou breathed deep and said nothing. Chris continued.
It was 15 years ago.
Don’t you want to know?
None of my business.
Yeah. You remember saying that?
Yeah I remember.
Then fuck it. I don’t need to know.
It still bothers you though. Me and her.
You still think about her?
Seriously. Let’s not do this.
Why not? I drop you off in a couple of miles and you’re gone and that’s that. Don’t you want to know? I can see it’s bothering you, Chris pushed.
Chris was doing a good job of winding Lou up and it looked like to Lou he was enjoying it. It was true he was.
Can we talk about something else?
Up to you.
A long long pause. Lou not so gently getting steamed up in his chair. The seed had been planted now. He couldn’t now not think about it. About Her. About what happened.
Fuck you! Lou eventually said.
Come on we’re both grown-ups. You know you want to … just ask the question.
Ask the question.
I don’t want to…
Ask the question.
You know what? Stop the car. I gotta get out.
Ask the question.
Stop the fucking car.
Ask… the … question…
The car was now as cold as ice. If Chris was trying to get a rise out of Lou he had succeeded. Fuck this man! He could always get Lou so fucking mad.
Ask the question and I’ll stop the car, Chris insisted.
Fuck you stop the car.
Chris continued to push.
You would rather walk that ask the fucking question? Man you and your fucking pride!
Lou exploded spittle flying from his mouth.
Me? Fuck you! Maybe I don’t want to talk about. Maybe I don’t give a shit! Maybe it was fifteen fucking years ago and maybe I just want to get where I’m going and get out of this shit hole and away from arseholes like you.
Chris slammed on the breaks and the car lurched forward sending the car into a prolonged skid not helped by the loose tarmac. Lou’s seat belt cut into his neck threatening to garotte him but he ignored it and started looking for the latch.
Get the fuck out of my car!
A car screamed past the Skyline now stopped in the middle of the lanes with no attempt made to pull over. It’s horn blared angrily but Chris ignored it staring out the windshield as Lou struggled to unbuckled himself.
How the fuck do I get out of this fucking thing?
Chris reached over and flicked the belt lock’s red button pinging the clasp and strap back into its home behind and to the left of Lou’s seat just narrowly missing the man’s ear.
Lou swung open the door dragging his bag behind him and stormed off down the road as the heavens opened up even more and came crashing down on him.
Chris sat there both hands white knuckled gripping the leather bound steering wheel. He watched his old friend walk off into the rain and thought seriously about running the little prick down.
He flicked on the wipers which struggled in the torrent of water. Rain fell like stones and each droplet was like a puddle pounding like large toads falling from the sky.
Chris thought again of running the little shit over but quickly pushed the thought out of his mind despite how appealing it was. He realised that in reality it was his fault of course. He knew that. He had gone out of his way to push Lou’s buttons and he had enjoyed doing it but now seeing the man in the rain looking like a wet dog… he couldn’t let the stupid fuck walk away like that.
Chris revved the engine and rolled the car forward towards Lou who was resolutely not turning around. He pressed a button and the passenger window whirred down as the car pulled alongside his old friend.
Lou. Get in the car.
Lou kept walking.
Come on. I’m sorry. Get in the car.
Lou turned around.
Are you and Shelly still fucking?
They were friends for the longest time. Two kids causing mischief and mayhem. They were like brothers and yet they both let a girl get in-between their friendship and Chris knew ultimately he should’ve handled it better – then and now.
We broke up… Now get in the fucking car.
They drove on through the rain mostly in silence. The downpour hadn’t relented which had forced Chris to slow to a more sensible speed – a speed that was unnatural to him and it made him itch. He looked up peering over the steering wheel and could see no sign of relief and not much else. Sheets of water fell from the sky as thick as fog and as hard to navigate.
For a couple of miles now they had found themselves tailgating an artic laden with the scrap metal of an old Cessna it’s fuselage smashed and beaten to make it fit within the narrow trailer. Piles of scrap wires and bent items were heaped on top and around making use of all available space but the cockpit was empty. The tops of the pilots seats just visible behind the cracked plexiglass. Chris could help but see a face in the plane the split windows the eyes, the propeller cone at the front it’s nose. It sat there on it’s way to an ignominious fate staring back at Chris mocking him like a precocious child in the back of an old beaten station wagon.
The road had widened some but the shear size of the truck combined with the weather and the unpredictability of the road meant that Chris was trapped at least for now behind the beast and the itch turned into a squirm.
Lou was somewhere else. His mind flicking about. His hand was now cramping up and he needed it to stop. He flexed and unflexed his hand it helped a little but he knew that the muscles were tightening up in his extremities and it wouldn’t be long until that feeling would spread. He was sweating now cold and clammy. Hot and cold. His body and thoughts going numb.
You ok? Chris inquired. There’s a layby a few miles up. You need a piss or something?
Something like that, Lou replied.
They were still behind the truck and the truck was still crawling through the rain. Chris nudged the Skyline around trying to get a better view. A car rushed them coming from the other direction making Chris curse his luck.
Really need to pull over. Anywhere’s fine, Lou muttered.
He was really looking like a pale of wet shit now. Whatever was wrong was happening pretty quick now. Lou’s head lolled about like a bobbling Elvis figurine.
It’s alright fella. Not far to go now.
Lou sucked it in and put on a brave face but he felt like he looked and neither was very good. He started going through his bag to look for his wash bag but he must have paced it way down and with his fumbling fingers and cloudy head his prize eluded him. The travel sickness didn’t help.
Chris continued to nudge around the truck and found an opening. He slammed the accelerator to the floor and gunned the car around the long truck and once passed it the Skyline took off like a bird free of its cage.
Ahead the road forked and Chris drove the car hard left off into the side lane down gravel and shingle avoiding the potholes and unloved tarmac. The car bounced and popped hard – it’s suspension not keen on this new bit of road.
At the end of the lane Chris skidded the car to a halt and Lou could see that they were at an abandoned picnic area – Half a dozen or so concrete picnic tables scattered about piles of household waste and the battered carcasses of discarded fridges.
Lou unbuckled himself and climbed out into the rain. Chris looked up at him across the passenger seat.
Mate you don’t look so good.
As if in response Lou threw up chunks of poorly masticated food and wine and mucus and water onto the ground and then again if as to be sure of the first.
He smiled back at his old friend.
Believe it or not that’s a good sign, Lou said before gulping a mouthful of water swilling it around and then spitting it out.
He started walking away into the rain heading toward the toilet complex.
Don’t worry got to take my meds, he shouted back.
He wobbled off into the woods towards the grey concrete building leaving Chris watching him disappear.
The toilet entrance was round the back of the unit no more than a concrete approximation of a two large toll booths slapped together. The entrance was blocked by an iron gate secured by a padlock and chain – a rusted and fused union indicating that this place hadn’t had cleaners or any official care in a long while.
The cramps dug into him hard and he fought the urge to lie down and succumb to the pain. He made his way around to the ladies side and here the lock was absent. The iron gate too. The smell emanating from inside was a disgusting heady mix but a familiar one to Lou.The smell emanating from inside was a disgusting heady mix – The smell of something dead mixed with shit and decay and no ventilation.
It was dark in there. The electric long dead and gone. Only a few wires remain imitating the creepers invading the holes where the fittings once lived. The only skylight above was now a smashed hole letting in the rain from outside in and across the dark muddy grey of the floor and toward the drain now backed up with shit and needles and more.
The entrance opened up and as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he found a heavily vandalised interior. Most of the sinks had been smashed or removed . The ones that remained were stuck up with blood soaked nappies and unidentifiable clothing all now home to large insects, flies and their offspring wriggling in the detritus. The same was true for the cubicles only worse. Several someones had piled faeces upon faeces until there was a towering monument to people’s lack of thought for the noses or eyes or health of others.
Lou looked for somewhere to unpack but the smell was too much. He shuffled his way back out and huddled in the doorway barely protected from the rain and the cold.
Shuffling through his bag cursing his hands and bag as he failed to find what he was looking for. In frustration and with angry staccato movements he tipped the bag over and upended it’s contents onto the filthy ground. He muddy vision and lack of focus making it hard to sift through his shit. He found his wash bag but when he rifled the contents he despaired.
No, No, No… Please no. Don’t say I left it back at the house.
Again he shuffled the contents of his pack. Again he found nothing.
He had just about given up hope when he spotted the long plastic box that had scuttled away in the search. He breathed out in relief and retrieved the box.
Lou struggled a moment with the clasp his hands now the numb rubber of another owner but with a grunt of exasperation he managed to open the box revealing his insulin pen and kit within.
He grabbed the pen and shook it, checking the contents through the clear window. He then snapped on a new needle then primed the device.
Holding the pen between his teeth Lou unbuttoned his jeans and shuffled them down – his rain soaked sweaty jeans fighting him at every push. He managed to pull down enough clothing to expose his right cheek allowing him to grab a lump of arse and wiped the area clean with a medi-wipe from the pack. He then stabbed himself with the pen.
The rain now was abiding and this made Lou chuckle now he was soaked through to the bone.
He should have felt something by now, he thought but as he waited for the familiar rush nothing happened.
He looked down and saw the needle protector was still in place – he hadn’t twisted it off. Idiot! he cursed at himself.
He was so far gone that everything was numb – thee feeling and coordination in his hands like he was using someone else’s hands that were encased in thick rubber gloves worn the wrong way around.
Using one corner of his mouth and his last bit of energy he bit off the green plastic nipple spat it out then plunged the needle deep into the flesh.
He didn’t feel the needle but saw it go in and he breathed a sigh of relief and then slid down the wall resting on the semi-dry concrete floor of the bunker’s mouth.
It didn’t take long for the medication to take effect and he continued taking in deep long breaths. His chest rose and fell and he soon stopped shaking.
Everything was going to be alright.
The fog around his brain was clearing as a sun rose within just as the Earth’s own was fighting through the grey above. Lou could no longer tell the difference between his sun or the sky’s and it didn’t matter. He simply cocked his head out of the door way he was slumped in and listened to the birds coming out of their hiding spots.
Note to me, he muttered. Let’s not do that again.
After a moment or two he collected himself and his gear. He kept the pen’s needle exposed clamped between his teeth as he pushed everything back into place.
He was removing the old needle from the pen putting it away in kit when a shadow fell across him. He looked up. It was Chris standing over him partially blocking the newly escaped sun.
He lifted one hand to the light shielding his eyes from the sun’s rays creeping around the big man’s head making Chris look like a renaissance painting of the messiah with dragon tattoos on his arms and polo shirt on his back.
The image amused Lou but it was the addition of a long handled shovel held like a sceptre that tipped the scales but Chris wasn’t amused. Chris wasn’t anything. The man was cold emotionless. He didn’t move he just stared at the insulin kit – the last unpacked item – and the needle that was still in Lou’s raised hand.
What’s the shovel for?
The shovel rose up and over Chris shoulder and he brought it down with a terrible force striking the concrete and causing sparks at where Lou had been just seconds before.
Lou hadn’t waited for the shovel to fall and he had rolled back at the last moment narrowly missing the blunt weapon. He continued to scramble back into the toilet as Chris raised the shovel again hitting the crumbling grey roof causing it to explode overhead in a cloud of rotten concrete dust and dirt and moss. Blinded and disorientated Chris yelled out.
Lou used the moment to launch himself at Chris. Lou was skinny and Chris was solid so it was like half filled shopping bag hitting a wall but Lou had enough momentum and Chris was enough off balance for the skinny man to bounce through and out into the open sending the big man back a couple of steps and Lou sliding across the mud and into the corner of stone picnic table.
The was a loud crack as Lou stuck his head sending daggers of pain through his skull and down through his neck. He didn’t have to touch the wound to know he was bleeding but he did so anyway and stung like a fucker.
Chris had now cleared his eyes and was looking for the shovel. Lou pulled himself up on the bench and his hand found a bag of old cans. He pulled one out and threw it at Chris missing his head by inches causing his target to spin around looking for the missile and then it’s launcher.
Lou grabbed a couple more cans and threw them in quick succession as Chris rushed him. All of them bounced of his body with no effect only one connected that with his head causing Chris little pause but getting him even more enraged.
Lou’s hand found one last can – this one full – but there was no time to throw it barely any time to remove it from the bag as Chris tackled him to the ground sending the pair sliding deeper in the rest area. Lou was still holding the can half wrapped in a cost cutters carrier bag trying to find angle on Chris but he was unable to. The way Chris had him pinned down and the way the bag was now becoming one with Lou ruined any chance of an effective weapon.
Chris punched Lou repeatedly in the ribs – the last blow cracking bone loudly. Lou screamed out in pain and Chris took advantage of this ripping the can out of his hand and throwing it away then punching him a few more times in the torso followed by a few more to the face. Lou raised his hands to deflect the worst of the punches and saw that the bag was wrapped around one of them. With his free hand he pulled at the plastic pulling it taut across Chris’s face and he tried to smother him.
and it worked.
…for a moment.
Chris grabbed Lou’s wrists and twisted them back on themselves purposely trying to get leverage on one of the pinkies. He pushed hard and leant into it bearing down with all his weight down pulling the plastic away from his face and in the process of repaying Lou’s attack. In doing so he snapped one of Lou’s fingers and that gave him all the advantage he needed. Lou yelled, arms failed and Chris pushed the plastic sheet down and with grimace started to smother his old friend.
Chris continued to push so hard that he was forcing Lou’s mouth open. He could feel Lou kicking beneath him – Lou’s kicking now echoing every failing breath he tried to gulp. The little prick was deceptively strong and he had learnt some moves but it wasn’t going to be enough. Chris was stronger and on-top and had the advantage and he knew that it wouldn’t be long before Lou could no longer fight back.
He could see pools of blood well up in Lou’s mouth. He watched in grim fascination like a child with a magnifying glass and crane fly. Lou’s eyes fierce but full with fear and questions.- The biggest… Why?
Lou hadn’t given up. He wasn’t going to die like this. Not here not now. He tried bucking the big man but his breath and his opponents sheer size meant that there was no way he was getting out that way. He tried clawing at Chris’s face which he could now barely see through the off-white plastic of the carrier bag. He tried biting through but everytime he tried Chris pushed down harder forcing his mouth wider to the point Lou felt the sinews start to break in his jaw.
It was then he started to panic.
He reached out into mud feeling with his fingers trying to find something anything he could use to get out but it was useless.
Idiot, he thought – The word as clear as a bell in a storm.
He tried moving his arm to his rear pocket. He could feel it digging in his right arse cheek. It was there but Lou was running out of air and Chris wasn’t letting go.
We were never good enough for you, Chris said almost whispering as he killed Lou.
Never good enough. I loved you man. You were my brother and you went. No word. Nothing. Just like that.
Lou was nearly gone his fingers barely touching the knife in his pocket.
Did you ever think about what you left behind? Bet it never crossed your mind.
Blood and spittle steamed up inside the bag Lou started choking. His fingers found the knife and he edged out the blade.
Chris saw this and stopped smothering Lou grabbed his arm and pried the still folded knife out of the hand.
He played unfolded the knife whilst remaining perched on top of Lou and played around with it.
It this my fucking knife? You stole my fucking knife?
He got up and kicked Lou a couple of times. They weren’t pretty kicks. They were brutal heavy stomps.
Lou gulped for air scrambling at the plastic across his face and took massive gulps of air.
You and her. Pair of fucking thieves… Match made in heaven.
Lou rolled over to face his old friend.
Shelly? Lou asked.
Chris wandered off looking for the shovel pocketing the knife as he did so.
Who else you stupid fuck?
He found the shovel lying in the mud and shit not far from where the two had started the fight. He bent down and picked it up – His baby.
When she heard you were back you were all she could talk about. Never mentioned you for 15 years and then you turn up… the very thought of you and now she won’t fucking shut up.
Lou was trying to get up. He was on his hands and knees trying to push himself up. Chris slammed the shovel down into his back and the man crumpled like a cheap door panel.
Wouldn’t… shut up.
He raised the shovel and placed it against Lou’s head as if tee-ing up a shot.
You should’ve stayed away you stupid junkie, he said as he raised the shovel over his head like it was a heavy katana.
I’m not… Lou said barely audible.
What? Chris’s face seemed to say. He stretched an ear to hear better – exaggerating the movement for effect to make sure that Lou could see.
I’m not… a… Junkie… I’m diabetic.
Chris looked on. The shovel lowered a little.
I know I remember… I just don’t care.
The shovel fell crushing Lou’s skull. Not all at once. The first blow shattered the brow. It caved in on itself exposing blood and tissue and the grey/white matter within. Lou’s left eye pulled back into the skull by the force and Chris could’ve sworn that the other blinked. The second blow widened the hole and caused more of the head to fold in on sending bits of Lou’s head flying out the mouth and pushing the only visible eye out and onto the floor mixing with the wet soil and leaves and shit left behind by truckers and people who just didn’t give a fuck.
Lou was barely alive now but the twitching cadaver was saying something.
Those final words sent shivers down Chris’s spine, words no more than a gurgle of spit and blood and brain.
The final blow finished the head to pulp and stopped the noise and most of the twitching.
The clearing was splattered in a two metre radius. The mud had taken on the blood and had a crimson sheen but was turning ocre like autumn leaves in some rotten dream.
Chris stood for a while and breathed in deep before pulling himself together and walking back up the hill to his car.
He stood for a while making sure that no-one was around and took some more deep breaths. He held his hand out and realised he would soon get the shakes. He would have to move quickly. Use the energy of his kill to do what he had to do next.
He pulled his keys out and pressed a button on the fob and the boot popped open.
He walked around the rear and lifted the boot to let more light in.
Lying there in the boot bound up into a fetal ball was a slim woman her golden yellow hair matted and bloodied half tangled with the silver gaffer tape that kept her a prisoner.
Shelly pulled back from Chris screaming through the silver gaffer tape he had wrapped her up with a few hours earlier. It was muffled and indistinct but it irritated Chris who was losing his patience with her.
Chris punched her in the belly and that stopped her screaming. Made her cry but it was the lesser of two evils. At least the screaming had stopped.
Knock it off. He’s gone. Ok. It’s done.
Chris was searching for something.
She had started to scream again. Even now after all the beatings all the lessons she was still fighting him.
That’s why he loved her. Such fire but she had misbehaved and she was going to have to learn. This wasn’t her first time in the boot but she was growing more and more defiant. There might come a time…
He pushed the thought out of his head. He wasn’t ready to go there. Not yet.
He found what he was looking for. Shelly had the red petrol can behind her back. It looked like she was trying to undo the cap. He dragged the can away from he and slapped her a few more times.
What the fuck Shelly? You’re such a fucking pain in my arse. You know I should…
Yeah that time was growing near.
She cowered back into the corner of the boot. Her big blue eyes trying to apologise.
Yeah. You’re this fucking close. You know that? He said holding up a forefinger and thumb for emphasis.
She was trying to say something. Chris pulled out his old pocket knife he had taken back from Lou and unfolded it cutting the tape away from her face.
I’ll be good…. I promise….Please.
Do I have to fucking bury you again? Do I?
No please. I’ll be good.
Chris kissed her hard and then retaped her mouth. He took one last look at her one hand holding the red can the other the lip of the boot door then he slammed the boot shut.
We’ll see, he said. We’ll see.