Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2289291-Back-Issues
by jolanh
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2289291
How far would you go for your collected memories
          The vest tightly wrapped around the little girl read four hours. If they failed, she wouldn’t live to see another day. Tiny squeaks and whimpers escaped from the bowlike mouth. The near-silent sniffles and sobs brought out irritation in the other passenger.

          "Make her stop! It's giving me a headache." an angry male voice said.

          "You strapped a bomb to her chest. How is she supposed to feel?" The driver said. She adjusted the half-moon spectacles and moved the car into the slow lane.

         The teenage boy in the passenger seat raised a deadly chrome gun, which shook in the unsteady hand, and a remote control in the other greasy one. Bloodshot eyes with darkened bags beneath them narrowed. The troubled face sneered, "Don't you get it? I hold both your lives in my hands?"

         "It's not lost on either of us. I'm saying Millie is scared. She is acting as a child would in this situation. It might help a little if you put that gun away." Instant regret held the driver in its terrible grip. Arguing with the deranged kid could seal Millie's fate. "Look, you already have the bomb. That's motivation enough to do my part."

         Satisfied the lady in charge of the SUV wouldn't pull any crap, he slowly lowered the weapon. "That's right, do your part, and we'll be home in time for supper. I just want what's rightfully mine. That's all."

          The woman in the driver's seat nodded. Her ghostly pale hands gripped the wheel tight. "I'll help you find it." The words wobbled from the rosy lips. Who the hell is this kid? she thought. "Listen, I'm just a liquidator..." Her lower lip trembled, and brown eyes held back tears, desperate for freedom. She dared to look at the ticking clock on her young charge. Three hours and fifty minutes remained.

         The gun made another appearance while the teen seethed in anger. His voice carried a growl on the back end of words laced with mental anguish, "You liquidated my home, the comic book shop - a business my mother and I fought to keep open. You liquidated the memories of our lives. I want one back, the best one. The complete collection of Wonderblade, the Iron Knight."

         Comics! she thought. He strapped a bomb to a child for comics! Hot salty tears ran down her cheeks. A slight warble entered her voice, "You could've just called me. I would've helped."

         Balled fists pressed against the cauliflower ears. They crashed against the skull. "No! No! No!. I watched my mom suffer while you tore our lives apart. Now it’s your turn to watch someone you love suffer. It’s only fair." The boy lowered the pistol, then continued his self-important rhetoric, "Once I have what I want, she can rest, and so can I."

         "Aunt Reba, I have to go..." Millie said. Her words barely reached the driver's ears above the hum of the tires. The cold metal of the gun pressed against Reba's head.
         The teen held up the remote. "Tell her to hold it, or she dies in a cloud of bloody mist." He flipped a toggle on the device. The canvas vest beeped, followed by the flash of a coal-red light next to the timer.

          Reba tugged on her pearl necklace, looking at the disgruntled passenger and back to her niece. Reba searched for the perfect response to disarm the situation. "If you think Millie is loud now, wait till she pees all over the seat."

          "I don't have to pee..." Millie whined.

         The revolver bounced off the glovebox with a thud. It effectively silenced the child. A dent appeared in the vinyl, "Comic collection first, then the little brat can go..."

          "It's doing the prairie dog," Millie's shrill words pierced the air. Her face scrunched up in worry.

         "Why does she have to go now?" The teen demanded. The chrome gleamed in the light of the street lamps. "If I find out your stalling, bitch..."

          "Do you have control when you need to shit?" Reba's voice shook with anger. She evened out her tone and tried to appeal to the boy's better side. "I promise we won't cause trouble."

          "I'm not worried about that. If anyone sees that bomb, the cops will be on us before I have a chance to get what's mine."

          The car hit a pothole, and Millie's face twisted in agony. Her hands clawed at the felt seat as she squirmed back and forth. "Please, Mister, I don't want to poop myself."

         "You can come in the bathroom with us. Do you want to add the smell of child shit to this miseryfest? It'll take longer if I have to calm Millie down every five minutes." Reba stole another glance at the clock. Three hours and thirty minutes remained. "We can talk about the next move while we wait."

         A single finger flipped the toggle off. Once more, the vest beeped, and the red light went inert. "You have a point." The teen said, "Find a rest stop or a gas station. Remember, death is just a button push away." He paused, "Since you didn't ask, My name is Dartagnan Mallory."

          Reba thanked her years of negotiating with pissed-off business owners for the small victory and hoped the skill served her well soon

         Reba chose a rest stop a little bit out of the way, where chances of running into another person were slim. She chose wrong. As they opened the door to the bathroom, a vile stench held them at bay for several minutes. As the liquidator bowed her head in response, she gazed at the clock strapped to Millie. Three heart-wrenching hours remained on it.

         Dartagnan covered his mouth and wiped his watery eyes on the tattered sweater. He kept the muzzle firmly pressed against Reba's back. "Jesus, you could've picked a cleaner place."

         Millie bravely marched into the dimly lit area. An eerie stillness hung in the air. Then a shriek shattered Reba's eardrum. A primal need to protect the child replaced the fear of the gun, and she raced forward into the vile room. "Fuck." Reba clapped her hand over her mouth and let a barrage of tears loose. On the ground lay two lifeless bodies. Next to them was a phone displaying an active 9•1•1 call in progress. Someone wanted those bodies found. A large pool of blood gathered around them.

         The heavy pistol grazed her scalp. Dartagnan saw the mess and banged his fist against the wall. Frustration covered every word, "Even when you're not trying to screw me, I get screwed! Turn around and head back to the car." He stopped dead in his tracks. "Where's the kid?"

         Too late, Millie now occupied a stall. Her tiny feet swung back and forth while she conducted her business. "Leave the kid behind. I'm not going down for this." Dartagnan shouted for all to hear.

         "Tell me how to disarm the bomb first," Reba said.

         "Are you fucking crazy..."

          "Do you want your stupid comics or not..."

         Dartagnan cocked the pistol. Spittle landed on the nape of Reba's neck while he screamed, "They aren't stupid! My mother and I collected them together before she died. It's all my fault."

         "It's not your fault..," Reba started to say.

         Dartagnan rapidly unraveled before her eyes. The cold steel kissed her face and knocked her to the cracked tile below. "I killed her!" His voice echoed around the old structure. Reba's head reeled while a flash of white stars swam in her vision. Her arm shot outward toward the counter. Her arms refused to pull her upright, and Reba tumbled back to the floor. She needed to buy time. "Why did you kill her?"

          Millie's legs stopped moving amid the sound of sirens in the distance. Reba prayed for the child to remain in the stall.

         Tears streamed down Dartagnan's face. The muzzle raised and lowered in steady intervals. "You don't understand..."

         "Then help me to understand. Dartagnan." With her captor temporarily incapacitated by grief, Reba dared to inch herself through a puddle of blood toward the gun.

          Dartagnan's back hit the wall, and his whole body slid down to the floor. The weapon clung to his finger by a thread. The sirens came closer. His face aged years in mere seconds. "I don't want to be the villain anymore. I'm so tired."

         Reba had two goals. One, retrieve the pistol. Two, turn the tables on the adolescent asshole and make him disarm the bomb. Millie peeked out of the stall, "I'm all done, auntie." Her voice seemed almost normal despite the grim circumstance.

          "Stay in the stall until I call you out, okay?" Reba did her best to keep her voice sweet and pleasant, but it cracked and creaked.

         "But it smells funny, and I wanna go home." Millie whined.

          She's just a child with two hours and forty minutes left. Be kind, Reba, she thought. "I know, sweetie, but we should get that thing off you first. Please do as I ask. I promise it won't take long." Her eyes strayed to their captor. Dartagnan's guilt continued to eat him alive, but for how long?

         "Fine!" Millie slammed the door and locked herself in the stall.

         Dartagnan's eyes shot open, and for a second, his grip tightened on the deadly chrome and immediately relaxed a moment later. "I remember her cries of agony in the night. I just wanted her suffering to end. I waited for her to sleep and smothered her with a pillow. I can still wake up to her agony to this day. It's my punishment for what I did." The gun turned upside and clung to a finger. For a moment, Dartagnan closed his eyes.

         Reba's hand shook while it stretched out to reach for the gun. The sirens were dangerously close. Don't be a coward, Reba, do it to save Millie. Her hand streaked toward the shiny metal and yanked it free. A single thumb pulled the hammer back. "Now tell me how to disarm the bomb!" Her terrible rage reverberated off the cement walls.

         Dartagnan's face twisted into a mad grin, and a maniacal laugh escaped his mouth, "Ha, ha, ha. You're so stupid. The bomb is a fake. I don't have the brains to pull something like that off."

         "What?" Reba's voice grew low and deadly.

         Dartagnan continued his cruel verbal assault, "You might as well point that gun at yourself for all the good it will do. It's not even loaded."

         Reba felt the back of her hand connect with the soft cartilage of Dartagnan's nose. His body splayed out prone. "This whole time?"

         "It's not my fault you're a stupid bitch." Dartagnan revealed teeth smeared with crimson.

         The liquidator threw the gun away and dove for the dead men. She searched their jackets until her hands closed over cold steel. With furious strength, she turned Dartagnan over and forced him to eat the loaded weapon's barrel. "Your joke isn't funny, and I should kill..."

         Heavy footsteps smacked against the broken tiles, and a voice awash in authority shouted, "Police. Drop your weapon."

         "You don't understand what he did," Reba said. She shoved the gun deeper down his throat. "This little prick threatened my niece and me." The officer kept his sidearm focused on Reba. "There's a child involved?"

         "Millie, it's time to come out from the stall." Reba's desperate words filled the air. A soft squeak saw the door open.

         Millie waved to the officer and then to Reba. "Hi, auntie."

         "I need the bomb squad down here ASAP! A child is involved." The officer motioned Millie forward. "Let's have a look at the vest, sweetheart."

         "The bomb is a fake." Reba cocked the hammer back. Her finger pressed her against the trigger. "The asshole killed his mother and threatened me over stupid comics." The world wouldn't miss the little bastard.

          "Auntie, stop. I lost my mom and dad. I can't lose you too. You're a good mom, and I'm happy." Millie's tear-stained face snapped Reba back to reality.

          "Listen to her, lady." The officer slid his gun back into the holster and raised his hand. "If you cross the line, I can't help you."

         Clarity touched Reba's mind. The kid didn't want comics. He wanted to die for his sins. "I won't help you end your life." Reba threw the gun toward the officer, "I just want to go home."


         Three weeks later, Dartagnan's life became contained within four walls and a thick metal door, with a steady regimen of antidepressants. He never spoke and mainly stared out the window. An orderly came in with a long box. "This came for you today, Dart. Someone told me you'd be very interested in this box.'' He set the weathered box down and locked the door. Dartagnan scoffed as he picked up a note. It read: "I found your collected memories. I hope you still want the best one, signed Reba. P.S. I specialize in recovering people's lost treasure now. I wanted you to be the first."

         The teen's hands shook as he opened the box, and the biggest smile covered his face. She could finally rest, and so would he.

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