“I was minding my own business when…”, a short story

What do you say, when everything that could be had been said, and then some.

What did marriage counselors know, other than they are right, and you are wrong?

I don’t think either of us, with the same belief, could be wrong.  The marriage was over, and there was no use prolonging the agony.

Except we had to try to at least put some of the pieces back together, if only for the sake of walking away with a sense of closure and peace.

But, peace was the last thing in the atmosphere inside the car, and it had been like that since leaving Vancouver.

There had been a momentary truce in Kamloops where we had to stay, in separate rooms, and polite conversation over breakfast, until I put my foot in my mouth.

Again.

I’m not sure if I knew what to say to her anymore.  To her, everything I said was laced with an agenda or a subliminal plot.  I got it, I’d lied to her once too often, and once she proved one right, and, from there, it didn’t take long for the whole charade to unravel.

I’d been advised against marrying her, that I would not be able to do my job and have some sort of life with Eloise, but I wanted it.

And, fifteen months down the track, my employers had been proved right.


Eloise was driving.  Her parents lived in Banff, and we had made the trip in all of the four seasons, and now winter, she was more used to the icy conditions than I.

It gave me a chance to look at her from my side of the mid-sized SUV.  We were going to take her car, a rather small sedan, but it had broken down, so I hired a Ford Flex.

If you’re going to take on the elements, I wanted a car that could handle the conditions.

In that, I think I’d managed to surprise her, and not in a bad way.

For the first time in a long time.

Then, of course, she had to look sideways, and that ruined it.  The frown followed by the pursed lips.  Something caustic was about to come my way.

Except a very loud bang took us both by surprise, and skewing the car sideways, catching the edge of the ice on the road, and we started spinning.

As good as she was, there would be no containing this calamity.

I looked behind to see what the hell had hit us.

An F350 or RAM 2500, definitely larger than us, definitely deliberate, and definitely with intent to hurt us.

Or me.

My work had finally come home.

There was a scream just on the edge of her terror as the car had spun sideways and the car behind us slammed into it us again, arresting the spin and pushing us towards the edge of the road.

I could see what the pursuer’s intent was.  Down the side, a roll if possible, then pick off the survivors as they scrambled from the wreckage.

Or not have to worry, the roll may do the job for them.


We hit the edge as the other car braked, and we continued on, that stifled scream from Eloise now erupting.

She could see what was going to happen, just as our car tipped.

Six seconds.

Seat belt or not, totally unprepared for what was about to happen, she was not going to walk away from this.

Unless I did something about it.

Seatbelt unhitched I dragged her to me and protected her as best I could.  She didn’t resist, but the look in her eyes, terror laced with something else, no time to think about it now, told me she would do whatever I wanted.

Over on the roof, upside down, I prayed it stayed there, and slide,  The ice, snow, and slush was going to help.

Seconds passed, taking what seemed forever, till we reached the bottom of the hill and hit a rock, arresting the movement with a loud bang and a crunch of bending metal.

Stopped.

Engine still running.

No movement from her.  Yet.

And relief.  No bones were broken, or none that I noticed.

Under me, she stirred.

Just as a bullet smashed the rear passenger window, and the shattered glass splattered the interior.  A moment later, the side window, above my head did the same.


I lifted myself, whispering in her ear, “Slide towards the front window.”  It was buried in the snow and dirt kicked up in the final run to the bottom.  The shooter would not be able to see it, or her.

Above me, I reached up to feel under the seat and found the package.

A gun.  Always be prepared.

Ten seconds since the last shot.  From up top, the shooter would not be able to see us, or any movement.  He was going to have to come down and finish the job.

And hope we were would not be able to fight back.

That was the purpose of running us off the road.

Pity then that he had not been given my file.  If he had he would have driven off and tried again later.

That he was halfway down the hill when I saw him told me this operation had been cobbled together quickly, with no time to find a professional.

And now I knew why Barnes had told me to be careful.

A lone wolf looking to make a name for himself.

And failing.


Ten minutes, the police arrived.

Long enough to bury the body and the weapons under a lot of snow, in a ravine that no one would discover until the thaw.

The car that rammed us had gone.  Soon as he saw his partner go down, he left.  A wise man, he had stayed at the top of the hill, having more sense than his friend.

Live to fight another day,

The policeman asked the questions, and Eloise answered.  Not one mention of being rammed, run off the road, being shot at, or that there was anyone else involved.

As cool as a cucumber.

It took her a minute after I shot our attacker to ask the questions I’d expected a week ago when she finally discovered my other life, prefaced by, “No more lies, just tell me the truth.  What the hell is it you do for a living?”

“Make the world safe for people like you, and in my case right now, for you in particular.  Sorry, I was sworn to secrecy.”

“Even from your wife?”

“Especially from you.  You now know why.”

“Bit late for that now, do you think?”

“Just a little.”

And then I saw the look, the one I had fallen in love with 15 months ago.  The one that made my heart miss a few beats.

“You do realize you are the biggest idiot on the planet, don’t you?”

“Does this mean I can stay?”

She punched me on the arm.,  OK, no broken bones, but there was going to be bruising, major bruising.

“If you promise to tell me only the truth from now on.”

What harm could it do?  She knew enough.

“Good.  We should probably do something with that man out there.  I’m assuming the police do not take too kindly to you working in their jurisdiction.”

Too many thrillers, too much TV, or an educated guess, she was right.  This would be impossible to explain, and Barnes was already angry at me.

I held out my hand and she took it as I helped her out of the wreckage.  Out in the fresh, cold air, she took in a huge breath and let out a slow sigh.

“Is it always this exciting?”

“This is the Sunday in the park stroll.  Wait till you have a hand held rocket boring down on you.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019-2020

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