Varella picked up the Porsche from the body shop that night. He’d already paid for it by phone and had had them lock the keys inside the car. He had used his spare. If you paid enough they fixed things quickly. He ran his hand over the smooth surface of the headlight ridge. The new paint job and bondo hiding the gaping bullet hole beneath, told no tales about the violence below it. It looked spotless from outside, but Varella knew that the integrity of the car had been violated. It looked spotless, but it was deformed and carried the vulgar wounds of death beneath it all. Varella immediately had a vision of Carl’s dead face. Yes, it looked spotless, but beneath the makeup, Varella knew that they’d patched holes and tears in Carl’s face and body. The cold and empty feeling surged back.
The brand new Pirelle tires hummed and their soft rubber gripped the road well. It felt good to be in a responsive car again. He gunned it enjoying the feel of sticking to the turns. Yes, it felt good to be back in his own car. It was amazing how you missed some things when they were gone. It would have been good to sleep in his own bed again. The 911 squealed to a halt in front of his apartment building. Varella hopped out and patted his coat down. He was feeling a little stocky in his outfit. He looked up and down the semi deserted street, there were only a few parked cars around, it would be a good night for a walk. It was around 11:30 pm. and a cool breeze was drifting through the city. Varella walked down the slight slope outside his apartment building and crossed the trolly tracks. As he walked he reaffirmed that the streets were pretty deserted except for a few of the homeless that occasionally stumbled past him. All the store windows were dimmed and locked. He passed a darkened alley and shuddered at the smell and dankness of it.
The night air grew suddenly cold and though he had on a thick jacket, Varella shivered, the cool breeze had suddenly turned into an evil chilling wind. It swirled the litter on the streets into little dusters. Varella thought about the Tall Man and realized that he was all alone right now. This was a dangerous place for Varella, dangerous and chillingly cold. The Tall Man would have an easy target here, with no witnesses. He suddenly started to panic. This was a very bad idea. He should go back. He turned around, but realized that it would be quicker for him to continue to the end of the block and turn left instead of going back the way he came. He started to walk faster.
He turned and looked at the cars parked along the side of the street and wondered as he shivered, which car held the Tall Man? Was it this old green Vega here, or how about that El Camino? Way back there there were more parked cars. Which one?
Varella almost felt it coming. Suddenly from somewhere a car roared and Varella’s heart sprang into his mouth. His breath started to quicken and he felt himself slow down. He was almost scared to turn and he felt like he was in molasses. Yet in reality his adrenalin spun him around so violently that he fell against the wall. The car was heading right at him, picking up speed. His face registered the horror that his heart had felt and the skin on his neck crawled. Then just as suddenly, it was past him and driving away leaving behind the vision of an innocent smiling old lady at the wheel of her white Rabbit.
The shock of it was still in his system and he was breathing very hard, his face still showing the panic and fear as he leaned against the wall. He stayed there for a few minutes, his face in his hands waiting for his breathing to come back to normal. Slowly his pulse returned to normal, but with it came intense anger and almost tears. “Damn them! Damn them!” Varella slapped the wall in helpless frustration, his body trembling, his mind screaming in agony at what they were doing to him.
Finally when the anger had passed, he turned and looked out into the night. There was a deep stillness and a calm. The trembling started to settle. Varella took a deep slow breath.
Then it happened. He heard the unearthly whine as a car came to life nearby and moved like a shark in the black of the sea. Varella spun around, this time his side started hurting intensely. Heading right at him was the green Vega, it was already halfway onto the sidewalk when he saw it. He flung himself back onto the road as the Vega ran over the spot he’d been on only a heartbeat ago.
Back out across the street between parked cars, said his mind, but there were no parked cars over here, the El Camino was too far back. The Vega had chosen it’s killing ground very carefully. Varella needed to double back. He sprinted to his right as the Vega crossed the street and bore down on him. He hesitated momentarily and looked back at the car, and in that instant stared directly at the driver of the vehicle. Varella had never seen him before, but that face would forever be etched into his memory. The man behind the wheel was smiling broadly. The face of a man who was enjoying the chase. The eyes were small, and the eyebrows met over the ridge of the nose, there was a big scar across the right cheek. The small beady eyes held him hypnotized, terrorized by fear. One heart beat, two heart beats, Varella feigned to the right and then dived left. The car skidded right and buried its corner and it’s headlight into the side of the building. The driver backed up and swung around to face the fleeing Varella. Again the Vega bore down on him as his mind remembered the alley he’d seen earlier. He located it in the corner of his eye and stumbled towards it, praying that he wouldn’t fall now. He darted into the alley, it was just big enough for a garbage truck and to his dismay, the Vega followed him fitting between the walls, going fast enough to be slightly out of control, knocking over garbage cans and spreading garbage all over. The noise was deafening and it was the most terrifying thing that he’d ever heard in his life.
Varella was in a panic. This wasn’t supposed to happen. His breath coming in short gasps as he stumbled forward as fast as he could, scared that any minute he would trip and fall and be run over. He gained a little ground as the Vega slowed down to squeeze by a large garbage bin. The alley way curved a little, Varella sprinted, gaining more ground. Then suddenly the alley way came to a dead end. Varella stared up at the tall walls. This was it. This was the end. His mind frantically racing. There! A doorway. Varella made his way past some wooden pallets and tried the door. It was locked. Oh god! ….Wait! Wooden pallets! He grabbed a couple and franticly heaved them into the middle of the alleyway. Four more and he had a small pile blocking any wheeled traffic less than a tank. If the Vega ploughed through them, it would get hung up on them.
The Vega driver saw the pallets in the middle of the alley and screeched to a halt. He turned on his headlights and stepped out of the car, blocking any hope Varella may have had of squeezing by the car and darting out.
Varella stared in horror at this man who probably had all the answers to all his questions. The man stood beside the open car door and pointed a very cold and beautiful looking gun at Varella. Varella felt the fear well up and knot his stomach. His mouth was dry, his chest still heaving from his flight, he couldn’t have spoken even if he had wanted to.
The man didn’t waste any time, he merely pointed the barrel at Varella and pulled the trigger twice. As Varella’s mind registered the action, the first bullet caught him just below his left pocket. He felt himself being picked up by the force of the impact and thrown back. But even before his body started falling, the second bullet, more true, hit him perfectly to the right of his left pocket. Square in the heart. His breath came out of him like an untied balloon and the pain in his chest was immense. Varella fell and as he did so he dimly heard the car reverse out of the alley.
It took about two minutes for Varella to catch his breath again. Naturally the Vega was long gone. He struggled to his feet very painfully, it felt like he’d broken a rib. He was barely aware of the commotion at the end of the alley and suddenly shots rang out in the darkness and a horn started blaring. He started walking up the alley cautiously, his chest ached tremendously. He tried to rub the welts that he knew must be rapidly forming on his chest, but the heavy vest made it very awkward for him. Halfway down the alley a police officer dressed like a bum told him to freeze. He did and carefully and painfully raised his hands shoulder high. Anymore and his chest muscles would have excruciatingly reminded him of their recent ordeal.
The cop summarily identified Varella, expressed thankfulness at his safety and let him proceed back to the mouth of the alley. Everything was in shambles here. The green Vega was half in and half out of the alley, and Varella had to clamber painfully over the hood to get clear of the alley. The horn was still blaring loudly as another police officer gave him a hand over the vehicle. Apparently the Vega had pulled out and run smack into the cops who had been just about to enter the alley. It looked to him like the Vega had got stuck in the alley when the reversing driver had miscalculated and had tried to turn just a little too early. As Brinks explained later, the driver had foolishly attempted to shoot it out when he found himself stuck and surrounded.
Varella stumbled past the cops crowded around the prone driver, trying to staunch a bullet wound in the man’s upper chest. The man lay on the road, his face white with shock, the eyebrows framing his face like an arch. As he watched them try to save the man who had just tried to kill him, Varella’s anger started to well up in his stomach. His chest tightened and his body tensed up. His face in a snarl, Varella leaned over the prone would be assassin, jabbed his finger in the man face and yelled in staccato “Bastard!!! I got you now!!” He held the man’s eyes in his furious stare until one of the cops pulled him away and tried to calm him down. Varella entire being oozed anger and given the chance he would have wrung the man’s neck. He had finally found a person to blame for the death of his closest friend and the agony of the last few days.
Brinks was standing talking to his big city counterpart, after all this was out of his jurisdiction. He noticed the commotion and when his eyes caught Varella he half walked half ran to him anxiously
“Are you OK? I was worried he’d run you over”
“Where the hell were you?” said Varella emphasizing the word.
“I’m sorry we didn’t expect a hit and run, we weren’t prepared for that at all.”
Varella could tell that Brinks felt bad that he had failed to plan for this possibility. The plan had been to bait and catch the Tall Man. The bait was of course Varella, dressed in a flak jacket. Brinks had hoped that a drive by shooting, would have been attempted but averted, by the vigilant undercover cops, some posing as homeless people and others hiding in parked cares. A hit and run attempt hadn’t been considered, what idiot would expect to get way awith a bloodied and dented car. Of course in retrospect they both knew that this Vega would turn out to be a stolen car.
“And the damned driver?” bit out Varella still angry.
“Still too weak to talk. Either that or he’s feigning incoherence” replied Brinks. “We’ll wait.”
“He’ll talk” promised Varella with a deep set anger.
Late that night Brinks had one of the officers drop Varella off at the lonely dusty motel. They left the Porsche behind, “It was just a bit too easy to spot” Brinks had said.