J O H N
He didn’t know why he was so pissed. It wasn’t exactly at her, but he was definitely going to take it out on her. There was something about this entire job that didn’t sit right with him, and it caused his moods to go out of whack. She had joked his mood swings were giving her whiplash. He couldn’t argue with that.
They had spent yet another night in the car, stopping briefly at a corner shop for a stash of snacks to keep her fed. She whined like a fucking baby when she was hungry. He had never had such a strange bounty before. They generally hated his guts, no matter how good he was to them. The hatred was obviously for the fact that they were caught. But Mari wasn’t like that. No, Mari was nothing like that. She acted like she knew something he didn’t when he was almost certain she didn’t.
But she almost seemed relaxed in his car. She was able to go to sleep. And somehow, she was able to talk to him for hours on end and not get frustrated by his curt or uninterested answers. She was certainly an enigma.
For some reason, he was actually starting to adjust to her company. Sure, her constant questions and rambling had been irritating at first, but her voice faded into the background at times he didn’t want to listen to her. And when he did, he would answer her, riff with her.
Maybe that was her angle. To manipulate him. To make him like her enough to let her go. To make him know her enough to let her go. But he wouldn’t be that stupid. He might start to tolerate her company, but he still had a job to do. And he always finished the job, one way or another.
There wasn’t a bounty he couldn’t catch and bring back. No one. And that was why he was so respected. That was why people went to him. That was why people called him the human hound, no matter how obnoxious the name sounded. No one could jeopardize that.
He never had a bounty quite this young though. And for the amount of effort it took to get her here, he was amused. He needed something to kickstart his thirst for the business again and his passion for finding people.
“How many hours are we from New York?” she asked hesitantly. He knew she didn’t want to go back, but he also saw a glint of fear in her eyes. She was only going home, under the watchful eye of her father. He understood what she wanted: a life. But she would be safer with Alessandro looking out for her anyway. And this was his job.
“Another day drive and we’ll be there,” he answered.
“Have you told my father you have me?”
“No. He’ll see for himself when I deliver you back.” The girl stirred in her seat, wiggling around uncomfortably. She didn’t like this news, but John didn’t care all too much.
He would miss his traveling companion, but he’d soon learn to live without her. Along with her presence came the guilt of what he had once done. Of how he and Alessandro met. And the little girl who didn’t know any better, hiding in the corner.
They stopped off at another gas station, with Mari trailing behind him. He preferred keeping an eye on her, but her hand was clasped to his. He knew that since they were much closer now, she would start to panic and try anything, even if she knew it wouldn’t work. But, then again, he didn’t know how much fight was left in her. She had been willing to shoot him for her freedom, but this was different. Maybe she had just given up. It was advisable.
“Be good,” he warned her before they entered. To his surprise, she was always quite good in public. She behaved exactly how he wanted her to. She didn’t raise anyone’s attention. She didn’t whine or complain. In fact, for the most part, she stayed relatively quiet when they weren’t in the car.
Why this was surprising? Because he didn’t expect her to be so sensible, so wise. She knew she couldn’t say anything to anyone. The police were the last thing either wanted. And he was glad she knew that.
He paid up at the till, the girl behind it flirtatiously fluttering her lashes at him like she was about to have a fit or something of that nature. He heard Mari’s light giggle that broke him out of his trance, and he looked down to her.
She was a small thing. Their height differed by a foot but somehow, he sometimes looked at her as though she was his equal in it all. But she wasn’t. She was too young and inexperienced to be good at running. She was too childish and sheltered to understand the real world. She was inferior in every way, and that was something he had to remember.
As he paid, through the window he saw a cop car, the stark colors of blue, black and white with the station logo reflecting onto the counter. He felt Mari squeeze his hand a little, involuntarily. But he wasn’t nervous. Why would he be? He hadn’t done anything. All Mari had to do was keep her mouth shut and they would both be fine.
The cop entered the station with an air of authority John never understood. He respected police officers in their own right, but only when they kept out of his way. John kept his attention on paying and getting out of there.
“Morning, officer,” the girl behind the till greeted, a wide smile adorning her face.
“Hey, darling,” he greeted back patronizingly. John resisted the urge to speak or look the officer’s way. Of course, he glanced like anyone did, but there was nothing wrong here. “I’m just stopping for gas. And,” he walked forward, cutting in between John and the counter but angled towards everyone. “There were reports of a murder a couple of miles from here. Have any of you seen this man? He passed this way and may have stopped for gas or food or something.”
The girl studied the image before shaking her head and apologizing. He then pointed the picture toward the criminal couple, his beady eyes staring at them. Mari shook her head while John replied with a curt ‘no’.
“Is that your car out there? The mustang? I’ve always wanted one. Mind if I check it out?” The fucking cop wanted to check out his ride? That would be the most stupid way to get caught.
He had all sorts in there that the cop would be suspicious of. Looking further, he might find the various guns stashed in the trunk, hidden in a special compartment. He might find the smears of blood over the car seats from when Mari shot him. She had been fine with sitting in it as she was the cause of it. But the cop would question it. He might find the rope and duct tape that looked like a kidnapper’s starter kit. Along with the fact that he had a young girl with him, he would certainly be questioned.
“With all due respect officer, we really have to get out of here and back onto the road,” John answered confidently and as if he was in a hurry.
“I won’t take too much of your time, folks.” With that, he traveled outside, without John’s permission. John and Mari caught up with them, John’s gun tucked safely in his back pocket and the handcuffs he used on Mari in his front pocket. He had already finished paying, luckily, so if something had to happen, it would happen.
He didn’t have licenses for any of his guns. He didn’t have a reasonable explanation for why there was blood all over the seats asides from being shot.
“What the hell?!” He heard the cop yell. The cop had peered through the window and clearly sighted the blood. “Put your hands up!” John raised Mari’s hands up as well as his own, seeing how stunned the girl was. The cop was waving around that gun like it was a toy he could pull out when he felt like it. It was just some blood. “Does this car belong to you?” he questioned.
“Yes, sir,” John answered hesitantly. “Is something wrong?”
“There is blood all over the front seats of your car. Can you explain that?”
“I’m sorry, officer,” Mari suddenly responded. He wasn’t at all worried until she opened her mouth. Mari was young and a loose cannon. She couldn’t handle herself. “That’s my fault.” What the fuck was she thinking? She was not seriously going to tell him she had shot John. “I had a nosebleed. It's hay fever after all. And we’ve been on the road for a while, trying to get back to my parents. I’ve been staying with my uncle. We were planning on stopping at the next motel. I apologize for the misunderstanding.”
John kept his expression neutral, nodding along to what she was saying. But he was feeling a mixture of shock and impressed by the way she thought on her feet. The awkward smile on her face only added to the genuineness of her story. She was selling it and because she was so young and small and innocent, he seemed to believe her.
The cop tucked his gun away, eyeing both John and Mari. John just hoped he didn’t ask to see inside the trunk.