“Here.” Rose stretches out her hand with a little white note and a genuine smile. “Take this, and if you need any guidance or help with whatever...give me a call.”
“Thank you,” I say with appreciation; taking the note, I tuck it in my back pocket. She isn’t the traditional type of girlfriend to have, but she has grown on me -the fact that she’s not after Mike helps tremendously. Rose stands up from the table and points a finger at Mike.
“You take it easy on her.” Turning her eyes to me, she adds, “She’s special; I like her.” Rose gives me a warm grin.
“She’ll be with me. She’ll be fine,” Mike assures her with a shrug.
As Rose struts away, I hear a fainted, “uh-huh” from over her shoulder.
Following Mike to a shaded area of the lot, there’s a large grey tarp over the outlines of what appears to be a type of car. Before he pulls the tarp off, he flashes me a smile, and then there is a black 1969 Dodge Charger, a two-door vehicle in the tarp’s place.
“Hop in.” I do as he says. Inside the car, it is very sleek. Black leather seats, black dash, black steering wheel with a chrome ‘Y’ in the center, and a chrome stick reaching up from the floor.
He notices me soaking in the interior; I can’t help but run my hand along the fine polished finish along the door. Mike clears his throat. I turn to look at him. “You may want to buckle in,” he says.
“Yeah,” I respond sheepishly, buckling myself in.
“You know, I wouldn’t mind listening to Eric Clapton; his stuff isn’t so bad, but whatever this is - it’s killing my brain cells.” I whine, exaggerating the pain in my scrunched-up face as if the loud screaming is literally causing me physical pain.
Laughing at me, he reaches for his phone and switches to a different collection. Old classic rock tunes fill my ear canals; there’s an instant relief. At least there’s a clear beat, and I can understand the lyrics.
“You are so dramatic,” he jokes. I punch his arm, then he laughs. The sound of his laugh is deep and contagious. It’s the kind of laugh where you can see all his white teeth and both dimples.
“Call me dramatic one more time,” I threaten teasingly with my fist up.
“Alright, alright; cool it, Tyson.” He places one hand in the air for mock surrender, but his smile doesn’t fade.
“Why did Rose call you ‘Red’?” I blurt.
He waves his hand up. “It’s just a nickname. Sometimes when I get angry, all I see is red.”
“Huh.” Sounds valid. “So, what exactly are we doing out here?” I ask.
Mike’s eyes don’t leave the road. “Look under the tarp in the backseat.”
Repositioning myself, I lift the tarp and see crates. A lot of crates – they stretch out to the back of the trunk. I reach for a jar.
“What is this?” I ask, inspecting the jar. I have my suspicions; it could be that awful drink I had earlier, but...
“Moonshine,” he says proudly. My initial thought was correct. Our eyes meet, and there’s a smirk that spreads on his lips.
I am naïve about a few things – yes, but I’m not stupid. What he is doing is illegal. I am a part of an unlawful act. We are transporting moonshine to...Where are we going?
“Who are we taking this too?” My voice is a little shaky for my liking.
He answers as if he’s giving instructions, “It’s a moonshine relay. We’re meeting up with some of my brothers from another charter in South Carolina.”
South Carolina? He’s taking me to another state. With illegal liquor. My stomach flops. This is a felony; I could go to jail for this.
“Mike,” I state clearly. “This is illegal. This is wrong. It’s a felony!”
“Don’t forget it’s tax evasion, and we could get prison time for up to ten years,” he jokes.
“Mike, this is serious!” Don’t freak out, Elena, don’t freak out.
He looks at me and says with a hint of amusement, “It is serious, yes, but Kitten, you’re only in trouble if you get caught.” Pointing a finger at himself, he adds, “I don’t get caught.”
Letting out an exasperated sigh, I put the jarred spirit back in the crate. “That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
I don’t like this. I don’t like this one bit. If we get caught, I’ll never hear the end of it from my dad. Of course, could my dad really be that hard on me after everything he confessed to last night?
I’m an innocent here; I had no idea what we were doing until I was already in the car -if we get caught, that will be my story.
As he takes an exit, I see a sign that says, ‘Welcome to South Carolina.’ I can feel my pulse quicken. He takes a right-hand turn and then a left down an old narrow dirt road. After a few moments, I see another car, also black, waiting. Mike turns into the field and backs the car up, so the trunk faces the other vehicle.
The outlaw beside me unbuckles his seatbelt while making eye contact. “Stay in the car.”
I nod in response; I can feel my eyes popping out, my heart rate is speeding up, and my palms are feeling sticky. Stay calm, Elena. They’re just going to transfer the “goods,” and then we’ll be on our way.
The trunk opens, and I see a few men from the waist down through the side mirror walking towards the trunk. Mike helps them carry the crates to their car. I can’t stop looking around; I have a strong feeling we’re going to get caught.
This is so out of my element. I’m in over my head here. Thankfully, one of the men reaches for the last crate. I do my best not to turn and look at the guy. In case we get caught, I don’t want to be a rat and be able to point anyone out in a line-up or something.
The trunk closes, and its music to my ears. It’s done. I instantly relax. As I lean against the headrest, I can hear low mumbles of the voices behind the car. I close my eyes to relax; that’s when I hear it.
My ears pick up something foreign...I snap my eyes open.
Sirens. There’s a faint siren in the distance. I turn around to look out of the back window. Did they hear it too? Watching them scurry about, there’s a young, thin man who practically shoves something into Mike’s hands - they heard it too. Oh, I don’t like this at all.
The sirens are getting closer; I turn my head to see the cop cars. They are racing straight for us in a mad dash kicking up a violent dust storm.