No. 490

The two mobsters had driven far out into the desert to whack the man who was currently securely tied in the trunk of their car.

They’d just about made it to their desired dumping ground when the engine coughed ominously. Moments later, the vehicle rolled to a smoking stop.

Trigger-finger Joe was the first to speak. “It would have to be on the hottest day of the year, too,” he said angrily, pounding on the steering-wheel for effect.

“Careful, Trig,” said his partner-in-crime, Frankie Cincinnati. “Don’t scuff up the boss’ car.”

Joe cast a murderous look at Cincinnati. “I’m not worried about the interior, you dummy.”

 

The two men got out to evaluate their situation, leaving their suit-jackets in the front seat. Trigger-finger popped the hood and looked with bewilderment at the assortment of unfamiliar engine parts. “Do you know anything about fixing these things?” he asked Cincinnati.

The other gangster shrugged. “I’m only good at cleaning up messes,” he said with a nod to the trunk.

Joe followed his gaze. “What about that guy?” he wondered aloud. “What can he do?”

Cincinnati cocked his head at Trigger-finger. “You’re thinking about letting him loose?”

“Where’s he gonna go?” Joe asked. “It’s a three-day walk outta here, and we don’t have any water.”

“We shoulda brought water,” Cincinnati observed.

“Let’s do it,” said Joe. He walked to the back of the car and leveled his pistol at the trunk. “Open it,” he instructed Frankie.

Frankie released the latch slowly, revealing their captive still bound tightly.

Joe reached down and pulled tape away from the prisoner’s eyes. “Can you fix a motor?” he demanded.

The man did not reply immediately. “Maybe,” he answered warily. “But I don’t have very much incentive right now, do I?” he observed, wriggling his roped-up arms dramatically.

“Let me do him,” said Cincinnati, angered at the disrespectful tone.

“Hold up,” said Joe.

He knelt down to look the hostage in the eyes. “Maybe we can make a deal,” he suggested.

“You were going to leave me as lizard-food,” said the man. “The only way I’m making a deal is if you untie me and throw all the guns to me, first. Then we’ll talk about my mechanic skills.”

 

The would-be killers stepped back to conference about their options.

“He’ll just shoot us, then fix the car and drive away,” Cincinnati protested.

“For once, you’re thinking ahead,” said Joe. “But he can’t shoot us if we keep the bullets.”

“That’s right!” Frankie exclaimed.

“I know,” said Trigger-finger. “Plus, he doesn’t know about this,” he continued, pulling a large knife from a sheath at the small of his back.

 

They returned to the trunk, now drenched in sweat from the mid-day sun. “We agree to your terms,” they told the man.

They hauled him out and cut the ropes. Then they threw their guns to the ground.

The man dusted himself off and straightened his shirt. “I’m not the first one you’ve brought out here, am I?” he asked.

The mobsters said nothing, confirming the man’s theory.

“Would you like to guess how I knew that?” the man continued, stooping to pick up Frankie’s gun.

Still, the mobsters said nothing. Joe began to feel very uncomfortable.

“It’s because you left some bullets rolling around back there,” he threw his chin toward his erstwhile cell.

“Two bullets, actually,” he said as he loaded the gun with them.

 

Several hours later, the man pulled in to the first gas station he saw.

“How’s your day going, sir?” the attendant asked him.

The man smiled. “It’s going a lot better, now.”