The story so far:
Being shot wasn’t at all like Marty envisioned it would be. It still hurt like a sonofabitch. He’d cracked two ribs once in a confrontation with a natural Florida bum, and that made him want to stop breathing. This was worse; it felt like someone was exploring his shoulder with a blow torch. Add a migraine, probably from the stress. Shock was doing its job, Marty decided, or else he would've passed out. If the Explorer he was driving wasn’t currently careening through rows of parked cars outside Bed, Bath & Beyond, he would have preferred unconsciousness.
“There!” screamed Trisha as they whizzed by the alley that led to the Sears loading dock.
Yeah. Shock. Must be the endorphins.
Marty tried to lift his suddenly heavier arms, but they slipped off the wheel and into his lap with a tiny ‘squish.’ As he shook the cobwebs out of his head, Trisha reached between his legs. He smiled; if he had to go, this was as good a way as any to do it. Her face morphed into that of Miss Charlotte, his kindergarten teacher and first crush. Whoa. He'd always believed the “whole life passing before your eyes” was a load of horseshit. Evidently not.
The driver’s seat inched backwards as Trisha held the lever, cursing the electronics for working so slowly. When enough room presented itself, she wedged between the dying man and the steering wheel. The new Ford Explorer: seats 8.
Trisha slammed the brakes and created a very tight sandwich. She had no interest in getting to know either Marty or the steering wheel so well. Fortunately, he slumped to his right as the vehicle reached a stop. She scooted herself towards the door and out of his lap, nudged him onto the seat divider, and threw the SUV into reverse. Marty muttered something unintelligible.
“Don’t you die on me,” Trisha ordered.
Or what? What would she do? The men chasing Marty obviously hated him enough to terminate any associates of his. An idea struck her – what if they thought she was someone else? A mistaken identity! That was entirely possible. Marty’s groan derailed the train of thought quickly. Accidents were permissible, but bullets elevated things to another level.
The Explorer handled remarkably well, considering she was speeding around honking tractor-trailers in a secluded parking area. In reverse.
Loading Dock D was occupied by Bud and Holmes, two internationals that rarely left the warehouse for the storeroom floor. Trisha wouldn’t have even recognized them if it wasn’t for her manager’s insistence on team building exercises. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she whispered.
Marty struggled up on his good arm to look out the window. “Is this hell?”
“Yes.” She believed it, too.
She skidded to a stop and fell out the driver’s door. The immigrants ran inside, still carrying their joints. At least they wouldn’t tell anyone.
Trisha leapt up the stairs and sprinted through the door past Bud and Holmes. The latter winced, “Damn, girl! Tampon!”
Trisha spun around in her blood-wet sneakers. The pick-up area was mercifully empty otherwise. “Where is everybody?”
The stoners stared blankly at her. Bud took another hit.
Trisha spotted a poncho the loaders used when it was raining. It would have to suffice. She slipped it over hear bloody outfit and turned towards the dock to find Marty letting himself in. She grabbed the stubby from Bud; he offered no resistance.
Marty managed, “I don’t smoke.”
“It’s not for you.”
She puffed hard, igniting the embers to a bright red. Exhaling the smoke directly into Marty’s face, she pressed the heat against the exit wound in his shoulder. It was something she’d seen in a war movie with an ex-boyfriend – the secondhand smoke diffuses the pain while the bullet hole gets seared shut. The magic of film.
In life, ashes mixed with Marty’s blood as the fire died. That would probably get infected. Dammit. She didn’t remember that part.
Marty gurgled loudly. Trisha covered his mouth with the poncho’s plastic. Together, they dragged themselves towards storage.
A crowd was assembled on the other side of weighted iron doors, watching an unboxed television on a flat across the aisle. Must be some good viewing, Trisha thought. No one turned to see her as she helped Marty toward the refrigerators and washing machines.
On the screen, some field reporter in a suit jacket and jeans announced how President Boxwood was being flown to safety after an assassination attempt.