By Tony Oswick
Tony says: After half a lifetime in the Civil Service, I took up ‘writing for pleasure’ thirteen years ago, preferring light-hearted, amusing subjects but occasionally diverting to more serious writing when the mood takes me. I’m proud to live in sunny Clacton-on-Sea.
Cody left before I woke. The poor guy was scared outta his wits, scared like a white-tailed deer in a forest fire. He knew Fender was sniffing around looking for him, knew he was on his tail, knew he was near.
The town was in uproar last night. There was evil in the air – is every Friday when Fender and the Pariahs hit the streets. Them Pariahs are no weekend warriors, they’re genuine one-hundred-percenters. Someone said three young kids from Lornsburg got knifed. Me and Cody was okay up here in the motel but it was only a matter of time before Fender tracked him down. He knew Cody was the one who’d grassed him up.
“You’re the only thing that keeps me sane, babe,” Cody told me last night. “I’ll call you when it’s safe, when Fender’s off the scent. I loves you Lorrie-Jo, you knows that.”
“You just saying that Cody Brame? Just ‘cos you needs a place to hide tonight?” He didn’t say a thing, just held me tighter, and I wanted to believe him.
Later, while we was lying quiet in bed, he told me he’d be going before sun-up. “I gotta get out of this hell-hole. If Fender finds me, you know what he’ll do. Same as he did to Fox Bevan.” And he drew a finger across his neck. Everyone knew about Fox Bevan. They said the blood seeped to every corner of the room before he died.
“Where you gonna hide? That Fender’s a mean polecat.”
I couldn’t believe it when he told me his screwball plan. “You can’t do it, Cody, it’s a damned crazy notion. How you gonna get away without your bike? Fender’ll catch up with you easy. Anyways, how many hours of slaving in the gas station did that bike cost you? It’s your most precious possession.” More precious than me, I thought, but didn’t say.
He nodded. “I knows, babe. But I been thinking hard and it’s the only way. Fender ain’t no brainbox, he’ll believe it. Then he won’t be chasing anymore and you and me can get as far away from this place as ever we want.”
I dozed on and off, thinking about what Cody had said. I must’ve gone to sleep about half-two ‘cos when I woke he was gone, just like he said. The bed was still warm. I didn’t hear him go, not even the noise of his precious bike.
I was back on duty at eight and The Pariahs came calling at the motel just after 10. Fender, all grease and leather jacket, barged in as though he owned the place. I’d never seen the guy before but I knew it was Fender.
He leaned through the hatch. “You seen a jerk named Cody Brame? Rides a Victory 8-Ball. Red-faced, tattoo of a rattle-snake on his neck, mean-looking turkey.”
Not as mean-looking as you, I thought. “Cody Brame? Why, he’s been through here this very morning. Left on the Tularosa road not more than an hour past. Said he was heading for Bingham.” It was what Cody told me to say. “Looked kinda drugged out, though. Told him he shouldn’t be riding. Not in that state, not if he was going to Bingham through Otter Creek Canyon. Know what I mean?”
He took me by my chin. “I know what you mean, sweet-cheeks. I bet you’re a real good girl.” He glanced at my badge and eyed my sweater. “Yes, young Lorrie-Jo, if you’re lucky, I may come back to thank you properly.” I could smell his rank breath. As his hand dropped from my chin, it brushed against my breasts.
I ignored him. It was easier that way. Cody told me how Fender treated his women. I didn’t want to end up scarred.
I watched Fender and his gang head off down the Tularosa road in a cloud of dust, their bikes geared to wake anyone still sleeping in the motel. It’d take less than twenty minutes for them to get to Otter Creek Canyon. That’s where Cody said he was gonna do it, the fool-ass of a man.
“I’ll hang out at Otter Creek. When I hear Fender coming, I’ll send the bike over the edge,” he told me last night. “The river runs narrow down there and the bike’ll burst into flames where all them rocks are. Create a firestorm. Fender’ll think I’ve gone over as well.”
“But ain’t that over-dramatic?” I protested.
“Fender knows how much I loves that bike. He’ll never believe I’d trash it deliberately.” Cody hesitated. “But if it saves my life?” He smiled for the first time that night.
I was still in the motel office when I heard Fender and his gang racing back into town. They didn’t bother to stop by. Guess they’d seen Cody’s bike trashed and fired at the bottom of Otter Creek, and supposed Cody was there too, his body burnt to a cinder. Perhaps his plan had worked after all?
* * *
It’s nine now and the sun’ll be going down soon. The folks at the motel have been full of the accident at Otter Creek. Some even went to rubberneck at the charred remains of Cody’s bike.
I’m still waiting for him to call. I ain’t heard a single peep from him. Cody said not to ring but I’ve tried anyways, I had to, but he ain’t answering. Why don’t that crazy buzzard let me know he’s okay?
I tells you, there’s a fear creeping all over me. Cody was acting kinda strange last night, real strange. I need to be certain he did what he said he was gonna do, be certain he wants to stay alive, be certain he wants to be with me.
But there’s this nagging doubt. Was it just the bike he sent over Otter Creek Canyon? And he never said goodbye.