The speeding car bounced over what I think was a tree stump and I nearly lost control. Robby screamed and jumped around in the passenger seat. He kept mumbling about how we were going to die. “If not by crashing into the damned lake then Franco and his boys are definitely going to kill us. Shit. Shit. Man, we’re dead. I know it.” He was getting on my nerves and making it more difficult for me to keep the car from going over the edge. So, I grabbed the last tranquilizer and jabbed it into his arm. I felt bad for knocking him out, but it was his fault we were driving a stolen beige Lincoln holding a dead body in the trunk towards Edgewater Cliff. With Robby quiet, I could hear the sirens above and the gunshots in front of them. I knew this situation would end badly. My options seemed to be, Edgewater Cliff, handcuffs, or a coffin. So, I did the only thing I could I think of that made sense, I lit the joint that was rolling around in the change cup, turned the wheel, grabbed Robby, swung the door open, and jumped…
I should really start at the beginning. It was the day before.
Robby was off on his morning swim when I got up, so I just poured some cereal and lied down on the couch. I was supposed to do laundry, but I figured I would give myself a few hours before I started. I barely got ten minutes of quiet before Robby burst in holding just about the biggest bag of marijuana I had ever seen. “Where the hell did you get that?!”
“Franco and his boys gave it me.”
I knew Franco and his boys. They didn’t give anyone anything. They were thugs, or at least, they wanted to be. Franco, Robby and I started school together. The three of us would go swimming every morning. He was with Robby and I the first time we dove from the low ridge of Edgewater Cliff. Robby went first without a thought; I followed; but Franco couldn’t do it. We were on little league teams together. We had sleepovers. We were inseparable, until some time around our freshman year. Franco decided he had other plans. He dropped out and started working for a bookie. He and Robby would always make it sound a lot more glamorous than it was. He swept floors, did dishes, and took out the trash. And not in the same way you see in the movies. He wasn’t special. He was just a kid that would clean up for three dollars an hour. And now he hangs out in an abandoned garage with three guys named James. It was enough to impress Robby, who hung around them like a fly on the wall; doing any stupid thing they told him to.
The second I found out that bag came from Franco, I knew a mess was coming.
“No, seriously, Pete, listen. Franco said this bag is ours, all we have to do is pick up his mail for a week while he’s out of town.”
“Robby, are you an idiot? That’s like a pound of weed. You think Franco just gave you a couple thousand dollars worth of green to pick up his damned mail? Give it back. We can buy our own.” He dropped his head, shoved the bag of weed back in his backpack, and headed out to return the “gift.”
I should’ve gone with him. It was silly of me to think Franco would just take the bag back. Especially given the fact that Robby really didn’t want to return it. I could picture the meeting “’Franco, Pete says we can’t take this and that we can’t get your mail, because he thinks it’ll get us into trouble.’ ‘No, it won’t. Sit down. Smoke with me.’ ‘Oh, okay. Thanks.’”
Robby was home within an hour, with the bag and a fresh high.
“Robby, I told you, we can’t take that. Remember when Franco asked you to watch his dog and it turned out to be Sherriff Reynolds’s dog? Do you think picking up his mail will be different?”
“No. We aren’t picking… up… his mail…. Uh…. Anymore…”
It was pointless holding the conversation while he was baked, so I rolled a joint and decided to take the conversation in the morning.
Robbie skipped his swim to convince me to let us keep the weed. “Come on Pete. I talked to Franco, and we don’t have to pick up his mail anymore. He’s hiring me.”
I couldn’t even imagine what Franco had hired Robby to do, but I was sure it was going to make my life more difficult. “Hiring you to do what?”
“Remember a few years ago when I started my garbage removal business?”
“How could I forget, Robby? You threw about a weeks worth of our neighbor’s garbage into Edgewater Lake after advertising ‘Garbage pick up and removal anytime, anyplace’ and I got two months community service, cleaning the lake, because you used my car. It smelled for three months. ”
“Yeah. Well, Franco and his boys have some stuff they need removed from their club –“
I nearly blew a gasket. He pleaded and explained that they had a car to put it all in. They just needed us to get rid of it. “They would do it themselves,” he said, “But, they are going out of town. It’ll take us like half a day and we get to keep this!”
Every part of me knew it was a horrible idea, but I couldn’t let Robby go alone. And there was no way he was giving up a bag that big. Even I was temped. It was huge.
The pile of TV parts, old remotes, some broken bookshelves, etc., didn’t seem too bad. It looked like it would all fit in the beige, early-nineties Lincoln in maybe two trips. “Where’d you get the car?”
“It’s my uncle’s car. Pete, calm down, buddy. You always think the worst. We just need this stuff and this car dropped off at the dump.”
I wanted to question it more, because it just didn’t seem right, but Robby was in already. “Seems easy enough. Can you pop the trunk?”
Franco laughed and coughed at the same time then lit a Marlboro Red and blew the smoke in my direction. “Trunk’s broken. That’s why we’re getting rid of it. Have fun boys. We see you later.” He winked at Robby and patted my arm.
The first trip went pretty smooth. Loaded the backseat with everything we could, got to the dump, unloaded it, and went back for the rest. There wasn’t that much left and we had a few hours before the dump closed, so we decided to take a break and go for a quick swim, since Robby missed his morning ritual.
I drove my Honda ahead for round two, since we would be leaving the Lincoln. I pulled in and waved to Dave, the dump foreman, who had grown up down the street from Robby, who sped in a few minutes after. He had stopped to roll a couple of joints for us to enjoy after. He unloaded all of the junk, aside from a small, hand-painted, tin safe he said made him feel rich.
It took him about five minutes to get it open. Inside there were a bunch of papers, an old measuring tape, two pictures of a young girl, and three animal tranquilizers. “What are these?”
“It’s an animal tranquilizer. Look, it says so on the side and be careful, they’re -”
Out of nowhere, a brand new Camry tore around the corner heading straight for us. “Robby move!” He was already diving clear out of the way. The Camry bumped the rear end of the Lincoln and slammed into my driver’s side door. Dave came running from the foreman’s stand, screaming to make sure we weren’t hurt.
“Is everyone alright? What the hell happened? Robby, Pete, are you –“
Then he saw it. And so did we. And so did the driver of the Camry that seemed to be uninjured and was stumbling away from his and my cars. It seemed that the bump knocked the trunk of the Lincoln wide open. Dave couldn’t move. The driver of the Camry just took off running. And Robby lit a joint.
“Who the hell is that?!” Dave was freaking out.
Robby tried to give him a hit of the joint, but Dave was already on his way to call 9-1-1. “Robby we gotta go.” My car was totaled. So was the Camry.
I knew what we had to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to close the trunk. I couldn’t take a step closer. I had never seen a dead body, let alone one with a bullet hole in the head. Robby walked right up and slammed it shut. Then he gave me the joint and told me to drive.
Franco and his boys were playing poker when we got there. He was clearly not happy to see the Lincoln back in his parking lot. He came outside screaming, “What the fuck, Robby?”
“Hey, Franco. Um, man, there’s a dead body in the trunk, Franco. A woman with a bullet hole in her–“ Robby shut up.
I suddenly noticed that all three of Franco’s boys had stopped playing poker and were standing around us. I looked over at Robby, who was still cradling the tin safe, and I am not sure what made me do this, but without really thinking, I grabbed it, slid my hand inside, took out the tranquilizers and jabbed two of them into a couple of the James’.
“Pete, what the fuck?!”
“Robby, run!” It happened so fast, we didn’t even think about the fact that we had jumped right back into the beige sedan with the dead body in the trunk.
We whipped out of the parking lot and onto Commerce Road. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. “It’s going to be okay, Robby. We are just going to go to the police and explain the whole–“
The window behind me shattered with a bang. I checked the rear-view mirror and Franco was flying towards us. He was leaning out the window, pointing a gun at us. For some reason, I wondered if it was the same pistol he had shown us when we were seven. His dad used to keep it on the top shelf of his bedroom closet. Then he shot again and I screamed.
It didn’t take long before the cops were right behind Franco. Two of them pulled out of the middle school parking lot, which we passed going about thirty miles per hour over the speed limit.
Robby pleaded with me to do something. But I had no idea what to do. Movie car chase scenes kept flashing through my head. I turned down Driftwood Drive and Mrs. Thompson yelled and motioned for us to slow down. In the rear-view I saw her run inside, scared out of her mind, when Franco drove by shooting at us.
I had to get off the side roads and get back to the main road, but we were deep in the subdivision now. That’s when I saw it; our old bike trail. It would take us along the cliffs right back to I-30. We used to ride it everyday. How much could it have changed? And perhaps going off-road would dissuade Franco from continuing pursuit. “Pete, what the hell are you doing?”
The speeding car bounced over what I think was a tree stump and I nearly lost control. Robby screamed and jumped around in the passenger seat. He kept mumbling about how we were going to die. “If not by crashing into the damned lake then Franco and his boys are definitely going to kill us. Shit. Shit. Man, we’re dead. I know it.” He was getting on my nerves and making it more difficult for me to keep the car from going over the edge. So, I grabbed the last tranquilizer and jabbed it into his arm. I felt bad for knocking him out, but it was his fault we were driving a stolen beige Lincoln holding a dead body in the trunk towards Edgewater Cliff. With Robby quiet, I could hear the sirens above and the gunshots in front of them. I knew this situation would end badly. My options seemed to be, Edgewater Cliff, handcuffs, or a coffin. So, I did the only thing I could I think of that made sense, I lit the joint that was rolling around in the change cup, turned the wheel, grabbed Robby, swung the door open, and jumped.
I wasn’t sure I had hit the right point. I knew we were close, but there is only one spot we had ever jumped from. And this felt completely different. One, it was dark, and as crazy as Robby I were, we never dove at night. Two, there was a car falling in front of us. And three, I could see the flashing police lights reflecting on the dark water.
The fall seemed longer than it should’ve and just before hitting the water I panicked that I had gone off the wrong stretch of cliff. But a few seconds after impact, I was floating and breathing. I couldn’t believe it. We made it. Robby.
“Robby? Robby? Where are you?” I couldn’t find him. I couldn’t see him anywhere. “Robby!” And then, a splash.
“Pete? What the hell? Why are we in the lake, man? Did I pass out?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. And I couldn’t stop laughing. The whole way back to shore and the whole walk home from there, I just kept laughing and waiting for the cops to pick us up.
It was almost dawn when we got home. Robby collapsed on the couch. And I stood in the kitchen for a minute, collecting myself.
He turned on the news and there it was: “Franco Mariucci and two members his gang were arrested last night after a speeding car chase which resulted in an abandoned car being launched off Edgewater Cliff into Edgewater Lake.” The words echoed through my ears like a victory bell. “Abandoned car.”
I joined Robby on the couch. He looked at me, smiled, and lit a joint. “What do you want to do today? I don’t really feel like swimming, I don’t know why.”