The soft collar of the borrowed flight jacket cradled Gunselle’s neck as she leaned back in the truck’s cab and rolled her eyes to stare at the man who picked her up. The driver was a real wolf, Mike told her. He’d stop for any lone female with her thumb out. Especially someone as gorgeous as Gunselle.
Now he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Luckily, there was no traffic to collide with.
“I could open up for forty bucks,” she said, pushing her hand through unbrushed auburn hair. Sometimes it was fun to play desperate. “I’m dead broke.”
“Forty?” He guffawed. “Jesus. You’re not a movie star.”
“I should be,” she said, motioning for him to pull over. He’d stop. She knew men.
Slowing onto gravel, he jerked the emergency brake and shut off the engine. Gunselle could see the revolver clamped under the dash, grip out, within easy reach. Just as Mike said. A shotgun lay at the man’s feet. She noticed that as she climbed in.
“Forty, huh?” he said, mulling over a foregone conclusion. “That’s rich, but you’re pretty enough. And I like to help a girl when I can.” He pulled his wallet and dug out a pair of double sawbucks. She could see he was flush. He was paid up front for the job.
Gunselle opened the door. The man drew his features into a frown.
“The cab reeks of sweat and motor fuel,” she said. “And I’m better on my back if I can stretch out and get my legs around you.” She touched his thigh. “I’ll bet there’s soft ground under those cottonwoods.”
The man smiled and opened his door, turning his back on her as he dropped to the road. Gunselle finally jumped down as he cleared the front of the truck. The blood-red tire rims caught her eye. With an unpracticed giggle, she ran toward the trees. He followed. As they disappeared into the shadows, she turned to face him. He leered at her trim hips as she backed into the trees, farther from the road. A car sped by on the highway. His eyes traveled from the denim trousers she rarely wore to her chest in the open leather jacket, then to her face, to her perfect lips, the dimpled chin, like Ava Gardner.
His smile flattened when he saw the pistol.
“Is that mine?” he asked.
“Give it to me.”
Gunselle fired one bullet into his belly. Birds ripped through leafy branches above, startled by the sound. As he crumpled to his knees and fell forward, she squeezed another round into the top of his head. She was a good shot.
Slipping out of the leather jacket, Gunselle rolled up the sleeves of her flannel shirt, then took hold of the man’s feet and dragged him farther into the trees, where she dropped him with relief, gasping from the exertion as she sat on a log and caught her breath. After a few minutes, she got up and stripped him of his clothes, his wedding ring, and his fat wallet, then covered his naked body with branches blown down in a recent storm. She’d burn the clothes and empty wallet. The ring was gold. There was no inscription.
A few hours later, Gunselle steered the truck into a gas station in Vacaville. She hauled Douglas Aircraft parts around Clover Field in Santa Monica during the war, when the bar-girl roles dried up at Paramount. She was proud of her driving skills.
Ordering the wide-eyed kid pumping gas to fill the tank, she strode into the diner, knowing full well he was still staring at her. Inside, she made her way to a phonebooth, pulling the door closed behind her. After dropping coins into the box, she dialed the number she was given.
“Hey,” she said to the man who answered. She didn’t recognize his voice. “Let me talk to Mike.”
“This is Mike.”
“Bullshit. Where is he?”
“Who wants to know?”
She hung up. Mike’s place was hit. He was waiting for her to call and let him know everything went according to plan, to give her final directions to the warehouse. Someone must have gotten wind of the double-cross. Gunselle’s heart beat heavily as she stared into the future. All she could see was a stolen truck and a load of top-quality furs. The furs were already stolen once.
The following day, Gunselle settled into the soft couch at her friend’s house on Potrero Hill. He lived in the mountains most of the time, but she had a key. He’d understand. Just out of a bath, gazing at the sunset in his robe, she took a sip of good red wine. The driver paid for it.
She left the truck unlocked in the Fillmore area, keys on the seat. It would be gone by now. Mike didn’t know her real name. He was probably dead. A hundred beaver and lynx coats hung from nails she pounded into the basement’s exposed joists. Expensive stuff in the Tuxedo style, with saddle shoulders, draped sleeves, and turned-back cuffs. It took her all night to transfer the load in darkness. Each coat would fetch two hundred dollars retail. Gunselle did a lot of modelling. She knew clothes. Maybe she’d open her own shop one day.
Letting her head roll back, she stared at the ceiling, no idea what to do tomorrow.
About the author:
Russell Thayer received his BA in English from the University of Washington and worked for decades at large printing companies. He currently lives in Missoula, Montana.
Free flash fiction on the first and third weeks of the month.