I’m in a car and I’ve been shot. The car has a spongy suspension and a Scorpio air freshener that smells like Mexican hair products. Did I mention it’s in motion across a scabbed landscape headed for the sun. I feel every bump in my chest where bullet fragments bubble in blood. Unless the pink cartoon hand of salvation plucks me from the back seat and drops me into Tuesday afternoon before I took this job, I won’t be alive much longer. Sure, make jokes. I saved the child this time at least, it felt personal, I knew the family, and I found the women who stole the girl, and killed the man they called Baggage Handler. It must mean something else in Spanish. Without BH, the bad man at the wheel is off the grid. He’s taking me to where I’ll want to die. Someone has cranked the color wheel. Cabbage purple mountains crouch below a sky as red as Santa. Can I let myself go, or do I have to fight this thing? I hope you weren’t looking for advice. My title was more of a question. I dropped my bloody calling card in every fishbowl since the girl went hostage. She’s home with her mother now, but it was costly. I installed explosives inside a man while he was drugged. He begged me for more life when he came to. I thought I was giving him that. He must have meant more time. “We’re businessmen,” the kidnappers tell me. That makes the families customers, right?—and me a discount broker. What am I clinging to? More of this? The girl was taken on my watch. I got her back for zero, but I couldn’t come back alive and I’ll never collect. Good luck to her world.

Copyright © January 7, 2007 David Hodges

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