joegoda: (StoryTeller)
[personal profile] joegoda
(I'm back)
I unhook the mike from the squawkbox and key into the dispatcher. "Jess, this is Bernie, cab 403. Just picked up my fare at the airport. Destination is Admiral and Sheridan. ETA about 20 minutes, give or take."

Jess, the pretty blonde dispatcher keyed me back. "Roger dodger, Bernie. Eta 20 minutes. Your next fare is at Sheridan and 31st. Talk to you then. Safe travels."

Jess, Jessica, is a good kid. Twenty eight, a bit on the chunky side and with a three year old at home. Her bum of an ex-husband dumped them when the kid was six months old. She's got a good head on her shoulders and is pretty sour towards most men. She seems to like me because I don't BS her and give her the straight skinny on what I think. She came in to work one day with neon blue hair and asked me what I thought.

I told her that I thought it was different, and pretty striking, but if she was serious about taking care of her kid, she's gonna have to think more about the kid than what other folks think about. Wearing blue hair was going to make her a target for the sort of people that don't necessarily give a crap about her or taking care of her kid. I told her that it looked pretty but she needed to get rid of it. It detracted from her natural beauty, and made her look like a freak.

She was kind of pissed at me that day, but the next she was back to her blond self and never changed it since. I don't know if I had anything to do with it, but maybe. I know that she's been seeing a doctor, about nine years older than her, off an on for about four months. Seeing as in dating, not as in there was something wrong with her. Well... maybe this doctor can heal her broken heart. Like I said, she's a good kid. She deserves a good guy. And he better be, or he'll answer to me.

So, we're off to Metro C 707, my fare and me. I look into the mirror and he's looking out the side window, at the beautiful scenery of highway 412. His face holds that kind of look when a person is thinking really hard and hoping for something, scared and apprehensive at the same time.

"So, what's your name?" I ask him.

This startles him and he pulls his eyes away from the window. "What?" I'm pretty sure he heard me.

"I said, what's your name? I like to know who I'm chauffeuring around." I shrugged. "It's just a short trip so I thought I'd ask now rather than later." I smile into the mirror so he can see me.

His eyes squint, as if he's trying to think of something to say. I figure he's going to give me a fake name, and he doesn't disappoint. "Brian," he says. "Brian Adams."

"Oh," I says back. "Like the singer."

"Yes." His accent is clipped and he doesn't hesitate to let me know he's not very talkative. "Just like the singer."

"My brother wrote a song, once." I keep up the chit chat, just because I'm mean like that. "He wrote a country song. Spent two hundred dollars to get it published. It didn't go anywhere that I know of. He still works at the screw machine shop."

Brian puts on a puzzled expression. "Screw machine...?"

"Yeah," I tell him. "It's a manufacturing plant where they make all sorts of bolts and screws and nuts and things."

I change lanes to the left, because that where, for god knows what reason, the highway designers put the exit to Sheridan. Stupidest damn thing to make the left lane, the fast lane, the same as the exit lane from the highway. Should just leave it on the right side like any other exit in any other state on any other highway. Morons.

"Funny thing," I continue, "my brother lives in the same town as I do, and we haven't seen each other in two years." Again, I shrug. "I dunno why. It's just the way the world is, I guess. People drift apart. Even brothers."

"Yes." Brian says again. "Funny old world, isn't it, how people drift apart." He goes back to looking out the window. "How far away are we?"

"Not far at all," I tell him. "In fact, once I get past this damn light, it's a left turn, down the block and you're there. The bus stop is on the same corner as the old Borden's cafeteria. They tore it down a bout a decade or two ago. Great place to eat, while it was here."

The light turned green at about the same time as some girl talking on her cell phone decided she had to take the same place in the universe as my taxi. I break to a stop just before we become cohabitants, and bite my tongue, hard, to keep from frying the ears of my passenger.

I look hard and frowning into the big brown eyes of the girl driver, looks to be a bout 20 or so, who is still clutching her cell phone, her mouth a big O in shock as if she had ever right to be where she is. She flips me the bird and starts to take off, but her car, wiser than she is, decides to die at that point. She probably drowned it or something. It's an old beater of a civic, and looks as if she's pulled this stunt one too many times. Whatever color it originally was, it's more grey bondo colored than anything.

"What is it?" Brian leans forward to look out at the mess. "What she doing?"

She was getting out of her car and raising her hood. This was going to take awhile. I keyed the sqawk.

"Jess, this is Bernie. Some dame stalled in front of me. It's going to take a while."

"What's your location, Bernie?"

"Exit of 412 and Sheridan, heading south. She pulled in front of me on a left turn and looks like she flooded her engine."

"Is that my bus?" My passenger points to one of Tulsa Metro's finest, chugging along past us on it's smokey diesel way toward the Admiral and Sheridan stop.

"It could be," I say. "Do you have an appointment to get to?"

"Yes," he said, a bit frantic. He opens his case, the sort that opens at the top and splits, and reaches inside for some papers. "Yes, I have an appointment at," he glances at a fancy gold watch, "9:30. It's at Main and Fourth. Do you know where that is?"

"Sure I know where that is, but I don't think you're gonna make that appointment, even if you fly." I look at my digital clock meter thing. "It's ten till 9 now, so unless this chick gets out of my way, like now, you don't have much of a chance."

The girl is standing in front of her civic, her boyfriend or brother or whatever he is, with his pants fashionably stupid practically down around his knees. Both of them are standing scratching their heads over what to do, what to do. I'm about to unbuckle my seat belt, roll down my window and tell them what to do, when somebody smashes into the back of the taxi.

"Now, what is it?" Brian is becoming more stressed out. I'm not to far behind him. This was supposed to be an easy day. Just pick 'em up and drop 'em off. Nothing out of the ordinary.

I check the mirror and sure enough, some old lady who borrowed Mr. Magoo's glasses has plowed, at low speed, into the back of the taxi. Now I have to get out. I grab my insurance papers, license and etcetera from the visor where I keep them for just such an emergency. I open my door just as the first shot rings out.

"What the fu..." Again, I don't want to use foul language in front of a customer, so I stop myself, but just barely. I look in the mirror and my passenger does not look happy. The reason he doesn't look happy is that there appears to be a spreading ketchup stain on his shirt. "uh. Sir?" I mean, what do you say to someone you don't know who appears to have been shot riding in the back of your cab?

He wears the distressed look of someone who knows what's coming and he doesn't like it, and then, for what seems no reason at all, he upends his open briefcase and dumps it on the back of my cab.

"Hey! What the hell is going on?" I'm beginning to lose my good nature.

"Main and 4th." Brian's voice is raspy and weak, he's sucking air. "Mister Dell." His perfect shirt is now the shade of last nights marinara. His face is pale and he's starting to shake. "Mister Dell. Main and 4th." He passes out.

I see a movement along the side of the cab. I check my rear view and I don't see granny Magoo. I look out at the front at little sister's stalled car and she and her boyfriend are both looking directly at the cab, wearing expressions of seriousness I wouldn't expect on kids that age. Boyfriend has pulled a gun and is pointing it at me.

The passenger side door gets pulled open and there's granny, also brandishing a gun. She grabs Brian and bodily hauls him out, yelling something at him in some germanish sounding language. I hate to tell her but I don't think Mister Adams is going to be telling anyone anything.

My foot makes the decision before my brain tells the rest of me. It mashes the pedal as far as it will go and the taxi lurches forward, ramming into the civic and shoving it forward. Little sister and boyfriend dive in opposite directions, but not before boyfriend gets off a shot, shattering the outside rear view mirror.

The taxi pushes harder and the civic slowly rotates out of the way. I have good tires and spent some serious cash beefing up the torque on my cab. Comes in handy pulling folks out of ditches or snowbanks. Just part of the service, folks. Just remember the good old Blue and Gold taxi service. My name in Bernie, ask for me when you call.

Once clear, the cab lurches around the civic, bouncing onto the sidewalk on the other side of the road. I'm not thinking, I'm just driving, getting the hell out of there. I check the mirror and see granny and little sister looking after me, looking like they're yelling something at each other. Boyfriend has his gun up and fires, twice. One misses the cab all together and the other shot shatters one of my back windows. I don't see my passenger at all. I don't think I ever will again.

I key the sqawkbox. "Jess! I'm being shot at. That flooded car? She and another crazy just ambushed me, shot my passenger. I'm on the road again, heading south on Sheridan."

I get static.

"Jess? Jess? This is Bernie. Are you there?" Dammit, where is she?

After a long, long moment: "Bernie!" I let out the breath that I had been holding. "Bernie, it's okay, I'm here. I just... um... had to go to the bathroom."

That's odd. Jessie doesn't take bathroom breaks mid morning. In fact, she's as regular as clockwork. It's a running joke we share about being able to tell the time from when we hear Jess tinkle.

"Jess," I tell her, trying to sound as frantically calm as I can. "I'm heading south on Sheridan, just passed Admiral." I turn right on Admiral and head towards downtown. "I'm coming in to the shop. Crazy bastards shot the hell out of my taxi."

"Good, Bernie." Jess has an edge to my voice. "Bring the cab in. We'll... um... we'll call the police from here. You just bring your cab in and use the west entrance."

We don't have a west entrance.

"Will do, Jess." I'm trying to sound calm. It's obvious that Jess isn't alone and she's trying to tell me to stay away. See you in a bit. I'm a bit shaken up, as you can figure."

"I can imagine, Bernie. You just come on in. Don't worry about the cops. We've called them. Dispatch out."

Mister Dell, you have some explaining to do. Whoever you are.
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