2016 08 07
CARVED Part 10: Closing the Loop
It was like a scene from a cowboy movie. Rod, bleeding from his left forearm as he sat near the window; the black-wearing rider loomed nearby, the bloody bandage over his eye and the butterfly knife in his hand. Both of them froze. The only sound was the shouting coming from Rod’s phone. Rod put the phone to his ear, never tearing his gaze away from the rider.
“Rod!” shouted Elvira Camonte. “What’s going on?”
“Aunt Elvira,” Rod replied, “you tell Kris to keep carving those lines.” He paused and gritted his teeth. Blood oozed from almost every inch of his forearm, having already stained his elbow and the hand holding the phone. Needles of pain became lances that stabbed his arm and his mind. He gripped the phone as if it were the throat of an enemy. “You’re getting really close. Don’t forget to look for a row of motorcycles and a car parked outside a house –”
The rider lunged, knife held high. Rod scurried to the opposite wall and the phone slipped from his bloody hand. Cursing himself, he saw the rider stomp on the phone again and again.
“No!” Rod cried.
He grabbed the rider’s discarded helmet and pitched it at the rider’s head. The sudden movement caught the rider off guard and the helmet smacked him on the temple. In that split second, Rod reached the rider’s baton and scooped it from the floor. He rained blows on every inch of the rider’s body that he could reach. The rider did a good job defending his head with his arm. Even if he didn’t seem to land a knockout blow, Rod didn’t care. He kept attacking to drive his mind away from the pain and his racing heart.
A lucky strike hit the rider on his knife hand. The butterfly knife clattered onto the floor and Rod kicked it away. That was the opening the rider needed. He tackled Rod and both of them landed on the wooden floor with a crash.
Rod screamed. Something sharp was poking him at his back. The knife from the restaurant! If only I have a chance to use it! he told himself.
The rider straddled Rod and pinned his head down with one beefy hand. The other was balled into a fist and raised as high as he could. Rod’s arms were still free, so swung upwards with his left first right into the rider’s bandaged eye. It did the trick. The rider howled and grabbed at his now-bleeding eye, falling onto his side. Rod lifted his back and yanked out the knife. He shook out the table napkin that he used as a scabbard and got to his knees. The rider was still tending to his eye, exposing his neck. Rod fell on him and pierced his neck with the blade.
Both men tumbled onto the ground once more. The rider, in his surprise, did not even utter a scream. His good eye twitched as blood seeped from the wound on his neck and the corners of his lips. Rod collapsed onto the floor beside him. His heartbeat steadied. Stay cool, he told himself. You’re not out of the woods yet.
The wounds on Rod’s forearm burned, shocking him back to the present. With great difficulty, he crawled all the way back to where the phone lay and he picked it up. It was still working, but the call was disconnected. He dialed Elvira’s number and waited. “Come on,” he urged, “the entire neighborhood could have heard what happened.”
Something metal clicked behind Rod. He froze. The hairs on his nape stood on end and he felt a chill run down his spine. He turned to look behind him. Standing over him was Carlo, his pockmarked face a mask of anger. In his trembling hand was a pistol. His finger hovered over the trigger as he seemed sorely tempted to pull it.
“I told him to take the girl instead! We could have used her as leverage since you apparently knew her!” Carlo shouted. “But no, he wanted to have his revenge first! An eye for an eye. If only I didn’t pick you up that day and made the offer for you to sell my drugs. Everything was going smoothly, but now my best customer is dead and there are gangsters taking down my men outside! It’s all your fault!”
Rod, hearing his old friend’s words, could not suppress his laughter.
“What the hell is so funny?” Carlo demanded.
“It’s just that I was also wondering how different my life had been if I didn’t make the choices I did. And here we are, me bleeding on the floor and you with your little operation ruined. It’s all so funny, now that I think about it.”
Elvira’s voice came on the line. Rod slowly put the phone to his ear.
“Rod,” she said, “we managed to clear the building across the street rom the one you’re in. We can’t see you. Only some guy with a gun and another one lying on the floor.”
“Give me the phone, Rod,” Carlo growled as he pointed the gun at Rod’s head. “Do it!”
Rod hesitated, but he gave the phone to Carlo.
Carlo grabbed the phone and barked, “Who is this?” He paced around the room, listening to the voice on the other line. “What do you mean, ‘Thanks for being such an easy target–‘”
A shot rang out from the building across the street. Carlo shuddered, stumbled, and fell facefirst to the floor. He did not move or make a sound.
Rod held his breath, his body frozen from the suddenness of Carlo’s death. He could hear footsteps racing up the stairs. Two burly men appeared at the doorway, training guns into the room. They were Kris Bowie’s bodyguards.
Upon seeing Rod, one of them fiddled with his earpiece and said, “Found him, but he’s badly wounded. We’re going to need medical attention. All clear over here.”
Rod sighed in relief and closed his eyes. It was all over.
As they drove him to the hospital in an ambulance, Rod relaxed on his gurney. His head and forearm were bandaged up, and Kris chose to ride along with him. He asked Elvira to come, but she declined, saying she had a lot of explaining to do with the police. Rod wasn’t surprised, seeing that the entire neighborhood turned into a bloody mess after everything was done. Throughout it all, Kris seemed unaffected. But in the privacy of the vehicle, she spent a good deal of the trip crying.
“I was so scared,” she said, having collected herself. “I didn’t know if Aunt Elvira would be safe against all those people. But most of all, I was worried about you. I couldn’t bear looking at your arm. It must have hurt a lot.”
Rod glanced at the ink marks on her arm and remembered the corresponding wounds on his own arm. The endless loop of his life was jolted out of control by those wounds and the messages that they carried. It all seemed like some dream gone mad, now that he thought about it. He reached out and grasped Kris’ hand. She squeezed back. They looked at each other and Rod tried to smile.
Kris smiled back. “I’m just glad that you’re safe.”
“Me too. And if you’re okay, nothing hurts that much.”
Once he would be out of the hospital, Rod knew that he would return to the loop that he left behind. The ordinary days would come and go now that his little adventure was over. But deep inside he knew that even if life would turn back to normal, nothing would be the same again.
But that was a concern for another time. In the meantime, he concentrated on holding on as tightly as he could to Kris’ hand. Yes, he told himself, this is no dream. This is all real, and these will all be carved in my memories for much longer than these wounds will ever be on my body.
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