Free Ride

camaro Melanie couldn’t remember ever having a more miserable forty-five minutes. She came back into the foyer of the police station every ten minutes to warm back up, but it wasn’t the cold as much as it was the feeling that she was completely alone. She’d killed a woman, though she didn’t know it would happen. Whether she’d ever be convicted of any wrongdoing didn’t matter. She’d carry the guilt with her forever.

Finally, the dark blue Camaro pulled up in front of the station. Rage Against the Machine belted out from the speakers, audible even five feet from the car. The screaming died down mostly. Elard climbed out of the driver’s side and looked around. When he saw her he smiled. “Come on and get in before we both freeze our nuts off.”

She smiled back at him, a weak and watery grin, but it was still there. “Our boobs in my case. Though they’re about the same size.”

He got back in the car and she heard the lock disengage.

She opened the door and climbed in. The car smelled of cigarettes, fast food, and farts. It wasn’t the most pleasant combination, but it was familiar. She’d gotten a ride from him more than once and the conversation always made it worthwhile. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

He threw the car into drive. “No worries, Mel.” He pulled into traffic. “You just make sure and return the favor some day. So, what happened? If you feel like talking about it?”

Melanie looked over at her friend. They’d known each other for the last two years. That didn’t seem like much, but they’d packed a lot of living in that time. They moved in together six months ago and there had been no creeping or hanky panky on his part. She still wasn’t sure if he was straight, bi, trans, or what. “I don’t know. It was bad stuff.”

Elard looked over at her. “It’s cool. You tell me what you want, when you can.”

They rode in relative silence for a few minutes. “Someone is dead.”

“Okay.”

“I didn’t kill them, or at least if they’re dead because of what I did, I didn’t know that it was going to happen. Someone hacked into my computer at the library and gave me money to deliver a package.” She took a breath.

Elard reached into the space between them and pulled out a cigarette pack. He shook one out and stuck it in the corner of his mouth. When he put the pack back in its place he pushed in the cigarette lighter. “Hacking isn’t the right word for getting into those PCs. They’re more wide open than a Thai lady-boy all grown up.”

Melanie didn’t know if she should be surprised that he didn’t mention the killing. She pulled a long face at the analogy.

“You did something you shouldn’t have. Question is, what are you gonna do about it?”

She squeezed her eyes shut. There were no tears forthcoming. She worried about that. She hadn’t cried yet. “I don’t know. Fuuuuck. I don’t know.”

“We’ll find this guy. Then we take him to the cops.”

Her eyes popped open and she looked at him. “You can do that?”

The lighter snapped out and he lit the cigarette. “We can do that.” He puffed smoke out. “I can have a look at the computer. We can find out how he paid you. We’ll build a case.”

“Just like CSI.” She chirped. She actually chirped.

Paul chuckled. “Nah. It’ll take more than an hour. And we may not get everything we need. But I think we can. You better think about being honest with the cops though.”

“How do you know I haven’t been?”

“You’re sitting with me. You tell them that you got paid, and they’d crawl into your life so deep you’d wish they’d bought you a drink first. Still, you need to know that honesty’s almost always the best policy. Except when it isn’t.”

She wanted to punch him in the shoulder. Instead, she started to cry. Her vision tripled and quadrupled like one of those dragonfly kaleidoscopes. She sobbed and clutched her stomach. She wasn’t alone, but she still felt lonely.

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