A Meaningless Redemption

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Start your story with someone walking into a gas station.... view prompt

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Crime Fiction Thriller

This story contains sensitive content

*This story contains some use of drugs, physical violence, and gore.*

Otto pushed the door open to the gas station, bell chiming to his entrance. His heavy boots stamped on the concrete floor as the door closed behind him, the air conditioning providing a nice reprieve from the August heat of Nevada. He took a breath, today was already a fuck show. He looked back at his rusted Ford extended cab truck, gritted his teeth as he walked to the desk, ringing the service bell. Ring. Ring. ring ring ring.

"Alright!" A young man shouted from the back. "Alright I'm coming, you fucking dick." He muttered the last bit, but Otto ignored the blunt remark. The young man was squirely and unwashed. Clearly a druggy of some sort. He sniffed audibly and his eyes darted from him and the register. "What can I help you with, sir?" He asked, leaning on criss-crossed arms on the counter.

Otto grimaced at the sight. He grunted while pulling his leather wallet out of his back pocket. "I just need $30 on number 1. And a pack of Camels." He threw a twenty a ten and a five on the counter, the paper slightly crumpled and curled.

The cashier huffed. "Ts. You still living in the past, old man, cigs aren't five bucks. You're total is $42.78."

At this point, Otto's face never moved out of a sneer. It was true, he hadn't bought cigarettes in a long while so he replaced the change to the right amount. Otto looked back at his truck again, sweat beading from his forehead. He sighed and wiped his weather worn face, bronze and wrinkled. Fuck this job. He thought.

The cashier, noticing that his patron shifted his gaze back and forth from him to the car, asked, "In a hurry, grandpa?" He laughed at himself, smugly. "Gonna be late for bingo night or something?"

His smirk made Otto want to punch the kid right in the face. He leaned forward and said, "Shut the fuck up and give me the stogies would you?" The young clerk was taken aback by the sudden brashness. Handing him the pack, Otto snatched it from the kid's hand and opened it up, leaving the plastic wrapping on the counter. "Matches." Otto commanded and held out a badly bruised and scraped hand.

Stuttering the kid said, "Y-you have to...you have to pay for them."

Sighing, Otto glared his looming eyes at the clerk, the kind of stare that a man gives when he's had enough bullshit. An alpha putting a cub into submission, he commanded once more in a low voice, "Ma-tches. Now."

The kid tossed him a small pack of matches, trembling. "Okay! Okay, here! Just get your fucking gas and go, alright?" He slithered back to the back room, where, Otto was sure, he was snorting crack.

Back in the heat once more, he placed a cigarette loosely in his lips, struck a match and puffed a few times to get the cherry going. The smoke stung and had a sweet and bitter taste. It tasted awful really, but he couldn't finish the job this time without one. He walked to his truck and began filling the tank, sucking on the cigarette and flicking the ashes next to the trash can.

He checked the time on his cheap wrist watch. The time was close to 3:30pm. He was cutting it close.

Once he finished, he opened the truck door to get in, his bulky frame barely able to fit in the cab. He turned on the car, the engine revving and sputtering as it turned over.

He blew smoke without care inside of the cab. In the back seat, he heard a muffled cough. "What's the matter, Neil? Don't like smoke?" He only heard a moan. Otto chuckled slightly. "They say smoking causes cancer." His voice was gravelly and deep. "Even if you're around someone who smokes, you might get it." He turned his head and blew smoke in the back part of the cab.

In the back, veiled by smoke and heat, his capture lay in shambles. A man in his late forties, his white buttoned shirt torn and stained with blood, his tie undone and used as a gag around his mouth, his hands and feet were secured by a zip tie, and his salt and pepper hair disheveled and matted with dried blood. Snot fell out of his nose as he tried to speak, but the smoke caught up quickly and he coughed once more. "That's the least of your worries...fucking cancer." Otto groaned.

A cell phone rang inside of the glove box, a cheery jazzy tone he didn't know how to change. He opened the glove box and reached for the phone next to his pistol. He took another drag before answering. "Yeah." He answered.

"Do you have Neil with you, Otto?" He hated that voice.

He looked at the bloody mess of a man in the back seat and replied, "Safe and sound. Headed to drop off now."

"There has been a change in plan." Said the voice. Otto didn't like that. Changes were never good, especially today. "Take him to the new drop off. Don’t fuck around.” The phone call ended and a single buzz and chime came through. Drop off at 6742 S Elby St SW. Don't be late. Again, cutting it close. He threw the phone back into the glove box and peeled out of the parking lot of the gas station. The tires screeched and the engine growled in the haste.

***

"You know,” Otto said to Neil, gazing at the road ahead “you should be glad you're gonna get this as an ending.” He took another drag from the now very bitter end of a cigarette. “You won't be living a dogshit life like I am." He tossed the butt out the window.

He didn't anticipate that Neil would speak back. They never did. They were always too scared or knocked out. "You can just..." His voice was hoarse. "You can just turn around. You don't need to do this." He winced in pain from the words.

"Shut the fuck up, Neil." Otto instructed. But Neil continued.

"Come on. I told you everything I know, please let me go. I can pay you." He sounded desperate. "I can pay you more than those assholes can...three times as much!" He coughed and blood splattered on the seat.

"Watch the upholstery you jackass!" Otto reached back and hammer fisted Neil in the family jewels. Neil screamed in pain and brought his legs to his chest to protect his aching balls.

After a moment, Neil regained himself, as much as he could anyway. "Please. I don't do shit wrong I just...I just put money in the wrong places that's all."

Otto actually laughed. "You didn't just put it in the wrong place. You took money from Franklin Borley. That fucking guy owns every cop and every judge in this state." Otto huffed and continued, "You stole money so you could run away to do what? Go to the Bahamas and fuck some island whore and drink shit beer? Pfft. You stupid fuck." He grumbled. "Now, Franky is pissed off and I gotta make the man happy." He watched his victim in the rearview mirror and picked at his teeth. "You're just an unlucky son of a bitch. That guy don’t care what reason you needed the fucking money for…he always expects to be paid back. Always" He said, hitting the brakes to avoid a tumbleweed.

Neil groaned as the sudden stop. "Come on man!" He kicked Otto's seat again.

"Hey!" Otto's voice boomed in anger. "What the fuck did I just say about the upholstery? I will make you wish you get to Franky sooner, you got that?" Otto always had a temper, but this job was making his blood pressure medication do work, that was for sure. He punched the roof of the car several times in frustration, causing the pull down mirror to fall open. Otto huffed, his face reddened at the sight of the picture that fell with the mirror.

Neil asked with a trembling voice, "Is that...is that your family?"

Otto looked at the polaroid that still hung there of his wife and two sons. An old sienna picture of times past. "It was." He pushed the mirror shut. Otto reached back and pulled on Neil's shirt. "Now, shut the fuck up." He pulled the tie back over his lips and shoved him back into the seat. Otto ignored the complaining groans and grunts that followed.

***

The warehouse finally came into view. Otto turned off his truck and coasted towards the back. There, he saw three black SUV's waiting, the sight of them gave Otto a shiver up his spine.

Franklin, a shorter man with dyed black hair and large sunglasses came from the backseat of one of the SUV's. Once he exited, the rest of the car doors opened and six men from each car came out in formation. All of them rough looking and hard around the eyes and dressed in business attire. 

Otto grunted as he got out of the truck. He pulled the seat forward and dragged Neil by the feet until he stood on the ground. Otto cut the zip ties that held his ankles so he could walk, then grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the gangsters. 

"Otto..." Franklin said, his voice smug and unlikable. At least that was Otto’s thought. "Glad that you could finally make it. What took you so long?"

Choosing his words carefully Otto said, "Had to teach a little punk a lesson on manners. Small detour." He tossed Neil on the ground in front of him. “There’s your thief." He said.

Franklin chuckled, puffing on a cigar. Neil decided that he would smoke too. "Congratulation's Otto, you have successfully completed your last job."

Neil let the stogie burn for a little too long, then said in a flat tone, blowing smoke out of his nose. “Yep."

"It's been 7 years. 7 jobs. 7 unhappy customers. But one happy Franky." He smiled big, his teeth too white and straight for his age. "Your debt is paid. I must say I am surprised you lasted this long." Otto noticed that he kept his pistol in his pants, his shirt tucked so it was visible.

"That long, huh?" Otto said. Keeping a watchful eye on the thugs behind Franky.

"That's right. All the money you borrowed for your sick wife, finally paid back. And I took care of you pretty good now, didn’t I?" Franky swayed as he spoke, like he was performing on stage for an audience. The prick really had Vegas suave and it annoyed Otto to the core.

"Not that it mattered. She died." Otto said simply. Flicking the ash on Neil from his cigarette.

A guise of condolence emanated from Franky. "Did she? Did she die, Otto? Too bad you couldn't get a refund on the chemo." He laughed at himself and his goons laughed along with him.

Otto imagined shooting him right then and there. "Yep." Otto had a hard time concealing his discontent, his mouth formed a thin line of rage. "Too bad."

Franky laughed again and said, "Oh come now buddy. We're friends, I was just kidding around." He handed his cigar to one of his goons. Franky strutted his white and gray, snake skin shoes toward Neil and picked him up from the collar and shook him as he spoke. "But this little fucker bit off more than he could chew. Huh, Neil?” He put his face close to Neil's. "Huh? You thought you could run away with my money, Neil?!"

Neil pleaded with tightly shut eyes, "Please, just give me two more days, I swear I’ll pay you back!”

"This fucking prick," He said this to Otto and pointed to the captured man. "Thinks I give handouts? Thinks I’m charitable?” He slapped Neil across the face. "Stupid piece of shit." He began to walk back to his goons, Neil fastened by an enraged grip. Franky turned to Otto then to his goons. "Trevor, get this man some money!" As instructed, Trevor retrieved a duffle bag and jogged toward Otto then placed it in his hand before heading back to the pack of hang-arounds.

As Otto turned, Neil shouted in desperation. "Please! Franky I’m good for the money you know I am. I just need time. Please! You don’t understand! Help! Help!" He cried.

"Shut the fuck up!" Franky yelled and kicked him in the knee, breaking his leg with a snap.

Otto got into his truck and watched, setting the bag in the passenger seat. The gang of hang-arounds began to circle Neil, relentlessly punching and kicking him. Otto looked behind him, another SUV blocked him in. He knew it was too good to be true. Franky never let go of his money or of his grudges. 

"Please!" Neil sobbed and gasped.

Otto was white knuckling the steering wheel and sucked in air through his teeth. A short man from the SUV behind him came out with a shotgun strapped to his chest. He walked toward Otto’s truck slowly, finger on the trigger, ready to ensure Otto’s retirement. 

Otto pulled the mirror down, the picture of his family staring at him, regret mocking him as death was shortly arriving. He touched the picture with a longing. "I know Dela. I know, baby." He said softly as he gently pushed the mirror back up. 

As he started the car the terror in Neil's voice became louder and even more desperate. Otto put the car in reverse, his foot on the gas straight to the floor, crushing the short man against the SUV, his body limp and spilling with blood to the ground. Quickly changing gears, he sped toward the pile of men beating Neil near to death.

The men tried to jump out of the way but Otto took them out, their bodies slapping against the metal, denting the car in his pursuit. He drove once more toward a pair of thugs and ran their bodies into the ground, their blood caking the tires and embedded into the hot cement. The smell of wet iron permeated the air. All that was left was Franky, two of his goons, a few still alive but too injured to fight back, and Neil, holding his head still lying on the ground.

Franky held out a shining silver .45 caliber pistol and shot. Otto ducked away and shielded his face from the shattered glass as Franky emptied the mag into the passenger side door. Otto kept his pistol next to him all the while and returned fire in an instant shooting Franky in the shoulder, causing him to fall and turn away in pain.

Otto opened the door, "Get in! Get in right now!"

Neil got up from the ground using his bound hands to push himself up and jumped into the car. Otto peeled away and shot at Franky and his companion once more. Not at all a clean getaway, but they got away nonetheless.

Neil panted and stared at Otto. "What the fuck!?" He exclaimed. "You came back. Why?"

“We were both going to die.” Otto said, panting.

"Look, I'm happy you saved me and all, but you still got me in this mess, I need to get away from you." Neil's hand trembled.

“I’m not thrilled either,” Otto lit another cigarette, this one bent and crumpled at the end.

“Just, take me anywhere. Drop me off somewhere, where people exist. Please." Neil put his head in his hands and stayed there.

There was silence as the anxiety of near death washed over both of them. The silence was broken as red and blue lights came up from afar. "We have to pull over." Otto said.

Neil, shocked, said, "What? No, no we don't, you just keep driving, okay?"

“What’s your deal? You’re out of the thick of it, if we don’t pull over it will be suspicious.” Explained Otto.

"No!" Neil grabbed the pistol from the seat which Otto placed for the time being. He pointed the barrel at Otto with shaky hands. "No! You keep driving. Don't you dare fucking stop!" He drooled and panted in shaky and laborious breaths “You don’t know why I took that money, and I don’t feel like explaining, but you’re gonna keep driving, understand?”

Otto took a breath. “If you want to get out of here, you have to listen to me. Just calm down.”

"Calm down? Calm down?! Don't FUCKING tell me to calm down! I almost died in, I don't even know, how many times the last two days! You fucker, keep driving!" He pushed the barrel against Otto's head. The cold steel sent him into fight or flight.

Otto didn't stop but he was going slow. "Now look, they are getting close, I can get us both out of this…now just..." BANG.

It was one shot and the only shot left in the chamber. It struck Otto's temple and exited through the driver side window, blood spilling onto the door and onto his face. His head bobbed around until it hung loosely at his shoulders.

Neil opened the driver side door and pushed Otto’s limp body out of the car without watching it slam on the ground, the blood spilling in a dark pool mixing in the dirt. Neil shut the door and put his weight on the gas pedal and sped away, kicking the dirt against Otto’s dead body. The police vehicles sped past him, without even a second glance. Karma is truly a bitch. And she laughs when a man gets a taste of his own medicine. Otto’s vision went dark as he was left there, his meaningless redemption left him dead and bloody for the buzzards to feed on the desert road.

August 01, 2023 14:59

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6 comments

14:27 Aug 08, 2023

I felt like I was right there with the characters in the car. Awesome suspense, incredible descriptions and great storyline! Love it! So talented keep it up!

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Jessica Livolsi
00:28 Aug 09, 2023

Thank you so much for your support! More to come.

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Arizain St Paul
17:58 Aug 07, 2023

This was like a Netflix show finale. You really got me interested in the characters in such a short time

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Jessica Livolsi
05:05 Aug 08, 2023

Wow thanks!

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David Sweet
12:11 Aug 06, 2023

Wow! The tension led to a great showdown and surprising ending. I'm guessing Franky survived, which builds suspense even more for what happens next to Neil. Poor Otto. Couple of things: when Otto is buying cigarettes, you call them stogies. That's a term usually reserved for cigars. Then, when Otto arrives to meet Franky, you have Neil smoking instead of Otto. One more: sienna photo. That may be correct, but when I think of sienna, I think of the old times photos, but I may be confusing it with sepia. Not a big deal. Thanks for sharing. G...

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Jessica Livolsi
05:09 Aug 08, 2023

Thank you for the pointers they’re always much appreciated! This will help me in the future :) and thank you for your uplifting words!

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