Imagine a young thirty-something man, with dirt brown curly hair that falls to his eyes, and a nose, too small for his oval face, standing under the sultry and unrelenting heat of the sun in the middle of a deserted parking lot in the unforgiving Australian outback.
Great. Now imagine this young man, let’s call him Matthew, in the most awfully convenient position ever. He’s in the middle of nowhere, and in a parking lot, so he must obviously have lost his car key, right?
More or less…. The problem with old cars like his was that the ignition and trunk were independent of each other, and required different keys, as such. So the car was working fine, if you could call the guttural noise of decades of oil build up and the roar of rusty rotary (ideally) parts to be fine, that is.
No, the real issues at hand for Matthew were the wailing sirens, maybe a mile away, and his utter inability to get his trunk open. And so the search began.
Matthew started from the front driving seat; he popped his head under the worn-out leather seat, and realized how much (more) of a fool he was. He needed a flash light.
He reached for the glove box to grab a small flashlight, having to fish through several bills that said ‘LATE’ among other things, even harbouring a tiny speck of hope for finding the key. His bloodshot, brown eye fell on the now cool muzzle of a gun, hidden beneath the documents of disappointments and failures. His eye twitched.
“Back to it,” Matthew said, comforting and reassuring himself, as the once distant sirens grew nearer. Nearer. Nearer….
With the flashlight propped between Matthew’s yellow teeth, he explored the seedy undersides of his seats, one by one. Alas, he found nothing but stale Cheetos™, bleached cigarette butts, around a pound of dirt and an overwhelming feeling of panic and anxiety. He knew his time was inching closer and closer.
“No, no, no, no, no…,” he whispered to himself, telling himself that it was not over yet. He’d find the key, later, he’d get a copy from his home. He had wasted enough time. It was time to go before the sirens enveloped him in their calm blue and angry red auras of justice.
Why hadn’t he fled earlier?
Rather than wasting on calling himself an idiot, he hurried around the car one last time and quickly slumped his sweaty self back into the driver’s seat, and placed car key into the ignition, twisted, and slowly edged towards the direction against the hostile sirens. He had barely moved a foot when the outback broke into silence. The sirens had stopped.
He had spent too much time looking for the trunk’s key.
“Curse it. That blasted key.”
Matthew’s hand was forced to shut the engine off. You could hear the sound of his beat engine from a mile away. A mile away….
He opened his glove box, knowing full well that his every move made sound, and that they were listening. His hand moved towards the dark grey gun.
He shifted his body downwards, head on the passenger’s seat, in an attempt to shield himself from what could come. Through the corner of Matthew’s eye, he spotted a golden glint. It wasn’t what he thought, what he hoped it would be, it was instead a singular shell, a nine-millimeter casing, former bullet, call it what you will.
No sooner had he thought that, that a rapidly approaching whizz, whizzed through the windows. Soon the entire driver’s side was being barraged and riddled by bullets.
Matthew crawled out the passenger’s side. It was good cover, for now. He peeked from underneath the car, the firing had stopped, but he saw a multitude of feet making their way for him. He crawled towards the trunk’s side, and saw a ruby red sheen on the side of the trunk.
If only Matthew had found the key, he wouldn’t have been in this pickle.
A pickle is an understatement.
His head moved out from the cover in an attempt to see his assailants. Assailants that were dressed in beige shirts, black ties and belted brown pants. One of them spotted Matthew’s brown hair and took a shot.
It hit the trunk’s lock. And the trunk popped open.
“You idiot,” said Matthew the idiot.
The stench of death filled the hot, dry Australian desert air. The jig was up. Go out in a blaze of glory, or surrender? Any other day, Matthew would stand up for himself. But over a key? Over the lives of innocent men doing their job?
But for a man like Matthew, this was any other day.