by Jeremy Warach
Hunter replayed every moment of the disastrous sales meeting in his head while he swerved in and out of the late evening traffic, driving home on auto-pilot. He couldn't figure out what went wrong or why the client had changed their minds, canceling the regular order they placed every month like clockwork.
"Changing priorities," the purchasing manager had said. "Refocusing on core business lines."
But Hunter sensed something behind the stated reasons, a subtext hinted at by tone of voice, averted eyes. It was his sensitivity to these nonverbal clue which had helped propel Hunter to the top of the northeast region's sales team. Or at least they had until now. Was today the tip of the iceberg, the harbinger of a turning point for the worse?
His foot grew heavier on the accelerator, and he slowly picked up speed, passing the slower moving cars, cutting sharply left and right between the two lanes, speeding up as a traffic light turned yellow, once or twice blatantly running a red. He muttered and shook his head, trying to make sense of the day's events, losing focus on what was in front of him and veering to the left into the lane of oncoming traffic. A horn blared. He jerked the steering wheel to the right, back into his own lane, and a bright blue American muscle car passed him in the opposite direction. Annoyed at the car horn, Hunter flipped his middle finger at the driver of the blue car and continued on his way home, still lost in thought.
Behind him, he heard the squeal of tires. He checked his rear view mirror and saw the blue car executing a full speed U turn, then speeding in his direction, deftly swerving around intervening cars and closing the distance between it and Hunter.
Hunter's eyes widened as he realized he may have made a critical misjudgment. He sped up, until the lane to his right was clear, then jerked the steering wheel to the right and pressed down on the accelerator. He turned onto the next cross street without slowing. His rear wheels skidded out from behind him, then corrected themselves. Moments later, the blue muscle car re-appeared in his rear view mirror. Hunter could hear its engine being gunned. He increased his speed as much as he dared, avoiding the parked cars, making quick left and right turns through the local streets. The blue car continued its pursuit until its nose was almost touching his car's bumper. He could see the driver, wearing an enraged expression and shouting at him. The driver tried pulling alongside him, but the road wasn't wide enough.
Hunter made a left turn before he could see the "Dead End" sign. He sped down the narrow, lonely, tree-lined road and skidded to a stop just before hitting the steel guard rail at the road's end. The blue car turned sideways behind him and boxed him in. In his rear-view mirror, Hunter saw the blue car's driver-side door open and a large man emerge from it. Hunter's already adrenaline-charged heartbeat pounded in his ears. He reached, panic-stricken, for his seat-belt, but it was stuck, he couldn't open it. He pulled at it, cursing, checking his rear-view mirror again. The man had taken something out of the trunk of his car and was walking towards Hunter, a grin on his face, but not a happy one. The man raised the object — a crowbar, and swung it through the air like a sword.
* * *
The night sky was tinged with red. Hunter blinked, and the red smudged across the sky. He tried to lift his head from the ground and screamed hoarsely as he felt explosions inside his skull. His head fell back down against the pavement, and he moaned. He blinked again, and the blood in his eyes cleared enough for him to see the stars swimming above him. Then, black nothingness. It would be hours before a bike rider out for the evening came across Hunter's lifeless, broken body lying in the street.
* * *
Frankie grinned, as he tapped the accelerator of his 2007 blue Dodge Charger and easily passed the douchebag driving the mini-van at the speed limit. The hum of the highway under his tires was soothing. The rush was wearing off, and his fatigue from a crappy day slowly returned, but the thrill remained in his memory. He had discovered a new way to vent his frustrations, and he knew he would do it again.
Frankie reached over to the driver's seat with his right hand and felt the cold steel of the crowbar with his fingertips. The three hundred and forty horses under the hood of his car growled in shared pleasure.