The wind rushing through the cracked windows soothed her busy mind. Bills were due and her pockets were running out of spare change. The van drove on, taking her to yet another busted town that did little more than tickle her bank account.
They closed the windows, allowing the mindless prattle of her boss and the most dull of her coworkers infiltrate her thoughts. The luckier ones sat in the back, their earbuds firmly jammed into their skulls.
She didn’t have any earbuds.
“The difference between an HSA and a PPO,” her colleague droned. She already stopped listening, already drowsy. She brought a book, so she picked it up.
“Drew!” her boss shouted to a guy in the back. Every time she touched her book, he — “You awake? Is everybody awake? Ready to make some money?”
It’s a forty minute drive, she thought sourly to herself, eyes fixed and unseeing on the pages of her open book.
She cursed. That was her.
“Yeah?” She grunted, pointedly refusing to spare him a glance.
“Ready to make some money?”
“Yeah.” But not where we’re going, she thought, bitter.
They returned to their monotone conversation, turning up the music.
The bitchy girl in the back whined about the volume, made them turn it down. The boss snapped at her for interrupting their conversation. They had a loud spat across the length of the van until the boss turned up the stereo again.
Janice started to read, rather than just stare at the words. Several moments passed — a record, really — before the boss turned down the radio. He only wanted to repeat the points he outlined in the meeting an hour ago.
He finished, was reaching for the volume control, and then Bitchy started up again.
“Did we pass the Quikki Mart? Hey! We passed the Quikki, didn’t we?”
“Yes, we did,” came the boss’s breezy reply.
“But I thought we were going to that one! You said we were!”
“Couldn’t turn left,” he clipped. Janice didn’t see his expression. She was still pretending to read.
“That’s fine!” she bit out, “There’s three more up the road!”
In another minute, they pulled into the next Quikki. Everybody zipped up their black hoodies, pulled the netting over their heads. Janice looked back at Bitchy, distrustful, before flipping her hood up and checking that her hair stayed hidden. Bitchy’d probably be the end of them.
Janice placed her gloved hand on the door handle, another on the pistol at her hip.
If Bitchy said a word in that Quikki, Janice’d shut her up.
They opened the van’s double doors, ready to deploy. Seven suits charged the van. SWAT, it looked like. Bitchy was whining.
“We shoulda stopped earlier! I told you, didn’t I?”
“Oh, cork it already!” Drew snapped.
Janice turned to her boss, “Floor it!”
Bossman grabbed the gearshift. Gunfire deafened the van’s inhabitants as suits forced their way in.
One by one, the Pistols fired their weapons, taking out any SWAT within aim. Janice crawled to the front, over Bossman’s still gurgling body, and threw the gear, hit the gas.
Bitchy fell out. Suits hung on.
Shots fired in the back as the Pistols disposed of the authorities, tossing them out of the van as they sped down the freeway. Monotone guy grumbled directions, backseat nagging the getaway driver.
“It’s hard enough to hit the damn gas over Bossman, Hugh! Don’t like my driving? Do better on your own? Tuck and roll, then! Tuck’n fuckin’ roll, Hugh!”
“I’m only suggesting,” he began in a monotone, “that we take SR16. Traffic is bad on–“
“We’re really concerned about TRAFFIC right–” Janice rounded a curve, cursed as a logging truck blinked into existence.
Janice slammed on the brakes; the van slammed into the truck. Airbags exploded in MonoHugh’s face and into Janice’s chest, elevated as she was while perched on Bossman’s fresh corpse. The cabin filled with dust and groans, music still playing over the speakers.
Janice looked back. Her coworkers were out of it, dazed or unconscious or dead. Drew was dazed. Drew’s leg was broken.
Janice smelled gas. Her coworkers were not her friends. Janice was Janice’s friend. With an apologetic look to Drew, with none of the apology, Janice gathered up a pile of loose papers and napkins, setting them ablaze before piling on old drink cups and fast food bags. The fire began to spread on its own: Her cue to split.
She opened the driver’s door and started to get out, hesitated, went back. Drew tore off his mask. “Jan, what’re you doin? Pistols don’t hand over other Pistols!”
“They’ll never getcha. Don’t sweat it.” Janice grabbed her book and bailed, sprinting toward the woodline.
Few people would notice her, if any. They all gawked from the other side of the wreck. Janice stumbled through the woods, following the highway until she heard the explosion, the sirens, saw the flashing lights.
Janice dialed Gabby. She answered on the second ring. “Got suits. Crew is down. Need wheels.”
“What do you mean by ‘crew’s down?’ Who’s down?”
“All of em, Gabs. SWAT came down like brimstone and fire. I torched the van and ran like hell. Come get my ass, ‘less you wanna be a freelancer tomorrow.”
“Alright,” she muttered. After a long pause, she took down my location. “Keep your eyes sharp. I’m only making one pass.”
“Understood.” Janice sat down, scanning the backed up traffic. She headed down to the intersection she gave Gabby. Town wasn’t far. No police stops that far back. Easy get away.
Gabby’s silver Mercedes glided into view and Janice jogged up and slid in the passenger’s seat. They drove in silence until, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, four black-and-whites cornered them.
Janice reached for her pistol, realized she was screwed. Screwed because Gabby held a pistol to her head.
“Shit, Gabby, you a nark?”
“We’re all in business, Jan. Suits are paying more these days.”
Janice understood. She sighed, nodded, and cracked open her book. “Just let me finish the last page. No hard feelings, just as long as I can finish the last page, all right?”
Gabby waited, holding a hand out the window to signal the cops. Everyone waited.
Janice smiled, closed the book. She turned to Gabby to say she was ready.
A gunshot rang out. Everything went black.
Pistols never turned in Pistols.