“Hey, Carolyn! I passed!”
Carolyn heard the screen door slam and heavy boots stomping up the carpeted stairway. She jumped up and down, jiggling herself into skin-tight jeans and flopped back on the bed. Gut sucked in, she pulled the zipper up and secured the button.
“Carolyn! I passed my driver’s test!” Jeremy said, filling out the doorway. He slammed both hands against the door jamb. “My brother gave me the Camaro, the dumb ass. Let’s go for a ride.”
A devilish grin spread across his face. He landed on top of Carolyn, kissing her face, her neck and fumbling with the button on her jeans.
“Hey,” Carolyn said and slapped at his shoulder. “Do you know how long it took me to get into these jeans?”
“I know how long it’ll take you to get out of them.”
Carolyn covered her face with her hands. Jeremy jumped back up, grabbed her arm and pulled her up to her feet.
“Let’s go for a ride,” he said. “I have to get the car home at seven.”
He leaped down the steps, two at a time, and she followed him out. Still slipping on her shoes, she heard the engine outside rev. She pushed through the screen door and saw him holding the passenger door of the yellow Camaro open for her. She got in and he slammed the door.
“Four on the floor,” he said, put the car in gear and away it purred. “Let’s go to the river. I want to show you something.”
He drove up Union Street and up over the Union Street Bridge. He turned onto an unused off-ramp that headed towards the old train yard next to the abandoned iron mill and the machine shop. Carolyn looked over the red-rusted buildings of the mill, the overgrown train tracks and could see the river beyond the row of weeds and low bushes. Crickets chirped in the late-summer, late-afternoon heat. The engine from a diesel locomotive droned on behind the rattle of the traffic crossing the metal bridge. A lonely train whistle blew on the other side of the river.
The Camaro’s tires crunched on the gravel parking lot and Jeremy killed the engine. He was at her door in a flash, opened it and pulled her behind him. They climbed over a barrier and through a roped-off area towards the train tracks.
“Viola!” he said and held his hands up next to an abandoned box car.
“What’s this?” she said. “We shouldn’t be here, should we?”
“So what. It’s our new hideout.”
He grabbed a rusty, empty five-gallon paint can and turned it upside down. Carolyn stepped up onto it and climbed into the boxcar. The floor had been swept and a sofa stood along the narrow end.
“Who knows about this?” Carolyn said as she toed at a pair of underwear and a ripped t-shirt.
“Just Ducky, that stupid ass.” Jeremy kicked the clothes out the door. “Well, what do you think?”
Carolyn raised her eyebrows and sat down. Jeremy knelt on the sofa, reached behind it and produced a bottle.
“Here, want some?” He handed her the Southern Comfort.
“Yeah, then I’ll just have to puke.”
“Just sip it then…hey, what’s this?” he said and pulled up a suitcase. He threw it on the sofa and let himself fall onto his backside with a thud.
Click click. He opened the suitcase and whistled through his teeth. Carolyn sipped at the Southern Comfort and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She screwed the cap back on.
“Who does that belong to?” she said.
“Hell if I know.” Jeremy riffled through a pack of hundred-dollar bills.
“Put it back,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”
“No goddamn way. It’s mine, now.”
The diesel engine hummed louder up the tracks somewhere, like a sleeping dragon.
Carolyn stood. “I’m getting out of here.”
He jumped up and grabbed her by the hand before she could jump out of the box car. They watched as two black sedans with tinted windows pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to the Camaro. Jeremy, never letting the suitcase drop, backed up against the door on the opposite side of the box car. He tugged at the door and it scraped open. Carolyn looked out, down a thirty-foot drop to the river.
“C’mon, we gotta jump.”
“I’m not going to jump, Jeremy!”
“We have to.”
“Just put the suitcase back.”
“You’d get yourself killed for the money?”
They heard men’s voices out in the yard. The diesel engine roared really close now, right up against the box car. Boom! The loc coupled with their box car. They both staggered and regained their balance.
“We have to jump,” Jeremy said.
Carolyn felt his hand on her back and that dizzying sense of falling, like she’d had in nightmares. Twigs snapped and she felt her body impact with the earth, rocks boring into her spine. Her eyes refused to open but her hearing was sharp. Her breathing came in painful gasps. A dull thud vibrated next to her.
“I got it,” Jeremy said.
Carolyn felt him shake her. She could not move.
“Psst. I got it. I got the money!” He shook her harder. “Carolyn! Wake up!” he whispered, his breathing revealing panic.
“Sztttt.Sztttt.” That unmistakeable sound of walkie-talkies staticked overhead. Men shouted. Jeremy shook her again and tried to pull on her arms. She could not stand up, she was sure of it.
Carolyn took a deep breath. She used her last ounce of consciousness to make out what the men above were saying:
“How did those damn kids get on the film set!”