I could hear my dad’s voice but I couldn’t see him since I was lying on my side facing the desert.
“Don’t hurt my boy. I will give you anything you want.”
I was duct-taped, naked, freezing, and had a gun to my head. I knew what they wanted. He spoke slowly, maybe to keep his voice from shaking.
“We can work this out. Whatever you need. We can pull $400 from an ATM. I got a diamond ring worth at least 2 grand in a safe deposit box in Tucson. Just tell me what needs to happen here.”
There was a thud and my dad groaned.
“Next time it’s the kid. Just give it to us man.” I thought it was the taller of the two men speaking but I wasn’t sure. He was the one who had jumped into the cab of the truck at the last truck stop, when my dad went inside to take a leak and grab some junk food for us. I stayed behind in the cab with SlimJim who was asleep in my lap. It had been two weeks since we had started my summer adventure driving long haul across the country with him and the novelty of living in such a small space was still fun for me. I loved the little gas burner for cooking, sleeping on the bunk and all the tiny compartments to store things. I had insisted on bringing SlimJim, who was a quiet little dog but he did get nervous at truck stops, maybe from all the noise of the big truck brakes. My dad was driving his buddy Bill’s truck for the summer to help him out.
My dad had come walking out from the building with a guy following about a foot behind, one hand in a pocket. The bigger guy rode in the passenger seat as he directed my dad to drive out on a quiet desert road. When we all got out I could see the shorter guy in a pickup truck right behind and a woman too.
SlimJim lay about 5 feet from me. He hadn’t moved since he’d been kicked in the head with a steel-toed cowboy boot. I wouldn’t look at him. These fuckers were never going to see me cry. I turned my head into the dirt and said “motherfucker, motherfucker” over and over. I said it quiet but I said it out loud.
“You want I should hurt your kid? Come on man.”
“Everything going to be okay Ethan,” he said.
” I think I know what they are looking for,” I said.
I had spotted a package duct-taped midway under the long part of the truck, when SlimJim went under it this morning and wouldn’t come out. I crawled under to get him and saw it. I wanted to get it down but my dad was saying let’s get going and I figured I had time to do it later.
I told the guys where it was. I heard scrabbling noises and then one of them said “Score. That bastard Bill wasn’t all talk after all.”
“You want I should?” the other voice said.
My dad let out a sound. It almost sounded like he was crying.
Female feet in sandals stood about two feet from my head. They were surprisingly
delicate. The toenails were painted purple.
“This is only a kid,” she said. “What is he, like ten years old?”
“I’m TWELVE.” I said.
“You got what you wanted, Jeremy,” she said. “Let’s leave this to chance. Either the coyotes will get them or they’ll figure it out. Let’s get out of here.”
There was some muttering back and forth and then I heard them leave and the sound of the pickup truck fading into the distance. It was so cold, and dark now that the pickup lights weren’t shining on us.
I heard a sound and then something wet touched my face.
SlimJim was licking my nose.