CAR WASH


By Jerome W. McFadden



Tina sensed the two men were up to no good. They parked their battered Toyota Camry on the far side of the lot, in the dark, away from the lights at the gas pumps. They sat there for a long time. Talking. They finally climbed out. One approached the cashier's window while the other scurried into the obscurity at the side of the shed. Tina assumed he was positioning himself as the lookout for the holdup they were about to pull on her.

She had been afraid this was going to happen ever since she took this job. The car wash closed at 6:00 p.m. in the winter and the gas pump business slowed to almost nothing an hour later. She was alone, stationed at the small window beside the pumps to accept payments for gas and to sell cigarettes, soda, candy, gum, motor oil, windshield wipers, and any other nickel-dime thing that the owner thought someone might purchase. The shed was locked and she was by herself, sitting on a stool behind the high counter next to the cash register in the brightly lit window. The owner wouldn't return until midnight to close up and take the cash receipts.

The job was boring but, even though her boyfriend complained about them, she loved the hours. She had the whole day to herself to get her two kids off to school, nap a little, then go shopping and take care of things and to clean the apartment before picking up the kids in the afternoon to take them over to her mother to baby-sit them until she got home after work. But there was always the suppressed fear of being alone at night in a mini-convenience store/gas station. It was always there in the back of her mind.

"Not very busy tonight, are you, Hon?" the man said as he stepped up to the window.

"Busy enough," Tina replied nervously. "There is always a steady stream of cars coming in right up to when we close," she said, adding a little defensive white lie.

"That so? I heard you guys weren't very busy in the evening."

"Where'd you hear that?" Tina asked.

"Never mind," the man said.

"What can I do for you? You wanna pay for your gas before you pump?"

"No. Not really. I want a carton of Winstons and all the money that you got in that there cash register."

Tina said nothing, frozen in the thought that her worst fear was actually happening. He was a big, mean looking man with a two day stubble of beard. He looked like he wouldn't worry too much about hurting her.

She finally broke out of her fear to timidly tap the sign on the window that said the cash register never contained more than $50 in the evenings. "You — You ain't gong to get much," she said. "We have even less than that. It ain't worth the effort."

"Don't bullshit me, girl," the man said, raising a gun to the window so she could see it. "Just do what I tell you, you hear?"

What she heard was someone banging on the door of the shed.

"Your friend ain't gonna get in, you know. That door is bolted and barred on the inside. Just for this kind of thing."

"I'm getting tired of talking to you, Hon. I want this done before some asshole drives in here for gas."

Tina climbed off the stool to reach across the small room to fetch a carton of Winstons. She placed the carton on the counter but shoved it hard out the window, causing it to sail past the man's hand to bounce out on the driveway. She used the quick distraction to duck under the high counter to hide. She scrunched her back against the wall, out of sight, tucking her legs up tight. She was a small woman and knew he wouldn't be able to see her.

The man picked up the carton of cigarettes and came back to the window. "What the hell you doing?"

"Hiding."

"Get out from under there and give me the money!"

"I'm scared."

"You damn well should be."

"And I don't like you calling me Hon or girl."

"Do you like bitch any better?."

"I'm gonna call the cops."

"How you gonna do that? The phone is over there. I can see it. You reach for it and I'll cap your ass."

Tina looked across the room and realized he was right. She would have to expose herself to reach the phone. And she had no doubt he would shoot her. Even worse, her purse was sitting next to the phone. Her cell phone was in the purse. She was at a total loss at what to do, until she saw the long handled mop propped in the corner. She inched over to grab it, slowly extending the long handle to hook her purse.

"What the hell you doing now?"

"What does it look like?"

"Trying to find your cell phone in your purse?"

Tina didn't bother to answer, concentrating on sliding the heavy purse down the mop handle back to her under the counter. The man surprised her by shooting at the purse. He missed but Tina, totally startled, jumped at the sound of the shot and yelled "Shit!" as she banged her head against the bottom of the counter, causing her to drop the mop and the purse. She thought her eardrums were broken. She waited for a moment for her heart to calm down, taking deep breaths. then dared to sweep out her foot to hook the purse strap with her toes. She was terrified that he was going to shoot her foot but nothing happened.

"I hear you tapping on your cell phone, I'm gonna shoot right through this wall and kill you."

"I gotta gun in my purse," Tina said. Which was true. Her boyfriend gave it to her a month ago as a precaution for coming home late at night all by herself.

The man said, "Ah, shit," and Tina heard him walking away from the window. She heard his footsteps along the side of the shed, walking to where the other man was and heard them talking but she couldn't make out what was being said.

The man came back to the window "I'm gonna reach in and stretch over to open the cash register. You just stay down there and be quiet and we'll be outta here."

"I hear you reaching across that counter, I will shoot up at you."

"What is your problem, bitch? It ain't your money."

"It ain't yours, either," Tina said.

"I need the money."

"And I need this job."

"It ain't worth being shot for.

"Neither is the money."

The man sighed, "Well, it don't matter none." She heard his weight leaning on the counter as he stretched in towards the cash register. She pulled the .38 Smith and Wesson out of her purse, cocked the hammer and fired up through the counter. Her boyfriend had told her that the .38 had a one inch barrel, so it would fit in her purse but he said she probably couldn't hit anyone even if she aimed. But with a little luck, it might scare the hell of somebody. She had never fired it before and the noise and violence stunned her.

"Son of a bitch!" the man screamed.

"Go away!" Tina yelled.

The man shot a hole through the thin wooden wall, missing her by inches. Tina thought her heart was going to come out through her mouth. She scrunched up even tighter, her heart pounding in terror, but she fired over her shoulder, back through the wall. She heard a metallic plink and shattering glass in the distance, across the parking lot.

"Damn, you just shot the side view mirror off my car!"

If she wasn't so scared she would have smiled in satisfaction.

"Who's gonna pay for that?"

"Call your insurance agent. Tell him that your were pulling a hold-up and somebody shot your car. I'll stand as a witness for that."

"You got a smart mouth, woman! And it is going to get you hurt!"

Tina was trembling too much to tap 911 on her cell phone. Instead she hit the speed dial button for her boy friend. It rang and rang and rang with no response. She could also hear the second hold-up man's cell phone ringing at the far end of the shed. She hung up quickly to see if she could hear what was being said on the phone outside. But his phone stopped ringing, too.

She tried her cell phone again. Again there was ringing outside the shed. The man with the gun yelled, "Answer your damn phone, Johnson, or turn it off."

Her boyfriend's voice came over her cell phone in a low quiet whisper, "Tina?"

"Johnson," Tina said, barely able to control herself, "Is that you out there by the shed door?"

"Yeah, it's me."

"What the hell do you think you are doing?"

"I need the money, Tina."

"Everybody seems to need the money tonight."

"Just give him the money and we're outta here."

"And then what happens next week when you need the money again? You gonna come back? The week after that, too? They're gonna get suspicious real quick, you know, if you hit this place every time I'm working. The cops ain't that stupid."

"It ain't like that, Tina. I promise."

Tina closed her eyes, nearly too tired to speak, "You're damn straight that it ain't like that! Your clothes and whatever else you got in my apartment better be out of there by the time I get home tonight. I never want to see your sorry ass again. And I'm bringing this gun home with me."

The man at the window was yelling, "She gonna give us the money or not, Johnson? She's your bitch, so make her get with it. You said she was going to roll over and this was gonna be a piece of cake."

Tina threw the cell phone across the room and yelled out at the top of her voice, "Piss off, both of you!" then fired two more random shots through the front wall.

There was a long moment of silence before she heard the two men hurrying back to their car, the other man saying, "What in the hell is wrong with that woman?"

She stood up as she heard them drive off. She was tempted to take another shot. Instead she said to herself, "Good bye, Johnson," while crossing the room to pick up the telephone to dial 911 to report an attempted hold-up.


Jerome W. McFadden has won Honorable Mentions in several national fiction contests, received a 2nd Place Bullet Award for the best Crime Fiction to appear on the web in June, 2011, and has had his stories read on the London stage by the UK Liars League. He also was the Featured Author in the BWG Writers Roundtable on-line literary journal's March, 2012, issue.

The author pleased Over My Dead Body! readers with his short story The Viewing online in August, 2011.


Copyright 2012 Jerome W. McFadden. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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