Jay Branch was out the door at 6:15 that morning and headed to Sam Dantello’s house. He had called to make sure Sam would be awake before leaving but had not told him what was going on. In his old Volvo 850 he had shoved the old black backpack full of odd items that he always had with him and included a grocery bag full of black t-shirts and spare pair of jeans and socks in case he needed to change. He hadn’t planned on stopping or changing, hell he hadn’t really planned anything. He had no idea what he was going to do but he knew he had better start as soon as possible.
He pulled up outside Sam Dantello’s place at 6:30. It was a small split level house right off the Marietta square that Sam had inherited from his father. He had inherited the pizza shop from him as well and had pretty much lived his life at a comfortable pace headed nowhere in particular for over 50 years until recent developments.
The walk up to the front door felt surreal. It was too cold for Georgia and there was a little too much dew on every surface. As he stood out front of Sam’s door, he felt scared, nervous and out of his mind. He had always felt completely at ease around Sam Dantello but this was a completely different situation. He was told not to say anything to anyone by the piece of shit that had Grace. He didn’t even know what he was going to say he just stood there for a minute outside the front door in the bizarre sick cold wetness that was the morning and then without him having to knock the front door opened.
“Jay, get in the house man.” Sam was the weirdest combination of the character of Jeff Lebowski and a father figure sensing trouble and concern for his son. They walked into the kitchen and Sam motioned for Jay to sit at the table.
“I know it’s early but you look like you could use a beer.”
“You know me too well.”
Sam reached into the giant commercial fridge that was in his kitchen and handed Jay a twist top can of Miller light.
“Take as many of those as you want the distributor dropped 2 cases here the other night.” He sat down across the table from Jay “So are you going to tell me what’s wrong boy.” He had flipped the switch to his concerned father voice.
“I need to take the week off Sam and I need to borrow as much money as possible and I can’t tell you why until I get back.”
“Does this have anything to do with Grace and her little friend going off to Lake Havasu.”
“Well I guess I don’t have a choice do I.”
“Well not about the time off but I’ll understand if I can’t get an advance.” Jay’s eyes felt the heavy weight of tears about to explode and he tried his best to hold them in. “This isn’t just a kid fucked up and you gotta go bail her out is it Jay?” His concern had grown to full on parental overload. He had never seen Jay so without words and lost, but he hadn’t really seen Jay after Beth’s death except at the funeral and Jay was so sedated on pills his mother had given him he had just stared at everybody like he was trying to remember them.
“You can’t say a word to anybody Sam, not a fucking soul.” Jay had taken on a strange angry and scared look like a beast cornered in the wild and two tears streamed down his face.
“You got my word kid.”
“Some fucking piece of shit has Grace and I have less than 36 hours to bring him fifty thousand dollars.” the words fell like bombs exploding onto the table.
“Holy shit Jay, what the fuck happened.”
“I don’t know all I know is that he definitely has her and that he’s a fucking sicko.”
“Are you gonna call the cops? I mean this asshole may kill her even if you do give him the money.”
“He said if I tell anyone he will kill her just to spite me. He also said that he will not kill her if he gets his money. And I know it sounds insane but I think that he will keep his word either way, it’s some sort of part of his psychosis, like then he would be wrong for breaking his word.”
“Okay then, hang on a minute.” Sam stood up from the kitchen table reached in the fridge and grabbed a beer for himself and then disappeared into the basement. He returned a minute later with what looked like a large Crown Royal bag and a bottle of Viking Fjord Vodka and placed them on the table.
“There’s around $16,000 in the bag. If you would have come by 2 weeks ago it would have been more but the ex-wife wrecked another car, and that,” he pointed at the vodka, “I trust you just to sip on that to calm your nerves.” He then reached behind his waist and pulled out a black leather holster and tossed it on the table and a small box of bullets next to it.
“I took that as payment from that little shithead wanna be rapper Chris that worked for us a couple of years ago. It’s been filed clean so if you use it just toss it and you should be good.”
Jay stood up, gathered the items from the table and was bear hugged by Sam.
“If you put a bullet in this piece of shit nobody will think less of you, just remember to put a knife or something in his hand just in case so you can claim self-defense.”
He put the holster into the big front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt, put the bullets in the Crown Royal bag and grabbed the bottle of vodka. When he got to the car, he put the bag full of money into his black backpack and put the backpack into the trunk. He drove to the closest Quik Trip convenience store and filled the old Volvo up with gas, grabbed a sausage dog and an extra-large Rockstar energy drink. He made sure to check the oil, water and power steering fluid before rolling out as they were things that would be randomly low on the old Swedish tank. After filling up, he pulled over to the side for a minute, took 2 bites of the sausage and a giant gulp of the Rockstar, which he then refilled with the vodka and began to map his course on his phone. He saw that it was 360 miles to Germantown, Tennessee and he knew that the old Volvo would go at least 380 miles on a full tank especially driving with no stops. He would make it to Germantown then fill up again and eat something and stop at the closest Wells Fargo there so that he could dump all of the money out of the college fund he had been stashing away for Grace since she was 10. He was both pleased and disgusted when he checked the balance on his phone and realized it was over $17,000. Knowing that this son of a bitch was robbing this money from Grace’s future, made Jay furious and he thought back for the first time of many, to the words Sam Dantello had said to him.
“If you put a bullet in this piece of shit, nobody will think less of you.”
He took a big gulp from the Rockstar and refilled that amount again with the vodka before putting the bottle in the trunk, returned to the driver’s seat and then slid a Smiths CD in the radio (something that Grace had also inherited from her mother – a love of all things Morrissey) and pulled out on to Austell Road to begin the journey toward Interstate 20.