Jay Branch pulled over a few minutes before 11:00 Georgia time and 10:00 Texas time in a little town named Shamrock because it sounded lucky and because he had no idea when they stopped selling liquor in this area and he needed a little courage for a phone call that was coming in an hour and he needed to count the money to see how far off he was.
He pulled into the parking lot of a shitty little liquor store with a drive thru window that reminded him of the place off of Edgewood Ave in Downtown Atlanta that he and his friends would get MD 20/20 from when they were teenagers in a borrowed car. He pulled up to the window and some kid in a backwards trucker hat and a polo shirt looked out the window into his car never taking his iPhone away from his ear. Thinking for a moment of brands that he could buy anywhere and not confuse the kid he said into the window.
“Handle of Skyy Vodka.”
“You want a flavor?”
“No just vodka flavored.” He paid the money and asked “You wouldn’t happen to have cups or ice would you.”
The kid put a couple of red solo cups in the bag and said.
“Ice machines in back of the building just grab what you need; we get a truck in the morning.”
Jay said “thank you” and pulled around the back of the building, grabbed out a large bag of ice and placed it on the front seat and pulled off to a corner of the next parking lot under a street light he spotted. He poured ice into the two Solo cups and put them each in a cup holder and put the rest of the bag under the car. He only put vodka and some of a NOS energy drink he had gotten out of the scumbag from Clinton’s bag into the first cup so as to not too quickly melt the ice in the second cup. He then took the bank bag out and put it on the floor between his legs and wrote $17,350/College on a page in his black notebook that he had taken out of the backpack. He then began to count the stacks of unruly cash in the purple Crown Royal bag and when he was done wrote down $16,370/Sam. He then did the same to the two stacks of ill-gotten gain he had received from the two scumbags on the way. First, writing down $3,600/Sonny and then $1,850/Clinton. He added it all up and discovered he had close to forty thousand dollars. Which as simply amazing as that was; it was still well over ten thousand short of what he needed. He took a large gulp of the drink and tried to think but his brain was not cooperating. Hell he couldn’t even figure out if he should stay here until 12:00 since it seemed to have a very strong signal or take off for another thirty minutes until 11:45 and then pull over to take the call with a fifteen minute window to make sure he had enough time in case he didn’t find a signal immediately. He pulled out his phone and did some calculations and then decided if asked he would say that he just filled up in Henryetta, Oklahoma: that would put him over three hours back of where he was and would still give him a time advantage.
He pulled back on to I-40 and drove about thirty more miles until it said 11:45 on his watch and 10:45 on his cell phone and pulled over on the side of I-40 making sure that the cell phone had a full signal. He began to think to himself; what would he do if the call didn’t come in at 12:00? Did that mean that the maniac meant 12:00 his time or Oklahoma/Texas time? If he didn’t call at all, did that mean that Grace was dead or was he just fucking with Jay and he had killed her after the first call? What would he do if he did call and he wouldn’t let him talk to Grace? His heart was racing, he could feel his blood pulsing through his heart and he thought he could even taste the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He reached into the idiot from Clinton’s bag and grabbed out the pack of Camels he had seen and packed the pack as thoroughly as possible before unwrapping it and removing a cigarette. He put the cancer stick between his lips and then pulled the Volvo’s lighter out of the ashtray where it had lived since he bought the car because he didn’t smoke anymore and the cigarette lighter acted as a phone charger receptacle ever since. The flood of relief when it actually worked was more than it should have been but every emotion was at a much higher level than it should have been. The first drag was surprisingly smoother than he thought it would be and the familiar calmness that it brought was more than welcome. He found himself transported back to a time when he would do this before pretty much any stressful situation in his life; pulling over on the side of the road, chain smoking cigarettes sometimes lighting one off of the butt of the previous one and taking intermediate pulls from a big gulp half full of liquor or a forty ounce bottle of malt liquor.