The drive had been long and quiet up to tha-
Just long enough since Dutch pulled his last bootlegger on a deserted stretch of road, before it was time for another quick down shift and turn of the wheel. Again, the car swerved and ended up on the other side of the road, facing the direction it had come from after jostling its passengers against each other.
After a few exasperated sighs from everyone else in the car as it started up again to go the other way, Jenny said, “Okay, enough, Dutch. I think we’re terrified and confused enough back here, ain’t we?”
She gave a light grunt and continued, “OK, since we’re one more than we started with tonight, we got to figure out who Tia here stays with. I know you two,” she nodded at Dutch and Tomo, “got plans for later, so you’re out. That leaves-”
“Not me, nope,” said Charlie.
“I’d thought for sure you’d say yes,” said Georgie, “the way you noticed her earlier.”
“That was earlier.”
“So what happened to make you change your mind?”
“What I saw when it began,” he replied, nearly spitting out the last words.
“What began?” asked Tia.
“I was there when it started. When you bombed the Peace Bridge.”
“Uh, that may not have actually been her doing-” Georige started to say.
“I watched it happen that day, four years ago. And despite what everyone said about the start of it, I don’t remember us shooting first.”
“Maybe this isn’t the time for-” Jenny started to say.
“No, no,” said Tia, “it’s OK, tell me what you saw. I’m here for the stories, eh?”
The car was silent, save for Charlie taking a few deep breaths.
“I was down on Efner and just sort of ending my night. I was still between jobs again, which worked out pretty well, because I got a little pity from Kendra O’Shea whenever she was feeling lonely, so it was great for me.
“I was up a little before dawn, trying not to wake Kendra in her place, and trying to take a hell of a whiz after that night, and I was having problems getting it going, you see. And right in the middle of squeezing hard to get something out, the whole place shook, like someone hit the building with a bomb.
“Now, she was up on the top floor, in one of those apartments up there, so I went up to the roof, because that was easy to get to from her place. I wanted to see what it was, and I looked, but I couldn’t see a thing. I thought I’d see a fireball or something, but I was too tired to think straight about what I should have seen. But I don’t think I’d have looked where I did if I was thinking straight.
“So I was looking up, and my eyes catch the jets flying in, real low. I thought I could touch them, the way they were coming in, and when their missiles fired I could see the small things on their undersides. Things like the maple leaf on the underside of the wing.
“And before it really hit me what’s going on, I could see parts of the Peace Bridge in these fireballs, the tops of the arches holding it up in flames with a ‘Woomp’ sound, burning just long enough that I could see the spots the missiles hit fall into the river. I heard another set of missiles go off, but by that time I was running downstairs.
“I just got the hell out of there, I left her behind and just went off without even… I never got a last chance to say…” he trailed.
No one spoke in the car for miles after Charlie finished.
“You told me Kendra called a few months later,” said Jenny, “after the war ended. When she wanted you to pick up some stuff you left behind.”
“After the way I abandoned her, you think I was going back after running out like that?”
All content Copyright © 2011 James Ryan