The rain wasn’t very heavy, just enough to make the two-lane road slick. But Max had promised he’d drop the car off at Shane’s place before nine, and it was already eight-fifteen. It was a nice car, too – a late-model Lexus in mint condition. Max had no idea how his source had gotten hold of a car like that; he knew better than to ask any questions. All he needed to know was that Shane was expecting the car. That was the arrangement. Max picked up cars at the dealership where he worked, and Shane took care of the rest.
So far it had all worked well. Shane got the cars he wanted for his ‘sideline’ businesses, and Max got a bonus each month. Good thing, too, since he still owed Teddy all that poker money. And Shane wasn’t bad to work with, as long as you kept to the arrangement. Max had heard he had a terrible temper, but so far he hadn’t run up against it himself. Still, he liked to be careful.
That was why he pulled up carefully when he got to the traffic light. The road was just wet enough that he might have skidded through the intersection otherwise. He glanced around as he waited for the light to change. Not much traffic on this stretch of road at this time of the evening. There was a strip plaza on one side, but that was mostly businesses that were already closed for the day. On the other side was a large warehouse store. Max glanced down at the dashboard as he waited for the light to change. The ‘low fuel’ indicator was on. Well, that would have to be Shane’s problem. He didn’t want to take the time to fill up now.
All of a sudden the Lexus took a hard leap forward as another car hit it from behind. ‘What the hell!’ Max shouted involuntarily.
He glanced into the rearview mirror. Some kind of damned SUV. He couldn’t tell the make or model from his angle but it looked high-end. He could see that the driver was a woman, but that was all. The light changed and the driver who’d hit him changed lanes behind him and suddenly made a right turn at the intersection. Max couldn’t believe what he was seeing! The car was just leaving! It didn’t even stop.
Low fuel or not, there was no way he was going to let whoever it was get away with that. Especially since he had no idea what Shane would say if he ended up with damaged goods. He sure as hell wasn’t looking forward to telling him what had happened. That was what made up his mind. Max made a quick turn, waving an apology at a driver he nearly cut off. Then he followed the SUV.
As he got closer, he could see that it was a nice one. A new-looking Range Rover that probably had all the trimmings. After about fifteen minutes, the SUV pulled in at a coffee place and stopped. Max followed, getting angrier by the second. Who the hell did that driver think she was, just running away like that? Then the Lexus stopped. Max cursed loudly. As far as he remembered, there was no service station for at least five miles. He’d wasted too much fuel following that woman. Now he watched her get out of the SUV. She was young-looking and small, a foot shorter than he was, with dark-brown curly hair. He got out of the Lexus and strode up to her.
‘You hit my car, bitch!’ he yelled when he got close.
‘I know,’ she said in a quiet, withdrawn sort of voice. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘You’re sorry? You’re sorry!! You hit my car, then you just go on like nothing happened, and you’re sorry?’
‘I didn’t mean to. It was an accident. The road was wet, you know that.’
‘Then why the hell didn’t you watch where you were going?’
‘Like I said, it was an accident.’
Then Max had an idea. Yes, it would definitely work. He glared at the woman and went around to the front of the SUV. Nothing. No damage at all. Must be built like a tank. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea. ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ he said. ‘You’re going to give me the key to that pretty Range Rover. Now.’
‘You heard me. The key.’
She shook her head. Max slowly pulled the handgun he always carried with him out of his jacket pocket and showed it to her. Her eyes widened a little as she saw the gun. Good. She didn’t want to get killed and honestly, Max didn’t want to shoot if he didn’t have to. Mutely she held out her hand and dropped the Ranger Rover’s key into his outstretched palm.
‘That’s better,’ he said.
He walked round towards the driver’s side of the Range Rover. She followed him and as he unlocked the door, she asked, ‘What am I supposed to do?’
‘I hope you have cab fare,’ he said as he got into the Range Rover. As he pulled away, he watched her in the rear-view mirror, getting smaller as the rain fell around her.
Twenty minutes later he was at Shane’s place. Only ten minutes behind schedule, too. He rang the bell and after a moment, the door opened a tiny crack. When Shane saw who it was, he opened the door wider and waved Max inside.
‘Where you been?’ he asked as Max sat down on the slightly worn black leather sofa.
‘Sorry. I had a little trouble, but it’s fine.’
Shane ran a hand across his buzz-cut blond hair. ‘Whatever. So you brought me a Lexus, right? Let’s see it.’
‘Wait. Before we go, I told you I had a little problem. We’ll have to go back with a fuel can and pick up the Lexus. But it’s still ours. Oh, and I got you another one too – a Range Rover SUV.’
Shane whistled softly and grinned, his ice-blue eyes crinkling up just at the corners. ‘Nice,’ he said. ‘That’ll do just fine. Come on. I want to check it out.’
Max nodded and they both stood up and went outside where the Range Rover was parked behind Shane’s building.
‘It looks just fine,’ Shane said, nodding as he walked around the SUV. ‘Let’s get something to eat. We’ll pick up the Lexus in the morning.’
Max stayed with Shane that night, eating wings and pizza, drinking too many beers and planning what they’d do with their takes from not one, but two cars. He fell asleep on Shane’s sofa and didn’t wake until he heard Shane in the bathroom the next morning. He slowly sat up, rubbed his eyes and looked around to orient himself. Shane walked in wearing track pants and rubbing his head with a towel.
‘OK, now let’s check out the interior of that SUV and then get the Lexus.’
Max was hungry and desperate for some coffee, but you didn’t say ‘no’ to Shane. ‘OK,’ he said.
They went outdoors to where the SUV waited in the alley. ‘Let’s check this baby out,’ Shane said, gesturing towards the key Max held. Max pushed the button to open the hatch. Shane lifted it, glanced in and then back at Max, his face getting harder as he did.
‘What the fuck did you do, Max?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean this!’ Shane pointed at the hatch. Max hurried over and looked in. The dead man lay curled up, a plastic bag covering his head. You could just see the strings of the cord he’d been strangled with peeping out from under the bag.
‘I didn’t do this!’ Max protested.
‘Then what’s this guy’s body doing here?’
‘I don’t know! I swear!’
Then they saw the police cruiser blocking the alley. The two men looked at each other and Shane said, ‘We got to get out of here. We’ll take my Jeep. It’s parked around the corner’ Max nodded and the two men headed in the other direction towards Shane’s car. They’d almost reached it when they saw the other police car pulling up behind it.
Anna smiled just a little when she read the news during her lunch break. The cops had caught that guy who took the Range Rover. He was going to have a lot of explaining to do when they opened the hatch and found Liam in it. Especially when they found out it was Liam’s SUV. Well, that took care of a big problem for her. With Liam out of her hair and no way to connect her with his car, there was no more debt to worry about. Maybe she’d treat herself to that getaway weekend she’d been wanting…
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Beatles’ Rain.