The day Jeff shot and killed Marcus did not start off with Jeff wanting to shoot and kill Marcus. It started, instead, with a simple business transaction, one which would have given him not just enough cash to live but also—and this was the most important factor—enough cash to buy his freedom.
Marcus and Jeff were set to meet in a parking garage in South Miami around noon that day. Jeff arrived early, standing jittery outside of his car, wired from the drive over. He’d checked his rear view a couple dozen times on the way, paranoid about getting pulled over with so much weight in the trunk. Marcus drove up in the same black Lincoln he’d been riding in ever since Jeff met him. Parked the car next to Jeff and got out wearing a full black suit and sunglasses, straight out of a Tarantino flick. He carried a black briefcase, and Jeff could feel his eyes from behind the glasses.
“Carlos said he ain’t heard from you in a while,” he said.
“Carlos is a damn liar,” Jeff said, sniffing and swiping at his nose. “Wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t heard from him.”
“He had to reach out,” Marcus said. “He doesn’t like having to reach out.”
“Tell him I don’t give a fuck what he likes,” Jeff said, then turned and popped the trunk on his car. He took a step back and motioned. “It’s all here.”
Marcus didn’t move right away, which was the first tell for Jeff. Eventually he took a step and leaned over to look in the trunk. Wordlessly, he nodded, then held out the briefcase. Jeff took it and placed it on top of the car, flipping the locks open and staring down at the stacks of hundreds rubber-banded together. Jeff slammed the briefcase closed and left it on top of the car, turning back to Marcus.
“Carlos thanks you for your service,” Marcus said, and there was something about the way he said it that gave Jeff his second tell. He felt the presence of his own gun strongly, tucked at his back. He almost didn’t bring it—year or two ago he would’ve never been stupid enough to pack with so much product in his trunk—but his paranoia had overpowered his fear of the law. Now he was glad, and inched his hand up the right side of his back as he spoke.
“So that’s it?” Jeff said. “I’m out?”
“Yes,” Marcus said somberly. “You’re out.”
Marcus was fast—his gun was out of the holster in less than two seconds—but not fast enough. Jeff pulled his trigger before Marcus had a chance to even raise his arm. His gun bucked, Marcus hopped once then fell back against Jeff’s open car trunk. Sliding to the floor, Marcus used his last bit of strength to raise his gun and squeeze one off, a bullet slamming into Jeff’s leg right above his left knee. The pain was instantaneous and explosive. Jeff fell to the ground and grabbed his thigh, opening his mouth in a silent scream before turning and firing again, hitting Marcus in the forehead. His head slammed against the concrete, his eyes rolling back in his head. Jeff watched him for a moment to make sure he wasn’t moving. When he was sure Marcus was dead, he allowed himself to lay there and grimace for a ten-count before forcing himself to his feet.
Hobbling over to the trunk, Jeff pushed Marcus aside, rolling him over to lie next to his Lincoln. Jeff turned back to his car and slammed the car trunk closed just as faint police sirens rang out in the distance. Cursing under his breath, Jeff grabbed the briefcase off the top of the car and opened the door, throwing it in the passenger seat and climbing in. He tucked his gun in between the seat and the middle console, then started the car and gripped the steering wheel, pausing to take a couple of breaths and think. The car idling, he breathed slowly, inhale, exhale, letting his mind roam.
Counting to ten, Jeff threw the car into reverse, spinning out of the parking spot and speeding up the parking garage ramp. He hit the fourth floor and whipped around a corner to the fifth, then the sixth. On the seventh he parked between two other cars and shut his engine off. Climbing over to the backseat, he grabbed his gym bag off the ground and pulled out a towel and some gym pants, stripping his bloody jeans off and taking a moment to study his wound. Despite the intense explosion of pain, the bullet had only grazed him, the wound oozing a small amount of blood. Gritting his teeth, Jeff wrapped the towel around his leg, twisting the ends together and tying it tight. The pain was so sudden it almost made him pass out. He leaned back in the seat for a minute until the pulsing subsided. The arrival of the police sirens a few floors below brought him back to full consciousness and he quickly pulled on his gym pants.
Slowly, Jeff climbed back over to the driver’s seat and pulled down the mirror above his head. He stared at his haggard face for a bit, then used the non-bloodied part of his ruined jeans to wipe the dirt and sweat and tears away. He tossed the jeans in his gym bag and closed it, then grabbed the steering wheel again. He willed himself to be calm, to remove the tension and despondence from his expression. He told himself to pretend he really was just leaving the gym, that he was just another one of these basic-ass college students who hung out around here, just trying to get home after a decent workout.
Putting the car in gear, Jeff reversed out of the parking spot and slowly started driving back downstairs. The police lights met him on the second floor, and as he turned the corner to exit the garage, a cop stepped out in front of his car. Three cruisers blocked off the section to Jeff’s left, where cops had already cordoned off the area surrounding Marcus’s dead body.
The cop motioned for him to roll down his window and Jeff complied, fixing his face into an expression of confusion, just a touch of fear.
“Everything okay officer?” Jeff said.
“Where’re you coming from?” he said.
“I just left the gym,” Jeff said. “I heard…I don’t know, sounded like gunshots. So I went back inside, was sitting there waiting to see if there were anymore but I didn’t hear anything so I figured I’d see what was going on.”
The cop studied him curiously, then peered in the backseat. Jeff thought about his wrapped leg, about the blood seeping down his calf. He thought about the kilos in the trunk, the briefcase full of cash in the passenger seat. He thought about how he looked, how white this cop was. He willed himself to ignore the fear, the dread. The cop peered in at Jeff’s gym bag, looked in the passenger seat at the briefcase, then studied Jeff’s face. Finally, the cop took a step back.
“Step out of the vehicle,” he said.
“What? Why?” Jeff said reflexively.
The cop squinted at him, then started to reach for the door handle. “Step out of the vehicle.”
Jeff’s heart sank as his hand inched towards the gun tucked between his seat and the middle console. He pictured himself pulling the gun and shooting this cop in the face, the ensuing car chase and his eventual ruin in a fiery crash on I-95. Just as the thought began to formulate into a kamikaze plan, some commotion drifted over from near Marcus’s body. The cop next to Jeff’s car glanced back as three of the half dozen officers surrounding Marcus ran back to their cruisers. Two of the cops jogged in Jeff’s direction. The cop near Jeff held up his hands questioningly.
“Witness saw a car pealing out of here a few moments ago,” one of the cops yelled. “Heading down Sunset.”
Without a word, the cop near Jeff ran and jumped in the passenger seat of one of the patrols, the vehicle speeding off. Jeff waited there, watching the half dozen cops who’d stayed behind with Marcus’s body. One of them glanced at him and his idling car and walked over, his expression one of mild amusement.
“You see anything?” he asked as he approached.
“No,” Jeff said, shaking his head. “I just heard it.”
The cop studied him for a moment then nodded, looking away. “Get outta here before this shit gets any crazier.”
Jeff nodded and drove towards the parking garage exit, glancing over at the briefcase in the passenger seat as he pulled out into traffic.