(Read the rest of this series here. It’s pretty kick-ass.)
I looked over at Maria, who had fallen to the floor after her narrow escape from the hungry bear. She had hit her head pretty hard and didn’t seem to be moving. I reached down and checked her pulse and cup size. She was still alive.
Sid turned around, saw Maria, and glared at me. “Hey! What is this?! I said throw her out!”
“Bro, it’s OK, I think she’s unconscious. She won’t be able to do anything to stop us.”
“Fuck. Why did you let her in here?”
“She woulda got eaten, man. And not the fun, sexy kind of eaten. Like torn apart and chewed up eaten.”
Sid punched the steering wheel. “God damn it! I let the bear out to keep the zoo workers off our trail, and now you take one of them with us? This jeopardizes our whole operation!”
“Yo, it ain’t that big a deal. We just pull over and leave her on the side of the road. Simple. I do it with chicks all the time, it’ll be fine.”
Just give her cab fare or something and she’ll figure it out.
Sid said, “If we lose this manatee because of her…”
I popped an eyebrow up. “Since when do you care so much about the manatee? I’m the one going after the challenge, bro.”
He paused for a moment, then sighed. “I don’t. And I know you are. I’d just hate for all of our work to go to waste, that’s all.”
I started to reassure him that Maria would not be a problem when she kicked me right in the knee cap. Hard. I grabbed at my leg and hopped away from her. She was very much awake, and glaring daggers.
I said. “Ow! What’s your deal, lady? I just saved your life!”
“Yeah, from the bear that you let out of its cage! None of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you!” Her eyes flicked over to Manatee Joe sloshing around in his tank. “What is this crazy shit?! You rigged all this up specifically to steal a manatee?”
“Nah,” I said. I pointed at Sid. “He already had this thing pimped out like this.”
“Who are you people?”
I went with the first thing I could think of: “We the Illuminati, yo! Freemasons and shit! Our motives are mysterious!”
I hoped Sid would back me up, but instead he said, “Chris, there’s rope under the tank. Better tie her up for the time being.”
She folded her arms. “You are not tying me up. And you maniacs need to turn this van around. You’re going to kill this manatee if you don’t.”
Sid said, “OK, maybe just knock her unconscious again.”
I said, “Just pull over and I’ll kick her out. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“There’s no place for me to pull over! You know how much attention we’ll attract kicking a screaming lady out of our van?”
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed her holding her arm behind her back, straining her neck to look at something behind her.
I said, “Yo, what are you doing?”
She shot me a fiery look. “Oh me? Nothing.”
I pointed. “Oh! Fuck you! You’re calling the cops, ain’t you? Give me that shit!”
I grabbed her arm but she pulled away. I snatched at her again and she punched me in the ribs. When she moved I saw the silver iPhone clutched in her left hand. I had no idea if she had placed the call already but I had to get the phone away from her regardless.
You know they’re just itching for an excuse to use those batons.
If she wasn’t going to play ball then I would have to take care of this the only way I knew how: the Chris Derricks way.
I tackled her.
We fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs and anger, both screaming at each other. I grabbed at her hand but she had a death grip on the phone. She hit me in the face with it, caught me in the eye with the phone’s sexy bevels. I pinned one of her arms under my leg and managed to grab her hand in both of mine. I peeled her fingers back one at a time until finally the phone came out of her grasp. It slid across the floor. We both scrambled for it, but I got there first. I kicked her off me and tossed the phone, up in an arc over her head, and right down into Joe’s tank. He watched it sink to the bottom with his characteristic detachment.
I threw my arms up in victory. “Ha! Phone ruined. How do you like that?”
Instead of letting out a forlorn cry and curling up in a puddle of defeat like I expected her to, Maria went to the tank and fished the silver brick right back out.
She said, “I spend all my time working in aquariums, rivers, and oceans. You really think I haven’t waterproofed my phone?”
Sid yelled, “Chris, if she calls the cops we’re done! Shut! Her! Up!”
I pulled up my hands, curled them into balls. “All right, you ready for the ‘ol Chris fist? I ain’t afraid to hit a lady. I’ll even be polite and knock you out in one quick punch.”
She braced her legs. “I’d like to see you try that.”
I smiled. This chick didn’t know who she was messing with.
This thing is a force of nature.
I said, “Check it! One punch!”
I spun around like a shot-putter and launched my meat missile at her. She sidestepped, fast as a leopard, and my hand smashed against the window. I fell to the floor, tactically.
She resumed dialing. I recovered, started to lunge at her again. Then there was a loud pop and the phone exploded in her hand. She yelped and flung the bits and pieces of metal and plastic away from her. Before I could quite figure out what happened Sid fired another wild shot.
He held the gun out from the front seat, his elbow and shoulder bent backwards. He was using the rear-view mirror to aim. The second bullet whizzed by us at head-level and punched a hole through the roof of the van, a little column of light pouring in after it. Maria and I dropped to the floor as he fired again. This one punctured the manatee tank. The slug missed Joe, thank God, passing straight through the upper part of the glass walls on either side of the tank. When the van careened just right water would slosh up and spill out the little holes onto the floor.
I punched the back of Sid’s seat and said, “Whoa, fuck you man! Cool that shit! You shot Joe’s tank! You could have killed him! You could have killed me!”
Sid said, “Well then you fucking get the situation under control, or I’m going to keep shooting!”
“You gotta chill out, bro. I got this! Trust me, I can handle her!”
I turned back to Maria and she pepper sprayed me in the face.
I screamed and thrashed and tried to breathe. My eyes were full of itchy fire. My nose blasted huge, rushing rivers of snot. I dry heaved so hard I thought I was going to give birth out my esophagus.
It really is a lovely experience.
Sid was shouting: “What, Chris? Why are you yell- Oh Jesus! Is that pepper spray?”
The cloud of poison expanded quickly in such a confined space. Soon, Sid was swerving all over the place.
From the floor, I yelled, “Great, it’s filling the whole van! You probably just maced your own manatee! How do you feel about that?”
Maria answered with a kick to the ribs. I rolled around and thrashed and blindly tried to grab her. I could hear her starting to move for the door, but then she started coughing. The pepper spray had gotten to her too.
Sid said, “Fucking shit, I can’t see! You want me to crash and kill us all? Was that your brilliant plan?”
Maria coughed, spluttered, and said. “Stop the van, asshole! This has gone on too long!”
Sid let out a roar that could rival the sloth bear. “You want me to stop? Fine!”
He slammed on the brakes and we went lurching forward. I slammed against the back of Sid’s seat. Maria tumbled over the headrest of the passenger seat and fell down, her head on the floorboards and feet kicking the roof. I giggled because it looked like she was 69-ing the passenger seat. She squirmed and tried to pull herself up.
Sid put the gun against her head and she froze. “Get out,” he said. “We’re going to do this the hard way.”
“Yo,” I said. “Where are we?”
Sid’s grin looked deformed through his red, puffy face. “The top of a bridge.” He prodded Maria with the barrel of the gun. “You like being around these aquatic animals so much, huh lady? Well, now I’m curious to see how well you can swim.”