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Death of a Paperman
Death of a Paperman
This story begins and ends on a lonely desert road, and between these quiet settings we see the destruction of a manís sanity. We see what happens when an ordinary man, Sam Morgan, finds the legendary pot of gold, a fortune that is his for the taking -- until someone tries to take it away from him.
Sam is a man alone by choice, a man in control of his life and his emotions, presenting to the world only the friendly charm and easy acquaintance of the successful salesman. But when he is challenged, when he is subjected to humiliation and torture, when his very life is threatened, his control is shattered, and the rage that he has always kept so carefully hidden erupts and unleashes all the intensity of his long-buried feelings. Fury, greed, hate, and love: all have surfaced, and we see Sam Morgan's struggle to reconcile the dark and the light of a mind torn apart.
Do you know your dark side?
Would you want to?
The rear wheels spun in the dirt, seeking a grip, as they slewed on the outer edge of the curve. The hollow emptiness that had been in my gut for two days threatened to engulf my heart and lungs.
I fought for breath as I clung to the wheel of the car I had stolen just minutes before. I stabbed viciously at the gas feed, sending fresh power to the spinning rear wheels as they tried to break contact with the road.
The engine roar increased to a high, screaming whine as the gears jerked into the lower range. The breathless agony of waiting until I felt the bite of rubber on the pitted surface of the road almost accomplished what SeŮor Martinez and his two Anglo friends had just tried: to assure my death. Air sobbed into my lungs as I straightened the Ford out of the sharp curve and pressed my foot tight against the floorboards. The speedometer needle was touching ninety and moving higher.
Easing the grip on the wheel that had turned my knuckles white, I used an old rag lying on the front seat to swab the greasy film of sweat that burned and stung my face where the fists and blackjack had split the skin on my forehead and cheekbones. The left cheek moved, grating painfully just under the eye, and I gasped in shock. I swore with feeling and made myself a promise not to do that again.
I glanced into the rearview mirror without seeing any lights and hoped desperately that I had finished them. I was sure that the green Pontiac was disabled, because I still had the wiring I had jerked from under the hood lying on the seat beside me. What I did not know was whether they had another car available. On the plus side, the Mustang I was driving was rushing me closer to the border each second. I didnít care whose car it was, it ran like a jet blasting off a short runway with the after-burner roaring.
I checked the road ahead and glanced at the side view mirror again, mentally giving thanks for the over-confidence of Martinez, prompting him to leave the keys in the ignition.
Out on the desert the silhouettes of low hills that I knew to be sun-blasted piles of stone rocketed past looking in the early morning gloom like the skeletons of huge prehistoric beasts.
The needle still edged the dial at close to the hundred mark, and I strained my eyes ahead, trying to anticipate the next curve. Another bend in the road like the last one might finish the job for them. And while I didnít think they wanted me dead just yet, I wasnít sure about Martinez. He, I was certain, would kill me on sight, and to hell with the money. I hadnít left him in a good mood when I had borrowed this beast, to say nothing of what I had done to him physically; I hoped I had disabled him. Permanently.
There were no road signs out here in this part of the Mexican desert, and I didnít know how far it was to the border. But the gas gauge read three-quarters full, and the little I remembered of the drive down had taken about two hours or a bit more to reach our destination. And, as I now knew, my grave site.
At fifty miles per hour, on average, and I was by no means sure I was correct, it was ninety or a hundred miles to the border. At the speed I was traveling, if I didnít smear the Mustang all over the landscape, I should be in San Luis in less than two hours.
There were still no lights behind me, and I checked the clock on the dash to find with a shock that it was only 3:20 a.m. It seemed to me that days had passed, but it was just under three hours since Martinez had tried to open me up like a ripe melon.
The scalding rage at the remembered indignities flooded me with adrenalin and lifted my foot from the accelerator. I remembered the speed at which I was traveling and let the Mustang slow of its own volition. When it had slowed sufficiently to allow a stop that wouldnít leave sun fishing across the desert floor a distinct possibility, I eased on the brake and came to a stop.
I sat trembling with a murderous rage easing the pain of the torture I had endured in the past few hours. I ached to put my hands on Martinezís throat and squeeze until my fingers met in his brown, corded neck. As best I could remember through a red mist of pain and outrage, the other two were crippled, perhaps even dead. In the clear, desert air I could see for miles, and there was no sign of another car behind me. I opened the car door and stepped out. Pain flashed in an explosion to my brain, and I fell back into the car seat with my feet still outside.
The cigar burns on my left foot dragged a muffled groan from me, as I eased the foot up and rested it on my knee. The tender, sensitive area of the bottom of the arch just behind the ball of the foot was a ruined mass of blackened flesh. I used my sleeve to again wipe the greasy film that coated my face and tried to control the trembling in my hands.
I had to think calmly, rationally, before blind anger put me back into that nightmare. First, I knew approximately what my location was from the time and speeds involved, and I wasnít lost, even if the rest of the world seemed to be.
Second, I needed water desperately, both to soothe my aching throat, raw from screaming, and to bathe my ruined foot.
The thought of water caused my parched throat to close, and I turned and looked into the back seat. People who live in the desert, or travel it often, soon learn to carry extra water and a spade. All I could see was a leather jacket and when I moved it to inspect the pockets, there were two beautiful cans of beer tucked into the corner of the seat.