The high-rises and skyscrapers of the city gave way to the squat houses and boxiness of the suburbs, and finally to the nothingness of the desert. Dusty roads and buildings untouched since the 1950s and 1960s and rock and sand. Meth labs disguised as trailer homes. Nothing to do but drink and fight and fuck. A nothing place that bred nothing people.
Richard’s teeth ground together. His hands gripped the steering wheel so tight the color started to drain from his knuckles. He turned up the radio, but the noise didn’t distract him. He turned up the air conditioning, but the chill didn’t help him focus. Alright, take inventory. What’s going on here? What am I feeling?
Richard winced. It was fear. Four years and he was still afraid of the man. He’d been trained to kill, had done it more than once, and Frank Calavera still scared him.
Am I ready for this?
It didn’t matter. He was already pulling into the dirt road that passed for the old man’s driveway, all weeds and gravel and broken glass and rusted bits of metal. And to think, Richard and Louis played there as kids. There had been a clothesline trailing from the house to a metal pole stuck in the yard that their mom had dried the wash on. Frank had been too cheap to call a repairman when the dryer broke down and too proud to admit that he had no idea how to fix it himself. The entire property was a museum of broken things. Disassembled engines and moldering appliances and ruined lives.
Richard stepped up to the front door and checked the time. Ten in the morning. The man had to be awake by now, but even if he wasn’t, that wouldn’t stop Richard. He pounded on the door, heard someone groan and mutter, “God-fucking-damn it!”
Frank Calavera threw the door open. He was still tall, but his back had a hunch to it that hadn’t been there four years ago. He’d gotten fatter, his belly hanging off of his body like a lead weight and his arms thick, but his shoulders were still broad, his forearms and hands still strong. His cheeks drooped now, his eyes sunken into his head, his hairline higher than ever before, and the man looked for all the world like an aging English bulldog. Old and ridiculous, but still senselessly vicious enough to bite.
“What the fuck do you want, buddy?” the old man said, not recognizing who was before him.
Richard stood in silence. A sneer came to his face. He crossed his arms, stood up as straight and as tall as he could. “Hi ya, Pop.”