“Be ready when I come”, he had said. “I want you to be ready. Do you understand?” he had shouted.
Yeah! I understood. But the damn engine wouldn’t start.
Everything had gone according to the plan -until that moment of course- although none of us had faith in it at the beginning. Why in hell would they keep so much money in the factory? Sure, it was a big one. Sure, it was a payment day, but who pays the workers in cash these days?
“Oh no! You got it all wrong”, he had exclaimed.
It had nothing to do with the workers. Nothing to do with the business. The legal one at least.
Anyway! We didn’t need to know much. He was the brains. He knew things. He was right. Always. The other two were the muscles. I was the driver.
My part was to wait for them outside the factory. Not so close, not very far. It would take some time, so I shouldn’t attract attention on me. When they would come out, I’d drive by, they would jump in, I would take us away. There was a second vehicle waiting in a parking lot some kilometers away. We would change the cars, I would drive through the borders. We would be free. Plain and neat like the old good heist movies.
The only problem was that he had chosen a crappy car.
“We must pass under the radar”, he had said.
I had complained. Nothing too loud, not my character. He was different. He had shouted and spit all over my face. Orders. And saliva.
“Just be ready when I come out! Do you understand?” he had asked.
Yeah! I understood. But the damn engine wouldn’t start.
I heard the shots. I turned the key. It just growled, a sound like a death rattle.
They came out with the bag. I turned the key again. Nothing.
“Be ready”, he had said.
I tried. The car was crappy.
Then it went even worse. A police car passed by. Bad luck. The officers dropped their coffees and took off the guns.
I turned the key all the way. Again and again. I was focused on that and I didn’t really see what happened. When the engine finally roared and I took a look around, everyone was down. Dead.
What a bloodshed! Damn car! Damn!
He, however, was still alive. Wounded, but alive. I pushed the gas pedal. The tires squealed. I stopped next to him. He had the bag in his hand. I got out and tried to help him into the car.
I didn’t notice on time the security guard. A tall, beard guy with glasses. He was shot at the hip. He dragged his left leg while he was walking towards to us. He kept his weapon on his right hand. He shot. He missed. He shot again. He got me. My partner killed him. Then he died himself too.
What a mess! Only if I were ready, when I had to. It was all my fault. But the damn engine wouldn’t start. Wouldn’t start.
I grabbed the bag. I threw it at the back seat and I drove away. I changed the vehicles as planned. I put the money in the trunk. I turned the key. This engine was obedient. Only if I… Damn it! It was over. Now, I just had to run away.
I couldn’t take the highway if I wanted to avoid the police. I headed to the mountains. Narrow winding roads, covered by the mist. I drove through it for long. Probably it was only a couple of hours, but it felt like days. My consciousness was bleeding away from my wound. Time became as misty as the sky. The sun went dark and then sent back its hectic rays and then dark killed the light again. It was so confusing.
I’m not sure how I kept myself awake. Even more miraculously I kept the car on the road. But I couldn’t go further. I needed to take care of my wound and a place to rest. There was nothing else but woods around me. I was ready to quit.
“I had my run”, I thought, “Time to die”.
I guess I heard it screaming before I saw it. The hawk maneuvered before my windshield and made me push the break. Then I noticed the wolf. A big grey wolf. He was there in the middle of the road staring at me. His eyes sparkled in the mist.
He made sure he got my attention. Then he walked into a dusty path. It was wide and smooth enough for the car. I didn’t know why, but I was sure he was showing me the way to somewhere. What an absurd thought! Yet the only rational option right then. I couldn’t go further; I had to trust the beast.
I climbed the hill. At that height the sky was clear, but the valley beyond me was covered by a thick layer of the fog. I reached a glade where there was an old, forgotten village. I stopped the car and stepped out. Three or four abandoned farms, with collapsed roofs and walls, and a church in ruins.
The wolf was gone. The hawk wasn’t around either, but I wasn’t alone as I thought. Two other wolves, black those ones, had appeared. They didn’t seem friendly like the grey had been. They smelled the blood and came to claim their feast. They moved closer with a slow pace. One licked his snout. The other showed me his teeth. White, sharp teeth.
For a second time, I thought it was over. For a second time, I was wrong. Fates had a different plan for me. They spin their threads in very mysterious ways. Believe me, I can tell.
The hawk screamed. My grey guardian came out from the woods and charged to his lot. The predator flew in circles above our heads.
The beasts fought each other fiercely. My champion was outnumbered, but he was brave. The black wolves were eventually convinced to go hunting somewhere else. The victor stood in alert until they disappeared deep in the forest. The price he had to pay, however, in order to defend me was heavy. Blood stains all over his grey fur. A deep cut at his snout. A bad limp.
The hawk screamed again and flew away. The wounded wolf followed it. I followed them both. They led me to another glade, higher on the hill. A linden stood alone in the middle of it. A tall silver linden with a great shade. And under that shade stood a house.
The door opened and a woman came out. A woman with long red hair. So long and so red that it seemed like flames were devouring her whole body.
The hawk and the wolf ran to her.
“Here are my boys”, she said. “Where have you been?”
The bird sat on her shoulder. The beast licked her hand.
“Oh! My poor one. You had a tough day, didn’t you?” she told the wolf.
Then she stood her head up and stared at me. It was the first time she saw me, but I felt like she knew all about me.
“You are bleeding too, stranger”.
I put my hand on my wound.
“Don’t trust her”, a voice whispered in my head, “She is a charmer”.
Her eyes, deep blue eyes, had already cast a spell on me.
I said I needed a place to stay for the night. I’d be going next morning before the dawn.
“Do you have money to pay, stranger?” she asked.
I could afford her hospitality. She smiled.
The house was full of wooden furniture and spices aromas.
She let me lay on a bed. I was weak and had a fever.
Then it was when she gathered her hair in a knot and pierced it with a silver brooch, a silver snowdrop flower.
She took my shirt off. She poured water, cleaned the wound, spread some oils and massaged it. She talked about the robbery at the factory. I pretended I had no idea what she was talking about.
She brought wine in a clay pot. She poured it into a glass, added a potion and some leaves and gave it to me.
I asked what it was.
“Just drink”, she said, “It will make you feel better”.
I drank. I drank and it was really good. My mind became light and the pain sweet, almost a pleasure.
She talked more, but her words were mixed with thoughts, desires and dreams. Her fingertips set fire on my chest, her lips burned my belly and when she came on top of me and let her hair free, she set my body ablaze. I passed away.
When I woke up I was thirsty with a thirst of a month. I couldn’t say for how long I was there. The house was empty, the clay pot dried, the furniture covered with dust, the aromas vanished.
My wound was much better, almost healed, but the memory of that sweet pain and her touch still haunted my body. The taste of that wine and her kiss still haunted my tongue.
How much of that was real? What if she was just a feverous hallucination?
I got dressed. I found the silver pin brooch among my clothes. The silver snowflake that could tame the red flames of her hair.
I walked down the hill to the car. I opened the trunk and found it empty. The bag with money was gone.
I’m back on the road now. For how long? Is it days, weeks or years? Who knows? Who cares?
I’m not after the money. It’s her wine and her kisses I miss. I drive around the woods. I look up to the skies. I look through the trees. I wait for the hawk and the wolf to take me back to her.
No luck so far.