They’d been driving for two hours, Jamie’s clean, manicured hands tapping on the steering wheel impatiently whenever they stopped for the lights, and Joan doing her absolute best not to stare too hard at them, when Jamie finally spoke.
“If you absolutely must know, the reason I didn’t tell you was that I didn’t think you’d ever find out.” There was a resigned tone to her voice, like a parent finally giving in to the child screaming for candy in a supermarket. It only made Joan angrier.
“And so you figured that you’d drag me halfway up the country in a three month road trip without telling me about the bodies in the trunk?”
“Well in an ideal world the bodies would never have made it to the trunk. But we can’t always get what we want.”
“Yeah, like I’m sure that guy in the trunk of the car we just sold didn't want to be dead.” Joan quipped and she could have sworn that she saw Jamie’s mouth twitch up into a slight smirk.
“Probably not.” Then she sighed. “Look, if I promise not to kill anyone who isn’t on my list will you relent and accept that I’m not a total monster?”
“It would probably help.”
“Well in that case, I shall endeavour to be only assassin and not murderer for the remainder of this summer.”
“I’m sure it’ll be a struggle for you.”
“Oh you have no idea.”
They drove in silence the rest of the way to the next town, but the silence had changed, and it no longer rode so heavily on Joan’s attention. She wasn’t sure if that meant she was beginning to forgive Jamie, or see her point of view, but whatever it meant, it was a sure sign that Joan was never going to be able to forget that summer.
They stopped that night at a tumbledown hotel on the side of the highway.
“What do you think Joan? You’re the accommodation expert. Is this the worst place you’ve ever seen?” Jamie’s voice was loud in the empty reception, and the old man behind the counter glared. He was tall and wiry, the kind of old man you’d expect to see spitting tobacco in a horror movie and warning kids not to go down that road. He gave Joan the creeps.
“Ma’am, I am quite happy for you to sleep on the side of the street if my accommodation is not to your standards.” He drawled the word standards as if it were a curse he were particularly fond of uttering. If anything, his words made Jamie grin larger, predatory.
“Why sir, I meant no offence of course.” She walked towards the counter and placed her purse on it, leaning over slightly and making Joan hide a smile behind her hand. The shirt Jamie was wearing that day was incredibly flattering and the blonde woman had no qualms about using that to her advantage.
“Could we please book two rooms for tonight?” Joan could swear she was playing up her accent, and she stressed the word please so heavily that she half expected the man behind the counter to start playing nice. She would have been wrong. The man’s face hardened.
“Whore. Get the hell out of my building.” Jamie straightened. Not quickly, as if she were shocked, but slower, more menacing than her frame implied could be possible.
“You know, I really hate that word.” Her voice was ice.
“Well I’ve got plenty more to throw at you if you don’t leave.” He stood up, and Joan moved forward. She put her hand on Jamie’s forearm softly.
“Let’s just go, we can sleep in the car.”
“There is no reason for us to do that except for this man’s offence at, apparently, me daring to have skin.” Jamie was loud where Joan had been soft, and Joan realised there wasn’t going to be much calming going on.
“Listen to your friend you stupid cunt and get out of my building.”
“Oh, now I really don’t like that word, but I made a promise to Joan here that I wouldn’t kill anyone that wasn’t on my list this summer, so would you please just allow me to pay for two rooms and stay one night and never see you again after 9 tomorrow morning?” Jamie’s hand reached into her purse and pulled out a gun. She pointed it, unflinching, at the man’s head.
The moment was so tense that Joan wasn’t sure what to do, but she felt like she couldn’t just stand there like an idiot for much longer. Luckily the man gulped and nodded, ringing up the charges and fumbling for two sets of keys while Jamie stood with a gun to his head and a face of granite.
The rooms were next door to one another on the second floor of the motel, and they parted on the walkway between them with a civil, if not friendly, goodnight. Joan slept fitfully, the events of the day turning over and over in her head. She was at once impressed and horrified by Jamie’s ability to keep her calm, and deal with situations, but mostly she was just terrified. What kind of mess had she gotten herself into? A very large part of her was wishing she’d listened to her mother a year ago and never even dropped out of med school, and the rest, well the rest was enthralled by this adventure she’d found herself on. She’d never pictured this kind of thing as part of her life, but now she was part of it, she found it thrilling. For this summer at least, while she had no choice, she live larger than ever expected, and it would be an experience she’d never forget.
Joan was still tossing and turning in a kind of worried half sleep when she was jolted into full wakefulness by a gunshot in the next room. She looked at the clock flashing 3:00, and groaned as she rolled out of bed, running outside and to Jamie’s room. The door was open, and Jamie herself was sitting up in bed, gun in her shaking hands, a horrified look on her face, and the old man from the service desk lying slumped across her legs, blood all over the sheets. Joan stood in the doorway for a moment before rushing over to the bed.
“I always sleep with a gun under the pillow, and he came into my room in the middle of the night. The rest is fairly obvious.” She tried to sound flippant about the situation but Joan noticed that there was a slight quiver to her voice, and the fright on her face when Joan had first entered the room was obvious.
“Well I suppose we’d better get out of here.”
“Yes, of course.” Jamie put the gun on her bedside table and rolled the body off her legs, trying to hide the fact that her hands were still shaking.
“I can drive if you’d like.”
“I’m perfectly all right.”
“Didn’t say you weren’t, just offered to drive.” Joan started to walk out of the room to grab her own things, and pretended she didn’t hear the quiet “Thank you” that Jamie offered in her wake.
While packing her own things Joan let herself shudder all over. She had a good idea what that man had been doing in Jamie’s room and as much as she hated to advocate shooting anyone, she was glad that Jamie had been able to defend herself (even if she was questioning why she cared so much about the wellbeing of a murderer).