The three men stood in silence for a moment, guns pointed at each other, until Joe broke the standoff. Orange’s body jerked as the bullet hit him.
Goddammit, thought White, and without hesitating he pulled the trigger on Joe, then turned and shot at Nice Guy Eddie.
A red cloud of pain exploded inside of him as Eddie hit him in the stomach, and he slowly dropped to his knees. Two solid thumps told him that Joe and Eddie had fallen to the ground, too.
He clenched his teeth through the waves of pain searing through him, then pulled himself together.
Goddammit, Joe, you shouldn’t have made me do that, he thought. I don’t know what the fuck you think you know, but you’re wrong! Orange is a good kid.
White’s thoughts went back to earlier that day, to before the heist, before Orange had been hit in the gut.
* * *
“I’m hungry,” White said. “Let’s get a taco.”
He drove away from the jeweller’s store with a purposeful look on his face.
Orange was a bit unsure what to think after hearing White refer so casually to chopping a man’s fingers off in order to get him to talk, but he tried not to let it show. He was cool. He could handle this.
He wouldn’t get hurt — in fact, nobody would get hurt. They would just get in, White and Brown would get the diamonds from the manager, and they would all get out. He could handle this.
Three turns later, they were in a part of Los Angeles that Orange had not been to before.
“Hey, White, where are we going?”, he asked.
“HomeState,” White replied. “They do great breakfast tacos there.”
“D’you mean breakfast burritos?”
“Nah. Breakfast tacos. It’s a Texas thing, apparently. You never had any, kid? Then it’s time you try one. Get a Trinity.”
“What’s a Trinity?”
“Eggs, bacon, potato, and cheese. Really hits the spot.”
“Wait, isn’t that four ingredients? Why is it called the Trinity?”
“How the fuck should I know, kid? I don’t care; it’s great just the way it is.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“You’re smart, kid! And here we are. Don’t mind the size of the line; it moves pretty quickly and the food is worth the wait.”
They got out of the car and joined the line that snaked out of the door of HomeState.
As White had predicted, it only took five minutes or so before they were at the counter. White ordered for both of them.
“Four Trinity tacos and two cups of summer tea, please.”
When they got their food, Orange looked around dubiously. The place was very small and there were only three tables that he could see, all filled with diners enjoying their Tex-Mex fare.
“We’re going outside, kid,” White said, as if reading his mind. “They have some more tables there.”
They found two vacant spots at an outside table. White pointed to the two squirt bottles on the table. “Those are salsa — they make it themselves. Put some on your taco. The red and the green salsa are both good.”
Orange took the bottle of red salsa and looked at it. There was no label or any markings on it.
“Is this hot?”, he asked.
“Nah, not at this place. It’s a condiment, they say — it’s supposed to put some spice and variety in your food, not blow your brains out.”
They both unwrapped their first Trinity taco and put some salsa on the filling: White had green salsa, Orange had red.
Orange rolled up his taco and took a bite. His eyes went wide and he took another bite.
“Oh my god, White, these are so good!”, he said around a mouthful of taco. Some red salsa dribbled out of the corner of his mouth.
“Glad you like them, kid,” White replied, and got started on his own taco.
Orange was busy wolfing down his taco with his eyes closed and a dreamy expression on his face, and so they ate in silence for a bit.
White was just starting on his second taco when he noticed that Orange had already finished both of his and was now pawing through the foil wrapper for the bits of scrambled egg that had fallen out of the tortilla.
“You’ve still got salsa running down your chin, son,” White said after he had swallowed a bite of taco.
Orange poked his short, stubby little tongue out of his mouth and licked around. “Better?”, he asked.
“Nah — hang in, I’ll get it for you.” White ran his finger down the side of Orange’s chin to wipe off the remaining salsa, then stuck the finger in his mouth and licked it off. The red salsa pleasantly complemented the green salsa on his own taco, though the undertone of Orange’s cologne was a more surprising — but not unwelcome — addition to the flavour.
* * *
Yes, Orange is a good kid, White thought. And now he’s lying there on that ramp, scared to death, and with a totally unnecessary bullet from Joe in his gut.
He groaned and tried to stand up, but it was too painful.
He slowly rolled over into his back. He heard steps walking past him as Pink left the warehouse. White groaned again before rising to a half-sitting position.
He found his gun and grabbed it, then rolled back over towards Orange, who was lying there with his hands unnaturally up in the air.
Dammit!, White thought again. Is he dead? I’d kill that guy Joe if I hadn’t already!
Just then, Orange gave a sob and White gave a sigh of relief.
He slowly crawled up the ramp, closer to Orange, while Orange reached his arms out towards White, trying to hug him for comfort.
Finally, White managed to cradle Orange’s head in his lap, though the exertion forced a coughing fit out of him that left him unable to move or speak for several seconds, so he wordlessly caressed Orange’s cheek with his hand.
Orange reached towards White again and put his arms around him. The loss of blood had left his face unnaturally pale, but there was a look of fright on his face now that made it look even whiter, if that was possible.
“I’m scared, Larry,” he gasped, with the words coming out in a brief burst before pain screwed up his face.
He paused briefly and then continued, a few words at a time. “I’m gonna die! Joe’s dead. No doctor. I’m gonna fucking die! I don’t wanna die! Larry, don’t let me die!”
White stroked Orange’s cheek again wordlessly, then tousled his hair. He could hear sirens and shouting outside now.
He groaned and then said, “You’re not gonna die. I’m here and I’m not gonna let you die. You’re a tough guy.
“And the cops are here now. I’m sorry, kid. Looks like we’re going to do a little time. But they don’t want us to die. They’ll patch you up just as nicely as any of Joe’s doctors ever could.
“You’ll be fine, kid. They’ll patch you up and we’ll do our time and then we’ll come out again. I’m not gonna let you die, kid.”
“The cops —“, Orange gasped.
White squeezed Orange’s hand. “Don’t worry about the cops. They won’t let you die. I won’t let you die!”
“No, Larry… the cops… I’m a cop!”
White groaned but didn’t quite register what he had just heard. He continued to stroke Orange’s cheek with slow, gentle strokes, then squeezed Orange’s hand with his.
“Larry, I’m sorry. I’m… so… sorry! I’m a cop!”
The words slowly filtered through the fog of pain into White’s mind. The disappointment and the betrayal of trust that he felt turned his next groan of pain into something more akin to a wolf’s howl, and he straightened a bit, almost to a sitting position.
Orange repeated, “I’m sorry!”, but White didn’t hear him.
His thoughts cleared now. He was a professional and his long experience came to his aid now, allowing him to push his pain to the background and consider what he was going do — what he had to do.
He blinked, and when he looked down again, he saw two people lying there. There was Orange, the good kid who had been hit by a bullet and whom he had driven to this warehouse and promised to protect. And there was a cop.
White knew what he had to do. There was a cop at the scene who knew too much, who had seen too much. Like Marvin Nash, who had seen and heard too much to be left alive, this one had to go. Even if that meant he would take his friend Orange with him.
White slowly took his gun and pointed it at the cop’s cheek. His other hand stroked Orange’s cheek.
Orange did not move his head away from the gun, but his arm that was behind White’s back grabbed him a bit more tightly.
“I’m sorry!”, he gasped. “I’m sorry! Larry, I’m sorry!”
Suddenly, the doors to the warehouse burst open and there was a cacophony of voices, talking over one another.
“Freeze! Drop the fucking gun, buddy! Now! Put the gun down! Don’t do it! Drop the gun, man! Don’t! Drop the gun! Drop the fucking gun! We’re gonna fucking blow you away!”
White looked briefly at the policemen who had entered the warehouse, their guns pointed at him, before gazing back down at the cop on his lap, and at his friend Orange.
He tousled Orange’s hair and whispered softly, “Goodbye, my friend” — and pulled the trigger.