The Cadillac drove off the road touching the dirt shoulder. Lola steered the car straight and continued up the hill. She had no other choice than to drive to town. She really needed to go and tell the police what happened. Things had really gotten out of hand. Tony had gotten out of hand. She should have never allowed it in the first place.
Traffic signs stated the percentage of inclination and warned her to slow down. Lola switched back and forth between the throttle and the brake of her old car, hearing a mechanical grunt while steering the car up the windy road.
Lola knew this road by heart. She'd driven every mile of it a thousand times before. She knew how lonely this road was, laid out in the middle of the desert, making her commute to work possible. She loved how Route 90 was actually a scenic route going up hill first, topping Dead Man's Summit and then opening up to the desert valley glistening below.
Lola had seen this valley in every way, day and night. In the morning, the sun climbs above the mountains shielding the desert from rain, and as the sun revives the sky with red and gold, as if God himself had painted it, a subtle breeze would bring coolness to the valley.
At night, stars wink from above while the moon shines pale light upon a black vastness of land, lighting up the white road markers painted on the tar of the road that Lola was now driving on.
Lola loved how, after having reached the summit, she could just put the transmission into neutral and let her car roll down the steep slope that goes on for miles and miles until it reaches the middle of the valley, the place where the Colorado river eroded a deep canyon over millions of years.
She would often stop at the point where Route 90 veers away from the edge of the canyon, following the stream of the river. Not a lot of people knew that this was a perfect place for swimming and jumping of cliffs into the water. Lola used to come here all the time with her parents when she was younger, and she had promised Lizzy that one day she'll show her this special place, too.
"Dead Man's Summit - 1 mile."
The sign announced the last few curves before reaching the top of the mountain. This is where everything had started. One night, Tony and his buddy Frank had come home in shock, covered in dirt, looking pale like the moon.
Lola had just put Lizzy to bed. They'd enjoyed a fun night together, playing charades and dressing up like fairies. Spending time with her daughter was unusual for Lola, what with working nights and weekends at the diner.
Lola wished she could stay home with her daughter, or at least work part time during the day, but as a building contractor in this scarcely populated area, Tony could not put enough money on the table to support this.
That night, as Lola came down from the stairs, the first thing she noticed were the muddy foot prints by the front door. She followed them into the kitchen and saw Tony furiously washing his arms and hands, his shirt and arms almost completely covered in mud.
"Is that blood on your hands?" Lola jumped closer to the sink but Tony pushed her away. Frank sat down across the kitchen table, looking frazzled, reaching for a cold beer with fingernails as black as the night. He seemed to have already washed his skinny arms and hands, but still had his cap on, and bloody fingerprints were all over it. Lola's eyes switched from the blood stained cap to Tony. She grabbed his shoulder and tried to turn him toward her so she could see his face. But she didn't have the strength.
"What the hell happened to you ?" she said.
"Nothin," Tony turned off the faucet and reached for a towel. Frank seemed to disagree. He gargled in disbelief.
Lola looked at him. "Care to explain, Frank ?" He took a sip from his beer and shrugged.
"Better to keep it to myself," he said, " I wouldn't want my buddy to go to PRISON !"
Tony turned and loomed over Frank, supporting his weight by placing his two hands on the table.
"If you want to stay alive, you shut - the - hell - UP !"
Frank was not impressed by Tony's threat. He tried to laugh it off and took another gulp from his beer.
"Com'on Tony, be serious, in a town like this, somebody's going to find out a boy's gone missing."
Lola stood perplexed, covering her mouth with both of her hands. It seemed to slow down her words. "Wa-did-you-do, To-ny ?"
She quickly snapped to her senses as Tony threw aside the kitchen table as if it was made out of Styrofoam. It smashed into the china closet holding Lola's old vase collection. Tony grabbed Frank's throat and pushed him against the wall.
"If you say one word to the cops, I'll bash your fuckin' head in."
Frank tried nodding. He couldn't. Tony let go of him and Frank reached for his throat, gasping for air.
"But you gotta ," Frank coughed, "at least tell Lola."
Lola was still standing in the same spot, looking at the two men in front of her. Suddenly, in one minute, they had become strangers to her - this kitchen now felt strange to her, like some back room in a bar filled with the stench of beer and the sweat of fighting men.
Tony turned around and looked at Lola. His eyes were filled with regret, as if he wanted to apologize for what he had done.
"OK, I'll tell her." Tony said, and he put the table back where it belonged, slid the chairs underneath and sat down, and so did Lola and Frank and they shared beers and everything seemed normal again for a split second, like they were about to have a dinner party and Frank was the first one to have arrived.
Then Tony started talking..