"Frank and I were heading home from the bar. We had a few beers, I admit, but I was still clear enough to drive."
Frank hissed. Tony shot him a threatening look and continued;
"So we were drivin' up Route 90 and by the time we reached Dead Man's summit, the sun was already comin' up."
Tony shifted his weight and the chair squeaked. A drop of sweat ran across Frank's temple.
Lola leaned toward the table. "So, what exactly happened ?"
"A boy was driving his bike in the middle of the road," he said, "We hit him."
"What ?" Lola gasped. "How did you not see - "
"The sun was in my goddamn eyes !" Tony slammed the table. " Couldn't see a damn thing !" Frank and Lola lifted their drinks off the shaky surface.
Lola really tried to stay calm, but her voice was trembling. "So was he .. dead ?"
Frank hadn't spoken for a long time but chose to say something now:
"No, the boy was still alive."
Tony stood up and raised a fist. Lola grabbed his arm and prevented him to hit Frank, who in his defense had already jumped off of his chair.
Lola's high voice bounced off of the black and white tiled kitchen walls. "Will you stop it already !"
Tony sat down again, took a deep breath and continued;
"So we buried him."
This was too much for Lola to deal with. How can you bury a child like that ? Driving intoxicated is one thing - irresponsible at most, but in this deserted shit hole of a place, people were drunk all of the time. But, driving around waisted and burying a child alive ? That's just messed up. Tony could get a live long sentence or even worse for that.
Lola veered up from her chair, knocking it over on the ground. "You buried him ?" she said, "How could you do that !"
Tony leaned back in his chair, spread both of his arms and held out his chest as if trying to catch a ball. "What was I supposed to do, take him to the police station? Point them to the blood on my truck ?"
Lola thought about this. After all, a live without Tony might not be so bad.. things were not running smoothly between them these last few years. Ever since he got laid off by his boss, Tony wanted to become a successful independent contractor.
"I promise you," he had said to Lola during a romantic candle lit dinner, "I'll be the richest contractor this desert has ever known." And they had kissed and made love and Lizzy was born 9 months after that and they were the happiest couple in town. For a while, at least.
Only, Tony had failed miserably at building a successful business. And that had put a strain on their relationship. Of course, with Tony in jail, Lola would have to find a better way to support Lizzy and at the same time manage to be home for her, too. They could move to the city, find a better life, move on with their lives..
"I - I dunno what to say, Tony." she said, pulling up her chair, "This is just - wrong."
"I told him to go to the Po-lice and tell'em that he'd just found the kid lyin' on the side of the road like that." Frank said.
"Yeah, like that wouldn't make them suspicious of us." Tony grinned at Frank.
But Frank still didn't seem to be impressed by Tony's attitude. "And dumpin' a little kid in the desert, comin' home lookin' like we just slaughtered a cow is a better way of dealing with this ?"
Tony kept his cool and looked up at Frank, who continued his rant;
"How about our clothes, my cap ?" He threw it on the table. The bloody fingerprints were obviously still fresh. "The dent in your car ? The loose bumper on your truck ?"
"Yeah," Tony nodded to Frank, "Whaddabout that ?"
"The mechanic at the repair shop is gonna know you had some fix-ups done. He might tell the Po-lice. Maybe we should go out and run him over too, then. "
Tony's face reddened. "What d'you suggest I do, then. "
Frank stood up and walked toward the kitchen door. "I'll fix up your car tonight, you go to the cops tomorrow and tell 'em you saw a boy rottin' in the desert."
Frank picked up his cap from the table. "I'll make sure I burn this out in the field and no one ever needs to know. And if you're too scared of telling the law, then I will."
Lola had not never thought Tony would be capable of what he was about to do. He jumped up, took a knife out of the drawer, twisted Frank's arm around his back and held the knife to his throat.
"Here's what we're gonna do," Tony gritted through his teeth, "You're gonna fix my truck," he said, "and then we're gonna let you stay in our comfy dark basement 'till all of this has blown over."
Lola was paralyzed by what she was witnessing. Tony has lost his mind.
Frank looked down at the knife pointing at his throat. This guy was not fooling around.
"And after that, you're gonna leave this town and move to goddamn Afrika for all I care, but I don't wanna see you ever again."
Tony slowly pierced Franks throat with the point of the knife. A drop of blood thickened on the blade.
"Ya got that ?"
Frank nodded carefully.
Lola tried reasoning with Tony. But he wouldn't listen. His mind was all made up. And he promised her that, if she ever tried to help Frank escape in any way, he would kill Frank and lock her up in the basement, too.
After Frank had fixed the truck later that night, Lola had to tie Frank up against the wall next to the heat installation. He would get a glass of water twice a day, some beans, bread and an apple for a meal and could only walk around the basement for one hour every day.
Lola really tried to take care of Frank as much as she could, given the fact that she needed to go to work and take care of Lizzy too, who, of course, knew nothing of this whole ordeal. Lola would come home after work at night to find her daughter sleeping in her bed or watching TV early in the morning, while all of this time Frank was tied up with his face pointed to a basement wall covered in mold.
Lola would bring Frank more water and food as Tony was starting to loose interest in what was going on in the basement. Of course, Tony would still check Frank's condition every day and punch him in the gut just to top of his misery, and then lock the basement door before giving Lizzy a goodnight kiss in the kitchen.
Lola never heard from the Police or was told stories at the diner about a boy found dead in the desert. She guessed that Tony and Frank had buried him well, or that the coyote's had found the body and had bitten it to pieces.
One night, Lola came home late from work, and saw Lizzy eavesdropping at the basement door.
Lola dropped her coat and car keys and ran over to her daughter who was listening intensely for sounds.
Lizzy looked up, scared.
"Mommy, you're home !" She swung around Lola's neck.
"What's the matter, honey ?" Of course, Lola could already guess what was going on, but she didn't want to upset her baby.
Lizzy's voice whispered in her ear. "I hear someone moaning in the basement." she said, "I - I think it's a ghost."
Lola felt her blood sink to her feet. How's she gonna explain this ?
She whispered in Lizzy's ear; "And did the ghost say anythin', sweety?"
Lizzy's big brown eyes just sort of stared at Lola. She must have been frightened.
"Well ?" Lola said, keeping her eyes fixed on Lizzy.
"I'M GONNA DIIE !" Lizzy screamed.
Lola almost dropped her daughter. She knew it had been Frank calling out for help. He might had managed to untie the cloth in his mouth, hoping to reach someone up stairs. Lucky for him, Tony wasn't home. Being a Friday night, he was probably out drinking at the bar.
"I'll go and take a look," Lola said and she put Lizzy at the stairs to the second floor. "Just wait here, and Mommy'll be right back, OK ?"
Lizzy nodded and sat down on the first step, holding her head in her two palms.
Lola walked through the kitchen and opened up the basement door. She heard Frank moaning in the dark below. Step by step, she moved further down the stairs, holding her hand against the damp wall for balance, until she reached the ground floor.
Lola felt a light switch sticking out of the wall. She hesitated for a second, took a deep breath, and flicked it.