January 20, 2015: Commerce, TX

Song: “Commerce, TX” by Ben Kweller from Skip Serpico Mix 1: Concerts Recently Attended

Listen to it here

 (photo from quentin0xavier.wordpress.com

(photo from quentin0xavier.wordpress.com

They stirred around noon, somehow, impossibly, the air still heavy with last night’s indulgences.

With a groan Ben rose from the raggedy carpeted floor and padded his way to the head for a truly epic piss. He overemphasized his delight at the release, anticipating Ann’s usual overdramatic expression of her disgust about bodily functions. But it didn’t come.

“Hey, what’s going on?” he shouted at her as returned to the living room where she waved him silent.

Annoyed, he joined her at the window. “What is so—“

“Shut up!” she demanded, yanking him down to her level just below the windowsill. She forcefully pushed his head around, directing his gaze across the collection of rocks and cigarette butts the complex had the nerve to call a courtyard.

He parted his lips to yell at her and she clamped her hand over his mouth, hissing, “Shhhhhh!”

Left without options, he finally looked at what she was so enraptured by. His across the way neighbor was moving slowly, dancing, back and forth before her open window. She was half naked and not stopping there.

“Whoa,” Ben whispered.

“Right?” Ann agreed, “Her body is…I’d like to get a closer look, let’s just say that.”

Ben giggled until his friend elbowed him in the ribs. “Don’t ruin this,” she implored.

As he tried to think of a pithy reply, his topless neighbor was joined by an equally naked man.

“Well, that’s it!” Ben declared and began to stand up.

“No! I can work with this,” Ann replied, holding him in place.

He rolled his eyes but didn’t argue.

The two huddled together and watched as Ben’s neighbor and her new visitor began to make out. They tittered nervously as Ms. Neighbor dropped low, just out of view.

Then they gasped together as several men burst into the room, grabbing Ms. Neighbor’s friend and spinning him into a wall opposite the window. The men pounded him as he stood, stunned, barely moving to protect himself from their blows. Moments later, a now fully dressed Ms. Neighbor returned to the room, a gun in hand. She aimed it at the person she had been naked with a mere minute early and fired, once, twice, three times. Killing him.

“Holy shit!” Ben screamed, without thinking.

Ann grabbed him and knocked him to the ground, her hand back over his mouth. They lay still on the floor, hearts racing. Ben felt the simultaneous need to run screaming and to hide somewhere and never move again. Ann felt panicked and sick, sure she might vomit at any moment.

A minute passed. Then three. Then ten. Finally, although still shaking with adrenaline, the two disentangled themselves and moved to their knees. They peered over the top of sill, across the way, and saw Ms. Neighbor’s apartment. Lights still on but empty. No sign of what had just occurred. Even the wall that Ben would’ve sworn had been sprayed with the victim’s blood appeared white and pristine.

“What do we do?” Ann whispered

“Nothing. We do nothing,” Ben told her and she nodded. It seemed to them the only idea that made sense.

“And we get the hell out of here. Just go away. Never look back. Stay with an old friend or relative you have been meaning to visit for awhile.”

Ann nodded at that too. What else should you do when you’ve just witnessed a murder and don’t know if the killers know you did?

“I’ve got enough money I can pay off the place through the end of the rental agreement. Some left over to pay a moving company to clear out my junk and store it somewhere. We don’t really need to be in Texas, right?”

Ann smiled. Ben was right. Just walk away and don’t look back. She figured her cousin in Albany would be thrilled to see her and she could do something new out there. It sounded perfect.

And then there was the knock at the door. And maybe perfect just wasn’t fast enough.