Bloody Driving Gloves
Hector S. Koburn
He pumped the gas pedal as he noticed the headlights approaching fast behind him. Tires screeched ahead. He was swerving past a Ford pickup, urging his convertible onwards, as fast as it would go, and then breaking slightly to evade the curb as the street curved left.
His hands tightened on the steering wheel as the rush of adrenaline coursed through his body. His hands felt clammy and he wished he could reach over and grab his driving gloves from the dashboard. They were piled one on top of the other, tantalizingly close, but too far away to make a prudent lunge for them, especially at this speed. He was always in a hurry, or so it seemed to him. Why wasn't there ever time to do things properly? He never had enough time.
The car skidded as he slammed the steering wheel hard to the right, jumping the pavement and speeding into a one-way street. The Hyundai Sonata was fifty yards behind, following him into the turn.
A Honda Civic appeared ahead of him. There wasn't even time to brake. You're out of time again, he thought. And as he wrestled with the wheel, as he gritted his teeth, as he braced for impact, the two cars collided.
There was an explosion of sound. Sebastian felt the car lift, heard the rasp of metal. There was an eruption of glass, a moment of utter panic.
His head slammed into the airbag. Pain swept through him. And then there was confusion.
Four slugs struck Sebastian's immobile vehicle. They shattered the back windshield and pounded the passenger seat. One hit the driver's headrest. Buckled over the wheel, face buried in the airbag, Sebastian had just had a narrow escape. He didn't know how close he had come to his end.
The sudden burst of movement jolted his brain into action. He raised his head and, as he stretched an arm towards the glove compartment, he felt his shoulder burn. He winced. It was only 3 a.m. and, already, it was proving to be a very bad morning. His nose broken, a front tooth knocked out, face bloodied. The bits of tissue paper stuck on his face to soak the blood, where he had cut himself shaving ten minutes earlier, hardly seemed to matter.
His hand blundered about in the glove compartment, frantically searching and, finally, his hand clasped the butt of his Colt. He slammed his shoulder, the left one, the one that didn't throb with pain, into the driver's door, throwing it open. He paused, hampered by a sudden half thought-through idea, and reached out his right arm, felt the shoulder burn again with the exertion, and grabbed his driving gloves. The thought of them now deeply etched in his brain. What did he need these gloves for now, the driving was over, the car dead, the car in pieces? These damn gloves, he thought, these useless gloves, occupying my thoughts, wasting precious seconds of my time while I snatch them up, pocket them.
The crazy, violent, pulsating moments of near death didn't let up, even when Sebastian's thoughts were consumed with shaving cuts and driving gloves. He launched himself out of the car, collapsed onto the street, spitting blood, as two more bullets slammed into the car.
Sebastian didn't pause to assess the scene around him. He scrambled to his feet, running hard down the street, running towards a doorway to his left. Bullets splintered into buildings around him. He felt a slug whiz past his cheek and crash into a bank of grass ahead. He dived into the doorway, sank to one knee, overwhelmed with relief. He'd made it to safety, temporarily. He'd earned a moment to stop for air. And now he was panting, down on one knee, gripping a stone wall, breathless.
He remembered he was holding the Colt. He took off the safety and stood up straight. Keeping close to the wall, he peeped out around the corner.
A bullet ricocheted off the wall, near to his face, startling him. He yanked his head back and clung to the wall, unsteady on his feet. He let out a deep breath. Another close call, he thought.
And then he noticed it—a solitary driving glove. One of those damn gloves had fallen out of his pocket when he'd run for the shelter of the doorway. It was lying on the ground, not ten feet away. He was about to go for it, but stopped himself just in time. It was out of his reach and it would be suicide to go for it with all those bullets flying around.
He'd had those brown leather driving gloves since '79. He'd never forget the day he got those gloves. They'd been a cursed final birthday gift from his old man, Lou. It'd been the last gift his Pop ever gave him. Six hours later, his old man was knocked down and killed on a sidewalk by a drunk driver. Birthdays carried little in the way of celebration for Sebastian after that.
The driving glove lay helpless on the sidewalk, stranded. Sebastian couldn't bear to look at it, but couldn't bring himself to stop thinking about it.
He stood back against the wall, considering his next move. He was in the doorway of an apartment building. He needed to get inside, away from the shooter—some hired gun for the mob boss, Harry Santini. People who cross Harry Santini don't last long, and certainly not when they stand in doorways, dodging bullets.
Sebastian was a marked man. He'd double-crossed Harry—put a bullet in Sal, Harry's right-hand man, made it look like an accident on a job gone wrong. But the con hadn't deceived Harry, who was quick to suspect foul play. He didn't trust Sebastian, never did. Sebastian should have known better. A job that big, with so much money at stake, made everyone mistrustful. Sebastian was the chief suspect in Harry's eyes. He didn't even hesitate to find out if Sebastian was guilty or not, just ordered a hit on him.
Sebastian had woken that morning with a start. He'd heard a noise outside his motel window. He hadn't waited to find out what it was. He always slept fully dressed, always with his Colt under his pillow. This time, this morning, he'd thrown back the sheets and dived out of bed, grabbing his shoes while he scrambled across the floor, and bounded into the bathroom. He'd opened the bathroom window and vaulted out of it. Once outside, he'd pulled on his moccasins and ran across the parking lot to his convertible.
No point taking chances, he'd thought. He who hesitates makes mistakes. That was his motto. The key to surviving Harry Santini's hitman was to always be ready to run. And so he had dashed inside his car, closed the door and waited, watching the bathroom window for signs of an intruder inside his motel room. He hadn't seen any movement inside, but that didn't mean there wasn't someone in there, hunting him.
While watching the window, he'd been quick to put the key in the ignition and start the engine. Take the car for a drive now you're inside it, he told himself.
He'd driven to the nearest gas station and filled the tank and, when he'd gone inside to pay, he'd decided to grab a disposable razor and use the restroom to shave and wash his face. He hadn't shaved for a week. He hadn't seemed to find the time for it. This morning, he'd decided to make time to shave. The trouble was, he was rushing the job and, with a new disposable razor, you have to be careful, have to take your time. He'd cut his chin, cut his left cheek, drawn blood from a dry patch of skin to the side of his upper lip. When he exited the restroom, he'd stuck several little pieces of tissue paper on his face to stem the bleeding.
He'd got into his car, feeling sore. And then he'd started to drive. About ten minutes later, the drive got bumpy. Harry's hitman had found him. A car behind him, going recklessly fast, had closed in on him suddenly. Sebastian had seen the raised gun in the driver's hand. He didn't need any more details to prompt him to stamp his foot on the accelerator.
And now here he was, back against the wall, heart pounding, and his clammy hand tightening around the Colt. He wished he could make a grab for that driving glove on the sidewalk, that stray glove not ten feet away, tantalizingly close but too far away to make a prudent lunge for it.
This was the one time when Sebastian wasn't in a hurry. Maybe he should have been kicking down the door to that apartment building, running through the lobby, looking for a way out, some back exit to someplace far away from Harry's hitman, away from trouble. But instead he was taking his time, thinking about that damned glove, wondering when to make his move.
The bullets had stopped smashing into the stone wall. Sebastian decided to make a dash for the glove. He propelled himself off the wall and hurtled out into the open, across the sidewalk. He dropped to one knee and scooped up the glove, firing a shot towards the Hyundai Sonata as he did so. His bullet smacked into the windshield.
As he rose to sprint back to the shelter of the doorway, a violent jerk sent him sprawling headfirst onto the pavement. For a moment, the breath was knocked out of him and he couldn't get back to his feet. He felt another tug, this time at his leg.
You're out of time again, he thought. Teeth gritted, braced for the impact of bullet against flesh, he struggled to find his feet. He never seemed to have enough time.
For a moment, pain swept through him, and the ground seemed to erupt and, in the chaos, he recalled his father. He glimpsed his father smiling at him as he tore open a brown paper bag. Inside were those brown leather gloves, one on top of the other. He noticed that his father was no longer smiling. Sebastian was holding the gloves, trying to mask his disappointment. His father had seen the disappointment in his face and now they were both unhappy.
Sebastian, overwhelmed by guilt, closed his eyes, and the thunderous noise around him ceased.
About the Author
Hector S. Koburn is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.