Fiction

Big Ticket

Big Ticket

The Characters

Dave… tow truck operator
Annie… realtor
Billy… biker

Early evening. A grimy auto-pound office—in a trailer. Ambient light through barred windows. Traffic noise from expressway overhead. City sounds, not very far off.

Dave, a big roughneck tow truck operator in biker gear, in his early thirties, is negotiating with Annie, stylishly dressed, about the same age. They appear to be strangers.

Annie claims she wants to pay Dave to abduct and terrify her husband. Dave proposes to bring the husband to the auto pound and lock him up in a chain-link cage used for safe storage.

Annie explores the interior of the cage. Dave watches. She’s trying to be seductive.

annie: So what’s all this going to cost me?

dave: If I don’t have to break nothin’, five hundred bucks.

annie: That’s pretty reasonable.

dave: This kind of thing’s just a sideline for me. Helps me relax. Besides, a pretty woman like you shouldn’t have to put up with assholes.

annie: That’s very sweet of you to say, Dave. Lock the door.

dave: What for?

annie: Lock me in. Just for a minute. I want to know what it feels like to be incarcerated.

dave: You’re the customer.

He locks her inside.

annie: Hmmn. This is pretty exciting.

dave: How so?

annie: It’s scary really. You hear the lock click and you feel so helpless. You ever bring women here?

dave: I brought you, didn’t I?

annie: I mean for pleasure. You ever lock any women up in here?

dave: We had a woman one time left her kid in her car at rush hour in a tow-away zone with the engine running. Cops took the kid. We took the car. She came down here and bit my dispatcher on the elbow. We locked her up pretty good.

annie: You ever bring any women in here, after hours? Women that don’t really want to be here? You know, like with you and the cops? After hours? Any cozy stuff like that?

dave: You ask a lot of questions. What are you—a detective?

Annie laughs. So does Dave.

annie: Although there’s not a lot of room in here. For stuff.

The atmosphere thickens a little.

annie: Of course, it doesn’t have to take a lot of room.

dave: Is that an invitation?

annie: Depends on how I’m feeling.

dave: How are you feeling?

annie: I’m feeling like I’m here with an outlaw, Dave, a real tough customer. He’s got me at his mercy. He could do anything to me.

dave: I’m probably not as tough as I look.

annie: I bet. C’mon in, why don’t you?

He hesitates.

annie (as if to a dog): C’mon. C’mon. Be a good boy.

He unlocks the gate and goes in. It’s awkward for him. There’s not much room inside.

annie: Let me help you out of those dirty, dirty clothes.

dave: You don’t waste any time, do you?

She removes his leather jacket, unbuttons his shirt, pulls off his boots, takes off his pants. This takes a while.

She steps outside the cage and piles his clothing on a chair. She pushes the door of the cage shut and locks it, removes Dave’s keys, leaving him locked inside in his underwear. She opens a plastic bottle of water.

annie: How you feeling now? Kinda creepy don’t you think?

dave: I don’t really go for this kind of shit.

annie: How you feeling though? Kinda sexy?

dave: I’ll feel a whole lot sexier when you unlock that door and get your pretty little ass back in here.

annie: You’re so pathetic.

dave: I’m what?

annie: Pathetic. Look at you. Big tough guy in his underwear. I wonder what your cop buddies are going to think about that.

dave: Okay, so I’m pathetic. I’m at your mercy. I get it. Now let me out of here.

annie: That’ll be the frosty Friday.

dave: Look. This isn’t all that funny.

annie: Get used to it. You’re gonna be in there for quite a long time.

dave: Don’t be stupid. What about your husband?

annie: I don’t have a husband.

dave: Then what’s this all about? What did I do?

annie: You towed my fucking car away, Dave. That’s the problem.

She throws the rest of her water in his face. Dave is shocked into silence. It takes him a moment to respond.

dave: You… lying… little… pig.

Like a gorilla, he shakes the cage violently. He gives up and presses his face hard against the fencing.

dave (roaring): You do all this because you think I towed your fucking car away?

annie: I know you did. I know it was you. I saw you. It wasn’t the first time.

dave: If you value your life—at all—you better let me out of this cage right now.

annie: I’ve had about a thousand parking tickets, Dave. Almost none of them made any sense to me. Five times I had my car towed away. Three of those times this disgusting place is where I had to come to get it back.

dave: Look. This is sick. Give me my clothes back and let me out of this fucking cage.

annie: Last time I was towed it was you. I was parked outside a hospital—getting a biopsy for Christ’s sake! I was five minutes late getting back and you had me hooked up already. You and your wormy little prick partner parking cop were standing there waiting for the meter to expire. I begged you, I begged you both, to please let me have my car back. No, you said; it was too late.

dave: Unlock the door, bitch, or die.

annie: You’re a vampire. You, the cops, the parking cops, the politicians—all the people in this racket—you’re all vampires.

Dave shakes the fence violently. Annie holds back a sob.

annie: My little boy’s birthday cake was in that car! I missed his party! My little boy had his birthday party with no cake. Do you know what that means? Weren’t you ever a little boy? What in hell happened to you?

dave: This is forcible confinement, lady. It’s the same as kidnapping. You’ll go to jail.

annie: You were both so rude. You laughed and drove away and left me standing on the sidewalk.

dave: You’ll go to jail!

annie: I don’t care.

dave: I will kill you. I’m not kidding.

annie: So you keep saying, Dave, but I… don’t… care. The only thing I do care about is making you suffer. Not just for me, but for all the other thousands of people you leech off. I’m going to make you an example. So all the other bottom-feeders in your business get to see what happens when good people get pushed too far.

dave: Look. Annie. You’re upset. I can see that. Maybe I made a mistake. But I do think you’re overreacting a bit. I was just doing my job. It’s against the law to park in prohibited areas. You’re not being reasonable.

She comes closer.

annie: How about I park something in one of your prohibited areas?

dave: What makes you so sure you’ve got the right guy?

annie: I saw you with my own eyes. Plus. . .

She yanks a notebook from her purse.

annie (reading): “David Mason Markus.” Is that not you? “Proprietor, Dave’s Towing and Auto Pound.” Is that not you? “acsm 833.” Is that not the licence number on your truck? “Cindy.” Is that not the name you’ve got painted right underneath your hood ornament? “Moose.” Is that not what your friends and former fellow inmates call you? “Six feet, two inches. Two hundred and ten pounds, brown hair, brown eyes. Birthmark, left elbow. Fire-breathing dragon tattoo, right bicep.” Is that not you? “Three months less a day in the Brampton Correctional Facility for assaulting your high school teacher.” Do you not recognize that person… Moose?

He slumps down, head in hands.

dave: Okay, it was me. I apologize. Now why don’t you just forget about all that shit and get back in here so I can take you some places you’ve never been before.

annie: What kind of places? What do you mean by that? What kind of places have I never been before?

dave: I think you know.

annie: No, I don’t know. What kind of places would you take me to where I’ve never been before—exactly? Are we talking tongue here?

dave: I’m thinking about forgetting about all this bullshit and you and me just get it on. You’ll like it. It’s what you want, isn’t it? That’s what this is really all about?

annie: I honestly can’t believe what kind of pathetic weasel you are.

dave: You’re getting off on this.

annie: In what way are you defective? How is it that you can’t even begin to understand the nature of the evil you inflict on the world? You’re an ape. You’re less than an ape. I don’t want to live in a world with people like you in it.

dave: Okay, okay, I get it. You’re not that kind of chick.

annie: None of us is that kind of chick, Dave.

dave: You think I’m a bad person.

annie: Of course I do! You descend on people at random. Like Robin Hood in reverse. You take from the innocent and give to the government. Do you have any idea how much harm the government can do with that much money?

Pause.

dave: You’re not being very fair. You don’t know me. I breathe. I eat. I sleep. Just like you. I have a kid. I have a dog. I like to watch TV. I go for walks in the woods. Where in fuck do you get off calling me stupid, criticizing my life? You don’t even know who I am.

annie: Do all your trucks have names?

dave: Most of them.

annie: Who’s Cindy? Anybody?

dave: I knew her in high school.

annie: Was she your first?

dave: I never got into her pants, if that’s what you mean. She was kind of like a Salvation Army chick—hot, like, but not hot for me. I liked her but I don’t think she really knew that. I was pretty shy back then.

annie: Do you think about her?

dave: I do sometimes.

annie: And you named a truck after her?

dave: Yeah.

annie: Do you have any idea how idiotic that seems to me?

She goes out. Dogs bark. Truck door slams shut. She returns, lugging a can of gas.

annie: This is gasoline. Right? She holds up a lighter. This is a lighter. Right? Lights it. You’re locked up. You can’t get out. And you deserve to die. Right?

dave: Look, Annie, I don’t deserve to die. There are all kinds of people worse than me out there.

annie: Hah!

dave: Really. Really, I don’t. I don’t go looking for trouble. I’ve got troubles of my own. You ask me to do a job for you; I agree to help you out. And this is how you thank me. But that’s okay. Probably we’re never going to see eye-to-eye on this, Annie. I mean maybe in your case we made a mistake. Christ, nobody’s perfect. Why don’t we just agree to disagree? Why don’t I just write you a nice little cheque to cover your expenses and we’ll let it go at that, no hard feelings.

annie: It took me two hours the first time to track down my car. Apparently it’s nobody’s job to tell people where their cars have gone. Then I had to make my way down to this wasteland, where there aren’t even any sidewalks, let alone any public transportation. I mean, what kind of sadistic bastard makes these arrangements? Pay you. Pay the cops. Get leered at by louts. Get grunted at by some greasy, fat, unpleasant excuse for a woman you pay to stand behind that counter and treat people like shit. That’s your real business, isn’t it Dave? You get rich humiliating people at their own expense. Well, we’ll just see about that.

She splashes a little gasoline on the floor around the cage. Dave is agitated.

dave: Now look, let’s not get too carried away here. You’re putting our lives at risk here. You don’t really want to do that.

annie: Oh, but I do.

Pause. Annie fiddles with the office phone, switching on the speaker phone. Brief, loud dial tone. She activates the yard intercom. Her voice booms outside in the yard.

annie: Moooooooooooose! Mooooose Markus is an asshole. Moose Markus is a total asshole. (She laughs and switches off the intercom.) This is fun. You want to call somebody? On the phone?

dave: Like who?

annie: Anybody you want. Maybe get a buddy to come down and help you out. Call the police if you feel like it.

dave: You serious?

annie: Sure I am.

dave: I can’t reach the phone.

Annie activates the speaker phone again. Loud dial tone.

annie: Gimme a number. I’ll dial it for you.

dave: 972-9476?

She dials. Several rings. Voice of Billy over the speaker phone.

billy: Hello.

dave (shouting across the room): Billy, it’s Dave. I’m in a bit of a jam, down at the yard. I was wondering if you could come down and help me straighten things out.

billy: What kind of a jam?

dave: It’s kind of hard to explain. There’s a woman here. She’s not too happy. She’s talking about torching the place.

billy: Give her a good smack in the head.

Annie fiddles with the surveillance monitor. Turns it on.

dave: It’s not that simple, Billy. She’s kinda got the jump on me.

Gate and yard outside appear on monitor. Annie switches to the inside camera. She looks at herself and Dave on the monitor. Waves her arms to check that she’s seeing herself live.

billy: You sound like you’re down a well.

dave: I’m in the cooler, Billy. She’s got me locked in the cooler. She’s got a can of gasoline.

annie: He’s not kidding, Billy. Come on down and have a look for yourself. Maybe bring a little barbecue sauce.

dave: She’s nuts, Billy.

billy: Has she got a gun?

dave: I don’t think so. Just a goddamn can of gas. She’s a psycho.

billy: How’d she get you into the cooler?

dave: Billy, for fuck’s sake! It’s a long story. Just come on down here with a couple of the guys and talk some sense into this woman. Before it’s too late.

billy: I don’t know, man, we got the game on.

annie: He’s pissing his pants, Billy. You better get down here. Bring a couple of the guys. And a camera.

billy: Hey, lady, be cool okay? Okay, we’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. Get this all sorted out.

Dial tone. Annie disconnects. Pause.

annie: You called me a psycho.

dave: You don’t want to be here when Billy gets here. You think I’m a rough customer. Wait ’til you meet Billy.

annie: What’s Billy gonna do? If he’s anything like you he’s probably a pussy too.

dave: He’s a killer.

annie: You think he might kill me.

dave: Maybe worse.

annie: How’s he gonna get in?

dave: Sledgehammer would be my guess. You better fuck off out of here before he arrives.

annie: How’s he going to get past the cops?

dave: What cops?

annie: If you weren’t so stupid you could have got yourself out of this with just a spanking .… Excuse me just a moment. Psycho Girl will… be… right… back.

She goes outside with the gas can. The guard dogs bark up a storm. After a minute, she returns, with the nearly empty can.

dave: What?

annie: Looks like Cindy’s really got the hots for you now. Finally. In fact, she’s burning up, hotter than she’s ever, ever been before, hotter than a firecracker.

dave: What do you mean?

annie: Cindy’s on fire for you!

dave: What do you mean? What’d you do?

annie: All I did was light the match. You supplied the motivation.

dave: For what?

annie: I set fire to your truck.

dave: I don’t think so. Even you’re not that nuts.

annie: Just look. Look. See for yourself.

Flicker of flames seen through window. She goes close to him.

annie: Look me right in the eye. Your… truck… is… on… fire. I… set… fire… to… your… truck.

He listens, cranes his neck to see out the window. The flames flicker brighter. Crackling can be heard.

dave: You crazy bitch, it’s true! My truck! Christ Almighty Jesus! My truck! (He shakes the fence violently.) Let me out. I got to put the fire out, I got to stop it. Let me out. Jesus!

Annie doesn’t move or speak. Dave starts to cry a little.

dave: Please, Annie, I got to get out there. I’m sorry for any bad things I may have done to you. Please. Please. I live in that truck. That truck is my life.

Sirens in the distance, approaching.

annie: Funny, isn’t it, when the shoe is on the other foot?