Dash Cam Theater
by Tim Bergstresser
Chad and I have been coming to the Farmers Market in the French Quarter for years. He sells grass-fed beef, and I sell pasture-raised chickens. Over the years, we’ve shared some private thoughts, but never any dark secrets. But I had to tell someone. Sleep was eluding me, and my wife was having a fit over our finances. Can I trust him?
As we were setting up the tents, I turned to Chad. “I need some advice.”
“Sure.” Chad dropped a cooler next to his truck. “What’s up?”
“Something has happened,” I whisper.
He bends near and lowers his voice. “Jeez, Mark. What is it?”
I smell cannabis as he leans in.
“Remember last week when we had a few beers before we drove home?”
“Yeh, sure my favorite, Heineken.”
I pull a small silver dash cam from my pocket. Holding it between us, while watching for prying eyes, I pressed play.
The replay shows my truck headlights cutting a beam into the night when a man appeared, and my truck steamrolled right over the top of him.
“Shit, man,” Chad gasps. “Did you nail that dude?”
I’m sick to my stomach, wondering if I have made a mistake showing Chad. I whisper, “Yes, but I’ve made sure no one will find him. And you better keep your effing mouth shut. The last thing I need is for my parole officer to find out.”
A wicked grin comes across his face.
“You need money. Am I correct? I’m right, ain’t I, man?”
“Hell yes, and if my wife finds out how bad off we are, she’ll divorce me or kill me. Maybe both.”
He hunches his shoulders and motions me to get into the truck cab. Leaning close with doobie breath, he says, “I know somebody who’ll pay for this.” He gestures towards the dash cam.
Pulling out his phone, he sends a short text. “Some people get off on things like this.”
What kind of man is Chad?
The phone dings.
That wicked grin comes across his face. “They say five thousand for the original copy. All we do is send to them.”
Fat chance, he’s joking,
His grin vanishes. “But know that these are serious men. They don’t play around.”
The thought of covering my debts and making my wife happy clouded my mind.
“Let’s do it.”
He takes the cam and punches a few buttons. “There we go. Done.”
A wave of anxiety washes over me as I consider if he’s playing me when my phone dings. I checked the email. It’s a PayPal receipt for enough money to pay off my credit card.
Late that afternoon, after I had finished with a long line of customers, Chad stepped into my tent. “I have a package for you.”
“A package? Who from?”
He tosses me the box, and I turn it over in my hands.
“I’m not sure. Someone left it on the seat of my truck.”
I open the box and find a dash cam with streaming capabilities and a brown envelope. I rip open the top, and ten stacks of hundred-dollar bills fall out.
“Holy shit!” he says. “What the hell is that?” He reaches down and picks them up. “There’s a butt load of money here. Maybe it’s a start-up bonus.”
I reach inside the envelope and pull out a typewritten letter.
Tonight, between eight and nine, we would like a live repeat performance of last week’s video. Do not disappoint. We will be following you.
Blood rushes to my head, and little black spots dance before my eyes. I’m hoping I have a heart attack and die. I’m beginning to regret getting myself into this.
Chad has that stupid grin again. “Looks like your money problems are over.”
“You dumbshit, what have you got me into? I’m supposed to run somebody down in cold blood?” I want to grab him by the throat, but the crowd is growing. This conversation must wait.
“Are they paying you a finder’s fee?” The shit-eating grin on his face says it all.
As I head home, I search the streets for a poor soul to sacrifice, confident that the owner of the streaming cam is watching with whoever he sold tickets to.
I turn into the Lower Ninth Ward when a homeless man carrying a worn cardboard sign stumbles off the curb. As he steps into my beams, I punch the gas. Whether from luck or a guardian angel, he falls backward, and I miss him.
The dash cam comes to life. “We are expecting you to complete this agreement. Time is short.”
The voice startles me, but I keep my cool.
The dash cam continues, “You either complete our arrangement or substitute your own life.”
In the rearview, the old man is on his hands and knees, trying to get up. Then further down the road, I spot a pickup truck under a streetlight. I pick up my cell phone and dial the number.
“Chad, I need some help. My dash cam is not broadcasting. Do you know anything about these things? That’s you behind me, isn’t it?”
After a long pause, “Sure. I’ll give you a hand.”
“Great, let me turn the truck around.”
I circle and drive past the old man as Chad gets out of his truck steps to the front, waving his hand in my direction.
As I approach, I punch the gas pedal to the floor and crush Chad between the two trucks.
All I see now is Chad, clearly dead, trapped between the two vehicles. I couldn’t help but notice his wicked grin had disappeared.
I hear my cell phone ding—another receipt for five thousand darts across my screen.
Then the dash cam came to life. “Excellent. You have done such a marvelous job entertaining my guests. We want a double feature.” My cell phone dinged with another PayPal receipt.
That’s when I hear sirens the next block over.
About the author
Tim Bergstresser lives in Baton Rouge, LA. He is a candidate for an MFA at Seaton Hill University.
Recent publications include flash fiction stories in the anthology “Like Sunshine After Rain” due in July 2021 and at “I Dare You Publications.”