By Evangeline Jennings
The fourth and currently final story in the forthcoming Pankhearst collection Cars And Girls will be Crown Victoria. Here’s the opening chapter.
I BLAST PAST THE SPEED trap at one-oh-five and change. The lurking cruiser rocks in Mabel’s wake. The blonde riding shotgun giggles.
“Faster, baby, faster. Do it now.”
The needle hits a hundred and twenty. “Ready?”
“Baby, I was born that way.”
No, she wasn’t. She’s having too much fun playing dumb. And talking of stupid, I flick the switch and plunge the road ahead into darkness. Tempting Lady Fate and staring the bitch out, I start my silent count. “One … Two … Three”
My hands are iron on the wheel. Winona screams with glee, threatening to break the windshield and my eardrums. I can’t afford to blink, but I risk a stolen glance in the rear view mirror. Darkness. Nothing else. No flashing lights. That deputy doesn’t like to race or else he had a better offer.
“… Eight … Nine … Ten.”
The full beams come on again. Winona sighs and arches, and stretches across the divide to plant a loud kiss on my cheek. She’s such a ham.
“Thank you, darlin’. You’re the best.”
I guess we won’t be dying today.
A sign for Macon. I ease off the gas. It’s four in the morning and time I got some sleep.
“We’re stopping?” She checks the gauge and pouts – we still have half a tank. “That’s just plain dumb, you know. Why don’t you let me drive while you rest?”
It’s a good idea, of course, but I don’t trust my passenger that much.
“Come on, baby, let me help you. Please. You’ve must have done a thousand miles today.”
A little more I think. Tallahassee to Miami and now Macon.
I can’t give up the wheel. “No. I’m sorry. No way I can sleep if someone else is driving.”
“Even you.” I pat her knee and take the next off ramp. It’s time to tell Winona the plan. We find a motel and sit in the parking lot – engine running – while I explain. When I’m sure she understands, I give her two grand spending money and she sticks her tongue into my mouth. She tastes stale, but I appreciate the gesture.
“Yes, we’re clear. You can rely on me.”
“I know I can.” I hope. “You take good care, Nona, and don’t go doing anything silly”
“Don’t you worry, babe. Just you look after yourself.”
“I will.” I always do.
She gives me a hip-popping show as she walks towards the office. I watch her safely through the door and wait until she waves me away.
I used to live out on the edge – the edge of Houston. Lately I’ve been living in my car. I’m not broke – far from it – but these days it’s the safest place I know. Mabel was one of the last Crown Vics to roll off the line at Ford. A former federal law enforcement special, she was built to run all day every day. She has a top speed of one hundred and forty, and a comfortably broad backseat. The perfect home away from home when you’re on the run.
I reverse into a loading bay in the lee of Barnes & Noble at the River Crossing Mall. I’m not expecting trouble but good habits don’t stay habits by themselves.
Before I sleep, I take a walk and try to clear my head. Maria and Isabella will have new wheels by now and some serious catching up to do. I’ve never liked Maria, but Izzy was always very nice to me. That might be why I didn’t kill them earlier today when I ran their Mach 1 Mustang into a ditch a hundred miles out of Miami.
I should have stopped to shoot them, I know. My mercy won’t buy me any favors. The girls will keep coming anyway. There’s too much on the table and they can’t afford to quit. Last time I checked, the bounty was half a million dollars. And since PJ’s ‘Vette went up in flames at a rest stop in East Texas, the lethal Latinas have been favorites to collect. If they find me again, someone is going to die. It’s my job to make sure it’s not me.
In the morning, she’ll take a bus to Atlanta while I hide out down here. Between us, we should soon discover how those girls have been tracking Mabel and then we can turn that against them.
When I finish walking, my calf begins to stiffen. A precursor to cramp. I swing my foot up onto Mabel’s hood and stretch my leg. I welcome the burn in my thigh when it comes and bend forward to grasp my toes before pulling my foot back towards me. Car yoga could become a new exciting trend. When the ache is gone and my legs feel loose again, I dance and spin and kick and punch through several of the fighting forms my sensei in Houston taught me.
It’s the most exercise I’ve had since I left. I’ve covered six thousand miles in five days and walked no more than four hundred yards until tonight. If I don’t make significant changes, my legs will likely drop off.
The old man always said he liked my legs.