by Joe Darnall
read by Daniel Jose Older
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Larry had needed a break. It had been bad enough that fat fuck Henry Garrison bugged the shit out of him on a daily basis, but what with that Henderson woman OD’ing he just needed a quick and quiet way out of town. He told himself, it wasn’t his fault that stupid bitch couldn’t hold her stuff. He had built a pretty good rep by selling the goods, most of the time. He hadn’t known she had kids. Not that it would have made much difference. If it wasn’t him it would have been somebody else. Larry looked out over the parking lot from behind the dumpster where he was crouched. The light overhead had been out for weeks and he had done a little business there a few days ago. Nothing like a dark corner, he thought. It works for cockroaches, rats and runaway pushers. He snickered a little at his joke. He needed an easy mark. His piece of shit Nova was on the fritz again. He had heard that in Mexico, if you separated the “No” from the “Va” you can figure out why it didn’t sell. To hell with that car, he thought. It was time for an upgrade for the ride out of town. That is when he saw it.
It was a beautiful Dodge. He had trouble making out what model it was from his dark little spot. It seemed to be in the dark too. He walked out towards the car, careful to stay hidden as much as possible. He turned his head and looked for Hank Garrison’s patrol car or any of his moron sheriff’s department cronies. He was all alone. He tried to open the door. Locked. Oh well. To make an omelet they say. He went to the dumpster and grabbed a broken piece of curb, and walked over to the window of the car.
“Hate to do this girl, but you left me no choice.” He raised his hand over his head and looked down at the window. The pop-up door lock looked like it was up. No way. He had just tried it. He looked and saw a police car driving slowly up the street toward him. He ducked behind the car and peeked through the windows. The cop car drove slowly past.
“Fat fuck.” He whispered. His hand went to the handle of the car door and it gave. He pulled it and the door popped open. Larry looked at the chunk of concrete in his hand and back at the open door. The chunk fell on the blacktop and he slid into the front seat. Closing the door, Larry slid over the big gearshift on the floor and into the driver’s seat. His hand shot to the floorboard as he looked for the keys. No dice. He leaned over and tried the glove box. Locked. He sat back up and sighed. His head fell back and looked at the black roof. Under the flap of the visor, was a glint of silver. Larry smiled and pulled the flap down, and out fell a key. Larry held it up and looked at the keychain.
“1971 Demon 340.” Larry traced the smiling little devil with a pitchfork and smiled again to himself. “The trinity; boss, bitchin’ and cherry.” He turned the key over in his hand and winced with pain. Blood sat bright red on his hand, and glinted on the middle tine on the fork held by the smiling cartoon devil. He licked the drop of blood in his palm and tasted the saltiness of it. He smiled and stuck the key in the ignition and started it up. It rumbled like nothing he had ever heard before.
“This just might be my lucky day.” Larry gunned the engine and drove out of town on the small back road that led to the highway and the bridge out.
Larry grinned as he pressed the accelerator and the Demon pressed him into his seat. It hugged the turns and flew down the tar and chip back roads. He thought this is what his Nova would have done, back when it was new and didn’t leak oil in big black spots where ever he parked. Back when it had the trinity. He snickered. Part of him knew his faded green Nova had never driven like this. Not on its best day. Larry didn’t even slow down as he turned the corner and headed towards the county line north of town. The full moon cast the shadows of the trees onto the road. The tree line broke and he came to an open stretch of field on each side. The rusty barbed wire fence flew past him as he reached to turn on the radio. The music started at once. Larry sang along as the hay fields flew by around him.
“…truckin’…mm…chips cashed iiin…truckin’…like a do-ah mannn….” Larry felt the car seem to float over the little hills in the road. He looked down and saw the needle hovering around one-twenty and decided to back her down a little. He let off the pedal and waited for the car to slow. It didn’t. He turned his foot and tried to pry up the stuck pedal. It wouldn’t budge. There was a flash on the side of the road. A small herd of Whitetail deer were at varying distances from the car as it flew towards them. Larry slammed his foot on the brake. The pedal didn’t move and the car didn’t slow. A large doe jumped right in front of the car. Larry threw his hands up over his eyes, waiting for the crash. It never came. After a second, Larry put his hands back down on the steering wheel and looked behind him. He could see the deer jumping across the road. His eyes went forward again. The road was empty again. He slouched as far as he could and reached down into the floor. His hand grasped the gas pedal and he pulled as hard as he could. Nothing. He sat back up and looked at the speedometer. It still read one-twenty and steady. He scrambled. There was nothing behind the pedal. There was no cruise control. By now he was sweating and the radio was too loud. He reached to turn it down. The knob only spun. He turned it all the way. It didn’t click off. The next song was playing now. He heard John Fogerty screaming about his traveling band.
The road still flew by. Larry pressed the clutch to the floor. If he couldn’t stop the car, he would blow the engine and find another one. It might not have the trinity (boss, bitchin’ and cherry) but it would be better than this. The clutch went to the floor, but sound of the engine didn’t change. Larry pumped the clutch and brake. Nothing happened. He reached for his seatbelt. There was nothing there. He felt around for the lap belt and there was nothing. He turned his head and frantically looked for the belts. Still nothing. His head was spinning. One-twenty on a back road was fun and all, but he was coming up to the bridge and there were always cops there.
“Get a grip, Lar. Just get a grip.” He reached down and pushed on the gearshift. He would stop it all right. Nothing like a shredded tranny to stop a car doing one-twenty, he thought, the faintest smile on his lips. He pushed with all he could muster, with no luck. He had to think. The radio was blaring. It was a song he remembered.
“…ridin that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you’d better, watch your speed….”
He had to stop the car. Or at least slow down some. Cops always sat by the bridge to catch the speeders heading to get booze across the line. If he could just slow down enough, the shoulders should be soft enough to not get hurt too bad. It had to be now. The soft shoulders of this strip of tar and chip turned into concrete with “rumble strips” before too long. He hit the brakes again and again, but nothing happened. The radio had changed again. This time it was a voice he didn’t recognize.
“You’re listening to the best songs of late, great 1971….” Larry kept pressing with both feet on the brakes and feeling the pedal hit the floor. “This song goes out to Larry McElwain out on Utterback Road….” Larry stopped what he was doing and looked at the radio. “Better slow down, man. To help, we have a song to Larry, from the Beatles….” Larry looked at the radio, eyes large and buggy. He heard Paul sing “The Long and Winding Road”.
The bridge was coming up fast. He had blown past the stop sign that let traffic onto the well lit two lane highway that crossed the lake. Soft shoulder or not, he had to get out of this car. He grabbed the door handle and pressed the button. He shoved the door and it didn’t budge. He reached across his body and pulled up on the lock. He pressed the button again and threw his shoulder into it. It didn’t move. Larry could see the bridge up ahead. He swung his elbow into the window. There was a flash of pain and nothing more. There was no satisfying explosion of broken glass like in the movies. No fast moving air, no busting glass. He swung again. His jaw clenched and he winced in pain. As he came to the bridge, he saw the beige police car that he knew would be there. He flew by it, but as he did, he looked in and saw the deputy’s face. Their eyes met for a split second before Larry and the Demon were gone. Larry knew he had been seen. No getting away in this car. Not anymore.
Larry had a crazy thought as he got to the top of the bridge. He didn’t hesitate. He pulled with all his strength on the steering wheel. The wheel turned, and nothing happened. The wheel spun back and forth, but the car didn’t swerve. He couldn’t believe it. The gas didn’t work. The brakes, the steering wheel, the doors, the loud assed radio, nothing worked. In the rearview mirror, he could see the red and blue lights. They were far behind him, but moving closer. It couldn’t be right, Larry thought, not at a hundred and twenty. He looked down at the speedometer and the needle had slowed down to ninety. That deputy was gaining. No two ways about it.
After ten minutes, the deputy was right behind him. After thirty, there were so many lights; he couldn’t tell how many were behind him. After an hour, he saw the beam of light from the helicopter overhead. Larry laughed a little.
“All they want is for me to stop.” Larry wiped the tear from his cheek. “Hell, that’s all I want to do.” The radio voice came on again.
“Busy night traffic wise, folks. We are tracking a high speed pursuit just across the county line, and its old troublemaker Larry McElwain. Looks like this time, his luck has run out. In honor of the brave men and women of the Calloway County Sheriff’s department, here is Stevie Wonder with his 1971 hit, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” on the only station that gives you the best of 1971.”
Larry had to get out of the car. He tried to break the window again. His elbow was swollen and purple and his fists were bloody. He reached under the seat for a crowbar or something to bust the window. The car hit a bump, slamming Larry’s chin into the steering wheel. Flashbulbs popped across his eyes and his head fell backward. His mouth was bleeding. He blinked hard and tried to shake off the cobwebs. When he could see straight again, he noticed a light coming from the right. The bump must have jarred the glove box open. He looked up and saw a line of police cars across the road. A road block. He reached into the glove box and took hold of the hard, heavy grip his hand fell upon. He pulled it out swung it down toward the blood-smeared window. As he reared back, the brakes screeched, slamming his head into the steering wheel. The car came to a stop a few feet short of the blockade. Larry fell into the door and it gave way lightly. Larry fell out of the car onto his hands and knees. He tried to stand up. He thought he heard voices, but what he really heard was John Lennon singing a song Larry had loved back in late great 1971.
“Instant Karma’s gonna get you….”
Larry got to his feet and turned toward the flashing light. Garrison fired. Larry lay on the warm asphalt and felt himself get cold. He could hear his breath whistling in his lungs.
“why onnearth are you there… communget yershare…” Larry’s voice trickled until it was nothing more than a rattle.
Sheriff Garrison walked over to where the body of Larry McElwain lay and kicked the pistol from his hand. He bent and checked his pulse.
“Hey Sheriff, nothing came back on that car. It’s somethin’, ain’t it? It’s gotta little damage to the bumper where he must have hit something. No telling what.” He handed the keys to the sheriff.
The sheriff looked at the keychain with its smiling cartoon devil and the pitchfork “M”, and then back over at the black car with the twin hood scoops. A chill ran down his back and lifted the hairs on his neck.
“It’s something.” The sheriff said.
“Sheriff? You okay? Look like you seen a ghost.”
“You won’t find anything on this car.” The sheriff felt his face flush.
“Sir?” the Deputy stepped closer.
“I was a deputy when some guy was running Amphetamines out of Mexico back in the ‘70’s tried to outrun some state boys in Trigg County. When he finally stopped, they took turns popping him. Twelve shots before he went down. We responded as backup.” The sheriff stopped, taking a ragged breath.
“Can’t be the same car sir, that was thirty years ago.”
“It’s the same.” The sheriff dropped his eyes. “Dent in the driver’s side bumper. It’s about six to eight inches long, and there is a crack in the grille. A small one, just above the dent.”
“Yeah, I just wrote it up in the paperwork. What did McElwain hit?”
“McElwain? He didn’t hit anything. That fella thirty years ago hit a little girl and killed her. Didn’t even slow down.” The Sheriff wiped at his eyes, remembering seeing that little girl’s twisted body.
“So what do I do about the car, sir?”
Sheriff Henry Garrison stood and walked over to the open door. He could still see the little girl’s blonde hair stuck in the blood on the ground underneath her. He could see the white coroner’s sheet stained with her blood. Though it had been thirty years, and athletic Deputy Hank Garrison had become overweight Sheriff Henry Garrison, he smelled the unmistakable smell of “new car” coming from inside of the Demon. Taking a latex glove out of his pocket, he pushed the door closed. Overhead, the streetlight flickered and went out.