It didn’t work out that way.
I should have known that things weren’t going to work out for me.
Throwback Thursday from February 2016
I WAS WANDERING THROUGH WAL-MART the other day and I was surprised at the number of people in there who looked like Hell warmed over. I’m not talking about the choice of clothing, if you could call it that, but their faces and the look in their eyes.
There is a line from an old Steppenwolf song about a man walking around, “With tombstones in his eyes,” and that’s what I was seeing in the aisles at Wal-Mart.
Maybe it’s a product of the mid-winter blues, or post-holiday letdown, but there were a surprising number of people pushing carts around who looked like they were ten minutes away from either collapsing or going zombie. They looked unfocused and exhausted with a look in their eyes that said, “Why bother.” I found it unsettling.
What caused this, and is this something new or have I just been out of the loop? It all reminded me of a scene from the classic silent film, “Metropolis,” with the legions of human drones slouching off to their next hopeless day.
I know that the economy is struggling. It is tougher here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Try again tomorrow.”) than in a lot of places and that can suck the life out of you. Is that it?
Not everyone in the store looked like that. There were a lot of other people there, dressed the same, filling their carts with the same items, who had Life just beaming from them. Seeing them all, side by side, made the contrast even sharper.
The idea that I was seeing a large number of people who were all stoned on drugs did cross my mind, but this was different. The eyes of the drug user have a certain agitated undertone that I wasn’t seeing in these folks. Here in their eyes there was a veiled weariness. I could almost hear a sigh of surrender.
When faced with bad times, personal tragedy, or a flat and empty future on the horizon some people fold up like a road map. I’m not saying that as a criticism of them, just as an observation. Others, faced with the same set of circumstances, find a steel that keeps them upright and moving forward. I think I was seeing both of these being manifested that morning at Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is one of those places, like airports, sidewalk cafes, and sporting events, that is great for people watching. Just stay in one spot long enough and all of humanity will walk past. Unconsciously, I think that I was people watching as I walked through the store and I noticed the little differences in my fellow shoppers as they rolled past. Without urgent destinations or activities covering their facades the masks were down and how they were really feeling came to the surface. I got a peek behind the curtain.
What I’ve put down here is my interpretation of what I saw – or think I saw. Of course, however I might interpret what I saw is filtered through my own thoughts and feelings. Who knows what they thought when they looked into my eyes.
Here I am trying to describe what I saw there that day and it is not easy. At its root it’s a case of trying to describe what isn’t there rather than what is.
Paint me a picture of emptiness.
Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Don’t Panic! OK, Go Ahead – Panic!!”
THERE ARE SOME THINGS that Mankind should just not tinker with – Forces ofNature that, if disturbed, can have cataclysmic repercussions. It is foolish to think that you can control the weather or the motion of the planets. We have tried to go against Nature with things like The Designated Hitter in Baseball or continuing to bankroll Adam Sandler movies and the results have been appalling.
This morning it happened again. I got up, abluted, dressed, made tea for my wife, the lovely and sound asleep, Dawn, and then I headed off to St. Arbucks. When the young barista handed me my coffee she said something that chilled my soul.
“The Power Company has to work on the transformer on the pole outside, so we are going to be without power. We will be closed for about a half hour.”
“When, for God’s sake? When?” I asked her calmly.
“In about three minutes.”
Why not just try to reverse the rotation of the earth like Superman or rewrite the first season of “Sherlock”? Empty the fish bowl and tell the goldfish to chill out for a half hour. Mess with Texas.
There are some things you just don’t do! Don’t spring things like that on me.
With no other choice I skulked back to the car. I sat there as the lights winked out and a poorly written sign was taped to the door. I sat there and sucked on my straw. It helped me to not hyperventilate.
I had my first coffee. I would survive as long as I didn’t panic-sip and “Empty the Venti.” But what about those other poor souls who didn’t get there on time? I sat there in the car and watched a procession of vehicles pull into the Drive-Thru Lane only to see another sign saying, “Closed. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”
Well, maybe it just said, “Closed for thirty minutes. Sorry,” but after seeing the word “Closed” the rest of it must have looked like a death threat.
In just five minutes I saw about 40 cars and trucks pull in expectantly, and then leave looking dejected and desperate. It was more than I could take.
In an effort to save myself I took emergency measures – I went across the parking lot to Kroger’s and did some shopping. I needed some distraction. I took my coffee with me. I wasn’t going to leave it, visible and unguarded, in the car.
When I had made my pedometer click enough, I “self-checkout-ed” and slowly approached St. Arbucks from the rear. It had been thirty minutes at least. It felt like a week chained to a prison TV showing only Benny Hinn.
The lights were still out. “And darkness came over the whole land.” – Mark 15:33.
It was then I remembered that I had received a call from my pharmacy telling me that they had a prescription refill ready for me. Never was I so happy to get more meds to swallow. I have downed enough Potassium Chloride to perform a dozen lethal injections. And now I was going to pick up another month’s supply. Oh, Happy Day!
This time when I returned to St. Arbucks I could see from a distance that THERE WAS LIGHT, and parked cars, and a long line in the Drive-Thru Lane. Life as we know it had returned.
I wept a little.
I took my last sip from my original coffee and went inside to claim my refill. It was Ambrosia. It was Nectar of the Gods. It was Iced Coffee, a splash of cream, but unsweetened – the way Nature intended.
I wish that they had posted a warning about this shutdown a week or so ahead of time. I could have prepared myself – driven to the Auxiliary Chapel in the south end of town, or taken a sleeping pill to just miss the whole thing.
Plans are already being made to deal with a scheduled two-week shutdown in November when they close for remodeling. So far, the best option for that time is a two week sabbatical to Seattle.
Unfortunately, it is also a place where disasters can happen. A place where the gremlins join to bring darkness, silence, and confusion together. When that takes place you can send audiences away into the night feeling lost, numb, and regretting the cost of both dinner and tickets.
“Employee of the Month – Heather.”
Nothing really unusual about that except that Heather has been the Employee of the Month for two months in a row there. She must be something special. Perhaps she can make tacos faster than anyone else. I don’t know, and to be honest – I don’t really care. Anyway I offer my Congratulations to Heather. I just hope that her obviously superior skills don’t have a negative impact on the other employees. People can be so petty sometimes.
“Dominic, killing us won’t solve anything,” said Laura. “What’s done is done. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that Graciella was the law. I ran away from you because I wasn’t going to take you beating up on me anymore. If I’d wanted you dead all I had to do was ask my father and you’d have disappeared.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about hitting you, Beverly. You know something, Bette? Beverly here has a mean one-two punch. She knocked out a tooth of mine once. See, back here.” Dominic opened his mouth and pointed to a gap in his teeth with the barrel of his gun.
Chapter 36 Continued
Outside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.
The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.
“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”
The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.
“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”
“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”
Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.
“Bless you twice, Tomás.”
Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.
It was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.
“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.
“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.
She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.
“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”
She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.
“You are alone?” said Molina,
“For the moment, yes.”
“Very well, come with me, Señorita.”
Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.
“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”
Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.
“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”
He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.
“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.
Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?
Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”
“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.
Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”
“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?
“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”
Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished. “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”
“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.
Molina shook his head.
“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”
“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.
“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.
“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.
“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”
“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.
“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.
“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.
“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.
“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.
“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.
“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”
“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”
She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.
“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”
He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.
“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.
“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.
“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.
She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.
“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”
He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.
“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.
He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.
“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.
As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.
He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.
She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.
She looked down at him. He was grinning again.
“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.
“You could say that.”
He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”
She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.
“Ernesto,” she whispered
“Yes, cara mia?”
He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time to scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.
Then she vomited on him.
The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door. He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.
“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”
“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”
Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.
“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”
“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”
“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”
“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”
“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”
Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.
“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”
“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”
Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.
“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”
Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.
Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.
“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”
“You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.
“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”
Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.
“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”
Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.
As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.
Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.
“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.
“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”
They looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.
“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”
She hurried toward his voice.
“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”
Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.
Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.
Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.
Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.
“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”
“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.
Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.
“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”
There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.
“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.
They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”
Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.
“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?
“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”
“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”
Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.
In the darkroom at Ernesto Molina’s photography studio a new person was being born. Years of experience in creating false documents for many of the Earth’s most dangerous people had made Molina a very wealthy man. His home was an opulent, yet tastefully decorated, house by the ocean, near Rosarita Beach. This cheap-looking studio was a place to do his work undisturbed. He owned the building.
“Señor, I am confused,” he asked Davis. “What are we doing here? What are we looking for? Are you and the Señorita in trouble?”
“Yes, Tomás, but we’re not criminals. It’s just that some people are looking for us.”
“Say no more, Señor. I think I understand. After all, I too, have in-laws.”
Davis let it go at that. No sense in scaring him away. Laura had already paid him for the full day.
“Tomás, I’m going to move up a bit closer and take a look around. Don’t leave.”
“Señor, of course not. May I come with you?”
“Sure, why not? Come on.” Another pair of eyes couldn’t hurt, Davis reasoned.
After Tomás locked up his taxi, the two of them walked up the ramp that crossed over the northbound highway leading to the Customs station. Every few feet a young peddler approached them, offering a variety of last minute shopping opportunities. Tomás shooed them away with a blast of rapid-fire Spanish obscenities. Many of these merchants were ten years old or younger, and were often the biggest earners in their family.
From their vantage point Davis and Tomás could look into the plaza on the U.S. side of the border.
Chapter 31 – Continued
“And buon giorno to you.”
Laura picked up the tray and turned around to look for Davis. He had found them a table by the wall. The restaurant was already half filled and would soon be packed, just as Vivian had predicted.
“Here we go,” she said. “Oh, could we switch seats? I want to be able to look out of the window.”
“Sure, no problem,” said Davis. They traded places. Davis could see the side door that opened onto the small parking lot and Laura could scan the entire plaza.
As she poured a pink envelope of sweetener into her coffee, Laura’s eyes picked out the good guys and the wise guys.
“Vivian was right. This plaza is overloaded with cops and I see three guys that might be Dominic’s boys and two more over on that bench back by the train. He must have called in reinforcements. I don’t recognize them. Damn!”
Horton Plaza looked like the love child of Rube Goldberg and M.C. Escher. Seven levels high with a hundred and forty shops, restaurants and touristy boutiques, all connected by stairs, escalators, ramps, and glass elevators. The entire structure was painted in a full palette of pastels, with multicolored banners, flags, and flowers fluttering in the soft ocean breezes.
High up on Level Seven, in a choice corner location, was The Captain’s Table restaurant. It had everything that a family on vacation from Nebraska could ever want—a six page menu offering seafood delicacies named for every exotic locale on the globe, several tons of nautical-looking adornments made in China, and decals on the front door promising the acceptance of all major credit cards.
Both Laura and Davis slept late the next morning. Laura had planned on a day or two of rest before crossing into Mexico. She knew that they might need all of their strength and all of their wits. She hadn’t come this far just to get caught or killed due to some bonehead mistake brought on by exhaustion.
She also wanted to lay low for a while to—hopefully—confuse their pursuers. If there was no scent to follow for a couple of days they might think that Laura and Davis had already crossed into Mexico and that was that. Or they might think that the couple had pulled a fast one on them and was heading off in another direction altogether. Laura knew that at least for now, time was their ally.
Inside the crowded cabin, the roar of the jet engines was only a constant vibration to him. No sound was getting through. He always flew stone deaf. It would take two days for his full hearing to return.
“I know, Dominic,” said Peeto. “Happens every time you fly.”
“Happens every time I fly.” Dominic pinched his nose and blew, trying to open his blocked ears.
“I tell you, Peeto, I hate to fly. I really hate it.” The blowing did no good.
“Yeah, it always messes up your hearing,” nodded Peeto.
“It always messes up my hearing, y’know?” He stuffed five sticks of gum into his mouth.
It was a little more than an hour into the flight from Newark to LAX and the flight attendants had already started dealing out the prepackaged, precooked, and pre-ruined meals to the passengers. It was a ritual known to the attendants as “slopping the hogs.” Somehow, that part never got into their ads.
Fiction Saturday – Continued
“See, I told you I’d come in handy.” Davis looked out of the passenger side window at the passing California landscape. “I wish you’d let me drive for a while, though.”
“Later tonight maybe. I’m a better driver than you are and it helps me to relax.” Relax was something that Laura had not been able to do for a second, ever since she saw her own face staring out from page four of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Besides, I think better while driving. Maybe I can figure a way out of this mess for us.”
“Well, I’m a very good driver—no accidents ever, and you could use a break.” Davis knew there was no changing her mind once it was made up, even though Laura looked like she hadn’t slept in days and her jaw was clenched tight.
Appreciating his effort to care for her, Laura smiled and gazed at him as he huddled up against the car door. He looked lost, she thought.
“Well, dearest,” she said, “at sixteen I was picking up extra pocket money as a wheel man. Just for kicks really. My father never knew. It was stupid and dangerous, but I was good at it.”
“Don’t tell me any more right now.” He was a stranger in a strange land if ever there was one. “I haven’t digested everything you’ve laid on me so far.”
“Okay, I understand.”
“I do have one question though,” he said. “Why did we stop at a travel agent before we left? A ticket for one from Miami to Detroit?”
“A little deception. Detroit is a border town, a ten-minute walk out of the country across the river. I bought it in my own name, of course. It won’t fool anybody for long, especially Dominic. But the Feds will have to check it out. It’ll tie up a couple of their guys for a few hours and give us a little extra edge. It’ll help our odds, maybe.” She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe not. I don’t know.”
“What are our odds?” He was immediately sorry that he had asked.
“We’re two snowballs and we’re driving south.”