When Liz shoved him out the doors, Andrew ran for his truck, thinking of the tire iron, or some other thing that might be rattling around in the bed that could be used as a weapon. There wasn’t anything that would be of use against Valentine’s gun, though, and what if he shot Liz in the meantime? He stopped, hesitated, then saw them coming out the front doors, moving fast, Liz being hustled in front of Valentine toward his van. He had the rifle low but not trained on her. This was crazy. Was he kidnapping her?
An old, faded red Ford pickup truck skidded sideways in front of Andrew. The woman inside called out, “All aboard! Poughkeepsie, Niagara Falls!” Valentine was looking their way and bringing the gun around; he’d never make it to his truck without getting shot. Andrew took the driver’s hint and leapt into the truck’s bed, safe from becoming a target. Valentine blew the truck’s back window out as they squealed away across the parking lot.
As they bounced into the street, Andrew clambered through the shattered back window, shouting, “Follow them! Follow them, please! They’re friends of mine!”
She threw the pickup truck into a U-turn with a grin. “No sleep till Brooklyn!” she shouted, and the truck’s engine roared. “My name’s Lexi,” she said. Ahead of them, Valentine’s van bumped out of the Kroger parking lot, headed in the opposite direction, fast.
The name flashed, and he saw that she had a white stripe in her hair. She was covered in dust and grime, and it looked like she had blood crusted on her face and in her hair. The truck’s cab was redolent of aged upholstery and diesel fuel. It was Nikki’s friend, appearing as mysteriously as Nikki had. He had a bunch of questions but things had gotten way too strange to ask them, so he pretended he knew exactly what was going on instead. “Andrew Ford,” he replied. “Do this often?”
“Oh, I do it for a living,” she replied, eyes on the road. Valentine was slicing suicidally through traffic, but Lexi was catching up to him. She accelerated around a slower car; they were going almost twice the speed limit. “By the way your nose is bleeding.”
“So’s your head.”
She actually giggled. “Don’t be silly, it stopped bleeding hours ago. We’re about to be in trouble.” As Lexi said this, she swerved across two lanes and into the snowy left-turn lane, kicking up a cloud of powder behind them. A heartbeat later a police car shot out of a side street, sirens off and lights blazing, into the space she’d just vacated. The cop spun in a quick 180 and set out after them. “Ohh, look,” she said, feigning a nervous quaver. “You’re makin’ us popular, and when they flash us like that, they ain’t friends.”
“I know we just met,” Andrew said, pulling his seatbelt on, “but I think you’ve seen The Crow too many times.”
Lexi smiled again, intent on keeping up with the van. Soon a second Ypsilanti police car had joined the chase. One drew alongside, the driver motioning at them to pull over.
Andrew rolled the window down, filling the cab with brittle, cold wind. “It’s not us!” he shouted. “It’s them! The van!”
A third cop car cut in front of the truck and began slowing down.
“I don’t think they’re going to be helpful,” Lexi said.
“I’ll give you five hundred bucks to ram them and keep going. A thousand.” He wasn’t joking, either.
“I wish I could, Andrew Ford. But the voices in my head are saying that tonight’s not a good night for that.” She lifted off the gas. “We’re going to have to stop, get out, and lie on the ground, and then they’ll listen to us and feel really stupid because they might have gotten our friends killed. I would add some comment here about how I wish they would rot in hell, but that’s not fair. I’d hate to clutter up hell.” By the time Lexi finished speaking, they had come to a complete stop. The old Ford was bracketed and blocked in by police cars; the lights were dazzling. Lexi put her hands on the wheel, in plain view, and didn’t move. Andrew did likewise, placing his hands on the dash. He’d already figured out that the police probably assumed they were armed, and there was no point in giving them more reason to be nervous.
His confusion seemed to catch up as the truck lost speed and it was clear the chase wasn’t going to continue. “‘Our’ friends?” he asked.
“Mm-hmm. B’sides, Nikki’s much meaner than she looks, and they took both of them. I think they’ll be okay for a while. Hence my John Wayne-like serenity.”
“You got any of that to go around?”
“Take as much as you like,” she replied.
A loudspeaker shouted at them to get out of the truck.
“I know you’re Nikki’s friend. She told me about you,” Andrew said.
Lexi cocked an eyebrow. “Did she, now? Well, everything is true, except the part about the goat; that was a complete misunderstanding. Let’s go talk to the nice police people now.”