Getting the Hudson roadworthy again took less than an hour, thanks in part to Lexi and Rocky’s reckless disregard for proper repairs. Duct tape and wire coathangers were employed judiciously; whatever was necessary to keep the car’s bodywork from rubbing the fenders and to keep the passenger door, whose latch had broken, from flying open on the road. The onlookers helped gleefully; one of them ran and bought a disposable camera to take a picture (Dobie and Victor politely declined to be in it), and then they were ready to get back on the road.
“I’m going to have a smoke and a coffee,” Rocky said. “You guys should speed on ahead.”
“If you have another problem, it’ll be better if we’re nearby, ” Lexi said. Dobie nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, but if we split up, the nice police officer over there,” he indicated the single cop car that had remained parked across the street, “won’t be able to hassle us both.”
“Good point,” Victor said.
Dobie looked at his bodyguard and nodded. Seeing that she was outnumbered, Lexi agreed to leave Rocky and Victor behind, and they were back on the road shortly. She let the wind and the car talk for her for an hour, breezing through Amina without much to say. The afternoon’s excitement and socialization had worn her out, and driving recharged her nicely.
“You could have been nicer back there,” she said when she was finally ready to talk again. “Those people look up to you.”
“I thought you were being nice enough for both of us. And what do you mean, they look up to me?”
“They want to know more about you. It wouldn’t hurt to show them that you’re a person, too.”
“They’re hoping for a handout,” he said. “When I talk to strangers who know who I am, it’s only a matter of time before they mention their poor sick uncle, or their kid who might not get into college, or this, or that. Like parasites. It seems to be some kind of instinct.”
“You ought to learn to relate to people in ways that don’t involve them needing something from you.”
“Yes, well, I’m comfortable this way, thank you very much, in spite of your obvious disapproval.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “You really are capable of inspiring people, Dobie. Some of the people who work for you really, really care about you, even though you’re nicer to your dogs than you are to them.”
“It’s in their best interest to pretend to care. Loyalty is rewarded in their profession,” Dobie said simply.
“But doesn’t it make you feel the least bit good to know that some of them might do what they do for free?”
“I’m afraid to tell you. You might take away someone’s salary.”
“I really strike you as such a Scrooge?”
“You strike me as someone who doesn’t know when he’s being a Rich Bastard,” Lexi said. “You barely look at the people around you, unless their net worth is comparable to yours.”
“I don’t think that’s true at all.”
“Oh, really? What color are Kira’s eyes?”
“Blue,” he replied.
“Are you guessing, or had you really noticed?”
“You might be surprised to know that I had really noticed. They’re a very average blue.”
“Point for you,” she said. “But still, you get the gist of what I’m saying, right? Think about what happened in the cave, when Joseph got in the truck and rammed the police so we could get out. He did that to help you as much as to help the rest of us.”
Dobie laughed. “He did that because I told him to, Lexi.”
She looked at him, horrified. “What?”
“I told Joseph to do what he did. He knows that I will take care of his legal defense, and–“
Lexi slammed on the newly-revitalized brakes, locking all four tires. Coquette howled to a halt in the middle of the freeway. “Get out,” she said.
“We’re fifteen miles out of town, in the desert, woman. You can’t be serious.”
“I am. I have reached my Dobie Cassarell Limit, and I want you out of my car.” She faced straight out the windshield, not even turning her eyes in his direction.
He opened his door, but didn’t leave the seat. If she could be stubborn, so could he. “I refuse.”
Lexi abruptly slammed the car into reverse, backed up twenty feet, spun the wheel to the left, and stomped the brakes again. The Alfa executed a neat ninety-degree skid and the motion dumped Dobie out onto the freeway. He flailed at the door as he went out, missed it, and tore the knees and elbows out of his clothes as he tumbled to the pavement. By the time he rolled to his hands and knees, the Alfa was accelerating away, one rear wheel painting a noisy black stripe on the road.