Having rid herself of Dobie, Lexi felt lighter. She hadn’t realized how big a drag on her mood he’d been. It wasn’t just that he was annoying–truth be told that was only part of the time anyway–it was that whatever unspoken thing he wanted from her but wouldn’t ask for sat between them like some kind of metaphysical deadweight, sucking energy out of her. Being away from him for a while would be a pleasant thing, and perhaps good for him, too. Maybe he’d take her more seriously the next time she told him something. She’d let him into her world for a while, and it was a good time to let him back out before he started getting delusions of ownership.
“There is no future in bees,” she said to the rushing wind, and party to Coquette. She was in the mood to sing “Repo Man” by Iggy Pop but her throat was getting raw from the dry desert air. Of course, that would’ve just made it sound more authentic, but still. If she didn’t get some humidity soon, there were going to be some spontaneous nosebleeds in her future. In lieu of singing, she thought about what she’d tell Cygnet about this trip. Cygnet would of course be disappointed that it didn’t involve any filthy wipe-the-floor sex, but willful disregard for the law was almost as good. Lexi’s thoughts strayed briefly to the aborted tryst with Rocky, then flirted away as she came into Florenz.
The town on the edge of the northern land bridge was a moderate-sized port with a healthy early American interstate influence, as witnessed by the flowery wood-lattice “Welcome to Florenz” sign that had been erected just outside of town. It was the first she’d seen in Ile du Soleil, she realized. There were no Lions or Moose Club badges, but it was still homey in a way.
As she passed the sign, she saw something behind; a glance in the rearview revealed a pair of motorcycles, and both of them pulled out after her. Cops? She hadn’t seen a motorcycle cop anywhere else in the country. Lexi’s heart rate rose only briefly, and then dropped as she saw that they were brightly painted and bechromed Harleys of the sort that Rocky had said were endemic on the northernmost island, thanks to the mountains and resorts. Ile du Soleil’s scrapper laws didn’t apply to motorcycles, so the Harley folks were as plentiful as ever.
The bikers came up behind her, and one pulled alongside. Harley riders the world ’round looked pretty much alike, and Lexi smiled at him. Her father had known a few bikers and she got along well with them, in spite of being fairly ill-disposed toward piloting anything that couldn’t stand up on its own. The biker grinned back. He was about Bert’s age, actually, behind a road-wearied beard. He nodded toward the next off-ramp. There was recognition in his eyes, and she figured he wanted to chat with her about the dash to Woodford. That was good; she needed gas anyway.
The two bikes followed her down the ramp. She saw a BP station with three more bikes parked out front and pulled in there.
“You’re Lexi,” the bearded biker said after they’d both shut down. The second rider did a U-turn and headed back out onto the highway. “I’m Royce.”
“Nice to meet you, Royce.”
“You too,” he nodded, suddenly all gruff and businesslike. “Look, the cops are laying for you guys at the far end of the bridge. Management company wouldn’t let them block the road, but you got a pretty big number of patrol cars lined up. I don’t know if they’re planning a crossfire, or just to run you off the road, but we were waiting to give you a heads-up.”
Lexi sighed heavily and unscrewed Coquette’s gas cap. “Ugh, that’s just what I need. I was looking forward to getting out of this country soon. D’you know if any of the others made it through yet?”
“The guy in the Porsche went through this morning.”
So Dick had already crossed the last bridge. Good. Lexi gave Royce her best sunshine smile. “Any good ideas on how to get through? There wouldn’t happen to be a ferry, would there?”
“It’s for tourists,” he said. “And the cops can stop ’em easily. But we might could help you, if you don’t mind waiting for a bit.”
“I may be rushing, but I’m never in a hurry,” Lexi said. “What’m I waiting for? Do I have time for a coney dog? Oh, wait, they don’t sell coney dogs in this country. That’s what I ought to do, I ought to open a Coney Island. And for that matter, who’s we? Answer any questions I might have asked in whatever order you want to.”
Royce chuckled. “‘We’ is NC HOG, the North Coast Harley Owner’s Group. A lot of the guys have been following this thing on the news, and didn’t want to stand by.”
“Even though they haven’t bothered the bikes?”
“Hey, I got a Ford Pop and an Anglia in my garage that I’m pretty attached to, too.”
“Oh, that’s just too cool. Got pictures?”
“I didn’t think to bring any. But any time you want to come visit, once this is over.”
“It’s a date.”
“I’m a faithful husband, but I’ll set you up with my son, how’s that?”
Lexi giggled and felt the angry-snake bite the back of her tongue. The notion of being ‘set up’ with someone fluffed her tail, but she knew he was joking and didn’t want to take it out on him. “What’s the helpful plan?”
“We’re going to get forty or fifty guys down here to ride shotgun with you, at whatever speed you want. If you’re in the middle, the cops won’t risk running over a bunch of civilians to get to you. They won’t be able to shoot or force you off the road.”
“I don’t know, Royce, they’ve been pretty aggressive so far.”
“Wives with video cameras,” he added. Three more bikes pulled into the parking lot, with two riders apiece, and that made Lexi smile. “Just thought we’d wait and see if any more of you guys came along, so we could school you through all at once.”
“I like it. Thanks so much for your help, Royce-of-the-NC HOG. I’m honored to wait here until it’s time for safe crossing.”