The only reason that the gas sucking old Dodge had been able to go as far as it had was its gigantic fuel tank. Lexi had plenty of time to ponder this as the meter climbed past 80 liters and kept going. Then she realized that she was a complete idiot–it only had to go another fifteen miles or so, and then it was boarding a ship for America; what was the point of paying Ile du Soleil’s inflated sales tax on the gas? Lexi let go of the pump handle and stretched her shoulders.
Rocky had gone into the store for a cup of coffee and a pastry, and as he came out he was the first to see the cop behind Dick, who was squatting by the right front tire, checking the pressure. The officer crept up to within touching distance, and as he raised his arms Rocky realized what was about to happen. “Dick!” he shouted, but he was too late; the cop shoved Dick roughly into the side of the car, yelling, “Don’t move!” at the same time.
The shout and thud tore Lexi’s attention away from the pump–and she was nose to nose with Officer Handgun. With a cry of startlement, she jerked the fuel nozzle out of the tank, thrust it at him and pulled the trigger, dousing Tierson with gasoline. He staggered back, choking and trying to cover his eyes, and the other officer left Dick and ran to his aid. Lexi scrambled into the Dodge’s driver’s seat.
Rocky dropped his breakfast and ran to Dick as Lexi fired the big D-500 to life. Scanning the area, he saw to more cops running toward the scene, and could hear shouts behind him as well. There were no police cars in sight.
Dick’s head was bleeding furiously from a split eyebrow. Rocky dragged him to his feet, shoved him over the sill into the Dodge’s back seat, and tumbled after. “Go!” he shouted, sure Lexi would do exactly that without prompting. The convertible hit the street with its engine roaring, the tethered Ferrari wagging wildly back and forth behind it.
“Oh, dear,” Lexi said. “Now we’re in trouble. Is Dick okay?”
He was looking through a lava flow of blood on one side. “I’m okay,” he said, his voice thick and stunned. “My name is Dick Sheehan, it’s April 1997 and you’re holding up four fingers.”
“Two out of three,” Rocky said. He had found a relatively clean shop rag in the back of the car and pressed it against the wound. “I’m not holding up any fingers.”
“What the hell just happened?”
“A cop hit you.”
“Aren’t they supposed to say something like ‘Police’ before they do that?”
“In theory,” Rocky said. “In practice, it varies.”
“So here’s the funny thing,” Lexi said as they entered the freeway. “No one’s chasing us.”
Rocky and Dick both looked, reflexively. “So they aren’t. But the car is hardly incognito.”
“All we have to do is make it to the boat, and the car disappears.” She slowed down, hoping to attract less attention than a seventeen-foot long finned convertible towing a classic sports car already would. “Lucky we’re going in the opposite direction of rush hour.”
They made it without further police intervention. Lexi dropped Rocky and Dick off with Harold, Molly and Victor, who were waiting by the Thick Penis truck, and drove straight up the ramp onto the boat, suddenly glad she didn’t have to explain what had happened to the concerned Road Associates. She felt sick and angry; Dick wasn’t badly hurt, but of course these things were most fun when no one got hurt at all. Especially not by the frickin’ cops.
The boat crew was friendly and anonymous, and as they separated the two cars and began chaining them down for their voyage, Lexi helped as much as they would let her (which wasn’t much). It was an easy way to stall before going back out. Would they be angry with her, for getting Dick hurt? Maybe she wouldn’t be a Road Associate for very long. She didn’t know if they kicked members out or not, in the case of reckless endangerment.
The worry was for nothing; everyone was solidly on her side when they returned. “The boat is ready to leave at any time,” Harold said. “If we can avoid police contact long enough to get the rest of the cars on the truck, they can go as soon as they’re loaded.”
“What if we can’t?” Molly asked.
“I’ll talk to the captain,” Victor said immediately. “I’ll ask him to wait as long as he can, but if we do run into trouble, I’ll call him and send him on. Our losses will at least be cut, in that case.”
“Other than the going to jail part,” Rocky said.
“Dobie will take care of that,” Victor replied with confidence.
“I love having connections. Shall we head back?”
“I’m going to fall down if I don’t eat,” Lexi said.
Molly smiled with relief. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
“I’ll head straight back,” Harold said. “I’m fine for now. “Dick?”
“Coming, Mother.” He took the rag away from his face briefly. “Still leaking?”
“No, it’s slowed down. But I wouldn’t lay down for a nap.”
“Ehh, Melanie hit me harder when I brought that rusty 914 home last year,” he said, and followed Harold to the big truck.
“Keys?” Lexi asked no one in particular, and Victor handed her the Discovery’s keys. She and Molly climbed into the front, Rocky and Victor in the back, and they turned left out of the parking lot, away from the freeway. “There’s got to be something to eat in Roman, I hope.”
“Fast food,” Rocky said, pointing farther down the road.
“Drive-through?” Lexi asked.
“Not a problem.”
It wasn’t easy maneuvering the empty tow dolly through McDonald’s drivethrough; the ill-tempered trailer rolled up on the curb as she made the turn, then clattered loudly as it straightened out and dropped down again. Lexi grimaced in annoyance; she hadn’t been paying as much attention as she should’ve. She needed a good hard sleep, she realized. Taking quick stock of her mental and physical energy levels, she knew she’d be able to make it back to the cave, but then it would be nappytime.
The four of them ordered breakfast, and Lexi stretched her neck while they waited for it. McDonalds’ in Ile du Soleil seemed slower than the ones at home, for some reason. Maybe it was her imagination.
“Neck hurt?” Molly asked.
“Neck always hurt,” she replied in a tone reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster. “What happened to your hand?”
She recounted the incident with the winch.
“That was my fault,” Rocky said from the back.
“Damage her again and I’ll have you killed,” Lexi said. She kept a perfect deadpan for about ten seconds, then laughed.
Food was paid for and passed around, and Lexi headed back out to L7, the freeway leading toward Marjori, Hamilton and the cave. She nimbly balanced a hashbrown, a cup of orange juice and rush hour traffic, and seemed proud of herself to be managing it.
“Hey, Victor,” she said once they’d cleared the city limits and the worst of Marjori’s rush hour. “Were you really going to call the ship and tell them to leave, if we ran into more trouble?”
“I think you’d better do that.”
“What’s wrong?” Molly asked. The words were barely out of her mouth when the police car hit them.