Short of eating a taco, it was probably the most ridiculous thing she could possibly do in the middle of a car chase, but Lexi really wanted to turn on the radio. She resisted the urge. “Stop prolonging the problem,” Lexi said to herself through gritted teeth. “Stop prolonging it and solve it.” She looked in the mirror at the police Saab that was still alongside them. It was battered from a bit of push-and-shove, but she hadn’t been able to force it off the road without risking getting Molly or Rocky or herself shot. Victor could take care of himself; he’d already blasted a number of holes in the car, mostly attempting to shoot out the tires, but the Saab was having none of it. There were bullet holes in the front fenders, hood, roof, and windshield–unfortunately, none of them was sufficient to deter Colby and Blaine.
Inspiration came without warning. “Victor,” Lexi called. “I need your help again.”
“Kind of busy right now,” he said. Over the rushing wind from the shattered rear window she could hear the firecracker pops of gunfire from the other car. She twitched the wheel in their direction, so they’d swerve away and drop back.
“It won’t take but a moment,” she said. “You see the hole you made in their hood? I was just thinking that if you were to make a bunch more, say, five inches or so to the right of it, you’d probably blow that Saab’s fuel distributor apart. And then it would stop running. It was just a thought.”
She thought she heard Victor laugh. A prolonged series of shots followed: babababababababam. Lexi watched in the mirror as a section of the Saab’s hood turned to Swiss cheese, and when Colby and Blaine dropped back this time it was clearly not voluntary. Lexi kept her foot in it, and left them far behind.
She could see another police car following them farther back, but its lights were off and it made no attempt to catch up. It was most likely a real cop.
“We’re definitely not going back to Roman,” Victor said, turning around in the seat.
“I know. Hey, Molly, you can get up now.”
“That’s okay,” her friend said, her voice muffled by her knees. “I’ll stay down here on the floor. I like the floor.” Lexi reached over and rubbed her back reassuringly.
Victor took out his phone to call the man at the docks, and while he did that, Lexi had another brainstorm. With one hand on the wheel, she dug out the cell phone Dobie had given her and dialed Nikki’s number. She tried to do the math in her head to figure out what time it was there, and failed.
The phone rang for an eternity, and then the wrong voice answered. “Oh, hello. Is this Dori?” Lexi asked. “I need to talk to Nikki.”
“She’s gone,” Dori said. “She went on a business trip and forgot her phone.”
Shit shit shit. “Oh, that’s just fucking perfect,” she grumbled. The wind whipped through the broken windows, making it hard to hear. “I don’t suppose you have a number where she’s at?”
“Um, no. Wait, unless Eddie’s number is in her phone. They’re together, so I can call them for you. What’s going on?”
“I need another ship. The first one worked out but I need another one. Things are going sideways, as usual, and we have to send the first one away half-full.”
“I can’t hear you really well. You said you need another boat?”
“That’s right. Nikki’ll know what I’m talking about.”
“Um, okay. Want me to call them and then call you back?”
“I’ll have to buzz you back,” Lexi said. “I’m on a celly and the battery’s not a very happy one, and I can’t recharge it. I’ll call back in half an hour or so.”
“Thanks, Dori,” Lexi said. Okay, so that was handled. Maybe.
Rocky listened to her conversation, then asked without a hint of condescension or skepticism, “If we get another ship, how are we going to get the cars there? I doubt we got away clean.”
“And we’ve lost a tow dolly,” she added. “I don’t know, I haven’t decided that part yet.”
“Time’s running short.”
“It’s okay, we’re almost home.” With Colby and Blaine in hot pursuit, they’d covered the distance from Marjori to Hamilton in less than an hour. Lexi could see the turnoff up to the cave less than half a mile ahead. The Thick Penis truck was parked just off the freeway, with a phalanx of police cars behind it. The helicopter they’d seen earlier was hovering about, and it had acquired at least two friends. Lights sparkled in the sunlight.
Rocky and Victor saw it at about the same time. The off-ramp was blocked by a cop in an orange vest. “Son of a bitch,” Rocky said.
“Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance,” Lexi muttered, and cut across the freeway, through the ditch. The Discovery bounced wildly across the desert, beelining for the hills.
Taken by surprise, the waiting police cars were slow to respond; she was halfway to the mountain before there was any discernable pursuit.
“Can you outrun them to the cave?” Victor asked. His voice betrayed tension for the first time.
“I can outrun anyone, to anywhere,” Lexi said. The clattering of helicopter blades came suddenly close as the police chopper dropped low alongside them.
“That’s Tierson,” Victor said, looking at it. “And Danny Packard’s in there, too.”
“The officer who attacked you on L7 last week.”
“You mean Officer Handgun? Who gave him a helicopter?”
“And a machine gun!” Rocky yelled, seeing that Tierson had the chopper’s side door open and was adjusting his straps to turn sideways. Molly, whose head hadn’t left her lap, whimpered audibly. The chatter of gunfire was just barely audible over the noise of the helicopter, and the road in front of them erupted with bullet impacts. Lexi’s foot came off the gas.
“Call their bluff,” Victor said. “Keep going.”
“The other helicopters are both media,” he said. “They won’t kill us on television.”
Lexi put her foot back down, and the Discovery scrambled up the road to the cave with shots hitting the ground in front of and behind it the whole way. Victor was correct, though; Tierson was careful not to hit the Discovery. Even so, they lost two tires before reaching the cover of the cave.
They barreled down the tunnel and right through the open doors. Lexi almost rear-ended the Suburban, which was parked just inside the cave, and the rest of the crew was standing about looking uncertain. Their looks turned to shock at sight of the bullet-riddled, battered Land Rover.
Victor jumped out almost before they had stopped moving. “Close the door!” he yelled. Joseph and Harold jumped to the task, and when it they were shut, Lexi backed the Discovery up against them so they couldn’t be battered open.
When the engine stopped, Molly put her head up and looked around. Glen opened her door and she melted out into his arms, surprised to find that she was shaking. “Are you okay?” he asked softly, his voice bright with concern. She could only nod.
Lexi whacked her hurt thigh on the door as she got out, and snarled in pain. She did a shuffling one-legged dance and pressed her hand to the hurt spot. Seeing Glen hugging Molly, Dobie approached Lexi, and she warned him off with a look. When she could stand up straight again, she took the cell phone out of her pocket. The antenna signal was weak, not surprisingly, but she called Nikki’s cell phone back anyway.
Harold and Dick were starting to strategize, and from the mouth of the tunnel a bullhorn-amplified voice burped orders at them. Lexi walked away from them all so she could hear. “Dori? Are you there?” There was frutz of static and the end of a word, and that was about as good as it was getting. “I can barely hear you,” she said. “I’m in a cave, it’s my fault. If Nikki got another boat, just say the name of the port a few times and I’ll tell you when I get it.” She had no idea if Dori could hear her, but waited patiently for the haze of static to break anyhow, and was rewarded with what sounded refreshingly like the name of a pier. “I think I got it,” she said, feeling like a dolt for yelling, as if she could somehow shout the satellite closer. “Did you say Pier 68, L as in Larry, in Woodford?”
“Yes!” Dori’s voice was suddenly clear. It figured. “In three days, they said.”
“Thanks so much,” she said again. “I’ll see you in a few days, then! Do you want an old car? I have a bunch now.”
“Well, then I owe you a strawberry cake.”
“What? You’re breaking up…”
Lexi frowned and hung up, since she’d spend ten more minutes trying to get a goodbye through and she hated goodbyes anyway. And now her leg had started to throb. “If this thing starts hurting every time it rains, I’m going to sue the shit out of Danny Packard,” she said. Dobie raised an eyebrow. “Oh, shut up. Where’s Woodford?”
Lars, Rocky, Victor and Dobie all said, “Woodford?” at the same time.
“What did I say? That’s where the new boat will be.”
“Could you possibly have picked someplace farther away?” Dobie asked. “Woodford is the westernmost port on the northernmost island. It’s at least six hundred miles from here. And it doesn’t look like my Land Rover is up to the trip,” he added.
“Even if it could tow three cars,” Lars said. “Which I doubt it can. What happened to the tow dolly?”
“Hadda crash it,” Lexi said. “And, for the record, I didn’t pick Woodford. But that’s where we have to go, so let’s solve the problem instead of yelling at the crazy lady.”