Though the gun was empty, Lexi guessed that the AK-47 would come in handy when rescuing Coquette. Victor took it away from her though, and left it in the trunk of the police car, along with an unconscious Blaine. For some reason, he didn’t seem to think she should have it. Which was fine, actually; she was inclined to agree, though she felt somewhat better about the weapon now that it was empty.
In any case, that wasn’t as irritating as the casual disregard with which he took over her daring Alfa-Romeo rescue. She sat between them on the front seat (it was easier than struggling into the back); Rocky concentrated on driving the Hudson, which had picked up a bit of a waddle at speed, and Victor talked on his cell phone.
It was impossible to know what Victor was talking about, or to whom, because his end of the conversation consisted entirely of one-syllable, one-word answers: “No. Yes. Yes. Three.”
As they got closer to the city, he started to give Rocky directions, with equal terseness. The two of them had clearly been communicating this way for a while, because Rocky didn’t seem surprised or offended.
In a matter of minutes, they caught up to the flatbed with the Alfa on the back, just as it was pulling into what was universally recognizable as a repo yard. Victor hung up the phone, told Rocky to stop the car, and got out. “Keep her here,” he said.
“What did he say?” Lexi asked Rocky. “You’re going to have to translate for me; I don’t speak chauvinistic dillhole.” She stayed in the car though; something in his manner since the confrontation with Blaine suggested that goofing around and acting like a loose cannon was not a good idea and wouldn’t be welcome just right now. Rocky started to answer her, then realized she was being facetious.
Victor strode unhesitatingly to the truck’s door and nodded up to the driver, who immediately got out and began unloading the Alfa.
“Wow,” Rocky said. “I wonder what he said to him?”
“Dobie and Victor have disturbing connections.”
“So I’ve noticed. He’s been the master of information the entire way across the country.”
“Has he, now?” Lexi waited until Coquette was on the ground, then got out of the Hudson. “You take the fun out of everything, you know,” she told Victor.
“I’m riding with you,” he said.
“Oh, really? I’m not sure you’ll fit. It’s a small car.”
“I’m quite adept at fitting into small spaces.”
She tilted her head at him. “Did you just make a wisecrack? Holy shit, you just might become a real boy some day. Okay, you can get in.”
Victor slipped into the passenger seat, and was gracious enough to pretend that her permission had made a difference. He turned around in the seat and nodded to Rocky in the Hudson, and both cars regained the road quickly, heading out of Pimpton. Coquette was running well, in spite of her trip onto the cannon and a hamfisted towing job.
They were back in the salt desert quickly, and returned back the way they had come, quickly passing the Pirate’s Nest and angling west once again.
Lexi panicked when she heard the helicopter clattering overhead. She put her foot down and tucked her head defensively, then saw the CNN logo on the side and calmed down. She didn’t wave, annoyed that they’d scared her so, but they paced her and Rocky and certainly got their footage quota before the two old cars got back to L7. Victor barely paid it any mind.
When they reached the highway, she swapped positions with Rocky, who knew the way to Woodford. Lexi was of two minds about it; glad it was almost over, and yet disappointed that the adventure was coming to an end. It was okay though; there’d be more adventures, she suspected. “More where this one came from!” she shouted to the wind.
“What?” Victor asked.
“Nothing. Just a loud thought.”
A police car picked them up just east of Woodford. They ignored it; the white and blue Saab followed, lights blazing, but never came closer than a few car lengths. A second car joined them when they hit the city limits, and Lexi saw signs as well; a group of people on the first freeway overpass in town had spray-painted, “Go! Go! Go!” in bright red on a bedsheet and unfurled it as the two classic cars went past. More people cheered them from the sidewalks.
“What a circus,” Victor said without emotion.
“You sound like your boss.”
“It follows. Now what?” he said as the police car suddenly accelerated and sped past them. The cop raced ahead of Rocky as well, then began to slow down.
“They’re trying to keep us from reaching the pier,” Lexi said. “Assuming it’s this way.” She looked down one of the cross streets. “I take it back; they’re trying to keep us from reaching the pier and they’re boxing us in. There are cars on a lot of the smaller roads.” Ahead of them, the Hornet slowed even more as Rocky tried not to run into the back of the cop in front of him. Lexi turned suddenly down an alley. “Nothing good ever came from doing what they tried to make me do,” she said.
“Spoken with wisdom,” Victor replied.
“You’ve been a very quiet passenger,” Lexi said. “You’ve only been in the hot seat for about an hour, but you make a good navigator. Stoicism is a good quality.”
“Why did you throw Dobie out?”
“He offended me, and I had to be away from him for a while.”
Victor shook his head. “No, why did you throw him out?”
“Oh, and he wouldn’t get out of the car when I told him to. I hate not being taken seriously.”
“Then why do you invite it with such silly behavior?”
“Because I love the smell of paradox in the morning. Don’t think I don’t know you schtupped my friend Cygnet at Christmas.”
He tilted his head and gave her a look as Coquette burst out of the alley in a cloud of litter, crossed the street, and sped into the next alley. Behind them, Rocky had followed and was about half a block back. “If you’re outraged, offended or jealous, I don’t know you well enough to care,” he said, unruffled by her driving. “Air your issues with her, not me.”
“Good answer. Lucky for you, I don’t have any issues with it.”
“Lucky for me, indeed.” Another road block barred their progress, and Lexi went looking for another route. “There’s no other way,” Victor said.
“To the pier. They’ve blocked everything.”
“How do you know Woodford so well?”
“It’s a small country and I’m a well-traveled man.”
“Isn’t that a Johnny Cash song?”
“No, it isn’t.”
Lexi giggled, turned another corner, dodged a police car, then turned again. Victor dug suddenly in his breast pocket for his phone. She hadn’t heard it ring, but he was answering a call.
“Arriaga. Yes, we’re here. No, we can’t.” He listened for a long moment. “Done.”
“Go to the airport,” Victor said.
“That would be such a useful command if I had the slightest idea where that might be.”
“Lose the sarcasm and turn left up here.”
“Why are we going to the airport?”
“To get you out of the country.” She opened her mouth to tell him she wouldn’t go without the car, and he raised a hand, forestalling the complaint. “I know. The boat you hired turned out not to be a boat at all, but a cargo plane. ‘Extra-governmental shippers,’ I believe the term is.”
“Oh! Well, that’s a huge relief. Is the airport blockaded too?”
“I don’t believe that it is. You and Rocky are the last to arrive and I’m told the way is clear.”
“So I lost my own race,” Lexi sighed with mock disappointment. “Then again, I get to drive my car onto an airplane, and that’s just grand. Point me the way there.”