The heat and humidity were particularly bad that day, typical for late summer in the midwest. Niether of them were dressed for this. Her a thin sleeveless pale green dress with flimsy sandles on her feet, a small gold chain on her left ankle. Him a worn out tan tee shirt with the sleeves ripped out, coarse well worn jeans with a heavy brown leather belt, tall engineer boots that had seen better days. His cut, common sense riding clothing, helmets, cell phones and such as that were (along with his pistol) were packed in the tour pack or in a bag bungee-corded to the luggage rack. They both had the pungent aroma of sweat, sex, sunblocker and open road mixed with gas and exhaust fumes.
They crested the steep hill now overlooking the downtown Kansas City skyline with the industrial flatlands of North Kansas City before it. It was a beautiful view, with the tall buildings and lights contrasting well with the darkening deep blue hues of the late summer Sunday evening. The heat subsiding some with the sunset, much to the relief of the two riders. Downshifting, letting the engine brake the big heavy bike as they started descending the long hill called North Oak Trafficway. Both of them digging the deep healthy rumble flowing from the mufflers, her leaning back against the leather-covered backrest on the tour pack, him leaning back against her. Both very relaxed, his feet on the highway pegs enjoying the view. Trying to soak up the cooling night air, the heat of the exhaust pipes and rear cylinder heads making that difficult but at this point niether of them giving a rats ass. North Oak soon turned into Burlington, he no longer recognized most of the businesses on either side of the well lit four-lane street. It had been too many years.
After they had riden across Heart of America bridge into the old downtown area, reality kind of blurred. Deserted this late evening, the well-worn maze of asphalt city streets not wanting to let go of the blistering humid summer heat, the tall modern glass covered buildings contrasting with the depression era concrete sky scrapers. They meandered up and down the empty streets, the deep bellowing popping rumble of the exhaust echoing off of the surrounding architecture, not noticing a faint deeper rumbling it the skies not far to the north.
The City Market was deserted, only a couple of bars open on the side streets. They pulled in to the market square itself, parking the big bike under one of the rows of open covered vendor shelters, corrugated metal roofing supported by rusting iron framework covered by peeling light green paint. Pushing down the kickstand with a boot heel, feeling for it lock in place. Dismounting, helping her dismount. Then their eyes adjusting to the dim light of the square, only a now and again light bulb of a closed business and the passing headlamps of a police car. Listening to the overheated metal of the bikes engine and exhaust popping, cracking in the cooling night air. Sharing a bottle of warm water grabbed from a saddle bag, walking hand in hand through the empty marketplace. The people and vendors had left hours ago, but the rich amd mostly pleasant aromas remained. The bulk spices mixing with the smells of the ethnic cooking and overipe produce. They continued their walk, a cool breeze picking up, carrying a very faint hint of rain almost lost to their already overloaded and exhausted senses. A distant dull flash and low rumble mostly absorbed by the surrounding rundown brick buildings. A sheet of newspaper and other bits of debris blowing across their path as the small talk came and went. The cooling night breeze was comforting on sunburned skin, drying the damp clothing and sweat that had reappeared from their jaunt in the downtown area. She had complained of the heat from the exhaust on her bare sunburned legs and sandaled feet, then deciding to change into a pair of dirty jeans, tank top and and low cut boots with socks that was packed in a small duffle on the back of the bike. He found a clean piece of cardboard for her to stand on and an out of the way trash dumpster for her to change behind while she retrieved the clothing from the duffle bag.
“Gimme yo mony mohfucka.”
All he saw was a very large man close up with a very large butcher knife as he had turned around in the dark. They looked at one another, she was standing in a pile of clothing wearing a thong. He had just finished taking a leak. Doubling over, mumbling about being sick (not entirely untrue). Hearing the big man threaten to cut him up and put the pieces in the trash can. He stood up pulling his right pantleg up with his left hand, right hand pulling a .380 automatic out of an ankle rig strapped and facing out on his right calf. Standing upright, pointing, the first loud ear-splitting crack hitting the thug in the throat. Second hitting him between the eyes and blowing a walnut sized chunk of brain, skull and blood spray out of the back of his head. Staggering back, crumpling to the ground, knife clattering on the concrete. The robber he hadn’t seen in the dark behind his lady taking off in a dead run back across the market square, rape apparently not worth getting shot for. She was on her back pulling on jeans, socks, shoes as lights had come on in nearby loft apartments. He took off in a slow jog to the bike a stort distance away, stuffing the small pistol in his ankle holster once he reached the bike. Straddling the scoot and happy he had forgotten to lock the ignition as the starter whined and the engine coughed to life. She grabbed her dress, sandals, and top tripping over the corpse, running topless to the big heavy beast as he was trying to turn it to come get her. Stuffing her sandals and dress in the duffle, trying to pull on the tank top and mounting the bike all at once wasn’t working. Damn near losing an untied shoe. Riding out of the square and down a couple dimly lit back streets toward the West Bottoms and hopefully avoiding any more encounters with bad guy ( or guys if there were more of them) and the cops.
They ended up on Woodswether Road heading west and then turning south on the maze of alley like side streets, dodging potholes, trash and debris scattered about the rough cracked pavement. More flashes and rumbles from the north, but niether of them hearing well after the gunfire and the echo of the exhaust off of crumbling old brick buildings surrounding them. Idling up a rough cracked old road that crossed rows of railroad tracks along side the pillars of the 12th Street Bridge. A brace of locomotives sitting still attached to a row of cars, deep throbbing idle with the faint high-pitched whine of the turbocharger and an occasional hiss of compressed air. Then onto a trash filled old road that ran up a graffiti covered bluff that would put them by the old Howard Johnsons if it were still there. Dodging a mattress, trash bags, bits of broken furniture and glass. Then south though Quality Hill and some more backstreets he knew in the Midtown area.
The well-lit Plaza was suprisingly busy on this late evening. Spotting a cop at a traffic stop, dodging south off what once was 47th Street onto a side street now being surrounded by the Spanish archetecture, small businesses, bars, and restaurants. They crossed over the old bridge, beneath it lying a wide concrete lined creek. Heading south, climbing and winding through the dimly-lit narrow streets and old homes that sat on this bluff overlooking the Country Club Plaza. The deep rumble of the engine and the whine of the transmission in lower gears interupting the late evening quiet.
They found the old park, once a Civil War battlefield. Running the big bike up a wheelchair ramp, over the sidewalk and onto the grass. Finding the rose garden and parking under a trellis covered with rose bushes and other vegetation that surrounded a courtyard with a fountain in the center. A large stone retaining wall standing behind them, further shielding them from the street. Dark even though there was a street lamp not far on a corner.
He lie down on the grass under the trellis, dehydrated and too tired to move. She took his bandanna and rinsed her neck and arms, sitting on the edge of the fountain. The water splashing in the fountain, creaking metal of the cooling engine, the insects, the stiffening wind working its way through the large trees, bushes and other vegetation. Another flash followed by a deeper rumble, it was getting close. She lie down beside him, handing him a bottle of water. Knowing he was done but telling him they couldn’t stay, they were a long ways from home and were going to have to find a place to hole up. Hell, if she had to she would drag his big ass and drape him over the bitch-seat and ride that fuckin’ Harley herself. Not knowing she was thinking out loud. Oh, Hell No…With that, he struggled and staggered to his feet.
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