He had just pulled out of a dusty rundown old truck stop and back on to No Name Highway in the middle of some God-forsaken desert in the middle of nowhere. Hell, he wasn’t even sure what state he was in. Nevada maybe? He was lucky he had found the ancient old truck stop, at first not sure that it even was even open. Had it not been he would have been fucked, fuel light had been on for a while and pushing the heavy bike in this blistering oven would have done him in. The shimmering heat waves rising off of the old gray asphalt two lane, sky so bright blue it hurt his eyes even with the dark sunglasses. Sky so bright and the surrounding steep hills and range a coyote brown.
He ran the big bike up through the gears, setting the cruise about 85. Hot wind competing with the growling exhaust. He didn’t know how much longer the air-cooled mill could stand this heat, an engine oil cooler was in order once he reached Diego or maybe before. The old man wondered how the hell he was gonna stand this heat, it wasn’t even noon yet.
He squatted by the front tire pretending to check it. Peering around the gas pump watching the two cop cars in front of the Quik Trip just off of the Plaza. She was inside having paid for the gas and was wandering among the displays, he hoped the two policemen didn’t make her. A bright flash and an ear-splitting boom announced the storms arrival.
He jumped straight up, head clipping the brake lever on the handlebar. Both cops turning from the checkout counter to look at him, the old man just knowing they weren’t gonna beat the storm or the rap. She came out of the store at a quick skipping walk carrying two bags of stuff. Goddamn girl, don’t run but walk faster! He was on the bike cranking the engine. She all but hurdled the tour pack as the bikes engine lit off, going up the side of his head with a bag with two six-pack in it. He was hoping the gas pumps hid the gymnastics as he did a sharp u turn around the pumps and onto Main. Then the skies opened up. It was raining so hard that it nearly knocked his glasses off. She saw what was happening and grabbed them before they fell to the street. Didn’t fuckin’ matter, they were riding blind making a left turn at a traffic light and he wasn’t even sure it was the right one. Trying to stop for the next light, trying to react when right at the edge the intersection, back tire breaking loose and damn near dumping his rig. Steering into the skid, big bike righting itself on the far side of the wide intersection.Thank God for Sunday night traffic, or Monday morning?
Another light and a short jog in the side street and they were turning into a brightly lit underground garage. Hell, it was raining even harder, water cascading out of the gutters creating a waterfall. As if the weren’t soaked already. Bike sure sounded cool though, idling through that garage. Nosing into an empty parking space, hooking the Kickstand with a boot heel and locking it down. Shutting off the ignition, both trying to get off the bike. Bright flash through the waterfall that was the garage entrance, loud crack and boom of thunder. Steam rising off of the cooling engine and pipes. She was standing on the pavement barefoot, pouring water out of one of her shoes. Shit….All he could do was stand. He unhooked the duffel off of the luggage rack, unzipping it to see if the Glock 17 9 millimeter were still there. So fuzzy headed he wasn’t even sure if the large handgun and spare magazines were in the bag or tour pack. He locked the ignition switch, checked the saddlebags and tour pack locks, then grabbed the duffel. She picked up her two plastic grocery bags, shoved her feet in her shoes, and they both squished their way toward the elevator in the corner. The camera mounted above the door was giving security people somewhere quite a show, they looked like a couple drowned rats.
He lit up a big stogie and leaned back in the biggest fucking bathtub he had ever been in. Water was so hot he could barely stand it, he had poured what he thought was bubble bath in and turned on the jets. Now it looked like a big washing machine, suds everywhere. What a swank place, nicer than any place he had been in and he had been around the block a few times. Mostly he stayed in dumps, campgrounds, roadside parks, even a homeless shelter and a church once. She was standing nude in front of the tub facing him in her sunburnt glory , stretching and arching her back. One hand running through her blonde curly hair, the other holding a cellphone to her ear trying to explain to an irate husband why she wasn’t going to be home two states away anytime soon after “attending a concert with a girlfriend”. This lifestyle was going to get him killed, damn near had tonight. Or was it last night?
As she continued to argue with Hubby, he tried to relax in the big tub. Thoughts of the previous days spun in his head, keeping him on edge.
Why had he gone for the Ruger .380 in the ankle rig? The Glock was like a part of him but he took it off because of the heat, the T-shirt wouldn’t hide it. Half the time he didn’t wear the little handgun and most times couldn’t remember whether he had it or not. Besides, it could be very difficult to get to. Why did he even shoot the fucker? Why not just stick the piece in the guys face? Close encounters like that could be dicey, and this one was real close. Too close. He was getting sloppy, and a man in his lifestyle could not make those kinds of mistakes.
She stepped into the turbulent hot sudsy water of the tub and straddled him, fondling him. She parted herself with her fingers and eased down. Was gonna be a long morning.
He woke up so goddamned sore and stiff, cold. Thin bedroll providing little padding against the hardscrabble desert ground and even less insulation against the early morning cool air. He lay there in the dark for a moment, staring up at the outline of rock ledge high above him. Filthy, mouth tasting like a coyote had pissed in it. Damn, he was still tired. Lizard, or so he had thought, running by his head motivating him to get up. God only knowing what had crawled into his gear and bedding the night before. While packing the bike he noticed the rear tire he had plugged in the last evenings heat had held. He got his kit picked up and stowed as the sun was coming up, turning the surrounding area from blacks and greys to all shades of brown and tan. Sky going from black to a smear of shaded blue to orange. He figured it was time to go as the sky grew bright. He downed a bottle of lukewarm water and covered the small fire pit, then straddled his iron horse. Starter whining, a little too long before the V twin caught and rumbled to life. He added spark plugs to his mental list. The transmission clunked into gear, then he eased the big machine down the winding rocky trail to what he had hoped would put him back on the highway.
Another no-name truck stop for gas and the big bike was eating up the miles of cracked blistered pavement. Not much traffic and he could see why. Fucking heat was killing him. Some of the most desolate parts of the southwest he had seen but he had always felt most comfortable in the wastelands of America, but that might be changing. Like it or not.
He had dug up the money the night before, a bundle of c-notes that probably amounted to about 90 large wrapped in plastic and oilskin cloth. He had a hell of a time finding it, locating the package just before dark. He had burned the bogus credit cards and identification in the fire pit. He had used them too much already, surprised that the hotel hadn’t caught the fake plastic in Kansas City. The man who had made the phony stuff knew his craft, they had worked without a hitch. He had one more set plus a passport, which reminded him that he needed to change out the plates, insurance card and registration on the bike. He would need the passport when he headed south for the Baja to pick up the rest of the money.
He dropped his bike off at a small shop not far from the little stucco house where he was staying. A couple of Mexicans ran it, building high quality custom choppers for those that could afford them. They were highly recommended to him by some outlaw bros, did outstanding work and his sled was in dire need of a lot of attention. The two shop owners needed the extra work to keep a couple of employees busy during a slow stretch, didn’t ask many questions, and liked the wad of cash handed to them to get started. He was going to need some contacts south of the border and suspected these two gentlemen would be of assistance on this also.
As he walked back toward the small house in a well-worn but tidy neighborhood, his mind wandered. His Marine Corps bud had set himself up right, he had become very successful in residential and commercial real estate in Southern California after retiring from the Corps. His wife had done well as a pharmacist, even owning a couple drugstores. He had no problem setting up his old friend with a place to live, and it wasn’t even that far from the beach.
As he stood on the porch and unlocked his front door, he took one last look at the palm trees that dotted the area. The sun was setting and he was dead tired. There were only two thoughts left in his head, would she meet him here and would he make it across the border and back? Time would tell.