The black cars that swarmed out of the surrounding brush behind the truck were low-slung, their powerful engines high-pitched as though they resented any pace less than blinding. So close to the ground, it made it hard for Dom to get an eye on who he was dealing with, instinctively seeking out Vince, knowing his old friend had to be somewhere close by.
In comparison, Dom’s black Chevy was a dinosaur, a lumbering beast from another time that chewed up the road aggressively but was nowhere near as nimble, a tyrannosaur amidst more agile predators. Still a tyrannosaur. Uttering a low roar, the Chevy asserted itself, nudging closer until Dom nearly rubbed against the car in front. Nearly but not quite; the slightest touch at the current speed could be lethal.
It was enough. It had been a while since Dom had seen Vince, it felt like forever. Dom went with his instincts over his eyes; Vince was in the car right ahead and Dom made a choice then and there to stay on Vince’s tail, no matter what happened.
Nothing and everything had changed in the years that had passed; like two transparencies overlaid. Then, it would have been Dom in the lead, up on the truck’s back end; now Dom tailed Vince closely. Dom caught a flash of blue in the rear view mirror and didn’t need to look to know that Brian was on his tail, falling into place naturally where Vince once would have been.
Behind Brian, Eddie swerved across the middle line, jockeying for position, unsure where to go, but he kept up and didn’t key the radio. No one would have answered anyway. There was no time and no one would risk taking their hands off the wheel. They rode by gut instinct, falling naturally into the hunter’s order, taking their lead from Dom. In the cars ahead it would be the same; they would no more call out to each other than wolves would announce their presence.
Seconds ticked out slowly as they ate up the road. Two of the pursuing black cars had swept down the driver’s side of the truck and Dom watched the red blur beneath the belly of the semi as Eddie tailed after them. Dom followed Vince’s exhaust along the riskier passenger side, close to the shoulder.
Behind him there was a blink of blue as Brian shifted one last time, pulling across the center line to keep an eye on Eddie as well as the two cars that were now tucked up close to the driver’s side of the truck. Brian shifted fluidly across the middle line, keeping an eye on both sides of the truck; he would take up the rear and, whenever something looked like it was going wrong, he would be right there on top of it.
Familiar, comfortable. Exhilarating and scary as hell. Dom shut out everything else but what immediately surrounded him. The roar of the road, the oppressive presence of the truck beside him. Pulling back a matter of inches when Vince’s car ahead swerved slightly as the driver looked back at him. That’s when Dom realized that Vince wasn’t driving the car and his guts knotted. Vince was the passenger, which meant that history would repeat itself.
Dom’s jaw dropped as from the other side of the truck came the sharp sound of a woman’s voice filtered through a bullhorn. Letty. Most of what she barked out was lost in the roar of the truck but Dom knew that she would be right up by the driver’s side window and what she said was for the driver. Insisting that he pull off the road; that he would be allowed to keep his truck but not his load. It was as Brian had said; a deal was struck rather than taking out the driver. Apparently no one had told the driver ahead of time.
Just up ahead was the very last turn off for Southern California; after that, the road would head in a direct line to the Mexican border. The trucker was making a break for it but Dom didn’t have much hope for his chances; he had seen this play out before on too many occasions. The driver didn’t know that though, and he tried for it.
First, the driver pulled his truck into the middle of the road. That too Dom had seen, in fact it was a maneuver that he had counted on when he had planned the heists with Vince. True to those plans, one of the black cars ahead of him sped through the bottleneck, pulling in front of the truck.
Now the truck was hemmed in on all sides. True, the truck was large enough that it could easily run down the car in front but the simple truth of the matter was that few people had the stomach to do something like that. If the trucker looked like he was going to try for it, the lead car was fast enough to evade easily. A fully laden semi was no match for the high-powered street racers.
Hemmed in, the trucker swung his rig in the opposite direction as the last chance to turn off flew past. Sucking in a sharp breath, Dom felt his balls draw up, his knuckles white on the wheel. On the other three sides of the truck there was room to get out of the way if the semi did something unexpected but that wasn’t the case on the inside.
Mere inches from the soft shoulder of the road, there was nowhere to go as the truck’s nose angled inward, cutting off escape to the front. There was a good chance that Dom could drop back out of the sweep of the rear wheels of the semi but it wasn’t a sure thing. If he was in a smaller car, he could possibly sweep underneath, emerging on the other side, but that wasn’t an option in the larger Chevy.
A fully laden semi was huge enough on its own but there was something about being hemmed in against the side. One false move, one slip, and Dom would clip either the shoulder or the side of the truck. Hitting the soft shoulder would be certain to make either car roll. There was a chance that the Chevy, being heavier, could make it but Dom knew the same wasn’t true for the street racer ahead. It would simply disintegrate, killing everyone inside. If Dom hit the side of the truck it would kill not only him but the debris would likely take out Brian. There was nowhere to go.
As crazy as it sounded, it was one of the scenarios that he and Vince had planned on. The semi could no more deal with the shoulder than the drivers could; this was what Vince and Dom bet on, with a purpose. That purpose was now unfolding ahead of him, like history spooling out. In a blur of speed, first hands, then a head, followed by a body, popped out of the street racer’s sunroof. Vince.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, Dom muttered in a stream, unaware that he had spoken. Even the trailer that loomed over him faded into the background as he watched the little black street racer veer ever closer to the passenger side door. Vince balanced gracefully on top of the racing car. One false move, a bump, a piece of gravel in the wheel and Vince was dead. Dom held his breath, more afraid than he had ever been in his life. When he was younger it had been a hell of a rush, now he was just scared; seeing Vince hurt the last time had fucked him up. Gun shy, Letty had said at the time.
When Vince’s heavy frame slammed into the passenger’s side door, the trucker veered in the opposite direction, towards the middle of the road again. The road ahead was clear but the little black car didn’t move from Vince’s side and silently Dom said his thanks. Dom stayed right on the car’s tail, praying that he wouldn’t see Vince splattered over the front of his car if it all went wrong.
Just as Vince yanked the passenger door open, swinging out dangerously far into the open air, Dom caught a shimmer out on the road ahead. From where he was, Dom couldn’t get a clear view but the truck driver had.
“Fuck!” Dom screamed, his heart slamming hard in his chest as the truck driver swerved once more, the semi’s nose angling in sharply towards the side of the road as gunfire rang out. With no idea where the gunfire came from, Dom’s first fear was that the driver was shooting at Vince; the drivers had done that before. The second volley of shots came from the front of the semi, from the road, and that’s when the shimmering line solidified into a line of men strung across the road, their motorcycles off to the side. Jim.
There was no time to think about it as the truck continued to swing inward towards Dom. The passenger side door snapped open once more and then Vince managed to hook his leg inside the truck, levering his body into the cab. Only then did Dom let out the breath that he had held, sucking in another.
The front of the truck shimmied and then veered sharply inward as the driver and Vince fought for control. There was no way that Dom could take his hands off the wheel to key the radio, to tell Brian to get the hell out; all that he could do was pray that Brian got out. Not breathing, Dom’s eyes cut from the car in front to the rear view mirror, watching as Brian dropped back, finally slipping out of the wide path of the semi.
The little black car in front wasn’t so lucky. As the semi continued to slew across the road, Vince’s driver tried to dart out in front of the semi but he had left it too late. A plume of desert dust obscured the front of the car as the right front wheel hit the shoulder.
Dom’s knuckles cracked painfully on the wheel as he fought to control the Chevy, dropping speed and falling back along the side of the truck. In front of him, the small black car starting to spin out, its back end caught by the nose of the semi. Flung like a child’s toy, the car windmilled into the desert scrub, a flaming hail of broken pieces spattering over the hood of the Chevy.
There was no time to go after the driver even if Dom could. Having hit the small black car, the truck driver fought to pull the semi out of its deadly slide by pulling the nose back out into the middle of the road.
The back end of the trailer began to fishtail in the opposite direction, lurching towards Dom again and it took every bit of Dom’s restraint not to step on the accelerator and try to pull out in front. If he did, he would never make it, the Chevy simply wasn’t fast enough and if he did make the attempt he would be scattered across the desert as well.
Another volley of gunfire.
It was hard to gauge where the end of the truck was as the driver applied the brakes, sending up a dense cloud of smoke. The driver was stopping, or at least trying to stop. Dom still wasn’t sure that the trailer wouldn’t jack-knife.
Smoke engulfed the Chevy and Dom muttered a prayer under his breath, unaware that he had even done so. Just as suddenly, the wind ripped the plume away, as Dom pulled out from behind the semi. Peeling his fingers off the wheel, he reached out to key the radio as the truck ahead slowed and finally came to a stop, taking up much of the road.
“Brian!” Dom yelled a few more times before Brian answered. At the sound of Brian’s voice, Dom leaned forward and rested his forehead on the wheel, taking a deep breath.
“I’m fine too, if you were asking,” Eddie barked out.
“Good,” Dom shot back as he pulled up behind the semi once more and shut the engine off. Dom would never tell Eddie just how good it was to hear him, to hear both of them, that was something that he would keep to himself. “Anyone else hurt on that side?”
“Driver’s pretty shook up… Are you stopped?” Brian answered.
“Fuck,” Dom whispered again, trying to get his nerves under control. “Too goddamn old for this.” Getting out of the Chevy on legs that shook, he leaned heavily against the door and answered Brian.. “I’m going back for the driver,” he shouted into the radio, before he pushed off the side of the car and made for the desert scrub towards the smoking wreck of the car that the semi had clipped.
The sound of raised voices had Dom spin back towards the semi. A bloodied and pissed off Vince fought against Eddie, who had Vince by the arm. Too far away to intervene, Dom hollered at the two men but not before Vince hauled off and drove his fist into Eddie’s jaw. To Eddie’s credit, he didn’t go down and Dom once again felt a begrudging respect for the agent; Vince had a hell of a right hook. “Let him go, we don’t have time for this shit!”
Eddie glared at Dom, pushing Vince into the side of the semi, but he didn’t go for Vince again. In any other circumstance, Vince would have seized the opportunity and taken Eddie down a peg or two but all he could think about was his driver.
The smell of high test fuel assaulted Dom’s nose before he could even get close to the wreck of the black car and he knew how it would end. Heat shimmered off the wreck in a blast that held him back but the same couldn’t be said for Vince, who charged ahead, screaming.
Dom reached out to stop Vince from racing forward, Vince continuing to scream as he fought to get to the car but there was no way that Dom would let him go. Vince swung on Dom, landing a punch more by luck than anything else; he wasn’t fighting Dom, he was just fighting, and there was no way that Dom would hold it against him. If the roles were reversed, Dom would have fought too.
What surprised Dom was that Eddie was on the other side of Vince, not to continue the fight that had begun at the back of the semi but to help Dom hold Vince back.
“Down, now!” Dom bellowed, pulling Vince underneath him. The wreck of the black car whumped dully, bursting upwards as the flames ignited first the fumes and then the fuel itself in a double barreled explosion. Heat rolled over them in waves and still Vince fought; it took both Dom and Eddie to hold him down.
“Fuck!” Vince staggered up finally with Dom on one arm and Eddie on the other; neither was quite willing to let him go yet, they couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t charge across to the flaming wreck. It was a hard way for Dom to see him again, fighting, pissed off, and hurt. Only when Vince looked back at the wreck, deflated, did Dom dare to let go of his arm. Eddie took his cue from Dom and let go of Vince’s other side but they both still remained between Vince and the wreck.
Blood smeared across Vince’s cheek as his hands came up to scrub over his face, fisting in his hair. The wail was deep, torn loose like something broken as Vince looked at the wreck. Like Dom, Vince had aged as well. Like Dom, he could no longer take the loss, the waste.
“I have to call it in.” The cockiness was stripped from Eddie’s voice; he was shaken, drained.
Dom rounded on him, lips thinned to a white line. “Is that all that fucking matters to you? The…”
“No, it’s not,” Eddie interrupted, not backing up an inch from Dom’s sudden rage, in fact he stepped closer, jabbing a finger hard into Dom’s chest. “And you damned well know it.”
Eddie had seen people die before but it had been a lifetime ago, in the Gulf where he served behind the lines as a mechanic. It had never been up close; he had never had to see the faces of the people that died. It was all numbers. He’d never had to deal with the people that were left behind. Dom wasn’t a friend, but he wasn’t exactly an enemy anymore either; seeing Dom hurt wasn’t a victory, it just left him empty.
One last look at Vince and Eddie fished his cell out of his pocket, trying to get his voice under control before his boss was on the line.
Before Eddie had gone after Vince he had watched as Brian pulled the woman, Letty, out of one of the black cars in the lead. The second black car on the driver’s side had made a break for it only to be stopped by Jim and the line of bikers on the road ahead. It should have been a great moment. The case that he had come to hate was over, the heists were stopped and his career was secure. The truck heists were done, the shipment of weapons safe on the US side of the border.
Eddie should have been elated, and wasn’t; he just felt empty, the conversation with his superiors dry, spun out by rote. Clicking the phone closed, he turned back to Dom who still stood close to Vince. “In less than an hour, there are going to be FBI crawling all over the place.” There was something else that he wanted to say but Eddie had no idea what it should be or how he should state it; he wanted to give Dom a heads up, a chance to get out, but it went against his nature to offer it openly. To offer it at all.
Out in the desert, the flames from the wreckage were whipped by the wind. Scrub caught and guttered out, sending new waves of acrid black smoke drifting across the road, adding to the hellish heat. Dom came up behind Vince but said nothing; it wasn’t something that ‘sorry’ would fix.
“We got to go, V.” Dom had heard Eddie but hadn’t acknowledged the unspoken warning in case it got snatched back; unlike Brian, Eddie hadn’t looked certain about the choice that he had made.
“What’s going to happen to Letty?” Vince had stayed as long as he could bear, watching as Letty’s car came to a skidding stop; long enough to hear her cursing at Brian before he had gone after his driver.
Tension rolled off Dom in waves as he fought the urge to pound the stuffing out of his old friend. “What the…” Breath huffed and Dom shrugged his shoulders, willing his hands out of the balled fists they had become. “Letty can fucking take care of herself!”
Snarling, Vince turned on him, not backing off an inch. “Oh? You really so sure about that, Dom? Just ‘cus she says she can doesn’t mean she’s any fucking good at it! Somebody had to…” Vince slammed his jaw shut before he could launch into something that fell somewhere between a defense of Letty and a condemnation of Dom. Maybe a condemnation of them both; Vince didn’t think that he had done such a great job of looking out for her either.
It was hard to be angry when he faced Dom; they fell so easily, so comfortably, into old patterns, as though no time at all had passed. Vince not only didn’t want to fight, he was just too tired to fight. The smoldering wreck pulled at Vince again and he deflated. “I tried.” Unable to look at the wreck any longer, Vince turned back to where Brian held Letty. “I didn’t do the best fucking job, but I tried. She didn’t have anyone else.”
Dom snapped off the bitter remark unspoken; there were probably a lot of things that he could have done differently with Letty. Left her sooner or stayed with her longer. He didn’t like either and it was too late by far to do anything about it, even if either one of them could have done anything.
“Guess not.” Dom held Vince’s momentary glare and continued. “I don’t think either one of us did very good at looking out for her. Letty doesn’t help much either.”
Snorting, Vince crossed his arms; Dom had noticed that he had started to shake. Vince hadn’t come away from that last job without his own set of problems. “No shit. Always pushing. Girl’s got balls but never had the sense to come out of the rain.”
It wasn’t cruel, just an observation. They both watched as Brian waved down Eddie, who trotted across the distance. The two men spoke; Brian looked flustered, Eddie looked resigned. Letty continued to yell and curse at Brian who held her effortlessly. The truck driver sat against the front wheel of his semi, holding his head in his hands, shaken. Jim, the rifle still held casually in his hands, stood easily in the shade cast by the truck. If anyone made a run for it, Dom had no doubt that Jim could cut them down without batting an eye. If Jim missed, the seven other men behind him wouldn’t.
The muscles in Dom’s jaw jumped and tensed as he watched Eddie spin on his heel away from Brian, coming back in their direction. Without thought or discussion, Vince fell into place at Dom’s left as Dom closed the distance. “What happened?”
It was easier when Dom’s anger wasn’t something that he had to contend with. Vince was another story and Eddie kept an eye out for any sudden moves. “The driver managed to get a call off before he got stopped.”
“Fuck. I took out the radio first,” Vince spat out, instantly on edge, glowering at Eddie. “Fuck!” Getting busted was always a risk but it wasn’t something that Vince took easily.
Dom hadn’t turned away from Eddie. Arms crossed, he didn’t move, waiting for something he wasn’t sure was coming. It wasn’t enough to just get into the Chevy and leave; this was a problem that would follow him no matter where he went, so Dom waited.
“There’s not a hell of a lot of time,” Eddie ran a hand over his face before he jammed a hand in his pocket. He looked sullen and resigned, unsure of his actions from one to the next. “I’m going to stay here with Brian. Letty and the driver aren’t going anywhere.” The sentences came out short and clipped like he wasn’t entirely happy at having to say anything. “Here. I’ll catch a ride back with Brian.”
Vince nearly dropped the set of keys that Eddie fired in his direction and was about to go after Eddie for it but Dom held him back, silencing him with a look. So many things that had happened were like history repeated but Eddie handing over his keys wasn’t something that he had expected.
“I don’t know what the hell it is with you and fucking cops, but I could use some of that luck.” Vince tossed the keys one more time, catching them smoothly and pocketing them.
“I ended up in prison. Twice. Doesn’t seem all that fucking lucky to me.” Dom noticed that Vince hadn’t turned away from where Letty was held by Brian. “Brian’ll make sure she’s okay.”
Vince hadn’t taken his eyes off Letty, who now sat next to the truck driver with her back against the truck. From the way that she sat, it was pretty clear that she was restrained as was the driver of the second black car. “This new fuck. You vouch for him?”
Before Eddie had handed over his keys, Dom would have had serious doubts. Even now, there was a part of him that doubted, if for no other reason than that Eddie did what he did so reluctantly, like he hated that he did it. He answered in an even tone, looking over at Eddie one last time. “Yeah, I vouch for him. He’s the biggest fucking asshole I ever met, but I vouch for him.”
“Where are you headed after this, V?” Dom turned towards the Chevy, throwing the question over his shoulder. There was nothing casual about the question; there couldn’t be, not after Dom had seen Vince’s place.
“Maybe Mexico, Baja, some shit like that. Don’t know. Got to drop this dude’s car off first though; I guess that’s only decent.”
It was awkward and felt that way. Pride made it hard. They used to be so comfortable around each other that they hardly needed to speak. Now they had to struggle with clumsy words. Dom wanted to ask Vince to come back with him and Vince wanted to ask if he could; neither could get to that point, so they danced around the subject.
“How about right now?” Dom stood against the door of the Chevy, right before he sat behind the wheel.
Raking his fingers back through his hair, Vince looked back out at Letty again and Dom didn’t need to know who he was thinking about. “There’s something I gotta take care of first. Can’t just leave like that, bro. It wouldn’t be right.” The cadence dropped at the end as Vince lost steam; it wasn’t something that the old Vince would have said. Or done or even thought. Doing right by a woman was never his strong suite, but Dom figured that maybe Vince had changed too.
“You want help with that?” Dom would go back to that sad little house, if Vince asked, even as much as he hated it.
“It’s not much. Some shit to pick up. Maybe clean up her shit a little. I don’t want those fuckers pawing through her shit, saying stuff about her.”
Guilt had Dom drop his gaze to the keys in the ignition but he said nothing, he wouldn’t dare. “You know where I live, right?”
Silent, Vince looked back at Dom, arms crossed over his chest in all the defiance that he could muster. A nod was all the answer Dom got, or needed.
It was good to leave, knowing where he was going.
Copyright © April 2008 xxxevilgrinxxx