"Dust Up" - Part Three

"In front!" said Mouse.
Looked ahead.
The car in front of us screeched to a halt as the light up ahead went red.
Too close.

I slid the Royale onto the gravel shoulder, went past three stopped cars, turned back onto Bayview as it intersected Waterman, then caught sight of the front of the #15 bus as it bounded into the intersection at the same time. Its headlamps flooded the inside of the Royale, the bus driver's face frozen in a mask of terror, the bus's horn screaming for us to get out of the way.

Yanked the wheel right, hard, sliding, slipping back onto the gravel shoulder, kicking up a spray behind us, and nearly slamming into the concrete wall beyond.
Wrestled the Royale away from the wall, shot past the turning bus and a cacophony of car horns and squealing tires, and rode the shoulder at least five blocks before putting us back onto Bayview.
"Fucking buses," said Mouse.
"I know," I said, still keeping my eyes on the road ahead. "Tail?"
A moment, then: "No. Probably stuck at the bus."
"Maybe. But I'm not taking chances."
Then a street sign caught my eye.
Kirkland Avenue.
And a memory struck.
Checked the rearview again.
"Hold on," I said.
Accelerated, passed an ivory MetroCab on our left, then yanked the wheel left, slewing across two lanes in a squeal of tires, nearly clipping the front of the cab. Mouse gave an excited whoop as we fishtailed onto Kirkland Avenue heading south, scattering a group of peds crossing the street from a corner noodle house.
Zoomed five blocks south on Kirkland, then east on Front Street to Lenora then turned into a parking garage we'd used for a meet several months earlier. Went up to the second level, slid into a open slot on the far end, and killed the lights and engine.
Shut my eyes and listened.
Five seconds later came the wail of sirens in the distance, moving westward, then getting further away.
Not stuck at the bus but at least nowhere near our position.
"Think we're good?" said Mouse, her voice pitched low.
"Think so," I said, opening my eyes.
"Good," she said, "cuz I'm starved."
She dug into the paper bag, pulled out the two foil-wrapped burgers, handed one to me, and started on hers.
Popped optic clock.
Still time.
I let out a long breath and took a bite of my burger.

*   *   *
We finished eating ten minutes later. There'd been no further sirens in the area and no other activity that hinted we'd been found.
"To the Marina?" said Mouse in between slurps of soda.
"Might as well. Looks clear enough."
"Makes you wonder what's in the case, doesn't it?"
"It's Biz," I said.
"I know, I know. But they're glitterati. Doesn't make sense they'd be involved in something with gunfire."
"Doesn't have to make sense."
Mouse frowned and slurped the rest of her soda. After a moment she said, "Yeah, you're right. We live longer not knowing, don't we?"
"We do," I said. "And it's not the first time we had issues with a case."
"Righetti's doll, you mean."
"But you got blindsided by a bunch of joyboy wannabes that time," said Mouse.
The memory made me wince. "At least we're not dealing with wannabes this time."
"Thank god for proper mooks," said Mouse.

*   *   *
Lenora Street was clear in both directions as I edged the Royale out the garage's exit lane.
"Twenty minutes'll get us to the Marina," I said, turning left onto Lenora. "Enough time to--"
Something green smashed into the Royale's right front corner with a defeaning crunch of metal and spun us partway around in the middle of the street.
My head bounced off the driver's side window and bright white light exploded behind my eyeballs. Opened my eyes to a fuzzy view of the steering wheel and dashboard.
Glass shattered nearby.
Blinked several times to refocus, the world still gauzy.
A shadow passed to my left and air rushed into the car from behind me.
Blinked again a few more times and my vision cleared slightly.
Mouse was in the passenger seat, clutching her head and groaning.
A reflection in the rearview caught my eye.
The left rear passenger stood ajar.
My gut clenched.
Half-turned to look in the back and stared at a hazy and empty back seat, and felt the car sway.
The case was gone.
Blinked a few more times and my vision cleared slightly again.
Then: a memory struck.
The shadow.
Looked out the Royale's back window.
Five meters away, a fuzzy dark green sedan sat diagonally in the middle of Lenora facing north. A figure in a hooded sweatshirt was shuffling toward it, a long handled object in one hand, the case in the other, its weight clearly making progress difficult.
I kicked my door open, drew the Twins, and slid out. My right leg twinged and I caught myself against the door panel, sucked in a breath, and fought down the pain. Damn the Halloween run.

Shook it off and pivoted toward Sweatshirt and the other car. I could hear the other vehicle's engine still running.
And the concrete tilted under me.
Clamped my eyes shut for a three-count, opened them, and my vision went clear and the ground stopped moving.
Much better.
Raised the Twins at Sweatshirt as he neared the sedan--a dark green BMW.
Recognition hit.
The car from San Marino Road.
"Hey, asshole!" I said, my voice echoing off the surrounding buildings.
Sweatshirt whipped around, saw me, and turned and bolted to the BMW's far side, putting the car between us.
Waited too long.
But habit--and Murphy's voice in my head--kept me from greasing someone who wasn't shooting back.
The figure ducked into the car.
New plan.
Shifted aim and put two rounds into the BMW's right rear tire. It gave a satisfying boom-pop and that end of the sedan dropped. Shifted aim again and belched two more rounds. Another boom-pop and the entire right front side of the car dropped.
Sweatshirt scrambled out of the driver's seat, hood falling back, revealing a twentysomething male with short curly hair, his broad face creased with panic. He took another look at me and shuffled north on Lenora, dragging the case with him.
I hated footchases.

(to be continued...)

"Dust Up"
Part 1 | Part 2
Part 4

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