DUEL 1 2 3 45


We got about six miles.

I thought Hatari was a nondescript car, but this one was even more so. It was a slightly rounded box, about ten years old, painted that type of silver that looks blue in bright light. It pulled up right to my bumper. The window was smeary, the driver's face indistinct. About all I could tell was that it was a man wearing a dark billed cap pulled low over his eyes, and light colored or no facial hair.

He was so close I could not see his license plate.

Michelle could feel my sudden tension. "Cop?" She muttered, not moving her lips.

"Don't think so."


"Don't know. Seems likely."

Michelle glanced in her side mirror, then flipped down the visor and checked nonexistent makeup in the vanity mirror.

A motorcycle jerked around the car and passed us, cutting back in a few feet from my front bumper. I toed the brake, taking off the cruise control.

The car tapped us. I cursed and started drifting into the left lane. Both the car and the cycle kept their relative positions, edging over into the passing lane with me. I tapped the brakes again, not slowing, but flashing my brake lights.

The motorcycle slowed. I feathered the brakes. Michelle dug into her purse and brought out her camera. "What are you doing?"

"Fuck these guys." She turned in her seat and started taking pictures of the driver behind us while I started cutting back and forth, trying to fake them into giving us an opening. The motorcycle seemed to be bare inches from my hood. The car bumped us again, then I saw his hand reach out of his window. He was wearing a black half-glove, fingers bare, as if he had been golfing a round before deciding to test other driver's road-rage thresholds. He mimed shooting, his thumb dropping and hand snapping up three times in that gesture familiar to anyone who ever played soldier behind enemy lines as a child. Then he jerked his wheel to the right and was gone up an off ramp.

The motorcycle reared up and shot away, going at least twice our speed. I debated giving chase, then reached down and reengaged the cruise control.

We took the next exit, a truck stop. The particulars differed, but the essentials never changed –- Love's, Flying J Travel Plaza, Double Diamond, Mom's, overgrown convenience stores with high ceilings, tourist kitsch and Pepsi, both kinds of donuts -- Hostess and hemorrhoid. The greasy spoon of the fifties was long gone, replaced by a cooler full of outdated deli sandwiches and a fast food mini-outlet, if you were lucky –- herbal speed and candy bars if you weren't. We prowled the aisles, stiff, bored with junk food. Michelle went to stand in line at the counter first while I looked over a round wire rack filled with shot glasses next to the bank of pay phones, unoccupied save for a young strawberry blond man speaking in earnest, low tones to someone named Rhonda.

Michelle's turn to pay came up about the time I got in line behind her. "Is there a one hour photo anywhere around here?"

"Not around here, ma'am. Probably in Casper." That was out of the question, but Cheyenne was about the same distance. We paid, separately, and went out to the car, where we tore into sandwiches and spoke of the events for the first time.

"Was it him?"

"Them. Did you get a good look at either one?"

"Not really. You?"

"I was a little busy. But I think we can rule out the cops."

"Yeah. But if this is some kind of a setup, it's the weirdest ripoff I've never heard of."

"Maybe this is how they do it back in the motherland."

"You think you got any good shots?"

"I doubt it. Sauce for the gander, though."

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