Coyote Blue Chapter 25~26
Wheels, Deals, and the Persistance of Visions
Calliope sat in her car shivering and watching. She was parked up the street from a Vegas Harley-Davidson shop where she had once gone with Lonnie on a delivery for the Guild. The street was deserted, and dark except for the odd glow of neon in the window of a closed pawnshop.
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Litter danced in dust devils of desert wind that had grown cold through the night. Calliope curled up in the driver’s seat and tried to cover herself with one of Grubb’s blankets. The smell that came off the blanket, a mix of sour milk and sweet baby, made her sad, and even though she had stopped breastfeeding months ago, her breasts ached for her son.
She caught some motion out of the corner of her eye: two figures coming out of an alley onto the sidewalk: men. They were walking toward the car. Calliope slid down in the driver’s seat. The mother instinct, the feeling of righteous invincibility that had filled her when she had come here, was leaking away. Right now she was not protecting her child; she was afraid for herself.
As the men approached she saw that they were young toughs, swaggering with their own willingness to violence, even as they staggered from the effect of some drink or drug. She slid farther down in the seat, and when their shadows fell across the car’s hood she twisted down and covered herself with Grubb’s blanket. She heard their footsteps scrape and stop at the car, heard their voices above her.
“Check out this motherfucker.”
“Some tall dollars here – there’s a grand in tires on this thing.”
“Pop the hood.”
Calliope heard someone trying to open the door.
“Hang on a minute, I saw a brick back a ways.”
Footsteps away. The car rocked with the continued yanking at the door handle. Calliope could hear the keys swinging in the ignition. The second man was coming back. Her breath caught. She waited for the crash. Sweat trickled down her forehead and dripped onto the gearshift knob.
“No man, not the windshield. You can’t drive it with a broken windshield.”
Calliope braced herself for the impact of the brick, then something in her mind screamed NO! Her feet were still on the pedals. She pushed the clutch and gas to the floor, reached out from under the blanket, and turned the key.
The Z roared to life, thundered, then screamed as she kept the gas to the floor. She sat up and glanced at the two startled men, who were cowering a few feet away. Instantly their surprise turned to anger and the taller of the two raised the brick. Calliope popped the clutch and fought to keep the car straight as the tires burned off on the asphalt. She heard a loud crack behind her and felt splinters of glass hit her from behind.
She power-shifted through three gears, turning over the tires and kicking the car sideways with each slam of the shifter. By the time she backed off the gas the speedometer was threatening 110. There was a thumping coming from the engine and a high-pitched wailing coming from somewhere. She looked into the rearview mirror to see the hole in the back window and, behind it, flashing red and blue police lights.
She hesitated only long enough to throw Grubb’s blanket off her shoulders, then slammed the Z into third, floored it, and said a quick prayer to Kali the Destroyer.
If Lonnie Ray Inman had ever made the connection that whenever he read the words American Standard, spelled out in cornflower blue against white porcelain, he felt a sudden urge to urinate, he might have understood why Grubb, upon seeing white plastic bundles piled haphazardly on the motel-room floor, crawled doggedly to, and whizzed gleefully on, twenty thousand dollars’ worth of methamphetamine. To Grubb, the bundles looked like Pampers, a fine and private place to pee.
“Jesus Christ, Cheryl,” Lonnie yelled. “He crawled out of his diaper. Can’t you keep an eye on him for a fucking minute?”
“Fuck you. You watch him, stud. He’s your kid.” Cheryl threw a pillow at Lonnie as she stormed naked into the bathroom.
“You were the one that said you’d make a good mother. Throw me a towel.”
Cheryl stood in front of the mirror working her jaw back and forth. “Get your own towel. I think you fucked up my jaw.”
“I did? I didn’t do shit.”
“That’s the problem, isn’t it?”
Cheryl had been lolling Lonnie’s limpness around in her mouth for an hour, trying to get a reaction out of him, when she heard a sharp crack in her right ear and felt a painful grating in the back of her jaw.
Lonnie grabbed a towel off the rack and went to where Grubb was happily splashing away on the drugs. Lonnie picked up the baby and put him on the bed, then went back to clean off the packages.
“Oh, Christ. Cheryl, clean up the kid, will you?”
Lonnie stormed into the bathroom and grabbed her by the hair, yanking her head back until she was staring up at him. He spoke to her through gritted teeth. “You clean up the kid now or I’ll snap your fucking neck. You understand?” He yanked her head back further. “I’ve got to turn this shit early in the morning and then ride to South Dakota, and I need to get some fucking sleep. If I have to kill you to get it I will. You understand?” He relaxed his grip on her hair and she nodded. Tears welled up in her eyes.
He dragged her out of the bathroom and threw her on the bed with Grubb, then threw the towel in her face. “Now clean up the kid.”
Lonnie took another towel and wiped each of the packages before packing them into Grubb’s diaper bag.
Cheryl rolled Grubb over and dried his bottom. “Last time I take a vacation with you,” she said. “No gambling, no shows, no fucking. I said…” She looked at him. “No fu-” The word caught in her throat.
He was aiming his pistol at her head.
Until he saw the orange 280Z rocket by him, the cop thought that the worst thing he was going to have to deal with on this shift was not smoking. He was wearing a patch on his left shoulder that was supposed to feed nicotine into his blood to keep him from craving cigarettes, but the urge to smoke was still there, so he fought it by eating donuts. He’d gained ten pounds in a week, and he was musing over the idea of inventing a donut patch when the sports car roared by him.
Out of habit, he butted a half-eaten cruller in the ashtray, hit the lights and siren, and pulled out in pursuit. The Z already had about eight blocks on him and he estimated it was doing about a hundred. He was reaching for the radio to call ahead for help when a black Mercedes pulled out from a side street in front of him. He slammed on the brakes and threw the cruiser sideways, bringing it to a stop not ten feet from impact. The Mercedes was at a dead stop, blocking both lanes. The cop watched the Z’s taillights fade in the distance on the other side.
He killed the siren and switched the radio to the public address system. “Get out of the car, now!” He waited but no one got out of the car. In fact, he couldn’t see a driver at all, yet the Mercedes was still running. He considered calling for backup, then decided to handle it himself. He stepped out of the cruiser with his gun drawn, careful to stay behind the car door.
“You, in the Mercedes, get out slowly.” He saw something move in the car, but it didn’t look like a person. Holding his revolver at ready, he shined his flashlight at the car. Movement, but no driver.
He saw three possibilities. The driver was unconscious, or was waiting to peel away when he moved away from the cruiser, or was lying in wait with a shotgun to blow his head off. He decided it would be safest to assume the last, and without further warning he crept to a spot just under the open driver’s-side window. He heard a scratching sound just above his head and came up, gun first, to catch a glimpse of the back end of the skunk just as it sprayed him in the face.
As he wiped his eyes he heard laughing and the Mercedes pulling away.
Clyde, owner of Clyde’s Cash for Your Car, said, “No offense, chief, but you don’t see many Indians in Mercedes.” He kicked a tire and bent down to look at the lines of the paint job for signs of bodywork, keeping a hand on his head to steady his toupee. “Looks clean.”
“It’s a good car,” Coyote said.
Clyde narrowed his eyes and smiled. Clyde had seen a little too much sun in his sixty years and this sly smile, what he used to call his ;gotcha; look, made him look like an old Chinese woman. “And you have the title, right, chief?”
“That’s what I thought.” Clyde stepped up to Coyote, his head about level with the trickster’s sternum. “Are you a policeman, or are you working in the service of any law-enforcement agency?”
“Well then, let’s do some business.” Clyde grinned. “Now, you and I know that we could fry eggs on this car, am I right? Of course I am. And you’re not from around here, or you’d have your own connections and wouldn’t be here, am I right? Of course I am. And you don’t want to take this car out on the interstate where the state patrol would spot it as hot in a second? No, you don’t.” He paused for effect, just to make sure everyone knew he was in control. “I’ll give you five thousand dollars for it.”
“Not enough,” said Coyote. “Look, this car has a machine that tells you where you are.”
Clyde glanced inside the Mercedes at the navigation system, then shrugged. “Chief, you see all these cars?” Clyde gestured to a dozen cars on his lot. Coyote looked around and nodded. “Well, all these cars got something that’ll tell you where you’re at. I call them windows. You look out of ’em. Now, do you want to sell a car?”
“Six thousand,” Coyote said.
Clyde crossed his arms and waited, tapped his foot, smiled into the night sky.
“Five,” Coyote said.
“I’ll be right back with your money, chief. Can I have my boy give you a lift somewhere?”
“Sure,” Coyote said.
Clyde went into his office, a mobile home whose entire side functioned as Clyde’s sign. In a moment he returned with a stack of hundreds. He counted them into Coyote’s hand. A greasy teenager pulled up in an old Chevy. “This is Clyde junior,” Clyde said. “He’ll take you wherever you need to go.”
“It’s a good car,” Coyote said. He handed the keys to Clyde and climbed into the Chevy. As they pulled away Coyote dug into his medicine pouch and pulled out a small plastic box that had once been on Sam’s key ring. He pushed the red button once, and a chirping sound came from under the hood of the Mercedes to signal that the alarm was armed.
Kiro Yashamoto stood in the corner of the treatment room watching two doctors battle for a man’s life. One doctor was young, white, and wore a stethoscope around his neck. He was fighting death with electronic monitors, oxygen, a battery of injected drugs, and a degree from Michigan State. The other doctor was an old Indian man, as wrinkled and weathered as the patient, who fought with prayers, songs, and by blowing on the patient through a mouthful of charcoal. He held no degree, but had been called to healing by the trumpeting of a white elk in the Spirit World. Despite the difference in their methods, the two worked as a team. Kiro could see that they respected each other, and he wished that his children were here to see these two cultures working together not for profit, but out of a common compassion. Alas, he had left them outside in the clinic’s small waiting room, and neither of the doctors would allow more people in here.
A tall, lanky Indian man dressed in denim stood in the corner opposite Kiro. His hair was cut short and shot with gray. Kiro guessed he was in his sixties, but it was hard to tell with these people. He saw Kiro watching and quietly crossed the room.
“My name is Harlan Hunts Alone,” he said, extending his hand.
“How do you do,” Kiro said. He took Harlan’s hand and bowed slightly, then caught himself in the inappropriate gesture and felt embarrassed.
Harlan patted Kiro’s shoulder. “Pokey is my brother. I wanted to thank you for bringing him here. The doctor said he would have died without your help.”
“It was nothing,” Kiro said.
“Just the same,” Harlan smiled. The medicine man stopped singing and Harlan quickly turned to him.
“He’s gone,” the medicine man said.
The white doctor looked at the monitor. A steady blip played across the screen. “He’s fine. His blood pressure’s coming up.”
“Not dead,” said the medicine man. “Gone.”
Pokey began mumbling, then speaking. Kiro could not hear what he was saying through the oxygen mask.
“That’s not Crow. What is that?” asked the white doctor.
“Navaho,” said the medicine man.
“He doesn’t speak Navaho,” Harlan said. “He doesn’t even speak Crow.”
“He doesn’t here,” the medicine man said. “He’s not here.”
On a stone wall: carvings of dead gods and the shadow of a man with the head of a dog. Pokey looks, but there is no figure casting the shadow. He turns to run.
“Stop,” the shadow says.
Pokey stops but does not look back. “Who are you?”
“Tell him there is death where he goes.”
“The trickster. Tell him. And tell him I am coming back.”
“Who are you?”
The shade and the wall are gone. Ahead lie prairies. Pokey runs, calls, “Old Man Coyote!”
“What? I’m busy. Twice in a few days is too much. Don’t talk to me for another forty years.”
“A shadow said to tell you that there is death where you are going.”
“A man with the head of a dog. I thought it was you playing a trick on me.”
“Nope. So he said that there is death where I am going. He ought to know. Anything else?”
“He said to tell you that he is coming back.”
“Well, no shit. You have to go, old man. You’re dying again.”
“Yeah. Didn’t you drink that Kool-Aid I left you?”
“There was no water. Who was-“
The green line went flat. The monitor screeched out an alarm.
“We’re losing him,” the doctor said. He grabbed a syringe, filled it with epinephrine, and drove it into Pokey’s chest. The medicine man began to sing a death song.
Hang with a Horse Thief, Wake Up Walking
Minty Fresh was staring at nothing and thinking ;Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah; when the girl behind the desk grabbed his arm, startling him.
“Are you all right?” she said.
“Fine, what is it?”
“God, on the phone, for you.”
“Thank you.” Minty picked up the phone and tried to drive ;Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah; out of his head. “M.F. here,” he said.
“Your Indian is back in the building, main entrance. Keep an eye on him.”
“Right.” Minty hung up. He checked his watch and realized that he must have been staring for ten minutes before the call. Why couldn’t he shake that song? He hadn’t heard it since his grandmother had taken him to see Song of the South when he was a child. Grandma had heard the Uncle Remus stories of Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit from her own grandmother, who had been a slave. She said that the stories came with the slaves from West Africa. There, Br’er Rabbit was known as Esau, the trickster. Maybe it was the Indian talking about tricking people that had set it off.
Since the Indian had come into the casino, Minty had felt uneasy. It was as if the Indian could look into his soul and see secrets that he himself did not know. He looked up to see the Indian coming through the lobby.
Minty smiled. “Mr. Coyote, you’re back.”
“How do you know my name?”
Minty was spun by the question. He felt his shell of cool detachment cracking and dropping off like old paint. “I… I don’t know….”
“It’s okay,” Coyote said. “I want everyone to know my name. Not like you. You carry your name like a man with a knife hidden in his boot. You should wear your name like a red bow tie.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” Minty said, trying to sound patronizing. If the casino knew his real name they’d have him greeting people in clown shoes and a purple wig within the hour. A red bow tie indeed.
Coyote fanned a handful of hundreds and waved them under Minty’s nose. “Did you save my place at the table?”
“I’m sure we can find you a suitable place. Follow me.”
Minty led Coyote to an out-of-the-way crap table where only a few players were gathered. One of them, a lanky middle-aged man in a cowboy hat and jeans, turned and looked Coyote up and down, then scoffed and turned to the stickman, shaking his head in disgust. “Prairie niggers,” he said under his breath.
Minty moved up behind the cowboy and bent over until his mouth was even with the cowboy’s ear. “I beg your pardon?”
The cowboy spun around and stumbled back against the table, his eyes wide. “Nothin’,” he said. Minty remained crouched over, his face almost touching the cowboy’s.
“Is there a problem, sir?”
“No. No problem,” the cowboy said. He turned and scraped his chips off the table and quickly walked away.
Minty stood slowly and caught the stickman glaring at him. A wave of embarrassment burned over him. That sort of direct intimidation was completely out of line: bad form, bad judgment. He imagined that there would be a call from God waiting for him when he returned to the desk. He turned to Coyote, who was staring down the front of a cocktail waitress’s dress.
Minty said, “Can we get you something to drink?”
“Umbrellas and swords, lots of them.”
“Very good.” Minty nodded to the cocktail waitress. “Mai tai, extra fruit.”
Coyote handed his cash to the dealer. “Black ones.”
The dealer counted the money and handed it to the supervisor. “Changing five thousand.” The other players looked up at Coyote, then Minty, then quickly looked down to avoid eye contact.
A pair of fresh-faced newlyweds stood at the head of the table, exchanging kisses and whispers. The stickman pushed the dice to the woman, who giggled as she picked them up. “That’s my lucky girl,” her husband said, kissing her ear.
“New shooter coming out,” the stickman said.
“Is she lucky?” Coyote asked.
“She’s made me the luckiest man in the world,” the young husband said. The girl blushed and buried her face in her husband’s shoulder.
Minty found that he was irritated by the couple’s fawning and wondered why. He saw it ten times a day: newlyweds at the tables acting like they were the first to discover love, glued together for a few days of starry-eyed public foreplay between bouts in a hotel bed. And they’d be back in twenty years, separating when they hit the door, her locking onto a slot machine while he played blackjack and dreamed of sneaking off to a jiggle show. Minty wanted to warn them that time would make hypocrites of them. One day you’ll wake up and find that you’re married to a husband and a father, a wife and a mother, and you’ll wonder whatever happened to the lover that you swapped spit and sweetness with over a crap table. But why did it matter? It never had before. It’s this Indian, Minty thought. He’s making me lose it.
Coyote placed all his chips on the pass line. “Are you lucky?” he said to the bride.
She smiled and nodded. Her husband placed a two-dollar chip on the pass line. “Go ahead, honey.” He held her shoulders, bracing her against the weight of the dice, and the girl let fly.
“Two! Snake eyes! No pass!” The stickman raked in the bets. Coyote dove over the table and caught the woman by the throat, riding her to the floor. The husband stepped aside as the light of his life went down.
“You are not lucky!” Coyote screeched. “You lost all my money! You are not lucky!” The girl clawed at his face with lace-gloved hands.
Minty Fresh caught Coyote by the back of the neck and pulled him off the girl with one hand, waving away the security jesters who had appeared with the other. “I’ve got this handled.” He nodded to the girl on the floor and the jesters helped her to her feet.
Minty dragged Coyote away from the table.
“She lied. She lied.”
“Perhaps you’d like to rest for a while,” Minty said, as if he was taking Coyote’s hat rather than dragging him across the floor. “Can we get you something to eat? The dining room is closed, but our snack bar is open.” Minty was acutely aware that he was in the process of losing his job. He should have turned the Indian over to security. After years as the officer of order, he was falling apart.
“I need to get more money,” Coyote said, calming down now.
Minty set Coyote on his feet, keeping a restraining hand on the trickster’s neck. “You’re sharing a room with Mr. Hunter, aren’t you? I’ll have the bellman take you up to the room.”
Coyote thought for a moment. “No, my money is at another hotel and I don’t have a car.”
“That’s not a problem, sir. I’ll call around a limo and drive you myself.”
Minty steered Coyote out a side exit of the casino and walked him to the valet booth, where he ordered a limo from the attendant. In a moment a stretch Lincoln pulled up to the curb and an eager squire held the door while Coyote climbed in.
Minty adjusted the seat before climbing in; still, his knees were up around the wheel. As he drove he tried to form some sort of rationalization for his mistakes – something to wash him clean with the management. Perhaps the Indian would lose enough money to justify the lapses of judgment.
“Where are you staying, sir?”
Minty nodded and pulled out onto the strip. “Call Camelot,” he said.
A series of beeps sounded in the car and a woman’s voice came on the speaker. “Camelot.”
A series of clicks and a different voice. “Camelot, reservations.”
“This is M.F.,” Minty said. “I’m taking a customer to the Frontier. I’ll return in a few minutes.”
“Very good, sir. There’s a message for you from upstairs. Do you want me to put you through?”
“No. Thank you.” There was no sense in rushing to the mailbox if you knew there was a letter bomb waiting for you. “Off,” Minty said. There was a click.
Coyote was hanging on the back of the seat, looking down at the cellular phone. “You can talk to machines?”
“Just this one. Voice activated so you can keep your hands on the wheel.”
“I can talk to animals. Can you take other forms?”
Minty smiled. The Indian was a nut case, but at least he was an amusing nut case. “Actually,” he said. “This is another form. In real life I’m a short Jewish woman.”
“I wouldn’t have known,” Coyote said. “It must be the sunglasses.” He looked at the dashboard. “Does this car tell you where you are?”
“Ha! Mine is better.”
“Follow that car,” Coyote said, pointing ahead to a 280Z with a shattered back window turning off the strip.
For a second, Minty was tempted to follow the car, then he caught himself. “I can’t do that, sir.” What was it about this Indian that he could twist the world? If he wasn’t fired when he got back to the casino, Minty decided he would hire a hooker to rub his temples and tell him that everything was okay until he believed it or ran out of money, whichever came first. Maybe the Indian was right about people wanting to be tricked.
“I need cigarettes,” Coyote said.
“We have complimentary cigarettes at the casino, sir.”
“No. I need some now. At that store.” Coyote pointed to a minimart across the strip.
“As you wish,” Minty said. He pulled the limo into the minimart and turned off the engine.
Coyote said, “I’m out of money until we go to my motel.”
“Allow me, sir,” Minty opened the car door and unfolded himself onto the curb.
“I’ll pay you back.”
“Not necessary, sir. Camelot will take care of it.”
“Salems,” Coyote said. “A carton.”
Minty closed the door and walked into the minimart. He found the cigarettes, then grabbed a package of Twinkies off the shelf for himself. He checked the date on the Twinkies: July 1956. Good. They had another thirty years of guaranteed freshness.
He fell in line behind a drunk man who was waving a gas card at the clerk. “Look, man, it’s this simple. You charge my card for forty bucks’ worth of gas and give me twenty in cash. You get a hundred-percent profit.”
Minty listened to the clerk try to explain why this couldn’t be done and smiled in sympathy, as if to say, “They lose their money, then they lose their minds.” The clerk rolled his eyes as if to say, “This might take a while.”
Minty looked outside to check on his passenger and saw the limo backing away from the curb. He tossed the cigarettes and Twinkies on the counter and ran out, losing his glasses as he ducked to get through the doors. He reached the street as the limo accelerated out of reach, then stopped and stared down the strip, watching the Lincoln’s taillights until they blended into a million other lights. Acid panic rose in his throat, then subsided, replaced by the resolved calm of the doomed.
He turned and walked slowly back to the minimart to find his glasses. As he reached the door, the drunk, his gas card still in hand, stumbled through and Minty caught him by the shoulders to avoid a collision. The drunk looked up, then tore himself away and stepped back. “Jesus Christ, boy! What happened to your eyes? You been sittin’ too close to the TV?”
Minty raised his hand to cover his golden eyes, then dropped it and shrugged. “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” he said with a grin.
Dawn was starting to break and the sky was turning from red to blue. Coyote sat in the limo, which was parked a block behind Calliope’s orange Z, which was parked a block away from Nardonne’s Harley-Davidson Shop. Lonnie’s bike was parked outside.
“Call Sam,” Coyote said. Nothing happened. He pounded on the car phone. “I said, call Sam.” Nothing happened.
“Call Sam’s room,” Coyote said to the phone. Nothing happened and the trickster yipped with anger. “Call Sam’s room or I’ll rip your cord off.” He picked up the receiver and beat it on the dashboard, then he saw a sticker with the casino’s logo stuck to the receiver. “Call Camelot,” he said. The phone lit up and beeped through some numbers.
The phone rang once and a woman answered. “Camelot.”
“I want to talk to Sam.”
“Do you have a last name, sir?”
“No, just Coyote.”
“I’m sorry, sir, we have no guest listed under Coyote.”
“Not me, I’m here. His name is Hunter.”
“We have no Coyote Hunter. There’s a Samuel Hunter.”
“One minute while I connect you.”
“I’ll bet you’re ugly in person.”
“What?” Sam’s sleepy voice came over the phone.
“Sam, I found the girl.”
“Where? Where are you? What time is it? Who’s ugly?”
“Morning. You have to come here. I’m at a place called Nardonne’s Harley-Davidson Shop. The girl is here, and the motorcycle with her picture on it is parked outside.”
“Give me directions. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Keep Calliope there. I have to check out and get the car.”
“Take a cab.”
“You didn’t take my car?”
“No, this car is better. You can talk to the phone. Your car is gone. I sold it.”
“Take a cab. I’m in a big black car. Off.”
The phone clicked, cutting Sam off in the middle of a tirade. Coyote didn’t know whether the girl had a phone in her car, but he decided to try. “Call the girl,” he said to the phone.
The phone beeped through the numbers. “This is Carla,” a sexy woman’s voice said. “Would you like this on your phone bill or your credit card?”
“Phone bill,” Coyote said.
“If you like leather, press one,” Carla said. “Twins, press two. For California blondes, press three. Big bottoms, press-” Coyote picked up the handset and pressed three.
Another sexy voice came on, “Hi, I’m Brandy, who are you?”
“Would you like to know what I’m wearing, Coyote?”
“No, I have to tell the girl to stay here until Sam comes.”
“We’ll take as long as Sam needs. Is Sam getting hard?”
“No, he’s pissed off about his car.”
There was a pause and the sound of her lighting a cigarette. Brandy said, “Okay. Let’s start over.”
Minty waited for the second limo at the pay phone outside the minimart. He flipped through his address book until he found the detective’s number, then dialed.
The phone rang twice, then there was the sound of the receiver rattling and falling. Finally a sleepy, hostile man’s voice said, “What?”
Minty said, “Jake, this is M.F., at Camelot.”
“Fuck that. This is harassment. It’s… it’s five thirty in the morning. You said I could have all the time I needed to pay.”
“I’m not calling about that, Jake. I need a favor. One of the limos has been stolen.”
“Why call me at home? You guys have Lo-Jack beacons in those limos, don’t you? Call the station. They’ll track it and have it back in half an hour.”
“I can’t call the station, Jake. This is delicate. I need to get it back without bringing the police into it.”
“You’re fucked. The Lo-Jack trackers are installed in the cruisers.”
“Can you put one in one of our limos? Just until I find the stolen one.”
“No way. The tracking system takes hours to install.”
“Jake, I need a favor. Just a favor. I haven’t mentioned what you owe us.”
“This strong-arm shit isn’t your style, M.F.”
“But you can get use of a unit with the Lo-Jack tracker in it?”
“Meet me at the station in a half hour.”
“What’s the range on the tracker?”
“About a mile, depending on the terrain. Farther in the desert. You’re not going to be able to cover much area with only one car.”
“Then make it fifteen minutes. And Jake-“
“Thank you.” Minty hung up. So much for the police, he thought. Now if I can get it back before the casino finds out. If not, I guess it’s time to go shopping for a red bow tie.
Calliope was sure she could do it: if Grubb was trapped under a Chrysler she could lift the car and pull him out. You heard about it all the time: Hundred-Pound Mom Lifts Two-Ton Car to Save Trapped Tot. It seemed to happen often enough that it should be part of Lamaze training. “Okay, now breathe, focus, grab the bumper… now lift!” Yep, she could do it – a Chrysler on each arm if she had to. She wasn’t so sure about getting Grubb back from Lonnie. Maybe if that other woman wasn’t with him, being so hostile and negative.
She was feeling a little better now that the sun was coming up. She’d been shivering since the punks had broken her back window, from nerves and the cold. And she didn’t have enough gas money to leave the Z running with the heater on while she waited for Lonnie to come out of the Harley shop. She might not have enough to make it home as it was. Besides, something was wrong with the car; she’d tached it too high while running from the police and something had given way in clatter and smoke.
As she watched, Lonnie came through the front door of the shop carrying Grubb’s diaper bag. Calliope swallowed hard, trying to push down her fear – fear of failure. She got out of the Z. The woman followed Lonnie holding Grubb in her arms. Calliope ran toward them, then stopped when she saw the woman’s face. It was like one painful purple bruise with eyes.
“Lonnie,” Calliope called.
Lonnie and the woman turned. Grubb saw his mother and reached out. Lonnie pushed down Grubb’s hand. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to get Grubb. You shouldn’t have taken him.”
“Talk to the judge. He’s mine half the time.”
He was right. Calliope had gone to Social Services once before when Lonnie took Grubb on a road trip. Her caseworker told her that the law couldn’t do anything to help.
“You don’t want him. You just want to hurt me.”
Lonnie laughed, threw his head back, and shook with laughter. For all the times he had postured and threatened and screamed and pounded, he had never really scared her. She was scared now.
“You shouldn’t take him on a run like this, Lonnie. What if you get busted?”
“Run? What run? We’re just on a little family camping trip, aren’t we, Cheryl?” The woman tucked her face behind Grubb.
“Give him to me, please,” Calliope pleaded.
Lonnie climbed onto his bike grinning and hit the starter. The bike fired up and Lonnie shouted over the engine, “Go home. I’ll bring him back in a few days.” Cheryl climbed on behind him and he dropped the bike into gear.
“No!” Calliope started to run after them. Lonnie gunned the bike and roared off.
She shuffled to a stop and saw Grubb reaching out over Cheryl’s shoulder. Her eyes blurred with tears. She turned and ran to her car, wiped her eyes, and saw the limo parked down the street. Someone was sitting in it, just watching her. “What are you looking at?” she screamed.
Sam made the chambermaid help him search the hotel room for his wallet for fifteen minutes before giving up and leaving her with a promise of a tip on the credit card. He was thinking This is like being stuck in some Kafkaesque Roadrunner cartoon when the taxi from the Acme Cab Company pulled up, the driver wearing a fez. Animated by Hieronymus Bosch, Sam thought.
In the cab, he said, “Do you know a Harley-Davidson shop called Nardonne’s?”
“Bad part of town. Cost you double.”
“It’s broad daylight.”
“Oh, it is. My shift is over. Sorry.”
“Okay, double,” Sam said. Why quibble? He couldn’t pay the guy anyway.
When they pulled in behind the limo, Sam said, “Wait here, I’ll get your money.” He got out and looked down the street to the Harley shop, then went up to the limo and pounded on the blacked-out window. The window whirred down. Coyote grinned.
“Where is she?”
“Took off. Just now.”
“Why didn’t you stop her?”
“She didn’t want to be stopped. We’ll find her – she’s following the biker, and we know where he’s going.”
The cabdriver beeped his horn. “Give me my wallet,” Sam said. Coyote handed the wallet out the window. Sam rifled through it and came up empty. “There’s no money left.”
“Nope,” Coyote said.
The cabdriver leaned on the horn. Sam signaled for him to wait, ran around to the other side of the limo, and got in.
“Go,” Sam said.
“What about the cabdriver?”
“That’s the spirit.” Coyote started the limo and peeled away. He checked the rearview mirror. “He’s not following.”
“He’s talking to his radio. Got a smoke?”
Sam dug a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, tapped one out, and lit it. “Where’s my car?”
“I sold it.”
“You can’t sell it without the title.”
“I got a good deal, five thousand.”
“Are you nuts? Five thousand wouldn’t buy the stereo.”
“I needed to win my money back. I won a lot of money on the machine you put the cards in, but a shaman with a stick won it back from me.”
Sam butted his cigarette in the ashtray and hung his head in his hands, trying to let it all sink in. “So you sold my car for five grand?”
“Yep.” Coyote snatched the mashed cigarette and relit it.
“And where is that money?”
“The shaman had strong cheating medicine.”
“That’s the kind of thinking that got Manhattan sold for a box of beads.”
“So they still tell that story? It was one of my best tricks. They gave us many beads for that island. They didn’t know that you can’t own land.”
Sam sighed and slouched in his seat, thinking he should be angry, or worried about his car, but strangely he was more concerned with catching Calliope. They were on the highway now. Sam glanced at the speedometer. “Slow down to the speed limit. We don’t need cop trouble. I’m assuming you stole this car.”
“I counted coup: stealing a tethered horse.”
“Tell me,” Sam said.
Coyote told the story of Minty and the limo, turning it into a fable full of danger and magic, making himself the hero. He was coming to the part about the car phone when it rang.
Sam reached for the answer button and pulled back his hand in disgust. “What’s this gunk all over the phone? It looks like-“
“I’m not to that part of the story yet.”
“Then you answer it.”
“Speak,” Coyote said, and the phone lit up and clicked. “Is that you, Brandy?”
A very deep, calm voice came over the speakerphone, “I want the car back, now. Pull over and stop. I’m a couple of minutes behind you. The police are-“
“Off,” Coyote said. The phone hung up. Coyote turned to Sam. “This is a good car. You can talk to the phone. Her name is Brandy. She’s very friendly.”
“Uh-huh,” Sam said.
“That wasn’t her.”
“Pull off at the next exit.”