“You want to know where to find Cassie, you’re going to have to play chicken.”
The kid was a smug punk with sandy hair, cigarette dangling, and Sheriff Calum Bodet was one eye-roll away from slapping him upside the head. His gathered friends, shit-eating grins, could all use a whoopin’. “I don’t play children’s games, dumbass, and you don’t want to get on my bad side.” He looked askance at his fed tag-along, Clark Samson, as if to dare him to hold him back. The blue suit shrugged at him and smirked.
Calum gave the kid some credit, he looked him straight in the eye when he dared him. But Calum’s patience was at an end. He pushed him back with two fingers. “Look here, asshole. If you don’t tell me, I’m going to—“
“I’ll do it.”
Calum cocked his head at Clark. “What?”
“I’ll do it. I’ll play chicken if it gets us the information.”
“Are you out of your mind? Have you ever done this before?” Clark shrugged. “By the time you’re about to crash, you’ll be careening down the state road in a piece-of-shit, army-surplus hummer at forty-five miles an hour head-on into another one going just as fast. Not to mention it’s illegal.”
“They say you’re the best, kid, right?” asked the fed.
“Damn straight,” he said.
A pretty teenybopper with long black hair lilted a giggle. “Ain’t no one ever beat ‘im.”
“How many times have you done it?”
“I lost count around twenty.” He threw his cigarette on the ground. “Let’s go.”
“I hope you have your will drawn up,” said the sheriff.
“No need,” said Clark.
“This kid really is that good.”
“I’m counting on it.”
Calum shook his head as the two walked toward the hummers, most everyone else holding way back from the road. There were very slight trenches on each side, barely a pothole for a hummer, and the land extended level and flat. Before climbing aboard, Clark took the kid’s hand and said something, holding him in place for a minute. He let go and climbed into his hummer, and Calum noticed a little hesitation in the kid before he turned and climbed in himself.
The engines roared to life, the baffles rattling. Each took to the road and went in opposite directions toward some makeshift fluorescent orange flags on sticks. One of the kid’s pals stepped into the road with another flag and raised it high. As soon as the flag dropped, tires squealed from both hummers and they burst forward.
Calum hitched his mouth to a half smile in his suspicious way, seeing that Clark was showing no hesitation, no reticence at all. The behemoths screamed toward each other. Calum forced himself to watch. Closer they came, near the point of no return, and the sheriff couldn’t contain a moment of dread, certain they were going to hit, but the kid pulled to the side and bounced off the road, rolling to a stop.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Calum. He couldn’t help a laugh as Clark drove past the far flag, turned around and did a victory drive-by at full speed.
Calum walked up to the kid and grabbed him by the arm. “All right, dumbass. Where is she?”
Calum let him go. “Thanks, kid.”
The boy folded his arms, backed against the truck and sulked.
“Look, kid, that’s what happens when you play with the big boys. You get schooled.”
He craned his neck and grimaced. Smart. Keep your mouth shut.
Calum intercepted the fed on the way to his car. “Well, you’re an idiot, but that was a nice win.”
“Thank you.” Clark showed all his teeth with that smarmy pretty-boy smile.
Calum stopped next to his door, speaking over the car’s roof. “What did you say to him out there?”
He smiled even wider, which Calum didn’t think was possible. “I took his hand and told him I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t have the slightest idea when I should turn, but I knew he was an expert and would turn when he had to. So I was just going to keep on driving and count on him do it. Then I told him to make it look good and climbed in my hummer.”
Calum tilted his head back, chuckled, then climbed in.